Episode 207 – Faith

This was a very difficult episode to watch, but for the most part I thought it was very well done. I have one major issue with it. Well, maybe two, but I’ll get to that as I go on.

The title card didn’t wow me. I think I understand what they’re going for here, symbolically. A quick check of the internet reveals a number of traits associated with the heron, including determination, independence/self-reliance, strength, patience, and intelligence. And if you’ve listened to Alastair’s Storywonk book seminars on Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, you know that birds are not used lightly in this series. Most notable in the show is the starling murmuration that was the title card in 111, “The Devil’s Mark.”

I also think the show wants us to know that Claire is going to have a healthy child the next time; that she isn’t going to lose her next pregnancy. At this point in the book, readers already know, because the framing device used Bree in the 1960s. So this is the show’s way of reassuring non-book readers that the pregnancy from 201 is still in the future, and that it will not result in another stillbirth. Also – Claire is still wearing Jamie’s ring in 1954.

So I get all of that, but I still didn’t like it.  I would have gone with it, except that Claire said she saw one in Scotland – and then we dissolved to Paris. What?

Whistling on…

The next few scenes are a lovely adaptation from the book, but painful to watch. I have only lost one pregnancy, and that very early on (only just enough to register as being pregnant), so I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a stillborn child after so many months. Claire going a little mad and wanting to see the child makes sense. I’m glad we find out later in the episode that Mother Hildegarde lets her hold Faith.

Especially since, at that moment, she breaks the statue of the Virgin – a perhaps slightly too overt symbol of the breaking of Claire’s faith. I assume after that is when she held the baby all day, and Louise had to help out, but I’ll talk about that when the show gets there.

Claire does acknowledge her need for Jamie here, when she thinks she’s dying. Maybe to pass her sins on to him? To reconcile? To blame him?

I like that Master Raymond has a more cordial relationship with Bouton than in the book.

I do wish we’d seen a little more magic – that what Master Raymond did was more overt and blue and less Claire’s voiceover telling us what he was doing, but the show made a decision back in season one not to show things like time travel, so I guess they’re sticking to their creative guns.

I’m glad that Raymond still had her call for Jamie. It’s important that he understood that Jamie was an integral part of Claire’s healing. And I am so happy that they included the auras – and that Claire’s is like Raymond’s.

It’s nice that this episode finally starts to deal with Claire’s divided loyalties, and doesn’t pull punches between Frank and Jamie. She says that Frank is still alive – but at what cost?  And at this point, now that she thinks she will live, she becomes angry at Jamie, blaming him for their child’s death.

Mother Hildegarde’s response is great, but Claire’s anger is greater.

The time-compression in this episode versus the book is better. Months at Fontainebleu don’t make any sense. Although I had feared that Louise would be entirely absent from the episode because they cut that section, and I was pleased to see her appear, if only for a moment, at the end. I don’t know that we’ll get to say goodbye next episode.

The welcome by the servants is touching, but…odd? I’m not sure what this scene is supposed to be doing or showing, except that Claire doesn’t take her servants for granted?

We finally have Fergus brushing Claire’s hair, but instead of being a moment that draws them together, it’s a foreshadowing of the confession he will soon make.

I wasn’t sure about the apostle spoons when they showed up, but they work well in this episode. First, to spur Claire, in her own despair, to find Fergus in his. And later…well, I’ll get to later.

There were so many ways to have Fergus relay this information. I wish we hadn’t actually seen it. It was enough for him to say that he couldn’t say it in front of a lady. Everything else came through in the performances between Romann and Caitriona. We didn’t need to see it.

Mother Hildegarde’s remark about what the king will expect in return for Claire’s request is a warning, and Claire’s response is devastating. That she will add the sacrifice of her virtue to the list of things she has already lost in Paris. But the camera stays on Mother Hildegarde long enough for us to see that she understands what is driving Claire is not just anger, but a deep well of pain and loss.

It’s hilarious when Claire drinks the chocolate that Louis offers. After doing a little research, it seems like it would have been quite heavily sugared for le Roi. So, while I thought Claire might be reacting to bitterness/chile flavor, it could be a reaction to intensely sweet chocolate. I’d be curious to find out what it tasted like.

The king remarks on Claire’s loyalty. It is, indeed, a bedrock principle of her personality, and is why this offering is difficult for her. It’s also a nice call-back to the fact that she’s still wearing both rings in 1954 in the title card/opening scene. Her loyalty to Jamie won’t allow her to let go.

The voice over is unfortunate. I think we already understand enough of what Louis is like by this point in the season. We don’t need Claire to remind us that his power is absolute.

Slight changes were made to the wizard’s duel, turning it more onto an actual trial with Claire as the judge. I don’t mind the changes, especially since they reveal that Saint Germain was the one who tried to poison Claire (although nothing else – I believe him when he says he wasn’t part of Les Disciples; he has bigger fish to fry). It’s nice that Claire still tries to save both men, even after she knows St. Germain tried to kill her. And in the episode, as in the book, Master Raymond forces her to hand St. Germain the cup that she thinks will kill him. I wonder if the show will reveal that he doesn’t die? Rather, what happens is that Raymond understands that only a death will appease His Majesty, and a death must be supplied. It’s easier to have that “death” be St. Germain’s, and for Master Raymond to disappear for a while.

At least, I hope that’s what will happen in the show. It’s only tangentially referenced in the books. Actually, “The Space Between” is one of my favorite and, at the same time, most frustration-inducing bulges from the main series. It provides some time-travel answers, but not others. What happened when Le Comte and Master Raymond went through the time-rift?? Where did they go? Did they manage to go forward? Ugh! We’d better get answers to that eventually.

