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

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Outlander Season 3 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Not For Hope…

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

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

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

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

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

To live without Hope is to Cease to live.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

Some additional thoughts

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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“Can I Tell You Something Da?…”

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

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

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

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

She sighed, a long, slow sound.

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

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

You can’t sing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s that, Da?”

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

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

“Of course not.”

She reached up and touched his cheek.

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

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

Diana Gabaldon  “Drums of Autumn”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please,” he whispered, and then was gone.

Diana Gabaldon “Drums of Autumn”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There Was a Lot of Guilt To Go Around

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

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

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What Was Roger Thinking…

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

We Needed to See Their Faces

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

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

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

 

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

We Needed to Know Roger Didn’t Leave

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

We Needed This Scene, This Exact Scene

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

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

We Needed Our Mothers

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

We Needed To Feel Our Way

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

We Needed to See That Bree Understood

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

We Needed to Share Our Feelings

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

We Needed Something to be Simple

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Agency Down the Rabbit Hole

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

Marsali

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

Lizzie

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

Martha Washington and the Governor’s wife

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

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

Claire

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

And, Bree…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Bree’s back story and why it matters

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

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

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

Well Hello

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

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

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

 

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

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

Down a Rabbit Hole Indeed

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

Outlander and I are still going steady

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

Do you feel yourself content… a reflection on Outlander 4.6 “Blood of My Blood”

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outlander-s04e06-blood-of-my-blood-720p-mkv_003679467Sitting in front of a homey fire, laughing with his friend over bad whiskey and a good chess game, Jamie glances at the bed that holds the sleeping son he can never claim.  Lord John sees the direction of Jamie’s gaze and wonders at his thoughts. “Do you feel yourself content?”, he quietly asks.  Jamie responds that he is. He has a home, honorable work, his wife at his side, good friends and the knowledge that his child is well cared for…he wants nothing more and I ask what else is there? And yet, there is much yearning in this episode of Outlander.

John, Jamie, Claire, and even William are yearning for something missing from their lives, or regretting choices, and struggling with acceptance.

John Yearns

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John is such a great character and David Berry plays him to perfection. I’m completely onboard with fan efforts to get him a spinoff.  As he approaches Jamie in the clearing, you can see John steeling himself to act appropriately.  He makes sure his face reflects nothing but friendship before he calls out. I really truly thought Jamie was going in for a hug, delighted to see his friend, but Lord John stops him with the news of Willie’s presence and I had to wonder if this wasn’t an act of self-preservation.  A hug might have crumbled the walls John had erected around his heart and revealed more than he could afford.

It is hard for us book readers to sometimes disassociate ourselves from what we know.  So, when I think of the relationship between these two men I think of what I know about each from the books and I can’t help but believe that Lord John’s friendship became the most important of Jamie’s life.  On some level, it is not surprising that they would become friends. Had they met under different circumstances, they would have found they had a lot in common. John and Jamie are both learned men who share a love of books and philosophy. They are both soldiers who have had the responsibility of leadership. They get each other’s sense of humor. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of those they love.  And, I think as men of integrity they recognize the honor in the other.  John challenged Jamie’s beliefs about love and friendship and helped him heal and Jamie gave John a purpose of sorts and someone worthy to love.  I marvel at this bond and friendship. Jamie has very real reasons for associating homosexuality with the abuse he suffered at the hands of BJR and despite this association, Jamie chose John to be Willie’s surrogate father.  The fact that he sees beyond John’s orientation and that John can love Jamie unconditionally speaks volumes about the character of both men.  However, John still yearns for what he cannot have.

The quiet conversations between Claire and John were marvelous character revealing moments.  I think John started off treating Claire like any other woman of his experience.  At first, he treats her with what I can only describe as the polite tolerance one gives to someone they see as an intellectual inferior and misinterprets her motivations.  She quickly sets him straight.  She truly is unlike any woman he has had experience with in the 1700’s and truthfully, he should have known better. Jamie is no ordinary man and it serves to reason that he would not love an ordinary woman.

Lord John Grey’s character arc of being a gay man in the 1700’s is thought-provoking.  What would life be like for this man in a time when knowledge of your sexual orientation could get you killed and ruin the lives of everyone you care about?  Some would say not so different from now.  I had cause to wonder if Claire’s directness, in reality, wasn’t a bit of a relief for John.  He was a man who had to hide who he was and what he felt practically every moment of his life. I wondered how often, if ever, he could talk openly as himself not guarding every word. To find a trusted confidante in the object of your great love’s affection had to be the irony of all ironies for John.  He finds himself openly confessing regrets over his feelings for and life with Isobel, but in truth he “just wasn’t born the right person” for… Jamie. He yearns for the satisfaction he sees on Claire’s face, her surety that she loves and is loved in return by the one person she was born to love.  I took a ragged  breath when he reminded us with a single tear that he too was born “this way”.  John has the tragic misfortune of loving someone who cannot love him in return and thus joins the Outlander ranks of unrequited love beside Frank, Isobel, Murtagh, and Loghaire.

