Title: LaDame Blanche
Written by: Toni Graphia
Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon
It’s Episode 204 of OLA’s continuing series of Recaps on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2. These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions. We hope you enjoy these recaps!
If you want to see some very funny deleted scenes from this episode and others, then pre-order the Season 2 DVD or Blu Ray from our Shop Outlander Amazon page here. It is targeted to be in-homes on November 1st.
The podcast for this episode was narrated by showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and executive producer Toni Graphia who also write the script.
The title card for the episode was a broken wagon wheel and the episode was referred to in the writer’s room as the dinner party episode.
The opening credits include shots of Versailles. RDM noted that this was mostly done with visual effects that incorporated actual historical shots of Versailles.
The opening scene is of Jamie playing chess with Duvernay but this time, Claire is there. She is distracting Jamie with baby names, causing him to lose a game. Initially, the baby naming discussion took place in a more intimate setting but the writers wanted to underscore how little they have spoken about the baby given the logistical challenge of their quest and the emotional wall created by Jamie dealing with the Wentworth aftermath.
The Comte interrupts them and spoils the game.
Claire leaves the table to get a drink. A sequence cut from this scene includes her overhearing many French women talking about how bored they are and then a few say
I shouldn’t mind making that tall red-headed Scot growl and show his teeth.
Yes, he can castle my queenside any time.
How do you say I know the feeling in French?
Claire normally would be used to other women admiring Jamie but this time it cuts to the quick as they have not been intimate in months. She takes a drink and realizes something isn’t right. Jamie notices that she is in distress and runs to her side. They choreographed this scene to make you suspect the Comte St. Germaine but we don’t know for sure if he was the mastermind at this point. The sequence where the royal physician wants to bleed her is cut for time.
Jamie and Claire return to the house. The interesting this is this scene was shot before the Prague chess room scenes. Toni commented that they often shot out of sequence in Season 2, even months apart and she noted how the crew and especially the actors, were brilliant in keeping the continuity of the scene and especially the emotion. RDM said shooting that way is called cross-boarding.
Claire is forced to tell Jamie that Black Jack is alive. There were many discussions in the writers’ room about how and when she should tell him. The reveal comes to a head when Jamie wants to throw a dinner party to show Sandringham how weak Charles is so that he will see him as a bad investment. With Sandringham will come Alex Randall and Claire knows she has no choice to tell Jamie. They also played around with Jamie’s reaction and decided he would be overjoyed. Sam Heughan played this well as the script simply says “this is wonderful news” but he read it as “this is…wonderful news” with a dramatic pause and a look to the heavens as if saying Thank GOD.
Side note: RDM noted they were well into story boarding for Season 3 at the point of this episode airing. The episode aired on April 30th in the US so that must mean they had known about Season 3 as early as March, if not before.
Murtagh observes that Jamie seems in a good mood and Claire admits that she was forced to tell Jamie that BJR is alive. She takes a playful poke by saying “I don’t know what you were so worried about.” RDM said he fought to keep this scene in. Unfortunately, it required that the next sequence had to be cut where Claire comes upo Jamie and Fergus discussing which of the women at the brothel likes to talk. Jamie wanted to know which one he could talk with but not have to partake. I think it was a mistake to cut this because it would have put an important upcoming scene with Jamie and Claire in better context. Many non-book readers were disappointed in Jamie for the later scene but if they had seen this exchange, they would have realized his motivation.
I think this is another editing decision that was chosen because of favorite scenes by a writer or producer without thought as to how the audience would interpret or prefer. While I admire how they tackled a long, complicated book in only 13 episodes, the editing decisions were often head scratchers. This will become extremely apparent in episode 207 but you’ll have to wait a bit for that recap!
Claire returns to Master Raymond’s shop. Both RDM and Toni noted this is their favorite set with so many details that the viewer barely has time to notice. Toni pointed out something that I hadn’t noticed in the episode. When Claire is holding up a prehistoric skull, Raymond tells her he is fascinated by things not of this time. And he is looking at Claire, not the skull. He knows or at least suspects. They really wanted to create a sense of mystery about Raymond.
Claire is worried about Frank. She loved him once and given that she now has met Mary Hawkins, she wants to understand what that means for Frank. RDM had the idea of throwing the bones on an animal hide, something Claire would remember given her travels with her archeologist uncle. When Raymond says “you will see him again”, Claire is perplexed but the audience knows this to be true from episode 201. She receives her magic stone necklace. This piece is important to later episodes and so they let Terry Dresbach select the stone.
Claire then visits Louise who shows off her new cuckoo clock. The original script had Louise sitting for a portrait with her monkey and the monkey would escape. But the production manager said “The monkey stays in the cage!” so the changed the script. Louise confides in Claire that she is pregnant by her lover. In a large piece of foreshadowing, Claire tells her that it is possible to raise a child with love even if her husband is not the father. One version of the script had Louise reveal that Charles is her lover but they decided to have Jamie and Claire figure that out later.
Jamie returns home that evening very much in the mood. He straddles Claire on the bed and as he lifts his shirt (even Toni gave an impressed woo! during the podcast at Sam’s, um, assets), Claire notices bite marks on his thighs. Toni wanted to make sure that the audience knows that Jamie would never be untrue to Claire but this was more complicated than that. The script note says it all “in the long, clueless tradition of husbands throughout time”, Jamie begins to explain to Claire that nothing happened but he was trying to reconnect with himself so that he could reconnect with her. Using a whore from the brothel who liked to talk a lot (see cut scene with Fergus), meant he could test that while being true to her. This leads to a very vulnerable discussion on both their parts; Claire about how she’s tried so hard but this should be a happy time for them and Jamie finally revealing just how deeply Wentworth has impacted his psyche. This included the infamous blade of grass speech originally from Book 1 that Maril Davis had remembered (thank you, Maril!) RDM praised Diana Gabaldon’s writing of the speech and as Toni pointed out, words are only as good as the actors who deliver them.
