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!

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Frequently Searched Queries

outlanderstones

It is taking me longer than I’d hoped to figure out how to break Voyager into 13 episodes. We’re doing some remodeling, and between that and my own writing, I have only finished breaking 4. But I should be able to devote some extra time to it this week, so I’m planning to have it out next weekend.

In the meantime, I decided to put together this post. I’ve gone through the search terms that lead people to this website, and have put together answers to some of the most frequently searched-for terms and queries. Most of these answers are somewhere in the blog, but will be difficult to find because of the format. If your question isn’t here, ask it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post!

Outlander Spoilers Frequently Searched Queries

  1. Outlander book 9 spoilers
    1. As I mentioned in the sticky post, no one has these except Diana Gabaldon and anyone she uses for beta reading/editing. But my guess is that some of the events chronicled will include the battles of King’s Mountain and Cowpens.
  2. Why did Jamie Fraser not die at Culloden?
    1. We don’t really know. The show may come down one way or another (especially since Ron Moore has now revealed that they’re filming part of the battle), but in the books Jamie doesn’t remember most of the battle. He was badly wounded, and woke up with Black Jack Randall’s corpse laying on him. It is possible/probable that BJR’s body kept Jamie from view, and that kept him from being killed after receiving his wound. But he doesn’t remember being wounded, and doesn’t know if it was BJR who did it. He also doesn’t know how BJR died – if it was at his hand, or someone else’s.
    2. Part two of this answer is that, even though Jamie survived the battle, he managed to escape because of Lord John Grey. That young boy who infiltrated their camp before the battle of Prestonpans (who said his name was William Grey) had an older brother, Hal, who happened to be in charge of the troops that found the Highlanders hiding in the cottage near Culloden. Hal gave Jamie his life in return for sparing John’s.
    3. Part three of this answer is Jenny Fraser Murray, who saved her brother’s life by scalding his wound with boiling water and killing the infection.
  3. Black Jack Randall Queries:
    1. Black Jack Randall book
      1. Not sure if this one is just wondering how he’s different in the book, or if someone actually wants to read a whole book about BJR. I don’t think there’s going to be a book, but I do think his character was less overtly evil and demonic in the book than on the show. Not that he wasn’t awful. He was. But I think his characterization in the book was more nuanced and layered. No one is entirely evil, and the book presented us with additional aspects of BJR that could be understood and even sympathized with, while 100% hating everything he did to Jamie and others.
    2. What happened to BJR/When does BJR die/Does Jamie kill him?
      1. He dies/died at Culloden (April 16, 1746), as Claire predicted. In the book, he has a headstone at St. Kilda’s, but it is unclear whether his body actually lies there or not. I may be getting confused because Frank had Rev. Wakefield put up a fake headstone for Jamie there, and I can’t remember if both stones were fake or just Jamie’s.
      2. We don’t know if Jamie killed him or not, because Jamie doesn’t remember. The show may choose to show us what happened (they’re filming part of the battle), or may follow Diana’s example and obscure the truth for many seasons to come.
    3. Black Jack Randall and Claire
      1. I hope this wasn’t a shipping-related query. In the book, they have a strange connection that is never precisely defined. It is antagonistic, of course, from the moment she passes through the stones, and gets worse after everything he does for the next two years. By the end she hates him with a furious passion, which doesn’t lessen over the years (as shown by her reaction to seeing his grave in the 1960s- something that didn’t happen in the show yet).
    4. Why does Black Jack beat Alex after his death?
      1. You’ve got me. I think it’s because Alex was the last thing holding him back from descent into true darkness. But you’d have to ask the writers and Tobias Menzies to know for sure!
  4. Murtagh Fraser spoilers
    1. Most of these boil down to- is he going to die at Culloden? Honestly, I don’t know. He does in the books, but the show has made him a much more important character. I imagine that the show will follow the books in this regard, though, because it’s the way he would want to die. He wouldn’t want to be hanged as a traitor, starve to death, or be transported to America. And if he survives Culloden, he would be separated from Jamie of necessity, which would be worse than death for him.
  5. What happens to Mary Hawkins?
    1. In the books, she marries a Jewish man named Isaacs, and gives birth to Alex Randall’s son, named Denys. I have no idea what the TV show will do with her, except that I’m sure her son will still run into our characters again in America.
  6. Voyager/Book 3/What happens next?
    1. See the Season Three Speculation page for more info.
    2. When I finish each book’s re-read I may post a synopsis for each book, and a synopsis for each season of the show so far.
  7. Jamie and Bouton
    1. Best thing ever! I’m not even sure what this person wanted to find, but in the book, Jamie argues playfully with Bouton and Bouton is having none of it. What they put in the show was more brief, but still super cute.
  8. When does Rupert die in Dragonfly in Amber?
    1. Rupert dies during the battle of Falkirk. It’s Chapter 43, appropriately titled “Falkirk.”
  9. Does Rupert tell anyone Jamie killed Dougal?
    1. Only the Outlander writers know the answer to this one. In the book, it’s a random MacKenzie named Willie who sees Jamie kill Dougal. And no, he doesn’t tell. We meet him again in America much later. As I recall, I think he tried to blackmail Jamie at that point? I will update this once I finish my re-read. But I seriously doubt that Rupert wouldn’t tell. He was incredibly pissed off. Not sure how or if that will make things play out differently.
    2. RELATED:
      1. Why does Dougal dislike Jamie?
        1. Lots of reasons, and none of them are specifically articulated in the books, but we can make educated speculations. First, because Jamie is what Dougal is not–a canny leader. He doesn’t let his passions drive him the way Dougal does. Second, because he knows that Colum would choose to make Jamie the next chief of Clan MacKenzie (for those reasons–Jamie has the charisma and savvy of Colum, but he is also strong and can lead men to battle like Dougal). Third, because Jamie is the son of Ellen MacKenzie, and both Colum and Dougal feel that Ellen betrayed them when she eloped with Brian Fraser.
        2. But I also feel that I need to point out that Dougal also loves Jamie intensely. This is not a simple relationship of antagonism. Jamie is the son Dougal wanted but never had (and in the books, he actually fostered Jamie for a time). And when Dougal does father a child–Hamish–he is forced to allow the world to believe he is Colum’s. So Dougal feels very parental about Jamie. But that doesn’t negate everything listed in the first bullet point.
      2. Why did Outlander choose to keep Willie alive?
        1. I’m assuming this means Willie from the MacKenzie Rent party in the show, who got married and emigrated to America between seasons one and two. Technically, the Willie MacKenzie from the books lived, too. He ended up being transported to the colonies. This Willie is just already there. I’m not sure why- maybe the actor had other commitments?
  10. Jamie and Claire’s reunion in Voyager.
    1. Oh, for those of you who haven’t read the books yet, you’re in for a treat. I highly suggest you go get a copy and read it, but here’s the gist: Jamie has been working as a printer in Edinburgh, using the false name Alexander Malcolm (A. Malcolm). But he’s also smuggling alcohol and writing seditious pamphlets, because Jamie can’t ever just do one, safe thing. Claire shows up after 20 years at the print shop, and at first Jamie thinks she’s a ghost. Apparently he has seen her a few times over the years. But she’s real! And he immediately faints. 🙂
  11. Did Jamie kiss Lord John?
    1. Non-book readers won’t understand why this question is being asked, but the answer is YES. More than once (although never with the sort of passion John would like!).
  12. Tynchal
    1. This search term comes up often. I assume people don’t actually care about the Outlander tynchal, so here’s a brief definition: In the most basic sense, a tynchal is a hunt. But in the Highlands, it took on ceremonial value and became a rite-of-passage and a chance to prove physical prowess and cunning. The subjects of a tynchal were typically boar or stags.
    2. In Outlander, the tynchal is a boar hunt, and two people are gored. One of them dies, and the experience bonds Claire and Dougal MacKenzie.
  13. Catullus in Outlander
    1. Here’s a link to the translated poem by Richard Crashaw that DG references. It’s gorgeous. But if you want a literal translation, here’s the Wikipedia page with the Latin.
  14. Who will play Lord John Grey in Season Three of Outlander?
    1. The super-sexy David Berry! The link goes to his IMDB page. 🙂 I’m actually pleased with this choice, as he is a very pretty man. He’s a good bit taller than John in the books (who is described as short and slight, even for the time), but from what I can see of him in pictures he’s a very lean actor, not big and bulky like Sam Heughan. So it should still make for a good contrast.
  15. Outlander Avengers 213
    1. Yeah, I’m baffled, too. No idea why they went with this choice for their episode 213 title card. The explanations offered by Ron Moore and co. don’t entirely make sense.
  16. Why do they need gemstones to travel through the stones in Outlander?
    1. Well, you technically don’t. Claire went through once in the show and twice in the books without them. But they make the passage easier. It’s said by the characters that they help you “steer,” or find the right time on the other end. See my post on time travel for more info.
  17. Does Brianna time travel?
    1. Several times. And so does Roger. 🙂
    2. And their kids. ^_^
    3. Hey, this place is called Outlander Spoilers for a reason!
  18. What happens to Fergus in Outlander?
    1. I’m guessing this question is about what will happen after season two. If they follow the books, as a young man he loses a hand in an altercation with a British officer in order to save Jamie, who is hiding nearby. When Claire travels back to 1766, he is all grown up and in love with Marsali, Jamie’s step-daughter. (Yes, you read that right). He and Marsali eventually marry and have several children and Fergus becomes a printer in America.
    2. But in case you meant to ask about Fergus and BJR, yes, BJR raped him. In the books, it was slightly more transactional (not that a child can ever consent to sex, no matter if said child is being paid), but just as awful.
  19. Outlander time travel theories
    1. See my post!
  20. When did Lord John Grey marry Claire Randall?
    1. Well, she was very much Claire Fraser when they got married in Book 7. Also, if you haven’t read the books, you’re probably like, “Who is Lord John Grey?” and “Claire marries someone other than Jamie and Frank?”
    2. Yes, she does. She thinks Jamie has been lost at sea, and the British are about to arrest her for spying, so LJG marries her to keep her safe. And yes, the marriage is consummated. Which is kinda weird for both of them.
    3. And Jamie is super pissed about it when he shows up, and DG LEFT US ON A CLIFFHANGER FOR YEARS UNTIL MOBY OMG.
  21. Was Claire raped by the red coat deserter?
    1. Almost, but no.
  22. “Dragonfly in Amber” Stones Sex
    1. I know, I hated it, too. In the book, there was so much more time, and they had a lovely sex scene, and the initials, and everything was poignant and meaningful. Jamie does basically fuck her right before she runs for the stones, but I wish they would have just cut that for the show. Having him walk her to the stones worked much, much better as a goodbye than a last quickie.
  23. Ned Gowan
    1. He is the man. No more needs to be said on this subject.
    2. OK, but since you asked.
    3. He helps save Claire’s life at the witch trial.
    4. He advocates for the clans during the aftermath of Culloden and helps many people keep their property when the English wish to seize it.
    5. He represents Laoghaire in her bigamy suit against Jamie. Yep. Bigamy.
    6. He remains awesome, and friends with Claire, despite #5. (EDIT: So, when I’m in the WordPress editor, these indented items show up as numbers. But on the actual webpage, they show up as letters. Ugh. So #5 should be E.)
  24. How does Echo in the Bone end?
    1. With a cliffhanger, damn it! I’ll get to this at some point in my reread, but suffice to say that we were all slavering for Written in My Own Heart’s Blood to find out what was going to happen to Jamie and Lord John on the road.
  25. Claire steals some of Gillian’s notebooks in “Dragonfly in Amber” (the episode).
    1. Yes. That happens in the book, too, although in much more contrived and thief-like circumstances. Those books become the basis for many of the characters’ later theories about time travel. I assume we’ll see them again in Season Three.
  26. Did Ross (from Lallybroch) die at Culloden?
    1. In the books, all of the Lallybroch men got home safe. Roger found three men with similar names on the list of the dead at Culloden, but his trip to Edinburgh proved that those three weren’t the Lallybroch men (and none of them were named Ross). So they all made it home! Sadly, many of them didn’t stay there. Roger says two went to America, four died within a year, and one moved to a different parish. But Ross would have had good reason to stay, so I’m pretty sure he made it home to take care of Kincaid’s wife and bairns!

