Episode 205 – Untimely Resurrection

This episode swings between absolutely wonderful and “what in the hell just happened?”

The horse title card was a bit of a tease. I know that they moved part of the dialogue into the first party at Versailles, but otherwise almost everything of value (Sandringham’s offer, Fergus on the horse) was stripped from the royal stables section of the book. We replace it with some Randall material that doesn’t make any sense, and some Annalise material that also doesn’t make any sense….

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The clock ticking is straight from the book, and perfect. I don’t mind VOClaire too much, but I am getting tired of hearing her say “in that moment.” I think she says it in 90% of the voiceovers.

It is cute to see Fergus asleep beside Claire on the couch, but it would have been nice to actually show their interaction. We’ve established him as having a keen understanding of women after growing up in a brothel, and showing him comfort Claire, and having that make her feel awkward, would give her an excellent reason to tell Jamie later that she’s worried about being a mother.

I am so glad that Claire gets pissed at Jamie about him basically calling her a witch to protect his man card. She has a very good reason to fear such accusations, and in the book she reacts by laughing and calling him “darling.” BookClaire does later refer to Cranesmuir and the witch trial, but only when she goes to see Master Raymond.

The only problem is that TVClaire forgives TVJamie a little too easily. Oh, he was drunk, but in what world is it excusable for a man to trade his wife’s safety in exchange for him getting out of a little ribbing by his buddies? He could just tell them that he is a faithful husband, as he is a faithful Jacobite. It serves his political purposes and his personal ones. Done.

At least the show uses it as a clue to find out who hired the attackers. And Murtagh has his chance to swear to lay vengeance at Jamie’s feet.

Mary is sweet, thinking of Alex and wanting to act on his behalf. What she says about feeling like a different person is heartbreaking, and Claire gives her the best advice that can be given: It Was Not Your Fault.

You can see the moment Claire decides to act with certainty rather than acknowledging the possibility of a pregnancy. It is a very tiny possibility, and it’s better to reassure her now than frighten her with something that will probably not occur.

I like that Claire has to decide what to do with the letter. And she makes the right choice – allowing Alex to be freed – but then makes a questionable one when she encourages him to break off his secret engagement to Mary.

It is creeptastic when Charlie rubs Jamie’s face. He is a total creeper. Over at Storywonk on their reaction show this week, they talked about how Charles always has to say “Mark Me” because no one does. Someone who knows that he is being heard, and is confident of his place, does not need to tell people to pay attention.

Every time someone mentions Louis backing Charles (especially in this scene, when he says “French money,” which is pretty close to “French gold”), I think of the gold buried in the cave on the mountain. Does anyone else do that?

Jamie tries to discourage Charles, but he’s already planned how to keep an eye on Saint Germain – Jamie will do it. But don’t plague him with workmen’s concerns. What an ass.

It’s difficult to watch Claire and Alex. Claire is saying practical things, and even true things, but with an agenda, and that bothers me. Claire obviously has a choice, no matter what she says. Alex is ill, and time will take care of itself. Who’s to say they wouldn’t marry, and Alex will still die in a year, and BJR will marry his brother’s pregnant wife in order to take care of her, at his brother’s last request?

There’s always a choice.

Jamie and Saint Germain is just odd. At first, I thought the show might actually make Saint Germain an antagonist, but the further we get into the season, the more I think he just doesn’t like them. He might revel in anything that hurts them, and try to steal business away, but I don’t think he’s an active threat.

His reaction to Jamie’s threats and recounting of what happened to Claire shows indifference, and perhaps a little bit of  displeasure that Claire wasn’t more badly hurt, but there is not a single hint of responsibility or fear on his face. I hope the show acknowledges that at the wizard’s duel, rather than just allowing Claire to condemn an innocent (well, mostly) man. Even if book readers know he’s not quite dead. 🙂

The apostle spoons are…weird? Is this a Catholic thing that I would know about if I had grown up in the church, rather than being christened at birth and then my parents deciding to become Southern Baptist? (I know.)

In any case, the spoons aren’t important. It’s what they represent – the connection to Jenny and Ian, and Lallybroch. They are the weight of the past, and family, and community.

Claire’s worries are so perfect. I worried (and still worry, every day!) about being a good mom, and I have an amazing one to model my actions on. Poor Claire, with no real memory of her mother, makes me ache.

But she does have Jamie, and his reassurance – that they will figure it out together – is even more poignant, considering that, by the end of the episode, they will be very much at odds, and by the end of the season, she will be raising Jamie’s child with someone else.

Did Claire just snub the Duke of Sandringham, or did she really smell something that made her queasy? I want to assume it’s a snub, because anything that thumbs a nose at Sandringham is grand thing, but pregnancy does make you really sensitive to smells, and it looks like she got a whiff of horse and didn’t like it.

Jamie and Sandringham are perfect. There’s so much innuendo, and double- or triple-meanings (cherishes options, indeed). I miss the outright offer of a pardon, but the show may be saving that for another moment.

But Claire and Annalise makes no sense whatsoever. I’m not sure what this exchange is doing in this episode. To my recollection, this doesn’t come from the book, although I have a vague memory of someone telling Claire that she has made a man out of Jamie (it may have been Jenny). But other than perhaps reminding us that Jamie can be impulsive, this conversation does nothing for the plot of the episode, and I don’t even think we needed that reminder. It just feels awkward and I would have cut it.

Black Jack Randall felt very odd to me until I watched the little “behind the scenes” piece at the end of the episode. Once they explained that Randall was finished with Jamie after what happened at Wentworth, that he’d gotten what he wanted, and stopped thinking about the Frasers entirely, it makes more sense. But I don’t understand why this BJR – who actually was trampled by cows – would not still have an axe to grind against the ones responsible.

In general, BJR acts very differently here in Paris. I’m glad that the reason BJR comes to Paris is tied to Jamie and Claire’s actions. Though they were not directly responsible for Alex losing his position with Sandringham, they were key players in the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.

But BJR’s goal leads to a very strange interaction with King Louis. My assumption is that the king takes his cue from Claire, who snubs BJR when she does not acknowledge him as a friend, but claims only that they are “acquainted.”

I think this scene is meant to reinforce the attraction Louis has for Claire, but it goes far beyond that in absurdity.

The juxtaposition of the “tense music” (that’s what the subtitles called it) with Jamie’s civility in the presence of the king is somewhat disingenuous. I haven’t liked many of the show’s choices when dealing with expectations of how Jamie will act in regard to BJR.

This whole matter of begging, and forcing BJR to go down on his knees, is a total left turn through the pumpkin patch to crazy town. Where the hell did that come from?

Louis’s little hand gestures and jests are weird, but I’ll allow them as characterization. I may go do some research and see if there is historical evidence for any of those mannerisms.

