Speculations – Time Travel

This is going to be a bit of a ramble and a wander through my ideas. I may go back and edit/revise my blogs at some point, as I tend to post them immediately with only cursory (spelling) revision. They could all stand to have some cutting and tightening.

Anyway.

Idea One: Time flows concurrently, no matter when you are. In (I think) episode two, my husband, who has not read the books, asked why Claire is in such a hurry to leave. “Can’t she just go back to the moment that she left?” He’s coming at this from a Back to the Future time travel perspective, where you program a date and time into the DeLorean’s dash, floor the gas pedal to 88, and bang: the flux capacitor delivers you to your time period destination. But that isn’t how things work in Outlander.

(EDIT- in a recent (April 2016) episode of The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair referred to concurrent timelines as “San Dimas Time.” In the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (which is getting another sequel!!), for every hour that they spend moving in time, an equal hour passes in San Dimas.)

We don’t truly understand Outlanderverse time travel yet, even in the books. All of the characters that can do it have theories about how it works, but we have few definitive answers. The “default” seems to be that you always go 202 years from the point when you left. That suggests that time continues to run concurrently, no matter when you are.

Even though they’ve figured out quite a bit about time travel by book eight, Claire knows nothing when she first touches the stones, not even that she could possibly steer with a gemstone. So no, Steve (that’s my husband), she can’t just go back to the moment she left. That’s proven by seeing Frank dealing with the loss of Claire in episode 108 (EDIT: And again in episode 201, when she comes back in 1948). The same amount of time has passed for both of them, and he’s spiraling into despair and desperation.

In the book, Father Anselm says something similar. It has been nearly a year since Beltane by the time Claire and Jamie are at the Abbey, and he says, “won’t your husband have moved on by now, tried to put his life back together, perhaps even found someone else?” So it is a generally understood time travel principle in the Outlanderverse that time runs concurrently.

Idea Two: Outlander is a stable time loop. One of the fun things about time travel stories is figuring out how the author makes it work. Now, I don’t mean the physics involved (although both the show and, in the books, Brianna, try to explain it in terms of places of pooled energy), but rather how time travel affects the world.

A couple of time travel tropes:

  • The stable time loop. This is where everything always happened the way it happens. The Pern books are an example of a stable time loop. Lessa makes the enormous jump back in time to bring the Weyrs forward because she knows the Weyrs have been deserted for years and, therefore, she must have always done it. For the most part, the Outlanderverse is a stable time loop. It is hinted at that, if Claire and Jamie hadn’t managed to undermine Charles’ attempts to raise funds, that he might have been successful during the Rising. So not only did they not stop it, but they may have contributed to its failure. Since the Rising has already happened for Claire, it can be said that she was meant to go back in time and take part in those events.
  • The multiverse. This is time travel where things can be changed. But, in order to avoid paradoxes, each time something is changed, a parallel universe is formed. Back to the Future is a multiverse. Changes to past and future cause a new timeline to be spawned (as explained in the second film). Sometimes that’s a good thing (Marty’s much more successful family) and sometimes it’s bad (Biff’s gambling-land).
  • The paradox. HG Wells’ The Time Machine deals with paradox. It isn’t a stable time loop because things can be superficially changed. The protagonist tries to change the past, but both can and can’t at the same time. If his wife lives, what was his reason for building the time machine in the first place? So every time he “saves” her, time “fixes” itself by making her die again.
  • The everything. Doctor Who is an “everything” time travel show, depending on what the writers need that week. We’ve had paradox episodes (the one where Rose saves her father’s life) and the show has famous “fixed points” in time that not even the Doctor can change. Sometimes these turn out to be stable time loops – like with the 10th Doctor in Pompeii. But there are also indications of a multiverse. For example: why don’t people remember, in the 11th’s time, all of the things that happened with 10? That has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

There are other time travel paradigms, but those are some of the main ones.

The only clue we have that time travel might not be a completely stable loop is the reference that Roger makes, in An Echo in the Bone (pg 225 in the hardcover edition), to the newspaper notice having changed. But that’s ret-conning, because in the end of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, we’re given the scene where the printer uses the wrong month because the slug for the correct month has gone missing.

Diana has ret-conned before. Originally the Montauk Five disappeared in New England; Bree remembers that a body was found in the mountains somewhere there. But when we meet Donner, he says they used the stones on Ocracoke. And, to muddy the waters even more, Robert Springer/Otter Tooth’s journal indicates that he came through at the circle near the rhododendron hell that Roger found. Some people point to this as evidence that travel between stones as well as between times is possible, but I don’t know about that.

In any case, I’m not sure what to make of the different death notice. But every other “can we change the past” question has been answered in the negative (or, if you accept that they are “changing” things just by being there, that those changes were always meant to have happened), so I’m still sticking with the stable time loop.

I think one of the reasons for the ret-conning is because at first, Diana didn’t dig into the whys and wherefores of time travel. It was just a mechanism that got her outspoken 20th-century heroine into her 18th-century Scottish story. But as the series has progressed, the story has required some changes to her original ideas, and some of the ideas have been clarified and codified. There’s a whole bit when Roger and Bree are back in 1980 where they write out a “Time Travelers Guide” a la Douglas Adams.

