*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
First, a general comment: Ira Steven Behr is by far my least favorite of the OUTLANDER writers, and it showed in this episode. The costumes were amazing, and I liked the new characters, especially Louise, Master Raymond, and Mary Hawkins. I enjoyed many scenes, but I thought the show dragged quite a bit in the second half, especially on the first viewing. There was very little dramatic tension or conflict in this episode, and I found myself, on the first viewing, checking the time every few minutes during the Versailles scenes, which is something I rarely did in Season 1.
Now, to the episode itself:
The gown in the opening scene is amazing, and looks very authentic! I keep thinking of the way a reviewer somewhere described the Season 2 costumes as "costume porn", and it's really true in this episode! <g>
The nightmare was very well done, if gory. Notice how BJR's eyes pop open at the very end. <shudder>
"He's alive, in my head. I couldna get him out." - good line.
I liked the way Claire dealt with his nightmare. She seemed concerned, but matter-of-fact rather than panicked. This clearly isn't the first time they've been through this, and it surely won't be the last.
That bed looks so luxurious, especially when you compare it to many of the places they slept in Season 1.
Claire and the housemaid: "I shall endeavor to be sloppier in my personal habits." This takes the situation in the book (Claire is frustrated and bored because the servants handle everything so well that there's nothing for her to do) and turns it around, so here we see a servant who is frustrated because Claire is in effect doing her job. Interesting twist. <g>
I liked the music as the carriage moves through Paris, and I was fascinated by the costumes worn by all the extras in the streets. The costumes in this episode alone must have taken a phenomenal amount of work for Terry and her team!
I loved Master Raymond's shop. It's bigger than I thought it would be, but otherwise looks very much like the image in my head. I'm glad they included the stuffed crocodile! (In case you're wondering, crocodiles were traditional in apothecary shops for centuries. For an explanation, check out this video, which I found a few years ago.)
Dominique Pinon is terrific as Master Raymond! He's a very appealing character. Note that what he prescribes for Jamie's nightmares is valeriana officinalis -- the very same valerian root that Claire used as a sedative in Episode 104, "The Gathering". I was surprised that Claire didn't comment on that, since she's obviously familiar with it. But that's a minor detail.
I liked the sword-fighting scene between Jamie and Murtagh very much. It makes sense to show that Jamie is gradually getting the strength back in his injured hand, and I loved the way the bystanders gawked at the two of them.
"Dueling is outlawed in France." (Can you say foreshadowing??)
"Yet another wrong to mark against this misery of a country." - good line from Murtagh, who really lives up to his dour reputation in this episode.
"Lard-Bucket and Big Head" - LOL! I love Jamie's reaction to this. It's the first time we've seen him laugh since before Wentworth, and you can see his old personality reasserting itself. Sam looks terrific in this scene, like he's really enjoying himself.
"Dinna fash. We won't be here forever."
"No. But it'll seem so."
I liked this exchange. Wondering if this is meant as a response to fans complaining that the story has moved away from Scotland?
"Maison de Madame Elise" -- so this is not just any brothel, it's the one where Fergus was born. Book-readers should catch the reference, even if it doesn't mean anything yet to some of the TV viewers. It does seem high-class, for a brothel. The bit with the dildos (what are they made of, ivory?) took me by surprise, but Charles is right, this is vulgar.
Charles looking down his nose (figuratively speaking) at Murtagh: "I don't recall asking for your opinion, or even inviting you here this evening."
"Where he goes, I go." (just like Dougal in the beginning of Episode 106, talking to Lt. Foster)
"The clans canna agree on the color of the sky." - good line
Murtagh's speech to Charles was very good, even eloquent at times, but I thought it was risky to be so blunt, considering what we know from the book about Charles' volatile temper. I expected Charles to take offense at his boldness and order him to get out, and was surprised by his reaction: "I see you [Jamie] have the heart of a true patriot, willing to risk my divine wrath in order to safeguard your countrymen."
I'm really glad they subtitled the Gaelic in Murtagh's response: "Not too late to slit his throat."
I love Claire's dressing gown in the next scene -- gorgeous!
The waxing scene was very good. I love Claire Sermonne as Louise, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. She seems just perfect for the role! A little flamboyant and over-the-top, but Louise was like that in the book, too, so it fits. Mary Hawkins is very young and very shy, just as in the book. Those huge eyes just add to the impression of naivete. I loved the way she and Claire both reacted to the idea of waxing one's "honeypot".
The sex scene with Jamie and Claire that follows is, of course, different from the book, but I think it works very well. "I thought you'd be intrigued. Something different." And of course Jamie's a quick learner. <g> I did think Jamie would be more shocked at what she'd done, though.
It seems clear that the point of this scene (unlike the one in the book) is to show that Jamie hasn't yet recovered from the trauma of Wentworth. Having him see BJR's face while making love to Claire was shocking, but IMHO very effective. I actually moaned out loud at that fleeting glimpse of BJR's face.
