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 212 – The Hail Mary

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Ye gads, this was an amazing episode. So well structured, with the parallel brother stories, and with such amazing character work and emotion. It absolutely displays the best of Ira Steven Behr and Anne Kenney’s talents. So well done.

I am at a writer’s conference this weekend so I fear this is another short blog for me. I promise to come back over the hiatus and expand these blogs, filling in more detail after I have time to re-watch the season during the break.

A couple of thoughts for the future: I am so glad that they brought in the French gold now, as a viable option for avoiding the fight at Culloden. As a book reader, when I first heard it mentioned, it jolted me a bit, but after I thought about it more, I liked it. I know a lot of readers dislike that whole plot line, but it is rather a large thread in the series and they can’t remove it without doing a LOT of changes. So I’m glad it’s introduced here, in a way that actually makes sense to the plot, and won’t just appear out of nowhere in Season Three.

At first I thought I would be upset that Dougal doesn’t kill Colum, because I wanted some canonical evidence of what is heavily implied but never stated in the book. But by the time I got to the end of the scene I was weeping and I totally did not care. This Dougal is not book Dougal, and Graham McTavish is AMAZING. I don’t know which writer had that scene, but I am betting it was Anne Kenney because the emotional notes were perfectly on point. I was so moved, and the scene encapsulated every nuance of the relationship between Colum and Dougal.

That is contrasted with Black Jack Randall. They have pushed him much farther into the monster than the book did. At this point in the book, I actually had some sympathy for him. The fact that he approached Claire with the bargain spoke well of him. But the show has her propose the bargain. When Alex spoke of the good man behind the dark wall, I thought we might actually see that man. But BJR immediately proves that he has become the dark wall. Yes, he marries Mary for his brother’s sake, but when Alex dies, he descends into a fit of rage.

On the one hand, I’m a little sad that we’re losing some of the complexity of BJR. On the other, it is so beautifully contrasted with Colum and Dougal that it’s hard to care too much.

Some other little moments I loved:

  • When Colum arrives and says he thought, if Wee Angus ever died, Rupert would be right behind him. And Rupert says, “I did, too.”
  • When Murtagh offers to wed Mary. I love that man so much!!
  • All of Jamie’s interactions with Colum and Dougal. So well written and well acted.

I think this episode is my favorite of the season. I have a lot more to say about the ins and outs, but I’ve got my first workshop at 9 am (it’s 7:50), and I’ve got to go get ready for the day. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight because of the conference, but I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought of the changes!

EDIT: Apparently a lot of people are super upset that this episode didn’t spend more time with Jamie and Claire. I have to admit that, now that it’s been pointed out, I totally agree. But only in the context of the season as a whole, and only in the sense that we ought to be ramping up to the devastating separation that’s about to happen in the finale. On the merits of this episode by itself, I did not really care. It felt natural to me that the war was pulling them in different directions. Their few scenes together were nice, and I LOVED when Claire told Jamie that she would help him kill BJR. Yes, I miss the romantic elements from S1. Yes, I miss the sex (go to caramckinnon.com and look at this week’s blog posts for my total love and appreciation of sex and romance). But I’ve missed them more in other episodes where they felt conspicuously absent. In this one, I was very happy with the story I was given.

 

EDIT 2: I forgot to mention that, with the break next weekend, I am going to be posting some wild speculations about future seasons of Outlander, based on changes the show has made. Come join the conversation and tell me what you think is going to happen next!

Episode 211 – Vengeance Is Mine

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AKA, the one that Diana Gabaldon wrote.

My book is out on Thursday! But I’m still drowning in prep, marketing, and promo stuff, so I fear I will not be able to do justice to Herself’s episode until next weekend at the earliest. But this is what one of my “notes” sheets looks like, that I take while watching the episode. It’s not very polished, but it should be amusing!

I like that we have a mix of people in the prince’s council who wear wigs, and some who don’t. There are some people who are kilted, and some who aren’t. The costuming in this show is always amazing, but it’s moments like these that remind me just how good it is!

It’s nice that Jamie is trying so hard to change what happens based on what Claire remembers. At first I couldn’t figure out why he was championing the march to London, especially since everyone else in the room was against it, but when he talked to Claire afterward I understood. And we finally get the sense that he is committed to bringing the Lallybroch men home. I suppose you could infer that earlier, since he’s a good laird and a good leader, but now he has actually promised to do it. This might be as close as the show will get to his “list” from the book – and probably no surprise that DG wrote this episode. 🙂

Subtitled Gaelic? What world are we living in?? I guess because we’re in Jamie’s PoV, it makes sense, but we were in Jamie’s PoV with him and Murtagh last season at the monastery, and they didn’t subtitle it then.

