Analysis – Jamie and Claire’s Relationship, Part One

Season two is about to start, so now it’s time to analyze and examine the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship through season one!

I’ve been planning this post since the wedding episode last season, and now I’m finally getting around to writing it. Part of the reason it took so long is that it requires marathoning the whole season. Not exactly a hardship from an enjoyment standpoint, but it is almost 16 hours of television, and I do a lot of starting and stopping to get my thoughts down while I watch. There’s a lot to say, so this is going to be a two-part post. Unfortunately, I’ve only had time to watch through 107 (“The Wedding”), but I think that’s a pretty good place to rest until I have the time to finish this analysis.

I will start with the opening monologue in “Sassenach.” Even though Claire’s musings are about trivial-seeming things, what she is really saying here is that she longed for home, for family, for a place to belong, and most of all, for love. And so when she says that she would make the same choice, she is talking about her choice to stay with Jamie in the past, to make their marriage real.

As I mentioned in my first episode review, I believe this is Claire at the end of her life (probably around 1800 from some things Diana has said), telling the story of her life to someone (I’m guessing Mandy and Jem, or maybe their children). It could also be her telling the story to Bree and Roger in 1968.

In any case, this monologue is really all about Jamie, and about finding her own place in the world. So I include it in my analysis.

Now I will skip over all of the 1945 scenes with the exception of Mrs. Graham telling Claire about her two marriages, and our lovely Highlander watching Claire curse at her hair in the B&B.

Claire’s expression about the stranger being her husband is so painful and raw. If only she knew the truth of the reading, and her forked marriage line. Or that the ghost Frank saw was real – and was that other husband.

OK, I’ll also mention the scene where Frank basically accuses her of cheating, since it shows us that Frank is not her perfect match. He doesn’t really trust her or understand her. He is attracted to her, perhaps even obsessed (I miss their discussion of adoption from the book, because it reveals that he is selfish and jealous of her attentions), but not her true mate.

Now we jump to 1743, and the crofter’s cottage where Jamie looks up and sees Claire for the first time. I’m probably reading more into this scene than what would be noticed by someone who hasn’t read the books, but that doesn’t really bother me. I view it through the lens of Jamie’s later explanations to Claire, that he wanted her from the first moment he saw her, that he wanted to marry her when he woke up beside the road with her on his chest, and that he loved her when she wept in his arms at Leoch.

So, when I watch him staring up at her in the cottage, his face hazed with pain and inconveniently-timed attraction, I swoon a little. Even more when he stands up and Claire sees just how tall he is. He respects her so much even from the beginning, and has a deep understanding of her worth and her capability that Frank never comprehended, even after years of marriage.

Jamie shows us his essential nature right away, too- strong, stubborn, and witty. He defuses Claire’s objections to his plaid with humor, and then shows again how much he respects her when he brings her knowledge about Cocknammon Rock to Dougal. He could have ignored her on the basis of being a silly Englishwoman, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t accept blindly, of course, and checks the lay of the land himself, but when his own eyes concur with her warning, he acts. That’s Jamie.

So is the way he convinces Claire to come back with him, and his boasting when they return to the men. Claire is reluctant, but as soon as he’s in danger again, she goes right back to nurse-mode.

Jamie is so enthralled with the beautiful hell-cat sitting on him, berating him for being an idiot while she tends to his wounds. I love how they managed to get a little light onto his face so we can see his eyes in that moment.

Claire is a study in contradictions. She feels sympathy for Jamie, after having experienced the darkness that is Black Jack Randall, but still wants desperately to be gone, back to her own time.

Now we sadly have to go to another episode. I really wish this was a two-hour pilot/premiere. It makes much more sense as a single episode. But whatever.

I love that Jamie’s instinct is to help Claire, even against Mrs. Fitz. And then their first truly intimate scene, by the fire as she tends his wounds and sees his flogging scars.

In the book, when he tells her this story, it’s almost a fever-dream, his recounting brought on by fatigue and pain. But here, it’s more like he’s offering her this part of himself, of his past, a show of trust and the beginnings of affection. And, being Jamie, he has to turn around the darkness with a joke.

It is so weird that they had Jamie say “Is he not alive?” in this scene. The normal thing to say would have been “Is he dead?”

In any case, it brings Claire to Jamie’s arms, and then that leads to its natural, erection-inducing conclusion. But this is the moment when Jamie truly falls in love. And he reacts with a certain amount of gruffness, probably because he understands that his desires are impossible. He can’t expect to have her, or to wed her, with her an unknown Englishwoman and him a Scot with a price on his head.

I adore the fact that Jamie’s first words out of his mouth when he sees Claire after she’s startled the horse are “my love.” (A ghràidh) And his acknowledgment that spirit and strength are good qualities in a woman, qualities he admires, although it will cause him no end of frustration throughout the rest of his life!

Jamie has so much trust in her already, telling her about the price on his head. He keeps some things from her, of course, like the men who helped him escape. It’s one thing to put his own safety at risk by telling her, but another to risk his friends. But the big thing he doesn’t talk about is his father. He is nowhere near ready to share that part of his heart with her. Not yet.

Claire shows him some return humor – try not to get flogged or stabbed today – and he returns it with a smile – no promises, Sassenach.

You know, I am not sure how often he calls her that throughout the season. I’ll have to pay attention. That’s once in episode one, and once in episode two so far.

Jamie taking the punishment for Laoghaire is slightly different than in the book. For one thing, I don’t think Jamie ever shares the story about his own punishment as a lad, or the shame he had to endure, and how this is a thumb of his nose at Colum and Dougal. But it’s clear that he has something to prove to them, and this has almost nothing to do with Laoghaire.

Poor Rupert. I know this post is about Jamie and Claire, but I really feel for Rupert in this scene. He is so loyal to Dougal, but it tears him up to give Jamie such pain. But Jamie pulls it off like a champ, and Colum has that little smile – that “God, he looks like Ellen” smile.

I miss the leeches, if only because it ties this scene to one far in the future, when Claire pulls leeches off of Willie in the creek near Fraser’s Ridge. You can see the leech scene in the deleted scenes, without VFX (visual effects), so as far as I’m concerned it really happened. The extended scene is very nice. I wish they’d not cut it down. I guess CGI leeches cost too much money.

In any case, Jamie totally blows smoke when he tells Claire his reasons for taking the beating. Not seeing Laoghaire shamed is the very bottom of his list, and the least important.

Jamie definitely does not want this scene to be goodbye. Claire is so excited to leave, she hardly sees it, but he’s devastated. He accepts Laoghaire’s presence almost as a distraction. And I love that they use each other’s first names. She’s been calling him Jamie, but this is the first time he calls her Claire.

Now we jump ahead to episode three, and Jamie, Claire, and Laoghaire watching Gwillan perform. Jamie is such a blockhead. Claire tries to include Laoghaire in the conversation, and Jamie is clueless. He thinks he’s being self-detrimental, but Laoghaire is hurt.

“Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

“Yes, Claire. You’re totally smashed.” (is what I expect him to answer)

You’ve gotta feel for Laoghaire here. She proves that she isn’t worth the pity later, but here it is unfortunate that Jamie runs roughshod over her feelings.

Jamie again shares part of himself with Claire, and reveals that he has already shared something with her that he refuses to let others see. And when she realizes how intimate that makes them, and balks, he tries to walk away and not push. But when she comes close to him, when she touches him, at first with the impersonal hands of a healer, but then, abruptly, with heat and awareness in her eyes, he can’t help but want her. Can’t help but burn.

But she balks, again, and he smiles when she uses the formal address of Mr. MacTavish rather than the more intimate Jamie. He replies in kind, and tries to see the humor in wanting a woman he can’t have.

And so, when Laoghaire throws herself at him, he accepts. And, seeing that, Claire can’t help but needle him about it. Bless Murtagh for being the word of wisdom, and the perfect father figure. He already sees where the wind is blowing, and wants what is best for his beloved godson.

And Claire, stop lying to yourself. Yes, you miss your husband, and are envious of the intimacy of others, but yes, you’re also super jelly. Because you want Jamie. He fits with you, and you aren’t ready to acknowledge that yet, but he’s funny, and accepts you, and trusts you, and is one of your only safe refuges in 1743.

They know each other well enough that a single headshake is enough for him to take her part and follow her lead at Geillis’s house. And he is willing to help her out, even though the villagers wouldn’t thank them for interfering with the boy in the pillory. And there’s the Sassenach in this episode, although “wee sassenach lassie” isn’t quite the same as just calling her Sassenach.

Their interaction at the Black Kirk is a lovely extrapolation from the book. They take some of the things he says in other places and put them here. Jamie reveals what is already pretty clear: that he’s educated, and higher class, but still a devout Highlander.

And Claire reveals herself for the first time – saying Germany, a country that won’t exist for over a hundred years. The bits about methiolate can be written off as healer’s talk – the Highlanders would not be too worried that she might know of more sophisticated medicines and classical names. But this? It’s very odd.

After she heals Tammas, their words are a reaffirmation of their earlier conversation about belief. He asks about “where you came from” as though it truly is another world.

Then he mentions that Colum doesn’t want her to go – as he does not want her to go – and she reacts with dismay. He sees it, and is hurt, but doesn’t know what else to do. He is as constrained as she is.

