Episode 304 – Of Lost Things

 

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Last week’s blog post definitely struck a chord with some people—and not necessarily one in tune. Sorry for any misunderstandings, but I have to say I’m not sorry for my opinions. If I got something factually wrong, please feel free to let me know. And I’m open to changing my mind based on different interpretations, so also don’t hesitate to tell me what you think. More than once, someone else’s comments have swayed me to a different perspective. But do please try to be courteous to other opinions, and don’t malign or insult anyone who doesn’t agree with you—me, or any other people who comment on my blog. I reserve the right to delete malicious comments.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about episode 304! I am so glad we’re getting into the meat of the material from Voyager. I think it’s fair to say that one of my many criticisms of the change in focus this season from the book is that we don’t get to spend as much time with Roger and Brianna. They’re going to be much larger players in season four, and it would have been nice to see them more this season—especially since, once Claire returns to the 18th century, we won’t see them again. Unless the show does something really different!

I loved the title card of the carving of the snake. I’m writing this commentary as I watch the episode for the first time, so at this point I assume it’s Jamie carving for Willie (in reverse of the way the original was carved), but I could end up being wrong (nope!). And the snake was lost a time or two—or Jamie believed it was—so the title of the episode (“Of Lost Things”) actually fits with this specific image, and not just thematically with the episode (Jamie is lost to Claire; Claire, William, and his unknown child are lost to Jamie).

Rogers Research Board

Roger’s research boards are fantastic. I tried to freeze-frame and read some of the notes, but they’re just enough out of focus that it’s hard to make out anything but the big “post-its.” I love Roger’s reaction to Claire finding Jamie on the Ardsmuir rolls—“never too early for a whisky.”

Sam is amazing in this episode. The interview with Dunsany is fantastic—he reveals just enough to show the viewer the pain of Jamie’s loss, but he’s also containing it, showing Dunsany that Jamie is the master of his emotions. There’s even a little bit of defiance. That earns him Dunsany’s respect—and a warning to remember that he’s still a prisoner. I liked the inclusion of the phrase “the Scottish prisoner”—a nod to the novel of the same title set during Jamie’s years at Helwater.

Many Faces of Jamie Fraser

Roger is adorable. And so is Bree. The little interlude at the car made me smile. There was a lot of speculation on the internet about why it was Roger under the bonnet and not Bree, but this scene played out wonderfully in reversing expectations.

So did, amazingly, the scene with Jamie and Isobel. She’s young and naïve, but very likable. She’ll be a fantastic adoptive mother for William, and, I think, a good wife for John. She’s pretty much a non-entity in the books, so I’m really glad they’re giving her more of a personality and spirit in the show.

To the commenter who was worried we wouldn’t hear a “Lady Jane”—there it is! I’m a little confused about what they’re trying to portray in the scene with the phone call, though. Is this Claire, torn between her two worlds, or Claire grieving for someone who we haven’t yet met, or something else? Her curtness with ending the phone conversation tells me she’s feeling something very deeply, I’m not just sure what it is. I hope they make whatever it is clear by the end of the episode. (Note—they didn’t. Maybe next week, once she’s back in Boston?).

Marriage to an Earl

Despite how young the actors playing the Dunsany sisters appeared in their headshots, in the show they look much older, and I’m very, very glad of it. They also seem to have picked an actor who looks a lot like Caitriona Balfe to play Geneva—enough that I think it’s going to become part of what happens with Jamie and Geneva. (note—it doesn’t, at least not in any obvious way).

I’m surprised by how much I like Geneva. Oh, she isn’t perfect, and she’s spoiled and headstrong. But I think she cannot be completely awful. She laughs when Jamie drops her in the mud, and is half in love with him. Yes, she goes about everything wrong, but she’s an heiress and is about to be thrust into an untenable situation. She’s grabbing something she wants before she loses her freedom to do so.

Geneva in the Mud

I’m extremely intrigued by the addition of Hal into the Helwater portion! It was delicious to see him, John, and Jamie together, especially since Hal must know very well what John thinks about Jamie. But it makes sense, because it is an easier explanation for how Geneva discovers her blackmail material than the theft of letters.

In the end it’s the same, though—it’s Geneva’s threat to Lallybroch (though much more subtle than in the book) that sways Jamie. And as much as he dislikes her as he comes to her room, there’s a certain angry respect that he has for her as he disrobes. His display of his scars is both reluctant and deliberate.

Jamie Disrobes

Thank God they changed the script in this scene, letting Jamie offer her a way out, and affirming her consent. She’s ruthless in her methods, but it’s because she’s scared and trapped in a situation she can’t control, and is trying to find any way to claim that control. Jamie doesn’t really want to be there, but he’s made his peace with it, and is gentle with her. They definitely improved on what is in the books, while keeping the best of the dialogue from the text—Jamie’s talk of love versus lust, and describing his feelings for Claire. I’m very happy with this adaptive choice!

I’m so glad Brianna kissed Roger first!

