In Outlander Episode 207: FAITH, Caitriona Balfe does all the heavy lifting while Sam Heughan is off growing a Gettysburg beard. (If you’ve seen the 1993 film of which I speak, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you must. It’s a great film based on the even better Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Civil War novel: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Check out both mediums.)
But the show isn’t ready for rebellion quite yet . . .
This episode is about power – the power of healing, the power of hate, the power of physical strength, the power to grant life or death, the power of accusation, and the power of forgiveness. It’s about who has the power and who doesn’t.
Claire is put to the ultimate test – losing both husbands, her baby, one of two enemies, her best friend, and finally her virtue (which happens to be a synonym for faith, so there’s that).
Written by Toni Graphia with returning director Metin Hüseyin, FAITH is on par with Ep. 116: TO RANSOM A MAN’S SOUL in that it rips your heart out – again and again. Standing ovations for all but especially Caitriona Balfe, Romann Berrux, and the master of music Bear McCreary.
While Bear’s Outlander compositions are all lovely, I don’t always pay close attention to the music during my initial viewing of Outlander. To be honest, I think I’ve paid more attention to Bear’s music in The Walking Dead because it’s jarring, powerful and quite formidable at times. However, the music in FAITH is (if I may borrow a thought from the Duke) sublime perfection.
Caitriona and Romann’s outstanding performances shall be discussed in more detail throughout the recap/review.
As the opening of this episode proves, Ron Moore likes to surprise and tease us. Though not following the way the story unfolds in the Diana Gabaldon Dragonfly in Amber novel to the page, we are given peeks into Claire’s future in tantalizing ways.
We begin by meeting a six-year-oldish Brianna (Niamh Elwell), though she is not referred to by name in the scene. If you’ve not read the novel, that’s all I’m gonna tell you. What happened to Jamie? Why is Claire back in the 20th century? Does Brianna know who her father is? Does she know where and how and when she was conceived? She’s six. What do you think?
Now, that’s a nightmare image. Thank goodness she’s delirious.
When she wakes up, she screams for her baby. Where’s my baby?! Where’s my baby!? Mother Hildegarde (Frances De La Tour) has the unfortunate job of telling her the child is gone to heaven then sends in the muscle. Claire is nun-handled back to bed, still calling for her lost baby.
Fever develops, keeping Claire in a state of semi-delirium, but she is able to grasp that her daughter Faith, as named and baptized by the good mother, is with the baby angels. Claire is on her own. No word from Jamie who is locked up in the Bastille for dueling against the King’s Law & Order. She is left alone under the watchful guard of good ol’ Buton.
From the darkness appears good ol’ Master Raymond (Dominique Pinon), come out of hiding to help his friend who is dying of puerperal fever. Seems traditional 18h century medicine hasn’t worked. Old fashioned praying hasn’t worked. Time for the use of white magic from his healing hands. A little massaging and Master Raymond expels the festering placenta still caught in Claire’s body.
A miracle, the nuns declare when they find her fever broken. Master Raymond disappears into the darkness once again. Claire learns Jamie is being detained in the Bastille, only alive because Randall still lives. Otherwise, Forez would have gotten his hands on both Frasers that day.
After weeks of hiding out at L’Hopital des Anges, Fergus urges Claire to return home. Bear McCreary‘s melancholy homecoming theme accompanies Claire’s exit from the carriage as she is greeted by the saddened household, foremost by a weeping Suzette (Adrienne-Marie Zitt).
It’s a good thing Murtagh is still abroad. Don’t think I could take his tears, too.
Unbeknownst to her, Claire is faced with another victim of Randall’s. But we know. And it’s difficult to watch poor Fergus (Romann Berrux) brush Claire’s hair in a tender moment we also know won’t last.
As the bacteria in Claire’s blood once festered, her hate/blame/anger toward Jamie festers. She asked for such a simple thing – to give his mortal enemy a free pass. For better. For worse. For richer. For poorer. In sickness and in health. Nope. Nothing about forgiving your torturer/rapist.
Lost in turmoil, Claire in tears of despair wanders the empty and dreary mcMansion until she hears Fergus whimpering in his sleep. Oh oh. It’s just a bad dream, she says upon waking him.
“It’s not just a dream,” he tells her.
The truth comes spilling out and for the third time, Claire is forced to hear another tale of Randall abusing someone she loves. It’s a frightening scene, to say the least. We flashback to the encounter at Maison Elise and the ominous words spoken by Jonathan Wolverton Randall (Tobias Menzies):
“You’re not what I ordered, but you’ll do.”