That night, Jamie forces her from the edges of the room to hear Gwillan. He brings her in to the warmth and connection of society, and then gives her hope that she could return.

The story of the woman of Balnain is a little on-the-nose. In the book, there are a series of stories, none of them completely matching her experience, that lead her to believing that a return trip through the stones is possible.

Jamie is absent for nearly all of the next episode. And when he shows up, boy is it explosive. I wish they’d left the entire scene when he pledges to Colum, though. If you have the box set, watch the deleted scene. Then insert that into the episode. It not only makes more sense, it gives a much richer view of the relationship between Colum and Jamie, and a hint of what is to come in The Reckoning.

In any case, Claire seeks Jamie out in the beginning of the episode, and is distressed not to find him. Some of that distress is for her escape plan, but some is just because she’s become accustomed to seeing him.

I will also mention Murtagh’s kindness in translating for her at the oathtaking, because it is indicative of him feeling protective of her. He already knows how Jamie feels about her.

And, of course, Claire giving Laoghaire the “spell.” A silly thing to do, but something she didn’t imagine would come back to haunt her. She couldn’t have imagined that she would end up married to Jamie and accused of witchcraft.

Then there’s her flight to the stables, and tripping over Jamie. And another “Sassenach,” for which he is sorry when she throws it back at him. But she isn’t really mad at him. She’s mad at the situation, and the loss of her hopes.

Jamie’s sudden anger, and willingness to bash some heads when he hears about her encounter with the clansmen, shows his concern for her in ways he isn’t yet ready to voice. His good humor about Dougal, and his pride in her for standing up for herself, is also proof that he cares for her, believes in her, and trusts her. The typical jealous alpha-male romance hero would have been wildly angry that she put herself into a position where she would be accosted, and would have blamed her for other men being drawn to her. Jamie doesn’t do any of that. He wants to protect her, and see her safe, but he isn’t emasculated when she protects herself.

And then he calls her Sassenach again, but with affection and pride.

When the clansmen accost them, he tries to diffuse the situation until Claire is threatened. Then Rupert decides to end the conflict by bashing him on the head.

Claire gets another view of Jamie’s very lovely chest. Except this time, he isn’t in pain and exhausted. This time, he is very much in control of himself. If only there weren’t a bunch of half-drunk Scots in the room with them…especially when he says “Je Suit Prest.” And Claire might not know what he’s ready for, but we do.

Murtagh reveals the danger to Claire, and doesn’t pull his punches when she says it’s her fault.

Here Jamie shows his savvy and his ability to walk the knife-edge of clan politics. But do insert the deleted scene here. Because that shows Colum’s side, and his secret: he was afraid for Jamie, afraid that either Dougal or the clansmen would kill him, afraid that the best chance for the clan to stay together would die in front of him.

Claire and Jamie can’t seem to look at each other at the same time. They both want to see each other, to talk about what just happened, but the timing is wrong.

In contrast to Jamie and Colum’s relationship, the shinty match shows his relationship with Dougal: antagonistic, bloody, underhanded, and with Jamie ultimately proving himself against his uncle. Claire doesn’t seem to understand the undercurrents, though, writing it off as testosterone and aggression.

 

Rent is up next. The deleted scene here with relevance to Jamie and Claire is after Dougal has humiliated Jamie for the Jacobite cause. They talk about kings and land, and Claire slips, referencing occupied France. Jamie ties it to another incident in France – the persecution of the Huguenots. Afterward, she tells him not to hit any more trees. Tree-hitting will become something of a Fraser tradition.

In the episode proper, I have to digress a moment and mention Ned Gowan. He plays a minor but important role in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, being the one who writes their marriage contract, the one who delays the court to save Claire’s life at the witch trial, and the one who will eventually help them settle the divorce with Laoghaire.

Also, there is a nice reference to not accepting live pigs, and later Ned’s sorrowful look when one is presented for rent. Does anyone else think of the white sow? Diana just posted a snippet from book nine with Claire and the white sow, so she’s on my mind at the moment.

Getting back to Jamie and Claire, we see him trying to take her part with the clansmen on the road, but his somewhat brutal honesty strikes her hard. She doesn’t want to accept what he says is true.

When Claire confronts Dougal after the wool-waulking, Jamie watches but does not interfere. After all, he understands the predicament Claire has put Dougal in. If she’d brought the matter to him quietly, it could have been handled just as quietly. Dougal isn’t a monster, and he does care about the people.

But when the Englishman interferes, Jamie goes for his sword to protect Claire despite the price on his head. He will always protect her, no matter the personal cost.

Claire wants to protect him, too, when his scars are revealed. She knows exactly what that means to him, and how much it hurt him. She’s so angry at Dougal, and hurts so much for Jamie when he tries to take what dignity he has left and mend his own shirt.

When Claire refuses the chicken and calls the men thieves, Jamie again tries to defuse the trouble she’s made. She’s too upset and too snippy to accept the olive branch he tries to offer, or the words of advice he gives. She immediately sticks her nose in again. This time, Ned tries to deflect her, and Dougal ignores her. Then she learns the truth, and that changes how she views all of them, even Jamie.

With her anger at Dougal lessened, she is able to again focus on Jamie, and on the humiliation he must face at his uncle’s order. She sympathizes with him over the fire, and they share an understanding glance. They are connected, by the understanding that Dougal can command them both, and by many other things.

But after seeing the dead men, Dougal has no need of showing Jamie’s back. In the aftermath, everyone gets very drunk, and Jamie thinks to protect Claire’s door. She has another glimpse of the protective nature of Jamie Fraser. He’ll even protect her reputation, even if he would like very much to come into the room. Even if the touch of their hands makes both of them want. He’ll be right there, and she’ll be thinking of him just outside her door.

Their shared smile in the morning is sweet. When Claire makes the joke about Rupert’s left hand and Jamie comes around the horse with a goofy grin on his face, barely concealed, you know that they belong together. Everyone else waits for Rupert to react before laughing, but Jamie’s amusement doesn’t wait for permission. He’s entranced with her, and it shows.

Jamie is largely a flashback character in The Garrison Commander, and what comes out of those flashbacks is more sympathy and understanding on Claire’s part. She comprehends, now, that it is more than the comparatively light-hearted story he told her at Castle Leoch. Randall is a sadist, and he has made Jamie into a paragon of pain. Part of the reason she accepts the marriage is because of what she learned about the flogging. The deleted scene gives some of her other reasons. It also underscores the difficulty she is having, imagining herself married to another when she very much still loves her husband.

The little bit of Jamie we get in this episode is excellent, though. Claire tries to find ways around the marriage, asking him about other sweethearts. She obviously means Laoghaire, but Jamie pushes that aside, saying he isn’t the best prospect as a husband for one of those girls. Then he wins at relationships, by giving Claire the option of when they’ll consummate the marriage – whenever suits you.

Then we finally come to one of the iconic scenes in the book, where Claire asks if he minds that she isn’t a virgin, and he reveals that he is. “I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.” She looks so shocked, and a little horrified. So many things are going through her head, from despair, to fear, to betrayal, to desire. Taking a big swig of whiskey seems like a fair response.

And then, of course, we come to the wedding. Let me just say that every single one of the deleted scenes should have been in the episode. The expanded scene in the stables between Dougal, Murtagh, Ned, and Jamie gives so much more character development than the little bit we get in the episode. The scene feels like it was pulled straight from the pages of The Exile, the graphic novel from Jamie’s perspective that covers the timespan of Outlander through Claire’s decision not to go back through the stones.

We see Jamie standing up to both Murtagh and Dougal, and claiming Claire as his own, even if it suits Dougal’s purposes to do it.

The extended scene where Jamie talks about his family is also lovely. I understand why they trimmed it down, but there’s so much of Jamie in this scene, and even Claire opens up a little about her past. The story of Jamie’s parents is very important to understanding Murtagh, and the messed up MacKenzie family relationships.

The extended scene of the clansmen teasing is just pure fun, but the full wedding is so much stronger than the short bit we get in the episode. It probably would have dragged a little, but man, is it wonderful to see everyone’s reactions, especially Claire’s as she has to promise things she has no intention of keeping.

This version truly drives home all of the disparate things that they are thinking and feeling, and it moves more naturally into the handfasting and the blood oath.

OH MY GOD, THE SECRETS BUT NOT LIES SCENE. They should NOT have cut this from the episode. I can see that they were trying several ways of keeping things in, and finally went with a more streamlined version, but there has to have been a way to keep that in. It is a bedrock principle of their marriage from that point all the way until Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. The show sort-of half-asses it later, after the witch trial, when Jamie asks her to only tell him the truth, but it is nowhere near the same thing. In my headcanon, this scene totally happened, and the later scene is just a callback to it.

Moving on to the episode proper. In terms of Jamie and Claire’s relationship, this is obviously the first major push forward, from friends who have the hots for each other (and have each other’s backs), to lovers, and eventually to a true marriage of hearts and minds.

Because this episode is told through fractured storytelling, I’m not going to follow their narrative, but rather a chronological one, since that makes more sense from the perspective of relationship analysis. The viewer may see things out of order, but I’m going to track it the way Jamie and Claire experienced it.

The first thing that happens is that Jamie stands up for Claire, and for his own desires, in the face of Murtagh, Dougal, and Ned (although Ned isn’t really an antagonist). He demands that Claire have a dress, a church, and a ring. At the same time, Claire has drunk herself into a stupor. To say she is reluctant about this marriage is a massive understatement.

