Season Four Is Coming…

Here we are, less than two weeks away from the season four premiere, and I haven’t been on my Outlander game at all. The truth is, I went down a deep rabbit hole of depression and anxiety last winter and it has taken a lot of time, effort, medication, and therapy to dig myself even partially out of it. I am not sure I’ll be maintaining this blog to the same level this season as I have in the past, because I have a lot of my own writing to catch up on. I still want to talk with people about Outlander, but it takes a huge amount of effort to do the episode breakdown speculation, and I honestly haven’t read through the series since before last season aired, so my memories aren’t as fresh as they could be.

But in some ways, I’m hoping that helps with this season. I’m going to try and see how I feel about the show when I have a bit more of a remove from the source material.

What I will do is create an Season Summary page, the same as I have in the past. As each episode airs, I’ll post a brief outline of the major plot points. And I will still react with a blog post for each episode, but I will probably not do much screencapping except for a single image for each post.

Here’s hoping that this season is amazing!

Frequently Searched Queries


It is taking me longer than I’d hoped to figure out how to break Voyager into 13 episodes. We’re doing some remodeling, and between that and my own writing, I have only finished breaking 4. But I should be able to devote some extra time to it this week, so I’m planning to have it out next weekend.

In the meantime, I decided to put together this post. I’ve gone through the search terms that lead people to this website, and have put together answers to some of the most frequently searched-for terms and queries. Most of these answers are somewhere in the blog, but will be difficult to find because of the format. If your question isn’t here, ask it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post!

