Episode 204 – La Dame Blanche

Here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and I’m conflicted about this episode.

It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t wow me, either. I think I’m most troubled by Jamie and Claire. I do not mind, at all, that Jamie doesn’t get mad at her for keeping the secret about Jack Randall. What I mind is that Sam Heughan was directed to act elated (or he chose that, I don’t know which). I’ll discuss it more when I get there in the episode overview, but I think of Jamie being determined, vengeful, maybe even with a sense of triumph that he can be the one to end Jack Randall’s life. But not…joy. Not laughter. Anyway.

The episode title card is the man with the birthmark sabotaging Claire and Jamie’s carriage. I like when the title card is linked to the story, but this one is actually part of the story, so I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The poisoning scene is obviously meant to make us suspect Saint Germain, and I hope they are going to make him actually responsible for this. He certainly rises to the bait of her necklace (although that particular aspect wasn’t explored much in the show – no time), and he is a friend of Sandringham, so they could be setting him up as a secondary antagonist to the Duke.

So here we are at Claire’s confession. I absolutely think it was the wrong choice to go for levity here. It undercuts all of Claire’s tension and unhappiness in the last episode, and makes what was real conflict there feel false here. Again, I don’t mind that he isn’t angry with her, but I don’t think he should be grinning and laughing, either. He should be fierce – an avenging Scot – not the good-humored lad from the stables at Leoch.

There’s a moment where we get that darkness, but then when he sits down on the bed, it’s back to near-silliness. Murtagh names it – a cheery mood. And Claire is smug about it, which doesn’t strike me as funny at all.

But then we move on to Raymond, and I adore this scene. Especially when Raymond says “I’m fascinated by things not of this time” and then basically winks at Claire. But it isn’t overt – it isn’t screaming “we’re both travelers – WOO!” so it’s great.

The reference to the Zulu and chicken bones makes me think of what is to come in the West Indies.

Rational Claire is absolutely stunned, and, I think, frightened when Raymond says she’ll see Frank again. Not because she doesn’t believe in this sort of thing – but because she does.

Her nature reasserts itself for the stone pendant, but that will come back in a spectacular way later.

I’ve always thought the cuckoo clock and Louise’s cuckoo in her husband’s nest was a bit on-the-nose, but the show draws the parallel even more closely than the book by placing the clock in the same scene where Louise tells Claire about the baby.

Because Louise and Charles weren’t a known couple yet, I wondered if this subplot would be cut. But it works nicely here as a tension point to center the episode around.

Louise is so lovely. “You mean, sleep with my husband? But my lover will be furious!”

EDIT: I totally did not notice the first two times I watched this episode, but another thing that is missing is the Louise from 202 and 203. Where is the woman who unabashedly had her ladybits waxed in front of her friends? Or the woman who laughed hysterically at Mary’s lack of understanding about what happens on a wedding night?

In this episode, Louise feels very much like the book, which is why I didn’t really notice the change at first. She felt familiar to me, and so I went with it. But Lani over at the Scot and the Sassenach pointed out the discrepancy in TVLouise, and now I can’t unsee it. Her uncertainty and loyalty to Charles feel out of character. I wish we hadn’t been introduced to the romance in this episode. If we’d found out last week that Louise has fallen in love (even if we didn’t know it was Charles) for the first time, and perhaps made a big deal over her being uncharacteristically infatuated/swept away by her lover, then I would be 100% on board with her reaction to her pregnancy and Claire’s suggestions. But as written, her subdued, uncertain reaction feels odder the more I examine it.

Jamie’s ardor reminds me of the first time they had sex on their wedding night. He’s so eager, but he really doesn’t understand women. This entire scene, he just keeps digging himself in deeper, but is so earnest about it at the same time. He isn’t hiding anything from Claire, and can’t understand why she is freaking out when he is just so happy that he finally can imagine sex without Jack Randall getting in the way.

(Side note – is there an accepted interpretation of a sixty-nine where one gender is supposed to be the six and the other the nine? Jamie acts like we/Claire should know which is which when he says, “I think she would’ve settled for the six. The nine could go hang.” And I can’t decide if the girl really wanted his mouth on her, or really wanted her mouth on him. The latter, I suppose?)

But I understand why it takes Claire a while to come ’round to his position, though. She is pregnant, which makes you feel gigantic and swollen and unattractive, and her husband hasn’t touched her for months. Now he’s coming home all aroused by someone else.

This is more the reaction I wanted in the last scene. He is darker, and angrier. Claire is a little petulant, but I completely understand because pregnancy can do weird shit to your head.

Jamie’s speech is straight out of the last pages of Outlander and it is gorgeous coming out of Sam Heughan’s mouth.

Claire is too proud to bend right away, but she does go to him in the end. I disliked this scene of reconciliation the first time I watched the episode, but it’s growing on me with additional viewings.

I’m glad that this show is being made on premium cable, so we don’t have to cover up with strategically-placed sheets. That always bothers me on network TV.