Ask additional questions in the comments below!

 

Episode 213 – Dragonfly in Amber

213dragonflyinamber

Here we are at the finale. I am both super excited and very sad that we’ll have to wait at least a year for more Outlander! But I still plan to blog during the hiatus. I think what I’m going to do is a re-read. I’ll start with Outlander and work my way through Voyager, since that will be season three’s main inspiration. I’ll have to figure out exactly how I want to spread that out to fill up 50ish weeks, and I’ll probably do other blogs when the Blu-Rays release and talk about deleted scenes.

Before I get started…I HATE that they chose to intercut the time periods. Every single time, it punctured the tension, no matter which direction they were moving. The ones toward the end of the story weren’t quite as bad, because both stories had picked up momentum, but probably all the way until the last ten minutes it was annoying to jump around.

OK, now into the finale!

In general, I’m a big fan of the changes they made to streamline the 1968 story. They gave action to different people than had it in the book, but it worked organically and in a much cleaner fashion than the clunky chapters at the end of the book. The Gillian stuff relied heavily on coincidence, but I’m willing to overlook that because it made everything move faster and gave Brianna a face-to-face relationship with the woman who would become Geillis Duncan.

The “title card” on “The Avengers” was…weird? I mean, I guess it places us well in the 60s, but it took me a while to figure out where we were and what was going on. Why are all of these kids here? And yes, I know who Roger is, and I could make an educated guess that this must be the Reverend’s funeral because of metatextual knowledge, but it takes forever for the show to tell us his name. Anyone who doesn’t know is going to be super confused. A good title card places us in space and time and sets up the theme for the episode. I’m not sure what “The Avengers” tells us about the story of “Dragonfly in Amber” and it doesn’t even set up time and place because we could be in 2016, streaming it online from anywhere in the world. So, title card fail.

213roger

Wee Roger, all grown up, and mourning his father.

But getting into the story, I am liking Richard Rankin. It is clear from his acting that he is just standing there, numb and devastated by the Reverend’s loss. And there’s Fiona, comforting him. I like this introduction better than the slightly more exasperated one of Roger already having dealt with the first blows of loss and now working through the aftermath of the Reverend’s “stuff.”

When Claire and Bree arrive, it’s a welcome distraction for him. Although I have to admit that it took me a while to recognize Claire. I was paying attention to the toast and trying to figure out the Scots, and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, that’s Claire. Weird makeup.”

When I watched it the second time, I noticed Fiona in the background as Roger searches for Bree – she’s plumping pillows and keeping a close eye on Roger.

The introductions are a little awkward, as Bree and Roger pretend they aren’t looking at each other, and Claire tries not to remember everything. Fiona is hilarious, giving Bree the stink-eye.

213fiona

I’ve got my eye on you, Yank.

I wish they hadn’t done the voice over as Claire looks over the mantelpiece. The music was more than enough.