Claire Yearns

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As far as I know, Jamie has not shared John’s preferences with her, but Claire is astute enough to have figured it out.  John has certainly given her enough information in his facial expressions, manner, and the wearing of the sapphire.  Despite her being sure of Jamie’s love, I think Claire, at least momentarily, did see John as a real competition for Jamie’s affection. Always playing with expectations and gender roles, leave it to Diana Gabaldon to make Claire’s only real competition a gay man.  Claire knew how to deal with her feelings about Loghaire, but this is an entirely different kettle of fish. She can see what Jamie sees in Lord John and is a bit threatened by their connection over William.  Fiercely protective of Jamie, I think she sees John as a threat to his happiness.  His connection to Govenor Tyron puts him at odds with history and Murtagh and his regulators, but most of all she is angry that John has risked Jamie and William’s happiness over his perceived need to see Jamie.

Not one to mince words or not face an issue directly, Claire of course confronts John with her knowledge and fears.  She knows too well what can happen to a child who has been kept in the dark about their true parentage and what can happen when they find out they have been lied to. However, as much as she wants to stay angry at John’s selfishness, she cannot “keep thinking of him as she wishes”.  His openness and vulnerability touches her.  She does know what it feels like to live a well-intentioned life with another person and not be able to truly give them happiness.  She does know what it is like to yearn.  She had twenty years of it. For me, the most telling moment in their conversations came when John confessed that seeing them together pained him. Claire looked as if she had been slapped and asked him why he tortured himself, surely he knew before he came he could never have Jamie. The slap turned into a punch to the gut when John said he could have had him.  I found myself chasing the emotions across Cait Balfe’s face, shock, maybe jealousy and finally, the realization of what it would have cost Jamie to make such an offer and what it meant in relation to his love for his son.  She hurt for the pain Jamie felt and his sacrifice.  She cannot begrudge Jamie time to know his son despite the danger to them all, but she yearns for her daughter and regrets the fact that she will never get to know her father and he her.

Jamie Yearns

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Jamie didn’t expect to see William ever again. Sam Heughan’s take on what this moment would have been like was everything, The look on his face when he’s sees Willie, the unshed tears, the look he gives John when he gives William his name were visceral.  He is overwhelmed and unsure.  But, it all fades when his son speaks to him.  The joy on his face was remarkable. Jamie yearns for his children.

I know that some fans have expressed their difficulty in understanding why Jamie just didn’t tell people he was Willie’s father and take him home to Scotland. The unsatisfactory truth is that it was a different time.  His son is an Earl and as a result has all the advantages that come with his station. Do you take that away from him?  Do you label him a bastard? Do you cause the Dunsanys to be shamed over something you did?  Jamie believes it is his fault their daughter died, so can he now take away their grandson? No. Complicated and heart-wrenching. With the assurance that Lord John Grey will make an appropriate and caring step-father, Jamie made the sacrifice to leave his son.

It has always grieved me that this wonderful man has been denied fatherhood so many times. He is a man who loves children and family. He would have been a wonderful father to Faith, Brianna, and Willie. Probably the most convincing evidence that Jamie would be a wonderful father is the relationship he has with children that are not of his blood.  Fergus, Ian, Joan and Marsali to name a few. Through the early years, we see saw Jamie’s interactions with wee William. he stays when he could have left and  becomes a role model to his son despite the difference in their stations.  He cares for, spends time with and teaches William.  In a very real way, Jamie is a “father-figure” to little Willie.  In my opinion, Jamie was as a good of a father to William as he could possibly be.  And, I am grateful that we got to see him spend time on the ridge teaching his son “how to be in the world”, to fish and to hunt, and to enfold him in his arms and offer him comfort and express his pride in William’s courage.

Personally, I loved the changes that resulted in William recognizing “Mac” and his blurting out to the indians that he was the boy’s father.  Did anyone else get the feeling the indians believed Willie was the son of Bear Killer? I have since been wondering and speculating how these changes could affect the story moving forward. William will have to doubt his parentage and that sets up all kinds of wonderful conflicts and tensions and …yearnings, “I ran to you, but you did not look back.  Why did you not look back?” asks William.  “I wanted to.” his father replies.  I tearfully smiled at the significance of Willie’s glance back at “Mac”.

