Episode 306 – A. Malcolm

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Huzzah for the return of Outlander! (I know it’s only been an extra week, but I’m still glad it’s back!) And huzzah for an extra-long episode!

It was weird to not have the theme song and title card before the show started, but I understand why. This is one of our first real cold opens ever in Outlander. And I see how they are trying to position Jamie’s business and hint at his relationship with Madam Jeanne and some of the Ardsmuir men, as well as his—what, indentured servant? I didn’t get the impression Geordie was anything but a coworker in the book. But it makes sense to have all of that before the scene where we left off in the last episode. It doesn’t give away everything about what he’s up to know, but it gives us a better grounding in his life since he left Helwater—the smuggling wasn’t stated outright, but it’s clear that he has nefarious business with the two men sleeping in his shop, and we know he’s printing seditious pamphlets. They were a little heavy-handed with Madam Jeanne, especially since there’s a much bigger fish swimming around back in the Highlands, but I’ll accept it.

Also, the title card is fantastic! Love that they put the writer credits onto the sheets.

Uh-oh. Jamie’s reaction and his “aye, we are” to the married line is such a giveaway if you know about Laoghaire. But his asking for permission to kiss her is so perfect and wonderfully Jamie. And yes, I cried. When this show gets it right, it is devastatingly right. “There’s the two of us now.”

Well, if Geordie can quit, then he’s not indentured. He must just have a tendency to overstate things.

The scene with the pictures of Brianna is tearing my heart out. I can’t imagine missing twenty years of my kids’ lives. And Jamie’s casual acceptance of Claire’s calling as a surgeon is also beautiful. She had to fight so hard for that in the 1950s and 60s and he just states it as absolute truth.

I’m happy that Jamie tells Claire about Willie right away, but his withholding information about Laoghaire is irksome. I suppose talking about a child is different than a wife—more forgivable, especially since he didn’t love or marry Geneva Dunsany—but

The reunion with Fergus is also nice—Cesar Domboy is so tall! And it sets a pattern for everyone in Jamie’s life automatically hiding his secret from Claire. Which, I suppose, makes sense, since she’s been gone for twenty years and their loyalties are very much with him. The mention of Ned Gowan makes me so happy! I can’t wait to see him again.

The introduction of Willoughby, while not quite as terrible as in the book, is still problematic. I hope they don’t push hard on the really awful bits, but I don’t have much confidence about that. The next episode should set the tone for his character better.

I’m not sure how I feel about the bribe and threats in the tavern. But this section of the book was entirely in Claire’s PoV and the show has broken that conceit for good, so we’re getting to see all sorts of things that she wasn’t privy to, and that does help with timing and pacing (and establishing conflict) for the show.

The rest of the reunion in the brothel is pretty much straight from the book, with some omissions for time. But UGH to the voice over. Was that really necessary? We get it, TV show. We can see what’s happening. A little montage of eating and music would have been plenty.

I wondered why they designed Claire’s dress to have the cravat and shirt, but the parallel undressing is nice because of it. WOW—they really managed to get Caitriona Balfe’s hair curly this season. It was never that curly in previous seasons, and I remember in interviews she said it refused to take a perm or curl. Honestly, this looks like a wig. Or at least like they used about a thousand hair products on it. I shouldn’t be distracted by that, but I am.

And now we have callbacks to “The Wedding” from season one. Except that Claire and Jamie so different now, and yet so much the same. The performances by Sam and Caitriona here are superb. And I’m glad they kept the awkwardness and the humor from the book, as well as the passion and the tenderness.

I’m really appreciating how well this episode is unfolding, allowing them the peace to rediscover each other. Jamie doesn’t talk as much about his love of his printing press and the power of words as he does in the book (one of my favorite lines from Voyager is about how the English took his weapons away, and speaking out via his writing gave them back). But although he’s giving her part of his truth, he’s still keeping much of it to himself.

I would have thought the scar from Culloden would have been much uglier, especially given what they had to do to keep it from killing him with blood poisoning. I know that type of scar is difficult to do with prosthetics, but they could have done better than that! It looks like a clean scalpel cut with the kind of stitches that dissolve from the inside.