Jamie and Claire’s positions couldn’t be more opposed than at the beginning of the episode. He very much wants to marry Claire, to protect her and to be with her. He knows she isn’t happy, but he wants to make the best of things. Claire does not want to marry. She already has a husband, and is inconveniently attracted to the man she’ll now be forced to wed. But once they’ve begun, she also tries to make the best of things.

When she and Jamie see each other in their finery, their reactions exemplify those feelings. Jamie is awed and humbled by his new bride, and wants to make her happy. Claire is aroused by the sight of her new husband, and ashamed of what she has agreed to do. But she moves forward with purpose, taking off Frank’s ring, and making herself promise things that she will actively attempt to escape from in the next episode.

The blood vow takes Claire by surprise, but Jamie means every single word.

Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone.

I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.

I give ye my Spirit, ‘til our Life shall be Done. *

Later, in their bedchamber, Claire tries to get drunk so she can face the consummation that Dougal has warned them must take place. But when it almost happens – when Jamie starts to kiss her – she flinches and takes refuge in conversation. This is where they have been comfortable in the past. They’ve always found it easy to talk to each other. And so it goes here. The conversation leads to disrobing, which leads to kisses, and eventually to Jamie’s first experience with sex. But although Jamie is blissed out, after (and hoping that Claire is, too), Claire is devastated. As I said in my first blog about this episode, she thought she could just get really drunk and endure the sex. But what happened is that she was aroused, and wanted him, and actually enjoyed having him inside of her. She’s betrayed her husband truly, now. The vows she could break, and she could justify the necessity of the marriage, but enjoying the sex? That does not compute in Claire’s loyalty-driven soul.

So she runs. And ends up being humiliated by the rowdy highlanders. Under normal circumstances, I think Claire could have given as good as she got against them, but she’s feeling vulnerable, and their jests press right against that vulnerability. Jamie takes charge, defusing the situation, and when they come back together, they’re able to talk again. They each open up more, and then they both bare their flesh along with themselves. This time, Claire gives herself to the experience, and they both achieve physical release.

After Claire’s encounter with Dougal, she’s again unsure of herself and her place here, in this time. But Jamie assures her that she belongs, that she has a place with him. Wearing his tartan is symbolic that she’s part of his clan, now. Jamie giving her his mother’s pearls is a statement that she’s connected to him and his family. And then they truly make love, both of them wanting and open and vulnerable, sharing this experience as two equals, together.

Which is why, when Claire finds her gold wedding ring in the morning, she’s devastated anew.

And that is where I will leave this post for now! The new season starts on Saturday, but if you have the Starz app, you can watch the season two premiere today!! (Thursday April 7th). I am about to watch it, but I will hold my blog post until Saturday.

*From Outlander, chapter 14, “A Marriage Takes Place,” by Diana Gabaldon

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 114 – The Search

I have been putting off writing this blog post because I don’t know how to write it without being a giant Negative Nancy. The thing is, despite how disappointed I was with how the show handled the strapping, there’s still a lot to like in “The Reckoning.” But in “The Search,” there are only a handful of scenes that I actually like. Most of the episode feels contrived. No, worse. It makes no sense in the world that they’ve created. At least in the book, they do their little song-and-dance routine as a way to make a little coin and get attention to ask questions. The fact that Jamie will hear about Claire as a healer is a bonus – it might draw him to them – but it isn’t their entire plan. Plus, the whole thing takes up a few pages at most.

So…I don’t know how to be objective, and I don’t want to write a rant. But I do want to move on to the last two episodes, because they are gut-wrenching and painful and desperately beautiful. That means I’m going to focus only on the parts of the episode about which I have nice things to say.

First- the title card is…odd? I don’t hate it, but it does seem very on-the-nose.

Ian’s struggle strikes deep into my heart. How it hurts him to feel useless. Also, Jenny Fraser Murray is a BAM (Bad-Ass-Mother). While Claire is lost in voice-over, Jenny is like, “Get your ass in gear, Sassenach.” But it does bother me, thinking of what’s going on under her skirts since she just gave birth. Not to be too graphic, but things still…leak for a while. I’m seriously more bothered by that than the crow eating out the dead dude’s eye.

I LOVE that they put a lactating mother on screen. I approve of all child-feeding choices – every woman has to make the decision that best suits her life and her child – but we need to do more to normalize breastfeeding. Not because everyone should or must do it, but because it is a totally natural thing and we shouldn’t be afraid or shamed by women who do it.

  • Jenny – “He’s not daft enough to pick a fight with ten armed soldiers.”
  • Claire- Raises eyebrow
  • Jenny – Nods- yeah, you’re right

Jenny and Claire with the redcoat is brutal and terrifying, and is the best sort of scene to shove Jenny’s deep 18th-century practicality up against Claire’s 20th-century optimism. I wish they hadn’t taken the choice away from them by giving it to Murtagh, though. That was a misstep, in my opinion. Claire needed to choose, and we needed to see it. Jenny is right. Love forces a person to choose, and it isn’t quite enough to Claire to say she would have done it.

The girls reminiscing about their unusual childhoods is lovely. But UGH to more VO the next morning. We understand that she needs to get back to the baby. The milk-expressing scene should have done it. And then, their parting strikes home how different things are between them from when they first met.

And now we enter my least favorite part of the episode. Which is sad, because I love Murtagh, and I want to love Claire and Murtagh traveling in the lovely wilds of Scotland. Sadly, although it starts out well with her healing people and using her strengths at reading people, Murtagh’s sword-dancing is supposed to be quite good, and the Scots revered a good sword dancer. The show manufactures some very unlikely conflict, and then the episode takes a sharp left turn through the pumpkin patch to crazy town.

So I’ll pick up again with Claire and Murtagh in the cave by the sea. Damn, but I love watching Murtagh reminisce about Ellen, and then to bend enough to embrace Claire back and comfort her? It makes me cry. I hope we eventually get a book, or at least a short story, of Brian and Ellen.

Skipping over the remnants of the gypsy plot…

We find poor Claire, getting Dougal when she wanted Jamie. And what a right bastard he is about it, too. Fortunately, Claire knows exactly how to handle assholes. Although I chuckle on the “we won’t talk about Geillis today” line. I still wonder if they’ll put her into season two, other than as Gillian Edgars.

I like that they gave Willie the first vote to help Jamie when Claire goes to speak to Dougal’s men. It brings the character to a nice arc by the end of the season, from the raw lad who started on a journey in Rent to a man who can stand up for what he believes in, even when the path is hard.

And then we enter into darkness.

Episode 113 – The Watch

The title card to this episode is one of the best in the season so far. It’s a bit of a fake-out, in that, even though you’ve just seen all of the “previously on Outlander” nonsense reminding us just who and what the watch are in Scotland at this time, you have to ask yourself, “do they actually mean a timepiece?”

The great thing is, once you get to the end of the episode, you realize they meant both. And not in some forced way, but in a beautifully metaphoric way, that rises organically out of the episode. Fantastic. Despite being almost entirely contrived from whole cloth, and having very little to do with the book, this is one of my favorite episodes of the back half of the season.

Alastair over at Storywonk said that the story structure itself in this episode is like the precision cogs in a clock, so there’s another meaning there, too.

Because the only thing that meshes this story with the books is Jenny giving birth and Jamie being captured, I won’t have too much to say about book vs. show. So I’ll just focus on the things I liked about the episode.

There’s so much wonderful tension in this story. It’s spun throughout the episode and builds, with rises and falls. For example, what you think is a moment of conviviality, while they are sharing war stories at dinner, is slashed almost immediately with suspicion and fear.

The casting is fantastic, especially for Taran MacQuarrie. The other members of the watch are slimy and violent enough to be forbidding, but he’s the standout. I loved watching Jamie break in the stable yard and beat the tar out of the three watchmen. Taran’s respect for him even while he’s still wary is another hallmark of the Taran/Jamie relationship.

When Horrocks showed back up, the way they handled him in the earlier episodes made more sense. He’s probably my least favorite thing about the episode, though. The best is contrasting Jenny’s labor and fight to bring wee Maggie into the world with the raid/ambush.

I can’t decide if I like Jenny’s description of pregnancy being moved to her labor, because instead of her weaving a spell with her words, she’s talking through her pain. It still works, but differently. (Note- shouldn’t her water break after a while of contractions? I know not all labors are the same, but the water breaking usually happens closer to “go time” – not two days earlier).

Jamie and Ian are so wonderful together. They are so much like brothers. I could watch an entire episode of Jamie and Ian.

Claire’s worries that she’s barren are so heart-wrenching. And Jamie takes it hard, but tries to reassure her. This is where we break from the Jamie who strapped his wife to the Jamie who says he can’t bear her pain, even in a “good cause” like pregnancy. I just wish they’d have done things differently in The Reckoning.

Ian’s choice to kill Horrocks is shocking, but totally understandable. Jamie’s way of calming Ian, and bringing him back from the edge of disbelief and despair is lovely.

I like how MacQuarrie pays them back for the hay, which brings him back to the “likable” side of the tension oscillation. But then he comes right out and asks Jamie why they killed Horrocks, and we’re back on the fear side. Jamie punctures the tension, taking the blame for Horrocks’s death, and gaining Taran’s respect. But also an obligation, which he fulfills by agreeing to accompany them on the raid.

