Hello, everyone! This is my 70th post! What better to write about then another Outlander episode? I’m so proud of all of us.
After six episodes of Season 2, the shit has hit the fan. It has really, really hit the fan. Jamie and Black Jack have dueled, Claire has most likely lost her baby, Fergus has been abused or molested (0r so that scene implies), and worst of all, Murtagh is at sea selling wine, so who on earth will get Jamie out of the Bastille this time?
“Best Laid Schemes” packs a lot of action into one episode, and yet, until the last few scenes, it doesn’t seem like anything important has happened. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the books, but I can’t watch an episode without expecting certain plot beats to be hit as timely as possible. I was particularly aware of this feeling throughout “Best Laid Schemes.” As Jamie and Murtagh capered, and Claire worked at the hospital, all I could think about was the duel I knew was about to happen and whether the show would actually have Fergus be molested on screen, or whether they would cut it out all together. Luckily, the writers managed to keep that crucial plot point without forcing the viewers to watch the evil deed, which I admire them for. It was a skillful scene that implicated horrors without exploiting them.
The episode also did a touching job of building up the relationship between Claire, Jamie, and Fergus. The scene where Claire scolded Fergus like a mother and Fergus and Jamie bonded over breakfast gave some much needed support to a relationship we’re supposed to know is familial, but haven’t seen much evidence of. Though Fergus was hired as a thief, it’s clear that he’s become an integral part of the Fraser family, less of a servant than a son to Jamie, a protegé to Murtagh, and a helper to Claire. I was disappointed that they used these family scenes only to make the emotional impact of Black Jack preying on Fergus more horrifying, but I realize that since it’s a TV show, they need to fit these scenes in episodes where they will be the most relevant, and having Jamie be paternal towards Fergus is more poignant when placed in the same episode that he is attacked by Jamie’s nemesis.
The main problem with this episode was that I felt that the writers were filling time until Black Jack attacked Fergus and Jamie set out to duel him. The speech from Monsieur Forez especially seemed like a time-filler, even though I remember it from the book. The only reason I can come up with to include it is that Monsieur Forez’s speech is foreshadowing a conflict that I believe won’t happen for at least one episode, which is odd considering that they haven’t included other bits of information that will foreshadow future events
A lack of evenness seems to be at fault for the time-filling aspect. Clearly, the main plot point of the episode is the duel between Black Jack and Claire. But in order to make that as emotional as possible, they pushed it to the very end of the episode, thus leaving fifty minutes of time to fill. And the plot they chose to fill it with was the Charlie/ St. Germain escapade, which the writers have elevated far beyond its importance in the book. The whole heist caper was tonally jarring: are we supposed to be amused with Murtagh’s attempts at disguise? Are we supposed to be overjoyed that Jamie has once again thwarted St. Germain? St. Germain isn’t even supposed to be Jamie’s antagonist, he’s supposed to be Claire’s. When the time comes for Claire to finally go head-to-head with St. Germain, it will seem a lot less fulfilling knowing that Jamie has been the one actually feuding with the Comte.
This episode focuses too much on scheming and too little on emotion. There’s little fall-out after the stormy fight between Jamie and Claire; in the beginning of the episode, they’re as in love as they’ve ever been. Even though Jamie explains that he’s sparing Jack to keep Frank alive should Claire ever need to return to the future, we’re left wondering why Jamie has had such a change of heart. Yes, Jamie loves Claire unconditionally, and yes, it’s hard to stay mad at his beautiful, pregnant wife for long, but after he bared his soul to her, shouldn’t the writers have included a little tension, or at least put some time between the fight and the reconciliation? In my opinion, this episode should’ve cut out the heist entirely and focused on the aftermath of Claire and Jamie’s fight. Their reconciliation would have felt earned, and Jamie’s betrayal of Claire (or so she thinks) at the end of the episode would have been more painful. Otherwise, the heist plot feels like it was randomly shoved into the episode.
Besides the time-filling, there were many things to like in this episode. Like I said before, the family scenes with Jamie, Claire and Fergus were touching. I was surprised (in a good way) when Jamie told Murtagh that Claire was from the future, because I’m like 90% positive that never occurred in the book, but it was a welcome addition to the plot. It’s not fair to keep Murtagh in the dark for such an important quest. There was also a bit of societal commentary between Claire and her ladies, which came off as a bit preachy to me, but was saved by Louise’s completely sincere idea that if Claire wanted something done about the impoverished in Paris, they should ask the King to move them all out of the good parts of the city. Louise is always good for some cheeky fun.
Overall, this episode was enjoyable, but a tad disappointing. I’ve been anticipating the duel since the beginning of the season and I feel cheated that it was used as a cliffhanger. It seems like the writers are pushing all of the most important emotional scenes to the end of the episode so they can wring as much viewer shock from them as possible, but for gods sake, can they let those scenes rest for a few minutes? Here’s to hoping that the next episode will give these scenes the time and delicacy they deserve.
But how does it compare to the book? There were many discrepancies between the events that happened in the book and those that happened in this episode. For instance, in the novel, both Jamie and Murtagh actually go on one of St. Germain’s ship for a month and pretend to have small-pox and get his merchandise condemned. There is no Plan B heist and no direct confrontation between Jamie and St. Germain. I could be remembering wrong, but I’m pretty sure that Jamie has very little contact with St. Germain in the novel. He is primarily Claire’s villain, while Black Jack is Jamie’s. I’m not sure why they keep pairing St. Germain and Jamie as if they are rivals, but it might make the upcoming events between Claire and St. Germain a little wonky.