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Warning: This story contains spoilers for the second episode of Outlander’s second season.
Although Claire’s #RedDress moment was the standout scene in the second episode of Outlander’s sophomore season, her husband Jamie made an equally bold, if far less glamorous, move. Pursuing their plan to change the course of history by defunding the Jacobite rebellion — thus preventing the Battle of Culloden, which effectively ended Highlander culture — the Frasers (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan) finagle an invitation to a lavish royal ball held at King Louis XV’s court at Versailles. Their hope is to secure an audience with the French minister of finance, and encourage him against directing money towards Charles Stuart and his doomed campaign to win back the throne of England.
But thanks to the timely (and awkward) arrival of Jamie’s old flame, Annalise de Marillac (Margaux Chatelier), the Scotsman comes face-to-face with a personage higher than the minister of finance: King Louis himself (Lionel Lingelse). Annalise leads her ex to the royal bedroom, where the king is being dressed in preparation to make his grand entrance. When Jamie enters the chamber, though, he instead sees Louis sitting on a throne of a different sort. Apparently, his royal bowels are backed up and getting them to move is an ongoing issue. “Do you not see how I suffer?” Louis moans to a roomful of onlookers, who can only offer such unhelpful advice as “relax” and “concentrate.” “I am cursed,” France’s monarch concludes after another bout of straining fails to fill the royal chamber pot.
Taking his cue, Jamie steps forward and plays doctor. “If it pleases his Majesty, may I suggest he eat only parritch every morning.” By “parritch” he means “porridge,” but either way, it’s an item that’s decidedly not on Louis’s menu. “The King has never acquired a taste for peasant food,” he says though gritted teeth, inspiring chuckles from his cronies in the room. But it’s Jamie who has the last laugh, saying, “Perhaps this would be the perfect time.” It does appear that the king accepts his counsel: seeing Jamie again at the party later, Louis indicates that “parritch” might become part of his daily diet.
While invented for the series, this hilarious scene has its roots in Diana Gabaldon’s second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber, as well as actual history. In the novel, Jamie is invited to be part of the privileged few who watch King Louis’s morning routine, including his first trip to the toilet. “Took forever, the man’s tight as an owl” he tells Claire afterwards. (Unlike his television counterpart, the Jamie of the novel doesn’t suggest that Louis have a spoonful of parritch to help the bowels unlock, as Mary Poppins might say.) And according to marine biologist Ralph Lewin’s 2009 book, Merde, a study of coprology through the ages, the real King Louis may have had as many as 200 enemas during the course of a single year to alleviate constipation brought on by a steady diet of rich foods.
While digestion was no laughing matter for Louis, Heughan tells Yahoo TV that the cast had a good time shooting the constipation sequence. “It was very funny,” he remembers. “That’s a tough scene for any actor to perform, but Lionel is terrific. And it was great to see Jamie present himself as a Laird and have some sort of standing in the French court. Or at least pretend that he does.” The Scottish actor also reveals that this was the first scene he shot where he was required to speak French on camera in front of a mostly French-speaking cast. “And I believe that was also the day where we also had reporters from the Hollywood Foreign Press on set,” Heughan says, laughing. “Just to add even more pressure.” And the Golden Globe for Best Gastrointestinal Advice goes to…
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
Additional reporting by Carrie Bell