Episode 303 – All Debts Paid

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This week’s episode has some awesome moments and some great adaptive choices–and some truly terrible ones.

The title card makes me think of pictures of my birthday parties as a kid, even though this would be several decades before my childhood. I had a big black lab, though, so it was nice to see the dog, even if he didn’t show up much otherwise.

I appreciate the chyrons telling us the year in this episode—did I miss that in the last episode? Although they don’t “update” us as time passes in Boston, so that was a little weird. I wish they wouldn’t have started on this conceit of dual time periods. It doesn’t make sense. Last week, we were only a year after Culloden for Claire and seven years later for Jamie. This week, Jamie’s story covers several months, or maybe a year, while Claire’s spans at least ten or so.

The introduction of Lord John was interesting. I understand why they moved the conversation from the offices to the yard (allowing John to see Jamie, and vice versa), but it felt less personal that way between Harry Quarry and John.

Murtagh Fitzgibbons

MURTAGH OMG. I feel so much joy right now, I can’t even describe it. I am so, so glad he didn’t die.

If they replace the role filled by Duncan Innes in the books with Murtagh I will be beside myself with happiness. To get to have him that far into the future would be amazing. Weird that they set up the plaid and then didn’t pay it off, though. Maybe we’ll get that as a flashback later? Or was it just a nod for book readers? But I’ll get to that at the end of the blog.

I kinda hate that Frank and Claire have agreed to an open relationship. Not because I’m against open relationships or polyamory, but because Claire clearly doesn’t want to be in one. Not that she really wants to be married to Frank anymore, either, but it would be better for both of them to divorce and share custody of Brianna. And it’s another way to try and soften Frank as a character. In the book, he still slept around, and was still “discreet,” but without Claire’s—forced? Or feels as though it’s forced?—agreement.

It’s taking a while for any kind of plot to develop in this episode. I was distracted by Murtagh being alive and the implications of that at first, but now I’m wondering when the story is going to start and how it is going to manage to work in both time periods. So far, it just feels like it’s a straight line: this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.

The Randalls

Now I see–there’s a discussion of divorce, and why they’re not getting one. I’m happy the episode at least engaged with the problem and didn’t flinch away. But it really doesn’t make sense for Frank to disagree. His stab about Claire not keeping her promises is entirely unfounded. She has practically twisted herself into a pretzel to keep her promises to him since coming back to the twentieth century. As she says in their next argument, she has been faithful to him since her return.

It’s still so weird that Arsdmuir is happening at basically one point in time, and we’re jumping forward in huge leaps in Boston. I really can’t understand why they didn’t keep the arc the same as in the books. It made so much more sense to have them searching for clues about Jamie in 1968, and then to see what really happened to him that those clues uncovered—and for Claire to flash back to what was happening to her in the same time, relative to when she returned from Culloden. This is just super awkward, and it doesn’t feel like we’re actually getting a story arc. It’s just a timeline with punctuations.

But oh my GOD, I am so happy that it’s Murtagh in prison with Jamie. It gives him a single person who knows, who can talk to him and unburden his soul. It was something Gabaldon deliberately withheld from him in the book, but for the purposes of the television show it works better giving him someone to talk to. (Edited to add–I meant that it works better because otherwise things we learn in dialogue would have to be given via the dreaded voice over. And no one wants that!)

Jamie and John are SO CUTE and it hurts my heart to know that John is going to fall so hard. And then, to have Jamie recount the meal to the men—who want to hear about every morsel—is even worse (in terms of my heart hurting). All that is left to them is vicarious flavor, and I’m so sad for them. (Note that a commenter misconstrued what I meant here, so let me clarify–I realize that they are excited to hear about Jamie’s meal. But it’s so tragic that they can’t all be out, living their lives, and eating their own good food. That’s why I’m sad for them.)

Turnabout

The aftermath of Jamie’s escape and the juxtaposition of the night at Corrieyairack was good in theory, but I didn’t need the actual flashbacks. I suppose they’re there for anyone who hasn’t watched the previous seasons (although it seems weird to jump in on season three in the post-streaming era. It’s easy to binge-watch seasons one and two on Amazon, the Starz app, or blu-ray). But otherwise, I loved watching the back-and-forth between Jamie and John. The seeds of their future friendship are being sown here, and it’s gorgeous to watch.

I love you so much, John Grey. It takes a special sort of man to earn Jamie’s approval and respect, even if he’s still lying to you. My heart fluttered a bit at the blue sapphire–especially knowing its future. And a special sort of man to honor his debts and send a doctor for Murtagh, even when he could easily have done otherwise. I like watching Jamie’s opinion of him shift and grow.

