Episode 308 – First Wife

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This week I have been—thank goodness!—busy writing. I went to a write-in for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with a friend this weekend and we used our extra hour writing until 3:30 this morning. So I crashed for most of the day today and I am just now watching the episode for the first time at about the time that it is airing live.

The title card looks like it should be a spread from the Outlander Kitchen cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders (which you should totally get if you like to cook). I’m not sure yet what it’s meant to represent—maybe wifely duties at this point in history? (After watching the episode, I still don’t entirely get it).

UGH to the voice-over again. Haven’t they heard enough criticisms of it yet to stop using it? It’s such a crutch, and not an excuse for bad writing.

The acting in the first scene is amazing, though! Love Sam doing the Jamie finger-tic, and the tension between Jenny and Claire. Caitriona is playing Claire as optimistic and longing for the camaraderie and home that she lost so long ago, and that need for family is overriding her awareness of just how long it has been and what those twenty years have been like in the Highlands after Culloden. But Jenny can’t forget, and Laura Donnelly plays that beautifully.

OK, I don’t get it. Jamie thrashed Claire in season one because he “had to” but he comes up with a creative alternate punishment for Young Ian now? Why couldn’t they write their way around Jamie beating his wife in season one, too?? And yes, I’m sure there’s an argument to be made that he has matured and grown in twenty years, but that’s ridiculous when the only reason for keeping the first scene was because it was in the book. If that argument worked then, why not now? This scene was written to be a punishment for both Jamie and Young Ian—so that they would both feel the pain and the shame of what they’d done. I don’t hold with corporal punishment for children, but at least the book had nuance and shades of meaning to it. This is just smelly manual labor and, while unpleasant for Young Ian, has no consequences whatsoever for Jamie.

There’s so much going unsaid in this episode, as everyone carefully avoids talking about Laoghaire. And then there’s Jenny who sees too clearly and can’t accept the lies that protect Claire’s secrets.

I’m a little confused about the flashback, and why it’s here. I mean, it’s introducing the idea of the gems and coins that will need to be retrieved to pay Laoghaire off later, and it gives Claire more insight into Jamie’s past, but it feels intrusive—the brushstrokes of the painting.

Lots of people have talked about Claire and birds, and I like that she talks about hearing Jamie’s voice in birdsong, and that they finally included the story of the plovers from Outlander.

Oh, wee Joanie. One nice thing about breaking Claire’s PoV is getting to have sweet moments like that, and seeing Jamie in a different guise than laird, husband, warrior. Jamie as father (and later grandfather) is always nice to see.

The fight was pulled directly from the book, and Sam and Caitriona played it very well. I particularly liked Jenny and Claire afterward, and Ian confronting Jenny for her choices.

The writers seem to be forgetting just how vicious and terrible Laoghaire was in season one, compared to the books. I truly can’t see any circumstances under which Jamie would have married her, given what he knew in the show and what he witnessed at the trial. The post-surgery scene tries to address it, but falls far, far short of the mark. The arguments from the book only make sense when he didn’t know what Laoghaire did. I understand loneliness, and wanting to be a father, but that does not explain why he would pick Laoghaire, not even for the sake of Marsali and Joan. Not after season one, and not even after the “forgiveness” episode. It’s one thing to forgive and make their peace with her. It’s another thing to marry the woman who tried her damnedest to have Claire killed.

(Also, it’s hard to suspend my disbelief about the girls and Young Ian looking exactly the same over two years previous in the Hogmanay flashback—the sort of thing that I would probably buy into if I weren’t reeling with incredulity already).

I did laugh over Sam playing up Jamie’s fear of the needle. But it doesn’t really save the episode for me. I’m terribly bothered by Jamie’s choices in ways I wasn’t in the book.

Ned Gowan does nearly save things. Damn, I love that man. I would watch him just reading law books aloud. And I like Jenny’s concession, and softening, that will turn to many years of anger and pain when they lose Young Ian, first to the pirates, and later to the Mohawk.

I feel so little when Jamie says being a printer is naught compared to being Claire’s husband. That really should matter more, but it has so little weight when we don’t understand, in the show, just how important a part of Jamie’s identity that is. I want to feel a thrill when he asks her if she’ll risk the man his is now for the sake of the one she knew, but I just…don’t.

Am I overreacting? Does anyone else feel the same way I do? That marrying Laoghaire really was an unforgivable act, under the conditions created in the show? Or are we supposed to pretend that didn’t happen? Are the writers attempting to retcon the witch trial?

I’m not going to stop watching the show over this, because it’s pretty much done now and I love Marsali and Joan, so I’m glad they weren’t written out and I’m also glad that Claire comes to be more of a mother to Marsali than Laoghaire ever was. But much like “The Search” in season one, I will probably never watch this episode again, and will do my best to forget about it, despite some very good performances by the actors.

Sigh. And I still don’t see how they’re going to shove all of the rest of the content from Voyager into the remaining five episodes. But I will admit I am very much looking forward to seeing Claire on the Porpoise meeting John.