When BJR touched Jamie – I assume it is meant to be the place where he branded him – I shuddered. But then they cut away to Claire, and we didn’t get to see Jamie’s reaction. I think that was a mistake. Claire’s feelings in this moment are already clear. We know she’s upset, worried about both Jamie and Frank, and basically freaking out. I don’t need a closeup of her face to know that. I want to see how Jamie reacts to BJR’s touch. I want to see him master himself, and be able to bow to his opponent.

Missed opportunity.

I suppose the show decided to make Jamie gleeful about his revenge so that this moment – when Claire takes that away from him – will become the new conflict around which the next few episodes will turn. But I don’t think they needed to push him up to eleven. Just the need for vengeance, hot and hard, would have been enough. It doesn’t need to make him feel bliss.

Claire dispatches Murtagh so that she can tell Jamie her real reason for delaying the duel. The bulk of this scene is straight out of the book, and I adore it.

Both of them need so much to succeed in this argument, and that is the truest sort of conflict. This episode ends in the absolute best place, unlike last week. There’s no muddle here, no farcical riot. There is only pain, and two people at odds who love each other, but are hurting each other very much. Ending with both of them on opposite ends of the room, Jamie staring away, and Claire staring at Jamie, both of them in agony, was a very, very good choice.

I can’t wait to see if, in the next episode, Jamie tells Claire that he won’t do it because she asked for her debt to be repaid, but because he wants to give Claire a safe harbor in the future, should they fail to stop Charles. He doesn’t care about Frank, or an innocent life, but he does care about Claire, and that is the only thing that can stay his hand.

The “next time on Outlander” segment focuses on Saint Germain, so I assume we’ll be dealing with the Madeira, and possibly pushing a little harder on him as a villain. We also see Jamie flexing his right hand a LOT, so I’m guessing we’re going to end the episode with him dueling BJR. But I suppose we’ll find out next week!

 

Episode 204 – La Dame Blanche

Here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and I’m conflicted about this episode.

It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t wow me, either. I think I’m most troubled by Jamie and Claire. I do not mind, at all, that Jamie doesn’t get mad at her for keeping the secret about Jack Randall. What I mind is that Sam Heughan was directed to act elated (or he chose that, I don’t know which). I’ll discuss it more when I get there in the episode overview, but I think of Jamie being determined, vengeful, maybe even with a sense of triumph that he can be the one to end Jack Randall’s life. But not…joy. Not laughter. Anyway.

The episode title card is the man with the birthmark sabotaging Claire and Jamie’s carriage. I like when the title card is linked to the story, but this one is actually part of the story, so I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The poisoning scene is obviously meant to make us suspect Saint Germain, and I hope they are going to make him actually responsible for this. He certainly rises to the bait of her necklace (although that particular aspect wasn’t explored much in the show – no time), and he is a friend of Sandringham, so they could be setting him up as a secondary antagonist to the Duke.

So here we are at Claire’s confession. I absolutely think it was the wrong choice to go for levity here. It undercuts all of Claire’s tension and unhappiness in the last episode, and makes what was real conflict there feel false here. Again, I don’t mind that he isn’t angry with her, but I don’t think he should be grinning and laughing, either. He should be fierce – an avenging Scot – not the good-humored lad from the stables at Leoch.

There’s a moment where we get that darkness, but then when he sits down on the bed, it’s back to near-silliness. Murtagh names it – a cheery mood. And Claire is smug about it, which doesn’t strike me as funny at all.

But then we move on to Raymond, and I adore this scene. Especially when Raymond says “I’m fascinated by things not of this time” and then basically winks at Claire. But it isn’t overt – it isn’t screaming “we’re both travelers – WOO!” so it’s great.

The reference to the Zulu and chicken bones makes me think of what is to come in the West Indies.

Rational Claire is absolutely stunned, and, I think, frightened when Raymond says she’ll see Frank again. Not because she doesn’t believe in this sort of thing – but because she does.

Her nature reasserts itself for the stone pendant, but that will come back in a spectacular way later.

I’ve always thought the cuckoo clock and Louise’s cuckoo in her husband’s nest was a bit on-the-nose, but the show draws the parallel even more closely than the book by placing the clock in the same scene where Louise tells Claire about the baby.

Because Louise and Charles weren’t a known couple yet, I wondered if this subplot would be cut. But it works nicely here as a tension point to center the episode around.

Louise is so lovely. “You mean, sleep with my husband? But my lover will be furious!”

EDIT: I totally did not notice the first two times I watched this episode, but another thing that is missing is the Louise from 202 and 203. Where is the woman who unabashedly had her ladybits waxed in front of her friends? Or the woman who laughed hysterically at Mary’s lack of understanding about what happens on a wedding night?

In this episode, Louise feels very much like the book, which is why I didn’t really notice the change at first. She felt familiar to me, and so I went with it. But Lani over at the Scot and the Sassenach pointed out the discrepancy in TVLouise, and now I can’t unsee it. Her uncertainty and loyalty to Charles feel out of character. I wish we hadn’t been introduced to the romance in this episode. If we’d found out last week that Louise has fallen in love (even if we didn’t know it was Charles) for the first time, and perhaps made a big deal over her being uncharacteristically infatuated/swept away by her lover, then I would be 100% on board with her reaction to her pregnancy and Claire’s suggestions. But as written, her subdued, uncertain reaction feels odder the more I examine it.

Jamie’s ardor reminds me of the first time they had sex on their wedding night. He’s so eager, but he really doesn’t understand women. This entire scene, he just keeps digging himself in deeper, but is so earnest about it at the same time. He isn’t hiding anything from Claire, and can’t understand why she is freaking out when he is just so happy that he finally can imagine sex without Jack Randall getting in the way.

(Side note – is there an accepted interpretation of a sixty-nine where one gender is supposed to be the six and the other the nine? Jamie acts like we/Claire should know which is which when he says, “I think she would’ve settled for the six. The nine could go hang.” And I can’t decide if the girl really wanted his mouth on her, or really wanted her mouth on him. The latter, I suppose?)

But I understand why it takes Claire a while to come ’round to his position, though. She is pregnant, which makes you feel gigantic and swollen and unattractive, and her husband hasn’t touched her for months. Now he’s coming home all aroused by someone else.

This is more the reaction I wanted in the last scene. He is darker, and angrier. Claire is a little petulant, but I completely understand because pregnancy can do weird shit to your head.

Jamie’s speech is straight out of the last pages of Outlander and it is gorgeous coming out of Sam Heughan’s mouth.

Claire is too proud to bend right away, but she does go to him in the end. I disliked this scene of reconciliation the first time I watched the episode, but it’s growing on me with additional viewings.

I’m glad that this show is being made on premium cable, so we don’t have to cover up with strategically-placed sheets. That always bothers me on network TV.

Charles is so drunk, and imperious, and a complete ass. How Louise could be interested in him is a mystery.

