Episode 313 – Eye of the Storm

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You’ll notice as you read this blog that I don’t have a lot to say about what actually happens in the episode. I predicted most of it last week, and while I liked the execution of many of the details, when I compare this week’s episode to last week’s, it just comes up short. Most of what I talk about in this blog are the things I think were missing.

I really, really hope that next season is better balanced in terms of assigning material from the book to each episode. Because I felt like this one was just ticking the boxes that needed to be ticked to finish Voyager and wrap up the season. I didn’t feel engaged by much of the story, even the parts I liked (John and Jamie, Yi Tien Cho and Margaret, some of the interactions between Jamie and Claire).

And, honestly, if I hadn’t already read the books, I wouldn’t feel any particular need to move on to the next season. They’ve wrapped everything up with a nice bow and here we are in the new world. This could easily be a series finale rather than a season finale. But getting back to the episode…

The title card seems to be foreshadowing the storm and Claire being dragged off the ship with a broken leg, but it’s curious to me that they’re showing that. In the talkback at the end of the episode, they said they were trying to set it up the same was as the premiere, but in the premiere, we kept coming back to Jamie on the battlefield, and the rest of the story was told via flashback until things moved forward. This was a time jump—starting at the end and then jumping back in time, to then later catch up to the opening scene. So if they were going for parallel structure, they missed the mark.

I do like the bit with Fergus and Marsali. It’s fantastic that she’s asserting herself in their relationship, and Fergus isn’t beating his chest and telling her no. And he’s no less masculine or manly for allowing his wife to be his equal. It’s really lovely to see.

Damn, I love Lord John. And yeah, things happen pretty much exactly as I said last week. John is never going to let any harm come to Jamie as long as he has the power to stop it. And damn, does he know how to throw his weight around. My heart fluttered as Jamie walked away. David Berry is killing it. All of my other complaints aside, they did a great job of casting this season.

Geillis is super nuts, y’all. And it’s odd to me that Claire used Brianna as proof. Why not just tell Geillis about seeing her at the stones in 1968? Or talk about Greg Edgars? Claire couldn’t have known those things if she wasn’t there, so that should be proof enough that she traveled. I mean, yeah, it’s in the moment and all that, but Geillis is off-her-rocker crazy. Wouldn’t Claire’s instinct be to protect Brianna at all costs? It was her instinct in the book, as I recall—Geillis found the pictures in Jamie’s pocket. “Because it needed to happen for the story/conflict” is not a good reason.

But we’ll just have to go with it. And the rest of the plot pieces come together, as predicted, with Margaret and Yi Tien Cho. I hope they make it to Martinique, and that she’s not too scarred about what happened to her brother, asshole though he was.

UGH to the voice over! It was so intrusive into the scene and threw me right out of the story. It drained every last bit of tension away. We all get it. The pool is the portal. It was clear from the moment they entered. And everything else in the scene made it clear, too. Stating it just made me start thinking and stop feeling—the exact opposite of what you want the audience to do in a moment like this.

And wow, they did not need to keep coming back to the shot of Geillis with her head partially severed from her neck, and the blood spurting. Ugh. Gross.

I did like Claire’s shock, and Jamie pulling her and Young Ian close. That was nice.

But of course, they get back onto a ship. And my first thought is that we just very volubly stated that Jamie could be taken—if he were at sea. (Spoilers: nothing comes of that. Inexplicably.)

I’m very distracted by the soap on Jamie’s face in this love scene. I know, nitpicky details. But soap tastes disgusting, and would be worse in this era—even if it’s expensive soap. There’s no way some of that isn’t going into Claire’s (Caitriona’s) mouth. Ah, finally wiping it off.

As much as I’m all for love scenes with Jamie and Claire—and this one’s dialogue was taken straight from the book—I hate to say it, but this is gratuitous sex. I’ve written a number of blog posts on sex scenes and romance, and the rule about sex is the same as the rule for any scene. If the scene isn’t pushing the plot forward or doing some other story duty (character development, raising stakes, creating conflict, etc.), it should be cut. And that scene should have been cut, because nothing happens except sex.

Or, rather, the scene should have been rewritten so that it acted as a way for Claire and Jamie to reconnect after everything that has just happened. If they’d had Jamie work through Claire’s trauma after killing Geillis, bringing her back with touch and love, this scene could have been amazing. Instead, it feels jarring. Here we are, after everything that has happened, and we’re getting this tongue-in-cheek, teasing, everyone’s happy and hunky-dory love scene. What??