And can anyone explain to me why they don’t use a boat to go out to Selkie Island? I hear what Jamie is saying about the current, but just start farther up the coast and drift down, rowing against it just enough to steer where you want to go, and then row hard to get back to shore. Obviously it didn’t stop the men in the longboat from the ship. And given Jamie’s profession, he definitely knows people who have boats. Why not write to Jared and have one of his ships pick up the coins? We haven’t introduced Michael yet in the show, but he could have easily picked them up. So many plot holes! But I’ll let them pass.

The post-episode talk-back makes everything worse for me, Laoghaire-wise. Ron Moore talks about how he wanted to give Laoghaire more stuff in season one to make her more sympathetic and show why Jamie would eventually want to marry her—but that is the exact opposite of what they did by making her role in the witch trial more prominent. I am glad for Matt B. Roberts pushing on Jamie wanting more to be a father than to be married to Laoghaire. That’s the one true note in this episode, and the one thing I can believe about Jamie’s choices.

I promise I won’t harp on this forever. I’ll put it behind me so that I can enjoy future episodes. But I needed to rant and moan a bit first.

What did you think about “First Wife?” Do you buy what the writers are selling? And, by the way, I totally respect you if you do. The children angle is going to be my headcanon from now on, basically telling myself that Jamie only took Laoghaire because she came attached to Marsali and Joan, and that he never wanted her at all. If you are on board with him forgiving her and trying to make a true marriage, I can accept that—I’m certainly not going to tell you that your opinion is wrong! It just happens to be one I don’t share. But let me know what you think in the comments! I’m always interested in hearing other people’s reactions.

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Episode 302 – Surrender

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

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

Jamie and Flynn

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

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

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

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

The Smolder

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

Fergus

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

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

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

Claire and Joe

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

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

Jenny Blood Money

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

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

Speculation – Season Three Episode Breakdown

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EDIT: With the episode titles now released (as of late August), this post is kinda obsolete. It remains an example of how *I* would have broken down the episodes, but for my up-to-date speculation, please visit the “Season Three Speculation” page where I’ve updated based on the episode titles.


You guys, this took a really, really long time to do. I have HUGE amounts of sympathy for the Outlander writers.

I also think that they will not follow this exactly. At least, I hope they don’t. I’ve broken up the book into more-or-less equal chunks, and I haven’t deviated from the book at all. But many of those chunks don’t hold together, narratively-speaking. There isn’t a strong sense that these are individual stories making up a bigger story. Some work as individual pieces, and others don’t work at all when taken on their own. So I really hope the season doesn’t end up looking exactly like this!

I’m posting this as a blog, but it will also be available on its own page, like I did with Season Two. And when Season Three starts, I’ll update each episode breakdown on that page after it airs, so that the page will stand as a summary for the season. (And yes, I will eventually do that for Season One. Eventually!) This post will remain, so that people who are interested in seeing what a direct book-to-episode breakdown looks like can still do that.

EDIT- go check out the page linked in the last paragraph for an update based on the synopsis recently released by Starz for Season Three, and an EW article quoting Ron Moore’s plans for Culloden.

EDIT #2 – So, despite my having read in one of Maril Davis’s interviews that there would again be 13 episodes this season, I have heard elsewhere that there will only be 10. That means I have to totally re-think this breakdown. There has also been talk that Claire and Jamie won’t be reunited until halfway through the season. Which is baffling. In any case, what is represented here is what happens in the book. So take that as you will!

OK, here goes:

Outlander Season Three Episode Breakdown

EPISODE ONE  – THE DUNBONNET

  • 1746
    • Jamie wakes after Culloden. Black Jack Randall’s dead body lies on top of him. Some other Highlanders find him and they hide in a cottage. But the English find them. The major in charge is one Lord Melton – the older brother of John William Grey. In exchange for saving John’s life, Hal spares Jamie’s, and sends him back to Lallybroch.
  • 1968
    • Roger and Bree convince Claire not to go jump through the stones immediately. They should try to track Jamie down in history first, so she knows where to go, and can be certain that he didn’t die.
  • 1746
    • Jamie arrives at Lallybroch. He is very badly wounded and his leg is infected. Jenny scalds it with boiling water and he survives.
  • 1968
    • Bree finds the story of the Dunbonnet
  • 1746-1752
    • Jamie lives in the cave. He comes down from time to time. Ian is imprisoned in the Tollbooth. Jenny has her baby and the soldiers come. She lies and says the baby has died to protect Jamie hiding with the bairn in the wardrobe.
  • 1968
    • Roger receives a packet from the historian Linklater with passages from Hal’s journal. Claire flashes back to 1949/1950 when Bree was a baby and remembers the ruined dinner party.
  • 1752
    • Fergus loses his hand when he tries to protect Jamie from a British patrol. Jamie decides it is time to give himself up in exchange for the reward money. Mary MacNab visits him in the cave.
  • 1968
    • Fiona tells the story she knows of the Dunbonnet and how he gave himself up and went to prison so that his people could live off the reward money. They decide to start looking at prison rolls.