Charles is so drunk, and imperious, and a complete ass. How Louise could be interested in him is a mystery.

This addition to the plot is terrible. Louise already told Claire what could happen if Jules finds out about the affair the the baby. That Claire would risk her friend in such a way is despicable. I can’t believe that they think when Charles comes “unhinged” that he won’t expose Louise.

They set up Fergus needing to have Claire home on time, but it doesn’t play out in the same was as the book (unless they’re saving Fergus and Murtagh asking for punishment until the next episode).

I absolutely adore that Murtagh says “a man does not concern himself with the affairs of women” and then immediately asks about Suzette.

Here we have the image from the credits, of Forez putting the block on the nerve. I wonder if Forez will come to Jamie and Claire to talk about execution, as he does in the book? I can also see him playing into future conflict – possibly even being present at the Wizard’s Duel, or a threat over Jamie’s head in the Bastille.

Ugh, the Duke waiting for Jamie to kiss his hand. Oily bastard. And Sam does the “Jamie shrugging his shoulders” bit when Alex is introduced. I love that he pays so much attention to the body language described in the book.

Mary is so sweet when she talks about Alex. And for a moment, Claire thinks she’s talking about Jack, and imagining the marriage to come in Frank’s family Bible.

The next scene is difficult to watch. And, just as in the book, it makes very little sense to have one of them recognize Claire as La Dame Blanche, especially since we know (if we recognize the birthmark from the title card) that they were hired to do this specifically to Claire, and were meant to have killed her. (EDIT – some of my traffic is from people who want to know who is responsible for the rape/assault. If the show follows the books, the guy with the birthmark is in the employ of Sandringham, but Claire assumes it is Saint Germain. They’re under no obligation to follow the books, though!)

Saint Germain as a friend to Sandringham is well-placed to develop an acquaintance with Charles. I assume we’ll soon be hearing about a plan to make money shipping port.

I LOVE that Alex does not victim blame, that he cares for Mary and doesn’t care what happened to her. Jamie outlines the social standpoint on the issue at the time (and -sadly- now, too), and so it is even more lovely that he stands by her, and in the next scene, tells her he loves her and will take care of her. Such a contrast to his brother.

I wonder if the throwaway mention of cutting off someone’s head is foreshadowing about Sandringham, or a nod to book readers that they aren’t going to do that in the show?

There is some tension between Sandringham and the prince over the pope – but Claire inadvertently punctures the tension by having Sandringham tell a joke.

Charles is ready to have an apoplexy. Everyone is having so much fun – telling jokes, talking about the opera – and he’s reeling from the fact that his mistress left him and now he’s just found out she’s having his child. He definitely reveals himself as unworthy of becoming a king.

Saint Germain remarks on her stone and tries to insult her by implying that she might poison her guests. She flips the insult, turning it into a threat.

And then we fall into a farce. I dislike this closing scene immensely. I find it difficult to believe that everyone would just launch themselves into the fray. I’m imagining more of what happens in the book – anger, insults, shouting, and a little violence. Not this out-and-out brawl.

The bits of humor with Sandringham lamenting the lack of dessert, Fergus helping himself to the food, and Jamie whacking people with a bit of curtain fringe just push things even further over the edge. The only thing that works is Claire, and Saint Germain taking the prince away, summoning the gen’darmes as he goes.

I also dislike that we end right in the middle of the scene. I hate cliffhangers. Finish this conflict and give us the game-changer – when the gens d’armes take Jamie away.

The preview focuses entirely on the central conflict of the next episode – that Black Jack Randall needs to live for a year to father Frank’s ancestor, and therefore Jamie can’t kill him right now – and almost nothing else. So I don’t know how the disastrous dinner party will play out. But I can’t see why they wouldn’t follow the book at least a little.

To sum up my thoughts on this episode:

Lots of good stuff, but the central Jamie and Claire conflict and resolution did not work for me, and that cast a shadow over everything else. Also, I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I already knew that this creative team likes cliffhangers. Ah, well.

Until next weekend!

Episode 203 – Useful Occupations and Deceptions

This episode was lovely. I adored the way they reworked the plot pieces from the book to create a meaningful episode arc. Everything fit together, and actually feels like it makes sense and builds out of what came before. But I should never have expected less of an Anne Kenney episode.

The only thing I miss is Jamie brandishing a sausage as a sword.

The chessboard as title card works well. As Jamie tells Mssr. Duverney, politics is chess on a grand scale, and this episode is all about moving pieces around and discovering what use each of the pieces has.

Claire’s dissatisfaction with her role in Paris, and her obvious unhappiness are tough to see. And poor Jamie is running himself so ragged – partially, I think, so that he won’t be home much and won’t have time to think about the trauma he still hasn’t completely dealt with – that he can’t even see Claire’s distress. He falls into stereotype and assumptions, which isn’t like him. In the last episode, he was able to celebrate the things which make Claire unique and special. Here, he is just not paying attention.