The questions of twenty years apart are answered by Jamie’s “I never loved anyone but you.” And neither did Claire. But the niggling details of those twenty years still have the power to hurt them both.

I miss Ian barging in, though. (Old Ian, not Young Ian). Young Ian is not at all how I pictured him in the book, but they did find an actor who looks like Steven Cree, especially with the hair tied back. And the scene with the “hoors” is fantastic. I love how Claire just plays along, adding her wisdom and getting bedroom tips. Madame Jeanne is, again, heavy-handed, but I suppose they’re playing her as being in love with Jamie. Because who in the show isn’t?

UGH to rape threats. Aren’t we done with that? And cliffhangers, too. They couldn’t have used the setup from the book, where Claire encounters the man downstairs? I am so tired of sexual violence as the go-to for conflict, especially after an episode where they did such a great job of letting the story develop at a leisurely, intimate pace. I didn’t even have as much to say as usual, despite this being an extended episode, because it drew me in so well and the performances were so fantastic. So to have this ending is like a punch in the gut—and not in a good way. I like when things get shaken up before the next episode. But there were so many better ways to have ended this than with a cut to black over Claire being attacked.

My family is off to our local renaissance festival today, so I don’t have time for my usual screenshots, but I’ll try to come back and insert some later this week. What did you think of the print shop reunion? Did it live up to your expectations? Do you also hate the way it ended? Let me know in the comments!

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Episode 305 – Freedom and Whisky

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Here we are, with episode five of season three! There will be no new episode next week, which is actually good timing for me since I’ll be in a wedding and have a birthday party to go to. I was worried about how I would fit watching the episode a few times and writing this blog into my schedule, but now I don’t need to! (Note that IMDB has the break happening on the 22nd, but other sources have it as the 15th).

On with the episode–“Freedom and Whisky.”

Oh, wow. That handmade Christmas ornament from 1948 in the title card looks *exactly* like an ornament I made for my parents when I was in kindergarten. Except I mixed the red and green paint and the whole thing turned out brown. Not sure how this will be symbolic yet (especially since it’s from 1948), but I guess we’ll see as the episode progresses. (Note—it ends up being a touchpoint for Brianna in her grief after losing Frank).

I didn’t really need to see all of that blood in the surgery scene, but I’ll live, because it shows us Claire being an amazing surgeon, not only competent but extraordinary at her calling. I’m a little sad that this rules out her having been moved to head of surgery in the wake of the assisted-suicide event (Claire recounts that to Jamie later in the books), because I thought it was beautiful that Claire was willing to treat the patient and not the disease. But this works, too.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that they included the fictional prose and stories/legends/songs re-writing history bit in Brianna’s history class. I think most of the discussion of that was in Dragonfly in Amber when Claire was talking to Roger about the Jacobites and how Prince Charles wasn’t the amazing awesomeness that he appears to be in the songs. But it’s great that they managed to get something esoteric and literary like that into the TV show.

Briannas Ornament

Holidays are so hard after loss, especially the first one. Our culture focuses so much on family and togetherness at the holidays, and that’s wonderful when you have a family (whether a family by blood or the family you choose in your friends) around you. But when even one person is missing, gone forever, everything changes. I lost my grandfather last summer, and while it’s nowhere near the same as losing a parent, it still changed so much about our family holiday. There was something more missing than just my grandfather, something greater than the sum of our loss.

So I ache for Brianna, who has lost one father, and is grappling with the existence of another one that she thinks she will never know. This is probably the first time I am really sympathetic toward her in the show so far. I’ve liked her for Roger’s sake but haven’t really warmed to her as a character on her own. But this scene makes me feel for her.

Daft or Brilliant

Wow—Roger in Boston. I guess they’re pulling some ideas from Drums of Autumn. But I like the idea of Roger and Brianna both grieving their adopted fathers at Christmas.

Claire’s struggle with her fears about Jamie and worries about leaving Brianna is poignant but so different from the upswell of emotion and conviction to return from the season two finale. I do understand her not wanting to leave Brianna, especially with Bree being so unsettled about everything she’s learned, to the point of withdrawing from Harvard. But I hope this is where she decides to go to MIT and focus on engineering.

