Merely Women of Consequence…A Reflection on Outlander Season 5 Finale

Standard

I try really hard not to watch or read anything that will influence my reflections.  It is too hard to think your own thoughts if you are aware of what others are thinking.  But, sometimes I need a sounding board and I will reach out to my friend Jane.  She understands my process and I trust her. We knew it was coming, another episode where the writers would have to deal with another rape in their source material. The discussions around the portrayal or even the necessity of showing the rape were expected. I found my own feelings about this episode were confusing and so, this was one of the times I needed to talk before I wrote.

When Mary was raped there was talk in the fandom about the amount of rape in the show and there was even more discussion when they chose to show the rape of young Fergus.  As a result, Jane and I discussed whether we thought there was too much rape in Outlander.  I know I wrote about our conversation, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where!  If I remember correctly, we made a list of how many characters were raped or threatened with rape in Diana Gabaldon’s books and it is a pretty long list.  But, then we both wondered why, when reading the story, we didn’t feel there was a lot of rape.  We both came to the conclusion that it was because the books were large and so much happened between each event.  We also agreed that each character’s reaction was so different and how they dealt with the aftermath so different it felt like there was something new to say about the topic and new perspectives to appreciate and take in. Today, Jane shared with me that an interviewed Caitriona Balfe felt a lot like we did.  The books are large and the condensed format of the show doesn’t help with the perception there is too much rape.  Jane also shared that the producers felt they had to show the rape because it affected so many story-lines going forward.  So, they felt the rape needed to be told.  And, if they were going to tell it, Caitriona shared, it had to have meaning to the story.  I think this has always been their commitment to telling the parts of the story that involve sex or violence and for the most part, I think they have been faithful to that commitment.

The episode itself was beautiful and riveting. It was full of wonderful symbolism and call-backs.  The dreamscape house allowed me to escape with Claire, it helped me too, to think about Jamie and those she loved safe in the future.  The drip, however, reminds us that this wasn’t real, as did the empty chairs at the dinner table. Claire has no idea if her child and grandchild are okay. Drip by drip reality would eventually leak through. I loved that even in her futurist dream world, she couldn’t see Jamie as at 20th-century man. It was beautifully filmed, the costumes and sets doing their part to help tell the story,  The acting continues to be stellar and moving.  I believe the actors.  I can see what the characters are feeling.  As an episode, it was another story well told.  My issue is with the premise that this part of the story had to be told. Claire has and will suffer enough.

Jamie’s rape at the hands of BJR was one of the most brutal and visceral scenes I have ever watched on TV.  The conversations that ensued, of course, ran the gamut of revulsion to gratefulness.  There were fans who felt it was too much, unnecessary, and triggering. Others felt that it opened a door to necessary conversations about male rape.  Fergus’ rape, Brianna’s, Mary’s, and finally, …Claire’s gang rape were all scenes depicted in the books and all, important to the plot except…Claire’s gang rape.  I’ve tried and tried to understand how this moved the plot forward, I just haven’t come up with an answer that would warrant this scene being important to the rest of the story…at least for Claire. I looked at how this changed her going forward.  She has moments of PTSD, but in truth, I don’t think it does break her or change how she looks at the world.  I’m not minimizing the experience, it was awful and she suffers for it. PTSD has a way of making us understand that we cannot control our reaction to trauma whether we claim we won’t be shattered by it or not.  But, I just don’t see how Claire is significantly changed.  She is still kind, she still has mercy for those who don’t deserve it.  She may be more cautious, warier of men, but it does not seem to impact her choices.  She seems to be able to compartmentalize what happened to her. I know the death of Lionel Brown has some significance to the plot, but there truly could have been another way to move that story-line forward besides an even more brutal rape than the books portrayed.  Jamie, on the other hand, is changed.  He always called himself a bloody man, but I always felt his actions could be defended. When he utters”kill them all” some switch was turned on, a line crossed. “What a man will kill for he sometimes will die for” and at this point, for Jamie, the only thing worth killing and dying for is Claire. Jamie’s trajectory is changed by this event, but I have to believe he would have reached this point anyway… it’s not like Outlander lacks enough conflict to turn on his killer instincts.

I’m sure, like previous episodes that feature this subject matter, there will be folks who are angry and folks who are emotionally validated by this presentation.  Like in the past, I’m sure I will be able to see both sides, my own confused reaction to this episode confirms that for me.  I am just not sure what to think or even feel. I was moved and disturbed. But, when I reflect on all the images, symbolism, and words spoken in this episode, this morning the words that continue to resonate with me were spoken by Marsali. “He thought me no better than the dirt under his boot,” she tells Jamie. This has been our struggle, hasn’t it, to be seen as worthy of respect, dignity, and equality? For me, one of the most important things the series has shown us is the plight of women and how men value and devalue them.  Claire moves from respected wife and healer, the valued Lady of the Ridge, to “Hedge Whore” in the eyes of the men who want to teach an uppity woman her place. Lionel Brown is an archetype for male privilege and the evilness of patriarchy.  I would love to say women feeling like dirt under men’s boots is a thing of the past, but “casting couches” and every woman inspired to tell her story by the “me too” movement proves otherwise. Men like Lionel are alive and well still trodding us underfoot. We still struggle to be more than “a mere woman of no consequence”.  But, thank God the story includes men like Ian and Fergus and Roger and…Jamie who fight for us and beside us. There are men who understand that honor and courage are matters of the bone and  that  ” in her blood is his honor is christened.”

The image that has remained with me today is Claire naked in Jamie’s arms. I know that the premise is that they have had sex, but that is not what I see.  What I see is vulnerability. In each other’s arms, Claire and Jamie are free to be themselves without fear, naked, battered, and bruised.  I thought of Jamie’s trauma and his telling Claire that the part that makes him himself was a naked thing out in the open afraid and trying to find a blade of grass to hide underneath.  They came together physically then and something was restored and he felt that she had built him a “lean-to” to hide under rather than a blade a grass. In her arms, he is safe, his healing can begin.  In his arms,…she is safe…her healing has begun.

 

P.S. One of my readers pointed out that perhaps, I have answered my own questions, this deep relationship has been deepened by shared trauma.

“If my last words are not I love you. You will ken it is because I dinna have time”

 

 

Those Damn Stones…a Reflection on Outlander 5.11 “Journey Cake”

Standard

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.44.32 PM

No, no, no, no, NO!!!!!  I kept mumbling to myself from the very first scene where Bree and Roger realize Jemmy is a traveler. The looks of realization and its import were on everyone’s faces and the significance for each of them weighed heavily on my heart. “Don’t go”, I mumbled, “please don’t go. ‘

The Weight on Each Heart and the Lump in Each Throat

Maybe it is the time in which we are living, but the importance of family is uppermost in my mind.  Last conversations, last hugs, last goodbyes, and last…”I love yous” are probably on all of our minds.  I feel for those separated from their loved ones, unable to be there to comfort and console or to say their last “I love you”.   It makes you want to hold close all those you hold dear and yet, we cannot.  Families are scattered and untouchable.  I have seen my children and granddaughters on a screen which is a blessing to be sure, but I have no idea when it will be safe for me to actually be with them.  They exist, right now everyone is in a safe place and managing their circumstances and I am grateful, but Lord I miss them.  This episode reminded me of what it is to love, the pleasure, and the pain.

Bree Trying to Be Brave

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.41.05 PM

I don’t believe she wants to go, not for a minute.  When I watched her interact with Roger discussing their departure, I once again mumbled to myself, this time  I whispered: “Where thou goest I go”.  What weighs heavily on Bree’s heart is leaving her mother and father and all those she has learned to love balanced against her marriage and her promise to her husband.  We know he is right, it is a dangerous place.  In the books, Bree often fears just how quickly her child or anyone she loves could die.  She muses that even something as simple as diarrhea or a cut could take them from her.  She knows there is a war coming and Roger will be expected to fight and even though he has made great strides in becoming an 18th-century man, she knows he isn’t ready.

She knows that becoming who she was meant to be will be difficult if she stays and maybe even impossible.  Being a person with knowledge and attempting to use that knowledge, even for the betterment of all, is risky just ask her mother. She knows that Roger is right.  They weren’t meant to live this life.  They interfered with the fates by deliberately going through the stones, but leaving means saying goodbye most probably forever.  They haven’t played it up much in the series, but traveling through the stones is supposed to be painful maybe even deadly and there are no real guarantees you will end up where you want.  Which, if I had to pick a bone with the story, makes me wonder if their reasons for risking the stones were strong enough.  In the book, they leave because their new baby has a problem with her heart and will die without the surgery she can only get in the future.  To me, that was a real reason to leave your family and risk death, and the only reason I can see Bree leaving her mother and father, and quite frankly, the only reason Roger would ask her.  But, the powers that be decided to go this way, so I’m suspending my disbelief and just going with the reasons given and believing they were worth the risk. Who am I kidding…she would have never left.  Every time she looks at her mother, her father, or even sweet Lizzie, we see her swallow against the lump in her throat.  She doesn’t want to go, no, no, no, no, NO!  She knows what it was like to leave her mother and believe she might never see her again.  And, now Jamie too? Nope.