And what about Young Ian? He was raped by Geillis. At least in the book, there was fallout from that act. Gabaldon dealt with it. She didn’t forget about it, or think we’d forget about it. I’m not thrilled with how it all worked out in the book, but she didn’t shy away from it, either. I don’t understand why they didn’t just cut that entirely. They are basically treating it as though it wasn’t a rape at all—which it entirely, 100%, was. And so was what happened to Fergus last season, but they dropped the ball on that one, too. What is up with that?

And then we’re tossed right into a storm. But there’s no sense that any of their actions are driving things forward here. It’s just random.

Why not write it so that they went into the storm because Jamie wasn’t on deck to tell them to avoid it? What if, like in the book, the Porpoise was actually pursuing them and that forced them into the storm? We could have lost the sex scene and done that instead. I still don’t understand why they cut the pursuit from the show. It feels like a mistake, even if I didn’t know how it worked in the book. There was very heavy-handed foreshadowing in the scene with LJG that never went anywhere—Chekhov’s gun that didn’t go off.

Basically, this episode is the culmination of all of their bad choices earlier in the season—and now not having enough time on this end to tell the story we need. They’re having to truncate everything, and the episode ends up just being a string of scenes that don’t feel totally connected.

The literal eye of the storm was a pretty visual, but I’m not getting the metaphor. What is the storm, exactly? Geillis and her prophecies?

Speaking of which, how does she manage to share that news? Did she send letters to like-minded people living in this time, and the word passes down 200 years until Brianna and Roger are living at Lallybroch? Or does someone else make a separate prophecy at some point?

The beach interlude was also baffling. It made more sense in the book to have Claire wake up in the house, and for their hosts to come and talk to them there. And at the end of the scene, the people just stroll away, no questions asked.

There also isn’t the sense of claiming their own identity again that we had in the books, since they’ve been using the name Fraser for most of the season, and certainly since arriving on Jamaica. That was always the big, dramatic bit for me, that pulled me through to the next book. Jamie has had to hide who he is for 20 years, even after Claire returned. But now he is in the New World, with a new start—and that allows him to regain his identity for the first time since Culloden. It’s a huge deal…and we didn’t get that sense at all.

All-in-all, I’m very disappointed with this season. The standout moments are the Jamie portions of the first few episodes, the much more nuanced and careful presentation of Yi Tien Cho, the lovely acting by David Berry, Fergus and Marsali’s relationship, and episode 312. Other than that…wow.

All I can say is that there is no Frank in Drums of Autumn (I don’t even remember any flashbacks, although it has been a while since I read it), and so maybe we will actually get a more balanced season four. One can hope.

Do you agree with my assessment of the season? I know several of you have been liking it, and that’s great! I really want to like it more, I swear. And I’m still hoping for the best as they move forward. There’s the potential for some truly epic stuff in the next book. *fingers crossed*

As usual, I will post a speculation page at some point during the hiatus to consider how to break Drums of Autumn into 13 episodes. But I doubt I’ll get that done until early 2018, as I still have to finish Secret Magic, the fourth book in my Fay of Skye series.

Despite my moaning and grumbling, I really do enjoy watching this show and writing this blog, and I enjoy getting comments from readers. So thanks for chiming in each week, and I can’t wait to see you all again for season four!

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Episode 312 – The Bakra

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From the previously-on segment, it does seem like we’re going to see John this episode, and that’s a relief. And the cold open revealed Geillis, so I’m glad to be back on somewhat even footing with my expectations vs. reality for the show.

I am sad that they still had Geillis rape Young Ian. (Yes, it’s rape. He’s 14 and she’s in her 50s, so consent isn’t possible, even if you discount the fact that he’s her prisoner and she has all of the power, which also negates consent. And oh, yeah, he’s drugged, too. Rape.) This has always been a problematic section of the books for me, and I’d hoped they wouldn’t include it in the show, or would at least cut the rape of a minor. The scene was striking enough with her bathing in blood and revealing just how crazy she is—we didn’t need the rest. I’m glad to cut to the credits.

The title card is odd, only because this must have happened before the cold open. So it’s weird to get it afterward.