Idea Three: How Time Travel works, as of MOBY:

  • Using gemstones (possibly also blood and fire) helps you steer beyond the standard 202 years. This doesn’t quite negate San Dimas time, because it seems like it would be quite difficult to come back moments after you left.
  • Precious metals provide some protection (speculation that Claire’s gold wedding ring protected her on her first trip, and the gold and silver together on subsequent trips).
  • It’s easier to travel at the equinoxes and solstices, although possible (not recommended!) at other times.
  • There are some metaphysical speculations that connection to a particular person makes travel “easier.” When Jamie takes Claire to the stones the first time in Outlander, and she starts to enter the time passage, she can feel both him and Frank. Later in the books, although it isn’t “fun” for them, Jem and Mandy travel VERY easily because they have a deep psychic connection to each other and their family members. (More speculation about the nature of travelers below.)
  • You cannot travel to a point at which you already exist. Roger tried and almost died.
  • It is not advisable to travel forward, although we don’t know why. In “The Space Between,” Saint Germain wants desperately to do it because he is trying to extend his life. Raymond tells him it is a bad idea, and Joan’s voices tell her to tell him “don’t do it.” I was so mad at the end of the story that we switched back to Michael and Joan’s PoVs and didn’t find out what happened!! Diana, I am totally OK with waiting longer for a main series book if you will put out a “what happened next” story.
    • PS – Raymond has almost certainly traveled forward, given that he was originally from the prehistoric Orkney Islands. I think he’s come unstuck in time, and that’s why he tells Saint Germain not to try to go forward.

Side rant: some people have said that they couldn’t stick with the book series after Dragonfly because it started getting “too weird” or “too sci-fi” for them. I don’t think it is sci-fi enough. I love reading about the mechanics of time travel, and I am DYING to read the Raymond story that Diana mentioned (in the National Geographic article about the Orkneys) that she’s planning. But I’m a fantasy writer, and worldbuilding fascinates me. YMMV.

Idea Four: Wild Speculations.

  • The blue aura of Raymond’s family is a sort of “extra energy” that travelers have. It allows them to enter the passage, and depending on how strong it is, protects them in the space between time. This is why some people still die in there. The aura allows them to do what we might consider “magic.” Raymond tells Claire she has a blue aura in Dragonfly in Amber (it’s why he calls her Madonna), and she sees him through a haze of blue light when he heals her after her miscarriage. The blue light healing/connection is seen again with Dr. McEwan in MOBY and with Saint Germain in “The Space Between.” There is some indication that this aura is connected to an ability to manipulate physical reality. Claire is an excellent diagnostician because she can use that sixth sense to figure out what is wrong (physically and emotionally) with a patient. We know that it’s more than just reading people’s body language cues and palpating their abdomens because she does it to a skeleton (that turns out to be Geillis Duncan, who, by the by, is someone Claire has already/not yet killed with her own hand – talk about freaky time travel dynamics). Dr. McEwan has taken it a step farther- he can, in a limited way, manipulate people’s actual flesh (he says he knows what the body should feel like, and he attempts to make it more like how he knows it should be). He uses this to heal people, notably Buck and Roger.
    • From the Daily Lines snippets that Diana posts, Claire will be experimenting with using Dr. McEwan’s healing methods on Roger in Book Nine. I almost called it “Blue Magic,” but in the Final Fantasy game series, blue magic is when you can copy other creature’s attacks and skills. Not the same thing!
  • Mandy and Jem are very strong travelers, probably because both of their parents can do it. Even though Jem is haunted by his experience at the stones on Ocracoke, he has no problem going after Mandy when she dashes through at Craigh na Dun. And the two kids have a very strong psychic link with each other and their parents (and, to a lesser extent, other people). I think their auras are much larger than normal as a consequence of having two time-traveling parents.
  • At least one of Claire’s parents was a traveler. We’ve gotten stories about Roger’s family as travelers (from Gillian herself, to Buck, to Jerry MacKenzie), but nothing about Claire’s family. There are hints in the last couple of books that she may be related to the Beauchamp family that Percy Wainwright has married into. And it is not unreasonable to speculate that the child Percy seeks (who may or may not actually be Fergus) is the progenitor of Claire’s family line. I don’t think it’s Fergus, to be honest. But if there is such a child, and if said child reappeared and took up the family name, then escaped during the Terror to England and started using the English pronunciation of the name…it makes sense. Also, when Lord John goes to visit the Beauchamps, he notes that the brother is a terrible card player. Hello glass face? The corollary to this supposition is, if Saint Germain really did have a child with the lost sister, and that child is Claire’s great-great-whatever…Saint Germain might actually be her many times great-grandfather. MIND BLOWN.

I could ramble on about this forever, but I need to go and do my actual job that makes me actual money. Anyone else have some speculations about time travel in the Outlanderverse? What’s your favorite time travel story, other than Outlander? Do you love or hate a particular time travel paradigm? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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Episode 107 – The Wedding

I was going to wait and try to get blogs up for all of the existing episodes before doing this one, but I can’t wait. I want to talk about this now!

Let me start by saying that I loved the episode, and thought that the storytelling/flashback structure was inspired. I also think some of the small changes were brilliant. So when I start to harp on other changes (or, in most cases, omissions), know that I still adored the episode. But I actually enjoy picking these things apart, making conjectures on why the writers made certain choices, and trying to figure out how the show will get back to the main story/character points (or if it will at all).

So, let’s dive in.