I’m glad they moved Claire and Bree into the manse rather than a hotel. It makes things more immediate and draws them closer to Roger. And of course Claire notices Bree noticing Roger.

The change for how Claire finds out about Roger’s true name works well. And when he asks “how she did it” the first thing I thought was – how did she travel through time? But her answer is poignant and as raw for 20 years of grief as Roger’s is for only a few days.

And then we have the first break in time. I would have been OK with a brief “flash” back to Jamie, but the actual flashback, especially since Claire wasn’t there to witness the scene, feels jarring and odd. Then we’re all built up with doom and peril, and then we flash right back to Bree and Roger taking a happy drive with smooth tunes.

213BreeandRoger02

Warning – super cuteness ahead.

Bree and Roger poking each other over history is cute, but I’m not sure what it’s going to be setting up (other than referencing events that her parents will later witness and people her parents will later meet – like Benedict Arnold). Sure, having Bree react to the flogging post at Fort William makes sense, but otherwise I’m not sure what this is doing.

Claire’s visit to Lallybroch is much more poignant. After she promised to close off this portion of her past, everything is now flooding back. Except two hundred years have passed, and the house is a ruin. The Catullus reference is lovely and heartbreaking. I wish they’d found a way to put the quote inside the ring. This visit then instigates her visit to the records office.

But first we have to cut to the attic in Culloden, stopping the action in the 60s and shoving us into like a minute of high tension, then puncturing it again with a beautiful picnic by the loch. There are important things being discussed here, but it feels so much less important compared to planning to kill Prince Charles.

213BreeandRoger

Oh, Bree. You know that came out exactly right.  And who can blame you? I want him to see my BEDroom, too.

It is cute when Bree says Roger should see her bedroom and he takes it the way any red-blooded young man would; and then is flustered and rubs his head. Which, by the way, is a Dougal MacKenzie gesture.

I am not sure why they didn’t mention who owns Lallybroch now when Claire goes to the records office. Wouldn’t that be the point of her going to find out?

The relationship between Bree and Claire is at first teasing and fun, but then it switches to strife. Kids always see these things, and can sense the distance between their parents. Brianna knows something is wrong, but not what.

And then we jump again, and lose the thread of that scene to try and pick back up in the attic of Culloden House. This time, we see that Dougal is listening, but we don’t allow the action to proceed. Instead, there’s another jump so that Bree (and Roger) can meet Gillian Edgars. Will she remember Roger, now? It made sense that she wouldn’t know him after a brief encounter in the dark at Craigh na Dun, but she saw him and shook his hand. But when Roger and Buck go back, will she recognize the man she met (twice!!) in Scotland in 1968? Obviously she doesn’t know him as her seven-times great-grandson (or Buck as her son!) but will she remember his face? Or his name? Although perhaps Gillian/Geillis doesn’t really look at men except for how she can use them. And she would have sensed a kinship with Bree–the time traveler kinship–and perhaps focused on her instead.

Then we have Claire making disparaging remarks about Charlie at Culloden, and seeing the dragonfly in amber that was found on the battlefield.

But again we move in time. It would have made a little more sense to move here from Gillian, because the woman who led Dougal by the cock was Geillis. The dragonfly doesn’t make much sense as a jumping-off point, because she doesn’t give that to Jamie until much later.

The fight is fine, but I very much dislike how it ended. I don’t like the deliberateness, or Claire’s pushing the knife in. Dougal’s death was much cleaner in the book, much more a result of his attack on Jamie. Here, they had him down, and although he’s still struggling, I feel like they didn’t have to kill him. I’m sure the show wasn’t intending that viewers have that response, but it’s what I felt. In the book, it wasn’t quite an accident, but it happened during the heat of the battle. Here, because of the way it was shot and that Claire had time to jump in and help, it makes me question why they couldn’t have taken different action.

Then we jump again, back to a more light-hearted scene with Bree and Roger. Richard Rankin is SO CUTE when he sings the rat satire. And Sophie Skelton  play’s Brianna’s joint amusement and attraction well. I’m a little sad that we don’t go to St. Kilda and have their kiss, but I assume that will come at the beginning of season three.

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Roger Mac, you may sing to me any time you like.

The rest of this scene follows the books, having them find the box and pictures.

Then we jump again. They do have Rupert be the one to see Dougal dead at Jamie’s hands. But what I don’t understand is why they had the scene play out the same way it did in the book. I would have much, much rather liked to have Rupert act differently, maybe witnessing more of the conflict and understanding what they were trying to do. It doesn’t feel right for Rupert to just let Jamie go, although I think from the way he looked at Claire, she was the reason he let it happen. It would have been better, I think, if Jamie had appealed on that basis – let me get Claire away, she’s innocent. I wonder why they didn’t do that?

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Purple heather, with a little bit of white.

Claire at Culloden is a final catharsis for her. She says goodbye, after never being able to do it before. She has finally tried to put Jamie behind her, to make her peace with his death. I appreciate what they are doing, but it drains everything out of their leavetaking at Craigh na Dun. We know that she is going to finally come to terms with his death. It’s still devastating, still painful, but she has lived and is living now, for their daughter. I dunno. It’s beautiful and everything, but I wish they hadn’t done this. In the book, when she sees Jamie’s grave, she’s gutted. And then angry.

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Research always brings people close together.

Back in the Reverend’s study, Brianna and Roger find the articles from when Claire disappeared and returned. Instead of Roger putting together the pieces later on his own and deciding not to tell Bree right away, they figure everything out together. This pushes the action forward and makes the confrontation happen faster. The pain and anger between Claire and Brianna is palpable and raw. I like that Bree asks Roger to stay and that they sit beside each other. In that moment, Bree feels closer to him than to her mother, and it’s good framing to have the character who is most emotionally vulnerable face the others.

Roger is fidgety and uncomfortable, but when Brianna would go, he stops her, reminding her that she wanted the truth. We see him rub his thumb over the back of her hand in a comforting gesture, and she settles back down.

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I volunteer my hand as tribute.

We get a very brief flashback instead of the full story that comes in the book at this place. Again, everything is all out of order. We’ve already seen this in the future, so we know that Fergus will make it back to Lallybroch. In a way, that’s good, so we don’t worry about him.

But it’s an awfully brief cut to supposedly encompass the whole story that Claire has just told when we flash back to the 60s. They keep Brianna’s reaction pretty much the same, including her storming out and saying hurtful things. They do bring back the Deed of Sacine as proof, so when the show flashes back, there’s some connection. It is nice that they acknowledge Fergus as Claire and Jamie’s adopted son.

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I eagerly await casting news for adult Fergus, but there’s no way they will find anyone who can beat this kid for cuteness.

Brianna and Roger work nicely together, even when they’re at odds. I like that he’s there for Bree, willing to say difficult things to her, and doesn’t just try to say what she wants to hear because he likes her and wants to stay close to her. Roger is a stand-up man. And, to be honest, I’m way more enamored with him than Jamie.

I could, once again, live without the voice over when Claire recognizes Gillian/Geillis on the pamphlet, but I’m glad that Claire goes to visit Greg and that we don’t have the weird visits to the Institute. This scene works well to get Gillian’s notebooks into Claire’s hands and is much faster.

Gillian running into Bree at the pub is a bit more coincidence, but it makes a little sense that the Roses would come and celebrate after their rally. The next voice over is actually necessary to give us the information about Geillis, since there’s no good way to have Claire deliver that information via dialogue.