The Mary dialogue is so cute, and drawn straight from the book. And it makes a little more sense that Claire wouldn’t take Mary off to have a discussion about sex, since she’s just been distracted by what she remembers of Frank’s genealogy.

This is what I predicted they would do in this episode, but it’s the one slightly clunky note, especially since we’re given most of the meat of her thought processes and objections in voice over. I don’t know how else they would have communicated the same things, though, given that the only person she can talk to about the future is Jamie, and she won’t tell him about BJR.

I like that we deal with BJR several times in the episode, and that each time, Claire has to choose whether to tell. She chooses to tell Murtagh, but not Jamie.

Speaking of Murtagh – well done, sir! Although Claire’s anger is justified on a number of fronts. For one, Suzette really should have been doing work instead of having some fun with Murtagh. But Claire could have handled things better. I appreciated that she immediately apologized to Murtagh and admitted what was bothering her- that Jack Randall is alive.

In general, the expansion of Murtagh’s role in the show versus the book is a delight. And he puts into words what Claire is using to justify her silence – that it’s a secret, which can be kept, and which she and Murtagh will now be keeping together.

And Murtagh has some business to attend to. So much love for Murtagh! And Duncan LaCroix, of course.

Jamie and Duverney together are hilarious. It’s so funny when he tells Jamie to respect him less.

It is wonderful to have Raymond introduce the idea of L’Hopital des Anges. That Claire feels comfortable confiding in him is indicative of the bond they already share.

Having the Comte there at first provided just a hint of malice, and a reminder that he is a threat. And we’ve now introduced Chekhov’s bitter cascara, which doesn’t “go off” in this episode, so maybe Claire will be poisoned in “Le Dame Blanche.”

Claire’s a little overdressed for the hospital. It would be understandable if they were following the book, and had her arrive with society matrons doing charitable deeds, but Claire has worked in rough hospital conditions before. She has to have something a little better suited than that magnificent purple gown.

I still question Claire tasting the urine. Even if she understood that this was the way things were done, I’d imagine that even Claire would have a moment’s hesitation before acting. And the show overlooks Claire’s bittersweet reaction to her diagnosis – pride that she knows what she’s doing, and sorrow, that the condition cannot be treated.

Jamie’s dismay and frustration at Charlie’s secrecy is a fine thing to behold, and provides perfect motivation for his later pursuit and employment of Fergus. The tantalizing promise of an alliance between England and France is something Duverney cannot ignore, despite what Jamie asked of him.

I like that Jamie’s frustration with Claire is not because she’s doing “inappropriate” things for a woman in the 18th century. He’s already uncomfortable with his deceptions, and it is worse now that he’s failing. Claire not being home to talk to about the new developments is annoying at first, and then drives him to distraction. So he’s primed for a fight when she arrives, suffused with happiness at her day.

He is rightfully worried about the baby, but mostly he is not frustrated with Claire but with himself and his situation. He’s envious that she has found what the episode title suggests – a useful occupation. That she is happy, finally, and can help people. So he lashes out, and she goes on the defensive.

I’m glad he doesn’t forbid her to go, or to ask her not to, as he does in the book. They leave the argument without a conclusion, and that tension isn’t resolved until he sees her in her element, doing surgery (however minor), and is able to regain something of his own, through the breaking of the cipher.

It’s so sad that Jamie and Claire are still not sleeping together. It is such a huge part of their relationship in the book and in the show; it’s their way of connecting and coming together. That Randall has taken that away from them is a travesty, but it makes sense for the show to do this. In the books, we can see them coming together, and still have room for interiority that shows us their problems.

Fergus is so cute! And so brazen – even after Jamie discovers he’s pick-pocketed his snake, he asks how much Jamie is willing to pay.

I question that he claims not to be a whore – since Fergus in the books had taken Madame Elise’s customers when she asked. He’s cavalier about sex, which is sad and unfortunate, but it sets up what happens later with BJR.

Claire’s pride in Jamie’s plan should have brought them closer, but it doesn’t. Jamie is glad to see it, but he still walks away.

The cipher portions are straight from the book, but again Murtagh takes a more active role. It’s great that he suggests that Jamie to go Mother Hildegarde.

Bouton is my hero. I wish we had Jamie playing around with him, since it is a much-needed moment of levity in the book. It would be nice to see Jamie regain a little of his old, funny self with the little canine. But the dog actor is so cute, and he does exactly what was described in the book with the patient. I love him!

Claire shows her competence, and her strength. She acts, decisively and with certainty, and impresses Mother Hildegarde.

Jamie’s little look – that pride and attraction – is great to see again. He hasn’t looked at Claire that way all episode.

I love the comments about Bach, that are straight from the book. Jamie sees Claire’s interest – I wonder if he guesses that she is thinking of the future? Although it seems odd that Jamie then figures out the cipher on his own after Mother Hildegarde  points them in the right direction. But I suppose they needed to give him a useful occupation for the episode plot to work.

Hooray for figuring out immediately that it’s Sandringham! That never made sense in the book, why they overlooked the obvious meaning of the letter S until so much later.

