Lighting the Fuse… a reflection on Outlander 4.2 “Do No Harm”

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There are somethings I know about because I have lived them.  I know about being a child growing up in poverty in Appalachia. I know what it means to survive a family where a parent is an alcoholic. I know what it is like to live daily with the pain and life altering issues of chronic illness and cancer.  Then there are some things I think I know about because I have attended school, learned about history, read books and watched movies.  This week’s episode of Outlander “Do No Harm” was so well done, it actually caused me to take another look at what I really know and how we all surmise truth.  The real truth is that the only things I know about slavery in America is what I have learned through school, books, and homogenized Hollywood versions of history.

The show and this episode in particular are based on a fascinating concept.  How would we react if we suddenly found ourselves actually living in the past? How would we, with our modern sensibilities and knowledge, navigate a world where slavery was the norm and our ideas about the wrongness of owning people was seen as incomprehensible, if not criminal? It is sad and horrifying to think that some of us would not even have had a chance to navigate this world because the color of our skin would have determined our path.  Caitriona Balfe did an admirable job of portraying the time traveling Claire’s reactions, her incredulous-ness, confusion, and shock.  Slavery is no longer an abstract concept for her as she looks out her bedroom window and sees slaves working the fields.  She must feel like she is in a nightmare from which she can’t awaken.

Welcome to River Run

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The filming and editing choices were so vital to telling this particular part of the story.  As the riverboat approaches the dock we are treated to the beauty of Jocasta’s plantation home. I literally said “wow” along with Wee Ian. The riverboat in the forefront being manned and steered against the backdrop of River Run was a “Gone with the Wind” moment. I’m sure I’ve seen a wood block print of a similar scene. Many of America’s homes mimic the style and aesthetic of this prototypical mansion.  It has come to represent graciousness and as Jamie’s aunt offers them what we have come to call “southern hospitality” the camera pans out and above. We get a panoramic view and as a result, see an ironic peek at what literally lies behind the beauty of River Run,… slave quarters.

The new characters we were introduced to were a welcome addition to an already stellar casting track record  Aunt Jocasta was an interesting mix of beloved Aunt, MacKenzie machinations, steely southern belle, and white privilege. Ulysses’ cultured voice, respectful and serious manner, and his ubiquitous presence at Jocasta’s side were just as I imagined.  It was at times hard to remember he wasn’t a butler paid for his services and devotion, but a slave.  The sets and costumes were as opulent as any we saw in Paris and in sharp contrast to rags the field hands wore and the shacks serving as slave quarters.  Everything about this episode was unsettling.

Lighting the Fuse that Caused an Explosion

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Jamie’s Aunt, in true Mackenzie fashion, attempts to manipulate Jamie into staying at River Run by publicly naming him heir without discussing the situation with him first.  He could not decline publicly without embarrassing his Aunt in front of her neighbors and friends, but make no mistake Jamie knows what she is about.  The scene that follows between Jamie and Claire contains the words that I’m still thinking about today.  While discussing staying at River Run and his running the plantation, Claire is quick to say she cannot own slaves and Jamie is quick to agree, but he lacks her understanding gained through the lens of future knowledge.  He asks if it would be of benefit to the slaves and perhaps the country if they were there to take care of the slaves and work to set them free.  I believe this proposal to Claire was made with his idea of making this land better  for Brianna in mind.  He talks about changing River Run and perhaps lighting a fuse of change. Claire is skeptical and warns that lit fuses can lead to an explosion.

Moral Outrage Perverted

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After watching this episode, I came to believe that nothing short of an explosion, a war, could have changed the situation. And, I wondered about the courage of those people who did light that fuse that resulted in change.  The devil Jamie and Claire were fighting was an insidious one, laws of the land designed to keep a culture and an economic system preserved by keeping everyone suppressed or oppressed both black and white.  Everyone was placed in a “no win” situation.  Jamie and Claire were forced to make a decision based on the perceived lesser of two evils. No matter where they turned or what decision they made someone was going to be hurt or killed. In Jamie’s defense, it was not a fear of consequences to himself that swayed him to ask Claire to do the unthinkable, he was unmoved by Mr. Campbell’s warning that others who thought like Jamie had disappeared or by the morally outraged Mr. Wolfe’s threats to have the Frasers arrested for their role in protecting the “criminal negro”.  I don”t even think it was the threat to River Run and his Aunt that finally moved him to ask Claire to “do no harm” to Rufus by giving him poison.  I think it was the idea that innocents, the slaves, would pay the ultimate price.

May I say thank you to the writers for Jamie’s beautiful prayer.  I have long-held the belief that Jamie’s relationship with his God was a close and sustaining one and that prayers were woven throughout the everyday of his life.  Jamie prays..a lot.  This moment, this terrible awful moment, was well served by Jamie reaching out to something bigger than himself, his God. I found myself asking for forgiveness  and patience right along side him for all we have done to others in the name of the law, or patriotism, or …religion.

I’m bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me.

Pour down from heaven the rich blessing of thy forgiveness.

Be thou patient wi’ us.

Grant to us, thou savior of glory, the love of God…

And the will to do on earth, at all times, as angels and saints do in heaven.

         Give us thy peace.

The Faces of Humanity

 

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There is so much I could have written about this episode. I could have focused on the politics of colonialism discussed at Jocasta’s party or the delight that is young Ian and his run in with a striped badger that shot foul odors from its arse and his insight into the similarities between the natives and highlanders, my delight in meeting John Quincy Meyers and his overall hairiness.  I could have written about the testing of Jamie and Claire’s relationship and the commitment they have to caring about and for each other.  I was frightened by and yet moved by Claire’s dedication to heal all who hurt and her noble naivety that she could save Rufus and the empathy and courage it took to give him a gentler death than the one the mob had planned.  I could have written about  how it was difficult to watch our “history” and not fear that our country is once again at a similar crossroad caused by deep political, ethical and moral division and know that it may only be solved by that aforementioned metaphorical explosion. Or, how it is that you can still love people who are diametrically opposed to you politically or ethically. It was thought-provoking.  I know it is only a tv show,  I know that it is only someone’s interpretation of what it might have been like, I know that I will never truly know what it was like because I did not live it, but I cannot help but believe this was a good attempt to present the complicated nature of the issue of slavery and colonialism.

The final shot of the episode showed all of the faces on the porch as they watched a boy drug by the neck and hung from a tree in the name of justice. Each face represented a player in this hideous tableau, slave, slave owner, faces struggling with fear, anger, and dispair fueled by helplessness.  May we all do as the saints and angels do, may we all fight to change our corner of the world for the betterment of all, may we all find the courage to light the fuse of change.  Well done Outlander.

