Perhaps instead of “Best Laid Schemes” producers should have considered the title “A Whole Lot of Foreshadowing” for this episode, because in addition to the titular plot — thwarting Bonnie Prince Charlie’s wine-importing endeavor with the Comte St. Germain — several major upcoming moments were set in motion.
The episode opens with Jamie telling Murtagh that there will not, in fact, be a duel with Randall. Jamie will honor his promise to Claire. (Or will he?) Meanwhile, Claire’s at the hospital preparing a body for burial so that the acting physician, Monsieur Forez (a.k.a. the king’s hangman), can return to his regular post (a.k.a. executing people). He tells Claire he won’t be using the rope, though — no, he’ll be drawing and quartering his prisoners, a ghastly technique he describes to Claire in menacing detail. And said dead men walking? They’re “practitioners of the dark arts and those who associate with them,” he explains in a knowing tone. Seeing Claire’s pained reaction, he then off-handedly makes reference to their friend Master Raymond being potentially better company. Claire doesn’t need Forez to be any more explicit — she runs off to Master Raymond’s to warn him of the king’s (literal) witch hunt. After some convincing on Claire’s part, Master Raymond promises to leave town at once. (But given what I said up top about foreshadowing, you can bet we haven’t seen the last of him…)
Back at home, while kindly rubbing his pregnant wife’s feet, Jamie makes clear that he didn’t cancel his duel with Black Jack because, in Claire’s words, he owes her a life. No, he did it for Claire’s future. You see, he wants there to be a place for Claire if anything happens to him during the Battle of Culloden. He makes her promise she’ll go back through the stones to the future if anything happens to him.
“I promise,” she says.
Claire and Jamie aren’t the only ones to have a candid conversation about the future (and the past) this week. With Murtagh increasingly frustrated over the ambiguity of their plans, the couple finally decide it’s time to clue him in. So Jamie tells him everything: How Claire is from the future. How she knows the outcome of the battle to come.
“If you believe your wife to be a witch, then who am I to contradict you?” Murtagh says, before landing a mean punch on Jamie’s beautiful face. “But you shoulda trusted me with that knowledge from the beginning.”
NEXT PAGE: Broken promises
After theorizing that she could mimic the symptoms of small pox through some carefully mixed herbs, Claire is ready to hand off her concoctions to Jamie (and Fergus!) so they can foil Charles’ wine shipment. The two ride off to the Comte’s storage facility and spike the worker’s wine with a sick-inducing potion and dust their coats with an irritant that will enflame their skin. (Book readers will note that these events diverge somewhat from Diana Gabaldon’s source material. I’m curious to see how the timeline is re-imagined going forward…)
The plan is successful — Charles summons Jamie to tell him of the illness that has felled several of the Comte’s men. He’s frantic for Jamie to transport the wine to his own storehouse so that it won’t be declared tainted by the harbormaster. But the Comte is dubious — he clearly still doesn’t trust Jamie. (Wisely.) Jamie tries to rebuff the prince by feigning worry over the reputation of his cousin’s wine business, but his protestations fall on deaf ears. So Jamie agrees — leaving him and Murtagh to brainstorm a Plan B.
And by Plan B, I mean Plan Bandit. Murtagh, in disguise and aided by several hired hands, robs the wine caravan as they make their way from the Comte’s to Jamie’s. But things quickly go sideways as Murtagh and the Comte become locked in a trigger-off, guns pointed at each other. Jamie, wanting to protect his clansman but not give up the ruse, “attacks” Murtagh and “saves” the Comte. With the wine successfully purloined from Charles and St. Germain, Murtagh takes the shipment to Portugal to resell it in secret.
All the while, Claire is working feverishly in the hospital, as if atoning for the time she spent in idle discussion with the vapid society women of France. But Claire is clearly not feeling well, and Mother Hildegarde insists she lie down for a bit. And, in fact, Claire is bleeding a bit. The nun assures that it’s normal during that stage of pregnancy, but she takes no chances, insisting Claire spend the night at the hospital.
When she returns home the next morning, Jamie is no where to be found. Suzette the maid breaks the news: Jamie (with Fergus in tow), went to the brothel the night before to help out Bonnie Prince Charlie, and, well, now he’s dueling Randall! (I assume the subtext of that scene in the brothel was apparent enough, but in case you were wondering, yes, that was Black Jack who shut Fergus in to the room.) And, as if she needed confirmation of Suzette’s news, Claire finds a note from Jamie: “I am sorry. I must.”
Still weak from her night in the hospital, Claire dispatches a carriage straight away and hurries to the scene of the duel. But she’s too late — it’s already in progress. There’s nothing she can do to stop it without risking Jamie’s safety. So she watches from afar in the woods until her pain is too intense and she buckles, blood pouring from her womb. Seconds before she screams out in agony, Jamie lands a winning blow to Randall’s nether regions.
And then, for what seems like the millionth time, our beloved couple is once again torn apart: Jamie carted off to jail for the crime of dueling and Claire carried to Mother Hildegarde to hopefully save her life.