Their excitement, and finally working together, is lovely, and tragic, because Claire’s happiness is about to be undercut by the knowledge that Jamie’s world is about to be turned upside down. But Claire can’t bear to hurt him, and Murtagh disapproves, but understands.

I adored this episode. It wasn’t as funny as last week’s, but it was so strong, with so much character development and meaning. The pace was slower, but every movement had purpose and worked together. Outlander has found its stride again!

Next week is a dinner party – I’m assuming this will be the infamous dinner party where Mary is upstairs and Jamie and Alex end up being arrested.

I can’t wait!

 

Speculations – Season Two Episode Breakdown

EDIT: I have cleaned up this post and turned it into a permanent page. Check it out here

It has been a while. I meant to do more posts during the hiatus, but my real life and my own writing have taken precedence. Now there are only seven weeks until the second half of season one starts, so it’s time to get back in the habit of blogging. Between now and then, I’ll do commentary blogs on the teasers, extended scenes, and trailers that have been released as part of droughtlander, and I still want to track the evolution of Jamie and Claire’s relationship over the first eight episodes in a post. I also updated my blog post about the breakdown of the second half of season one. The big change was the addition of the titles that have been released, but I made a few tiny changes to my predictions, too.

But to get things rolling with a new post, I’m going to speculate about season two!

So all we know at this point is that Starz requested 13 episodes for season two. That’s three fewer than this season (although they may ask for more). The question is, how will Ron Moore et al decide to structure their season? From what I can tell from Matt B Robert’s twitter feed, they are already breaking the season and have started writing.

If I were in the writer’s room, I would have two big questions that need to be answered before deciding how to break the season.

EDIT Jan 2016: This question has probably been answered by the fact that they *just* cast Roger and haven’t announced Brianna yet. But they could always be planning to film the 1960s stuff at the end and still put it into the 1st episode. We don’t have an air date yet, so they’ve still got time. 

The first and most important: should the series keep up the 1740s story and run straight through until Culloden, then end the season with a few episodes in 1968? Or is it better to follow the book’s structure of using the 20th century as a framing device?

EDIT: The following question has become moot, since a different actor has been cast for Alex. But he looks similar enough to Tobias to make my breakdown still function. 

The second question: do they actually have Tobias Menzies play Alex Randall? This, I think, is a vitally important question that must be answered before you can start to pull apart the story and restructure it as episodes. Because, if you don’t have him play Alex, things start making less sense. The resemblance between all three men is supposed to be very striking. Alex is possibly the least similar simply because he is younger, but he is, after all, Frank’s true ancestor. So if they don’t cast Tobias, you have to ask if they will follow the books in that respect at all. Do they make BJR Frank’s direct progenitor? How does that change what happens in Paris? Do they cut Alex from the story entirely? If so, what about Mary? What about all of the stuff in Edinburgh?

To make my life easier, I’m going to assume that they will follow the books, both in the bookended story structure and having Tobias play all three Randalls so we can keep Alex’s story intact. Tobias isn’t going to have much, if anything, to do as Frank in this season. Claire has a few memories of what happened when she got back in 1948, but that’s it. They will have to do some tricky camera work to have him interact with himself as Alex and Jack, but that isn’t exactly unprecedented.

So. A 13-episode breakdown of Dragonfly in Amber, following the books pretty closely:

Episode 201 – Through A Looking Glass Darkly

I would condense all of the stuff from part one into this first episode. It’s a nice episode for montage, anyway, with all of the research bits and various travels into the Scottish countryside. It’s hard to decide which parts to keep, but you obviously need to have the first scene, where Claire and Bree visit Roger, and you need to have the scene where he visits Lallybroch. You also need the scene where Bree and Roger go to Culloden, and then the one in the garage since that’s where Roger finds the Reverend’s notebook that gives him the information about Bree’s parentage. Fiona will be there, although perhaps not quite so intrusively as she is in the book, since her flirtation with Roger isn’t really important in terms of the overall story.

Honestly, I think you can cut most of the stuff with Bree and Claire, and the several visits to the manse. Maybe keep the part where Claire wakes up from her erotic dream of Jamie and whispers, “You are so like him” to her sleeping daughter.

I would end the episode at St. Kilda’s, in the graveyard, with Claire collapsing on Jamie’s tombstone.

Episode 202 – The Pretenders

I would start this episode with the briefest of scenes in the manse, with Claire explaining the truth about what happened at the stones. We would open in medias res, so that you don’t bore the viewer with an overview of things they already know from last season. Instead, I’d start with her telling them about the Abbey, and then flash to the 18th century.

There, we’d get Abbott Alexander telling them Charles is in Paris, and then maybe montage some of the journey to Le Havre. There, we’ll get morning sickness and sex, and then break Claire’s perspective and follow Jamie to meet with Jared. Then back to Claire, then to the ship in the harbor. I’m tempted to say that they should pad this episode out with more direct conflict with Le Comte, but it may be enough just to do the plague ship. The episode should definitely end with the plague ship being destroyed.