Outlander Spoilers Frequently Searched Queries

  1. Outlander book 9 spoilers
    1. As I mentioned in the sticky post, no one has these except Diana Gabaldon and anyone she uses for beta reading/editing. But my guess is that some of the events chronicled will include the battles of King’s Mountain and Cowpens.
  2. Why did Jamie Fraser not die at Culloden?
    1. We don’t really know. The show may come down one way or another (especially since Ron Moore has now revealed that they’re filming part of the battle), but in the books Jamie doesn’t remember most of the battle. He was badly wounded, and woke up with Black Jack Randall’s corpse laying on him. It is possible/probable that BJR’s body kept Jamie from view, and that kept him from being killed after receiving his wound. But he doesn’t remember being wounded, and doesn’t know if it was BJR who did it. He also doesn’t know how BJR died – if it was at his hand, or someone else’s.
    2. Part two of this answer is that, even though Jamie survived the battle, he managed to escape because of Lord John Grey. That young boy who infiltrated their camp before the battle of Prestonpans (who said his name was William Grey) had an older brother, Hal, who happened to be in charge of the troops that found the Highlanders hiding in the cottage near Culloden. Hal gave Jamie his life in return for sparing John’s.
    3. Part three of this answer is Jenny Fraser Murray, who saved her brother’s life by scalding his wound with boiling water and killing the infection.
  3. Black Jack Randall Queries:
    1. Black Jack Randall book
      1. Not sure if this one is just wondering how he’s different in the book, or if someone actually wants to read a whole book about BJR. I don’t think there’s going to be a book, but I do think his character was less overtly evil and demonic in the book than on the show. Not that he wasn’t awful. He was. But I think his characterization in the book was more nuanced and layered. No one is entirely evil, and the book presented us with additional aspects of BJR that could be understood and even sympathized with, while 100% hating everything he did to Jamie and others.
    2. What happened to BJR/When does BJR die/Does Jamie kill him?
      1. He dies/died at Culloden (April 16, 1746), as Claire predicted. In the book, he has a headstone at St. Kilda’s, but it is unclear whether his body actually lies there or not. I may be getting confused because Frank had Rev. Wakefield put up a fake headstone for Jamie there, and I can’t remember if both stones were fake or just Jamie’s.
      2. We don’t know if Jamie killed him or not, because Jamie doesn’t remember. The show may choose to show us what happened (they’re filming part of the battle), or may follow Diana’s example and obscure the truth for many seasons to come.
    3. Black Jack Randall and Claire
      1. I hope this wasn’t a shipping-related query. In the book, they have a strange connection that is never precisely defined. It is antagonistic, of course, from the moment she passes through the stones, and gets worse after everything he does for the next two years. By the end she hates him with a furious passion, which doesn’t lessen over the years (as shown by her reaction to seeing his grave in the 1960s- something that didn’t happen in the show yet).
    4. Why does Black Jack beat Alex after his death?
      1. You’ve got me. I think it’s because Alex was the last thing holding him back from descent into true darkness. But you’d have to ask the writers and Tobias Menzies to know for sure!
  4. Murtagh Fraser spoilers
    1. Most of these boil down to- is he going to die at Culloden? Honestly, I don’t know. He does in the books, but the show has made him a much more important character. I imagine that the show will follow the books in this regard, though, because it’s the way he would want to die. He wouldn’t want to be hanged as a traitor, starve to death, or be transported to America. And if he survives Culloden, he would be separated from Jamie of necessity, which would be worse than death for him.
  5. What happens to Mary Hawkins?
    1. In the books, she marries a Jewish man named Isaacs, and gives birth to Alex Randall’s son, named Denys. I have no idea what the TV show will do with her, except that I’m sure her son will still run into our characters again in America.
  6. Voyager/Book 3/What happens next?
    1. See the Season Three Speculation page for more info.
    2. When I finish each book’s re-read I may post a synopsis for each book, and a synopsis for each season of the show so far.
  7. Jamie and Bouton
    1. Best thing ever! I’m not even sure what this person wanted to find, but in the book, Jamie argues playfully with Bouton and Bouton is having none of it. What they put in the show was more brief, but still super cute.
  8. When does Rupert die in Dragonfly in Amber?
    1. Rupert dies during the battle of Falkirk. It’s Chapter 43, appropriately titled “Falkirk.”
  9. Does Rupert tell anyone Jamie killed Dougal?
    1. Only the Outlander writers know the answer to this one. In the book, it’s a random MacKenzie named Willie who sees Jamie kill Dougal. And no, he doesn’t tell. We meet him again in America much later. As I recall, I think he tried to blackmail Jamie at that point? I will update this once I finish my re-read. But I seriously doubt that Rupert wouldn’t tell. He was incredibly pissed off. Not sure how or if that will make things play out differently.
    2. RELATED:
      1. Why does Dougal dislike Jamie?
        1. Lots of reasons, and none of them are specifically articulated in the books, but we can make educated speculations. First, because Jamie is what Dougal is not–a canny leader. He doesn’t let his passions drive him the way Dougal does. Second, because he knows that Colum would choose to make Jamie the next chief of Clan MacKenzie (for those reasons–Jamie has the charisma and savvy of Colum, but he is also strong and can lead men to battle like Dougal). Third, because Jamie is the son of Ellen MacKenzie, and both Colum and Dougal feel that Ellen betrayed them when she eloped with Brian Fraser.
        2. But I also feel that I need to point out that Dougal also loves Jamie intensely. This is not a simple relationship of antagonism. Jamie is the son Dougal wanted but never had (and in the books, he actually fostered Jamie for a time). And when Dougal does father a child–Hamish–he is forced to allow the world to believe he is Colum’s. So Dougal feels very parental about Jamie. But that doesn’t negate everything listed in the first bullet point.
      2. Why did Outlander choose to keep Willie alive?