There is a brief moment when Le Comte acknowledges that Claire didn’t really want this to happen, but then he takes the cup, curses them both, and collapses.

I dislike immensely the Wizard of Oz reference. “I’m going to miss you most of all,” is what Dorothy says to Scarecrow before she leaves Oz. It’s the remnant of a brief romantic subplot that was cut from the film, and has absolutely no place here. In my opinion.

I think that when Claire says she lay on her back and thought of England, it’s supposed to be funny, but all I want to do in this scene is vomit. Claire handles herself with dignity, only beginning to fall apart on the way out, but man do I hate Louis. What an entitled asshole.

Jamie’s return is almost perfect. Like in the book, he asks if she will make him beg, and the room is full of shadows and light. The scene’s tension builds well, with Claire telling him everything that has happened, and grows when she admits that, for a while, she did hate him. We are returned to the hospital, to the breaking of her faith through the virgin statue, and then to her holding her daughter. Claire sings to her dead babe, and holds her for hours, until Louise comes. I am so glad that they brought her in for this scene. As someone who is about to become a mother, to see her friend in pain at this loss must be devastating, but she gets Claire through it. She forces Claire to acknowledge the loss, and give the baby up.

I am forcefully reminded of Claire holding the dead child on the mountainside, the changeling babe that she could not save, just as she could not save her own baby. It is hard for healers to accept loss, but so much harder now, for Claire, with her own baby.

The tension then peaks when Claire turns things around to take some culpability. She admits that Frank shouldn’t matter – he isn’t there. This, I am 100% behind. We needed this moment, to finally sever Claire from any responsibility to Frank. She made her choice a long time ago, and it’s time to let him go.

But I HATE HATE HATE that Claire takes the responsibility for what happened to Faith and that Jamie lets her. No, Jamie. I don’t want to hear about forgiveness. THIS WAS NOT CLAIRE’S FAULT. It wasn’t yours, either, and it wasn’t Randall’s. It wasn’t anybody’s. This scene could have been saved by a single added line. All Jamie had to say was “It wasna your fault, Claire. But even if it was, I would forgive ye.” And then the scene can continue as written.

I am not going to stop watching this show, because I am a fan of the books and I can headcanon that Claire knows she had placenta previa and would have lost the baby anyway. But if I were a show-watcher only, I’d be tempted to turn it off and walk away at this point. I am so disappointed that this show, with its sensitivity to so many issues, would allow a grieving mother to believe that the loss of her child was her fault.

Because guess what – every mother who has lost a child already believes that. And she needs the people around her, the people who love her, to hold her up, and remind her that it wasn’t. To say “You couldn’t have changed what happened” and “It’s not your fault” over and over. She might never believe, but the one thing her husband should never do is say, “I forgive you.” Because forgiveness implies it is her fault, and he’s being magnanimous in staying with the woman who killed her child.

Can you tell I’m a wee bit upset?

EDIT- I am perhaps overstating it when I say “every mother,” but perhaps I can change that to “every mother who has lost a child that I have spoken to.” Which is probably not a representative sample, but it represents my experience with the issue.

Except for Claire putting Frank before Jamie, nothing about this entire situation requires Jamie’s forgiveness, not even the “something else.” At least Jamie acknowledges that Claire with Louis is the same as him with BJR. No forgiveness needed on either side.

I need to calm down, and I don’t think I’ll be engaging much with live-tweeting and such this week. I’m also quite ill, so I think tonight I’ll just go to bed early.

At least the episode ends with something worth holding on to- them carrying their troubles together, with hope for another child, and a return home, to Scotland.

It’s good that they both go to the grave, together. This was a pretty big misstep in the book, in my opinion, because Gabaldon doesn’t have them go together. Each goes separately. I can now insert this scene into the books in my head and be happier for it.

And the apostle spoons finally pay off – Jamie can leave St. Andrew (and a piece of Scotland) with his daughter, and he and Claire can grieve their loss.

Claire crosses herself, I think for the first time (she might have done it before, but never as deliberately or purposefully as this). If I can whistle past the glaring outrage I feel for Jamie allowing Claire to take the blame for Faith’s death, this is a very beautiful and touching scene, where Claire reconnects both with Faith, the babe; her faith in Jamie and their marriage; and her faith in God.

But I’m not quite ready to whistle yet, so I’ll see everyone once I’m cool and collected again.

Not sure how next week will go. It looks like maybe Lallybroch first, then the Bill of Association, then to Beuly. But who knows?

EDIT: OK, I have slept on this and listened to some podcasts and read some reviews. I posted down in the comments some of my thoughts, but here’s where I am as of the “next day.” 

I do not think it is the show’s intention to blame Claire for the loss of her baby. I feel that what happened was an oversight, or perhaps they thought Jamie’s unconditional forgiveness would suffice. And I do think that it’s important that Jamie’s love be unconditional. And I also think it’s important that they both acknowledge the ghost of Frank Randall and that Claire should have done things differently. But when I say that, I mean that she should have been more gentle with Jamie, not that I think her choices caused her to lose her child.

So. It’s possible that Claire will self-diagnose in the next episode, at which point they can state with clarity that the stillbirth was not Claire’s fault, or they may not. They may have Jamie tell her that the loss of the baby isn’t her fault. Or not. I’m going to try and give as much benefit of the doubt as I can, because I do love this show. But I also think it’s important that Jamie be seen not to blame Claire by omission, and to actively support her in her loss. He says they will carry it together – but they should carry the pain and sorrow, not blame.

 

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Episode 206 – Best Laid Schemes…

This episode is full of difficult things, but unlike the last couple of episodes where I questioned some of the adaptive choices, this one is perfection, with only a couple of tiny quibbles. Matthew B. Roberts has done a fantastic job.