EPISODE TWO – ARDSMUIR

  • 1968
    • Claire talks about becoming a doctor; flashbacks to trouble balancing motherhood and medical school – Frank takes Bree with him to work; Roger talks about becoming a historian. Claire finds Jamie on a roll at Ardsmuir.
  • 1755
    • Harry Quarry turns the prison over to its new governor, Lord John Grey. LJG realizes he has Jamie in his power, but resolves to avoid him. Jamie is known now as MacDubh, and is pretty much the laird of Ardsmuir. All of the men look to him.
    • A man is found, delirious and speaking in Gaelic. Lord John must ask Jamie to translate because the one thing they know is that he speaks of French gold. Jamie agrees to a bargain. Jamie learns more than what he tells John, and keeps exactly to the bargain while still escaping. He finds gems and coins, and hides them on an island, but when John blackmails him, he tells him he threw the gems into the sea. He produces a single gem that he swallowed. He says he ran because he was hoping for some sign that his wife was still alive.
    • John and Jamie begin having meals together and playing chess. John falls in love with Jamie, but Jamie can’t abide another man’s touch after BJR.
    • After they part in anger, Jamie takes a flogging that should have been given to another man. John thinks Jamie is doing it to hurt him. Jamie is doing it to remind him of their relative positions in the world, and because that’s what lairds do.
    • Even wounded and surrounded by his men, Jamie is still fundamentally alone.
  • 1968
    • Roger finds Jamie’s pardon. Claire goes back to Boston.

EPISODE THREE – HELWATER (TITLE PER IMDB–NOT TRUSTWORTHY–ALL DEBTS PAID)

  • 1968/1950s
    • Flashback to Claire meeting Joe Abernathy. Claire visits her house and flashes to the night Frank died, after he told her he was leaving her and taking Bree.
  • 1756
    • Jamie and John arrive at Helwater.
    • ???Lord John mysteries???
  • 1758
    • Geneva Dunsany stalks Jamie; blackmails him into sleeping with her before her wedding.
    • Geneva dies giving birth to baby William. Jamie kills Lord Ellesmere to save his son’s life.
    • Events of the Scottish Prisoner??
  • 1761/2
    • Jamie realizes that William is starting to look like him. He already knows that the Dunsany’s suspect William’s parentage, but they are grateful to him for saving the boy’s life, and offer to help him however they can. Jamie finally asks John and them to get him a pardon so he can go back to Scotland.
    • Jamie leaves Helwater, and baptizes his son before he goes. He gives him the baptismal name “James” and gives him his wooden rosary.
  • 1968
    • Claire closes her house in Boston and visits Joe. She helps him with some bones found in the Caribbean; these are the bones of Gillian Edgars/Geillis Duncan…and the wound in her skull is one Claire herself will/has already inflicted. TIME TRAVEL WIBBLY WOBBLY.
    • Claire confesses everything to Joe. He tells her she should go back (except that in the show Claire had absolutely no reservations…maybe their meeting will go differently?)

EPISODE FOUR – A. MALCOLM, PRINTER (TITLE PER IMDB–NOT TRUSTWORTHY–OF LOST THINGS)

  • 1968
    • Roger finds Jamie’s folio and the anachronistic Burns reference. Claire plans her trip. Goes through the stones.
  • 1766
    • Claire travels to Edinburgh and goes to the print shop. Jamie thinks she’s a ghost, then faints when he realizes she’s real. When he wakes, Claire shows him photos of Brianna.
    • Jamie rushes off to take care of Mr. Willoughby. *sigh* Willoughby causes a scene and they have to run to a brothel where Jamie has a room. Misunderstandings abound.
    • Claire and Jamie dance around the awkwardness of 20 years apart, and finally come together.
    • But Jamie is keeping a secret. Claire senses it, although she’s distracted by discussions of smuggling, and by speaking once again to him of Brianna.

EPISODE FIVE – UP IN FLAMES (TITLE PER IMDB–NOT TRUSTWORTHY–FREEDOM AND WHISKEY)

  • In the morning, Ian arrives and more misunderstandings commence. Ian is shocked to see Claire, and tells them he’s come to retrieve his son, Young Ian.
  • Ian and Jamie go out, and while they’re gone, Young Ian shows up. Claire tells him his father is in town, and he runs off, believing Claire to be a prostitute that Jamie and Ian have both visited.
  • Claire has breakfast with the brothel ladies. She learns about a Fiend that has been killing women. She meets Fergus as an adult, who is quickly whisked away by Jamie to deal with their smuggling cargo.
  • Willoughby kills a man who claims to be an exciseman and accosts Claire. His body is disposed of in a wine cask, and Claire finds out that Young Ian is working with Jamie.
  • Jamie takes Claire to dinner and is warned off his usual smuggling route by Sir Percival Turner. They make love in a private dining room and he explains how he became a printer.
  • On their way back to the brothel, they see smoke – it’s Jamie’s printing press. He goes in and rescues it and Young Ian. After they’re all safe, Young Ian tells two versions of his day. In one, he follows a suspicious man into the print shop and sets the fire to stop the man from getting some seditious pamphlets. But really, he was fighting with the man, and had thrown a small lead forge at him. He thinks he has killed a man.
  • Fergus takes Young Ian to drown his sorrows with a lass.
  • In the morning, everyone goes to confession except Claire, who goes to get medical supplies from an apothecary and meets Reverend Campbell. She arranges to meet with his sister, who was severely traumatized post Culloden. She was once betrothed to a friend of Jamie’s.
  • Jamie and Fergus decide to go to the second rendezvous point to meet their cargo, but everything goes wrong and their party is separated. The excisemen have been killed, and Jamie and his people set up for the crime. But they all manage to escape and head back to Lallybroch.

