Looking for the show I loved…a reflection on Outlander season 4

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I didn’t write a reflection after season 4’s finale.  It is true that I was sick and really couldn’t think clearly enough to write, but if I’m truthful with myself…a part of me really didn’t want to.  Then because so much time had gone by and so many had written exhaustively about this season, I really thought I would just pass. But, in the last few days, I’ve had readers asking me where my review is and I guess I owe them at least an explanation. I love this show and it hurts me to have to say negative things. I really am rooting for them.  I was holding out hope that my patience this season would be rewarded. It wasn’t.  My overall initial feeling after watching the Outlander season 4 finale was one of dissatisfaction. I wasn’t angry just sad. My thoughts wandered to previous finales and I particularly remembered how I felt after season 1. As I watched Jamie and Claire sail away on that ship to France I was tearfully smiling. I can remember thinking that I would miss this couple and overall pleased with the adaptation. I was proud to be a fan.  I’m still proud to be a fan, but with a few exceptions, I struggled to write about this season. I would find myself sitting with my thoughts for far too long.  I wasn’t inspired.  And, I think my writing this season reflects that.

It is telling that my most popular blog posts this season have been when I felt the need to negatively critique an episode. I hate that.  I’ve had some time to think and to read other fan’s reactions and I find myself agreeing with bloggers and fans that I usually don’t.  I hate that. But, I can’t write this blog if I’m not genuine.  My readers trust me to be honest and my conscience would bother me if I was wasn’t.  I really love Outlander and want it to succeed.  Let’s be clear, there is still a lot to love about this show.  It is beautiful and transportive and I have always believed it was made with obvious love for the story they were telling.  It is a remarkable tv experience. What it isn’t …is …the same show.

I’m still not buying into some fans’ intricate conspiracy theories and need to denigrate cast and crew for not giving “fans” what they want.  But, something HAS  changed.  None of us on the outside really know, but there are a lot of theories out there and at least a few make some sense.  There were a lot of changes to the TPTB and I have no idea if that resulted in different work relationships and expectations and maybe changes to budgets as well.  There were new writers, bad weather, and some really concerning comments from the cast about their characters and the amount of input they would like to have in the writers’ room. I THINK that might be a good idea, but what if their ideas about their characters aren’t what we think they think, lol. I still haven’t forgiven Sam for not letting Jamie “quietly fall to pieces”. Then this week some fans were sent questionnaires.  I guess that would indicate that they are trying to listen, but why not just say we hear you?  Why send surveys to select fans? What was the criteria? I’ve always felt that the majority of fans are happy with the show, but not as vocal as those who seem to be invested in finding fault.  Was this questionnaire sent to a true representative sample of fans?

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I’ve been here since the beginning and I don’t think PR has EVER really known who their audience is for this show or how to market it.  Can anyone say “the kilt drops”?  Are these surveys going to insure that PR and the TPTB will get an accurate picture of what fans want?  I think they might offer some insight, but shouldn’t be taken as gospel or as a definitive barometer of fan opinion. Quite frankly, if some fans actually get what they think they want they still wouldn’t be satisfied. I’m afraid it is the nature of the beast that is fandom. As much as fans like to think they know how to adapt Diana Gabaldon’s bible sized tomes, they don’t.  Nevertheless, there are some consistent and legitimate concerns played on many of the broken records. Sorting those out from the irritating scratches would not be an envivable job. This questionnaire thing feels like a mistake, one that is undermining the creators.  If I was them I’d be looking for another job. And, some folks NEED to stay.

I believe something happened this season that impacted what we saw on our screens. The show has taken a turn and is on a path that is far from the show I love to love.  It is a feeling, a change in attitude, and focus.  In my humble opinion, Outlander shines when it focuses on relationships.  And, that held true for this season as well.  Blood of my Blood and The Birds and the Bees were two of this season’s most well received episodes for that very reason.  I agree with fans who say that to in order to care about what happens to the characters we have to care about the characters.  As wonderful as the Cherokee village and Roger’s rescue were it was far less important than bridging differences and mending relationships in this story.  For example, just because you can write an episode of someone trekking wordlessly through a jungle doesn’t mean you should.

Character development just wasn’t up to par this season.  The Claire of the Ridge has always been my favorite Claire and after watching this season, I’ll have to reread Drums to remember why.  She seemed a faded version of the woman who finally becomes who she was meant to be.  She wasn’t the only character that was less than they should have been. Watching Fergus and Marsali I wondered why in the few minutes they were on screen their relationship was so much more dynamic and their persona so much clearer than Bree and Roger.  These two are so important to the rest of the story and they just don’t seem to be as clearly developed and/or portrayed in a way to make us care about them as major players.  I’ve written before about some choices that  I felt were a few “fatal” mistakes that have reverberated throughout the seasons: Loghaire at the witch trial and not allowing Claire to fight Jamie’s demons.  I read the explanations, but in truth Roger isn’t the beloved character he should be.  I’m hoping Roger’s leaving Bree and not choosing to come directly to River Run will not be one of those fatal mistakes that reverberate throughout the rest of the seasons. I think they dealt with those two previous mistakes as best they could and I’m hopeful that Roger and his relationship with Bree will be righted too.

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I’m completely aware that I am just one more fan voice and one more opinion in the ocean that has been written about this season.  It feels ironic to find myself saying, I’m criticizing, but I truly just want the show to be better, having criticized that type of critique previously, but I truly just want the show to do better. It isn’t too late to fix what was wrong this season.  I just want to write about a show that inspires me, I want the Outlander  I wrote this about:

CHARACTER COUNTS … A REFLECTION ON

OUTLANDER EPISODE 1. 11

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I was perusing Twitter on Saturday before watching Outlander episode 11 the Devil’s Mark when I came across a tweet from someone who had already watched the episode. Aside from being a little pissed that I hadn’t gotten to watch yet, I found the statement intriguing. The author said,
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Because the tweet intrigued me, I re-tweeted it.  I felt my excitement to watch the episode heighten.  Had they really done it? Had they really shown Claire in all her wonderful nerve-wracken-ly principled glory?  I sure hoped so.

The episode was exciting and full of all kinds of wonderful, but per usual there was a theme that stood out for me. Character. In a real-world and TV world full of characters with ambiguous moral character, Outlander has the potential to be something different. Saturday night, I saw some of that potential realized. Our main characters had moral and ethical dilemmas that they solved in ways that have sadly become a-typical. They made selfless decisions. They did the right thing despite knowing the price they would pay would be dear.

I enjoy watching Game of Thrones, a show Outlander has been compared to. In my opinion, this comparison by journalists is weak at best and most often used by writers too lazy to look any deeper.  There seems to be a tendency among these types to latch on to what is the most “pop culture” popular thing to repeat. 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.

Last years’ GOT season was full of characters acting out of warped emotions, values and needs. I don’t expect anything different this year. Lots of titillating stuff to discuss around the water cooler, but I must admit the most shocking thing about this show is how hard it is to find a redeeming character. I wish I could say this trend toward pushing the moral and ethical envelope was the exception rather than the rule on TV, but I can’t.  It is all too common.

My reaction to the GOT characters and their actions is very different from what I feel when I watch Outlander.  Folks on social media said they used a box of tissues watching this episode. This is very understandable, there is some tear-jerking stuff!  I cried some tears myself, but I came to examine my feelings a bit closer and realized there was something deeper going on here. When I watched Claire and Jamie and Ned and even Gellis make their choices, I felt a real connection. My eyes filled with tears for the human compassion I was witnessing. Our characters made unselfish choices. They made me feel proud to be human.

My Twitter author Lady Jane commented that Claire was principled to a fault. I think I understand what she means, if she meant that Claire puts herself in danger by stubbornly remaining a person who cares about others ..then yes…I agree, she does. It’s the “to a fault” part that I find myself still thinking about today. The kind of choices Claire has to make come with risk to herself and others, to say the least.  But…I resist the idea that her ethical and moral center is somehow flawed because she chose to be unselfish. I’m pretty sure Lady Jane agrees with me because she loves Claire for it. These are the character traits of the everyday hero who saves a child from drowning, pulls people from a burning car or donates an organ to a stranger.  These are the kind of people we should be admiring and celebrating.

