I was going to wait and try to get blogs up for all of the existing episodes before doing this one, but I can’t wait. I want to talk about this now!
Let me start by saying that I loved the episode, and thought that the storytelling/flashback structure was inspired. I also think some of the small changes were brilliant. So when I start to harp on other changes (or, in most cases, omissions), know that I still adored the episode. But I actually enjoy picking these things apart, making conjectures on why the writers made certain choices, and trying to figure out how the show will get back to the main story/character points (or if it will at all).
So, let’s dive in.
The first gigantic change was moving Claire and Frank’s wedding from Scotland to London, and making it a legal, but not religious, union. Now, neither BookClaire nor BookFrank are particularly religious. But they are both nominally Catholic and they will eventually send Bree to a Catholic school, so I was a little surprised at the change this made to Frank’s character as I perceive him in the book. I see him as being very…traditional. He is a historian, after all, and things like ceremony are important to him. So even though I can see him as besotted with Claire and wanting to get married in a hurry, I also think he would have wanted a traditional church wedding. Which is what happened in the book, of course, and the church in the book is the SAME CHURCH where Claire marries Jamie.
Now I am wondering if TVClaire and TVFrank even went to Scotland on their first honeymoon. Later in the books, Roger gives Bree pictures of the wedding reception (held at the Manse- Reverend Wakefield’s house where Roger grew up) and it’s a meaningful moment for her to see them, so in love and happy, before war and time travel and Jamie Fraser. Did that happen in the show’s backstory?
But I’ve already said in my episode 101 analysis that Claire and Frank (book AND show) weren’t heading down the road to happiness. The road to acceptance and “a measure of contentment,” sure. But not…bliss. Not home. There’s a line from one of the books about not being born the right person for another. It is one of the more eloquent ways I’ve heard unrequited love expressed. I believe it is said either by or in reference to Lord John, but it resonates with Claire because of her experiences with Frank.
TVFrank, however, is more impetuous and romantic than BookFrank, and it is clear that we, as viewers, are given this moment in order to make Frank a more viable choice for Claire and so that his romantic spontaneity casts a shadow over the whole episode. Even though it is a pretty clear undercurrent in the first episode that their individual war experiences killed much of Claire and Frank’s initial romance, we are meant to feel torn, as Claire does, between this man she loved and chose to marry, and Jamie, whom she does not love and was forced to marry. But despite the lack of choice, she finds herself willing and wanting by the end of the night, and absolutely shattered at how she responded to Jamie when she finds Frank’s ring in the morning.
A few other reviewers have said that they didn’t see Frank’s spontaneity as romantic at all. They saw it as a kind of control- I want you as my wife, right now, even before you meet my family. As an exclusion – no, I don’t want a big church wedding with family and friends there. And, most importantly, as a subjugation – you’ll be Mrs. Frank Randall. That is in contrast to the way Jamie perceives things. He offers Claire his family, and clan, and himself. He makes sure she has a dress and a ring and a church. Now, the church part was partially just Jamie. We all know the lengths he will go to to ensure that proper sacraments are upheld (see: Marsali and Fergus, the grandchildren’s baptism, etc.) But most of it was him trying to make things more tolerable for Claire. And, most importantly, he calls her “Claire Fraser.” He has given her the protection of his name, but allows her to keep her own.
But I think both readings of the situation are correct. That’s right, I said both. At the same time. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and it’s one of the cool things about being human.
By the way- several people have commented in outrage that TVClaire took off Frank’s ring. I agree, BookClaire wouldn’t have done that (and didn’t). But TVClaire did, and the payoff was fantastic. I feel that the action was symbolic of something that BookClaire does when she goes to Jamie’s bed. She says “there really ought only be two people in a marriage bed,” and decides to stop thinking about Frank while she and Jamie are together. That was quite clear in the way Caitriona played the moment when she took off the ring- “If I’m going to do this, I won’t carry Frank with me into it.” I’m much happier to be shown that sentiment with a ring, rather than having TVClaire give another stilted VO about it. Also, it allows us to see the pain she feels when she realizes that she really did forget about Frank after a while, and was just existing and experiencing with Jamie. She’s going to carry the guilt of that for the rest of her life, FYI. Even after falling in love with Jamie, even after choosing him, and going back to him, she still feels guilty about Frank. We, as a television audience, needed to have a seminal, defining shot to capture the depth of her feelings in that moment. Claire staring at her two rings (I’ll get to the second ring change in a little bit) gives that to us.