John and Jamie Chess

I’ve imagined the scene with John and Jamie and the chess game—and John taking Jamie’s hand—so many times, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. So much pain on both sides—so many bad memories, and good ones that hurt because they are memories, and not reality. John is mortified and so full of longing, and Jamie is angry that this new friendship is being marred by demons from his past. I am all-a-tremble, waiting to see Jamie kiss John at Helwater.

It’s weird that Claire and Frank are having this fight about Brianna after she has graduated and is eighteen. Again, it’s trying to make Frank seem reasonable and Claire seem…well…crazy. Because it doesn’t make sense for her to hold on this tight after Bree is grown. She would be leaving for college anyway, and living on her own. It’s part of growing up. So it just makes Claire seem shrewish to fight over where Bree is going to go to college, or to be so possessive of her now that she’s an adult. In the book, the fight made sense. Brianna was still in high school, and Claire rightfully didn’t want to tear her away from her friends in her senior year. It’s so unfathomable why the show has to do this—except that there is obviously a mandate somewhere that Frank Randall must be written as a saint at all times. What the hell?

Trip to Helwater

I wonder if they are going to write out Duncan Innes and use Murtagh in that role. My first assumption is that they will, but I don’t know how they’ll explain him being in Edinburgh when Claire returns. Murtagh didn’t lose his arm and that was the reason for Duncan not to be transported when Ardsmuir closed. Maybe Murtagh escaped and made his way back to Scotland? I suppose we’ll see in two weeks–or next season when we get to America. Next week’s episode is going to deal with Helwater, Geneva Dunsany, and William, but I’m guessing the one after that will be about Jamie going to Edinburgh and getting involved in smuggling. I think they’ll conveniently gloss over the few years at Lallybroch where he married Laoghaire. They won’t want to spoil that surprise for non-book-readers after Claire returns to the 18th century.

I don’t understand why the show cut the flogging, especially after making it seem at the beginning of the episode (at least to book readers) that Jamie was going to take the punishment on Murtagh’s behalf. For those of you who haven’t read the books, in Voyager, it is a young Jacobite in the prison who still has the scrap of tartan, and it’s discovered right after the chess game when John makes his subtle “move” on Jamie. Jamie claims the tartan is his, and John has no choice but to have Jamie flogged—it’s the law. In the book, it’s Jamie’s way of reestablishing their relationship and the power dynamic, which is heavily weighted in John’s favor. And it’s even more of a shock for Jamie when John gets him moved to Helwater. I suppose the story still makes sense without the flogging, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

Lord John Cries

In broad strokes, this episode ended up where I thought it would. I’m more than pleased with the performances by Sam Heughan and David Berry. Lord John is one of my favorite characters in fiction, and although David Berry’s portrayal isn’t exactly like I imagined, he’s pretty damned close. And as the writers said in the post-mortem for the show, he can hold his own with Sam. I can’t wait to see him and Claire meeting on the deck of the Porpoise.

It’s going to sound callous, but wow, am I glad that Frank is dead. I have been consistently frustrated and baffled by the changes made to his character on the show. I am all for wanting to make him into a better man, but in order to make the plot points move in the same direction as the book, they had to shift all of the problems (or most of them) onto Claire. And she doesn’t deserve that. Claire in the books is no saint, and she has many, many flaws. But what they did to her in the show is beyond awful. So yeah, I’m glad Frank is dead. Now we can move on.

Next week, we’re back to Scotland and Roger!! My two favorite characters (Roger and Lord John) will now be on the show at the same time, and that makes me super happy!

What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you also happy Frank is dead? Let me know in the comments!

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Episode 302 – Surrender

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I think I was a little harsh in my reaction to the opening last week. I re-watched one of the episodes from last season, and it is more different than I thought—it’s just that several of the clips are from previous seasons and so I recognized them. And others are, I think, from this season—but staged as “callbacks” to earlier shots, which made them feel familiar. But the music is tonally different, and I do appreciate the shot of Jamie looking out over the water (I assume we’ll see that in 303 while he’s at Ardsmuir).

I like the wanted poster for the Dunbonnet in the title card. It reminds me of Tangled and all of the posters of Flynn Rider with his nose comically exaggerated.

Jamie and Flynn

I continue to wish that the show would stick to the 18th century. The Lallybroch sections are fantastic—vibrant not only in color palette and tint, but in richness of story. The 20th century bits are at least drawn more directly from the books, but they lack something vital. Those sections feel soulless, void of conflict. I was pissed off at the conflict last week, but at least it felt fraught. This week is just hum-drum, ticking boxes to get back to the 1960s and Claire’s return to Jamie.

I love that the scene with Jamie and the baby hiding from the soldiers was shifted from Maggie to Ian. Jamie protecting Ian from the redcoats establishes that special bond between them that will one day be nearly as close as father and son. I am looking forward to seeing that develop next season–and meeting Rollo!

*Thanks to Zest203 for pointing out my error in memory!

