Sometimes when I watch an episode of Outlander I experience what I’ve grown to call “booklash”. It is that feeling I get when they put book scenes and dialogue in the episode, but it is either changed or moved around and I feel like my head is snapping back and forth trying to make sense of it all. It is usually a temporary ailment that goes away once I’ve watched a second time and I’m able to enjoy the episode for what it is and move on. I experienced a lot of “booklash” while watching “The Birds and The Bees”. There was so much from the book and yet it was different and all mixed up in the timeline! This week I didn’t experience too much “booklash”, but I did stumble on some scenes and character development and I’m having a tough time picking myself up and moving on.
“Can I Tell You Something Da?…”
I have a few scenes from the books that will linger in mind and heart forever. One of those scenes is of Jamie coming back to the cabin after beating up Roger, who he thinks is his daughter’s rapist. In this scene, Jamie gently lets his daughter know he knows she is pregnant. What follows is one of the most tender and moving moments I’ve ever read. Jamie takes his full-grown daughter into his arms and sings her a lullaby.
I used to think of you, when ye were small,” Jamie was saying to Bree, his voice very soft. “When I lived in the cave; I would imagine that I held ye in my arms, a wee babe. I would hold ye so, against my heart, and sing to ye there, watching the stars go by overhead.”
What would you sing?” Brianna’s voice was low, too, barely audible above the crackle of the fire. I could see her hand, resting on his shoulder. Her index finger touched a long, bright strand of his hair, tentatively stroking its softness.
Old songs. Lullabies I could remember, that my mother sang to me, the same that my sister Jenny would sing to her bairns.”
She sighed, a long, slow sound.
“Do you know something, Da?” Bree asked softly.
What’s that?” he said, momentarily suspending his song.
You can’t sing.”
There was a soft exhalation of laughter and the rustle of cloth as he shifted to make them both more comfortable.
“Aye, that’s true. Shall I stop, then?”
No.” She snuggled closer, tucking her head into the curve of his shoulder.
He resumed his tuneless crooning, only to interrupt himself a few moments later.
“D’ye ken something yourself, a leannan?”
Her eyes were closed, her lashes casting deep shadows on her cheeks, but I saw her lips curve in a smile.
“What’s that, Da?”
“Ye weigh as much as a full-grown deer.”
Shall I get off, then?” she asked, not moving.
“Of course not.”
She reached up and touched his cheek.
“Mi gradhaich a thu, athair,” she whispered. My love to you, Father.
He gathered her tightly against him, bent his head and kissed her forehead.The fire struck a knot of pitch and blazed up suddenly behind the settle, limning their faces in gold and black. His features were harsh-cut and bold; hers, a more delicate echo of his heavy, clean-edged bones. Both stubborn, both strong. And both, thank God, mine.
Diana Gabaldon “Drums of Autumn”
If this scene would have been included in the episode, we would have seen an intimacy forming between the two we have all hoped and long to see happen. It would make what happens later, the “big” misunderstanding about Roger and the words that Jamie and Bree say to each other, that much more crushing. Instead, we got a “Hey, girl your mom told me what happened to you let’s go for a walk”. It was ridiculously casual and the setting non conducive to intimacy. Checking traps? Instead of a tender father and daughter scene, what they chose to focus on was a scene from the book that was problematic at best. Jamie baits his daughter to outrage and anger so that she would understand that she couldn’t have fought back and hopefully relieve her guilt. This was followed by a father daughter talk about whether murdering someone who abused you helped you get over the abuse. For me, this was uncomfortable to watch. It was difficult to understand why Jamie felt there was no other way to reach his daughter. I understand that he knew the guilt she was feeling and the power it sways. But, I don’t think we can make the comparison between what Claire did to Jamie in the monastery and this attempt at psychological treatment. She was struggling, but she was functioning. Deliberately traumatizing someone who has just been traumatized seemed over kill for the situation. We were meant to understand that he did not mean the words he baited her with and so, when he uses those same words later it felt less…sincere and more insensitive? For me there just wasn’t enough balance. I needed to see the Jamie who croons his love for his daughter not the one who chokes her for her own good.
