Episode 306 – A. Malcolm

Episode 306 Header

Huzzah for the return of Outlander! (I know it’s only been an extra week, but I’m still glad it’s back!) And huzzah for an extra-long episode!

It was weird to not have the theme song and title card before the show started, but I understand why. This is one of our first real cold opens ever in Outlander. And I see how they are trying to position Jamie’s business and hint at his relationship with Madam Jeanne and some of the Ardsmuir men, as well as his—what, indentured servant? I didn’t get the impression Geordie was anything but a coworker in the book. But it makes sense to have all of that before the scene where we left off in the last episode. It doesn’t give away everything about what he’s up to know, but it gives us a better grounding in his life since he left Helwater—the smuggling wasn’t stated outright, but it’s clear that he has nefarious business with the two men sleeping in his shop, and we know he’s printing seditious pamphlets. They were a little heavy-handed with Madam Jeanne, especially since there’s a much bigger fish swimming around back in the Highlands, but I’ll accept it.

Also, the title card is fantastic! Love that they put the writer credits onto the sheets.

Uh-oh. Jamie’s reaction and his “aye, we are” to the married line is such a giveaway if you know about Laoghaire. But his asking for permission to kiss her is so perfect and wonderfully Jamie. And yes, I cried. When this show gets it right, it is devastatingly right. “There’s the two of us now.”

Well, if Geordie can quit, then he’s not indentured. He must just have a tendency to overstate things.

The scene with the pictures of Brianna is tearing my heart out. I can’t imagine missing twenty years of my kids’ lives. And Jamie’s casual acceptance of Claire’s calling as a surgeon is also beautiful. She had to fight so hard for that in the 1950s and 60s and he just states it as absolute truth.

I’m happy that Jamie tells Claire about Willie right away, but his withholding information about Laoghaire is irksome. I suppose talking about a child is different than a wife—more forgivable, especially since he didn’t love or marry Geneva Dunsany—but

The reunion with Fergus is also nice—Cesar Domboy is so tall! And it sets a pattern for everyone in Jamie’s life automatically hiding his secret from Claire. Which, I suppose, makes sense, since she’s been gone for twenty years and their loyalties are very much with him. The mention of Ned Gowan makes me so happy! I can’t wait to see him again.

The introduction of Willoughby, while not quite as terrible as in the book, is still problematic. I hope they don’t push hard on the really awful bits, but I don’t have much confidence about that. The next episode should set the tone for his character better.

I’m not sure how I feel about the bribe and threats in the tavern. But this section of the book was entirely in Claire’s PoV and the show has broken that conceit for good, so we’re getting to see all sorts of things that she wasn’t privy to, and that does help with timing and pacing (and establishing conflict) for the show.

The rest of the reunion in the brothel is pretty much straight from the book, with some omissions for time. But UGH to the voice over. Was that really necessary? We get it, TV show. We can see what’s happening. A little montage of eating and music would have been plenty.

I wondered why they designed Claire’s dress to have the cravat and shirt, but the parallel undressing is nice because of it. WOW—they really managed to get Caitriona Balfe’s hair curly this season. It was never that curly in previous seasons, and I remember in interviews she said it refused to take a perm or curl. Honestly, this looks like a wig. Or at least like they used about a thousand hair products on it. I shouldn’t be distracted by that, but I am.

And now we have callbacks to “The Wedding” from season one. Except that Claire and Jamie so different now, and yet so much the same. The performances by Sam and Caitriona here are superb. And I’m glad they kept the awkwardness and the humor from the book, as well as the passion and the tenderness.

I’m really appreciating how well this episode is unfolding, allowing them the peace to rediscover each other. Jamie doesn’t talk as much about his love of his printing press and the power of words as he does in the book (one of my favorite lines from Voyager is about how the English took his weapons away, and speaking out via his writing gave them back). But although he’s giving her part of his truth, he’s still keeping much of it to himself.

I would have thought the scar from Culloden would have been much uglier, especially given what they had to do to keep it from killing him with blood poisoning. I know that type of scar is difficult to do with prosthetics, but they could have done better than that! It looks like a clean scalpel cut with the kind of stitches that dissolve from the inside.

The questions of twenty years apart are answered by Jamie’s “I never loved anyone but you.” And neither did Claire. But the niggling details of those twenty years still have the power to hurt them both.

