Claire’s faced a number of near-death moments in her brief, 18th-century life (witch trial, anyone?), but never has her life been in such peril in the span of one episode as “La Dame Blanche,” in which she is both nearly poisoned and attacked in the streets of Paris. And it’s a safe bet to assume one — if not both — were masterminded by her powerful enemy, the Comte St. Germain.
The first incident takes place at court. As Jamie and Duverney play a game of chess and begin discussing the King’s interest over Bonnie Prince Charlie’s wealthy English patrons, Claire senses she is no longer welcome in this particular conversation and glides off to find other pursuits. She grabs a wine glass from a servant and takes a swig — a bout of violent coughing and choking ensue. Jamie whisks her upstairs as the Comte watches.
Hours later Claire is resting in bed — she and baby safe and sound. Claire theorizes, given the liquid’s sharp aftertaste, that someone spiked the drink with bitter cascara, which is Master Raymond’s go-to stand-in for when a client requests poison. Still smarting, Claire asks Jamie to distract her, and he relates the day’s earlier dealings with Duverney. What’s needed is to disrepute Charles, and the two hatch a scheme to do just that: They’ll invite him and the Duke over for dinner in the hopes they can somehow make Bonnie Prince Charlie look foolish and unworthy of funding. (Which, honestly, shouldn’t be that difficult, right?) The plan gives Claire pause, however: Inviting the Duke means inviting Alex Randall as well. Claire decides to finally confess her secret. She tells Jamie that Black Jack Randall is very much alive.
“This is wonderful news!” Jamie exclaims, rather unexpectedly. “Why did you wait so long to tell me?”
Claire is baffled by the response, but Jamie has good reason to be chuffed. Now he gets to watch Black Jack die. Now he has something to look forward to. (Other than the impending birth of his child, I guess.)
The next day, Claire pays a visit to Master Raymond to try to get to the bottom of the botched poisoning. The apothecary swears he had no idea that Claire was the intended recipient of the potion. (A servant he didn’t recognize made the purchase.) Alerted by his shoppe assistant that someone is watching, Raymond ushers Claire into a back room filled with his weird and wild treasures and artifacts, which enthrall Claire.
“You’re fascinated by things not of this time,” Raymond keenly observes. He can also tell that something is on her mind, and after a bit of coaxing, Claire confesses that she’s worried about a friend of hers (i.e. Frank).
“The bones will give us answers,” Raymond explains, throwing a handful of bones onto what appears to be a zebra hide. Master Raymond cannot see Frank’s future, but does tell Claire not to worry because she’ll see him again. Claire is, of course, caught off guard by this information (though we viewers, obviously, are not). Before she departs, Claire is bestowed a gift — Master Raymond offers her a necklace that will supposedly change color in the presence of poison. Magic? Science? Who knows!
NEXT PAGE: Monkey see, monkey bite
Claire isn’t the only one dealing with matters of health and well-being this week. As it turns out, Louise is pregnant! But not by her husband. Louise confesses this secret to Claire in the hopes that she’ll help her not be with child. But Claire has another suggestion: Why doesn’t she actually have sex with her husband so he thinks he’s the father?
“Sleep with my husband?” Louise gasps. “My lover would be furious!”
At home, Claire is trying to sleep with her own husband, but she stops short when she spies two bite marks on his thighs. Jamie swears he’s innocent of any wrong-doing, that one of the women at the brothel just “got a wee bit carried away.” But Claire isn’t buying it, and is livid.
“I’m supposed to believe you got those bites protecting your virtue?!” she rages.
Jamie replies in the affirmative and tells her that he’s been desperately trying to find a way back to her after the ugliness with Black Jack Randall, and that he’s finally feeling like a man again. What unfurls is a powerful scene about what it means to be lonely with another person: Claire feels like she’s going through the pregnancy all by herself, while Jamie feels emotionally naked. Neither feel understood.
“I think it best I sleep elsewhere tonight,” Jamie says. But he’s not solo for long before Claire tip-toes into his quarters, disrobes, and straddles him. And the moment we — and the couple — have long been waiting for happens. Reconciliation.
As the two lie in post-coital bliss, however, Jamie hears bumps in the night coming from the roof. He gets up to investigate when Charles appears in the window. He’s freshly left his own lover, who has rebuffed him. And he’s taken to the bottle for consolation. The couple dutifully tend to their royal guest, and Claire notices that Charles has a bite mark of his own. But it’s not a human bite. It’s a monkey bite. Now, if your memory of earlier episodes serves, you probably don’t need this explained, but, well, Charles’ mistress is none other than Louise! Louise is with Charles’ child.
This realization sparks a new wrinkle in Jamie and Claire’s plan: They’re going to use the affair to their advantage and invite both Charles and Louise to dinner and somehow drop Louise’s pregnancy into the table’s conversation.
Says Jamie: “We use his broken heart to break his bank.”
Fast-forward a week to the afternoon of the fete. Claire is hurrying off to the hospital to get a little work in before the affair, which makes Jamie nervous. He insists she take Murtagh and Fergus as escorts and instructs Fergus to make sure Claire gets home in time. But difficult procedures delay Claire, and by the time she and Mary Hawkins emerge from the hospital, they find the carriage has broken a wheel and they must walk home. Not only does that push their arrival time back, but it also means they’re walking home past nightfall via Paris’ dark, dangerous streets. Mary is in the process of revealing her romantic intrigue with Alex Randall, when the pair are set upon. Murtagh is quickly dispatched by one of the attackers, while another grabs Claire. She can only watch helplessly as Mary is attacked and raped. (Take note of one of the bandits’ birthmark.) And it looks as though both Mary and Claire will be done for, until one of the masked villains gets a good look at Claire’s face and begins yelling “La Dame Blanche.” Scared, they all run off.
(Despite the title of this episode — “La Dame Blanche” — not much is actually explained about what this term means and its significance. It will come to bear in future episodes, so I won’t cannibalize that material in this recap, but as a short primer, “La Dame Blanche” translates to “The White Lady,” and in French folklore these figures were often viewed as sorceress-types who could do very bad things to men if they deemed them evil. Hence, the attackers’ fear of Claire thinking she is La Dame Blanche.)
Claire, Murtagh, and a very beaten and bruised Mary finally make their way home where the party is in full swing. Seeing the shaken group on the doorstep, Jamie offers to cancel immediately and send everyone home, but Claire refuses — their plan must proceed! Mary is left in Alex’s care (he had accompanied Sandringham to the party), and Claire joins the in-progress gathering, which also, surprisingly, includes the Comte, who was invited by Sandringham. (That guy!) At the dinner table, Jamie slyly toasts Louise’s pregnancy (she decided to keep the baby and convince her husband it is his), and Bonnie Prince Charlie is aghast. He blithely congratulates Louise before downing his wine glass. It looks as though Claire and Jamie’s plan to have Charles embarrass himself will go off without a hitch until screams interrupt the table’s din. It’s Mary, who’s woken disturbed, eventually chased and tackled by Alex. (In as nice and loving manner as possible, mind you.) But the dinner party thinks she’s being raped, and an epic fight breaks out in the parlor.
The episode ends with the Comte telling his wife to summon the authorities. Uh-oh.