Episode 213 – Dragonfly in Amber

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Here we are at the finale. I am both super excited and very sad that we’ll have to wait at least a year for more Outlander! But I still plan to blog during the hiatus. I think what I’m going to do is a re-read. I’ll start with Outlander and work my way through Voyager, since that will be season three’s main inspiration. I’ll have to figure out exactly how I want to spread that out to fill up 50ish weeks, and I’ll probably do other blogs when the Blu-Rays release and talk about deleted scenes.

Before I get started…I HATE that they chose to intercut the time periods. Every single time, it punctured the tension, no matter which direction they were moving. The ones toward the end of the story weren’t quite as bad, because both stories had picked up momentum, but probably all the way until the last ten minutes it was annoying to jump around.

OK, now into the finale!

In general, I’m a big fan of the changes they made to streamline the 1968 story. They gave action to different people than had it in the book, but it worked organically and in a much cleaner fashion than the clunky chapters at the end of the book. The Gillian stuff relied heavily on coincidence, but I’m willing to overlook that because it made everything move faster and gave Brianna a face-to-face relationship with the woman who would become Geillis Duncan.

The “title card” on “The Avengers” was…weird? I mean, I guess it places us well in the 60s, but it took me a while to figure out where we were and what was going on. Why are all of these kids here? And yes, I know who Roger is, and I could make an educated guess that this must be the Reverend’s funeral because of metatextual knowledge, but it takes forever for the show to tell us his name. Anyone who doesn’t know is going to be super confused. A good title card places us in space and time and sets up the theme for the episode. I’m not sure what “The Avengers” tells us about the story of “Dragonfly in Amber” and it doesn’t even set up time and place because we could be in 2016, streaming it online from anywhere in the world. So, title card fail.

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Wee Roger, all grown up, and mourning his father.

But getting into the story, I am liking Richard Rankin. It is clear from his acting that he is just standing there, numb and devastated by the Reverend’s loss. And there’s Fiona, comforting him. I like this introduction better than the slightly more exasperated one of Roger already having dealt with the first blows of loss and now working through the aftermath of the Reverend’s “stuff.”

When Claire and Bree arrive, it’s a welcome distraction for him. Although I have to admit that it took me a while to recognize Claire. I was paying attention to the toast and trying to figure out the Scots, and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, that’s Claire. Weird makeup.”

When I watched it the second time, I noticed Fiona in the background as Roger searches for Bree – she’s plumping pillows and keeping a close eye on Roger.

The introductions are a little awkward, as Bree and Roger pretend they aren’t looking at each other, and Claire tries not to remember everything. Fiona is hilarious, giving Bree the stink-eye.

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I’ve got my eye on you, Yank.

I wish they hadn’t done the voice over as Claire looks over the mantelpiece. The music was more than enough.

I’m glad they moved Claire and Bree into the manse rather than a hotel. It makes things more immediate and draws them closer to Roger. And of course Claire notices Bree noticing Roger.

The change for how Claire finds out about Roger’s true name works well. And when he asks “how she did it” the first thing I thought was – how did she travel through time? But her answer is poignant and as raw for 20 years of grief as Roger’s is for only a few days.

And then we have the first break in time. I would have been OK with a brief “flash” back to Jamie, but the actual flashback, especially since Claire wasn’t there to witness the scene, feels jarring and odd. Then we’re all built up with doom and peril, and then we flash right back to Bree and Roger taking a happy drive with smooth tunes.

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Warning – super cuteness ahead.

Bree and Roger poking each other over history is cute, but I’m not sure what it’s going to be setting up (other than referencing events that her parents will later witness and people her parents will later meet – like Benedict Arnold). Sure, having Bree react to the flogging post at Fort William makes sense, but otherwise I’m not sure what this is doing.

Claire’s visit to Lallybroch is much more poignant. After she promised to close off this portion of her past, everything is now flooding back. Except two hundred years have passed, and the house is a ruin. The Catullus reference is lovely and heartbreaking. I wish they’d found a way to put the quote inside the ring. This visit then instigates her visit to the records office.

But first we have to cut to the attic in Culloden, stopping the action in the 60s and shoving us into like a minute of high tension, then puncturing it again with a beautiful picnic by the loch. There are important things being discussed here, but it feels so much less important compared to planning to kill Prince Charles.

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Oh, Bree. You know that came out exactly right.  And who can blame you? I want him to see my BEDroom, too.

It is cute when Bree says Roger should see her bedroom and he takes it the way any red-blooded young man would; and then is flustered and rubs his head. Which, by the way, is a Dougal MacKenzie gesture.

I am not sure why they didn’t mention who owns Lallybroch now when Claire goes to the records office. Wouldn’t that be the point of her going to find out?

The relationship between Bree and Claire is at first teasing and fun, but then it switches to strife. Kids always see these things, and can sense the distance between their parents. Brianna knows something is wrong, but not what.

