Episode 204 – La Dame Blanche

Here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and I’m conflicted about this episode.

It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t wow me, either. I think I’m most troubled by Jamie and Claire. I do not mind, at all, that Jamie doesn’t get mad at her for keeping the secret about Jack Randall. What I mind is that Sam Heughan was directed to act elated (or he chose that, I don’t know which). I’ll discuss it more when I get there in the episode overview, but I think of Jamie being determined, vengeful, maybe even with a sense of triumph that he can be the one to end Jack Randall’s life. But not…joy. Not laughter. Anyway.

The episode title card is the man with the birthmark sabotaging Claire and Jamie’s carriage. I like when the title card is linked to the story, but this one is actually part of the story, so I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The poisoning scene is obviously meant to make us suspect Saint Germain, and I hope they are going to make him actually responsible for this. He certainly rises to the bait of her necklace (although that particular aspect wasn’t explored much in the show – no time), and he is a friend of Sandringham, so they could be setting him up as a secondary antagonist to the Duke.

So here we are at Claire’s confession. I absolutely think it was the wrong choice to go for levity here. It undercuts all of Claire’s tension and unhappiness in the last episode, and makes what was real conflict there feel false here. Again, I don’t mind that he isn’t angry with her, but I don’t think he should be grinning and laughing, either. He should be fierce – an avenging Scot – not the good-humored lad from the stables at Leoch.

There’s a moment where we get that darkness, but then when he sits down on the bed, it’s back to near-silliness. Murtagh names it – a cheery mood. And Claire is smug about it, which doesn’t strike me as funny at all.

But then we move on to Raymond, and I adore this scene. Especially when Raymond says “I’m fascinated by things not of this time” and then basically winks at Claire. But it isn’t overt – it isn’t screaming “we’re both travelers – WOO!” so it’s great.

The reference to the Zulu and chicken bones makes me think of what is to come in the West Indies.

Rational Claire is absolutely stunned, and, I think, frightened when Raymond says she’ll see Frank again. Not because she doesn’t believe in this sort of thing – but because she does.

Her nature reasserts itself for the stone pendant, but that will come back in a spectacular way later.

I’ve always thought the cuckoo clock and Louise’s cuckoo in her husband’s nest was a bit on-the-nose, but the show draws the parallel even more closely than the book by placing the clock in the same scene where Louise tells Claire about the baby.

Because Louise and Charles weren’t a known couple yet, I wondered if this subplot would be cut. But it works nicely here as a tension point to center the episode around.

Louise is so lovely. “You mean, sleep with my husband? But my lover will be furious!”

EDIT: I totally did not notice the first two times I watched this episode, but another thing that is missing is the Louise from 202 and 203. Where is the woman who unabashedly had her ladybits waxed in front of her friends? Or the woman who laughed hysterically at Mary’s lack of understanding about what happens on a wedding night?

In this episode, Louise feels very much like the book, which is why I didn’t really notice the change at first. She felt familiar to me, and so I went with it. But Lani over at the Scot and the Sassenach pointed out the discrepancy in TVLouise, and now I can’t unsee it. Her uncertainty and loyalty to Charles feel out of character. I wish we hadn’t been introduced to the romance in this episode. If we’d found out last week that Louise has fallen in love (even if we didn’t know it was Charles) for the first time, and perhaps made a big deal over her being uncharacteristically infatuated/swept away by her lover, then I would be 100% on board with her reaction to her pregnancy and Claire’s suggestions. But as written, her subdued, uncertain reaction feels odder the more I examine it.

Jamie’s ardor reminds me of the first time they had sex on their wedding night. He’s so eager, but he really doesn’t understand women. This entire scene, he just keeps digging himself in deeper, but is so earnest about it at the same time. He isn’t hiding anything from Claire, and can’t understand why she is freaking out when he is just so happy that he finally can imagine sex without Jack Randall getting in the way.

