A Review in Three Acts: Outlander 3:06 “A. Malcolm”

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Exposition

Prior to the Print Shop episode “A. Malcolm”, Outlander executive producer/writer Matthew B. Roberts, commented on Twitter that he just might go into hiding after the episode aired.

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At the time, I laughed because I understood where he was coming from.  The Print Shop sits on hallowed ground inside the book fan’s hearts.  I laughed at his tweet, but a part of me shivered.  I’ve seen the cast, producers, directors, designers, and the writers eviscerated by fans on Social Media. I was actually concerned for him! And, I wondered, if in part, his decision to take on writing the Print Shop scenes was based on taking one for the team! On the other hand, he got to write the Print Shop.  What a wonderful challenge.  I’ve enjoyed Matt’s adaptations in the past and I know that he “gets” how important this story and its characters are to the fans.  I trust him.  However, as much I trust him, it is difficult for us book fans to objectively watch the show. There is no way to undo what you already know.  There is no way you can completely eliminate how you related to the material or circumvent what you placed importance on. We each read the words on the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, but how we each interpreted them is as varied as we are. I have my own personal version of the print shop, as does every other book fan.

Through the last two seasons, I have come to understand and accept what it means to adapt a book for the screen. Fortunately, for me, I have enough life experience and a mind open enough to recognize when my expectations are unreasonable or just plain unrealistic. After reflection, I usually understand that it is impossible for another person to be able to tell this story putting emphasis on just those things I find important because for them it is a slightly or vastly different story than mine.  Impossible, a part of me knows it is impossible, yet every week I tune in to see how well “they” told “my” story.  I watch with an eye looking for my favorite scenes and an ear waiting to hear the next line of my favorite dialogue. This week was no exception. I know this is a tough concept, but “They” aren’t rewriting Diana’s books, they are telling a visual episodic story based on her books. That is reality. It might be reality, but Matt understands that the reality that he is writing an adaptation won’t mean shite to some fans this week.  They will want to see their version of the print shop on that screen.

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Imagine my surprise when after viewing “A. Malcolm” for the first time, I was the fan looking for matches and straw.

This week it was difficult for me to deal with reality and let go of the strong expectations I had placed on this adaptation. The material in this episode was just too close to my heart and it felt personal. It took me several viewings to see what story I was actually being shown. So, this is the story of my watching episode 3.06 written mostly in real-time from my immediate reactions… if I sound bit beside myself…I was…DON’T JUDGE ME UNTIL THE END…pretty please with sugar on top?

Act I: With Bated Breath

I’m trying to get a grip because after watching A. MALCOLM, Outlander’s Print Shop scene for the first time, I’m in shock and not in a good way.  I have never been so disappointed in an episode in the entire time I have been watching the series. Where is the power, the need?  I’m struggling to understand why the focus went where it went especially when it should have been so clear!!!

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited.
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life “RESURRECTED” from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender!

Instead…

  1. tender exchange with a madam
  2. Geordie
  3. eyeglasses
  4. business as usual
  5. background boobs
  6. lesser dialogue
  7. just less…

I have defended this show and these writers because I could always see a rationale for what and why they did what they did and if I didn’t understand, I was patient because I knew they had a long-range vision for the story and I would know the reason eventually.  But THIS moment will never come again and there isn’t enough time to rectify it because “that amount of time doesn’t exist”.

ACT II: Taking Off the Book Goggles

It has taken me hours to calm down.  I was nothing short of angry, disillusioned, and sad. I gave myself a little time to reflect and realized that I have felt this way before, maybe not to this degree, but I had felt this before. I forgot to take off my book goggles. So, I’m going in again and going to try to look at what is actually on the screen and not pay attention to the scenes in my head.

Easier said than done.

Alright, so the emotional staring, touching, and shaking was there. Just not in the amount that I expected.  I yearned for that “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook in each others arms with “longing of twenty years” streaming down their faces.  What I got was way too short and left me feeling as dissatisfied as finding out there would be no J and C carved into their flesh, a fight in the abbey with Jamie’s demons or my patiently waiting for that final night that was meant to tide them over for a lifetime and finding it had been turned into a quickie.  And, I still can’t even find the words to express my disappointment over the scene with Bree’s pictures. In my mind and heart, it is the most poignant scene in the entire book if not the series. He has just seen Bree…Claire is there….there is closure…his sacrifice wasn’t in vain…so, his reaction is to tell Claire he has another kid? …sigh…WTH?

Claire bothers me. Has her time with Frank beaten her down this much?  Has all her self-confidence been eroded?  I don’t recognize this mouse. What the hell is THIS Claire feeling?  I want the Claire who puts her chin up and goes after what she wants. Feeling scared and a bit insecure is one thing, but if she was that frightened and sure he had made a life without her, why did she make the decision to go? I want to see that she has “…the devil’s own courage.”

Okay, I felt the scene in the brothel was very well done. Walking through that parlor, hearing the noises through the walls increased the anxiety and doubts for both of them. They have had no time to really talk and it was a great way to show us Claire is worried that Jamie is too different and Jamie worried he is too changed. I felt a lot of key dialogue was kept here and like the idea that they spent time talking over dinner, filling in details about their lives apart and seducing each other with hands that break bread and mouthes that burst grapes. It was condensed and I realize that was needed, but I’m still grieving over the lost scenes in the print shop. Because, without them this beautiful sex scene just doesn’t have the same depth of meaning. Those folks who have been waiting for sex between these two will be satisfied, but I wanted no doubt left that these two have burned with a need for each other that went beyond lust. This sex should be the final piece in the puzzle that brings them all the way home to each other.