The Scene I Was Going to Write a Whole Post On…But Didn’t
Previous to this last episode, I was going to write about a scene that I always felt was a watershed moment in Jamie and Claire’s relationship and whether the show was going to feature it. It was the scene where Jamie comes upon Claire taking stock of her medical supplies and equipment in preparation for offering Bree an abortion. I didn’t write it because when I watched the previews it was obvious that they WERE going to have Claire offer Bree an abortion. But, here I am writing about it anyway because I’m puzzled by the choice to NOT include the conversations Claire has with Jamie over her aborting their grandchild. To me, this moment was more important than Claire actually offering the abortion to Bree. Of all the things that have happened to Jamie and Claire this was the moment that could have separated them forever. The show has not made much of Jamie’s faith, but I have always felt it was a huge part of who he is and what motivates and sustains him and Claire knows this. This issue was too important not to be discussed between this couple.
Jamie.” My thumb left a slight smear of red on the linen of his shirt. “It will be all right. I’m sure it will.” I was talking to convince myself, as much as him. He didn’t move, and I ventured to put my arm around his waist, laying my cheek against the curve of his back. I wanted him to turn and take me in his arms, to assure me that it would indeed somehow be all right—or at the least, that he would not blame me for whatever happened……Ye’ve a high opinion of your power, have ye no?” He spoke coldly, turning to face me.It’s not mine to say! But if she says—then yes, it’s my power. And yes, I’ll use it. Just like you would—like you have, when you’ve had to.” I shut my eyes, fighting down fear. He wouldn’t hurt me…surely? It occurred to me with a small shock that he could indeed stop me. If he broke my hand…
….Very slowly, he bent his head and rested his forehead against mine. Look at me, Claire,” he said, very quietly.
Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked. His eyes were no more than an inch away; I could see the tiny gold flecks near the center of his iris, the black ring surrounding it. My fingers in his were slippery with blood
He let go of my hand, and touched my breast lightly, cupping it for a moment.
Please,” he whispered, and then was gone.
Diana Gabaldon “Drums of Autumn”
The arguments and reasons both Jamie and Claire give for and against the abortion are the real and compelling realities of the risks of such a decision both for or against. The danger to Bree, Claire’s reluctance and yet determination to offer Bree the option, Jamie’s belief that they would be committing murder and the argument that follows put their relationship in real jeopardy. Neither can bend. If Bree decides to take Claire up on her offer it might have created a rift between our couple so wide it couldn’t have been bridged. If the writers were looking for a scene with drama in the couple’s relationship this would have been a good choice. The scene between Claire and Bree discussing the options was well done, but I guess I remember how it was handled in the books and Bree had already thought all of this through for herself. Her letting Claire know she made the decision to keep the baby to me was the climax and was received with the relief that Claire would not be forced into the trauma of aborting her own grandchild and risking her marriage
I’ve Seen This Jamie Before…and I Don’t Like It
In my opinion, Jamie has used up his mulligans for telling Claire lies. It was completely understandable, but he didn’t tell her about Loghaire which let’s face it was kind of a huge omission. He had just got Claire back and he was sure if he told her he would lose her. In the book, he at least didn’t have knowledge that Loghaire had tried to have Claire killed. This change in the adaptation still puzzles the hell out of me. What the hell were they thinking and who decided this would be a good idea? They let Jamie marry her with that knowledge. Which is quite frankly, pretty unforgivable. I have this little scenario in my head where the folks in the writer’s room decide they have screwed up and their solution is to let Jamie be the scapegoat, he’s already in deep shite anyway. Just let him admit it and let the haggis chips fall where they may. “Balriggin is miles away. I really dinna think she would come here”. Really? “You were the one who told me to be nice to her!” Snort.
We got through this as fans and in the end the scene where Jamie admits his longing for a family was sufficiently moving enough to carry the story forward.
