Hello, everyone! Last week, Outlander left us hanging with a rousing Scottish brawl. This week, Outlander ended with something even worse: an angry Jamie. I like my Jamie happy and healthy, not angry and shouty. But then again, the drama is so delicious!
The past few episodes of Outlander have been mainly about avoiding conflict. Jamie spent his days plotting to keep Charlie from starting a war, while Claire tried to keep Jamie from learning about Black Jack’s narrow escape from death. But now that both plans have failed, the conflict has arrived, and it’s sizzling.
The premier conflict is between Jamie and Black Jack, who as the title of the episode suggests, has had an “untimely resurrection.” It’s untimely because there ain’t ever a good time for Black Jack to be resurrected and also because he happens to pop up in Versailles, a super public place where violent beat downs are frowned upon. The scene plays out similarly to the scene when Claire told Jamie that Black Jack was still alive. We expect Jamie to blow his top, but instead he acts with great dignity (and doesn’t skewer Black Jack on sight). Though there’s no action, it’s by no means an anti-climax. The tension between Jamie, Claire, and Black Jack is palpable.
To make the situation even tenser, the French king shows up to insult Black Jack and the English army. Seeing Black Jack in this diminished capacity allows us to stretch our perspectives; we’ve only ever seen him in a position of power, whether it was abusing Jamie or threatening to kill Claire, but in the French court, he’s as reviled in public as he is in private. But of course in this capacity, bound by the strict etiquette of the French court, Jamie can do no more than laugh at Black Jack. Jamie’s a man of actions, not words, so it’s no surprise that as soon as the French king leaves, Jamie arranges a duel with Black Jack. We learned in the last episode that Jamie has a desperate need to heal the internal wounds left by Jack’s abuses, and dueling, in his mind, the fastest and simplest way to accomplish that healing. But Claire, of course, has a different view of things.
Claire is still caught between Jamie’s need for revenge and her need to keep Frank safe. To her knowledge, killing Black Jack would be the same thing as killing Frank, or at least ensuring that he never exists. Whether you agree with her reasoning or not, it’s certain that if Jamie duels Black Jack, one or both of them could die, and that would change Claire’s entire life. The scene is a fascinating one because even though we’ve heard Claire worry about Frank before, we’ve never heard Jamie’s opinion about those worries. But their fight makes one thing very clear: Jamie doesn’t give a damn about Frank and he thinks that if Claire loves him, she shouldn’t care either. While I understand why Claire is frightened at losing Frank, I do think that Jamie has a rational response to her fears. Claire is his wife now, not Frank’s, and furthermore, Frank isn’t alive yet. As he says, if they’ve come to Paris to change the future of Scotland, why would it be so wrong to change Frank’s future by killing Black Jack? Claire has no real answer to this because her worries aren’t driven by logic, but by emotion. She knows she’s a hypocrite, but she also knows that she can’t live with the guilt of Frank’s death on her hands.
Sam Heughan truly brought the heat to this scene. Catriona Balfe is the voice of (dubious) morality, but it’s the distress in Heughan’s eyes that sell the potent emotion in their conflict. We’ve seen how much this revenge means to him, and how much he’s been struggling with himself to return to normalcy, but at Claire’s request that he spare Black Jack, he breaks. Claire reminds Jamie that she’s saved his life twice and the he owes her one in return. I only remember her saving him from Black Jack, and Jamie’s also saved her twice, but I guess that’s besides the point, since clearly Jamie’s sense of honor overpowers his memory. He acquiesces to spare Black Jack for one year, which you can tell just kills him inside, but even though he’s furious at Claire, he still loves her too much to break his word to her. Claire won’t literally kill him when he asks her to (with that handy dandy dagger), but she’s willing to kill his soul to do what she thinks is right.
“Untimely Resurrection” is a sequence of terrible events for Jamie. Even before Claire prevents him from his duel, he has to deal with Charlie’s continuing plans for a Scottish rebellion. These now include using Jamie’s wine business to sell Madeira to fund Charlie’s war ships. The middleman between the Madeira and the buyers is none other than our favorite homme francais le Comte St. Germain. Jamie thought that hanging out with Charlie was annoying, but now he has to hang out with the Comte, also known as the man who poisoned his wife and sent a gang of men to rape her. Jamie and the Comte have a hilarious meeting where both of them try to out-sass the other and discuss business at the same time. Of course, the Comte is infinitely more savage than Jamie. I almost did a spit-take when Jamie threatened to punish the men who attacked Claire and the Comte straight out said “I don’t care about your personal life.” Even if the Comte supposedly didn’t do anything evil, the normal reaction to “my wife was attacked” is human sympathy, not “idgaf.” The Comte is my new favorite. I know that it was supposed to be a very serious, macho scene, but really, the Comte is basically a fifteen year old mean girl in a rich Frenchman’s body.
Jamie and Claire come up with an ingenious plan to stop Charlie from getting the funds for his warships. Claire will use her medicinal herbs to make Jamie and Murtagh seem like they have smallpox so that the harbormasters will have to set fire to the Comte’s ships and all of his cargo. Wow, deja vu. If I remember correctly, the last time Claire found smallpox on a ship, she ended up being poisoned and attacked. But this seems like a perfect plan. I’m sure the Comte will be very pleased.
But how does it compare to the book? Fifth episode, best episode in my opinion. It’s all going down just like the book. They kept in the lovely Murtagh-Jamie scene where Murtagh pledges to find the attackers, though they did cut out the part where Murtagh asked Jamie to kill him for his failure. Maybe they thought that was a wee bit dramatic. Best of all, they’ve developed the Comte from an arrogant nuisance to a straight-out super villain. His quips are gold, his wig is a masterpiece, and his eyebrows are more expressive than poetry. I’m so glad they cast a real French actor; only the French can pull off the perfect mixture of boredom and disdain.