This Outlander review contains spoilers.
Outlander Season 2, Episode 6
Never let it be said that Outlanderdoesn’t know how to deliver a cliffhanger. In the final act of “Best Laid Schemes…,” many of the largest season 2 plot elements seemed to come to a head. Claire and Jamie struck a major blow in their campaign to stop the Jacobite rebellion before it even starts. Jamie and Jack finally dueled. And Claire’s pregnancy may have come to an end. And I haven’t even mentioned the unknown fate of poor Fergus!
As someone who is a big fan of the show, but has never read the books (frankly, at this point, because I want to be surprised by what comes next on the TV show), this is the first time this season where Outlander‘snext step is so uncertain. We know that Jack Randall can’t die because Claire does return to the 20th century to find a very much alive Frank Randall. However, Jack did not look good following his clash with Jamie in the woods. No doubt he will survive to villain another day, but it was hard not to notice that Jamie struck a blow to a particularly important part of Jack’s anatomy re: Frank’s future existence.
Has Jack already fathered the child who will become Frank’s ancestor? Jamie did run into him at a brothel. And speaking of said brothel, can we assume that something terrible has happened to Fergus? It seems the likeliest explanation for Jamie’s decision to go back on his promise to Claire — though you think a member of the Fraser household would have mentioned this to Claire before her departure to the woods?
Thematically, Fergus’ possible death works tragically well in an episode that sees Claire potentially losing her unborn child. After all, in many ways, Fergus is already Claire and Jamie’s son. Would Outlanderreally be so cruel as to rob Claire and Jamie of not one, but two children in one episode? Perhaps — though, with Claire bound for Mother Hildegarde (and Bouton), maybe there is a chance Claire and Jamie’s unborn child can be saved. (Book readers, don’t tell me.)
Ironically, the thing that Claire is the most worried about going into this episode is the thing that seemingly works out the best: Murtagh and Jamie’s last-minute plan to steal Charles’ all-important wine. For the most part, this plan is a success — aside from Saint Germain’s continued suspicion. Rather, it is Jack Randall’s unexpected encounter with Fergus and Claire’s potential miscarriage that are the things Claire the Time Traveller cannot see coming.
Speaking of Claire’s “witchy” ways, this episode continued some unsettling talk of the occult — or, more accurately, the king’s response to the perceived witches in his midst. Claire’s hospital co-volunteer gives her a play-by-play account of how he, in his responsibilities as court executioner, draws and quarters a man (or woman, he is sure to include). Between this conversation and Murtagh’s own use of the word “witch” in relation to Claire, it seems likely that Claire’s “La Dame Blanche” label could cause some trouble down the road…
The prospect of being fingered as a witch scares Master Raymond enough to leave town, per Claire’s suggestion. Before he (apparently) flees the city, he tells Claire that he hopes to meet her again — in this life or the next. This dude is throwing off so many time traveler vibes. Has he already met Claire (in his past and in her future)? Could he be a familiar face Claire encounters when she returns to the 20th century?
As with every episode of Outlander, there were countless rich scenes to discuss, but one of the more random, yet fascinating ones came in Claire’s outburst during one of Louise’s gossip parties. As Jamie and Murtagh are out risking their lives for the future of Scotland, Louise can’t stop gossiping. It eventually leads Claire to speak her mind, desperate to have a real conversation with these women who hold such power within this time. She asks them if they ever think of the poor who live on the street, dying everyday? The rich ladies promise to do something: they will ask their husbands to protest the king to have the poor removed to other parts of the city so the highest classes no longer have to be unsettled by their pitiful presence.
It is in moments like this that Claire’s mission to change history for the better seems so fruitless and also myopic. Claire has chosen to try to stop the Jacobite rebellion and save the Highlander way of life, but what of the people living in the streets around her, destined to die from hunger or disease or another circumstance that could have been prevented?
In many ways, this episode was about Claire’s powerlessness — about the things she cannot control, despite being both a capable person, extreme privilege, and having knowledge of the future. At the end of the day, Claire is trying to control a fate that she herself is victim to. Claire’s bravery seems to lie in the fact that, despite the overwhelming odds, despite the things she cannot control, she still tries. Or is that not bravery but stubborness? Maybe a little bit of both…
One decision Claire does have control over is who gets to know her own story and, in “Best Laid Schemes…,” Claire and Jamie decide to tell Murtagh the truth about Claire’s past in the future. Sadly, we don’t actually get to hear Jamie try to explain this crazy story and, sadly, it is Jamie who is doing it and not Claire, but we do get to see Murtagh ask Claire about it later, in one of my favorite scenes of the episode.
The friendship between Claire and Murtagh has been one of the unexpectedly best ones of the season. Murtagh and Claire seem to consider each other family. They were brought together because of their respective love for Jamie, but their relationship has grown past that. Murtagh accepting Claire’s truth and having empathy for all she has gone through was incredibly moving.
But perhaps the most important scene of the episode was the one who saw Claire promising Jamie that, should anything happen to him, she will go back through the stones and return to Frank. Given that we know Claire goes back through the stones, does this mean something has happened to Jamie? In the snapshot into the future we saw in the season 2 premiere, Claire was desperate to find out what happened to Jamie, suggesting his fate was not definite. (Also, he is the main male lead of this show, so…)
Will Claire keep her promise to Jamie when he couldn’t keep his own promise to her? Or is it another set of circumstances that brings Claire back through the stones and through time? Whatever the answers to these questions, it seems like time is running out on the Frasers’ time in Paris — and in Outlander‘s time in France. But who will be left standing when the Frasers eventually presumably head back to Scotland? And what promises will be left unbroken between Claire and Jamie when that time comes?