Episode 213 – Dragonfly in Amber

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

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

OK, now into the finale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ve got my eye on you, Yank.

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

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

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

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

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Warning – super cuteness ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Purple heather, with a little bit of white.

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

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Research always brings people close together.

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

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

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I volunteer my hand as tribute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, grinning in the face of death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did you think?

 

 

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Episode 212 – The Hail Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other little moments I loved:

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

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

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

 

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

Episode 211 – Vengeance Is Mine

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AKA, the one that Diana Gabaldon wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Hawkins, you are a kick-ass woman.

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

 

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

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

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Episode 210 – Prestonpans

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

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

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

A few things I miss from the book:

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

Now, on to what they added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 209 – Je Suis Prest

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This week’s blog is very choppy. In some places, I just wrote a single sentence. Other elements got more attention. I don’t have time to re-watch the episode and do a more thorough job. My daughter has her big dance recital today and my husband is away for work, so one viewing is all I have time for!

If I get the chance later this week, I’ll come back and flesh this out. What you’re seeing is my initial gut-reactions, that I typically tweak and expand after my second watch. But it might be interesting to see those, anyway.

Nice title card, reminding us that Claire was in WWII. It has been said that all wars are the same war, being fought endlessly.

Murtagh’s wink at Claire is so sweet!!

Claire touches her wrist when Jamie mentions a watch. Different meanings for different words.

RUPERT AND ANGUS – Ye Wee Smouts!

Willie got married and isn’t here? Who is going to witness Jamie killing Dougal? I really thought that was the point of making him a bigger character last season?

Seriously, show. Dougal is right. There really is no time to waste. So why are we wasting this episode on something completely pointless?

Drill Sergeant Murtagh? Also, the snow in the air proves that this is really the wrong season.

Not sure how I feel about the training montage(s).

I like that Jamie is more interested in the welfare of his men in particular than the Cause overall, or what he can gain by being near the prince.

The origins of JHRC! I wonder if this is something they made up, or if it’s from DG’s notes.

I am starting to figure out what they’re trying to do in this episode – to pit the old Highland ways against modern warfare. Because the truth is, the Highland Charge is going to be broken with terribly efficient and brutal ease at Culloden. Jamie is right – Prestonpans and their other wins worked because of a mixture of surprise and good fortune.

Claire tries to psychoanalyze Dougal, but she isn’t entirely successful. Her own psyche is too troubled. I’m not sure how I feel about what they’re doing with Claire this episode. PTSD is a real thing, but Claire has always dealt with hers by compartmentalizing, by fracturing part of herself and focusing on the immediate, literal dangers and problems. She turns off emotion and then deals with it later. In the post-show behind-the-scenes, Matt B. Roberts talked about how PTSD can be triggered years after the fact, so, again, I believe that this really happens to people. I just think Claire already has a coping mechanism for hers. I also think that, while her conflict speaks to tone and theme, it doesn’t do much for plot or even much for characterization. Claire isn’t transformed by what happened. Rather, it reinforces her beliefs and convictions. So while it is interesting, I don’t know what it adds to the story.

I really, really don’t like that they changed the reason for Ross and Kincaid’s lashes. The men were brought in by Dougal. Why shouldn’t they have believed they were supposed to be there? Jamie’s punishment seems unduly harsh. It makes sense to punish them – and himself – for Lord John (or William, as he calls himself at this point) managing to enter the camp and attack. That is a totally legitimate dereliction of duty. This is…not.

After watching the rest of the episode, it’s clear that they were: 1) putting Dougal’s men on sentry duty with weighted emphasis and 2) establishing the penalty for this kind of infraction, but I think we all understand that corporal punishment was used at this point in history for military discipline. No need to flog two men who didn’t really do anything wrong in order to justify doing it later to Jamie. Or, if you want to contrast the two floggings, make the first one for a real offense.

Claire’s dialogue attempts to anchor us into a more specific time – for two years she’s tried to stop this war.

I am confused about why they added them swearing that Claire wouldn’t be alone again after she tells Jamie about her WWII experience. He already asked her to promise him that she would go back to the 20th century if things got bleak. He’s going to hold her to that promise. I don’t like that he’s going to break this one. Unless he decides that it isn’t alone as long as she’s pregnant and is going back to Frank? But that’s the letter of the vow, not the spirit of it. Dislike.

Why change the Lord John scene from him attempting to help Claire to just attacking? It makes it feel much more awkward when Claire happens along and starts the farce that she’s being held against her will. Maybe it’s just that I dislike whenever Claire tries to pull one of these scenes (like lying to BJR about Sandringham, faking her vision last episode, etc.). It made sense to me in the book that Jamie really didn’t want to torture this boy, especially since he didn’t yield at first, and was looking for a way out of it. The fact that John had attacked to protect Claire in the first place was what gave Jamie the idea to use her to coerce him.

I can see that Claire’s trying to do the same thing in the show, but why does she think it will work? It is nice that Jamie picks up on Claire’s idea and jumps to use it, because it’s always nice to see Claire and Jamie working together, but it doesn’t feel particularly motivated. And, sigh, here’s another threat of rape, even if it’s not a real threat and is being used as an alternative to torture.

Also, Lord John never finds out in this version that Claire is actually Jamie’s wife. So his little speech at the end isn’t motivated by the same feelings of shame and humiliation. He’s unhappy at being forced to give up information, but he would feel justified because of the inducement. We could have trimmed a few training montages and allowed him to ask, as he does in the book, what assurance he has that they will let the lady go. And then why not allow Claire to treat the broken arm? This is their first interaction of what is going to be a long and very fraught relationship. It needs to be…more.

Not that I advocate for keeping things just because they set up something in the future. I honestly feel that the scene in the book works to establish character, and it is plot-relevant because of the cannon and the upcoming battle. I can’t imagine why it was trimmed and changed so much. Although I did love when he shouts that he isn’t a spy, since I know what’s in his future. 🙂

I don’t mind adaptive changes when they enhance the story, bring out unexpected nuances, or fix minor problems in the source material. But this show has started to create problems for themselves that they’re going to have to solve in unnaturally twisted ways if they want to keep the broad strokes of the story intact (which they say they want to do).

In aggregate, I’m really not sure what this episode adds to the overall story. I guess it is trying to show Jamie changing from a Laird into a General, not just in the eyes of his men, but particularly in the eyes of Dougal. But I still feel that most of what happened wasn’t necessary and didn’t advance the plot. A much shorter training sequence, then Lord John, and then the battle of Prestonpans could have all fit neatly into this episode.

But perhaps my feelings will change when I get the chance to come back and watch again. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight, but I hope everyone has fun watching and tweeting!

Episode 208 – The Fox’s Lair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I suppose I will live without that assurance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose we’ll see next week!

Episode 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.