Back to Culloden, where Jamie gives Murtagh his orders. But Murtagh, as always, will go his own way. The show doesn’t deal directly with Culloden (and so avoids the issue of BJR’s death for this season), but it does frame Murtagh’s death with significance – he will fall beside Jamie, beside his laird and godson, where he belongs.

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, grinning in the face of death.

With a little liquid courage, Bree comes back to talk to Claire. Claire tells her that she fought against what she felt for him, but it was the most powerful thing she’d ever felt in her life. Roger is still looking at the research – deciding whether or not to tell Claire.

Bree liked Gillian. There is a definite connection between travelers, an instant thing that makes them want to like each other, even though the others may be a little crazy. This helps explain why Claire was willing to overlook eccentricity and creepiness with Geillis (even murder…although only when she thought she was coming to act as a healer) and some of the same things with Master Raymond. Not so much on Le Compte, though. And he’s even of Raymond’s “family” so that doesn’t mesh quite as well with the theory. Or maybe the particular circumstances of their meeting overshadowed what could have been a different time-traveler connection.

Roger’s explanation to Bree makes sense, and yet, I feel like he’s already started to believe Claire. He’s a historian, and he’s seen the Deed of Sacine and the research done by his father.

I would have liked a reference to the baby earlier than here, even though this is how it happened in the book. I’m not sure how they would have done it, but some kind of acknowledgment of the pregnancy in the last episode would have worked. Then we don’t have to mess around with dates and times and courses here, and can just move forward with the knowledge that Jamie will never let Claire die with him while she’s carrying their child.

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Of course I kept track. I color-code the daybook in my sporran. Green=we had sex. Yellow=you were kidnapped. Red=you had your courses. (There are no blank days in Jamie’s daybook.)

Back in 1968, it looks like Gillian is wearing that odd grey outfit of felted wool from (I think) the first time we met her in the gardens at Leoch. I like that connection, but hate that they had Roger say “fucking barbecue.” What a terrible callback, and for such a terrible reason.

I also feel like the fact that Bree and Roger can both hear the stones would have been much more significant if we’d already seen Jamie and Claire at Craigh na Dun and had Jamie tell her he couldn’t hear it and touch the stone and have nothing happen. I don’t mind that we don’t have the quite as dramatic scene as the book, where Roger has to pull Bree back from going through with Gillian, but without having the Jamie scene first, we lose almost all sense that Bree and Roger can travel, too.

In general, I feel like we focused on the wrong things at Craigh na Dun with Jamie and Claire. That last frantic coupling made sense after a night of softer passion, but feels super awkward here. And I super miss them carving their initials in each other’s palms. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but that’s one of the things I like most – that they literally carve themselves into each other to remember forever.

EDIT: Diana Gabaldon shone some light on the not-carving thing on her Facebook page. She mentions logistics (like how the blood knife for the blood-bonding ceremony was awful) as one of the possible reasons why they wrote this out of the series. And it would be an additional piece of makeup for the actors, since they would need a scar prosthetic put on their hands at all times, and hands are not a good place for makeup since we use them a lot. So I get it. But man, do I miss it. The stupid dragonfly doesn’t pack nearly the same emotional punch.

I am glad that they kept his speech about Purgatory, and loving Claire well. I wonder why they had him give her the ring, though? It becomes a little important later in the series…maybe there are two? And it’s just a tiny little Easter egg for book readers, it doesn’t actually have any significance except to prompt Claire to say she’ll name the child for Brian Fraser.

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If that tear is real, they must have done 500 takes to capture it. Either that, or it was total happenstance on take one. Or CGI.

The one thing I like is that Jamie was actually there, and literally held her hand, when she passed through. The fight with the redcoats made it more likely that Jamie would actually die there, at Craigh na Dun. It helped explain why she wanted to know the outcome of the battle, and whether he’d made it there, but since they weren’t doing that in the show, this works really well.

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Claire, you’re going to miss the awesome knitwear, aren’t you?

Oh, man, another reference to secrets but not lies. But it’s good that Brianna finally believes. And that Roger can now share what he knows – that Jamie survived.

They basically ended it where I thought they would, right where the book ends.

Except Claire is staring up at Craigh na Dun, and the music is sweeping, and there’s glorious sunlight, and she says she wants to go back, and all I can think is – THERE’S A DEAD BODY UP THERE DOES NO ONE REMEMBER GREG EDGARS JUST DIED???

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THERE IS A DEAD BODY LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

So, yeah. The end was a little soured for me by that. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but wow.

In general, I liked the changes made to the 1960s. They made everything flow more easily and much, much faster. They also started us off with tension between Bree and Claire rather than presenting them first as a somewhat typical mother and daughter. I know Diana Gabaldon has said that Bree was a difficult character for her, and I think we’re benefiting from the fact that she got to know her much better over the years, and we can jump right in with a good sense of who she is and how she would react in these situations.

Really, what bugged me were the time jumps. But if they hadn’t cut it that way, it would have been much more obvious that we only had like 15 minutes of material in the 1740s. Well, maybe 20. But not even half of the episode took place with Jamie and Claire. By chopping it up and serving it in tiny slices, it helped give the appearance that we’re really telling Jamie and Claire’s story. But I’m not fooled, and the sheer number of Bree and Roger screencaps in this blog should tell you where the emphasis really was for the episode.

And don’t get me wrong. I love Roger and Brianna. Or maybe I really just love Roger, but whatever. So I am happy to spend all kinds of time with him. But I feel like the show has completely moved away from Jamie and Claire now. Like even their final scene at the stones was undercut by the knowledge that Claire has now found peace. I think that’s supposed to pay off in the final scene, when Claire has to re-evaluate everything and decides to go back, but that didn’t work for me at all.

I guess, to sum up, there are lots of things to love about this episode. Gorgeous costuming, beautiful shots, incredible performances. Some very well-written scenes, particularly between Brianna and Claire. But an overall disappointment because of the intercutting killing the tension and there just not being enough Jamie and Claire.

What did you think?

 

 

Speculations – Season Two Finale

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. Simply the best.

I was going to speculate about the next seasons this week, but I decided to sit down and think about changes that have been made this season and how they might shape the finale.

The truth is, of course, that for everything that was changed, most things were later wrangled back to match the course of the book. But there are still some lingering issues that may cause us to move in a different direction next week.


Rupert is alive.

Rupert survived the church, and I think the chances are that he will survive Culloden. Perhaps he will choose to desert with the Lallybroch men and go to live as Young Jamie’s tacksman during the long awful years that will follow. Depending on how closely they stick to the events of the book, Rupert may witness Jamie kill Dougal. Speculation on various fan pages is that Rupert is still loyal to Dougal and won’t be as easy to intimidate as the random Willie from the book. That may lead to another speculation – that Murtagh will die holding off the vengeful MacKenzies as Claire and Jamie escape to Craig na Dun. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. For one thing, if that were the case, Jamie isn’t going to be able to go back to the battle. It’s a bit of a loose-end in the book that Jamie decides to go back and “get lost” in the confusion and throw himself in front of the British cannon. Of course, it doesn’t matter to him at that point who kills him. But if he goes back to protect the Lallybroch men specifically (as it seems Claire thought he did at the beginning of the season), then there can’t be a big stromash over Dougal’s death.

So I think Rupert has been disillusioned by battle and war and death, and has latched on to Ross, and feels his loyalty split. So he will understand why Jamie and Claire would contemplate a last-ditch effort to thwart certain death.

Lotte Verbeek accidentally revealed that she is in the finale.