Roger Has Only Wanted a Family

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.50.50 PM

On a deeper level, he is probably right.  It is dangerous and they weren’t meant to live this life.  He is a college professor, she is an engineer, but right now, they are neither. I love that he acknowledges that they won’t necessarily be safe in the future, only safer.  But, I was back to mumbling again, “How do you know”, I groused.  I’ll admit it seems logical, but I’m pretty intuitive and my intuition tells me an unsure future might not be worth losing the value in their present life.  They are loved and cared for and surrounded by family. I’m not sure the trade-off is worth it.  I know Roger is only looking out for his family.  He tells us all he has ever wanted is for them to be a family and he thinks that the future is where he can best take care of them. I know it weighs heavy on his heart that they will be leaving Jamie and Claire, but like Jamie, he will do the hard stuff to protect his family and in this case, the hard stuff is leaving.  The irony is that I think Roger is becoming a man capable of living in the 18th century.  He is understanding what is required, as evidence by how he took charge in the Bonnet situation in the last episode, and how he helped the poor burned girl to her final sleep instead of allowing Jamie to do it.  Just when he is fitting in, he decides to leave.  A man who only wants them to be a family is …leaving his family.  I don’t believe he really wants to go either.  I think he thinks he is doing what is best for Jemmy and Bree.

Lizzie is Loyal

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.52.32 PM

Bless you Lizzie, your incredulity was mine.  But, why?  They have all been with Bree and Roger through good times and bad.  Faithfulness and loyalty are rare and yet, the Ridge seems so full of it.  Good friends are hard to find and I have no doubt that Lizzie would be Bree’s friend until the end.

Ian Understands

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.49.48 PM

Ian knew his Auntie was a fairy!  I laughed at this and was relieved that someone else knew the truth.  I always felt that they should have told the elder Ian and Jenny long ago, it would have caused them a lot less grief.  But, I suspect they already know that Claire is more than a widow from Oxford.  We suspect that Ian believes that the future might hold the answers he is looking for and it weighs heavy on all our hearts that Claire has to tell him it is impossible.  He needs his family around him.

Fergus and Marsali

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.57.42 PM

This goodbye was foreshadowed.  Marsali sat on the porch steps and told Ian how she was grateful for having found family and a place to.belong. “What will your parents do without you?”, she asks.  I’m sure she is projecting some guilt over leaving her own mother and sister.  She understands the hole Bree and Roger will leave and how hard it will be to live with.

To Claire It Seems Like an Eternity

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.39.12 PM

I can’t even imagine.  As I’ve written before, to have loved and lost is painful, but to gain that love back only to lose it again must be unbearable. The heaviness of Claire’s heart must make every breath a labor.  Her logical brain knows what Roger’s knows.  The future is probably safer and filled with opportunities they will never have if they stay, but her heart needs her family around her to love and to hold.  When she stood in that hallway watching Brianna say goodbye to the folks of the ridge, I understood what she was feeling, arms wrapped around herself.  She doesn’t want to stand in the way, but it hurts not to beg them to stay.  How does she even begin to accept this, to say goodbye again?

The chance to make them peanut butter and jelly “journey cakes” was a wonderful touch.  In a world of things, you cannot control, you grab on to those you can. It’s why we are ALL baking, LOL!  I remember when a particular granddaughter had a devastating disappointment, circumstances were out of her control and mine.  She hurt and it hurt me that she hurt, so I made her favorite food and took it to her.  Hey, it’s what grammies do and we are darn good at it!  Claire is creating a happy memory for her and for us, bridging a gap between the future and the past.  Jamie’s cutting the sandwich with a knife was perfectly in character and made me smile. Claire tearfully looking at her portraits was every mother and grandmother ever who miss their children. The whole episode was just …touching.

Jamie’s Life is Whole

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.43.19 PM

Of all of Outlander’s character’s that I love to love, I feel the worst for Jamie.  I have never felt Jamie very difficult to figure out.  His desires are pretty simple.  He wants to love and protect those he loves.  He wants to be a husband, a father, a grandfather.  He wants to be a man his father and his heavenly father would be proud of. Jamie thought he had lost his chance to be any of those things, but then Claire came back through the stones. His joy upon her return was only increased by the knowledge that his daughter lived.  Suddenly, he began to gain everything he never thought to have, he gave Fergus his name, added Marsalis, Ian, and Murtagh to his ever-growing family.  He was carving out a place to be, a person to be, and a home to call his own.   And then,…a miracle,…his lost daughter is suddenly in his arms, his reason for everything, the embodiment, the proof that his life, his sacrifices were not in vain.  His blessing.  Watching him play with Jemmy on the horse, his bearing his shame to let Bree know she had a brother tore me up.  But, when he found out they were leaving in a week? Sam Heughan once again tore my heart asunder when he showed us how Jamie struggled to be strong for Bree and then told her she had made his life whole.  God, I’m crying as I type this!

and Wee Jemmy

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 3.40.34 PM

I’m sure everyone has their theories, mine all revolve around wee Jemmy.  Here is what I know, it isn’t just gemstones that steer time travelers.  They also have to have someone to go to.  I think Claire ended up where she did because she and Jamie were meant to be together and the second time she knew why and to whom she was going, but Bree and Roger?  Bree traveled through the stones the first time because she had a purpose, she needed to tell her parents they were in danger, and I think she desperately missed her mother and wanted to meet her father.  She was angry at Roger for going through the stones to find her because she needed someone she loved to go back to and NOW how were they supposed to get home?  So, I’m back to my original belief, they don’t really want to go.  Everyone they love is on Fraser’s Ridge and Jemmie, little double-bundle of power and mystery doesn’t know anyone or any place other than the ridge.  Hello, the house.

Of Monsters and Mercy… a reflection on Outlander 5.10 “And Mercy Shall Follow Me”

Standard

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 12.35.34 PM

I almost felt sorry for him, as he seemed so eager to be a proper father, and a gentleman worthy of his son.  His tears moved me when he spoke of being an orphan.  I reminded myself that most people are not born monsters they are created.  I wondered how we can hold accountable someone who has had no moral guidance? How can we not pity a man who has no first-hand experience, but only “heard” someone can learn to love?  I know it is true that hurt people hurt people, but …I don’t understand how… Despite my being able to see Stephen Bonnet as human, it didn’t take me very long to stop feeling sorry for him.  No matter how he became who he became, he is damaged goods without empathy or a moral compass.

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 5.59.19 PM

 

It is my opinion that most human beings are guided by a sense of morality, conscience, empathy, and warmth towards others.  I don’t believe Stephen is guided by these things, his “personality disorder” causes him to have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking and behaving no matter what the situation.  As a result, he has significant problems and limitations in relationships and social encounters, he can merely mimic others’ behaviors and actions. People like Stephen Bonnet tend to interpret words and behaviors personally.  They think of themselves as victims who have been treated unfairly. This then results in the type of behavior we saw on our screens, the mistreatment and abuse of those they perceive have hurt, slighted, or even inconvenienced them. He experiences no guilt or remorse for the people he has brutalized.  They deserved it.

At the core, Stephen Bonnet believes he is less than others.  We see evidence of this in how quickly he reacts to any suggestion that he might not be a gentleman or that he isn’t honorable.  Most hurt and traumatized people will do anything to protect what little self-respect they have. This is then how their reality becomes contorted. The people they hurt deserve it.  He believes whatever version of reality serves his belief system. He thinks he wants to be a good father to Jemmy and learn to love Bree.  He sees this as a noble gesture on his part.  He expects everyone else to buy into his version of reality.  That kiss.  The one that took so much sacrifice for Bree to make?  It seemed remarkably gentle and tender given the situation, but Bonnet saw her lack of lust as a betrayal.  He then “shows” us his idea of what constitutes lovemaking.  I had to look away.  I was a traumatized Bree hiding from the monster she knew was coming for her next.

Damaged people like Bonnet will repeat their version of reality to themselves as many times as is needed to believe it wholeheartedly. Stephen has decided to believe in a nihilistic view of life where fate rules. Throughout the series, he reminds us of his belief by talking about fate and flipping a coin to determine his choices.  Bree picks up on this belief and tries to use it to her advantage.  In fact, Bree’s navigation of this situation was fascinating.  Her thinking on her feet and manipulating his personality disorder made me curious.  I looked for information on how women trapped in abusive relationships cope. I didn’t conduct an extensive or particularly scholarly exploration, but I didn’t find a lot.  No matter what I typed into the search box on my computer, what came back was information on “how to leave an abusive relationship”.  Which was good information, but I kept thinking about how do women survive the moment.  How do they keep living to be able to leave?