Episode 203 – Royal Audience

This episode would be all about the Fraser’s introduction to the Court. We’d see a little bit with Jared because they need to introduce Mary’s uncle (and the subsequent conversation Claire and Jamie have about Frank, and Jamie being reassured that BJR is dead), but it would focus on the parties. There would have to be some kind of episode conflict, probably using the Comte since he also appears at society events. But this is where we’d see the King’s levee, Claire puking in the fountain, Raymond’s apothecary shop, Jamie’s story about dueling over Annalise de Merriac, and Alex Randall. I’d move the bit with Alex to the end of the episode, so it leaves the audience assuming it’s BJR. Of course, that only works if, as I said, they cast Tobias as Alex. (Edit: or maybe have them do a hazy dream-effect, and then at the beginning of the next episode, it clears to reveal the new actor.)

Episode 204 – L’Hopital des Anges

We open on Alex, and the realization that he is not BJR. Then I would have the scene where Claire dreams of Frank, and have her and Jamie’s talk afterward. Then we’d have the party where she meets Herr Gerstmann and he suggests she go to L’Hopital des Anges. The conflict in the episode will start with Jamie forbidding her to go, and then we’ll get the encounter with Charles and the monkey, and Claire waxing with Louise de la Tour. I would move Jamie’s meeting with Fergus up a little bit, and have her tell him, if he’s going to be getting into so much trouble and allowing Fergus to put himself in danger, then he shouldn’t mind if she does what she is meant to do. He will acquiesce, and we’ll get the introduction of Mother Hildegarde and Bouton. This may also be a good place to put Jamie having to discipline Fergus – maybe on Claire’s first-ever trip to L’Hopital she refuses to leave and gets home late, and Fergus demands that Jamie punish him.

Episode 205 – Deceptions (NOTE – this is the episode that can be trimmed in order to expand the episodes focused on the Rising – the only really important bits are what they learn from the cipher and Claire’s poisoning)***

I would open this episode with a montage of Claire at L’Hopital des Anges, possibly with some intercutting to Raymond. Then have the scene with Louise’s illegitimate pregnancy, some action shots of Fergus stealing and returning letters (nice bits of tension- will he be caught?), Jamie bringing the cipher to Mother Hildegarde, Claire’s poisoning, and the implications that St. Germain is still out to get Claire. I would probably excise the bits with Mssr. Forez. He’s interesting, historically, but doesn’t do much for the plot. I’d probably get rid of the bit with Jamie and the whores, too. Not plot-relevant, and we don’t need the Claire/Jamie conflict. The end of Part Two in the book makes a great end to the episode- Claire feeling Faith for the first time.

Episode 206 – Malchance

This is just about the half-way point, and the whole of Part Three in the book makes a nice episode. It starts with Claire and Mary Hawkins being attacked, and ends with Jamie agreeing not to kill BJR until after he’s fathered the child that will one day be Frank’s ancestor. In the middle, we have the revelation that Claire is Le Dame Blanche, the disastrous dinner party, Raymond acknowledging Claire’s skill as a healer (help to heal) and trading information for the true story of the party, Jamie and Claire encountering BJR at Sandringham’s, Dougal in Paris, Claire getting BJR arrested, and then the awful scene between Claire and Jamie when she begs him not to kill BJR for Frank’s sake.

Episode 207 – The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I can’t decide if this episode should bother including the bit at the stud farm. It would be hilarious to watch Fergus with the stable boys and the horse, but they don’t get that much info there. So it might be better to go straight into planning to hijack the wine ship with the fake smallpox outbreak. There would have to be a little bit in here about how they know about the wine venture, but that’s easily explained by Fergus’s letter thefts. ((Assuming the previous episode was trimmed, there also needs to be at least some hint about the cipher promising money for landing on English soil – that becomes relevant at the end of the book, and very relevant in Voyager)). Something less random would have to draw Jamie to the whorehouse where he sees BJR raping Fergus. It needs to be something associated with their plot against Charles, something that will really make Jamie think that what’s happening is his fault. Then the episode ends with him and BJR dueling, and Claire collapsing in a pool of blood as she miscarries.

Episode 208 – The Coming of the Light

This episode has a lot of ground to cover. We have to get from Raymond healing Claire, to Fontainebleau, to Claire’s deal with Louis to get Jamie out of the Bastille, to the wizard’s duel and the supposed death of Saint Germain, to Jamie and Murtagh’s successful sea venture, to Jamie’s return to Claire. I would end it with her lie – that she didn’t have sex with Louis – but I would make sure that the audience already knows that it is a lie. It isn’t playing fair with the reader in the book when Claire lies to us, too.

Episode 209 – “I Am Come Home”

Start with Jamie and Claire reconciling in France (from part four), but probably skip the cave. It’s interesting and beautiful, but not plot-relevant. Montage to Scotland, and then the little bits of daily life at Lallybroch. Rabbie’s seizures, Ian and Jamie’s difficulty after Jamie tells Ian about BJR, and end with the letter from Charles and the Bill of Association, and Jenny telling Jamie to ask Ian to come. The Ian/Jamie conflict would be the driving force of the episode. ((NOTE – this is also a place where trimming could happen. If so, the battle of Prestonpans would end the episode.))