I didn’t like the frozen moment when she said goodbye to Frank for the last time, but this one felt more natural. There’s an understanding that what Jamie’s going to do is dangerous, and she’s worried, but loves him. She didn’t think that she would never see Frank again, but it’s absolutely possible that Jamie wouldn’t come back, even without treachery.

Taran’s reasons for his life choices are interesting, and it’s clear that Jamie’s tempted. It’s nice that they finally come to a place of rapprochement right before everything goes to hell.

The fake-out for Jenny’s death (lying there in her bloody shift) was not fun, but I understood that it was also standing in for us not seeing the blood being shed in the gully.

Ugh. Claire VO again. Go away! Her conversation with Jenny more than accounts for her feelings. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with them. Really, this moment between them is far and away better than some stilted exposition. I love that Jenny gives Claire the boar tusks as a way of finally accepting her as a sister and friend.

The boar tusk bracelets themselves are…problematic? Giant, awkward, and Claire clearly is thinking: WTF?? They can’t seem to get the jewelry right in this show. Costumes are amazing, but so far, they’ve been missing on all three pieces of symbolic, important accessories: Claire’s wedding ring from Jamie, Ellen’s necklace, and Ellen’s bracelets. And don’t get me wrong- I’ve softened a bit on the wedding ring. But I’m still going to miss having the engraved message for Claire to discover in the 1960s. And much further down the road, I don’t see how Brianna will be able to whip out Ellen’s necklace at Lallybroch as proof that she is Jamie and Claire’s daughter. The boar tusk bracelets have already played out in 114, The Search, so they aren’t as big of a deal, but they looked awkward the whole time.

Claire staring at the road when Ian comes back without Jamie just tears your heart out. That is the way to end an episode. No false conflict, nothing that will be easily resolved in a moment, but a world-shifting event that is going to change everything going forward.

Unfortunately, the next episode is a hot mess. It’s about 25% amazing, and 75% awful. Not uncomfortable-like-The-Reckoning-awful, just ill-conceived nonsense. It’s one of the reasons I put off coming back to blogging about this show, because I knew I was going to have to find something nice to say while hating every moment of the Claire and Murtagh show. But more on that next time.

Episode 112 – Lallybroch

I’m finally getting back to blogging. I had a rough 2015. But I recently quit my day job, and have been freelance writing and doing some other things from home, so I have a little more time to blog again. I’m excited to finish going through the first season, and then I’m going to re-read the books in preparation for Season Two!

~*~

Before I say anything else, I must say that I called it on the episode title. I also was pretty close on my plot-point breakdown when I speculated on the second half of the season. They made some changes that I couldn’t have foreseen, but the rest was pretty close.

The scenery at the start of the episode was beyond gorgeous. I need to go to Scotland. And then live there for, like, ever.

But getting to the actual episode… Jenny is great. I know she got a lot of shit around the internet for being a bitch/a shrew/whatever, but I love her to death. I actually think that this first scene should have been more loud and rowdy between Jamie and Jenny. They were almost too calm. But I suppose we need to understand what they’re saying, so that’s life on TV.

Jenny’s confession was odd, but not for the reasons that the internet exploded. I wasn’t bothered by the “cock controversy.” I didn’t think it was entirely necessary, but it didn’t freak me out, or disgust me, or anything. What I found odd was that she seemed so calm about it. I realize it has been four years, and she wasn’t penetrated in the legal sense of rape, but she was violated and it was creepy and awful. I’ve known survivors who get completely emotionless when recounting their stories, but she wasn’t like that, either. Maybe she was underplaying it so that Jamie wouldn’t get even more upset? I suppose she could also have decided to focus on the outcome – that she was able to stop him – rather than the particulars of what happened.

After that, it bothers me that they’ve turned what was a sub-textual “feeling out” between Claire and Jenny into outright, open hostility, at least on Jenny’s part, hence the internet labeling her a bitch. Not that I’m saying they should be instant besties, but her calling Claire a trollop is not in the spirit of Highland hospitality. Jenny is headstrong, opinionated, and stubborn, but she’s also a lady. She might not like her brother’s new wife, but she’d be cold and formal about it with a stranger, which is what Claire is to her at this point.

Still, I get what the show is doing. They want to ramp up the tension, and subtext is hard to convey onscreen. That’s why they have Jamie pull Claire aside for the “come-to-Jesus” talk about being in the past. He said something similar to her when they were on the road with the Mackenzies in “Rent.” Still, it crosses a different line than in the previous episode. I hope this doesn’t continue too much. It’s one thing to warn Claire about the differences between their times. It’s another to bridle her spirit. BookJamie may constantly worry about the 20th century mannerisms and beliefs of his wife, but he never tries to break her of those ways. Not even when they cause him trouble (over and over and over again).

The discussion of Brian Fraser is transplanted from other places in the book, but it makes sense here, during their first moments in the Laird’s room. And adding on Randall’s original proposition before the second flogging also works. The sword bit didn’t entirely fit. I feel like it needs to have more symbolic weight than what it was given in the episode. They were trying to make us feel a sense of an object passed down over generations, father-to-son, but knowing what we do about Brian’s family history, that doesn’t make sense.

I miss the loss of Alex MacGregor’s Bible. I understand that there isn’t room for it in the show, but it explains the “Alex” reference when BJR is with Jamie. Some people speculate that BJR is talking about his brother there, but I think it’s a kind of mix for him, between the only person in the world who actually loves him (his brother), the one he had who got away (Alex MacGregor, by suicide), and the one who has finally succumbed.

Also, the show totally missed an opportunity to have Sam say the Pontius Pilate line from the book: “Oddly enough, it was some comfort. Our Lord had to put up wi’ being scourged too; and I could reflect that at least I wasna going to be hauled out and crucified afterwards. On the other hand,” he said judiciously, “Our Lord wasna forced to listen to indecent proposals from Pontius Pilate, either.”*

I do like the dinner scene with the in-laws. The tension here is good, and more like what was in the book. It’s definitely on the surface rather than just beneath, but again, subtext doesn’t work as well on screen. I think we’re astute enough viewers to figure it out, but whatever. And there’s a nice reference to the tenants, and Jenny’s belief that no one would betray Jamie is a foreshadowing because of course that turns out to be false. Although Jamie rather brings it on himself.

Speaking of, it’s a little sad that wee Rabbie MacNab in the books ends up as a laborer, married to a whorehouse Madam. His playmates Jamie and Fergus have more illustrious futures.

Quarter day is lovely. I will admit that I missed the vase the first time, probably because I’d been watching the episodes online late at night and was very tired (hence why I stopped blogging about them for so long- it was all I could do just to experience them as a casual viewer). But everyone online talked about it, so I noticed it the next time. Claire gets her vase – she only had to travel 200 years to find it.

Jamie’s largesse seems a little more like drunken misunderstanding of the realities of life at Lallybroch. I know it’s supposed to read that way, but it makes me cringe because Jamie wouldn’t do that. He has a very keen understanding of politics, money, taxes, and such from living with the Mackenzies. It’s also a problem I’ve always had with his handling of MacNab in the book. At least in this version, he’s so stinking drunk when he does it that he had something of an excuse for his ineptitude.

Claire dealing with DrunkJamie is hilarious, though. A nice way to put in some comedy while dropping the plot point about Ronnie MacNab. The elephant bit is the best. Where would she have ridden an elephant, though? Did Uncle Lamb take her to India? Southeast Asia?

HungoverJamie is also amusing. And Jenny is transcendent. It’s nice that the mill is introduced through conflict rather than just being “one of those things” like it is in the book. Although I miss Ian talking about how he can’t swim and just goes around in circles like a doodlebug.

I love that it’s Jenny with Claire at the mill. And it’s nice to see the British patrol actually helping and being useful. That was nice in the books, too. They were a bit condescending, but I like it when the enemy isn’t faceless and entirely evil. From my understanding of history, it is actually more likely that they would have been Scottish, too- mostly lowlanders, but with some highlanders sprinkled in. Too bad we don’t get much of that in the show. There’s more of that in the later books, in America.

NakedJamie is…well, you all have eyes. Sam Heughan is a very fine specimen of a man.

I love, love, love, the way Jenny stops and stares at Jamie’s back. It calls back to what he said to Claire at Leoch, about the reason he doesn’t like people to see his scars. And that continues through the books, so I assume it will follow in the show, too. There’s a lovely scene at one point with him and Roger, where he takes off his shirt, and Roger is so pleased to be one of the few who Jamie can allow to see the wounds. But I think Jamie would have gone his entire life without letting Jenny see them, if he could have. Of course, in the book, she demands to see them, but I like this way, too. Her anguish and love is so clear that it makes my heart ache for them.

Ian telling the story of Jenny’s birds and their marriage is so sweet. I love Ian. I can’t wait until we meet Young Ian in the show. He’s one of my favorite characters. And “Old” Ian’s advise about stubborn, mulish Frasers – kick them harder – is solid.

Claire is a BAMF. But she gets straight to the heart of the problem in this episode, and it’s brilliant. It makes all of Jamie’s poor decisions crystallize and actually make sense. Although I’m unhappy that the show decided to go in this direction (BookJamie has his flaws, but this misunderstanding of people isn’t one of them), I’m ok with how they pulled it off in the end.