ACT III: When Living in the Boonies is a Boon

And, sometimes the universe intervenes.  I watched it a third time on my computer. My internet is so slow that it was buffering about every 30 seconds. It forced me to slow down and really look. What I saw in between the buffers was mesmerizing.

I teared up.

How could I have missed so much?  Was I so invested in MY story that I couldn’t see THE story being told?  I was transferring my expectations onto this episode and missed all the nuance. The power and need I longed for was there, but made all the more powerful for the carefully tender way it was presented. I thought there wasn’t any chemistry between these two actors? What a laugh. I’m not sure my husband of 41+ years and I are more in tune with each other than these two. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this episode, so let me revisit my first points again…

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited. 
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is resurrected from the dead. What I saw this time was the wonder. Claire reaching out to touch him, but stopping herself, but then having to reassure herself that he is there in the flesh. The catch in her voice when she tells him she thought he was dead. Jamie staring and whispering her name reaching out for her. 
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been resurrected from the dead.  Jamie’s words about seeing her smiling with her hair curling about her face were some of the most heartbreakingly intimate lines I’ve ever seen delivered. “But, you never touched me”, and she says, “I can touch you now”.  It seems as if the world should stop, but it still turns, life goes on despite what has just happened. Instead of angels tears, we got spilled ale and wet pants and a gentle bit of comic relief that reminds us that this whole situation is bizarre.  Jamie forgot she was still his wife until Claire poses the question with her heart and her hope in her eyes. They have been apart a lifetime. We see the conflicting emotions on his face and the audience knows something is wrong. We see Claire follow him to the back room and look around at his world, the life he has made without her and we feel her fear that she will see something that will dash all her hopes. She walks as if she is unsure of her footing, doesn’t know what to do with her hands or what to do next, but her smiles say it all.  She cannot hold them back, but they are tremulous. Their eyes are quick to tears and their voices thick with all their suppressed emotion. They are strangers with familiar faces. A beloved memory become flesh. 
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life resurrected from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender.  He tries to hold it together, but is overwhelmed, closes his eyes and asks for her name.  When he hears it, he takes in a breath as if he is breathing her to life. She has a name. He has a child named Brianna. We see a tender moment when he remembers their first-born Faith and we know he has never forgotten. Claire is moved by their shared grief and we recognize with her the depth with which this man loves. I still miss him slowly falling apart in her arms allowing himself to finally express the weight of all that has happened, but what I saw instead was moving. What I once saw as an odd reaction to seeing Brianna’s pictures now makes more sense. He has another child he has lost. He shares Willie with Claire. He shares, his shame, guilt, sorrow, and joy with …Claire, the only person with whom he can share such a thing because she is his home, his sanctuary, the only place where he need not “guard his words or hide his feelings”. Claire will love Willie because he is Jamie’s. We start to see the unconditional love and trust that still exists between them. Moment by moment, word by word, we see them draw closer. 

What we got instead was the best thing I never knew I needed…

  1. We got to see a tender dance between two people trying to find each other again that felt believable.
  2. We got to see that despite his “unsavory” occupation and living in a “kittle hoosie”, Jamie has maintained his values and beliefs; he is concerned she left Frank to be with him and even though it hurts he wants to know if she was loved, shocked she would think him a customer of the Madam, guilty over Geneva, continues to take care of his responsibilities even when Claire is suddenly there because people depend on him, and he still fights for justice, this time with words. He is still the man she loved at his core.
  3. We saw a woman on the edge of no return. She really was afraid because she really had risked it all. She had no plan B. She was vulnerable, anxiously looking for proof, for evidence that she wasn’t wrong and …found it.  “What was once true is true again”. It has always been forever for him. He has loved no one but her.
  4. We saw two starving people make love and revel in the miracle of what it was between them that they could not name, but was still there. As predicted, Jamie “breaks through” the layers of deprivation and defense and then they delight in each other, slowly exploring and letting their bodies express what it means to each to be together again.
  5. We got to believe in love.

Denouement: Where the Author Ties It All Together

The show cannot win, it is literally impossible for them to please everyone. And, so they only have one choice, to do what they think best tells the story and hope that it plays well on the screen. If my personal investment in and reaction to this episode is any indication, “A. Malcolm” might generate some feelings and maybe Matthew B. Roberts, was right to believe he needs to go into hiding! Not because he didn’t do a good job, but because of the books in our heads. He might have wanted to show my “slobber knocker” and “gently fell to pieces” moments, but for whatever reason it didn’t work or maybe they just decided to go a different way.  Either way, I had to let go and just watch what story I was being told not the one I thought I should be told. At this point, it is hard for me to believe I could have ever been upset. It is a beautiful story, beautifully told. I tried to think of an image that would encapsulate this episode and what came to mind was Jamie and Claire, as a red rose bud with petals tightly layered, a thing of potential beauty.  Moment by moment, word by word, touch by touch, their souls are nourished and in the end…they bloom. The episode addressed important emotional beats and once again walked that fine line between honoring the source material and staying true to themselves and the story they are telling. Our beloved books will always be there and we can visit our print shops anytime we want, but I’m hoping that other fans who forgot to take off their book goggles like me will have the faith to take them off and watch this print shop twice or thrice. It is everything the Print Shop was meant to be and more.

fini

P.S. I know I haven’t said much, other’s have and done much better than I could have, but how wonderful were the costumes and sets?! They continue to add so much to my understanding of these characters and this story. The neckcloth is bringing sexy back! And, the thought Terry put into Claire making her own outfit!  I’m so grateful for what she shares with fans. The research Jon Gary must have done to give us the print shop! It all feels so real and has to impact these performances! What a quality production, so detailed and lovingly created.  And, the new characters?! I’m pretty sure Geordie is every sarcastic passive aggressive person I’ve ever worked with! LOL!  Young Ian and Fergus…how perfectly perfect they are …sigh…makes me excited for the future.