        1. I’m assuming this means Willie from the MacKenzie Rent party in the show, who got married and emigrated to America between seasons one and two. Technically, the Willie MacKenzie from the books lived, too. He ended up being transported to the colonies. This Willie is just already there. I’m not sure why- maybe the actor had other commitments?
  10. Jamie and Claire’s reunion in Voyager.
    1. Oh, for those of you who haven’t read the books yet, you’re in for a treat. I highly suggest you go get a copy and read it, but here’s the gist: Jamie has been working as a printer in Edinburgh, using the false name Alexander Malcolm (A. Malcolm). But he’s also smuggling alcohol and writing seditious pamphlets, because Jamie can’t ever just do one, safe thing. Claire shows up after 20 years at the print shop, and at first Jamie thinks she’s a ghost. Apparently he has seen her a few times over the years. But she’s real! And he immediately faints. 🙂
  11. Did Jamie kiss Lord John?
    1. Non-book readers won’t understand why this question is being asked, but the answer is YES. More than once (although never with the sort of passion John would like!).
  12. Tynchal
    1. This search term comes up often. I assume people don’t actually care about the Outlander tynchal, so here’s a brief definition: In the most basic sense, a tynchal is a hunt. But in the Highlands, it took on ceremonial value and became a rite-of-passage and a chance to prove physical prowess and cunning. The subjects of a tynchal were typically boar or stags.
    2. In Outlander, the tynchal is a boar hunt, and two people are gored. One of them dies, and the experience bonds Claire and Dougal MacKenzie.
  13. Catullus in Outlander
    1. Here’s a link to the translated poem by Richard Crashaw that DG references. It’s gorgeous. But if you want a literal translation, here’s the Wikipedia page with the Latin.
  14. Who will play Lord John Grey in Season Three of Outlander?
    1. The super-sexy David Berry! The link goes to his IMDB page. 🙂 I’m actually pleased with this choice, as he is a very pretty man. He’s a good bit taller than John in the books (who is described as short and slight, even for the time), but from what I can see of him in pictures he’s a very lean actor, not big and bulky like Sam Heughan. So it should still make for a good contrast.
  15. Outlander Avengers 213
    1. Yeah, I’m baffled, too. No idea why they went with this choice for their episode 213 title card. The explanations offered by Ron Moore and co. don’t entirely make sense.
  16. Why do they need gemstones to travel through the stones in Outlander?
    1. Well, you technically don’t. Claire went through once in the show and twice in the books without them. But they make the passage easier. It’s said by the characters that they help you “steer,” or find the right time on the other end. See my post on time travel for more info.
  17. Does Brianna time travel?
    1. Several times. And so does Roger. 🙂
    2. And their kids. ^_^
    3. Hey, this place is called Outlander Spoilers for a reason!
  18. What happens to Fergus in Outlander?
    1. I’m guessing this question is about what will happen after season two. If they follow the books, as a young man he loses a hand in an altercation with a British officer in order to save Jamie, who is hiding nearby. When Claire travels back to 1766, he is all grown up and in love with Marsali, Jamie’s step-daughter. (Yes, you read that right). He and Marsali eventually marry and have several children and Fergus becomes a printer in America.
    2. But in case you meant to ask about Fergus and BJR, yes, BJR raped him. In the books, it was slightly more transactional (not that a child can ever consent to sex, no matter if said child is being paid), but just as awful.
  19. Outlander time travel theories
    1. See my post!
  20. When did Lord John Grey marry Claire Randall?
    1. Well, she was very much Claire Fraser when they got married in Book 7. Also, if you haven’t read the books, you’re probably like, “Who is Lord John Grey?” and “Claire marries someone other than Jamie and Frank?”
    2. Yes, she does. She thinks Jamie has been lost at sea, and the British are about to arrest her for spying, so LJG marries her to keep her safe. And yes, the marriage is consummated. Which is kinda weird for both of them.
    3. And Jamie is super pissed about it when he shows up, and DG LEFT US ON A CLIFFHANGER FOR YEARS UNTIL MOBY OMG.
  21. Was Claire raped by the red coat deserter?
    1. Almost, but no.
  22. “Dragonfly in Amber” Stones Sex
    1. I know, I hated it, too. In the book, there was so much more time, and they had a lovely sex scene, and the initials, and everything was poignant and meaningful. Jamie does basically fuck her right before she runs for the stones, but I wish they would have just cut that for the show. Having him walk her to the stones worked much, much better as a goodbye than a last quickie.
  23. Ned Gowan
    1. He is the man. No more needs to be said on this subject.
    2. OK, but since you asked.
    3. He helps save Claire’s life at the witch trial.
    4. He advocates for the clans during the aftermath of Culloden and helps many people keep their property when the English wish to seize it.
    5. He represents Laoghaire in her bigamy suit against Jamie. Yep. Bigamy.
    6. He remains awesome, and friends with Claire, despite #5. (EDIT: So, when I’m in the WordPress editor, these indented items show up as numbers. But on the actual webpage, they show up as letters. Ugh. So #5 should be E.)
  24. How does Echo in the Bone end?
    1. With a cliffhanger, damn it! I’ll get to this at some point in my reread, but suffice to say that we were all slavering for Written in My Own Heart’s Blood to find out what was going to happen to Jamie and Lord John on the road.
  25. Claire steals some of Gillian’s notebooks in “Dragonfly in Amber” (the episode).
    1. Yes. That happens in the book, too, although in much more contrived and thief-like circumstances. Those books become the basis for many of the characters’ later theories about time travel. I assume we’ll see them again in Season Three.
  26. Did Ross (from Lallybroch) die at Culloden?
    1. In the books, all of the Lallybroch men got home safe. Roger found three men with similar names on the list of the dead at Culloden, but his trip to Edinburgh proved that those three weren’t the Lallybroch men (and none of them were named Ross). So they all made it home! Sadly, many of them didn’t stay there. Roger says two went to America, four died within a year, and one moved to a different parish. But Ross would have had good reason to stay, so I’m pretty sure he made it home to take care of Kincaid’s wife and bairns!