It’s super weird that Claire is the one that initiates intimacy with Frank. I get that when she says “I miss my husband” she’s not really talking about him, but that actually makes it worse. They are still pushing really hard on making all of the problems Claire’s fault, and that’s really pissing me off.

The Smolder

Giving Fergus a little more agency in the scene that leads to his loss of a hand is both heart-breaking and a better choice. In the book, he’s simply delivering something to Jamie. Here, he is deliberately baiting the soldiers. And the scene afterward—where he jokes that he has become a man of leisure—is taken almost directly from the book. Sam and Romann both do an amazing job with it, capturing the humor and love and Jamie’s coming back to himself and remembering the weight of his responsibilities.

Fergus

During the dinner scene with Millie (I guess I heard incorrectly last week, but it was definitely Millie here) and Jerry and the sex scene afterward, I kept wondering where Brianna was. Babies are such convenient sleepers in fiction. But what really bothers me is how they are bashing at Claire for wanting what is so beautifully represented in the scene with Jamie and Mary MacNab—the touch of another human being, bringing pleasure and connection, even if it isn’t part of a great love.

I think the show is trying to contrast the two experiences, but the problem is that one of them is understood between both parties, and the other is one-sided. And that once again puts blame on Claire–she’s “using” Frank because she misses Jamie. Frank plays the longsuffering husband again, saying that when he’s with her, he’s with her, but she’s with Jamie. It’s baffling why the show keeps doing this. I’m OK with having them both be fumbling toward coming back together, and I even understand and sympathize with Claire’s needs. But I wish she would be honest about them, and that Frank would let her. Instead, he stifles her, and then blames her for still loving Jamie.

FUCK. The voice over is back. Damn it. At least it’s brief and only once. But I love the meeting between Claire and Joe. I wish we’d had a little more about her decision to go to medical school and that it wasn’t just voice over. Hell, she could have had a one-sided conversation with baby Bree. I did it all of the time when my kids were babies.

Claire and Joe

Claire and Frank having separate beds is a strange punctuation mark in their relationship. Why not separate rooms?

The scene of Jamie being taken by the redcoats made me weep. Watching Jenny shout at him, and yet seeing the pain and love in their gazes, tore my heart out. And then to cut to Claire, all alone, with memories of the past but no way to regain her lost love, is a poignant counterpoint. Jenny shouts that Jamie gave her no choice and she’ll never forgive him—which is true in a way. Jamie sacrifices for the people he loves. He forced Claire to go back through the stones, and forces his family to accept money in return for his capture. And both Claire and Jenny may technically forgive him, but they’ll never forget what he did.

Jenny Blood Money

The preview for next week makes it look like we’ll get all the way through Ardsmuir and possibly all the way through the Claire flashbacks, since it looks like we’ll see the argument where Frank wants to take Bree to England and ends up dying in a car wreck. And I will be SO HAPPY. Because this show needs to be done with Frank. Then in the episode after that, I assume we’ll be back in the 60s with Bree and Roger, or perhaps we’ll see Claire in Boston deciding to make the trip to Scotland first. Although how they’re going to fill up two episodes with material from the 60s, I don’t know. In my season speculation, I assumed they were going to continue with Claire and Frank through episode four. Maybe they’ll actually spend time developing Roger and Brianna. Or devote an episode entirely to Claire and Joe. We’ll see!

What did you think of episode 302? I’m still feeling decidedly skewed in favor of the 18th century segments with Jamie, and I feel like this episode could have easily cut the 20th century and given more time to digging deep into what happened with Jamie while living in the cave, and made a real arc out of his choice to give himself up for his people. The bones of the story are there, but by giving so much time to Claire and Frank, we lose the depth and complexity of what is happening with Jamie. And that’s unfortunate.

Episode 301 – The Battle Joined

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My apologies for not getting this up on the day of the premiere! I was out of the house all weekend and I just got a chance to watch this morning.

Thoughts on the New Intro

There don’t seem to be that many new shots included. And I was kinda hoping we’d get a sweeping ocean view for the new “closing” shot of the intro. But since the episode titles clearly don’t have us setting out to sea until the last quarter of the season, I suppose it makes sense to keep us anchored (haha) in Scotland for a while longer. Next season will have to be different, though!

Title Card - Scottish Flag

Thoughts on the Title Card

The ragged Scottish flag is a good choice. It represents everything that Jamie and Claire fought for last season, and in many ways what she is still fighting for during her pregnancy–to keep that memory alive for her daughter.

General Thoughts on the Episode

I was very pleased with this, overall. If I didn’t know they were keeping Jamie and Claire apart so long, I would be a lot more optimistic about this season, based on this episode.

