Episode 310 – Heaven and Earth

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I am actually doing this episode’s blog in advance! I am having several Thanksgivings this year, and one of them is tomorrow (well, later today), so I stayed up late and am watching at midnight. I’ll schedule the blog to go up around 10 am.

Whoa, another cold open. Although I suppose it makes sense to get the last few minutes of the last episode from Jamie’s perspective before we officially start this one.

Still loving the new intro, especially the melding of the folkdances from the women around the stones to the African dances around the bonfire.

Oh, there they go with the title card, opening the cask of crème de menthe.

UGH VOICE OVER. We get it. A shot of her looking wistfully out to sea would do as much—if not more—than the terrible voice over.

Elias is super cute, and I hope they don’t kill him off like in the book. I know that deaths make for drama and we have to kill our darlings, but I like him. The actor is doing a great job of capturing that odd reality of the British navy in the era, when junior officers were almost always the younger sons of gentlemen or family of other officers, and could go to sea at a very young age. And yet they were meant to be in charge of much older men, many of whom had been pressed into service and had absolutely no desire to be there.

Wow, I was super right about how awful this scene with Jamie and Fergus would be. It was bad enough disparage Fergus’s feelings, but then to bribe him with his blessing is just…icky. I know Jamie is frantic, but wow. I want to say #notmyjamie, but we’ll see how the rest of the episode goes.

Overbearingly evil men are overbearing and evil. Ugh to the cook being so moustache-twirlingly bad.

Elias saves the scene, though, as he is saving the episode for me so far.

The Johansen scene was a little weird—especially since alcohol poisoning can be very serious, including making you go blind or die. It felt like the only reason it was there was for Claire to see the Portuguese flag, which in turn sends her to the captain’s cabin where she can read the log entry about Jamie. I don’t like it when the plot elements are so painfully obvious and not actually motivated by character action.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. This show already has a rape problem, which is to say that it relies on rape too heavily as a source of conflict. But to feed into the lie in our culture that women routinely lie about rape to get their way, or get out of trouble, or just to be bitches, makes me want to scream. Especially right now, when we are finally, finally listening to and believing women when they come forward to talk about being assaulted. This is such a step in the wrong direction. Do better, Outlander writers. Do better.

The Fergus and Marsali scene was nice. I like how they’re both strong-willed and stubborn, but accept each other with their strengths and weaknesses. It was also very well-acted. I was convinced that Fergus was on the edge of giving in, and then finally brought himself back to reality. Well done.

I dislike Claire using Elias to get to Tompkins, but just like Jamie, she’s willing to cross some ethical lines to keep the person she loves safe. But unlike Jamie, Claire thinks she’ll be able to keep this particular situation under control and that it won’t end up hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve it. I like that she’s actively seeking Tompkins, though. I always hated that he just randomly ended up needing surgery in the book. I loathe deus ex machina coincidences.

And again with the rape threats, against Marsali this time, and with their “friendly” crew. What the hell? Although I imagine that’s going to mean that Fergus refuses to set Jamie free and risk Marsali being hurt.

Claire is certainly a little vindictive against Tompkins, but he did set the print shop on fire and try to kill Young Ian, so I can’t be that mad about it. And putting him into the brig with the typhoid carrier is a nice touch.

I love that Fergus stands up to Jamie, and throws his words back at him. Jamie isn’t seeing clearly because he’s blinded by his worry for Claire, but Fergus has the pulse of the ship and he knows he’s doing what is best for all of them.

Oh, crap. They are going to go there. Poor Elias. I wish I didn’t know that at the beginning. And damn you, Bear McCreary, because you’re ripping my heart out right now.

I like that Claire makes an attempt at escape and fails, and Captain Leonard tells her the truth about everything. Nicer to have things out in the open, even if Leonard is being too stuffy and honor-bound about it.

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to talk about Jamie’s return to the crew and giving his blessing to Fergus and Marsali. Basically, I kinda hate this entire plotline. Jamie would never do the things they had him do in this episode. He’s not an idiot. He has walked tightropes of politics and danger before (remember giving the oath at Leoch? Not to mention pretending to be Prince Charlie’s friend while secretly working behind his back to thwart his ability to start another Rising). I know he’s upset about Claire, but does that take away everything that makes him who he is? They are writing him as though he was like Dougal, slave to his emotions, instead of like Colum, canny and intelligent. Jamie would make a plan to save Claire. He wouldn’t go off half-cocked and he would never, ever hold something so important as his blessing in marriage over Fergus’s head to do something that he knows could literally get Fergus killed. No way, and no how. #NOTMYJAMIE And then they somehow just bring him out at the end and he’s back to normal. WTF?