And then we jump again, and lose the thread of that scene to try and pick back up in the attic of Culloden House. This time, we see that Dougal is listening, but we don’t allow the action to proceed. Instead, there’s another jump so that Bree (and Roger) can meet Gillian Edgars. Will she remember Roger, now? It made sense that she wouldn’t know him after a brief encounter in the dark at Craigh na Dun, but she saw him and shook his hand. But when Roger and Buck go back, will she recognize the man she met (twice!!) in Scotland in 1968? Obviously she doesn’t know him as her seven-times great-grandson (or Buck as her son!) but will she remember his face? Or his name? Although perhaps Gillian/Geillis doesn’t really look at men except for how she can use them. And she would have sensed a kinship with Bree–the time traveler kinship–and perhaps focused on her instead.

Then we have Claire making disparaging remarks about Charlie at Culloden, and seeing the dragonfly in amber that was found on the battlefield.

But again we move in time. It would have made a little more sense to move here from Gillian, because the woman who led Dougal by the cock was Geillis. The dragonfly doesn’t make much sense as a jumping-off point, because she doesn’t give that to Jamie until much later.

The fight is fine, but I very much dislike how it ended. I don’t like the deliberateness, or Claire’s pushing the knife in. Dougal’s death was much cleaner in the book, much more a result of his attack on Jamie. Here, they had him down, and although he’s still struggling, I feel like they didn’t have to kill him. I’m sure the show wasn’t intending that viewers have that response, but it’s what I felt. In the book, it wasn’t quite an accident, but it happened during the heat of the battle. Here, because of the way it was shot and that Claire had time to jump in and help, it makes me question why they couldn’t have taken different action.

Then we jump again, back to a more light-hearted scene with Bree and Roger. Richard Rankin is SO CUTE when he sings the rat satire. And Sophie Skelton  play’s Brianna’s joint amusement and attraction well. I’m a little sad that we don’t go to St. Kilda and have their kiss, but I assume that will come at the beginning of season three.

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Roger Mac, you may sing to me any time you like.

The rest of this scene follows the books, having them find the box and pictures.

Then we jump again. They do have Rupert be the one to see Dougal dead at Jamie’s hands. But what I don’t understand is why they had the scene play out the same way it did in the book. I would have much, much rather liked to have Rupert act differently, maybe witnessing more of the conflict and understanding what they were trying to do. It doesn’t feel right for Rupert to just let Jamie go, although I think from the way he looked at Claire, she was the reason he let it happen. It would have been better, I think, if Jamie had appealed on that basis – let me get Claire away, she’s innocent. I wonder why they didn’t do that?

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Purple heather, with a little bit of white.

Claire at Culloden is a final catharsis for her. She says goodbye, after never being able to do it before. She has finally tried to put Jamie behind her, to make her peace with his death. I appreciate what they are doing, but it drains everything out of their leavetaking at Craigh na Dun. We know that she is going to finally come to terms with his death. It’s still devastating, still painful, but she has lived and is living now, for their daughter. I dunno. It’s beautiful and everything, but I wish they hadn’t done this. In the book, when she sees Jamie’s grave, she’s gutted. And then angry.

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Research always brings people close together.

Back in the Reverend’s study, Brianna and Roger find the articles from when Claire disappeared and returned. Instead of Roger putting together the pieces later on his own and deciding not to tell Bree right away, they figure everything out together. This pushes the action forward and makes the confrontation happen faster. The pain and anger between Claire and Brianna is palpable and raw. I like that Bree asks Roger to stay and that they sit beside each other. In that moment, Bree feels closer to him than to her mother, and it’s good framing to have the character who is most emotionally vulnerable face the others.

Roger is fidgety and uncomfortable, but when Brianna would go, he stops her, reminding her that she wanted the truth. We see him rub his thumb over the back of her hand in a comforting gesture, and she settles back down.

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I volunteer my hand as tribute.

We get a very brief flashback instead of the full story that comes in the book at this place. Again, everything is all out of order. We’ve already seen this in the future, so we know that Fergus will make it back to Lallybroch. In a way, that’s good, so we don’t worry about him.

But it’s an awfully brief cut to supposedly encompass the whole story that Claire has just told when we flash back to the 60s. They keep Brianna’s reaction pretty much the same, including her storming out and saying hurtful things. They do bring back the Deed of Sacine as proof, so when the show flashes back, there’s some connection. It is nice that they acknowledge Fergus as Claire and Jamie’s adopted son.

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I eagerly await casting news for adult Fergus, but there’s no way they will find anyone who can beat this kid for cuteness.

Brianna and Roger work nicely together, even when they’re at odds. I like that he’s there for Bree, willing to say difficult things to her, and doesn’t just try to say what she wants to hear because he likes her and wants to stay close to her. Roger is a stand-up man. And, to be honest, I’m way more enamored with him than Jamie.

I could, once again, live without the voice over when Claire recognizes Gillian/Geillis on the pamphlet, but I’m glad that Claire goes to visit Greg and that we don’t have the weird visits to the Institute. This scene works well to get Gillian’s notebooks into Claire’s hands and is much faster.

Gillian running into Bree at the pub is a bit more coincidence, but it makes a little sense that the Roses would come and celebrate after their rally. The next voice over is actually necessary to give us the information about Geillis, since there’s no good way to have Claire deliver that information via dialogue.

Back to Culloden, where Jamie gives Murtagh his orders. But Murtagh, as always, will go his own way. The show doesn’t deal directly with Culloden (and so avoids the issue of BJR’s death for this season), but it does frame Murtagh’s death with significance – he will fall beside Jamie, beside his laird and godson, where he belongs.

