Outlander is back!
I’m still working on some of my hiatus content. We’ve had several rounds of the flu, strep, and stomach viruses at my house, and I’ve got three different posts in various stages of completion but nothing ready to post.
Instead, I moved straight on to my blog for the first episode of 1B.
May I say first, I am surprised and pleased that my theory about Colum (and Dougal, to some extent) turned out to be correct! The book never explicitly states that Colum wanted Jamie to be laird (or at least regent for Hamish), but it is certainly something you can read into their interactions if you want to. I’m excited to see how this will play out over the course of the rest of the season, particularly the next episode, with the Duke of Sandringham and Jacobite issues. There will be even more implications for season two when the issue of how the clan will “jump” is paramount.
I wonder whether the show is going to show us Dougal killing Colum in Edinburgh. That’s another thing that is implied, but never stated, in the books. It will have to be done in a way that lets Claire and Jamie know the truth, but not be able to prove it, or else Dougal won’t be allowed to lead the clan to war.
But let’s backtrack to the episode. I loved Jamie as the narrator. The whole cold open, and the monologue, did an excellent job of placing us in Jamie’s PoV. That’s an important choice, because I don’t think we could have made it through the strapping otherwise (it didn’t really work for me as is, but I’m choosing to whistle past it).
I’m a fan of the change that Ned told them not to kill anyone, rather than Jamie having an unloaded pistol because he’d already killed a guard. I’ve never liked the fact that, in the course of proving his innocence in the death of an English soldier, he kills a different English soldier. Plus, wouldn’t the shot have alerted the guards? So not loading their pistols on purpose makes much more sense.
One drawback to this scene (and the end of “Both Sides Now”) is that we’re still not getting the knowledge from Claire that BJR really can’t rape her until Jamie is present, and someone else’s humiliation or pain is involved. I realize that would take some of the immediate danger out of the scene, but I’m actually OK with rape being off the table. BJR is dangerous enough with a knife. But the show has skirted the issue a few times now, so I’m guessing it isn’t going to come up until Lallybroch, when it becomes the point of contention between Jamie and Jenny. Or maybe not at all.
The scene by the brook between Jamie and Claire was beautiful and raw, but I have to admit I was terribly distracted by the fact that the men and horses were only a few feet away. I wish they would have staged that differently. All I could think of the whole time was that I would have been mortified to be having that conversation in front of Angus, of all people.
Still, I would have preferred just about anything rather than what happened next. I’m not going to go too far down this road, because everyone’s reactions to the scene are different, but the strapping is one place where I wish they wouldn’t have stuck so closely to the books. It wasn’t so horrific that I will refuse to watch the rest of the season, but it was uncomfortable enough that I’ll probably always skip this scene when I re-watch the episode. For most purposes, I’m going to pretend it never happened.
The pacing of this episode is totally weird, and the quick cut to Leoch is one of the reasons why I wish they hadn’t filmed the strapping scene so closely to the source material. I can accept the strapping there because of Jamie’s stories on the road afterward. The show doesn’t have time for that, so I really wish they’d set things up differently.
Then we have the conflicts between the Brothers MacKenzie and Laoghaire and Jamie. I’m actually a big fan of what the show is doing with Laoghaire. Most of what we know about her in the book of Outlander (not including what we learn in later books) is really just Claire’s speculations. The show is setting her up to be a little more sympathetic. Yes, she’s forward, but she’s sixteen and having her first “love,” which is an intense and powerful thing. She thinks that Jamie’s arranged marriage is like most of the ones in this era- loveless and mostly on paper. After all, he took a beating for her and then snogged her in an alcove.
I’m also totally OK with the way Jamie handles her. He isn’t used to dealing with women on a romantic level. He knows how to talk to his sister and his tenants, and Claire acts enough like Jenny or “one of the guys” that he’s fairly comfortable with her. But Laoghaire is something completely different, and he’s treating her gently. I think he’s also still attracted to her, which makes it hard when she throws herself at him. He’s tempted, but this is one of the choices he mentioned in his opening monologue. The choice wouldn’t matter if the other option wasn’t at least a little viable. That doesn’t make Jamie less of a hero or a bad person. All it means is that he’s not perfect. But he does make the right choice. He turns her down, even if he could have done it in a less-fumbling way.
In general, I think everything with Laoghaire and Jamie could fit perfectly into the books. We never see their interactions at Leoch. Jamie says nothing happened, but from his perspective, nothing did. Seeing her awkward advances and his even more awkward refusal makes me understand why Laoghaire would say what she says during his return to Scotland thirty(ish) years later. Her accusations that he led her on and yet never really saw her meshes well with this encounter.
Getting back to the episode, the political tensions were fun, and I loved how Colum listened to Jamie’s advice. It reminds me of what he tells Jamie in DiA, how Ellen used to be his best friend and how they would make plans for the clan together, before she ran off with Brian. I saw the same thing from Colum during the Gathering when Jamie gave his oath. He was so angry that Jamie was even there, because Colum was sure Jamie would end up dead. Instead, Jamie proved that he was just as savvy and sure-footed as Ellen, and managed to find the middle path. The smile Colum gave was an acknowledgment of his sister-son, and the heir he would place above his hot-heided brother.
Now Jamie is proving just how good he would be as Laird. It’s a shame that he’ll never truly hold that place, not even on the Ridge. He sees the people there in North Carolina as his, but not all of them view him the same way. And his brief time as Laird of Lallybroch ends in pain and isolation; he’s able to save his men only after great personal sacrifice.
The last scene is probably my biggest disappointment in the episode. Not so much because it’s a bad scene – it actually works very well within the framework of the episode, and I really like what Jamie says about going a different way than his father and grandfather – but only in comparison to the same scene in the book.
I am fine with losing some of the fight (although I’ve always seen Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire as the first sign that she has truly fallen for Jamie). The bit about the money has always rung a little false for me, but the moment when she chooses to stay, and when they come together in violent, passionate lovemaking, is one of the major turning points of the book.
The scene is still a turning point for the show, of course. Jamie tells Claire about the key to Lallybroch, and that she’s his home now. Claire asserts herself, and proves that they are equals in their marriage, not one subject to the other. But it’s not quite the same. When Jamie says he’s going to make her call him Master, there is no impetus for that assertion. And when he says that he is her master, and she’s his, it feels just the tiniest bit hollow.
In the end, this is not my favorite episode. In fact, it is probably my least favorite so far. But that is only in comparison with the very excellent episodes that preceded it, and some much more weighty scenes in the book. It’s still one of the better episodes of television I’ve seen.
What do you think? Do you have an opinion about Laoghaire’s strip tease? Leave a comment and tell me your reactions to the episode.
PS- If you want to talk about the strapping, all I ask is that you be open to other interpretations than your own. I’m uncomfortable about it, but I know others found it funny, or at least non-objectionable. I don’t think they’re wrong, or morally bankrupt, or terrible people, for having a different reaction than me. Basically, be polite!