(back to the original blog)

Oh, sadface. We haven’t had the scene with John and Claire on deck and she’s about to jump ship (literally). Maybe they’ll move the conversation to later, once they’re actually on the island. Because I really adore that particular exchange. Or maybe they couldn’t justify it because John has had flashback-style memories of Claire and they didn’t think we would believe that he wouldn’t remember her (although her not recognizing him isn’t an issue since he was only 16 before Prestonpans). And it doesn’t work as well after he knows who she is and she knows what John means to Jamie.

Or maybe they’ve removed him from the Porpoise completely, and it will just be a surprise to find him already installed as the governor in Jamaica. I can’t imagine that he won’t appear at all in the rest of the season—although the revelation about Willie has already happened. But so much of Claire and John’s friendship is established in that scene where they talk while Jamie is being questioned about murder. I doubt there will be a murder since there wasn’t a Fiend in Edinburgh, but I still want them to have that conversation.

The preview for next week doesn’t look very exciting in terms of changes, except that it looks like Jamie will still be with the crew when the Artemis beaches. And I didn’t see anyone who might be Lawrence Stern, so we may just have Father Fogden. But I really hope we get a wedding with attendant sheep!

Well, now the writers have clearly stated (in the talkback) that they are planting rabbits throughout the season to be references to Bree. It made no sense whatsoever on the battlefield at Culloden, but I guess I see what they were trying to do. Matthew B. Roberts suggested that it will have a payoff at the end—I’m guessing that will somehow tie into the Bakra episode and Margaret summoning the vision of Brianna.

This episode wasn’t terrible, but aside from the Elias and Fergus storylines, I wasn’t very impressed, either. The stuff with Tompkins just feels like a distraction. How did they know about the dead man in the crème de menthe? It obviously wasn’t an accident that they opened that cask. And why was Tompkins pressed? He made it sound like Sir Percival did it on purpose, but why would he do that except to cover up something? And yet, the warrant was sworn for Jamie anyway. It doesn’t really make sense.

What did you think of the episode? Did you miss Lord John as much as I did? They’re cutting storylines left and right. Are any of your favorite pieces from the book missing? Or did they keep in something you love? Let me know in the comments!

(PS–if you aren’t watching Lani Diane Rich’s Outlander vlog Sex and Whisky, you are missing out! I almost always agree with her opinions and comments.)

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Episode 307 – Crème de Menthe

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Here we are on the other side of a ridiculous cliffhanger, with the threat of rape still hanging in the air like a noxious, completely avoidable fog. (Although I did like the use of the fire engine for the title card, foreshadowing the print shop fire…but I’m not sure what that has to do with crème de menthe??)

I am pleased that Claire didn’t actually kill the man outright, but the complication that they create with her immediately reversing course and trying to heal him seems absurd. I can see Claire having qualms about letting him die, and needing to wrap her conscience around it, but actively working to save him when she knows what’s at stake? I don’t know–it doesn’t really feel like Claire. Yes, she has done some very ill-advised things because of her 20th-century sensibilities. But this? I’m having some trouble with it.

ARGH ARCHIE CAMPBELL. I was so hoping we would be excising (haha) that storyline.

Young Ian, be still my heart! I love watching him show his competence so early in the show while bargaining with the tavern owner. These are the seeds of the strong man he will grow up to be, and I’m delighted to witness them.

This episode is pushing the bounds of credulity for me with Claire’s insistence on healing the exciseman. Yes, she is a healer. Yes, she swore an oath when she became a surgeon. But she has killed before when necessary, and made her peace with that. She is, at heart, a pragmatic woman. The episode just barely manages to save itself (for me, anyway)  with the scene after the exciseman died. Barely. But I can see this as being part of Claire readjusting to the realities of the 18th century, and needing some time to accept that she isn’t in Boston with her surgery anymore.

But, let me just point this out: the exciseman dies anyway and gets crated into a barrel, making everything moot, and there are no repercussions for Claire’s actions either way. Which is basically the definition of false conflict. Sigh.

