Episode 105 – Rent

Before I move on to Outlander, I must get this out of my system:

We’re not gonna pay, we’re not gonna pay, last year’s rent! This year’s rent! Rent, rent, rent, rent! We’re not gonna pay rent! ‘Cause everything is RENT!

(Side note- if you haven’t seen the full recording of that 2008 performance and you’re a RENT fan, you should check it out. It is pretty amazing.)

OK, I feel a little better. I was a tiny bit distracted by thoughts of Claire as Maureen, and I started imagining Frank as Mark and Jamie as Joanne. Then things just got really weird.

Back to Outlander.

One thing you will note if you’ve managed to make it through all of my posts to date is that I am not following the same format every time. I’m playing with that, and will probably continue to do so, depending on my reaction to the episode and the kinds of things I want to talk about. With 103, I wanted to look at the structure, so a plot outline made sense. With 104, I was interested mostly in pointing out likes and dislikes, so I did it as a list. Using the recap/review model is the easiest, since the chronology of the show is already extant and I don’t have to think about it. So I imagine I’ll do that most often. This one is in rough chronological order, and is mostly my gut reactions to each scene or bit of dialogue.

Another thing you might notice is that I’m pre-dating these blogs so that they will appear in order on my home page. If I hadn’t rushed to do the 107 blog, it wouldn’t be an issue, but I did, so now it’s going to look like I was writing these a week ago. I promise I’m not trying to lie; I just want to impose order on my little world.

For real this time, here’s the review:

The first thing we have is Claire, looking out over a gorgeous loch. They’ve already said that they aren’t going to do the water horse, so this is about as close as we’re going to get. The introduction to Ned via Donne is inspired, though. The show deliberately contrasts Renaissance Poetry with the bawdy, brawling Scots, but to the detriment of neither. There’s an honesty and a good-naturedness to the teasing highlanders that is just as worthwhile as any poetry. That’s an impressive feat.

Claire has to heal someone in every episode, doesn’t she? This time it’s Ned Gowan (although she’ll later clean up scrapes and bruises after the bar fight). Can anyone remember if it’s jimson weed that Claire uses on Hal in MOBY? I don’t think it would be- jimson weed is smoked here, and whatever she gave Hal was an infusion. I could, of course, just walk upstairs and check my copy of the book, but I’m happily ensconced on my sofa with my laptop at the moment and that seems like a little too much effort.

What happens next is a little strange. I’m fine with Angus teasing Claire, and she’s right- after he gives her the hare, he switches into Gaelic to exclude her. But they’re setting up a ragey Angus in this episode that we haven’t seen before. I’m not saying he hasn’t gotten angry before. He has, but never at this level. And he was awfully calm with Claire when she was being semi-unreasonable last episode. So the way he acts in the village after the wool-waulking and then when he pulls the dagger on her, is out of character for him. He hasn’t done anything like that before or since, and that makes it feel like they’re only doing it in this episode in order to resolve the tension at the end. I don’t like it when characters are bent to suit the plot. Plot should always be driven by the characters.

I did love watching Jamie in these scenes, though. He is clearly trying to walk a line between protecting Claire and being her friend, and being one of the “bros.” Later in the wedding episode, Dougal tells him he shouldn’t appear too eager to get back to Claire, and that’s the feeling I get here. After they’re married, it’s different- he doesn’t care that everyone knows he wants her and would rather be with her than them. But at this point, I imagine he’s trying to avoid being teased about her.

Ned’s expression after having to accept the live pig is priceless.

I loved the wool-waulking, and the camaraderie with the women afterward. But then we get back to rage-Angus. I’m trying to justify it as him transferring his anger at being berated by Dougal to her, but it still doesn’t really square.

I wish they hadn’t cut the bits about Lt. Foster re-shoeing his horse. Everyone (myself included) assumed that he was somehow “under cover” in this village, which is ludicrous since he has his uniform on in the scene (if minus the distinctive red coat).

The best part of the scene for me, though, was Jamie picking up his sword and stepping toward Claire. He is in very real danger here- if Foster knew Jamie was wanted for killing an English officer, he’d have been taken away and not even Dougal could have stopped it. But to protect Claire, Jamie is willing to risk absolutely everything.