First, a costuming note. I saw a vague reference to an interview where Sam Heughan said he campaigned for Jamie to wear more kilts in France, but I haven’t read the interview, so I don’t know what he said. But whether it was his idea or Terry Dresbach’s, I just realized that Jamie was wearing trousers when he was in his darkest place after Wentworth. Alistair at The Scot and the Sassenach said in one of their podcasts that Jamie only had civility left to him, that he had lost an essential part of himself and was being formal and disconnected from Claire as a result. The trousers were a costuming-representation of that internal crisis.

Ever since Claire told him that BJR was alive, and he knows he’ll be able to kill him (even after agreeing to wait a year), he started wearing his kilt again. He is reclaiming his identity, as a warrior and as a man, and the kilt (for a Highlander in this era) is absolutely a representation of his essential self.

Now, on to the episode!

Once again, the title card disappoints, but it’s really the only thing in the episode that does. It appears to be attempting to represent their scheme to undermine the prince’s money-making venture, but I’m not sure what is supposed to be going on. Also, I dislike when the title card includes action from the show, as it did two episodes ago with the man sabotaging the Fraser’s carriage. But it’s not a huge thing, so I’ll let it pass.

One other possibly sour note in this episode is Murtagh. I feel like the show can’t quite decide what to do with him this season. They’ve extrapolated his character so far beyond what is in the books, and in most cases they’ve been wonderful extrapolations, but I feel like they sometimes give him reactions that fit the plot of the episode because they don’t have a bedrock understanding of who TVMurtagh is. As a result of that lack of understanding, his characterization is somewhat inconsistent.

I’m still formulating an opinion of this episode’s Murtagh, but my gut reaction is to say that he’s a little too upset about Jamie’s choice not to fight BJR, and at their continued scheming rather than killing Charles. I understand that the show wants us to feel that Murtagh’s patience is fraying, and if it had just been the later scene where he talks about assassination, that would have been fine, but I don’t like that he doesn’t accept Jamie’s decision not to duel Randall. That is Jamie’s business, and it’s personal. If Murtagh feels that it’s something Jamie needs to do, he should say that, rather than accusing him of being like a woman at her flux (which is, I think, a misstep from a writing perspective – it’s a terrible stereotype, and men have natural shifts in their hormones and feelings, too).

It was a wise decision to move Mssr. Forez’s discussions of execution techniques to L’Hopital, and to have them motivated by his desire to warn Master Raymond. In the book, it feels very odd (why would he be so graphic with a random couple that he doesn’t know?), but here it feels purposeful.

Claire is then able to go and warn Master Raymond, and we’re able to see how much their relationship has progressed over the months in Paris. They have truly become friends, and Raymond hints a little more subtly this time that he is also a traveler, when he says, “We will meet again, Madonna, in this life, or another.”

This scene also sets up what I assume will happen next week – that Master Raymond will come back to heal Claire, and end up being caught afterward by the king.

Jamie has spent his day re-framing and re-contextualizing his agreement not to kill Black Jack Randall. This allows him to be solicitous toward her, and warm, because he has decided that it is actually in her best interests, and his child’s, to have Frank waiting in the future. He turns the oath around, and forces Claire to swear she’ll go back to Frank if they can’t stop the Rising.

It is lovely that they found a place for this conversation, originally had in the carriage on the way to the Royal Stables. 

The scene does two important things. First, it reminds us of the vow that Jamie has made, and gives that vow greater weight than it had when it was forced upon him at the end of the last episode. Now, when he breaks that vow at the end of this episode, we feel it keenly, along with Claire, rather than being a little sympathetic toward Jamie.

Secondly, it reminds us that Claire’s vow in return is one she will be forced to keep. She will go back to Frank, and they will fail to stop Charles.

EDIT: during the live tweet, many people commented that this scene undermines the tension from the final scene of the last episode. I agree, a little, but I think that’s why we saw Jamie and Murtagh first. Jamie wraps his head around the fight with Claire, and convinces himself that his promise is actually a good thing. Also, notice that he immediately brings up the issue in question- rubbing Claire’s feet is an opening gambit in his strategy, not a tender gesture of solicitude. Claire figures that out, too, and pulls away. 

EDIT 2: In an interview, Matthew B. Roberts said that the episode was supposed to open with a dream sequence that would have helped move Jamie forward from the tension at the end of 205. But for various reasons, they were unable to film that material. So that’s why the transition doesn’t work as well as it should. 

Next, Claire tests her herbs on Jamie to fake smallpox. She gives another reason why they can’t kill Charles (although it’s rather flimsy – James doesn’t have another heir, and even if Charles becomes a martyr, there’s no one else to take the throne after him).

Murtagh’s outburst is a little too harsh, but I’m going to whistle past it, since the show is only using it to motivate Jamie into telling him the truth about Claire.

I wish they’d taken the opportunity to bring in material from The Exile here. Murtagh is the one who found Claire at the foot of Craig na Dun, even in the show. It would be nice if he’s always known she was different, and a traveler.

The jab to the face places Murtagh back into the godfather/father-figure role, rather than the laird and vassal role. We’re supposed to be amused, but the only thing I liked was Murtagh rubbing his hand and Jamie rubbing his face.

Claire and Murtagh would not have had this conversation in the book, but they’ve developed a much deeper relationship in the show, and it is poignant and beautiful to have him show her such sympathy and feeling. When he tells her he wouldn’t want to bear her burden, and takes her hand, it makes me smile.

I like that Fergus, as the stealthy pickpocket, does the actual work of planting the herbal concoctions.

This plan seems a bit more complicated and a bit less personally dangerous than the one in the book, but it does allow for a more direct confrontation with Saint Germain. I like that Jamie just keeps getting wrapped more tightly inside these schemes, and that every single bit of rope is there because Jamie and Claire were trying to use it to snare Charles. It almost ends up hanging Jamie instead.