Claire would not give false witness, even against a woman who admitted to killing her husband and even if it would save her own life. I cried bittersweet tears for Claire. Under extreme distress and pressure, betrayed by those who should have represented innocence and mercy (Leery and Father Bain) , surrounded by a sea of faces that desired to see her burn, she stayed true to herself.

Sad, but wonderful too.

She is saved at the last-minute by the zealot murderess Gellis who sets aside her own desires to help another. I cried for Gellis’ courage, for her self-sacrifice and for her wasted life.  She will not be the last person to give over her thinking and decision-making to a cause nor the last to step over a moral and ethical line for that cause.  Once again, it’s all too common.

The evening’s monumental plot twists weren’t over and neither was Claire’s decision-making.  In fact, a much harder decision awaits her upon her escape from Cranes Muir in the arms of her 18th century husband Jamie.  I’m thankful that the decisions were made back to back.  It helped the viewer understand who Claire is and that is a person who will do the right thing despite the pressure to do otherwise.  It makes her decision at the stones that much more poignant and meaningful.  She did not take the decision to leave or stay lightly. In fact, given her moral center the agonizing choice would have left her shattered. She is married to Frank and finally has an opportunity to return to him and yet,….Jamie.

The other person in this triangle  made a few difficult choices of his own. First, he decides to suspend his disbelief for her sake. If I had any disappointment in this episode it was the fact that they chose to let the audience believe that Jamie never doubted her story.  He was human, of course he did and maybe part of the reason he took her to the stones was to shatter Claire’s delusions.  In the book, when  he grabs her back from the rock it’s because she starts to go right before his eyes.  I wish they would have kept that part.  Despite his extraordinary emotional intelligence this would have seemed the more reasonable reaction to me.

And… then, the audience learns that Jamie has chosen to let Claire go. What this choice reveals about him is nothing short of staggering. This is a man of integrity. Everything he feels tells him to beg her to stay, but he chooses to let her go…why?

He now knows the truth and it cannot be ignored. There is a man…a husband … with a prior claim. Claire is the wife of another man and as a man who honors the vows spoken between two people, he must acknowledge Frank’s claim on Claire. She isn’t his wife because she is still wed to another.
He must acknowledge that Claire doesn’t belong here. Her being here and with him is an unfortunate accident. She had no choice. She did what she needed to do to survive. And, after the witch trial, he knows she is a women out of her time and it will place her in danger again. She will be safer if she goes. He knows she has tried to get back to her husband and life over and over again. He will not add himself and his need of her to the equation. He loves her, so he will let her go.

I know I cried at every agonizing staggering step he took down that hill; my heart was breaking with his.

It’s a wonderful story full of redeeming characters who don’t always have to be right or have their own way.  My husband is a big fan of old TV Westerns and I think I know why. Even though I complain about their predictability the plots usually center around someone making a moral choice and often those character’s choose the self-sacrificing or ethical/moral high road. The characters learn lessons about doing the right thing for your fellow-man and having honor …like the characters in Outlander.

Somewhere, in TV and maybe our real-life culture, the idea of self-sacrifice as being a noble action has fallen away to the need for self-fulfillment at any cost.  Maybe it is because people don’t believe there is anything more to life. If that is so then I guess fulfilling your own desires at whatever the cost to others would make sense. But,  “I have to inform you, I am no of that opinion myself”.  I’m happy there is a production on TV that isn’t afraid to tell a story of people who wrestle with choices and choose kindness, honor, truth and self-sacrifice.

Roger and I are INFP, Bree is Brave, and We All Have Choices Before Us… A Reflection on Outlander 4.12 “Providence”

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As I watched Roger Mckenzie escape the “idiot” hut it became immediately obvious what was going to happen.  His body language, his desperate, but hollow attempts to put himself first…Oh Lord, I said out loud ….he’s just like me…he’s going back.

Roger and I are INFPs

If your are unaware of what INFP stands for simply put, it is one of 16 personality types as defined by Myers-Briggs research. I know I am an IFNP because every time I am asked to take a personality test and with my job history that has been more than a few times, I’m always identified as an INFP.  The letters INFP stand for: Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Perception (P). My introversion score usually falls very close to extraversion, but as I age it seems less so. I just took a test again because well…it is so INFP of me, and I wanted to be sure before I told the whole world I’m a Roger.

INFPs are quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.  https://www.personalityperfect.com/test/free-personality-test/

I knew Roger was going back because we are deeply touched by pain in others and will run to defend them or offer help. I’m the person who makes a decision knowing it will cost me, but like Roger, I can’t help myself.  I have to tell the truth, take the risk, right the wrong.

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During one of the many “droughts”, I was engaged in some lively banter with Terry Dresbach and others about what it would take to survive a Zombie Apocalypse and whether we thought we could survive (be patient, I promise I have a point). They were convinced I would survive and I knew I wouldn’t, but not for the reason you might think. Health issues aside, my survival wouldn’t depend on whether I was tough enough, I can do without and I’m very adaptable. What would trip me up every single time is empathy. I was so convinced I wouldn’t survive, I wrote a slightly humorous (well, I thought it was funny) article about the topic.

In that article, I wrote about a particular time I rushed in to save the day:

I took a college religion and ethics class taught by a priest.  About the third day of class, a young man asked to speak to the padre.  As the two talked at his desk in the front of the room things began to get heated. The next thing I knew the young man was pushing the father and threatening him.  I jumped up and got between them and started to try to drag the young man from the room.  What I learned very quickly was that it had all been pretense, an experiment to show how people were afraid to get involved.  The father said he didn’t think anyone would help (his teaching methods are a topic for another day’s discussion).

I didn’t even think about it, I didn’t even hesitate, I just reacted, complete Roger move right down to saving a priest.

I have no idea if Diana Gabaldon or the writers on Outlander use personality typing when creating their characters, but I’m told writers often do look at psychology and social science when researching their writing, it would make sense to do so.  If you are writing about humans it would make sense to understand them and help to keep their actions consistent with their personalities. Roger’s attempts to save Moraig and her baby, his willingness to believe Claire, his chosen profession (and future vocation), his ability to find humor in difficult circumstances, and even his fights with Brianna are all consistent with his personality type. I haven’t attempted to type cast any of the other characters, but I recognize Roger’s personality because it so familiar. I feel a little weird saying that because quite frankly, I admire Roger and his convictions.

I understand why this episode is called “Providence”, but a part of me believes that “The Deep Heart’s Core” would have been a more apt title for this episode.  INFPs and Roger are all about authenticity and make decisions based on what their gut tells them supports their deep heart core values. Researchers suggest they can’t be motivated until they believe something supports that deep heart core and then they are unstoppable, like “a dog with a bone” , “crossing oceans, time and space for love”, etc.  Once they have been triggered they will move heaven and earth to accomplish their goal. Roger’s love for Bree and what he is willing to do for that love certainly fits that description.

Previous to this episode, Maril Davis, Outlander Executive Producer, commented on Roger’s journey in an article for the Hollywood Reporter. In that article, she talks about the emotional spiral Roger is experiencing in the Mohawk camp.

“He gave up his chance to go through the stones because he loves Brianna,” Davis says. “He’s now questioning that love because for all he knows, who he assumes is her father beat him senseless and sold him off to the Mohawk so he’s having doubts. We explore those doubts further and that for even a nice guy like Roger, a dark night of the soul, what’s he going to do? Is he going to choose to try to get back to Brianna?”

I thought I understood, but wanted to make sure I knew what the article meant by “spiral”. The Urban Dictionary defines “spiraling” as a bout of thoughts fixated on a person or state of affairs.  The scenes between Father Ferigault and Roger were so revealing. They showcased Roger’s struggles with his situation and his deep heart’s core. He was indeed in a spiral.  How could he not be after all he has experienced? There has been some concern that Roger’s character has not been well-developed or defined this season.  I would say that this episode gave us a deep look into Roger’s soul, who he is, and why he makes the decisions he does and why Brianna might love him.