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221 thoughts on “A Review in Three Acts: Outlander 3:06 “A. Malcolm”

  1. Voyager is my least favorite book in the series, mostly because of the very stereotypical Mr. Willoughby (ugh), and that Claire and Jamie don’t seem to talk about important things. I had just read the part where she meets Lord John as Governor, and finds out about Willie and is so jealous. It seemed like over the top manufactured drama. I liked it much better when showJamie told Claire about Willie up front, while talking about the kids.

    Over all, I’m very happy with this episode. Thanks for your blog, as always!

    • Beth expresses exactly what I was feeling. After first watching the episode, I felt hollow and felt like some huge things were missing, overlooked. Then, I watched it on my Kindle which being such a small screen allowed me to see closely the subtleties of expression, the nuances in touch and the mutual trust of their two souls begin to unfold once again.
      It actually is a tremendous episode and both Caitrona and Sam did a truly remarkable job in showing us the depth of Jaime and Claire: their vulnerabilities, fears and in a most human sense how 20 years apart effected them on profound internal levels. When i really pondered it, how could they just fall into each other after all this time? They could not because of their exquisite humaness.

    • Diastr

      You nailed my two Voyager dislikes on the head! I was SO dreading Mr. Willoughby and was hoping they would dump him or rework it. I was offended by that plot point from the first time I read it (little Chinese…..aaarrrrggghhh!!) and it made me dislike both Claire and Jamie a bit for they way they talked to/about him. A bit condescending to appear so “enlightened” about this Chinese man.

      And don’t get me started on the whole plot point with Lord John revealing Jamie has a son. A cheap way to create a conflict to drag out for pages and pages and so out of character for Jamie. to not tell Claire for SO long.

      • “And don’t get me started on the whole plot point with Lord John revealing Jamie has a son. A cheap way to create a conflict to drag out for pages and pages and so out of character for Jamie. to not tell Claire for SO long.”

        Wow, yes-you’ve hit this nail square-on, Diastr. I always felt Diana’s choice to have LJG reveal Willie to Claire absurd. It IS out of character for Jamie NOT to have told Claire about Willie as they are talking about Bree AND their first child together, Faith (that would’ve made a nice touch in the book, eh?-thank you Matt!). Having LJG reveal Wille to Claire is used to create a situation in which Claire is able to find out about LJG’s love for Jamie. As you said, cheap.

  2. Hi Beth, I was expecting to read your impression about the episode 3.6, and in have tell you it was like reading my mind. At the beginning I thought, just was like I told my husband. By the end I still agree with you 100%. What I believe is part of the reunion, of course the intimate experience after 20 years but as well the night of their marriage, Claire and Jamie were not alone. The night of their marriage the clansmen make the funny note and this time the busy ladies next to. Great episode. Myriam

    • Beth, I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this. I had the very same experience and for the very reasons you outlined. I say after every episode that I need to withhold judgement until I have watched 2 or 3 times. But I always slip into my book reader googles. I was so upset Saturday night that I almost turned my IPAD off. But when I really watched it, I saw an amazing episode. I have also thought about the fact that big sobs and running noses afterwords don’t play very well on TV. I also thought about the fact that Outlander is still thought of as a “bodice ripper” in some circles. When Sam said he thought it was too melodramatic, perhaps for TV it would have been. I just watched 304 and saw Jamie tell Lord Dunsaney that he had lost 2 children himself. He deeply loved Faith and Bree. But he never saw either. But he has seen Willie. What emotions Jamie must have felt on seeing Claire and those pictures in the space of maybe 10 minutes.

      Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. I promise I am going to take my goggles off before I watch 307. And heaven help the writers and actors when we get to Laoghaire. LOL

  3. Rebecca

    Wonderful, insightful article, Beth. This is my take. The book’s story paints a WORD picture in our minds, and is colored by each of our own personal experiences as we LIVE it, ourselves, in our imaginations. It is INTENSELY personal and different for each. The MOVIE story is not so intensely internal. We are WATCHING two people ACT OUT the story, and though to a certain degree we can imagine ourselves in the actors’ place as we observe, SEEING is not LIVING IT in our minds. It was masterfully acted by Cait and Sam, tender and poignant, but NOTHING can equal losing oneself in an alternate reality–which is really what reading a novel is. And so far, at 64, having read countless authors, in my opinion, Diana G. surpasses them all in her craft. No one I’ve ever read paints a word picture like she does in my mind.

