Best Laid Schemes – Outlander Season 2 Recap and Critique

Last Saturday’s episode of Outlander, “Best Laid Schemes” threw viewers some curveballs. Viewers can all breathe sighs of relief now that Murtagh has been let in on the origins of Claire’s unique perspective on 18th century life, and, though he’s not my favourite character, I hope that Fergus is in one piece after his off-screen interaction with Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. I ken ye’ll be needin’ a rrrecap!

Best Laid Schemes – My Recap

Jamie sits alone in his bedroom. Murtagh enters and tells Jamie of Black Jack Randall’s release from the Bastille, reminding him that he needs to train on the broadsword in preparation for his duel with Randall. Jamie tells Murtagh that he’s officially withdrawn his challenge. Murtagh demands an explanation and storms out of the room when Jamie tells him to trust that he has a reasonable explanation. A servant enters as Murtagh leaves and tells Jamie that Claire is at L’Hôpital des Anges.

Claire helps Monsieur Forez prepare a body for burial while he graphically describes the process of drawing and quartering to her. He tells her that he will be performing a number of executions using just this method shortly on a number of “practitioners of the dark arts” and their accomplices. Claire becomes obviously distressed and M. Forez suggests she may find better company in Master Raymond. Claire takes M. Forez’s mention of Master Raymond’s name as a warning. She rushes to Raymond’s shop and tells him he must leave the city immediately. Raymond resists at first but eventually agrees to leave while the King tries to weed out these alleged blasphemers. Raymond thanks Claire for her help and sends Claire on her way saying that they’ll meet again in this life or another.

A somewhat abrupt cut later, we see Jamie rubbing Claire’s feet. They are in their bedroom. Bringing up a very tense conversation from the last episode, Jamie tells Claire that he believes he’s saved her life as many times as she’s saved his, which makes them even. Jamie says he didn’t spare Black Jack’s life because he owed Claire a life. He tells Claire that Frank‘s future existence is his insurance against his own death. If they’re unable to prevent the Battle of Culloden and Jamie dies, he wants Claire to travel back to her own time and return to Frank. She somberly agrees to Jamie’s terms.

The next day Claire mixes up concoctions that will make it look as if the person who has taken it is infected with smallpox. As Claire and Jamie explain to Murtagh, if they can make it look like the shipment of wine that Charles Stuart wants to sell is infected with the virus then they’ll be able to hobble Stuart’s rebellion. Since Stuart will have no way to sell the wine he’ll lose his initial investment and won’t make any money to fund his campaign. Murtagh suggests murdering Stuart instead but Claire reminds him that if they do, they’ll just turn him into a martyr. They test the concoctions out on Jamie and it works with near-immediate results. Murtagh isn’t impressed by the indirect tactics and storms out. Jamie and Claire decide that they have to tell him the truth about “everything.” An explanation montage ensues and after Jamie’s confusing tale has been told Murtagh punches Jamie in the face and tells him he should’ve told him all this in the first place.

The next day, recovered from his simulated bout with smallpox, Claire sends Jamie and Fergus on their ways with the toxic concoctions. Back inside the house, Murtagh questions Claire about the extent of her knowledge of the future. She says she doesn’t know specific events concerning any of them, but that she does know that the Jacobite Rising fails miserably. Murtagh, especially for a man who’s been systematically lied to by his two best friends for the past few months, shows a great deal of empathy for Claire, clasping her hand and saying he wouldn’t want to bear her burden.

After a long ride, Jamie and Fergus arrive at St. Germain‘s warehouse in Le Havre. Fergus, at Jamie’s instruction, stealthily leaves two bottles of wine spiked with Claire’s nauseating mixture and then paints nettle juice into the men’s coats.

Much later, Jamie meets with St. Germain and Stuart at the Maison Elise. Stuart explains that a few of the men employed at St. Germain’s warehouse have been stricken with what Stuart strategically calls, “an unknown illness.” These men have been hidden but will soon be missed. Jamie asks if the harbourmaster has been paid off but St. Germain replies that the harbourmaster is a man of scruples and won’t be bribed. Stuart asks Jamie to transport the wine from St. Germain’s warehouse to his own by carriage, and store it there until he can arrange for a buyer. Jamie agrees and Stuart calls him a loyal patriot. St. Germain demands to accompany Jamie and the wine on the journey from his warehouse to Jamie’s to ensure nothing happens to it. Jamie agrees and says he’ll enjoy the company.

Jamie and Murtagh cook up a plan to stage a false attack on the wine shipment. Murtagh, dressed as a French courtier to cast suspicion on Les Disciples, will set upon the wine shipment with a group of similarly dressed highwaymen. Claire protests the plan and calls it unnecessarily risky, and Jamie does what he can to reassure her while admitting that the plan is risky but necessary. Later, the Frasers lie in bed feeling their unborn baby kicking up a storm inside Claire. Jamie tells the “wee’n” he can’t wait to meet him and then the happy couple does what they do best.

Cut to what appears to be the next night and Claire is over at her friend Louise de La Tour‘s having some wine while de La Tour gossips about her cook’s fling with her maid. Claire drinks while the others talk but eventually can’t restrain herself. She comments on the horrible poverty all around them and suggests that they do something. De La Tour suggests to wide approval that the King ensure that these undesirables be ghettoized. An irate Claire asks for de la Tour’s forgiveness and leaves the party.