This addition to the plot is terrible. Louise already told Claire what could happen if Jules finds out about the affair the the baby. That Claire would risk her friend in such a way is despicable. I can’t believe that they think when Charles comes “unhinged” that he won’t expose Louise.

They set up Fergus needing to have Claire home on time, but it doesn’t play out in the same was as the book (unless they’re saving Fergus and Murtagh asking for punishment until the next episode).

I absolutely adore that Murtagh says “a man does not concern himself with the affairs of women” and then immediately asks about Suzette.

Here we have the image from the credits, of Forez putting the block on the nerve. I wonder if Forez will come to Jamie and Claire to talk about execution, as he does in the book? I can also see him playing into future conflict – possibly even being present at the Wizard’s Duel, or a threat over Jamie’s head in the Bastille.

Ugh, the Duke waiting for Jamie to kiss his hand. Oily bastard. And Sam does the “Jamie shrugging his shoulders” bit when Alex is introduced. I love that he pays so much attention to the body language described in the book.

Mary is so sweet when she talks about Alex. And for a moment, Claire thinks she’s talking about Jack, and imagining the marriage to come in Frank’s family Bible.

The next scene is difficult to watch. And, just as in the book, it makes very little sense to have one of them recognize Claire as La Dame Blanche, especially since we know (if we recognize the birthmark from the title card) that they were hired to do this specifically to Claire, and were meant to have killed her. (EDIT – some of my traffic is from people who want to know who is responsible for the rape/assault. If the show follows the books, the guy with the birthmark is in the employ of Sandringham, but Claire assumes it is Saint Germain. They’re under no obligation to follow the books, though!)

Saint Germain as a friend to Sandringham is well-placed to develop an acquaintance with Charles. I assume we’ll soon be hearing about a plan to make money shipping port.

I LOVE that Alex does not victim blame, that he cares for Mary and doesn’t care what happened to her. Jamie outlines the social standpoint on the issue at the time (and -sadly- now, too), and so it is even more lovely that he stands by her, and in the next scene, tells her he loves her and will take care of her. Such a contrast to his brother.

I wonder if the throwaway mention of cutting off someone’s head is foreshadowing about Sandringham, or a nod to book readers that they aren’t going to do that in the show?

There is some tension between Sandringham and the prince over the pope – but Claire inadvertently punctures the tension by having Sandringham tell a joke.

Charles is ready to have an apoplexy. Everyone is having so much fun – telling jokes, talking about the opera – and he’s reeling from the fact that his mistress left him and now he’s just found out she’s having his child. He definitely reveals himself as unworthy of becoming a king.

Saint Germain remarks on her stone and tries to insult her by implying that she might poison her guests. She flips the insult, turning it into a threat.

And then we fall into a farce. I dislike this closing scene immensely. I find it difficult to believe that everyone would just launch themselves into the fray. I’m imagining more of what happens in the book – anger, insults, shouting, and a little violence. Not this out-and-out brawl.

The bits of humor with Sandringham lamenting the lack of dessert, Fergus helping himself to the food, and Jamie whacking people with a bit of curtain fringe just push things even further over the edge. The only thing that works is Claire, and Saint Germain taking the prince away, summoning the gen’darmes as he goes.

I also dislike that we end right in the middle of the scene. I hate cliffhangers. Finish this conflict and give us the game-changer – when the gens d’armes take Jamie away.

The preview focuses entirely on the central conflict of the next episode – that Black Jack Randall needs to live for a year to father Frank’s ancestor, and therefore Jamie can’t kill him right now – and almost nothing else. So I don’t know how the disastrous dinner party will play out. But I can’t see why they wouldn’t follow the book at least a little.

To sum up my thoughts on this episode:

Lots of good stuff, but the central Jamie and Claire conflict and resolution did not work for me, and that cast a shadow over everything else. Also, I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I already knew that this creative team likes cliffhangers. Ah, well.

Until next weekend!

Episode 203 – Useful Occupations and Deceptions

This episode was lovely. I adored the way they reworked the plot pieces from the book to create a meaningful episode arc. Everything fit together, and actually feels like it makes sense and builds out of what came before. But I should never have expected less of an Anne Kenney episode.

The only thing I miss is Jamie brandishing a sausage as a sword.

The chessboard as title card works well. As Jamie tells Mssr. Duverney, politics is chess on a grand scale, and this episode is all about moving pieces around and discovering what use each of the pieces has.

Claire’s dissatisfaction with her role in Paris, and her obvious unhappiness are tough to see. And poor Jamie is running himself so ragged – partially, I think, so that he won’t be home much and won’t have time to think about the trauma he still hasn’t completely dealt with – that he can’t even see Claire’s distress. He falls into stereotype and assumptions, which isn’t like him. In the last episode, he was able to celebrate the things which make Claire unique and special. Here, he is just not paying attention.

The Mary dialogue is so cute, and drawn straight from the book. And it makes a little more sense that Claire wouldn’t take Mary off to have a discussion about sex, since she’s just been distracted by what she remembers of Frank’s genealogy.

This is what I predicted they would do in this episode, but it’s the one slightly clunky note, especially since we’re given most of the meat of her thought processes and objections in voice over. I don’t know how else they would have communicated the same things, though, given that the only person she can talk to about the future is Jamie, and she won’t tell him about BJR.

I like that we deal with BJR several times in the episode, and that each time, Claire has to choose whether to tell. She chooses to tell Murtagh, but not Jamie.

Speaking of Murtagh – well done, sir! Although Claire’s anger is justified on a number of fronts. For one, Suzette really should have been doing work instead of having some fun with Murtagh. But Claire could have handled things better. I appreciated that she immediately apologized to Murtagh and admitted what was bothering her- that Jack Randall is alive.

In general, the expansion of Murtagh’s role in the show versus the book is a delight. And he puts into words what Claire is using to justify her silence – that it’s a secret, which can be kept, and which she and Murtagh will now be keeping together.

And Murtagh has some business to attend to. So much love for Murtagh! And Duncan LaCroix, of course.

Jamie and Duverney together are hilarious. It’s so funny when he tells Jamie to respect him less.

It is wonderful to have Raymond introduce the idea of L’Hopital des Anges. That Claire feels comfortable confiding in him is indicative of the bond they already share.

Having the Comte there at first provided just a hint of malice, and a reminder that he is a threat. And we’ve now introduced Chekhov’s bitter cascara, which doesn’t “go off” in this episode, so maybe Claire will be poisoned in “Le Dame Blanche.”

Claire’s a little overdressed for the hospital. It would be understandable if they were following the book, and had her arrive with society matrons doing charitable deeds, but Claire has worked in rough hospital conditions before. She has to have something a little better suited than that magnificent purple gown.

I still question Claire tasting the urine. Even if she understood that this was the way things were done, I’d imagine that even Claire would have a moment’s hesitation before acting. And the show overlooks Claire’s bittersweet reaction to her diagnosis – pride that she knows what she’s doing, and sorrow, that the condition cannot be treated.