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, grinning in the face of death.

With a little liquid courage, Bree comes back to talk to Claire. Claire tells her that she fought against what she felt for him, but it was the most powerful thing she’d ever felt in her life. Roger is still looking at the research – deciding whether or not to tell Claire.

Bree liked Gillian. There is a definite connection between travelers, an instant thing that makes them want to like each other, even though the others may be a little crazy. This helps explain why Claire was willing to overlook eccentricity and creepiness with Geillis (even murder…although only when she thought she was coming to act as a healer) and some of the same things with Master Raymond. Not so much on Le Compte, though. And he’s even of Raymond’s “family” so that doesn’t mesh quite as well with the theory. Or maybe the particular circumstances of their meeting overshadowed what could have been a different time-traveler connection.

Roger’s explanation to Bree makes sense, and yet, I feel like he’s already started to believe Claire. He’s a historian, and he’s seen the Deed of Sacine and the research done by his father.

I would have liked a reference to the baby earlier than here, even though this is how it happened in the book. I’m not sure how they would have done it, but some kind of acknowledgment of the pregnancy in the last episode would have worked. Then we don’t have to mess around with dates and times and courses here, and can just move forward with the knowledge that Jamie will never let Claire die with him while she’s carrying their child.

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Of course I kept track. I color-code the daybook in my sporran. Green=we had sex. Yellow=you were kidnapped. Red=you had your courses. (There are no blank days in Jamie’s daybook.)

Back in 1968, it looks like Gillian is wearing that odd grey outfit of felted wool from (I think) the first time we met her in the gardens at Leoch. I like that connection, but hate that they had Roger say “fucking barbecue.” What a terrible callback, and for such a terrible reason.

I also feel like the fact that Bree and Roger can both hear the stones would have been much more significant if we’d already seen Jamie and Claire at Craigh na Dun and had Jamie tell her he couldn’t hear it and touch the stone and have nothing happen. I don’t mind that we don’t have the quite as dramatic scene as the book, where Roger has to pull Bree back from going through with Gillian, but without having the Jamie scene first, we lose almost all sense that Bree and Roger can travel, too.

In general, I feel like we focused on the wrong things at Craigh na Dun with Jamie and Claire. That last frantic coupling made sense after a night of softer passion, but feels super awkward here. And I super miss them carving their initials in each other’s palms. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but that’s one of the things I like most – that they literally carve themselves into each other to remember forever.

EDIT: Diana Gabaldon shone some light on the not-carving thing on her Facebook page. She mentions logistics (like how the blood knife for the blood-bonding ceremony was awful) as one of the possible reasons why they wrote this out of the series. And it would be an additional piece of makeup for the actors, since they would need a scar prosthetic put on their hands at all times, and hands are not a good place for makeup since we use them a lot. So I get it. But man, do I miss it. The stupid dragonfly doesn’t pack nearly the same emotional punch.

I am glad that they kept his speech about Purgatory, and loving Claire well. I wonder why they had him give her the ring, though? It becomes a little important later in the series…maybe there are two? And it’s just a tiny little Easter egg for book readers, it doesn’t actually have any significance except to prompt Claire to say she’ll name the child for Brian Fraser.

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If that tear is real, they must have done 500 takes to capture it. Either that, or it was total happenstance on take one. Or CGI.

The one thing I like is that Jamie was actually there, and literally held her hand, when she passed through. The fight with the redcoats made it more likely that Jamie would actually die there, at Craigh na Dun. It helped explain why she wanted to know the outcome of the battle, and whether he’d made it there, but since they weren’t doing that in the show, this works really well.

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Claire, you’re going to miss the awesome knitwear, aren’t you?

Oh, man, another reference to secrets but not lies. But it’s good that Brianna finally believes. And that Roger can now share what he knows – that Jamie survived.

They basically ended it where I thought they would, right where the book ends.

Except Claire is staring up at Craigh na Dun, and the music is sweeping, and there’s glorious sunlight, and she says she wants to go back, and all I can think is – THERE’S A DEAD BODY UP THERE DOES NO ONE REMEMBER GREG EDGARS JUST DIED???

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THERE IS A DEAD BODY LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

So, yeah. The end was a little soured for me by that. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but wow.

In general, I liked the changes made to the 1960s. They made everything flow more easily and much, much faster. They also started us off with tension between Bree and Claire rather than presenting them first as a somewhat typical mother and daughter. I know Diana Gabaldon has said that Bree was a difficult character for her, and I think we’re benefiting from the fact that she got to know her much better over the years, and we can jump right in with a good sense of who she is and how she would react in these situations.

Really, what bugged me were the time jumps. But if they hadn’t cut it that way, it would have been much more obvious that we only had like 15 minutes of material in the 1740s. Well, maybe 20. But not even half of the episode took place with Jamie and Claire. By chopping it up and serving it in tiny slices, it helped give the appearance that we’re really telling Jamie and Claire’s story. But I’m not fooled, and the sheer number of Bree and Roger screencaps in this blog should tell you where the emphasis really was for the episode.

