“A story told is a life lived”…a reflection on Outlander 3.09 “The Doldrums”

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I’m sitting at home drinking hot tea and convalescing from some sort of bug. This is one of those times when real life conspires to interfere with my Outlander life.  I’ve watched the “Doldrums” several times and found it delightful, but was too sick to think about what I saw let alone write.  What I’m thinking about this morning, in between sips of Earl Grey, is the journey. Voyager is the name of the book this season is based on and I find it aptly titled. This couple has been on a voyage back to each other and the love they once shared. Diana’s story of two passionately committed people and the show’s version of their story have taken us on a voyage too. Both versions are epic in scale, detail, and truth about the human condition and I’m finding myself grateful for both.

The line of dialogue I can’t get out of my head is “A story told is a life lived”.  It reminded me of a line from George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”  I shared last week that I almost quit writing the blog during the drought because it just seemed too trivial a concern in these current times.  I did not because I decided I enjoyed writing it and that was okay, no matter what was going on in the world. As I sat down to write today, I thought of my belief that what I was doing was trivial and then I thought about the joy Outlander’s stories have brought into my life. Not only joy, but insight, empathy, and healing. Mr. Willoughby’s story captivated the sailors and the show let us see that all who heard were moved by it. He told his story and then he had to let it go. I couldn’t help, but think of Diana and the creators of the show. When her book is finally ready and that first copy hits the shelf or when it comes time for the show to air, the story is in some ways no longer theirs. They tell the story and then they have to let it go. Just as each person on that ship listened to Mr. Willoughby’s story and connected it to their own lives, so do we. Story telling, I have now decided is not a trivial pursuit, but a noble one and a story told is a life… well lived. Because of writers and film makers, we get to live a thousand lives.

I had an experience with a poem that illustrated this point for me. Sam Heughan had tweeted a poem written by Kim Moore he had read and had evidently found moving.

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I read the poem and then speculated about why this poem would have meant something to Sam. I pulled it apart line by line and made connections to what life might be like for a struggling actor and wrote an article about it.  The poetess read my article and wrote to me! I was of course completely wrong about the intent in the poem.  It was in fact, a poem about an abused woman.  I was a bit embarrassed, but she assured me that it was okay and that in fact, she was fascinated.  She said she was glad I was able to see so much in the poem because it meant that the poem had life beyond her. Once again, a story told is a life lived.

When I went to college, I was already an adult with 28 yrs of life experience. My husband gave me a little insight into what college was likely to be like for someone such as myself, “You’ll be like a sponge . You’ll love every minute.  The professors will love you and the kids will hate you for making them look bad! “. He was pretty prophetic.  I did love every minute and the kids tended to roll their eyes at me and my eagerly raised hand. I wanted to discuss and share! They wanted to pass the class with as little effort as possible and I was making them look bad. However, after a long night partying and a short night studying, some of my fellow students saw me as a valuable commodity, “Let’s ask Beth what the reading was about”.  I may have gotten my fellow students out of a sticky situation temporarily, but I always felt they were missing the point…reading was life changing.  At least, I felt so.

Reading helps us to experience things we may never have the chance to in real life.  Studies are indicating that people are inspired to make changes in their own lives as a result. In the article,  If You Didn’t Love Reading Before You See This, You’ll Love It After  by Sarah White, the author says that  studies show that reading fiction,

“…teaches you to be human…helps you see other people’s perspectives. A good book is the closest we can get to being in another person’s skin, and it can help us understand the real people in our lives a little better. …Reading can give you a new perspective. Here I’m not just talking about getting to peer into different worlds, but the fact that reading about life situations similar to your own may give you a different perspective on things. Whether you need help navigating a breakup or dealing with your parents, there’s a book for that.”

There is also a movie for that. Film can impact us in a very similar way. Especially, if that film is full of visual metaphors and visceral images. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/is-your-brain-culture/200903/your-brain-movies 

I know that what Diana created for me was a reading experience that I have yet to duplicate. I read other things, I just don’t enjoy them as much or learn as much from them. I’m still not sure exactly why her words and this particular story resonates with me, but it does.  What this show has given me is another way to interact with her story.  Although the series will never replace the books for me, in some ways, I found it just as impactful and at times, more so than the book. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the visual story I was told in “Wentworth” or “Faith”.  Seeing emotions on a real face is impactful and quickly takes you to a place of empathy. When we get lost in a book, or a quality film, studies have shown that we might actually change our own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character.  It is a phenomenon that researchers are calling “experience-taking”. They found that “experience-taking’ can lead to real-life changes. Strongly identifying with a character who overcomes can lead to over-coming!  Experience taking…a story told is a life lived.