Murtagh reluctantly agrees to play a L’Disciple, although I don’t think that’s made quite clear enough at the time (I guessed, but it wasn’t until Charles drew the supposition after the fact that my guess was confirmed).

I almost cry when I hear Claire say, “Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart,” and Jamie responds, “We always find a way back to each other, no?” Because, show viewers already know that she’s going to go back to the 1940s, and book-readers know that they’re going to be separated for twenty years.

Sigh.

Claire is so sure that they’re having a girl. And Jamie is beyond precious, talking to his wee lass. I love that the knowledge of their physical connection, through the body of their child, encourages them to connect in a different physical, and emotional, way.

Murtagh’s accent during the robbery is so atrocious, and Saint Germain is clearly suspicious, to the point that Jamie has to attack Murtagh and be knocked out.

I am very unsure why this scene with the ladies and Louise is included. I assume it was a way to repurpose some of the material from the Royal Stables, and to show how Claire truly does not fit into this world, but Claire is the kind of person who distracts herself with work. She would have gone to L’Hopital to begin with. This feels like Claire trying to prevent the French Revolution, but there is absolutely no motivation for her to say anything.

Still, a minor problem, and she ends up at L’Hopital anyway. Where Fergus and Bouton are SO STINKING CUTE.

The bleeding is much more of a foreshadowing here than in the book, since it happens so much closer to the miscarriage.

Side note – it totally bothers me that Claire is laying on her back all of the time. I get that they wouldn’t have known, in the 1940s or the 1740s, that laying on your back causes the fetus to press against the artery that feeds the uterus/placenta, but  that’s irrelevant. I have been pregnant twice. Laying on your back feels AWFUL. It’s like you have an elephant sitting on top of you. The only comfortable position is on your side, and usually only when there’s a pillow or something propping up your belly.

Caitriona Balfe gets a lot of other things right about pregnancy – like resting her hands on her belly pretty much all of the time – so maybe I’m just being overly sensitive.

Anyway, moving on!

Charles is so pitiful. I can see how he would end up drowning his sorrows in booze and women and then refusing to pay his bill.

But the real conflict in this scene is between Jamie and Le Comte. Saint Germain smells a rat, and Jamie is a little to quick to defend himself and his choices. Saint Germain is not a fool, and he can tell that something is going on. We don’t know for sure yet (and not at all in the main series books), but he’s a traveler, so there could be additional reasons why he suspects Jamie.

When Jamie and Saint Germain get up in each other’s faces after Jamie “monsieurs” him, I thought they were going to tear each other apart. But at the same time, I could not stop thinking about how very pretty both Sam Heughan and Stanley Weber are!

Jamie and Fergus have such a wonderful relationship. The way Jamie treats him like a man, approving of his decisions, is perfect. Jamie is only partially Fergus’s master. He is becoming Fergus’s father. I cannot wait to see Sam as Jamie, giving his own name to Fergus and Marsali next season (or maybe in season 4, if they split Voyager the way I think they will).

This scene is also a nice way to drop in some exposition about Murtagh being away, and unable to assist in the events that are about to occur.

I’m not sure why they’re emphasizing “out of sight, out of mind.” It isn’t a modern phrase – I just looked it up, and it first appears in print in the 16th century. So I’m not sure the relevance here, or why Claire would say it to Fergus every day.

And why does Fergus say he will come with Jamie to guard his right? That’s an Ian-thing from the books, but Sam isn’t left-handed, and so TVJamie isn’t left-handed. I’m a little confused. Is this a common idiom from the period in France that I just don’t know?

In any case, I am very happy that it is Jamie’s own schemes with Charles that bring him and Fergus to the brothel and the confrontation with BJR. It adds a layer of conflict that wasn’t present in the book, when it was a random foreman in the wine business who brought them there. Much better to have everything be tied to Jamie and Claire’s choices and actions.

I am also glad that the show avoids making Fergus sell himself to Black Jack Randall. It allows some of his innocence to be preserved, although he is still a thief – and that’s what gets him into trouble.

I can hope that BJR will not be shown at some later date trying to rape Fergus, and that the worst that will happen is that BJR will attack him because he tried to steal something from the room. I wonder if the show will mention that BJR is distraught and unhappy before he ever encounters Jamie and Fergus? I like my villains to have lives and feelings not connected to my heroes. I also like for them to have multiple dimensions and things that make me feel sympathetic, even while I despise them for other things.

But above all, I am happy not to have to watch a little boy be raped in this episode, and I very much hope that the show will avoid that entirely.

The end of the show builds up tension like a whip, from Suzette reluctantly telling Claire about the duel and how it started, to Claire racing to the Bois de Bologne, and everything that follows. The music is an amazing mix of baroque and the show’s existing themes, becoming a driving anthem that pushes Claire and the carriage forward.

I am so glad that there is no voice over until it becomes absolutely necessary to give us additional information. And when it comes, it is the exact line from the book, which increases the conflict and tension rather than diffusing it the way so many of the voice overs do. It also shows us just how distraught Claire is – to the point that she is conflating Black Jack with Frank. Because Frank isn’t going to die if BJR does. He’ll just never be born. When she says “which of my men will die” she is quite literally referring to BJR as Frank.

It’s wonderful that we stay so firmly in Claire’s PoV (close-ups of the duel and BJR’s face excepted; we know that Jamie stabbed in the groin, which Claire doesn’t know) for the last few minutes of the episode. And it is a dirty brawl, too, not a restrained and gentlemanly affair, fought to first blood. These two want, very desperately, to kill each other.

It is heartbreaking to watch Claire miscarry, and to have Jamie unable to go to her because of the gen d’armes.