Ask additional questions in the comments below!


Essential Magic is here!

Pardon this brief detour away from Outlander, but I am so excited and I want to share my book with everyone who reads this blog.

Essential Magic trade 04

A woman driven to excel. A man ashamed of his past. A desire that could lead them to bliss…or peril.

Etta Mae Cook, a mountain witch from Appalachia, steps off the train in London in 1895 and into a dangerous world of politics, decadence, and power. Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, and the Fay clan are waging a silent war. In the balance: the future of British magic. Etta’s lineage and strength make her an asset—or a threat—to all three formidable forces.

Malcolm Seward has sworn he’ll never do magic again. He once had a prominent role in society, but a tragic mistake left him shattered, and he has withdrawn from everyone he cares about. Etta’s arrival makes him yearn for things he has long been too afraid to touch. Though she’s drawn to him in return, her goal is to study magic. Desire is a distraction.

Despite her intentions, his fears, and his family’s objections, the two soon surrender to their passion.

Now Etta must choose: love, or her ambition? Either path could mean the renewal – or the destruction- of British sorcery. If she follows her heart, will she doom their magic?

Essential Magic mixes the sexy romance of Mary Jo Putney’s Guardians series with the gaslamp fantasy tradition of Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. And half of the book is set in Scotland, so it should be familiar to fans of Outlander! It doesn’t quite edge over into the steampunk world of Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina, but later books in the series will come close! The next book, A Theft of Magic, is a heist story…so hold on to your hats in October! Check out my website for more info on the series.

To read my steamy fantasy romance as an eBook, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, visit:



No, your eyes do not deceive you. If you’re coming to this page after February 2017, the cover for Essential Magic does look different! As the series has evolved, the covers have shifted away from the look of the first book. Because of that, I decided that it was important to do a redesign that better aligns with the other covers. Check out this post on my Cara McKinnon blog for more info!

Episode 202 – Not in Scotland Anymore

The rough shape of this episode matches up with my predictions, with a few alterations for expediency. In general, the changes are minor and won’t affect the plot, so while I’ll be noting them, in most cases, I do so only as a point of interest.

The title card over Louise getting dressed works, but isn’t quite as evocative or symbolic as most of the title cards to date. The closest is probably Jamie getting into his kilt, and they both do basically the same thing: provide the viewer a brief glimpse into the clothing of the era and culture. But there’s nothing beyond the surface, so it’s a bit of a let-down.

Jamie’s dream (EDIT: He does not have scars on his back in his dreams. I did not even notice that the first time. How heartbreaking!) ends with Claire promising him that Jack Randall is dead, and Jamie saying he knows; he saw the body. What the what?

It seemed, at the end of last season, that they weren’t going to go for the Black Jack is dead but not really plot line. Whether or not BJR survived was not addressed at all in the season finale or the season premiere, and given the way the stampede was handled, it sure looked like he was alive. Murtagh glanced at him and moved on. He was under a door, and it looked like he was just knocked out, not trampled the way Marley was in the book. I feel like this is a giant problem, because Murtagh would have checked. And if he found a pulse, Murtagh would have slit his throat.

Moving past that, though, it’s odd that Claire never used this as a reassurance when Jamie was in his darkest moments. It makes the series feel less like a continuous story when something that should have been ongoing pops into existence just to provide a point of conflict in an episode. And, having seen the entire episode, it doesn’t last very long. Claire, at least, knows the truth by the end. I very much doubt she’s going to inform Jamie, though. The fact that 205 is titled “Untimely Resurrections” implies that, for Jamie at least, BJR will be resurrected in that episode.

They begin with Paris – 1745. I’ve heard that the Le Havre bits were supposed to be 1744, not 1745 as was shown in the episode. I wonder if this is an extension of that mistake, or if we are meant to believe that some time has passed, pushing us into 1745? Claire says they’ve been here for several weeks, then later three months. Would Le Havre have been late fall 1744, maybe October? Is this meant to be January? Everyone is dressed warmly, but not overly so. Charles will set sail in June, if I remember correctly. That doesn’t leave the show much time to move. I’ve got to believe this is still a mistake, and we’re meant to be in 1744. I hope they fix it for the later releases. EDIT: Apparently the live episode was fixed. Whew.

The servants insisting on tending to Claire is probably setting up the later punishment that Fergus will insist on receiving. We’re only forty years away from the French Revolution, so I question whether they would truly be that solicitous. I don’t know as much about the French in this period, though, so maybe I’m wrong. I know in England in the early 1800s there was an accepted distance between upper and lower classes, and condescension was not a dirty word, but a desirable occurrence. Perhaps it was similar in France at this point.

Maitre Raymond is…well, I’m going to reserve my opinion until we see more of him. I like that his accent is difficult to pin down. He doesn’t sound French, and he doesn’t sound British. He doesn’t sound like much of anything, which is appropriate for someone who was originally from the prehistoric Orkneys and is, I am pretty sure, unstuck in time.

His eyes move in a little circle as he says the word “Madonna,” almost as though he is trying to look around her, rather than directly at her. I adore this piece of worldbuilding, as he is examining her blue aura. An aura that marks her as one of “his.” And, because of that, he immediately trusts her a little more than he might otherwise have done. When she tries to show off with the Sang du Crocodile, he responds with an amused tolerance, and admits to his minor deception.