On that note, I recently read a post in defense of keeping Claire and Jamie separate that talked about all of the other stuff in Outlander that is great and interesting and how people should be focusing on that instead of complaining about J&C not being together. And while it’s true that there is a lot more to this series than just J&C (and we’ll be getting a lot more of that other stuff starting in this season and moving forward), it is also true that Jamie and Claire are the center of Outlander‘s gravity. If we’re talking about favorite characters, mine is Roger MacKenzie, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the importance of Jamie and Claire.

Honestly, I think it’s interesting when they’re apart. I enjoy seeing how they deal with their multiple separations over the years (even the big one where she marries John). I was ready and willing to see three to four episodes with them apart. But six? I mean, they’re going to meet up somewhere in the course of the sixth episode, so it’s only five and a half or whatever, but that’s still nearly twice as long as what I think is warranted by the story.

Do I think the writers can keep things interesting and engaging for those five to six episodes? Sure. But it’s an awful lot of time, and there’s an awful lot of *story* left to tell once they’re finally together.

Getting back to this episode, though…

Jamie remembers a lot more of the battle here than he did in the books, but I’m glad we get to see a bit with Murtagh and more about Charles’ incompetence and the reason the battle went so badly. Later in the episode, Jamie indicates that he doesn’t know what happened to Murtagh after the brief flash of memory he has here, but I wonder if they’ll really make us wait for ages to find out how he died. My guess is not–I’m assuming he’ll figure it out by the end of the season.

Jamie VS BJR

Too much with BJR, though. Knowing he gave Jamie the wound in his thigh that nearly kills him and that Jamie is responsible for BJR’s death changes SO MUCH, removing a lot of nuance from later in the story. But I suppose television doesn’t work as well with nuance, and that they thought viewers would want more closure (as though book readers don’t??).

The image I’ve put above is basically where I would have wanted the fight to end, before we know the outcome. Forgive my Highlander humor–I couldn’t help myself.

Why is it that my favorite part of this post-battlefield section is the rabbit? It’s a little bit mercurial and whimsical, and a nod toward the fact that nature doesn’t really care about our squabbles and strife–until we start destroying habitats and ecosystems.

Jamie’s vision of Claire is poignant and beautiful, but it makes me wonder what DG has planned for the end of the series, and Jamie’s ghost. Unless the show manages to be extended through the full book series, they may never address the ghost again, or they may choose to handle it in a non-book-canon sort of  way, like Game of Thrones is doing now that they’ve gone past the book territory.

Rupert on the battlefield

I LOVE that Rupert is the one who saves Jamie on the battlefield, despite having seen him kill Dougal. It makes so much sense, and vindicates my feelings last season about what Rupert would do in the aftermath of that death.

Claire and Frank’s house in Boston is AMAZING, and I want it. If only my husband would let me buy a house that is more than ten years old. But the problems she has are indicative of why he won’t let me–too many things break and too much money is needed for basic repairs and updates.

I’m not sure about Nellie the next-door-neighbor. It’s nice for Claire to have someone to talk to (although their scene together shows just how much Claire can’t say), but her isolation is her major source of problems during the late 40s and 50s, before she goes back to school to become a doctor. So I don’t know if it’s wise to give her a “chum.”

But with this season, we have entirely broken from the primarily Claire and sometimes Jamie or Frank PoV conceit, and that’s a good thing. The scene from Rupert’s PoV is nice, even though we were in Jamie’s in the book (and arguably are here–I wrote this and then watched through the end of the scene where it shows Jamie watching, even though he couldn’t have seen them from the angle the camera used and perhaps wouldn’t have been able to hear them). I’m very glad that the show gives us a chance to remember everything we loved about Rupert before the inevitable happens.

The scene with Frank’s dean is painful, and reminds me just have far we haven’t come. These sorts of attitudes about women sadly still remain and are being allowed to flourish.

Hal

Hal (Lord Melton) is…a little disappointing on first glance. I wanted him to be a little more charismatic and dashing, because I love the hell out of him in the later stories. But Rupert is still perfect. “Traitors, all.” and “Thank you, milord” for being shot instead of hanged (although it’s true that it’s a cleaner death, especially since this was still the era of torture before hanging for traitors).

The writing in the scene with Claire and Frank at breakfast is fantastic. I love how the superficial humor and fun is such a thin veneer over the raw and aching wound beneath, and the ugly truth that this is not really a marriage.

After that, though, things break down very quickly, and I’m a little annoyed that the scene starts to edge over into pointing fingers at Claire, holding a little too much sympathy for Frank. In this version of events, she is holding back and not engaging (which is absolutely not what happened in the book), and he blames her for that, telling her that it was her choice to come with him and she needs to decide what she wants. Which, in truth, is a reasonable thing to say. On the other hand, this is the 40s, and single mothers were treated even worse then than they are now, so her choices aren’t quite as cut and dried as he’s trying to claim.