And don’t get me wrong. I love Roger and Brianna. Or maybe I really just love Roger, but whatever. So I am happy to spend all kinds of time with him. But I feel like the show has completely moved away from Jamie and Claire now. Like even their final scene at the stones was undercut by the knowledge that Claire has now found peace. I think that’s supposed to pay off in the final scene, when Claire has to re-evaluate everything and decides to go back, but that didn’t work for me at all.

I guess, to sum up, there are lots of things to love about this episode. Gorgeous costuming, beautiful shots, incredible performances. Some very well-written scenes, particularly between Brianna and Claire. But an overall disappointment because of the intercutting killing the tension and there just not being enough Jamie and Claire.

What did you think?

 

 

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Episode 208 – The Fox’s Lair

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There are a few small missteps in this episode, but I think that Diana Gabaldon doesn’t understand the phrase “jumping the shark.” I am actually a little happier after this episode, because I couldn’t see how, after the witch trial in the show, there was any possible way in the world that Jamie would ever marry Laoghaire. But if she is truly contrite, and still in love with him, and Claire has made her peace with her (if not actually forgiving her), then maybe, just maybe, it would make sense for him to be worn down by Jenny and agree to the marriage.

I adore the title card this week. It reminds me of the cat for The Wedding. I suppose it’s a bit on the nose, but foxes are one of my favorite animals, so it works for me.

Opening with them already in Lallybroch was a wise decision. I wish we’d had time for the rest and peace of the year in the books, but it’s implied that they have now been there a while and are already settled in. Wounds have had time to heal, at least a little. The highlights from the book are there – the potatoes, the letters and books from Louise, and Jamie’s late-night conversation with his niece.

The changes are understandable. It makes sense for Charles to charge Jamie with recruiting the Frasers at the beginning of the uprising. That part feels organic, at least.

The mention of Jocasta gives me great hope for future seasons! She’s as canny an old bird as the Auld Fox is cunning. If they split Voyager over two seasons, we won’t meet her until season five, but I can wait.

Jamie’s reaction to the Bill of Association is exactly as I imagined it. He is so angry, and can’t let his rage loose with the family all around him. And Jenny and Claire are devastated.

Can I stop for a moment and say that Sam Heughan is amazing? He is so faithful to the text, using Jamie’s physical tics, including keeping his fingers stiff on one hand and tapping with the other.

I like that Jamie uses the arguments that came from Father Anselm in the book- that Claire has already changed things by being in the past. And her argument that they flee is something that Jamie, as laird and head of his family, cannot accept.

It’s nice to have Claire and Jamie working together again, instead of being pulled apart.

Watching Jamie and Jenny spar is one of the best things ever. When Jamie says, “Janet,” in that tone that only siblings can get, it makes me chuckle.

Jamie confessing about his father being a bastard is both cute and heartbreaking. It obviously bothers him, but Claire could care less. Of course, he takes his shirt off half-way through the confession, and that’s enough to distract anybody. The way the shot fades out on him standing there, silhouetted, is bloody gorgeous.

Then there’s another beautiful shot, of the light glinting off Claire’s ring as she searches the bed and doesn’t find Jamie. It must tear at her heart, and yet warm it, to see him holding his fussy niece. Jenny’s dialogue is drawn pretty much directly from the book, but I wish there’d been a little space in this scene for Claire and Jenny to talk about Faith. Jenny references Claire’s pregnancy, but then moves on. I’d like Jenny to tell her that what happened wasn’t her fault, that sometimes these things happen and no one can stop them, and there is no reason or logic. That Claire will be a mother some day.

But I suppose I will live without that assurance.

Claire and Ian’s exchange – “take care of your Fraser” – made me smile. They’ve been allies ever since Claire and Jamie first showed up at Lallybroch. We don’t get to see much of them interacting, but he is her brother-in-law, and this is Claire’s family in a way that she has never had before. When Jenny instigates their hug, and they hold each other close, it breaks my heart. Because of the way events have been moved around, I don’t think Claire is going to be coming back to Lallybroch in this season. This is the last time she will see Jenny and Ian for twenty years.

I wonder if the rosary that Jenny gives Jamie is the one he will later give to William?

Jamie deals perfectly with Fergus. He’s too old to be treated like a wee bairn, but too young to be allowed to fight with the others. Making him subordinate to Murtagh, as a sort of page, is a brilliant idea.

The Claire-ification during the travel montage is probably not necessary. Jamie references Simon’s way of getting wives to his face (rape and trickery) and we know he had affairs and bastards – or Jamie wouldn’t be alive. Jenny already said that his loyalties shifted to whoever could line his pockets. We don’t get any additional information in the voice over that isn’t organically found within the episode.

Colum at Beaufort Castle is…odd. I mean, I get why he’s there, and I suppose it makes sense, but he is definitely more healthy in the show than he was in the book. By this point, he was very close to death, and considering euthanasia.

I’m not particularly bothered by this first scene with Laoghaire. I wish they hadn’t pushed her quite so far last season – that she’d been more like the book, wanting to get Claire in trouble but not really wanting her dead – but I’m willing to go with her change of heart. She’s obviously still in love with Jamie, but if she sincerely regrets hurting Claire (and it seems she is, because of what she later agrees to do), then I’m willing to go with it.

I want to like Maisri, but I am a fan of The Decoy Bride and when she’s on screen, I can’t stop seeing Maureen Beattie saying she wants to be thrown into a volcano. I also think that we lose some of the weight of her character in the show, and that she is turned into more of a plot element, but I’ll get to that after her conversation with Claire in the church.