Jamie and Jenny at the cemetery is the best part of this episode. I wish this bit was in Gaelic, but I can see not making the actors do the scene in what (to them) is a foreign tongue. This is such an honest and deep moment, and a true reconciliation between the siblings. Jenny’s line is one of my favorites: “If your life was a suitable exchange for my honor, tell me why my honor was not a suitable exchange for your life?” So perfectly Jenny. And Laura Donnelly’s delivery is fantastic. She is going to be amazing later, too.

Claire’s love for Lallybroch is so poignant and strong. Her sense of home, of belonging, of finally finding her place, is palpable. And Jamie saying I love you…and Claire saying it back…sigh.

Cliffhangers are shit, though. The watch holding a gun to Jamie’s head is a terrible way to end an episode. Especially when it turns out to be 100% nothing in the first scene of the next episode. Seriously, people. We don’t need to be led by the nose like a cow through the season. We’re going to keep watching. I’d have been happy to leave off with Claire and Jamie finally confessing their love and going to bed.

Now, the end of the next episode, though? That is where it’s at. Not a cliffhanger, but, as they say over at Storywonk, a game changer. The world is different at the end of episode 113. And I’ll be blogging about it soon…

 

*Outlander, Chapter 22: Reckonings – Page 414

Episode 107 – The Wedding

I was going to wait and try to get blogs up for all of the existing episodes before doing this one, but I can’t wait. I want to talk about this now!

Let me start by saying that I loved the episode, and thought that the storytelling/flashback structure was inspired. I also think some of the small changes were brilliant. So when I start to harp on other changes (or, in most cases, omissions), know that I still adored the episode. But I actually enjoy picking these things apart, making conjectures on why the writers made certain choices, and trying to figure out how the show will get back to the main story/character points (or if it will at all).

So, let’s dive in.

The first gigantic change was moving Claire and Frank’s wedding from Scotland to London, and making it a legal, but not religious, union. Now, neither BookClaire nor BookFrank are particularly religious. But they are both nominally Catholic and they will eventually send Bree to a Catholic school, so I was a little surprised at the change this made to Frank’s character as I perceive him in the book. I see him as being very…traditional. He is a historian, after all, and things like ceremony are important to him. So even though I can see him as besotted with Claire and wanting to get married in a hurry, I also think he would have wanted a traditional church wedding. Which is what happened in the book, of course, and the church in the book is the SAME CHURCH where Claire marries Jamie.

Now I am wondering if TVClaire and TVFrank even went to Scotland on their first honeymoon. Later in the books, Roger gives Bree pictures of the wedding reception (held at the Manse- Reverend Wakefield’s house where Roger grew up) and it’s a meaningful moment for her to see them, so in love and happy, before war and time travel and Jamie Fraser. Did that happen in the show’s backstory?

But I’ve already said in my episode 101 analysis that Claire and Frank (book AND show) weren’t heading down the road to happiness. The road to acceptance and “a measure of contentment,” sure. But not…bliss. Not home. There’s a line from one of the books about not being born the right person for another. It is one of the more eloquent ways I’ve heard unrequited love expressed. I believe it is said either by or in reference to Lord John, but it resonates with Claire because of her experiences with Frank.

TVFrank, however, is more impetuous and romantic than BookFrank, and it is clear that we, as viewers, are given this moment in order to make Frank a more viable choice for Claire and so that his romantic spontaneity casts a shadow over the whole episode. Even though it is a pretty clear undercurrent in the first episode that their individual war experiences killed much of Claire and Frank’s initial romance, we are meant to feel torn, as Claire does, between this man she loved and chose to marry, and Jamie, whom she does not love and was forced to marry. But despite the lack of choice, she finds herself willing and wanting by the end of the night, and absolutely shattered at how she responded to Jamie when she finds Frank’s ring in the morning.

A few other reviewers have said that they didn’t see Frank’s spontaneity as romantic at all. They saw it as a kind of control- I want you as my wife, right now, even before you meet my family. As an exclusion – no, I don’t want a big church wedding with family and friends there. And, most importantly, as a subjugation – you’ll be Mrs. Frank Randall. That is in contrast to the way Jamie perceives things. He offers Claire his family, and clan, and himself. He makes sure she has a dress and a ring and a church. Now, the church part was partially just Jamie. We all know the lengths he will go to to ensure that proper sacraments are upheld (see: Marsali and Fergus, the grandchildren’s baptism, etc.) But most of it was him trying to make things more tolerable for Claire. And, most importantly, he calls her “Claire Fraser.” He has given her the protection of his name, but allows her to keep her own.

But I think both readings of the situation are correct. That’s right, I said both. At the same time. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and it’s one of the cool things about being human.

By the way- several people have commented in outrage that TVClaire took off Frank’s ring. I agree, BookClaire wouldn’t have done that (and didn’t). But TVClaire did, and the payoff was fantastic. I feel that the action was symbolic of something that BookClaire does when she goes to Jamie’s bed. She says “there really ought only be two people in a marriage bed,” and decides to stop thinking about Frank while she and Jamie are together. That was quite clear in the way Caitriona played the moment when she took off the ring- “If I’m going to do this, I won’t carry Frank with me into it.” I’m much happier to be shown that sentiment with a ring, rather than having TVClaire give another stilted VO about it. Also, it allows us to see the pain she feels when she realizes that she really did forget about Frank after a while, and was just existing and experiencing with Jamie. She’s going to carry the guilt of that for the rest of her life, FYI. Even after falling in love with Jamie, even after choosing him, and going back to him, she still feels guilty about Frank. We, as a television audience, needed to have a seminal, defining shot to capture the depth of her feelings in that moment. Claire staring at her two rings (I’ll get to the second ring change in a little bit) gives that to us.

There’s a hard cut from giddy Claire and Frank going into the registry office, to Jamie and Claire kissing at the end of their wedding ceremony, and then another hard cut to Claire, partially undressed, in the bridal chamber. This is the first hint at some very interesting structural choices that the writer/director/editor made. If you want a very astute, nuanced review of the structure of the episode, listen to The Scot and the Sassenach’s podcast for this episode. I don’t think I have anything to add that they didn’t already cover. Plus they’re smart, funny, and have a lot of other good insights into the show, so you should check them out.

To sum up, though: by moving the emotional reveal of the wedding ceremony to the end of the episode while keeping all of the storytelling contained within Jamie and Claire’s bridal chamber, you allow them to experience the day through each other’s eyes (or, really, Claire gets to see it through Jamie’s). That adds another layer of emotional discovery over the physical explorations and interaction. The revelation of Jamie’s conditions and the lengths he went to make Claire feel a little more comfortable in an untenable situation is what drives their second sexual encounter.

Speaking of the sexual encounters. I thought the changes to Jamie’s first time were inspired. In the book, it isn’t nearly so awkward, and while Claire doesn’t orgasm until the third time, she enjoys herself thoroughly and cuddles with Jamie after his first time. That’s OK in the book, but I thought the way they presented it in the show was more realistic. On the one hand, Jamie’s just gotten this advice that most women don’t like sex and he should try to get it over with quickly. And on the other, even though we didn’t get “Holy God,” we certainly saw him having a near-religious experience and not being able to control himself (he did, kindly, prop himself up on his elbows when Claire asked. But from experience, that tends to give a, um, deeper level of connection, which might have contributed to the brevity of the rest of the encounter).

Teh Awkward afterward is cute and very realistic. I loved how they lay, side-by-side, having just been about as intimately connected as it is possible to be, but worlds apart still. And Claire, bless her, tries to bridge that divide by asking him if it was like he thought it would be. I’m glad they kept the bit with “I didna ken you did it face to face.” I am also super happy that they kept the first time with their clothes still on, allowing them to peel away more and more layers (literal and figurative ones) as the night progresses.

For the literal peeling of layers, I loved the blocking in the scene where Jamie takes off Claire’s extensive undergarments, and the way he lost it and dragged Claire in for a kiss after she had her hands on him. I may have squee’d a little when he said, “I’m a virgin, not a monk. If I need guidance, I’ll ask.” Of course, he immediately needs guidance but doesn’t know enough to ask. The look on her face when he spun her around was priceless. It was like, “Um, what do you think you’re doing?” But, being the sexually competent and assertive woman that she is, she drags him around and down, pulling him in (literally and figuratively). It may have been a little awkward, but she obviously wanted him, and it isn’t until he asks her if she liked it, afterward, that we get the first brush with her crushing guilt.

I imagine that, thinking about the necessity of consummating the marriage, she assumed she’d just “lie still and think about getting back to the stones.” But she’s been a little (sometimes a lot) hot for Jamie for weeks now. And so far, it’s been a safe kind of attraction. Just that little frisson of awareness and desire, the kind that is exciting and sometimes leads to little fantasies and imaginings, but is never acted on.

It is never acted on because she’s married, and one of the defining characteristics of Claire is her loyalty (in a later book, Jamie tells her this is one of the things he loves most about her). So, to discover that she very much wanted this other man, that she actually enjoyed having his body inside of her rather than simply enduring it, is devastating to her. She immediately pulls away from Jamie, and resists touching him. This is another change from the books, but a very good one in my opinion. BookClaire makes the decision pretty much from the moment she enters the bridal chamber that she is going to try and build a wall in her mind between Frank and Jamie, and while she is with Jamie she will exist on one side of it (I’m making up this metaphor- it isn’t in the book). That is not to say that she doesn’t require a lot of liquid courage and conversational foreplay first (as she does in the show), but once she and Jamie take that final step and join their bodies together, she is with Jamie.

