Analysis – Jamie and Claire’s Relationship, Part One

Season two is about to start, so now it’s time to analyze and examine the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship through season one!

I’ve been planning this post since the wedding episode last season, and now I’m finally getting around to writing it. Part of the reason it took so long is that it requires marathoning the whole season. Not exactly a hardship from an enjoyment standpoint, but it is almost 16 hours of television, and I do a lot of starting and stopping to get my thoughts down while I watch. There’s a lot to say, so this is going to be a two-part post. Unfortunately, I’ve only had time to watch through 107 (“The Wedding”), but I think that’s a pretty good place to rest until I have the time to finish this analysis.

I will start with the opening monologue in “Sassenach.” Even though Claire’s musings are about trivial-seeming things, what she is really saying here is that she longed for home, for family, for a place to belong, and most of all, for love. And so when she says that she would make the same choice, she is talking about her choice to stay with Jamie in the past, to make their marriage real.

As I mentioned in my first episode review, I believe this is Claire at the end of her life (probably around 1800 from some things Diana has said), telling the story of her life to someone (I’m guessing Mandy and Jem, or maybe their children). It could also be her telling the story to Bree and Roger in 1968.

In any case, this monologue is really all about Jamie, and about finding her own place in the world. So I include it in my analysis.

Now I will skip over all of the 1945 scenes with the exception of Mrs. Graham telling Claire about her two marriages, and our lovely Highlander watching Claire curse at her hair in the B&B.

Claire’s expression about the stranger being her husband is so painful and raw. If only she knew the truth of the reading, and her forked marriage line. Or that the ghost Frank saw was real – and was that other husband.

OK, I’ll also mention the scene where Frank basically accuses her of cheating, since it shows us that Frank is not her perfect match. He doesn’t really trust her or understand her. He is attracted to her, perhaps even obsessed (I miss their discussion of adoption from the book, because it reveals that he is selfish and jealous of her attentions), but not her true mate.

Now we jump to 1743, and the crofter’s cottage where Jamie looks up and sees Claire for the first time. I’m probably reading more into this scene than what would be noticed by someone who hasn’t read the books, but that doesn’t really bother me. I view it through the lens of Jamie’s later explanations to Claire, that he wanted her from the first moment he saw her, that he wanted to marry her when he woke up beside the road with her on his chest, and that he loved her when she wept in his arms at Leoch.

So, when I watch him staring up at her in the cottage, his face hazed with pain and inconveniently-timed attraction, I swoon a little. Even more when he stands up and Claire sees just how tall he is. He respects her so much even from the beginning, and has a deep understanding of her worth and her capability that Frank never comprehended, even after years of marriage.

Jamie shows us his essential nature right away, too- strong, stubborn, and witty. He defuses Claire’s objections to his plaid with humor, and then shows again how much he respects her when he brings her knowledge about Cocknammon Rock to Dougal. He could have ignored her on the basis of being a silly Englishwoman, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t accept blindly, of course, and checks the lay of the land himself, but when his own eyes concur with her warning, he acts. That’s Jamie.

So is the way he convinces Claire to come back with him, and his boasting when they return to the men. Claire is reluctant, but as soon as he’s in danger again, she goes right back to nurse-mode.

Jamie is so enthralled with the beautiful hell-cat sitting on him, berating him for being an idiot while she tends to his wounds. I love how they managed to get a little light onto his face so we can see his eyes in that moment.

Claire is a study in contradictions. She feels sympathy for Jamie, after having experienced the darkness that is Black Jack Randall, but still wants desperately to be gone, back to her own time.

Now we sadly have to go to another episode. I really wish this was a two-hour pilot/premiere. It makes much more sense as a single episode. But whatever.

I love that Jamie’s instinct is to help Claire, even against Mrs. Fitz. And then their first truly intimate scene, by the fire as she tends his wounds and sees his flogging scars.

In the book, when he tells her this story, it’s almost a fever-dream, his recounting brought on by fatigue and pain. But here, it’s more like he’s offering her this part of himself, of his past, a show of trust and the beginnings of affection. And, being Jamie, he has to turn around the darkness with a joke.

It is so weird that they had Jamie say “Is he not alive?” in this scene. The normal thing to say would have been “Is he dead?”

In any case, it brings Claire to Jamie’s arms, and then that leads to its natural, erection-inducing conclusion. But this is the moment when Jamie truly falls in love. And he reacts with a certain amount of gruffness, probably because he understands that his desires are impossible. He can’t expect to have her, or to wed her, with her an unknown Englishwoman and him a Scot with a price on his head.

I adore the fact that Jamie’s first words out of his mouth when he sees Claire after she’s startled the horse are “my love.” (A ghràidh) And his acknowledgment that spirit and strength are good qualities in a woman, qualities he admires, although it will cause him no end of frustration throughout the rest of his life!

Jamie has so much trust in her already, telling her about the price on his head. He keeps some things from her, of course, like the men who helped him escape. It’s one thing to put his own safety at risk by telling her, but another to risk his friends. But the big thing he doesn’t talk about is his father. He is nowhere near ready to share that part of his heart with her. Not yet.

Claire shows him some return humor – try not to get flogged or stabbed today – and he returns it with a smile – no promises, Sassenach.

You know, I am not sure how often he calls her that throughout the season. I’ll have to pay attention. That’s once in episode one, and once in episode two so far.