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 12.40.49 PM

The dynamics between Bonnet and Bree in this situation felt pretty realistic to me.  Bree KNOWS Stephen is crazy, but true to form he thinks he is sane.  His actions make perfect sense to him, he can rationalize everything he is doing.  She is left trying to reason with a crazy person.  I felt the tension inherent in that sentence just typing it.  How does she try to survive?  At first, she is defiant, dropping insults and snide comments. But, soon it becomes clear that Bonnet is sincere in his delusions and they pose not only a danger to herself but to Jemmie.  I watched the realization cross her face as she shakily held the creepy doll Stephen had bought for his “son”.  She has to quickly switch gears, think on her feet.  She knows how fragile is this desire of his and how temperamental are his reactions.  I kept thinking he was like a pet alligator.  No matter how many times you feed it or pet it, one day it is going to snap your hand off.  She cajoles, feeds his delusions, gives him the nurturing he seems to so desperately need.  She reassures him and treats him with gentleness, and plays on his desire to be a gentleman and father.  She pretends to buy into his reality.  She tries to act her way through this until she can find an opening.  Stephen seems to believe her.  But, he is always hyper-aware of what he perceives as a betrayal.  The problem with alligators is you never know what will make them snap.

A simple kiss was all it took to change Stephen Bonnet, gentleman, and potential father, into a man who would sell his son’s mother into sexual slavery.  How quickly he devalued her, “6lbs is all she is worth…just property…”.  She is doomed and knows it.  She makes a final plea for Jemmie. Suddenly, Bonnet has consummate narcissistic confidence in his abilities and tells her not to worry he “will take good care” of him.  I shivered with fear.

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 12.37.45 PM

The rescue, Roger’s beatdown of Bonnet, and Bree having the final word in how Bonnet will be held accountable for his actions was satisfying.  We always like it when evil has to pay the price for its evil choices.  But, the show wasn’t done messing with our emotions just yet.  We had one final scene to process.  During Bree’s captivity, we learn that Stephen has a fear, reoccurring nightmare. The writers decided to use the story of Moby Dick as a vehicle for revealing Stephen’s fear of drowning.  Pretending to read the story to Bonnet, Bree tells the tale of a sea captain who nails a coin (I see you Megan Ferrell Burke, nice catch) to a mast as a reward for the killing of the white whale he so relentlessly pursues.  Bonnet, charmed by the story and the fact that his “son” likes tales of the sea, is absorbed in the story.  He wants to know if the sea captain wins and is dismayed when he hears the “monster prevails”.  She shares that the ending depends on who you think the monster is… He tells us that the sea is full of creatures that feed on each other and that the sea itself is hungry for souls, “she calls to me”.  He shares that he has a recurring nightmare wherein he drowns and no one comes to rescue him.  He is worried about his momentary moment of weakness, and that sharing his fears will cause Bree to think less of him. She assures him and us that she “Couldn’t think less of him”.  I had to wonder at her tremulous smile and eyes shining with tears, perhaps it was her own fears that this ruse would not protect them from THIS monster and she would never be able to comfort her son again.

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 12.45.30 PM

I know the final scene will cause a lot of discussion.  Was it mercy or just making sure he was dead? I love that they did not tell us.  I, of course, have my own opinion.  I have to wonder if when Bree said she would let the courts decide his fate, she truly understood what that meant in this time even though her father said Tyron might make sure Bonnet hung.  Was her mind thinking of justice in her time?  The court’s choice for Bonnet’s justice was to hang him on a post in the sea, and wait for the tide to drown him.  The visual irony of three criminals hanging from crosses wasn’t lost on me nor that Bree’s decision to let the court handle justice resulted in Bonnet’s living his last moments in his recurring nightmare.  The whole scene begged for mercy.  We watched as everyone walked away, no one came to help just as Bonnet feared.  But then,…we follow Stephen’s eyes to the shore where Brianna stands with her rifle against her shoulder.  We see the relief on Bonnet’s face right before we hear the shot…mercy at last.

Roger’s question caused us all to reflect was it mercy or revenge? When I reflected on Bree aiming her gun at Bonnet, I saw all three of her parents.  I saw Frank teaching his daughter to shoot preparing her for a time without him, I saw Jamie protecting his family at any cost, and I saw Claire …giving mercy where it wasn’t deserved.  Bravo. A story well told.

 

 

 

 

Outlander, a Parallel Universe… a reflection on 5.09 “Monsters and Heroes”

Standard

 

Do you remember that book, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  I’m thinking of writing a new book entitled Everything You Need to Know About Adulting Can Be Learned in Outlander!

…But, that’s what Diana’s story does, isn’t it? The lives of her fictional characters hold up a mirror to the human condition and we see ourselves reflected in large and small ways in the tribulations, joys, hopes, and fears of the Frasers, MacKenzies, and extended family. God bless @Writer_DG  for helping us, educating us, nurturing us, and diverting us.                             

                                                          Connie here-for-Outlander Sandlin@Yr_Obt_Svt

And, God Bless Outlander Starz for staying true to the spirit of Diana’s story.  They too help, educate, nurture and divert us.  Parallels.  All I can see are parallels! I know the show was filmed a long time ago, but JHRC, it is practically prophetic.  How did they KNOW what we would need to see? I simply cannot watch these episodes without making a connection to our lives here and now.  This episode, in particular, struck all kinds of chords of recognition.

The colors of our lives are changing…

Claire’s voiceover sets the tone for this study in how coincidental and relevant one show can be:

Time is marked and measured in different ways.  The colors of our lives were changing…

Indeed.

Our time is being marked and measured by a virus.  Life as we have known it is changing.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 1.29.00 PM

We should be there to help each other…

In this episode, we watched the women and men of the ridge pull together, work together, to survive.  Many hands are making the load lighter. Fraser’s Ridge is moving into fall with its colors and harvest and preparations for winter. We are moving into a time of preparation too.  Like the folks of Fraser’s Ridge many of us are creating the most with what we have, our homes are now our sanctuaries. We are gathering our harvests and preparing for a “winter” of sorts.  We are helping others where we can and we are sacrificing our liberties for the greater good. The show reminds us that life, at its most basic, is about providing for and taking care of those we love and care about.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 2.26.24 PM

Find a way to make a difference…

Bree and Claire have a heart to heart about a person’s life purpose.  She is frightened that she may never be able to find a way to do what she is meant to do because of where and when she is living. Claire tells her that most people live their lives as they find them, as I believe many of us do.  A lucky few like Claire know their purpose and it will never change for them.  Claire tells her daughter she is an engineer no matter what they would call her in the 1700’s and encourages Bree to find a way to be who she was meant to be.  I am thankful for those on our front line.  The essential employees, the first responders, the care workers who have a calling and do the job they were meant to do, as Jamie says, “no matter what the cost”.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 2.19.19 PM

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 2.18.47 PM

 

Crisis can bring us closer

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 2.58.48 PM

Sometimes we are banded into a brotherhood or sisterhood because we were part of a group that fought and survived together. Through the struggle, we grow to appreciate each others’ strengths and weaknesses and see each other as human. Often, we discover the things that bind us together are far greater than those that separate us.  Roger and Jamie are thrown into a crisis together. Dealing with the snake bite acted as a bridge in their relationship.  It allowed them the opportunity to look at each other differently.  Jamie trusted his thoughts and feelings to Roger and Roger did the same. The crisis gave them the ability to cross over the bridge into understanding and respect for one another.  They now share a special bond that only this kind of stress and can engender.  I am hopeful that the crisis we all face now will do the same, serve as a bridge to understanding, compassion, and tolerance.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 2.52.23 PM

 

Sometimes life throws us a reality check

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 3.59.28 PM

Jamie has a fear that Claire will amputate his leg.  He has a ‘horror” of it.  He makes Claire give her word she will not operate.  He does not want to live with half a leg. Claire is devastated.  She is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.  She is traumatized by her choices.  She doesn’t have a cure. Jamie’s fear is real, but sometimes our fears are…selfish.  Sometimes we need to be told the truth about ourselves from someone we least expect, but that we know loves us.  Ian told his truth to power.  Jamie’s actions were born of pride and stubbornness. He needed to take a look at himself.   I think this crisis we are living through has caused a lot of us to take a look at our attitudes.  We have time to think and nowhere to go!  In fact, many are experiencing an existential crisis.  Stripped of all our entertainments and ornaments, we are looking at the reality of our lives.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 3.54.18 PM

Try not to think about what you lack…

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 4.15.51 PM

I have decided that Fergus is a life coach extraordinaire:

He understands loyalty, love, and duty.

…That I would depend upon him and he would be there for me…We should be there when he needs us that is all we can do…It is what we should do.