Now we come into another of my slight problems with this episode. In order to draw out the tension and create more of a narrative arc, they had to make Claire misunderstand what is happening with Dougal collecting money and revealing Jamie’s scars. In the book, she picks up on the name of Stuart right away. Now, I don’t think that name was used during the first session of rabble-rousing in the show (although I’m pretty sure Dougal mentions Prince Charles) And I can see how she’s distracted by what Jamie is going through- clearly he is her focus, not what Dougal is saying. The aftermath is similar to the book: Dougal tells her to mend Jamie’s shirt, she refuses, then reluctantly agrees, and Jamie snatches it away and says he’ll do it himself.

But in her conversation with Ned the next day, she immediately jumps to the conclusion of extortion. She knows that it’s 1743. And, as we see in a later flashback, she is very much aware of the Jacobites. As she should be, since that is Frank’s area of expertise.

You may say- that’s Frank, not Claire. Just because her husband knows everything about that subject doesn’t mean she does. My husband is an electrician. Now, I can’t claim that I could go do everything he does. But after hearing him talk about his job, I have a good working knowledge of electricity and I can do a lot of basic wiring. And we know that Frank loves to talk about history- remember when she told Mrs. Baird “he’ll hold court for hours” in episode 101? That was experience talking.

So, what I’m saying is that Claire should have at least suspected that anti-English sentiment might be driven by Jacobite leanings and not just Dougal lining his pockets. It also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the laird/tenant relationship works. It is Dougal’s responsibility as war chief of the clan to protect these people. That’s actually part of what they’re paying for with their rents. So I think it is a much farther leap to say that Dougal is turning his back on his responsibilities and taking advantage of his people than to think that he might be a Jacobite.

So yeah, I get that the narrative requires this change. But again- characters shouldn’t have to bend to suit the plot. We needed to see something a little more overt that would make Claire think quite so negatively about Dougal.

It is possible to distract me with Scottish landscape porn, though. And shirtless Jamie. Is it weird that it’s totally hot to see him sitting there, all pissed off and just this side of beating the shit out of his uncle?

The bit with the Watch was informative. I loved that Jamie ran off right away and Murtagh gives us the biggest foreshadowing ever for what will happen at Lallybroch.

Although Claire’s reaction is a little harsh. Dougal is as pissed at the informants as the Watch is, and still feels he’s owed his rent. If she wasn’t already thinking of Dougal as a thief, I don’t think her reaction would have been quite this over-the-top. So it comes back to my first problem. Claire makes an unsupported assumption, which leads to more assumptions, which leads to accusations, which leads to more rage-Angus.

And then Jamie has to talk Angus down, and still walk that line between “I will protect Claire at all costs” and “just ignore the lass, amirite brah?”

Jamie’s reaction to Claire when he follows her up to the outcropping is perfect. A combination of frustration, amusement, and pride. And, I hate to tell you Jamie, but you’re going to have to get used to feeling this way in relation to Claire. She can’t help her twentieth-century self, and it’s going to get both of you into trouble on a somewhat regular basis for at least the next thirty-seven years.

And then she finally clues in that Dougal is a Jacobite. Good job catching up, Claire. We get a flashback to something that she really ought to have remembered earlier. Especially since she proves in the flashback that she already knew everything that Frank and the Reverend are saying about the Rising.

Oh- side comment. Frank mentions Claire growing up in the desert. In 104, Claire tells us she and Uncle Lamb spent time in Ireland. I don’t remember anything about Ireland from the book (and it doesn’t make sense with Uncle Lamb’s Persian and Egyptian specialties), so I’m wondering if the show threw that in there to explain any random Irish lilts from Caitriona.

Then we come to one of my favorite scenes from the book. They kept Dougal and Jamie’s dialogue almost perfectly intact, which is always a bit of a thrill. And I don’t mind most of the other changes, although I did miss Jamie showing off with his sword. But they decided not to make Jamie left-handed, so explanations about learning how to fight left-handed from Dougal aren’t necessary.