Like many victims of such violence, Fergus blames himself for not obeying his lord’s command to stay put and for calling out for help such that the situation escalates into a duel. Quite a lot of responsibility for the young man to carry – his lord locked up in the Bastille and his lady’s baby gone.
Okay, so if you’re not crying at this point, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a difficult scene to play for anyone, especially for a youth, but Romann performs well beyond his years. Whatever you feel, don’t hate Tobias for being so good at playing bad. He’s sure to go down in the fictional annals as one of the all-time worst villains in history. I suppose it’s a good thing Frank can’t time travel, he’d kill himself by killing Randall – or at least help Jamie do it.
So, now we’re all on the same page. Claire knows what she has to do. But how to do it . . . ask Mother Hildegarde!
She wants to get Jamie out of jail. How does she go about getting a one-on-one with King Louie, she asks the godmother of the Old Sun King. (That’s Louis XIV, the current King’s grandpapa for those who don’t know. He ruled for 72 years – the longest reign of all recognized European rulers. He was a patron of the arts and a dedicated ballet dancer. As the ruler to have the Palace of Versailles constructed, the nickname seems apt. Now, back to the program.)
Apparently, it’s not too difficult to get a private audience. But the price is kind of steep. Unless one finds the King hot, then . . .
To the King Claire goes, dressed in her best. Led from room to room until finally reaching Louie’s inner sanctum – the only room in which he’s allowed to be alone. I can’t help but wonder if anyone patted Claire down in that gown. She could have any number of murderous devices hidden in the folds. Shoddy security if you ask me. (By the way, woulda/coulda been cool if they’d been able to shoot Claire in one long, uninterrupted walk through the palace, but too expensive.)
Louis the Well-Beloved (Lionel Lingelser) awaits Claire, fully clothed in a long pink robe-looking jacket. So far, so good. (Incidentally, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 and the parading around of his infidelities will lead Louis XV to be less loved when he dies of – you guessed it – smallpox in 1774.)
The King and Claire exchange niceties. He offers her hot chocolate and an orange from one of his thousand+ citrus trees. It must be truly interesting to be in a situation where the only answer you may give is “yes.”
Louis is charming and royally gracious. Claire is deferential and seemingly innocent. It’s perhaps my favorite scene in the episode, watching the two of them banter and parry, like they both do not already know how the evening will end. I especially enjoy the King practically sucking on Claire’s fingers as if paying disrespect to the men who represent each ring. It’s good to be the King . . . unless your Louis’ son.
Claire makes her argument in Jamie’s favor. Jamie is a Scot and had no choice but to defend his honor. Aww. The King decides to be merciful, but he needs one tiny, itsy, bitsy favor from Claire first, he says coyly while standing beside the Kingly king-sized bed. It’s so large, it just might fit three or more kings.
But it’s not that . . .
To Claire’s relief, Louis escorts her into another chamber. Her relief fades when she sees the otherworldly decor and black-masked guards. At this point, I’m expecting Tom Cruise to step out of one of the dark alcoves to watch. (Yes, that’s a reference to Stanley Kubrick‘s Eyes Wide Shut. And we know how eccentric all his films are.)
Do I have to do it with the King in front of all these guys? Claire wonders.
Instead of Tom Cruise, Forez steps out of the shadows, followed by Master Raymond and the Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber). Well, they’re actually shoved through a door by a couple of the creepy guards.
Doom and gloom. Claire already knows Forez is there to do business. Now, she knows who the unlucky clients are. Her best friend and worst enemy (du jour). It’s tough to keep track. Charges are announced. Evidence is produced. Basically, both men are screwed.
The look on St. Germain’s face when he hears Claire is to determine his guilt or innocence would be laughable if he wasn’t so darn good-looking. Does that make me shallow? Anyway . . .
Louis orders Le Dame Blanche (damn that Jamie) to look into each man’s soul. If she sees evil . . . sqreeak. (That’s supposed to be the sound of a finger crossing the throat.)
Gulp. The farcical trial begins. Claire takes advantage by questioning St. Germain regarding the attack of Les Disciples. He denies knowing anything about the attack and that wanna-be gang, then quickly points the finger back at her, calling her a witch who tried to destroy his livelihood. Just like the criminal who blames the cops for his being in prison when he’s actually in prison because of the crime he committed. Logic just escapes some people.
