Outlander S02E02 “Not In Scotland Anymore” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, new episodes every Sunday
Writer: Ira Steven Behr
Director: Metin Hüseyin
Essential Plot Points:
- Jamie and Claire have been in Paris for several weeks running the wine business and trying to make contacts both in court and with the Jacobite rebels.
- Jamie is still having nightmares about his rape and torture by Jack Randall even though he believes the man to be dead.
- Claire visits an odd little apothecary owned by a Master Raymond to get some sleeping medication for Jamie. Master Raymond reveals that he is an enemy of the Comte St Germain (whose poxy ship Claire caused to be burnt to cinders last week) and therefore a friend of Claire’s.
- Jamie’s cousin Jared arranges a meeting for Jamie with Prince Charles which takes place in a brothel. Murtagh tags along.
- Both Murtagh and Jamie try to convince Charles that his planned uprising is doomed to failure but he turns out to be a massive prick who believes in his family’s divine right to rule and trusts God to put his dad back on the English and Scottish thrones.
- He also, in a bizarre leap of logic, asks Jamie to go the French court to convince the French finance minister, Joseph Duverny, to give support to the Jacobite cause.
- (Murtagh suggests they should just slit the odious Prince’s neck.)
- Claire goes to see a new friend she’s made while in Paris, the free-spirited Louise de Rohan, and meets the English girl she’s currently chaperoning, the meek, sulky Mary Hawkins. She’s sulky because she’s being married off to a warty old man for political reasons.
- Being a socialite, Louise de Rohan invites Claire to the court of Versaille to meet the King at a coming soirée.
- She also introduces Claire to her beautician. Claire immediately gets a Brazilian and a leg wax. Jamie is bemused when confronted with such smoothness.
- Claire, Jamie, Louise and Mary go the shindig at Versaille where Jamie unexpectedly meets an old flame, Annalise de Marrilac.
- She gets Jamie an invite the King’s levée, a ceremony at which courtiers get an audience with Louis XV while he’s having a crap (Murtagh is not impressed).
- Or try to have a crap. The King has almighty constipation and Jamie recommends porridge for breakfast much to the amusement of the French.
- Finance minister Joseph Duverny attempts to get a bit fresh with Claire in the gardens when he learns that she is interested in meeting with him. Jamie arrives and pushes the minister in a lake.
- Luckily Duverny sees the funny side and they all end up friends!
- Claire sees Mary chatting to a young man. He turns out to be the secretary to the Duke Of Sandringham, who betrayed Claire and Jamie to Jack Randall last season. The Duke is at the party but Claire and Jamie reach a frosty truce with him.
- When Claire is left alone with the Duke she learns that his secretary his Jack Randall’s brother, Alex, and that Jack is still alive. Gasp! Should she tell Jamie?
If last week’s premiere opened in a way that nobody expected, this week’s episode seems to do the exact opposite. Oh look, Jamie and Claire are boffing away; the kind of scene that account for 10% of the show’s running time… Except it’s not quite what it seems and in a suddenly switch that’s as traumatic for the viewers as it is for Jamie, Claire is replaced by Jack Randall and Jamie is covered in blood.
Nightmare! Quite literally.
It’s a dark and dramatic opening for an episode that does’t do anything dark or dramatic again until its final scene when Claire learns that Jack is not dead. In between we get something that can be best described as National Lampoon’s Dangerous Liaisons or Carry On Louis. It’s funny, full of bizarre characters, smutty and entertaining, but largely drama free.
Events move forward, sure, but they develop with the logic of a sit com. When Charles meets Jamie and Murtagh and discovers that they have no faith in his uprising at all he doesn’t send them on a way with a flea in their ear; he gives them a mission to secure funds for an uprising they’ve just rubbished! Huh? He reasoning seems to be that old chestnut, “Hey you were brave enough to tell me the truth, so you’re brave enough to take on this mission!” which makes about as much sense as painting cows green and calling them bushes. It’s the kind of plotting you’d only normally get away with in a comedy.
Similarly, Jamie pushes Duverny into a lake but the French finance minister see the funny side and soon they’re all laughing about the hilarious misunderstanding! It just seems a little convenient and easy. Not to mention Jamie just happens to bump into a friend at Versaille who just happens to be able to get him an audience with the King so that he can give some dietary advice. (We have to wonder whether the US writers of the show have any idea of the irony of Scots giving tips about healthy eating…?)
The whole episode is like this: full of witty scenes and fun dialogue but devoid of real meat. Presumably this is a “calm before the storm” episode – and the cliffhanger certainly has a “there’s-a-storm-coming” vibe to it – which is supposed to show our heroes in happier time before their lives are ripped apart. But you’re still left with the feeling that their journey to Versaille and gaining access to the King has been suspciously effortless.
- Lots of very amusing new characters.
- Louise’s waxing session – with random beautician abuse – is very amusing, and the look on Mary and Claire’s faces when they get to admire the view is priceless.
- Master Raymond’s apothecary is delightfully weird and strange. A great little scene.
- Andrew Gower is excellent as the effete Prince Charles.
- The design work is lush and beautiful. Fantastic costumes, glowing cinematography and detailed production design all makes this visual feast.
- “Fine. I will endeavour to be sloppier in my personal habits.”
“Oh, madame. Oh that would make me so happy.”
- “I even find myself longing for the company of Lard Bucket and Big Head.”
“You mean Rupert and Angus?”
- “You ask me, the French are a sorry bunch of sodomites that canna please their women.” (We’re not saying we agree with this line but Murtagh’s casual racism is like watching an 18th Century Alf Garnett.)
- Far too many handy coincidences and convenient connections to drive the plot forward.
- Charles’s reason for asking Jamie to secure support do Duverny is totally unconvincing but…
- …not as unconvincing as Duverny laughing off being pushed into the lake.
- Claire’s dress looks stunning, sure, but it’s way too ostentatious for the role they’re supposed to be playing at court. It just makes Claire look like an exhibitionist. Sure, exhibitionism was what the French court was all about at the time but does she really want to be the centre of attention? That feels a little… dangereux.
- Also, Claire getting a Mexican to please Jamie? It doesn’t do her “liberated female” credentials any favours.
- Like Murtagh, we’re missing the other Scottish characters.
And The Random:
- Is this old lady experiencing bustle envy?
- The wonderfully odious Prince Charles is played by Andrew Gower who also played wonderfully odious vampire lawyer Nick Cutler in season four of the UK Being Human
- Master Raymond is played by one of France’s greatest characters actors Dominique Pinon, who you’ve probably seen before in at least one of the following: Amélie, Alien: Resurrection, Delicatessen, The City Of Lost Children. If you haven’t read the book, then rest assured, this is not the last we’ve seen of him.
- “I guarantee he will keep you awake all night… with his snoring,” says Master Raymond of Jamie. Well it makes a change from the usual reason he keeps her up all night.
- The ritual of a French monarch inviting courtiers to witness him relieve himself on the toilet was called the levée. It began as a more intimate affair by the Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century when he would preside over disputes while taking a dump. By the 16th century it was a more formal affair but Louis XIV (who reigned from 1643-1715) raised it further to a full-on ceremony. His successor Louis XV (the king in this episode) was less keen on the whole affair and the frequency of the events diminished. Charles II introduced the levée the English court; it’s the origin of the euphemism of “the throne” for the toilet.
- On a related note, there were very few actual toilets at Versaille and visitors simply shitted and peed in the corners of the rooms. This gave the palace a reputation as one of the filthiest in Europe. This seems to the inspiration for Murtagh’s line in the episode, “This city reeks of the chamber pot.”
Review by Dave Golder
Read our other reviews of Outlander