This post contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 2, titled “Not in Scotland Anymore.” To refresh your memory on the Season 2 premiere and Claire and Jamie’s run-in with Le Comte St. Germain, check out last week’s recap.
After Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) eventful arrival in France last week, episode 202 throws the Frasers headfirst into the political machinations of the royal court, bringing a number of memorable new characters into their orbit, while further exploring the emotional and physical distance that has grown between the couple since the events of the Season 1 finale.
The episode opens with Jamie and Claire in a moment of intimacy, but quickly takes a darker turn when Claire morphs into Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in the middle of the act, prompting Jamie to viciously stab him until both are covered in blood. Since this is a nightmare, Jack’s eyes snap chillingly back open, and Jamie awakes in a cold sweat, leaving a concerned Claire in bed while he decides to try and get some work done, in what has obviously become a nighttime ritual for them.
“He’s still troubled by what happened to him and like every guy is not really dealing with the issue,” Heughan tells Variety. “He puts it to one side and throws himself into this mission to change history. It puts a strain on their relationship because they’re not really connecting, not really dealing with [what happened to him].”
This week, Jamie has his first meeting with Bonny Prince Charlie (in a brothel, no less), in order to try and forestall the Jacobite uprising that Claire knows will lead Charles’ followers to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Arrogant and entitled despite his exile, Charles Stuart is used to getting his way. (Take a shot of whisky every time he says “mark me” this season, if your liver is strong enough.)
“You now realize why this true historical figure was so inspiring to men but also so dangerous and such a fool,” Heughan notes. “He’s this young man who’s been brought up in exile abroad and been fed all this propaganda by his father and the people around him. He believes when he arrives in Scotland, he’ll be greeted by crowds of adoring people and he probably arrived on a cold bleak day in Scotland and there were only a few thousand people there. So he’s a great character, and it’s interesting to see Jamie — who is not a Jacobite supporter and is in fact the opposite — have to play along with that.”
Despite the fact that “Jamie’s forced into this friendship because he’s trying to manipulate” Charles, Heughan says that the two men “do form this bond, and at some point, Jamie becomes his only ally … That’s what this season’s about — friends are also enemies, it’s really uneven ground. In a weird way, I think Jamie actually feels sorry for him; he’s also an outsider, he shouldn’t be in control of men and he shouldn’t be in the position he’s in.”
Claire, meanwhile, has become acquainted with the demure Mary Hawkins and Parisian socialite Louise de Rohan — who facilitates her entree into the court of Louis XV at Versailles (and the joys of bikini waxing) — but our heroine is finding herself suffocated by the expectations placed on women of the period.
“It’s a whole new set of constraints, in a way,” Caitriona Balfe points out. “Weirdly, Claire as an outsider in Scotland had almost more freedom, because she was different and because she was regarded as a crazy Sassenach and they would roll their eyes at her, but now in Paris … especially because they’re doing something dubious and underhanded, they feel they have to keep up appearances and conform. Her frustration is epic, and I could feel it building in her because she wasn’t given anything to do. Jamie is sent out and she gives him this mission to keep his mind active and away from thinking about the events of last season, but she’s not a woman who’s content sitting at home and going to visit ladies and drinking tea and gossiping.”
Luckily, her travels also bring her into contact with the spirited Master Raymond, whom Balfe compares to Claire’s time-traveling friend Geillis Duncan from Season 1. “For whatever reason, they are like-minded souls and they recognize that instantly in each other,” she says of the enigmatic apothecary, who shares Claire’s disdain for Le Comte St. Germain. “She’s finding her people; I’ve moved cities so many times and it’s such a lonely experience until you find your people, so it’s really nice that you see Claire find that.”
During their debut at court, Claire and Jamie also encounter an old flame of Jamie’s, Annalise de Marillac, who is unabashedly possessive of him (is she this season’s Laoghaire?); the lecherous but ultimately useful Minister of Finance, Joseph Duvernay (“he’s also someone who comes across as a bit of a fool, but he’s not,” hints Heughan); King Louis himself — who gets one of the most memorable introductions in TV history, on the toilet and bearing down with gurning, teeth-gnashing intensity, surrounded by courtiers — and at least one familiar, if not altogether welcome, face in the form of the Duke of Sandringham.
The slimy noble ends up revealing two vital pieces of information to Claire: firstly, that Black Jack Randall has a brother, Alex, a sickly but well-meaning young man who is serving as Sandringham’s secretary, and more importantly — despite Claire and Jamie’s assumptions to the contrary — that Black Jack Randall is still alive, having survived his encounter with a herd of cattle last season. Luckily, Jamie is otherwise engaged when Claire makes this discovery, but she’s immediately concerned about the effect this news might have on her already vulnerable husband.
“It’s such a strange thing, because [Alex] is so unlike Jack, and Claire’s good at reading people, so she can see right away that this is a nice guy and Mary Hawkins is interested,” Balfe previews. “When Claire finds out that Randall is still alive, it’s a twofold thing — all of a sudden, she realizes what that means in terms of Frank, but also her concern for Jamie. She’s watching this man slowly begin to heal and he’s still not fully there and he’s still experiencing this, and she feels that this information might be the thing that sends him over the edge.”
Will Jamie discover the news in next week’s epiode — and will King Louis take Jamie’s advice about the porridge? We’ll find out on April 23.