I’ve never been shy about my adoration for actor Tobias Menzies. His dual performances on Outlander — as loving husband Frank and as sadistic baddie Black Jack — are equally riveting and most certainly worthy of consideration come Emmy time. But this episode proved to me (maybe I’m the last one who needed more evidence?) that Caitriona Balfe should be in the awards season discussion too. Her performance here — grieving the death of her still-born child — was exquisite. If “Faith” isn’t the episode submitted on her behalf for Emmy consideration, someone is not doing their job.
This week opens with a brief flash-forward to 1954 Boston, where Claire is tending to her adorable, auburn-haired daughter. It’s as if the showrunners wanted to give us a brief moment of hope to mitigate some of the suffering to come. Because in 18th-century France, Claire is in a bad way. She’s been taken to the hospital where Mother Hildegarde and Monsieur Forez are tending to her. After a period of woozy, wrenching fits, Claire awakens — sans baby bump. She screams for her child. Mother Hildegarde breaks the news: Claire’s baby is now with the angels. But the nun provided a kindness (an illegal one, at that): She baptized the baby and gave her the name Faith so that she could be buried in hallowed ground.
Claire is clearly in turmoil — and not just the emotional kind. Her body is ravaged by infection and she’s running a very high fever. It’s so bad, in fact, Mother Hildegarde brings in a priest to take Claire’s last confession and tells Bouton to keep a close watch over her in her final hours. Later that night, the watch dog sounds the alarm — a hooded stranger has approached. But the man means Claire no harm: It’s Master Raymond and he’s come to heal Claire. He asks what she sees, and she responds with “blue wings.” The apothecary explains that blue is the color of healing and that the wings will carry away her pain. He begins to massage her body, and the infection miraculously dissipates. At the healing’s climax, Master Raymond instructs Claire to yell out Jamie’s name. And she does.
But her husband cannot be by her side — he is still locked up in the Bastille for the crime of dueling. As Mother Hildegarde explains the circumstances of the arrest, she also reveals to Claire that Black Jack is not, in fact, dead. A revelation that gives Claire some bit of relief. Frank will live another day.
After weeks in the hospital recuperating, Claire finally returns home, where Fergus is there to comfort her and brush her hair. But Fergus is in need of consoling too: Claire hears him having a nightmare one evening and wakes him to learn his ghastly secret. Namely, that while in the brothel with Jamie, Black Jack had walked in on Fergus pilfering his lavender perfume and raped him. Hearing Fergus’ cries for help, Jamie interceded and challenged Randall to the duel that ultimately sent him to prison.
Getting a better understanding of Jamie’s motivations for seemingly betraying her, Claire now realizes she must save her husband. She asks Mother Hildegarde (who has a nascent connection to the King) to help her get an audience. But the nun is clear about what will be expected of Claire: Louis will likely insist Claire have sex with him as a form of payment.
“If it comes to sacrificing my virtue, I’ll add it to the list of things I’ve already lost in Paris,” she responds.
NEXT PAGE: The White Witch[pagebreak]
Flash to the King’s private quarters, where the monarch is offering Claire a snack of oranges and hot chocolate. He tells Claire he expects a favor for a favor. But instead of leading Claire to his bed, he ushers the purported La Dame Blanche through a back door into a hidden chamber, lit by torches and attended by guards. Spying physician-by-day, executioner-by-night Monsieur Forez, Claire immediately gets a bad feeling. The sentiment is only heightened when Master Raymond and St. Germain are ushered in. The pair are being charged with various crimes, including sorcery and exploration of the dark arts. The King has enlisted Claire as a sort of lie detector. According to the La Dame Blanche mythology, she can see into men’s hearts and is unable to tell falsehoods herself, so she will be able to discern if the men are guilty as charged.
Claire attempts to use the opportunity to get St. Germain to confess to being a member of the gang who raped Mary Hawkins, but she is unsuccessful. He does reveal, however, that he did indeed attempt to poison Claire, and that her not dying from the poison proves that she’s a witch. Claire turns the accusation on its head: She admits to being a witch but only to being a white witch who uses her powers for good.
Never one to avoid a show-stopping flourish, the King proclaims that he has something to aid their truth-seeking. It’s a snake. Apparently somewhere in the Bible it says that a true-believer can handle a serpent without getting bit. Claire sees how foolhardy this scheme is and offers up her own suggestion: She will concoct a “poison” for both men to drink and whoever survives will be released. If they both survive, they both will be released. (Which is her aim.) The King agrees to the test, but says he will ultimately decide the prisoners’ punishments. Using the ingredients confiscated from Master Raymond’s shop, Claire pours her favorite unction — bitter cascara — into a cup for Master Raymond to drink first. The old man coughs and heaves, and while bent over, slips real poison into the cup (revealed by Claire’s poison-detecting necklace). And so both Claire and St. Germain know the merchant’s fate. If he drinks, he will die. The Comte’s final words to Claire before swigging: “I’ll see you in Hell.”
The King tells the still very alive Master Raymond to leave and never set foot in France again. He couldn’t agree to the terms more quickly. And with that mess dispatched, the King leads Claire back into his bedroom where he then asks for payment. He hitches up her skirt and the debt is paid with a few quick thrusts.
“I closed my eyes and thought of England,” Claire muses in voiceover.
Now, not only will Jamie be released from the Bastille, but the King will also arrange for Jamie’s pardon with the English crown so that he may go back to Scotland if he so wishes.
When Jamie finally returns to Claire he’s ragged, having grown a beard and looking much worse for the wear. He asks whether their child was a boy or girl. He then explains the reasoning behind breaking his promise which Claire, of course, already knows. She admits that she had hated him for it, recounting the moment she met their daughter. How Mother Hildegarde put the lifeless baby in her arms, with its slightly slanted eyes and wisps of “the most beautiful copper hair.” How Claire spent all day cradling her child, until Louise came and, in a moment of uncharacteristic grace, gently pried the baby out of her arms so that she could be buried.
But in hindsight, Claire realizes it isn’t Jamie’s fault. She was the one who asked the impossible of him. She was the one who put Frank before their family. She was the one who went to the woods. And she was the one who slept with the King to get Jamie’s pardon.
“You did it to save my life,” Jamie says. “Just like I gave myself to Randall to save you.”
Claire asks how they can ever be the same.
“We can’t be,” Jamie answers. “The weight of what has happened here is too much for anyone of us to bear alone. The only way we can live with it is to carry it together.”
And so Claire asks to be taken home to Scotland. Their last stop in France is Faith’s grave so that Jamie can lay an apostle spoon on the headstone.
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Tune in to Outlander Live on SiriusXM 105 for a deep dive into “Faith” with hosts Lynette Rice and Amy Wilkinson.