I really hope that this news doesn’t mean that we’re doing Gillian Edgars in the finale. At least, not the whole shebang. If anything, it would be useful for Claire to perhaps encounter her by “accident” in Inverness. But if I were the writers, I would save her part of the story for Season Three. Still, the fact that she’s in this episode means we’re either going to deal more directly with her Geillis persona or at least introduce the younger Gillian in 1968. I am quite afraid that we’re going to spend the bulk of our 90-minute finale in the twentieth century. I hope not, but her presence worries me. I certainly don’t think that they will reveal that Geillis did not burn at the stake at all, and is living comfortably in Paris during the events of the Rising.

Murtagh is amazing and everyone loves him.

Not that BookMurtagh isn’t amazing, but he doesn’t quite reach the level of TVMurtagh. One of the reasons (aside from Rupert being the likely choice to see Jamie killing Dougal) that people are speculating that Murtagh will fall defending the Frasers as they retreat to Craig na Dun is because the fandom wants him to have a meaningful death. And while we later find out in the books that Murtagh died protecting Jamie on the field at Culloden (something Jamie did not thank him for at the time), that is not revealed for a LONG TIME. The show will probably try to deal with his death a little more directly and promptly. I’m not convinced that he’ll die fighting off the MacKenzies, but he might be shown dying at Culloden. Or he might come with them to Craig na Dun and fall defeating the redcoat patrol that finds them there.

TV is an immediate, visual medium and it will be difficult to obscure Black Jack Randall’s death (without some level of fandom outrage).

If you aren’t a book reader, you may not realize that we still don’t know exactly how BJR died. Jamie has trauma-induced amnesia about the battle of Culloden, and has only ever remembered snatches of it. All he knows is that he woke up underneath BJR’s dead body, and assumes that BJR may have actually protected him (accidentally or on purpose) from being killed. Jamie does not know whose hand struck the killing blow for BJR, and from things that Jamie has told Brianna, I think he has made peace with that fact. I don’t know that we’ll ever find out exactly how Randall died. Or, if we do, it’s going to be part of the mythical last scenes of the final book, when we’ll find out the truth of Jamie’s ghost in Inverness. I believe Diana has said that that was Jamie during the battle, or perhaps in that moment while he was passed out.

But what I’m really getting to, here, is that I don’t think that level of obscurity will fly on TV. They may try it anyway, to stay consistent with the books, but I’m not sure how well that will work. I mean, I can see how they would do it, but I just don’t know how well they’ll get away with it. Also, BJR is way, way more monstrous in the show. In the book, I hated him, but kinda understood some of what drove him. His love and devotion to his brother made him a complex and much more interesting character. But after last week’s episode, I think we’re fully down the dark path that we started in “The Garrison Commander.” And that Black Jack needs to die horribly, on screen, where everyone can see it, and where there are no questions about how or why.

At least that’s how I feel. I may be wrong. And I’m not even sure I want to be right or wrong. It will be interesting either way.


 

So that’s my speculation for next week. As I’ve stated on my Season Two Speculation page, I think they will open in 1968 and get all the way to St. Kilda before flashing back to 1746. Others have speculated that the two storylines will be intercut, and while that’s possible, I can’t imagine how they’ll manage to build the tension of both stories simultaneously.

Do you have any wild speculations about the season finale? Or have I completely overlooked a change that will have long-term, rippling effects? Leave a comment and let me know!

Episode 212 – The Hail Mary

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Ye gads, this was an amazing episode. So well structured, with the parallel brother stories, and with such amazing character work and emotion. It absolutely displays the best of Ira Steven Behr and Anne Kenney’s talents. So well done.

I am at a writer’s conference this weekend so I fear this is another short blog for me. I promise to come back over the hiatus and expand these blogs, filling in more detail after I have time to re-watch the season during the break.

A couple of thoughts for the future: I am so glad that they brought in the French gold now, as a viable option for avoiding the fight at Culloden. As a book reader, when I first heard it mentioned, it jolted me a bit, but after I thought about it more, I liked it. I know a lot of readers dislike that whole plot line, but it is rather a large thread in the series and they can’t remove it without doing a LOT of changes. So I’m glad it’s introduced here, in a way that actually makes sense to the plot, and won’t just appear out of nowhere in Season Three.

At first I thought I would be upset that Dougal doesn’t kill Colum, because I wanted some canonical evidence of what is heavily implied but never stated in the book. But by the time I got to the end of the scene I was weeping and I totally did not care. This Dougal is not book Dougal, and Graham McTavish is AMAZING. I don’t know which writer had that scene, but I am betting it was Anne Kenney because the emotional notes were perfectly on point. I was so moved, and the scene encapsulated every nuance of the relationship between Colum and Dougal.

That is contrasted with Black Jack Randall. They have pushed him much farther into the monster than the book did. At this point in the book, I actually had some sympathy for him. The fact that he approached Claire with the bargain spoke well of him. But the show has her propose the bargain. When Alex spoke of the good man behind the dark wall, I thought we might actually see that man. But BJR immediately proves that he has become the dark wall. Yes, he marries Mary for his brother’s sake, but when Alex dies, he descends into a fit of rage.

On the one hand, I’m a little sad that we’re losing some of the complexity of BJR. On the other, it is so beautifully contrasted with Colum and Dougal that it’s hard to care too much.

Some other little moments I loved:

  • When Colum arrives and says he thought, if Wee Angus ever died, Rupert would be right behind him. And Rupert says, “I did, too.”
  • When Murtagh offers to wed Mary. I love that man so much!!
  • All of Jamie’s interactions with Colum and Dougal. So well written and well acted.

I think this episode is my favorite of the season. I have a lot more to say about the ins and outs, but I’ve got my first workshop at 9 am (it’s 7:50), and I’ve got to go get ready for the day. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight because of the conference, but I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought of the changes!

EDIT: Apparently a lot of people are super upset that this episode didn’t spend more time with Jamie and Claire. I have to admit that, now that it’s been pointed out, I totally agree. But only in the context of the season as a whole, and only in the sense that we ought to be ramping up to the devastating separation that’s about to happen in the finale. On the merits of this episode by itself, I did not really care. It felt natural to me that the war was pulling them in different directions. Their few scenes together were nice, and I LOVED when Claire told Jamie that she would help him kill BJR. Yes, I miss the romantic elements from S1. Yes, I miss the sex (go to caramckinnon.com and look at this week’s blog posts for my total love and appreciation of sex and romance). But I’ve missed them more in other episodes where they felt conspicuously absent. In this one, I was very happy with the story I was given.

 

EDIT 2: I forgot to mention that, with the break next weekend, I am going to be posting some wild speculations about future seasons of Outlander, based on changes the show has made. Come join the conversation and tell me what you think is going to happen next!

Episode 210 – Prestonpans

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My book is releasing in less than two weeks, and there is so much work to be done. This will probably be another short/choppy post, so I apologize in advance. If you want to see what’s been taking up my time and energy, check out my website – caramckinnon.com – and find out more about my new series of fantasy romances!

Well…I don’t even know what to say about this episode, except that I wept like a child. Most of the episode didn’t grab me. I watched, but wasn’t engaged by the war story. Aside from the some of the elements with Dougal (wildness vs civility), this felt like a typical battle narrative. Then, Fergus’s reaction to having killed a man tugged me in. Finally, seeing Rupert grieve for Angus ripped my heart out.

I’m not going to talk much about the episode, because the broad strokes of it align with the book. I might come back after my book releases and talk about the beautiful cinematography and excellent acting, but for now I will focus on changes from the book. The changes are few, because both book and show are interested in what really happened at Prestonpans (with a little bit of fictional license). The battle is a part of history, so they couldn’t change much of the chronology or outcome without breaking their premise – that history really can’t be changed.

