Now that’s more like it. After a sputtering start to the season, “Not In Scotland Anymore” delivers a buffet of everything that makes Outlander delightful: Romance, violence, intrigue, eye-popping costumes, and smart, quippy dialogue. Claire and Jamie are now in 1745 Paris, an equally lush and louche setting, where they try to fit in with the overdressed, oversexed aristocrats whose excesses will, soon enough, inspire one of history’s bloodiest revolutions.
As we might expect, neither is quite comfortable. Dueling is illegal, so Jamie and Murtagh’s swordplay on the lawns is a gawk-worthy spectacle. Women are intended to be ornamental, so Claire’s self-sufficiency drives her maid to nearly to tears. Still, both are willing to try — for their own reasons, of course. They need to meet Charles Stuart, a.k.a. “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the Catholic monarch in exile whose supposedly rightful claim to the throne the Jacobites support. Claire and Jamie need to befriend him, gain his trust, and then, if possible, convince him not to pursue what Claire knows will be a disastrous war with the English.
If that won’t work — if, for example, the prince believes that God is on his side, no matter what — then their mission becomes to cut the purse strings. As Claire puts it, “Wars cost money. Without funds, Charles is helpless.”
Jamie meets Charles in a brothel, with the reliably dour and skeptical Murtagh in tow, to discuss the Scottish clans’ readiness for battle. Charles claims he doesn’t merely want to be told what he wants to hear, because he already knows enough sycophants, but like everyone in history who has ever said that, he doesn’t actually mean it. So he is displeased when, instead of serving up flattery, Jamie offers only hard-sounding truths. But Jamie lucks out: The madame in charge of the establishment puts on a charming little floorshow about wives that culminates in the presentation of three ornate dildos. To keep the wives occupé, you know. While their husbands are away.
Charles, whose mood is much improved by the novelty of this, fires off two of the best lines of the night. “They’re so wonderfully vulgar,” he says of the French. “They never allow their exquisite manners to interfere with their baser instincts.” Then, when the dildos are circulating for sale (or rent!), Charles adds, “If I had a wife, I’d buy all three. For variety.”
Sadly, Jamie does not seem to take Charles’s advice, and though Charles doesn’t take Jamie’s either, he also doesn’t seem to bear him any ill will. And before Charles goes off to sample the pleasures of the house, Jamie has the good sense to put him in a better mood by kissing his ring like a loyal subject. Attaboy, Jamie. Play the long game.
While Jamie has his fun with the lads, Claire chills with the ladies, specifically the hilarious Louise de Rohan. Louise has a pet monkey, a sharp tongue, and a man whose job — nay, whose calling — it is to wax her, not minding as she shrieks and smacks him throughout.
When Louise’s legs are done, she spreads them. Her houseguest, a timid English girl named Mary Hawkins, is horrified. Louise rolls her eyes, informing Mary and Claire that, “in Paris, a hairless mound is de rigeur.” This scene belongs with Steve Carell’s famous foray into hair-removal in the “Best On-Screen Depilatory Moments” Hall of Fame. It also raises a fascinating question: Did the Brazilian wax actually originate in Versailles? Excuse me while I do some research.
In any event, Claire is more intrigued than disgusted, and when she climbs in bed with Jamie that night, he feels the same way. Nevertheless, his first reaction is shock: “Your honeypot!” he exclaims. “It’s bare!” And then, after he takes a closer look: “It’s more complicated than it looks when it’s thatched over.” Hee! Jamie’s intrigued enough to do a little exploring — at least until he’s shaken by a flashback to his recent sexual trauma.
Claire assures a shaken Jamie that it’s fine and that they should just go to sleep. (Like everyone in history who’s ever said that, she doesn’t mean it either.) Poor Claire. Seems that Jamie should have bought her one of those dildos. Or all three. You know, for variety.
Louise has invited Claire to the royal court with her, and Claire wrangles an invitation for Jamie, as well, so both of our heroes get dolled up to meet the king. Jamie looks dashing, of course, but Claire one-ups him with a show-stopping number in lipstick red with a plunging neckline. Again, Jamie is shocked: He can almost see all the way down to her honeypot!
Claire wants to get the king’s attention, and she knows that this is how to do it. She’s playing the long game too. Jamie respects that, though he does ask whether she’s willing to cover up a bit. Doing her best Cher Horowitz impression, Claire whips out a fan and flutters it in front of her décolletage. Jamie grins: “You’re going to need a bigger fan.”
At the court, Jamie meets the French king in his bedroom. It’s another scene for the ages, as Louis, seated on a kind of toilet-throne, attempts to talk politics with a crowd and poop at the same time. (“Only in France does a king need an audience to shit,” mutters Murtagh.) Jamie takes the liberty of recommending a breakfast of Scottish porridge to his constipated majesty. Louis is scornful of the benefits of a high-fiber diet, which he dismisses as peasant food. He’s also going to give himself a biblical case of hemorrhoids with all that straining, though, so he takes Jamie’s suggestion under advisement.
With Jamie gone, Claire works the party, telling a cluster of curious women that the preferred English slang for penis is “Peter.” When they seem let down by this, she adds, “Though there are though who prefer ‘prick.’” (What about dick, or rod, or Johnson?) Later, she meets the minister of Finance, though the dress works almost too well: The minister charges at her like a bull at a red flag, and Jamie, happening upon their struggle, feels compelled to throw the man, ass over teakettle, into an obliging lake. Luckily, once he’s fished out and dried off, the minister takes full responsibility and promises Claire and Jamie his friendship.
An excellent evening’s work, but the night isn’t over. Claire also runs into the Duke of Sandringham, an English schemer you may remember from when he disappointed our heroes in season one, and from the movie Amadeus, in which Simon Callow wore a similarly elaborate wig. “If you must cough on someone, find a servant,” the duke tells his new secretary, who just happens to be Captain “Black Jack” Randall’s little brother. Apparently, the fearsome Captain Randall is not as dead as Claire and Jamie had hoped he was. In France, it seems, the fireworks are just beginning.