Welcome back! This week, we focus on Claire as she is hospitalized, recovers, and pays an intense visit to King Louis while Jamie languishes in the Bastille.
Note: This was a trigger-y episode. As such, I have declined to use particularly upsetting screen captures, but there will be mild mention of disturbing scenes.
What a tear-jerking episode! I’m not ashamed to say I cried throughout. We open in Boston 1954 where a healthy-looking Claire and her gloriously red-haired young daughter peruse a bookstore. Now we can surmise that the baby Claire arrives pregnant with back in her own time, survives (Season 2, Episode 1.) The two look at birds and Claire mentions she’s seen one of them before, in Scotland. “When were you in Scotland, Mama?” the girl asks. Claire sighs. “A long time ago.”
Back in Claire’s 18th-century France present, she’s in the hospital miscarrying as Mother Hildegarde and the other doctors attempt to save both of their lives. Claire awakens alone in the hospital. She feels her belly and realizes that she is no longer carrying her child. She calls out to Mother Hildegarde, who rushes over. Claire asks where her baby is. “I am sorry, Madame. She has joined the angels,” says Mother Hildegarde. She further clarifies: “She was born…dead.” Claire is devastated, and then freaks out. “Bring me my baby!” We flash forward to a little later, when Claire is more calm, and Mother Hildegarde explains that she pulled some strings to have the baby buried in the convent churchyard (normally forbidden, for a child who never lived), and that she’d had her baptized and given a name: Faith.
“My sins are all I have left.”
Claire has been feverish for a few days. Mother Hildegarde calls in a priest to deliver Claire’s last rites. Claire demands to see Jamie, but there has been no word from him. Claire refuses a last confession. That night, she sleeps fitfully as Bouton keeps watch; her belly swollen. Her placenta has not fully passed from her body, and is rotting inside her. Maistre Raymond sneaks into her room in the night. “Hush, Madonna; if they find me here, I’m finished.” Raymond works his magic and performs a laying on of hands and drains Claire’s fever away. She calls out in pain as Raymond reaches inside of her to remove the infected tissue. “Once again, he saved my life,” we hear in voiceover. The nuns have heard Claire’s cries and Raymond scuttles into the shadows before they can catch him. After they leave, he returns to her bedside and they speak of the danger of him having come to her. “These are the things we do for our friends,” Raymond says. He reassures her again that they will meet again in the future: “Have faith.”
“I’m not sure there’s a sea deep enough.”
The next day, Mother Hildegarde (MH) examines Claire, and the fever is miraculously gone. Claire once again asks about Jamie, and MH tells her that he was arrested for dueling and is being detained in the Bastille; no communication. Claire asks how long he’ll be there. “Dueling is a serious offense,” MH tells her. “I’m afraid your husband will remain in prison, at the King’s pleasure.” She goes on to explain that Jamie didn’t kill Randall, who is recovering from his injuries back home in England. “It is fortunate, no?” Claire says yes, thinking of poor Frank’s life, but can barely conceal her disappointment. She goes on to lament Jamie’s betrayal. Claire is hurt and furious. MH tells her to cast those feelings into the sea.
Perhaps not knowing what else to do, Claire stays at the hospital for weeks, resting. Fergus finally brings her flowers and asks her to come home. She agrees. In a tear-jerking scene, Claire’s servants line up to greet her as she arrives back home, and they’re all bereft with sorrow on her behalf. At home, Fergus is sweet and takes care of Claire, brushing her hair by the fire. He excuses himself awkwardly, and Claire opens the box containing the apostle spoons Jamie intended for their baby. She breaks down all over again, slams the box, and shoves it under the bed with her foot.
A justifiable duel
Fergus cries out in the night with a terrible nightmare. When Claire tries to comfort him, he refuses to talk about it. “It’s not just a dream,” he says. As she finally pulls the story out of him about what really happened that night, Claire realizes that Jamie didn’t have a choice in dueling Randall–he’d walked in on BJR abusing the boy. Poor Fergus blames himself for Jamie’s imprisonment. “I didn’t cry or scream at first, but I couldn’t help it,” he sobs. His cries attracted Jamie’s attention to the room. Claire comforts him.
The next day, Claire requests a private audience with the King via Mother Hildegarde. She wants to petition for Jamie’s release from the Bastille. “So, ma cher, you have found a deep enough sea,” MH remarks. MH warns Claire that the King is mercurial, and that such requests always carry a price. She further clarifies: “The King may expect to lie with you.” Claire scoffs. “If it comes to sacrificing my virtue, Mother, I will add it to the list of things I have already lost in Paris.”
Claire is shown into Versailles, wearing her magic amulet for protection (the opal which turns darker in the presence of poison). The King offers her hot chocolate and an orange, then sits uncomfortably close to her on a settee. Claire explains what she wants, and the King is gentle. “Your husband has broken a royal decree,” he says simply. Claire turns up the charm and the King relents a little, but makes no bones about the fact that the deal will be, if you’ll pardon the expression, tit for tat. Claire agrees. The King brings up her nickname, La Dame Blanche, and Claire is shocked into silence.