Another reason BookClaire is able to do that is because BookJamie flat out asks her about Frank. I think his intention is to sort of “lay Frank’s ghost” (since he thinks Frank is dead) and to acknowledge her grief and loyalty to her first husband. By getting that out in the open, Claire is able to separate the two and separate herself from a little of her guilt.

But they don’t have time, in a 50-ish minute episode, to layer in all of the details from a very lengthy passage in the book. Besides, having Claire feel so guilty about things adds more conflict. So, choices. It will be important for them to talk about Frank eventually, but I think it would be most efficient to talk about him after Cranesmuir, when Claire reveals the truth about the time travel and Jamie realizes Frank isn’t dead; he’s just not alive…yet.

Now we get to what I feel is the “worst” omission of the episode: they didn’t promise each other honesty. Diana Gabaldon (guardedly) reassured fans on her Facebook page that many things have been shifted around and may appear in other episodes, but if the show never includes the honesty conversation, I think the fans will be justified in their outrage. It is one of the single most iconic moments in Jamie and Claire’s relationship, and it echoes down even to the end of MOBY. I’m already a little upset that it didn’t happen in this episode, because from my perspective it is part of the foundation laid the night they are first together. All they have when they marry is respect, then they promise honesty, and after that they discover passion. Those are the three things upon which they build everything else. Respect, honesty, and passion. To have one of those three things missing is…wrong. In my opinion.

This production hasn’t made many missteps, though, so I am fairly confident that the honesty conversation will come in later. If I were making these decisions (and knew the promise had to be cut from The Wedding for time or pacing/structure reasons) I would move it to the fight at Leoch. Sam Heughan already “spoiled” in an interview that they will have at least something like what happened in the books at that point. He called it a “breakup” and it makes me wonder just how far/bad things will get between them in the show before they come back together in violent, consuming sex. I’m also wondering what they’ll fight about. Obviously Laoghaire will be part of it, but I’m hoping TVJamie still gets TVClaire the “right” ring…more on that in a bit.

I’d put the conversation there, probably right before the sex. In the book, they do calm down a little bit before, even though Jamie warns her that he can’t be gentle and demands her surrender (and gives her his) once they actually go to bed. It makes sense, after having this terrible fight that comes about because they’ve been making assumptions about each other, that Jamie would ask for (maybe demand?) honesty.

Another possible ramification: if they don’t promise each other honesty before the witch trial, does that complicate Claire’s confession? Not that Jamie doesn’t trust Claire, but it is an awful lot to accept if you haven’t sworn to always tell each other the truth. And even then, although he believes that she thinks she’s telling the truth, he doesn’t believe that it’s completely true until he sees it for himself. Maybe the scene would play the same way no matter what, but I think the confession is stronger with the weight of the vow of honesty (similar to Claire telling Father Anselm under the seal of confession).

Now…about the ring. On the one hand, it was necessary to have that visual I talked about earlier (Claire staring at her hands and her two rings). And it’s a very intentional change; using the barrel of a particular key (which everyone is assuming is the key to Lallybroch) is certainly not a random choice. On the other hand, Jamie’s silver ring is extremely iconic in the series. It is referenced many, many times, and plays a pivotal role in Dragonfly when BookClaire and Roger discover what is inscribed inside.

There are a couple of directions (I think) the show can go at this point.

One: they stick with the key ring and that’s that. I will be disappointed and a tiny bit upset if that is the case. Of course, it is possible that they are also going to cut everything with Hugh Munro, maybe even everything with Horrocks. Although we have to find out somehow who really killed the person Jamie’s accused of murdering, so if they do cut Hugh/Horrocks, I will be interested to see what direction they go, instead. And very disappointed to not have the line of Catullus from Hugh’s note.

A way to “save” this option would be to develop the key ring into something with larger significance, and make it a point of conflict sometime between Jamie and Claire. I’d just have to live without “Da Mi Basia Mille…”

Two: they keep the meeting with Hugh, and Jamie still goes off to buy her a permanent ring once they get to Leoch. It is true that iron is not the best material for a ring in the long term. The oil from her skin would do a little to protect it, but it’s still going to rust. I know that it is semi period-appropriate to have iron jewelry, but Jamie’s not a peasant. There’s a reason BookJamie asks for his portion of the MacKenzie rents to buy a silver ring- he wants his wife to have the best that he can provide.

I also wonder if Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire, misunderstanding about Jamie’s portion of the rents, and attempt to maintain some kind of emotional distance between them will be “enough conflict” for the show. But really, all of those issues are just preamble to what I feel is the heart of that fight scene: when Claire accepts Jamie’s ring. That is why the ring is important. And that is why I am a little worried about what will happen if the ring is cut.

It’s such a pivotal moment in the book. She doesn’t try to run anymore, after that, even though she still thinks about it. But Craigh na Dun and 1945 has become more and more unreal, and Jamie more and more real to her by that point.

Now TVClaire has already accepted TVJamie’s ring, in a way that held much less significance. Still, a temporary iron ring is easy to remove. A purposeful, beautiful silver ring (even if she isn’t aware of the phrase inscribed inside) is different. BookJamie rushes off to buy it, even while exhausted and dirty, and he offers it to her along with a choice: you can reject the ring, stay here in Leoch, keep the protection of my name, and live apart, or you can accept it and choose to be mine…and for me to be yours.

BookClaire takes the ring. It’s…important. And the wedding is too early for her to be making that choice. Maybe the production team figures that she makes the same choice on Craigh na Dun, and it would be redundant to show the same thing twice. But I’d argue that she makes quite a different choice there at the stones, between two loves that she has already accepted. The choice to take Jamie’s ring is the choice to acknowledge the feelings growing in her, the recognition that Jamie already holds part of her soul. She just isn’t sure she’s happy about it. When they make love, she feels both rings scrape against the stone wall like shackles and talks about divided love. She won’t admit out loud that she loves Jamie until the thieves’ hole in Crainesmuir, and won’t say it to him until Lallybroch, but this is where it began.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be talking about this a lot more around episode 9 or 10.

EDIT #1- I just saw a picture from next week’s episode (108-Both Sides Now) of someone who is pretty obviously meant to be Hugh Munro. So there may yet be hope for Claire’s silver ring!

EDIT #2 – Several astute viewers have noted that, in behind-the-scenes pics from the filming of episodes 15 & 16, Caitriona is still wearing the key ring. BUT, apparently Ron Moore said in the 107 podcast (which I haven’t listened to yet- I like to listen and watch the episode at the same time, like DVD commentary, and I haven’t had a chance to do that this week) that Jamie will manage to get it engraved.

And really, the engraving is the important part to me. Well, and the fact that it is the impetus for and resolution to their fight upon the return to Castle Leoch. So, if he takes the ring away to have it engraved and she somehow misconstrues why he wants it, that could work. And if he takes it away, it could have the same implications when he offers it back- if you take this, it means you are mine…and I am yours. Then, as long as it ends up having Catullus inside for her to discover in season two, it’s all good.

(/end edits)

I like that the sex scenes build and grow in this episode. We start with a frantic, virgin fumbling. Claire’s having a good time, but poor Jamie lasts about as long as you’d expect a guy to last his first time. Then she has major guilt over feeling pleasure at all, and it takes Jamie opening up, telling her stories, and proving that he has her best interests at heart before she gives in to the desire she’s feeling and they peel away (again, literally and figuratively) another layer and have sex. Claire orgasms, and we have the sweetly solicitous moment when Jamie realizes Claire’s cry isn’t pain, but pleasure. “I didn’t know women could do that!” So Claire reciprocates, while showing him a little pain can be good, too.

Then comes the rather odd interaction with Dougal. I’m not sure what to think about this. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t married in the show. If he were, Claire wouldn’t have even considered him as an option in 106 (when he tells her the now-famous line, “As much as the thought of grinding your corn tickles me…” – total side rant: In Breath of Snow and Ashes, in the infamous cherry bounce scene, when drunkRoger comes on to Bree, he starts singing the folk song this line is drawn from. Apparently wanting to grind women’s corn runs in the family). And I do think he wants Claire, and if he didn’t think marrying her would mess up his chances of becoming Laird, he’d have jumped at the chance. So you could just read this as Dougal perving out now that Claire has shown she’s willing to go to bed with Jamie. It’s the madonna/whore dichotomy in action. Now that Claire has proven she’s a sexual being, that must mean that she’s available to anyone with a dick, right? (In case my sarcasm isn’t obviously dripping here, the answer is NO).

But, I also think this was a kind of test. In the books, Jamie says that Dougal pushed for quick consummation in part to make sure Claire was really willing to go that far to stay away from BJR. It was a final test of whether or not she was an English spy. So I think this is Dougal testing Claire’s loyalties again. He’d have been more than willing to take her up on it if she’d said yes, but I don’t think he expected her to. That comes out when Rupert references Jamie riding her; Dougal knows that she doesn’t want him, and it pisses him off that this is another place (like with the clan leadership) where someone is giving or thinking about giving Jamie what Dougal wants.