Episode 210 – The Flames of Rebellion

This episode would definitely have the infamous encounter between Jamie and young Lord John, and I think it would be best to go through the battle of Prestonpans, intercut from Jamie’s PoV and Claire’s. Then, it would have to segue to Edinburgh, and Colum and Dougal’s arrival. Colum dies, and Claire makes her deal with BJR for information. The episode ends with Charles sending Jamie to Beuly. ((If the earlier episode is trimmed, there is more time to expand on BJR and the MacKenzies.))

Episode 211 – The Stuart Witch

Again, lots of ground to cover. Highlights: Jamie eventually gets his Fraser family’s support, but is incensed when the Old Fox wants to take credit for the Lallybroch men. I would probably skip the part where they go back to Lallybroch, and just have them go back to Edinburgh and find the men in the Tollgate. I’d cut the bit where Jamie and Simon go to talk to Charles, maybe the whole bit where the men are imprisoned. Honestly, I would cut the whole section with Lovat, if not for that important line – “One Fraser from the Master of Lovat’s regiment…”) Claire encounters Mary, and Jamie and BJR become unwilling allies over Alex and Mary’s unborn child (Damn all Randalls!). I am fairly certain that the night of Alex’s death is also the night Claire got pregnant with Brianna, so there will probably be sex. Then the episode has to end with the battle of Falkirk, Rupert’s death, and Claire in the hands of the English.

Episode 212 – “Sing Me a Song of a Lass That Is Gone”

It’s too complicated to get Claire all the way to Sandringham’s estate, so I would just say that he’s taken over a local Scottish estate and Claire is brought directly there, along with Mary (who BJR has sent back to her family, although she is now protected by his name). Then the events cascade, leading to Hugh Munro’s death, Murtagh killing Sandringham for what happened in Paris, Jamie killing Dougal over Claire, signing the Deed of Sasine and sending it to Lallybroch with Fergus, then Jamie and Claire marking each other in the croft and Claire’s flight through the stones. ((see note below for how trimming would affect this episode))

Episode 213 – Hindsight

Brianna refuses to believe, but Roger is convinced. The changed wedding ring will come into play here, because it isn’t going to be engraved, and it won’t allow for that moment of absolute sorrow from Claire. Of course, it’s rather unlikely that a surgeon would never have removed her rings in twenty years, but I whistle past that when I read the books. In any case, Claire will present Roger with the choice to try and save Gillian Edgars. Of course he tries (and they fail), but in the process, Claire proves irrevocably to Roger and Bree that time travel is possible. The season ends with Roger quoting the line about the “officer from the Master of Lovat’s regiment” who survived. “He meant to die on Culloden Field,” Roger whispered. “But he didn’t.”

———-

If the decision is not to use the framing device, then all of the episodes get shifted. What I listed as 201 would become 212, and 202 would become 201. If the decision is not to use Tobias as Alex, that would cause subtle shifts in the way things are shot and written, and how much you can get away with in regard to the physical similarities. Does Tobias have a brother that acts? Or a very similar-looking cousin?

***Another thing I noticed while breaking out the episodes is that, like Diana, I spent a lot more time with episodes in France than I did with the actual Rising. It may be better for the show to shift things a little more and devote another episode to the ’45. Some of the court intrigue and plotting can go, and I marked the episode where pretty much everything can be cut or at least slipped into another episode (For example: is it really important that Mother Hildegarde solves the Goldberg Variation cipher? They could just get that info from a stolen letter). Also, although I love the quieter moments and character development at Lallybroch, that can be trimmed, too. Those cuts would allow for more time with the MacKenzie brothers and BJR’s deal with Claire, as well as providing a whole extra episode to split between dealing with the Frasers at Beuly and BJR marrying Mary Hawkins. I would call that episode “Damn All Randalls.” The existing episode 211 would then start at Falkirk. Everyone loves Rupert, and we need to have some time to grieve his death in the church. But then I stand by Claire’s capture and transport to Sandringham needing to happen much more quickly than in the book, and I would end the episode with Sandringham’s death. Then the final episode of the 1740s section would start with the party’s arrival at Culloden House, and end with Claire going back to Craigh na Dun.

I’m actually way happier with that breakdown, but I’ll leave my initial thoughts up since they follow the book a little more closely.

Whenever we get an episode order for Voyager, I’ll break that down, too. Although I would actually like to see Voyager as two seasons of twelve episodes. One season for before C & J are reunited, and one for after.

What do you think of my episode breakdown? What would you do differently? There are all kinds of things that could probably be cut, and characters that can be conflated. Leave a comment with your ideas.

Speculations – Time Travel

This is going to be a bit of a ramble and a wander through my ideas. I may go back and edit/revise my blogs at some point, as I tend to post them immediately with only cursory (spelling) revision. They could all stand to have some cutting and tightening.