On the other hand, I love, love, love Fergus and Young Ian at the tavern. Their friendship—and the thought of the future they both want to create—is beautiful. Fergus’s teasing really makes them feel like brothers. I’m trying to figure out how old Young Ian is here—I seem to remember him only being fourteen. OK, I just checked. It’s 1766, and he was born in 1752, so that’s right. That seems awfully young to me, but maybe I just can’t remember well enough being that age. I’m sure I felt I was old enough for everything Young Ian wants to do, and I wasn’t living in a period of history that didn’t have the same concept of childhood as we do. Although I think voting age in Scotland is sixteen now, which isn’t that much older than fourteen, and would be considered adulthood for most purposes. But I still had a moment of “he’s just a baby!” especially given the following scenes.

They’re going in a different direction with the Campbells, and I have to say I approve. Archie is definitely taking advantage of his sister, but I’m glad they’re changing him from the ultra-religious Fiend. We can do without that storyline entirely (and, I hope, the attendant problems with Yi Tien Cho), and this way we still have Margaret in the West Indies during the slave uprising without all of the mess of the other storyline.

Speaking of Yi Tien Cho, I’m glad that Claire calls him by his actual name. And that, after that first somewhat problematic scene, they aren’t using him for comic effect or pushing hard on him being Chinese. In this episode he was just a member of Jamie’s crew–if a more trusted one than most–and that was refreshing to see.

Ian’s visit highlights just how much Jamie is lying to everyone. In the first half of the scene, he lies to Ian about his son. In the second half, he admits to lying (by omission) to Claire about his second wife (not that anyone has said those words yet—but in each episode since Claire returned someone has remarked on the thing that Jamie isn’t telling Claire). Claire shines a light on that when they talk upstairs afterward.

Young Ian truly does take after his uncle (in more ways than one…no, it’s not so much like horses, or whores, Ian). He’s fearless, and thinks of the lass first, getting her out of danger. Yes, things rather blow up around him (and unfortunately the man got away with a stack of pamphlets), but he didn’t back down. His storyline is the only real plot that we get in this episode, but it works very well.

Claire and Jamie’s fight seems well-motivated, unlike the earlier arguments over the exciseman. Some of Jamie’s anger, however, is out of proportion to the topic. I think his guilt about Laoghaire is fueling the bitterness and accusations. Not that he says anything he doesn’t mean, but he’s a bit harsher about it than he might otherwise have been.

The print shop fire scene is great, and handles a lot of the plot threads from the book in a more convincing way than the betrayal during the smuggling shipment. But with that said, I am sorely disappointed that Jamie doesn’t save his printing press, even though I’m sure that part would have been impossible to film. The loss of Bonnie is going to cause rather large changes to future events—to lots of future events. The press was a huge part of Jamie’s life—to the point he even named it. So losing that here, while expediting this story and picking up the pace of this particular episode, means losing not only a giant chunk of future storylines, but a whole aspect of Jamie’s life and personality from the books.

This sort of thing is bound to happen in adaptations, but I do mourn the loss. Jamie as writer and printer is one of my favorite incarnations of Jamie. I am glad he saved the miniature of Willie, though.

Ah, now Fergus has actually said the words “other wife.” I’m very surprised that they did that, but I suppose they know that a good percentage of show watchers have already read the books and know what’s coming. And now there’s dramatic irony, since all of the viewers know something Claire doesn’t.

The final shot of Jamie watching the press burn is heart-wrenching, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, and since the show hasn’t articulated his love for the press well, it could be just him mourning one way of life that is now gone, or worrying about what is going to happen next with Claire, Young Ian, and Laoghaire.

Speaking of what happens next–why wasn’t Ian there? If he’s out looking for Young Ian, you’d think a fire would bring him running. I suppose we’ll see him early in the next episode, or Jamie will mention him having already left for Lallybroch, or somesuch.

The “next time on Outlander” segment is spoilerific. They don’t actually use any clips of anyone saying Laoghaire’s name, so at this point all non-reading audiences know is that Jamie married again, but it seems clear enough that this is going to cause major friction and perhaps splintering between Jamie and Claire. I do wonder if Jamie will end up being shot—they show Claire and Jamie on the cliffs (I assume while Young Ian swims out to get kidnapped), but by that point in the book they had basically reconciled. So there are some questions going into next week.

Sorry for the lack of pictures again, and for the very late blog this week. My son has been sick and I had to wait until bedtime to watch the episode and start the blog. Rather than wait another half hour while I do screengrabs and edit them in Photoshop, I’m just going to go ahead and post. But I do intend to try and find an hour this week to add pics to both this blog and the one from last week!

What did you think of this episode? Do you agree with me that it was a lot of false conflict and created problems? What do you think of Jamie’s stance on lies? Let me know in the comments!