The first gigantic change was moving Claire and Frank’s wedding from Scotland to London, and making it a legal, but not religious, union. Now, neither BookClaire nor BookFrank are particularly religious. But they are both nominally Catholic and they will eventually send Bree to a Catholic school, so I was a little surprised at the change this made to Frank’s character as I perceive him in the book. I see him as being very…traditional. He is a historian, after all, and things like ceremony are important to him. So even though I can see him as besotted with Claire and wanting to get married in a hurry, I also think he would have wanted a traditional church wedding. Which is what happened in the book, of course, and the church in the book is the SAME CHURCH where Claire marries Jamie.

Now I am wondering if TVClaire and TVFrank even went to Scotland on their first honeymoon. Later in the books, Roger gives Bree pictures of the wedding reception (held at the Manse- Reverend Wakefield’s house where Roger grew up) and it’s a meaningful moment for her to see them, so in love and happy, before war and time travel and Jamie Fraser. Did that happen in the show’s backstory?

But I’ve already said in my episode 101 analysis that Claire and Frank (book AND show) weren’t heading down the road to happiness. The road to acceptance and “a measure of contentment,” sure. But not…bliss. Not home. There’s a line from one of the books about not being born the right person for another. It is one of the more eloquent ways I’ve heard unrequited love expressed. I believe it is said either by or in reference to Lord John, but it resonates with Claire because of her experiences with Frank.

TVFrank, however, is more impetuous and romantic than BookFrank, and it is clear that we, as viewers, are given this moment in order to make Frank a more viable choice for Claire and so that his romantic spontaneity casts a shadow over the whole episode. Even though it is a pretty clear undercurrent in the first episode that their individual war experiences killed much of Claire and Frank’s initial romance, we are meant to feel torn, as Claire does, between this man she loved and chose to marry, and Jamie, whom she does not love and was forced to marry. But despite the lack of choice, she finds herself willing and wanting by the end of the night, and absolutely shattered at how she responded to Jamie when she finds Frank’s ring in the morning.

A few other reviewers have said that they didn’t see Frank’s spontaneity as romantic at all. They saw it as a kind of control- I want you as my wife, right now, even before you meet my family. As an exclusion – no, I don’t want a big church wedding with family and friends there. And, most importantly, as a subjugation – you’ll be Mrs. Frank Randall. That is in contrast to the way Jamie perceives things. He offers Claire his family, and clan, and himself. He makes sure she has a dress and a ring and a church. Now, the church part was partially just Jamie. We all know the lengths he will go to to ensure that proper sacraments are upheld (see: Marsali and Fergus, the grandchildren’s baptism, etc.) But most of it was him trying to make things more tolerable for Claire. And, most importantly, he calls her “Claire Fraser.” He has given her the protection of his name, but allows her to keep her own.

But I think both readings of the situation are correct. That’s right, I said both. At the same time. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and it’s one of the cool things about being human.

By the way- several people have commented in outrage that TVClaire took off Frank’s ring. I agree, BookClaire wouldn’t have done that (and didn’t). But TVClaire did, and the payoff was fantastic. I feel that the action was symbolic of something that BookClaire does when she goes to Jamie’s bed. She says “there really ought only be two people in a marriage bed,” and decides to stop thinking about Frank while she and Jamie are together. That was quite clear in the way Caitriona played the moment when she took off the ring- “If I’m going to do this, I won’t carry Frank with me into it.” I’m much happier to be shown that sentiment with a ring, rather than having TVClaire give another stilted VO about it. Also, it allows us to see the pain she feels when she realizes that she really did forget about Frank after a while, and was just existing and experiencing with Jamie. She’s going to carry the guilt of that for the rest of her life, FYI. Even after falling in love with Jamie, even after choosing him, and going back to him, she still feels guilty about Frank. We, as a television audience, needed to have a seminal, defining shot to capture the depth of her feelings in that moment. Claire staring at her two rings (I’ll get to the second ring change in a little bit) gives that to us.

There’s a hard cut from giddy Claire and Frank going into the registry office, to Jamie and Claire kissing at the end of their wedding ceremony, and then another hard cut to Claire, partially undressed, in the bridal chamber. This is the first hint at some very interesting structural choices that the writer/director/editor made. If you want a very astute, nuanced review of the structure of the episode, listen to The Scot and the Sassenach’s podcast for this episode. I don’t think I have anything to add that they didn’t already cover. Plus they’re smart, funny, and have a lot of other good insights into the show, so you should check them out.

To sum up, though: by moving the emotional reveal of the wedding ceremony to the end of the episode while keeping all of the storytelling contained within Jamie and Claire’s bridal chamber, you allow them to experience the day through each other’s eyes (or, really, Claire gets to see it through Jamie’s). That adds another layer of emotional discovery over the physical explorations and interaction. The revelation of Jamie’s conditions and the lengths he went to make Claire feel a little more comfortable in an untenable situation is what drives their second sexual encounter.

Speaking of the sexual encounters. I thought the changes to Jamie’s first time were inspired. In the book, it isn’t nearly so awkward, and while Claire doesn’t orgasm until the third time, she enjoys herself thoroughly and cuddles with Jamie after his first time. That’s OK in the book, but I thought the way they presented it in the show was more realistic. On the one hand, Jamie’s just gotten this advice that most women don’t like sex and he should try to get it over with quickly. And on the other, even though we didn’t get “Holy God,” we certainly saw him having a near-religious experience and not being able to control himself (he did, kindly, prop himself up on his elbows when Claire asked. But from experience, that tends to give a, um, deeper level of connection, which might have contributed to the brevity of the rest of the encounter).