His devotion and gratitude are palpable.  He knows what it is like to live without someone to call your own or to know that you are loved.  He has an “attitude of gratitude”.

…We try not to think about what we lack, but about what we have…

How we respond to life is a much better barometer of happiness than what actually happens to us. I know a lot of happy and satisfied “poor” people and quite a few unhappy fortunate ones.  It isn’t about what you haven’t got, but understanding the value of what you do.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 11.37.31 AM

In the books, Master Raymond touches Claire to heal her.  He reaches up inside her and touches her womb, he then asks her to call the “red man”.  She screams out Jamie’s name. Raymond seems to know that Jamie is the only thing that can bring her back. Now, … the book describes a blue glow emanating from Raymond’s hands and Claire he says has blue aura…so,… maybe Claire’s “touch” may be more than it seems?  However, on his deathbed, Jamie seems to instinctively know that Claire’s touch is the only thing that can bring him back.  The intimacy between the two is one of the main reasons I find the books and the show so appealing.  I want to believe that such intimacy exists and that one can have a soulmate.  It is a rare and beautiful thing to behold.

Jamie claims he came back because Claire needs him.  She is moved by this and tearfully jokes, “not because you love me?”  Jamie’s response is the ultimate reassurance that despite all that may happen to us in this life love remains…

Whether I’m dead or you, whether we are together or apart, I will always love you.

His love for Claire is a given. Got to say, this scene made me want to be the kind of person whose love is a given not even worthy of discussion.

We all have a choice to go forward or turn back

I was grateful for the happy moments and victories in this episode. I needed it. I was happy that Marsali has a Ma in Claire and Fergus a father.  Ian stood up to his Uncle and became the adult in the room and I was happy to see Roger find a way into Jamie’s heart.  Their teasing each other was funny and bittersweet.  Bree found a way to be an engineer and saved the day and Jamie let go of his pride.  And Claire, she gets to love them all.

Thank you to all the Outlander fans that let me use their tweets and pictures. I wanted to add a personal touch to this reflection.  I know we are all fearing the loss of our normal lives.  I just found out I won’t be going back to teach this year. For many, circumstances and resources have drastically changed.  We wonder who will we be now?  Jamie had a choice to go forward or turn back.  He knows there is a war coming and God made him who he is for a purpose.  He will go forward.  May we all find our way forward and reach out to each other with love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“May we all become diamonds”…A Reflection on Outlander 5.08 “Famous Last Words”

Standard

You simply cannot talk about Outlander 508 “Famous Last Words” without talking about the episode’s silent movie extended metaphor. So, let’s get it out of the way…I got it, I just didn’t care for it.  The horror was minimized rather than strengthened by the stylized effect. Juxtapositioned against Roger’s obvious trauma, it just didn’t feel serious enough. I kept waiting for Snidely Whiplash to show up (even though Tim Downie’s Gov. Tyron was a good substitute). I felt the flashbacks could have worked, seeing Roger’s eyes behind that mask was very powerful, but the flickering silent movie presentation took me out of the story.  Once again, I know what they tried to do, the silence, the movement from black and white to color, but this was ROGER hanging from a tree, not Penelope Pureheart tied to a railroad track. I needed to HEAR the commotion, panic, and anguish. So, having stated my opinion on the matter, as I’m sure many will, let me say I felt the rest of the episode was strong.  I always think Outlander shines when they focus on relationships, it is what makes it unique and watchable tv.

I know that the title of this episode “Famous Last Words” should be an obvious guide to what this episode was about.  Words said or left unsaid was definitely a theme worthy of delving into, but what stood out for me was how we all deal with the unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate.  I continue to be amazed by how timely these episodes are.  I can’t help but make comparisons with the unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate times we are currently experiencing.  The world as we know it has changed, probably forever.  How we will all deal with that is happening in real-time.  I find myself fluctuating between hope and despair sometimes hourly. The unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate has come to visit us all. Our plans, our dreams, our well-being, our safety are threatened and like Young Ian, many of us don’t know how to go on or if we even can.

Words

The episode opened with some lovely backstory.  Roger in his element was a joy to behold.  As a teacher, I felt the power of his words as he challenged young minds to think, to examine their response to the world around them, and to consider what legacy they might one day leave.  Words are indeed Roger’s stock and trade, his weapon.  He reminded us and his students that words are powerful and that they can wound and so, we must be careful how we use them.  Roger strives to make his words count and his deeds match.  He hopes that in the end, he will have lived a life worthy of those he loves. The irony that he was unable to have last words is not lost on me nor the fact that using his weapon to try to save Murtaugh and Morag led to the loss of a hugely significant part of his identity…his voice…his words. He is not the man he once was and as a result, like Clementine, he may be lost and gone forever.

Rik Rankin’s performance of a traumatized Roger was moving.  I’m always amazed when actors can communicate everything without saying anything.  His eyes were haunted, his demeanor subdued to the point of pain, and his attempts to use his voice excruciating to watch.  I felt the sharp needles when he swallowed and choked along with him when he tried to speak. I was moved to tears by his attempt to express his gratitude to Ian.  He is the shell of the man he once was.

Grief

How magical must Jamie think the future to be, full of cures for wee invisible beasties (don’t we wish) like the germs that make you sick and so, maybe they have a cure for something else invisible too…grief.  Claire assures him that no, the future has no cure for the heartache of losing someone, only time can cure such things.  When she said this, I was overwhelmed by how many people are grieving right now.  How raw and immediate is their grief, time hasn’t had a chance to cure them, however, I’m not sure we are ever truly cured of grief. We just find a new normal that includes our grief.

I found myself sadly smiling at Jamie self-medicating with whiskey because it is such a normal universal way to deal with things we can’t control. I think there are a lot of folks hoisting a drink right now.  Here in Ohio, our governor has a press conference every day at 2o’clock.  Folks have started calling it “Wine with DeWine” time (there are t-shirts).  The occasional need for whiskey aside, I have always admired Jamie’s emotional maturity.  He is allowing himself to feel and to share his grief with Claire and Jocasta.  With time, he will find a way to live without Murtagh.  Ian is another story.  We aren’t let in on the details of what happened to Ian in the Mowhawk village or the reason for his return, but it is obvious that something is wrong. Like Roger, he is no longer the man he once was, he isn’t the Ian we all knew and loved, but neither is he Mowhawk.  You can see the struggle he has to acclimate himself to life on the Ridge.  I was relieved to see John Bell play Ian with the same earnestness.  It is obvious he is now a man, but there are hints of the old wee Ian.  Lauren Lyle’s Marsali continues to be a revelation. She steals every scene she is in with her portrayal of our spunky Scottish lass.  Marsali has no idea how much her heartfelt admission of guilt means to Ian.  No, he reassures her, it is a good thing to feel you belong somewhere.  We all want Ian to feel he belongs in this family.

Fear

Roger being saved wasn’t enough.  His body is home, but HE isn’t and no amount of cojoling and patience will bring him back to the man Brianna loves.  Her fear is palpable.  She is losing him.  It all comes to a head when she walks in and finds Marsali picking up her tarot cards from the floor and Roger holding on to the Hanged Man card.  She tries to reassure him that she understands his loss and how, ultimately, it doesn’t matter to her how he sounds. This scene reminded me so much of Claire and Jamie in the Abbey. Bree loves him and will take him any way she can get him. Bravo to the actors for letting us see Bree’s fear and frustration and Roger’s pain at his inability to react the way he wants to, to give her what she needs from him. She needs to know that he is coming back and that he won’t forever be the hanged man. He cannot reassure her.

Soon after, she sends him off with some wisdom in the form of a piece of paper that is able to bend and fold and adapt.  Because it allows itself to be manipulated, it becomes a new creature, able to soar.  There is a reason paper, she says, is a gift for first wedding anniversaries and why diamonds are the gift for couples who have been married for 60 years.  She wants them to be like a precious diamond, the hardest substance on earth, able to withstand the pressures of life.  It was an excellent analogy and a heart-tugging hope.  Roger packs the plane and heads off to be useful, surveying the 5000 acres gifted as compensation from Governor Tyron.

Choice

Claire discovers missing hemlock and voices her fears to Jamie that maybe Roger is in so much pain he might want to end his life.  We then discover it is Roger’s traveling companion Ian who cannot live with the pain of losing his wife. He symbolically buries his weapon, his hatchet.  He will no longer fight.  He wants the peace death will bring him.  But, the fates intervene when Roger, who has had his own epiphany, kicks away the poison tea before Ian can drink it.  Roger picks up his weapon, he uses his words to save Ian. They ride home to …fight.

Sing us a song

Roger returns to Brianna.  He tells her even though he was saved, a part of him died that day.  She does understand, she too survived a dark time.  He thought he knew what his last words would be, what his life would be, but circumstances changed and changed him.  In the end, it wasn’t his words that mattered, it was the people in his life, specifically her.  He will always sing for her, even if she isn’t there or even when his voice is unable.  He has allowed himself to become the paper airplane, so that he can have the chance to become a diamond.