(Side note – is there an accepted interpretation of a sixty-nine where one gender is supposed to be the six and the other the nine? Jamie acts like we/Claire should know which is which when he says, “I think she would’ve settled for the six. The nine could go hang.” And I can’t decide if the girl really wanted his mouth on her, or really wanted her mouth on him. The latter, I suppose?)

But I understand why it takes Claire a while to come ’round to his position, though. She is pregnant, which makes you feel gigantic and swollen and unattractive, and her husband hasn’t touched her for months. Now he’s coming home all aroused by someone else.

This is more the reaction I wanted in the last scene. He is darker, and angrier. Claire is a little petulant, but I completely understand because pregnancy can do weird shit to your head.

Jamie’s speech is straight out of the last pages of Outlander and it is gorgeous coming out of Sam Heughan’s mouth.

Claire is too proud to bend right away, but she does go to him in the end. I disliked this scene of reconciliation the first time I watched the episode, but it’s growing on me with additional viewings.

I’m glad that this show is being made on premium cable, so we don’t have to cover up with strategically-placed sheets. That always bothers me on network TV.

Charles is so drunk, and imperious, and a complete ass. How Louise could be interested in him is a mystery.

This addition to the plot is terrible. Louise already told Claire what could happen if Jules finds out about the affair the the baby. That Claire would risk her friend in such a way is despicable. I can’t believe that they think when Charles comes “unhinged” that he won’t expose Louise.

They set up Fergus needing to have Claire home on time, but it doesn’t play out in the same was as the book (unless they’re saving Fergus and Murtagh asking for punishment until the next episode).

I absolutely adore that Murtagh says “a man does not concern himself with the affairs of women” and then immediately asks about Suzette.

Here we have the image from the credits, of Forez putting the block on the nerve. I wonder if Forez will come to Jamie and Claire to talk about execution, as he does in the book? I can also see him playing into future conflict – possibly even being present at the Wizard’s Duel, or a threat over Jamie’s head in the Bastille.

Ugh, the Duke waiting for Jamie to kiss his hand. Oily bastard. And Sam does the “Jamie shrugging his shoulders” bit when Alex is introduced. I love that he pays so much attention to the body language described in the book.

Mary is so sweet when she talks about Alex. And for a moment, Claire thinks she’s talking about Jack, and imagining the marriage to come in Frank’s family Bible.

The next scene is difficult to watch. And, just as in the book, it makes very little sense to have one of them recognize Claire as La Dame Blanche, especially since we know (if we recognize the birthmark from the title card) that they were hired to do this specifically to Claire, and were meant to have killed her. (EDIT – some of my traffic is from people who want to know who is responsible for the rape/assault. If the show follows the books, the guy with the birthmark is in the employ of Sandringham, but Claire assumes it is Saint Germain. They’re under no obligation to follow the books, though!)

Saint Germain as a friend to Sandringham is well-placed to develop an acquaintance with Charles. I assume we’ll soon be hearing about a plan to make money shipping port.

I LOVE that Alex does not victim blame, that he cares for Mary and doesn’t care what happened to her. Jamie outlines the social standpoint on the issue at the time (and -sadly- now, too), and so it is even more lovely that he stands by her, and in the next scene, tells her he loves her and will take care of her. Such a contrast to his brother.

I wonder if the throwaway mention of cutting off someone’s head is foreshadowing about Sandringham, or a nod to book readers that they aren’t going to do that in the show?

There is some tension between Sandringham and the prince over the pope – but Claire inadvertently punctures the tension by having Sandringham tell a joke.

Charles is ready to have an apoplexy. Everyone is having so much fun – telling jokes, talking about the opera – and he’s reeling from the fact that his mistress left him and now he’s just found out she’s having his child. He definitely reveals himself as unworthy of becoming a king.

Saint Germain remarks on her stone and tries to insult her by implying that she might poison her guests. She flips the insult, turning it into a threat.