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Outlander Episode 4.1 America the Beautiful…the beginning of the real story

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There is a scene in Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon where Jamie and Claire go for a boat ride to get time alone.  It is plain that Jamie has been thinking about their future. It is after Stephen Bonnet has robbed them and they have arrived at River Run destitute.  Jamie is feeling the sting of being the poor relative come a begging.  He is a proud man and his pride has been hurt.  He wants to give Claire the world, but as he pounds his fists in frustration he acknowledges that he doesn’t even own the clothes he stands up in. He knows that should he give in to his Aunt Jocasta’s machinations he will be able to give Claire a great deal of what he hopes to give her, but he knows that life at River Run no matter how prettily packaged or presented would mean putting his ability to live his own life and make his own decisions in jeopardy.  The taste of being his own man and making his own way is too new and too sweet to be given away lightly or so soon.  However, the alternative is to take Gov. Tryon’s offer of land and literally hack a new life out of the wilderness of North Carolina where he once again might place himself on the wrong side of history.  Jamie is frustrated, disheartened and a bit ashamed.  He wants to give her the world and yet all he can offer Claire is a life living under someone else’s leave or more hardship.  He feels like a failure.

Claire let’s him know it has never been nor will it ever be about what he can give her.

“At last I took one big, callused hand and slid forward so I knelt on the boards between his knees. I laid my head against his chest, and felt his breath stir my hair. I had no words, but I had made my choice.
“‘Whither thou goest,'” I said. “‘I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.’ Be it Scottish hill or southern forest. You do what you have to; I’ll be there.”
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn

She marvels that he really thought giving her “things” mattered.

It is one of those moments between this couple that defined for me who they both were as individuals and who they were together. There are many such moments in the later books and the look they give us into what it means to be married and what it means to love.  As thrilling as it was to watch Jamie and Claire fall in love and reunite, the real love story can be found in the everyday.  It is not the big moments that keep love alive for years, but the small moments and gestures and sacrifices that are made in the mundane.  Diana Gabaldon knows this fact and wrote us a wonderful adventure of people who do the work it takes to keep a marriage healthy and how they reap the joy and comfort of knowing they are two who are now forever one.  I was happy to see that the show seems to be picking up on this change in Jamie and Claire’s relationship and as Sam Heughan said in a recent interview, I think we will see “the beginning of the real story” this season.

Despite absolutely amazing and realistic sets by Jon Gary Steele and the once again brilliant story telling and character development in the costume designs of Terry Dresbach, the episode wasn’t perfect.  It wasn’t the acting or the writing or the changes.  For the first time, I was bothered by wigs and green screens and that song took me totally out of the story, I was checking my computer to see if I had accidentally left on YouTube or something, LOL! But, the song and the episode did what they were meant to do …set the stage.  And, what a stage, Colonial America in all its flaws and glory…”a dream for some …a nightmare for others”.

America the Beautiful

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It was hard not to watch a show about America and not think about well, America.  I could not help but see parallels between the America of the past and the America of today. In simply watching this story, as an American, I can see all of our stories. Claire tells Jamie about the American dream. It is true that people did come from all over the world for the chance of obtaining that dream, a place where the only limitations were a person’s own abilities and commitment to work.  It would be lovely to think that we all had and have an equal chance at that dream, but the show reminded us that there are two sides to every story.  The slave trade and the genocide of the native people were definitely the other side.  It was not and is not a level playing field.  Race, religion and ethnic background did and still do make a difference in accessing the American dream. And, yet when I looked at Claire’s glowing face as she looked at the horizon of never-ending trees, I got what she was feeling…wonder.  America welcomed the huddled masses, the weary, and many can trace their roots to Ellis Island and to the feet of the Statue of Liberty.  We were reminded that backwoods men lead resistances, a movement against unfair treatment by the government that led to a revolution and the birth of a nation whose stated guiding principle was the belief that all men are created equal. And yet, we owned slaves, the repercussions of which we still feel today, we still struggle with equality.  Our history is complicated and our country is not perfect and yet, I saw the hope of that perfection in the story of the riverboat captain and his navigator, a slave that saved the man who enslaved him, a slave owner who freed his slave, both working side by side.  I appreciate that the show is honest in its portrayal of our shared and complex past.

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A new phase in the union of Jamie and Claire

After watching the show, I’m always left with images and words that linger.  This week the image that kept coming back to me was the medicine chest and the word that rattled round my brain was “gift”.

What gifts really matter to Claire

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One of the things I love about the Claire of the books is her seemingly total disregard for possessions.  If they have clothing, food, and each other she seems happy.  You never hear of Claire pining for more of anything material. The Claire of the show seems like-minded.  I would be hard pressed to name any physical possessions that Claire valued save for four items.  She valued the pearls Jamie gave her.  She does not value them for the pearls value, but rather the value they have to Jamie and the meaning behind his giving this prize to her.  The pearls represented his commitment to her as his wife at a time when they barely knew each other.  She was moved by this gesture as were we all. The next gift Jamie gave her was the ring.  Both book ring and show ring were laden with significance, Jamie goes out of his way to make the ring special and Claire treasures it for the thought Jamie put behind it.

My husband has brought me gifts over the years some unnecessarily  extravagant ( a particular ring comes to mind), but I like to remind him of my favorite gifts and why they are my favorites.  He showed up after work one day with a large bouquet of wild flowers.  I recognized the purple blooms because they grew by the side of the road near our home. The mental picture of my big burly husband seeing these flowers, thinking of me, stopping his car at the side of the road, getting out in his shirt and tie to pick me posies while the traffic watched made them priceless to me.  He thought about me and what I would like. Every woman wants to know her man thinks about her and wants to please her without having to ask or give hints!  Jamie’s gift of the medicine chest was a gift more costly than rubies.  He saw the chest and thought of Claire.  In this single gift, he validated his belief in Claire’s gifts and her desire to heal and help.  He wants to support her, she is his other half, his equal.  This gift above all others tells Claire that he gets her and accepts all that she is.

The fourth item she has yet to receive, but I find it wonderful and telling that the “things”  Claire values are all gifts.  Jamie may want to dress her in frills and lace, but Claire doesn’t really care.  It isn’t that she doesn’t enjoy fine things, it’s that she doesn’t need them.  Claire truly does know what is valuable in this life, to help others, to love and to be loved.  I think the show is getting this part of Claire right and I love that we get to watch a show with redeeming characters worth emulating.

What gifts really Matter to Jamie

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The best gift anyone could give Jamie is family and purpose.  How my heart has ached for him over the last three seasons. A man constantly denied the things he treasures, the people he loves.  He is a man who has been living “with half his heart” and filling in the space “with whatever mortar is handy”.  What I saw in this episode is the hope that Jamie will finally get to be who he was always meant to be.  The first image we have of Jamie is one of determination as he tries to find a way to save Hayes who has been with him since Ardsmuir. In the end, he comforts Hayes and respects his last wishes. He is MacDubh. This scene with Hayes reinforces that Jamie has always seen people to care for as a gift and a responsibility, as does his fatherly guidance and love of Ian in the graveyard. We are also reminded that Brianna and I’m sure Willie are never far from his mind when he talks of making this land a good place.  The scene of them all sitting around the table at the tavern making plans reminded me how rare it was for Jamie to be surrounded by folks he loves and cares for.  The look of pure joy on his face when he finds that Marsali is pregnant was gift for all of us.  He knows the emptiness of a life without people to care for and he wants the gift of a place to call his own, to be a husband, a father, protector and friend, the things that will make his life full and give it purpose.

The greatest gift of all

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“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours, Claire? I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”
The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sun-warmed stone and cool water, and the sharp, musky smell of his body next to mine.
“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”
“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.
“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn

They are together, no matter what befalls them.  They know that not even death can seperate them.  Yeah, I think I saw the beginning of the real story.