A pure heart
Louis leads Claire into a stunning private chamber and demands “the benefit of her skills.” She spies the executioner in the corner of the room, then realizes that the King has Maistre Raymond and Le Comte St. Germain in his clutches. They have collected evidence from Le Comte’s house and from the apothecary. The executioner reads off the charges. Louis states dramatically that he has procured in Claire an infallible judge of character– “a pure heart cannot lie.” It is unclear at this point whether Louis is actually superstitious or just having a private laugh at Claire’s expense. The King mentions that he thinks she can see into their souls, ergo their lives are in her hands. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” Claire swears under her breath.
Claire inspects the two prisoners, putting on a bit of a show for the King’s benefit. She throws Le Comte under the bus. He freaks out and falls apart, calling her a witch, and screaming that she’s been known to drink poison and live. The King asks how he could possibly know such a thing, and Le Comte admits that it was he who poisoned Claire. He doubles down and says that she doesn’t even deny that she’s a witch. “No, I don’t deny it,” Claire says, but says that she is a white witch who practices white magic. Louis reminds Le Comte that Claire’s not the one with her feet to the fire. In the end, Claire can’t bring herself to kill anyone, and pronounces that she sees darkness in each of their souls, but only the darkness that lives in the souls of all men. “Even the King’s,” she says pointedly.
“Raymond, you evil bastard…”
The King isn’t satisfied and brings out a giant snake, saying that if either of them were true believers, they’d be able to handle it without being harmed. The Count legit looks ready to jump out of his skin, and Claire steps in, suggesting a different test: She’s going to poison them. If either is left standing, they’re allowed to go free. Louis agrees to the test, but makes no promises. Rooting through the evidence from Maistre Raymond’s shop and taking a page from his book, Claire comes up with a potion that won’t kill either man, just make them very sick. Raymond drinks first and convulses violently, but remains standing and pulls himself together. As Claire turns to hand the cup to Le Comte, her opal blackens suddenly. Maistre Raymond’s sleight-of-hand! Claire and Le Comte realize together that there is death waiting for him in the cup. Claire hesitates, but the King demands that he drink. The Count freaks out, crying and colorfully cursing both Claire and Raymond. He finally spits “I’ll see you both in hell,” and drinks. The Count collapses theatrically and is no more. King Louis dismisses Raymond, but tells him to stay the hell out of France.
“I closed my eyes and thought of England.”
As Raymond is led away, Claire asks if her wishes will be respected. The King says that she still owes him. He leads her to an anteroom, lays her down gently, and perfunctorily lifts her skirts and has brief sex with her–a few strokes only. It is obviously more of a symbolic show of power and dominance than anything else. Claire tidies herself and as she’s being shown out, Louis says that he’ll arrange for Jamie to be pardoned both in France and by the English crown, should they desire to return to Scotland. He seems to suggest that they should. Claire, satisfied, takes her orange on the way out.
Mourning the loss of Faith
Jamie returns home, reluctant to face Claire. She is cold. As they discuss Faith, Jamie explains himself about the duel. He asks if Claire hates him. She says that she did, and we relive with her as she fills Jamie in on what happened in the first hours after she gave birth, delirious. How she held their perfect baby and sang to her for hours. How she went mad with grief. How, in the end, it was Louise who saved her. Louise visits Claire in the hospital; her own belly heavy with child. Claire looks crazy. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Claire says. “Ten fingers, ten toes.” Louise agrees. “She’s an angel.” She asks to hold Faith. “It is time, my dear.” Claire kisses the baby, sobbing, and Louise hands the body gently over to Mother Hildegarde as Claire breaks down.
“So, yes,” Claire says, “I hated you.” She then concedes that it is as much her fault as anyone else’s–for putting Frank above their family, for chasing Jamie to the woods, for a number of things. Jamie reassures her that it is not her fault, but even if it were, there’s nothing he couldn’t forgive her. Claire takes that opportune moment to let Jamie know that she boned the King. Jamie gallantly understands, but his eyes fill with tears. “You did it to save my life.” She wonders how they can ever be the same, and Jamie says they can’t be, but that they must carry the weight of this together. That they can try again for a baby. “Then bring me home,” Claire says. “To Scotland.” Jamie weeps with relief.
Before they leave, they visit Faith’s grave and leave a spoon. “If we must bury you here in France, let’s leave a bit o’ Scotland wi’ ye,” Jamie mourns.
- I enjoyed Claire’s chat with Maistre Raymond at her bedside. “I didn’t call you Madonna because you were with child, my dear.” He explains that he can see auras, and that Claire’s is “blue, like the Virgin’s cloak. Like mine.” They are birds of a feather.
- Lionel Lingelser, the man who plays King Louis, has the most wonderfully expressive face. He’s killing this role.
- How great was the King’s hall of books? I would have loved to have been able to browse.
- It annoyed me that Jamie equivocated his having given himself to Randall to save Claire’s life, to her having spent a few minutes under the King to save his. Those two incidents are nowhere near on the same level of disturbing.
- It was nice to hear Claire take some responsibility for her own decisions. My heart broke for the two of them.
- Anyone know what kind of snake the King had? It looked like some kind of adder to me, but I’m no expert.
- The origin of the phrase “Close your eyes and think of England,” in case one is interested.
Join me next week for Episode 8, “The Fox’s Lair,” where we see Jamie and Claire return to Scotland as the rebellion ramps up.
Image Credits: Sweatpants & Coffee.