  4. laruebeth

    It’s been long enough since I read the books, that details are fuzzy. This has served me well in all three seasons. But Voyager had scenes that stuck with me and I anticipated seeing. On first viewing, I was so disappointed in Jamie’s reaction, or lack of reaction, to seeing Bree’s photos. I think I sort of shut down. I went to bed sad and mad. Next day, I decided to watch again with captions do I could catch some of the missed dialogue. This time I saw tenderness that I had overlooked. Watched a third time and was blown away by Sam and Cait. I have now watched six times! Never have I rewatched more than three times. And always over a period of months or years. Odd that I can’t seem to let it go. Friday I will be watching with my friend who is not a book reader. I expect her to love it.
    I wish all the complainers I see on FB would read your blog and then rewatch. Thank you, Beth for your brilliant insight and eloquence.

  5. Jo Eslick

    Thank you Beth for your perspective. I admit huge disappointment to a few key points in the episode but over all I did enjoy it for what it is. I am a huge book fan and read the whole series at least twice a year and when a new book comes out I start at the beginning and end with the new book, it helps me to savour the new part of Claire and Jamie’s journey.

    Your blog has helped me see some of the scenes I was disappointed in, in a new way and I am eager to now go back and watch the episode again without my book goggles – I love that idea and I will remember to leave my goggles off when I watch Outlander from now on.

  6. Doris Mobilian

    I’ve read the books numerous times, so they will always be in my thoughts. I also watch the episodes frequently so I hear what you are saying. But the bottom line for me is that Jamie and Claire are together- -it is always a relief. They are telling the story their way,but I still have my thoughts. What wonderful books and what a wonderful show.

  7. I was decidedly underwhelmed by 306 the first time I watched, but more because I bought into all of the hype around it. It was better on 2nd viewing, but honestly, I felt more emotional “oomph” from this season’s first 4 episodes. I’m not “book blind” about the show — I’ve read all the books at least twice — I actually think the show is way better than the books (thus far) because they leave out so much of the stupid bits (and there are a lot of really nonsensical bits in those books). Plus they humanize the characters way more. Also, I may be the only person out there who isn’t in it for the whole Jamie-Claire thing. I’m far more interested in the historical story lines, especially in the later books, so my reaction to the reunion is “finally — now we can on with the actual plot/action!”

    On rewatch, I appreciated 306 more, it was very well done, but again, just didn’t live up to the hype and it’s my fault for expecting it to do just that.

  8. Mary Silverman

    Still disappointed after watching 4 times. Don’t change the story and then wonder why all these fans are upset and are voicing their opinions. The writers need to read all the books so they know the whole story. Everything in the books is done for a reason and will impact later story lines. The fans are invested in this story and we watch the series because we know and love these characters. I will keep watching but I hope they do better going forward.

  9. hilariec

    Beth, I started reading your post as soon as it dropped into my email program. But after the first few paragraphs I had to stop. I just couldn’t handle reading any more negative words about an episode I found, with some small exceptions I could live with, to be truly wonderful.

    But then it came up again in my Twitter feed so I decided to try it one more time and this time read to the end.

    I too am a book reader and part of me wants it to be just like the book. But I’ve spent most of my life working in media so I never expect moving pictures to ever be the same as words on a page. The second half of your post captured pretty much all that I felt about A. Malcolm too. Thanks!

    And next time, try not to throw such a curve ball at us, your readers! 😀

  10. Barbara Urban

    Dear Beth…… I thank you for giving me the courage to watch a second time! With my first watch at midnight Saturday/Sunday I was so angry, turned off, disgusted, that I vowed to not give 306 a second watch (and I am a big, multiple rewatcher of Outlander). But, thank goodness for your email Sunday morning. After reading your revelations I felt you giving me the gift of encouragement to watch again, and watch again I have, many times now! There are so many subtleties revealed by watching Jamie’s and Claire’s faces closely, listening to their voices carefully. In spite of some missing iconic lines this episode for me now is brilliant. Also, I came to realize that Jamie just HAD to tell Claire about Willie. His emotions were inwardly consuming him about his children at that moment, and Willie for him is immediate and real, but couldn’t be shared with his family. It makes perfect sense to me that Claire, his “home” now returned, could share this with him.

    One more observation: within the first few minutes of watching the first time, it hit me, hard, that Sam and Cait, together again, were a magical force. As excellent as they both were in the first 5 episodes, their acting chops are taken to an even higher level when having each other to play against. It is this that comes to the fore when rewatching, and paying attention. They truly embody the touching of Jamie and Claire’s souls.

  11. Lois Warner

    Amen Beth! You expressed every feeling, every thought that I had watching this episode! It’s like you read my mind! I have watched it at least 4 times and each time I have seen, experienced and found everything you have experienced! I have never before had this happen with any other show, book or play! Thank you for putting my feelings into sane words! Well Done!

  12. It took me a bit longer than it took you, but I did finally arrive after viewing more times than I would care to admit. I needed to watch it much closer and without the emotion that had welled up during my first viewing. Reading the script also helped me to see that Matt did an awesome job, the words and intent were there, the interpretation or editing was different.

    The early revelation didn’t bother me, but the lack emotion with the photos did. If I’m 100% honest it still does a bit. I do see now that it’s there to some extent and that in this version of the story Claire and Jamie reveal things to one another that they did not in the books. A perfect example being Laoghaire.
    Thank you Beth, well done as always!

  13. Susan

    This was exactly my experience! The more I watched, the more I saw. I always check Outlander Community to read the script. The crying in Claire’s arms was there so I don’t know what happened to it. I surrendered my book words and lost myself in the acting. Wonderful episode and beyond wonderful acting. So subtly nuanced and so balanced between sorrow and joy.