 

Just Simple…Jamie meets Brianna…a look ahead to a beloved season 4 scene

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It’s been awhile since I’ve felt inspired to write about my favorite books and show. However, after re reading  Drums of Autumn, I found my self itching to pound on my keyboard about a particular scene we are all looking forward to seeing, the meeting of Jamie Fraser and the daughter he never thought to know, Brianna.  At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised by the coincidences that happen when I sit down to write about Outlander because guess what they were just filming?

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Executive Producer Maril Davis’ tweet has confirmed my belief that I must be clairvoyant and, …made me excited to see how the show will handle this particular moment!

One of the things I love about the TV version of Diana Gabaldon’s story is the gaps they sometimes fill in, like what would life have been like for Jamie apart from Claire and Claire apart from Jamie, what would the battle of Culloden have been like, and to wander the courts of Versailles. So, I’m hoping we will get to “see” how Brianna decides to go through the stones.  Enough time has passed between Claire leaving and Brianna living without her for reflection and maybe regret.  Her mother is dead by all that we understand about the laws of nature and physics and yet, she isn’t.  She isn’t really an orphan because she can time travel, she can see her mother again, and…meet the father she never knew.

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Brianna makes the choice to go through the stones and back in time because she has discovered information about her parent’s future and feels the need to warn them.  As altruistic as I believe Bree’s motives are, I think at least in part, she takes the risk because she misses her mother and wants to meet her father.  Who wouldn’t?  Her mother is dead in Bree’s world of the 1960’s and yet, …not.  Time travel makes a lot of things at least possible including meeting your “dead” parents. The temptation must have been strong, the chance to be reunited with her mother must have been upper most in her mind, she was living on her own, alone and most certainly longing for her mother. She sneaks off because she is afraid that Roger MacKenzie would stop her or come with her and she needs him to stay in the future.  She believes that, in part, a safe trip through the stones depends on having someone in the future or past that “draws” you to them.  As is true of most things in the world of Outlander, Brianna’s plans go awry, Roger follows her, and she experiences a multitude of hardships on the road to reaching her parents. Her journey’s setbacks and adventures only serve to build the suspense that will culminate in her meeting her father. We find ourselves holding our breath when it looks like her bond servant Lizzie’s illness may stop Brianna from getting to Cross Creek and cause her to miss meeting her father.

While thinking about this scene, I was reminded of the old saying that nothing is as bad or as good as you think it will be.  The eagerness and trepidation that Brianna experiences in her search for her parents is heartbreaking and her feelings for Jamie Fraser are complicated to say the least.  He is her father because her mother told her so, but she has had no experience of him.  She is told he loves her, in fact, she has been told that her father sacrificed the one thing that meant the most to him to keep her safe.  He sent her mother back through the stones for his unborn child’s sake, her.  All she really knows of her father is contained in the stories her mother has told her and I couldn’t help, but believe that Jamie Fraser must have seemed like the stuff of fairy tales to Brianna.  He couldn’t have been less real to her than the tales of King Arthur and yet, she knows he is real.

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You all know that I longed for the moment in the print shop when Jamie falls apart in Claire’s arms, the moment when he realizes that Brianna is safe and all his sacrifice was not in vain.  It wasn’t quite what I got, but what I did get was wonderful in its own way.  This scene, I’m sure, will come with its own set of fan expectations and I’m sure the writer’s and actors know this.  However, I find myself more ambivalent about this scene than the print shop.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure what they will do or if the way Diana wrote the scene would play well on the screen.  She played with my expectations and it took me awhile to appreciate how the author told this part of the story.

When I first read the “reunion” (is that what it was?), I’ll admit it felt a bit anti-climatic and left me feeling somewhat disappointed.  I’m not sure what I believed it should have been, but I think I was expecting a lot more overt emotion.  I have certainly had time to reflect and re read that scene and now find Diana’s choice to write this with some subtly a bit of genius.  Brianna had most certainly built this moment up in her head.  In fact, she shares that she had gone over the moment she would meet Jamie in her mind again and again, what would she say, what would he say?  Her expectations of the moment and her father had to have reached “bigger than life” proportions.  So, how does Diana subvert the expected and turn our notions of what should happen on their head?  Well,…she has Brianna rush out of a tavern, hard pounding in expectation of finally seeing her father, and …finds him peeing on a tree.  Brianna’s first glimpse of her father made him seem human pretty quickly, just a man after all.

…There was no doubt in her mind, from the first glimpse.  She was at once surprised and not surprised at all; he was not quite what she had imagined—he seemed smaller, only man-sized…”  Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn 

The scene that follows, I have now come to realize, is just what Brianna needed.  Jamie of course doesn’t recognize her.  Why would he, she is the last person he would expect to see.  Because he doesn’t know who she is and because Brianna can’t quite find her voice or the words to tell him, he interacts with her without that knowledge and as a result reveals his character to her.  She learns more about who this man is in the few minutes he doesn’t know who SHE is than she could have ever learned in all the “stories” she was told.

HUMOR, KINDNESS, TRUSTWORTHINESS, LOYALTY, STRENGTH, TENDERNESS, A MAN WORTHY OF LOVING

He sees her staring at him and asks her why she is there in a voice that is sharp, but not unkind.  She manages to blurt out the single word ,”You”.  Jamie looks her up and down in her male “costume”, raises an eyebrow, and with a half-smile says ,”Sorry, lass I’m a marrit man”, and tries to walk past her.  She stops him and he once again tries to courteously  disengage, but something makes him take a closer look at her.  She is able to observe him observing her general grubbiness and realizes he thinks she is destitute.  His tone changes and he reaches for his purse to give her some money to eat, kindness shining in eyes so like her own.

Brianna manages to ask him if he is Jamie Fraser, he is now wary and looks toward the tavern.  Thinking she may have been sent to him, he quietly asks if she has a message for him.  Brianna is struck by the absurdity of it all, a message? She almost laughs and finally tells him her name. She watches his face and realizes he knows it, and feels joy at the knowledge.  He is obviously experiencing shock and it takes him a moment to catch up.  Poor guy, people are always showing up unexpectantly into his life. He, of course, says exactly the wrong thing and comments on her size, lol!  At her indignation, his face cracks, and he quickly reassures her with an expression of “half-painful eagerness” on his face. He asks if  it is truly her and then explains with a gentle touch to her hair and face that his surprise is that he never thought of her as grown.

I saw the pictures, but still— I had ye in my mind somehow as a wee bairn always—as my babe, I never expected…” His voice trailed off as he stared at her, the eyes like her own, deep blue and thick-lashed, wide in fascination”  Diana Gabaldon Drums of Autumn

As always, Jamie thinks of Claire and his face breaks out in a wide grin at the joy he knows Brianna’s coming will bring his beloved wife.  Brianna realizes her mother has found her father and it is all suddenly too much. He hugs her, cries with her and worriedly comforts her.

“Dinna weep , a leannan, dinna be troubled, ” he murmured.  “it’s alright, m’annaschad; It’s all right.”