Do You Feel Yourself Content?

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In this episode, everyone comes face to face with the facts of their own lives.  Jamie cannot be a father to his own children. Claire chose to leave Brianna.  John is not free to love or be loved as he chooses. And yet, by the end of the episode there is a sense of peace and contentment and …hope.  Jamie sees that although Willie is blood of his blood, John is his father and the evidence was right there when Willie bravely took responsiblity for his actions to save another just as Papa John once did to save Claire. (It makes me excited to see how Jamie will handle another of his children that was raised by another man. A man he does not feel so generous towards). He is grateful. John is given the gift of acceptance from the most unlikely of sources and Claire… the facts she faces are much harder to reconcile. Unlike Jamie and John, she was not forced by circumstances beyond her control into the life she now finds herself.  She chose to leave her daughter and there is no doubt she regrets it. In my opinion, the writers chose wisely when they gave us that intimate moment between Jamie and Claire. The tenderness and gratitude and expression of their longing and love was needed. Their joy in being together was a balm to the doubts this episode raised for each of them. I love this tv show for its own story telling that allows me another lens through which to see life’s truths. None of our lives are perfect or without regret, but like Jamie and Claire we all can feel ourselves content through  acceptance, gratitude, and living in the moment. May we all have a home we love, honorable work, someone we love beside us, good friends and the knowledge that those we care about are cared for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Title Begs the Question… a reflection on Outlander 4.5 “Savages”

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The title of this episode of Outlander begs a question and as a result, I found myself trying to answer that question and thinking about my own small piece of America. I watched this wonderful episode and found myself asking, why? Why did the settlers believe that they had the right to this land? After watching, I spent the morning reading.  The simple answer to my question is centuries of systemic racism and the belief that Christians had a manifest destiny to redeem the Old World and prepare it for the Biblical new earth and new heaven.

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I found myself remembering childhood field trips to the Christian Indian settlements of Gnadenhutten and Schoenbrunn.  The two villages were home to bands of Delaware Indians who had converted to the Moravian faith.  Led by the missionary David Ziesberger, these Indians found themselves caught between the opposing forces of American colonists and the British both distrustful of these peaceful Christian Indians. They were of course starved, attacked, and eventually brutally massacred.  When the group realized they had lost their plea for mercy they asked to be allowed time to prepare themselves for death. They spent the night in prayer.  The next day every man, woman, and child was taken to a “killing house” where they were stunned by a mallet to the head, so that they could be more easily scalped.

Savage.

The irony that these were “converted indians” is not lost on me, they were the very thing the Christians said they wanted.

I found this quote contributed to a member of the Pennsylvania militia that massacred the Indians of Gnadenhutten:

“…one Nathan Rollins & brother [who] had had a father & uncle killed took the lead in murdering the Indians, …& Nathan Rollins had tomahawked nineteen of the poor Moravians, & after it was over he sat down & cried, & said it was no satisfaction for the loss of his father & uncle after all”.[8]

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When I read this quote, I thought of Mueller who seemed genuinely surprised that God would allow his family, the ones who believed in God, to die and of his vengeance on an innocent.  He was the embodiment of the racism and belief in manifest destiny that paved the way to genocide.  It is to the show’s credit that I was able to feel horror and sympathy. I was as shocked as Claire and yet,… I couldn’t get the scene of gentleness and love he had for his family out of my mind.  I then remembered the Nuremberg trials and how they sent psychologists to interview those on trial.  They were expecting to find monsters.  What they found instead were people like Mueller who in all but this one area seemed to be normal people, loving family men and women capable of monstrosity because of a deeply held belief.

The question in the title asks us  …who were the savages.

When viewed in the abstract it’s easy to understand how it came about that the colonial English were without conscience in their mistreatment of the Amerindians, whom they labelled savages; most of the barbarities they used to crush them were first tested against Caucasians on their home turf: the British Isles. The Highland Scots and the Irish were the prime targets. They suffered unimaginable horrors while being subjugated. Torture, rapes, summary executions, property destruction and confiscation, etc. were the norm.  First Nations History: We Were Not The Savages by Daniel N. Paul

I continue to be impressed with the show’s commitment to show us the complexity of what happened and allow us to see all sides instead of simplifying the blame. I’m still further impressed by the series’ foreshadowing and call backs.  In contrast to Herr Mueller, who is quick to take up his gun and threaten violence, we see the Cherokee “savages” being reasonable and willing to change their ways to keep peace.   Jamie reminds us while speaking to Gov. Tyron that savages can be found everywhere and about the connection between the natives and the Highlanders.  They showed us that not all people of faith were the same in the person of Pastor Gottfried. They allowed us to see the Indians’ retaliation and the conflict between the colonists and the British.