There’s a hard cut from giddy Claire and Frank going into the registry office, to Jamie and Claire kissing at the end of their wedding ceremony, and then another hard cut to Claire, partially undressed, in the bridal chamber. This is the first hint at some very interesting structural choices that the writer/director/editor made. If you want a very astute, nuanced review of the structure of the episode, listen to The Scot and the Sassenach’s podcast for this episode. I don’t think I have anything to add that they didn’t already cover. Plus they’re smart, funny, and have a lot of other good insights into the show, so you should check them out.
To sum up, though: by moving the emotional reveal of the wedding ceremony to the end of the episode while keeping all of the storytelling contained within Jamie and Claire’s bridal chamber, you allow them to experience the day through each other’s eyes (or, really, Claire gets to see it through Jamie’s). That adds another layer of emotional discovery over the physical explorations and interaction. The revelation of Jamie’s conditions and the lengths he went to make Claire feel a little more comfortable in an untenable situation is what drives their second sexual encounter.
Speaking of the sexual encounters. I thought the changes to Jamie’s first time were inspired. In the book, it isn’t nearly so awkward, and while Claire doesn’t orgasm until the third time, she enjoys herself thoroughly and cuddles with Jamie after his first time. That’s OK in the book, but I thought the way they presented it in the show was more realistic. On the one hand, Jamie’s just gotten this advice that most women don’t like sex and he should try to get it over with quickly. And on the other, even though we didn’t get “Holy God,” we certainly saw him having a near-religious experience and not being able to control himself (he did, kindly, prop himself up on his elbows when Claire asked. But from experience, that tends to give a, um, deeper level of connection, which might have contributed to the brevity of the rest of the encounter).
Teh Awkward afterward is cute and very realistic. I loved how they lay, side-by-side, having just been about as intimately connected as it is possible to be, but worlds apart still. And Claire, bless her, tries to bridge that divide by asking him if it was like he thought it would be. I’m glad they kept the bit with “I didna ken you did it face to face.” I am also super happy that they kept the first time with their clothes still on, allowing them to peel away more and more layers (literal and figurative ones) as the night progresses.
For the literal peeling of layers, I loved the blocking in the scene where Jamie takes off Claire’s extensive undergarments, and the way he lost it and dragged Claire in for a kiss after she had her hands on him. I may have squee’d a little when he said, “I’m a virgin, not a monk. If I need guidance, I’ll ask.” Of course, he immediately needs guidance but doesn’t know enough to ask. The look on her face when he spun her around was priceless. It was like, “Um, what do you think you’re doing?” But, being the sexually competent and assertive woman that she is, she drags him around and down, pulling him in (literally and figuratively). It may have been a little awkward, but she obviously wanted him, and it isn’t until he asks her if she liked it, afterward, that we get the first brush with her crushing guilt.
I imagine that, thinking about the necessity of consummating the marriage, she assumed she’d just “lie still and think about getting back to the stones.” But she’s been a little (sometimes a lot) hot for Jamie for weeks now. And so far, it’s been a safe kind of attraction. Just that little frisson of awareness and desire, the kind that is exciting and sometimes leads to little fantasies and imaginings, but is never acted on.
It is never acted on because she’s married, and one of the defining characteristics of Claire is her loyalty (in a later book, Jamie tells her this is one of the things he loves most about her). So, to discover that she very much wanted this other man, that she actually enjoyed having his body inside of her rather than simply enduring it, is devastating to her. She immediately pulls away from Jamie, and resists touching him. This is another change from the books, but a very good one in my opinion. BookClaire makes the decision pretty much from the moment she enters the bridal chamber that she is going to try and build a wall in her mind between Frank and Jamie, and while she is with Jamie she will exist on one side of it (I’m making up this metaphor- it isn’t in the book). That is not to say that she doesn’t require a lot of liquid courage and conversational foreplay first (as she does in the show), but once she and Jamie take that final step and join their bodies together, she is with Jamie.