Her asking for catmint using its taxonomic name is a bit of a test – to see if he’s a charlatan or not. But he passes (despite Nepeta cataria not actually having that name in 1744; prior to 1753 it was called Nepeta floribus interrupte spicatis pedunculatis), and after finding out Jamie’s problem, recommends a different preparation of valerian and hops, which is a much better choice than catmint.

I wonder if their shared use of binomial taxonomy is supposed to be anachronistic? Probably not, given that the publication of Species Plantaram is only nine years away, and Systema Naturae was published in 1735. The show fudges dates all of the time – see witch burning in Scotland years after it had stopped. But it would be a little hint, if so.

If you don’t already watch Outlander several times for each episode, I highly recommend it. On this, my second viewing (but with many stops and starts and rewatching scenes for details), I am noticing many things I missed the first time. Such as Raymond’s amazing waistcoat. I’m positive that every one of those embroidered figures is symbolic, probably to the Kabbalah, given the descriptions from the books. Although the eye makes me think of Geillis’s Jacobite brooch from season one, and King James’s eye watching from over the water. (EDIT- other people have noticed this, too. But at least in the book, Raymond wasn’t a Jacobite. Why would he be? He tries to not get involved in history. So it will be curious if the eye really is a Jacobite symbol.)(EDIT 2: Terry Dresbach answers all of my symbolism questions on her blog!)

I suppose, since this is no longer Claire recounting her story to Bree and Roger as in the books, that it is acceptable to break Claire’s PoV from now on. The book series will eventually have quite a large number of PoV characters, so it makes sense to set the precedent early, but I hope they use their power wisely. In this episode, at least, they do.

This scene with Murtagh and Jamie practicing does a number of things. One, it establishes that Jamie is not yet ready to fight beyond practice. Two, it reinforces Murtagh’s dislike of the French and the fact that all three of our principal characters are now Outlanders. Three, it gives the important bit of exposition that dueling is outlawed. Four, it establishes the idea of killing Charles, which is going to come back to bite Jamie in the arse on the eve of Culloden. That last bit is perhaps a little clunky – Murtagh’s a good strategist, and should have already thought of the things Jamie points out. But I can buy that he’s cranky and wants to be done with everything. Plus, he hasn’t met Charles yet and doesn’t realize what a danger he is.

Random thought here- Claire doesn’t really seem pregnant. There are several chances throughout the episode to reference her condition, but other than the servants saying it, she doesn’t act pregnant at all. There’s no morning sickness as in the book, and we don’t have the little chicks/fountain vomiting. The last time she and Jamie had sex was at Lallybroch, so she’s at least four, if not five months along now (if the “we’d been in Paris three months” voice over isn’t a lie), so she ought to be showing. And she’s tall and thin, so her bump would be super obvious. Oh. Another thought. This definitely means that the timeline is skewed, because if it’s truly 1745, she’s been pregnant for a REALLY long time. (EDIT: Timeline error confirmed and fixed for the live broadcast.) 

Anyway, it doesn’t make or break the episode, but it bothers me that her pregnancy is not a thing, even when she and Jamie are alone. Especially since it was knowledge of the baby that helped bring Jamie back to the light at the end of the last season, and Jamie makes a big deal about the baby in the books.

I am entirely in favor of the next Jamie PoV scene, in the brothel with Charles. Well, I am in favor once we get past gratuitous dildos for ten minutes. They could have cut that down to 30 seconds, or cut it out completely.

In any case, it makes my heart soar to see Jamie try to achieve their admittedly duplicitous goal by being completely true to his character and nature. Although, I suppose you could argue otherwise in the show, since what we’ve seen so far is Dougal raising money for the Jacobite cause. But in the book, it was made quite explicit that the MacKenzie clan was not entirely in favor of supporting King James. It’s one of the strikes against Dougal becoming laird that he’s such a vehement Jacobite.

Although we did see a Grant raid in Rent, and in the deleted scenes, Jamie gave the backstory about the Grant/MacKenzie feud (thanks, Ellen!), so when Jamie says the clans will fight about the color of the sky, we do have some in-universe precedent for that.

This scene also gives us Charles the drunkard and lecher, who is blind to anything but his own desires, whether it’s a woman or the throne of England and Scotland. He uses divine right as an excuse and a justification. He is also quite a snob, dismissing Murtagh and his brilliant, lovely descriptions of Scotland, out of hand. I wish the actor used more of an Italian accent, or perhaps something between Italian and Germanic/Slavic, since his mother was, I believe, Hungarian. His declaration that a leader must be decisive is the worst sort of foreshadowing. He says he doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the ’15, but he follows that edict blindly. Rather than digging in at Edinburgh and setting up his court there (which many scholars believe would have changed everything), he continues south into England.