Jamie taking the punishment for Laoghaire is slightly different than in the book. For one thing, I don’t think Jamie ever shares the story about his own punishment as a lad, or the shame he had to endure, and how this is a thumb of his nose at Colum and Dougal. But it’s clear that he has something to prove to them, and this has almost nothing to do with Laoghaire.

Poor Rupert. I know this post is about Jamie and Claire, but I really feel for Rupert in this scene. He is so loyal to Dougal, but it tears him up to give Jamie such pain. But Jamie pulls it off like a champ, and Colum has that little smile – that “God, he looks like Ellen” smile.

I miss the leeches, if only because it ties this scene to one far in the future, when Claire pulls leeches off of Willie in the creek near Fraser’s Ridge. You can see the leech scene in the deleted scenes, without VFX (visual effects), so as far as I’m concerned it really happened. The extended scene is very nice. I wish they’d not cut it down. I guess CGI leeches cost too much money.

In any case, Jamie totally blows smoke when he tells Claire his reasons for taking the beating. Not seeing Laoghaire shamed is the very bottom of his list, and the least important.

Jamie definitely does not want this scene to be goodbye. Claire is so excited to leave, she hardly sees it, but he’s devastated. He accepts Laoghaire’s presence almost as a distraction. And I love that they use each other’s first names. She’s been calling him Jamie, but this is the first time he calls her Claire.

Now we jump ahead to episode three, and Jamie, Claire, and Laoghaire watching Gwillan perform. Jamie is such a blockhead. Claire tries to include Laoghaire in the conversation, and Jamie is clueless. He thinks he’s being self-detrimental, but Laoghaire is hurt.

“Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

“Yes, Claire. You’re totally smashed.” (is what I expect him to answer)

You’ve gotta feel for Laoghaire here. She proves that she isn’t worth the pity later, but here it is unfortunate that Jamie runs roughshod over her feelings.

Jamie again shares part of himself with Claire, and reveals that he has already shared something with her that he refuses to let others see. And when she realizes how intimate that makes them, and balks, he tries to walk away and not push. But when she comes close to him, when she touches him, at first with the impersonal hands of a healer, but then, abruptly, with heat and awareness in her eyes, he can’t help but want her. Can’t help but burn.

But she balks, again, and he smiles when she uses the formal address of Mr. MacTavish rather than the more intimate Jamie. He replies in kind, and tries to see the humor in wanting a woman he can’t have.

And so, when Laoghaire throws herself at him, he accepts. And, seeing that, Claire can’t help but needle him about it. Bless Murtagh for being the word of wisdom, and the perfect father figure. He already sees where the wind is blowing, and wants what is best for his beloved godson.

And Claire, stop lying to yourself. Yes, you miss your husband, and are envious of the intimacy of others, but yes, you’re also super jelly. Because you want Jamie. He fits with you, and you aren’t ready to acknowledge that yet, but he’s funny, and accepts you, and trusts you, and is one of your only safe refuges in 1743.

They know each other well enough that a single headshake is enough for him to take her part and follow her lead at Geillis’s house. And he is willing to help her out, even though the villagers wouldn’t thank them for interfering with the boy in the pillory. And there’s the Sassenach in this episode, although “wee sassenach lassie” isn’t quite the same as just calling her Sassenach.

Their interaction at the Black Kirk is a lovely extrapolation from the book. They take some of the things he says in other places and put them here. Jamie reveals what is already pretty clear: that he’s educated, and higher class, but still a devout Highlander.

And Claire reveals herself for the first time – saying Germany, a country that won’t exist for over a hundred years. The bits about methiolate can be written off as healer’s talk – the Highlanders would not be too worried that she might know of more sophisticated medicines and classical names. But this? It’s very odd.

After she heals Tammas, their words are a reaffirmation of their earlier conversation about belief. He asks about “where you came from” as though it truly is another world.

Then he mentions that Colum doesn’t want her to go – as he does not want her to go – and she reacts with dismay. He sees it, and is hurt, but doesn’t know what else to do. He is as constrained as she is.

That night, Jamie forces her from the edges of the room to hear Gwillan. He brings her in to the warmth and connection of society, and then gives her hope that she could return.

The story of the woman of Balnain is a little on-the-nose. In the book, there are a series of stories, none of them completely matching her experience, that lead her to believing that a return trip through the stones is possible.

Jamie is absent for nearly all of the next episode. And when he shows up, boy is it explosive. I wish they’d left the entire scene when he pledges to Colum, though. If you have the box set, watch the deleted scene. Then insert that into the episode. It not only makes more sense, it gives a much richer view of the relationship between Colum and Jamie, and a hint of what is to come in The Reckoning.

In any case, Claire seeks Jamie out in the beginning of the episode, and is distressed not to find him. Some of that distress is for her escape plan, but some is just because she’s become accustomed to seeing him.

I will also mention Murtagh’s kindness in translating for her at the oathtaking, because it is indicative of him feeling protective of her. He already knows how Jamie feels about her.

And, of course, Claire giving Laoghaire the “spell.” A silly thing to do, but something she didn’t imagine would come back to haunt her. She couldn’t have imagined that she would end up married to Jamie and accused of witchcraft.

Then there’s her flight to the stables, and tripping over Jamie. And another “Sassenach,” for which he is sorry when she throws it back at him. But she isn’t really mad at him. She’s mad at the situation, and the loss of her hopes.

