Episode 102 – Castle Leoch

I really do consider this episode to be Outlander Premiere, part two. It makes so much more sense to squish the episodes together.

Think of it in terms of rising action and plot. The first episode is flat for the first forty minutes. We get a few little thrills of conflict (the ghost, Mrs. Graham’s palm reading, Claire and Frank’s argument about infidelity), but the primary trend of the story is a flat line.

Then Claire falls through time and we get non-stop action for the rest of the episode. It’s just conflict after conflict, peppered with travel montage. You can’t even process everything because so much has happened in a very short span of time. Stretching out the episode allows the audience to catch their breath but still stay with the story.

If they had to stick to an hour, the place they ended the episode was terrible. We’re left in relative safety at Leoch. Claire may not know when she is, but BJR isn’t going to be a threat inside these walls, and she might find someone willing to take her back to Inverness. It would have been smarter to end the episode when they’re still in the forest, with threat all around, and maybe have the final bit of dialogue be the earlier exchange between Claire and Jamie:

“Where are we going?”

“To tell the truth, I dinna ken.”

Tight shot on Jamie’s worried face, and Claire in front of him on the horse, so exhausted she can’t even keep being scared. Then cut to black.

But the smarter choice, in my opinion, is to segue to Castle Leoch and keep going straight into the courtyard. Episode 102 maintains a steady pace, mixing conflict with moments of peace. There’s lots of time to settle into the story and to discover this new world where Claire has been swept, and to start to care about the people in this time. Also, ending the premiere with Claire, devastated and trapped in a place where she once knew passion and love, is so much more poignant than a cliché voiceover about how her journey has just begun. I was absolutely gutted when I saw her distress at the end of 102. At the end of 101, I rolled my eyes.

Just saying.

When I recommend the show to people, I tell them to set aside two hours and watch these back-to-back (and to ignore the VO). Or three hours, and get through “The Way Out,” which is an even better episode, structurally speaking.

But I digress. This episode is cobbled together from things that happened in the books, but maybe in different order, or things you can extrapolate from the books. The only thing they fabricated was the tinker, but that gives Claire a sort of reverse ticking clock. Usually, a ticking clock in an episode is counting down to something awful that must be averted, or a point at which things must be accomplished or bad things will happen. For Claire, it’s more of a positive thing. She only has to endure a week and then she’ll be free.

Of course the audience knows that isn’t going to happen, but it allows her to relax a bit and have a little fun exploring the 18th century without the narrative having to bear the weight of her constantly looking for ways to escape.

The bit with Mrs. Fitz works a little differently than in the books. In the show, we see a heavy dose of wariness and suspicion that changes to affection by the end of the episode. In the book, Mrs. Fitz was curious, but never antagonistic. I’m ok with characters exhibiting more antagonism, though. More conflict! My one issue with Mrs. Fitz is that the actress really lays her accent on thick. She isn’t a Scot, and it sounds a little fake when she talks. But that’s a nitpick, not a big criticism.

The scene with Claire bandaging Jamie’s shoulder was, in my opinion, perfection. Every single moment, from the way she dropped the rag when he said “Randall” to him holding her as she wept and whispering, “mo graidh” (possibly misspelled) into her hair, was absolutely spot-on. Both actors captured the emotion of the moment. I loved seeing Claire finally break, after she’s put on a brave face and retreated into the nurse role for two days. Then this Scottish man opens up and shares something painful from his past, and it makes it easier to remember her own pain. And the way he looked at her as she wept. Oh my god. As book readers, we know that this is the moment. Yes, he decided he wanted to marry her when he woke up under the tree with her sitting on his chest and cursing at him. But it is in this moment, when she lets go and cries in his arms, that he falls in love with her.

And you can see that on Sam’s face, hear it in his voice when Jamie calls Claire “my love.” My heart nearly broke with the beauty and the pain of it. Jamie wants so much to comfort Claire, to take away her pain and hurt, but he also just wants her, and sometimes the lower appendage has a mind of its own…

Claire leaps up, shouting an apology, afraid she’s given Jamie the wrong idea. He assures her he isn’t going to hurt her – a sentiment he will echo in “The Wedding” – “You need not be scairt of me,” and “You don’t have to be afraid of me, Claire. I’m not going to force myself on you.”

I love how Jamie takes her hand, still trying to be reassuring, but realizes he can’t really help her and turns gruff and brusque as he gathers up his things. I think he’s a little angry with himself, for not being in a better place to protect her, and for not being able to control his reaction to her.

When he leaves, her expression is perfect: there goes the only person who has shown me any kindness. What in the hell am I going to do now?

Sleep, obviously. After two days in the saddle, I’d have been passing out on the four-poster, too. And I adore the morning (er, afternoon) ClaireHair. They do an excellent job of not making our 18th century experience unnaturally coiffed and made up. Although they don’t go quite so far as to make the actresses stop shaving, which is both unfortunate (realism!) and fortunate (I don’t want to be told I have to let my body hair go wild, either). But in general, I love how they deal with the 18th century clothing and grooming. Dressing took forever. Baths, if you bothered, were cold and not immersive. They do play into some of the bodice-ripping fallacies (BJR rips Jenny’s bodice in the flashback to Lallybroch, and in a later episode Dougal rips Jamie’s shirt to show his scars and raise money for the Jacobite cause), but I’ll suspend my disbelief a little.