The fact that Claire mentions Louise as her particular friend, but of no relationship to Charles, is a departure from the books. She is, in fact, his first cousin, and a Princess, not a Marquise. In real life, she and Charles don’t become lovers until after the Rising, but their relationship was a huge part of Dragonfly in Amber, so I’m now wondering if that’s going to be a thing in the show or not. The monkey is introduced, though, so maybe we’ll still have Charles climbing on the rooftops after being bitten. Or maybe they mention the bite only as an homage to something they’ve cut from the show.

Having Louise introduce Mary is somewhat unusual, but I can appreciate that they’re trying to condense scenes and characters as much as possible. Mary is well cast. She is small, and mousy, and timid, but her stutter isn’t quite as pronounced as in the book. I suppose we won’t have Claire telling her to sing to improve the stammer.

This next scene throws me right out of the story. I don’t know about anyone else, but the few times I’ve tried waxing, it did not go well. I certainly wasn’t about to jump into bed with my husband. And I’ve never managed to be “smooth.” But I’m mostly sad because Jamie’s reaction is pretty much the opposite of the books. I don’t mind that he still wants Claire, and turning this from a funny scene into a darker reminder of the trauma he’s dealing with is a valid choice. But I’d like a bit more reassurance that he adores her in her natural state. Our culture is obsessed enough with female grooming, and having Jamie as an advocate for a woman’s normal hair and smell (as opposed to hyacinth oil) has always been a comfort to me.

I am also SO GLAD that Jamie doesn’t say he wants to rape Claire in her red dress. That line bothers me in the book, and he handles it a bit better here. He’s not happy at first, but he is willing to accept it as part of Claire’s essential personality. The only negative is that he victim-blames after what happens with Monsieur Duverney (which Duverney quite blatantly does not), but I’ll whistle past that.

Mary’s lavender dress is so perfect. It sticks out like a sore thumb when compared with Louise, Claire, and Annalise. Speaking of Annalise, I wish they’d cast a much shorter actress. She’s supposed to be tiny and elfin. This actress is beautiful, of course, and it’s obvious that there’s a history with Jamie, but I can’t quite see Jamie being obsessed with her at seventeen. But we get the history of the duel, and Annalise takes Jamie to see Louis, so she serves a purpose. But she definitely is not much like her description in the books. She’s coarser, and blunter. Even Louise is taken aback when she blurts out that her husband is dead. It just felt…odd.

(EDIT: Alastair over at Storywonk called her the French Laoghaire. That’s…actually spot-on. And sad. I liked, in the book, the contrast between the girl who threw herself at Jamie, and the girl that Jamie threw himself at.)

The King’s lever is not exactly like in the book, but they kept his constipation. It’s a little unfortunate that it goes on for a thousand years and they play it for laughs (it reminds me of Arthur Duncan’s farts), but Jamie’s suggestion should end up endearing him to the king. And it’s something Claire regularly recommends in the books to keep everyone regular, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables to prevent scurvy, of course. It’s nice to see a tiny worldbuilding element here.

The scene with the ladies gossiping is transplanted from the later scene at the royal stables, and covers the meeting of Alexander Randall and Mary Hawkins. I appreciate that they did not attempt to match the books with Alex’s introduction. He does bear a resemblance to Tobias Menzies, but not nearly enough to justify what happened in the books.

Having Duverney accost Claire and go for her feet (and her amazing shoes, oh my god) is a nice way to introduce the character and combine him with the meaningless noble who does the same thing in the book. And Louis gets to joke to Duverney about his soaked state, rather than Jamie’s in the book. Duverney is a bit of an odd duck. I like that he doesn’t blame Claire for enticing him, because victim-shaming can die in a fire, but then it’s weird that he outright admits that he’s an adulterer. A strange man. I think I like him, though.

Louis’s obvious interest in Claire makes me shudder. Having Nesle (Louis’s mistress) show interest in Murtagh (rather than Jamie, as in the book), is great. I’d go for Murtagh, too!

When Murtah goes after the Duke of Sandringham, Jamie gives us the line about it being death to draw a weapon in the presence of the king. I assume that’s going to come back, probably in regard to BJR.

Sandringham is a little more obviously malevolent this season. Jamie appears to forgive him (although I doubt he truly does), but Murtagh obviously does not. And neither does Claire. I wonder if the show will make it more obvious that it is Sandringham who is plotting against the Frasers, rather than leaving Saint Germain as the apparent villain. Although I wouldn’t mind Saint Germain and Sandringham working together.