Jamie and Claire’s final sex scene in the show isn’t just sex. It’s making love. Jamie tells Claire that she is precious to him, and she can’t deny that he’s become important to her, too. He has been her friend, protector, confidante, and co-conspirator. Now he is her lover, and she plain wants him.

Although, the one jarring note in this otherwise beautiful scene is the pearl necklace. I am a little peeved that they do not look like scotch pearls. Freshwater pearls of the kind harvested from pearl mussels in Scotland are not perfect globes; they are irregularly-shaped and often not a true white. Also, Ellen’s pearls are meticulously described in the books; the ones TVJamie put around TVClaire’s neck looked more like costume flapper pearls than the distinctive necklace with pierced gold roundels and more pearls dangling from the gold links.

I know it seems like such a trivial thing, but there are several pivotal scenes where the distinctive nature of the pearls plays a part. The first is within Outlander and makes me wonder if they’ve somehow cut MacRannoch from the show. Why keep the pearls at all if not to help Claire gain the assistance of the man who gave them to Ellen MacKenzie? The second time is in Drums of Autumn, when Brianna slaps the pearls down in front of Laoghaire and the Murrays and stakes her claim as Jamie’s true daughter. Neither of those scenes works with a generic string of pearls.

Just saying.

EDIT #3: After listening to Ron Moore’s podcast, I’ve learned that Terry Dresbach wanted to make something more like what was in the book- she wanted a choker, with the dangling pearls. It was Ron and unspecified others who wanted the long rope-strand. And they wanted it for two reasons: one, so that Jamie could drape it over her head. That seems a silly reason, since it wouldn’t have been too hard to have him put it on her and then just cut away from him doing up the clasp (since that can be awkward). But the reason I can’t forgive is this one: they wanted the necklace to rest between Claire’s breasts. That is a Male Gaze reason, and it’s the first time we’ve really encountered that in this show. I’m…not happy about that. I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy. (/end edit)

Moving on, I adored the morning-after bit, and the easy intimacy implied. I especially liked Jamie going after food- Jamie’s voracious appetite is one of my favorites of his physical quirks. I am hoping we’ll get a flashback to the knife above the bed and his line, “there’s the two of us now,” at some point, though.

But really, what sold me on this episode is the image I talked about at the beginning of this blog: Claire staring at her two rings and obviously thinking, “what in God’s name have I done?”

It is a perfect place to end the episode, and leaves us with the knowledge that Claire is still feeling guilty and is going to try to get back to Frank the next chance she has. So much stronger than a VO telling us “I must get to the stones or die trying.”

What were your thoughts on the wedding? Do you disagree with me? Where do you think the changes and omissions might lead? Let me know in the comments!

Episode 101 – Sassenach

This is my first “official” blog in this series, so let me explain a bit about my process. First and foremost, this isn’t a recap. As a starting point, I’ll be going episode-by-episode, and so I will attempt to discuss things roughly chronologically, but I may veer off on tangents when subjects seem to lead that way. I will also freely and probably frequently reference any or all of the books. I will attempt to add some context to such spoilery references, just in case it’s been a while since you’ve read the source material, but sometimes I will forget.

During the hiatus, I plan to blog about the series as a whole. I’ll look at character arcs, major themes, and how well some of the conceits established (like the voice over and flashbacks) are working (or not working).

I’ll start my episode review with a positive thing. I adore the intro. Which is a good thing, because when I first tried to stream this episode (at midnight on the internet premiere) there were huge amounts of lag and I ended up looking at this still image for a very long time. The prologue text is also nice, and very close to the book. Bear McCreary’s music is fantastic. In truth, all of the music is great, from the 40s songs to the Clanadonia bagpipes during the first skirmish with the redcoats. But the mournful wail of the pipes over the image of the mountains and valley is gorgeous. I didn’t realize the first few times I watched it (damn you, buffering!), but it is raining in those shots! Such gorgeous and totally apropos Scottish landscape porn. God, I want to be there, even in the frigid cold and wet.

But then we get a voice over that I DON’T like. Once we shift to Claire looking in the shop window, it feels melodramatic and trite. The idea is taken from the book: BookClaire sees a set of 3 vases and thinks “I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to have a vase” and muses a bit about Uncle Lamb and potsherds. But for one thing, in the book she buys the vases. I’m OK with the choice not to buy them. It’s an interesting story change that I can get behind. The problem I’m having is the actual words used in the voice over. When she says, “I’d realized I’d never owned a vase,” I cringed. For one thing, I hate it when characters think/realize/feel/etc. in their own PoV. We get it. Just say, “I’d never owned a vase.” And since this is TV, the actor’s tone of voice will tell us that it’s a realization. Then she goes on to say, “and at that moment, I wanted nothing so much as to have a vase of my very own.” Ugh.

I should mention that this is not a criticism of Caitriona Balfe. She did a great job with the text that she was given. It’s a criticism of the writing. It’s heavy and overwrought. It is enough to say: “I’d never owned a vase – I’d never lived anywhere long enough to justify having one,” and then cut to the flashback.

Now, I’m not going to nag on every single voice over in this episode, or in future episodes. In most cases, I will suffice to say that they should be relegated to a special hell where they can languish in a conflagration. But one thing makes this example truly awful. When the scene switches back from the WWII flashback, Claire expresses the exact same sentiment, except this time, she NAILS IT. “I can still recall every detail of the day I saw the life I wanted sitting in a window.” Damn. Now that is a good voiceover text. It communicates her longing without using tired phrases like “I wanted one of my very own!”

Aside: Did anyone else think about Disney Princesses during this scene? It’s a well-known Disney trope that the princesses always have an “I want/wish” song early in the films. Belle wants “adventure in the great wide somewhere.” Ariel wants to be “part of that world.” Mulan wants to “not make a fool of me” and “keep [her] father standing tall.” Anna wants to build a snowman (which is a giant metaphor for spending time with her sister). And in all of those cases, the things they want end up getting them in huge trouble. Claire is no exception to this!

And what Claire wants, apparently, is a vase. Except what she really wants is HOME. That’s a huge theme that follows her throughout the book series, and is touched on in many of the other Point of View (PoV) characters’ storylines as well. What is home? Can home be, not a place, but a person? The answer to that one is pretty obvious, because Jamie and Claire have traveled from Scotland to Paris to the West Indies to North America, and as long as they’ve been together, they’ve been home. And when they were apart, they were untethered and alone.

So when the VO says, “Even now, after all the pain and death and heartbreak that followed, I would still make the same choice,” she isn’t talking about buying or not buying a vase. She’s talking about what the vase represents. She isn’t a vase person, anyway. “I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d bought that vase and made a home for it.” Note that they actually use the word HOME here. “Would that have changed things? Would I have been happy?” Honestly, no. The cracks in her marriage were already starting to show. The take-charge nurse, hardened by war, raised on archeological digs, was not meant to be an academic’s wife and host tea parties. There are a lot of references to the cracks in their marriage in the book that the writers cut (on purpose) in the show so that the audience will feel more for Frank and be rooting for her to get back to him. But even in the show, we feel the fundamental disconnect between them. He adores her, and she loves him, but they are very different people who, I think, would not have been happy even without Jamie’s (and the stone circle’s) interference. They may have found a measure of contentment, but it would not have been happiness for Claire. It would not have been HOME.

In my opinion, it isn’t so much that the vase is the life she wants. It’s that Claire wishes she wanted the life the vase represents. At this point in the story, she’s wishing it so hard that she refuses to see that she’s never going to mesh well with the quiet, bookish academic (side note: I’m sure Frank is besotted with Claire, but what in the hell made him think he could “tame” the wildcat archeologist’s niece?).

Still, she doesn’t buy the vase.

Oh, I almost forgot the WWII flashback. I love that we get to see the moment of marginalization when the “real” doctor pushes competent Nurse Claire aside to stitch up the soldier. From the perspective of having seen episode 106, I can see that they are following through with the idea that, to the English, she’s just an extra pair of hands to get out of the way once the “true professionals” show up.

Although, to be fair, someone posted elsewhere that chain of command is very important in the military and medical fields, and Claire at this point is just a nurse. She’s competent, but she isn’t a doctor yet. Still, the doctors’ attitudes are ones that she will come up against many many times over the course of the series. It’s even an issue in 50s/60s Boston, when she IS the doctor. But she’s one of the few female surgeons of the time, and respect is something she has to fight for.

Random continuity error: in the close coverage, the other nurse hands Claire a bottle of champagne. It has green glass. In the wider shots (showing the celebration beyond), she’s holding a clear glass bottle with dark liquid (red wine?) inside. I love finding stuff like that. Maybe I’m a weirdo. 🙂

I also loved the way Caitriona played the sort of dull disconnect when she’s told the war is over. Claire looked empty. I wondered if she was thinking, “What happens now? Who am I now?” So much of her identity has become wrapped up in healing. In a way, botany for TVClaire is her way of trying to hold on to that identity once she’s back in “workaday life” with Frank.