Jamie leaves to sleep by himself in the daybed. They always wanted to use this for a sex scene and it ended up being right that it be the first time for Jamie and Claire since arriving in Paris. The blue lighting emphasized that it was just Jamie and Claire finding each other again in the darkness. RDM ‘s line of Come find me fit perfectly. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe both commented in a number of interviews that they fought for a pregnant sex scene and they did it beautifully. There is a brief moment of shock in Jamie’s eyes where BJR may have started to creep his way back in but Claire grabs his face and secures her to him. They are as one in every sense of the word once again.
Jamie tells Claire later that she has helped him start the healing process back to himself. She has built him a roof with a lean to. The sounds of banging on the roof brings him face to face with Charles in the window. Andrew Gower did all his own stunts here from letting them pour water on him to show it had been raining, to jumping through the window and letting Sam tackle him. An interesting point is that in the book, this is actually the first time the reader meets Prince Charles. The book is told from Claire’s point of view so it was always her hearing Jamie describe his meetings with Charles.
Charles is injured and through conversation, Jamie and Claire put 2 and 2 together to realize that he is Louise’s lover and the father of her child. They later plan how they will use this information at dinner. A pang of conscience over hurting Louise for the greater good is part of it but they close the plan with a kiss as the scene fades to the setting of an elaborate dinner table. The Jamie and Claire theme plays in the background as we are left to presume that the blade of grass is about to be a 3 room cottage.
Toni and RDM noted how very complicated this dinner party scene was for the director. They had 16 seats but because the women’s clothing is so wide, they had to limit females. They have to get Claire out of the house by sending her to Le H’opital to assist Mother Hildegarde. Toni noted that this scene was almost cut a number of times but she really wanted to work with Frances De LaTour. (Another time when a writer’s favorite scene takes up time that might have been better served elsewhere?) A cut scene from here is when Mother Hildegarde tells Claire that she should be a doctor and that she could arrange for her to do an apprenticeship. Production note: this scene was filmed on day 1.
A fun knife throwing scene takes place outside between Murtagh and Fergus where it seems brothel born and raised Fergus knows more about women than Murtagh. I always love these two as it reminds me of gruff old uncle scenes. Toni noted that this scene didn’t move the plot forward as it was pure character and those scenes often suffered in the cutting room during season 2 but she was glad it made it. (Note, this was the most common criticism of season 2 but part of that is due to the structure of book 2, in my opinion.)
Claire, Murtagh, Mary and Fergus leave to head back home when Murtagh discovers the carriage wheel is broken. They decide to walk back with Fergus being instructed to go ahead to tell Jamie that they will be delayed. RDM noted this was complicated with regards to timing of how long they were there, how long would it take to sabotage the carriage, how long of a walk is it, when is dinner served, etc.
Back at the ranch, Jamie beings to greet guests with the first to arrive being the Duke of Sleezingham and his secretary, Alex Randall. Jamie is aware they were coming but still, as Toni notes, a great shiver runs through him when he sees the resemblance. The actor who played Alex showed up to the first table read wearing the same glasses as Tobias Menzies. Too bad they couldn’t have taken a picture of that.
Louise arrives with her husband and comes face to face with Charles who wears his heart on his sleeve. Awkward! Murtagh, Mary and Claire walk through the alley when Murtagh is knocked unconscious and a group of thugs attack and rape Mary. This scene was shot many times and Toni noted it is difficult for the crew to watch. (Note: If it is difficult to watch film, perhaps extrapolate that might be just as hard or harder for your audience?) All of the attackers were stuntmen and not actors so they dubbed their lines. Claire is recognized as LaDame Blanche (the title of the episode that is never explained until 205) and they run off.
When they return home, Mary is taken upstairs and Jamie wants to cancel the dinner party but Claire notes the show must go on, there is too much at stake. She sedates Mary and leaves Alex to watch her, warning him that she may wake up disoriented. Uh oh, you know that ain’t gonna be good.
The seating arrangements are strategic. Charles must sit across from Louise, Duke sits across from Charles and the Comte next to Claire who suspects he is behind the attacks. We do too as he seems surprised to see her there.
Jamie and Claire’s plan takes shape exactly as they had hoped in that Charles is upset with Jamie’s “accidental” announcement that Louise and her husband are expecting child. Sandringham takes shots at the pope and Comte makes it quite clear he knows what kind of necklace Claire is wearing. (This is actually extremely important in another few episodes.)
Unfortunately, Mary wakes up and mistakes Alex for another attacker and runs into the parlor. He tries to tackle her to quiet her and the men from the dinner party mistake it for an attempted rape. A brawl ensues. RDM noted that they wanted to make it a lighthearted brawl because a serious one would be over in seconds with Murtagh and Jamie killing everyone. So, they tried to make it like the 3 Musketeers. I felt it went on for too long and seemed out of character for them. The humor is saved when the camera pans over to Fergus in the now empty dining room, enjoying the “spoils of war”.
Don’t forget! Pre-order the Season 2 DVD or Blu Ray from our Shop Outlander Amazon page here.
All pictures sourced from Starz