She gives her nose one last wipe and asks him the meaning of the Gaelic words A leannan and M’ annsachd.  He tells her they mean darling and blessing.  The tender words of endearment cause them both to be shy.  Brianna starts to speak and realizes she doesn’t know what to call him.  It is all so complicated.  Father seems to formal, and she can’t call him daddy, Frank was her daddy and to call him this would seem a betrayal, and she certainly couldn’t call him Jamie! True to form, Jamie sees her discomfort and interprets it correctly, and tries to help alleviate her distress.

“You can…call me Da, ” he said.  His voice was husky; he stopped and cleared his throat.  “If—if ye want to, I mean, ” he added diffidently.

“Da, ” she said, and felt the smile bloom easily this time, unmarred by tears. “Da. Is that Gaelic?”

He smiled back, the corners of his mouth trembling slightly.

“No. It’s only…simple”

And, as Diana writes, it suddenly was.  Brianna steps into her Da’s arms and what they experience there is all they both dared hope.  He is as “big” as she imagined and Jamie is holding his lost child.  And, I can’t wait to see how Ron and company, Sam Heughan, and Sophie Skelton will realize all the emotion, realization, and…hope in this scene.

 

 

 

The beginning of forever…A Reflection on Outlander 3.13 “Eye of the Storm”

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I’ve been waiting for that moment. I’ve been waiting for that moment when I would know that they know. When our hero introduces himself and his wife to the young Georgian family, he understands that for the first time in decades he is free to be himself without fear or subterfuge.  He is James Fraser and the woman safe in his arms is his heart, his love, his wife, Claire… who has promised never to leave him.  I’ve been waiting for forever to begin and this week it did. They are truly together, two halves of one whole.

Kudos to Matt B Roberts on his directorial debut and congrats to the writers’ room who somehow managed to wrestle this monster of a story into 13 episodes.  There were so many wonderful nods to the source material and its fans and yet enough surprises to keep me wondering what would happen next!  I love the show’s ability to call us back to previous scenes and seasons.  The Faith music caused me to get chills and they gave us a story that has come full circle.  The season began with Jamie near death and ends with Claire near death.  The dancing, so different and yet so reminiscent of Craig Na Dun, was a wonderful connection that explained the presence of the maroons.  And, constantly, woven throughout the story is the thread of fate.  We are reminded that all of this was meant to be and that there are forces beyond our understanding at work to both separate our two and keep them together.  There was a supernatural battle being fought for the shape of the future.  I had to wonder whether Zeus and Hera were at it again.

Saving Bree

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I was so proud of the observations I garnered from the last episode.  I talked about the differences between the two time travelers Gellis and Claire.  The scenes in Rose Hall bore out what I thought.  Gellis has completely identified herself with her ability to travel. Claire accepts it as just part of who she is, but it isn’t her identity.  I loved the interplay between the two.  The cat and mouse game was fascinating.  Our Claire is such a bad liar and Caitriona played it off so well, “My driver dropped me off at the bottom of the lane and I got lost trying to find the house…”.  yeah…riiiighttttt. On some level, we got the feeling that Gellis really wants to believe that Claire is her friend.  I believed her when she said it has been hard.  She is tearful when she asks Claire why she has pursued her all these years especially after she sacrificed everything for her at Cranesmuir. She is the outsider of all outsiders.  Gellis has never met another traveler besides Claire and she feels a connection to her and yet, she cannot trust her, “Why are you here?”  They come together “ominously” according to Gellis.  Claire is smart, but she cannot keep up with the deceptive Gellis.  She cannot think like Gellis because she hasn’t her motivation and mindset, her sacrifices for the “greater good” aren’t motivated by power. So, she reveals the very thing she shouldn’t in an effort to gain Gellis’ trust, Bree.  When we see Claire at the end of the scene looking around the hall, I could practically hear her saying to herself, “what the hell just happened?”

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Lord John!  What a great scene, played to perfection.  I loved that Jamie seemed a bit surprised at John’s ability to navigate this situation and his power play.  John large and in charge was a beautiful and sexy sight to behold! I loved Lt/Capt Leonard’s comeuppance, he deserved it the ungrateful little upstart. John is all a man should be, generous, loyal, loving, kind, and strong. I’m still hopeful Diana will write him a partner worthy of the wonderful man he is.

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The show keeps giving us great couples to love. We see the reflection of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in Fergus and Marsali and what wasn’t there to love about Margret and Mr. Willoughby? The show gave us another couple who loves beyond all understanding.  I admit to feeling that they and Jamie and Claire were very out-of-place in their surroundings.  They didn’t fit and I was a bit jarred by all that was going on around them. The frenetic dancing and voodoo like ceremony seemed so incongruous with Margret’s smiles and her holding “psychic” court.  Tein Cho’s assertion that they had been invited by these “kind people” was in direct contrast with the stereotypes around them.  It helped me see it all in a different light.  I got the feeling that this ceremony was ancient and wanted to know what the other ceremonies for standing stones and fire days looked like around the world.

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I love that Jamie and Claire are completely working together as a team.  The call back to Faith and their commitment to their daughter Bree was powerful.  They were in complete understanding, sealed with a kiss and a familiar nod.  Let’s do this.  What followed was primal. Claire was fulfilling her destiny.  I found myself wondering at the powers that were controlling or attempting to control them.  I’m not sure if Zeus or Hera won, but Bree is safe from the zealot Gellis. We were given a moment to fear that Claire was being drawn back through the stones and the only thing powerful enough to combat its lure was Jamie’s touch.  It is a lovely extended visual metaphor, the power of their reaching hands, we have seen them reach out to each other so often.  And, Jamie’s last look at Bree’s photo was everything. I loved that Jamie took the time to reassure Ian and Claire and drew them into an embrace and held them close.  At that point, I felt we all needed a hug!

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With time to serve her suitably

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True to form, Jamie and Claire have drawn close through facing difficulty together.  If there were any barriers left between the two they have been broken down by the time they are back on board the Artemis.  I loved that the show slowed things down and gave us this wonderful scene.  I was so happy to see them flirting and teasing.  The humor between these two is a joy that I have missed.  They are comfortable with each other once again.  You can feel the trust and confidence in their love and their future together.  It feels solid and true.  I recognized this couple.  They are altered by experience, but I recognized them nonetheless.  This was Jamie and his Claire, Claire and her Jamie, reveling in each other.

The Eye of the Storm

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I have given the next series of events a lot of thought.  It was fantastical to be sure.  At first, I was struck by how over the top it all was.  How in the world did Jamie know where to find her in that roiling sea and how could he have swam to her? Jamie is great, but that great?  So, I asked myself, why.  Why, did Matt and Toni and the others choose to play this in such an over the top way?  They certainly had the power to do it differently. What were they trying to tell us?  I thought and I thought and I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter.  It was a full-out, over the top, love letter to this couple and the thing between them that they cannot name, but is always there.  Why wouldn’t Jamie jump into the sea after Claire?  She would jump into the sea after him, or storm a prison, or travel through stones. Why would the thing between them not draw him to her? Why wouldn’t Zeus or Hera intervene to save them? One of them put them in a hurricane, why wouldn’t the other place them in the eye of the storm?