I speculate that Saint Germain was having Jamie watched, and is responsible for them showing up where Murtagh assured Jamie that they do not usually patrol. My guess is that Saint Germain’s interference here is going to be what causes him to end up in a wizard’s duel with Master Raymond in the next episode.

Are we supposed to think that BJR and Claire are both dead at the end of the episode? Claire is supposed to assume that BJR is, at least if they follow the book. But obviously Claire isn’t. There’s half a season still to go, and we know she lives long enough to go back to the 1940s. (Also, she’s very much alive in the “next time on Outlander” segment).

It’s another short episode (almost exactly 51 minutes, not counting the credits), so I wonder if there was supposed to be a brief scene following this, with Claire at L’Hopital? Maybe not. This is a very good place to end the episode, conflict-wise, so it may just be that this is where things ended up, time and pacing-wise.

I only wonder at the way BJR and Claire are both portrayed as slowly closing their eyes. It’s too close in composition not to be intentional, or at least, not to have been noticed during editing.

Not a big deal, just curious.

I imagine that the next episode is going to pretty closely follow what happens in the book, except without the very long stay at Fontainebleu. I’m assuming Claire will be in L’Hopital for a while, probably several weeks, recovering from the miscarriage and fever, and then she will find out about Jamie in the Bastille and will go to Louis.

But they’re also going to have to lay some groundwork for getting Claire and Jamie back to Scotland and into the “Fox’s Lair” for episode 208. That’s obviously a reference to Simon Fraser, but I still can’t see how the show is going to get Jamie and Claire to Beuly this early in the timeline. I hope to have more information with which to speculate after the next episode. 

EDIT: Lani at The Scot and the Sassenach suggested that this whole episode would work better if it revolved around a central element. She suggested the baby, and I think that’s a brilliant idea. A few tweaks to show Jamie is worried about the baby, and maybe a scene where Claire starts having pain before he goes to Le Havre, would have given the episode a cohesion and overall shape that it lacked. 

They also mentioned that there’s a lot of “to-ing and fro-ing” with multiple trips to the same locations that could have been combined. I think that’s partially true, but some of it actually contributes to the emotional resonance of the episode. Things feel a little frantic and frustrating, maybe even fruitless when their plans don’t work the first time. So I don’t mind so much. 

Episode 205 – Untimely Resurrection

This episode swings between absolutely wonderful and “what in the hell just happened?”

The horse title card was a bit of a tease. I know that they moved part of the dialogue into the first party at Versailles, but otherwise almost everything of value (Sandringham’s offer, Fergus on the horse) was stripped from the royal stables section of the book. We replace it with some Randall material that doesn’t make any sense, and some Annalise material that also doesn’t make any sense….

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The clock ticking is straight from the book, and perfect. I don’t mind VOClaire too much, but I am getting tired of hearing her say “in that moment.” I think she says it in 90% of the voiceovers.

It is cute to see Fergus asleep beside Claire on the couch, but it would have been nice to actually show their interaction. We’ve established him as having a keen understanding of women after growing up in a brothel, and showing him comfort Claire, and having that make her feel awkward, would give her an excellent reason to tell Jamie later that she’s worried about being a mother.

I am so glad that Claire gets pissed at Jamie about him basically calling her a witch to protect his man card. She has a very good reason to fear such accusations, and in the book she reacts by laughing and calling him “darling.” BookClaire does later refer to Cranesmuir and the witch trial, but only when she goes to see Master Raymond.

The only problem is that TVClaire forgives TVJamie a little too easily. Oh, he was drunk, but in what world is it excusable for a man to trade his wife’s safety in exchange for him getting out of a little ribbing by his buddies? He could just tell them that he is a faithful husband, as he is a faithful Jacobite. It serves his political purposes and his personal ones. Done.

At least the show uses it as a clue to find out who hired the attackers. And Murtagh has his chance to swear to lay vengeance at Jamie’s feet.

Mary is sweet, thinking of Alex and wanting to act on his behalf. What she says about feeling like a different person is heartbreaking, and Claire gives her the best advice that can be given: It Was Not Your Fault.

You can see the moment Claire decides to act with certainty rather than acknowledging the possibility of a pregnancy. It is a very tiny possibility, and it’s better to reassure her now than frighten her with something that will probably not occur.

I like that Claire has to decide what to do with the letter. And she makes the right choice – allowing Alex to be freed – but then makes a questionable one when she encourages him to break off his secret engagement to Mary.

It is creeptastic when Charlie rubs Jamie’s face. He is a total creeper. Over at Storywonk on their reaction show this week, they talked about how Charles always has to say “Mark Me” because no one does. Someone who knows that he is being heard, and is confident of his place, does not need to tell people to pay attention.

Every time someone mentions Louis backing Charles (especially in this scene, when he says “French money,” which is pretty close to “French gold”), I think of the gold buried in the cave on the mountain. Does anyone else do that?

Jamie tries to discourage Charles, but he’s already planned how to keep an eye on Saint Germain – Jamie will do it. But don’t plague him with workmen’s concerns. What an ass.

It’s difficult to watch Claire and Alex. Claire is saying practical things, and even true things, but with an agenda, and that bothers me. Claire obviously has a choice, no matter what she says. Alex is ill, and time will take care of itself. Who’s to say they wouldn’t marry, and Alex will still die in a year, and BJR will marry his brother’s pregnant wife in order to take care of her, at his brother’s last request?

There’s always a choice.

Jamie and Saint Germain is just odd. At first, I thought the show might actually make Saint Germain an antagonist, but the further we get into the season, the more I think he just doesn’t like them. He might revel in anything that hurts them, and try to steal business away, but I don’t think he’s an active threat.