Alex’s introduction is deftly handled. Sandringham shows outright glee at poking Claire where it hurts, but poor Alex has no idea, and Claire has to pretend that she is fine, and keep up the polite social exterior. I do still wish that we’d had more than this single episode to believe that Randall is dead, though. It doesn’t pack quite the same punch with only a single reference to his death.

The actor playing Alex (Laurence Dobiesz) has obviously paid attention to Tobias Menzie’s acting. He matches the accent, vocal inflections, and even some of his facial expressions and tics. He sounds like he’s Black Jack’s brother, except inherently good. It’s an exceptional performance.

And here we get to what is, I assume, going to be a major conflict for Claire for the next few episodes. I can’t decide if I like that she thinks of the Rising rather than Frank. In the book, it is definitely her fear that Frank will never be born that motivates her actions. You can’t argue that we know Frank is alive because she went back to him, because that’s true in the book, too. The entire story plays your hope that Claire and Jamie will succeed against your knowledge that they are going to fail.

So, why not mention Frank here? The show doesn’t normally pass up attempts to make Frank look better. I’m really surprised that they didn’t go for it. Maybe they will, next episode, when Claire has to actually decide whether or not to tell Jamie. In this voice over, all she does it pose the question. She also hasn’t figured out who Mary is yet, so that may provide the impetus for her to think about Frank in the next episode.

The “next time on Outlander” preview shows us Fergus, Mother Hildegarde, and someone in a mask. I hope that isn’t the men who attack Claire and Mary. It seems too early for that – I would think that would be in 204, “Le Dame Blanche.”

But I guess we’ll see next week!

Episode 111 – The Devil’s Mark

I’m so behind with these. My daughter has been very ill, and I didn’t even watch the episode until this past weekend (when 112 aired). 

Anyway, I really liked this episode, probably because Ned Gowan is the man. I am so, so happy to see him taking charge here. The changes from the book were mostly purposeful and although there was a little bit of clunkiness (why would the examiners allow him to take a recess?) in how the plot progressed, this episode kept most of the spirit of the events in the book.

I’ve only watched once, so I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow, but rather put down my reactions to the changes and what I liked and disliked about them.

First, Ned. Of course. I LOVE Ned Gowan. He is a hero with his filibustering in the book (not exactly the right word, but it has a similar effect), but his gentle logic and the way he can turn an argument on its nose in the show encapsulates the character. Ned is witty, courageous, astute, stubborn, and brilliant. He’s also a prime example of that Scottish mix of pragmatism and idealism. I’d have him as my lawyer any day.

The pistol thing was a little weird, but at that point he’s just trying to do anything to stall for time. It isn’t made clear, but I’m sure he sent Murtagh for Jamie, and knows Jamie is coming. And we know he can handle a pistol after the fight with the Grants.

I look forward to the future, when we get to the settlement over Laoghaire. I imagine the show will also have him taking a role in season two, since he’s such a popular character.

Second, Geillis. I wasn’t a fan of Lotte’s ethereal fairy approach in the beginning, but she’s settled down into the frank, unapologetic Geillis I recognize from the book. I can buy her as the coldly practical but sensual sociopath who has killed at least four husbands (by the time of Voyager) and has managed to ensnare Dougal MacKenzie (even if it’s their shared Jacobite goal and their child that did most of the work). I think the fey creature was a persona she was trying on, maybe only with Claire, and when that didn’t work to make them friends, she switched to the earthier herbwoman. But you can always see her intelligence and cunning, even in those early days. And, unlike Claire, she is smart enough to keep her mouth shut in the face of her accusers.

For the reveal that Geillis is a traveler, I appreciated all of the layering of detail in this episode that an astute viewer will notice as anachronistic. The quote that she recognizes has always struck me as a false note, since Claire probably wouldn’t be very familiar with American Revolutionary history. Uncle Lamb’s archeological interests were quite a bit further back in history than that, and I doubt she ever had any tutors that were going to quote Nathan Hale. Gillian Edgars would have a normal British education in the sixties, which probably spent about a week on the American Revolution, if that. So Geillis would not have recognized the quote, either. Someone online suggested she should have quoted Churchill, and I think that would have been an excellent choice. In any case, the recognition of a future quote, and calling it “The Rising” as though it were the only one- at this point in history, there had been several, but this is the one that “counts” and will be remembered – were red flags for me. Then, of course, her brilliant line about barbecue, which many people assumed was a mistake until they figured out that she was a traveler, too.