Forever Begins

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The story has shifted gears, it is no longer about falling in love or finding a way back to each other, but about how people stay in love.  The show has a chance to break new ground once more.  They can show us the intricacies of a long and loving marriage.  They can show us two people who are building a life together and stay together.  No matter what they face, and the Gods know they are always facing something, the love they share is a calm center in the storm.  Jamie and Claire are the core of this story, they are the anchor we hold on to that keeps us all enthralled and believing in the possibility of a love that is all that it should be.  I fell in love with the Jamie and Claire in Diana’s books and I’ve fallen in love with the Jamie and Claire in Ron’s show.  Both couples have a lot to tell us about living and love and I for one, am ready for the new world.

 

 

Ghosts of All Our Pasts… a Reflection on Outlander 3.12 “The Bakra”

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“…fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crown’d.” —William Shakespeare MacBeth

This week’s installment of the adventures of Jamie and Claire Fraser was a fantastical story told in lush colors, exotic climes, and preternatural coincidence.  As much as I lamented the improbable story told in “Uncharted”, I rejoiced in this week’s improbable events and coincidences because there was a substantial metaphysical theme, a thread of supernatural commonality that held the whole thing together and kept me wondering what new surprise fate had in store. Outlander does not often focus on its fantasy aspects.  The standing stones and Claire’s ability to time travel have almost always been in the background.  This week in “The Bakra”, the show wisely decides it is time to deal with its fantasy roots. Claire told us in “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” that the only way she could make sense of all that had happened to her was to believe that it was all for them, she and Jamie belonged together.  The universe has conspired to make it happen and this week we saw more evidence that there are powers at work here that surpass our understanding.  This episode finally allowed the story to deal with its sci-fi elements and the fact that Jamie and Claire’s story transcends the rules of time and physics.  When Jamie wonders out loud, “Maybe it’s because you came back through the stones”, he is leading us all down a path that leads to an intersection of the lives in this story.   They are all attracted to each other, pulled together like magnets for a purpose.  The story effectively reminded us, at every turn, of its own past and the feelings and meanings associated with those “ghosts”.  In “The Bakra” episode 3.12, the ghosts of the past, present, and future all had a role to play in the fate of our couple.

 

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Gellis a ghost from the past and the future

Currently, we know of only two time-travelers in this story and I was struck by the difference between the two.  Claire is an accidental traveler. She had no idea she could travel and therefore no plans.  She comes back a second time to be with Jamie and for no other reason.  She does not purposely try to affect history.  We all know how that went when she did try to, I’m fairly sure at this point, she believes that it cannot be done. However, she obviously does make a difference to those around her.  She heals and is a woman out of her time with knowledge of the future, but the big events are just too convoluted, too many variables.

I don’t think Claire dwells on thoughts about the “why” of her ability to travel, she has “compartmentalized” it.  She has put it away, so that she can live her life.  She accepts it as part of her reality and like the practical person she is, she moves on.  It is part of her, but certainly not her identity.

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The episode starts with letting us know what happened to young Ian.  We find out he is being taken to the Bakra because she likes young boys.  What followed was worthy of every Grimm’s fairytale ever told.  We meet our first ghost, our second time-traveler Gellis, the Bakra, who was not burned at the stake. Ian is no dummy, but he is no match for the witch Gellis who has been practicing her seductive powers for decades and across centuries. I hope we will get to see how this unwanted and forced sexual experience will change Young Ian.

Gellis is a deliberate time-traveller who has completely identified herself with her magical ability.  I’m not sure how Gellis discovered she could time-travel or if the knowledge was something passed down to her.  I wonder at her back story.  Is she the child or grandchild of a traveler from the past?  Was she groomed to save Scotland?  So many questions.  The Gellis we see in this episode is one who has taken on the mantle of “The Bakra” and is using it to her advantage.  She believes herself to be different, special, and has cultivated her image, embraced the mystery and expanded her knowledge of and belief in the magic she is so obviously part of.  Unlike Claire, Gellis believes she can change the future.  It is why she is in the past.  She is here to save Scotland.

I once wrote an article about how evil is represented in Outlander.  In that article, I talked about the differences between the villainy of Black Jack Randall and Gellis.  My conclusion was that Gellis was the more insidious and therefore, the more evil.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that both BJR and Gellis are perceived as villains. But, personally, I find Gellis to be the more insidious. I doubt there are very few people who meet BJR who do not recognize the need to be careful in his presence. The man practically drips malevolence. Gellis on the other hand keeps her nature very well hidden under a quirky wit and charm. Claire is fooled by her and as a result so are we, at least for a while…

… In many respects, she appeared to be “normal” even being a friend to Claire. But, on further “interviewing” (when they were kept together before the witch trial) we see the “matter of fact” way she describes killing her husband and her zeal for the Jacobite cause. Not unlike the Nazis, she has bought into an ideal, a belief  and given over her thinking to bringing about a free Scotland. What ever she needs to do to make that happen she does. She sees her actions as justifiable and the damage she inflicts collateral. To me, it is this lack of remorse that labels her as evil and…maybe she is mentally ill. She represents the idea that evil can come in many guises including a person who believes their actions are going to right an injustice and make the world a better place.

She is the proverbial snake in the grass biding her time and waiting to take victims unawares.

The show has taken a slight departure from the book and it is a brilliant one, the Brahan Seer prophecy that predicts a free Scotland.  It is obvious that the show is centering everything around this prophecy and it is connected to Jamie and Claire and a two hundred year old child that must die for a Scottish king to rise.  Is this the reason for all that has come before? Fate has brought them all to Jamaica, a place ripe for magic, and Jamie and Claire and …Bree are in real danger from a zealot Gellis.

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Ghosts of Paris and Culloden

Once again, the costumes told us a story.  We see Jamie and Claire dressed in remnants of their past and it calls back memories of their time in Paris.  We are reminded that their time at Versailles was about espionage and that these clothes had been part of a disguise and a lie that cost them both dearly.  Seeing them dressed in this finery made me uncomfortable.  They seem ghosts of themselves and it contributed to the sense of foreboding, everything is familiar and yet, slightly altered.  Although the clothes are beautiful and they beautiful in them, they have come to represent an ugly time full of loss and pain.  They tried to change history and failed and lost each other.

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Ghosts of Jamie’s past

I still miss the conversation between Lord John Grey and Claire on the Porpoise, but felt this adaptation worked.  John becomes part of the story and fated to be here in Jamaica with the third sapphire.  His reaction to seeing Jamie was perfect, his acceptance that Claire was Jamie’s every heartbeat was quite frankly, heartbreaking. Claire has to be wondering what happened between these two men that Jamie hasn’t shared.  I don’t think John’s role is done here and I predict he is fated to free Jamie.

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Ghosts of the present

I’m not sure if I’m talking about ghosts now, but rather old souls.  I loved the connection between Yi Tien Cho and Margaret.  It makes sense to me that he would recognize her rare soul and she his.  Fate has once again brought two outsiders together and I’m sure that together they will play their part in stopping Gellis.

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The thing between them that they cannot name

In an interview, Caitriona Balfe commented on Claire’s experience of Jamie.  She said it was so powerful as to be almost metaphysical, a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses.  They recognize it and feel it, but they cannot name it.  I felt the moment between the two in the reception line spoke to that reality.  It is always there between them no matter what is going on around them and in that moment they felt it and its strength.  What it is between them feels magical and mysterious.  Plus, it was sexy as hell.  