His reaction to Jamie’s threats and recounting of what happened to Claire shows indifference, and perhaps a little bit of  displeasure that Claire wasn’t more badly hurt, but there is not a single hint of responsibility or fear on his face. I hope the show acknowledges that at the wizard’s duel, rather than just allowing Claire to condemn an innocent (well, mostly) man. Even if book readers know he’s not quite dead. 🙂

The apostle spoons are…weird? Is this a Catholic thing that I would know about if I had grown up in the church, rather than being christened at birth and then my parents deciding to become Southern Baptist? (I know.)

In any case, the spoons aren’t important. It’s what they represent – the connection to Jenny and Ian, and Lallybroch. They are the weight of the past, and family, and community.

Claire’s worries are so perfect. I worried (and still worry, every day!) about being a good mom, and I have an amazing one to model my actions on. Poor Claire, with no real memory of her mother, makes me ache.

But she does have Jamie, and his reassurance – that they will figure it out together – is even more poignant, considering that, by the end of the episode, they will be very much at odds, and by the end of the season, she will be raising Jamie’s child with someone else.

Did Claire just snub the Duke of Sandringham, or did she really smell something that made her queasy? I want to assume it’s a snub, because anything that thumbs a nose at Sandringham is grand thing, but pregnancy does make you really sensitive to smells, and it looks like she got a whiff of horse and didn’t like it.

Jamie and Sandringham are perfect. There’s so much innuendo, and double- or triple-meanings (cherishes options, indeed). I miss the outright offer of a pardon, but the show may be saving that for another moment.

But Claire and Annalise makes no sense whatsoever. I’m not sure what this exchange is doing in this episode. To my recollection, this doesn’t come from the book, although I have a vague memory of someone telling Claire that she has made a man out of Jamie (it may have been Jenny). But other than perhaps reminding us that Jamie can be impulsive, this conversation does nothing for the plot of the episode, and I don’t even think we needed that reminder. It just feels awkward and I would have cut it.

Black Jack Randall felt very odd to me until I watched the little “behind the scenes” piece at the end of the episode. Once they explained that Randall was finished with Jamie after what happened at Wentworth, that he’d gotten what he wanted, and stopped thinking about the Frasers entirely, it makes more sense. But I don’t understand why this BJR – who actually was trampled by cows – would not still have an axe to grind against the ones responsible.

In general, BJR acts very differently here in Paris. I’m glad that the reason BJR comes to Paris is tied to Jamie and Claire’s actions. Though they were not directly responsible for Alex losing his position with Sandringham, they were key players in the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.

But BJR’s goal leads to a very strange interaction with King Louis. My assumption is that the king takes his cue from Claire, who snubs BJR when she does not acknowledge him as a friend, but claims only that they are “acquainted.”

I think this scene is meant to reinforce the attraction Louis has for Claire, but it goes far beyond that in absurdity.

The juxtaposition of the “tense music” (that’s what the subtitles called it) with Jamie’s civility in the presence of the king is somewhat disingenuous. I haven’t liked many of the show’s choices when dealing with expectations of how Jamie will act in regard to BJR.

This whole matter of begging, and forcing BJR to go down on his knees, is a total left turn through the pumpkin patch to crazy town. Where the hell did that come from?

Louis’s little hand gestures and jests are weird, but I’ll allow them as characterization. I may go do some research and see if there is historical evidence for any of those mannerisms.

When BJR touched Jamie – I assume it is meant to be the place where he branded him – I shuddered. But then they cut away to Claire, and we didn’t get to see Jamie’s reaction. I think that was a mistake. Claire’s feelings in this moment are already clear. We know she’s upset, worried about both Jamie and Frank, and basically freaking out. I don’t need a closeup of her face to know that. I want to see how Jamie reacts to BJR’s touch. I want to see him master himself, and be able to bow to his opponent.

Missed opportunity.

I suppose the show decided to make Jamie gleeful about his revenge so that this moment – when Claire takes that away from him – will become the new conflict around which the next few episodes will turn. But I don’t think they needed to push him up to eleven. Just the need for vengeance, hot and hard, would have been enough. It doesn’t need to make him feel bliss.

Claire dispatches Murtagh so that she can tell Jamie her real reason for delaying the duel. The bulk of this scene is straight out of the book, and I adore it.

Both of them need so much to succeed in this argument, and that is the truest sort of conflict. This episode ends in the absolute best place, unlike last week. There’s no muddle here, no farcical riot. There is only pain, and two people at odds who love each other, but are hurting each other very much. Ending with both of them on opposite ends of the room, Jamie staring away, and Claire staring at Jamie, both of them in agony, was a very, very good choice.

I can’t wait to see if, in the next episode, Jamie tells Claire that he won’t do it because she asked for her debt to be repaid, but because he wants to give Claire a safe harbor in the future, should they fail to stop Charles. He doesn’t care about Frank, or an innocent life, but he does care about Claire, and that is the only thing that can stay his hand.

The “next time on Outlander” segment focuses on Saint Germain, so I assume we’ll be dealing with the Madeira, and possibly pushing a little harder on him as a villain. We also see Jamie flexing his right hand a LOT, so I’m guessing we’re going to end the episode with him dueling BJR. But I suppose we’ll find out next week!

 

Episode 204 – La Dame Blanche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up my thoughts on this episode:

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

Until next weekend!

Episode 203 – Useful Occupations and Deceptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait!

 

Episode 201 – Through a Glass Darkly

Outlander is back!

So, they did what I thought they would do, rather than what I hoped they would do. The first half of this episode, much like the first half of “Sassenach,” is set in the 1940s.  It’s 1948, three years after she first went through the stones.

