'Outlander' season 2, episode 7: A test of faith
I stared at a blank screen for five minutes after drowning in Outlander's latest installment. Caitriona Balfe gave her best performance, yet, in this episode flooded with superb melodrama. And for me, "Faith" proves that stories in books and stories on screen amplify emotions in different ways. One cannot simply be better than the other.
But TV Claire punched me in the gut. I felt her despair. I felt her pain. I felt raw. Let's recap:
Last episode, Claire went into premature labor after chasing Jamie in the woods as he fought Captain Randall. And after delivering a stillborn, a relinquished Claire faces death herself. With the covert aid of Monsieur Raymond, she finally fights to survive. She fills the numbness with hatred for Jamie. He betrayed her, and of course she blames him for this fatal consequence of his actions. Mother Hildegarde urges her to seek forgiveness, but we know how stubborn Claire is.
When she leaves the hospital, she's sadly greeted by the people of the house. I thought this sad scene might be the end of our misery. But it is not. Far from it.
Claire notices Fergus acting strangely around the house, and comforts him in the middle of the night after he has a nightmare. Here she learns the real reason Jamie broke his promise.
And it's because Captain Randall contines to be the most evil person ever. He forced himself onto the boy at Madam Elise's. Jamie came to Fergus' rescue, but also challenged Randall to a duel. Claire questions what's worse: that the boy was raped; or that Fergus blames himself for what happened afterward.
Now Claire has the strength and courage to try and free Jamie from prison. With Mother Hildegarde's help (what can't this woman do?), Claire goes to the His Majesty to ask for Jamie's freedom. She knows she might have to sleep with the king, but she wasn't expecting to be part of an execution charade.
King Louis takes her to a mysterious room where the hangman stands in a shadowy corner. Comte St. Germain and Monsieur Raymond come forward. They are accused of witchcraft and King Louis wants La Dame Blanche to see if there truly is evil behind their motivations.
Claire is best when forced to think on her feet — that's why she makes a great trauma nurse. She offers a ruse to ensure the men stay alive, but keeps the King happy. The tension rises as the cup of the familiar fake poison, bitter cascara, moves from one man to another. But somehow Monsieur Raymond has slipped true poison in the cup. Claire's necklace warns the Comte, who knows his fate at that moment. There is nothing he can do but gulp down his death.
I want to include a passage from the book, Dragonfly In Amber, to highlight what's going on in Claire's head in these moments:
I remembered my errant thought on meeting Charles Stuart; how convenient for everyone if he should die. But one cannot kill a man for his beliefs, even if the exercise of those beliefs means the death of innocents — or can one?
I didn't know. I didn't know that the Comte was guilty, I didn't know that Raymond was innocent. I didn't know whether the pursuit of an honorable cause justified the use of dishonorable means. I didn't know what one life was worth — or a thousand. I didn't know the true cost of revenge.
It's a sick reality show for His Majesty, and he seems satisfied with the result. He banishes Monsieur Raymond from France, but King Louis still wants payment from Claire. After a few thrusts, it's over. And all she thinks about is England. (Chuckle.)
Claire and Jamie reunite at home, where she tells him the torment she had to go through when she lost to their daughter, Faith. We flashback with Claire to her holding the deceased baby in her arms at the hospital. Claire sobs when Louise takes her away. Claire not only feels the loss of her child — one she never thought she'd have — but also of Jamie.
Here's another passage from the book during this scene:
But I had come back from the dead. Only Jamie's hold on my body had been strong enough to pull me back from that final barrier, and Master Raymond had known it. I knew that only Jamie himself could pull me back the rest of the way, into the land of the living. That was why I had run from him, done all I could to keep him away, to make sure he would never come near me again. I had no wish to come back, no desire to feel again. I didn't want to know love, only to have it ripped away once more.
Jamie comes back from prison, looking about 20 years older. (I thought all men looked hotter with beards, but nope.) Jamie promises they will get through this together. They may have lost their daughter, but not the faith that holds them together.
And we have faith, too, because the flashforward in the beginning of the episode shows another red-headed daughter in 1954 with Claire in Boston.
For book readers
I don't like that Louise de Rohan isn't in more scenes with TV Claire. They are good friends in the book. Claire actually stays with Louise in her country house as she mourns her daughter and waits for news about Jamie's whereabouts. I think it would help to see TV Claire have a true girlfriend to confide in.
There was a small rewrite of events in this episode. Claire doesn't learn about Fergus' rape until after she goes to King Louis to ask for Jamie's freedom. But I liked that the writers used this knowledge to persuade a stubborn Claire to just go get her husband, already.