Jamie’s sudden anger, and willingness to bash some heads when he hears about her encounter with the clansmen, shows his concern for her in ways he isn’t yet ready to voice. His good humor about Dougal, and his pride in her for standing up for herself, is also proof that he cares for her, believes in her, and trusts her. The typical jealous alpha-male romance hero would have been wildly angry that she put herself into a position where she would be accosted, and would have blamed her for other men being drawn to her. Jamie doesn’t do any of that. He wants to protect her, and see her safe, but he isn’t emasculated when she protects herself.

And then he calls her Sassenach again, but with affection and pride.

When the clansmen accost them, he tries to diffuse the situation until Claire is threatened. Then Rupert decides to end the conflict by bashing him on the head.

Claire gets another view of Jamie’s very lovely chest. Except this time, he isn’t in pain and exhausted. This time, he is very much in control of himself. If only there weren’t a bunch of half-drunk Scots in the room with them…especially when he says “Je Suit Prest.” And Claire might not know what he’s ready for, but we do.

Murtagh reveals the danger to Claire, and doesn’t pull his punches when she says it’s her fault.

Here Jamie shows his savvy and his ability to walk the knife-edge of clan politics. But do insert the deleted scene here. Because that shows Colum’s side, and his secret: he was afraid for Jamie, afraid that either Dougal or the clansmen would kill him, afraid that the best chance for the clan to stay together would die in front of him.

Claire and Jamie can’t seem to look at each other at the same time. They both want to see each other, to talk about what just happened, but the timing is wrong.

In contrast to Jamie and Colum’s relationship, the shinty match shows his relationship with Dougal: antagonistic, bloody, underhanded, and with Jamie ultimately proving himself against his uncle. Claire doesn’t seem to understand the undercurrents, though, writing it off as testosterone and aggression.

 

Rent is up next. The deleted scene here with relevance to Jamie and Claire is after Dougal has humiliated Jamie for the Jacobite cause. They talk about kings and land, and Claire slips, referencing occupied France. Jamie ties it to another incident in France – the persecution of the Huguenots. Afterward, she tells him not to hit any more trees. Tree-hitting will become something of a Fraser tradition.

In the episode proper, I have to digress a moment and mention Ned Gowan. He plays a minor but important role in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, being the one who writes their marriage contract, the one who delays the court to save Claire’s life at the witch trial, and the one who will eventually help them settle the divorce with Laoghaire.

Also, there is a nice reference to not accepting live pigs, and later Ned’s sorrowful look when one is presented for rent. Does anyone else think of the white sow? Diana just posted a snippet from book nine with Claire and the white sow, so she’s on my mind at the moment.

Getting back to Jamie and Claire, we see him trying to take her part with the clansmen on the road, but his somewhat brutal honesty strikes her hard. She doesn’t want to accept what he says is true.

When Claire confronts Dougal after the wool-waulking, Jamie watches but does not interfere. After all, he understands the predicament Claire has put Dougal in. If she’d brought the matter to him quietly, it could have been handled just as quietly. Dougal isn’t a monster, and he does care about the people.

But when the Englishman interferes, Jamie goes for his sword to protect Claire despite the price on his head. He will always protect her, no matter the personal cost.

Claire wants to protect him, too, when his scars are revealed. She knows exactly what that means to him, and how much it hurt him. She’s so angry at Dougal, and hurts so much for Jamie when he tries to take what dignity he has left and mend his own shirt.

When Claire refuses the chicken and calls the men thieves, Jamie again tries to defuse the trouble she’s made. She’s too upset and too snippy to accept the olive branch he tries to offer, or the words of advice he gives. She immediately sticks her nose in again. This time, Ned tries to deflect her, and Dougal ignores her. Then she learns the truth, and that changes how she views all of them, even Jamie.

With her anger at Dougal lessened, she is able to again focus on Jamie, and on the humiliation he must face at his uncle’s order. She sympathizes with him over the fire, and they share an understanding glance. They are connected, by the understanding that Dougal can command them both, and by many other things.

But after seeing the dead men, Dougal has no need of showing Jamie’s back. In the aftermath, everyone gets very drunk, and Jamie thinks to protect Claire’s door. She has another glimpse of the protective nature of Jamie Fraser. He’ll even protect her reputation, even if he would like very much to come into the room. Even if the touch of their hands makes both of them want. He’ll be right there, and she’ll be thinking of him just outside her door.

Their shared smile in the morning is sweet. When Claire makes the joke about Rupert’s left hand and Jamie comes around the horse with a goofy grin on his face, barely concealed, you know that they belong together. Everyone else waits for Rupert to react before laughing, but Jamie’s amusement doesn’t wait for permission. He’s entranced with her, and it shows.

Jamie is largely a flashback character in The Garrison Commander, and what comes out of those flashbacks is more sympathy and understanding on Claire’s part. She comprehends, now, that it is more than the comparatively light-hearted story he told her at Castle Leoch. Randall is a sadist, and he has made Jamie into a paragon of pain. Part of the reason she accepts the marriage is because of what she learned about the flogging. The deleted scene gives some of her other reasons. It also underscores the difficulty she is having, imagining herself married to another when she very much still loves her husband.

The little bit of Jamie we get in this episode is excellent, though. Claire tries to find ways around the marriage, asking him about other sweethearts. She obviously means Laoghaire, but Jamie pushes that aside, saying he isn’t the best prospect as a husband for one of those girls. Then he wins at relationships, by giving Claire the option of when they’ll consummate the marriage – whenever suits you.

Then we finally come to one of the iconic scenes in the book, where Claire asks if he minds that she isn’t a virgin, and he reveals that he is. “I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.” She looks so shocked, and a little horrified. So many things are going through her head, from despair, to fear, to betrayal, to desire. Taking a big swig of whiskey seems like a fair response.