Jamie’s dismay and frustration at Charlie’s secrecy is a fine thing to behold, and provides perfect motivation for his later pursuit and employment of Fergus. The tantalizing promise of an alliance between England and France is something Duverney cannot ignore, despite what Jamie asked of him.

I like that Jamie’s frustration with Claire is not because she’s doing “inappropriate” things for a woman in the 18th century. He’s already uncomfortable with his deceptions, and it is worse now that he’s failing. Claire not being home to talk to about the new developments is annoying at first, and then drives him to distraction. So he’s primed for a fight when she arrives, suffused with happiness at her day.

He is rightfully worried about the baby, but mostly he is not frustrated with Claire but with himself and his situation. He’s envious that she has found what the episode title suggests – a useful occupation. That she is happy, finally, and can help people. So he lashes out, and she goes on the defensive.

I’m glad he doesn’t forbid her to go, or to ask her not to, as he does in the book. They leave the argument without a conclusion, and that tension isn’t resolved until he sees her in her element, doing surgery (however minor), and is able to regain something of his own, through the breaking of the cipher.

It’s so sad that Jamie and Claire are still not sleeping together. It is such a huge part of their relationship in the book and in the show; it’s their way of connecting and coming together. That Randall has taken that away from them is a travesty, but it makes sense for the show to do this. In the books, we can see them coming together, and still have room for interiority that shows us their problems.

Fergus is so cute! And so brazen – even after Jamie discovers he’s pick-pocketed his snake, he asks how much Jamie is willing to pay.

I question that he claims not to be a whore – since Fergus in the books had taken Madame Elise’s customers when she asked. He’s cavalier about sex, which is sad and unfortunate, but it sets up what happens later with BJR.

Claire’s pride in Jamie’s plan should have brought them closer, but it doesn’t. Jamie is glad to see it, but he still walks away.

The cipher portions are straight from the book, but again Murtagh takes a more active role. It’s great that he suggests that Jamie to go Mother Hildegarde.

Bouton is my hero. I wish we had Jamie playing around with him, since it is a much-needed moment of levity in the book. It would be nice to see Jamie regain a little of his old, funny self with the little canine. But the dog actor is so cute, and he does exactly what was described in the book with the patient. I love him!

Claire shows her competence, and her strength. She acts, decisively and with certainty, and impresses Mother Hildegarde.

Jamie’s little look – that pride and attraction – is great to see again. He hasn’t looked at Claire that way all episode.

I love the comments about Bach, that are straight from the book. Jamie sees Claire’s interest – I wonder if he guesses that she is thinking of the future? Although it seems odd that Jamie then figures out the cipher on his own after Mother Hildegarde  points them in the right direction. But I suppose they needed to give him a useful occupation for the episode plot to work.

Hooray for figuring out immediately that it’s Sandringham! That never made sense in the book, why they overlooked the obvious meaning of the letter S until so much later.

Their excitement, and finally working together, is lovely, and tragic, because Claire’s happiness is about to be undercut by the knowledge that Jamie’s world is about to be turned upside down. But Claire can’t bear to hurt him, and Murtagh disapproves, but understands.

I adored this episode. It wasn’t as funny as last week’s, but it was so strong, with so much character development and meaning. The pace was slower, but every movement had purpose and worked together. Outlander has found its stride again!

Next week is a dinner party – I’m assuming this will be the infamous dinner party where Mary is upstairs and Jamie and Alex end up being arrested.

I can’t wait!

 

Episode 201 – Through a Glass Darkly

Outlander is back!

So, they did what I thought they would do, rather than what I hoped they would do. The first half of this episode, much like the first half of “Sassenach,” is set in the 1940s.  It’s 1948, three years after she first went through the stones.

I can’t say I’m ecstatic about this choice, but I did rather fear that it was coming. On the one hand, this does preserve some of the framing device used in Dragonfly in Amber. On the other, it doesn’t quite match with what is in the books. I’m usually OK with changes, but this one is a character change, and I have a little more difficulty with those.

But let’s take a look at the episode as it unfolds.

When Claire wakes up at the stones, she searches for a ring (I’m guessing this will turn out to be more significant later in the season) and weeps when she finds it because the gemstone is missing (YAY for the first foreshadowing of time-travel dynamics!). EDIT: over at The Scot and the Sassenach, they suggested that she may have dropped it in 1746, and that it has been there in the grass for 200 years. I’m still going with my interpretation, because she looked for it in her bodice first, and the fact that the stone is missing might be her first clue about gemstones and time travel. That will become a big deal in the next season. EDIT #2: According to Ron Moore’s commentary podcast, this is our first time-travel worldbuilding! They added this ring to establish the gemstones for travel.

Sadly, we have VOClaire back. A few of the things she says are tolerable, and she is giving us more information than what is shown on screen, but the only thing I wanted was the part where she says she made a promise and now had to keep it.

The interaction with the little Scottish driver went on a little long, and I think it’s a bit odd that she would think there was any way that Culloden could have had another ending. It made me wonder if they were going to go in an entirely different direction – like maybe have her forced through the stones before things start to go bad for the Jacobites. But then she and Mrs. Graham talk about Jamie’s promise to die on the battlefield with his men, so obviously they’re going to follow the books that far. This scene just feels weird to me.

I do love the new shots in the credits sequence and the new French lyrics in the Skye Boat Song (or, as my 4-year-old daughter calls it, “Lass that Was Gone” – we listen to the soundtrack together, although she is obviously not allowed to watch the show yet).

The title card on Roger is very nice, especially the juxtaposition of the airplane with the tall ships book. Did anyone else get a little teary-eyed for Jerry MacKenzie?

When I saw Frank come barreling down the hospital hallway, I thought we were going to get almost verbatim what happens in Claire’s memory from Dragonfly in Amber – the doctor telling Frank to give Claire time, and Frank arguing. Here’s what he says in the book:

“What do you mean, don’t press her? Don’t press her? My wife’s been gone for nearly three years, and come back filthy, abused, and pregnant, for God’s sake, and I’m not to ask questions?”*

Of course, in the book he already knows she’s pregnant. In the show, they save that reveal for later. But in general, TVFrank is much more considerate, accommodating, and gentle than BookClaire remembers him.

Although I don’t think they needed to spend quite as much time in 1948 as they do, I appreciated the little touches of Claire disliking the noise of the modern streets. When she was at Leoch, the score used to play 40s songs as though that’s what she was hearing, and she hummed them all of the time. But by this point, she has completely embraced a different kind of life.

I’m surprised that they only went for the Frank-as-BJR thing once in this episode. But they do a good job of portraying the awkwardness and distance between Claire and Frank.