EPISODE SIX – YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

  • At Lallybroch, Young Ian is castigated by his parents and Jenny reacts to Claire’s return. Ian makes Jamie give Young Ian his punishment as a way to punish them both.
  • Jamie tells Claire the true story of the seal cove and the treasure – he didn’t throw it into the sea as he told John Grey. The treasure is still there, with gemstones and ancient coins.
  • Claire and Jamie are interrupted mid-coitus by Marsali MacKimmie and Laoghaire Fraser. Claire gets understandably upset, and she and Jamie argue. They have angry, loud sex until Jenny comes in and tosses water on them. While Jamie is gone, Jenny helps Claire clean up and leave.
  • Halfway to Craigh na Dun, Young Ian catches up to Claire. Jamie has been shot by Laoghaire and is dying.
  • Claire returns, and uses some of her precious penicillin to keep him from dying from fever after the gunshot wound. They are both still angry, but Jamie explains how the marriage happened, and how it had failed.
  • All of the Murray family arrives, and Claire enjoys the company. Soon Laoghaire, her brother, and Ned Gowan come to tell Jamie that they are suing him. A settlement is reached, but in order to pay Laoghaire, Jamie must go fetch a jewel from the seals’ cove. They take Young Ian and plan to go to Paris and stay with Jared, where Ian can go to school.
  • But at the seals’ cove, Young Ian is taken by men on a rowboat, along with the treasure.

EPISODE SEVEN – FORCES OF NATURE

(NOTE – I would totally cut all of the stuff in France)

  • In France, Jared puts Jamie in charge of the Artemis and they get ready to sail after the Bruja, the ship that took Young Ian. It’s headed for the West Indies.
  • While in France, they meet with one of the Rothschilds, who indicates that coins matching the ones in the treasure were owned by the Duke of Sandringham.
  • Even though they go separately in the book, I would absolutely have Claire and Jamie go together to visit Faith’s grave. And Claire will speak with Mother Hildegarde, but Master Raymond is gone.
  • They return to Scotland to pick up their crew, made up of the smugglers (because Jamie suspects one is a traitor), and Fergus brings Marsali MacKimmie (Laoghaire’s oldest daughter) on board. They are handfast, but have not yet consummated the wedding. Jamie wants to put her ashore, but Fergus insists that she stay. Jamie says they must not sleep together until their union can be blessed by a priest – which means probably months away, after crossing the ocean.
  • Jamie succumbs to seasickness. Claire makes friends with the ship’s cook, Murphy. Fergus tells Claire that someone has been trying to kill Jamie – there have been a few “accidents” recently. They think it’s one of the men on board, except for Duncan Innes, who is one of Jamie’s Ardsmuir men who lost his arm in prison and doesn’t want Jamie dead.
  • Jamie’s seasickness gets worse until Mr. Willoughby tries acupuncture. (If the character is written out, which would be helpful, Claire could have gotten this knowledge elsewhere). Claire and Jamie sit up and talk about the future – moon landings, and Bree. Jamie looks at the pictures and wonders about what kind of woman she is. Claire says she left a letter, with all of the advice she could think to give.
  • Jamie is feeling the effects of celibacy, since Fergus is in his cabin and Marsali is in Claire’s, and there’s no good place for them to have sex. They talk about what it was like for him in prison. The next day, they find a spoiled cask and throw it out to lure sharks. Murphy relishes the thought of cooking them, since one got his leg. Mr. Willoughby catches a pelican to fish for him. He tells the crew of his escape from China.
  • Marsali and Claire start to warm up to each other, and Marsali talks about her relationship with Fergus and his past. She also asks how not to get pregnant, because she thinks that having babies is what made her mother dislike sex. Claire shows her how to use sponges (not that those are all that effective).
  • While they are talking, a commotion on board signals the arrival of a British man-o-war.

EPISODE EIGHT – WE MEET A PORPOISE

  • The man-o-war has typhoid fever aboard. Claire can’t get it, and wants to help. Jamie is reticent, but she’s insistent, citing her Hippocratic Oath, and hopes it will stop them from pressing too many sailors from the Artemis.
  • Claire starts to get things in order aboard the Porpoise, and they set sail with her still on board. The captain is apologetic, but they must make haste.
  • Claire treats the typhoid epidemic, and her days begin to blur in exhaustion. She becomes friends with the gunner’s wife, Mrs. Johansen, when she needs milk for her patients.
  • Claire goes to speak with the captain one day and he accidentally calls her “Fraser” (she’s using the name Malcolm). He has to leave, and she reads from his logbook that one of the men on board gave him information about Jamie and his smuggling activities.
  • Claire tracks down Harry Tompkins, none other than the man who Young Ian thought he killed. (In the book, he finds her, but I think that robs her of some agency). She withholds medical treatment in exchange for information, and finds out that Sir Percival was behind everything in Edinburgh.
  • One night, she goes on deck and meets the passenger that is responsible for the haste – the new governor of Jamaica, Lord John William Grey. He doesn’t know who she is, and she doesn’t remember him. But they speak about what it feels like to have to watch men die and only being able to do so much, and the responsibility of it. He says, “What it comes to, I think, is the knowledge that you are not God….And the very real regret that you cannot be.”

