Outlander – Season 2 Episode 3
“Useful Occupations and Deceptions”
Outlander juggles a few plotlines when Jamie continues his attempts to stop the coming Jacobite Rebellion while Claire struggles to feel useful in French society.
It’s immediately clear that some time has passed since the last episode as evidenced by Claire’ growing baby bump as well as the dialogue telling how much has gone on. Jamie is exhausted from constantly meeting with Prince Charles and trying to stay ahead of him. Early in the episode we catch him as he returns from spending time in a brothel with the Prince and readies himself to create as many barriers to his plans within the French Court.
Jamie is playing a dangerous game as he is trying to get Prince Charles’ trust while also trying to undermine him at every turn. He plans to use any information he gets from the Prince to turn it against him and derail his plans. It makes sense but it can only be a matter of time before he is caught.
His relationship with the Prince as well as everyone else is perfectly encapsulated through his game of chess with the Minister of Finance. The Minister is playing for fun and Jamie is playing to win which mirrors the current state of his interactions with everyone he is in contact with. Charles thinks that Jamie is his friend where Jamie is using him for information that can be used against him. It’s a fairly simple relationship between these two characters that provides a solid foundation to build on. There is bound to be betrayal in the future so keeping the motivations clear for now is definitely a good thing.
The information he gets in the episode isn’t all that encouraging as it comes to light that there are some British benefactors helping to finance the upcoming war. The promised amount isn’t enough to begin but it’s a solid start and indicates that time is running out. It also suggests that things aren’t going completely according to Claire’s understanding of history. This makes a lot of sense as she freely admits that her knowledge has gaps plus it’s only natural that certain facts would be lost through the passage of time due to a lack of proper record keeping as well as this being a secret in the first place. The odds are stacked against Jamie and Claire as they don’t have enough information to be as proactive as they’d like to be so Jamie has to learn things as he goes.
Things do look up when Jamie hires a pickpocket named Fergus (Romann Berrux) -actually Claudel but Jamie doesn’t think that it’s manly enough so changes it- to steal the letters addressed to the Prince and King so that he and Murtagh can copy and reseal them before they go back to their intended recipient. They eventually crack a code hidden in some sheet music and learn enough to plan their next move. I really liked the attitude to sheet music displayed from Jamie and Murtagh who are used to music being passed down by being taught rather than written down. The way the show handles the cultural differences in this time is beautifully subtle as it is woven into the overall story rather than having it stand out.
Fergus is a good character so far. He comes across as very streetsmart and liberated. The way he compliments Claire on her breasts just after doing the same to the maid is hilarious and shows how difficult he will be to control but also proves how useful he will be. He has already been shown to be useful so having him as a presence will be no bad thing for the show.
Claire finds herself bored this week as she finds that her life has become too “conventional”. She is used to being part of the action and having a direct impact on what goes on but that just isn’t happening for her here. All she does is look after the house and attend an endless stream of social functions that she has no interest in. She attends them in the hope that she will learn something useful but it doesn’t look all that likely.
These scenes are fun as we get to see Louise again who brings a much needed dose of comic relief. The fake shock reaction from Louise when Mary relays her concern that French men like to have sex and that’s something that really terrifies her was great. Mary is the complete opposite of Louise in the sense that she is shy and introverted with no real grasp of the kind of person she wants to be. Louise is a force of nature who is completely free and open about things in contrast to her proper way of acting. The back and forth between these two characters is really entertaining and I would like to see more of it.
Claire inadvertantly learns something important through attending tea when Mary reveals she is from Sussex which allows Claire to put it together that she is Frank’s direct ancestory. This complicates matters considerably as Frank’s existence now requires that Black Jack Randall survive long enough to father a child with Mary. Claire’s mindset has to change from needing Randall to die to needing him to live a little longer and it raises an interesting moral debate. Is Frank’s existence enough to justify the horrible things his ancestor will do between now and him fathering a child? Time travel is tricky as the effect that Frank has on the world around him also needs to be considered. Randall is like a black cloud that hangs over the show and reminds everyone that they aren’t safe.
I do also wonder if this is another attempt to foreshadow that Claire and Jamie fail with the reminder that history is still moving along as it should. I’m pretty much convinced that Claire was always meant to be part of events so everything she does only makes history happen. There’s a sense of inevitability hanging over the show and so far it’s working well at establishing that their plan will fail.
Claire falling back on her medical skills by volunteering down at the L’Hôpital des Anges – a charity hospital overseen by Mother Hildegarde (Frances de la Tour). She finds purpose in helping people as she loves to do that and is very good at it. It takes a while for Mother Hildegarde to trust her but eventually Claire’s skills speak for themselves and she gains the necessary respect. There are some great moments here such as Claire’s quick diagnosis of diabetes and the hospital dog Bouton sniffing out a hidden injury. All of this adds another element for the show to play around with and it blends seamlessly with everything else around it.
Jamie is quickly angered by Claire going out to help sick people as he feels that she is putting the baby at risk as well as not having her around when he needs her. It might seem selfish at first but Jamie is under considerable pressure to put their plan into motion and he is acting on the faith he has in his wife from the future which definitely won’t be enough for the people he needs to convince. The argument works because both sides make valid points. Jamie needs the support of his wife and Claire needs something to do, those objectves aren’t compatible so it causes conflict. It’s one that is resolved for now but as the planning gets more intricate I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back in a later episode.
I found Murtagh’s affair with Suzette to be the weakest part of the episode. It allowed Claire to find the opportunity to volunteer at the hospital and lets her vent to him about Black Jack Randall still being alive but beyond that there is very little depth to it. It feels like an addition to the episode just so the plot can move forward in specific ways as quickly as possible. Maybe if Murtagh and Suzette had shared some scenes prior to this it would have worked better but it didn’t really work for me in context here.
Another great episode that moves the plot forward nicely while giving the characters plenty to do. Jamie’s simple relationship with Prince Charles is compelling as is the steps he is taking to find information to use against him. There’s a real sense of inevitablity to the story that is further developed by certain hints at a future that must come to pass. Claire’s boredom in high society works really well as do her scenes volunteering to help treat the poor. The only weak link was Murtagh’s affair with Suzette as it felt like it was there for plot furthering rather than having an organic place in the episode.
- Jamie’s relationship with Prince Charles and how that feeds into the overall plan
- Louise continuing to entertain
- Claire’s scenes in the hospital
- Murtagh’s affair with Suzette being mostly plot furthering rather than an organic part of the episode