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.

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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.

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

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

Jenny Blood Money

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

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

Episode 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?

 

 

Speculation – Seasons Three AND Four!!

Happy Outlander Day everyone! We received the news today that Outlander has been renewed for two more seasons!

The only hitch is that the press release mentioned they would be drawing from both Voyager and Drums of Autumn. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I think Voyager needs to be two seasons. But we don’t know yet how many episodes were ordered (I didn’t see that in the release, anyway – if someone has seen that information, please comment and let me know!), so it is possible that we’re getting longer seasons as well. If we have, say, 16-18 episodes per season, we could get at least partway through Drums by season four.

I can also see them trimming down Claire and Jamie’s separation and focusing more on what happens once Claire returns to the 1700s. I think that it’s important to spend a few episodes apart, but if there’s an episode for The Dun Bonnet, an episode for Ardsmuir, and an episode (or maybe two) for Helwater, that should do it. Then they have the rest of the season to do Edinburgh/smuggling, return to Lallybroch/Laoghaire, the seal’s cove/Young Ian, and finally their departure for the West Indies. If it were me, I would end season three there. But they may go all the way through until we see Geillis again.

Either way, that leaves plenty of room for season four to see them through the early days in North Carolina, meeting with Jocasta, and finally reaching the Ridge. It would be a very nice endpoint to get them there, just in case we don’t get a season five. And they can film two endings – if there’s a renewal, then in the last episode Bree finds the article about the Big House burning and goes back. If not, we wrap things up and she and Roger get to be happy together in the 60s.

I will do a full breakdown of my predictions (episode-by-episode, like I did for season two), during the hiatus, assuming that they make public how many episodes have been ordered.

No matter what, though, I am super excited!!

This concludes your unusual mid-week blog post from Outlander Spoilers!

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