And then we fall into a farce. I dislike this closing scene immensely. I find it difficult to believe that everyone would just launch themselves into the fray. I’m imagining more of what happens in the book – anger, insults, shouting, and a little violence. Not this out-and-out brawl.

The bits of humor with Sandringham lamenting the lack of dessert, Fergus helping himself to the food, and Jamie whacking people with a bit of curtain fringe just push things even further over the edge. The only thing that works is Claire, and Saint Germain taking the prince away, summoning the gen’darmes as he goes.

I also dislike that we end right in the middle of the scene. I hate cliffhangers. Finish this conflict and give us the game-changer – when the gens d’armes take Jamie away.

The preview focuses entirely on the central conflict of the next episode – that Black Jack Randall needs to live for a year to father Frank’s ancestor, and therefore Jamie can’t kill him right now – and almost nothing else. So I don’t know how the disastrous dinner party will play out. But I can’t see why they wouldn’t follow the book at least a little.

To sum up my thoughts on this episode:

Lots of good stuff, but the central Jamie and Claire conflict and resolution did not work for me, and that cast a shadow over everything else. Also, I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I already knew that this creative team likes cliffhangers. Ah, well.

Until next weekend!

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4 thoughts on “Episode 204 – La Dame Blanche

  1. Thanks for the early review! It’s good to be able to read feedback after watching at midnight. I’ve been surprised at how disliked this episode is. It’s almost split exactly 50/50, based on what I’ve seen so far. I think I was so enthralled by the fitness scene that I didn’t think about much else.

    I do think the resolution isn’t meant to be done here. I think Jamie wa dos happy to have found a way to cope – by being able to focus on killing BJR and regaining a sense of control – with the lingering effects of the trauma that he was almost elated to hear the news. This isn’t the end of it, though, and I think we’ll continue the resolution next week.

    Who the heck was that fighting in the dinner scene anyway? I couldn’t figure it out.

    Thanks for another great review!

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    • I posted early because I had plans last night and I didn’t want to wait until today (Sunday) to get something up. I may start posting these as soon as I write them, which is usually early Saturday morning.

      I am completely not bothered that the thought of vengeance invigorates and strengthens Jamie. It’s that the scene is almost played for laughs that bothers me. Maybe if it had edged a little further, into hysteria, that would have been OK, too. A musical cue would have helped establish the tone, as it does in the next scene, after he comes back from the brothel with the love bites. The music tells us that, even though he has found this renewed desire, there’s something darker underneath.

      I’m about to edit my post, because I just listened to the Scot and the Sassenach and they put a finger on something else that I didn’t even realize was bothering me about this episode – Louise. Because this was more like BookLouise, I just went with it at first, but this characterization of Louise is very different from the woman who shamelessly had all of her bits waxed in front of her friends.

      The final scene is just odd. It’s hard to know who is doing what, there are weird cutaways to random action, and it’s a big muddle that ends abruptly with no resolution. It isn’t even really a cliffhanger, because we don’t know enough about what is going on to speculate about possible consequences (unless you’ve read the books). In general, I think the audience is left more confused than anything else. Not a great place to stop. But I suppose we’ll see where they pick things up next week.

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  2. Thank you for your superb insight. I couldn’t agree more about this episode. And yes, I too was not liking the “make-up” scene with Jamie and Claire but after viewing it again, it worked…a little bit. I’m still however, confused at what exactly Jamie meant by the “69” reference but I think even the most naive of men would know not to be so non chalant about the whole thing with the whore whrn explaining things to his wife. I would be mortified if I were Claire! …she went to him too soon! She should have left him with his thoughts on what a complete ass he had been for a bit longer.

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    • I think what I would have liked is to see Claire work through things on her own before she went to him. Maybe have her repeat some of the things he said, or show a flashback to when they were in Scotland right after Wentworth. She doesn’t have to be happy about the whores, but she needs some reason to get beyond her justifiable frustration and pain and engage with Jamie where he is now, not where he was.

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