Things go a little differently in the show at Ellesmere than they did in the book, but I’m glad they had Isobel and Jamie have a moment—even a moment of anger—to show her mettle. And then a reconciliation afterward, when she comes to terms with her sister’s death and the fact that Jamie is the father of her nephew. And for both Isobel and Lady Dunsany to give Jamie a moment with the child that everyone knows—but will never acknowledge—is his…I wept. And the longing in Jamie’s eyes when she spoke of Scotland—but the knowledge that he has a son, and that his son needs him, keeps him away from the rest of his family. Until leaving him is what will protect him better.

Claire Whisky

Claire’s despair is nearly palpable as she gives up on her search and heads back to Boston. I can’t decide if I like that better as a reason to get her back to the US and encounter Geillis’s skeleton or not. In the book, she goes back to take care of the business of her life, leaving things settled for Brianna as she prepares to go back to the past. Here, she takes Brianna with her in every expectation that they will stay in Boston. Although she’s left the clue of “Freedom and Whisky” for Roger, who I suppose will continue the search on his own in the next episode. So I’ll have to see how everything plays out next week in order to make a more informed decision.

Jamie and John Friendship

Aww. Sadness. The scene where Jamie offers himself to John in return for caring for Willie was well-acted, but I’m disappointed that they didn’t follow the book exactly. Both Sam and David are great, and they both capture the welter of confused emotions both men experience in this scene, so it’s certainly not a criticism of the acting. But I always thought it was sweet and poignant that Jamie kissed John, because he knew what it would mean to John, and his acknowledgment of their friendship and the desire to give John something meaningful overcame his memories of Black Jack Randall. It’s a little odd that they decided to cut it. The handshake with the deliberate touch calling back to the previous episode after the chess game is all well and good, but it’s not really the same. But I shall live with my disappointment.

My heart breaks hearing Jamie talk about a woman out there for Willie—one who might find him. One of the women he cared about in the books is dead, and the other is married to Young Ian. I really hope DG gives him his happy ending soon. Adaptation-wise, giving him the snake is poignant, but not quite as portable as the rosary, and it’s the kind of thing that’s easy to leave behind when you grow up, dismissing it as childish. The rosary is different.

Willies Snake

In the post-episode talk, Toni Graphia says they changed it because the rosary would have been taken from Jamie at Ardsmuir, but I thought it was something that was smuggled to him afterward, once he was at Helwater. I just checked the book and I don’t see anything definitive there about the rosary’s origins, although it’s mentioned in the section when Jamie is thinking about setting up the letters, and in the scene where he baptizes Willie, it’s mentioned that the Virgin Mary statue came from Jenny to Helwater, so that’s probably why I thought the rosary came the same way. I couldn’t find a mention of it in the Ardsmuir section (and it would have been found when he was searched for the gems, or afterward when the tartan was discovered). If anyone has a digital edition and wants to do a search for “rosary” and get a definitive answer, I would appreciate it. Until then, I don’t see why he couldn’t have gotten it from Jenny, although they didn’t establish in the show that he was communicating with his family, either.

But this is one of those changes that will ripple outward and make later meetings different. It’s especially noticeable in this episode, when Claire gets Ellen Fraser’s pearls back and will, presumably, give them to Brianna before she returns through the stones. And then Brianna will bring them with her when she follows her mother a year or so later. Not that these pearls are nearly as distinctive as the ones described in the book, but I suppose they’ll do the trick well enough when she lays them before the Murrays and Laoghaire.

Plot Relevant Pearls

Jamie’s face just before the final fade to black makes me cry. Even though he knows John and Isobel will take care of Willie, and raise him to be a good man, it tears him apart to leave behind his son.

The preview for next week makes it seem like Claire will return by the end of the next episode, which is good. I do wonder what they’re going to show us of Jamie’s life between leaving Helwater and when Claire returns. I know some people think they will actually show his marriage, but I don’t think they will. I think they’ll save that to shock viewers just as Claire is shocked.

What did you think of this episode? I didn’t feel nearly as jolted by the back-and-forth between time periods this week, probably because there was more care drawn to connect them thematically. It still isn’t unnoticeable, but it worked better, especially the closing scenes where both Claire and Jamie are leaving precious things behind.

Let me know your opinion in the comments. But remember—be respectful. Thanks!

 

(images are the property of Starz and are used here for entertainment value and to provide additional commentary on the episode)

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Episode 301 – The Battle Joined

Episode 301 Header

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

Thoughts on the New Intro

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

Title Card - Scottish Flag

Thoughts on the Title Card

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

General Thoughts on the Episode

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

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

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

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

Getting back to this episode, though…

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

Jamie VS BJR

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

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

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

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

Rupert on the battlefield

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

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

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

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

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

Hal

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

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

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

Claire and Frank Breakfast

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

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

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

Rupert and Jamie

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

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

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

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

Lallybroch

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

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

Claire Frank Brianna A New Beginning

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

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

See you next week!