We said it in last week’s “Outlander Style” post, but it’s truer than ever after this episode: Claire and Jamie Fraser are, quite simply, rock stars.
How else to explain the outrageous turns of good fortune that regularly befall them upon their arrival in France? How else to explain how everyone from servants to shopowners to Bonnie Prince Charlie to King Louis XV himself not only welcome the Frasers with open arms (and in a decidedly unFrench manner), but also all but pledge their everlasting fealty to them in one way or another? How else to explain the flip side of that interaction, when countless people vow to destroy them, sometimes within minutes or hours of meeting them? It is, it would seem, virtually impossible to be ambivalent about the Frasers once you encounter them. They are entirely too gorgeous, stylish and charismatic to be denied.
A less charitable take would look at some of the unlikely turns in this episode and question whether the narrative occasionally gets a little too convenient when it needs to, however.
Claire meets and befriends Master Raymond the apothecary – rather recklessly, we’d argue. She first questions the veracity of his ingredients, shows off her knowledge of herbalism, and then reveals that her husband is having nightmares, all of which strikes us as impolitic and, well, not too bright. After everything she’s been through, you’d think Claire would learn to not make such a showing of her independence and knowledge. And we’d certainly think if you’re exiles in a new city, with huge political plans and schemes, that you wouldn’t be quite so free with personal information when speaking to people you don’t know. But Claire, despite all her excellent qualities as a person, can be fairly infuriating from time to time, if not totally reckless.
It’s almost to her benefit that her reputation preceded her to Master Raymond, due to her encounter with the Comte St. Germain (who, you may remember, vowed to destroy her roughly 45 minutes after meeting her). It turns out, to Claire’s ENORMOUS good luck, that Raymond considers St. Germain his enemy and thus befriends Claire on the spot. That could have so easily gone disastrously. As we said, the narrative is full of these sorts of rather convenient turns of fate, none more obvious and slightly ridiculous than Monsieur Duverney, France’s Minister of Finance, pledging his neverending loyalty and friendship to the Frasers after he more or less sexually assaults Claire and Jamie winds up literally throwing him in the lake. By the time Jamie’s giving the King of France advice on his gastrointestinal health, we’ve not only gone all in on history porn, but we’re in a world where the Frasers seem almost superhumanly lucky and savvy.
But when you consider how much grief they’ve endured, and when you remember Claire grimly deciding to give it a go again with Frank in the 20th Century and consider how much grief lies before them, we suppose an episode that all but strews rose petals in their paths is not only to be expected, but a kindness to the audience, who has seen them through some dark times and is prepared to do so again. Certainly, by the time the utterly DELICIOUS Duke of Sandringham all but dropped the mic on Claire at Versailles regarding the news of Black Jack Randall’s unfortunate status as a breathing, sentient human being, all the preceding fun and good fortune seemed a little more earned. The darkness is bearing down on them once again and all their plans may come crashing down around them.
But enough doom and gloom. Louise de Rohan and her vigorous waxing routine, darlings! Is there anyone or anything more fabulous? Claire’s outrageously sexy red gown! Could you die? Murtagh yelling out “ASSES AND ARMPITS” at Parisian passers-by! Murtagh blurting out “If you ask me the French are a sorry bunch of sodomites who cannot please their women” – to Bonnie Prince Charlie, no less! Dildoes! Shitting (or not) kings! The beauty of a story like Outlander is its firm commitment to show a … shall we say… earthier side of history. And the beauty of placing a character like Claire as its hero is that you get a 5-minute scene of her and Jamie discussing how her honeypot feels.
Top that, Jon Snow!
Interestingly, while Claire demonstrates admirable skills at navigating virtually any political or social situation thrown at her in Paris, she is far less comfortable gossiping about sausages and pricks with the ladies of the court. Granted, they’re condescending and frivolous, two qualities we’d wager Claire can’t stand. That’s why her scene with the Duke of Sandringham was so delicious. “I see you’re already cultivating important people in high places,” he notes keenly. “How very in keeping with your character.” Of all the enemies Claire has made in this story, he is by far the wiliest, and thus a more even match for her than someone like Jack Randall, who’s just a firebreathing monster and sadist.
Anyway, we know disaster awaits them in one form or another (because they just can’t seem to avoid it anymore than they can avoid being so popular and fabulous), but for now, it’s just great fun watching two such intelligent, passionate and charismatic people really turn on every skill in their set to get what they want and navigate the nearly un-navigable.
Goddamn rock stars.
Don’t forget to come back for our “Outlander Style” post on this episode, which should go up on Wednesday.
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