A few things I miss from the book:

  • Jenny Cameron. I know we already have an amazing Jenny, and they may have decided to remove this one because of name confusion, but I really, really miss having another strong female presence here. There is some historical confusion about who this woman actually was (accounts at the time may have attributed the actions of three separate women to a single person), but that just means that Outlander can decide for itself who she was and what she did. And they could have called her Jeanie, which is close but not the same. I would have loved to see her there, fighting all the way through to the end of the Rising.
  • The quiet moments with Jamie and Claire. Sometimes I feel like this show barrels through the story at such a terrific pace that we can’t catch our breaths. This episode only really slows down once we get to the end, and see the price of war. With that said –
    • Particularly missed is their lovemaking after Jamie tells her the story of the battle. I think the episode ended well, but I wish there’d been space for that. It is so beautiful and poignant when he says he needs Claire, and they come together to remember that they are alive, and what they are fighting for.
    • Also missed-Jamie’s Act of Contrition and reciting his list of the men under his command. I hope we see this at some point, because it helps establish the kind of leader-and man-that Jamie is. The list is also going to be relevant at the end of the season, when Claire is interested in finding out about the men from Lallybroch.

Now, on to what they added.

Having Dougal present allows us to continue exploring the dichotomy between the wild Highland Charge and modern warfare. At first, his abilities are an asset. He proves that the ground is poor and keeps the Jacobite leaders from making a poor decision about the battlefield. And this battle proves that the Highland Charge does have a place in the war – the same as the “commando raid” Jamie went on in the last episode, or any type of what will later be called guerrilla warfare. Knowledge of the land, and the ability to exploit the terrain, is important.

But Dougal also represents a sort of rage and brutality that makes the rest of the leadership–especially the Bonnie Prince–first uncomfortable, and then disgusted. I just read an article about Prestonpans that said Charles actually took to the field to beseech some of the Highlanders to stop slaughtering the wounded, so Dougal’s actions have historical precedent. Likewise, other clans took in the British wounded and gave them what medical attention was available. So everything here is being drawn from the actual events of the battle.

I’m sad that Lieutenant Foster had to die to prove that Dougal is a right bastard–since we knew that already–but I suppose we hadn’t seen him be quite this brutal before.

The other changes–namely the presence of Rupert and Angus–were gut-wrenching. We’ve seen Ross and Kincaid now several times throughout this part of the season, but Kincaid’s death alone would not have hit as hard as Angus. Although I have to admit that it wasn’t Angus’s actual death that made me cry. It was watching Rupert grieve for him that broke me. Grant O’Rourke’s face in that final shot before the end credits is so powerful. I don’t know if his role is big enough to get any kind of supporting actor award, but my god he deserves it.

The fact that they killed Angus this week does make me wonder. Will they make us go through Rupert’s death next week? I saw the church in the preview, and from what dialogue we got, we know that Jamie and Claire are going to be separated. So they’re following the books that much.

Honestly, I don’t think they’re going to do it. I could be wrong, but since Willie is gone and now Angus, too, I think it’s going to be Rupert who sees Jamie kill Dougal in Culloden House. It means we wouldn’t get to have the echo of the scene from “The Gathering” when Claire and Dougal sat together over the dying Geordie, but it could be much more powerful for Rupert to see Jamie killing Dougal – and understand why Jamie had to do it. Rupert in the books is loyal to Dougal until he dies, but this version is far more complex, and he has now lost his best friend. I can see him turning that to vengeance for a while, but by the time the Highlanders limp to Culloden, he will be disaffected and just want to stop the killing and the dying.

No matter what they do, I’m sure the finale will make us all sob pretty much non-stop.

Now, back to looking over proofs and making sure everything is perfect for Essential Magic. It’s coming out June 23rd, available at all major book retailers online!

Post Script: Holy crap Ira Steven Behr has a glorious purple beard. I adore it!

Episode 209 – Je Suis Prest

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This week’s blog is very choppy. In some places, I just wrote a single sentence. Other elements got more attention. I don’t have time to re-watch the episode and do a more thorough job. My daughter has her big dance recital today and my husband is away for work, so one viewing is all I have time for!

If I get the chance later this week, I’ll come back and flesh this out. What you’re seeing is my initial gut-reactions, that I typically tweak and expand after my second watch. But it might be interesting to see those, anyway.

Nice title card, reminding us that Claire was in WWII. It has been said that all wars are the same war, being fought endlessly.

Murtagh’s wink at Claire is so sweet!!

Claire touches her wrist when Jamie mentions a watch. Different meanings for different words.

RUPERT AND ANGUS – Ye Wee Smouts!

Willie got married and isn’t here? Who is going to witness Jamie killing Dougal? I really thought that was the point of making him a bigger character last season?

Seriously, show. Dougal is right. There really is no time to waste. So why are we wasting this episode on something completely pointless?

Drill Sergeant Murtagh? Also, the snow in the air proves that this is really the wrong season.

Not sure how I feel about the training montage(s).

I like that Jamie is more interested in the welfare of his men in particular than the Cause overall, or what he can gain by being near the prince.

The origins of JHRC! I wonder if this is something they made up, or if it’s from DG’s notes.

I am starting to figure out what they’re trying to do in this episode – to pit the old Highland ways against modern warfare. Because the truth is, the Highland Charge is going to be broken with terribly efficient and brutal ease at Culloden. Jamie is right – Prestonpans and their other wins worked because of a mixture of surprise and good fortune.

Claire tries to psychoanalyze Dougal, but she isn’t entirely successful. Her own psyche is too troubled. I’m not sure how I feel about what they’re doing with Claire this episode. PTSD is a real thing, but Claire has always dealt with hers by compartmentalizing, by fracturing part of herself and focusing on the immediate, literal dangers and problems. She turns off emotion and then deals with it later. In the post-show behind-the-scenes, Matt B. Roberts talked about how PTSD can be triggered years after the fact, so, again, I believe that this really happens to people. I just think Claire already has a coping mechanism for hers. I also think that, while her conflict speaks to tone and theme, it doesn’t do much for plot or even much for characterization. Claire isn’t transformed by what happened. Rather, it reinforces her beliefs and convictions. So while it is interesting, I don’t know what it adds to the story.

I really, really don’t like that they changed the reason for Ross and Kincaid’s lashes. The men were brought in by Dougal. Why shouldn’t they have believed they were supposed to be there? Jamie’s punishment seems unduly harsh. It makes sense to punish them – and himself – for Lord John (or William, as he calls himself at this point) managing to enter the camp and attack. That is a totally legitimate dereliction of duty. This is…not.

After watching the rest of the episode, it’s clear that they were: 1) putting Dougal’s men on sentry duty with weighted emphasis and 2) establishing the penalty for this kind of infraction, but I think we all understand that corporal punishment was used at this point in history for military discipline. No need to flog two men who didn’t really do anything wrong in order to justify doing it later to Jamie. Or, if you want to contrast the two floggings, make the first one for a real offense.

Claire’s dialogue attempts to anchor us into a more specific time – for two years she’s tried to stop this war.

I am confused about why they added them swearing that Claire wouldn’t be alone again after she tells Jamie about her WWII experience. He already asked her to promise him that she would go back to the 20th century if things got bleak. He’s going to hold her to that promise. I don’t like that he’s going to break this one. Unless he decides that it isn’t alone as long as she’s pregnant and is going back to Frank? But that’s the letter of the vow, not the spirit of it. Dislike.