Teh Awkward afterward is cute and very realistic. I loved how they lay, side-by-side, having just been about as intimately connected as it is possible to be, but worlds apart still. And Claire, bless her, tries to bridge that divide by asking him if it was like he thought it would be. I’m glad they kept the bit with “I didna ken you did it face to face.” I am also super happy that they kept the first time with their clothes still on, allowing them to peel away more and more layers (literal and figurative ones) as the night progresses.

For the literal peeling of layers, I loved the blocking in the scene where Jamie takes off Claire’s extensive undergarments, and the way he lost it and dragged Claire in for a kiss after she had her hands on him. I may have squee’d a little when he said, “I’m a virgin, not a monk. If I need guidance, I’ll ask.” Of course, he immediately needs guidance but doesn’t know enough to ask. The look on her face when he spun her around was priceless. It was like, “Um, what do you think you’re doing?” But, being the sexually competent and assertive woman that she is, she drags him around and down, pulling him in (literally and figuratively). It may have been a little awkward, but she obviously wanted him, and it isn’t until he asks her if she liked it, afterward, that we get the first brush with her crushing guilt.

I imagine that, thinking about the necessity of consummating the marriage, she assumed she’d just “lie still and think about getting back to the stones.” But she’s been a little (sometimes a lot) hot for Jamie for weeks now. And so far, it’s been a safe kind of attraction. Just that little frisson of awareness and desire, the kind that is exciting and sometimes leads to little fantasies and imaginings, but is never acted on.

It is never acted on because she’s married, and one of the defining characteristics of Claire is her loyalty (in a later book, Jamie tells her this is one of the things he loves most about her). So, to discover that she very much wanted this other man, that she actually enjoyed having his body inside of her rather than simply enduring it, is devastating to her. She immediately pulls away from Jamie, and resists touching him. This is another change from the books, but a very good one in my opinion. BookClaire makes the decision pretty much from the moment she enters the bridal chamber that she is going to try and build a wall in her mind between Frank and Jamie, and while she is with Jamie she will exist on one side of it (I’m making up this metaphor- it isn’t in the book). That is not to say that she doesn’t require a lot of liquid courage and conversational foreplay first (as she does in the show), but once she and Jamie take that final step and join their bodies together, she is with Jamie.

Another reason BookClaire is able to do that is because BookJamie flat out asks her about Frank. I think his intention is to sort of “lay Frank’s ghost” (since he thinks Frank is dead) and to acknowledge her grief and loyalty to her first husband. By getting that out in the open, Claire is able to separate the two and separate herself from a little of her guilt.

But they don’t have time, in a 50-ish minute episode, to layer in all of the details from a very lengthy passage in the book. Besides, having Claire feel so guilty about things adds more conflict. So, choices. It will be important for them to talk about Frank eventually, but I think it would be most efficient to talk about him after Cranesmuir, when Claire reveals the truth about the time travel and Jamie realizes Frank isn’t dead; he’s just not alive…yet.

Now we get to what I feel is the “worst” omission of the episode: they didn’t promise each other honesty. Diana Gabaldon (guardedly) reassured fans on her Facebook page that many things have been shifted around and may appear in other episodes, but if the show never includes the honesty conversation, I think the fans will be justified in their outrage. It is one of the single most iconic moments in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, and it echoes down even to the end of MOBY. I’m already a little upset that it didn’t happen in this episode, because from my perspective it is part of the foundation laid the night they are first together. All they have when they marry is respect, then they promise honesty, and after that they discover passion. Those are the three things upon which they build everything else. Respect, honesty, and passion. To have one of those three things missing is…wrong. In my opinion.

This production hasn’t made many missteps, though, so I am fairly confident that the honesty conversation will come in later. If I were making these decisions (and knew the promise had to be cut from The Wedding for time or pacing/structure reasons) I would move it to the fight at Leoch. Sam Heughan already “spoiled” in an interview that they will have at least something like what happened in the books at that point. He called it a “breakup” and it makes me wonder just how far/bad things will get between them in the show before they come back together in violent, consuming sex. I’m also wondering what they’ll fight about. Obviously Laoghaire will be part of it, but I’m hoping TVJamie still gets TVClaire the “right” ring…more on that in a bit.

I’d put the conversation there, probably right before the sex. In the book, they do calm down a little bit before, even though Jamie warns her that he can’t be gentle and demands her surrender (and gives her his) once they actually go to bed. It makes sense, after having this terrible fight that comes about because they’ve been making assumptions about each other, that Jamie would ask for (maybe demand?) honesty.

Another possible ramification: if they don’t promise each other honesty before the witch trial, does that complicate Claire’s confession? Not that Jamie doesn’t trust Claire, but it is an awful lot to accept if you haven’t sworn to always tell each other the truth. And even then, although he believes that she thinks she’s telling the truth, he doesn’t believe that it’s completely true until he sees it for himself. Maybe the scene would play the same way no matter what, but I think the confession is stronger with the weight of the vow of honesty (similar to Claire telling Father Anselm under the seal of confession).