And then, of course, we come to the wedding. Let me just say that every single one of the deleted scenes should have been in the episode. The expanded scene in the stables between Dougal, Murtagh, Ned, and Jamie gives so much more character development than the little bit we get in the episode. The scene feels like it was pulled straight from the pages of The Exile, the graphic novel from Jamie’s perspective that covers the timespan of Outlander through Claire’s decision not to go back through the stones.

We see Jamie standing up to both Murtagh and Dougal, and claiming Claire as his own, even if it suits Dougal’s purposes to do it.

The extended scene where Jamie talks about his family is also lovely. I understand why they trimmed it down, but there’s so much of Jamie in this scene, and even Claire opens up a little about her past. The story of Jamie’s parents is very important to understanding Murtagh, and the messed up MacKenzie family relationships.

The extended scene of the clansmen teasing is just pure fun, but the full wedding is so much stronger than the short bit we get in the episode. It probably would have dragged a little, but man, is it wonderful to see everyone’s reactions, especially Claire’s as she has to promise things she has no intention of keeping.

This version truly drives home all of the disparate things that they are thinking and feeling, and it moves more naturally into the handfasting and the blood oath.

OH MY GOD, THE SECRETS BUT NOT LIES SCENE. They should NOT have cut this from the episode. I can see that they were trying several ways of keeping things in, and finally went with a more streamlined version, but there has to have been a way to keep that in. It is a bedrock principle of their marriage from that point all the way until Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. The show sort-of half-asses it later, after the witch trial, when Jamie asks her to only tell him the truth, but it is nowhere near the same thing. In my headcanon, this scene totally happened, and the later scene is just a callback to it.

Moving on to the episode proper. In terms of Jamie and Claire’s relationship, this is obviously the first major push forward, from friends who have the hots for each other (and have each other’s backs), to lovers, and eventually to a true marriage of hearts and minds.

Because this episode is told through fractured storytelling, I’m not going to follow their narrative, but rather a chronological one, since that makes more sense from the perspective of relationship analysis. The viewer may see things out of order, but I’m going to track it the way Jamie and Claire experienced it.

The first thing that happens is that Jamie stands up for Claire, and for his own desires, in the face of Murtagh, Dougal, and Ned (although Ned isn’t really an antagonist). He demands that Claire have a dress, a church, and a ring. At the same time, Claire has drunk herself into a stupor. To say she is reluctant about this marriage is a massive understatement.

Jamie and Claire’s positions couldn’t be more opposed than at the beginning of the episode. He very much wants to marry Claire, to protect her and to be with her. He knows she isn’t happy, but he wants to make the best of things. Claire does not want to marry. She already has a husband, and is inconveniently attracted to the man she’ll now be forced to wed. But once they’ve begun, she also tries to make the best of things.

When she and Jamie see each other in their finery, their reactions exemplify those feelings. Jamie is awed and humbled by his new bride, and wants to make her happy. Claire is aroused by the sight of her new husband, and ashamed of what she has agreed to do. But she moves forward with purpose, taking off Frank’s ring, and making herself promise things that she will actively attempt to escape from in the next episode.

The blood vow takes Claire by surprise, but Jamie means every single word.

Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone.

I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.

I give ye my Spirit, ‘til our Life shall be Done. *

Later, in their bedchamber, Claire tries to get drunk so she can face the consummation that Dougal has warned them must take place. But when it almost happens – when Jamie starts to kiss her – she flinches and takes refuge in conversation. This is where they have been comfortable in the past. They’ve always found it easy to talk to each other. And so it goes here. The conversation leads to disrobing, which leads to kisses, and eventually to Jamie’s first experience with sex. But although Jamie is blissed out, after (and hoping that Claire is, too), Claire is devastated. As I said in my first blog about this episode, she thought she could just get really drunk and endure the sex. But what happened is that she was aroused, and wanted him, and actually enjoyed having him inside of her. She’s betrayed her husband truly, now. The vows she could break, and she could justify the necessity of the marriage, but enjoying the sex? That does not compute in Claire’s loyalty-driven soul.

So she runs. And ends up being humiliated by the rowdy highlanders. Under normal circumstances, I think Claire could have given as good as she got against them, but she’s feeling vulnerable, and their jests press right against that vulnerability. Jamie takes charge, defusing the situation, and when they come back together, they’re able to talk again. They each open up more, and then they both bare their flesh along with themselves. This time, Claire gives herself to the experience, and they both achieve physical release.

After Claire’s encounter with Dougal, she’s again unsure of herself and her place here, in this time. But Jamie assures her that she belongs, that she has a place with him. Wearing his tartan is symbolic that she’s part of his clan, now. Jamie giving her his mother’s pearls is a statement that she’s connected to him and his family. And then they truly make love, both of them wanting and open and vulnerable, sharing this experience as two equals, together.

Which is why, when Claire finds her gold wedding ring in the morning, she’s devastated anew.

And that is where I will leave this post for now! The new season starts on Saturday, but if you have the Starz app, you can watch the season two premiere today!! (Thursday April 7th). I am about to watch it, but I will hold my blog post until Saturday.

*From Outlander, chapter 14, “A Marriage Takes Place,” by Diana Gabaldon

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Theory – Colum and Dougal

Even though we have 26 weeks until the show returns with the second half of season one, Saturdays are still Outlander day here at my blog.