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The ghosts of all our pasts

A few weeks ago, I wrote a reflection on season 3.  I did some lite research into what criteria is used to measure quality TV.  I discovered that Outlander fit all of the criteria established by TV expert Robert Thompson. I thought about that criteria this week when I watched episode 3.12 “The Bakra”.  I found myself mentally checking off the boxes of criteria once again.  However, one particular area stood out for me, “It contains sharp social and cultural criticisms with cultural references and allusions to popular culture. It tends toward the controversial. It aspires toward realism. ”  I’m amazed how timely these episodes are despite having been filmed for the most part over a year ago.  I’m sure I’m not the only fan who is struggling with the political situation in America and both dismayed and grateful that the bigoted, racist underbelly in our country has been brought into the light.  When my shivers over the goat blood scene reminiscent of “True Blood” settled, I was impressed by the timeliness of the social commentary in this story and its own timelessness.

We have all seen scenes of slave trade in modern film.  I have found it no less disturbing for having seen these types of scenes before. The show did not shy away from showing us the reality of the times, but I did not envy them the difficult task of deciding what they wanted to say about this reality.  We see Claire, a modern woman whose best friend was a black man, walking through a slave market.  I am not surprised that despite her need to remain under the radar, she could not contain her sense of outrage or her need to do something.  We are upset by seeing people of color caged, branded, and treated less than human on our TV, but forget this isn’t just our past, things really haven’t changed, our country remains one of white privilege.  People of color are still caged, branded, abused, and treated less than others. Claire becomes the metaphor for what it will take to change this reality. White people need to rush into the fray and confront other whites.  I appreciated that Jamie and Claire treated Temeraire with respect and concern. The irony that Claire became a part of history as a slave owner was not lost on me.

Gellis zealotry feels timely to me as well.  She would not be the first person to give over her thinking and ability to make rational choices to an idea and a belief.  I currently see a lot of people with power unconcerned for anyone standing in the way of their goals.  The poor, marginalized, and sick are blamed for their circumstances and become collateral damage in the name of “the greater good”.   This episode focused on Jamie and Claire’s ghosts, but I couldn’t help but feel the episode spoke to ghosts of all our pasts that continue to haunt us today, racism, sexism, bigotry, and abuse of privilege and power.

 

 

And, the layers come off… Outlander 3.11 “Uncharted”

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Outlander on Starz  took us on a voyage across the seas and into uncharted territory this week.  The show has also provided my maiden voyage into fandom and it has been a trip filled with treasure troves of unique opportunities to learn about film-making. Terry Dresbach, the costume designer for the show, has been very accessible to fans who are genuinely interested in what she does and how she does it.  She has been open to questions and very generous in sharing the thoughts and the work that goes into creating for the show.  Because of Terry’s generosity, I’ve learned that costume designing is about supporting the story and helping to develop the characters.  I’ve learned that costume designing isn’t about parading pretty clothes across the screen, unless that is what the story warrants.   I have learned that costuming is storytelling.  And, this week, Terry once again proved she is a great storyteller.

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I’m constantly amazed at fans who aren’t willing to give the story time to develop or wait to see the costumes in context.  Terry often takes a lot of flack for PR pictures or magazine photo shoots that show the characters in costumes ahead of airing or styled for the shoot.  If you hung around social media this season, you couldn’t have helped but notice that there was a kerfuffle over Claire’s non-period blouse and a scandal over what shall forever be know in Outlander lore as “Beltgate”.  The now infamous “Batsuit” has had its share of critics.  Terry’s choice to have Claire make her own dress was a departure from the books and one given much consideration and deliberation.  She thought about the story and Claire’s place in it.  Terry asked herself what she would she do if she was traveling back in time for a second time.  What would Claire do to prepare herself for circumstances, difficulties, and needs that she could anticipate having.  The result of that thought process was a suit made of raincoats with secret pockets.  The suit was a wonderful mixture of available modern materials made to look as period appropriate as Claire could manage.  Her period inappropriate blouse was deliberate.  It was a nod to the story and Claire’s character.  She wore a blouse she borrowed from the daughter she was leaving behind.  She was wearing a reminder of her daughter on her skin.  I can imagine that for awhile the clothing even smelled like Brianna.  I am called back to Jamie sniffing Claire’s arasaid at the stones in the Culloden flashback.  Brilliant, but the thought that went into that garment doesn’t stop at utility and sentimentality, it becomes a metaphor for Claire’s personal journey.

Terry’s design told us Claire’s story layer by layer.

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The Claire at the beginning of the season is a Claire who has repressed feelings and a Claire who has deliberately disconnected parts of herself, especially those parts that she closely associates with Jamie like her sexuality.  She has wrapped herself in her work and her identity has been shaped by her identity as a healer.  She has closed herself off to protect herself.  The Claire we see travel back through the stones is buttoned up and covered in tailored layers and fitted stays.  As the story progresses and we see Claire forced to come to terms with her reality, we see her lose her layers metaphorically and physically until finally, we see her completely herself unencumbered.  We finally see Claire, her hair loose and dressed only in her shift, at ease with herself, confident and rejoicing in her sexuality with her Jamie.  The suit has served her and the story well as we watched it become an integral part of Claire’s survival and her shedding of her layers.  The choices Terry made in context of the story are pure genius.  The thought that she put into that costume more than enhanced the story it was an essential part of helping us understand Claire and her journey back to her authentic self.  As Claire sheds her layers of protection she reveals the strong unique and beautiful woman we hoped was still there underneath.

I would love to say that the rest of this episode was as wonderful as Terry’s costuming, but…I can’t.

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Why did Claire jump off that ship…oh yeah…

I can see why Diana Gabaldon said Outlander episode 3.11 “Uncharted” was one of her favorites this season.  It was full of scenes right from the book.  It pains me to say this because I know how hard these folks work and how much love goes into this production, but I wasn’t quite as impressed.  It wasn’t because there weren’t some delightful scenes because there were delightful scenes.  It would be hard not to love Jamie giving Fergus his name, the wedding, a pot smoking priest, and turtle time. Hang on to your rafts made out of barrels, but I think they needed to throw away the book this week.  I love this show, but this week, I loved it less.  Having said that let me explain where I think things went wrong.  They ran up against some uncharted territory.   They tried to adapt Voyager.  We all knew it was going to be hard and wondered how the hell they were they going to be able to do it.  The answer is not easily.  If you have to have your “Laurel and Hardy” comment on the ludicrousness of the improbability of your plot then…maybe you need a different plot! LOL!  I know it is story about time travel and the whole thing is crazy, I know that they want to honor fan expectations and wishes, but I want them to tell the best story they can and I’m not sure the source material helped them do that this week.  I think they struggled to wrestle this monster of a story arc into some kind of logical shape…sigh…they can’t win, LOL.