Here’s what I love most about this scene: Jamie explaining that he has to choose what’s worth fighting for, and the implication that family is of enormous importance to him. Dougal is his uncle, and (at least in the books) his foster father.

OMG. I just realized that, if Dougal isn’t married, he probably doesn’t have daughters, and probably wouldn’t be Jamie’s foster father, either. And a further implication: if Dougal doesn’t have daughters, who was Jamie’s first kiss??? These are important issues! What are he and Claire going to talk about on their way to the mill at Lallybroch? I am dying to hear Sam say “Jezebel!” when Jamie finds out Claire had her first kiss at age seven with an older boy. Maybe we’ll get another entertaining story, but I’ve always loved the part where Jamie wakes up with morning wood (I’ve noticed that happens, Claire says. You’ve brought it to my attention often enough) and Dougal’s hand on his balls. After being subtly threatened by his uncle, he goes back to sleep and dreams of pigs. Awesome.

Now, it’s not like that’s an essential plot point. So they can easily cut it with no harm done. But it is a funny Jamie story and does help establish Dougal’s character a little more. So I hope we get something similar in its place.

Back to the episode. So Jamie and Claire share some more smoldering glances (my daughter and I just watched Tangled so any reference to smoldering brings Flynn Rider immediately to mind: “You broke my smolder!”) and then go to bed. In the morning, they encounter the murdered clansmen marked with T for traitor.

This is a fantastic addition to the story. It gives the actors something powerful to work with, and it pays off with Graham McTavish’s stellar performance in that evening’s political speech at the inn. He has been raising money because he believes in the restoration of the rightful (Catholic) monarch, but now he has a touchstone much stronger than Jamie’s back. There is absolutely no need for a Gaelic translation- everything Dougal is thinking shows on Graham’s face.

I really wanted the scene with Jamie sleeping outside Claire’s door to be great, and I was left feeling a little cold. It gets better the more I watch it, but I miss some of the joviality and Jamie’s joke about people thinking he’s just “waiting his turn.” The little touch when she hands him the blanket is electric, and he is so sweet when he says “I’ll be right here,” but then the camera lingers on her closing the door and we lose a little bit of the intimacy.

Also, what’s with Jamie running off so fast in the morning? He’s already up and on his way out when she walks in, but it still feels abrupt, like maybe they cut some dialogue out.

Claire once again can’t help pushing her twentieth-century nose into things as she attempts to persuade Ned of their folly, but this time I’m OK with it. She’s very worried about these men and what might happen to them.

The brawl is fantastic. Very raw and wild, not cleanly choreographed like most bar-room fights. And her catalogue of their injuries is a shout-out to her doing the same in the books after Jamie fights three lads who insulted him.

I miss that scene a little. It isn’t of utmost importance, but it does show us more about Jamie’s character, and his breaking points.

Claire’s joke is fun, and Rupert’s reaction is priceless. So is Jamie’s- I love the way his head popped out from behind the horse. It was both in amusement and wariness, as everyone held their breaths and waited for Rupert to react.

And then we’re dropped into death and the wanton destruction of the Highland way of life, starting at Culloden.

We still know so little about what happened to Jamie there. I’m listening to the audiobook of Breath of Snow and Ashes right now, and I just heard the part where Jamie tells his friend’s story to the Cherokee. And when they ask about what he did, he remembers for the first time that he killed fourteen men that day. But he still doesn’t know who killed Jack Randall.

Angus helping Claire with her bedroll is supposed to be a satisfying reversal and acceptance, but it falls flat for me because his ragey-ness is so out of character in the first place. But everyone’s happy surprise when Dougal tells Claire she can go off alone is nice. The men have, mostly, accepted her at this point.

Dougal is the exception to that, since he now knows that she’s aware he’s a Jacobite.

Then, of course, we have the return of Lt. Foster and the cliffhanger.

I’m glad they finally ended an episode on a real moment of tension, even if everyone knows how Claire is going to respond. She isn’t petty enough to give Dougal up to the English, even though she absolutely will take their help if it gets her back to the stones.

Still, we had to wait a week to see how things would resolve. I hope they don’t leave us on a cliff hanger for the mid-season finale!

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