But SUPER YAY for having a quiet moment with Claire and Jamie. DG understands, obviously. 🙂

The scene when Dougal bursts in and announces they’ve been sent to Inverness is fantastic. Nice tension, good build-up of conflict.

I am curious as to why Jamie and co. run away from the Lallybroch men at the ambush? Is it to draw off the soldiers? It looked like a pretty sizable patrol; not something the Lallybroch men could easily handle. Or is Jamie just trying to get Claire and Fergus away?

OH MY GOD THEY ARE GOING TO KILL RUPERT I HATE THEM FOREVER.

Or maybe not…Claire says he can be treated. Ok, calm self. Claire removed the bullet and he seems to be fine.

This is a nice way to put them into the church without having them actually go to Falkirk. And it makes more sense if they are still in northern England that they’ve taken an English hostage. That was something that always bothered me in the book – where were they supposed to have found Claire, exactly?

Claire, that was really loud. You’re pretending to be a hostage, not Lady Broch Tuarach. Also, this version of Claire can totally lie. No glass face for Caitriona Balfe.

Is Hazlemere a real place? I find a Hazlemere and a Haslemere in England, but they’re both in the southwest, which doesn’t fit with them riding from just north of London to Inverness.

Jamie is so pissed off at having to give up Claire. I love that he doesn’t say anything, and yet we can see every single emotion cross Sam Heughan’s face.

I am so glad they didn’t kill Rupert. I would miss his black humor. “Gie ‘er a wink for me, eh?”

I would not miss the Clairifications if they went away, though. But hey, there’s a location. Crich. That places us squarely in England, south of Sheffield. Which makes much, much more sense if we’re going to end up on one of the Duke of Sandringham’s estates than making us ride south from Falkirk for days and days.

What makes less sense is how they’re going to work Hugh Munro into all of this. He’s definitely going to be here because he was in the “previously on Outlander” opening. And there he is…how did he get so far south? Is this Munro ex Machina?

Caitriona Balfe and Simon Callow are fantastic. And I very much like the change from the book, not having all of his secrets revealed right away. I love Sandringham as a smarmy oily bastard, with his danger wrapped up in artifice. His layers of plots, playing both sides against the middle, is so wonderful, and the show is doing a bang-up job with him.

Yay for the acknowledgment that Sandringham and Saint Germain were working together, as predicted. Not sure I believe Sandringham 100% about Paris (especially since he later tries to pretend that he didn’t suggest the rape), but wow, how powerful when he reveals himself after she recognizes Danton.

The guys ragging on Claire’s Gaelic letter is fantastic.

OK, great. The duke is in the kitchen. Why not just run? I suppose she thinks he’ll call for help. But it’s lovely to see Mary with a little bit of backbone.

Excellent. Now we have all of the major players in the same room. How wonderful that we take care of the fact that, in the book, Murtagh had no way to know about the duke, and yet took his head anyway. And we give Mary the knife that kills her rapist. So much more satisfying than letting Jamie do it.

Mary Hawkins, you are a kick-ass woman.

Also, it looks like Hugh Munro gets to live!! Yay!

 

And that is my “notes” for “Vengeance is Mine!” I was tempted to screen-grab the duke’s severed head for the blog header, but I decided to be nice and use the quiet moment in bed, instead.

OK, back to prepping for Essential Magic. Visit caramckinnon.com or pre-order from any of these places:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Episode 210 – Prestonpans

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My book is releasing in less than two weeks, and there is so much work to be done. This will probably be another short/choppy post, so I apologize in advance. If you want to see what’s been taking up my time and energy, check out my website – caramckinnon.com – and find out more about my new series of fantasy romances!

Well…I don’t even know what to say about this episode, except that I wept like a child. Most of the episode didn’t grab me. I watched, but wasn’t engaged by the war story. Aside from the some of the elements with Dougal (wildness vs civility), this felt like a typical battle narrative. Then, Fergus’s reaction to having killed a man tugged me in. Finally, seeing Rupert grieve for Angus ripped my heart out.

I’m not going to talk much about the episode, because the broad strokes of it align with the book. I might come back after my book releases and talk about the beautiful cinematography and excellent acting, but for now I will focus on changes from the book. The changes are few, because both book and show are interested in what really happened at Prestonpans (with a little bit of fictional license). The battle is a part of history, so they couldn’t change much of the chronology or outcome without breaking their premise – that history really can’t be changed.