Anyway.

Idea One: Time flows concurrently, no matter when you are. In (I think) episode two, my husband, who has not read the books, asked why Claire is in such a hurry to leave. “Can’t she just go back to the moment that she left?” He’s coming at this from a Back to the Future time travel perspective, where you program a date and time into the DeLorean’s dash, floor the gas pedal to 88, and bang: the flux capacitor delivers you to your time period destination. But that isn’t how things work in Outlander.

(EDIT- in a recent (April 2016) episode of The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair referred to concurrent timelines as “San Dimas Time.” In the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (which is getting another sequel!!), for every hour that they spend moving in time, an equal hour passes in San Dimas.)

We don’t truly understand Outlanderverse time travel yet, even in the books. All of the characters that can do it have theories about how it works, but we have few definitive answers. The “default” seems to be that you always go 202 years from the point when you left. That suggests that time continues to run concurrently, no matter when you are.

Even though they’ve figured out quite a bit about time travel by book eight, Claire knows nothing when she first touches the stones, not even that she could possibly steer with a gemstone. So no, Steve (that’s my husband), she can’t just go back to the moment she left. That’s proven by seeing Frank dealing with the loss of Claire in episode 108 (EDIT: And again in episode 201, when she comes back in 1948). The same amount of time has passed for both of them, and he’s spiraling into despair and desperation.

In the book, Father Anselm says something similar. It has been nearly a year since Beltane by the time Claire and Jamie are at the Abbey, and he says, “won’t your husband have moved on by now, tried to put his life back together, perhaps even found someone else?” So it is a generally understood time travel principle in the Outlanderverse that time runs concurrently.

Idea Two: Outlander is a stable time loop. One of the fun things about time travel stories is figuring out how the author makes it work. Now, I don’t mean the physics involved (although both the show and, in the books, Brianna, try to explain it in terms of places of pooled energy), but rather how time travel affects the world.

A couple of time travel tropes:

  • The stable time loop. This is where everything always happened the way it happens. The Pern books are an example of a stable time loop. Lessa makes the enormous jump back in time to bring the Weyrs forward because she knows the Weyrs have been deserted for years and, therefore, she must have always done it. For the most part, the Outlanderverse is a stable time loop. It is hinted at that, if Claire and Jamie hadn’t managed to undermine Charles’ attempts to raise funds, that he might have been successful during the Rising. So not only did they not stop it, but they may have contributed to its failure. Since the Rising has already happened for Claire, it can be said that she was meant to go back in time and take part in those events.
  • The multiverse. This is time travel where things can be changed. But, in order to avoid paradoxes, each time something is changed, a parallel universe is formed. Back to the Future is a multiverse. Changes to past and future cause a new timeline to be spawned (as explained in the second film). Sometimes that’s a good thing (Marty’s much more successful family) and sometimes it’s bad (Biff’s gambling-land).
  • The paradox. HG Wells’ The Time Machine deals with paradox. It isn’t a stable time loop because things can be superficially changed. The protagonist tries to change the past, but both can and can’t at the same time. If his wife lives, what was his reason for building the time machine in the first place? So every time he “saves” her, time “fixes” itself by making her die again.
  • The everything. Doctor Who is an “everything” time travel show, depending on what the writers need that week. We’ve had paradox episodes (the one where Rose saves her father’s life) and the show has famous “fixed points” in time that not even the Doctor can change. Sometimes these turn out to be stable time loops – like with the 10th Doctor in Pompeii. But there are also indications of a multiverse. For example: why don’t people remember, in the 11th’s time, all of the things that happened with 10? That has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

There are other time travel paradigms, but those are some of the main ones.

The only clue we have that time travel might not be a completely stable loop is the reference that Roger makes, in An Echo in the Bone (pg 225 in the hardcover edition), to the newspaper notice having changed. But that’s ret-conning, because in the end of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, we’re given the scene where the printer uses the wrong month because the slug for the correct month has gone missing.

Diana has ret-conned before. Originally the Montauk Five disappeared in New England; Bree remembers that a body was found in the mountains somewhere there. But when we meet Donner, he says they used the stones on Ocracoke. And, to muddy the waters even more, Robert Springer/Otter Tooth’s journal indicates that he came through at the circle near the rhododendron hell that Roger found. Some people point to this as evidence that travel between stones as well as between times is possible, but I don’t know about that.

In any case, I’m not sure what to make of the different death notice. But every other “can we change the past” question has been answered in the negative (or, if you accept that they are “changing” things just by being there, that those changes were always meant to have happened), so I’m still sticking with the stable time loop.

I think one of the reasons for the ret-conning is because at first, Diana didn’t dig into the whys and wherefores of time travel. It was just a mechanism that got her outspoken 20th-century heroine into her 18th-century Scottish story. But as the series has progressed, the story has required some changes to her original ideas, and some of the ideas have been clarified and codified. There’s a whole bit when Roger and Bree are back in 1980 where they write out a “Time Travelers Guide” a la Douglas Adams.