Why change the Lord John scene from him attempting to help Claire to just attacking? It makes it feel much more awkward when Claire happens along and starts the farce that she’s being held against her will. Maybe it’s just that I dislike whenever Claire tries to pull one of these scenes (like lying to BJR about Sandringham, faking her vision last episode, etc.). It made sense to me in the book that Jamie really didn’t want to torture this boy, especially since he didn’t yield at first, and was looking for a way out of it. The fact that John had attacked to protect Claire in the first place was what gave Jamie the idea to use her to coerce him.

I can see that Claire’s trying to do the same thing in the show, but why does she think it will work? It is nice that Jamie picks up on Claire’s idea and jumps to use it, because it’s always nice to see Claire and Jamie working together, but it doesn’t feel particularly motivated. And, sigh, here’s another threat of rape, even if it’s not a real threat and is being used as an alternative to torture.

Also, Lord John never finds out in this version that Claire is actually Jamie’s wife. So his little speech at the end isn’t motivated by the same feelings of shame and humiliation. He’s unhappy at being forced to give up information, but he would feel justified because of the inducement. We could have trimmed a few training montages and allowed him to ask, as he does in the book, what assurance he has that they will let the lady go. And then why not allow Claire to treat the broken arm? This is their first interaction of what is going to be a long and very fraught relationship. It needs to be…more.

Not that I advocate for keeping things just because they set up something in the future. I honestly feel that the scene in the book works to establish character, and it is plot-relevant because of the cannon and the upcoming battle. I can’t imagine why it was trimmed and changed so much. Although I did love when he shouts that he isn’t a spy, since I know what’s in his future. 🙂

I don’t mind adaptive changes when they enhance the story, bring out unexpected nuances, or fix minor problems in the source material. But this show has started to create problems for themselves that they’re going to have to solve in unnaturally twisted ways if they want to keep the broad strokes of the story intact (which they say they want to do).

In aggregate, I’m really not sure what this episode adds to the overall story. I guess it is trying to show Jamie changing from a Laird into a General, not just in the eyes of his men, but particularly in the eyes of Dougal. But I still feel that most of what happened wasn’t necessary and didn’t advance the plot. A much shorter training sequence, then Lord John, and then the battle of Prestonpans could have all fit neatly into this episode.

But perhaps my feelings will change when I get the chance to come back and watch again. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight, but I hope everyone has fun watching and tweeting!

Episode 116 – To Ransom a Man’s Soul

Trigger Warning: If you haven’t already watched the season finale, be aware that there is graphic rape depicted in the episode. I will not be describing any of those scenes in detail, but I will be discussing them because what happens permanently affects all of the characters involved. So, fair warning.

I realized after posting my last blog that I neglected to discuss the ramifications of Jamie’s hand. Since the repair happens in this episode, I’ll save my discussion for that point.

This is a nice title card, set in the Abbey with implements that are important to the episode. It is simpler and quieter than the previous title card, set over implements of torture. But I would suggest that this episode is more emotionally grueling to endure.

Jumping to morning exercises at the prison is a little odd. It strikes me as strange to have quite that many soldiers quartered there. It made sense at Fort William – it was a fort that also held prisoners. But this is a prison. Even assuming every guard is a soldier, that’s a lot of soldiers.

It is a crime that Sam Heughan wasn’t nominated for more acting awards this season. I mean, Tobias Menzies is obviously amazing and horrifying in this entire season, but Sam has shown incredible range and deftness in his performance. God, when he whimpers and begs Black Jack to kill him, it tears at my heart.

The bit with the cows was a little much. I mean, in the books, they find a mangled body and just assume it was BJR. He was never really there – that was Marley. Here, we actually see him get trampled. Or the door, anyway. Maybe you can argue that just his arm was broken, and maybe some ribs. But now that I’ve watched the episode again, I didn’t see where anyone actually thinks he’s dead. Honestly, why wouldn’t Murtagh just slit his throat? Murtagh has to know what happened to Jamie, after what Claire told them, and if he knew BJR was just lying there unconscious, he would have killed him. As he is going to do next season to Sandringham. Murtagh is bad ass, and he has no compunction against slaughtering those who have hurt the people he loves.

Speaking of Murtagh, the look on his face when he carries his laird out of the prison is so absolutely perfect. He is the perfect vassal, and he loves Jamie so much. Rupert’s reaction to their delay in the wagon makes me laugh.

I’m trying not to be upset about the move from France to Scotland, but I understand why they had to make logistical changes. I miss MacRannoch here.

The flashbacks to the prison make my stomach hurt, so I’ll focus less on what happens and more on what it means for the story. I can’t figure out why BJR would break Jamie’s left hand. In the books, they break the right because it is assumed to be the dominant hand. BookJamie is left-handed, but the damage is still substantial because he’s been taught to write and use a sword with his right hand. Obviously Sam is right-handed, so why go for the left hand?

Even if you’re thinking logistically, it’s not like he does much in this episode after they leave the Abbey. And you can say that it’s mostly healed by the time they get to Paris. So what’s the thinking behind going after the left hand? It just doesn’t make any sense to me, and won’t have many, if any, future repercussions. In the books, Jamie’s stiff fingers cause him lots of problems, some of which affect the plot (especially when Claire has to amputate!). I realize it isn’t a huge thing, and I’m not worried if they cut it out, but why bother to do it in the first place if you’re not going to see it through?

OK, enough nitpicking. Moving on.

I think what makes Black Jack Randall so horrifying is that he is not mustache-twirling evil. He’s perverted and absolutely sure of himself, and at turns gentle and brutal. I have difficulty assigning “degrees” of rape, because every assault, no matter what happens, is degrading and awful, but there is something particularly nasty about what BJR does. His manipulations are so intense, his understanding of how to break Jamie so complete, that it has a powerful impact that senseless, impersonal violence can never have. It reminds me that most sexual violence is perpetrated by people we know. Everyone is afraid of the stranger in the dark, but it’s usually someone you love, trust, or are at least familiar with.

Father Anselm does not live up to my expectations. He is kind, and understanding enough, but in the book he was…unique. His drive to know, to understand things, to discover, is what drew Claire to him. He was a man out of time, in many ways, and that is what led her to eventually confide in him. I miss the perpetual adoration, too, and the way Claire learned stillness and her place in the universe. I understand that stillness doesn’t have as much place in a TV show, but I do wish Anselm were a little more…foreign. Not in the sense of nationality, but in the sense that he doesn’t quite belong with the other monks. In the book, he isn’t even a member of the same order. He’s visiting because he’s doing research. He’s an outsider, like Claire, not a part of the daily workings of the monastery. Plus, having him as the head of the monastery means we don’t have Jamie’s uncle Alex. I thought that having Abbot Alex there added some pressure on Jamie. He doesn’t want to appear weak in front of his father’s kin.

This absolution of Claire’s sins comes too quickly from Anselm. It doesn’t feel earned. She rushes to confess and he rushes to absolve. It doesn’t work for me at all.

I understand why the Gaelic isn’t subtitled when we’re in Claire’s PoV, but it really should have been for Murtagh and Jamie. I mean, the emotion of the scene comes through no matter what, but we’re in Jamie’s PoV here. He understands what’s being said, so we should, too.

People were remarking on the scar on Jamie’s chest in the provocative images for season two – that isn’t a weird mole or some kind of bad Photoshop job. It’s from this next scene with BJR, where he forces Jamie to brand himself. The mixing of Claire and BJR sets up the summoning that happens later (although I dearly miss the scene where Geillis tries to drug and interrogate Claire…man, do I wish they’d filmed that).

I love Claire with the guys. They have all come to love and respect her, and it is so lovely to see her with them, after the rough start they had at Castle Leoch and on the road in “Rent.” When Rupert says “the offer stands” and Angus adds, “Aye, the MacKenzies will always stand with ye,” I want to give them both a big hug.