Today, I’m going to dig into my theories about Colum and Dougal. I’ll talk both about the books and the show.

In the books:

Colum wants Jamie around because he’s hedging his bets. He is the one who called Jamie back from France when they got news of Horrocks. He knows his brother is an impetuous hothead, and he worries about what will happen to the clan under Dougal’s leadership. Jamie may not be a unanimous choice for Laird (Jamie tells Claire that it would split the clan), but Colum thinks Jamie has what it takes to see the MacKenzies through the troubles that are looming. Also, although he’s still very upset with his sister Ellen for leaving him and going away with Brian Fraser, he sees in her son the qualities that would have made her a good laird: intelligence, courage, wisdom, charisma, cunning, and strength.

Another element to this theory is that Colum knows Jamie doesn’t want to be laird. The old adage is that the right person for the job is the one who doesn’t want it (with the caveat that they also need to be good at it). Jamie would be good at it, and he would take the responsibility seriously, but not let the power go to his head. That would make him a good regent for Hamish, until Hamish is old enough to take over the position.

But the most important aspect of this theory is that, if true, Colum’s choice would drive a wedge between Colum and Dougal. They’ve always acted in harmony, in everything they’ve done. So for Dougal, having Colum place even tacit approval on Jamie’s claim is a betrayal. Remember that it is Dougal who tries to kill Jamie with the Lochaber axe. Dougal’s man Rupert shoots Jamie in the back (well, the shoulder) when he makes a break for Fraser lands just before they meet Claire. Dougal sends Jamie to the stables and away from the major goings-on at Leoch. And then it’s Rupert, again, who brings Jamie in to take the oath during the Gathering. Rupert’s motives aren’t entirely clear, but you could say that he was trying to force the issue- either so that Jamie would be killed by angry, drunken clansmen, or so that Dougal would have an excuse to kill Jamie “accidentally” elsewhere.

Colum clearly did not want Jamie to take the oath, for the same reasons. He wanted Jamie to stay clear; even if he’s not a sworn MacKenzie, he is still eligible to become laird. He can swear the oath and change his name when he takes up the position. So, when Jamie walks the knife’s edge and comes out alive and popular on the other side, Dougal has to think of something else. He humiliates Jamie by showing his scars to everyone in the MacKenzie lands. Sure, it helps Dougal raise money for the Jacobites, but it has the nice added benefit of making his rival feel trapped, shamed, and exposed.

Finally, it’s Dougal who arranges for Jamie to marry Claire, neatly removing him from the succession. Colum does not do any of those things, and is actually surprised when the party returns to Leoch and Jamie is married. On the other hand, I think he’s very aware that Dougal hates their nephew and would like to see him dead. In a way, every time Jamie escapes with his life is an affirmation that he’s a better choice to be laird.

Dougal wants to be laird, and there’s a kind of restlessness to him that suggests he thought he would be by now. But more than that, he wants the MacKenzies to rise and support the Stuarts. Jamie would never allow that to happen, and Colum isn’t sure he wants it to happen. Later, Colum actually accepts Jamie and Claire’s advice on whether or not to pledge the clan to the Rising. Unfortunately he dies before he can put that into effect. And I’ve always wondered at that. Is it possible that he and Dougal talked, and Dougal killed him before he could announce that the clan would not join the Jacobites?

Dougal is a complicated character. The only person who has his loyalty for most of the books is his brother. He doesn’t love his wife, and is known to be promiscuous and an adulterer. Case in point: Geillis Duncan and their child, William Buccleigh MacKenzie. He loves Jamie, his foster son, but he is jealous of him at the same time. Because as much as the brothers MacKenzie have always acted in accord, it was Ellen who was Colum’s confidante and advisor. Dougal’s afraid Jamie will take up that same place. Dougal takes after his father, Red Jacob, in temper, and that gets him into trouble. Many of the things he does to Jamie are done impetuously- that’s why most of them don’t work. The one that comes closest to killing him is the axe blow- and that was foiled when other people showed up and he had to flee.

Then Claire shows up, and he develops an immediate attraction for her. That desire comes out at the Gathering, although even while drunk he has enough self-possession to let her go. And we see his malicious digging at Jamie during the events surrounding the wedding. He doesn’t stick to the good-natured insults of the others, but says truly hurtful things. Because, if he were free, and it wouldn’t ruin his chances of becoming Laird, he’d have married her himself.

So how does this theory apply to the show?

One of the things I talked about a couple of times in my episode reviews was the way the Colum/Dougal relationship is different in the show. Dougal seems to hold more of the power, and he is more openly hostile toward Colum and definitely angry at the Gathering. I think that the show is trying to show us all of the things I just talked about from the books. But it’s hard to get all of that subtlety across on screen, and Dougal can’t tell us what he’s thinking the way Claire can. So they’ve given him actions to make his disaffection and jealousy clear. Unfortunately, those actions make it look like he and Colum are more at odds than they are in the books. Of course siblings fight – we get to overhear one of their fights after the return to Leoch – but the bedrock principle of their relationship is absolute, unflagging loyalty.

That’s overshadowed by Dougal giving a begrudging oath and then going off to get stinking drunk. And by Dougal being the one that is clearly in charge of Jamie’s beating at Rupert’s hands in the Hall. And the implication (made by the way the episode was edited and written) that Dougal is the one who convinced Colum that Claire shouldn’t be allowed to leave.