Simon is cunning, and knows how to needle his grandson. I like that Jamie loses his temper, that he isn’t quite as polished and canny as he is around the MacKenzies. But the problem isn’t entirely the Auld Fox – it’s the situation, where Jamie needs something and Lord Lovat is absolutely willing to use that to squeeze what he wants out of his grandson.

I also notice that Jamie isn’t wearing a kilt in this scene. I wonder if he’s taking his cue from Simon, who also doesn’t wear a kilt?

I dislike that Jamie uses La Dame Blanche again. It’s better to call her a Wise Woman, but it’s much better later, when he calls her one of the Old Ones. This is what Jamie believes in the book – or at least half-believes, anyway. But I guess this is better than in Paris, because he knows that his grandfather is superstitious, and at least this time he’s using the accusation to protect Claire rather than his man card.

I like Young Simon better in the book. He was a bit of a bastard, and a brawler, but he was loyal and willing to follow Jamie. I’m not sure what to make of this version of the character. He reminds me of Lord Byron, except the famous poet wouldn’t be born for another forty-ish years.

Claire’s decision to have Laoghaire give Young Simon confidence is also odd. I suppose this is the “jump the shark” moment, but I use the phrase loosely, because what I think was really meant was that this is the moment when Claire does something completely out of character. The idea itself is fine, but when Laoghaire balks, Claire should have relented. Instead she persists. She does tell Laoghaire that she doesn’t need to use her body to entice Young Simon, but Laoghaire is young. She’d only be about seventeen now, or maybe closer to eighteen, and doesn’t understand subtlety.

Also, holding forgiveness over Laoghaire’s head is unkind.

In the next scene, Colum is saying all of the things that Jamie is already feeling, and the things that Jamie fears, but Jamie has chosen to fight. This is another change from the book, where Colum seeks Jamie’s advice and decides not to support the Stuarts. I wonder how they are going to get Colum to Edinburgh later? Perhaps, after they begin to win battles, he decides he has no choice? Or perhaps, the series will have Dougal kill him at Leoch, and then lead the clan to join the prince.

Young Simon is so awkward, declaiming poetry. Laoghaire is used to the MacKenzie men, like Rupert and Angus, or even like Willie, who are more primal and physical. I think that’s why she likes Jamie. He has the strapping physicality and warrior spirit that is familiar to her, but also the keen mind and curious soul of an intellectual.

Something is definitely missing from this scene with Claire and Maisri. I think it’s the acknowledgment of Claire’s foresight. There is a connection between them in the book. Although she doesn’t have visions the way Maisri does, she knows things that are going to happen. It is made much more explicit in the book how that kind of knowledge can be difficult, or even impossible, to carry. That isn’t even touched on in the episode. In fact, I feel like the only reason Maisri is here is for Claire to co-opt her vision later, in a very false and theatrical display that was a much more out of character action than anything she could have done with Laoghaire.

Jamie goes to the stables to calm himself down. I like that he wants to be a beast – the second reference to “To a Mouse” in this episode. I suppose that Jamie’s off-hand remark that Claire should reveal herself as from the future is what gives her the idea to fake a vision, but I very much dislike that scene.

As soon as Claire drops the tankard, everything feels so very false, not only because I know it isn’t true, but because everyone else seems to know it. Colum even shouts it out as a pretense. Only  Jamie’s reference to the Old Ones saves it at all for me, because he actually believes that.

But the rest feels so fake, especially the way Lovat reacts. I think he’s acting, too, trying to create a scene as much as Claire is. Young Simon walks directly into his father’s trap. You can see the gears turning as he makes his choice – pretend neutrality and send troops as though they decided on their own to follow his son.

Colum’s farewell is lovely. He truly does care so much about Jamie, and wishes his nephew would take any other path. We linger so long on their goodbye, that I think we may never see Colum again. I’m going to make the guess that Dougal will return from Beannachd to kill Colum at Leoch, then lead the MacKenzies to join Charles Stuart.

Laoghaire’s wish to one day earn Jamie’s love is the final thing that makes me think this episode was supposed to put Laoghaire into a more favorable position to marry Jamie in season three.

The Auld Fox’s parting shot – that he hasn’t gotten Lallybroch “yet” is nice. But even better is the show’s casual assumption (the second so far this season) that the “secrets but not lies” conversation actually did happen on their wedding night. Two episodes ago, Claire told Jamie that it was OK for him to lie to her occasionally, and now Jamie tells Claire they may have to “rethink their agreement not to lie to one another.” Both of them are teasing, but they are obviously referencing their vow to maybe keep secrets, but when they do tell each other something, it will be the truth. Head canon is now official canon!

I suppose Maisri does have one other purpose in this episode – she gives Claire hope that the future can be changed. I’m not sure that’s enough to make up for the very false note of the false vision, but I suppose it’s better to go into the war with hope, even though the dramatic irony is still very much in place. We already know they are going to fail.

The preview for next week focuses almost entirely on preparing the troops, but Dougal’s presence is part of why I think he’s going to either kill his brother or somehow get Colum out of the way in the next episode. It’s also possible that he’s just there, supporting his prince, and maybe tries to take leadership away from Jamie.