That reminds me that I didn’t talk about the Lallybroch flashback. I thought it was well-done, visceral and disturbing, but I wonder how it will play later when we return to Lallybroch. When Jenny finally tells the story of what really happened between her and BJR, part of it is predicated on the notion that she just kneed him in the stones, which didn’t happen in the show. But they may just go with the fact that he can’t get aroused unless the victim is frightened and in pain.

Back to Mrs. Fitz- did anyone else think it was weird that Murtagh is the one who comes to take Claire to the laird? I know he’s an accepted guest and has the run of the castle, but he isn’t a MacKenzie, and he doesn’t follow Colum’s orders. He isn’t sworn to the clan. Why wasn’t it Angus or Rupert? Just a thought.

I don’t have much to say about her interview with Colum, other than the fact that her zinger about there “never being a good reason for rape” felt very 2014, not necessarily 1945. Not that I minded. We need to beat that sentiment into people’s heads whenever possible.

The moment with Dougal and Hamish was lovely, although the show tipped their hand a little too far with the overreaction to Claire’s drunken assumptions about his parentage. If they’d underplayed it, it would have been ignored until later, when it becomes an actual issue. But now, I don’t think there’s any viewer who doesn’t “know” that Dougal is Hamish’s father. Of course book readers already know, but new viewers should at least wonder about it.

I’m not going to harp too much on DrunkClaire except to say that her liver is probably a shriveled, sorry thing, and I would have died of alcohol poisoning about halfway through most episodes. If anyone tries to do an Outlander drinking game, please do not use Claire as your yardstick. Or drink hard cider and take small sips.

Claire and Jamie in the stables was another beautiful scene. I loved the light flirtation and the hints of their growing friendship. He’s the person she feels safe around, and even in the books she gravitates toward him. She visits him in the stables every day, and by the end of 103 we see that they’re keeping that in the show, which I appreciate. He’s funny, complicated, and cares about her. He trusts her, which is not something she gets from anyone else at Leoch.

I do wish we saw a little more of the friendship, though. We know so little about Jamie, even after the wedding. We don’t know about his time in France (either at University, or later with the army). We don’t know about the axe blow and recuperating in the Abbey. These are things Claire learns during this point in the story, early at Leoch. TV shows have to cut things for time and storytelling purposes, but it makes me wonder if we’ll ever find out those things about Jamie, or if they’ve been completely sacrificed to the gods of adaptation. The axe blow, in particular, is something I wouldn’t think they could cut. It is so integral to the Dougal/Jamie relationship. But who knows. Sam says his gesture, during Claire’s escape attempt in 104, had nothing to do with the axe, so maybe it’s just gone.

I’ve been thinking about this a little more, and I’ve decided that I’m ok with not knowing all of Jamie’s backstory yet, so long as the backstory is still present. It’s something we needed in the book- it was a way to get to know BookJamie before the wedding, and to tell us something about who he is and why BookClaire would agree to marry him, even under duress. Because let’s face it: if her options were BJR or Rupert, she’d have grabbed a horse and headed for the stones, or died trying.

But we don’t need that in the show. We’ve seen their attraction in ways we couldn’t in the book. I’ve heard from several readers that they were dumbfounded when BookClaire and BookJamie marry and Claire says, “I had to admit that I’d been attracted to him for a while.” Up until that point, you can totally see them as “just buds.” There is a certain amount of trust and respect between them (as Jamie says on their wedding night), but the attraction doesn’t leap off the page the way it leaps off the screen.

That’s the difference between first person narration in a book and television, though. BookClaire is in denial about being attracted to Jamie because she wants to get back to Frank. But the camera sees TVJamie, too, and sees some of the things TVClaire ruthlessly suppresses. More on that in episode 103.

The bit with Rupert explaining his new watchman duties to Claire, and how he outlines Angus’ sexual preferences is hilarious. I love Rupert so much. Angus is a wild card- he’s completely changed from the books and I don’t know quite what to make of him. But Rupert is fantastic.

The next scene, with Dougal, gets into territory where I feel that the show is making a dangerous diversion from the books. BookDougal and BookColum sometimes butt heads on decision-making, and there is a definite undercurrent of sibling rivalry between them. But, at the end of the day, they are united, and Colum is the leader.

Not so in the show. It is very clearly implied that Claire’s bragging to Dougal about getting to leave with Mr. Petrie directly correlates to her being kept as a “guest” at the end of the episode. Colum can say that Dougal has nothing to do with it, but because of the way her confrontation with Dougal is written, and the way it is overtly Dougal who is in charge of Jamie’s punishment at the Hall, you don’t believe Colum when he swears it’s his own idea. Or you believe that Colum’s being manipulated by Dougal into thinking it’s his own decision. And in the books, that would never happen.

Speaking of the beating in the Hall…wow. Just, wow. This is another reason why I love Rupert. He is so clearly torn up by what Dougal is making him do.