 

Life on the Ridge brings Jamie and Claire Home

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I live near an Amish community and through the years I have watched how they go about living “plain” in a very un-plain time. Everything they do seems to take time and effort. Nothing is as simple as hopping into a car for a trip to the store. I live on a lake and often see a group of Amish come fishing for the day. It is no small endeavor.  First of all, they have traveled miles and miles in a horse and buggy often with a boat strapped to the top. It isn’t a light commitment to participate in what to most of us would be a leisure activity.  They have to plan to be gone for hours and take care of their horses and fighting traffic takes on a whole new meaning when you are Amish.

However, despite all the extra time and energy they spend to wash clothes, heat their homes, grow and cook their food, there is a sense of simple well-being in their efforts that I find myself admiring. Their lives are about creating a place to call home that meets their basic needs. The Amish’s sense of community in my part of the world is strong. They care about and help each other. I’m sure their lives are not idyllic or without some of the social issues we all face, but their daily goals are simple and their days filled with concrete purpose.  Each day is greeted with plans that have nothing to do with obtaining  power or more and bigger possessions. Oh, they try to make money, no doubt, but the end goal is different.  I often find myself wondering if their life is not in some ways better than mine. I sometimes wonder what would life be like if what I worried about and stressed over really were matters of survival and my sense of accomplishment and identity closely tied to the work of my hands.  I suppose that the life we now live is a result of our trying to survive and our own genius, but I find myself nostalgic and fascinated by the ingenuity of those who lived without modern technology. There is something about that life that feels…real.

My focus on the Amish was my way of introducing how I felt about this episode of Outlander. One of the reasons I loved Diana Gabaldon’s books about Jamie and Claire in America was that look at life as a settler and the quiet purpose and sense of well-being they experienced in that life. They have finally found the sanctuary they have longed for, a place to be together being husband and wife. To me, this was when Jamie and Claire truly became the people they were meant to be.  I was delighted to see that reality on my screen this week. The Claire and Jamie I saw this week were very close to the Jamie and Claire in my head.  They are creating a life together, they are using their gifts, they are caring for others, they are living their lives and facing life’s struggles with integrity and intention.

All credit and admiration goes to Jon Gary Steele and Terry Dresbach and their departments for the world they created that allows us to be totally immersed. I delighted in seeing that cabin filled with the fruits of their labors and marveled at the world they had created for themselves. I recognized so many items Jon Gary Steele’s team placed there.  The wooden bowls! I have a few!

He is the face of the Revolution

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As much as I adore the books, sometimes the show adds to my enjoyment and understanding of the story.  If Herr Mueller was the face of the savageness of colonialism, Murtaugh was the face of the revolution.  I love that they did not make him subjugated to Jocasta like many thought.  It would not fit who he was “a bold man who has been there before”.  As I watched him rile that back room of men to action, I understood why the settlers rebelled.  I understood who these people were.  They were people hardened by circumstance and no longer willing to take whatever the British mete out.  What more were they going to do to these people? Imprison them? Make them indentured servants? Chase them from their homeland?

In the tradition of ever complicated Outlander relationships, after a joyous reunion, Jamie and his god father Murtagh find themselves at odds. Jamie has given his word to quell any uprising by the regulators and Murtaugh is one.  The scenes involving Murtagh with Jamie and Claire were glorious.  Bravo to Sam Heughan, Caitrionia Balfe, and Duncan LaCroix they made me believe they were stunned and overjoyed. Jamie had so much to tell him and Murtagh wanted to hear every word. I loved that Jamie shared his joy of Claire’s return and pride in the child he has never met and Murtaugh being so happy for him.  I kept thinking how grateful Jamie’s mother Ellen would be. We see the lure of family and Murtagh’s commitment to Jamie when despite his commitments in town he whistles his way back into our hearts on the ridge. This just keeps getting better.

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A Few Added Thoughts

I got a another look at how strange it must be for Claire to live in this world with knowledge of the future.  I remember when she figured out  the Highlanders she spent everyday with would probably all be dead in a few years and I wondered how she dealt with the same knowledge about her indian friends and neighbors. I’m not stressing the bawdy lady coming on to Jamie and Roger’s overall frumpiness (I have faith he will become a frontier butterfly of sexiness). I love the mystical bend they are taking Adawehi sensing Bree’s presence, Jamie kissing Bree on her birthmark, the intersection on Grandfather mountain, etc