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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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!!

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 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!

Analysis – Jamie and Claire’s Relationship, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 109 – The Reckoning

Outlander is back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 104 – The Gathering

I’ll start by saying that this is one of my least favorite episodes. Now, that’s not saying I actively disliked it or hated it. Just that I had more problems with it than I had with any of the others so far. Even the pilot, with all of its VO/pacing issues, could be forgiven a little. It had to wrestle with a massive amount of exposition and manage to ground us in Claire’s 1940s world in a short period of time before thrusting her and us into the 1740s. That’s yet another argument in favor of a two-hour or at least two-part premiere. More space to pace the story.

But I’m beating that horse into the earth, so I’ll get back to The Gathering.

Here are a few of my big issues:

  • Claire is trying to be a super spy, but has somehow missed the fact that there will be extra guards around and that these guys drink heavily every day. Side question: did anyone else think of Metal Gear when she’s darting through the shadows? I totally envisioned a big red exclamation point over the head of the first drunk clansman she encounters, and then, just like in the game, a bunch of other guys materialized out of nowhere. Claire doesn’t quite have Snake’s skillz, but she does manage to get one guy in the stones. Good job Claire!
  • The wisdom of Claire’s escape attempt is also problematic in the book, although in the book she doesn’t have this master plan with how many steps between guard stations and such. She also doesn’t have official “minders,” so doesn’t have to come up with distractions. The way it works is that pretty much everyone in the castle is keeping an eye on her. So the fact that they all have a lot of work to do for the Gathering is, in itself, a distraction that she plans to make use of. BookClaire doesn’t know about the extra guards because she hasn’t been making huge plans. It’s almost a last-minute decision: “OK, the staff’s busy, there are extra horses in the stables, and there’s going to be this big oath-taking where all of the warrior guys will be distracted. I’ll grab some food and head out.” So when Jamie explains about the trackers and guards, we don’t feel like she ought to have known better. But I do feel that way in the show because they try so hard to show us how smart and resourceful she’s being.
  • The kid playing Hamish is very good, but the rest of the mock boar hunt scene was weirdly awkward. Caitriona was being a little too condescending to the kids; I’m not sure if that was how she thought Claire would be (Claire having zero experience with children), or if it came out of having to do 20 takes with a passel of children who would probably have liked to be doing something else. In any case, it was distracting to me, and to my husband. He said it was the first time in the series so far that he thought it was “too TV.” That’s a pretty broad phrase for him, and includes: overacting, cheesy “swells” of music, flowery dialogue, wooden acting, clichés in plot or dialogue, stereotyping, and a host of other things I’m forgetting. He said the interaction with the kids was stilted, and I have to agree with him.
  • I was a wee-bit weirded out at Rupert and Angus drawing straws over who got to “settle their cock to roost,” with the lass by the cook pot, and even more weirded out that Claire encouraged this. But I was mildly assuaged when we later saw that the girl had made up her own mind who she wanted. (I’d pick Rupert over Angus, too).
  • Geillis. I’ve already said that, by the end of the scene in her parlor in 103, most of the internet had started to guess that she was a traveler. In this scene in Claire’s surgery, people were sure of it. The “when I first arrived in Cranesmuir with just my wits” bit couldn’t have been more obvious. So much for surprise smallpox vaccination scars. Although Claire will have to explain that one to the audience as much as Jamie, since we don’t vaccinate for that anymore in the US. Hmm…that’s an interesting question. I wonder when they stopped doing those? I’m in my thirties and didn’t get it. So when the younger MacKenzies show up in the late 70s, it wouldn’t have been a standard vaccine. Would Bree have had Jem and Mandy vaccinated in 1980, knowing they were going back? “Uncle” Joe could have hooked her up with the vaccine, I’m sure.
  • Colum & Dougal, again. This is tying in to the same issue I brought up in my 102 review. Obviously Colum is the star of the Gathering (and looks much more lairdly with his hair pulled back and face shaved), but there was definite tension when Dougal took his oath. Then he went off immediately and got totally shit-faced, rather than standing by Colum’s side as he did in the books. Now, let me remind everyone that I’m not opposed to changes. I’m just not sure I like where this one is going. But I’ll say more about it in a later blog (which I will post during the hiatus…OMG, I can’t believe we have to wait until APRIL) devoted to the brothers MacKenzie.
  • The bit with Laoghaire is both intriguing and problematic. It’s obviously another piece to add to the witch pile later, but I’m not sure that Claire would have done this. Later in the story, she begrudgingly starts to mix superstition with her healing because she hopes it might encourage people to actually do what she tells them (like she does with Mary MacNab in Dragonfly– Claire gives her the carved stones from Monsieur Raimond as a charm against the devils Mary believes are causing Rabbie’s seizures). But what Laoghaire asks for isn’t healing. It has no other explanation other than magic. So I dunno. It just doesn’t feel right. I will try to put it down as a snap decision, made under pressure, and out of character because she didn’t have time to think it through or figure a way out of it.
  • Claire beating Dougal over the head. I’m fine with Claire taking a more active role in repelling his advances (in the book she freezes with fear, and Dougal leaves of his own accord), so the slap didn’t bother me. But the rest of this scene was jarring to me. I can’t explain why. Maybe because, when she tells Jamie about it, he laughs it off instead of being pissed at Dougal.
  • Rupert knocking Jamie out. It was overkill, and out of character for Rupert. I have some questions about Rupert’s role in this scene anyway. Both in the book and in the show, Rupert is among the clansmen who force Jamie to go to the oath-taking. Rupert is supposed to be Dougal’s man, and Dougal wants Jamie as far from the oath-taking as possible, so why does Rupert push Jamie into it? Is this his misguided way of forcing the issue between uncle and nephew to come to a head? Or does he think Jamie would actually make a good laird? I’m not sure. I’ll come back to Rupert when I talk about Colum and Dougal in the separate blog.
  • The cheering when Colum accepts Jamie’s not-oath. It was way too enthusiastic, unless they’re cheering because now the party can really get started.
  • Claire apparently forgets about her patient who needs his leg stitched after the tynchal. I mean, I get it. A man just died at your feet, which is enough to distract anyone. And then you had some prime manflesh running around in front of you, beating each other with sticks. But I would have appreciated at least some acknowledgment that she was going to go off and finish stitching the dude’s wound.