Interesting deviation from the books: BookClaire is a “book botanist.” She collects plants and presses them, but doesn’t use them. There’s actually a whole bit with Mr. Crook, the elderly Scot who first takes her to Craigh na Dun, about plant presses and how pressing plants makes the herbs useless. Mrs. Baird says “but they’re so pretty,” and the man scoffs. Pure Scots practicality there. Reminds me of Jamie and his poesy in Fiery Cross. 😉 It is also stated that BookClaire has taken up botany at Frank’s suggestion. So it is interesting that they chose to go the opposite direction in the show. TVClaire is interested in medicinal uses, in practicality, more than what is (literally) on a page.

Back to Claire’s statement from the end of the intro: “Even after all the pain and death and heartbreak that followed, I would make the same choice.”

Claire would always make the same choice– again, not about a vase. In my opinion, Voice Over Claire (henceforth known as VOClaire) is talking to us from the end of the series. We may find out that VOClaire is telling the story to Bree and Roger in season two, but I choose to believe this is Claire circa 1800/2002, somewhere near the end of her life, reminiscing to Jemmy’s and Mandy’s kids about her adventures.

But no matter what the distance between the audience and VOClaire, I think the choice is much bigger than whether or not to buy a metaphorically significant vase. I think it’s the choice to run down the hill of Craigh na Dun into the setting sun and Jamie’s arms.

Because the metaphor for the vase is home, and Jamie is Claire’s home.

OK, back to the episode.

While I found the blood on the lintels a little suspect (is that a real thing they do in the Highlands?), I was much happier with TVClaire’s response to the blood. She isn’t particularly bothered; she’s more curious, and is the one who gives Frank the idea it could be mythologically oriented. In the book, it’s the other way around. I always thought it was weird that BookClaire, a combat nurse, would be squeamish about a bit of blood on the stoop. So I’m very happy that TVClaire raises an eyebrow at Frank and says “I think I should know the look of blood by now.”

In general, I like that TVClaire is forward, assertive, and sexually confident. I do wish she had let Frank say whatever he was going to say after they jumped on the bed at Mrs. Baird’s, though. Whatever it was, it was nothing good, and I very much want to know what it was. She didn’t, though, and I guess I don’t get a say in their conversations.

So…the downtown scene. Everyone has an opinion about that, and here’s mine. Based on the scene where Jamie goes down on her the first time in the book, it is very clear that BookClaire is uncomfortable with oral sex. Now, as Diana has pointed out, this does NOT mean that she and Frank never did it. Other people say that, because Jamie asks her “would it feel the same if I did that to you?” after she’s given him a blowjob, and she answers, “I don’t really know,” that that is supposed to mean she hasn’t had oral sex performed on her before. But I take that to mean that Frank was never rough with her. The point of her going down on Jamie was to use her teeth and show him that a little pain can be a good thing. She also explicitly states at a later time, when contrasting Frank and Jamie’s lovemaking skills, that Frank was polished and controlled. I don’t think he ever crossed any lines with her in bed. Jamie, on the other hand, crosses every line that she has, and demands that she meet him on the other side.

All of that being said, it is out of character for BookClaire to basically push Frank’s head into her lap. But I don’t mind TVClaire doing it. I’m totally fine with her being more assertive about sex. That plays very well when she later deflowers her virgin husband. ^_^

The next scene that gave me a few qualms was Mrs. Graham’s fortunetelling. Now, I once again understand why they made the choices that they did, as far as what to cut and why (still waiting to see wee Roger, though!). They needed the scene to play with a little more menace and more of the weight of prophecy (as VOClaire says) in order to add conflict into this, to be honest, very conflict-free portion of the episode.

So I get it. I do. But I wonder how that decision is going to force a change in Claire and Murtagh’s journey toward Beuly after Jamie is taken by the Watch. In the book, Claire takes what she learned from Mrs. Graham about palmistry (that you look at people’s faces and body language more than their hands) in order to tell fortunes. Claire and Murtagh also sing and such, but I’m curious what they will have her do instead. BookClaire references that experience (traveling with Murtagh) several times throughout the series as the one that taught her to be so good at reading people. So even though that’s a small thing, it is a character change.

After that, there isn’t much to say about the rest of the 40’s portion except to gush over how gorgeous Bear’s score was when the druids danced around the stones (although I did find the huge fake “spotlight sun” a little distracting).

The touching-the-stones and the metaphor-for-travel bit was interesting. I’ve listened to/watched Ron Moore talk about the decision making process for using the car crash instead of some kind of faked CGI-magic effect, and I agree with the reasons for his choice, but it makes me wonder how he plans to do the later scene at Craigh na Dun, when Jamie forces Claire to touch the stone and then drags her back from the Untempered Schism (yes, I just made a Doctor Who reference).

In the book, Jamie says, “You started to go,” but he isn’t very explicit about what that looked like, beyond the general sense of her fading away. We are treated to multiple explanations throughout the books of what time travel feels like- from Claire, Roger, Bree, Jemmy, Geilis, and Saint Germain. I am going to have to go re-read the section in Dragonfly where Gillian/Geilis goes through to see if Roger tells us what it looked like. But even then, I’m curious to know what the show is going to do with the Jamie & Claire scene. It has to be executed in such a way that Jamie completely believes Claire. When she tells him her story, he says he believes her, but believing that someone is telling you what they think is the truth is different from knowing for yourself that it is, indeed, the truth. So whatever happens has to convince him and the audience.

So now we’re through the stones and in 1743. From here on out, I have only a few criticisms and lots of gushing.

Criticisms first:

The voice over really needs to go die. Yes, there are a few instances where we needed to know the information Claire shared. For example: that Beauchamp is Claire’s maiden name. Although that was one of the most awkward VOs to implement, and really jolted me out of the scene. Honestly, they could have given us that info during the flashback to Uncle Lamb. His last name is Beauchamp, too. If she’d referred to him as “Quentin Lambert Beauchamp – Uncle Lamb to me” that would have solved the problem. Or be more explicit about it and have Frank call her “Claire Beauchamp Randall” at some point. Again, problem solved without awkward VO.

All I’m saying is that most of the VO isn’t necessary. And this dead horse has been flogged by many other people online, so I’ll say one last thing and leave it alone: episode 106 had almost no VO and only one significant flashback. And it was the best episode of the series so far.

A flashback criticism: did we really need to flash back to Frank talking about Cocknammon Rock? That was only like 20 minutes ago. I am not a goldfish.

OK, that’s really all I’ve got. On to the gushing.

First- Sam Heughan is KILLING IT as Jamie. He doesn’t match Diana’s physical description perfectly, but in truth it would have been weird if he had slanted cat eyes, natural red hair, and was left-handed, as well as completely embodying the spirit of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. It’s already oddly coincidental that his birthday is only a day off from Jamie’s, and he definitely has the height and build.

But beyond the resemblance, he channels JAMMF whenever he’s on screen. I can tell he did his homework, has read the books, and has talked to Diana about things not even avid readers such as myself know. He nails every moment in this first episode. Fans will recognize them: The initial awe and attraction when Claire pops his shoulder back in, and he can’t keep his eyes off of her. The protectiveness meshed with humor when he threatens to throw her over his shoulder. The overwhelming desire for the spitfire hellcat sitting on his chest when he wakes up under a tree in the dark, his blood on her hands.

And here’s the best part: it is in that moment that he decides that this is the woman he wants to marry. This cursing, wild-haired, confident, demanding woman, is who he wants to have by his side for the rest of his life.

And that’s why Jamie fits Claire. Frank is attracted to the wildness he perceives in Claire, but he doesn’t celebrate it. He…accepts it, understands that it’s part of her, and desires it at the same time as he tries to tame it.

Jamie realizes the futility of that almost immediately- Claire’s courage is “more than is safe for a woman,” but he admires and loves that about her. He balks at some of her choices, but comes to embrace them (case in point- giving in with grace to her need to help at the Hopital des Anges).

But to get back to the episode, Sam is playing all of those emotions. They’re things Jamie won’t tell Claire until long after they’re married, things that readers had no idea about in the book because Claire didn’t know. But if you’re looking, it is all right there on Sam’s face and in his eyes. Jamie’s besotted, from the very beginning.

I liked the little change they made to the “stop-help-he’s going over!” scene. It was a good way to keep Black Jack Randall (henceforth known for brevity’s sake as BJR) in the “threat” position, as a clear and present danger, and also to let the audience know that Jamie has a history with him. I do wish they’d ended the episode in the woods, though, with that threat still looming. Allowing us to get to the safety of Leoch is a bit of a mistake.

If it were up to me, though, I’d have conflated “Sassenach” and “Castle Leoch” into a 2-hour series premiere. It makes more sense that way, and episode 102 leaves Claire in a very dark place- a place we were introduced to, in a positive way, in 101. It would have been a perfect kind of symmetry. I think all newbies to the series should just go ahead and stream both episodes back-to-back. They work better together.

However, if I try to talk about “Castle Leoch” in this post, it’s going to become even more unbearably lengthy, so I shall refrain.

To sum up:

I’ve nitpicked and prodded, but I was so excited and happy with this episode. I worry that our “instant gratification” culture may keep a broad audience from sticking with the show, but for anyone who has the patience, I think we’re in very good hands. The character work is being done, the visuals are gorgeous, the music is sublime, and we’ve finally gotten back to sexy-times with 107 – The Wedding.

The short short version: not my favorite episode, but not the worst, either.

Do you agree with me? Disagree? Have an insight or a different view? Do you just want to come gush and talk about all things Outlander? Leave a comment. I am looking forward to chatting with you!