Another reason BookClaire is able to do that is because BookJamie flat out asks her about Frank. I think his intention is to sort of “lay Frank’s ghost” (since he thinks Frank is dead) and to acknowledge her grief and loyalty to her first husband. By getting that out in the open, Claire is able to separate the two and separate herself from a little of her guilt.
But they don’t have time, in a 50-ish minute episode, to layer in all of the details from a very lengthy passage in the book. Besides, having Claire feel so guilty about things adds more conflict. So, choices. It will be important for them to talk about Frank eventually, but I think it would be most efficient to talk about him after Cranesmuir, when Claire reveals the truth about the time travel and Jamie realizes Frank isn’t dead; he’s just not alive…yet.
Now we get to what I feel is the “worst” omission of the episode: they didn’t promise each other honesty. Diana Gabaldon (guardedly) reassured fans on her Facebook page that many things have been shifted around and may appear in other episodes, but if the show never includes the honesty conversation, I think the fans will be justified in their outrage. It is one of the single most iconic moments in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, and it echoes down even to the end of MOBY. I’m already a little upset that it didn’t happen in this episode, because from my perspective it is part of the foundation laid the night they are first together. All they have when they marry is respect, then they promise honesty, and after that they discover passion. Those are the three things upon which they build everything else. Respect, honesty, and passion. To have one of those three things missing is…wrong. In my opinion.
This production hasn’t made many missteps, though, so I am fairly confident that the honesty conversation will come in later. If I were making these decisions (and knew the promise had to be cut from The Wedding for time or pacing/structure reasons) I would move it to the fight at Leoch. Sam Heughan already “spoiled” in an interview that they will have at least something like what happened in the books at that point. He called it a “breakup” and it makes me wonder just how far/bad things will get between them in the show before they come back together in violent, consuming sex. I’m also wondering what they’ll fight about. Obviously Laoghaire will be part of it, but I’m hoping TVJamie still gets TVClaire the “right” ring…more on that in a bit.
I’d put the conversation there, probably right before the sex. In the book, they do calm down a little bit before, even though Jamie warns her that he can’t be gentle and demands her surrender (and gives her his) once they actually go to bed. It makes sense, after having this terrible fight that comes about because they’ve been making assumptions about each other, that Jamie would ask for (maybe demand?) honesty.
Another possible ramification: if they don’t promise each other honesty before the witch trial, does that complicate Claire’s confession? Not that Jamie doesn’t trust Claire, but it is an awful lot to accept if you haven’t sworn to always tell each other the truth. And even then, although he believes that she thinks she’s telling the truth, he doesn’t believe that it’s completely true until he sees it for himself. Maybe the scene would play the same way no matter what, but I think the confession is stronger with the weight of the vow of honesty (similar to Claire telling Father Anselm under the seal of confession).
Now…about the ring. On the one hand, it was necessary to have that visual I talked about earlier (Claire staring at her hands and her two rings). And it’s a very intentional change; using the barrel of a particular key (which everyone is assuming is the key to Lallybroch) is certainly not a random choice. On the other hand, Jamie’s silver ring is extremely iconic in the series. It is referenced many, many times, and plays a pivotal role in Dragonfly when BookClaire and Roger discover what is inscribed inside.
There are a couple of directions (I think) the show can go at this point.
One: they stick with the key ring and that’s that. I will be disappointed and a tiny bit upset if that is the case. Of course, it is possible that they are also going to cut everything with Hugh Munro, maybe even everything with Horrocks. Although we have to find out somehow who really killed the person Jamie’s accused of murdering, so if they do cut Hugh/Horrocks, I will be interested to see what direction they go, instead. And very disappointed to not have the line of Catullus from Hugh’s note.