Please understand this is just my own personal opinion, but I think in the pressure to fit it all in they lost what held it all together.  They struggled to advance the relationship at the core of our story, Jamie and Claire. I get why Claire felt the need to get off that ship and the show did a better job of showing that her plan had a chance of success when we could actually see civilization on the shore.  She lets the current take her to town, she is able to get on the next ship outta there and somehow intercepts Jamie before the Artemis gets him and then we have time for the Jamaica story line.  But, instead of that we have Claire wandering an island.  My husband, a non book reader, asked “How is she going to get to Jamie if it takes her days to wander this island?”  Good question.  By the time she makes it to the Father’s hacienda, she is in no shape to continue her journey.  I think the time Claire spends struggling to get to Jamie was meant to show us her devotion and help her shed those final layers, and there were some moments between Claire and the father that remind us of Claire’s sacrifice with Brianna and the truth of her need of Jamie, but it still fell short of the epiphany I was hoping for.  I’m still waiting for the “Jamie is the key” voice over!

After learning the father’s story, getting called a “hoor” one more time and talking to the coconut, Claire believes she is back in pursuit of her goal, to get to a ship and find Jamie, but instead she thinks Jamie may have been shipwrecked just down the hill… to the right, to the right! In the show’s defense, it didn’t seem so improbable when I was reading the story.  The words “delightfully coincidental ” come to mind instead.  I think it is the flow that feels off.  It felt like the scenes book fans wanted to see were plugged in. Instead of a plot that advances the characters’ growth and the story’s goal we got a series of events all loosely held together by Claire’s desperate need to get to Jamie.  It felt formulaic. Claire pockets a mirror because she is so vain? She has a premonition she might need a mirror? The scene of Jamie running off the boat and to Claire made me wince and laugh out loud.  I’d have been waiting at the shore when the boat came in and probably sunk to my knees in relief. It felt horribly melodramatic and then…nothing.  We don’t hear any of the convo that needed to happen between the two. “I still can’t believe you jumped off that ship” was delivered with such casualness that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been accompanied by a knee slap.  I thought a scene like the one by the river in “The Reckoning” was warranted.  They needed a private moment. Everything is delivered like an exposition and very anticlimactic.

Why are they on that ship in the first place…oh yeah…

gotta get to Ian and all the stuff that happens in Jamaica …keep your hands and feet inside the ride and hold on to your remote this is gonna go all rollercoaster on us.

What has been left unresolved…oh yeah…

their relationship.  Maybe I am completely wrong here, but when is the convo going to happen?  When is Claire going to tell us or Jamie that she made the right choice?  I know the writers have said that actions speak louder than words, and Claire is notoriously bad at expressing her feelings (which makes when she does that more powerful), and Claire’s efforts to save the man she loves are heroic.  The tender snuggly moments at the wedding boded well and I loved the father’s blessing, but I think at some point Jamie and the viewers deserve to be reassured that she “just can’t live without you James Fraser”.   And then again, maybe, I need to wait until they are done telling the story!

 

 

 

 

It’s a long way down to where they started… a reflection on Outlander 3.10 “Heaven and Earth”

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In my review of Outlander 3.06 “A. Malcolm”, I wrote about having expectations of the print shop reunion.  I jokingly said I missed the “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook with the longing of twenty years streaming down their faces. I got over my missing scene because after I calmed my book-loving self down, I realized what the show had given me was practically perfect in every way. After watching 3.10 “Heaven and Earth”, written by newcomer Luke Schelhaus and directed by David Moore, I thought of my missing “slobber knocker” scene again.  I thought about why it had been important to me and decided it was because it was a visceral reminder of the need Jamie and Claire have of each other.  True to form, the show gave me what I was missing, they just didn’t give it to me as I expected.  This week they gave me that need and the somewhat frightening reality of what that kind of need can do to people.

I have written about why we needed to see the 20 years apart between these two in order to understand the reunion.  I also wrote about the period of transition I thought we were going to see after the reunion.  The show has taken pains to let us see that though our couple’s memories of each other remained frozen in time, they were not.  They both had lives and they are both changed by the time they were apart.  Claire’s fear that she would find the man she left changed came true and she is certainly not the same woman who left Jamie 20 years before.  It has been more difficult than any of us could possibly have imagined.  I believe they are at the core the same people they each fell in love with, but 20 years of wearing masks, suppressing feelings, and doing what you need to do to survive have covered those cores in layers of protection.  It is a long way down to where they started and I’m not sure how long or what it will take to get them both back there, but I think we saw part of that journey in this episode.

 

Confined and Compartmentalized

I’ll admit that I watched and re watched and re re watched the initial hold scene between Jamie and Fergus. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. It seemed out of character for Jamie to be so callous and manipulative (and, I saw today that Diana agrees).  It wasn’t a very flattering look for a “king of men”.  I kept watching trying to figure out what exactly the writers were trying to show us.  Then it hit me.  I’d been there.  I’d been Jamie stuck in a cell and powerless to protect someone I desperately loved.  Without going in to too much detail, last December I found myself sitting in an ER with a loved one, powerless to protect them or effect change and angry, very angry.  I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make it different, but there was absolutely nothing I could do and my anger grew to rage.  I understood Jamie attacking Fergus unfairly.  I recognized his displaced anger because I had displaced my own.  I took my frustration out on someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I truly think I lost my mind for a bit or a least control of my emotions.  I was being irrational and unfair, but I couldn’t stop myself. With my personal experience on my mind, I watched the scene one more time.

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I think we are seeing Jamie’s past pain resurface.  Claire being taken from him has brought him to a dark place, I think we see Jamie as close to madness as we have ever seen him.  When he realizes his wife has been kidnapped and the captain is complicit, he reacts violently and as a result is thrown into the hold. Just before he is pushed down into the cell, we see him desperately look to the Porpoise, as it puts distance between him and Claire.  He is once again confined, “I’m well acquainted with the inside of a cell.”  I couldn’t help, but give this statement more meaning than the literal.  Jamie has spent the better part of 20 years without personal agency.  He has been confined in more ways than one.  His being once again behind bars has to be bringing it all back, the loss of Claire and the desolate life he lived without her.  The thought of losing her again is now made more cruel by her miraculous return and their tenuous bond.  He truly can’t lose her again.  He is desperate.

It isn’t just the plague that concerns him, “There is more than disease on that ship there are 300… men.”  A very timely statement given the current atmosphere and the idea that women are never safe from molestation.  As we see what transpires on the Porpoise, we know that Jamie’s fears are not unfounded.  Claire is in danger from men.  He needs to get to her. He needs to protect her.  He needs her. But, he is locked up and powerless to reach her… once again.

In the books, Jamie confesses to Claire that he had not been afraid for a very long time and that with her return he began to feel fear again because he had something to lose once more. I think the show has shown us that reality, in Ardsmuir Jamie tells John Grey to do what he will, there is nothing they can do to him that hasn’t been done.  He had lost everything that truly mattered to him.  And, even though he cares for his men, his family, Willie, Murtaugh, and Fergus, it is his loss of Claire that changed him forever. He is not complete without her and having found her once more he, “…would do more than lie to keep her.” He would in fact move Heaven and Earth and risk Hell, as easily as the prick of a pin.  I can remember sitting in that emergency room my thoughts spinning from one possibility to another, looking for a way out, looking for a way to fix things, looking for a way out of my fear.  Jamie is doing the same. His fear and desperation have made him irrational, he is grasping at straws and ignoring the facts of their situation as described by Fergus.  When Fergus doesn’t buy into Jamie’s irrational and desperate plans, Jamie’s impotent fear and anger become displaced and Fergus becomes the unfortunate target.  In the mist of his despair and displaced anger, Jamie says he was right to deny his blessing on the marriage to Marsali because Fergus doesn’t know what love is.  Saying this out loud brings a last desperate idea to mind.  He will do more than lie to keep Claire, he will in fact, use Fergus’ love for Marsali.  The darkness he has inhabited to survive without Claire has made this possible, but we all cringe at the cruelty and manipulation and we know it will not come without a cost to his relationship with Fergus.