The Dougal we see on the road, collecting rent, is very much like the one in the book. He is comfortable and confident, glad-handing his tacksmen and tenants. In the book, Colum leads inside Castle Leoch, and out in the wilds, Dougal is in charge. The difference in the show is that Dougal took away some of Colum’s thunder at Leoch.

That may change when the show returns, though. Ron Moore said in the podcast for episode 104 that he thought the look for Colum was much better clean-shaven and with his hair pulled back. He looks more like a laird, more like the man in charge and less like an invalid. So what I think is that the show made a couple of missteps with Colum at first. In 102, nearly all of his authority is usurped by Dougal. Sure, he hands out a few judgments about cows, but when there’s real tension, it’s Dougal who takes over.

In 103, we see Colum as menacing and temperamental, but not really “in charge.” Dangerous, for sure, but that’s not the same thing. Finally, in 104, he is allowed to make the important decision to accept Jamie’s vow in place of the Oath. Maybe I’m reading into things, but when Gary Lewis smiled in that scene, I was thinking, “He isn’t smiling at Jamie. He’s smiling at Ellen. He made this decision because Jamie reminds him so much of her.”

So I’m hoping that they’ve turned things around with Colum, not just in looks, but in action. I want to see the cunning, powerful, intelligent, sly, charming man from the books. Because we’ve seen a lot of Dougal, and even though he doesn’t always do things the audience likes, we have a good idea of who and what he is. Now we need to see who Colum really is.

What do you think about my theories? The big extrapolation is that Colum actually wants Jamie, rather than Dougal, to be the next laird. He lets go of that, over the course of the first two books, but at least in the beginning I think he’s absolutely hedging his bets. Do you disagree? Or have another explanation? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Episode 108 – Addendum

After completing my Monday ritual of listening to, reading, and watching the various Outlander recaps and reviews, I want to add my take on an issue that has come up in several places. I’m going to address this in much more detail in a subsequent blog, where I will track the evolution of Jamie and Claire’s relationship so far, but here’s a (somewhat) brief summary of why including Frank in this episode derails Jamie and Claire:

First, giving that much screen time to Frank takes away screen time from J&C. Lani, the Sassenach in “The Scot and the Sassenach,” said that, as much as she enjoyed the stuff with Frank, it isn’t Frank’s story we’re telling here. It’s Jamie and Claire’s story. Because of devoting so much time to Frank, the 18th century events in this episode had to be forced down to about two days, and every scene was rushed and truncated. In the book, this same sequence of events stretches over what I remember as several weeks (I will look at the precise timeline in my later blog). We are shown many scenes of Jamie and Claire getting to know each other, of them making love and being soft and tender together. And when conflict happens, we see them dealing with it together. They aren’t torn immediately apart after the near-rape. In fact (as I mentioned in my review), they actually have sex afterward. There are still lingering issues that won’t be resolved until later, of course, but we are given time to see them trying to recover.

Now, I get that this is TV, and so the timeline likely would have been shortened no matter what. But taking away the 20-30 minutes devoted to Frank would give us a lot more screen time to show the aftermath of some of the more violent scenes. It would have allowed us another love scene – one where the intensity and the conflict is within Claire: “how can I be responding this way, and wanting this much, after so short a time?” That would also allow Jamie to ask her “is this usual, what it is between us?” and “does it ever stop, the wanting you?” in a quieter, more contemplative context.

In the “Talking Outlander” video over at That’s Normal, one of the reviewers (I think it was Beth) said that TVJamie and TVClaire haven’t earned the upcoming scene at Leoch yet. And I completely agree. I talked about this in my wedding episode review. What is important, in the book, isn’t the fight. It’s Claire’s acceptance of Jamie’s ring. It’s her acceptance of Jamie and their marriage, and then the rough, possessive (on both sides), consuming sex they have in the aftermath of their argument.

And in between BJR and Leoch is the spanking. So we have this very intense, violent scene coming up in the next episode. Without a good understanding of the depths that Jamie and Claire’s relationship has already reached, how are we going to believe that TVClaire would choose to stay? And, if they go where everyone says they’re going, it’s going to be even worse. In the books, the spanking scene is treated as non-sexual. Jamie says he was mightily roused, but he doesn’t try to do anything about it. He’s aware enough of Claire and respects her feelings enough not to force himself on her. But from what I’ve heard, it seems like the show is going to have the spanking scene lead right into the fightsex scene at Leoch.

That could be a colossal mistake. In my opinion, would be a colossal mistake. The show hasn’t earned that yet. And they certainly haven’t earned Claire’s choice at Craigh na Dun, which, if the episodes fall where I think they will, is going to happen around 111. Either way, that’s not a lot of time. They are going to have their work cut out for them in order to make the audience believe in Claire’s choice.

I think that’s the fundamental problem here. Ron Moore said in the beginning that he wanted to make sure the viewers got to see Frank, because he wanted them to understand why Claire keeps trying to get back to him. But I think they’ve taken that too far, and shortchanged Jamie and Claire’s relationship as a result. Because, let’s face it. Outlander is not the story of Claire and Frank. It is the story of Claire and Jamie.

For us book readers, it isn’t as big of a deal. We can fill in the gaps, and extrapolate from what we know happened in between the scenes from the show. But for non-book readers? They really need the show to establish the depths of passion and connection between Jamie and Claire. That is what leads to a love that can span time and distance, mistakes, other marriages, illegitimate children, pain, betrayal, and loss.

I thought we were on a good track for that, all the way up through the wedding. But now? Their few moments together were sweet, but brief, and certainly not deep. And it is depth that they need to survive the things that are coming. We’d better see a lot of diving in 109.