Idea Three: How Time Travel works, as of MOBY:

  • Using gemstones (possibly also blood and fire) helps you steer beyond the standard 202 years. This doesn’t quite negate San Dimas time, because it seems like it would be quite difficult to come back moments after you left.
  • Precious metals provide some protection (speculation that Claire’s gold wedding ring protected her on her first trip, and the gold and silver together on subsequent trips).
  • It’s easier to travel at the equinoxes and solstices, although possible (not recommended!) at other times.
  • There are some metaphysical speculations that connection to a particular person makes travel “easier.” When Jamie takes Claire to the stones the first time in Outlander, and she starts to enter the time passage, she can feel both him and Frank. Later in the books, although it isn’t “fun” for them, Jem and Mandy travel VERY easily because they have a deep psychic connection to each other and their family members. (More speculation about the nature of travelers below.)
  • You cannot travel to a point at which you already exist. Roger tried and almost died.
  • It is not advisable to travel forward, although we don’t know why. In “The Space Between,” Saint Germain wants desperately to do it because he is trying to extend his life. Raymond tells him it is a bad idea, and Joan’s voices tell her to tell him “don’t do it.” I was so mad at the end of the story that we switched back to Michael and Joan’s PoVs and didn’t find out what happened!! Diana, I am totally OK with waiting longer for a main series book if you will put out a “what happened next” story.
    • PS – Raymond has almost certainly traveled forward, given that he was originally from the prehistoric Orkney Islands. I think he’s come unstuck in time, and that’s why he tells Saint Germain not to try to go forward.

Side rant: some people have said that they couldn’t stick with the book series after Dragonfly because it started getting “too weird” or “too sci-fi” for them. I don’t think it is sci-fi enough. I love reading about the mechanics of time travel, and I am DYING to read the Raymond story that Diana mentioned (in the National Geographic article about the Orkneys) that she’s planning. But I’m a fantasy writer, and worldbuilding fascinates me. YMMV.

Idea Four: Wild Speculations.

  • The blue aura of Raymond’s family is a sort of “extra energy” that travelers have. It allows them to enter the passage, and depending on how strong it is, protects them in the space between time. This is why some people still die in there. The aura allows them to do what we might consider “magic.” Raymond tells Claire she has a blue aura in Dragonfly in Amber (it’s why he calls her Madonna), and she sees him through a haze of blue light when he heals her after her miscarriage. The blue light healing/connection is seen again with Dr. McEwan in MOBY and with Saint Germain in “The Space Between.” There is some indication that this aura is connected to an ability to manipulate physical reality. Claire is an excellent diagnostician because she can use that sixth sense to figure out what is wrong (physically and emotionally) with a patient. We know that it’s more than just reading people’s body language cues and palpating their abdomens because she does it to a skeleton (that turns out to be Geillis Duncan, who, by the by, is someone Claire has already/not yet killed with her own hand – talk about freaky time travel dynamics). Dr. McEwan has taken it a step farther- he can, in a limited way, manipulate people’s actual flesh (he says he knows what the body should feel like, and he attempts to make it more like how he knows it should be). He uses this to heal people, notably Buck and Roger.
    • From the Daily Lines snippets that Diana posts, Claire will be experimenting with using Dr. McEwan’s healing methods on Roger in Book Nine. I almost called it “Blue Magic,” but in the Final Fantasy game series, blue magic is when you can copy other creature’s attacks and skills. Not the same thing!
  • Mandy and Jem are very strong travelers, probably because both of their parents can do it. Even though Jem is haunted by his experience at the stones on Ocracoke, he has no problem going after Mandy when she dashes through at Craigh na Dun. And the two kids have a very strong psychic link with each other and their parents (and, to a lesser extent, other people). I think their auras are much larger than normal as a consequence of having two time-traveling parents.
  • At least one of Claire’s parents was a traveler. We’ve gotten stories about Roger’s family as travelers (from Gillian herself, to Buck, to Jerry MacKenzie), but nothing about Claire’s family. There are hints in the last couple of books that she may be related to the Beauchamp family that Percy Wainwright has married into. And it is not unreasonable to speculate that the child Percy seeks (who may or may not actually be Fergus) is the progenitor of Claire’s family line. I don’t think it’s Fergus, to be honest. But if there is such a child, and if said child reappeared and took up the family name, then escaped during the Terror to England and started using the English pronunciation of the name…it makes sense. Also, when Lord John goes to visit the Beauchamps, he notes that the brother is a terrible card player. Hello glass face? The corollary to this supposition is, if Saint Germain really did have a child with the lost sister, and that child is Claire’s great-great-whatever…Saint Germain might actually be her many times great-grandfather. MIND BLOWN.

I could ramble on about this forever, but I need to go and do my actual job that makes me actual money. Anyone else have some speculations about time travel in the Outlanderverse? What’s your favorite time travel story, other than Outlander? Do you love or hate a particular time travel paradigm? Leave me a comment and let me know!