Claire and Frank Breakfast

I know that it’s “easier” to blame Frank in the books, because he makes mistakes and ends up doing some unconscionable things. I’m not saying I need that in order to justify Claire’s actions and falling in love with someone else. Even in the books, Claire is torn up about her choices long, long after Frank is dead. But BookFrank was never the right person for Claire, and that truth came out and became more and more clear during the course of their lives together–and would have done even without Jamie.

In the show, we are given a very different Frank–one who, according to what he shouts at Claire, never slept with anyone else. In the books, that isn’t ever proven, but it’s fairly heavily implied, and he canonically has affairs during their time in Boston. In the show, it seems like they’re setting him up to be faithful. Claire’s reticence and coldness, while understandable, doesn’t earn her any sympathy when held up against this man who appears to be bending over backward for her.

In fact, in the book I wanted her to be colder because of just how deep the disconnect was between them on an emotional and mental level. But now that I’ve seen that version play out on screen, I understand why DG made the choices she did. This Claire/Frank relationship is much harder to swallow, with only the tiniest hint that Frank is contributing to their problems.

Rupert and Jamie

The barn scene in the book is not fun by any means, but giving Rupert and Jamie their moment totally ripped my heart out and stomped on it. His memories of Angus and his desire to be reunited with him in heaven is beautiful. I love what Rupert says about Dougal’s death, and his deep sense of pragmatism, loyalty, and love. And you can just see the respect in Hal’s eyes for Rupert, who stayed when he could have run, and stood by his people until the end, accepting death with dignity.

I know the scene with Frank on the couch is supposed to show his frustration and the distance between him and Claire (although why they don’t have a second bedroom, I have no idea), but it made me laugh because my husband is exactly the same way about sounds at night. He has to have a fan running for white noise or complete silence, or else he can’t sleep.

OK, the actor playing Hal (Sam Hoare) is growing on me, rather like the character grew on me in the books. And after checking out his IMDB pic, he is *way* hotter in real life, without the stupid 18th-century wig and side curls. I hope we get to see Hal smoking a bowl with Claire someday.

The delivery scene made me want to go out and burn down the world. Taking her agency away like that was terrifying and terrible and I am so angry. Even during my C-section with my second child, I was awake the whole time. I’m not saying that every childbirth has to be unmedicated and “natural,” but a mother’s wishes should be respected until the point of medical necessity.

Lallybroch

It was a little weird to have Jamie still in the cart at Lallybroch and the driver sitting there while Jenny and Ian are having this emotional moment–and while Jenny is literally hanging off the side of the cart, which can’t be comfortable. Wasn’t she pregnant again at that point, too? Or maybe she’d just had another baby, I can’t remember. In any case, I didn’t really feel anything because the staging was so awkward. But that’s probably just me.

did feel something when Claire woke up, terrified that her baby had died. To have her and Frank come together through the body of Brianna was lovely, but the show did a great job of pressing at the wound in their relationship that is Jamie, and this time giving some of the reticence to Frank, too. I hope that in the future we get a balanced view of the fracture in their marriage. I won’t mind if they’re both shown as being at fault. Claire understandably thinks of her baby’s father when she sees Brianna’s red hair, but Frank is the one who takes it badly. Brianna is a Band-Aid over the wound in Claire and Frank’s marriage, but that’s a terrible position to put a child in, and her existence both pulls them together and keeps them apart.

Claire Frank Brianna A New Beginning

To be fair, Tobias is doing an excellent job with Frank as written for the show. He is a fantastic actor and I’m certainly not bothered by his portrayal–more by what is written for him to do. So don’t take my annoyance with the writers to mean I dislike the actors. They’re doing their jobs and playing the characters as they are written and directed to do.

If you watch the end chat with the writers and Ron Moore, you’ll see Toni Graphia basically saying what I feel about the whole show–one moment with Claire walking across the battlefield to the dying Jamie is much more gripping and important than all of the swords and horses and guns and explosions. The emotions and relationships are what drive Outlander. I think the show forgot that for a little while last season, getting way too much into the war story. But those emotions are coming back now, and I hope that the delay in reuniting Jamie and Claire doesn’t destroy all of the ground made up in this episode.

See you next week!

Speculations – What to Expect in Season Three

 

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From the title sequence. I predict we’ll be spending at least 1-3 episodes in the 1960s.

I just spent some time trolling the internet for information from the producers about what  sorts of things we can expect in Season Three. All of this is speculation, because as of the time of the interviews the scripts weren’t finished yet.

Maril Davis said that they will probably keep to the 13 episode-per-season format, so when I post my Season Three speculation page (look for that next weekend), I’ll be breaking Voyager over 13 episodes. If they come back with a different number later, I’ll adjust.