In reference to the quote above, Frank says the exact opposite in the show – Reverend Wakefield says that it’s time Claire gave them answers, and Frank says he can wait. It’s almost as though they are deliberately breaking from BookFrank, and I don’t like it. In the books, there is no love triangle. Claire is loyal to Frank when she is with him because that is a bedrock part of her personality. And Frank isn’t a bad man. But there is never any question that Jamie is her true match. The show keeps making Frank more of a partner to her. Again, I don’t mind changes in general, but this one seems like it will have far-reaching implications. Would TVFrank cheat on Claire many times over the years? Would TVFrank plan to take Brianna to England and leave Claire behind? If not, then what are the circumstances of his death? Does Claire still feel responsible? These are all questions the production will have to answer.

I like that Claire has a confidante in Mrs. Graham. It’s a way to work in things that book readers already know (or, to be fair, can guess) about what is going to happen later in the season. They talk about Jamie’s promise to die beside his men at Culloden, and how she’s going to have to accept that he’s gone – dead and buried over two hundred years. This takes the place of some of the conversations Claire has with Roger and her internal monologue in Part One of the book.

I’ve been watching Claire’s hands, trying to see if there’s a J-shaped scar at the base of her right thumb. I’m guessing, if they decided to keep that detail, they won’t reveal it until the 1960s portions at the end of the season. EDIT: Apparently Ron Moore decided not to do this. I need to track down the source where he said this (an interview maybe?). It wasn’t mentioned in the podcast commentary. Still looking. Maybe they just don’t want to have to do scars on the actors every day? Jamie needs a heck of a lot of scar makeup whenever he takes off his shirt, and this would need to be placed every day. And hands are harder, since you use them all day. But still…it’s important, and I’ll miss it.

What Mrs. Graham says is nice, about putting away her memories of Jamie and living her life again, but you can tell that Claire still misses Jamie too much, and maybe even still sees a little of Black Jack when she looks at Frank.

For all that their talk begins as a way for Claire to reconcile, by the end of her confession, it seems like she’s being deliberately cruel, trying to push Frank away. Especially since this Frank seems to be bumbling around but being generally as good as could be expected in this situation.

Another departure from BookFrank is that he claims to believe her (I’m not sure I believe him, just like Claire doesn’t, but he’s putting on a good front). BookFrank doesn’t, and tells Claire so outight. Even years later, after a lot of research and knowing that Brianna looks like the portrait of Ellen MacKenzie in the National Portrait Gallery, he isn’t entirely sure what to believe. His letter to Brianna is a warning, but he still clings to his logical disbelief.

TVFrank clings, instead, to his feelings and his love for Claire. It isn’t until she drops the baby bomb (the Brianna baby bomb?) that he loses his shit. Later, when he explains himself to the reverend, he says that it is the joy of thinking that he’s become a father, and then the ripping away of that joy, that makes him go crazy. But Claire is totally being a bitch about it. I guess she thinks she’s being practical, but it feels like cruelty.

I wonder if the show is going to push on the darkness in Frank, and the connection to BJR, instead of his distance and unsuitability for Claire? Except that, unless they’re really going to break with the books, we’re going to find out by the end of the season that Frank’s ancestor is not actually Black Jack, but rather his mild-mannered younger brother Alex.

Tobias Menzies kills it in this scene with the reverend. The dialogue is so heightened, almost stilted, the words of a historian and lecturer, but he brings so much emotion and pain to the scene.

The show finally leverages Wee Roger in the way that he was intended in the book – as an illustration of adoption, and love for a child not of your own flesh.

Can I say that I adore Reverend Wakefield? His words are so perfect – a child without a father, and a man without a child – and then he tells Frank that he thinks it’s part of God’s plan, but that only Frank can decide what he’s going to call it.

Frank’s conditions match the ones he gave Claire in the book. That Bree will be raised with him as her father, and that Claire will not search for Jamie as long as he’s alive.

Not that that will stop him from searching for Jamie. And finding him. And keeping that from Claire.

It’s good that he doesn’t force her to remove the ring, but the fact that he burns her clothes is huge. It’s proof that he isn’t really as copacetic with the situation as he is trying to portray. Those clothes represent a part of history – a very valuable example of the study to which he has devoted his life – and yet he burns them, because they are also a link between Claire and Jamie.

The arrival in Boston juxtaposed with the arrival in Le Havre is a little jarring. I like the way the book transitions, using Claire’s storytelling as the mechanism. There’s no real reason for her to be thinking of Jamie in that moment. Or well, that’s not true. I can see that she would think of him, would always think of him, but she’s trying to build a new life with Frank and start over. She wouldn’t deliberately seek to relive the past.

So, as transitions go, this one totally fails for me.

But it gets us back to 1745, so whatever. EDIT: I noticed the time jump, but whistled past it. Dragonfly in Amber begins in early 1744, so we’ve just excised an entire year from the timeline. It will push the show to move more quickly than the book, but judging from the episode titles, I think they’re still going to spend too much time in France (see my season two speculations for more on this).

Hooray for Jamie’s seasickness! I can’t wait to see acupuncture needles all over Sam’s head! And hooray for Murtagh, just being himself.

I’m glad that the show is still dealing with the effects of what happened to Jamie at the end of season one. DG mentioned in an interview that the show didn’t have time to give Jamie and Claire the recovery in the Abbey, and the reconciliation in the hot springs, so the wounds are still raw and fresh. Of course, BookJamie wasn’t exactly recovered, either. It will take him much, much longer to come to terms with what happened. And his anger and hatred fuel the biggest conflict of the Paris portion of the book (the duel with BJR and what happens after). But I like the way Claire handles Jamie – reminding him that she’s there, and that she cares. That she’s as stubborn as he is.

Distracting him with plans doesn’t hurt, either. EDIT: This scene has been criticized for being weighed down with exposition that doesn’t really fit what the characters would talk about at this point. That’s probably true, but it didn’t bother me enormously.

Jamie does not like lying. Later in his life, he’ll be much more comfortable with the necessity. But Murtagh likes deceit even less. Jamie knows exactly how to deal with Murtagh, though. He acts as Laird – vowing to tell him the truth when the time comes, and reminding him that he trusts him, but that doesn’t mean a laird has to tell his vassal everything right away. And that’s all Murtagh needs.

I like that Jared is wary instead of welcoming. I don’t mind this change, although I don’t like that Jamie reveals his scars. I think the show is trying to show that he’s making the choice now, instead of Dougal making it for him, but I would like for there to have been more reluctance on his part. He doesn’t like how the scars make people see him, and even if Claire persuaded him of the necessity, I don’t think he would volunteer his back as proof of their sincerity.

There is a hint, in Sam’s acting, that he dislikes being forced to do this, but he’s still willing to do it.

Jared asks why the Jacobites would want to meet Jamie. In the book, it seems to flow a bit more naturally. Jared seems to see Jamie as a possible successor to his business, and introducing him to his friends is just part of that business. I think that the show is trying to get out in front of people’s possible objections, but by drawing attention to this, I think they’re making their job more difficult than it has to be.