I’m a good witch, Claire claims with a victorious smile. She’s had her fun getting St. Germain to admit putting the poison in her wine and watching him squirm.
After declaring all men have a bit of darkness in them, including the King – don’t think she should press her luck with that observation – Claire offers a simple solution. She’ll mix up a concoction and let the men drink it. If they live, they’re not so bad. And the King should let them go, she politely suggests.
Claire pours a dose of bitter cascara juice from Master Raymond’s evidence pool into a cup and presents it to the accused. She hopes making both men sick will appease Louis and alleviate his obligation of setting an example.
Raymond first. He drinks from the cup and immediately bends over with stomach pains but does not die. He passes the darkness test and the sneakiness test.
When Claire takes the cup back and turns to the Comte, the stone around her neck magically turns black, indicating the presence of real poison. Sqreeak. St. Germain knows now he’s screwed. Perhaps he knew all along, but there’s thinking and hoping versus confirming your state of screwedness.
Never make an enemy of Le Dame Blanche and the sneaky Master Raymond, who the shoddy security guards also did not search or they would have found the vial of poison he slight-of-handly dumped into the cup while everyone in the room was watching, is the Comte’s lesson learned too late.
St. Germain’s eyes turn wide. He sniffles and chuckles in the face of his imminent death. He fidgets and stalls until Louis orders him to drink, then delivers the best line of the episode:
“I salute you, Master Raymond . . . you evil bastard. And you . . . witch who sucks the cock of the Devil.” (I’ve never heard anyone call Jamie the Devil before. Oh, well.)
Jamie’s biggest competition . . . er . . . whiniest nemesis . . . er . . . latest pain-in-the-ass dies a very painful-looking death. I’m sorry to see Stanley go, but go he must so we can move on to other dashing and even more dangerous villains.
Master Raymond is exiled from France forever then man-handled from the Star Chamber.
Whew! Claire is done. Jamie will be freed and . . .
Not quite yet . . .
Either Louis just got turned on by watching the Comte die, or he has the gift of raising the royal sceptre on command. In either case, Claire is less graciously led back into the royal bedchamber and prodded onto her back.
Skirt raised. Knees up. Think of England. Adorable shoes!
Fly open. Pants down. One. Two. Three. Four. Fini!
And that’s how the King Whams, Bams, and Thanks the Ma’ams.
On a serious note, whether you’re an advocate of rape being about power more than sex or it not being about sex at all, the King in this instance is exhibiting his power. He doesn’t even seem to exact pleasure from the experience, but he must do it. He’s the King and everyone wants something so why shouldn’t he get something in return? And what do you get for the man who has everything? Perhaps he should have tried a game of chess instead. He might have had a more rewarding experience. Perhaps he simply needs a woman with diamond-encrusted swans pinching her nipples. I dunno.
Back at the ranch, Jamie (Sam Heughan) returns home to less fanfare than Claire’s arrival. Not even Fergus is on hand to greet his lord, so Jamie makes the lonely walk up the stairs. He’s heard about Claire losing the baby and asks whether it was a boy or a girl. It’s a beautiful set up (from a theatrical stand point). We watch Claire’s reaction to Jamie’s broken voice in the distance, his figure well out of focus in the background. Though it sounds like a voice over, I don’t care because the delivery is so damn good.
Claire doesn’t answer right away. She’s still angry .. in pain .. feeling regret about her own complicity. The ticking of the clock, rather than music, as the only noise is the finishing touch to this scene. It’s moments like this when the sound of a clock ticking, a dog barking in the distance, a bird chirping in a nearby tree becomes our focus. It’s a sound we remember when reflecting back on the memory.
Taking us back with Jamie, Claire relives the experience of holding Faith in her arms, describing the touch, look and feel of the baby’s tiny form. It’s a gorgeous scene written by Toni and is sure to become a fan favorite, despite its melancholy quality. It’s Caitriona devastating us with only her voice.
In the end, Claire forgives Jamie and takes blame for everything. For putting Frank before their family. For asking the impossible of Jamie. And for the tiny matter of “sleeping with the King” which is a funny way of putting it because I seriously doubt even Louis took a nap after their four-second jaunt. It’s hardly worth mentioning, really.
Jamie forgives Claire everything, including giving herself to the King. (I’m actually really, really hoping he hasn’t completely forgiven her because, hey, don’t want to miss out on the nettles scene. It’s as classic as the spanking scene.)