Is it just wishful thinking on Jamie’s part that the Porpoise hasn’t yet made it to Jamaica? I get his reasoning, but the Artemis didn’t exactly make good time—being waylaid by storm and a broken mast. Unless the Porpoise ran into similar misfortune, there’s every reason to believe they would have made it into port days if not over a week earlier. And if the Porpoise was carrying the new governor (and I’m going to be angry if it was, because I really, really wanted to see Claire and John on the ship!), then the fact that a ball is scheduled would indicate that it has already arrived. (EDIT: Having seen the whole episode, he’s already been there a month, so, I’m still mad about the missing scene, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal.)

But I suppose Claire and Jamie don’t know that—and we, the audience, don’t know it either.

I’m liking some of the other streamlining they’re doing in this episode, though—particularly with Temeraire and having him assist them at the ball (and their reason for attending). I also appreciate getting more information about the Brahan Seer prophecies, and that Geillis gives a different provenance for the treasure on the Selkie’s isle and why she knew where it was/wanted it. That was always a problem for me in the books.

The encounter with Archibald was a bit odd. I felt like they were trying to imply that he knew who Jamie and Claire really were, but I’m not sure how he could. Geillis knew Jamie’s real name even back at Leoch, but she’s been gone from Scotland for a very long time. How would she know about him going by the name Malcolm?

Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it, and the moment is only meant to show dramatic irony—that we, the viewers, know where Archibald is staying and with whom, and Claire and Jamie don’t.

I’m also liking that they are pressing hard on Claire and Jamie’s dislike of slavery. Jamie is from this time, and understands the realities of the world in which they’re living (hence him buying Temeraire in the first place), but he abhors the idea of enslaving another person, and looks truly chagrined when Claire says it will take a hundred years in America.

But Claire, it hasn’t ended yet. It’s still happening, right now. And I will link my readers to this article that gives you some ideas of ways to fight back. There are lots more articles like that. Find a way that works for you, and do it. And that’s not even engaging with the huge problem of forced prison labor that happens every day in the US. Slavery isn’t over. We just call it by a different name now. But I’m getting into dark territory. Let’s get back to the episode.

The interlude with Yi Tien Cho was interesting. They’re walking an incredible tightrope between turning the character into a parody and acknowledging the reactions that upper-class women of the time would have had to seeing him. Gary Young’s acting is saving it so far, because he gives the role a great amount of dignity and gravitas that keeps the scene from careening into comic relief.

Oh, but his shared glance with Margaret is so lovely. OK, they pulled that one off, and I’m happy to dance wherever they are leading me with these two.

And then they followed it up with a moment that reminds me why I’m still watching this show after a season that has had quite a few disappointments. I both needed to fan myself and fell deeply in love over that drawn-out, longing look between Claire and Jamie. This is the first time since they’ve been reunited that I actually felt like they were in love. Like they’ve finally reconciled the people they are now with the ones they remember, and come out on the other side stronger together. This is what Outlander is all about.

The scene with John is absolutely pitch-perfect. Jamie so earnest, wanting to hear about Willie, John pleased to be able to report good news and also yearning, his feelings put on display when the sapphire is revealed, Claire feeling awkward and like a third wheel. Perfection. This episode is rapidly catapulting to my favorite of the season.

I think they’re setting up Margaret and Yi Tien Cho in the garden in place of the dead woman—so more like he is “ruining” Archibald’s sister than being accused of murder. Which is good, in one sense, but terrible in another, because these two are beautiful together.

And so are Claire and John. Oh, so much delicious tension. Both of them trying to feel out what Jamie means to the other—and both jealous of the relationship he has with the other. And yet they’re striking sparks off each other in ways that are going to play out so, so well in the future. Lovely, lovely, lovely is all I have to say about that!

OK, I do have one more thing to say. What the heck is this piece of jewelry around Claire’s neck? Or rather, what is that clasp on her pearls? I can’t stop looking at it. It looks like a sparkling slug. There have even been times when the play of light on it in the scene made it look like it was moving and glistening wetly. Ick. Now I’ll return to real commentary, promise.

Well, that was until Geillis actually brought it up in the show! But knowing it’s black coral actually makes sense to why it looks like a slug, so now I understand. But really, Claire. Haven’t you learned anything about trusting/being friends with Gillian Edgars/Geillis Duncan-Abernathy?

And then to have Claire give the stink eye to Jamie and John for chatting and drinking is just the best. Love, love, love everything happening in this episode.

I’m freaking out over here right now, y’all. Margaret’s prophecy is so much more than we have ever gotten about the Brahan Seer prophecies and the reason why Bree and her family were attacked at Lallybroch in the 80s and I’m DYING. I really, really, really want to know if this is canon for the books, because it will blow my mind if it is.

