Season Two, Episode Four: “La Dame Blanche”
Written by Toni Graphia
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
All photos courtesy Starz.
Author’s Note: Please be advised that this week’s episode featured sexual violence and it will be discussed in this piece.
Wake up and buckle in, people. It’s time for another recap.
Last week’s episode left us rife with revelations. Lemme lay this out for you:
- Jamie (Sam Hueghan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have been going through a bit of a rough patch as the strain of their mission to stop the Jacobite Uprising is taking hold.
- Black Jack is still alive. Claire and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) know this. Claire chose to keep this fact from Jamie since Jamie was finally happy by the end of last episode. Both Murtagh and I disapprove of this move.
- English rose Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day) is (potentially) the future wife of All Round Terrible Person Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) and thus direct ancestor of Frank Randall (also Tobias Menzies). Claire believes this means that Black Jack has to stay alive for at least another year or Frank will never exist.
- In a move that came as a surprise to literally no one, two-faced Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow) is cozying up to both the current King of England and the aspiring conqueror Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower). He has gathered a few other English lords to bankroll Prince Charles’ invasion and the Scottish Uprising. The Duke is also the employer of Black Jack’s younger brother, Alexander Randall (Laurence Dobiesz).
Still with me? Excellent.
“La Dame Blanche” opens in Versailles. Claire looks on while Jamie plays chess with Monsieur Duverney (Marc Duret), the French Minister of Finance and potential backer of the Jacobite cause. Suddenly, a wild Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber) appears! He uses a Snooty Snark attack. It’s super effective!
Claire wanders off so that The Men can Talk Business (because of course women’s brains just can’t handle that sort of thing). She takes a glass of wine from a servant and is soon coughing and doubling over in pain. As Jamie carries her from the room, the Comte watches her intently. It’s so obvious that he’s behind Claire’s sudden sickness that he may as well be twirling a fake mustache.
Back at home, Claire tells Jamie that their unborn child is safe. She also looks pretty heavily pregnant. Jamie tells her that he wants to host a dinner at their house and invite both the Duke of Sandringham and Prince Charles. As we all know by now, Prince Charles is less than impressive (and recently become given to weirdly stroking Jamie’s face). Our dashing Scot thinks the Duke will reconsider funding the Uprising when he meets the feckless Charles face-to-face. I sense shenanigans ahead. And boy, do I love me some fancy dinner party shenanigans.
Faced with the prospect of the Duke and his secretary Alex Randall in her house, Claire reluctantly tells Jamie that Black Jack is still alive. If this were any other person, one would reasonably expect that person to react with fear or at the very least be rather upset. But not our Jamie Fraser.
No sir, his eyes light up like Father Christmas just handed him the world’s largest bottle of whisky. The prospect of personally killing Jack Randall is something to hold onto, he says. A reward he gets to take when their mission in France is done.
Now as you may remember, dear readers, I was not happy with either Claire or the writers last week. The whole “keeping a secret from someone you love to protect them” trope is very overdone and never works out. So I was very happy to hear Claire confess so quickly and even more happy to hear Jamie proclaim that he would never endanger their mission for his own personal revenge. I wish to extend a personal thank you to the Outlander writers for subverting the trope and ending this plotline before I was forced to carry out a one-woman riot.
Claire heads to Master Raymond’s (Dominique Pinon) apothecary the next day. She confronts him over her illness, which she knows was caused by a poison he sells. Master Raymond is all apologies; he would never have sold it if he had known it was meant to hurt her.
He takes Claire into his Secret Room of Magic Things, which includes a whole bunch of bones and a pretty sweet dinosaur skull. Claire asks him if he can tell anything about Frank’s fate. Raymond casts a few sheep’s knucklebones (a very ancient method of fortune telling) and says that, while he conveniently can’t see Frank’s ultimate future, he can say that Claire will meet him again.
Raymond also gives her a white crystal-looking stone on a ribbon. The stone is magical, he says, and will change color in the presence of poison.
Later on, Claire visits everyone’s favorite sassy broad, Louise de Rohan (Claire Sermonne), who’s stuck in some dire straights. She’s pregnant with her lover’s child and needs Claire to help her abort it.
Claire asks if Louise could Louise have sex with her husband and convince him the child is his? “Sleep with my husband? Ugh, as if!” says Louise (probably). How can her husband raise a child that isn’t his? “All that matters is that the child is raised with love,” replies Claire as I whisper “Parallels, parallels, paraaaalleeeeeels,” over and over into my drink.
Jamie comes home that night, rather riled up and ready for sexy times with Claire. Claire, of course, is all for this. Until she notices the very human-looking bite marks on his thighs. Jamie tries and fails to explain that he had a run-in with a determined prostitute but nothing happened, he super swears.
But somehow the incident rekindled his sexy fire, especially now that he knows he’ll one day get to kill Jack Randall. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure how one thing follows from the other but…I mean…yeah, sure, okay, that’s cool, I guess?
Claire is less than impressed that this revelation happened due to the attentions of a prostitute. Her anger leads to a heavily emotional scene in which Jamie finally discusses the fear and vulnerability left in the wake of his imprisonment at Wentworth.
All of this sharing and communicating finally opens the door for the return of the Fraser sexy times that we all know and love. Glory be and hallelujah, can I get an amen!
But this exciting night isn’t over yet! Prince Charles shows up, having climbed over several roofs to get to Chez Fraser. Apparently he was visiting his lover when the arrival of her husband forced him to beat a hasty retreat. And who is his lover? None other than Louise de Rohan!