A way to “save” this option would be to develop the key ring into something with larger significance, and make it a point of conflict sometime between Jamie and Claire. I’d just have to live without “Da Mi Basia Mille…”
Two: they keep the meeting with Hugh, and Jamie still goes off to buy her a permanent ring once they get to Leoch. It is true that iron is not the best material for a ring in the long term. The oil from her skin would do a little to protect it, but it’s still going to rust. I know that it is semi period-appropriate to have iron jewelry, but Jamie’s not a peasant. There’s a reason BookJamie asks for his portion of the MacKenzie rents to buy a silver ring- he wants his wife to have the best that he can provide.
I also wonder if Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire, misunderstanding about Jamie’s portion of the rents, and attempt to maintain some kind of emotional distance between them will be “enough conflict” for the show. But really, all of those issues are just preamble to what I feel is the heart of that fight scene: when Claire accepts Jamie’s ring. That is why the ring is important. And that is why I am a little worried about what will happen if the ring is cut.
It’s such a pivotal moment in the book. She doesn’t try to run anymore, after that, even though she still thinks about it. But Craigh na Dun and 1945 has become more and more unreal, and Jamie more and more real to her by that point.
Now TVClaire has already accepted TVJamie’s ring, in a way that held much less significance. Still, a temporary iron ring is easy to remove. A purposeful, beautiful silver ring (even if she isn’t aware of the phrase inscribed inside) is different. BookJamie rushes off to buy it, even while exhausted and dirty, and he offers it to her along with a choice: you can reject the ring, stay here in Leoch, keep the protection of my name, and live apart, or you can accept it and choose to be mine…and for me to be yours.
BookClaire takes the ring. It’s…important. And the wedding is too early for her to be making that choice. Maybe the production team figures that she makes the same choice on Craigh na Dun, and it would be redundant to show the same thing twice. But I’d argue that she makes quite a different choice there at the stones, between two loves that she has already accepted. The choice to take Jamie’s ring is the choice to acknowledge the feelings growing in her, the recognition that Jamie already holds part of her soul. She just isn’t sure she’s happy about it. When they make love, she feels both rings scrape against the stone wall like shackles and talks about divided love. She won’t admit out loud that she loves Jamie until the thieves’ hole in Crainesmuir, and won’t say it to him until Lallybroch, but this is where it began.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be talking about this a lot more around episode 9 or 10.
EDIT #1- I just saw a picture from next week’s episode (108-Both Sides Now) of someone who is pretty obviously meant to be Hugh Munro. So there may yet be hope for Claire’s silver ring!
EDIT #2 – Several astute viewers have noted that, in behind-the-scenes pics from the filming of episodes 15 & 16, Caitriona is still wearing the key ring. BUT, apparently Ron Moore said in the 107 podcast (which I haven’t listened to yet- I like to listen and watch the episode at the same time, like DVD commentary, and I haven’t had a chance to do that this week) that Jamie will manage to get it engraved.
And really, the engraving is the important part to me. Well, and the fact that it is the impetus for and resolution to their fight upon the return to Castle Leoch. So, if he takes the ring away to have it engraved and she somehow misconstrues why he wants it, that could work. And if he takes it away, it could have the same implications when he offers it back- if you take this, it means you are mine…and I am yours. Then, as long as it ends up having Catullus inside for her to discover in season two, it’s all good.
I like that the sex scenes build and grow in this episode. We start with a frantic, virgin fumbling. Claire’s having a good time, but poor Jamie lasts about as long as you’d expect a guy to last his first time. Then she has major guilt over feeling pleasure at all, and it takes Jamie opening up, telling her stories, and proving that he has her best interests at heart before she gives in to the desire she’s feeling and they peel away (again, literally and figuratively) another layer and have sex. Claire orgasms, and we have the sweetly solicitous moment when Jamie realizes Claire’s cry isn’t pain, but pleasure. “I didn’t know women could do that!” So Claire reciprocates, while showing him a little pain can be good, too.