  14. Donna Faucett

    I have fell in love with this series. I have not read the books yet am planning on enjoying it with no preconceived notions or expectations. When it’s all done I am going to read them and find new and more about Jamie,Clair and all the other magnificent characters!!!

  15. Judy Todd

    Once more Beth , you’ve said it all ! My second viewing started with some doubts but , by the end I realized that they had covered all of the important details of “ The Print Shop “ ! Kudos to writers , sets , costumnes etc .

  16. I truly am a longtime everything Outlander Fan, and I must apologize for my clutch on my negative reaction. Even after 3 viewings, and having recently read the “Voyager”for the 4th…maybe 5th time. Tho Cait/Sam always do a wonderful job, the entire “scripting” felt wrong. Our beloved Actors can only portray what the Writer place upon them. I agree that because DG’s Books are so filled with emotion and description, a TV Adaptation must keep not only a time table and plot connection, but emotional tone enough to keep the audience invested. I just did not feel a part of this episode this time around. There were touching moments,and the exception of Ms Sylvie and Mr Willoby, I was also pleased with the new Cast introductions. Ms Sylvie is a “Madam” after all, she was dressed all wrong , where was the “Gaudy Bawdy House Business Woman? Her flirting with Jamie was weird, they had a Business Relationship and each supposedly knew that ! Mr Willoby dressed in clothing of the time for Scotland males, I don’t think so ! He was clearly a quirky China-man who stood out even sober, are the writers so Politically Correct all of a sudden that that Character wasn’t allowed his silk Pajama Uniform of the High Chinese Scholar that he was ? Where was his down to the waist Que ? I really wonder if anyone even asked DG about the bastardization of these Characters. Call me Negative, call me wrong, even call me a Turn Coat Fan, I was disappointed with minor exception. I will of course not stop watching the Show because of any episode I differ with, maybe over time I will understand, I just know that my expectations on many levels was let down…and I’m stickin’ with it ! I will also continue to LOVE your Blog and your insights as that is what I ALWAYS get from you !!

  17. Azalee Salis

    I have to agree with you, Beth. I watched it 5 times and when I went for the 6th I finally saw it. It WAS beautiful and I wouldn’t change anything…. Except, maybe the falling to pieces part. I was looking forward to that scene. If you really think about it he did, for a few small moments, fall apart. Where he closed his eyes and then the expression when he heard Bree’s name. I’ll take that and all the rest. It was beautiful. This could not have been done without Sam’s facial expressions. He has used so many this season.

  18. Marge

    Beth, your review is great! As a book reader, I know what the story is, but as you found and admitted after watching more than once, that a video is different from a book. This episode has the most expressive acting with looks, eyes and even with breathing that only actors can bring. The speechlessness, shyness and disbelief at first is so real and palpable, how could anyone want a bucket of tears instead? The changes from the book in the timeline move the TV version along since it has less time than the 1000 pages that the book has. I discuss these episodes with a friend who has not read the books and once she asked if something was filler – No, nothing is filler. All the details are important!

  19. Overall, I was disappointed in the changes, i.e. Fergus’s wooden hand, Jamie telling Claire about Willie at that point in the series, the ending, etc. I did like the red Print Shop, the Edinburgh streets and market, wee Ian was great and well cast. but I am just not anxious to rewatch it several times like I did the Geneva episode with wee Willie (Clark Butler stole the show). Had no idea who wrote it until now when I read the blog. Disappointed in him, too.

  20. DeeDee McQueen Prather

    Thank you so much for taking off your book goggles! I am not a bookie. I had never heard of Outlander until about 15 months ago. I watched “A. Malcolm” Sunday evening and loved every minute of it! I loved it more when I watched it four more times! I have been very disheartened the past couple of days with all the negativity regarding this episode. I appreciate you sharing your thought process, I hope it helps some fans see this episode for what it really is; absolutely lovely.

    Thank you, truly.

  21. S. A. Young

    As usual, your incites are beautifully written. I managed to watch the episode without the book goggles, for the most part (and loved, loved, loved it), but admit to being a tad disappointed that we didnt get Jamie going “to pieces”. Then I realized we already saw that – in episode 2. The arms belonged to Jenny, but it was no less a powerful, three-hanky moment. I can’t imagine they wanted to diminish thst moment by repeating the same visual. So I rewatched and appreciated what did get – the subtlety, the nuance, the layers, all the more. Thanks, once again for so eloquently sharing your experience with us. I hope it opens some eyes.

    • Marge

      EXACTLY and I forgot the scene in episode 2. That is a very good point. I loved the subtle breathing, looks and shyness that a reunion after such a long time would really be like. I, too, loved this episode. See my earlier comment.

    • YES! I wrote about being worried that scene would take away from this one! Thanks for reminding me. It made sense he fell apart after what happened to Fergus, but I wanted it here!

  22. Karen Panebaker

    I am so glad that I was watching the Starz Outlander Show before I knew about the books. I am a big fan and totally Outlander obsessed!! Although obsessed, I am still intelligent enough to realize you cannot have the show and the books side by side with expectations of them being exactly how DG wrote her story. It is fundamentally impossible to cover every aspect of the book on the show. What part of that do some people not understand??