A few things I miss from the book:

  • Jenny Cameron. I know we already have an amazing Jenny, and they may have decided to remove this one because of name confusion, but I really, really miss having another strong female presence here. There is some historical confusion about who this woman actually was (accounts at the time may have attributed the actions of three separate women to a single person), but that just means that Outlander can decide for itself who she was and what she did. And they could have called her Jeanie, which is close but not the same. I would have loved to see her there, fighting all the way through to the end of the Rising.
  • The quiet moments with Jamie and Claire. Sometimes I feel like this show barrels through the story at such a terrific pace that we can’t catch our breaths. This episode only really slows down once we get to the end, and see the price of war. With that said –
    • Particularly missed is their lovemaking after Jamie tells her the story of the battle. I think the episode ended well, but I wish there’d been space for that. It is so beautiful and poignant when he says he needs Claire, and they come together to remember that they are alive, and what they are fighting for.
    • Also missed-Jamie’s Act of Contrition and reciting his list of the men under his command. I hope we see this at some point, because it helps establish the kind of leader-and man-that Jamie is. The list is also going to be relevant at the end of the season, when Claire is interested in finding out about the men from Lallybroch.

Now, on to what they added.

Having Dougal present allows us to continue exploring the dichotomy between the wild Highland Charge and modern warfare. At first, his abilities are an asset. He proves that the ground is poor and keeps the Jacobite leaders from making a poor decision about the battlefield. And this battle proves that the Highland Charge does have a place in the war – the same as the “commando raid” Jamie went on in the last episode, or any type of what will later be called guerrilla warfare. Knowledge of the land, and the ability to exploit the terrain, is important.

But Dougal also represents a sort of rage and brutality that makes the rest of the leadership–especially the Bonnie Prince–first uncomfortable, and then disgusted. I just read an article about Prestonpans that said Charles actually took to the field to beseech some of the Highlanders to stop slaughtering the wounded, so Dougal’s actions have historical precedent. Likewise, other clans took in the British wounded and gave them what medical attention was available. So everything here is being drawn from the actual events of the battle.

I’m sad that Lieutenant Foster had to die to prove that Dougal is a right bastard–since we knew that already–but I suppose we hadn’t seen him be quite this brutal before.

The other changes–namely the presence of Rupert and Angus–were gut-wrenching. We’ve seen Ross and Kincaid now several times throughout this part of the season, but Kincaid’s death alone would not have hit as hard as Angus. Although I have to admit that it wasn’t Angus’s actual death that made me cry. It was watching Rupert grieve for him that broke me. Grant O’Rourke’s face in that final shot before the end credits is so powerful. I don’t know if his role is big enough to get any kind of supporting actor award, but my god he deserves it.

The fact that they killed Angus this week does make me wonder. Will they make us go through Rupert’s death next week? I saw the church in the preview, and from what dialogue we got, we know that Jamie and Claire are going to be separated. So they’re following the books that much.

Honestly, I don’t think they’re going to do it. I could be wrong, but since Willie is gone and now Angus, too, I think it’s going to be Rupert who sees Jamie kill Dougal in Culloden House. It means we wouldn’t get to have the echo of the scene from “The Gathering” when Claire and Dougal sat together over the dying Geordie, but it could be much more powerful for Rupert to see Jamie killing Dougal – and understand why Jamie had to do it. Rupert in the books is loyal to Dougal until he dies, but this version is far more complex, and he has now lost his best friend. I can see him turning that to vengeance for a while, but by the time the Highlanders limp to Culloden, he will be disaffected and just want to stop the killing and the dying.

No matter what they do, I’m sure the finale will make us all sob pretty much non-stop.

Now, back to looking over proofs and making sure everything is perfect for Essential Magic. It’s coming out June 23rd, available at all major book retailers online!

Post Script: Holy crap Ira Steven Behr has a glorious purple beard. I adore it!

Episode 206 – Best Laid Schemes…

This episode is full of difficult things, but unlike the last couple of episodes where I questioned some of the adaptive choices, this one is perfection, with only a couple of tiny quibbles. Matthew B. Roberts has done a fantastic job.