I can’t say I’m ecstatic about this choice, but I did rather fear that it was coming. On the one hand, this does preserve some of the framing device used in Dragonfly in Amber. On the other, it doesn’t quite match with what is in the books. I’m usually OK with changes, but this one is a character change, and I have a little more difficulty with those.

But let’s take a look at the episode as it unfolds.

When Claire wakes up at the stones, she searches for a ring (I’m guessing this will turn out to be more significant later in the season) and weeps when she finds it because the gemstone is missing (YAY for the first foreshadowing of time-travel dynamics!). EDIT: over at The Scot and the Sassenach, they suggested that she may have dropped it in 1746, and that it has been there in the grass for 200 years. I’m still going with my interpretation, because she looked for it in her bodice first, and the fact that the stone is missing might be her first clue about gemstones and time travel. That will become a big deal in the next season. EDIT #2: According to Ron Moore’s commentary podcast, this is our first time-travel worldbuilding! They added this ring to establish the gemstones for travel.

Sadly, we have VOClaire back. A few of the things she says are tolerable, and she is giving us more information than what is shown on screen, but the only thing I wanted was the part where she says she made a promise and now had to keep it.

The interaction with the little Scottish driver went on a little long, and I think it’s a bit odd that she would think there was any way that Culloden could have had another ending. It made me wonder if they were going to go in an entirely different direction – like maybe have her forced through the stones before things start to go bad for the Jacobites. But then she and Mrs. Graham talk about Jamie’s promise to die on the battlefield with his men, so obviously they’re going to follow the books that far. This scene just feels weird to me.

I do love the new shots in the credits sequence and the new French lyrics in the Skye Boat Song (or, as my 4-year-old daughter calls it, “Lass that Was Gone” – we listen to the soundtrack together, although she is obviously not allowed to watch the show yet).

The title card on Roger is very nice, especially the juxtaposition of the airplane with the tall ships book. Did anyone else get a little teary-eyed for Jerry MacKenzie?

When I saw Frank come barreling down the hospital hallway, I thought we were going to get almost verbatim what happens in Claire’s memory from Dragonfly in Amber – the doctor telling Frank to give Claire time, and Frank arguing. Here’s what he says in the book:

“What do you mean, don’t press her? Don’t press her? My wife’s been gone for nearly three years, and come back filthy, abused, and pregnant, for God’s sake, and I’m not to ask questions?”*

Of course, in the book he already knows she’s pregnant. In the show, they save that reveal for later. But in general, TVFrank is much more considerate, accommodating, and gentle than BookClaire remembers him.

Although I don’t think they needed to spend quite as much time in 1948 as they do, I appreciated the little touches of Claire disliking the noise of the modern streets. When she was at Leoch, the score used to play 40s songs as though that’s what she was hearing, and she hummed them all of the time. But by this point, she has completely embraced a different kind of life.

I’m surprised that they only went for the Frank-as-BJR thing once in this episode. But they do a good job of portraying the awkwardness and distance between Claire and Frank.

In reference to the quote above, Frank says the exact opposite in the show – Reverend Wakefield says that it’s time Claire gave them answers, and Frank says he can wait. It’s almost as though they are deliberately breaking from BookFrank, and I don’t like it. In the books, there is no love triangle. Claire is loyal to Frank when she is with him because that is a bedrock part of her personality. And Frank isn’t a bad man. But there is never any question that Jamie is her true match. The show keeps making Frank more of a partner to her. Again, I don’t mind changes in general, but this one seems like it will have far-reaching implications. Would TVFrank cheat on Claire many times over the years? Would TVFrank plan to take Brianna to England and leave Claire behind? If not, then what are the circumstances of his death? Does Claire still feel responsible? These are all questions the production will have to answer.

I like that Claire has a confidante in Mrs. Graham. It’s a way to work in things that book readers already know (or, to be fair, can guess) about what is going to happen later in the season. They talk about Jamie’s promise to die beside his men at Culloden, and how she’s going to have to accept that he’s gone – dead and buried over two hundred years. This takes the place of some of the conversations Claire has with Roger and her internal monologue in Part One of the book.

I’ve been watching Claire’s hands, trying to see if there’s a J-shaped scar at the base of her right thumb. I’m guessing, if they decided to keep that detail, they won’t reveal it until the 1960s portions at the end of the season. EDIT: Apparently Ron Moore decided not to do this. I need to track down the source where he said this (an interview maybe?). It wasn’t mentioned in the podcast commentary. Still looking. Maybe they just don’t want to have to do scars on the actors every day? Jamie needs a heck of a lot of scar makeup whenever he takes off his shirt, and this would need to be placed every day. And hands are harder, since you use them all day. But still…it’s important, and I’ll miss it.

What Mrs. Graham says is nice, about putting away her memories of Jamie and living her life again, but you can tell that Claire still misses Jamie too much, and maybe even still sees a little of Black Jack when she looks at Frank.

For all that their talk begins as a way for Claire to reconcile, by the end of her confession, it seems like she’s being deliberately cruel, trying to push Frank away. Especially since this Frank seems to be bumbling around but being generally as good as could be expected in this situation.

Another departure from BookFrank is that he claims to believe her (I’m not sure I believe him, just like Claire doesn’t, but he’s putting on a good front). BookFrank doesn’t, and tells Claire so outight. Even years later, after a lot of research and knowing that Brianna looks like the portrait of Ellen MacKenzie in the National Portrait Gallery, he isn’t entirely sure what to believe. His letter to Brianna is a warning, but he still clings to his logical disbelief.

TVFrank clings, instead, to his feelings and his love for Claire. It isn’t until she drops the baby bomb (the Brianna baby bomb?) that he loses his shit. Later, when he explains himself to the reverend, he says that it is the joy of thinking that he’s become a father, and then the ripping away of that joy, that makes him go crazy. But Claire is totally being a bitch about it. I guess she thinks she’s being practical, but it feels like cruelty.