May we all become diamonds

Our lives have been hijacked by an invisible wee beastie.  Like Ian, we haven’t the words yet to express our fear and grief. Many of us have difficult decisions to make, life-altering decisions. Like Jamie and Jocasta, we have to find a new normal.  Like Marsali, we have to grab on to happiness and belonging where we can find it.  Like Bree, we must hold on to hope. Like Roger and Ian, we must pick up our weapons and fight.  May we all weather the storm and emerge knowing what truly matters, may we all become diamonds.

God Bless,

Beth

 

 

 

 

They sang us a sorrowful song … a reflection on Outlander 5.07 “The Ballad of Roger Mac”

Standard

 

Once asked to describe what her books were about, Diana Gabaldon responded, “History, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling(with cards, dice, lives), voyages of daring, journeys of the entire body and soul, you know, the usual stuff of literature.”  It seems this week Outlander on Starz decided to portray the same in one single episode.  JHRC was that an amazing hour of T.V.  This episode was indeed like a ballad, a poem set to music, full of vivid, visceral, shocking, tender, and moving stanzas.

There were some fantastic words of dialogue spoken this week, but the words that are still reverberating for me are words that were spoken by Jamie in episode 5, “It was all for naught”.  All the efforts, the planning and plotting, Jamie’s balancing act between loyalty to the crown and those he loves and cares for, Claire’s search for penicillin, Murtagh’s fight against tyranny, and Roger’s acts of bravery,… were all for naught.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 3.12.50 PM

“But, just in case, do you know the words to Clementine…”

The first stanza of this ballad begins with Roger’s voice.  He sings to wee Jem as Bree looks on, a bittersweet family vignette.  This season I have noticed that Bree is ever mindful of others’ feelings.  She takes care to hide her fears while she sets about reassuring her husband, who is one of the most woefully underprepared soldiers I have ever seen.  My granddaughter recently was sent to Ft. Jackson for National Guard training.  She writes of what she is asked to do and what she is being taught. She is being prepared to be a soldier, it is a strenuous, rigorous and lengthy education.  Roger has none of this to fall back on. He has not the training nor the mindset to be a Captain in this war. This is nothing he wanted or could ever have imagined.  Roger’s life as a professor has not prepared him for the harsh reality in which he finds himself.  “If we were back in Oxford in our time, we would be making our lunch boxes and seeing each other off to work”, observes Bree. They are hell and away from tweed jackets and faculty cocktail parties.  He is headed off to war with nothing, but a desire to survive.

We are reminded that Roger himself is a war orphan. He says that he barely remembers his own father and worries that Jem will not remember him should he die in this battle.  Bree once again reassures him and Roger makes the kind of joke we often make when the truth makes us uncomfortable.  I loved the nod between Bree and Roger so reminiscent of Jamie and Claire in moments like this.  In the true definition of bravery, Roger feels the fear but does it anyway. He gave his word to Jamie and…himself.  As Roger leaves, Bree gives him an encouraging albeit tremulous smile. But, after the door shuts we see her real feelings, the dread in the pit of her stomach, and we wring our hands with her.  She has a right to be fearful.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 3.08.50 PM

“The world and each day in it is a gift. Whatever tomorrow brings, I am grateful to see it.”

The scene in the tent came straight out of the books and straight into my heart.  The intimate moments between Jamie and Claire were perfection.  Sam and Cait were able to portray the ease in this relationship, how easily they move from light-hearted banter to seriousness, to the physical expression of what they feel, and the complete trust they have in each other.  One of my favorite lines from the “books”, did not make it to the screen, but this scene reminded me so much of those lines.

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust-crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”…. Diana Gabaldon Voyager

They are safe in each other’s arms, able to be themselves without fear.  Time has only deepened their love and need for each other.  They truly are each other’s soul, each a half of one whole.

In this stanza,  we find Jamie, like Roger, also has his father on his mind.  He stares at his hand in wonder as he realizes he will soon be older than his father was when he died.  I’m not sure the “viewers only folks” will place the same significance on Jamie staring at his hand as I do.  In the books, Jamie often looks at his damaged hand, a symbol of his strife and Claire’s redemptive power.  He has lost it all and with her return gained it all back.  What was once a useless mangled mess is now only a reminder that he survived to live and …love.  Each day now is a gift.  Little does he know how much grief and loss tomorrow has in store.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 3.11.00 PM

“There will be a day when you and I will part again, but it willna be today.”…

We once again see Jamie going to war for other men’s purposes, but he is doing so because he must, there is a lot at stake.  He is facing friends and family across the battlefield.  And so, he prepares himself.  I continue to be so grateful that the show continues to feature Jamie’s faith as it is inextricably part of him.  Jamie’s faith, is syncretistic in nature, a perfect blend of the old ways and his Catholicism.  He gives reverence to both simultaneously.  The scene in the creek was a perfect example.  He calls to his dead Uncle, war chieftain of clan McKenzie, for help in the upcoming battle and then crosses himself in blood.  Quite frankly, I find Jamie’s brand of Christianity to be…beautiful.  It fits.

Every stanza in this poem that deals with war reminds me that despite the difference in time and methods of battle, what was once true is still true.  As he tells the proud young possum hunters, “War is killing…nothing less.  If you think of anything, but your own skin, you’ll be dead by nightfall. You canna waver.”  And, the passage of time hasn’t seemed to change the fact that sometimes people who are supposed to care about serving others only care about themselves. Tim Downie’s perfectly portrayed Governor Tryon, a politician whose choices are informed by his concern for his image and legacy, made my skin crawl.  He is not interested in doing what is best for the country and its people.  He doesn’t care about peace or compromises only whether or not he has been insulted and how to feed his need to punish those who would dare to stand against him.  He is resolute and will force others to bend to his will including Jamie.  It was painful to see Jamie put on that redcoat so …incongruous.  Jamie’s mortification and struggle to comply was subtle but obvious to anyone who cared to look and Tryon was watching.  I’m still amazed by Sam Heughan’s ability to emote.  I felt the weight of that red coat on his shoulders. And, Claire’s reaction to seeing him so adorned was perfection, she stopped dead in her tracks and quietly uttered what we were all thinking, “JHRC”.  Her empathy was expressed and they share a tender moment of understanding. Jamie shares his concern for Roger and then before he goes off to fight, he gives a wee gift to us book lovers, “There will be a day when you and I will part again, but it willna be today.”…sigh

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 6.47.33 PM

“…I know, but I’m the only one that can do it…”

Time travel rears it’s ugly head in this next stanza and is the impetus that moves the plot forward.  This change from the books expertly blended the Murtagh story-line with Roger’s.  It put him in the enemy camp where he, unfortunately, needed to be, ” I’m the only one who can do it.” The scenes of Roger with Murtagh rang the same notes as in the book when Roger met with Herman Husband, the leader of the regulators.  He was trying to broker peace and save lives.  This is the caring and compassionate man I know from the books.  And, it is that same caring and compassionate nature that gets him into trouble in the very next scene.  Being a man out of time may have proved fatal for Roger. He forgot where he was, what the rules were, and what the men of this time were capable of.  He hugged his multiple great grandmother.  At least, in his mind, that was who she was.  Innocent, completely innocent, but no way to explain.  The Ballad of Roger Mac is a song of woe.  The irony.  Roger is about to be hung by his own grandfather for hugging his grandmother.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 6.57.34 PM

“We are not here to kill our brothers…”

And it was all for naught…those words kept coming to mind as I watched the end of this ballad.  Despite Roger’s bravery behind enemy lines and Jamie’s efforts to guide his men’s actions, they could not control what was about to unfold.  There was too much fodder for fate to feed on.  There was too much room for coincidence and foolish mistakes.  It all came crashing down.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 9.09.49 PM

I was called back to the last time Jamie said goodbye forever to someone he loved. He danced Murtagh to the base of the tree as he had once danced Claire to the stones. “Do not be afraid.  It does not hurt to die”, were Murtagh’s last words to his godson.  Be they uttered at Culloden or in America, they were still as impactful.  This was a devasting loss for Jamie.  I was not surprised that he took him to Claire, that he demanded that she heal him, book lovers will recall a scene where Jamie’s sister Jenny demanded the same of Claire. He needs Murtagh to keep his promise to never leave him.  His grief is great and she understood.

What followed was a natural progression.  We saw angry Jamie, angry at having to play by other men’s rules, angry at the crown that had caused so much pain in his life, anger at injustice, and tyranny, angered by senseless violence and loss.  He is a changed man. This was the moment Jamie became a revolutionary.  As painful as it was to watch Jamie put on that red coat it was worth it to watch him take it off and throw it on the ground at the shallow man’s feet, “You and I both know what really. happened here today…”.  Jamie proclaims his debts paid and his obligation to the crown at an end. I could not help but be overwhelmed by how steep was the price he paid and how much more dear that debt was to cost him.