Poor Willie, trying to help a man who doesn’t want to be helped. But it is such a big step for Willie to help the man that stood up for him many times, and to refuse him when he wants to die.

I love Murtagh. He is the best. Father figure, best friend, right-hand man, advisor, steady rock, and doer of all the things that need to be done.

It physically hurts to watch Claire trying to drag Jamie back to the light. It is obvious that Jamie would have been able to withstand pain and torture. But Randall is evil, and he sought to break Jamie, not just have him. He knew that Jamie could withstand massive amounts of agony, since he would not break while being flogged. He knew he would have to use seduction, and gentleness, a mockery of love, to truly break this strong, amazing man. That Jamie was also delirious with pain and mixing up Claire and Randall makes it so much worse.

Total side note. The makeup people are amazing. Jamie still has a scar on his shoulder from the gunshot wound when he first met Claire.

The summoning in the books makes more sense to me than what we get in the show. In the book, Claire gets him to fight back against Randall, to do what he could not in Wentworth. In the show, she does it by telling him she would die without him. It feels very abrupt and, again, not earned. I wish they’d had more time in the episode for this scene.

Either way, book or show, there’s a long road to go before Jamie can manage to forgive Randall (and the series is very good about dealing with the long-term effects of rape), but I get the feeling at the end of this scene that all Jamie has decided to do is to fight, rather than give up and die. And that’s not nothing, but it isn’t quite as satisfying as what happens in the book, or the true reconciliation in the hot springs.

I LOVE RUPERT. He is so gallant. 🙂 I’m sad that it will be at least half of season two, if not more, before we see these three knuckleheads again.

Jamie doesn’t look very seasick…despite assurances to the contrary by Murtagh. I wanted to see him break away from Claire and run to the rail once they set out to sea. Because I will be pissed if we don’t get Jamie with acupuncture needles sticking all over him in season three (or maybe four, if they split the book over two seasons – which I think they should).

I think it’s the news about the baby that truly brings Jamie back to the light. Claire is worth fighting for, but the child is worth living for. If that makes sense.

Up next – I plan to do at least one, maybe two blog posts between now and April 9th. One will track Jamie and Claire’s relationship, from his ghost watching her in the window in 1945, to the final shot of them standing on the ship to France.

The other, if I have time, will be looking a little more in-depth on the overall changes made this season and where those changes might lead in future seasons.

At some point, I also want to take a look at the supporting cast of characters and do some analysis of book versus show. BJR and Murtagh will be the first, and then I’ll work my way though Geillis, the MacKenzie lads, Frank, and Laoghaire. I’ve already got a post on the MacKenzie brothers.

But that is all for season one episodes, finally! I promise to keep up with the blog this season, and post my reactions before the next episode airs. I’m looking forward to seeing what the show has in store for us in Paris!

Episode 115 – Wentworth Prison

Whenever I get to this part in the book, I always think “I could just skip it and jump to the Abbey.” But I don’t, because you’ve got to go through the deep darkness if you want to appreciate the light.

These episodes feel the same way to me. I get so frustrated and upset – which means I’m in the hands of skilled, master storytellers – but the end is in sight.

Of course, there’s a lot more awful to come in season two (Dragonfly in Amber is not my favorite book). But let’s leave that for now.

I like that we open with Jamie and MacQuarrie watching the hangings. It’s unfortunate that they chose the choking-to-death-and-having-to-be-pulled-down-to-suffocate rather than instant neck-breaking for MacQuarrie, but he was always a fighter.

And then Randall rides in and death would be a kindness for Jamie.

They stick pretty close to the books in this episode, with some embellishments from Jamie’s perspective. I do adore that Frazer Hines plays Sir Fletcher, since his Jamie McCrimmon partially inspired our Jamie Fraser (though DG says she didn’t know the actor’s first name was Frazer – she picked Fraser because of the quote that is so important in DiA, the one about the Fraser of Lovat’s group that escaped Culloden).

Catriona Balfe kills in this episode, from the way she is so obviously close to breaking, but manages to hold herself together in front of Sir Fletcher, to her vomiting in the gatehouse.

Angus and Rupert are amazing in the pub. I adore them, and how they play off of each other. Their camaraderie is genuine and delightful. Of course, Murtagh’s dour reaction is also perfect.

Marley doesn’t look much like I’d pictured him in my mind. I was thinking something more along the lines of an evil Sloth from The Goonies.

The complaint is dealt with very easily, probably because it was a silly side-step on the part of the production to create an episode’s worth of conflict with Sandringham, and now needs to be removed in order to get back to the main course of the plot.

I start to sweat the moment Claire re-enters Wentworth. I wonder why they didn’t keep the part where she had a vague idea where Jamie was being held? I think there’s plenty of conflict, and higher stakes, in going to a place you think is right, only to end up being wrong. Wandering around in the dark is only frustrating, and lacks purpose.

The scenes with Randall and Jamie really anchor and propel this episode. They’re the backbone upon which Claire’s frantic efforts rest. I like the elaboration of very tiny things that Jamie tells Claire in the book. This whole episode’s worth of interactions is condensed into a few sentences. The flashbacks in the final episode are more fully fledged.

I have never personally broken a bone, but my son just broke his forearm in wrestling practice and it was agony watching what he went through, so I ache for Jamie’s broken hand.

The part where BJR leaves Jamie alone feels weird to me. “I will not give in to course passion.” I think, rather, that it’s another form of torture. The pretend reprieve, the attempt to make Jamie feel that what is happening is his fault- that makes more sense to me.

Also, deus ex machina door much? Claire, I know you’re from the future, but even you can’t see what’s going to happen next, only the big strokes of history.

BJR comes back really quickly to interrupt Claire’s attempt to free Jamie. What, exactly, was he doing when he went off? And what’s with the soldiers? Did they just need to fill a few seconds of screen time?

Poor Claire. It’s hard to kick ass when you’re wearing bulky wool skirts. She’d have done better in her nurse’s uniform. And it leads to the worst devil’s bargain. But it’s the only way Jamie knows to be strong, to save the life of the person he loves the most. As he’s said, he can withstand pain. It’s the rest of Black Jack’s darkness that warps and scars him. The gentleness, the twisted love and hate and pride and bitterness.

I have wondered about Claire giving BJR the hour of his death. I mean, she knows it’s at Culloden, and over a year away. I guess it was the only thing she could think to do. But he keeps his word. It’s the one bit of honor he has, and it will come back in season two, when he makes the deal with her to care for Alex in return for information about English troop movements.

I miss the wolves. They gave us the little howl, almost an “I’m sorry.” They cut both of the interactions with wolves – the first on the road, and the second here, when Claire manages to kill one bare-fucking-handed.

MacRannoch is a bit of a disappointment. I want a Beorn-like bear of a man, and we get a smallish hobbity-man instead (his hair is distinctly hobbit-like). And the pearls- how did he possibly recognize a generic rope of pearls? Maybe the clasp?

Also, I miss Rupert’s cow-wrangling skills. It is heavily hinted in the book that he got bored and stole MacRannoch’s cattle. It was still Murtagh’s idea to use them, but I like it when the bit players get to do actual plot-related things, rather than just hanging out like wallpaper.

This episode really works for me because they never stray too far from the plot of the books. There’s a rather big break in the next episode, but it was done for expediency and production reasons, and I understand the choice. But I’m glad that what they elaborated on in this episode was almost entirely plausible and would have fit perfectly into the book.

Episode 104 – The Gathering

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

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

Here are a few of my big issues:

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

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

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

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