I miss Ian barging in, though. (Old Ian, not Young Ian). Young Ian is not at all how I pictured him in the book, but they did find an actor who looks like Steven Cree, especially with the hair tied back. And the scene with the “hoors” is fantastic. I love how Claire just plays along, adding her wisdom and getting bedroom tips. Madame Jeanne is, again, heavy-handed, but I suppose they’re playing her as being in love with Jamie. Because who in the show isn’t?

UGH to rape threats. Aren’t we done with that? And cliffhangers, too. They couldn’t have used the setup from the book, where Claire encounters the man downstairs? I am so tired of sexual violence as the go-to for conflict, especially after an episode where they did such a great job of letting the story develop at a leisurely, intimate pace. I didn’t even have as much to say as usual, despite this being an extended episode, because it drew me in so well and the performances were so fantastic. So to have this ending is like a punch in the gut—and not in a good way. I like when things get shaken up before the next episode. But there were so many better ways to have ended this than with a cut to black over Claire being attacked.

My family is off to our local renaissance festival today, so I don’t have time for my usual screenshots, but I’ll try to come back and insert some later this week. What did you think of the print shop reunion? Did it live up to your expectations? Do you also hate the way it ended? Let me know in the comments!

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Essential Magic is here!

Pardon this brief detour away from Outlander, but I am so excited and I want to share my book with everyone who reads this blog.

Essential Magic trade 04

A woman driven to excel. A man ashamed of his past. A desire that could lead them to bliss…or peril.

Etta Mae Cook, a mountain witch from Appalachia, steps off the train in London in 1895 and into a dangerous world of politics, decadence, and power. Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, and the Fay clan are waging a silent war. In the balance: the future of British magic. Etta’s lineage and strength make her an asset—or a threat—to all three formidable forces.

Malcolm Seward has sworn he’ll never do magic again. He once had a prominent role in society, but a tragic mistake left him shattered, and he has withdrawn from everyone he cares about. Etta’s arrival makes him yearn for things he has long been too afraid to touch. Though she’s drawn to him in return, her goal is to study magic. Desire is a distraction.

Despite her intentions, his fears, and his family’s objections, the two soon surrender to their passion.

Now Etta must choose: love, or her ambition? Either path could mean the renewal – or the destruction- of British sorcery. If she follows her heart, will she doom their magic?


Essential Magic mixes the sexy romance of Mary Jo Putney’s Guardians series with the gaslamp fantasy tradition of Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. And half of the book is set in Scotland, so it should be familiar to fans of Outlander! It doesn’t quite edge over into the steampunk world of Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina, but later books in the series will come close! The next book, A Theft of Magic, is a heist story…so hold on to your hats in October! Check out my website for more info on the series.


To read my steamy fantasy romance as an eBook, check out one of these fine retailers:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Or if you like holding a physical copy of the book in your hands, visit:

AmazonCreateSpace


EDITED TO ADD:

No, your eyes do not deceive you. If you’re coming to this page after February 2017, the cover for Essential Magic does look different! As the series has evolved, the covers have shifted away from the look of the first book. Because of that, I decided that it was important to do a redesign that better aligns with the other covers. Check out this post on my Cara McKinnon blog for more info!

Episode 108 – Both Sides Now

First things first: every time I see the title of the episode I start singing Joni Mitchell. The lyrics of the song do have some relevance to the show. It’s a song about changing perspectives, about seeing familiar things, important things, in different ways.

And that is what happens to Claire in the past. She starts to look at love and life in a different way, and that change is part of what drives her decision to stay with Jamie. And part of why she is never truly happy or content, back in her “own” time, during Brianna’s childhood. So it’s thematically appropriate, even though the title is a more literal reference to the audience being able to see both sides – Claire’s and Frank’s – of the story now.

I would also like to crow a little bit and say that I totally called the cliffhanger ending. And although I don’t think I said so in any of my previous blogs, I always imagined them ending the first half of the season with Jamie in the window, saying “I’ll thank ye to take yer hands off my wife.” It just made sense, given what we knew about the episode splits (since we knew episode seven would be the wedding, this one had to end with Randall).

One thing I want to bring up before I dig into the changes in the episode:

A friend of mine who is new to the series (hasn’t read any of the books and just marathoned all of the episodes to catch up right before the mid-season finale), made what I feel is an accurate criticism of the books/show: there’s an awful lot of rape, or at least attempted rape, in it. I wanted to say: “you don’t even know what is going to happen at the end of the season,” but I didn’t. I try not to spoil people, really I do. That’s why I named this blog Outlander Spoilers- so you would know what you were getting into if you stopped by!