That’s pretty much it. And none of those are dealbreakers, it’s just that there are quite a few of them. Of course there were still plenty of things I liked about the episode:

  • Claire’s little pout when Jamie wasn’t in the stables at first. “I don’t mean to be a bother to him.” Oh, Claire. You know you aren’t. And it’s so cute that you’re worried about what he thinks. Here’s a hint: he’s in love with you.
  • Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. I love him so hard in the books, and Duncan LaCroix and the writers are totally delivering the best of Murtagh. You just know that Jamie took Murtagh aside that morning and said, “Look out for Mistress Beauchamp today. She’ll not know the Gaidhlig and I can’t be there to translate for her.” Then, when Jamie shows up at the oath-taking, Murtagh lays it all out for Claire, including her complicity in Jamie’s danger, with devastating understatement. And he tops it all off with a Lethal Weapon reference (well, Matt Roberts does): “I’m getting too old for this.” Love, love, love.
  • Jamie’s face when Claire tells him about the drunken clansmen. I immediately pictured an older version of that face, with the hints of violence and vengeance blossoming into a berserk rage, holding Bobble in the air and slowly, slowly breaking his neck. I got chills. I can’t say this often enough, or with enough emphasis: Sam Heughan is Jamie Fraser. We see it again when he and Claire are apprehended by the guards and the young guy says “can I keep the lass?” Jamie flips out. Here is a hint to anyone who is thinking about touching/hurting Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser: Jamie Fraser will end you.
  • Three words: Je Suis Prest.
  • The blocking in the scene where the clansmen are putting Jamie into his finery. He keeps his back to the wall so no one will see his scars.
  • Sam totally nailing Jamie’s gestures. Jamie sends Claire out to the hall to find a place to watch. As she’s leaving the room, if you look behind her, you’ll see Jamie “shrugging his shoulders as though his shirt is too tight.” Then, when he stands in the doorway, trying to decide what he’s going to do, his fingers drum against his leg. Sam, I love you. You are doing so much justice to this part!
  • Jamie knocking back the quaich of whiskey. I did miss the line about the clan “whose taste in whiskey is so fine,” but it’s all good.
  • Geordie’s death. This scene was so beautiful and poignant. The actor playing Geordie was fantastic, and between his acting and the writing, I mourned for this character who we have never met before the moment of his death. That’s when you know you’re doing a good job.
  • Jamie putting the smack down on Dougal. Sam’s expression goes almost berserk, but then pulls it back. I imagine Jamie had to take a very strong hold on his instincts, otherwise he would have brained Dougal with his shinty stick (I assume it has an actual name). And then he looks up and when he sees Claire, his expression lightens. But my absolute favorite bit is when he and Murtagh leave the pitch, and he says, “Did we win?” Perfection.
  • The moment of genuine accord between Dougal and Claire in the surgery, when he thanks her for what she did for Geordie. They immediately revert to antagonism, but for just a moment, they understand each other.
  • Jamie looking over his shoulder to make sure Claire is OK as they ride away from Leoch. I love those little touches that remind us that he is aware of her at all times.