We then see a grief-stricken Jamie fall to his knees by the campfire, holding his heart with the blood of his Godfather on his hands.  He stumbles to his feet and suddenly sees his daughter staring off into the direction of the creek and it is as if a switch is turned off.  His battle face is back on.  I suspect he knows there is more, more loss and grief to face this day.  They all go looking for Roger, but it is if they are all dream walking, moving through a waking nightmare.  From a tree, the white flag of truce half out of his pocket hangs Roger Mac…it was all for naught …and all fades to black.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 9.12.15 PM

 

 

PS. I see you Graham

 

 

 

You never really know what’s coming, do you? … a reflection on Outlander episode 5.05 Perpetual Adoration

Standard

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Beth Wesson

 

God the infinite. God the merciful. God the eternal.  Someday I will stand before God, and I will recieve answers to all my questions about everything in his universe, and I do have many questions…

This week’s blog is truly a reflection upon and not a review of “Perpetual Adoration”.

At times, I have wondered at how timely the themes of the Outlander’s episodes have been.  It seemed so coincidental that the show was reflecting what was happening in my life or… the world.  This week it was both. There was no way that the show could have known what was going to happen when they scheduled the dates for airing season 5.  And yet, here we are, “You never really know what is coming, do you?”  This week, I watched an episode about being in the grip of mysterious powers that we cannot fathom while living in the grip of mysterious powers that I am struggling to fathom.

The show decided to show us how events in our lives and our response to those events can lead us to the place we are meant to be.  Like a great spiderweb, the smallest of touches, decisions, events, words, can set off vibrations through the eons. You can be lying in bed with your husband, basking in the glow of lovemaking, and never see you are about to have a fight that could change your relationship forever.  And, maybe you don’t know that your embarrassment at getting sent home from battle will eventually lead you to discover your strengths and purpose in life, “You know how to get through to people”.  There was so much truth about the nature of life in this episode, I felt a bit overwhelmed at times.  It all rang very true to me. Maybe because I too am on the other side of letting go and trusting a being I can’t see, cannot hear, and at times, cannot feel.

How many times have I put my hopes, my fears, my secret longings into the hands of a being I can’t see, can’t hear, can’t even feel? And how many times have my prayers been answered?

My answer to Claire’s question is many and perpetually.  At the ripe old age of sixty-two, I find I can now reflect upon my life with the blessing of distance. Without a doubt, the most impactful event for me was the loss of my mother when I was seventeen years old. I know now her death changed the trajectory of my life.  And, as painful as it was at the time, I can credit her death for giving myself and my siblings a fresh start and a chance at lives we most probably wouldn’t have had had she lived.  All the choices, words said during that time have reverberated throughout my life. In fact, I can even trace my involvement in this fandom, the many friends and connections I have gained, and my interest in writing to her death. I began writing this blog as a way to practice writing. The only people who knew about it were two of my nieces. Unbeknownst to me, they sent this piece about my mother to Diana who read it and tweeted it and the rest, as they say, is history, A place where peace dwells… The irony that I wrote about the chapter when Jamie finds Adso is not lost on me…coincidence, if I am to agree with the premise of this episode, probably not.

Do You Ever Feel Like Everything is Leading You to a Certain Point?

I think THIS question is the theme of season 5, things happen to us over which we have no control, and yet, how we respond, every choice has consequences, and the words we speak matter. In this episode, we are told Claire has been thinking a lot about the past and we are treated to flashbacks of the events and choices in Claire’s life that lead her back to Jamie.  Like myself, she has the blessing of distance to help her reflect. I’ve always thought it an interesting dichotomy that Claire a woman of science was caught up in such a preternatural event as time-travel.  She is so pragmatic and grounded and yet, here she is 200 years in the past discovering penicillin, history be damned,  and discussing whether or not her grandchild will be able to “hear” the stones, and reflecting on how she was lead to this unbelievable point.

Both Jamie and Claire have hard choices to make this season.  I think it is difficult to determine whether their choices are right or wrong. Our response to the events in our lives depends on our perspective, which side of the battle we are on. As a result, who is to say, who is righteous? Loss has changed both Claire and Jamie and the threat of more loss influences their choices. They have lived without each other and their family and with each other and their family and they both will do what it takes, be it flouting history or committing murder, to preserve the life they both suffered and fought for. I cannot blame them, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t do the same to protect my family.  Try as you might to walk between two fires, some times it is “all for naught” and you must act and then “ask the Lord for forgiveness and receive it” because there will be “more battles to fight”.  I’m sitting here shaking my head because I am watching this play out in real life. Many people with the responsibility of the care of others are being forced to act, to make unpopular choices, risk being wrong because they know there will be more battles to fight.

Sometimes Truth Hurts and Don’t be Careless

We never really know what is coming, do we? Sometimes we are faced with truths that hurt like finding out you aren’t who you thought you were, or that your wife didn’t tell you the whole truth or that you must fight yet again in a battle of duty to other men’s ambitions.or …that your way of life has just been threatened by an enemy so small you cannot see it. Roger can hang on to the hurt, the sense of betrayal and let it ruin what he has with Bree or he can choose what really matters, the woman he traveled through time for. Jamie can choose which oath to give his loyalty to and be branded a traitor once again, and we can choose to make the best use of this time, and look at the hard truths of our own lives. What really matters?  Right now we are all facing the hurtful truth of a pandemic. It is a fearful and uncertain time. In a few short days, we have been witness to the best and worst of humanity; denial, greed, selfishness, empathy, heroic selflessness, love for our fellow man.  Claire asks Roger not to be careless.  I’ll ask you the same..hang on to what is important, let the rest go, and if you can… trust in time… “…time is, of course, all-healing.  Give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of: all pain encompassed, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed.”

Diana Gabaldon “The Firey Cross”

 

A Show Worth Caring About…A Reflection on Outlander 5.04 “The Company We Keep”

Standard

by Beth Wesson

 

Back before Outlander on Starz was on the air, I wrote an article that I hoped would be prophetic.  It was my prediction that viewers would care about Claire because she was a character worth caring about. In fact, I felt Outlander had a chance to be different than anything on TV at the time.  We were about to see if a show with characters with redeeming character could hold an audience’s attention.  Starz must have been hoping I was prophetic too because they posted it and Caitriona read it and said, “I concur”! Pretty heady stuff for a fledgling writer.  At the time, folks were comparing Outlander to Game of Thrones.  I always felt it was a very short-sighted comparison. GOT was full of characters acting out of warped emotions, values, and needs, lots of titillating stuff to discuss around the water cooler. I have nothing against R.R. Martin or the show based on his works. They are what they are, but what they are is a far cry from what Outlander is or tries to be. And, I think I was prophetic, I believe that the potential for Outlander to be something more has come to fruition.

As I watched this week’s episode “The Company We Keep”, I thought about my hopes for Outlander back in the day. This whole season has a vibe that I’m liking and I’m happy to say that that it seems the show has returned to its roots; a focus on people who struggle to make the right decisions and the relationships they have with others. If you were to judge ME by the company I keep, you would have to include the people I spend my Sunday nights with, the folks of Fraser’s Ridge. They are indeed people worth watching because they are people worth caring about.

Roger Mac

I care about Roger because he is man worth caring about.  In this episode, we continue to see Roger struggle to be a man in the 18th century. When Roger makes a decision, I find myself saying a little prayer, “please, please, please let him be right”. He tries so hard, but he has no experience or skills to draw upon except his academic knowledge. Right now it is of little use to him. He may know the words to the songs, the history of battles, but he has not lived them. He is literally bringing a book to a gunfight.  And yet, he gets up every day and tries to be the man everyone needs him to be despite feeling like he is letting everyone down. Roger’s only motivation is to be there for Bree and his small family.  I find it heart warming that a man whose only real experience of family is being raised by an elderly uncle is so all in.  He is a father to Jem, a husband to Bree no matter what time they live in.  He is loyal, honorable, and peace-loving. I trust he will find a way to be of use and earn Jamie’s coveted faith in him.

Fergus

I care about Fergus because he is a man worth caring about. The thing I love most about Fergus is his undying loyalty to Jamie. Jamie may not have gotten to raise a child of his own blood, but it is obvious he is loved by the children of his heart.  I believe Fergus tries to emulate his father “milord” and you can see the evidence in his relationship with Marsali. As an extension of his loyalty and love for Jamie, he has Roger’s back.  He treats him as the family he is and with the respect bestowed upon him. I hope we get to see more of Fergus’ story and struggles.  There is much about life to be learned there.