Roger believes it is his own foolish actions that have led him to this place and he is feeling cynical about himself and his belief in true love.  He calls himself an idiot.  He is angry at himself and his inability to look out for his own best interests. His experience has been beyond painful and the thought that despite what happened the night they were hand fast and what Jamie’s beating him and selling him to the Mohawk insinuates, he still couldn’t end his suffering by touching the stones. Because despite everything he still hopes. He still loves Bree.  It is easy to laugh at someone who is fiercely and persistently optimistic, someone who hopes, and gives themselves up to trust in the universe in the foolish belief that they will get what they need in the end. It seems so naive and …idiotic. Roger is scoffing at himself and the absolute mess that his hope in love has made of his life.

But, he swears he has learned from his pain.  He has changed. He is going to turn his back on love and take his freedom. The advice he gives the Father is good advice . As Roger tells the father to look out for number one because “no one else will” he is also convincing himself it is true.  Roger is right, the Mohawk don’t care about the rituals of the church or the reasons the priest holds his vows sacred.  He is right when he says they would be satisfied with a few sprinkles of water, the father doesn’t have to truly perform a sacrament, he could escape to live, be forgiven and continue to love and be loved. For awhile, Roger’s impassioned plea for sanity seems to have found a home in Father Ferigault’s mind and heart.  But, I don’t think Roger knew who he was speaking to.  If he was speaking to another INFP, another soul who is motivated by and lives his life as his deep heart’s core and beliefs dictate, then there is no way to win. The Father goes to face his fate because he cannot do otherwise.

When my husband and I watched Roger’s escape and I saw the first signs of his struggle to be “smart for the first time in his idiotic life”, I began to tear up. I knew there was no way he could listen to the father’s cries and walk away. My husband yelled out his incredulity when Roger turned back to Shadow Lake, “What is he doing? He can’t do anything to help!”. I heard Roger’s cursing resignation with relief. I completely understood. He couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t really know what he was going to do either.  The obstacles seemed insurmountable and Roger is completely aware how impossible this situation is. It isn’t that INFPs are blind to obstacles it is that they don’t care whether it is 200 years or a tribe of Mohawk. They are reluctant heroes, but if they feel strongly, are convicted, then they will grab their sword and shield and go to battle. Roger could no more change himself and his beliefs than the father could. He knows that nothing good can come from his running back, but he must. In the end, Roger asks to be taken back to “the idiot hut” believing he has acted stupidly once again and sealed his fate. If he only knew that what he has actually done is prove himself a mercifully brave man whose integrity and motives are pure and unselfish. He has proven himself to be worthy of the very name of love.

Meanwhile in Wilmington….

Jamie is right a man like Stephen Bonnet bears the seeds of his own destruction and freedom cannot be found in vengeance. As Lord John gently places his hands on Bree’s burgeoning womb we are reminded that her child is real and deserves to have a mother who can live whole.  So, she takes her father’s advice and decides she must at least try to make that happen by saying her “piece” and forgiving Stephen Bonnet. But, Lord the reality. I would have been quaking in my boots and yet angry because I was quaking in my boots and I think like Bree even more determined as a result.

If Roger is an example of a man who struggles to put himself first, Stephen is an example of a man who doesn’t care for anyone but himself. He always puts himself and his needs above all others and as a result, leaves a wake of destruction and pain. I was struck by his puzzlement at Bree’s appearance in his cell, his complete lack of understanding. He is remorseless, has no empathy. He seems to mock Bree and enjoys watching her flinch at his crude comments, ever the perpetrator. After he taunts Bree with “I will soon be gone, but not forgotten”, she gets the opportunity to do what I wish every victim of sexual violence would be able to do.  She tells him she will have a good life despite what he did to her that he will be forgotten and in essence evil will not win.

The Role of Providence

Free will is an important concept in the Christian faith. God could force us to obey him, to love him, but without the freewill to choose, a relationship with him would not be genuine. Because free will has been granted humanity then finds itself living within a paradox, if men are free to choose they will not always choose good over evil, selflessness over selfishness, mercy over cruelty. Providence is that belief that all things work for the good, that God does not cause the evil acts of men, but that he can use whatever comes into your life whether positive or negative. Believing in God’s providence is to believe that all things work together for the good of those who trust in the Lord. It seems cliche, but it is a truth that in life lessons are most often learned when we do something wrong or have to face a great obstacle.  Providence gives us the ability to let go and trust that there is something bigger than ourselves at work, a God who knows you and what you need.  When the Mohawk healer touches Kaheroton’s head she reminds us that we have the power to live in peace or war with ourselves and others. We have the free will to choose love, mercy, and forgiveness, and to hold tight to providence.

 

 

 

 

The very heart of love …a reflection on Outlander 4.11 “If Not For Hope”

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While I watched Jamie search for Roger, I couldn’t help but think of his life after Culloden. Instead of dying on the battle field, he was forced to live out his idea of hell, a life without Claire, without his unborn child, to be alive without his heart, without …hope. The stones had taken his future. He was an automaton in survival mode. His existence was pitiful and pitiable.

“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of men.” Albert Camus

After watching him suffer for years as the Dunbonnet and despite the evidence to the contrary, we see that hope has not entirely left Jamie when he escapes prison and swims the cold sea to Silkie Island in hope against hope that Claire has returned to him. His fresh anguish seems to be the last straw.  He challenges Lord John in the hope that he will cut his throat and end his hopeless existence. When Lord John refuses it seems that Jamie comes to some sort of acceptance and moves on with his life, as it is. Over the years, we see him flirt with hope and watch it tear him apart again and again. Lord John’s friendship is taken from him in a moment of rare vulnerability, he loses the men of Ardsmuir, Murtagh, and …his son.  Every time he dares to look to the future, to hope, he gets a new hurt, a new regret, a new wound to his heart, …Loghaire and the girls.

But, just when it seems Jamie has been able to settle, to patch the holes in his heart with whatever mortar was handy, …his heart comes home.  When I think of what Claire’s return would have meant to Jamie, I’m the one who finds it a chore to breath. How tenuous must his joy have been and how great his fear of losing her.  It really is no wonder rational thought left him and he desperately chose to irrationally believe he would somehow escape the consequences of his marriage to Loghaire.  He had to hold on to hope.

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Jamie and Claire could not take back all those years apart and the lives they lived during that time, but they also could not let go of the hope that they would find a way back to each other. They have both lived without that hope and the thought of losing each other again is unbearable.  And so, they come to each other with all that they are battered and bruised by lives without hope, lives full of compromise and regret. Their silent looks and gentle touches express their gratitude in being together, but each look and touch also bears the weight of the knowledge of what they had lost.  The loss they both most keenly feel is Brianna.  I continue to appreciate that the show has allowed us to see Claire’s struggle with her decision to leave her daughter.  But, because of Jamie’s insistence, she was still able to be a mother to Brianna, to watch her grow up and to know that Brianna knows that she loves her.  Jamie’s sacrifice in regards to Brianna looms large.  He gave her up to hope.  He hoped she would survive and thrive without him.  We know she was always on his mind, always his babe, he wants to hear tales of her childhood, expresses his desire to reach across the centuries to make the world a better place for her, and …dreams of kissing her. What must he have felt when he saw her and knew her to be real?

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It cannot be too dissimilar to how he felt when Claire returned.  It can hardly seem real and his good fortune an undreamed of boon.  He was wrong. Despite what he told Lord John his having a home, honorable work, good friends and his wife by his side was not all that he needed.  He needs to be a father to Brianna.  It is a delicate dance these two are engaged in, each desiring a relationship, but not knowing quite how to get there.  And, just when there seemed to be hope…it all falls apart.