EPISODE NINE – LAND HO!

  • Claire escapes the Porpoise by jumping overboard and floating on a current between islands. She washes ashore and meets an elderly priest who is quite mad named Father Fogden, and a naturalist named Lawrence Stern. Who coincidentally knows Jamie. Because who doesn’t know Jamie?
  • Claire learns about a cave called Abandawe on Hispaniola, which is considered sinister and sacred. She also learns that Father Fogden has been defrocked because he ran away with an upper class woman named Ermenegilda from Habana, Cuba.
  • The Artemis runs aground, but Jamie isn’t with the ship. The sailors and Claire try to get it back in the water.
  • Jamie got aboard the Porpoise, but Claire was already gone. Then he was imprisoned, and during a storm, Mrs. Johansen got him overboard. He washes up on a beach and pretends to be French when he meets some island children. They tell him that the Bruja—and Ian—have recently been in port.
  • A group of soldiers arrives at Artemis. Jamie is with them, and tells them that if they get the ship into the water they can have it. But he double-crosses them, and his men launch the ship and take the soldiers prisoner.
  • Claire de-louses Jamie and his beard. Marsali and Fergus are “officially” wed by Father Fogden. Jamie gives Fergus the name Fraser. The wedding reminds Claire of her choice to be with Jamie.

EPISODE TEN – WORLDS UNKNOWN

  • The Artemis hauls bat guano from Barbados to Jamaica to a certain Mr. Grey’s sugar plantation.
  • Jamie speaks with Master Masons in the West Indies asking about news of Ian and the Bruja.
  • Claire freaks out when she sees a slave auction and causes a scene. The only way to get out of it without violence is for Jamie to purchase the man, Temeraire.
  • But they do learn something at the auction site – the Bruja’s cargo included some slaves with previous owners. One is a Mrs. Abernathy of Rose Hall, Jamaica. They plan to head there to unload their cargo and speak to her. But first, they have to check the pile of dead bodies ready for burning, in case Ian died aboard the ship and was unloaded there. The experience triggers Jamie’s PTSD about Culloden.
  • Claire tries to free Temeraire, but the others argue that he won’t be able to make a living as a one-armed former slave. (This SUPER bothers me, and I hope the show cuts it).
  • The pirates from the Bruja board the Artemis. Claire is wounded trying to save her and Marsali’s lives. Jamie and Fergus have the unusual experience of doctoring Claire, but Mr. Willoughby sews her up.
  • Claire says that her wound hurts, and Jamie says that he was worried because she didn’t think it hurt when it happened. That mortal wounds don’t hurt. She asks how he knows, and he says Murtagh told him. Then he tells her what he remembers of Culloden and how Murtagh died.
  • Claire learns that they have a prisoner from the Bruja. Claire patches him up and eventually he tells them his name is Ishmael and he’s from one of the islands. He tells them about the 12 Scots boys in the hold of the ship. Claire drifts into a kind of trance while he talks, and thinks that he might be an ancestor of her friend Joe Abernathy. (I am assuming this is some kind of time-traveler skill, like the way she can diagnose things by touching). This seems to mesh with the fact that her unwanted slave was owned by someone named Abernathy and that Ishmael has removed a brand from himself that was in a similar location to Temeraire’s.
  • Claire’s wound gets infected and she has Jamie inject her with penicillin. He can’t do it at first, and she has to start it herself. But when he sees how much it hurts, he takes over. Claire tells him about a patient that she helped commit suicide in Boston. Shortly after that, she was moved up to administration so she would have little patient contact. That was right before she went to Scotland with Bree and found out Jamie was alive.
  • Jamie and Claire discuss the future, and possibly moving to America. Jamie could become a printer in one of the larger cities. Murphy sends Claire some turtle soup laced heavily with sherry. Claire gets quite tipsy and she and Jamie have fever-drunk sex, during which Mr. Stern tries to come in and Jamie attempts to tell him nicely to go away, but ends up shouting at him. (This is many people’s favorite sex scene in all of the books).