  23. Joann

    Great recap and insight as always. While I loved loved loved this episode from the very beginning I understand about the reader goggles. I’ve been stuck in that mode since season 1 episode 16. I never got over my disappointment and it carried over into season 2 ( I realize this is probably not a popular statement). I still watched because I love Sam and Cait and anything they are in is worth watching. I just didn’t watch each episode 4 to 5 times. Season 2 finale reeled Me back in a bit but I still had a a drought free experience waiting for season 3. I waited three weeks before I forked out the big bucks for Starz and to my happy surprise I have loved every episode this season and A. Malcolm clinched it. I am back to being obsessed and worrying about the wait for season 4. I think I can now accept almost any adaptation that comes my way. 🙂 thank you Matt Roberts I approve

  24. Beth, I see what you’re saying about it taking more than once to truly absorb this beautiful story as presented. I’ve done much the same. I think people would have enjoyed it more if they had actually followed more of the script as written. As much as I loved it, I also have disappointments. Those disappointments didn’t change regardless of my having watched it several times. I enjoy your writing so thanks for sharing your point of view. I hope you can see mine as valid, Too.

    • I should add that I was able to accept the Willie scene more easily after watching it again, but I felt the Bree scene was rushed and not given the respect and importance it deserved. He didn’t have to go to pieces in the scene, but it sure should have grabbed more of his attention than it did. This is a minor complaint and I know it was in the book, but I also could not believe an 18th century man would so easily accept the bikini picture. He would be scandalized! It would really take some talking to help him understand.
      Without wasting time on that, they could have used a a toddler picture or baby one with her actually looking at the camera, I think. I’m sure I will survive these disappointments and will lovingly watch this episode many times, but I think these points merit a mention. Thanks for reading. I’m not really used to putting myself out there.

  25. Peggy A LeBel

    Beth…perfectly said. I actually walked around depressed when I first watched A. Malcom. It’s my own fault…I’ve read each book over 5 times and listened to the Audio Books multiple times…so I did have specific expectations. After watching 4 times…I now love this episode. Matthew B. Roberts did a wonderful job as did the actors and crew. I loved your view and totally agree!!! Thanks. Can’t wait for 307!!!!

  26. Meredith Maynard Chase

    I have now watched “A. Malcolm” four times (you cannot watch it just once to see all of the nuances, symbolism, etc.) and it gets better and better with age. Give it a change and it will grow on you. Kudos producer, director, writer, set designer, costume designer, actors and crew! Thank you Beth Wesson for your insight.

  27. Rshand

    I love your Blog. I look forward to them, and I’ve read them all! I was almost afraid to watch. I had read so many negative comments, but I watched..and I LOVED IT! I will watch it many times. Your writing is always SPOT ON, and says all the things I’m feeling, but am not clever enough to put into words. THANK YOU

  28. What an amazing piece of writing! I loved the episode immediately, possibly because although I have read Voyager, I am a much more recent fan. It’s great the way you described how your feelings about it changed as you let go of some of your preconceptions.

  29. Leslie H.

    I also have watched it three times and saw much the same progression as you. I was totally against the revealing of Willie at first but it does make more sense now. However it will change her future meeting of Lord John. My first was impression was how much slower paced it was than the book, no running through the alleys and Claire’s dress being ruined and her needing a replacement for one of the “girls”, but focusing on the emotions of Jamie and Claire rather than all the action was the right choice.

  30. Julie

    Thank you for this! I’ve never read the books so I never understand people’s reactions on twitter and downright hatefulness towards the cast and crew. But your blog explained the feelings beautifully! Us show only viewers tend to forget these books have been around for 20+ years. I’m glad you were able to see what I saw, even if it took you a few times watching.

  31. One other piece I got in touch with was a piece of expectation about how they would handle their reunion, and how, ultimately, my expectation was how they would have responded when they were TWENTY years younger. Who they were BEFORE their separation . If they had ben apart for five or even ten years it would have looked completely different, perhaps in the way many of us were hoping. But in reality they ARE 20 years older with huge life experiences. Due to their maturity they are going to respond to one another not as twenty some year olds, but the people they have grown and evolved into…

  32. deblan60

    My husband and I watched 306 on Sunday morning, on demand. My initial reaction was that I loved it! I Tweeted/replied to Maril, Matt, Ron, Sam and Cait and told them how much I loved it! My only disappointment, which I kept to myself, was that the picture scene felt a bit off. The emotional beats I looked for weren’t quite there.
    Like something was lost in editing…
    I wanted to see how my fellow fans liked it, so I went to DG’s FB page, because she has a “spoiler” thread that fans who watch the early release at midnight comment on. I was so surprised to see how many fans expressed disappointment/anger/outrage regarding the lack of tears in picture scene, and that the “20 years of longing streaming down our faces” scene was missing. I went to Twitter and found much the same, even on feeds of people who usually don’t complain. I was obviously affected by this, because I then found myself brooding most of Sunday about what we didn’t get. How could MBR promise to handle this ep with great care, honor “The Book” and give us…this…!? By the end of the day, I was certain that the ep was a major disappointment. I know part of this was also because the ep was over hyped, by Starz, the media outlets they use, the actors, and we fans ourselves. Hard to live up to all the expectation!
    I read your blog on Monday night, and commented that I felt much the same as you did on your first viewing. I promised to rewatch/rethink. I often adjust my thoughts about what I saw after reading your blog. Thank you for that! On Tuesday, I saw the Outlander Writers Twitter Q&A, One of them expressed dissapointment that the picture scene wasn’t filmed as written. Which prompted Sam to Tweet to explain/defend his choice to play the scene as he did. Hmmm….. Then I read Brooke Corso’s exposition today. She is an amazing writer! Had a lot of viewpoints to consider.
    So, I just rewatched 306 now. I cleared all the negative noise from my head, and LOVED IT. I saw/heard some small things I had missed, and LOVED IT! Did I mention I LOVED it?

