"La Dame Blanche" is all about juxtapositions. A royal executioner who takes time from his busy schedule to save lives in a charity hospital. A prince seated across a fancy table from his lover and her husband. A virgin and a villain. A "White Lady" in a dark alley.
Pop some popcorn, y'all. There's going to be drama.
As we've discussed, neither Claire nor Jamie are happy unless they're challenging themselves, ideally in a dangerous way. Inaction makes them nervous and irritable. And so, even on the day of their first elaborate dinner party — a high-stakes affair Claire and Jamie arranged to inflame their secret anti-Jacobite cause — she feels that she must work a shift at the charity hospital. Jamie sends Murtagh and Fergus with her for protection.
Murtagh may be the muscle, but as they wait outside the cathedral, shrewd young Fergus reveals himself to be the brains of the duo. He's picked up on the signs and can tell that Little Mary Hawkins, Claire's friend and fellow hospital volunteer, is in love — and not with the old dude to whom she's engaged. Murtagh pretends to be above all this silly girl stuff, but then asks Fergus to pass another romantic judgement: What about Claire's maid, the lady with whom he has been dallying? Sure, she's in love … with anyone who walks by. Burn! Sorry, Murtagh.
The plan is for everyone to return to the manse in good time, but the wheels come off, quite literally, when the carriage breaks. (Possibly a result of sabotage we saw in the episode's opening moments?) Fergus runs ahead to warn Jamie, while Claire, Murtagh, and Mary Hawkins start walking back. Claire, if there were ever a time to splurge on an Uber…
Back at the manse, Jamie is waiting and worried. (Remember waiting for people, back before cell phones existed? Brutal.) The guests arrive. There's His Royal Highness, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who — as Claire and Jamie discovered when he drunkenly crashed a private party between the two of them — has been having an affair with Claire's friend, Louise. And there's Louise herself, who is now pregnant as a result of the affair. She's also brought her husband, whom she is passing off as the proto-baby's father.
There's the Duke of Sandringham, that oily bastard, who nonetheless speaks for all of us when he admires Jamie's outfit and Jamie's general ability to look elegant regardless of the setting. And then, of course, there's the Comte St. Germain, this season's bad guy, who was invited by the Duke. Emily Post would not approve. Either the Duke has atrocious manners or he wants to cause trouble as much as Claire and Jamie do.
In the first minutes of the episode, as Jamie plays chess with the Finance Minister, Claire gags over a glass of wine while the Comte looks on with cool remove. Did someone slip her something? Perhaps the Comte? Later, as she recovers, Claire tells Jamie that she thinks she recognized the aftertaste of bitter cascara. She goes marching off, in a stunning blue-and-red dress, to confront the shopkeeper who peddles such less-than-lethal poisons.
Monsieur Raymond admits he recently sold the stuff to an unknown servant. Oops. He makes it up to Claire by giving her a necklace whose stone will change color if the wearer is in danger of being roofied, like those specially designed coasters from Veronica Mars: The College Years. He also offers some fortune telling because Claire is still worried about Frank. Never fear, he reassures, you'll see him again.
Claire is remarkably unguarded with this apothecary. Sure, he seems like a kindred spirit, but so did Geillis Duncan, the woman who turned out to be a witch and nearly got Claire killed in season one. Geillis was the one who sold Laoghaire MacKenzie the ill-wish Claire then found under her pillow, which is a direct parallel to Raymond selling the cascara to Claire's newest enemy. Claire seems drawn to smart, wry, powerful people who just so happen to be unscrupulous capitalists.
Luckily, she's also drawn to Jamie, who has a stronger sense of self-preservation. The combustible dinner party is his scheme, though Claire slides right into the role of Lady Macbeth. They pause their plan long enough to consider whether these machinations make them bad people. No, Jamie says, they're doing a bad thing for a good reason. Claire is unconvinced. Isn't that what bad people tell themselves? (Yes.)
They also have a passionate romantic reunion after Claire tells Jamie the bad news about Captain "Black Jack" Randall. Contrary to her expectations, Jamie is thrilled to discover that Randall is still alive. Now Jamie can avenge his honor by killing him! This is all he needs to get his groove back. Unfortunately, in the process of getting said groove back, he gets bitten on the thigh by a prostitute during what he calls a "soixante-neuf." Wait, did that also originate in France? We're learning so much from this show.
In trying to explain the hows and whys to his irate pregnant wife, Jamie utters one of the best lines of the episode: "I think she would have settled for the six; the nine could go hang." Hee! The other contender for best line comes after Claire suggests that, rather than risk getting banished to a nunnery or dying of a self-administered abortion, Louise make an effort to pass off Prince Charlie's love-child as her legitimate offspring. Louise is shocked: "Sleep with my husband? But my lover would be furious!"
Louise is right, of course. Later at the dinner party, after it becomes clear that Louise will have Charlie's baby and pretend it's her husband's, His Royal Highness is furious. But by then, Claire and Jamie have more important things to worry about, like the fact that Mary Hawkins' unsympathetic uncle and her age-inappropriate fiancé are sitting at the table while, right upstairs, poor Mary is unconscious.
That's because, on her way back from the hospital with Claire and Murtagh, Mary is attacked. Having just confessed to Claire that she is in love with young Alexander Randall, the Duke's secretary (one point to Fergus!), she and the others are set upon by masked men. The ruffians knock out Murtagh, hold Claire, and rape Mary. They only scatter when they get a glimpse of Claire's face and begin crying out, "La Dame Blanche!" and "Run, save your souls!" Too late, assholes. Claire notices that one of the assailants had a birthmark on his hand and you can see in her eyes that she will use that to exact her revenge.
But revenge will have to wait. After she, Mary, and Murtagh stumble home, Claire makes the decision to proceed with the party — the guests are already assembled, after all, and the stakes are high. Jamie, whose blood is up, wants to go a-hunting, or at least take out his anger on St. Germain, who could have been behind this attack. Claire persuades him to refrain. No heads will roll at this dinner, she declares. As soon as she says it, you know it will turn out to be untrue.
The Frasers' sneak Mary up to a spare room, administer some opium to knock her out, and leave her in the capable hands of Alex Randall. Turns out Alex shares Mary's feelings‚ but his love isn't much help when she wakes up, freaks out, and rushes out in a drug-and-grief-addled panic towards the party. Alex tries to restrain her and, for his pains, he gets mistaken as her assailant by the Frasers' guests, who have run over to see who's screaming.
A jolly fistfight with Mary's people ensues, with Jamie and Murtagh holding their own. On the sidelines, the Duke is revealed to be more interested in dessert than drama; the wannabe king of England, Charlie, is revealed to be a coward; and St. Germain, who encourages Charlie to leave and then languidly summons the police, is revealed to be one cold-hearted son of a bitch. Then again, we knew that.
All in all, the party isn't a total waste. Perhaps Mary's much older fiancé won't want her anymore, now that her reputation has been compromised (although not in the way he thinks). And Fergus, who is the most deserving person in the house, gets to eat his fill.
- Getting to drink whatever you want while swanning about in the world's most elegant maternity dresses? Pregnancy is definitely more fun in France.
- I'm sure Jamie remained faithful to Claire, but, um, how did he get that bite on his thigh?
- Yay for the resumption of marital relations — and more important, the hot sex scenes — between Claire and Jamie! Do they need to be quite so blue, though? This one looked like it was taking place inside an aquarium.