I do not want to minimize Brianna’s grief.  She has suffered a horrific trauma, is faced with a difficult choice in regards to her pregnancy, and has now lost the love her life.  She is understandably hurt and furious with Jamie.  But, it is not enough to say Jamie regrets his actions and is sorry for the pain he has caused, …he is gutted.  Brianna wishes him to hell, she had a father, a better man who would never have made the mistakes he made, who would have never doubted his daughter’s virtue.  He hopes if he brings home Roger she may someday forgive him, but what hurts the most is that he, “canna be a father to her”.  His self-loathing is almost palpable. His insecurity spreading to include his surety of Claire’s love.  Because of her distance, he had begun to think she too thought Frank was the better man.  When Claire admits she was upset, but not with him, he cannot believe her.  In his mind, there is no one else to blame.  She asks him to trust her, to have faith in her deep love for them both. He tearfully accepts her love and reassurance and offer of …hope.

If Not For Hope…

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“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Jamie, Claire and Ian search for Roger, Brianna is left to the care and mercy of Aunt Jocasta. Instead of respite and safety, she finds she has landed in a mine field.  Aunt Jocasta, ever the MacKenzie, is plotting to somehow turn this situation to her advantage. Brianna finds herself desperately trying to avoid stepping into one of her Aunt’s traps and finding herself married to one of the local gentry.  She continues to hope that her parents will find Roger and that he will still want her despite all that has happened.

If not for that hope, she could end up like…Jocasta.

Holding out hope for true love may be worth the risk of not finding it. Jocasta has everything and nothing. We do not know if Jocasta was ever in love, but we do know that she was a dutiful daughter who did what was expected of her and settled over and over again. When she shares stories of her sister Ellen with Brianna there is a strange look on her face that seems to contain both pride and derision. I couldn’t help but think of all the MacKenzie’s and how following their heart or following their duty had affected their lives and happiness. Jocasta has managed by charm and manipulation to have amassed a fortune and has no one to share it with or leave it too.  She couldn’t seduce Jamie, but fate has dealt her another hand, a pregnant niece.  Jocasta is no fool. She recognizes that this child is very much like her grandmother who by all accounts never settled for anyone or anything and Jocasta uses that knowledge to manipulate her niece.  Money and prestige are no more important to Brianna than they were to her Grandmother Ellen, but love….  Jocasta hits Brianna in her most vulnerable spot, her child.  Will Brianna choose her wants over the well-being of her child?  Will she condemn her child to being labeled a fatherless bastard? Will she not think of her security and future? Afterall, you cannot live on hope.

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Brianna’s attempt at blackmailing Lord John Grey was the desperate action of a desperate woman trying to find a more acceptable means of settling into a life without the hope of true love.  When John makes it clear that his marrying her is not an option, she tells a sympathetic Lord John, that she will do what she must for the sake of her child even if it means exchanging hope for a brokenheart. She then walks across the lawn to accept her fate and marriage to Gerald Forbes. In the end, it wasn’t her knowledge of Lord John’s sexual preference, but his loyalty and love of her parents that rescued her.  Lord John knows what settling will mean to her happiness because he has been there and he will not condemn her to it if he can help it.  His actions will at least buy her and her parents some time and allow Brianna some hope and hope …hope…is the very heart of love.

To live without Hope is to Cease to live.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

Some additional thoughts

  • The suitors and the dinner party were a wonderful addition to the story.  It was a fascinating look into arranged marriages and social pecking order and expectations and how truly trapped Brianna was. I appreciated the comic relief and Lt. Wolff’s glass face!
  • Lord John deserves his theme song and a spin-off. There are a lot of stellar actors on this show, but David Berry might be one of the best anywhere.
  • Marsali will never settle.  She will have a whole man or shoot him herself.  Which when I come to think on it is exactly what her mother did.
  • Murtagh hitting Bonnet felt so good. Fingers crossed he survives this development.
  • Had to add that a friend said it felt like a “meanwhile back at the ranch” episode, LOL They stuffed a lot in there for sure and it definitely affects the tone and pacing.
  • Poor Roger

 

 

 

 

 

That time I wished they did things differently…A reflection on 4.10 Outlander “The Deep Heart’s Core”

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outlander-s04e10-the-deep-hearts-core-720p.mkv_002412149Sometimes when I watch an episode of Outlander I experience what I’ve grown to call “booklash”. It is that feeling I get when they put book scenes and dialogue in the episode, but it is either changed or moved around and I feel like my head is snapping back and forth trying to make sense of it all. It is usually a temporary ailment that goes away once I’ve watched a second time and I’m able to enjoy the episode for what it is and move on.  I experienced a lot of “booklash” while watching “The Birds and The Bees”.  There was so much from the book and yet it was different and all mixed up in the timeline!  This week I didn’t experience too much “booklash”, but I did stumble on some scenes and character development and  I’m having a tough time picking myself up and moving on.

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“Can I Tell You Something Da?…”

I have a few scenes from the books that will linger in mind and heart forever. One of those scenes is of Jamie coming back to the cabin after beating up Roger, who he thinks is his daughter’s rapist. In this scene, Jamie gently lets his daughter know he knows she is pregnant.  What follows is one of the most tender and moving moments I’ve ever read.  Jamie takes his full-grown daughter into his arms and sings her a lullaby.

I used to think of you, when ye were small,” Jamie was saying to Bree, his voice very soft. “When I lived in the cave; I would imagine that I held ye in my arms, a wee babe. I would hold ye so, against my heart, and sing to ye there, watching the stars go by overhead.”

What would you sing?” Brianna’s voice was low, too, barely audible above the crackle of the fire. I could see her hand, resting on his shoulder. Her index finger touched a long, bright strand of his hair, tentatively stroking its softness.

Old songs. Lullabies I could remember, that my mother sang to me, the same that my sister Jenny would sing to her bairns.”

She sighed, a long, slow sound.

“Do you know something, Da?” Bree asked softly.

What’s that?” he said, momentarily suspending his song.

You can’t sing.”

There was a soft exhalation of laughter and the rustle of cloth as he shifted to make them both more comfortable.

“Aye, that’s true. Shall I stop, then?”

No.” She snuggled closer, tucking her head into the curve of his shoulder.

He resumed his tuneless crooning, only to interrupt himself a few moments later.

“D’ye ken something yourself, a leannan?”

Her eyes were closed, her lashes casting deep shadows on her cheeks, but I saw her lips curve in a smile.

“What’s that, Da?”

“Ye weigh as much as a full-grown deer.”

Shall I get off, then?” she asked, not moving.

“Of course not.”

She reached up and touched his cheek.

“Mi gradhaich a thu, athair,” she whispered. My love to you, Father.

He gathered her tightly against him, bent his head and kissed her forehead.The fire struck a knot of pitch and blazed up suddenly behind the settle, limning their faces in gold and black. His features were harsh-cut and bold; hers, a more delicate echo of his heavy, clean-edged bones. Both stubborn, both strong. And both, thank God, mine.

Diana Gabaldon  “Drums of Autumn”

If this scene would have been included in the episode, we would have seen an intimacy forming between the two we have all hoped and long to see happen.  It would make what happens later, the “big” misunderstanding about Roger and the words that Jamie and Bree say to each other, that much more crushing. Instead, we got a “Hey, girl your mom told me what happened to you let’s go for a walk”.  It was ridiculously casual and the setting non conducive to intimacy.  Checking traps?   Instead of a tender father and daughter scene, what they chose to focus on was a scene from the book that was problematic at best.  Jamie baits his daughter to outrage and anger so that she would understand that she couldn’t have fought back and hopefully relieve her guilt. This was followed by a father daughter talk about whether murdering someone who abused you helped you get over the abuse.  For me, this was uncomfortable to watch.  It was difficult to understand why Jamie felt there was no other way to reach his daughter. I understand that he knew the guilt she was feeling and the power it sways.  But, I don’t think we can make the comparison between what Claire did to Jamie in the monastery and this attempt at psychological treatment. She was struggling, but she was functioning. Deliberately traumatizing someone who has just been traumatized seemed over kill for the situation. We were meant to understand that he did not mean the words he baited her with and so, when he uses those same words later it felt less…sincere and more insensitive? For me there just wasn’t enough balance.  I needed to see the Jamie who croons his love for his daughter not the one who chokes her for her own good.