First, a costuming note. I saw a vague reference to an interview where Sam Heughan said he campaigned for Jamie to wear more kilts in France, but I haven’t read the interview, so I don’t know what he said. But whether it was his idea or Terry Dresbach’s, I just realized that Jamie was wearing trousers when he was in his darkest place after Wentworth. Alistair at The Scot and the Sassenach said in one of their podcasts that Jamie only had civility left to him, that he had lost an essential part of himself and was being formal and disconnected from Claire as a result. The trousers were a costuming-representation of that internal crisis.

Ever since Claire told him that BJR was alive, and he knows he’ll be able to kill him (even after agreeing to wait a year), he started wearing his kilt again. He is reclaiming his identity, as a warrior and as a man, and the kilt (for a Highlander in this era) is absolutely a representation of his essential self.

Now, on to the episode!

Once again, the title card disappoints, but it’s really the only thing in the episode that does. It appears to be attempting to represent their scheme to undermine the prince’s money-making venture, but I’m not sure what is supposed to be going on. Also, I dislike when the title card includes action from the show, as it did two episodes ago with the man sabotaging the Fraser’s carriage. But it’s not a huge thing, so I’ll let it pass.

One other possibly sour note in this episode is Murtagh. I feel like the show can’t quite decide what to do with him this season. They’ve extrapolated his character so far beyond what is in the books, and in most cases they’ve been wonderful extrapolations, but I feel like they sometimes give him reactions that fit the plot of the episode because they don’t have a bedrock understanding of who TVMurtagh is. As a result of that lack of understanding, his characterization is somewhat inconsistent.

I’m still formulating an opinion of this episode’s Murtagh, but my gut reaction is to say that he’s a little too upset about Jamie’s choice not to fight BJR, and at their continued scheming rather than killing Charles. I understand that the show wants us to feel that Murtagh’s patience is fraying, and if it had just been the later scene where he talks about assassination, that would have been fine, but I don’t like that he doesn’t accept Jamie’s decision not to duel Randall. That is Jamie’s business, and it’s personal. If Murtagh feels that it’s something Jamie needs to do, he should say that, rather than accusing him of being like a woman at her flux (which is, I think, a misstep from a writing perspective – it’s a terrible stereotype, and men have natural shifts in their hormones and feelings, too).

It was a wise decision to move Mssr. Forez’s discussions of execution techniques to L’Hopital, and to have them motivated by his desire to warn Master Raymond. In the book, it feels very odd (why would he be so graphic with a random couple that he doesn’t know?), but here it feels purposeful.

Claire is then able to go and warn Master Raymond, and we’re able to see how much their relationship has progressed over the months in Paris. They have truly become friends, and Raymond hints a little more subtly this time that he is also a traveler, when he says, “We will meet again, Madonna, in this life, or another.”

This scene also sets up what I assume will happen next week – that Master Raymond will come back to heal Claire, and end up being caught afterward by the king.

Jamie has spent his day re-framing and re-contextualizing his agreement not to kill Black Jack Randall. This allows him to be solicitous toward her, and warm, because he has decided that it is actually in her best interests, and his child’s, to have Frank waiting in the future. He turns the oath around, and forces Claire to swear she’ll go back to Frank if they can’t stop the Rising.

It is lovely that they found a place for this conversation, originally had in the carriage on the way to the Royal Stables. 

The scene does two important things. First, it reminds us of the vow that Jamie has made, and gives that vow greater weight than it had when it was forced upon him at the end of the last episode. Now, when he breaks that vow at the end of this episode, we feel it keenly, along with Claire, rather than being a little sympathetic toward Jamie.

Secondly, it reminds us that Claire’s vow in return is one she will be forced to keep. She will go back to Frank, and they will fail to stop Charles.

EDIT: during the live tweet, many people commented that this scene undermines the tension from the final scene of the last episode. I agree, a little, but I think that’s why we saw Jamie and Murtagh first. Jamie wraps his head around the fight with Claire, and convinces himself that his promise is actually a good thing. Also, notice that he immediately brings up the issue in question- rubbing Claire’s feet is an opening gambit in his strategy, not a tender gesture of solicitude. Claire figures that out, too, and pulls away. 

EDIT 2: In an interview, Matthew B. Roberts said that the episode was supposed to open with a dream sequence that would have helped move Jamie forward from the tension at the end of 205. But for various reasons, they were unable to film that material. So that’s why the transition doesn’t work as well as it should. 

Next, Claire tests her herbs on Jamie to fake smallpox. She gives another reason why they can’t kill Charles (although it’s rather flimsy – James doesn’t have another heir, and even if Charles becomes a martyr, there’s no one else to take the throne after him).

Murtagh’s outburst is a little too harsh, but I’m going to whistle past it, since the show is only using it to motivate Jamie into telling him the truth about Claire.