A few points that have been mentioned:

In EOnline, it was stated that we will see what actually happens to Jamie at the Battle of Culloden. That leads me to believe we will actually see Murtagh and BJR’s deaths, and not have to wait three seasons (or so ) to find out what happened to Murtagh. But I am very curious to see what’s going to happen with BJR! Will they take a page from Game of Thrones and go their own way with Diana’s blessing/advice?

Maril also said that they plan to keep Jamie and Claire separated for a while, because they wanted us to really get the sense that 20 years have passed. That leads me to believe the first 2-3 episodes will follow Claire searching for Jamie in the 60s and then the episodes in Jamie’s life that they uncover through their research (The Dunbonnet, Ardsmuir, Helwater). At least, that’s what I would do.

Ron Moore said in an interview that we would not see much of Bree and Roger next season. I think that  “not much” means just those first several episodes – if they follow the book, once Claire goes to the past we don’t get anything else from them (as I recall- it’s been a year since I re-read Voyager and I haven’t even skimmed it yet to do the episode breakdown). But they’ll definitely be back for season four!

Ron also said that the Frank/BJR role was pretty much done after this next season, and I am hoping that the way things stood between Bree and Claire over Frank is what we see, rather than more of Ron’s fanboying. Bree asked Claire if she ever loved Frank, which tells me that their relationship was quite cool indeed. If we get the flashbacks from the books, we’ll see the disastrous dinner party, Claire at medical school, Bree going to the office with Frank, and finally Frank’s death after telling Claire he’s going to take Bree away. They may decide to extrapolate some other things, but I wonder if they’ll go into the infidelity. I believe that they should, but that’s something that Ron may decide to either ignore or treat sympathetically.

In Maril’s Zap2It interview, she said: “There are certain things about Frank in Voyager that come out that he’s not so nice a guy. I don’t know if we’ll play those or not, because I think our Frank is a little different from book Frank.”

So, yeah. Possibly no infidelity. Possibly even no taking Bree away, although they’ll have to write in a different circumstance surrounding his accidental death.

We will definitely get Young Ian! Maril says she’s excited to see him. I am wondering if they will cast someone who is older but who can play younger, so that he can “grow up” over the next few seasons and won’t need to be recast. Although I suppose that his sojourn with the Mohawk is a good time to recast if need be – have the younger actor be there, and then an older actor returns.

So that’s all for now. I’m going to skim Voyager this week and have a speculative episode breakdown ready for next weekend. Then I’m going to try and finish up my attempt to track Jamie and Claire’s relationship throughout the series. That’s going to be much harder to do in Season Two (or much easier), because we simply didn’t see much of them together.

After I finish that, I’m going to post a re-read of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager. The blogs for the first two books will include my thoughts about why adaptive choices were made for the TV show. The blogs for the third book will include my thoughts about how they might adapt the material for the show. I have no idea how long that will take, but I’m assuming it’s going to go through the fall at least. Then I may or may not continue with the other books in the series, just to have something going up on this site until Droughtlander is over!

NOTE:

Vanity Fair does a good job of summing up the various interviews about Season Three here.

Episode 207 – Faith

This was a very difficult episode to watch, but for the most part I thought it was very well done. I have one major issue with it. Well, maybe two, but I’ll get to that as I go on.

The title card didn’t wow me. I think I understand what they’re going for here, symbolically. A quick check of the internet reveals a number of traits associated with the heron, including determination, independence/self-reliance, strength, patience, and intelligence. And if you’ve listened to Alastair’s Storywonk book seminars on Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, you know that birds are not used lightly in this series. Most notable in the show is the starling murmuration that was the title card in 111, “The Devil’s Mark.”

I also think the show wants us to know that Claire is going to have a healthy child the next time; that she isn’t going to lose her next pregnancy. At this point in the book, readers already know, because the framing device used Bree in the 1960s. So this is the show’s way of reassuring non-book readers that the pregnancy from 201 is still in the future, and that it will not result in another stillbirth. Also – Claire is still wearing Jamie’s ring in 1954.

So I get all of that, but I still didn’t like it.  I would have gone with it, except that Claire said she saw one in Scotland – and then we dissolved to Paris. What?

Whistling on…

The next few scenes are a lovely adaptation from the book, but painful to watch. I have only lost one pregnancy, and that very early on (only just enough to register as being pregnant), so I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a stillborn child after so many months. Claire going a little mad and wanting to see the child makes sense. I’m glad we find out later in the episode that Mother Hildegarde lets her hold Faith.

Especially since, at that moment, she breaks the statue of the Virgin – a perhaps slightly too overt symbol of the breaking of Claire’s faith. I assume after that is when she held the baby all day, and Louise had to help out, but I’ll talk about that when the show gets there.

Claire does acknowledge her need for Jamie here, when she thinks she’s dying. Maybe to pass her sins on to him? To reconcile? To blame him?