I suppose we’ll see next week!

Episode 112 – Lallybroch

I’m finally getting back to blogging. I had a rough 2015. But I recently quit my day job, and have been freelance writing and doing some other things from home, so I have a little more time to blog again. I’m excited to finish going through the first season, and then I’m going to re-read the books in preparation for Season Two!

~*~

Before I say anything else, I must say that I called it on the episode title. I also was pretty close on my plot-point breakdown when I speculated on the second half of the season. They made some changes that I couldn’t have foreseen, but the rest was pretty close.

The scenery at the start of the episode was beyond gorgeous. I need to go to Scotland. And then live there for, like, ever.

But getting to the actual episode… Jenny is great. I know she got a lot of shit around the internet for being a bitch/a shrew/whatever, but I love her to death. I actually think that this first scene should have been more loud and rowdy between Jamie and Jenny. They were almost too calm. But I suppose we need to understand what they’re saying, so that’s life on TV.

Jenny’s confession was odd, but not for the reasons that the internet exploded. I wasn’t bothered by the “cock controversy.” I didn’t think it was entirely necessary, but it didn’t freak me out, or disgust me, or anything. What I found odd was that she seemed so calm about it. I realize it has been four years, and she wasn’t penetrated in the legal sense of rape, but she was violated and it was creepy and awful. I’ve known survivors who get completely emotionless when recounting their stories, but she wasn’t like that, either. Maybe she was underplaying it so that Jamie wouldn’t get even more upset? I suppose she could also have decided to focus on the outcome – that she was able to stop him – rather than the particulars of what happened.

After that, it bothers me that they’ve turned what was a sub-textual “feeling out” between Claire and Jenny into outright, open hostility, at least on Jenny’s part, hence the internet labeling her a bitch. Not that I’m saying they should be instant besties, but her calling Claire a trollop is not in the spirit of Highland hospitality. Jenny is headstrong, opinionated, and stubborn, but she’s also a lady. She might not like her brother’s new wife, but she’d be cold and formal about it with a stranger, which is what Claire is to her at this point.

Still, I get what the show is doing. They want to ramp up the tension, and subtext is hard to convey onscreen. That’s why they have Jamie pull Claire aside for the “come-to-Jesus” talk about being in the past. He said something similar to her when they were on the road with the Mackenzies in “Rent.” Still, it crosses a different line than in the previous episode. I hope this doesn’t continue too much. It’s one thing to warn Claire about the differences between their times. It’s another to bridle her spirit. BookJamie may constantly worry about the 20th century mannerisms and beliefs of his wife, but he never tries to break her of those ways. Not even when they cause him trouble (over and over and over again).

The discussion of Brian Fraser is transplanted from other places in the book, but it makes sense here, during their first moments in the Laird’s room. And adding on Randall’s original proposition before the second flogging also works. The sword bit didn’t entirely fit. I feel like it needs to have more symbolic weight than what it was given in the episode. They were trying to make us feel a sense of an object passed down over generations, father-to-son, but knowing what we do about Brian’s family history, that doesn’t make sense.

I miss the loss of Alex MacGregor’s Bible. I understand that there isn’t room for it in the show, but it explains the “Alex” reference when BJR is with Jamie. Some people speculate that BJR is talking about his brother there, but I think it’s a kind of mix for him, between the only person in the world who actually loves him (his brother), the one he had who got away (Alex MacGregor, by suicide), and the one who has finally succumbed.

Also, the show totally missed an opportunity to have Sam say the Pontius Pilate line from the book: “Oddly enough, it was some comfort. Our Lord had to put up wi’ being scourged too; and I could reflect that at least I wasna going to be hauled out and crucified afterwards. On the other hand,” he said judiciously, “Our Lord wasna forced to listen to indecent proposals from Pontius Pilate, either.”*

I do like the dinner scene with the in-laws. The tension here is good, and more like what was in the book. It’s definitely on the surface rather than just beneath, but again, subtext doesn’t work as well on screen. I think we’re astute enough viewers to figure it out, but whatever. And there’s a nice reference to the tenants, and Jenny’s belief that no one would betray Jamie is a foreshadowing because of course that turns out to be false. Although Jamie rather brings it on himself.

Speaking of, it’s a little sad that wee Rabbie MacNab in the books ends up as a laborer, married to a whorehouse Madam. His playmates Jamie and Fergus have more illustrious futures.

Quarter day is lovely. I will admit that I missed the vase the first time, probably because I’d been watching the episodes online late at night and was very tired (hence why I stopped blogging about them for so long- it was all I could do just to experience them as a casual viewer). But everyone online talked about it, so I noticed it the next time. Claire gets her vase – she only had to travel 200 years to find it.

Jamie’s largesse seems a little more like drunken misunderstanding of the realities of life at Lallybroch. I know it’s supposed to read that way, but it makes me cringe because Jamie wouldn’t do that. He has a very keen understanding of politics, money, taxes, and such from living with the Mackenzies. It’s also a problem I’ve always had with his handling of MacNab in the book. At least in this version, he’s so stinking drunk when he does it that he had something of an excuse for his ineptitude.