"It's OK. It's OK." Claire's use of 20th-century slang here is a little jarring, but I would still consider it in character. She's used the expression before (talking to young Rabbie at Lallybroch, for example) and Jamie clearly has heard her say it often enough to understand what it means. A very poignant moment, and I like the way the scene ends, with Claire holding Jamie and Jamie clutching his injured hand. Very well done.
We next see them two weeks later, preparing to leave for Versailles. I like the way Jamie teases Murtagh: "You could have at least washed your knees, you swine." "I did."
The red dress is breathtaking, but it appears several inches too short, and I don't think it's the camera angle, because we see the same thing later as she walks across the courtyard outside. That's a shame. All they needed was a couple more inches of fabric (yes, I realize it's probably a lot more complicated than that! <g>), to make sure the gown would touch the floor. I found this distracting, and IMHO it diminishes the overall effect.
On the other hand, I loved Jamie's expression as he catches sight of her. Also his smile as he says, "I suppose it'll have to do." The business with the fan is just as I imagined from the book.
I liked seeing Versailles lit up at night. "Costume porn" indeed -- the costumes in this whole part of the episode are just amazing!! I like Louise's gown, and Mary's, too.
The scene with Annalise de Marillac is just priceless, especially for Jamie's reactions. <g>
Now, about that scene in the King's chambers: Yes, it's based on something in the book, but I think it went on for far too long. Did we really need to spend that much valuable screen time on Louis XV's bathroom habits, especially when we've been told over and over that they often have to cut scenes from these episodes due to time constraints? I suppose Ira Steven Behr thought this would be hilarious to show on screen. I didn't find it very amusing. In fact, I think he missed the point of this scene in the book entirely:
"That sounds an awful way to live,” I remarked, wanting to distract him. “Not watching owls, I don’t mean--the King. No privacy, ever, not even in the loo.”I wish they'd found a way to keep that bit in the show.
“I wouldna care for it myself,” Jamie agreed. “But then he’s the King.”
“Mmm. And I suppose all the power and luxury and so forth makes up for a lot.”
He shrugged. “Well, if it does or no, it’s the bargain God’s made for him, and he’s little choice but to make the best of it."
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Royal Audience". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I did like the King's line: "Is that so? Unfortunately the King has never acquired a taste for peasant food."
Claire's fan in the next scene is gigantic, compared to the little one she was carrying when they left Jared's house. I laughed when I saw that. But again, in the scene in the courtyard, Claire's gown is too short.
I liked the way they combined M. Duverney's role with that of the obnoxious courtier in the book. (Duverney's wig looks like a drowned animal pelt after it's retrieved from the fountain.) So this is how Duverney's friendship with Jamie begins, by way of apology for his boorish behavior toward Claire? I really doubt Book Jamie would be so forgiving, so quickly. It's clearly intended here as a plot device to get the two of them interacting, but I found it contrived.
The "nipple dress" is stunning, and very much the way it's described in the book:
She was, in current vogue, wearing a gown cut below both breasts, with a bit of supercedent gauze which was clearly meant for the sake of fashion, as it couldn’t possibly function for either warmth or concealment.The King's comments to Duverney made me laugh. But I didn't like the way he passed over Claire in the red dress without even asking who she was. In the book, the whole point of the red dress was to attract attention, but it doesn't appear to have had much effect on Louis here.
It was neither the gown nor the prospect it revealed that had rattled me, though. The breasts of “Nesle,” while reasonably adequate in size, pleasant in proportion, and tipped with large brownish areolae, were further adorned with a pair of nipple jewels that caused their settings to recede into insignificance. A pair of diamond-encrusted swans with ruby eyes stretched their necks toward each other, swinging precariously in their gold-hooped perches. The workmanship was superb and the materials stunning, but it was the fact that each gold hoop passed through her nipple that made me feel rather faint.
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Splendors of Versailles". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I wasn't expecting to see Sandringham here (I missed Simon Callow's name in the opening credits on the first viewing) but he was very good, as always. Claire's fury at seeing Sandringham is much easier to understand if you assume that Jamie told her how Sandringham gave BJR that petition of complaint, and BJR burned it in front of Jamie's eyes in Wentworth.
Lawrence Dobiesz is very good as Alex Randall. I'm glad that they didn't have Tobias play this role as well.
"I'll have to tell Jonathan that I met you." I gasped at this, but the more I think about it, the more I dislike what they did here. The revelation that BJR is still alive is a huge plot point, and yet we learn about it through telling, not showing, so it has far less dramatic and emotional impact than it did in the book. I was very disappointed in that.
The voiceover at the end was also disappointing. So they're setting up a situation where Claire is going to intentionally withhold vital information from Jamie? What about all that talk about honesty? I sincerely hope that she doesn't keep this secret from him for very long, because I think he's going to be furious if he finds out she knew BJR was alive and didn't tell him at once.
Overall, I liked this episode better on the second viewing, but I wish they'd found a way to inject more dramatic tension and conflict into it. I hope we'll see that in future episodes!
I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 203.
My recap of Episode 201 is here. Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.