I wish they’d taken the opportunity to bring in material from The Exile here. Murtagh is the one who found Claire at the foot of Craig na Dun, even in the show. It would be nice if he’s always known she was different, and a traveler.

The jab to the face places Murtagh back into the godfather/father-figure role, rather than the laird and vassal role. We’re supposed to be amused, but the only thing I liked was Murtagh rubbing his hand and Jamie rubbing his face.

Claire and Murtagh would not have had this conversation in the book, but they’ve developed a much deeper relationship in the show, and it is poignant and beautiful to have him show her such sympathy and feeling. When he tells her he wouldn’t want to bear her burden, and takes her hand, it makes me smile.

I like that Fergus, as the stealthy pickpocket, does the actual work of planting the herbal concoctions.

This plan seems a bit more complicated and a bit less personally dangerous than the one in the book, but it does allow for a more direct confrontation with Saint Germain. I like that Jamie just keeps getting wrapped more tightly inside these schemes, and that every single bit of rope is there because Jamie and Claire were trying to use it to snare Charles. It almost ends up hanging Jamie instead.

Murtagh reluctantly agrees to play a L’Disciple, although I don’t think that’s made quite clear enough at the time (I guessed, but it wasn’t until Charles drew the supposition after the fact that my guess was confirmed).

I almost cry when I hear Claire say, “Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart,” and Jamie responds, “We always find a way back to each other, no?” Because, show viewers already know that she’s going to go back to the 1940s, and book-readers know that they’re going to be separated for twenty years.

Sigh.

Claire is so sure that they’re having a girl. And Jamie is beyond precious, talking to his wee lass. I love that the knowledge of their physical connection, through the body of their child, encourages them to connect in a different physical, and emotional, way.

Murtagh’s accent during the robbery is so atrocious, and Saint Germain is clearly suspicious, to the point that Jamie has to attack Murtagh and be knocked out.

I am very unsure why this scene with the ladies and Louise is included. I assume it was a way to repurpose some of the material from the Royal Stables, and to show how Claire truly does not fit into this world, but Claire is the kind of person who distracts herself with work. She would have gone to L’Hopital to begin with. This feels like Claire trying to prevent the French Revolution, but there is absolutely no motivation for her to say anything.

Still, a minor problem, and she ends up at L’Hopital anyway. Where Fergus and Bouton are SO STINKING CUTE.

The bleeding is much more of a foreshadowing here than in the book, since it happens so much closer to the miscarriage.

Side note – it totally bothers me that Claire is laying on her back all of the time. I get that they wouldn’t have known, in the 1940s or the 1740s, that laying on your back causes the fetus to press against the artery that feeds the uterus/placenta, but  that’s irrelevant. I have been pregnant twice. Laying on your back feels AWFUL. It’s like you have an elephant sitting on top of you. The only comfortable position is on your side, and usually only when there’s a pillow or something propping up your belly.

Caitriona Balfe gets a lot of other things right about pregnancy – like resting her hands on her belly pretty much all of the time – so maybe I’m just being overly sensitive.

Anyway, moving on!

Charles is so pitiful. I can see how he would end up drowning his sorrows in booze and women and then refusing to pay his bill.

But the real conflict in this scene is between Jamie and Le Comte. Saint Germain smells a rat, and Jamie is a little to quick to defend himself and his choices. Saint Germain is not a fool, and he can tell that something is going on. We don’t know for sure yet (and not at all in the main series books), but he’s a traveler, so there could be additional reasons why he suspects Jamie.

When Jamie and Saint Germain get up in each other’s faces after Jamie “monsieurs” him, I thought they were going to tear each other apart. But at the same time, I could not stop thinking about how very pretty both Sam Heughan and Stanley Weber are!

Jamie and Fergus have such a wonderful relationship. The way Jamie treats him like a man, approving of his decisions, is perfect. Jamie is only partially Fergus’s master. He is becoming Fergus’s father. I cannot wait to see Sam as Jamie, giving his own name to Fergus and Marsali next season (or maybe in season 4, if they split Voyager the way I think they will).

This scene is also a nice way to drop in some exposition about Murtagh being away, and unable to assist in the events that are about to occur.

I’m not sure why they’re emphasizing “out of sight, out of mind.” It isn’t a modern phrase – I just looked it up, and it first appears in print in the 16th century. So I’m not sure the relevance here, or why Claire would say it to Fergus every day.