The best thing about “The Gathering” is the fact that we’ll be getting out of Leoch and onto the road! And that road is going to lead first to a wedding, and then to a deep and powerful love that will change our characters forever. So that’s something to look forward to.

Episode 103 – The Way Out

I’ve talked a little bit about structure in my past two blogs, and one of the things I find interesting about Outlander is that they keep playing with plot structure and conflict in every episode. The first was flat and then spiked at the end. The second was more like a series of hills and valleys: conflict interspersed with narrative rest. This episode almost perfectly follows the “pyramid” plot model.

(here’s what one looks like if you’ve never seen it)

What’s even more interesting to me is that this episode is written as a murder-mystery, with Claire as the sleuth. Of course the deaths are accidental, and the villain isn’t a murderer so much as an interfering, dogmatic contributor to the deaths. Not complicit, just contributing. But it’s still structured that way. I don’t usually do full recap, but I write mysteries and so I found this episode particularly interesting that way and I’m going to break it down for fun. My usual commentary may or may not appear on this outline. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

  • Framing story (Claire’s series problem, aka “getting back to the stones”)
    1. Flashback to the train station
      1. Claire promises she’ll return to Frank, reminding us of her overarching conflict
    2. Claire interacts with Mrs. Fitz
      1. Daydream about how it’s a very bad idea to tell anyone her secret
        1. This is a foreshadowing of the major episode conflict between science and superstition/religion
      2. Determination that her best chance is to get on Colum’s good side
  • Surgery montage; Claire is working to achieve the above
  • Episode Plot Exposition
    1. Introduction of the mystery
      1. “Wee” Lindsay MacNeill has died after a trip to the Black Kirk
        1. Complication: everyone believes that devils killed the boy; it is now clear that superstition and deeply held religious beliefs will be a major point of conflict in the episode
      2. Tammas Baxter is introduced as Lindsey’s best bud and Mrs. Fitz’s nephew
    2. Reminder of the framing story
      1. Claire treats Colum
        1. This is important, because Colum has not been directly involved with her healing efforts so far. It’s one thing to be told that she’s a good healer. It’s another to have a relatively pain-free evening because she massaged his spine.
      2. Interlude with the romantic subplot
        1. Claire is attracted to Jamie, but happily married and planning to leave. She thinks the easiest solution to him being infatuated with her (which, at this point, I think she sees as a kind of Florence Nightingale thing) is to hook him up with someone else. Thus, pushing him at Laoghaire.
          1. This strategy backfires almost immediately – he treats Laoghaire as a child and ignores her
          2. This strategy will likewise cause major complications at a later date
        2. Jamie asks Claire to remove his bandages; they go to the surgery
          1. Jamie once again is playing a protective role. Book fans know that this is basically his default mode.
          2. Jamie reveals that he is comfortable with Claire, something we already guessed from the level of trust he showed when telling her his secrets in 102. But Claire is surprised at just how comfortable she is with him.
          3. Claire attempts to go back into nurse mode, where she feels most confident. This fails utterly, because it requires her to partially undress Jamie and put her hands on him. His arousal is palpable. The internet has universally decreed this interaction to be “eye sex.” I cannot disagree.
  • The Plot Thickens (aka, rising action)
    1. Claire meets with Geillis in the Castle Garden
      1. Geillis tells Claire about the coming exorcism, and warns her not to get involved. Oddly, this is the scene where Geillis feels least like an interrogator. She still asks Claire pointed questions, but many of them feel justified within the context of the scene.
    2. Claire gets involved anyway