Geillis Skeleton

The Geillis skeleton! Spooky!

“Somebody” tried to cut the lady’s head off with a dull blade. “Somebody”—aka Claire! Except she hasn’t done it yet. But the inclusion of the skeleton tells me we will get to that part of the story in the Caribbean. I wondered what would be cut—they’ve got to cut something, or they’ll never fit everything into the few episodes they have left. But not that. I hope they cut the Fiend, though.

Brianna and Roger at Harvard is a beautiful scene, giving hints of the path she will choose to take with her life in the future. There’s more to like in this episode, and in this scene about Brianna, than we’ve seen so far. The show is doing a good job of opening her up and showing her vulnerabilities. Her character needs that, and I hope they continue to do it.

 

History is a Story

UGH TO THE SHADES OF FUCKING FRANK RANDALL. Why did we have to bring him back through Sandy? I’m fine with Brianna grieving and having complicated thoughts about who she is as a person and who her family is. Frank was her father, even if not by blood. And Claire grieving is fine, too, and her emotions are just as complicated for different reasons. But having this woman throw outright lies at Claire and for Claire to just accept them is terrible and unjust. Claire asked Frank for a divorce when Bree was little, and he wouldn’t give it to her. That’s not Claire’s fault. He chose to stay with Claire. That’s what Claire told Frank’s lover in the books, and I’m pissed as hell that she doesn’t say it here. Sure, Sandy is grieving, and I’m also sure that Frank routinely either lied about or obfuscated his motivations, so I don’t blame her for misunderstanding or for being jealous of Claire’s marriage, but she doesn’t get to make Claire feel guilty about something she could not control. Frank made his own choices, and it wasn’t Claire who refused to let him go. She gave him so many opportunities, and he never took them. UGH. But at least this scene only took a few minutes, and it led to Bree and Claire finally telling each other the truth about everything.

Frank Cheats

I like the inclusion of the Apollo 8 mission, and I’m actually OK with that brief voice over, because it’s a kind of ethereal scene, and having a voice from nowhere sort-of makes sense. And it will give Jamie and Claire a chance to have the conversation on the Artemis, talking about the future and going to the moon.

It’s weird to see Bree and Claire talking about what Claire will miss, since I know she’s not going to miss any of those things—Bree’s wedding or Bree’s kids being born. Yes, she’ll miss a little bit of the kids growing up when Brianna and Roger return to the 80s, but they come back, and will be on the Ridge again in Go Tell the Bees.

I hope we get to continue to see Brianna working through her complicated feelings about her parents next season, since I assume we won’t see her again this season. And positioning her as more like Claire than either Frank or Jamie works well, too, because Claire can be ruthless and seem cold while a lot of very hot emotions are roiling under the surface.

Joe Abernathy

I am so glad they cut out the fat-shaming remarks that Joe makes in the book. That has always bothered me, especially since Claire in the books is written as being short and curvy, and Jamie complains when she loses too much weight. This good-bye scene also works well enough, although it’s odd to me that she doesn’t tell him what she’s about to do. I just checked that scene in the book, and she doesn’t specifically say anything about time travel, but she does have him help her resign and take care of some legal things. He knows she’s going away and doesn’t plan to come back. I wonder why they didn’t have her say goodbye here? The scene was well-staged anyway, but I felt like she would have told him she was going.

It’s so funny that Roger gives Claire the book of Scottish history, since she’s not going to be staying in Scotland long. But that’s how it happened in the book, too. And interesting that they are claiming, in the show, that she had gemstones every time. In the books, her first two trips were just with gold (her wedding band to Frank) and silver (her wedding band to Jamie).

Claire Costumer

Wow—Claire sewing her dress is interesting. And how does she have a dress form? I have a degree in costuming and I don’t even have a dress form (although I want one). The corset pattern is familiar, though. The first corset I ever made was one of that shape. Although she would have needed about a million rain coats to make that skirt and coat, and she would never had had pieces of fabric big enough for those panels. Why didn’t she just buy fabric by the bolt? Lots of people still made their clothes in the 60s—many more than do so now—and if she has a dress form, she would have had access to fabric. But I shall attempt to suspend my disbelief.