And why does Fergus say he will come with Jamie to guard his right? That’s an Ian-thing from the books, but Sam isn’t left-handed, and so TVJamie isn’t left-handed. I’m a little confused. Is this a common idiom from the period in France that I just don’t know?

In any case, I am very happy that it is Jamie’s own schemes with Charles that bring him and Fergus to the brothel and the confrontation with BJR. It adds a layer of conflict that wasn’t present in the book, when it was a random foreman in the wine business who brought them there. Much better to have everything be tied to Jamie and Claire’s choices and actions.

I am also glad that the show avoids making Fergus sell himself to Black Jack Randall. It allows some of his innocence to be preserved, although he is still a thief – and that’s what gets him into trouble.

I can hope that BJR will not be shown at some later date trying to rape Fergus, and that the worst that will happen is that BJR will attack him because he tried to steal something from the room. I wonder if the show will mention that BJR is distraught and unhappy before he ever encounters Jamie and Fergus? I like my villains to have lives and feelings not connected to my heroes. I also like for them to have multiple dimensions and things that make me feel sympathetic, even while I despise them for other things.

But above all, I am happy not to have to watch a little boy be raped in this episode, and I very much hope that the show will avoid that entirely.

The end of the show builds up tension like a whip, from Suzette reluctantly telling Claire about the duel and how it started, to Claire racing to the Bois de Bologne, and everything that follows. The music is an amazing mix of baroque and the show’s existing themes, becoming a driving anthem that pushes Claire and the carriage forward.

I am so glad that there is no voice over until it becomes absolutely necessary to give us additional information. And when it comes, it is the exact line from the book, which increases the conflict and tension rather than diffusing it the way so many of the voice overs do. It also shows us just how distraught Claire is – to the point that she is conflating Black Jack with Frank. Because Frank isn’t going to die if BJR does. He’ll just never be born. When she says “which of my men will die” she is quite literally referring to BJR as Frank.

It’s wonderful that we stay so firmly in Claire’s PoV (close-ups of the duel and BJR’s face excepted; we know that Jamie stabbed in the groin, which Claire doesn’t know) for the last few minutes of the episode. And it is a dirty brawl, too, not a restrained and gentlemanly affair, fought to first blood. These two want, very desperately, to kill each other.

It is heartbreaking to watch Claire miscarry, and to have Jamie unable to go to her because of the gen d’armes.

I speculate that Saint Germain was having Jamie watched, and is responsible for them showing up where Murtagh assured Jamie that they do not usually patrol. My guess is that Saint Germain’s interference here is going to be what causes him to end up in a wizard’s duel with Master Raymond in the next episode.

Are we supposed to think that BJR and Claire are both dead at the end of the episode? Claire is supposed to assume that BJR is, at least if they follow the book. But obviously Claire isn’t. There’s half a season still to go, and we know she lives long enough to go back to the 1940s. (Also, she’s very much alive in the “next time on Outlander” segment).

It’s another short episode (almost exactly 51 minutes, not counting the credits), so I wonder if there was supposed to be a brief scene following this, with Claire at L’Hopital? Maybe not. This is a very good place to end the episode, conflict-wise, so it may just be that this is where things ended up, time and pacing-wise.

I only wonder at the way BJR and Claire are both portrayed as slowly closing their eyes. It’s too close in composition not to be intentional, or at least, not to have been noticed during editing.

Not a big deal, just curious.

I imagine that the next episode is going to pretty closely follow what happens in the book, except without the very long stay at Fontainebleu. I’m assuming Claire will be in L’Hopital for a while, probably several weeks, recovering from the miscarriage and fever, and then she will find out about Jamie in the Bastille and will go to Louis.

But they’re also going to have to lay some groundwork for getting Claire and Jamie back to Scotland and into the “Fox’s Lair” for episode 208. That’s obviously a reference to Simon Fraser, but I still can’t see how the show is going to get Jamie and Claire to Beuly this early in the timeline. I hope to have more information with which to speculate after the next episode. 

EDIT: Lani at The Scot and the Sassenach suggested that this whole episode would work better if it revolved around a central element. She suggested the baby, and I think that’s a brilliant idea. A few tweaks to show Jamie is worried about the baby, and maybe a scene where Claire starts having pain before he goes to Le Havre, would have given the episode a cohesion and overall shape that it lacked. 

They also mentioned that there’s a lot of “to-ing and fro-ing” with multiple trips to the same locations that could have been combined. I think that’s partially true, but some of it actually contributes to the emotional resonance of the episode. Things feel a little frantic and frustrating, maybe even fruitless when their plans don’t work the first time. So I don’t mind so much. 