I was also able to forgive Jamie in the “Heaven and Earth” episode last season where they locked him up in the bottom of the ship and he couldn’t get to Claire. The way he tried to use and manipulate Fergus wasn’t ANYTHING I ever thought Jamie was capable of doing, but…I could relate. I’d had a recent experience where I felt completely out control in a situation. My impotent anger fueled by fear caused me to act in a way completely out of character. So, like people do, I was willing to cut Jamie and the writers some slack because what he did, although very un-Jamie like, felt believable to me. I’d been there locked in a cage fearing for a loved one’s life. But, here’s the rub, it WAS very un-Jamie like and I might have been wrong to excuse it because after this week’s episode I find myself going back to that scene in the cell and wondering what the writer’s think happens to Jamie when he finds himself cornered. Where the frick did the man’s dignity, honor and self-control go?! Here we are again with Jamie engaging in very un-Jamie like behavior and this is starting to look like a pattern instead of a one time thing fueled by fear.
There were some choices made here. I am fairly tolerant of changes from the book. Over the seasons I’ve grown to understand why things are changed and for the most part, I can see why or at least understand the creative choices. Most of the time, if I am patient my questions and concerns get answered. But, sometimes they just make choices that I can’t find a rationalization for. There were some real head scratchers in this episode. Understand that the books are huge and it isn’t possible to adapt them verbatim. On the other hand, as a scriptwriter you have a WEALTH of information about the characters and story to draw from. So, in this case it really feels like some key character development was left on the page of the book and the resulting script and story was lacking some emotional depth that would have made what happens to the characters even more tragic. What they chose to focus on and what they chose to leave out is the real tragedy in this episode.
There Was a Lot of Guilt To Go Around
Brianna doesn’t tell her parents she was raped by Stephen Bonnet. Claire doesn’t tell Jamie what she knows. Lizzy acts on assumptions. And, Roger left Brianna on the night of their wedding. And yet, it seems Jamie is the only one taking any blame. Okay, sure he IS the one that pounded Roger’s face out the back of his skull, but he THOUGHT it was Bree’s rapist! In the book, when Jamie realizes he made a mistake he is stunned and mortified. In the show,…not so much. He looks sheepish and makes excuses. The misunderstanding happened and he did overreact and wound Bree, but I don’t remember anyone shaming Jamie for being angry. What I remember is Claire feeling for both Bree and Jamie and not knowing who to comfort first. What the heck was that line, “No you don’t get to be more angry than me”? I’ve listened to it several times and I’m still not sure I get it. Yes, Bree has a right to be upset. But, I’m not sure what she is suggesting here. That Jamie is more upset about being wrong and the fact it was Stephen Bonnet than her? Luke Schelhass was the writer for this episode and the “Heaven and Earth” episode I wrote about earlier. I don’t think he gets the Jamie I know, love and admire. His Jamie is more flawed and weak and maybe as a result he thinks that makes him more human.
What is wrong with having an admirable man in a show. In a real-world and TV world full of characters with ambiguous moral character, Outlander has the potential to be something different. Claire would not give false witness against Gellis even if it would save her own life. Jamie kept his word to not fight back against BJR to save Claire. For the most part, our main characters have solved moral and ethical dilemmas in ways that have sadly become a-typical. They made selfless decisions. They did the right thing despite knowing the price they would pay would be dear. The Jamie I know is extraordinarily honorable, a man of integrity and a man who makes mistakes, but owns them. Jamie is a man worth emulating. Dramatic statements are great, but not at the cost of a character’s established morals and personality.
What Was Roger Thinking…
The scenes of Roger and the Mohawk were beautiful and his struggle made very real. Despite how difficult it was to see Roger bruised and suffering, I enjoyed seeing his personality emerge. When he is was able to find humor in his situation, I think I said out loud there he is ! That’s the RogerMac I know. I understood his conflicting emotions when he found the stones, but that he actually reached for the stones and was going to leave Bree behind not knowing she was safe? Hmmm…NO!
Despite How It May Read…the Episode Had A Lot to Like
It took me a couple of viewings to relax the frick down and appreciate the episode. Despite my overall concern that there were choices made for dramatic effect at the expense of character development, it wasn’t all that bad. I saw more subtly in the performances than I did the first couple of times through. Claire looked less disgusted with Jamie and more torn and empathetic. Jamie’s love for his daughter and the devastation he feels for wounding with his words and actions seems genuine thanks to Sam Heughan’s stellar emoting. Not my favorite episode, but we have several story lines to follow and a lot of healing to do and I’m still on board for it all.