Claire dealing with DrunkJamie is hilarious, though. A nice way to put in some comedy while dropping the plot point about Ronnie MacNab. The elephant bit is the best. Where would she have ridden an elephant, though? Did Uncle Lamb take her to India? Southeast Asia?

HungoverJamie is also amusing. And Jenny is transcendent. It’s nice that the mill is introduced through conflict rather than just being “one of those things” like it is in the book. Although I miss Ian talking about how he can’t swim and just goes around in circles like a doodlebug.

I love that it’s Jenny with Claire at the mill. And it’s nice to see the British patrol actually helping and being useful. That was nice in the books, too. They were a bit condescending, but I like it when the enemy isn’t faceless and entirely evil. From my understanding of history, it is actually more likely that they would have been Scottish, too- mostly lowlanders, but with some highlanders sprinkled in. Too bad we don’t get much of that in the show. There’s more of that in the later books, in America.

NakedJamie is…well, you all have eyes. Sam Heughan is a very fine specimen of a man.

I love, love, love, the way Jenny stops and stares at Jamie’s back. It calls back to what he said to Claire at Leoch, about the reason he doesn’t like people to see his scars. And that continues through the books, so I assume it will follow in the show, too. There’s a lovely scene at one point with him and Roger, where he takes off his shirt, and Roger is so pleased to be one of the few who Jamie can allow to see the wounds. But I think Jamie would have gone his entire life without letting Jenny see them, if he could have. Of course, in the book, she demands to see them, but I like this way, too. Her anguish and love is so clear that it makes my heart ache for them.

Ian telling the story of Jenny’s birds and their marriage is so sweet. I love Ian. I can’t wait until we meet Young Ian in the show. He’s one of my favorite characters. And “Old” Ian’s advise about stubborn, mulish Frasers – kick them harder – is solid.

Claire is a BAMF. But she gets straight to the heart of the problem in this episode, and it’s brilliant. It makes all of Jamie’s poor decisions crystallize and actually make sense. Although I’m unhappy that the show decided to go in this direction (BookJamie has his flaws, but this misunderstanding of people isn’t one of them), I’m ok with how they pulled it off in the end.

Jamie and Jenny at the cemetery is the best part of this episode. I wish this bit was in Gaelic, but I can see not making the actors do the scene in what (to them) is a foreign tongue. This is such an honest and deep moment, and a true reconciliation between the siblings. Jenny’s line is one of my favorites: “If your life was a suitable exchange for my honor, tell me why my honor was not a suitable exchange for your life?” So perfectly Jenny. And Laura Donnelly’s delivery is fantastic. She is going to be amazing later, too.

Claire’s love for Lallybroch is so poignant and strong. Her sense of home, of belonging, of finally finding her place, is palpable. And Jamie saying I love you…and Claire saying it back…sigh.

Cliffhangers are shit, though. The watch holding a gun to Jamie’s head is a terrible way to end an episode. Especially when it turns out to be 100% nothing in the first scene of the next episode. Seriously, people. We don’t need to be led by the nose like a cow through the season. We’re going to keep watching. I’d have been happy to leave off with Claire and Jamie finally confessing their love and going to bed.

Now, the end of the next episode, though? That is where it’s at. Not a cliffhanger, but, as they say over at Storywonk, a game changer. The world is different at the end of episode 113. And I’ll be blogging about it soon…

 

*Outlander, Chapter 22: Reckonings – Page 414

Episode 109 – The Reckoning

Outlander is back!

I’m still working on some of my hiatus content. We’ve had several rounds of the flu, strep, and stomach viruses at my house, and I’ve got three different posts in various stages of completion but nothing ready to post.

Instead, I moved straight on to my blog for the first episode of 1B.

May I say first, I am surprised and pleased that my theory about Colum (and Dougal, to some extent) turned out to be correct! The book never explicitly states that Colum wanted Jamie to be laird (or at least regent for Hamish), but it is certainly something you can read into their interactions if you want to. I’m excited to see how this will play out over the course of the rest of the season, particularly the next episode, with the Duke of Sandringham and Jacobite issues. There will be even more implications for season two when the issue of how the clan will “jump” is paramount.

I wonder whether the show is going to show us Dougal killing Colum in Edinburgh. That’s another thing that is implied, but never stated, in the books. It will have to be done in a way that lets Claire and Jamie know the truth, but not be able to prove it, or else Dougal won’t be allowed to lead the clan to war.

But let’s backtrack to the episode. I loved Jamie as the narrator. The whole cold open, and the monologue, did an excellent job of placing us in Jamie’s PoV. That’s an important choice, because I don’t think we could have made it through the strapping otherwise (it didn’t really work for me as is, but I’m choosing to whistle past it).

I’m a fan of the change that Ned told them not to kill anyone, rather than Jamie having an unloaded pistol because he’d already killed a guard. I’ve never liked the fact that, in the course of proving his innocence in the death of an English soldier, he kills a different English soldier. Plus, wouldn’t the shot have alerted the guards? So not loading their pistols on purpose makes much more sense.

One drawback to this scene (and the end of “Both Sides Now”) is that we’re still not getting the knowledge from Claire that BJR really can’t rape her until Jamie is present, and someone else’s humiliation or pain is involved. I realize that would take some of the immediate danger out of the scene, but I’m actually OK with rape being off the table. BJR is dangerous enough with a knife. But the show has skirted the issue a few times now, so I’m guessing it isn’t going to come up until Lallybroch, when it becomes the point of contention between Jamie and Jenny. Or maybe not at all.