Officially best episode of this season, and not just because of that. It’s actually very well plotted with clear character motivations, even given the deus ex machina coincidence-machine, and the pieces are fitting together with cohesion and purpose. Y’all, I am officially excited about Outlander again. Sad it took them 12 episodes to get here, but at least we’ve arrived.

I like having a moment with Fergus and Marsali and having that turn into them warning Jamie about Captain Leonard’s arrival. I’m also very glad that nothing bad happened to Margaret or Yi Tien Cho—and I’m hoping that he helps her escape from Rose Hall in the next episode and they go live happily ever after.

Having Temeraire find the signs and go off to join the maroons was nice. I think that will play out in the next episode when they need the help of the escaped slaves to go to Abandawe.

Ending with Jamie being captured makes sense, but I can’t help but feel like this is now false conflict. The freaking governor of Jamaica is in love with Jamie. He isn’t going to let anything bad happen to him. But I can also see that Jamie is having those exact thoughts—and that’s why he’s confident to send Claire on to Rose Hall to find Young Ian.

So in general, this episode kicked ass, and I am very, very happy about that. There are still threads dangling for next week (like Jamie handing Claire the pictures, so that Geillis can find out about Brianna), but this felt more like a two-part episode than anything else, so while we’re definitely hanging in the middle, once the next episode airs I’ll be able to watch them back-to-back and that feeling will go away.

One thing that I miss in this episode is the particular piece of dialogue between Claire and John when he talks about being born the wrong person for someone. It doesn’t fit into the episode, so I understand why they cut it, but I miss it very much. It’s my favorite quote from the books, and I think it perfectly encapsulates the odd triangle between John, Jamie, and Claire. We certainly got a sense of that in the acting, but I liked having him actually say it in the books. Maybe they’ll fit it in later in the series.

I just watched Lani’s vlog over at Sex and Whisky, and she and I are on exactly the same page, as usual. The coincidences are so far out there, and yet, the show is embracing them with flair. When the characters are strong and the story is well-told, I’m willing to go with it. But if you’re looking for another voice that’s saying everything I am, go watch her videos for this season. It was fun watching her this week, since she’s so happy and that’s exactly how I’m feeling right now.

What did you think of this episode? Are you excited about Outlander again like I am? Or if you never stopped being excited, does this episode also top your list for this season? Let me know in the comments!

Episode 307 – Crème de Menthe

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Here we are on the other side of a ridiculous cliffhanger, with the threat of rape still hanging in the air like a noxious, completely avoidable fog. (Although I did like the use of the fire engine for the title card, foreshadowing the print shop fire…but I’m not sure what that has to do with crème de menthe??)

I am pleased that Claire didn’t actually kill the man outright, but the complication that they create with her immediately reversing course and trying to heal him seems absurd. I can see Claire having qualms about letting him die, and needing to wrap her conscience around it, but actively working to save him when she knows what’s at stake? I don’t know–it doesn’t really feel like Claire. Yes, she has done some very ill-advised things because of her 20th-century sensibilities. But this? I’m having some trouble with it.

ARGH ARCHIE CAMPBELL. I was so hoping we would be excising (haha) that storyline.

Young Ian, be still my heart! I love watching him show his competence so early in the show while bargaining with the tavern owner. These are the seeds of the strong man he will grow up to be, and I’m delighted to witness them.

This episode is pushing the bounds of credulity for me with Claire’s insistence on healing the exciseman. Yes, she is a healer. Yes, she swore an oath when she became a surgeon. But she has killed before when necessary, and made her peace with that. She is, at heart, a pragmatic woman. The episode just barely manages to save itself (for me, anyway)  with the scene after the exciseman died. Barely. But I can see this as being part of Claire readjusting to the realities of the 18th century, and needing some time to accept that she isn’t in Boston with her surgery anymore.

But, let me just point this out: the exciseman dies anyway and gets crated into a barrel, making everything moot, and there are no repercussions for Claire’s actions either way. Which is basically the definition of false conflict. Sigh.