The scene with Claire and the smallpox victims goes pretty much the same as in the book. It looks like the show is going to push a little harder on Saint Germain as a villain, which I think is wonderful. He is underutilized in the book. He is described as a threat, but then never actually does anything against Jamie and Claire – everything that happens (the attack on Jamie that leads to adopting Fergus and the later attack on Claire and Mary Hawkins) was actually Sandringham. Sure, he is still a business rival, but that’s the only sort of revenge he attempts – making more money by dealing with their “friend” Charles Stuart.

So Le Comte as a true villain would be nice. Over at The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair and Lani posited that he could be a secondary villain, orchestrating events  on behalf of Sandringham. I just want to see more of him, since he is also a traveler (originally from the 19th century, if I remember “The Space Between” correctly) and perhaps Claire’s ancestor.

The episode ends at the place where I thought they’d end the second episode (but that was presuming the first episode would be all in 1968), with the burning of Saint Germain’s ship. That means we’ll pick up next week with an introduction to Paris society, Monsieur Raymond, Prince Charlie, Louise de la Tour, Mr. Hawkins, and King Louis, and if I’m right, that episode will end with Claire and Jamie thinking BJR has come to Paris.

We’ll have to wait and see!

 

*Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Part One, Chapter Five: “Beloved Wife,” pg 61 of the 2014 Bantam trade paperback edition.

Episode 115 – Wentworth Prison

Whenever I get to this part in the book, I always think “I could just skip it and jump to the Abbey.” But I don’t, because you’ve got to go through the deep darkness if you want to appreciate the light.

These episodes feel the same way to me. I get so frustrated and upset – which means I’m in the hands of skilled, master storytellers – but the end is in sight.

Of course, there’s a lot more awful to come in season two (Dragonfly in Amber is not my favorite book). But let’s leave that for now.

I like that we open with Jamie and MacQuarrie watching the hangings. It’s unfortunate that they chose the choking-to-death-and-having-to-be-pulled-down-to-suffocate rather than instant neck-breaking for MacQuarrie, but he was always a fighter.

And then Randall rides in and death would be a kindness for Jamie.

They stick pretty close to the books in this episode, with some embellishments from Jamie’s perspective. I do adore that Frazer Hines plays Sir Fletcher, since his Jamie McCrimmon partially inspired our Jamie Fraser (though DG says she didn’t know the actor’s first name was Frazer – she picked Fraser because of the quote that is so important in DiA, the one about the Fraser of Lovat’s group that escaped Culloden).

Catriona Balfe kills in this episode, from the way she is so obviously close to breaking, but manages to hold herself together in front of Sir Fletcher, to her vomiting in the gatehouse.

Angus and Rupert are amazing in the pub. I adore them, and how they play off of each other. Their camaraderie is genuine and delightful. Of course, Murtagh’s dour reaction is also perfect.

Marley doesn’t look much like I’d pictured him in my mind. I was thinking something more along the lines of an evil Sloth from The Goonies.

The complaint is dealt with very easily, probably because it was a silly side-step on the part of the production to create an episode’s worth of conflict with Sandringham, and now needs to be removed in order to get back to the main course of the plot.

I start to sweat the moment Claire re-enters Wentworth. I wonder why they didn’t keep the part where she had a vague idea where Jamie was being held? I think there’s plenty of conflict, and higher stakes, in going to a place you think is right, only to end up being wrong. Wandering around in the dark is only frustrating, and lacks purpose.

The scenes with Randall and Jamie really anchor and propel this episode. They’re the backbone upon which Claire’s frantic efforts rest. I like the elaboration of very tiny things that Jamie tells Claire in the book. This whole episode’s worth of interactions is condensed into a few sentences. The flashbacks in the final episode are more fully fledged.

I have never personally broken a bone, but my son just broke his forearm in wrestling practice and it was agony watching what he went through, so I ache for Jamie’s broken hand.

The part where BJR leaves Jamie alone feels weird to me. “I will not give in to course passion.” I think, rather, that it’s another form of torture. The pretend reprieve, the attempt to make Jamie feel that what is happening is his fault- that makes more sense to me.

Also, deus ex machina door much? Claire, I know you’re from the future, but even you can’t see what’s going to happen next, only the big strokes of history.

BJR comes back really quickly to interrupt Claire’s attempt to free Jamie. What, exactly, was he doing when he went off? And what’s with the soldiers? Did they just need to fill a few seconds of screen time?

Poor Claire. It’s hard to kick ass when you’re wearing bulky wool skirts. She’d have done better in her nurse’s uniform. And it leads to the worst devil’s bargain. But it’s the only way Jamie knows to be strong, to save the life of the person he loves the most. As he’s said, he can withstand pain. It’s the rest of Black Jack’s darkness that warps and scars him. The gentleness, the twisted love and hate and pride and bitterness.

I have wondered about Claire giving BJR the hour of his death. I mean, she knows it’s at Culloden, and over a year away. I guess it was the only thing she could think to do. But he keeps his word. It’s the one bit of honor he has, and it will come back in season two, when he makes the deal with her to care for Alex in return for information about English troop movements.

I miss the wolves. They gave us the little howl, almost an “I’m sorry.” They cut both of the interactions with wolves – the first on the road, and the second here, when Claire manages to kill one bare-fucking-handed.

MacRannoch is a bit of a disappointment. I want a Beorn-like bear of a man, and we get a smallish hobbity-man instead (his hair is distinctly hobbit-like). And the pearls- how did he possibly recognize a generic rope of pearls? Maybe the clasp?

Also, I miss Rupert’s cow-wrangling skills. It is heavily hinted in the book that he got bored and stole MacRannoch’s cattle. It was still Murtagh’s idea to use them, but I like it when the bit players get to do actual plot-related things, rather than just hanging out like wallpaper.

This episode really works for me because they never stray too far from the plot of the books. There’s a rather big break in the next episode, but it was done for expediency and production reasons, and I understand the choice. But I’m glad that what they elaborated on in this episode was almost entirely plausible and would have fit perfectly into the book.

Episode 109 – The Reckoning

Outlander is back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speculations – Season Two Episode Breakdown

EDIT: I have cleaned up this post and turned it into a permanent page. Check it out here

It has been a while. I meant to do more posts during the hiatus, but my real life and my own writing have taken precedence. Now there are only seven weeks until the second half of season one starts, so it’s time to get back in the habit of blogging. Between now and then, I’ll do commentary blogs on the teasers, extended scenes, and trailers that have been released as part of droughtlander, and I still want to track the evolution of Jamie and Claire’s relationship over the first eight episodes in a post. I also updated my blog post about the breakdown of the second half of season one. The big change was the addition of the titles that have been released, but I made a few tiny changes to my predictions, too.

But to get things rolling with a new post, I’m going to speculate about season two!

