Episode 203: "Useful Occupations and Deceptions" (SPOILERS)
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
Overall, I thought this episode was very well done, and much closer to the book than I expected.
I like the combination of the very ornate chess pieces and the music, evocative of 18th-century France, at the very beginning. It sets the stage very effectively.
Claire wakes in her bed, alone. Not a good sign!
Jamie comes home at dawn, immediately heads out again -- does he ever sleep, or eat? I'm glad Claire commented on his lack of sleep. I liked the way she gently pushed the servant away to tend to Jamie herself.
"I would not want to be late for tea." In his exhausted state, Jamie completely missed the sarcasm in Claire's tone. That's unusual -- he's usually so sensitive to her moods and needs, but not here.
The scene with Mary Hawkins and Louise is hilarious, just perfect! I actually think it's funnier here than in the book, because while Claire manages to keep from laughing (as in the book), Louise shows no such restraint, and her laughter is infectious. Definitely a keeper!
"In Sussex" - I wasn't expecting this little flashback, but I think it's a clever way to show Claire's sudden realization of exactly who Mary Hawkins is. I paused the screen on the genealogical chart, then went and got out my OUTLANDISH COMPANION Vol. 1 Revised and Updated Edition to compare the two. In case anyone's wondering, the names shown in Frank's family Bible here are exactly the same as in the chart on p. 208 of the OC. <g> The format of the chart has been rearranged a bit, to simplify it and put the focus on Frank's direct ancestors, but it's recognizably the same set of names.
Most of the chart is in what appears to be the same font as that chart in the OC (I thought that was a nice touch <g>), but if you look closely you can see that the last several names, including Frank's, are in a different handwriting, indicating that these names were added later.
(If you're not familiar with the OUTLANDISH COMPANION books, look here for more information.)
The scene with Murtagh and Suzette took me totally by surprise! LOL.
"Since when did ye become such a priggish scold?" I wondered that myself, though not in those words, and was glad Claire apologized right away.
The reason Murtagh gives for not telling Jamie immediately about BJR is plausible, but I didn't expect it. He's right, Jamie would probably tear off to Scotland immediately in pursuit of his vengeance, but I still really don't like Claire and Murtagh keeping secrets from Jamie. ("Oh, what a tangled web we weave...." and all that.)
I liked this exchange:
Claire: "I don't suppose you've ever thought of birth control?"
Murtagh (baffled): "Control??"
That library at Versailles is magnificent -- and immense! Kudos to Jon Gary Steele for his wonderful set design.
I liked the banter between Jamie and Duverney during and after the chess game, but I didn't care for the odd camera angle when they stood up, where the camera was looking up at them from below. I found it disconcerting and a little distracting.
I loved the Comte's air of menace and barely controlled fury at sight of Claire.
Master Raymond's use of the word "contraceptive" seems jarringly modern, at least to me. I didn't think the term was in common use in 1744. (Was he testing to see if she would react to the word?) On the other hand, I liked the fact that he was the one who suggested that Claire work at L'Hôpital des Anges. This is a change from the book, but I think it works well here.
"In need of helping others" - that's very perceptive of Master Raymond, and I very much hope Jamie will come to see it too, in time.
That first scene in L'Hôpital des Anges was wonderful, just as I'd imagined, and I'm really glad they were able to keep so much of the original dialogue from the book. My only small comment in this part is that Sister Angelique, the nun who introduces Claire to Mother Hildegarde, is so tiny that Claire looks twice her size! Either Claire has gotten taller in the last couple of episodes <g>, or she's wearing high heels under her gowns that make her tower over average-size women. Even Mother Hildegarde looks smaller by comparison.
Mother Hildegarde and Bouton are both terrific! I'm so thrilled to see Frances de la Tour playing this role, as I predicted back in 2009. She's just right for Mother Hildegarde. And Bouton is very cute. <g>
The scene with Charles and Duverney and Jamie in the brothel was notable for Jamie's first glimpse of young Fergus, and for the fact that Jamie was unnaturally quiet, taking little part in the discussion. I think they could have shortened that scene somewhat.
I wondered at first why Jamie didn't go out searching for Claire when she didn't return before dark, but then I remembered that Murtagh was with her.
The scene between J&C on her return was very good, but Jamie's body language throughout really bothered me. It seemed very unlike him -- keeping his back turned, hardly even looking at her, not touching her at all. And when she puts her hands on his shoulders, clearly trying to ease some of his stress, he puts her hands away from him, gently but firmly refusing to let her touch him.
Jamie's whole demeanor in that scene was so cold, distant, and angry that I found myself actually wondering if the TV viewers who have not read the books would conclude that he no longer loves Claire or feels any affection for her at all. (!) I found it very disturbing.
UPDATE 4/24/2016 7:39 pm: I mentioned my concerns about Jamie's body language in the Episode 203 discussion on Compuserve. Diana Gabaldon's reply is definitely worth reading! Her explanation might help other people who are having difficulty with Jamie's reactions in this scene. It certainly helped me!
"Indulging yourself with poultices and potions" - that's pretty harsh, IMHO, especially given that her skill with those same poultices and potions saved his life after Wentworth. I hope he was just snapping at her out of fatigue and frustration -- and in fact that's how I interpreted his, "When do I get to find meaning in my day?"
The scene where Jamie chases after Fergus is really good! After all the talking in the last couple of episodes, it's nice to see an action sequence! I liked the music during the chase, and I laughed whe Jamie turned Fergus upside-down to empty out his pockets. <g>
Romann Berrux is wonderful as Fergus, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him. Just one small quibble: at one point he says to Jamie, "Just when we are very busy and, like, the gentlemen are very drunk." Like?? Why is he talking like a kid in 2016? I wish they had edited that word out, because it jerked me momentarily out of the story.
And again, Claire wakes in bed alone. <sigh> Fergus's flattery made me laugh, but in the scene with Jamie and Claire after Fergus leaves, once again Jamie's body language is subtly "off", IMHO, and he can't seem to turn to face her directly.
Claire's "That's a good plan" seemed to me to be a peace offering, acknowledging that she values what he's doing.
I like that little bed in the alcove!
The scene with Claire, Mother Hildegarde, and Bouton is just as I've always pictured it from the book -- just perfect!
And here Jamie appears in his kilt for the first time in quite a long time. <g>
The Bach reference makes me giggle. Mother Hildegarde is wonderful in this scene, which is taken almost verbatim from the book.
I loved the way J&C turned to look at each other and said, "Sandringham" at the very same time. They're starting to be able to work as a team again, and I was glad to see it.
"This calls for a celebration," Jamie says, and then we see a genuine smile from him for the first time all episode. (The line about "fighting feathers" is based on a line from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 11.)
"To my wife, who's always there when I need her." It's not quite up to the standard of his toast on their wedding night <g>, but it's sincere, and I took it as the closest thing she'll get to an apology. And I was very relieved to see Jamie take Claire in his arms (finally!) and kiss her.
I don't blame Claire one bit for not wanting to burst Jamie's bubble of happiness by telling him about Black Jack Randall right then and there. But it's an interesting twist. If the goal of the writers at the end of the episode is to leave you wondering what's going to happen next, I think it worked very well.
I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 204.
Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:
Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.