Luckily for Jamie, he has good will on account.  He has lived a life of honor, been there for those God has given him charge of, and sacrificed his own interest for others over and over. “You can trust me to keep my word” says Jamie,”I have always trusted you Milord” says a newly maimed Fergus.  Fergus is in the unique position of knowing what Claire means to Jamie and what he was like after losing her.  And, after hearing the sailors discussing Jamie, himself and Marsali, he realizes what it is Jamie is feeling.  He tells Jamie he will not bring him the keys and place them all at risk.  He tells Jamie he is willing to move Heaven and Earth to keep the woman he loves safe even if that means he cannot marry her.  Marsali understands that it is not only love of her, but love of Jamie that makes Fergus tell him, no.  He will move Heaven and Earth to keep Jamie safe, as well as Marsali.  And, God, I love Marsali for telling him if he doesn’t understand that then he “doesn’t deserve” to be set loose.  They love him and so, they do what is best for him and risk his anger and…forgive him because sometimes we forgive those we love even when they do not deserve it.  Fergus is indeed like Jamie and proves himself to be his son by his noble actions.  To Jamie’s credit, he gets it right in the end and gives them his blessing.

Claire Compartmentalized

Despite my need to see Jamie forgiven and he and Claire together forever and all well between them, Claire stubbornly refuses to reassure Jamie that all is well and that she is there forever.  The specter of those 20 years apart continues to haunt them. There have been moments where she seems to come close and she has never denied her love of him, but just when it seems they are finding a way back to each other something conspires to keep them apart.  I loved the moment in the “Doldrums” when Jamie realizes that he must let Claire be who she has become and lets her go despite his need to keep her by his side. He takes her into the hall, but when he sees her standing there with her arms crossed, a look of challenge on her face, he resigns himself to the reality that she will go whether he says no or not. He touches their wedding ring as he says he has taken an oath or two himself and taken them all seriously.  He is devoted to her and trying hard to be the man she needs him to be. Through out this episode we are reminded that a word given is a bond, Claire, Jamie, Fergus, the Captain all are bound by their oath.

On the English ship, we see Claire slip into her familiar role as surgeon.  She knows exactly who she is when she is healing the sick and it serves to emphasis how unsure she is when she is not.  Watching her deal with the plague was a glorious celebration of the woman who is Claire and I have to wonder if anyone could have done this job besides her.  Her sense of self and her authority in the face of so many men was honed in another time when women in medicine were just as rare and looked upon with suspicion.  Having her abilities, knowledge, authority questioned by men is nothing new.  She handles what ever they throw her way with the aplomb of a woman who has been there and done that.  There is no doubt who is in charge. I loved the irony of authority being given to the youth of the captain and Mr. Pound.  I believe the unusual circumstances that led a third lieutenant to become captain and a 14 year.old to be addressed as sir were actually in her favor.  The band of unlikely save the day.

Claire has never been as open with her feelings as Jamie nor as eloquent in expressing them, but we can judge how she feels through her actions.  She does share with us that she is feeling the impact of being separated from Jamie.  It has been less than a day and fifty miles only that separates her from him, but she tells us it feels like 200 years.  Talking about leaving Jamie and actually leaving him seem to be two totally different things. Despite her misgivings and confusion there is no doubt that she loves him and that the only comfort she finds in him not being with her is that he is safe from the typhoid.  However, she seems to be able to function without him in a way he cannot without her and Elias discovers her secret for us.  She tells him there is a word for what she does, compartmentalizing.  She has learned how to put different parts of her life away into compartments and keep her feelings separate, so that she can do her work.  We know that she has been doing this with her feelings for Jamie for 20 years and we wonder when and what it will take to make her take those feelings out of the boxes she has stored them in and incorporate them into who she is now.  How long will it be before Claire can become whole once more?

We may have seen Claire come close to understanding her need of Jamie when she reads the captain’s log and discovers that Jamie has been found out and is in danger.  We see what she is willing to do to keep him safe.  We see Claire lie to those who trust her, threaten to cry rape, and even commit murder.  I had no doubt that if Claire had believed cutting Thompkins’ throat would have kept Jamie safe, she would have done it, despite her oath to do no harm.  As she listened in horror to the story of the body being found in the cask of Creme de Menthe, the charges against her husband, and the unlikelihood that the captain could be convinced to not write a report once they reach Jamaica, she understands that she may lose him again.  Her eyes filling with tears were powerful evidence that she cannot lose him again and so, she jumps into the bottomless sea for Jamie’s sake. Nice metaphor that.

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No matter what happens around us

The fact that these two were meant to be together is never in doubt for us, but we have to be patient while they peel back the layers and find the way down to where they began.  They need to know that whatever it is between them that they cannot name is powerful enough to keep them together despite anything that goes on around them.  Maybe the very real possibility that they may lose each other again will be enough to make them both accept they are mated for life and fated to be together through time and past all understanding.

Some final thoughts

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Elias: How impressive was Albie Marber as Elias Pound ? ! The character was a delight and I loved his chemistry with Claire.  In the time he was on-screen, Albie managed to make us care about his Elias and as result, mourn his loss. I felt his concern and love for his shipmates and his respect for Claire. His delight in her telling him he was an impressive young man was heartwarming and his cheeky smile at her cursing adorable. His concern for his men touched me, “Feel better Mr. Owens”.  May we all have children of such strength and integrity.  I couldn’t help, but think of the difference between the young men in this episode and the extended period of adolescence in our culture.  It spoke to the fact that children will rise to what is expected of them and that we do our children no favors by taking the opportunity for self-sufficiency away from them.  We need to allow our kids to make choices and mistakes.  Mr. Pound was an impressive young man and if I was his mother, I too would be proud.

Typhoid Fever: Claire’s process in dealing with the plague was fascinating and gruesomely realistic.  The effort that goes into this production continues to stagger.  When Claire looked around the deck, I felt as overwhelmed as she must have been.  I’ve of course never been around something like this, but it felt pretty real.  I was pleased to see there was more to the story than just dealing with the disease.  They did a wonderful job of letting us see the human side of such an event and I couldn’t help, but be reminded of all of the natural and unnatural disasters we have had this year and the stories of humanity that came out of those.  We saw the frailness and preciousness of life, and the real grief over the loss of fellow human beings.  The burials and Lord’s prayer were moving, in the end, we are all the same.  We all want to be loved, cared for and respected.

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Swabbing: On a lighter note, my husband’s favorite uncle retired from the Navy and had a little dachshund he named Swabbie.  I thought Swabbie was the name given to most lower ranked sailors because they “swabbed” the decks.  I got puppy fever one day and came home with two little dachshunds, I promptly named the little brown one Swabbie in an effort to endear my husband to my suprise purchase.  After this episode, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at my dog in the same way again.  Swabbie doesn’t sound so cute anymore!