So all we know at this point is that Starz requested 13 episodes for season two. That’s three fewer than this season (although they may ask for more). The question is, how will Ron Moore et al decide to structure their season? From what I can tell from Matt B Robert’s twitter feed, they are already breaking the season and have started writing.

If I were in the writer’s room, I would have two big questions that need to be answered before deciding how to break the season.

EDIT Jan 2016: This question has probably been answered by the fact that they *just* cast Roger and haven’t announced Brianna yet. But they could always be planning to film the 1960s stuff at the end and still put it into the 1st episode. We don’t have an air date yet, so they’ve still got time. 

The first and most important: should the series keep up the 1740s story and run straight through until Culloden, then end the season with a few episodes in 1968? Or is it better to follow the book’s structure of using the 20th century as a framing device?

EDIT: The following question has become moot, since a different actor has been cast for Alex. But he looks similar enough to Tobias to make my breakdown still function. 

The second question: do they actually have Tobias Menzies play Alex Randall? This, I think, is a vitally important question that must be answered before you can start to pull apart the story and restructure it as episodes. Because, if you don’t have him play Alex, things start making less sense. The resemblance between all three men is supposed to be very striking. Alex is possibly the least similar simply because he is younger, but he is, after all, Frank’s true ancestor. So if they don’t cast Tobias, you have to ask if they will follow the books in that respect at all. Do they make BJR Frank’s direct progenitor? How does that change what happens in Paris? Do they cut Alex from the story entirely? If so, what about Mary? What about all of the stuff in Edinburgh?

To make my life easier, I’m going to assume that they will follow the books, both in the bookended story structure and having Tobias play all three Randalls so we can keep Alex’s story intact. Tobias isn’t going to have much, if anything, to do as Frank in this season. Claire has a few memories of what happened when she got back in 1948, but that’s it. They will have to do some tricky camera work to have him interact with himself as Alex and Jack, but that isn’t exactly unprecedented.

So. A 13-episode breakdown of Dragonfly in Amber, following the books pretty closely:

Episode 201 – Through A Looking Glass Darkly

I would condense all of the stuff from part one into this first episode. It’s a nice episode for montage, anyway, with all of the research bits and various travels into the Scottish countryside. It’s hard to decide which parts to keep, but you obviously need to have the first scene, where Claire and Bree visit Roger, and you need to have the scene where he visits Lallybroch. You also need the scene where Bree and Roger go to Culloden, and then the one in the garage since that’s where Roger finds the Reverend’s notebook that gives him the information about Bree’s parentage. Fiona will be there, although perhaps not quite so intrusively as she is in the book, since her flirtation with Roger isn’t really important in terms of the overall story.

Honestly, I think you can cut most of the stuff with Bree and Claire, and the several visits to the manse. Maybe keep the part where Claire wakes up from her erotic dream of Jamie and whispers, “You are so like him” to her sleeping daughter.

I would end the episode at St. Kilda’s, in the graveyard, with Claire collapsing on Jamie’s tombstone.

Episode 202 – The Pretenders

I would start this episode with the briefest of scenes in the manse, with Claire explaining the truth about what happened at the stones. We would open in medias res, so that you don’t bore the viewer with an overview of things they already know from last season. Instead, I’d start with her telling them about the Abbey, and then flash to the 18th century.

There, we’d get Abbott Alexander telling them Charles is in Paris, and then maybe montage some of the journey to Le Havre. There, we’ll get morning sickness and sex, and then break Claire’s perspective and follow Jamie to meet with Jared. Then back to Claire, then to the ship in the harbor. I’m tempted to say that they should pad this episode out with more direct conflict with Le Comte, but it may be enough just to do the plague ship. The episode should definitely end with the plague ship being destroyed.

Episode 203 – Royal Audience

This episode would be all about the Fraser’s introduction to the Court. We’d see a little bit with Jared because they need to introduce Mary’s uncle (and the subsequent conversation Claire and Jamie have about Frank, and Jamie being reassured that BJR is dead), but it would focus on the parties. There would have to be some kind of episode conflict, probably using the Comte since he also appears at society events. But this is where we’d see the King’s levee, Claire puking in the fountain, Raymond’s apothecary shop, Jamie’s story about dueling over Annalise de Merriac, and Alex Randall. I’d move the bit with Alex to the end of the episode, so it leaves the audience assuming it’s BJR. Of course, that only works if, as I said, they cast Tobias as Alex. (Edit: or maybe have them do a hazy dream-effect, and then at the beginning of the next episode, it clears to reveal the new actor.)

Episode 204 – L’Hopital des Anges

We open on Alex, and the realization that he is not BJR. Then I would have the scene where Claire dreams of Frank, and have her and Jamie’s talk afterward. Then we’d have the party where she meets Herr Gerstmann and he suggests she go to L’Hopital des Anges. The conflict in the episode will start with Jamie forbidding her to go, and then we’ll get the encounter with Charles and the monkey, and Claire waxing with Louise de la Tour. I would move Jamie’s meeting with Fergus up a little bit, and have her tell him, if he’s going to be getting into so much trouble and allowing Fergus to put himself in danger, then he shouldn’t mind if she does what she is meant to do. He will acquiesce, and we’ll get the introduction of Mother Hildegarde and Bouton. This may also be a good place to put Jamie having to discipline Fergus – maybe on Claire’s first-ever trip to L’Hopital she refuses to leave and gets home late, and Fergus demands that Jamie punish him.

Episode 205 – Deceptions (NOTE – this is the episode that can be trimmed in order to expand the episodes focused on the Rising – the only really important bits are what they learn from the cipher and Claire’s poisoning)***

I would open this episode with a montage of Claire at L’Hopital des Anges, possibly with some intercutting to Raymond. Then have the scene with Louise’s illegitimate pregnancy, some action shots of Fergus stealing and returning letters (nice bits of tension- will he be caught?), Jamie bringing the cipher to Mother Hildegarde, Claire’s poisoning, and the implications that St. Germain is still out to get Claire. I would probably excise the bits with Mssr. Forez. He’s interesting, historically, but doesn’t do much for the plot. I’d probably get rid of the bit with Jamie and the whores, too. Not plot-relevant, and we don’t need the Claire/Jamie conflict. The end of Part Two in the book makes a great end to the episode- Claire feeling Faith for the first time.

Episode 206 – Malchance

This is just about the half-way point, and the whole of Part Three in the book makes a nice episode. It starts with Claire and Mary Hawkins being attacked, and ends with Jamie agreeing not to kill BJR until after he’s fathered the child that will one day be Frank’s ancestor. In the middle, we have the revelation that Claire is Le Dame Blanche, the disastrous dinner party, Raymond acknowledging Claire’s skill as a healer (help to heal) and trading information for the true story of the party, Jamie and Claire encountering BJR at Sandringham’s, Dougal in Paris, Claire getting BJR arrested, and then the awful scene between Claire and Jamie when she begs him not to kill BJR for Frank’s sake.