Well, France has pretty much kicked the Fraser’s butts, so it’s time to go back to Scotland with a pardon arranged by King Louis. Now, was that so difficult to achieve?
But before they ship off, Jamie and Claire visit Faith’s grave. It’s a moment they share where everything they thought important pales in comparison to what they’ve lost. Culloden will happen. There’s nothing they can do about it. Randall is back in England, recuperating, but they no longer care whether he lives or dies. The episode may be about power, but it turns into a lesson about perspective which is what life is all about.
Will the scene at Faith’s grave be the last time our heart’s are ripped out until they get completely stomped on when Claire goes back through the stones? Will Jamie and Claire be welcomed back to Scotland with open arms? Will they ever see Randall again? Are we excited about meeting the young John Grey? Is St. Germain really in hell, or did the angels save him because he’s just too darn hot?
Yes. Yes. I’m not telling. Yes. I don’t know. If you don’t believe me, tune in next week for a less depressing episode of Outlander.
FAITH is the kind of episode to win awards. Everything about it falls perfectly into place this week. I make mention of the lighting on occasion and the music in particular this time. But I’d also like to highlight the camera set ups. It’s probably not an aspect most viewers notice or even appreciate. As a general audience member, you notice if the camera is jerky, fast, slow or still. As a photographer or artist of composition, you notice the angle, framing, focus and lighting. Regardless, the photography is not something you’re required to notice consciously, but your mind appreciates it for you subconsciously when done well. Perhaps you notice it more when not done well because you’re left confused or displeased without knowing why.
During each Outlander episode, there is usually one particular scene and/or shot which impresses me the most because of the thought taken to compose the actors, action, background and foreground. I made mention during my recap of the way Jamie is out of focus when asking Claire about the baby. The scene would have had a much different feel if the camera had been on his face as the center of attraction rather than his pained and haunting voice. It’s made much more powerful leaving Jamie as a disembodied figure with the focus on Claire’s agonized expression. Truly brilliant.
Sound is also often overlooked. Admit you don’t care who wins the Academy Award for Best Sound. In this episode, it’s another element of the show done to perfection. Yes, I’m talking about the ticking of the clock again. A simple tick . . . tock . . . tick. It honestly made me smile because someone, whether Ron or Toni or the editors Mike O’Halloran & Melissa Lawson Cheung or whoever, thought to add that personal touch to the tension between Claire and Jamie – between them and the world, frankly.
I’ve not read any articles, blogs, interviews or other reviews about Season 2, but I’m sure they all sing the praises for Outlander‘s amazing cast. In FAITH Caitriona Balfe, Romann Berrux, Stanley Weber and Lionel Lingelser are the standouts for me.
I’ve run out of adjectives to describe Caitriona’s work on this show. She seems to outdo herself every week. I have no idea how she can top herself after her performance in FAITH, but I’m sure she’ll have me in knots at the stones. That’s all I have to say about that.
Love. Love. Love Lionel in this episode. He plays Gwyneth Paltrow so well – a king living in his own world with no idea how the rest of the world lives.
Oh, Stanley. He dies so well. I think I may like his non-dialogue acting even better than his speaking parts. He is a joy to watch in the chamber of horrors but not because I don’t pity his character. I do feel sorry for the Comte, even though he tried to kill Claire. He’s written that way and has no choice. I’m sure if he’d gotten to know the Frasers better . . .
And Romann. Ah, Romann. He enters the big leagues with his performance in FAITH. The little pickpocket brought a tear to my eye. That’s right. He made my eyes water. Nice going, kid! Going to miss you next season. I’ll have to get my fill during the last few episodes of Season 2.
While Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies are onscreen only for a short time, their combined and singular impacts are as always dominant. We’ve become attached to so many unforgettable characters in Season 1 and 2, their absences in Season 3 will be felt. Thank goodness for Richard Rankin, Sophie Skelton and the unknown actors who will play Lord John Grey and Young Ian Murray to fill the void. Has the watch begun?
Lastly, it feels wrong not to mention and thank the woman who created these characters and this world for us all to savor: Diana Gabaldon. I continue to be very happy for her because of how beautifully her creation is being translated to the screen and am most eager to view her scripted Episode 211: VENGEANCE IS MINE.
Outlander Episode 208: THE FOX’S LAIR premieres on Starz on Saturday, 28 May 2016 in the U.S.