Warning: This postmortem contains spoilers for the “Untimely Resurrection” episode of Outlander.
Just when you thought all was on its way to being right on the Fraser front — Claire had come clean about Black Jack surviving the stampede and Jamie didn’t spiral, they’d caught a potential break in their quest to change the future, and perhaps most importantly they got their bedroom mojo back — the Sassenach and the Highlander started seeing red. More specifically, they spied the signature red coat of one Black Jack Randall, the haunter of Jamie’s dreams and the historic doppelganger of Claire’s future husband Frank, standing in the gardens of Versailles and hoping to have a word with King Louis XV about his wrongfully fired brother.
“It was a huge day for me. To see that red coat in the gardens was very striking,” Sam Heughan tells Yahoo TV. “I hadn’t seen Tobias [Menzies], and certainly haven’t seen Black Jack, since we shot Season 1, and it brought up a lot of emotional memories. But it’s a very awkward and dangerous moment because the King’s there. I’ve got to be very courteous and pleasant to my biggest enemy, yet all I wanted to do as Jamie was address Randall, look him in the eye, and stare him down. Jamie wants to kill this man, maybe needs to kill him.”
Heughan notes that he was proud that his character stayed calm in the moment and then when the coast was clearer, he returned to challenge his enemy to a duel. “It’s also surprising that then Jamie comes out of it quite level-headed. He challenges Randall, and it actually gives him a great power again to be in control of his destiny and to rid himself of Randall and the nightmare that he’s been living.“
Menzies, too, loved the challenge of that scene. “It’s a really good piece of writing that came up through conversation with the writers in rehearsal,” he explains. “To put that meeting in front of the King meant that you’re taking all that we’ve built up in the first season and putting it in the pressure cooker of the courts of Versailles. How it feels pays dividends because it’s a very unusual and unexpected set of circumstances to see them wrestling with all the emotions that are there [while] also having to present to such a powerful person.”
Randall, after all, was not there to find Jamie, or even in an English military capacity despite wearing his official crimson garb. He has come to plead with the King to get his brother another job after the Duke of Sandringham had cut him loose following the Mary misunderstanding at the disasterous Fraser dinner party, and winds up being the target of royal mockery. “Jack is a fish out of water,” Menzies says. “It’s a culture that he doesn’t really know, so even though he can speak French and can handle himself, I think it wasn’t useful for him to be in control.”
Although some might have been shocked at how the big bad just took the king’s fun-poking, Menzies feels Randall, like Jamie, has been changed by the events of Season 1.
“He didn’t recover too tidily either,” Menzies says. “[When he returns in episode 5], we meet a slightly less confident Jack than we met in the first season. That is a fallout of his injuries and from what happened in Wentworth. I think there have been some disciplinary issues, and obviously, he was very badly hurt. Overall, we meet a less robust and confident man in the second season.”
For Claire, Jamie throwing down the gauntlet is more than him potentially being thrown in the Bastille. If he’s successful in slaying Jack Randall, she knows her beloved Frank Randall will never be born. And that came after she thought she had so deftly handled the growing connection between his brother and Mary.
”There are certain things that she’s trying desperately to have remain the same, and she feels responsible for Frank, for making sure he gets to be born and have a life even if it isn’t with her,” Caitriona Balfe says. “[She has a] need to protect Frank. That’s why what we see in episode 1 is so important, and why enlarging the Frank character is necessary, because you have to understand why she would need to protect him. Unfortunately, I don’t think she’s really thinking clearly through these decisions. She’s blinded by her emotions somewhat. The reason she didn’t tell Jamie about Black Jack being alive in the first place was that she feared he would spiral and do something rash [like] try to kill Black Jack.”
For now, Claire’s convinced Jamie to hold off on taking down his tormentor for at least a year, which should be long enough, according to the family tree she saw back in the 20th Century, for the necessary relatives to be born to ensure Frank’s conception. But executive producer Ronald D. Moore teases that despite her asking Jamie to repay the debt he owes her for saving his life twice, it may be too much for Jamie to handle.
“Paris and their mission there is already kind of poisoning them and corrupting them. Their marriage is under a lot of stress. He asks her at one point, ‘When do I get to feel good?’ Black Jack’s reentry in their lives could be the figurative straw,” Moore says. “She will ask a very huge thing of him, basically for him to not act like himself and to not get his revenge. The bigger question will be if he will be able to honor her request.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.