Season Two of Outlander brought us to Paris and the opulent apartment of Jamie’s cousin Jared. He’s hand-picked his servants for their loyalty, trustworthiness, and discretion. I wonder how a position description would have been worded. When Suzette and Magnus were selected, what were they told? How were their duties explained to them? I witnessed early on that a servant’s responsibility extends far beyond laundry, mending, and readying the carriage. Would “other duties as assigned” cover the emotional drama that swirled through the city and engulfed them?
It starts out innocently enough. Suzette has a conversation with Claire regarding the folding of clothes and making of beds. Suzette gently reminds Claire that she’s the lady of the house (and pregnant) so those tasks should be left to her. Suzette needs to fulfill her role as servant and perform the duties of the position, and she’s navigating her way in her relationship with Claire.
Claire makes her way to the courtyard where Magnus informs her the carriage is waiting. “Of course,” Claire responds, sounding somewhat irritated by the efficiency of it all. Paris life continues predictably for a time – meals served, candles lit, and transportation arranged. Suzette even manages to find some free time in the afternoon for some intimacy with Murtagh. Other duties as assigned? Hardly. A blurred boundary, perhaps commonplace in 18th century households. But it draws Suzette into the lives of the people she serves.
The Jacobite Rebellion is discussed all over the apartment, at all hours of the day and night. The servants can’t help but overhear the conversations, but they perform their duties as if the topic was as mundane as the weather or the scheduling of a shipment of wine. Do they realize they are being pulled into the events as they unfold? Is this “business as usual” for them?
Murtagh goes undercover as a highwayman to relieve the Comte St Germain of his shipment of Madeira. To be successful, he needs to dress the part. Suzette is in the room, helping Murtagh while he, Jamie, and Claire discuss the plan. As a servant of the household, Suzette would be asked to find suitable clothes for Murtagh, but now she’s witness to the plan, its participants, and purpose. No one questions the fact that Suzette is privy to it all, and she seems more focused on Murtagh’s appearance than the dangerous role he’s about to play. Perhaps she’s not as simple-minded and superficial as she would have us think, but a loyal servant, carefully chosen by Jared.
Magnus delivers breakfast, picks up after his charges, and sees that the house is run in an efficient and orderly manner. He’s an experienced butler – perceptive, professional, and pulled headlong into the fray when Claire comes home after spending the night at the L ‘Hospital des Anges. He knows where Jamie has gone and avoids making eye contact with Claire in an attempt to avoid what he fears will happen next. Suzette is forced to tell Claire where Jamie went, and when Claire announces she’s going to the forest to stop the duel between Jamie and Jack Randall, Magnus accompanies her. Is it beyond the realm of the duties of a butler? I would guess so, especially when they reach the woods. He helps her out of the carriage, assists her as she struggles to make her way to the site of the duel, and supports her when she collapses, bleeding, on the ground.
When Claire finally leaves the hospital, the entire staff is lined up to welcome her home. This may be common practice, but the emotional attachment to Claire and their sharing in her grief is visible on their faces. They’ve become a family of sorts, and the loss of Faith has affected them all. (Writer’s note: The tears start for me as soon as the carriage door opens.)
Suzette is too devastated for words, but steps forward, takes Claire’s hands, and expresses her sadness to Claire as best she can. In times like these, Suzette is more than a servant, a personal attendant. She’s a friend, trying to comfort someone she cares deeply for.
Magnus was there when Claire needed him, going far beyond the duties of a household butler. He brought her to the forest (against his better judgment, encouraging Claire not to go), delivered her to the L ‘Hospital des Anges, and stands at the door of the apartment to welcome her home. He’s become a trusted friend, and Claire gratefully crosses the servant/master boundary when she reaches out, takes his hand, and bows to him.
We know that Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh leave Paris and return to Scotland. I suppose the household staff stayed on, preparing for Jared’s eventual return. I can’t help but wonder how the events that occurred will affect their lives going forward. Will they be forever changed in the way they view and carry out their respective roles? Will they be reluctant to become emotionally involved, or will they embrace life’s events (happy and sad) that make their lives richer and more full? I’d like to believe they chose the latter.