EPISODE ELEVEN – PROMISED LAND

  • When the Artemis arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, the Porpoise is there. Claire explains that they were bringing the new governor. When Jamie hears the name, he explains that they’re friends, and that John was in charge of Ardsmuir Prison.
  • Ishmael and Temeraire head into the hills of Jamaica, most likely to join with a band of Maroons.
  • The Frasers settle in at Jared’s plantation. They learn that Reverend Campbell has arrived, and that there is gossip about Mrs. Abernathy and the way Mr. Abernathy died. They also find out that there’s a ball being held to welcome the new governor. Jamie decides to attend.
  • Since Jamie is a wanted man, they decide to masquerade as French couple – Etienne Alexandre and his wife, Claire. John finds Claire first, and is pleased to see her. She introduces her husband, and John is floored to realize it’s Jamie. And that this isn’t any woman, this is his lost wife, Claire.
  • Claire mingles and gossips and finds out that everyone thinks Mr. Abernathy perished under suspicious circumstances. Reverend Campbell is there, and goes on a diatribe about the Jacobites. His sister is missing, and he wants help from the governor to find her.
  • Jamie and John meet privately. Claire overhears them talking, and witnesses them embracing, and sees the way John looks at Jamie – and how much Grey is in love with her husband.
  • Claire can’t face Jamie, because she can’t reconcile his friendship with a man who is in love with him with his past with BJR. So she goes to the retiring room and stumbles upon a dead woman. The assumption is that Mr. Willoughby killed her, so as his friend, Jamie is questioned. Fergus takes Marsali home, and Claire speaks with John. The captain of the Porpoise arrives and Claire pretends a swoon so she won’t be recognized. John plays along until the captain leaves. Claire is still jealous, and she and John talk, and John mentions Willie. Claire has no idea who he means, until he shows her the portrait of the little boy. John explains what he knows of the circumstances of William’s birth.
  • Flashback to Helwater, and the day Jamie asked John to look after William. He offers himself in exchange, and although it is what John wants more than anything in the world, he turns down the offer. It is beneath his honor, and Jamie’s. But Jamie kisses him before he goes.
  • Back in Jamaica, John says that he ought to have recognized her, and reminds her of the night before Prestonpans. Then John says one of my absolute favorite lines from the series, about how he feels about Jamie: “To know that you cannot give them happiness, not through any fault of yours or theirs, but only because you were not born the right person for them?” And of course, Claire does know that. It is her relationship with Frank, exactly. When they part, they acknowledge that they liked each other at their first meeting on the Porpoise. Now, there is something very big and awkward between them – their love for Jamie Fraser.
  • Claire and Jamie talk about William. Jamie explains the circumstances of William’s birth, and talks about loneliness, and longing, and how that is why he married Laoghaire. He thinks it may be what Willoughby felt and why he might have murdered the girl. He also explains that he didn’t tell her about William because he’d have to tell her about Geneva, and how would she believe that he has only ever loved her? But she says, if he tells her, she’ll believe him, because she loves him, and will keep him honest. They reaffirm their marriage vows.

EPISODE TWELVE – THE SCENT OF GEMSTONES

  • Jamie and Claire visit Rose Hall. Mrs. Abernathy is actually Geillis Duncan/Gillian Edgars. She plays coy, and talks to Claire about time travel, the Rising, and how she survived being burned as a witch. She escaped to France and tried to help the Rising there. She also talks about zombies – men who have been drugged and made susceptible to suggestion. Jamie goes to help on the estate in an attempt to look around, and Claire tries to help with healing some of Geillis’s house slaves. Claire tries to question the house girls about Ian, but they won’t talk. When she goes back to see Geillis, she is looking at the pictures of Brianna. Then she realizes that Claire has gone through the stones three times. Geillis has the gemstones from the seals’ cove, and is keeping them in case she needs to travel again.
  • As Jamie and Claire leave, Reverend Archie Campbell arrives. They come back at night, to find Campbell still there and Geillis gone. Campbell is suspicious, but talks to her about the Brahan Seer prophecies (note – important for later in the series!). Mr. Willoughby arrives and tells Claire that Archie is the Fiend from Edinburgh who was killing women, and is the one who killed the girl at the ball. Mr. Willoughby kills Campbell, and admits that he is the one who gave away Jamie back in Edinburgh. Then he flees.
  • Claire searches for clues to where Geillis has gone. The clue is the prophecy that the line of Lovat will produce Scotland’s next ruler. And the only person alive in the 20th century from Lovat’s line is Brianna Randall. Geillis is going back.
  • Claire tries to meet back up with Jamie and Lawrence Stern, but stumbles onto some slaves instead. They are about to rise up against the plantation owners, and are summoning spirits. They have Margaret Campbell with them, and she is the mouthpiece for their summoning. During the ceremony, she even channels Brianna, who speaks to Jamie and Claire. Jamie makes Ishmael tell them where Geillis has gone—to the cave of Abandawe, on Hispaniola. They run toward Ian, while the escaped slaves begin their uprising.