Then comes the rather odd interaction with Dougal. I’m not sure what to think about this. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t married in the show. If he were, Claire wouldn’t have even considered him as an option in 106 (when he tells her the now-famous line, “As much as the thought of grinding your corn tickles me…” – total side rant: In Breath of Snow and Ashes, in the infamous cherry bounce scene, when drunkRoger comes on to Bree, he starts singing the folk song this line is drawn from. Apparently wanting to grind women’s corn runs in the family). And I do think he wants Claire, and if he didn’t think marrying her would mess up his chances of becoming Laird, he’d have jumped at the chance. So you could just read this as Dougal perving out now that Claire has shown she’s willing to go to bed with Jamie. It’s the madonna/whore dichotomy in action. Now that Claire has proven she’s a sexual being, that must mean that she’s available to anyone with a dick, right? (In case my sarcasm isn’t obviously dripping here, the answer is NO).
But, I also think this was a kind of test. In the books, Jamie says that Dougal pushed for quick consummation in part to make sure Claire was really willing to go that far to stay away from BJR. It was a final test of whether or not she was an English spy. So I think this is Dougal testing Claire’s loyalties again. He’d have been more than willing to take her up on it if she’d said yes, but I don’t think he expected her to. That comes out when Rupert references Jamie riding her; Dougal knows that she doesn’t want him, and it pisses him off that this is another place (like with the clan leadership) where someone is giving or thinking about giving Jamie what Dougal wants.
Jamie and Claire’s final sex scene in the show isn’t just sex. It’s making love. Jamie tells Claire that she is precious to him, and she can’t deny that he’s become important to her, too. He has been her friend, protector, confidante, and co-conspirator. Now he is her lover, and she plain wants him.
Although, the one jarring note in this otherwise beautiful scene is the pearl necklace. I am a little peeved that they do not look like scotch pearls. Freshwater pearls of the kind harvested from pearl mussels in Scotland are not perfect globes; they are irregularly-shaped and often not a true white. Also, Ellen’s pearls are meticulously described in the books; the ones TVJamie put around TVClaire’s neck looked more like costume flapper pearls than the distinctive necklace with pierced gold roundels and more pearls dangling from the gold links.
I know it seems like such a trivial thing, but there are several pivotal scenes where the distinctive nature of the pearls plays a part. The first is within Outlander and makes me wonder if they’ve somehow cut MacRannoch from the show. Why keep the pearls at all if not to help Claire gain the assistance of the man who gave them to Ellen MacKenzie? The second time is in Drums of Autumn, when Brianna slaps the pearls down in front of Laoghaire and the Murrays and stakes her claim as Jamie’s true daughter. Neither of those scenes works with a generic string of pearls.
EDIT #3: After listening to Ron Moore’s podcast, I’ve learned that Terry Dresbach wanted to make something more like what was in the book- she wanted a choker, with the dangling pearls. It was Ron and unspecified others who wanted the long rope-strand. And they wanted it for two reasons: one, so that Jamie could drape it over her head. That seems a silly reason, since it wouldn’t have been too hard to have him put it on her and then just cut away from him doing up the clasp (since that can be awkward). But the reason I can’t forgive is this one: they wanted the necklace to rest between Claire’s breasts. That is a Male Gaze reason, and it’s the first time we’ve really encountered that in this show. I’m…not happy about that. I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy. (/end edit)
Moving on, I adored the morning-after bit, and the easy intimacy implied. I especially liked Jamie going after food- Jamie’s voracious appetite is one of my favorites of his physical quirks. I am hoping we’ll get a flashback to the knife above the bed and his line, “there’s the two of us now,” at some point, though.
But really, what sold me on this episode is the image I talked about at the beginning of this blog: Claire staring at her two rings and obviously thinking, “what in God’s name have I done?”
It is a perfect place to end the episode, and leaves us with the knowledge that Claire is still feeling guilty and is going to try to get back to Frank the next chance she has. So much stronger than a VO telling us “I must get to the stones or die trying.”
What were your thoughts on the wedding? Do you disagree with me? Where do you think the changes and omissions might lead? Let me know in the comments!