On the other hand, I love, love, love Fergus and Young Ian at the tavern. Their friendship—and the thought of the future they both want to create—is beautiful. Fergus’s teasing really makes them feel like brothers. I’m trying to figure out how old Young Ian is here—I seem to remember him only being fourteen. OK, I just checked. It’s 1766, and he was born in 1752, so that’s right. That seems awfully young to me, but maybe I just can’t remember well enough being that age. I’m sure I felt I was old enough for everything Young Ian wants to do, and I wasn’t living in a period of history that didn’t have the same concept of childhood as we do. Although I think voting age in Scotland is sixteen now, which isn’t that much older than fourteen, and would be considered adulthood for most purposes. But I still had a moment of “he’s just a baby!” especially given the following scenes.

They’re going in a different direction with the Campbells, and I have to say I approve. Archie is definitely taking advantage of his sister, but I’m glad they’re changing him from the ultra-religious Fiend. We can do without that storyline entirely (and, I hope, the attendant problems with Yi Tien Cho), and this way we still have Margaret in the West Indies during the slave uprising without all of the mess of the other storyline.

Speaking of Yi Tien Cho, I’m glad that Claire calls him by his actual name. And that, after that first somewhat problematic scene, they aren’t using him for comic effect or pushing hard on him being Chinese. In this episode he was just a member of Jamie’s crew–if a more trusted one than most–and that was refreshing to see.

Ian’s visit highlights just how much Jamie is lying to everyone. In the first half of the scene, he lies to Ian about his son. In the second half, he admits to lying (by omission) to Claire about his second wife (not that anyone has said those words yet—but in each episode since Claire returned someone has remarked on the thing that Jamie isn’t telling Claire). Claire shines a light on that when they talk upstairs afterward.

Young Ian truly does take after his uncle (in more ways than one…no, it’s not so much like horses, or whores, Ian). He’s fearless, and thinks of the lass first, getting her out of danger. Yes, things rather blow up around him (and unfortunately the man got away with a stack of pamphlets), but he didn’t back down. His storyline is the only real plot that we get in this episode, but it works very well.

Claire and Jamie’s fight seems well-motivated, unlike the earlier arguments over the exciseman. Some of Jamie’s anger, however, is out of proportion to the topic. I think his guilt about Laoghaire is fueling the bitterness and accusations. Not that he says anything he doesn’t mean, but he’s a bit harsher about it than he might otherwise have been.

The print shop fire scene is great, and handles a lot of the plot threads from the book in a more convincing way than the betrayal during the smuggling shipment. But with that said, I am sorely disappointed that Jamie doesn’t save his printing press, even though I’m sure that part would have been impossible to film. The loss of Bonnie is going to cause rather large changes to future events—to lots of future events. The press was a huge part of Jamie’s life—to the point he even named it. So losing that here, while expediting this story and picking up the pace of this particular episode, means losing not only a giant chunk of future storylines, but a whole aspect of Jamie’s life and personality from the books.

This sort of thing is bound to happen in adaptations, but I do mourn the loss. Jamie as writer and printer is one of my favorite incarnations of Jamie. I am glad he saved the miniature of Willie, though.

Ah, now Fergus has actually said the words “other wife.” I’m very surprised that they did that, but I suppose they know that a good percentage of show watchers have already read the books and know what’s coming. And now there’s dramatic irony, since all of the viewers know something Claire doesn’t.

The final shot of Jamie watching the press burn is heart-wrenching, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, and since the show hasn’t articulated his love for the press well, it could be just him mourning one way of life that is now gone, or worrying about what is going to happen next with Claire, Young Ian, and Laoghaire.

Speaking of what happens next–why wasn’t Ian there? If he’s out looking for Young Ian, you’d think a fire would bring him running. I suppose we’ll see him early in the next episode, or Jamie will mention him having already left for Lallybroch, or somesuch.

The “next time on Outlander” segment is spoilerific. They don’t actually use any clips of anyone saying Laoghaire’s name, so at this point all non-reading audiences know is that Jamie married again, but it seems clear enough that this is going to cause major friction and perhaps splintering between Jamie and Claire. I do wonder if Jamie will end up being shot—they show Claire and Jamie on the cliffs (I assume while Young Ian swims out to get kidnapped), but by that point in the book they had basically reconciled. So there are some questions going into next week.

Sorry for the lack of pictures again, and for the very late blog this week. My son has been sick and I had to wait until bedtime to watch the episode and start the blog. Rather than wait another half hour while I do screengrabs and edit them in Photoshop, I’m just going to go ahead and post. But I do intend to try and find an hour this week to add pics to both this blog and the one from last week!

What did you think of this episode? Do you agree with me that it was a lot of false conflict and created problems? What do you think of Jamie’s stance on lies? Let me know in the comments!