“Untimely Resurrections” picks up where the previous episode left off, with servants cleaning up from the wreckage of the Frasers’ epic dinner party. As you may recall, that party ended in a brawl after guests jumped to the conclusion that Alex Randall, secretary to the duke and brother to super-villain Captain Jack Randall, had assaulted poor little Mary Hawkins. The pugilists were dragged off by the gendarme, and affable nincompoop Prince Charles left with the sinister Comte St. Germain, no doubt to have some poison poured into his ear.
Jamie, sprung from prison by one of his aristocratic friends and now home with an exhausted Claire, wants to know how Claire and Co. managed to escape their assailants in the alley. Claire isn’t sure; she was perhaps mistaken for a mythical creature called “La Dame Blanche?” A shifty-looking Jamie confesses: Turns out he started the rumor that his wife is the powerful “White Woman” to explain why he didn’t want to cheat on her. Claire is dismayed (remember what happened when people assumed she was a witch back in Cranesmuir?) but also kind of amused, and maybe even a little turned on.
Later, she calls on Mary in a smashing ensemble the color of Mary’s still-livid bruise, and offers medicinal herbs and reassurance. No, the poor girl does not need to worry about getting pregnant from the assault, since her attacker didn’t “finish.” Mary doesn’t quite know what this means but you can see that she’s relieved enough that she doesn’t care. She may not understand sex, but now that it’s been forced on her, she does know a few things: Her engagement is canceled, she’s under house arrest, and she’s supposed to feel ashamed.
Claire is the best comfort she can be, and she promises to bring a letter from Mary to the Bastille attesting to Alex’s innocence. Once he’s free, Mary tells Claire, she hopes they can wed. The news takes Claire aback — Alex’s brother is supposed to be Mary’s husband, according to Frank’s family tree — so Claire considers consigning Mary’s letter to the flames, but she restrains herself. Once Alex is free, though, she does her best to dissuade him from going through with the wedding, pretending that she’s acting in Mary’s best interest. Alex, who has kindness and disinterestedness stuffed where his brain should be, accepts that perhaps Mary deserves better than him, given that he’s now unemployed and in ill health. (He coughs into a handkerchief the way that women usually do in costume dramas when they’re going to die.)
Even though we understand why Claire is meddling (to protect Future Frank), it’s hard not to be disgusted when Mary’s been hurt so much already. To her credit, Claire seems disgusted with herself. What she needs is a snapshot of herself and Frank from the 20th century, à la the McFly family photo in Back to the Future, so that she can gauge if Frank is in real danger by shifting timelines. Without that, she can only guess whether she’s helping or hurting his chances for survival.
Jamie, meanwhile, is doing his part to help the future by listening to Prince Charles ramble about how great things are going. Charles is totally over Louise, his married lover who now plans to raise their baby with her husband. And he’s over his old investors, too — they have proven themselves unworthy. Presumably they were turned off by his behavior at the Frasers’ dinner party, just as Jamie and Claire had hoped they would be. He says he has a new investor now: St. Germain.
Charles would like Jamie to work with and “keep a wary eye” on the comte, because, appearances to the contrary, he’s not a fool — he knows St. Germain has a bad reputation. Come on, your highness! St. Germain is such a Slytherin, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had two house elves and a pet python. Jamie tries to make this point, alluding to St. German’s affiliation with the dark arts, but the prince dismisses these rumors, pointing out that he’s heard Jamie’s own wife is a witch. True, but she’s a Gryffindor!
Jamie’s meeting with the comte, which takes place at Charlie’s insistence, only serves to underline that these men can despise each other fluently in two languages. Nonetheless, they will work together. Or will they? Maybe Claire can somehow make it seem as though St. Germain’s shipment of Portuguese wine is polluted by smallpox and have it destroyed, like his cargo from the season premiere.
Next up: Jamie needs to see a man about a horse, which somehow means everyone is at Versailles dressed up like it’s Oscars night. Claire once again matches the scenery in a floral brown-and-yellow number that’s ravishing even by her standards; the skirt is so wide that, when frenemy Annalise asks to take a walk with her, they must proceed single-file through a gate. Is this like Mad Men now? Is Claire’s costuming meant to connect her to this time and place, even though both are foreign to her? She does seem more comfortable in pre-Revolutionary Paris than one might expect.
Jamie, who seems less comfortable (he’s still, for example, wearing his kilt), helps the duke consider his options: This filly or that stallion. The duke seems more interested in why Jamie, who is such a good judge of horses, is such a bad judge of men. The duke is not impressed by Bonnie Prince Charlie and he wants to understand why Jamie is — or pretends to be.
Speaking of men, Annalise asks Claire, who’s that one over there staring at you? Why, he’s none other than England’s most frightening redcoat, Captain Randall. When last they met, Randall was playing a vicious game of fuck, marry, kill with Jamie, but Claire orchestrated Jamie’s rescue before the activities could conclude.
Claire, who wasn’t feeling quite steady to begin with, now looks like she might pass out. Annalise goes to get Jamie, which is the worst possible thing she could do, since Jamie wants nothing more than to kill Randall — and drawing a sword in Versailles is a capital offense. Randall seems to savor the crazy coincidence, or, as he calls it, “the sublime preposterousness of a universe that would guide us to a meeting.” Perhaps he really does have a death wish. In any event, he needs to know how a confrontation with Jamie here, in the French court, would play out.
Randall grabs Claire’s arm to keep her from running to Jamie, warning her, “The king …” In high dudgeon, Claire retorts, “Fuck the king.” The line shouldn’t work, but the way Caitriona Balfe delivers it, it does. She and Tobias Menzies crackle together; the scene is so tense as to be almost unbearable. And just as surely as we knew last episode that heads would roll before the dinner party was over, we know now that there will be blood on the French grass soon enough.
Randall releases Claire, bowing low, and Claire whirls around to see King Louis himself. The sovereign, the soldier, and Claire make small talk about war and politics and the trickiness of the French accent. Claire is distracted, wondering where Jamie is and what he’ll do when he spots his archenemy. She needn’t have worried. Jamie, once he arrives, is master of himself, managing to be at least as civil with Randall as he was earlier with St. Germain. And yet the tension does not abate. Randall is here to plead with the duke for his brother. The king (played by Lionel Lingelser, who relishes the role of fey monarch in much the way Jonathan Groff did in Hamilton) tricks Randall into getting down on one knee and then laughs at him.
Claire and Jamie escape, but just when Claire thinks she’s safe, Jamie makes sure she’s feeling sufficiently well and turns back to challenge Randall to a duel. Randall accepts, of course. (“He owes me a death.”) Jamie’s got a spring in his step and the light of revenge in his eye. Claire, by contrast, heads straight to the Bastille to get Randall locked up — just long enough, hopefully, to get Jamie to listen to reason.
At last Claire flings her last argument at Jamie: If he kills Randall, it will be like he’s killing Frank, since Frank will never be born. One year: Randall just needs one year to marry and have a child with Mary Hawkins. Can Jamie spare his nemesis that long? There’s no point trying to get between a Scotsman and his vengeance. Jamie won’t budge. Killing Randall is too important.
In the end, the winning argument comes down to honor. Claire has saved Jamie’s life and so, as much as she hates it, she must beg for Randall’s life in return, at least until after Frank’s ancestor is born. At last, Jamie relents. But it’s clear from his face, and from the feeling in the room, that this isn’t over.