  33. Judy Ferguson

    Thanks, Beth, I enjoyed reading your comments. I have read all the 8 books plus The Scottish Prisoner, The Space Between and Virgins. Voyager is one of my favorites. Have read the major books at least 3 times. Discovered Outlander in May, 2017, after the first 3 books, l literally fell in love with Jamie. A friend loaned me the first season of Starz. Found season two at the library. Watched those over and over and over during the day, while reading at night. Bought the Starz app for season 3. Have watched every episode of three multiple times. Loved the A Malcalm very much. Can’t get enough of it. Sam does show so many emotions with just small movements of his mouth and nose. Just discovered you and will probably obsess over your comments as well. Being a retired 72 year old with some memory problems could have influenced my enjoying the Starz presentations so very much. Loved the look on Jamie’s face when Fergus reminded him that there could be a complication if Claire stays. Really enjoyed Mr. Willowby. Curious about the elbow. I liked the casting of young Ian. Not so sure about Madam Jem. Thought the pictures of Bree could have been better. Willie’s portrait was heartbreakingly beautiful. Think it was a good idea to share his son with Claire. The intimate conversations were precious to me. Thanks for reading my post. Keep up the good work. Now, I have to watch the reunion again.❤

  34. Well, I can’t add much to what’s already been written. I have read the DG books, but only the first five. YEARS AGO. Did NOT re-read them before watching STARZ series. I’ll repeat others: TV and reading are very different mediums. Reading is very personal. TV/acting is ONE point-of-view, and in this case, most likely to be one approved by DG.
    So, I have NOT been expecting the books to appear on-screen. (I was shocked that they acted out the male rape scene, really.) I think if you were disappointed or angry by episode 3.06, it will go better for you to not re-read the books, not to expect anything. Treat the TV series as something entirely new. You’ll have a nicer experience of it more as a freestanding series on its own.

  35. erin

    This was EXACTLY my experience! thank you for writing what’s been in my head!! 🙂 you articulated it soooo well..

    ps.do you think the bones of the women in eps. 5 are Geillis??

  36. Claire

    First, let me preface my comments by saying, even though I may make a few criticisms, I love everything about Outlander. Both the books and the tv series are my all-time favorites. Most of what I saw was great, but a few things did bother me, the biggest being Jamie’s reveal about his son. It felt way too soon, and detracted from Claire telling about their daughter, and bonding together over her photographs.
    Angela, a previous commenter, suggested a far more logical and less jarring place to fit it in, if it had to be moved to this episode. The following quote is taken from her post…

    …when Jamie is asking why she returned.. to tell him about Bree.. or to be his wife again? When she said “I came to be with you..” .. he could said, “There is something I want to tell you .. so you know.. No one does, not even Jenny, but if you are to be my wife again, you should know.. Claire I have a son……” That would have felt much better, given Jamie time to process and each child have their own space to breathe.

    Many have speculated why, from a plot or character perspective, they chose to move the Willie reveal to this episode. I think it may have been for a much simpler reason…time. Season one had the luxury of 16 episodes (a year to film) for a much shorter book. With only 13 episodes (10 months to film) to adapt a book the size of Voyager, cuts have to be made. I can visualize the writer’s room, as writers and producers try to figure out how to block out the story into 13 episodes, what are necessary plot points…where to fit them in or shift them around, and which can be cut. I can see someone suggesting that the governor’s ball could be shortened by cutting that whole long story with Jamie, John, and Claire, (and Willie), if they moved it to ep 6, which was going to be an extended length anyway, so a couple more minutes for J to tell C now, would save a lot of time later. There is so much story left to tell, I don’t see how it will all fit. I loved the way it was handled in the book, but I can understand why they may have felt they needed to do this.
    Also, regarding Jamie not “falling apart”, Sam explained that in a Q&A on Twitter. The script directions called for that to happen, but Sam said it was his creative choice not to do it outwardly with tears, but to make it more internal. He felt it was too melodramatic, and stalled the scene. Now, I usually agree with about 98% of Sam’s creative choices, but I would have liked to see him play this scene with more external emotion.

    A couple other questions…why is Jamie using the name A. Malcolm everywhere? He was very careful to only use that name in his printing business. He used the name Jamie Roy as a smuggler, and kept those associates separate from the print shop. They would never have been allowed to set foot in there. Also, at the brothel, he was called Mr. Fraser, in the book. It seems rather careless of him to use the same name everywhere, and let the smugglers know his legit business identity.
    And last, I don’t mind some changes, but I hate it when they mess with their own timelines or those of fixed events. They also had huge timeline impossibilities in season 2. Young Ian is 14, not 16. Culloden was April, 1746. They said Jamie had been living in the cave for over 6 years in ep 302, when Ian was born, so it was late 1752. In order to be 16 when Claire returns at the end of 1766, he would had to be born in 1750. It makes me feel like they think viewers are stupid.

  37. I smile at the multitude of Jamie & Claire figures wandering the minds of so many, along with my own. I’ve long since learned to stow away my book goggles (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Roots, Rich Man Poor Man were the harshest of teachers). And you, Beth, put on paper just what so many feel. The Starz show has been absolutely stellar so far. Ep 306 is exquisite in my view, however I am anxious to move along as I still feel that angst you mentioned. When all the dust settles, Jamie & Claire are together and all is right with the world.