Really, though, Claire, what did those poor scissors ever do to you? Didn’t anyone ever teach you to respect your tools? Would you toss your surgical instruments around like that? Not that I can blame you–those look like they would be awful for cutting fabric or thread.

I want to somehow jump into the show and hand her a pair of my Ginghers. She’d have to promise not to use them to cut paper, though. There is only one pair of scissors in that shot, which means she cut out the pattern and the fabric with it. *shudder* I know there are amazing costumers working on this show. Did they not get to have any say in what happened in this scene?? *tears of frustration*

OK, I’m done with my sewing rant. Please forgive me.

Brianna and Claire’s farewell is lovely. I wonder if Brianna will follow her, as she does in the book? Although it’s a little different to follow her from Inverness than from Boston. (Note—she doesn’t, but they also don’t show Claire actually going to the stones. In the post-episode chat, they talk about how going to the stones wouldn’t work, logistically, with their filming schedule. I kinda like that they skipped over it).

Bree Roger Christmas Carol

I’m really, really glad that this whole episode focused on Claire, Brianna, and Roger, rather than showing us what Jamie has been up to since Helwater. But I still think it would have been better to keep the structure from the book and not to try for linear chronology through the forties and fifties. For those that haven’t read the book, the way it was structured is that Claire, Bree, and Roger are searching for Jamie through history in 1968, just like they were doing last week in “Of Lost Things.” As they uncover new information, the book then breaks away to that point in Jamie’s life and we get his point of view for a while. Then it comes back to 1968 for the next revelation, and interspersed in the 1968 section are flashbacks to the forties, fifties, and early sixties in Claire’s life. I think it works really well in the book, because the plot continues to move forward no matter which time period we’re in.

In the show, it has all been fits and starts, with really rocky and jarring transitions between centuries. I guess I can see how this episode worked well on its own, but I would give that up to have a season that seemed to be arcing toward something from the beginning. Those first three episodes showed Claire stuck in one place, with no hope for the future. Jamie was the same—stuck in whatever circumstances he found himself in that week. That’s true of the Jamie segments in the book, too, but the Claire segments from the book keep giving us hope that a reunion is in the future. The show ruthlessly punctured the hopeful bubble of the season two finale, and refused to give back any of that hope, even last episode. This was the first time that I felt like we were actually building toward a reunion. And that’s great within the episode, but it would have been nice to have it back in episode one, too. The season is almost half-over now.

Another Sky

Ooh—the prologue from Voyager! (The bit about puddles). I’m OK with this as voice-over, too, and with it as a transition from twentieth century to eighteenth. Generally speaking, they’ve been much more judicious about the voice over this season, and that’s good. It was so over-used in the first season that I wanted it to be gone forever, but most of it here has worked well enough.

I kept expecting this episode to end every second of the last few minutes of the episode—especially as Claire opened the door of the print shop. But when it continued on after that, I guessed it would end as Jamie crumpled to the floor. And I was right about that!

Jamie Faints

And now, of course, we shall all have to wait two weeks to see what happens next, which is what I expected. Although it seems like it, it’s also not a cliff hanger—those happen when we’re in the middle of conflict and it’s left unresolved. This is absolutely a game changer. Claire has resolved (or well enough) everything that she’s leaving behind in Boston, and now she’s moving forward into a new phase of her story. So while it’s a dramatic moment to end on, and everyone is definitely going to be wondering about the next episode, it’s not really leaving us hanging. Rather, it’s leaving us imagining and hoping and curious.

But, as I said earlier, I’m going to be so busy next weekend I’ll barely notice the wait. Oh, and I saw on the preview that it’s going to be an extended episode, so that’s nice. Maybe they’ll manage to get a lot more plot into the episode that way, or just give themselves extra time to slow down and do the reunion justice.

What did you think of “Freedom and Whisky?” Are you glad, like I am, that they didn’t make up something to fill in Jamie’s part of the story on this episode? Or did you want to see what he was up to in the ten years between Helwater and Edinburgh? Do you hope that they allow Frank’s ghost to rest and never mention his name again? Let me know in the comments!

 

*All images are the property of Starz and used here for entertainment and critique. Quotes on the images are from the show, from Voyager the book, or my own invention.