I like that Master Raymond has a more cordial relationship with Bouton than in the book.

I do wish we’d seen a little more magic – that what Master Raymond did was more overt and blue and less Claire’s voiceover telling us what he was doing, but the show made a decision back in season one not to show things like time travel, so I guess they’re sticking to their creative guns.

I’m glad that Raymond still had her call for Jamie. It’s important that he understood that Jamie was an integral part of Claire’s healing. And I am so happy that they included the auras – and that Claire’s is like Raymond’s.

It’s nice that this episode finally starts to deal with Claire’s divided loyalties, and doesn’t pull punches between Frank and Jamie. She says that Frank is still alive – but at what cost?  And at this point, now that she thinks she will live, she becomes angry at Jamie, blaming him for their child’s death.

Mother Hildegarde’s response is great, but Claire’s anger is greater.

The time-compression in this episode versus the book is better. Months at Fontainebleu don’t make any sense. Although I had feared that Louise would be entirely absent from the episode because they cut that section, and I was pleased to see her appear, if only for a moment, at the end. I don’t know that we’ll get to say goodbye next episode.

The welcome by the servants is touching, but…odd? I’m not sure what this scene is supposed to be doing or showing, except that Claire doesn’t take her servants for granted?

We finally have Fergus brushing Claire’s hair, but instead of being a moment that draws them together, it’s a foreshadowing of the confession he will soon make.

I wasn’t sure about the apostle spoons when they showed up, but they work well in this episode. First, to spur Claire, in her own despair, to find Fergus in his. And later…well, I’ll get to later.

There were so many ways to have Fergus relay this information. I wish we hadn’t actually seen it. It was enough for him to say that he couldn’t say it in front of a lady. Everything else came through in the performances between Romann and Caitriona. We didn’t need to see it.

Mother Hildegarde’s remark about what the king will expect in return for Claire’s request is a warning, and Claire’s response is devastating. That she will add the sacrifice of her virtue to the list of things she has already lost in Paris. But the camera stays on Mother Hildegarde long enough for us to see that she understands what is driving Claire is not just anger, but a deep well of pain and loss.

It’s hilarious when Claire drinks the chocolate that Louis offers. After doing a little research, it seems like it would have been quite heavily sugared for le Roi. So, while I thought Claire might be reacting to bitterness/chile flavor, it could be a reaction to intensely sweet chocolate. I’d be curious to find out what it tasted like.

The king remarks on Claire’s loyalty. It is, indeed, a bedrock principle of her personality, and is why this offering is difficult for her. It’s also a nice call-back to the fact that she’s still wearing both rings in 1954 in the title card/opening scene. Her loyalty to Jamie won’t allow her to let go.

The voice over is unfortunate. I think we already understand enough of what Louis is like by this point in the season. We don’t need Claire to remind us that his power is absolute.

Slight changes were made to the wizard’s duel, turning it more onto an actual trial with Claire as the judge. I don’t mind the changes, especially since they reveal that Saint Germain was the one who tried to poison Claire (although nothing else – I believe him when he says he wasn’t part of Les Disciples; he has bigger fish to fry). It’s nice that Claire still tries to save both men, even after she knows St. Germain tried to kill her. And in the episode, as in the book, Master Raymond forces her to hand St. Germain the cup that she thinks will kill him. I wonder if the show will reveal that he doesn’t die? Rather, what happens is that Raymond understands that only a death will appease His Majesty, and a death must be supplied. It’s easier to have that “death” be St. Germain’s, and for Master Raymond to disappear for a while.

At least, I hope that’s what will happen in the show. It’s only tangentially referenced in the books. Actually, “The Space Between” is one of my favorite and, at the same time, most frustration-inducing bulges from the main series. It provides some time-travel answers, but not others. What happened when Le Comte and Master Raymond went through the time-rift?? Where did they go? Did they manage to go forward? Ugh! We’d better get answers to that eventually.

There is a brief moment when Le Comte acknowledges that Claire didn’t really want this to happen, but then he takes the cup, curses them both, and collapses.

I dislike immensely the Wizard of Oz reference. “I’m going to miss you most of all,” is what Dorothy says to Scarecrow before she leaves Oz. It’s the remnant of a brief romantic subplot that was cut from the film, and has absolutely no place here. In my opinion.

I think that when Claire says she lay on her back and thought of England, it’s supposed to be funny, but all I want to do in this scene is vomit. Claire handles herself with dignity, only beginning to fall apart on the way out, but man do I hate Louis. What an entitled asshole.

Jamie’s return is almost perfect. Like in the book, he asks if she will make him beg, and the room is full of shadows and light. The scene’s tension builds well, with Claire telling him everything that has happened, and grows when she admits that, for a while, she did hate him. We are returned to the hospital, to the breaking of her faith through the virgin statue, and then to her holding her daughter. Claire sings to her dead babe, and holds her for hours, until Louise comes. I am so glad that they brought her in for this scene. As someone who is about to become a mother, to see her friend in pain at this loss must be devastating, but she gets Claire through it. She forces Claire to acknowledge the loss, and give the baby up.