I wonder if the show is going to push on the darkness in Frank, and the connection to BJR, instead of his distance and unsuitability for Claire? Except that, unless they’re really going to break with the books, we’re going to find out by the end of the season that Frank’s ancestor is not actually Black Jack, but rather his mild-mannered younger brother Alex.

Tobias Menzies kills it in this scene with the reverend. The dialogue is so heightened, almost stilted, the words of a historian and lecturer, but he brings so much emotion and pain to the scene.

The show finally leverages Wee Roger in the way that he was intended in the book – as an illustration of adoption, and love for a child not of your own flesh.

Can I say that I adore Reverend Wakefield? His words are so perfect – a child without a father, and a man without a child – and then he tells Frank that he thinks it’s part of God’s plan, but that only Frank can decide what he’s going to call it.

Frank’s conditions match the ones he gave Claire in the book. That Bree will be raised with him as her father, and that Claire will not search for Jamie as long as he’s alive.

Not that that will stop him from searching for Jamie. And finding him. And keeping that from Claire.

It’s good that he doesn’t force her to remove the ring, but the fact that he burns her clothes is huge. It’s proof that he isn’t really as copacetic with the situation as he is trying to portray. Those clothes represent a part of history – a very valuable example of the study to which he has devoted his life – and yet he burns them, because they are also a link between Claire and Jamie.

The arrival in Boston juxtaposed with the arrival in Le Havre is a little jarring. I like the way the book transitions, using Claire’s storytelling as the mechanism. There’s no real reason for her to be thinking of Jamie in that moment. Or well, that’s not true. I can see that she would think of him, would always think of him, but she’s trying to build a new life with Frank and start over. She wouldn’t deliberately seek to relive the past.

So, as transitions go, this one totally fails for me.

But it gets us back to 1745, so whatever. EDIT: I noticed the time jump, but whistled past it. Dragonfly in Amber begins in early 1744, so we’ve just excised an entire year from the timeline. It will push the show to move more quickly than the book, but judging from the episode titles, I think they’re still going to spend too much time in France (see my season two speculations for more on this).

Hooray for Jamie’s seasickness! I can’t wait to see acupuncture needles all over Sam’s head! And hooray for Murtagh, just being himself.

I’m glad that the show is still dealing with the effects of what happened to Jamie at the end of season one. DG mentioned in an interview that the show didn’t have time to give Jamie and Claire the recovery in the Abbey, and the reconciliation in the hot springs, so the wounds are still raw and fresh. Of course, BookJamie wasn’t exactly recovered, either. It will take him much, much longer to come to terms with what happened. And his anger and hatred fuel the biggest conflict of the Paris portion of the book (the duel with BJR and what happens after). But I like the way Claire handles Jamie – reminding him that she’s there, and that she cares. That she’s as stubborn as he is.

Distracting him with plans doesn’t hurt, either. EDIT: This scene has been criticized for being weighed down with exposition that doesn’t really fit what the characters would talk about at this point. That’s probably true, but it didn’t bother me enormously.

Jamie does not like lying. Later in his life, he’ll be much more comfortable with the necessity. But Murtagh likes deceit even less. Jamie knows exactly how to deal with Murtagh, though. He acts as Laird – vowing to tell him the truth when the time comes, and reminding him that he trusts him, but that doesn’t mean a laird has to tell his vassal everything right away. And that’s all Murtagh needs.

I like that Jared is wary instead of welcoming. I don’t mind this change, although I don’t like that Jamie reveals his scars. I think the show is trying to show that he’s making the choice now, instead of Dougal making it for him, but I would like for there to have been more reluctance on his part. He doesn’t like how the scars make people see him, and even if Claire persuaded him of the necessity, I don’t think he would volunteer his back as proof of their sincerity.

There is a hint, in Sam’s acting, that he dislikes being forced to do this, but he’s still willing to do it.

Jared asks why the Jacobites would want to meet Jamie. In the book, it seems to flow a bit more naturally. Jared seems to see Jamie as a possible successor to his business, and introducing him to his friends is just part of that business. I think that the show is trying to get out in front of people’s possible objections, but by drawing attention to this, I think they’re making their job more difficult than it has to be.

The scene with Claire and the smallpox victims goes pretty much the same as in the book. It looks like the show is going to push a little harder on Saint Germain as a villain, which I think is wonderful. He is underutilized in the book. He is described as a threat, but then never actually does anything against Jamie and Claire – everything that happens (the attack on Jamie that leads to adopting Fergus and the later attack on Claire and Mary Hawkins) was actually Sandringham. Sure, he is still a business rival, but that’s the only sort of revenge he attempts – making more money by dealing with their “friend” Charles Stuart.

So Le Comte as a true villain would be nice. Over at The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair and Lani posited that he could be a secondary villain, orchestrating events  on behalf of Sandringham. I just want to see more of him, since he is also a traveler (originally from the 19th century, if I remember “The Space Between” correctly) and perhaps Claire’s ancestor.

The episode ends at the place where I thought they’d end the second episode (but that was presuming the first episode would be all in 1968), with the burning of Saint Germain’s ship. That means we’ll pick up next week with an introduction to Paris society, Monsieur Raymond, Prince Charlie, Louise de la Tour, Mr. Hawkins, and King Louis, and if I’m right, that episode will end with Claire and Jamie thinking BJR has come to Paris.

We’ll have to wait and see!

 

*Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Part One, Chapter Five: “Beloved Wife,” pg 61 of the 2014 Bantam trade paperback edition.

Speculations – Time Travel

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of time travel tropes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idea Four: Wild Speculations.

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

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