Now…about the ring. On the one hand, it was necessary to have that visual I talked about earlier (Claire staring at her hands and her two rings). And it’s a very intentional change; using the barrel of a particular key (which everyone is assuming is the key to Lallybroch) is certainly not a random choice. On the other hand, Jamie’s silver ring is extremely iconic in the series. It is referenced many, many times, and plays a pivotal role in Dragonfly when BookClaire and Roger discover what is inscribed inside.

There are a couple of directions (I think) the show can go at this point.

One: they stick with the key ring and that’s that. I will be disappointed and a tiny bit upset if that is the case. Of course, it is possible that they are also going to cut everything with Hugh Munro, maybe even everything with Horrocks. Although we have to find out somehow who really killed the person Jamie’s accused of murdering, so if they do cut Hugh/Horrocks, I will be interested to see what direction they go, instead. And very disappointed to not have the line of Catullus from Hugh’s note.

A way to “save” this option would be to develop the key ring into something with larger significance, and make it a point of conflict sometime between Jamie and Claire. I’d just have to live without “Da Mi Basia Mille…”

Two: they keep the meeting with Hugh, and Jamie still goes off to buy her a permanent ring once they get to Leoch. It is true that iron is not the best material for a ring in the long term. The oil from her skin would do a little to protect it, but it’s still going to rust. I know that it is semi period-appropriate to have iron jewelry, but Jamie’s not a peasant. There’s a reason BookJamie asks for his portion of the MacKenzie rents to buy a silver ring- he wants his wife to have the best that he can provide.

I also wonder if Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire, misunderstanding about Jamie’s portion of the rents, and attempt to maintain some kind of emotional distance between them will be “enough conflict” for the show. But really, all of those issues are just preamble to what I feel is the heart of that fight scene: when Claire accepts Jamie’s ring. That is why the ring is important. And that is why I am a little worried about what will happen if the ring is cut.

It’s such a pivotal moment in the book. She doesn’t try to run anymore, after that, even though she still thinks about it. But Craigh na Dun and 1945 has become more and more unreal, and Jamie more and more real to her by that point.

Now TVClaire has already accepted TVJamie’s ring, in a way that held much less significance. Still, a temporary iron ring is easy to remove. A purposeful, beautiful silver ring (even if she isn’t aware of the phrase inscribed inside) is different. BookJamie rushes off to buy it, even while exhausted and dirty, and he offers it to her along with a choice: you can reject the ring, stay here in Leoch, keep the protection of my name, and live apart, or you can accept it and choose to be mine…and for me to be yours.

BookClaire takes the ring. It’s…important. And the wedding is too early for her to be making that choice. Maybe the production team figures that she makes the same choice on Craigh na Dun, and it would be redundant to show the same thing twice. But I’d argue that she makes quite a different choice there at the stones, between two loves that she has already accepted. The choice to take Jamie’s ring is the choice to acknowledge the feelings growing in her, the recognition that Jamie already holds part of her soul. She just isn’t sure she’s happy about it. When they make love, she feels both rings scrape against the stone wall like shackles and talks about divided love. She won’t admit out loud that she loves Jamie until the thieves’ hole in Crainesmuir, and won’t say it to him until Lallybroch, but this is where it began.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be talking about this a lot more around episode 9 or 10.

EDIT #1- I just saw a picture from next week’s episode (108-Both Sides Now) of someone who is pretty obviously meant to be Hugh Munro. So there may yet be hope for Claire’s silver ring!

EDIT #2 – Several astute viewers have noted that, in behind-the-scenes pics from the filming of episodes 15 & 16, Caitriona is still wearing the key ring. BUT, apparently Ron Moore said in the 107 podcast (which I haven’t listened to yet- I like to listen and watch the episode at the same time, like DVD commentary, and I haven’t had a chance to do that this week) that Jamie will manage to get it engraved.

And really, the engraving is the important part to me. Well, and the fact that it is the impetus for and resolution to their fight upon the return to Castle Leoch. So, if he takes the ring away to have it engraved and she somehow misconstrues why he wants it, that could work. And if he takes it away, it could have the same implications when he offers it back- if you take this, it means you are mine…and I am yours. Then, as long as it ends up having Catullus inside for her to discover in season two, it’s all good.

(/end edits)

I like that the sex scenes build and grow in this episode. We start with a frantic, virgin fumbling. Claire’s having a good time, but poor Jamie lasts about as long as you’d expect a guy to last his first time. Then she has major guilt over feeling pleasure at all, and it takes Jamie opening up, telling her stories, and proving that he has her best interests at heart before she gives in to the desire she’s feeling and they peel away (again, literally and figuratively) another layer and have sex. Claire orgasms, and we have the sweetly solicitous moment when Jamie realizes Claire’s cry isn’t pain, but pleasure. “I didn’t know women could do that!” So Claire reciprocates, while showing him a little pain can be good, too.

Then comes the rather odd interaction with Dougal. I’m not sure what to think about this. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t married in the show. If he were, Claire wouldn’t have even considered him as an option in 106 (when he tells her the now-famous line, “As much as the thought of grinding your corn tickles me…” – total side rant: In Breath of Snow and Ashes, in the infamous cherry bounce scene, when drunkRoger comes on to Bree, he starts singing the folk song this line is drawn from. Apparently wanting to grind women’s corn runs in the family). And I do think he wants Claire, and if he didn’t think marrying her would mess up his chances of becoming Laird, he’d have jumped at the chance. So you could just read this as Dougal perving out now that Claire has shown she’s willing to go to bed with Jamie. It’s the madonna/whore dichotomy in action. Now that Claire has proven she’s a sexual being, that must mean that she’s available to anyone with a dick, right? (In case my sarcasm isn’t obviously dripping here, the answer is NO).

