First, Claire tries to convince Mary’s suitor Alex Randall (Laurence Dobiesz) to avoid a relationship with her, in order to clear a path for Mary to someday marry Alex’s sadistic brother Jack (Menzies) — Frank’s direct ancestor — and later, after Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) unexpectedly encounter Jack himself at Versailles, Claire tries to persuade her husband to spare Jack’s life, since if Jamie takes his revenge on his rapist and kills Jack in a duel, Frank will never be born.
Naturally, Jamie doesn’t react well to Claire’s request — especially since she presents it as a transaction: she has saved Jamie’s life in the past, so Jamie now owes her a life, and she’s calling in that debt for Frank. It’s a painful, emotionally-charged moment, with Jamie clearly feeling betrayed by his wife’s ultimatum, especially since the possibility of killing Jack has renewed Jamie’s sense of purpose over the last couple of episodes, offering him a chance at closure after being haunted by the physical and psychological torture he endured at Jack’s hands in Season 1.
Star Sam Heughan tells Variety that Claire and Jamie’s fight is “indicative of Season 2 and their relationship now — it’s complicated, and everything that they do then has a repercussion in time and in history. Season 2 is all about time and this finite point that they’ve got to stop, and the closer that they get to that, the more pressure it adds to them and their relationship.”
“It’s the pressure cooker that’s been building since Episode 1; they keep trying to come back together, they keep trying to be on the same team, but they’re not dealing with the core issues — and that’s that Claire feels abandoned by him, he feels misunderstood and alone, and so does she, and they’re two people who through lack of communication are on their own private islands,” Balfe agrees. “Claire has asked something insane of him, and it’s so much to ask and as Jamie says, it’s too much, and she realizes that, but she has a very sacred place in her heart for Frank and feels very strongly about trying to protect him, so it’s great stuff.”
Of Claire’s ultimatum, Heughan says, “the fact that she asks him to do this thing really tests him, and the moment that Jamie is kind of given this new lease of life, he’s trapped again, and he’s trapped by his actions. That really has some dire consequences further down the line.”
That conflict will provide fertile ground for the next couple of episodes, especially now Black Jack is back in their orbit — albeit as a slightly changed man.
“I wanted it to be a different Jack, someone who’s slightly less confident as a result of the injuries at the end of Season 1 with the cattle – even though it’s ludicrous and a bit comic, I wanted it to be a real thing, that he had been physically diminished in some way,” Menzies says of slipping back into Jack’s red coat and boots. “And also, he’s in a foreign country, a country the British are at war with — he’s not in control. Initially, some of the writing for him in that encounter was the cocksure Jack we knew from Season 1, and I was keen to change it up so he was less certain, so that you see the thrill and connection that he does feel with both Claire and Jamie, which is the thing that’s unnerving about it. You go, ‘how can he think of it like that?’ but he does, he feels a profound connection with them, but then he is in a situation where he’s not in control, and we’ve not really seen that. The rest of the [series], he’s in the bosom of the British army and has free rein. It’s an odd mixture of vulnerability and the raw connection of what they’ve been through.”
Heughan reveals that Jamie and Jack’s reunion proved to be just as powerful for him as it was for his character. “It’s a huge moment, and to see this red coat amongst the gardens. It was so, for me, visually evocative and really stirred up a lot of emotion in me personally, because I hadn’t seen it either since we’d done all those scenes,” he says. “The whole idea of that first meeting is that they’re trapped in this situation where they can’t really do anything … because the king is there, so one wrong move, he’s so powerful, it could be very dangerous for them. It’s all very contained, but very interesting to see Jamie come out of it quite coolly and calmly, and ultimately he challenges him to a duel. At that moment, Jamie is in control of what’s happening to him — and that’s very rare, especially in Season 2, for him to be in control, so he’s elated.”
The moment is made especially delicious because of the presence of King Louis XV, who seems to relish the chance to humiliate Jack — much to Claire and Jamie’s satisfaction.
“Louis almost intuits that he’s [vulnerable], it’s a very peculiar moment, but great, because it’s great to lower Jack’s status where he’s not in control,” Menzies admits. “It’s such a peculiar scene, to have all of that being played off in the etiquette of the French court.”