Analysis – Jamie and Claire’s Relationship, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 114 – The Search

I have been putting off writing this blog post because I don’t know how to write it without being a giant Negative Nancy. The thing is, despite how disappointed I was with how the show handled the strapping, there’s still a lot to like in “The Reckoning.” But in “The Search,” there are only a handful of scenes that I actually like. Most of the episode feels contrived. No, worse. It makes no sense in the world that they’ve created. At least in the book, they do their little song-and-dance routine as a way to make a little coin and get attention to ask questions. The fact that Jamie will hear about Claire as a healer is a bonus – it might draw him to them – but it isn’t their entire plan. Plus, the whole thing takes up a few pages at most.

So…I don’t know how to be objective, and I don’t want to write a rant. But I do want to move on to the last two episodes, because they are gut-wrenching and painful and desperately beautiful. That means I’m going to focus only on the parts of the episode about which I have nice things to say.

First- the title card is…odd? I don’t hate it, but it does seem very on-the-nose.

Ian’s struggle strikes deep into my heart. How it hurts him to feel useless. Also, Jenny Fraser Murray is a BAM (Bad-Ass-Mother). While Claire is lost in voice-over, Jenny is like, “Get your ass in gear, Sassenach.” But it does bother me, thinking of what’s going on under her skirts since she just gave birth. Not to be too graphic, but things still…leak for a while. I’m seriously more bothered by that than the crow eating out the dead dude’s eye.

I LOVE that they put a lactating mother on screen. I approve of all child-feeding choices – every woman has to make the decision that best suits her life and her child – but we need to do more to normalize breastfeeding. Not because everyone should or must do it, but because it is a totally natural thing and we shouldn’t be afraid or shamed by women who do it.

  • Jenny – “He’s not daft enough to pick a fight with ten armed soldiers.”
  • Claire- Raises eyebrow
  • Jenny – Nods- yeah, you’re right

Jenny and Claire with the redcoat is brutal and terrifying, and is the best sort of scene to shove Jenny’s deep 18th-century practicality up against Claire’s 20th-century optimism. I wish they hadn’t taken the choice away from them by giving it to Murtagh, though. That was a misstep, in my opinion. Claire needed to choose, and we needed to see it. Jenny is right. Love forces a person to choose, and it isn’t quite enough to Claire to say she would have done it.

The girls reminiscing about their unusual childhoods is lovely. But UGH to more VO the next morning. We understand that she needs to get back to the baby. The milk-expressing scene should have done it. And then, their parting strikes home how different things are between them from when they first met.

And now we enter my least favorite part of the episode. Which is sad, because I love Murtagh, and I want to love Claire and Murtagh traveling in the lovely wilds of Scotland. Sadly, although it starts out well with her healing people and using her strengths at reading people, Murtagh’s sword-dancing is supposed to be quite good, and the Scots revered a good sword dancer. The show manufactures some very unlikely conflict, and then the episode takes a sharp left turn through the pumpkin patch to crazy town.

So I’ll pick up again with Claire and Murtagh in the cave by the sea. Damn, but I love watching Murtagh reminisce about Ellen, and then to bend enough to embrace Claire back and comfort her? It makes me cry. I hope we eventually get a book, or at least a short story, of Brian and Ellen.

Skipping over the remnants of the gypsy plot…

We find poor Claire, getting Dougal when she wanted Jamie. And what a right bastard he is about it, too. Fortunately, Claire knows exactly how to handle assholes. Although I chuckle on the “we won’t talk about Geillis today” line. I still wonder if they’ll put her into season two, other than as Gillian Edgars.

I like that they gave Willie the first vote to help Jamie when Claire goes to speak to Dougal’s men. It brings the character to a nice arc by the end of the season, from the raw lad who started on a journey in Rent to a man who can stand up for what he believes in, even when the path is hard.

And then we enter into darkness.

Episode 113 – The Watch

The title card to this episode is one of the best in the season so far. It’s a bit of a fake-out, in that, even though you’ve just seen all of the “previously on Outlander” nonsense reminding us just who and what the watch are in Scotland at this time, you have to ask yourself, “do they actually mean a timepiece?”

The great thing is, once you get to the end of the episode, you realize they meant both. And not in some forced way, but in a beautifully metaphoric way, that rises organically out of the episode. Fantastic. Despite being almost entirely contrived from whole cloth, and having very little to do with the book, this is one of my favorite episodes of the back half of the season.