EPISODE THIRTEEN – VOYAGER

  • John offers Jamie his boat, and Jamie says they’ll have to steal it so John won’t be implicated. John offers Claire sanctuary, but Claire must go to Abandawe. John misunderstands, and Claire wishes she could tell him the truth, but he is hurt when he says goodbye.
  • Jamie forces Fergus to stay behind with Marsali, and then they set off for Hispaniola. On the boat, they discuss philosophy with Stern, and religion, and science. Duncan Innes takes control of the ship while they go inland.
  • Claire starts having visions of Geillis, and is drawn toward Abandawe. In the cave, Jamie holds tightly to her in the darkness, because they are both afraid she will be drawn back into the time passage.
  • Geillis has Ian – she planned to kill him and use his blood to pass through time. When Geillis threatens Brianna, Claire goes into a blood rage, and kills Geillis with the axe she meant to use on Ian.
  • Ian, Jamie, and Claire manage to get out of the cave and into the storm with the gemstones, but Claire and Ian are terrified.
  • Lawrence leads them back to the jungle, and Claire treats Jamie’s wound, only to find he has a pistol ball in his scalp. She removes it, then goes into shock. When she wakes, she hears Ian telling Jamie about what happened at Rose Hall, and how the other boys had all died. Then I really, really, hope that they don’t keep the part with Geillis raping Ian, but if they do, I hope they treat it as rape, and without any overtones that Ian wanted it or participated willingly.
  • If Geillis rapes Ian, Claire treats him with penicillin, as she believes Geillis was suffering from advanced syphilis. Then they go back to the coast.
  • There, they meet the men, and get back on the boat, which is being pursued by the Porpoise. They were really after the escaped slaves on a different ship, but would be happy enough to recover their governor’s stolen vessel.
  • The Porpoise chases them into a hurricane. They manage to get through the storm (the Porpoise is swamped and goes down with all hands, including Captain Leonard), but have no idea where they are. Eventually, they sight land, and shortly after that, the topmast snaps and drags Claire into the water. She’s tangled in rigging and her leg breaks. Jamie jumps in and brings her to shore.
  • Claire wakes up in a house, and when they ask the owners where they are, they find out they’re in Georgia. They’ve made it to America. And for the first time since Claire came back to him, Jamie is able to openly and honestly introduce himself as Jamie Fraser, and his wife, Claire.

THE END!!

Episode 208 – The Fox’s Lair

208foxslairtitlecard

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 114 – The Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skipping over the remnants of the gypsy plot…

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

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

And then we enter into darkness.

Episode 113 – The Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 112 – Lallybroch

I’m finally getting back to blogging. I had a rough 2015. But I recently quit my day job, and have been freelance writing and doing some other things from home, so I have a little more time to blog again. I’m excited to finish going through the first season, and then I’m going to re-read the books in preparation for Season Two!

~*~

Before I say anything else, I must say that I called it on the episode title. I also was pretty close on my plot-point breakdown when I speculated on the second half of the season. They made some changes that I couldn’t have foreseen, but the rest was pretty close.

The scenery at the start of the episode was beyond gorgeous. I need to go to Scotland. And then live there for, like, ever.

But getting to the actual episode… Jenny is great. I know she got a lot of shit around the internet for being a bitch/a shrew/whatever, but I love her to death. I actually think that this first scene should have been more loud and rowdy between Jamie and Jenny. They were almost too calm. But I suppose we need to understand what they’re saying, so that’s life on TV.

Jenny’s confession was odd, but not for the reasons that the internet exploded. I wasn’t bothered by the “cock controversy.” I didn’t think it was entirely necessary, but it didn’t freak me out, or disgust me, or anything. What I found odd was that she seemed so calm about it. I realize it has been four years, and she wasn’t penetrated in the legal sense of rape, but she was violated and it was creepy and awful. I’ve known survivors who get completely emotionless when recounting their stories, but she wasn’t like that, either. Maybe she was underplaying it so that Jamie wouldn’t get even more upset? I suppose she could also have decided to focus on the outcome – that she was able to stop him – rather than the particulars of what happened.

After that, it bothers me that they’ve turned what was a sub-textual “feeling out” between Claire and Jenny into outright, open hostility, at least on Jenny’s part, hence the internet labeling her a bitch. Not that I’m saying they should be instant besties, but her calling Claire a trollop is not in the spirit of Highland hospitality. Jenny is headstrong, opinionated, and stubborn, but she’s also a lady. She might not like her brother’s new wife, but she’d be cold and formal about it with a stranger, which is what Claire is to her at this point.

Still, I get what the show is doing. They want to ramp up the tension, and subtext is hard to convey onscreen. That’s why they have Jamie pull Claire aside for the “come-to-Jesus” talk about being in the past. He said something similar to her when they were on the road with the Mackenzies in “Rent.” Still, it crosses a different line than in the previous episode. I hope this doesn’t continue too much. It’s one thing to warn Claire about the differences between their times. It’s another to bridle her spirit. BookJamie may constantly worry about the 20th century mannerisms and beliefs of his wife, but he never tries to break her of those ways. Not even when they cause him trouble (over and over and over again).

The discussion of Brian Fraser is transplanted from other places in the book, but it makes sense here, during their first moments in the Laird’s room. And adding on Randall’s original proposition before the second flogging also works. The sword bit didn’t entirely fit. I feel like it needs to have more symbolic weight than what it was given in the episode. They were trying to make us feel a sense of an object passed down over generations, father-to-son, but knowing what we do about Brian’s family history, that doesn’t make sense.

I miss the loss of Alex MacGregor’s Bible. I understand that there isn’t room for it in the show, but it explains the “Alex” reference when BJR is with Jamie. Some people speculate that BJR is talking about his brother there, but I think it’s a kind of mix for him, between the only person in the world who actually loves him (his brother), the one he had who got away (Alex MacGregor, by suicide), and the one who has finally succumbed.