      1. Examination of Tammas indicates poisoning
        1. Side-question: what would the symptoms of demonic possession be?
      2. The villain is introduced
        1. Did anyone else feel that Father Bain was a little over-the-top? He was very stereotypical to me. All he lacked was a black hat and mustache to twirl.
  • The sub-plot distracts our sleuth
    1. Claire sees Jamie and Laoghaire snogging in the corridor
      1. I feel this scene is the direct effect of Jamie getting hot and bothered by Claire touching him the night before. She isn’t available or willing, and Laoghaire clearly is. It’s a bit of a dick move on his part, but is something many of us have done at one point (and felt sorry for later). It isn’t fair to Laoghaire, but as Jamie says in the book, “he was burning.” The problem is, he’s burning for Claire, not Laoghaire, and by snogging the younger lass, he’s encouraging her to build all kinds of dream castles and romantic fantasies. Bad form, Jamie.
    2. Claire teases Jamie at dinner
      1. Footsies! (that’s all I have to say about that)
      2. Murtagh is the best person ever in life. I’m so glad they gave him this bit of dialogue instead of Auld Alec. Also, having seen Laoghaire at fifty (if she’s 16 in 1743, she would be 51 in 1778 when Jamie goes to ‘apologize’ to her at Balriggan) I can say this: no matter who said it, in what context, they are 100% correct. Laoghaire is still a petulant, childish drama queen even in middle age.
  • Another sub-plot becomes an opportunity to return to the mystery
    1. Claire visits Geillis to play with herbs
      1. More interrogation…sigh. This is not the Geillis I’m looking for.
        1. Side note: It was after this episode that my husband “guessed” that Geillis was also a traveler. Way to throw all of your cards on the table, writers.
      2. Crime and Punishment in the 18th century
        1. Arthur Duncan is a disgusting human being who is only in this story to be a living potty joke.
        2. If the choice is between ear-nailing or losing a hand, I choose “get me the hell out of here and back to the 21st
        3. Jamie arrives to save Claire from the Scottish Inquisition.
      3. In which our heroes make a very good team
        1. The “rescue” of the boy in the pillory is the first time Claire has trusted Jamie enough to ask him to do something for her that might be risky or get them into trouble. This action, more than anything, cements their growing friendship.
        2. Things work out well, and Jamie is game to help her again, even though Claire was busting his balls the night before.
  • “Will You Do Something For Me” part two, AKA: The Sleuth Finds a Clue
    1. Jamie reveals details of his misspent youth
      1. We find out some important things about Jamie in this scene, and there is a nice level of tension between Claire and Jamie. On the one hand, Jamie wants to show off and make her see him as worthy, but he’s also a proud man and is every inch a Highlander. The “Hieland Man” parts of Jamie will continue to be both attractive and exasperating to Claire for the rest of her life, even into the final scene of the latest book.
    2. Claire finds the poison
      1. I am somewhat dubious about the botanical similarities between wood garlic and lily of the valley, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.
      2. My favorite part of this scene is the way Jamie cannot take his eyes off of Claire, even when she’s spouting Latin names for things. And he is NOT talking about flowers when he repeats, “Lily of the Valley?”
  • The Germany slip is probably my favorite beat of the entire episode. I need to find out if the German language was, indeed, called that in the 18th century, or if people were said to speak Prussian/Bavarian/Hanoverian etc.
  • The sleuth confronts the villain
    1. side note- Father Bain isn’t really a villain. In storytelling terms, a villain is someone who does “evil” things. Or, if you don’t like the word evil, they do things that are against the established moral paradigm. Father Bain isn’t evil and he pretty much represents the established moral paradigm. What he is, is an antagonist. An antagonist obstructs the protagonist. These two creatures are not mutually exclusive, as many villains are also antagonists. But some “hero” characters function as antagonists, too.