EDIT: Last night I read a post on the CompuServe forums where Diana Gabaldon hangs out. She said that she wouldn’t give anything away about plot points coming up in the second half of the season, but that many of our worries about Jamie as a character would be assuaged. Apparently we’re going to start breaking out of Claire’s PoV and will be getting Jamie PoV scenes and Jamie voiceover. So that’s something. I’m going to cling to that knowledge rather desperately over the next six months.

Edit #2: The Outlander Cast said that this episode needed to breathe. That’s an excellent way to put what I’m getting at here. Because I did love the Frank stuff (see my prior post). But we really needed more time with Jamie and Claire to transition into the darker, violent parts of this episode. This could easily have been 2 hours.

Episode 106 – The Garrison Commander

Even having seen (and loved) the wedding, this is still my favorite episode. Tobias Menzies is amazing in ways that words cannot express. He takes fantastic writing and elevates it to a transformative experience.

Black Jack Randall is one of my favorite characters in the books. He wasn’t when I first read them, but I’m older now, and have written a few books of my own. I understand the darkness better, and the need for it.

Because pretty much this entire episode is an expansion/extrapolation/fabrication and is not in the book, I’m going to abandon my usual review style (looking at differences from page to screen) and just talk about what is going on with BJR (and Claire and Jamie). I’ll make some comments about Dougal at the end, too.

One of the things I love about BJR is that, within his own particular boundaries, he has a very intense sense of honor. Claire has never fallen within these bounds. He doesn’t know who or what she is, but he knows what she isn’t: a stray 18th century Englishwoman lost in Scotland, as she claims to be.

Even without Claire’s legendary glass face, BJR is very, very good at reading people. He knows she is lying from their very first encounter, and the lies and her reasons for them both intrigue and infuriate him, the moreso because he cannot ascertain them. Nothing about her makes sense, or will fit into his understanding of the world. Therefore, he needn’t treat her as he would treat a real stray 18th century Englishwoman lost in Scotland.

To that woman, he would show absolute courtesy and hospitality, if not actual respect. To Claire, absurdly, he can show his true self. In the show, he does it here, at Brockton. In the books, he doesn’t do it until Edinburgh in 1745, but there is something about the way she is outside of his understanding, and the way they are both connected to Jamie, that allows him to speak of things he hides from everyone else in the world.

Tobias has spoken of his portrayal of Jack as someone who was changed by war, just as Frank was. Jack’s is an insurgency war, on the edge of rebellion, and we know (from the books, and it’s hinted at with the talk of Sandringham in 101) that he is an agent provocateur in the Highlands. Whether he means to draw out Jacobites and arrest them, or rile the Highlands to later support the Jacobites is unclear. But we know he has been given the task to be, basically, as vile and despicable as possible to the people of the Highlands.

What happened to him in that process was that he discovered that he liked it. That the brutality, the cruelty, the pain and blood and terror, woke something inside him, called to him with a lover’s song. And so he reveled in it, steeped himself in the sweet miasma of fear, until one day he met a boy named James Fraser. And in that boy, he found a spirit and a flesh capable of withstanding everything he could inflict. At least in public. He promises Jamie that he will break him, and in that promise is a lust and a longing, and a sick and twisted form of love that binds them through Jamie’s flesh and blood.

“I will break you,” Randall says.

And he will.

But not by flogging.

In the episode, we also see that BJR has a flagrant disregard for his foppish superiors. Lord Thomas is not stupid, but he is lazy and willfully ignorant. Jack cannot respect a man who is more interested in the integrity of his claret than in possible Jacobite sympathizers sitting in the taproom below.

In fact, Jack doesn’t truly recognize the chain of command at all. He is somewhat protected from it by the Duke of Sandringham (in ep. 101 we’re told he must have had a powerful patron to protect him from the censure of his superiors), but it’s another example of him adhering only to the code and the rules inside his own head. He gets to decide who is worthy of respect, and Lord Thomas isn’t.

Foster might be, by the way. BJR doesn’t condescend to him, although he does play off of him. But I get the sense that, of everyone in the room during the officers’ meal, the only two men who are actually soldiers and not just officers are Randall and Foster. That is probably because they are the only two who aren’t wearing wigs.

Note that that’s a change from the books- there’s a scene where Claire pours blotting sand into Jack’s spare wig, and after he punches her during this first interrogation, she tells him, “your wig is crooked.” But I’m totally fine with the change, because it makes him seem more…connected to his job. The wearing of a wig is an adherence to faraway London rules of etiquette. Jack is beyond those, now.

There is also a sense in this whole episode that Jack is a mixture of a cat toying with a mouse, and a spider spinning webs to ensnare its prey. I can see Claire as both mouse and fly here, unwittingly falling into his trap. She wants so very much to help him, both for Frank’s sake and his own. Although her good sense is probably screaming that there’s nothing she can do, that he’s dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted, she needs for him to be redeemable. She needs that for Frank, to be able to believe that he isn’t descended from a sadistic sociopath and that he might eventually find solace for the horrors he was responsible for during his war. And she needs that for Jack, because she is a compassionate healer who can’t stop herself from helping anyone who needs it. Even people who have tried to kill her (see Lionel Brown).

So she is sucker punched along with the audience. I’ll admit that I wasn’t certain what was happening, when BJR talked about redemption and making Claire happy. They were so far away from the books at that point, I wondered for just a moment if his plan was to take her away, but head south toward Edinburgh and the Tolbooth, not west to Inverness. I never really thought he would let her go. And then he punched her, and we were right back to the book.