Marsali

I care about Marsali because she is a woman worth caring about.  This character! How could you not love her! She is spunky, straight-forward, open, and full of life.  Her humor and good-natured wit serve her well. I’m pretty sure you have to earn her love because he isn’t a pushover, but it would so be worth the effort.  She reminds me a bit of Jenny. If you are loved by her you would know it. Her conversation with Brianna in this episode showed wisdom beyond her years. I’m sure Brianna could tell she truly cares about her and I loved seeing the blossoming of this relationship. I hope we see more of her story of perseverance and unconditional love it is worth watching.

Brianna

I care about Brianna because she is a woman worth caring about.  Right now, the Brianna we see is a woman struggling to find her sense of self again. She is fighting a demon too many woman battle, rape, and its aftermath.  Despite what has happened to her she too gets up every day and tries.  She knows she is damaged and combating feelings she cannot control. Her superhuman efforts to be a good mother and wife are admirable.  However, the show, true to form, lets us see her frailty too. We see her struggle and feel empathy. I need to see her share her burden and hope that will happen soon.

Jamie

I care about Jamie because he is a man worth caring about.  Last week, I read an article where Diana Gabaldon discussed the 5.03 episode.  One of the things she said that has stuck with me is Jamie’s identity as a warrior. It permeates everything he does. He is always ready to fight to protect the people he loves and has responsibility for. You can be sure if you are lucky enough to be loved by Jamie you have his protection. I keep saying this, but the man isn’t motivated by power.  He doesn’t seek attention or riches.  His motives are truly purer.  He is motivated by love, loyalty, and honor. In this episode alone, we see him give two young boys their freedom and then protect them from harm, negotiate the best possible situation with the Browns and the militia. give Claire a child should she wish, and help two young lovers escape to live and love together. He cares, so I care.

Claire

I STILL care about Claire because she is a woman worth caring about. I had a friend attend Wizard World in Cleveland this past weekend.  She said that Cait shared that some of the hardest times as an actor are when you are asked to play your character in ways that are counter to what you believe them to be.  I’m totally paraphrasing because I wasn’t there, but I believe that was the gist of the conversation.  I can totally understand and I feel encouraged that she has more say in how Claire is portrayed this season. Last season, I lamented the lost opportunity to see the Claire of the ridge.  As a book lover, I remembered thinking the Claire of the ridge was my favorite because it seemed the later books were when Claire became all she was truly meant to be.  I’m happy to say I see her this season. I see a Claire who is frustrated by what is available to her medically, but who knows her purpose. I see a Claire who “loves her life” together with her Jamie.  I see a kind Claire who treats everyone she meets with respect and compassion.  This Claire is a true partner of her beloved husband.  She is a mother and grandmother to many.  She is loved and loves and I love her for her unflagging principles in the face of adversity.

A Show Worth Watching

This show is more than titillation. This show is about the complexity of life and relationships.  This show never shies away from difficult topics and takes the time to portray the aftermath of trauma. This show lets us see both men AND women as fully realized people.  At its core is a long term loving and passionate relationship, a couple who works and strives to stay together.  It is beautiful, transportive, and moving.  So, I’ll be keeping company with Outlander on Starz because I care about its characters and want to watch every week and I can’t give it a better compliment than that.

 

We Are The Sum of Our Choices…a reflection on Outlander 5.03 “Free Will”

Standard
by Beth Wesson

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.40.30 PM

This week’s episode is called “Free Will”.  I’m really happy about that because it has given me a chance to share my favorite Christian Theology story! Never saw that coming!  I was told the story came from a book called “Great Church Fights”.  I never challenged that, but I thought if I was going to blog about it I had better do a little fact-checking. Yep, in 1972, Leslie B. Flynn wrote a book about church controversy and how to solve it.  I’m totally paraphrasing, but here goes…

A church was divided on the issues of free will and predestination.  It had gotten so bad that they were on the verge of the church splintering into two groups.  They were meeting in the basement of the church and everyone had picked a side.  The freewill people were on one side of the room and the predestination folks were on the other, all that is, except for one lone soul who stood in the middle. He was still undecided which group he should join.

Finally, he went to the predestination side of the basement.

“What are you doing here?”, the predestination folks asked.

“I came of my own free will!” the man said.

He was not welcomed, and group members pointed him toward the other group.

“What are you doing here?”, the free will people asked.

“I was sent”, said the man.

I remembered this story while reflecting on this episode “Free Will”, and like the great church fight, I’m sure there will be a split in the fandom over this episode.  I might be that poor fellow in the middle.  The book purists will love it.  Others might question how spending an entire episode in Beardsley’s House of Horrors advances the story.  As a book lover, I am of two minds about the issue.  Maybe I should just “pick a side or up and away” (thanks Murtagh).  But, of my own free will,  I’ve decided to write about…free will and how it affects this storyline and let the fans decide which side of the basement they will stand on.

Free Will vs Fate

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 10.22.33 PM

This whole episode could have been used as a lesson in a theology or philosophy class. As I understand it, the Christian theologists believe that God gives free will to man because he desires our love.  He wants us to choose to live for him  He has the power to force us to do as he bids, but to do so would negate choice and therefore real love.  We must be free to choose if we are to truly love.  The irony is that he already knows what we will choose, hence the belief in predestination.  Philosophers have spent centuries trying to answer the same question of whether we have free will or are just the puppets of fate/determinism.  Are we free to make our own choices or is every choice the result of cause and effect making us the product of our past experiences.

Free will is defined as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.” It is extremely hard, in my humble opinion, to know where free will begins and ends.  I am of the mind that we are inextricably connected to our experiences and circumstances and that they invariably inform our choices.  We may sometimes move beyond what is expected, of what is the norm, and as a result, we perceive we are acting at our own discretion.  It is comforting to believe we have free will, however more times than not, we make a choice that is clearly within the boundaries of the life path we are on, the constraints of necessity or fate are always there. Then again, personally, I believe in miracles and grace…so…yeah, you can see why folks have been discussing this one for centuries.

Breaking Free of  Fate

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.19.38 PM

Everyone in this story is held in some kind of bondage to their nature or to necessity. Claire starts off the episode with a voiceover about growing mold. She is tempting fate because she cannot live with having knowledge that would save lives and then doing nothing. It is an odd bird this time travel thing.  She affects history every time she saves someone’s life and yet every time she consciously tries to change history she fails. But, she tries again. She is trying to create penicillin 157 years before its time and daring the fates to stop her. This made me smile. It would appear Claire has exercised her free will by forging ahead, consequences be damned.  But, does she really have a choice, she is Claire after all. This seems consistent with everything we know about her nature, she has no choice but to choose as she does. She is destined to try to help and heal, and we love her for it.  The episode did a wonderful job of showing us a kind Claire who cares deeply about everyone who crosses her path, be it a bondservant, abused wife, or the man who abused them all.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.52.17 PM

art credit to Sylvia

Jamie has been walking between two fires for as long as I can remember.  He has been an outlaw trying to stay alive, an outlander at Castle Leoch, an outcast Jacobite leader trying to care for fellow prisoners, a man without a heart trying to live without a heart, a changed man asking to be loved for the man he was, and a laird trying to protect loved ones on opposite sides of a revolution.  Better than anyone, Jamie knows what it is like to be the plaything of fate. It feels like very few choices have been his to make. So much has been out of his control.

I was so glad to see the return of the anchor that holds Jamie to his course in life, his faith .  For the most part, it has been sadly missing in this series.  The Jamie that stands by Claire’s bedside thanking the Lord for his blessings is the Jamie I know.  He has always been grateful for his blessings and thoughtfully prayed over the decisions in his life.  His choices are always colored by his Catholicism and his God.  He could of cursed God for all of his sufferings, but instead, he chooses to live his faith. Throughout the episode we see Jamie keeping his word and living his faith.  He is not perfect, he makes his share of mistakes, but he also chooses to live with honor and the kind of mercy that gave Beardsley a choice.

Jamie’s life would have been much easier if he had never met Claire.  He might have lived a more solitary and selfish life, join the watch and become a soldier for pay.  But, I want to exercise my free will and believe he was fated to love Claire and that that choice changed everything. I was tearful as I watched the reunion scene, they need each other, they are soulmates.

Fannie and the Beardsley twins are an uncomfortable example of how necessity affects free will.  Imagine living in servitude since you were a toddler and facing a future of completing a 30-year term of indenture to a man who beats and starves you.  Josiah took whatever opportunity there was to escape. His choice to leave gave them the possibility of a future, but what choice did Josiah really have? It was a matter of survival, necessity.

Fannie is a frighteningly accurate portrait of an abused woman.  She feels betrayed by her father, given to a man who beats and abuses her.  Imagine living with the knowledge that you are this man’s fifth wife and fearing that your grave will soon be under the Rowan tree with the others. It is no wonder that she finds herself capable of such cruelty.  Her free will had been beaten from her and her choice to give her rage permission to act its revenge, although horrifying, is at some level understandable. Her conversations with Claire revealed that she wasn’t always as she appears.  Her fears for her child’s future and her wish that the twins find some happiness showed us that despite the evidence, she is still a human who can feel pity and concern.  Her choice to leave her child was one of necessity and I felt her desperation as she left the trading post as the damaged goods Beardsley’s choices had created.

