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Television

Outlander: Season 2, Episode 6 - "Best Laid Schemes..."

Alyssa Rasmus

Just when Jamie and Claire seem to be turning the tide, everything goes to hell.


Outlander

Airtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Duncan Lacroix, Grant O’Rourke
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 6 - "Best Laid Schemes..."
Network: Starz
Air date: 2016-05-14
Amazon

The follow up to the ellipses in the title is what comprises the plot of the episode. As in: the "best laid schemes … fail". How do you end up exactly where you're not supposed to be? Why do the fates allow so much to pass despite a strong front against its wishes? Are Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) messing and meddling too much?

Claire has finally put to her mind that the reason she was sent through the stones was to save the clans and stop the rebellion. She also has a soulmate-like connection with Jamie; maybe that was her purpose? Or perhaps their child is her purpose? Sadly, no matter which of these she felt was true, by the end of this episode, Claire’s lost more than she ever has: her child.

The episode begins as Claire tries to devise a way to make the symptoms of smallpox appear in Comte St. Germain's (Stanley Weber) men, so that his warehouse of wine will be burned or his inventory confiscated. Previously, Jamie was tasked by the Prince (Andrew Gower) to sell wine provided by the Comte to generate £10,000 for "their cause". Claire and Jamie, of course, need to foil the plan. The fear of smallpox worked against the Comte once; maybe it will again.

After discovering his sick men, the Comte hid them so that is inventory wasn't ruined. The Prince asks Jamie to transport the wine himself. Comte must come along as well, as to insure his investment. Jamie agrees.

One of the most important moments of the episode -- although it was easy to miss, as it was from Claire's perspective and was a soundless scene -- was when Jamie told Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) Claire’s story. Murtagh's clearly a loyal man, but both Jamie and Claire wondered if he could handle both the reality and the lie Jamie and Claire have been feeding him for more than a year. It's challenging to grasp the gravity of the moment, because we, as viewers, witness it from afar, possibly so the audience doesn't have to sit through a brief retelling of season one.

It feels, however, that this decision came too quickly, as Claire only told Jamie the truth in a moment of desperation and exhaustion. That being said, it's clear that Claire and Jamie realize, nearly at the same moment, that they need to fess up to Murtagh, who’s getting confused by the conversations and instructions. He has been through everything with Claire and Jamie, but this kind of revelation puts Claire at risk in an age when "witchcraft" is deathly illegal. Jamie has already called her "La Dame Blanche" to the point of communal believability. Murtagh's only response to the truth? Claire's a witch, he should've known sooner. Back to business.

For better or worse, the pacing of this season keeps pushing out the important character-driven moments that supported the first season in favor of highly plot-driven sequences. The conflict presented in this episode is yet another plan for the gang to stop, with only slightly higher stakes than the last. Jamie and the Comte journey back from the warehouse with the wine, only to be taken by staged robbers: Murtagh and some new hires. Jamie "fights" with Murtagh, who knocks him out for dramatic effect, leaving the Comte unable to fend off the thievery.

Devastated, the Comte and the Prince try to think yet again of how to raise funds for the Scottish rebellion, and Jamie's called to settle an argument between the two at everyone's favorite brothel. But, Fergus (Romann Berrux), the fighter wannabe and Fraser ward, wonders off in search of items to steal and finds himself in the room of one Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies).

When Claire returns home after a night in the hospital at Mother Hildegarde's (Frances de la Tour) insistence, she learns from Suzette (Adrienne-Marie Zitt) that Jamie's in a duel. The duel's establishment is yet another moment we don't get to see. Fergus is missing, Jamie's fighting, and Claire darts out of the house trying to make it time to stop the men from killing each other. Jamie might as well have been fighting Frank; in Claire’s mind, he was. The anxiety, the apprehension makes her mind show her images of the worst of circumstances. There’s nothing she can really do, but she needs to bear witness. We don't know how the fight really got started, or why they thought they could get away with an illegal duel, but Claire arrives right in the middle.

Nervous to break Jamie's concentration, she doesn't call to him. Caitriona Balfe really sells the anxiety and fear of the moment. Claire watches Jamie break a promise to her, watches as Frank’s life swings in the balance, and watches to find a moment to stop both men without either man being injured. She watches and burns inside. Unable to move, unable to think, unable to process the enormity of this moment, she loses her child. Blood streams down her ankles soaking her white tights, while the French police charge through the woods to arrest both men. Now they are truly separated with nothing holding them together. Jamie sits with his hands in the air, while Claire lays on the ground in an unspeakable agony with guards between them and their child gone. She could now lose Jamie, she has lost her child, and now that Jamie has stabbed Randall in the groin, she may have lost Frank too.

The best laid schemes … fail, end, and don't promise fortune. To mess with fate and history, one risks butterfly effects. Claire and Jamie just witnessed one.

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