Episode 207 – The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I can’t decide if this episode should bother including the bit at the stud farm. It would be hilarious to watch Fergus with the stable boys and the horse, but they don’t get that much info there. So it might be better to go straight into planning to hijack the wine ship with the fake smallpox outbreak. There would have to be a little bit in here about how they know about the wine venture, but that’s easily explained by Fergus’s letter thefts. ((Assuming the previous episode was trimmed, there also needs to be at least some hint about the cipher promising money for landing on English soil – that becomes relevant at the end of the book, and very relevant in Voyager)). Something less random would have to draw Jamie to the whorehouse where he sees BJR raping Fergus. It needs to be something associated with their plot against Charles, something that will really make Jamie think that what’s happening is his fault. Then the episode ends with him and BJR dueling, and Claire collapsing in a pool of blood as she miscarries.

Episode 208 – The Coming of the Light

This episode has a lot of ground to cover. We have to get from Raymond healing Claire, to Fontainebleau, to Claire’s deal with Louis to get Jamie out of the Bastille, to the wizard’s duel and the supposed death of Saint Germain, to Jamie and Murtagh’s successful sea venture, to Jamie’s return to Claire. I would end it with her lie – that she didn’t have sex with Louis – but I would make sure that the audience already knows that it is a lie. It isn’t playing fair with the reader in the book when Claire lies to us, too.

Episode 209 – “I Am Come Home”

Start with Jamie and Claire reconciling in France (from part four), but probably skip the cave. It’s interesting and beautiful, but not plot-relevant. Montage to Scotland, and then the little bits of daily life at Lallybroch. Rabbie’s seizures, Ian and Jamie’s difficulty after Jamie tells Ian about BJR, and end with the letter from Charles and the Bill of Association, and Jenny telling Jamie to ask Ian to come. The Ian/Jamie conflict would be the driving force of the episode. ((NOTE – this is also a place where trimming could happen. If so, the battle of Prestonpans would end the episode.))

Episode 210 – The Flames of Rebellion

This episode would definitely have the infamous encounter between Jamie and young Lord John, and I think it would be best to go through the battle of Prestonpans, intercut from Jamie’s PoV and Claire’s. Then, it would have to segue to Edinburgh, and Colum and Dougal’s arrival. Colum dies, and Claire makes her deal with BJR for information. The episode ends with Charles sending Jamie to Beuly. ((If the earlier episode is trimmed, there is more time to expand on BJR and the MacKenzies.))

Episode 211 – The Stuart Witch

Again, lots of ground to cover. Highlights: Jamie eventually gets his Fraser family’s support, but is incensed when the Old Fox wants to take credit for the Lallybroch men. I would probably skip the part where they go back to Lallybroch, and just have them go back to Edinburgh and find the men in the Tollgate. I’d cut the bit where Jamie and Simon go to talk to Charles, maybe the whole bit where the men are imprisoned. Honestly, I would cut the whole section with Lovat, if not for that important line – “One Fraser from the Master of Lovat’s regiment…”) Claire encounters Mary, and Jamie and BJR become unwilling allies over Alex and Mary’s unborn child (Damn all Randalls!). I am fairly certain that the night of Alex’s death is also the night Claire got pregnant with Brianna, so there will probably be sex. Then the episode has to end with the battle of Falkirk, Rupert’s death, and Claire in the hands of the English.

Episode 212 – “Sing Me a Song of a Lass That Is Gone”

It’s too complicated to get Claire all the way to Sandringham’s estate, so I would just say that he’s taken over a local Scottish estate and Claire is brought directly there, along with Mary (who BJR has sent back to her family, although she is now protected by his name). Then the events cascade, leading to Hugh Munro’s death, Murtagh killing Sandringham for what happened in Paris, Jamie killing Dougal over Claire, signing the Deed of Sasine and sending it to Lallybroch with Fergus, then Jamie and Claire marking each other in the croft and Claire’s flight through the stones. ((see note below for how trimming would affect this episode))

Episode 213 – Hindsight

Brianna refuses to believe, but Roger is convinced. The changed wedding ring will come into play here, because it isn’t going to be engraved, and it won’t allow for that moment of absolute sorrow from Claire. Of course, it’s rather unlikely that a surgeon would never have removed her rings in twenty years, but I whistle past that when I read the books. In any case, Claire will present Roger with the choice to try and save Gillian Edgars. Of course he tries (and they fail), but in the process, Claire proves irrevocably to Roger and Bree that time travel is possible. The season ends with Roger quoting the line about the “officer from the Master of Lovat’s regiment” who survived. “He meant to die on Culloden Field,” Roger whispered. “But he didn’t.”

———-

If the decision is not to use the framing device, then all of the episodes get shifted. What I listed as 201 would become 212, and 202 would become 201. If the decision is not to use Tobias as Alex, that would cause subtle shifts in the way things are shot and written, and how much you can get away with in regard to the physical similarities. Does Tobias have a brother that acts? Or a very similar-looking cousin?

***Another thing I noticed while breaking out the episodes is that, like Diana, I spent a lot more time with episodes in France than I did with the actual Rising. It may be better for the show to shift things a little more and devote another episode to the ’45. Some of the court intrigue and plotting can go, and I marked the episode where pretty much everything can be cut or at least slipped into another episode (For example: is it really important that Mother Hildegarde solves the Goldberg Variation cipher? They could just get that info from a stolen letter). Also, although I love the quieter moments and character development at Lallybroch, that can be trimmed, too. Those cuts would allow for more time with the MacKenzie brothers and BJR’s deal with Claire, as well as providing a whole extra episode to split between dealing with the Frasers at Beuly and BJR marrying Mary Hawkins. I would call that episode “Damn All Randalls.” The existing episode 211 would then start at Falkirk. Everyone loves Rupert, and we need to have some time to grieve his death in the church. But then I stand by Claire’s capture and transport to Sandringham needing to happen much more quickly than in the book, and I would end the episode with Sandringham’s death. Then the final episode of the 1740s section would start with the party’s arrival at Culloden House, and end with Claire going back to Craigh na Dun.

I’m actually way happier with that breakdown, but I’ll leave my initial thoughts up since they follow the book a little more closely.

Whenever we get an episode order for Voyager, I’ll break that down, too. Although I would actually like to see Voyager as two seasons of twelve episodes. One season for before C & J are reunited, and one for after.

What do you think of my episode breakdown? What would you do differently? There are all kinds of things that could probably be cut, and characters that can be conflated. Leave a comment with your ideas.

Speculations – Time Travel

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of time travel tropes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idea Four: Wild Speculations.

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

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

Theory – Colum and Dougal

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

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

In the books:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this theory apply to the show?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 107 – The Wedding

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

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

So, let’s dive in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(/end edits)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just saying.

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

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

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

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

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