We Are the Sum of Our Choices

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.28.42 PM

The episode reminded us of some of life’s truths about choices.  Claire reminds us that we can’t be responsible for the choices others make, Bree and Roger that no matter how much we prepare, life can throw us curves, and Jamie that some choices require sacrifice. One other truth found in the episode is that in the end, whether governed by free will or necessity, we are the sum of our choices.  Mr. Beardsley is the visceral embodiment of that truth. The scenes in the trading post were beyond my expectations.  I knew what was coming and was still shocked. The slow reveal of what Fannie did to her husband built on the horror.  When the truth is clear, Claire states the obvious, “What you must have done to deserve this”.  The fact of the matter is Beardsley is reaping the repercussions of his selfish and evil choices.  When he most needs mercy there is no one in his world willing to dispense it.

The most chilling part of this episode for me was when Jamie offered the paralyzed man a quicker death, an escape from his torture.  “Let it be his choice, his will”, he tells Claire. He gives the man the choice of being treated by Claire or an assisted death. His only request of the man was so true to Jamie form.  Knowing Beardsley was a wicked man, he does not want to take his life and risk sending him to hell.  He asks if the man will not pray for forgiveness.  I found myself breathlessly waiting for the second blink.  This for me was the most disturbing of the choices we were shown, whether made of his free will or of necessity, he chose hell.  Maybe he chose to be defiant even unto death or maybe he felt he deserved eternal damnation.  We will never know, but he will forever stand in my mind as a wretched cautionary tale.

 

 

I’m pretty sure I singed my eyebrows just watching…a reflection on Outlander 5.02 “Walking Between Two Fires”

Standard

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 8.33.32 AM

by Beth Wesson

Last week a fan blog wished the show would be more gritty…all I can say is be careful what you wish for!  It felt like the show went from quaint to queasy as quickly as you could say “tar and feathers”.  The storyline was so full of foreshadowing I was actually squirming.  Claire continues to be uncompromisingly principled …to a fault.  AND…Steven Bonnett “is a father now.”  The portent of these words was so ominous I actually gasped and cried out loud, “Jemmie!”  AND…no matter what Jamie does he is wrong.  I felt so much second-hand anxiety, I wasn’t sure I would be able to watch it again.  I did, but I wasn’t much more comfortable the second time! In preseason interviews, the actors said things were going to quickly turn to shite and they weren’t kidding.  Hold on to your tricorns we are in for a bumpy ride.

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 2.14.10 PM

Torn between loyalty and loyalty

“I didna think them capable of this”, says Colonel James Fraser. I found myself to be incredulous, as well, this seemed, unlike Murtagh.  The insurrection in Hillsborough seemed an overreaction to the provocation.  Then I thought again.  I kept wondering what emotions lie under the skin of a revolutionary.  How strong must it be to allow them to believe the actions we witnessed were justified?  I thought of all Murtagh and the others had been through and how tired they must be of not fighting back.  This New World Murtagh has spent years in prison and servitude, all at the hands of the English. His righteous anger at this treatment had been impotent, as he had no way to express it that would make any difference to himself or others.  This anger wouldn’t have just gone away, it had to have simmered under the surface.  Then just when he and some of his fellow countrymen have finally gained their freedom, here comes the English taxing away their hard-won lives.  Anger would have come to a boil.

The crown believes themselves to be the superior and sovereign rulers of this country.  Lieutenant Knox is aghast at what he perceives as ingratitude, from these backwoods people, “there is always a need to respect his majesty’s army”.  Murtagh and the regulators have lost all capability of caring what the crown thinks or wants.  The English’s arrogance and disdain toward the colonials is no longer to be born. The fatal flaw of Lieutenant Knox and the English is their underestimation of these people and their desire to be free and treated as the equals they are.  They are not living by the King’s leave and will not “take what is offered and be thankful”.  The English are failing to see they are reaping the mercy they showed at Culloden and in its aftermath.

I think Jamie Fraser is just beginning to fully understand what he is facing and how truly narrow is the path between the fires of loyalty to Murtagh and the settlers of Fraser’s Ridge.  He knew his balance was precarious, but I don’t think he expected Murtagh to be such a zealot and that he would not make himself hard to find.  He is shocked to find Murtagh so public in his defiance.  It has become obvious that he is not waiting to fight at Jamie’s side. It seems to me that Murtagh understands that without information about the part the regulators play and how they fare in this “coming war”, he must blindly go ahead with his plans. They may not make a difference, but then again they may.  In fact, none of us truly know how the actions of men like Murtagh shaped the revolution that led to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Jamie is left trying to navigate his way between loyalty to Murtagh and loyalty to his settlers, his empathy for the regulators and his need to protect his family.  Sam Heughan’s ability to emote that strain and its consequence is nothing short of staggering.

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 2.20.41 PM

Torn between truth and truth:

The “truth fires” that Claire walks between are the truth that she is fighting the knowledge that she could be saving lives and the truth that that same knowledge could place them all in danger of losing everything.  Right now, I’m worried they are all going to get burned because Claire cannot stop fanning the flames.

Life here is hard, dangerous, rife with ignorance and violence.  The scene in Hillsborough was a harsh reminder, but the scene in the surgery cemented the truth for me.  The Farrish’s wagon comes careening up to the Big House with an obviously ill Mister Farrish.  A distraught Mistress Farrish has no idea how she could have done anything more to help! She has given him laxatives! She has let his blood!  Claire confirms to her horror and ours that the man’s veins have been cut open and much needed blood drained.  Then the clincher…the man’s wife has given him “Blue Mass Pills”…mercury.  There is literally nothing Claire can do, but watch him die.  She is fighting both the “illness and its cure”.  She is a woman with knowledge, living in a world with none.

In an effort to get at the truth, Claire decides to do an autopsy.

I felt that that sentence needed to be given its own space.  The danger in which she has placed herself and those she loves cannot be overstated.  I kept thinking she has a body ripped open in her house! Literally, anyone could discover it just like Brianna.  Brianna is right, it intellectually and practically makes sense in 1969, but that is not the time in which they live.  What if someone does find out?  We all know what will happen.  But, Claire forges ahead consequences “be damned”.  I’m not a doctor, but at some level, I understand her need and her frustration.  If people would just listen to her, just come to her sooner, she wouldn’t have to watch helplessly while they die. But again, Brianna is right, Mistress Farris just helped her husband “die faster”.  The truth is that there really wasn’t anything Claire could have done either way.  Once again, we see Claire blinded by her need to help.  At this point, it is starting to feel pathological. Her need may appear selfless, but in truth, it feels selfish.  I want to shake some sense into her, has she learned nothing?

 

Torn between fear and fear:

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 2.27.24 PM

Last week we heard that Bonnett, Brianna’s rapist and potential biological father to her son, was spotted in the province.  This week we saw that he was more than a charcoal nightmare.  Stephen, the sociopath, is alive and well and proud to be a papa.  Excuse me while I shiver in fear.  Bonnet was an absolute creep and brute in the books, but Ed Speelers’ portrayal of him might just be worse than BJR, and that, my friends, is quite a feat.  Black Jack Randall was very much in control of his darkness.  That in itself was frightening, but he was at least predictable.  Bonnet’s duality of charm and savage brutality is frightening because of its capricious instability.  He can be smiling one minute and cutting your eyes out the next.

I’m sure it was deliberate, but why did they feel the need to make him look good?  Maybe, it’s just me? Did anyone else think they made him look gorgeous? It was disconcerting.  Villians should look like villains, right? Then it hit me.  Lucifer was an angel.  It makes it even more frightening that he doesn’t look the part.  There are no immediate warning signs, he seems affable.   When he feels insulted by another man, he comments that they should settle the affront to his honor like gentlemen.  He is only playing at the gentlemen.  He is in truth feral.  When he doesn’t kill the man outright instead of maiming him, it is because he “…wants to set a better example. I’m a father now”.  He walks out, straightens his clothes back to genteel form, a look of eagerness then crosses his face.  I was convinced that look and his attempts to be a gentleman were all about Jemmie.

Brianna is walking between the fires of fear and fear.  On one side is the very real fear that her rapist lives.  On the other side, she lives with the fear that her PTSD will destroy any chance she has at happiness.  She fights to not let Bonnet win.  She will not let what he did ruin her relationship with the man and child that she loves. She hides her fears.  Like so many others like her, she puts on a smile and tries to live.  This might be the narrowest path of all.  She has survived, but that doesn’t mean she is healed.  Healing from trauma comes with no guarantees about what life will be like after.  Brianna lives with fear on all sides and maybe …she is walking through fire.