She’s right, though. While rape was commonplace in the 18th century (and is still more commonplace today than most people want to admit), it isn’t something that would have happened quite as frequently to the same woman (unless she was a prostitute). The fact that nearly every man who meets Claire wants to rape her does stretch the bounds of verisimilitude.

I didn’t give my friend any spoilers, but what I did tell her is that, while I do feel that rape is slightly overused as a form of conflict in the series, Diana doesn’t treat it lightly. It’s never glossed over, used purely to push the plot forward, or forgotten by a character in the next scene. It stays with the characters forever. You know, just like in real life.

I also think it is important to point out that Claire killed the English deserter before he raped her. I’ve seen several reviews today saying that Claire was raped by the soldier. Depending on your definition of the word rape (and that’s a touchy subject), you could argue that any sexual assault with the intent to rape is tantamount to rape, at least in the psyche of the person being assaulted. But in most places, the legal definition of rape includes penetration, and that didn’t happen here. It sure looks like it did, because the camera goes all fuzzy and things start to lose narrative cohesion. But Claire wasn’t penetrated in the book, and per the interviews I’ve read with Ron Moore and Anna Foerster, she wasn’t in the show, either.

I don’t know that that makes a difference to the viewer, or even that much to Claire. But it is something BookClaire clings to, in the aftermath. It didn’t happen. And, in the book, Jamie and Claire have desperate sex afterward. It is absolutely not making love; they’re driven by the need to copulate, to remind themselves that they’re alive and together. They couldn’t really do that in the show. It wouldn’t make sense without an awkward voiceover, and they needed to move on more quickly to keep the forward momentum of the narrative. In the book, Claire has a little while to recover and try to start making sense of what happened. But the show needs to use her disconnection to reality and her shock and anger to fuel her flight to the stones.

Moving away from that touchy subject, I want to say that I adored Jamie and Claire in their quieter moments together. I’m still waiting for the honesty conversation (and I think my call that it will show up during their fightsex scene may turn out to be accurate), but I was very happy to get “Is this usual- what it is between us – when I touch you, when you lie with me?” As I said in one of my last blogs, I’m re-reading Voyager right now, and I just got to Claire and Jamie’s reunion, and Claire reminds him of that question. And they both acknowledge that whatever it is, is still there.

I also LOVED that they included the bit where Jamie says he feels like god himself when he’s inside Claire. Although I hope they echo the “does it ever stop, the wanting you?” later in the show, in a quieter moment. It was a little rushed, this time, since they put it into a sex scene that wouldn’t end well. But the laughter, and the fun between them, before the deserters show up, made me very happy. That’s one of my favorite parts of Jamie and Claire. They go through so many horrible things, and their relationship isn’t all sweetness and light, but they are able to laugh together and let go of pretense and solemnity.

One sad thing – the “I feel like God Himself when I’m in you” scene is the one where BookJamie goes down on BookClaire for the first time. It’s also where the hedgehog joke originally appeared. I’m fine with losing the joke, but I’d really like to see Jamie get into the business of pleasuring Claire. Obviously not in this context (in the book they’re still at the inn when that happens), but maybe we’ll get it later.

I was a little confused, as a book reader, about what was happening during the scene where Claire makes her break for Craigh na Dun. In the book, she’s like a day’s walk away, but in the show she can actually see the stones. I had a wild moment where I actually calculated dates- Jamie says they’ll be back at Leoch by Yuletide, and I was thinking “OK, so how close are we to the solstice, then? Will she actually be able to travel?” But then I realized that was silly. They only changed things so that Claire and Frank could have this moment, talking across time and at cross purposes. Because Claire has come in a desperate attempt to get back, and Frank has come in a desperate attempt to let go.

The slightly extended scene with Randall, where Claire pretends to know things about Sandringham, made me want to throw up. I say this about all scenes in which characters pretend to have knowledge that they don’t. Something about that particular type of conflict makes me queasy, because I know it is going to turn out badly. And it does. At least in the book, Claire had the sense to shut up and not fabricate too much. TVClaire tries to get all super spy, and Randall sees right through her.

After he ties her up, they deviate from the books a bit in a way that I’m not sure I agree with. It’s in this scene that BookClaire learns that Randall is only aroused by someone else’s fear and pain. When she stops acting afraid, he literally can’t get it up. It’s only when Jamie arrives, and Randall is able to feed off Jamie’s fear, that he becomes aroused. That’s important, and is reinforced later- Jenny’s revelations about what happened when she “went with Randall” indicate that he can’t get an erection because she laughs at him.