But, I also think this was a kind of test. In the books, Jamie says that Dougal pushed for quick consummation in part to make sure Claire was really willing to go that far to stay away from BJR. It was a final test of whether or not she was an English spy. So I think this is Dougal testing Claire’s loyalties again. He’d have been more than willing to take her up on it if she’d said yes, but I don’t think he expected her to. That comes out when Rupert references Jamie riding her; Dougal knows that she doesn’t want him, and it pisses him off that this is another place (like with the clan leadership) where someone is giving or thinking about giving Jamie what Dougal wants.

Jamie and Claire’s final sex scene in the show isn’t just sex. It’s making love. Jamie tells Claire that she is precious to him, and she can’t deny that he’s become important to her, too. He has been her friend, protector, confidante, and co-conspirator. Now he is her lover, and she plain wants him.

Although, the one jarring note in this otherwise beautiful scene is the pearl necklace. I am a little peeved that they do not look like scotch pearls. Freshwater pearls of the kind harvested from pearl mussels in Scotland are not perfect globes; they are irregularly-shaped and often not a true white. Also, Ellen’s pearls are meticulously described in the books; the ones TVJamie put around TVClaire’s neck looked more like costume flapper pearls than the distinctive necklace with pierced gold roundels and more pearls dangling from the gold links.

I know it seems like such a trivial thing, but there are several pivotal scenes where the distinctive nature of the pearls plays a part. The first is within Outlander and makes me wonder if they’ve somehow cut MacRannoch from the show. Why keep the pearls at all if not to help Claire gain the assistance of the man who gave them to Ellen MacKenzie? The second time is in Drums of Autumn, when Brianna slaps the pearls down in front of Laoghaire and the Murrays and stakes her claim as Jamie’s true daughter. Neither of those scenes works with a generic string of pearls.

Just saying.

EDIT #3: After listening to Ron Moore’s podcast, I’ve learned that Terry Dresbach wanted to make something more like what was in the book- she wanted a choker, with the dangling pearls. It was Ron and unspecified others who wanted the long rope-strand. And they wanted it for two reasons: one, so that Jamie could drape it over her head. That seems a silly reason, since it wouldn’t have been too hard to have him put it on her and then just cut away from him doing up the clasp (since that can be awkward). But the reason I can’t forgive is this one: they wanted the necklace to rest between Claire’s breasts. That is a Male Gaze reason, and it’s the first time we’ve really encountered that in this show. I’m…not happy about that. I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy. (/end edit)

Moving on, I adored the morning-after bit, and the easy intimacy implied. I especially liked Jamie going after food- Jamie’s voracious appetite is one of my favorites of his physical quirks. I am hoping we’ll get a flashback to the knife above the bed and his line, “there’s the two of us now,” at some point, though.

But really, what sold me on this episode is the image I talked about at the beginning of this blog: Claire staring at her two rings and obviously thinking, “what in God’s name have I done?”

It is a perfect place to end the episode, and leaves us with the knowledge that Claire is still feeling guilty and is going to try to get back to Frank the next chance she has. So much stronger than a VO telling us “I must get to the stones or die trying.”

What were your thoughts on the wedding? Do you disagree with me? Where do you think the changes and omissions might lead? Let me know in the comments!

Episode 105 – Rent

Before I move on to Outlander, I must get this out of my system:

We’re not gonna pay, we’re not gonna pay, last year’s rent! This year’s rent! Rent, rent, rent, rent! We’re not gonna pay rent! ‘Cause everything is RENT!

(Side note- if you haven’t seen the full recording of that 2008 performance and you’re a RENT fan, you should check it out. It is pretty amazing.)

OK, I feel a little better. I was a tiny bit distracted by thoughts of Claire as Maureen, and I started imagining Frank as Mark and Jamie as Joanne. Then things just got really weird.

Back to Outlander.

One thing you will note if you’ve managed to make it through all of my posts to date is that I am not following the same format every time. I’m playing with that, and will probably continue to do so, depending on my reaction to the episode and the kinds of things I want to talk about. With 103, I wanted to look at the structure, so a plot outline made sense. With 104, I was interested mostly in pointing out likes and dislikes, so I did it as a list. Using the recap/review model is the easiest, since the chronology of the show is already extant and I don’t have to think about it. So I imagine I’ll do that most often. This one is in rough chronological order, and is mostly my gut reactions to each scene or bit of dialogue.

Another thing you might notice is that I’m pre-dating these blogs so that they will appear in order on my home page. If I hadn’t rushed to do the 107 blog, it wouldn’t be an issue, but I did, so now it’s going to look like I was writing these a week ago. I promise I’m not trying to lie; I just want to impose order on my little world.