Also, the show totally missed an opportunity to have Sam say the Pontius Pilate line from the book: “Oddly enough, it was some comfort. Our Lord had to put up wi’ being scourged too; and I could reflect that at least I wasna going to be hauled out and crucified afterwards. On the other hand,” he said judiciously, “Our Lord wasna forced to listen to indecent proposals from Pontius Pilate, either.”*

I do like the dinner scene with the in-laws. The tension here is good, and more like what was in the book. It’s definitely on the surface rather than just beneath, but again, subtext doesn’t work as well on screen. I think we’re astute enough viewers to figure it out, but whatever. And there’s a nice reference to the tenants, and Jenny’s belief that no one would betray Jamie is a foreshadowing because of course that turns out to be false. Although Jamie rather brings it on himself.

Speaking of, it’s a little sad that wee Rabbie MacNab in the books ends up as a laborer, married to a whorehouse Madam. His playmates Jamie and Fergus have more illustrious futures.

Quarter day is lovely. I will admit that I missed the vase the first time, probably because I’d been watching the episodes online late at night and was very tired (hence why I stopped blogging about them for so long- it was all I could do just to experience them as a casual viewer). But everyone online talked about it, so I noticed it the next time. Claire gets her vase – she only had to travel 200 years to find it.

Jamie’s largesse seems a little more like drunken misunderstanding of the realities of life at Lallybroch. I know it’s supposed to read that way, but it makes me cringe because Jamie wouldn’t do that. He has a very keen understanding of politics, money, taxes, and such from living with the Mackenzies. It’s also a problem I’ve always had with his handling of MacNab in the book. At least in this version, he’s so stinking drunk when he does it that he had something of an excuse for his ineptitude.

Claire dealing with DrunkJamie is hilarious, though. A nice way to put in some comedy while dropping the plot point about Ronnie MacNab. The elephant bit is the best. Where would she have ridden an elephant, though? Did Uncle Lamb take her to India? Southeast Asia?

HungoverJamie is also amusing. And Jenny is transcendent. It’s nice that the mill is introduced through conflict rather than just being “one of those things” like it is in the book. Although I miss Ian talking about how he can’t swim and just goes around in circles like a doodlebug.

I love that it’s Jenny with Claire at the mill. And it’s nice to see the British patrol actually helping and being useful. That was nice in the books, too. They were a bit condescending, but I like it when the enemy isn’t faceless and entirely evil. From my understanding of history, it is actually more likely that they would have been Scottish, too- mostly lowlanders, but with some highlanders sprinkled in. Too bad we don’t get much of that in the show. There’s more of that in the later books, in America.

NakedJamie is…well, you all have eyes. Sam Heughan is a very fine specimen of a man.

I love, love, love, the way Jenny stops and stares at Jamie’s back. It calls back to what he said to Claire at Leoch, about the reason he doesn’t like people to see his scars. And that continues through the books, so I assume it will follow in the show, too. There’s a lovely scene at one point with him and Roger, where he takes off his shirt, and Roger is so pleased to be one of the few who Jamie can allow to see the wounds. But I think Jamie would have gone his entire life without letting Jenny see them, if he could have. Of course, in the book, she demands to see them, but I like this way, too. Her anguish and love is so clear that it makes my heart ache for them.

Ian telling the story of Jenny’s birds and their marriage is so sweet. I love Ian. I can’t wait until we meet Young Ian in the show. He’s one of my favorite characters. And “Old” Ian’s advise about stubborn, mulish Frasers – kick them harder – is solid.

Claire is a BAMF. But she gets straight to the heart of the problem in this episode, and it’s brilliant. It makes all of Jamie’s poor decisions crystallize and actually make sense. Although I’m unhappy that the show decided to go in this direction (BookJamie has his flaws, but this misunderstanding of people isn’t one of them), I’m ok with how they pulled it off in the end.

Jamie and Jenny at the cemetery is the best part of this episode. I wish this bit was in Gaelic, but I can see not making the actors do the scene in what (to them) is a foreign tongue. This is such an honest and deep moment, and a true reconciliation between the siblings. Jenny’s line is one of my favorites: “If your life was a suitable exchange for my honor, tell me why my honor was not a suitable exchange for your life?” So perfectly Jenny. And Laura Donnelly’s delivery is fantastic. She is going to be amazing later, too.

Claire’s love for Lallybroch is so poignant and strong. Her sense of home, of belonging, of finally finding her place, is palpable. And Jamie saying I love you…and Claire saying it back…sigh.

Cliffhangers are shit, though. The watch holding a gun to Jamie’s head is a terrible way to end an episode. Especially when it turns out to be 100% nothing in the first scene of the next episode. Seriously, people. We don’t need to be led by the nose like a cow through the season. We’re going to keep watching. I’d have been happy to leave off with Claire and Jamie finally confessing their love and going to bed.

Now, the end of the next episode, though? That is where it’s at. Not a cliffhanger, but, as they say over at Storywonk, a game changer. The world is different at the end of episode 113. And I’ll be blogging about it soon…

 

*Outlander, Chapter 22: Reckonings – Page 414