The show’s creators do a great job of keeping to the book with this episode. While I typically enjoy a good healthy dose of political intrigue, having read the book is becoming a little bit of a curse as I sit through the build-up of this season’s action. It’s a necessary evil, however, as there is much that has to take place both on screen and behind the scenes to build to the crescendo that’s coming.
In the midst of yet another chess game with the minister of finance, Claire and Jamie discuss baby names, and of course neither can agree on the other’s suggestions. The Comte St. Germaine happens by, obviously attempting to be imposing and condescending at the same time, but really just comes off yawn-inducing and obnoxious when he ruins the game by telling Jamie that the minister will win in just two moves. It’s insinuated that Jamie is distracted by Claire’s presence, and she excuses herself as the two men begin another game. It seems patronizing, but it gives the two men time to discuss their plans.
Meanwhile, Claire has a drink which causes her to begin coughing, as the Comte looks on. Jamie notices and immediately rushes to her side while she groans in pain and has to be carried out. That night, Claire says she doesn’t think it was poison, and she noticed an aftertaste. Her drink was spiked, and both Jamie and Claire suspect it was the Comte’s doing. The two ultimately hatch a plan to invite Prince Charles and the Duke over for dinner in hopes of making the prince look bad, and unworthy of funding his bid to reclaim the throne. The downside is that they would have to invite Alexander Randall as well, and Claire is forced to tell Jamie that Black Jack still lives. Claire is caught by surprise at Jamie’s reaction, which is one of elation rather than outrage.
Claire pays a visit to Master Raymond to investigate the poisoning attempt – the glass she drank from had been spiked with bitter cascara, which she knew Raymond sells to those wishing to poison someone. He denies knowing who it was intended for, and can only tell her that it was purchased by a servant he did not recognize. After being alerted by the shop assistant that they were being watched, Raymond hurries Claire into the back room, which is filled with even more curiosities than the main part of the shop. The visit results in a fortune-telling session in which Master Raymond throws some bones. He tells Claire that he cannot see Frank’s future but reassures her that she will see him again. He also gives her a necklace which is suppose to change color in the presence of poison.
Claire later pays a visit to Louise, who reveals that she is pregnant, but not by her husband. Claire suggests, instead of helping Louise get rid of the pregnancy, that Louise simply sleep with her own husband so he will think the child is his, but Louise refuses.
That night, Claire is shocked to find bite marks on Jamie’s thighs. He swears he’s innocent, but a rightfully livid Claire is unconvinced. An emotionally vulnerable Jamie tells her that he’s been trying to find his way back to her after being unmanned by Randall, and she feels like she’s going through her pregnancy alone. Jamie decides it might be best for him to sleep alone, but fortunately the two reconcile when Claire goes to him.
The afterglow of their reconciliation is interrupted by a considerably drunk Prince Charles, who has been rejected by his lover. His lover, they learn, is none other than Louise. Claire and Jamie decide to use the affair to their advantage, inviting both Prince Charles and Louise to the dinner party where they will drop the bomb about Louise’s condition.
A week later, Claire is delayed in returning home for the dinner party thanks to a broken carriage wheel, forcing Claire, Mary, Murtagh, and Fergus to walk home. The group is set upon in the dark streets of Paris by bandits, and while Murtagh is busy dispatching one of them, Claire is held by another, and Mary gets attacked and raped. Things look pretty grim until one of the masked attackers gets a good look at Claire shouting “La Dame Blanche,” which scares the bandits and they run off.
Returning home, Jamie suggests they cancel the dinner but Claire refuses. Alex tends to Mary, and Claire joins the dinner party to find the Comte has been invited by Sandringham. Jamie offers a toast congratulating Louise on her pregnancy, who has decided to keep the baby after all and follow Claire’s suggestion to convince her husband the baby is his. Prince Charles, who knows better, offers his congratulations while draining his wine glass. The evening is interrupted by Mary, who’s frightened awake and screaming. Confusion sets in when she is tackled by Alex, and the dinner party thinks he’s the reason for her frightened state and a fight breaks out. The Comte tells his wife to summon the authorities.
The Comte is becoming every bit the villain a fan could hope for, all while the character of Alex is developing into the anti-Black Jack as he’s depicted in the books. The distance between Claire and Jamie is growing wider, despite the reconciliation, as Jamie is forced more deeply into stopping the Jacobite Rebellion and Claire is more focused on her work at the hospital and her pregnancy. It’s very painful to watch, when you can see from the outside perspective what they could be doing differently to stop that gap from widening and you’re powerless to stop it. Add to that the fact that they’re having to deal with some very unpleasant characters (Sandringham, Prince Charles, and the Comte), who are wholly unlikeable but make for excellent antagonists, and it makes it easier to get past the drawn-out political intrigue and look forward to where this whole thing is headed.