I am forcefully reminded of Claire holding the dead child on the mountainside, the changeling babe that she could not save, just as she could not save her own baby. It is hard for healers to accept loss, but so much harder now, for Claire, with her own baby.

The tension then peaks when Claire turns things around to take some culpability. She admits that Frank shouldn’t matter – he isn’t there. This, I am 100% behind. We needed this moment, to finally sever Claire from any responsibility to Frank. She made her choice a long time ago, and it’s time to let him go.

But I HATE HATE HATE that Claire takes the responsibility for what happened to Faith and that Jamie lets her. No, Jamie. I don’t want to hear about forgiveness. THIS WAS NOT CLAIRE’S FAULT. It wasn’t yours, either, and it wasn’t Randall’s. It wasn’t anybody’s. This scene could have been saved by a single added line. All Jamie had to say was “It wasna your fault, Claire. But even if it was, I would forgive ye.” And then the scene can continue as written.

I am not going to stop watching this show, because I am a fan of the books and I can headcanon that Claire knows she had placenta previa and would have lost the baby anyway. But if I were a show-watcher only, I’d be tempted to turn it off and walk away at this point. I am so disappointed that this show, with its sensitivity to so many issues, would allow a grieving mother to believe that the loss of her child was her fault.

Because guess what – every mother who has lost a child already believes that. And she needs the people around her, the people who love her, to hold her up, and remind her that it wasn’t. To say “You couldn’t have changed what happened” and “It’s not your fault” over and over. She might never believe, but the one thing her husband should never do is say, “I forgive you.” Because forgiveness implies it is her fault, and he’s being magnanimous in staying with the woman who killed her child.

Can you tell I’m a wee bit upset?

EDIT- I am perhaps overstating it when I say “every mother,” but perhaps I can change that to “every mother who has lost a child that I have spoken to.” Which is probably not a representative sample, but it represents my experience with the issue.

Except for Claire putting Frank before Jamie, nothing about this entire situation requires Jamie’s forgiveness, not even the “something else.” At least Jamie acknowledges that Claire with Louis is the same as him with BJR. No forgiveness needed on either side.

I need to calm down, and I don’t think I’ll be engaging much with live-tweeting and such this week. I’m also quite ill, so I think tonight I’ll just go to bed early.

At least the episode ends with something worth holding on to- them carrying their troubles together, with hope for another child, and a return home, to Scotland.

It’s good that they both go to the grave, together. This was a pretty big misstep in the book, in my opinion, because Gabaldon doesn’t have them go together. Each goes separately. I can now insert this scene into the books in my head and be happier for it.

And the apostle spoons finally pay off – Jamie can leave St. Andrew (and a piece of Scotland) with his daughter, and he and Claire can grieve their loss.

Claire crosses herself, I think for the first time (she might have done it before, but never as deliberately or purposefully as this). If I can whistle past the glaring outrage I feel for Jamie allowing Claire to take the blame for Faith’s death, this is a very beautiful and touching scene, where Claire reconnects both with Faith, the babe; her faith in Jamie and their marriage; and her faith in God.

But I’m not quite ready to whistle yet, so I’ll see everyone once I’m cool and collected again.

Not sure how next week will go. It looks like maybe Lallybroch first, then the Bill of Association, then to Beuly. But who knows?

EDIT: OK, I have slept on this and listened to some podcasts and read some reviews. I posted down in the comments some of my thoughts, but here’s where I am as of the “next day.” 

I do not think it is the show’s intention to blame Claire for the loss of her baby. I feel that what happened was an oversight, or perhaps they thought Jamie’s unconditional forgiveness would suffice. And I do think that it’s important that Jamie’s love be unconditional. And I also think it’s important that they both acknowledge the ghost of Frank Randall and that Claire should have done things differently. But when I say that, I mean that she should have been more gentle with Jamie, not that I think her choices caused her to lose her child.

So. It’s possible that Claire will self-diagnose in the next episode, at which point they can state with clarity that the stillbirth was not Claire’s fault, or they may not. They may have Jamie tell her that the loss of the baby isn’t her fault. Or not. I’m going to try and give as much benefit of the doubt as I can, because I do love this show. But I also think it’s important that Jamie be seen not to blame Claire by omission, and to actively support her in her loss. He says they will carry it together – but they should carry the pain and sorrow, not blame.

 

Episode 206 – Best Laid Schemes…

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

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

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

Now, on to the episode!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, moving on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a big deal, just curious.

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

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

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

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

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 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.

Analysis – Jamie and Claire’s Relationship, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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