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The Scene I Was Going to Write a Whole Post On…But Didn’t

Previous to this last episode, I was going to write about a scene that I always felt was a watershed moment in Jamie and Claire’s relationship and whether the show was going to feature it.  It was the scene where Jamie comes upon Claire taking stock of her medical supplies and equipment in preparation for offering Bree an abortion.  I didn’t write it because when I watched the previews it was obvious that they WERE going to have Claire offer Bree an abortion. But, here I am writing about it anyway because I’m puzzled by the choice to NOT include the conversations Claire has with Jamie over her aborting their grandchild.  To me, this moment was more important than Claire actually offering the abortion to Bree.  Of all the things that have happened to Jamie and Claire this was the moment that could have separated them forever.  The show has not made much of Jamie’s faith, but I have always felt it was  a huge part of who he is and what motivates and sustains him and Claire knows this. This issue was too important not to be discussed between this couple.

Jamie.” My thumb left a slight smear of red on the linen of his shirt. “It will be all right. I’m sure it will.” I was talking to convince myself, as much as him. He didn’t move, and I ventured to put my arm around his waist, laying my cheek against the curve of his back. I wanted him to turn and take me in his arms, to assure me that it would indeed somehow be all right—or at the least, that he would not blame me for whatever happened…
…Ye’ve a high opinion of your power, have ye no?” He spoke coldly, turning to face me.I
t’s not mine to say! But if she says—then yes, it’s my power. And yes, I’ll use it. Just like you would—like you have, when you’ve had to.” I shut my eyes, fighting down fear. He wouldn’t hurt me…surely? It occurred to me with a small shock that he could indeed stop me. If he broke my hand…

….Very slowly, he bent his head and rested his forehead against mine. Look at me, Claire,” he said, very quietly.

Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked. His eyes were no more than an inch away; I could see the tiny gold flecks near the center of his iris, the black ring surrounding it. My fingers in his were slippery with blood

He let go of my hand, and touched my breast lightly, cupping it for a moment.

Please,” he whispered, and then was gone.

Diana Gabaldon “Drums of Autumn”

The arguments and reasons both Jamie and Claire give for and against the abortion are the real and compelling realities of the risks of such a decision both for or against.  The danger to Bree, Claire’s reluctance and yet determination to offer Bree the option, Jamie’s belief that they would be committing murder and the argument that follows put their relationship in real jeopardy.  Neither can bend.  If Bree decides to take Claire up on her offer it might have created a rift between our couple so wide it couldn’t have been bridged.  If the writers were looking for a scene with drama in the couple’s relationship this would have been a good choice.  The scene between Claire and Bree discussing the options was well done, but I guess I remember how it was handled in the books and Bree had already thought all of this through for herself.  Her letting Claire know she made the decision to keep the baby to me was the climax and was received with the relief that Claire would not be forced into the trauma of aborting her own grandchild and risking  her marriage

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I’ve Seen This Jamie Before…and I Don’t Like It

In my opinion, Jamie has used up his mulligans for telling Claire lies. It was completely understandable, but he didn’t tell her about Loghaire which let’s face it was kind of a huge omission.  He had just got Claire back and he was sure if he told her he would lose her.  In the book, he at least didn’t have knowledge that Loghaire had tried to have Claire killed. This change in the adaptation still puzzles the hell out of me. What the hell were they thinking and who decided this would be a good idea? They let Jamie marry her with that knowledge.  Which is quite frankly, pretty unforgivable. I have this little scenario in my head where the folks in the writer’s room decide they have screwed up and their solution is to let Jamie be the scapegoat, he’s already in deep shite anyway.  Just let him admit it and let the haggis chips fall where they may.  “Balriggin is miles away. I really dinna think she would come here”.  Really? “You were the one who told me to be nice to her!” Snort.

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We got through this as fans and in the end the scene where Jamie admits his longing for a family was sufficiently moving enough to carry the story forward.

I was also able to forgive Jamie in the “Heaven and Earth” episode last season where they locked him up in the bottom of the ship and he couldn’t get to Claire.  The way he tried to use and manipulate Fergus wasn’t ANYTHING I ever thought Jamie was capable of doing, but…I could relate.  I’d had a recent experience where I felt completely out control in a situation. My impotent anger fueled by fear caused me to act in a way completely out of character. So, like people do, I was willing to cut Jamie and the writers some slack because what he did, although very un-Jamie like, felt believable to me.  I’d been there locked in a cage fearing for a loved one’s life. But, here’s the rub, it WAS very un-Jamie like and I might have been wrong to excuse it because after this week’s episode I find myself going back to that scene in the cell and wondering what the writer’s think happens to Jamie when he finds himself cornered.  Where the frick did the man’s dignity, honor and self-control go?! Here we are again with Jamie engaging in very un-Jamie like behavior and this is starting to look like a pattern instead of a one time thing fueled by fear.

There were some choices made here. I am fairly tolerant of changes from the book.  Over the seasons I’ve grown to understand why things are changed and for the most part, I can see why or at least understand the creative choices.  Most of the time, if I am patient my questions and concerns get answered.  But, sometimes they just make choices that I can’t find a rationalization for.  There were some real head scratchers in this episode.  Understand that the books are huge and it isn’t possible to adapt them verbatim. On the other hand, as a scriptwriter you have a WEALTH of information about the characters and story to draw from.  So, in this case it really feels like some key character development was left on the page of the book and the resulting script and story was lacking some emotional depth that would have made what happens to the characters even more tragic.  What they chose to focus on and what they chose to leave out is the real tragedy in this episode.

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There Was a Lot of Guilt To Go Around

Brianna doesn’t tell her parents she was raped by Stephen Bonnet.  Claire doesn’t tell Jamie what she knows. Lizzy acts on assumptions.  And, Roger left Brianna on the night of their wedding.  And yet, it seems Jamie is the only one taking any blame.  Okay, sure he IS the one that pounded Roger’s face out the back of his skull, but he THOUGHT it was Bree’s rapist! In the book, when Jamie realizes he made a mistake he is stunned and mortified.  In the show,…not so much.  He looks sheepish and makes excuses. The misunderstanding happened and he did overreact and wound Bree, but I don’t remember anyone shaming Jamie for being angry.  What I remember is Claire feeling for both Bree and Jamie and not knowing who to comfort first.  What the heck was that line, “No you don’t get to be more angry than me”?  I’ve listened to it several times and I’m still not sure I get it.  Yes, Bree has a right to be upset.  But, I’m not sure what she is suggesting here.  That Jamie is more upset about being wrong and the fact it was Stephen Bonnet than her?  Luke Schelhass was the writer for this episode and the “Heaven and Earth” episode I wrote about earlier. I don’t think he gets the Jamie I know, love and admire. His Jamie is more flawed and weak and maybe as a result he thinks that makes him more human.

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What is wrong with having an admirable man in a show. In a real-world and TV world full of characters with ambiguous moral character, Outlander has the potential to be something different. Claire would not give false witness against Gellis even if it would save her own life. Jamie kept his word to not fight back against BJR to save Claire. For the most part, our main characters have solved moral and ethical dilemmas in ways that have sadly become a-typical. They made selfless decisions. They did the right thing despite knowing the price they would pay would be dear. The Jamie I know is extraordinarily honorable, a man of integrity and a man who makes mistakes, but owns them.  Jamie is a man worth emulating. Dramatic statements are great, but not at the cost of  a character’s established morals and personality.

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What Was Roger Thinking…

The scenes of Roger and the Mohawk were beautiful and his struggle made very real.  Despite how difficult it was to see Roger bruised and suffering, I enjoyed seeing his personality emerge.  When he is was able to find humor in his situation, I think I said out loud there he is ! That’s the RogerMac I know.  I understood his conflicting emotions when he found the stones, but that he actually reached for the stones and was going to leave Bree behind not knowing she was safe?  Hmmm…NO!