The scene by the brook between Jamie and Claire was beautiful and raw, but I have to admit I was terribly distracted by the fact that the men and horses were only a few feet away. I wish they would have staged that differently. All I could think of the whole time was that I would have been mortified to be having that conversation in front of Angus, of all people.

Still, I would have preferred just about anything rather than what happened next. I’m not going to go too far down this road, because everyone’s reactions to the scene are different, but the strapping is one place where I wish they wouldn’t have stuck so closely to the books. It wasn’t so horrific that I will refuse to watch the rest of the season, but it was uncomfortable enough that I’ll probably always skip this scene when I re-watch the episode. For most purposes, I’m going to pretend it never happened.

The pacing of this episode is totally weird, and the quick cut to Leoch is one of the reasons why I wish they hadn’t filmed the strapping scene so closely to the source material. I can accept the strapping there because of Jamie’s stories on the road afterward. The show doesn’t have time for that, so I really wish they’d set things up differently.

Then we have the conflicts between the Brothers MacKenzie and Laoghaire and Jamie. I’m actually a big fan of what the show is doing with Laoghaire. Most of what we know about her in the book of Outlander (not including what we learn in later books) is really just Claire’s speculations. The show is setting her up to be a little more sympathetic. Yes, she’s forward, but she’s sixteen and having her first “love,” which is an intense and powerful thing. She thinks that Jamie’s arranged marriage is like most of the ones in this era- loveless and mostly on paper. After all, he took a beating for her and then snogged her in an alcove.

I’m also totally OK with the way Jamie handles her. He isn’t used to dealing with women on a romantic level. He knows how to talk to his sister and his tenants, and Claire acts enough like Jenny or “one of the guys” that he’s fairly comfortable with her. But Laoghaire is something completely different, and he’s treating her gently. I think he’s also still attracted to her, which makes it hard when she throws herself at him. He’s tempted, but this is one of the choices he mentioned in his opening monologue. The choice wouldn’t matter if the other option wasn’t at least a little viable. That doesn’t make Jamie less of a hero or a bad person. All it means is that he’s not perfect. But he does make the right choice. He turns her down, even if he could have done it in a less-fumbling way.

In general, I think everything with Laoghaire and Jamie could fit perfectly into the books. We never see their interactions at Leoch. Jamie says nothing happened, but from his perspective, nothing did. Seeing her awkward advances and his even more awkward refusal makes me understand why Laoghaire would say what she says during his return to Scotland thirty(ish) years later. Her accusations that he led her on and yet never really saw her meshes well with this encounter.

Getting back to the episode, the political tensions were fun, and I loved how Colum listened to Jamie’s advice. It reminds me of what he tells Jamie in DiA, how Ellen used to be his best friend and how they would make plans for the clan together, before she ran off with Brian. I saw the same thing from Colum during the Gathering when Jamie gave his oath. He was so angry that Jamie was even there, because Colum was sure Jamie would end up dead. Instead, Jamie proved that he was just as savvy and sure-footed as Ellen, and managed to find the middle path. The smile Colum gave was an acknowledgment of his sister-son, and the heir he would place above his hot-heided brother.

Now Jamie is proving just how good he would be as Laird. It’s a shame that he’ll never truly hold that place, not even on the Ridge. He sees the people there in North Carolina as his, but not all of them view him the same way. And his brief time as Laird of Lallybroch ends in pain and isolation; he’s able to save his men only after great personal sacrifice.

The last scene is probably my biggest disappointment in the episode. Not so much because it’s a bad scene – it actually works very well within the framework of the episode, and I really like what Jamie says about going a different way than his father and grandfather – but only in comparison to the same scene in the book.

I am fine with losing some of the fight (although I’ve always seen Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire as the first sign that she has truly fallen for Jamie). The bit about the money has always rung a little false for me, but the moment when she chooses to stay, and when they come together in violent, passionate lovemaking, is one of the major turning points of the book.

The scene is still a turning point for the show, of course. Jamie tells Claire about the key to Lallybroch, and that she’s his home now. Claire asserts herself, and proves that they are equals in their marriage, not one subject to the other. But it’s not quite the same. When Jamie says he’s going to make her call him Master, there is no impetus for that assertion. And when he says that he is her master, and she’s his, it feels just the tiniest bit hollow.

In the end, this is not my favorite episode. In fact, it is probably my least favorite so far. But that is only in comparison with the very excellent episodes that preceded it, and some much more weighty scenes in the book. It’s still one of the better episodes of television I’ve seen.

What do you think? Do you have an opinion about Laoghaire’s strip tease? Leave a comment and tell me your reactions to the episode.

PS- If you want to talk about the strapping, all I ask is that you be open to other interpretations than your own. I’m uncomfortable about it, but I know others found it funny, or at least non-objectionable. I don’t think they’re wrong, or morally bankrupt, or terrible people, for having a different reaction than me. Basically, be polite!

Theory – Colum and Dougal

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

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

In the books:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this theory apply to the show?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 106 – The Garrison Commander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will break you,” Randall says.

And he will.

But not by flogging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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