It’s not a competition, but just for the record I cried harder at this week’s Outlander than this week’s Game of Thrones.
The story picks up right where we left off last week, after a brief visit to Boston in 1954 so we can see an adorable young Brianna. Jamie’s been tossed in the Bastille for dueling and Claire is drifting in and out of consciousness at Mother Hildegarde’s hospital. When she wakes up, Mother Hildegarde tells Claire as gently as possible that her baby was stillborn. Claire, obviously, is devastated.
She’s also very sick, thanks to a piece of infected placenta. Can you imagine being a medical professional from 1945, stuck in the 18th century, knowing you’ve got puerperal fever and not being able to do anything about it? Makes you want to hug your neighborhood pharmacist. Fortunately, Master Raymond appears and somehow magics away her infection. There’s nothing he can do about the betrayal Claire feels that Jamie would break his promise to leave Randall alone for the next year, but that disappears when she eventually learns the awful reason why he issued the challenge. Even Frank would probably cosign the duel knowing that his ancestor had been caught raping Fergus.
But there’s nothing that can fix Claire’s stunned grief, which—as much as they crammed into this episode—is its real focus. Outlander’s heavy reliance on sexual violence is often frustrating. But this is still the show that will devote an entire episode to a woman’s experience of a stillbirth. I don’t know about you, but when frivolous Louise De Rohan turned up at Claire’s bedside to take that baby’s body as compassionately as possible, I lost my shit.
They say the first year of marriage is hard, but usually that means that it takes some time to get adjusted to the fact you’ve committed to being stuck with your partner’s quirks and flaws for the rest of your lives. Jamie and Claire are due for a streak of good luck—or at least a solid six weeks without any disasters or major traumas. They’re holding on, though, and at the end of the episode, they’re at Faith’s grave together.
Fortunately, the emotionally grueling scenes were temporarily interrupted with a diversion. After Claire learns the true and very justifiable reason for Jamie’s duel with Randall, she petitions Louis to release him from the Bastille. But first, he wants a display of her skills as “La Dame Blanche.” What follows is like some twisted game show in a setting from Myst.
Louis presents Claire with the Comte St. Germain and her friend, Master Raymond. They’re on trial for nefarious occult doings, and Claire is supposed to weigh in with whether she sees evil in their souls. After sounding more like herself (has there ever been a clearer use case for “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”?) and boldly declaring herself a white witch, she says they’ve got no more darkness in their souls than the average man.
But Louis wants at least one body, clearly, and he has somebody wheel out a viper for trial by snake handling. Claire—who wants to protect her friend and can’t quite bring herself to axe the comte, even though he accuses her of “sucking the cock of the devil”—improvises a fake-out poison test with the harmless bitter cascara, getting Master Raymond off the hook. He does her one last solid by somehow poisoning the cup before it goes the St. Germain. Farewell to a handsome and wonderfully dressed antagonist. Truly, this scene was everything I wanted from the show’s detour into France.
And, then after all that, Louis demands sex with Claire as the price of setting her husband free. This fucking slimeball.
But after all they’ve been through, Jamie barely bats an eye. He understands completely, and they’re getting the hell out of this country. Thank God. This show can’t get back to Scotland fast enough for my taste.
At any rate: May I never find myself in a heart-wrenching conversation while wearing puff sleeves and a vest. Spare me that much, Lord.
Photos via screencap.