Despite How It May Read…the Episode Had A Lot to Like

It took me a couple of viewings to relax the frick down and appreciate the episode.  Despite my overall concern that there were choices made for dramatic effect at the expense of character development, it wasn’t all that bad.  I saw more subtly in the performances than I did the first couple of times through.  Claire looked less disgusted with Jamie and more torn and empathetic.  Jamie’s love for his daughter and the devastation he feels for wounding with his words and actions seems genuine thanks to Sam Heughan’s stellar emoting.  Not my favorite episode, but we have several story lines to follow and a lot of healing to do and I’m still on board for it all.

 

 

 

 

A sweetness that cuts…a reflection on Outlander episode 4.9 “Birds and the Bees

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I signed up for a Diana Gabaldon talk and book signing in Fairfax, Virginia well before Outlander Starz was a thing.  It was a sold out event and the one and only time I ever stood in line to meet someone famous. Worried about my navigating (and rightfully so) D.C. traffic, my husband drove me five and a half hours for an event he didn’t have a ticket for. Unbeknownst to him, I had put him on the waiting list and he got in!!!! He was thrilled (hard eye roll here)!!!! As it was our first time at such an event, we didn’t know what to expect and were a little shocked to see a line into the auditorium that wrapped itself through and around a very large campus building.  I was walking with a cane at the time and crestfallen, I knew I would not be able to stand in line. My big burly manly man of a husband breached the crowds of plaid clad women to secure us a place while I sat feeling guilty in a chair.  It remains one of the nicest things he has ever done for me.  Listening to Diana speak and meeting her in person was a surreal ordeal, but well worth everything we went through.  As great as it was to meet her and despite my love for the actors on the show, I can’t see myself waiting outside or inside a venue for the hours it seems to take to meet them.  However, …I swear I would for Matt B. Roberts, LOL! What can I say?  I’m a fan of writing and Outlander and he is my favorite Outlander script writer. I feel like I “get” him and the way he thinks. Well. at least about Outlander. No, …I really DO get how he thinks BECAUSE of Outlander.

I have learned that not everything a writer wants to be said or happen on a show comes to fruition. There are a lot of voices and logistics influencing the final product.  However, it is obvious to me what are Matt’s focuses and influences when I see an episode he has written.  In my humble opinion, he truly understands why this story and its characters are special. He sees through to the heart of what is happening. He gets what the story is saying about people, life, love, and family. That he is able to translate that visually continues to be a wonder to me.  Case in point? Outlander episode 4.9 “The Birds and the Bees”.

I recently republished a blog post  in honor of the 4.9 episode. I wrote about how I have grown to appreciate Diana’s imaginings of the first meeting of Jamie and his adult daughter. In that article, I point out how the expectations of that moment would have to have been unrealistic. The import placed on this meeting cannot be understated for either the characters or the fandom. I remember the first time I read it, I was a bit disappointed. Not exactly sure why, but I think I was expecting some equivalent of colonial fireworks.  Diana didn’t give me or Brianna what we expected instead she gave us what we …needed. I found myself measuring this episode against that standard.  Did Matt B. Roberts and writing partner Toni Graphia give us what we expected or what we needed?

We Needed to See Their Faces

I’m starting to appreciate how important it is for actors to emote. Not everything can be communicated in dialogue nor should it be in a visual medium.  We sometimes need to see what a character is feeling and I felt there were some really important feelings revealed in this episode.  Lizzie, Ian, Murtagh, Roger and all three Frasers told us volumes with a mere expression.

I found myself really looking at Roger’s face in this scene.  At first he seems just irritated that he still has to deal with Bonnet.  He doesn’t have time to deal with this piece of shit. He needs to find Brianna. When the reality of what the Captain is saying, he will be sailing to Philadelphia, starts to sink in you can see the resignation.  I’m not sure why, but I felt like Roger’s expression was slightly sardonic. Of course he isn’t done with Bonnet, of course he is about to get pulled away from Brianna before he can tell her he hasn’t left.  This is no idle threat. He is well and truly screwed. However, he cannot show too much emotion. You don’t want to give this monster any clues as to how you are feeling and give him any ammunition. How ironic that the one person he is desperate to protect from Bonnet is already his victim. His “especially when it comes to women” line made me cringe.  I think uttering “poor Roger” under my breath is about to become a regular thing.

Brianna…Within the span of a few minutes we see her face reveal what has to be the entire span of human emotion. I felt emotionally exhausted just watching her swing from grief to hope and back again.

 

I’m not sure I need to comment.  These faces speak for themselves.

We Needed to Know Roger Didn’t Leave

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There were some pretty big departures from the book in the last few episodes and I have learned (not easily mind you) to be patient.  Episodic TV can try that patience when you have to wait a whole week to get answers and everyone in the fandom is speculating and spouting disappointment. There are some things I still need to know about Roger and his storyline, but the biggest thing I needed to know was if he actually left. I needed to know he didn’t. I needed to know that it was just an argument fueled by some really piss poor communication, but that it was just an argument and not an abandonment. Nothing more happened than what has happened in my own and many other’s relationships. People got angry and said stuff they really didn’t mean out of hurt and stubborn pride. I needed to see when Roger did leave it wasn’t his choice. I knew when he left with Bonnet, he was coming back.

We Needed This Scene, This Exact Scene

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Jamie meets the child he sacrificed all for. The child he never thought to see. Like all important moments like this, reality is never quite as we expected.  Nothing is ever as good or as bad as we might think.  Brianna only knows what she has been told about her “father” Jamie. He had to seem the stuff of legend and fairy tales to her. Her first view of her father was of him relieving himself. That very human reality took him very quickly from fairytale hero to just a man.  It was exactly what she needed. Her expectations needed this adjustment.  I was thrilled to see they kept this part of the book!  Well, maybe not actually thrilled, maybe a bit uncomfortable, but you get the point.  She rounded that corner looking for someone bigger than life and found a man, a man whose arms were a safe place to rest.

In my blog, I point out that Brianna learned more about her father in the few minutes he didn’t know who she was than in all the stories she could have been told about him.  We know fans can often loudly complain about any changes from the book. There were changes to this scene, but none that greatly affected its impact. Brianna learns that her father is loyal, firm, but kind and most importantly that he loves her.  It was so very close to how Diana imagined it.  Creating that visual representation of her imaginings was definitely made easier by actors who seem to inhabit their characters. Sam Heughan was absolutely amazing.  Sophie Skelton played Bree’s excitement and trepidation to perfection. When she fell into Jamie’s arms all felt right with the world.

We Needed Our Mothers

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I still struggle with Claire’s decision to leave her daughter in the future. I appreciate that the show allowed Claire to show us she still struggled with that decision. Although she seemed shocked and overjoyed to see Bree, I had the sense that she was also dismayed.  The past is a dangerous place for a woman and I was struck by all that happened because Bree needed her mother. I would find it difficult to reconcile all that loss and wondered at how it would affect Claire’s relationship with Jamie. Bree is obviously struggling and Claire can see it, but she also knows that Bree is a woman now and as such can no longer be compelled as a child to tell her what is going on. However, Brianna needs her mother maybe more than she ever has.  She needs her mother to draw her out and comfort her.  We needed to see that happen.

We Needed To Feel Our Way

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I love that this show takes its time with people. The tender and tentative dance between Bree and Jamie was needed.  They are virtual strangers. Strangers who want and hope and long and need to find a way to a come together and build a relationship. We needed to see them tiptoe around Frank. We needed to hear Jamie’s gratitude towards Frank and Bree’s guilty feelings about wanting to be with Jamie. We needed to see Jamie’s avid attentiveness to Bree’s every move and his constant furtive glances and smiles. We needed childhood stories, working together on the ridge, and time around the family table.

We Needed to See That Bree Understood

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While it was obvious that Jamie was studying Bree.  It wasn’t quite as obvious that she was studying him and maybe more importantly, she was studying Jamie with Claire.  Bree telling Claire about Franks’s knowing she came back to Jamie was unexpected. The sadness with which this news was received gave me a lump in my throat. I felt for all of well-intentioned choices and unintentional pain in Claire’s marriage to Frank. I’m not sure what Claire was supposed to do with that knowledge except feel guilt and regret, but Bree’s acknowledging she understood why Claire had to return was also unexpected and a…gift.