For real this time, here’s the review:

The first thing we have is Claire, looking out over a gorgeous loch. They’ve already said that they aren’t going to do the water horse, so this is about as close as we’re going to get. The introduction to Ned via Donne is inspired, though. The show deliberately contrasts Renaissance Poetry with the bawdy, brawling Scots, but to the detriment of neither. There’s an honesty and a good-naturedness to the teasing highlanders that is just as worthwhile as any poetry. That’s an impressive feat.

Claire has to heal someone in every episode, doesn’t she? This time it’s Ned Gowan (although she’ll later clean up scrapes and bruises after the bar fight). Can anyone remember if it’s jimson weed that Claire uses on Hal in MOBY? I don’t think it would be- jimson weed is smoked here, and whatever she gave Hal was an infusion. I could, of course, just walk upstairs and check my copy of the book, but I’m happily ensconced on my sofa with my laptop at the moment and that seems like a little too much effort.

What happens next is a little strange. I’m fine with Angus teasing Claire, and she’s right- after he gives her the hare, he switches into Gaelic to exclude her. But they’re setting up a ragey Angus in this episode that we haven’t seen before. I’m not saying he hasn’t gotten angry before. He has, but never at this level. And he was awfully calm with Claire when she was being semi-unreasonable last episode. So the way he acts in the village after the wool-waulking and then when he pulls the dagger on her, is out of character for him. He hasn’t done anything like that before or since, and that makes it feel like they’re only doing it in this episode in order to resolve the tension at the end. I don’t like it when characters are bent to suit the plot. Plot should always be driven by the characters.

I did love watching Jamie in these scenes, though. He is clearly trying to walk a line between protecting Claire and being her friend, and being one of the “bros.” Later in the wedding episode, Dougal tells him he shouldn’t appear too eager to get back to Claire, and that’s the feeling I get here. After they’re married, it’s different- he doesn’t care that everyone knows he wants her and would rather be with her than them. But at this point, I imagine he’s trying to avoid being teased about her.

Ned’s expression after having to accept the live pig is priceless.

I loved the wool-waulking, and the camaraderie with the women afterward. But then we get back to rage-Angus. I’m trying to justify it as him transferring his anger at being berated by Dougal to her, but it still doesn’t really square.

I wish they hadn’t cut the bits about Lt. Foster re-shoeing his horse. Everyone (myself included) assumed that he was somehow “under cover” in this village, which is ludicrous since he has his uniform on in the scene (if minus the distinctive red coat).

The best part of the scene for me, though, was Jamie picking up his sword and stepping toward Claire. He is in very real danger here- if Foster knew Jamie was wanted for killing an English officer, he’d have been taken away and not even Dougal could have stopped it. But to protect Claire, Jamie is willing to risk absolutely everything.

Now we come into another of my slight problems with this episode. In order to draw out the tension and create more of a narrative arc, they had to make Claire misunderstand what is happening with Dougal collecting money and revealing Jamie’s scars. In the book, she picks up on the name of Stuart right away. Now, I don’t think that name was used during the first session of rabble-rousing in the show (although I’m pretty sure Dougal mentions Prince Charles) And I can see how she’s distracted by what Jamie is going through- clearly he is her focus, not what Dougal is saying. The aftermath is similar to the book: Dougal tells her to mend Jamie’s shirt, she refuses, then reluctantly agrees, and Jamie snatches it away and says he’ll do it himself.

But in her conversation with Ned the next day, she immediately jumps to the conclusion of extortion. She knows that it’s 1743. And, as we see in a later flashback, she is very much aware of the Jacobites. As she should be, since that is Frank’s area of expertise.

You may say- that’s Frank, not Claire. Just because her husband knows everything about that subject doesn’t mean she does. My husband is an electrician. Now, I can’t claim that I could go do everything he does. But after hearing him talk about his job, I have a good working knowledge of electricity and I can do a lot of basic wiring. And we know that Frank loves to talk about history- remember when she told Mrs. Baird “he’ll hold court for hours” in episode 101? That was experience talking.

So, what I’m saying is that Claire should have at least suspected that anti-English sentiment might be driven by Jacobite leanings and not just Dougal lining his pockets. It also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how the laird/tenant relationship works. It is Dougal’s responsibility as war chief of the clan to protect these people. That’s actually part of what they’re paying for with their rents. So I think it is a much farther leap to say that Dougal is turning his back on his responsibilities and taking advantage of his people than to think that he might be a Jacobite.

So yeah, I get that the narrative requires this change. But again- characters shouldn’t have to bend to suit the plot. We needed to see something a little more overt that would make Claire think quite so negatively about Dougal.

It is possible to distract me with Scottish landscape porn, though. And shirtless Jamie. Is it weird that it’s totally hot to see him sitting there, all pissed off and just this side of beating the shit out of his uncle?

The bit with the Watch was informative. I loved that Jamie ran off right away and Murtagh gives us the biggest foreshadowing ever for what will happen at Lallybroch.

Although Claire’s reaction is a little harsh. Dougal is as pissed at the informants as the Watch is, and still feels he’s owed his rent. If she wasn’t already thinking of Dougal as a thief, I don’t think her reaction would have been quite this over-the-top. So it comes back to my first problem. Claire makes an unsupported assumption, which leads to more assumptions, which leads to accusations, which leads to more rage-Angus.

And then Jamie has to talk Angus down, and still walk that line between “I will protect Claire at all costs” and “just ignore the lass, amirite brah?”