  38. Diastr

    I totally see your point of view Beth of your investment in a narrative and the emotional weight it had sunk in you and many book readers. All of us book readers have a deep emotional investment to various moments in the books and it’s like quicksand trying to pull ourselves out of what we are already heavily invested in to see an adaptation of it.

    My reaction the first time I watched Ep6 was a slight dissatisfaction, but mainly for the opposite reason. I watched at midnight and went to bed thinking “well FINALLY book purists will be happy with an Ep as 80-90% was lifted directly from the book!!” I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have watched the ep about 12 times since and after the 2nd and 3rd viewing I became quite happy with the ep because as a whole it works so well. I love the hesitancy, insecurity and fear they both have, it takes it from a fantasy of perfection to an awkward, believable reality. I think what maybe gets lost for some viewers is just what you mentioned Beth, when your internet speed forced you to slow down. The emotions are subtle and slow, the hesitance, the fear, the shock, the joy.

    My one lingering doubt about the Ep is the transition from looking at the photos of Brianna to talking about Willie is too quick, it made if feel dismissive of Brianna, which I don’t think Jamie feels at all. There were small subtle things that could have made that transition smoother like holding the photos to his heart or covering them with his hand when he put them back in Claire’s hand, to show their impact on him. As it was it felt like they were tossed back at her. I actually cheered when Jamie started telling her about Willie. That was a moment in the book that I dislike, how it was left for Claire to overhear a conversation as a way to set up a conflict to be resolved (like they need more!) I never believed that Jamie would wait that long to tell her.

    To this point, Sam made an interesting comment in a tweet yesterday about this kerfuffle (which honestly made me feel a bit sad that he felt he needed to justify his work/craft…do other actors have to justify their choices to fans?) He listed out his thoughts on how the character would have felt (new tech, surprise, wonder, hasn’t met Bree, has an actual relationship with Willie) which opened my eyes. Willie is real to him, he left him only 2 years ago. Jamie spent 6 years “raising” the boy as much as he could. Bree is a concept to him, a concept with deep meaning, but still a concept. The photos brought him a step closer to her, but even those, some weird tech he’s just been introduced to when already in a state of shock, aren’t a relationship. So Sam’s comment made me think about how an actor is living a part versus a writer imagining a part, that makes a big difference. Jamie/Sam has memories of Willie, he has physical muscle memory of holding him as a baby, of picking him up and putting him on his pony or in the carriage as a boy. He knows the sound of Willie’s voice, how he smells. Willie is real, Bree at this point is a dream.

    I always appreciate your thoughtful reviews and willingness to step back and look at things from many angles and I’m so glad you made it to act 3!

    • DeeDee

      I was sad that Sam felt like he had to explain himself. I totally agreed with him, and totally agree with you. I really think that Jamie will pick up those pictures at a later date and have an emotional reaction. He has to process it all. I can’t help but think that, although Diana created Jamie, no one knows the inside of Jamie better than Sam. Sam deserves credit and not criticism for bringing Jamie Fraser to life.

    • Diastr

      Honestly – If we’re all is this worked up about how photographs were handled, I’m a little terrified about the fandom vitriol that will rain down when “she who must not be named” reappears soon. I pity the writer who took that episode up. They should start investing in an fire-proof suit of armor in the next couple weeks.

      Clarie’s reaction to Laoghaire in the book was the third thing I disliked in Voyager (I only have 3). Way, way to melodramatic in my opinion and out of character for Claire. I will be happy with anything that is NOT that, but it seems that a sizable portion on the fandom loathes Laoghaire’s very existence.

  39. Judy11

    Beth – I adore this particular review. I think most of the Outlander episodes AND books benefit by a repeat watch/read. A first watch is looking at the storyline. But each episode is so much more and it goes by so quickly. It takes multiple views at times to catch all of the dialogue and truly all the fine tuned expression and body language. This was especially true for this episode. They both carried so much ‘dialogue’ with the facial expression. I truly learn more with each view. But I found this true for rereading the books also. Every read I found new details I had completely missed or in some cases detail I had forgotten.

    Thank you for an excellent review. I hope the naysayers read this post and see there is more too this show when you watch without book googles. Enjoy it for the visual medium it is. They are doing a fantastic job in making a beloved book into a tv show. And it is impossible to please every book reader as each reader has their own interpretation and individualization going on when reading. It is not just one view for all readers.

  40. Lisa Smith

    Thank you, Beth, for having the words I couldn’t find. I was a little disappointed on the first viewing, but kept watching (am I up to 7, or 8?), and each time I love it more. I feel so bad that Sam felt the need to justify his choices to so many fans. The more I watch, the more I see the brilliance of this episode. Everyone just needs to breathe and appreciate what an excellent job and gift the writers and actors have given us. If I was one of them, I’d be getting frustrated with the fans and want to quit the whole thing just to make all the negativity stop. Please, Lord, don’t let that happen! I love this show!!

  41. Heather Caldwell

    I read Voyager three times because it was my favorite book and while I watched episode 306 I thought of the things I expected to see and didn’t but it was only a thought. I never got angry. I guess I just expected it to be a little different but when I saw how irate people were I wondered what I missed! I appreciate your review and I’m glad you changed your mind about how to react to it so maybe people will listen to you and change the way they react to it also. I feel like I was a huge fan but my reaction didn’t match most people’s so now I question that LOL!

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