We Needed to Share Our Feelings

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The quiet conversations between Jamie and Claire were everything. I get another lump in my throat just thinking about them. Jamie sitting on the edge of the bed rubbing his aching hand, a reminder to us that he too suffered what he does not yet know Brianna suffered. It reminds us that he has known so much pain and loss in his life and Brianna’s return is an unforseen and never dreamed of reality that he doesn’t want to end. He is human after all and a father wants his child to stay. Jamie’s openness and vulnerability with Claire is one of the main reasons this couple holds a special place in my heart. He is able to share his fears and regrets and his joys with her and know she does not judge him. In her arms, he is safe to be himself without fear. In return, we know that he constantly thinks of her and a large part of his joy in Brianna’s return is because he knows Claire misses her so much. This child was the impetus for all the sacrifice and the 20 years of loneliness. The couple’s constant touching and silent looks communicate their gratitude for all they have. But, I also feel each touch acknowledges the weight of all they have lost. They have Bree now, but they lost 20 years together with her.

We Needed Something to be Simple

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In the end, Bree’s pregnancy, Claire’s promise, Lizzie’s mistaken assumptions, Jamie’s parental protective instincts, will result in complications that will change everything for everyone and I can’t say I’m looking forward to witnessing what happens.  And so, I’m grateful that Matt and Toni gave us something else we needed. They gave us something simple. They gave us birds, and bees and a simple name Jamie has longed to hear …Da.

 

 

In the Society of the Women of “Wilmington”…a reflection on Outlander episode 4.8

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It was difficult for me to think of anything else as I sat down to write my reflection. I can hardly remember Claire and Jamie gazing lovingly at baby Germain.  Claire’s emergency surgery, Murtagh’s being in real and immediate danger, a tender love scene… and an ugly quarrel, all faded in significance to that image of a trembling hand. The image I’m still thinking of this morning is of Brianna reaching for her boots neatly placed outside the door of where she was pitilessly raped.  The weight of meaning in the gesture that placed those boots side by side is grotesque.

Some how shifting the focus to the inn’s common room and the reaction of its inhabitants made what was happening behind those doors even more monstrous. I am grateful that they did not show the actual act, but I cannot say it made what happened less brutal. I’m not sure which was more shocking, the rape or the indifference. A soul WAS “as rare as hen’s teeth” in that inn. Her pleas for help went unheeded by people in the next room. They barely seemed to acknowledge what they all knew was happening. They knew and did nothing, nothing except laugh, smirk, go on about their concerns and …tidy up.

My heart broke for Bree as she sat up from the table her hair in disarray, her nose bloodied, her shock obvious.  As her mind slowly tried to make sense of her surroundings, her body took over and she gathered her belongings. Stephen Bonnet’s comments about having had a more lively ride, her lack of virginity, and his being an honest pirate incensed me, but they were just so much noise to her.  As she reached for that ring, I thought of how tarnished it was.  That beautiful symbol of Jamie’s love for her mother was now a symbol of violence and loss.  In the same day, she lost her virginity and her agency.  The rabbit hole is a violent wretched place for women.

I wondered at a society where the rape of a young woman was so common place and accepted that it would go virtually unmarked. As I looked for answers, I kept going back to the theater and Claire’s remark about the society of the wives and the Governor’s wife’s assurance that she would help her navigate the waters.  I believe the women of “Wilmington” have a lot to say about how rough the seas are for women then and I would argue…now.

Agency Down the Rabbit Hole

There were a lot of different women in this episode, some accepting of their assigned roles, some pushing at the expectations placed on them, but all without complete choice of their own decisions and lives. Agency is based on the idea of choice.  Personal agency is in direct proportion to your ability to take action, be effective and influence your own life. We make personal choices that then lead to us taking responsibility for those choices. It seems to me that the women of this time had little choice, and therefore little agency and little control of their own lives. Women at this time were subservient to men and their roles were dictated by a patriarchcal society.

Marsali

Marsali practically glowed when she talked about being a mother.  As a mother, I understood her heart full to bursting with love.  But, I also felt the double-edged sword of motherhood she described.  I understood the fear of what we cannot control and our need to protect our children that would allow us to sacrifice for them.  Even as I felt pity for Claire and her inability to even acknowledge her own motherhood, I recognized the prophetic truth of her words.  We cannot protect our children from everyone and everything. And, it seemed to me that women of that time must have felt even more helpless due to the lack of agency. Marsali seems happy with her role as homemaker and mother and that is great. However, I am completely aware of how her circumstances would change if she did not have a man in her life.  Her choice in how she would earn a living and provide for her child would be limited.  Without extended family she would most likely be destitute.

Lizzie

Lizzie is a perfect example of what can happen to a woman who is poor and without a man to  protect her. Lizzie has basically been sold.  She belongs to someone else and if it were not for her father begging Brianna to buy her terms of indenture, she would most likely be the property of a man who would use her against her will and make her his legal sex slave as a “concubine”. And, NO ONE would blink an eye because of the patriarchy of the time.

Martha Washington and the Governor’s wife

Life for a poor woman like Lizzie is indeed bleak, but money still does not equate with agency for the women of Wilmington. Case in point? Martha Washington and the Governor’s wife.  There were so many little moments and off- hand comments that illustrated the lack of power women had over their own lives at this opulent event. The women’s interaction with the men at the theater was limited to polite and expected “small talk” and praise for the nobility of the men. The Governor introduces Jamie, but not Claire. He seems truly bothered that Claire keeps inserting herself and her opinions into the conversation and condescendingly urges her to let Fanning’s “physician” take care of him. I love the knowing look that happens between Jamie and Claire when the Gov. decides to ditch Claire to his wife and the society of the women.  I love Jamie for letting Claire know he knows her value even if they don’t.  I’m not sure exactly how far they can buck this system and still function as part of this society, but they do buck it when it comes to Claire’s healing.

Fulfilling her assigned role as hostess, the Governor’s wife comments on Martha Washington and calls her the face that launched a thousand ships and filled them with tobacco.  Her wealth and wit seem to set her above the other women of the Governor’s wife’s acquaintance. I don’t know why exactly, but I got the feeling that the relationship between Martha and George approached equality. I think it was the way he paid attention to what she said. However, she will never and historically was never more than the “woman behind the man”.  Money and wit are not enough to gain her complete choice and agency.  She is still just a woman.

Claire

Of al the woman of Wilmington society, Claire is the one who pushes the envelope of patriarchy the most.  She continues to act like the physician and capable woman she is despite the obvious shock and disapproval of the men around her. Once again Jamie’s complete trust in her skills and abilites to naviagite ANY rough waters they face is evident. He leaves her knowing she will do what needs to be done.  They are truly partners and equals.  The reactions and panicked concern of the Govenor and the doctors was a fantastic illustration of male attitudes toward a woman who dares to go above her assigned role.  My favorite line was uttered by the doctor who thought all we really needed was to blow smoke up someone’s ass!  The moment that bothered me the most? The clapping for her.  They came to see a performance and she gave it to them.  The play wasn’t that great, but the trained monkey doing surgery was amazing!

And, Bree…

There were a lot of callbacks to the relationship between Jamie and Claire in the intimate scenes between Brianna and Roger including the fight at the river. Jamie thought Claire should do what he said because she was his wife and 200 + years from that fight Roger thought his wife should do the same. When it was all said and done, Roger didn’t fair very well in the treating his wife like an equal department.  I will give him a break as things are said in hurt, fear, and anger we don’t always mean.  However, the fight at the river ended in forgiveness if not complete understanding.  That didn’t happen here despite it being obvious that everyone’s “guts” were being torn out.  That Roger left without a word didn’t sit well with me and I am wondering why this particular part of the story was changed. I’m not happy with this Roger.