Jamie’s reaction to Claire when he follows her up to the outcropping is perfect. A combination of frustration, amusement, and pride. And, I hate to tell you Jamie, but you’re going to have to get used to feeling this way in relation to Claire. She can’t help her twentieth-century self, and it’s going to get both of you into trouble on a somewhat regular basis for at least the next thirty-seven years.

And then she finally clues in that Dougal is a Jacobite. Good job catching up, Claire. We get a flashback to something that she really ought to have remembered earlier. Especially since she proves in the flashback that she already knew everything that Frank and the Reverend are saying about the Rising.

Oh- side comment. Frank mentions Claire growing up in the desert. In 104, Claire tells us she and Uncle Lamb spent time in Ireland. I don’t remember anything about Ireland from the book (and it doesn’t make sense with Uncle Lamb’s Persian and Egyptian specialties), so I’m wondering if the show threw that in there to explain any random Irish lilts from Caitriona.

Then we come to one of my favorite scenes from the book. They kept Dougal and Jamie’s dialogue almost perfectly intact, which is always a bit of a thrill. And I don’t mind most of the other changes, although I did miss Jamie showing off with his sword. But they decided not to make Jamie left-handed, so explanations about learning how to fight left-handed from Dougal aren’t necessary.

Here’s what I love most about this scene: Jamie explaining that he has to choose what’s worth fighting for, and the implication that family is of enormous importance to him. Dougal is his uncle, and (at least in the books) his foster father.

OMG. I just realized that, if Dougal isn’t married, he probably doesn’t have daughters, and probably wouldn’t be Jamie’s foster father, either. And a further implication: if Dougal doesn’t have daughters, who was Jamie’s first kiss??? These are important issues! What are he and Claire going to talk about on their way to the mill at Lallybroch? I am dying to hear Sam say “Jezebel!” when Jamie finds out Claire had her first kiss at age seven with an older boy. Maybe we’ll get another entertaining story, but I’ve always loved the part where Jamie wakes up with morning wood (I’ve noticed that happens, Claire says. You’ve brought it to my attention often enough) and Dougal’s hand on his balls. After being subtly threatened by his uncle, he goes back to sleep and dreams of pigs. Awesome.

Now, it’s not like that’s an essential plot point. So they can easily cut it with no harm done. But it is a funny Jamie story and does help establish Dougal’s character a little more. So I hope we get something similar in its place.

Back to the episode. So Jamie and Claire share some more smoldering glances (my daughter and I just watched Tangled so any reference to smoldering brings Flynn Rider immediately to mind: “You broke my smolder!”) and then go to bed. In the morning, they encounter the murdered clansmen marked with T for traitor.

This is a fantastic addition to the story. It gives the actors something powerful to work with, and it pays off with Graham McTavish’s stellar performance in that evening’s political speech at the inn. He has been raising money because he believes in the restoration of the rightful (Catholic) monarch, but now he has a touchstone much stronger than Jamie’s back. There is absolutely no need for a Gaelic translation- everything Dougal is thinking shows on Graham’s face.

I really wanted the scene with Jamie sleeping outside Claire’s door to be great, and I was left feeling a little cold. It gets better the more I watch it, but I miss some of the joviality and Jamie’s joke about people thinking he’s just “waiting his turn.” The little touch when she hands him the blanket is electric, and he is so sweet when he says “I’ll be right here,” but then the camera lingers on her closing the door and we lose a little bit of the intimacy.

Also, what’s with Jamie running off so fast in the morning? He’s already up and on his way out when she walks in, but it still feels abrupt, like maybe they cut some dialogue out.

Claire once again can’t help pushing her twentieth-century nose into things as she attempts to persuade Ned of their folly, but this time I’m OK with it. She’s very worried about these men and what might happen to them.

The brawl is fantastic. Very raw and wild, not cleanly choreographed like most bar-room fights. And her catalogue of their injuries is a shout-out to her doing the same in the books after Jamie fights three lads who insulted him.

I miss that scene a little. It isn’t of utmost importance, but it does show us more about Jamie’s character, and his breaking points.

Claire’s joke is fun, and Rupert’s reaction is priceless. So is Jamie’s- I love the way his head popped out from behind the horse. It was both in amusement and wariness, as everyone held their breaths and waited for Rupert to react.

And then we’re dropped into death and the wanton destruction of the Highland way of life, starting at Culloden.

We still know so little about what happened to Jamie there. I’m listening to the audiobook of Breath of Snow and Ashes right now, and I just heard the part where Jamie tells his friend’s story to the Cherokee. And when they ask about what he did, he remembers for the first time that he killed fourteen men that day. But he still doesn’t know who killed Jack Randall.

Angus helping Claire with her bedroll is supposed to be a satisfying reversal and acceptance, but it falls flat for me because his ragey-ness is so out of character in the first place. But everyone’s happy surprise when Dougal tells Claire she can go off alone is nice. The men have, mostly, accepted her at this point.

Dougal is the exception to that, since he now knows that she’s aware he’s a Jacobite.

Then, of course, we have the return of Lt. Foster and the cliffhanger.

I’m glad they finally ended an episode on a real moment of tension, even if everyone knows how Claire is going to respond. She isn’t petty enough to give Dougal up to the English, even though she absolutely will take their help if it gets her back to the stones.

Still, we had to wait a week to see how things would resolve. I hope they don’t leave us on a cliff hanger for the mid-season finale!