I have a theory about Colum and Dougal, but I’m going to save it until after I see the next episode. We may get to hear some of the Jamie backstory, which might color the theory or change some of it. But I will definitely post it once we’re into the hiatus.

For now, suffice to say that I found it odd and against character that it is Dougal who is clearly running the show during Jamie’s beating. Knowing what I do about Jamie’s last beating in the Hall from the books, I always saw this as a kind of “do-over” for him. Yes, he’s being gallant and taking Laoghaire’s punishment for her. But he’s also spitting in Uncle Colum’s eye. “Last time, you made me take the strap, and be humiliated. See how well that goes over now.”

That isn’t how it felt in the show at all. There were undercurrents in the scene, for sure (and overcurrents!), but not those ones. That ties back into my theory, though, so more on that later.

Jumping backward a bit, I want to talk about Geillis.

What I am about to say is probably going to make people upset, but it’s my opinion, not a fact.

I don’t like Lotte Verbeek as Geillis.

I’m sure she’s an amazing actress, and I would like to see her in other roles. But not as Geillis. For one thing, she looks wrong – Geillis is voluptuous and has super sex-charisma. Lotte is painfully thin and while she is exotically gorgeous, I don’t get that same f-me vibe from her that some women have (think Marilyn Monroe). Now, I am usually willing to suspend disbelief on looks. Caitriona is taller and thinner than BookClaire, and she has blue eyes, not gold. But she channels the spirit of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser, and I’m along for the ride. It’s the same with Sam and Jamie. Sam embodies JAMMF to me, even sans cat eyes and natural ginger hair.

But Lotte does not channel Geillis, or at least not Geillis as I read her. Part of it isn’t Lotte’s fault, but is the fault of the writers. BookGeillis never asks Claire questions about herself (well, until the opium scene- but that’s a very specific situation where, if she hadn’t been interrupted, she might have succeeded in taking Claire under hypnosis so that she wouldn’t remember what had happened. It’s nothing like what’s happening on the show). BookClaire says, “That’s not her way. If she wants to know something about me, she’ll ask other people.” BookGeillis is interested in gossip, and always attacks things from an angle. She isn’t a straightforward type. But TVGeillis is running a constant, direct, interrogation. It’s to the point that every non-reader that I know who is watching the show has already guessed that Geillis is a traveler, too. That was a big shock to me when I read the book the first time, and it’s another place where the show has tipped its hand too far.

Lotte is also playing Geillis as ethereal and nymph-like. People have even drawn connections to Luna Lovegood, which is so wrong on a number of levels. BookGeillis is less elfin and more earthy. She’s sensual and sexual. She’s also twisted, driven, sociopathic, politically dogmatic, and crazy. TVGeilis is more calculating than crazy.

So I’m not happy with the changes to Geillis. I have no idea where we’ll end up with her. Maybe they’ll surprise me. I am attempting to reserve judgment and just trust the show, but it is the one place where I really feel that they are getting something wrong.

Although her part in the beating scene was spot-on. I did like, “this way- it’s quicker and you’ll stir less gossip” because Geillis is the queen of gossip, and she’s sure to be spreading it around the town and castle that the new Sassenach is a little besotted with the mysterious Mr. MacTavish.

I was a little sad not to see Sam’s face covered in leeches, but I understand they couldn’t get the fake leeches to work on set, so it isn’t a huge deal. I just like the symmetry between Jamie being leeched in this scene and Willie getting leeches on him in the creek in Drums of Autumn. Such different reactions based on very different upbringings!

But the Claire/Jamie interaction is sweet and poignant. My heart fluttered at the end, when they call each other by their given names for the first time. And I LOVED the little sigh and shoulder movement Sam did when he had to go face Laoghaire. Characteristic Jamie move- shrugging his shoulders as if his shirt is too tight. Sam does the finger tapping against his leg, too. I love, love, love it when actors do their homework and really nail the gestures like that. You can tell he has internalized the character.

The final scene with Colum in the surgery is problematic for the reasons I’ve already stated. Book-reader Me wants to believe him when he says “Dougal keeps his own council on you.” But TV-watcher Me says, “the episode is clearly constructed to make this imprisonment the result of her bragging to Dougal.” So. I really want this to be Colum’s choice, and for Colum to be in charge. But it feels like he isn’t.

Still, the way they shot the scene is perfect. The little flashes back to her time at Leoch with Frank add just enough edge to show her emotional state. I haven’t really talked about the flashbacks in this episode. I didn’t like the withstanding interrogation bit, but I loved the intercutting of her and Frank moving through Leoch in 1945 with her and Jamie and then her and Dougal in 1743. Then the most poignant flashback was her memory of making love with Frank in the surgery, which has now become her prison.

As I said before, the final shot of her on the verge of tears is devastating in a way that a clichéd phrase about “journeys only just begun” can never be. This should have been the end of the premiere. And if they couldn’t do a full two-hour premiere for whatever reason, then it should have been billed as a two-parter and the episode break should have come in the forest before they got to Leoch.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have a different theory or perspective to offer? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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