As we watched Bree walk through the dark streets back to the inn, it was impossible to not experience a premonition.  She moves about this world as if she is in her own time.  She truly doesn’t know where she is and what the rules are for women.  She tells Bonnet he has mistaken her.  It is she who is mistaken. She thought she was Brianna Randall.  She forgot she is just a woman in Wilmington.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh..no they didn’t!…A reflection on Outlander episode 4.7 Down the Rabbit Hole

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While watching this week’s episode of Outlander, Down the Rabbit Hole, it didn’t take me very long to start laughing out loud, OMGing, and shaking my head.  It wasn’t because the episode was particularly funny or that it was a bad episode, it wasn’t.  I AM still wondering how they are going to fit in all the multitude of plots points and action left in the story and STILL do a good job. But, no, I’m snorting with laughter because of all the shite I know is about to erupt in the fandom. Leghaire and Frank?  I’m laughing so hard right now I’m crying. It is almost as if the show’s creators said ” okay, now, let’s think about what would piss fans off and then…do THAT!”.  Good Lord, almost half an episode of Frank? Snort. Balriggan and Leery instead of Lallybroch and what ever Murrays were still available? Double snort. Fans are gonna fan… and critique…and grab pitchforks … and…oh crap its gonna be an interesting week.

I’m hoping I’m wrong…but I doubt it. I think there is going to be a lot of grumbling about this episode, but it shouldn’t be about whether they told a good story.  They told a good story.  It just wasn’t the one that fans were hoping for or expecting to see. No slamming of the pearls and calling out Loaghaire in front of everyone? Just, an “I believe you lass” let’s get you on a ship right now because Frank took up too much time drinking whiskey and eating scones?  Once again,… giggle snort.

Bree’s back story and why it matters

This was one of those episodes where creative license took precedence over fan expectations. They decided to go this way and I could see where they were headed, but  perhaps the main reason they told Bree’s back story can be summed up in two words…Tobias (I’m a fantastic freaking actor and I’m available) Menzies.  He is a great actor, but a lot of fans are done with knowing what Frank was thinking or feeling. In fact, I think there actually were some “the roads are icy” celebratory parties the night of Frank’s demise on the show.  There are lots of fans who were glad they were never going to see Frank again.  I’m giggling again which I suppose could actually get me into some trouble because I’m pretty sure there are lots of fans out there that don’t find this one bit amusing!  My PSA for the fandom is let it go, not a damn thing we can do to change it and in the grand scheme of life this is just an unfortunate Frank shaped blip.

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My only gripe with the episode’s Frank arc was that it was time-consuming and I’m not sure that it will pay-off in creating a more fully rounded picture of Bree.  I’m hopeful, but…it was a lot of screen time that left very little time for an only child to discover she was part of a family.  Bree’s back story with Frank was interesting, but in my humble opinion, her story would have been better-served by allowing Bree some time in her father’s childhood home with her new-found family. The information she received about her father at Balriggan needed to be off-set by time at Lallybroch. If she is going to feel conflicted let us have ALL the feelings.

I liked the letter from Rev. Wakefield being the catalyst for Frank’s leaving Claire and how Bree finds out about the fire, but Frank was back in this episode to help us understand more fully why Bree might have issues accepting Jamie as her father.  Frank was Brianna’s father much like Lord John is Willie’s. Bree is loyal to Frank and feels some guilt over his death.  They were close. Her feelings for Frank will not change just because she meets her “real” father.  And, if Jamie is jealous of Lord John raising Willie, it pales in comparison to the jealousy he feels about Frank sleeping with his wife and raising his wee bairn for twenty years. Bree comes to Jamie a product of her times and her upbringing by another man from another time. And, if the show has shown us anything it is that modern sensibilities can cause all kinds of problems when you go through the stones. I’m predicting everyone’s suppressed emotions won’t stay suppressed for long.

Well Hello

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I’ll admit that I felt sorry for Laoghaire. I found myself thinking “poor thing, she really did love him”.  She was delusional about Jamie’s feelings for her and Claire was a convenient scapegoat…the witch, but then,…from sweet single mom just trying to make her way in the world with a broken heart to full-blown hell has no fury like a cray cray woman scorned in .6 seconds.  There she is. To quote a friend, “No wonder Jamie left her”! (snort) I liked the change and think it added more to Bree’s conflicted feelings.  I also love that Nell Hudson knows how much fans love to hate this “bish”, LOL.  I felt this was her best performance.

The parallels drawn between Bree’s experience living with one parent who loved more than the other were clearly drawn. Having a little red-headed girl feeling abandoned didn’t hurt either. Bree couldn’t  help but think about her life and feel sorry for this family.  I couldn’t help but feel the rise in Bree’s anger at her mother’s inability to love Frank as she felt he deserved.  I had started to forget that these two at best had had a difficult relationship prior to Bree’s first trip to Craig Na Dun.  Then to find out it is your parents, your father who doesn’t send the money, and your mother who is the home-wrecking Hoor?  She has been told that Jamie left his family for Claire and Claire …left her… for this man who she is starting to think might not be the great guy her mother said he was. This girl is going to be carrying so much baggage by time she gets to Fraser’s Ridge she could take Clarence the mule’s place! Sophie Skelton is doing a great job of letting us see Bree’s head and heart. After she sees her father Frank’s haunt at the docks, she puts her chin up, smiles, and “soldiers on”, I saw both of her fathers and her mother in that performance.

I knew better, but I actually feared for Roger’s life

 

Let’s talk Roger!  I LOVED his interaction with Stephen Bonnet! If anyone still had doubts about the casting, Ed Speleers and Rik Rankin just put them to rest. Roger’s modern sensibilities and moral outrage put him in real danger here.  You cannot reason with a man who flips a coin because he had his own life or death determined by a cruel game of chance. Bonnet is damaged goods. Damaged goods with power.  And he’s not likely to have a doctor and couch waiting to help him deal with his feelings.  Nope, Stephen deals with his own trauma by subjecting others to the same.  He has no empathy.  Hence, why I was sitting on the edge of my seat wanting to snag Morag’s baby out of his hands. What is it about this show and great villains?

Roger’s single-minded determination to find Bree was glorious. He doesn’t really explain to the viewer why he went through the stones, but the answer to Bonnet’s question is obviously,… yes. Yes, Roger thinks Bree is worth it. It was fascinating to watch Roger navigate this strange new world.  Even with his knowledge of history, he was not prepared for the harshness and the realities with which he is living. I feared his moral outrage and Claire-like need to fight injustice was going to get him killed. Personally, I love watching everything about him adapt including his costume. By the end of the episode, he is looking less like a man out of time and more like a man of the time.

Down a Rabbit Hole Indeed

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Suffice it to say that the episode is aptly named. Bree and Roger might not to have accidentally fallen through the stones like Claire, but I would argue that they seem even less prepared for what they find than she was! I’m blaming those modern sensibilities again. How did Claire put it? It was like looking at Mars through a telescope. They have indeed landed on alien planet that looks something like their old world filled with people who seem like quaint versions of modern people. But, they really aren’t quaint and the rules are different and the reality is harder than they could ever have imagined.  They pushed a little girl out a window y’all. This is gonna be good!

Outlander and I are still going steady

The truth is despite my inappropriate amusement at the expense of fan disappointment, as I watched the latest episode, I was often smiling in delight.  I’m not ready to “break-up” with Outlander over their choice to let us see more Frank and Laoghaire.  They didn’t jump the shark here. It was their choice to depart from the book and let us see more of Frank and as book readers have suspected, he might have known more about the stones than we will ever know he knew. I’m not sure how I feel about him not sharing his knowledge, but it was a great addition to the story, as was the time at Laoghaire’s house. The scenario wasn’t far-fetched, it could have happened that way.  After all, Balriggan is just a few miles from Lallybroch, right @Conniebv? (sorry inside joke) As I wrote earlier this season, if you are tuned in for all Jamie and Claire all the time, sorry about your luck. This story IS about Jamie and Claire, but is also the story of their children. Our couple are becoming the matriarch and patriarch of this story.  They are at the center of an expanding cast of characters and story-lines.  The story of Jamie and Claire is a great tale of a couple who are passionately committed to each other whose love conquers all.  The same can be said of the story of Roger and Bree.  The dynamics are different and so are the personalities of the couples. But, to answer Loaghaire’s query, yes, good men and for that matter, good women can still be found and quite a few can be found in Outlander.