Let me talk for just a moment about Jamie and the flogging. I’m sure we will get Jamie’s perspective on the scene in an episode or two (if they follow the books, it will be after the spanking, as part of his attempt to explain his notions of justice and punishment and his guilt about his father), and so the show may veer off in some way from the books and therefore change what I’m about to say. But here’s my take on things, from my reading of the books.

Jamie is very sensitive about the scars on his back, obviously. There are several reasons for that. The first is what he told to Claire when he wouldn’t let her remove his bandages in front of Auld Alec. It makes people pity him. The second is the reason he fought with the lads in the book after Dougal showed him off- because it makes people think him weak. (If you don’t remember what happened, it’s at the end of chapter eleven. Another lad makes a disparaging personal remark to Jamie, and Jamie beats the tar out of him. We aren’t told what was said – it was in Gaelic – but Claire assumes that it was something similar to what she heard murmured another time, and was in ep. 105: “I would die in my blood before I let a whey-faced Sassenach use me that way.”) But neither of those reasons are strong enough, on their own, to explain why Jamie still is sensitive about the scars thirty years later. He hesitates when his daughter innocently tells him to take off his shirt to keep it from getting dirty. He flinches when his grandson, who idolizes him and could never see him as weak or pitiable, touches the scars.

The reason for that has everything to do with Jack Randall, and with the death of Brian Fraser. No matter how much Jenny tries to take some of the blame for their father’s death, Jamie will bear the guilt of it for the rest of his life. The flogging (or rather, believing Jamie had died from it) is what made Brian have a stroke. And if Jamie had given in to BJR’s “request” to have his body, he wouldn’t have been flogged the second time. So that’s one part.

And the other, of course, is because the second flogging – the one that truly marred him and made his back a pulpy mass of scar tissue rather than simply striped by weals and gashes – was done at the hands of Randall. After Wentworth, everything Randall ever did to Jamie has become part of that invasion, that breaking of his self and his soul. The flogging, the rape, the death of his father, the attacks on Claire, all of it has attained a kind of critical mass.

So it is more than fear of pity or of being seen as weak that makes Jamie want to hide the scars. It is guilt and shame.

Jamie has to constantly reaffirm to himself that he has forgiven Jack Randall. And in the later books he has, as far as that goes. But he has never “gotten over” it. Here is the truth: you don’t. You don’t get over trauma. You learn to live with it.

And the scariest part, the part that is hardest for people to accept, is that Randall is proud of what he did. He sees it as beautiful, as this deep, transcendent connection between them. As an act of love.

OK, enough about Randall. Let’s talk about Dougal.

This is the episode where we see Dougal start to respect Claire and to believe her when she says she isn’t a spy. And it isn’t a magical spring that convinces him (although that’s part of it). It’s the way she defended him in front of her countrymen, and warned him away when she thought he might be in danger. It’s the fact that she didn’t spill his secrets to Randall under coercion or punishment. And that she’s willing to marry Jamie (and to sleep with him) in order to escape BJR’s clutches. But the thing about Dougal is that he’s always thinking, always trying to manipulate situations to his best advantage. So while he appears to be solidly on Claire’s side in this episode, the desires that drive him are still under the surface.

It suits his purposes to have Jamie marry Claire. An English wife neatly removes Jamie from consideration as Laird of the MacKenzie Clan. It also keeps Claire safely where he can see her- even though he is pretty sure she isn’t an English spy, she is still an unknown quantity. And now Jamie is going to watch out for her, and is too honorable to do anything that will overtly damage the Clan, even for his wife.

But let’s face it. Dougal wants Claire for himself. This is coming out much earlier on the show than it does in the books (the groping kiss in the corridor during the gathering notwithstanding), but it is definitely present in both. So he’s pissed off at the thought of Jamie getting to have the thing he wants. And even more pissed off when she so clearly wants Jamie, too.

So Dougal gets to be a complicated, three-dimensional character and not a flat stereotype. He gets to do things that we don’t understand or that don’t seem to make sense right away. He gets to make decisions based on motivations that are muddy or selfish or practical.

And that is what makes this an amazing series. Because no one always makes the right choice, not even Jamie and Claire. Because everyone does bad things sometimes, or can’t forgive mistakes. And because even Black Jack Randall has redeeming qualities. Don’t believe me? Ask Roger MacKenzie. Ask Jack’s brother Alex. Now, those qualities may not be enough for Claire and Jamie, but think of it this way: in Dragonfly, Jamie actually walks BJR back to his quarters after his marriage to Mary Hawkins and Alex’s death. It tears Jamie to pieces, and he is angry and outraged and hates himself and the world while he’s doing it, but he does it. Because Jack is devastated at the loss of his brother, and for that single moment, Jamie can also feel something like pity for him.

And I am so glad that we have a second season so that we’ll get to see that moment on screen.

Although I am re-reading Voyager right now and praying to all of the gods that we get at least through season three. Although they’re going to have to cast someone as young Lord John Grey for season two, I imagine they’ll cast someone else to play him as an adult. And I cannot wait to find out who that is, and to see him and Sam Heughan interact. There will be much rejoicing.

So I know I didn’t really talk about the episode much. If you have a comment to make about any part of the episode, please do so! I’d still love to talk about the actual scenes, I was just more interested in the characters for my review. But please do comment, especially once we get into the hiatus and we’re all starved for more Outlander!