Alastair over at Storywonk said that the story structure itself in this episode is like the precision cogs in a clock, so there’s another meaning there, too.

Because the only thing that meshes this story with the books is Jenny giving birth and Jamie being captured, I won’t have too much to say about book vs. show. So I’ll just focus on the things I liked about the episode.

There’s so much wonderful tension in this story. It’s spun throughout the episode and builds, with rises and falls. For example, what you think is a moment of conviviality, while they are sharing war stories at dinner, is slashed almost immediately with suspicion and fear.

The casting is fantastic, especially for Taran MacQuarrie. The other members of the watch are slimy and violent enough to be forbidding, but he’s the standout. I loved watching Jamie break in the stable yard and beat the tar out of the three watchmen. Taran’s respect for him even while he’s still wary is another hallmark of the Taran/Jamie relationship.

When Horrocks showed back up, the way they handled him in the earlier episodes made more sense. He’s probably my least favorite thing about the episode, though. The best is contrasting Jenny’s labor and fight to bring wee Maggie into the world with the raid/ambush.

I can’t decide if I like Jenny’s description of pregnancy being moved to her labor, because instead of her weaving a spell with her words, she’s talking through her pain. It still works, but differently. (Note- shouldn’t her water break after a while of contractions? I know not all labors are the same, but the water breaking usually happens closer to “go time” – not two days earlier).

Jamie and Ian are so wonderful together. They are so much like brothers. I could watch an entire episode of Jamie and Ian.

Claire’s worries that she’s barren are so heart-wrenching. And Jamie takes it hard, but tries to reassure her. This is where we break from the Jamie who strapped his wife to the Jamie who says he can’t bear her pain, even in a “good cause” like pregnancy. I just wish they’d have done things differently in The Reckoning.

Ian’s choice to kill Horrocks is shocking, but totally understandable. Jamie’s way of calming Ian, and bringing him back from the edge of disbelief and despair is lovely.

I like how MacQuarrie pays them back for the hay, which brings him back to the “likable” side of the tension oscillation. But then he comes right out and asks Jamie why they killed Horrocks, and we’re back on the fear side. Jamie punctures the tension, taking the blame for Horrocks’s death, and gaining Taran’s respect. But also an obligation, which he fulfills by agreeing to accompany them on the raid.

I didn’t like the frozen moment when she said goodbye to Frank for the last time, but this one felt more natural. There’s an understanding that what Jamie’s going to do is dangerous, and she’s worried, but loves him. She didn’t think that she would never see Frank again, but it’s absolutely possible that Jamie wouldn’t come back, even without treachery.

Taran’s reasons for his life choices are interesting, and it’s clear that Jamie’s tempted. It’s nice that they finally come to a place of rapprochement right before everything goes to hell.

The fake-out for Jenny’s death (lying there in her bloody shift) was not fun, but I understood that it was also standing in for us not seeing the blood being shed in the gully.

Ugh. Claire VO again. Go away! Her conversation with Jenny more than accounts for her feelings. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with them. Really, this moment between them is far and away better than some stilted exposition. I love that Jenny gives Claire the boar tusks as a way of finally accepting her as a sister and friend.

The boar tusk bracelets themselves are…problematic? Giant, awkward, and Claire clearly is thinking: WTF?? They can’t seem to get the jewelry right in this show. Costumes are amazing, but so far, they’ve been missing on all three pieces of symbolic, important accessories: Claire’s wedding ring from Jamie, Ellen’s necklace, and Ellen’s bracelets. And don’t get me wrong- I’ve softened a bit on the wedding ring. But I’m still going to miss having the engraved message for Claire to discover in the 1960s. And much further down the road, I don’t see how Brianna will be able to whip out Ellen’s necklace at Lallybroch as proof that she is Jamie and Claire’s daughter. The boar tusk bracelets have already played out in 114, The Search, so they aren’t as big of a deal, but they looked awkward the whole time.

Claire staring at the road when Ian comes back without Jamie just tears your heart out. That is the way to end an episode. No false conflict, nothing that will be easily resolved in a moment, but a world-shifting event that is going to change everything going forward.

Unfortunately, the next episode is a hot mess. It’s about 25% amazing, and 75% awful. Not uncomfortable-like-The-Reckoning-awful, just ill-conceived nonsense. It’s one of the reasons I put off coming back to blogging about this show, because I knew I was going to have to find something nice to say while hating every moment of the Claire and Murtagh show. But more on that next time.

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 108 – Addendum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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