At the same time, Jamie, St. Germain, and the wine shipment are on their way from St. Germain’s warehouse to Jamie’s. The carriages are set upon by Murtagh’s masked gang. They encounter some resistance from St. Germain and Murtagh is forced to shoot one of the drivers but they’re are able to pull the false robbery off. While a highwayman holds St. Germain, Murtagh pistol-whips Jamie to make the robbery seem more realistic.

Claire, accompanied by a somewhat distracted Fergus, performs her duties at L’Hôpital des Anges but is ordered by Mother Hildegarde to rest when she sees that Claire is exhausted. Upon Mother Hildegarde’s closer inspection, she finds that Claire is bleeding. Mother Hildegarde ensures Claire that this is normal at this stage of the pregnancy but demands that she stay the night at the hospital. Claire sends Fergus home to alert Jamie.

Best Laid Schemes
I lost my wine, I lost my money, and my wig is itchy!

Back at the Maison Elise, St. Germain can’t believe that their shipment being stolen was a coincidence. He insinuates that Jamie was involved in the robbery and Jamie says that false accusations often have dire consequences, calling him Monsieur St. Germain rather than Comte. The two jump to their feet and engage in some posturing but Stuart provides St. Germain some perspective by reminding him that St. Germain himself said that Jamie may have saved his life during the robbery. He tells them that their fighting won’t change anything and describes the magnitude of his failure to reclaim the British throne for his father. Not looking much like a prince at all, he swears he will kill himself before being forced to live in Poland and weeps into his wine.

The next morning Jamie helps himself to a bit of wine and breakfast and Fergus reports that Claire spent the night at L’Hôpital des Anges. Jamie tells Fergus that Murtagh has gone to sell the wine in Portugal and won’t be around for a while. Suzette walks in on breakfast with news that Stuart has refused to pay his substantial bill at Maison Elise and is under threat of arrest. Jamie goes to help Stuart out and Fergus offers to come along.

At Maison Elise, Jamie instructs Fergus to wait for him at the door while he sees to Stuart’s financial difficulty. Instead, Fergus wanders through the brothel and eventually finds an unlocked door. He walks in and we see a familiar redcoat hanging on the coat rack–bad, bad, bad! Fergus explores the room and pockets some perfume. We see a shadow cross behind him and Fergus reacts like a deer in headlights when he turns around to see who just closed the door.

After spending a night at L’Hôpital des Anges, Claire returns home. Suzette tells Claire that Jamie has gone to the woods after getting into a fight with a British officer at Maison Elise. She finds a note on a table that says “I am sorry. I must.” Claire orders a carriage to take her to the woods to find Jamie. Claire’s fishtailing carriage tears down the French boulevards while Claire mutters to herself about Jamie’s promise: she makes it to the woods just in time to catch the end of the duel between Jamie and Black Jack. The two enemies seem pretty evenly matched until Jamie is able to drive his blade below Black Jack’s belt. The emasculating blow dealt, the gendarmerie rush in and, because dueling is illegal in France, arrest the combatants. Claire, apparently going into labour, calls out to Jamie. She instructs her servant to take her to Mother Hildegarde and passes out while Jamie is arrested. Blood flows from both Black Jack’s and Claire’s loins.

Best Laid Schemes – My Critique

There was quite a bit of tension in “Best Laid Schemes,” including Fergus’s planting of Claire’s various potions in St. Germain’s warehouse, Fergus’s being locked in a room with Black Jack, Claire’s apparently going into labour, the staged carriage robbery, Claire’s mad carriage ride to the woods, and Jamie and Black Jack’s duel. As a member of Team Frank and a fan of rational causality, I’m a bit concerned. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how Frank’s future existence is possible. Featured in Season 2’s first episode (a framing device that sets the events of this season up as a flashback Claire is experiencing in the 20th century), viewers, if not Claire and her 18th-century pals, know Frank will live.

I’m glad that “Best Laid Schemes” pushed Black Jack back into the villain spotlight. St. Germain, though a thoroughly ill-mannered snoot, doesn’t provide the same brooding evil that Black Jack Randall does. I hope, though, that it doesn’t turn out that Black Jack has raped Fergus. That would be a bit much even for the monster we know Black Jack to be.

“Best Laid Schemes” seems to confirm what’s obvious to anyone who watched Season 2’s first episode: the child Claire asks Frank to help raise obviously isn’t the same one she’s pregnant with in “Best Laid Schemes.” If Claire is meant to be going into labour at the end of “Best Laid Schemes,” how could she still be pregnant when she sees Frank in the future? Or, if she isn’t going into labour, Claire is about as big as pregnant women get in “Best Laid Schemes” but doesn’t show any belly at all in Season 2’s premiere.

“Best Laid Schemes” was a bit disorienting at times. The frequency of cuts and indistinct periods of time between scenes gave the episode a disconnected feeling. But, there was some great acting in “Best Laid Schemes,” especially from Andrew Gower as Charles Stuart. His downfall complete, the Pretender became more than the fop he’s been since we met him. With the weight of an unfulfilled holy destiny resting on his shoulders, he seemed more like a frightened boy than an arrogant prig.

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.