When Outlander shifted the action to France in last week’s Season 2 premiere, I knew we were in for a visual treat. This week’s episode, “Not in Scotland Anymore,” delivers on that promise with a visit to the royal court at Versailles.
But the episode starts off in a more intimate place. At the outset we hear the sounds of heavy breathing; Jamie is on top of Claire, mid-coitus, until Claire suddenly becomes Jack Randall — in a fit of rage, Jamie stabs him again and again, blood splashing both their faces. Then he wakes up from his nightmare with Claire in bed beside him. “He’s gone, Jamie,” Claire reminds him. “He’s alive in my head,” Jamie replies. “I canna get him out.”
I’m so glad Outlander has chosen to address Jamie’s trauma right away; there were hints in the premiere that he hasn’t healed from the aftermath of his torture and rape by Jack, and this episode shows that he’s still struggling with sex. It’s rare for a show to fully explore the aftermath of even a woman’s sexual assault and subsequent difficulty having normal sexual feelings again; to see this storyline play out with a man at the center is doubly unusual, and so far Outlander is handling it beautifully.
The second season has also demonstrated another benefit of the time-travel scheme. It may be off-putting for some viewers, but it’s not just a silly device: It gives the show a wonderfully broad historical perspective through the eyes of its protagonist, Claire. Strolling the streets of Paris, she can’t help but imagine the “rivers of blood” that will run through them during the French Revolution in 40 years’ time. She’s also reminded of her own time in France at the end of World War II. In the premiere episode, planes fly over Claire and Mrs. Graham sitting in the garden in 1948, and Claire blurts out, “There’s always another fucking war.”
So Claire has extra motivation to try and stop the Scottish rebellion before the Battle of Culloden takes place and wipes out Highland culture for good. Jamie’s cousin Jared (whose Paris house Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh are staying in while he’s away) arranges for Jamie to visit Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower), the leader of the Jacobite Rebellion. Jamie brings Murtagh to the classy Parisian brothel where Charles has chosen to hold the meeting, and there’s a great scene in which the ladies display dildos for sale. Charles declares, “This is why I admire the French, they’re so vulgar.” Murtagh isn’t so sure: “If you ask me the French are a sorry bunch of sodomites that canna please their women.”
Jamie and Murtagh implore Charles to hold off the rebellion; they discover Charles has never even been to Scotland, and tell him their people aren’t ready for war and will die in great numbers. But Charles just shrugs them off: “God demands that a Catholic king sit on the throne.” He’s like a petulant, spoiled child, drinking and refusing to look Jamie and Murtagh in the eye. “I am, by divine right, the outstretched hand of God,” he says, and that’s the end of the conversation.
Before he runs after one of the whores, Charles asks Jamie to be his “advocate” at the court of King Louis XV. Claire helps them get an invitation to Versailles through her new friend Louise de Rohan. Side salad: I’m loving all these new characters, and even more, I’m loving the fact that they’re played by fantastic yet unknown actors. French-Russian actress Claire Sermonne is wonderful as the free-spirited Louise, who is in the middle of a leg wax when Claire comes to call on her, lounging in an opened silk robe with nothing underneath. She introduces Claire to her English relative, Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day), a young girl who’s engaged to a wealthy and much older man. Louise invites Claire to join her and Mary at Versailles — before she opens her legs wide for an old-timey bikini wax! “The men find it absolutely irresistible,” Louise purrs.
Claire comes home and gets into bed with Jamie. She leads his hand under her nightgown…which leads Jamie to the best line in the episode: “Claire! What have you done to yourself? Your honeypot is bare!” She invites him to take a look. “It’s more complicated than it looks thatched over,” he muses. They start to fool around, but Jamie still can’t get Jack Randall out of his head. They stop.
Two weeks later, Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh leave for Versailles, Claire in a fabulous custom-made stunner of a red dress. At first Jamie is shocked by the dress’s deeply plunging neckline: “Are you mad, woman?” She’s like, eh, when in France. “Christ, Sassenach,” he whispers. “First your honeypot, now this.” I hereby demand Jamie refer to Claire’s “honeypot” at least once an episode.
At Versailles, the men are invited to see “the dressing of the king,” which leads to another hilarious scene: King Louis XV (the great Lionel Lingelser) is on the royal shitter, trying desperately to take a dump with an audience of fancily dressed men surrounding him. “Perhaps if his majesty would only relax,” an aide suggests. “Or concentrate,” another offers. “Bear down and prove himself a master of his bowels.” Jamie recommends porridge.
At the party, Murtagh spies a familiar face: Alexander Randall, Jack’s younger (and much more benevolent) brother. Claire joins Murtagh, and the two learn a disturbing piece of news: Jack Randall is alive and well.
A royal fireworks display tops off this ice-cream sundae of an episode. I admit I was a bit worried that Outlander just wouldn’t be Outlander if it took place in France, but “Not in Scotland Anymore” dispelled my doubts. If it weren’t for Paris, Claire’s honeypot would still be thatched over, and we wouldn’t be treated to this richly designed and populated new world.