I feel that’s an important aspect of BJR that isn’t coming across yet in the show. We understand that he’s aroused by other people’s pain. We saw that in the way he recounted the flogging. But we don’t yet know that he has gotten to the point where he can’t feel pleasure unless there’s also fear and pain.

And that’s an important distinction, I think. There’s the bit with Jenny still to come, though, so we may still see this.

EDIT #1 One of the recap/reviews from this week (I can’t remember which one- it may have been “Talking Outlander”) talked about this problem, and they got at the heart of what I was fumbling around and trying to say here. It isn’t so much that we need to know this about BJR (although we do), but that Claire had agency in this scene in the novel. She had power here. BJR had the power to kill her, but he couldn’t rape her unless she cooperated by being afraid. And that is taken away in the show. I’m not sure how they would have done it, logistically, but I wish they would have tried. /edit

Now I suppose I need to talk about Frank.

Despite none of the Frank stuff happening on the page in Outlander, every moment of this felt like something that could have happened. And the bit with Mrs. Graham…I wonder if Ron talked to Diana about that scene? She keeps saying she’s going to write a book called “What Frank Knew.” We see in the letter that Brianna finds (she finds a draft in Echo and the actual letter in MOBY) that by the time she was a teenager, he’d done the research and had come to cautiously accept the possibility that Claire was telling the truth about the stones. He’d found Jamie Fraser (had possibly found proof that Claire would eventually travel again…I’ve often wondered about that) and was at least afraid that it was true- afraid enough to warn Brianna about it.

If something like this did happen “off screen” in the books, then it suggests that Frank already knew or suspected something about the stones.

Edit #2 I just re watched the episode, thinking about what Frank knew, and I was struck by the way he looked at Wee Roger Mac. Because he knows who Roger is. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” tells us that Frank has met Roger before- when he brought the news of Jerry MacKenzie’s death/disappearance. And Reggie (the reverend) is Frank’s best friend. They would have talked about Reg’s adopted son. So, I think when Frank sees Roger there, he has to be thinking: is this the same? Weren’t there standing stones in Northumbria? Could this be true?

He denies it, of course. But it’s nagging at him, enough so that he drives up to the stones, trying to come to grips with what is real. I don’t think he should be able to hear her through the stones, btw. Her hearing him makes sense. There’s a precedent for that in the books. But even so, he convinced himself that he’s a fool, and that he has to let her go, or go mad. /edit

And then when Claire does come back, nearly three years later, pregnant and talking about time travel, some part of him will believe her. Being the practical and rational man that he is, he will ruthlessly suppress that inclination. But it will always be there, niggling. And so, eventually, he will start to look for James Fraser. Will ask Reverend Wakefield for help. Will start asking discreet questions of his old colleagues at MI6 about time travel. And will discover a Fraser lineage with his daughter at the bottom.

It all makes sense. And those are the best kinds of extrapolations in this series- the ones that fit as though they were always meant to go there.

The scene with the intended extortion, where Frank goes a little mad and shows that the ruthless anger of BJR is somewhere inside of him, makes me wonder. Why does he have a cosh in his pocket? One possible answer is that, even drunk, desperate, and despairing, he is smart enough not to trust a random woman in a bar. I’m leaning toward this explanation. He was, after all, a spy. Another possible answer, though, is that he always has it with him. Just in case. And that says something maybe a little darker about Frank. Or about the world he lives in- a world Claire knows little or nothing about.

Edit #3 I was double-checking my use of the term “cosh” for Frank’s weapon (some of the podcasts were wondering what it was called), and the Internet tells me that it is also called a blackjack. Hello prop symbolism. /edit

Either way, the answer to that question is intriguing. Also – hooray to getting to finally see Wee Roger! He was so bleeding cute! Now I shall wait until we get casting announcements for adult Roger and Brianna.

And so, here we are, with six months of drought looming ahead of us.

I plan to fill that drought with more blogs. I plan to put something up at least once a week, and will look at individual characters, story arcs, the plot structure of the series as a whole so far, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I’ll also be posting some of my pet theories about Dougal and Colum, a treatise on time travel, and some other fun stuff.

So keep checking in during the hiatus. I’ll also share any Outlander-related news we get during the down time, and I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you!

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!