Sensing an opportunity, Claire and Jamie decide to invite Louise to their upcoming dinner in order to goad Prince Charles into maximum level of ridiculous. Sensing ever increasing shenanigans, I decide to become extremely excited.
“Does this make us bad people?” Claire asks.
Yeah, probably. But I don’t care. Let the hijinks ensue!
As preparations for the dinner commence, Claire heads to the hospital to help with an emergency. She promises Jamie to be back in time to greet their guests. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.
My suspicions are confirmed when the Fraser carriage mysteriously breaks. Since there are apparently no carriages for hire in the whole of Paris, Claire insists on walking back home, with Murtagh and Mary Hawkins in tow. Mary adorably confides that she has been exchanging secret letters with Alex Randall and that they are in love.
Before we can properly react to this, the three are set upon by masked brigands who A) knock out Murtagh, B) rape Mary and, C) try to do the same to Claire. They are stopped by the sight of either her face or her necklace, it’s unsure which. “La Dame Blanche!” they cry and disappear into the night.
Meanwhile, I’m over here, having been promised dinner party drama and instead have been given terrible sadness. Really, Outlander? REALLY?
Jamie has been holding down the fort at home, greeting the guests and starting dinner. We meet Mary’s corpulent uncle and her similarly decrepit fiancée. The Duke is there and conveniently invited the Comte St. Germain. To someone else’s party. Because the Duke is stupid and I hate him.
Murtagh, Claire, and Mary make it back home. Mary has passed out from shock. Alex Randall is very concerned. They store Mary in a bedroom and leave Alex to watch over her. Claire pulls it together like the damn champ that she is and heads down to dinner.
Downstairs, Sandringham is drunk, the Comte is full-on evil villain, and the Prince is being ridiculous. All as expected.
To be more specific, Prince Charles declares his God-given mission to restore the Stuart dynasty to a less than impressed Sandringham. Jamie drops a bomb by “accidentally” announcing Louise’s pregnancy, which she has successfully passed off as her husband’s. Prince Charles is clearly distressed. The Comte recognizes Claire’s stone as a magic ward against poison. Claire and the Comte exchange both veiled threats and icy glares. I enthusiastically shove popcorn in my face as I gorge myself on dinner-based dramatics.
Upstairs, Alex is declaring his love for Mary as she sleeps. “I’ll take good care of you,” he whispers. He clearly received any and all of the “good person” genes that the Randall family possessed. I do hope nothing terrible happens to him.
Mary wakes up, still very disoriented. Mistaking Alex for one of her attackers, she understandably freaks out and takes off down the stairs. Alex catches up to her in the drawing room. He tries and fails to calm her down. Her screams draw the attention of the Frasers and their guests.
Unfortunately, it looks very much like Alex is attacking Mary rather than helping her. Various guests attempt to come to her aid. Cue a bar-brawl style fight between a bunch of Frenchmen, Jamie, and a so completely done with this country Murtagh. Meanwhile, sassy scamp Fergus (Romann Berrux) is scarfing down the remains of dinner. The Comte leaves with a disgusted Prince Charles.
And just as I finally get the full shenanigans I was promised, the episode ends.
Obviously, I felt the episode could have done with a great deal more dramatic dinner party. Really, I would happily watch an entire episode of nothing but a dinner party in which Caitriona Balfe and Stanley Weber stare intensely and angrily at each other. With a score by Bear McCreary. The music really set the tone for their standoff, making it very difficult to look away or remember that the rest of the episode existed.
The conflict building between Claire and the Comte is absolutely riveting and I can’t wait to see more. Though their interactions are brief, they immediately grab the viewer’s attention and hold it like a magnet.
St. Germain is shaping up to be a much more subtle villain than Jack Randall. He is, however, no less ruthless and perhaps all the more unnerving because of it. Jack Randall does all of his dirty work himself, in the moment. St. Germain, in contrast, stays away from direct action and acts through lackeys and intermediaries. This means that our heroes never know what he has planned or when he might strike. So everything and everyone is suspect.
Jamie’s discussion of his dealing with the fallout of Wentworth prison was also a fascinating scene. Sam Hueghan really showed his talent here and I’m very happy that we got to see this emotion from Jamie. It adds some complexity to his recovery process, which up until now has only been shown through traumatic flashbacks. And it provided a much needed counterbalance to his over reaction with Claire last week when they argued over her work at the hospital.
I am heartbroken for Mary. I certainly hope they use her assault for significant plot purposes and not just to point out how terrible the patriarchy of the 18th century is. Jamie has already told Claire that Mary will become untouchable “damaged goods” if anyone finds out about her rape. It seems clear that Alex is happy to stay by her side. But after this week, it’s unclear how close he’ll be allowed to get.
A brief note on this episode’s title: “La Dame Blanche” is French for “the white lady” and obviously meant something significant to Claire and Mary’s attackers. I’m assuming it has something to do with Claire’s magic stone, which is also white. Master Raymond seemed to think it was a very important item. Perhaps it does more than just detect poison? The Comte was also interested in the stone, though that may have only been so he could make a subtle dig at Claire about his poisoning of her at Versailles. But magic has been a very important element of this show since day one so I’m sure we haven’t heard the last about the supposedly magic stone.
That’s it for me, fair maids and gents. Until next week!
Outlander airs on Starz every Saturday, 9/8c.
While you’re waiting impatiently for next Saturday, check out our previous coverage of Outlander.
Or go to the Starz website for previous episodes and behind the scenes goodies.