    2. For science!
      1. Claire proclaims her cure – Father Bain tells her “No way, sister.”
        1. Claire spouts off a lot of reason and facts, but the only thing that really gets through is the word “poison.”
        2. Father Bain takes offense; apparently he doesn’t believe in poison?
      2. “This Is My Sister’s House”
        1. Fitz stands up to Father Bain.
        2. What is interesting to me is that Claire is offering hope, and it is that, more than anything, that causes Mrs. Fitz to defy Father Bain on Claire’s behalf. I’m not sure what it is about some very religious people who forget or choose to overlook that Jesus was all about love, hope, and forgiveness. He could throw down when he needed to, but in general his message was peace and promise, not damnation and death. I tend to agree with Claire that it’s St. Paul who messed a lot of things up. All of that doctrine in the epistles is where the Christian church starts to skew away from the Jesus whose friends included prostitutes and dirt-poor fishermen, and who was friendly with liars, cheaters, thieves, and lepers. But I digress.
  • “I Smell the Vapors of Hell on You”
    1. Claire has just made an unfortunate enemy.
      1. This scene is taking the place of the changeling from later in the book. That isn’t conjecture- Ron Moore said they cut that bit. And it makes sense to stretch the story out a little bit here at the beginning, and to build into all of these early episodes the little anachronistic behaviors that will one day pile up into the word “witch.” Once Jamie and Claire return to Leoch, the story has already gained momentum, and it wouldn’t make sense to slow the story down then. Although I very much hope they do the scene with the wild dogs. There’s just something over-the-top theatrical about a festering wound, especially when our heroine can’t help herself and shouts, “you need to let me treat that or you’ll die!”
      2. But, luckily, TV magic does its thing, and Tammas recovers within a few seconds.
  • Return to the framing story via a chat with the romantic subplot. I mean, Jamie.
    1. I love the way this little scene establishes the fact that Claire just goes to hang out with Jamie every day. They’re friends, and circumstance has made them allies. They are both outsiders, and have now shared trust. Jamie’s trusted her with his secrets since the beginning, but now they have shared secrets, too. And nothing is in any way sexual about this scene, which is another awesome thing. They are comfortable together, and Claire feels safe enough to blurt “I’m never getting out of here!”
    2. Claire spirals down into a depression. I can’t remember when she worries about the stones not working in the book, but it makes sense that she would start doubting that at this point, when she’s despairing about everything.
    3. Jamie is super cute, like a little puppy dog. “Didn’t you see me waving? I nearly re-injured my arm!” Then he translates a suspiciously appropriate song that some people have speculated might be based on Claire from an earlier time. In the book, there are lots of stories about fairy hills and women in the stones, and 200 years. The “Wife of Balnain” is in there, but it isn’t so “beat the audience over the head” perfect to Claire’s situation. I thought that was a little bit of hand-holding on the part of the show.
    4. Apparently the coincidences are a little much for Claire, too- it pushes her right over the edge into terrible melodramatic cliché. “I must get to the stones – or die trying!” Sigh. Just seeing the huge smile on her face would have been enough, people!

 

And there we have it. This was a very satisfying episode for me, as a mystery fan. It wasn’t chained to a mystery format (we do have some asides for subplots), and didn’t have the breakneck clue-to-clue pace that you see in mysteries, but it was still fun to see Claire as a sleuth. Mysteries often show up in the books, and I love the references that our modern characters make to Miss Marple and Holmes. That’s going to be a lot of fun once the TV series gets there. 🙂

Later today I’m going to draw up a plot diagram using this outline, and I’ll scan it in and update this post.