The little chat in the side room was absolutely necessary, plot-wise, but that’s one of the convolutions that doesn’t work for me. I can’t believe that these judges would allow Ned to take the ladies off for a recess, when the crowd was shouting for blood. But it provided the impetus for Geillis to sacrifice herself for Claire (a somewhat calculated sacrifice, as she was reasonably certain that they wouldn’t burn a pregnant woman), and for her to reveal the “devil’s mark” that finally (for Claire and non-book-readers) reveals that Geillis came through the Stones, too.

I wonder, since the show has already broken from Claire’s PoV, if we’ll get to see Geillis in Paris? Dougal definitely visits her when he’s there. That might be neat, although I suppose it would undercut Roger’s attempt to save Gillian Edgars, and definitely would ruin the surprise in season three/four when we meet Mrs. Abernathy.

The third change is with Father Bain and Laoghaire. I’m not sure how I feel about Laoghaire being so much more villainous in the show. In the book, we can sort-of whistle past Claire not telling Jamie about what Laoghaire did, because BookClaire argues that BookLaoghaire was young and may not have realized the full repercussions of her actions. That was always BS, but I can see how BookClaire would think it. Here, Laoghaire is in the court, telling Claire she will dance on her ashes. There’s no way Claire doesn’t tell Jamie about that. And, knowing that, he would NEVER IN A MILLION BAZILLION YEARS MARRY LAOGHAIRE. I don’t care how persuasive Jenny is or how starved for touch and affection Jamie is after his years in hiding, prison, and exile. Maybe he would marry Mary MacNab, but he would not EVER marry Laoghaire if he knew she tried to have Claire killed. Would. Not. Happen.

How they are going to make that work in the show, I have no idea. And there’s a whole lot of things that wouldn’t work out the same way if they decide to not have Jamie marry Laoghaire. Maybe she could force him to do it, a la Geneva Dunsany?

Father Bain is another weird change. I honestly think they did that to try and fake out book readers, which annoys me, because I don’t mind changes as long as they are story-driven. This doesn’t feel like anything but extra-textual. There’s no good reason for him to have a change of heart, or even a fake change of heart. All he has to do is say that he witnessed Claire usurping God’s power, and trying to take the credit for what was obviously a miracle of the Lord. This crowd is ready for some burning, and it doesn’t matter what evidence is presented. But he’s really just a blip in the story, so I’ll move past it.

The last thing that I want to talk about is Jamie and Claire’s relationship by the end of the episode.

I haven’t decided yet how I feel that Claire doesn’t admit her love for Jamie in the thief’s hole. I realize that they are waiting for Lallybroch, but this is the “dark moment” for Claire in the first arc of the story. It’s the point in the story where the main character cannot get out and cannot go back without admitting to things she never would have accepted about herself before. The moment is so powerful in the book, and her silence in the show is a little disconcerting. I wonder if non-book readers felt the same way?

Jamie was wonderful in the courtroom, and I adored the delivery of the “I’m no of that opinion myself” line. His struggle with her confession in the forest, and his eventual acceptance of her Truth, are masterful pieces of acting from Sam Heughan. And it was so poignant and beautiful that, although Jamie refused to have intercourse with Claire once he found out she was still married and he decided that he must let her go, he still wanted to give her pleasure, and to be connected to her.

But some of that passion and determination was undercut at the Stones because of the decision not to do a “falling through time” special effect. In the books, when Jamie pulls Claire back, it is because she is starting to move through time, and he is scared and reacts with raw emotion, not cool reason. We lose some of that punch and potency in this version. We also lose some of the time-traveling worldbuilding, but I suppose my fantasy-loving heart has to let that go. Although, her ability to feel both Jamie and Frank while she is in the space between times is part of what gives her the courage to travel back in 1746 while pregnant with Brianna, so that’s another reason to consider the implications of cutting it here. Blake, on the Outlander Cast podcast, suggested that Claire may have traveled during the cut to black after her contemplation at the stones. That might save it for me, if they decide to go that route. We can’t be sure that they’re going to make the passage through the stones quite as terrifying as it is in the books, anyway.

In any case, Sam acts the hell out of the scene, so that carried me through it. And most non-book-reader reactions have been positive, so I suppose I’m just disappointed that it wasn’t quite as good as the book.

One thing I did appreciate was the lack of voiceover while Claire is making her decision. Caitriona Balfe is an amazing actress, and we can see everything on her face. We don’t need her to explain it to us. Although I was a little underwhelmed at the “On your feet, soldier,” callback to Episode 101. They weren’t anything to each other, then. They are everything to each other now. Wasn’t there something else she could say?

Still, a very solid episode, and one I liked extremely. I need to watch it again and maybe I’ll revise my thoughts here when I do.