After completing my Monday ritual of listening to, reading, and watching the various Outlander recaps and reviews, I want to add my take on an issue that has come up in several places. I’m going to address this in much more detail in a subsequent blog, where I will track the evolution of Jamie and Claire’s relationship so far, but here’s a (somewhat) brief summary of why including Frank in this episode derails Jamie and Claire:
First, giving that much screen time to Frank takes away screen time from J&C. Lani, the Sassenach in “The Scot and the Sassenach,” said that, as much as she enjoyed the stuff with Frank, it isn’t Frank’s story we’re telling here. It’s Jamie and Claire’s story. Because of devoting so much time to Frank, the 18th century events in this episode had to be forced down to about two days, and every scene was rushed and truncated. In the book, this same sequence of events stretches over what I remember as several weeks (I will look at the precise timeline in my later blog). We are shown many scenes of Jamie and Claire getting to know each other, of them making love and being soft and tender together. And when conflict happens, we see them dealing with it together. They aren’t torn immediately apart after the near-rape. In fact (as I mentioned in my review), they actually have sex afterward. There are still lingering issues that won’t be resolved until later, of course, but we are given time to see them trying to recover.
Now, I get that this is TV, and so the timeline likely would have been shortened no matter what. But taking away the 20-30 minutes devoted to Frank would give us a lot more screen time to show the aftermath of some of the more violent scenes. It would have allowed us another love scene – one where the intensity and the conflict is within Claire: “how can I be responding this way, and wanting this much, after so short a time?” That would also allow Jamie to ask her “is this usual, what it is between us?” and “does it ever stop, the wanting you?” in a quieter, more contemplative context.
In the “Talking Outlander” video over at That’s Normal, one of the reviewers (I think it was Beth) said that TVJamie and TVClaire haven’t earned the upcoming scene at Leoch yet. And I completely agree. I talked about this in my wedding episode review. What is important, in the book, isn’t the fight. It’s Claire’s acceptance of Jamie’s ring. It’s her acceptance of Jamie and their marriage, and then the rough, possessive (on both sides), consuming sex they have in the aftermath of their argument.
And in between BJR and Leoch is the spanking. So we have this very intense, violent scene coming up in the next episode. Without a good understanding of the depths that Jamie and Claire’s relationship has already reached, how are we going to believe that TVClaire would choose to stay? And, if they go where everyone says they’re going, it’s going to be even worse. In the books, the spanking scene is treated as non-sexual. Jamie says he was mightily roused, but he doesn’t try to do anything about it. He’s aware enough of Claire and respects her feelings enough not to force himself on her. But from what I’ve heard, it seems like the show is going to have the spanking scene lead right into the fightsex scene at Leoch.
That could be a colossal mistake. In my opinion, would be a colossal mistake. The show hasn’t earned that yet. And they certainly haven’t earned Claire’s choice at Craigh na Dun, which, if the episodes fall where I think they will, is going to happen around 111. Either way, that’s not a lot of time. They are going to have their work cut out for them in order to make the audience believe in Claire’s choice.
I think that’s the fundamental problem here. Ron Moore said in the beginning that he wanted to make sure the viewers got to see Frank, because he wanted them to understand why Claire keeps trying to get back to him. But I think they’ve taken that too far, and shortchanged Jamie and Claire’s relationship as a result. Because, let’s face it. Outlander is not the story of Claire and Frank. It is the story of Claire and Jamie.
For us book readers, it isn’t as big of a deal. We can fill in the gaps, and extrapolate from what we know happened in between the scenes from the show. But for non-book readers? They really need the show to establish the depths of passion and connection between Jamie and Claire. That is what leads to a love that can span time and distance, mistakes, other marriages, illegitimate children, pain, betrayal, and loss.
I thought we were on a good track for that, all the way up through the wedding. But now? Their few moments together were sweet, but brief, and certainly not deep. And it is depth that they need to survive the things that are coming. We’d better see a lot of diving in 109.
EDIT: Last night I read a post on the CompuServe forums where Diana Gabaldon hangs out. She said that she wouldn’t give anything away about plot points coming up in the second half of the season, but that many of our worries about Jamie as a character would be assuaged. Apparently we’re going to start breaking out of Claire’s PoV and will be getting Jamie PoV scenes and Jamie voiceover. So that’s something. I’m going to cling to that knowledge rather desperately over the next six months.
Edit #2: The Outlander Cast said that this episode needed to breathe. That’s an excellent way to put what I’m getting at here. Because I did love the Frank stuff (see my prior post). But we really needed more time with Jamie and Claire to transition into the darker, violent parts of this episode. This could easily have been 2 hours.