I’m sure, I’m not the only one who has found this to be true in their own lives.  I too have been changed by books. The Box Car Children and Queenie Peavy helped to shape the child I became.  Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place taught me about faith and what it means to care for others and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and the TV series have both enriched my understanding of relationships and truths about life.  If you can tell a story that can do that for a person than you are truly part of something bigger than yourself and by letting go of your story and releasing it to the wind you allow others to live a thousand lives. Bravo. I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey.

 

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“The show lives forever…” a mid season reflection on Outlander Season 3

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Sarah Y. @Meowzilla Replying to @RonDMoore
Was surprised by (-) reaction this season. Most fans ❤ it. Do u do pep talk w cast & crew since u’ve experienced this w trek?
Ronald D. Moore @RonDMoore
I tell everyone not to get too caught up in the reactions of the moment. The show lives forever, that’s the important thing.

 

I’m sure Sarah Y’s question was sparked by some of the stuff that has gone down in the fandom in the last three weeks. I believe that Sarah is right, most fans are thrilled with the show and believe it is one of the best things on TV , but…there is a vocal contingent that feels less so.  Their dissatisfaction is one of the things that has been bumping around my brain this week.  The discontent seems to be centered around the adaptation of the book and perceived changes to the characters.

 A commenter on DG’s page that is representative of concerns, but not abusive:

@knoxnervig  Replying to @Writer_DG   I think the need to “normalize” tv Jaimie has taken away from the integrity of the book Jaime.
A commenter on my blog page:

fclarecat: We have had the joy of an outstanding season; given by a team of incredibly talented people. Yet for some reason there have been some very disturbing comments on fan sites.
Reading is a very intimate form of art appreciation. No one can reproduce that imagined by one, in a visual medium.
No one works on Outlander because they hate it. Personally, I am grateful that something I hold dear, is now given to us on film.
One may make a comment, or state an opinion respectfully. Personal attack has no place in this wonderful Outlander family

I’ve written before that is difficult for book fans to objectively watch the show and I have often found myself jealous of those who watch the show first and then read the books.  They get to enjoy both in a way I’ll never get to experience.  Love this comment from an AVclub article discussing adapting books to screen.

Going from a derivative work to its source, people tend to expect fidelity less than when they start with the original, then move to the adaptation…When I read the book first, I go to the movie expecting to see a strict translation of what I saw onto the screen, even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story. Whereas when I see the movie first, I go to the book looking not for the same story, but for a greater insight into the characters…  Robinson

Yes, it is difficult, you cannot undo what you know or completely separate yourself from your expectations, even if you want to.

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Another idea bumping around my head this week was the benefits of bingeing a series and the pitfalls of episodic TV.  A friend said that she went back during the drought and watched the show in binge format.  She said she was amazed at the flow of the story and how differently she felt watching episodes back to back. Her experience was much more positive. We both speculated on the impact of weekly episodes on the perception of the shows success by fans.  The show’s creative team works hard to adapt the source material into 13 separate, yet connected story arcs, an episode. Some folks enjoy the having to wait a week to see what happens next or get their questions answered, they enjoy the speculation around the water cooler on Monday morning. However, I’ve come to believe, along with my friend, that the show’s episodic format contributes to a lot of the angst in the fandom.  I saw Ron’s advice to cast and writers, to not get caught up in immediate reactions, play out this week. I saw some fans’ rage and turmoil turn on a dime or episode 308, as the case may be.  The writers and producers have a long-range plan for the story arc and I have come to understand that we really need to withhold judgement of the success of the series until the end of the season, if not longer and not get caught up in our own immediate reactions.  Book/series fans reactions are volatile and we are not necessarily reliable narrators of the series weekly success.  We have too much of a personal stake in how we think this story should be told. I struggled with this very thing while watching “A. Malcolm”.

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The second half of Ron’s tweet also peaked my interest, ” The show lives forever, that’s the important thing”.  I wondered what makes one TV show better than another and gives it the chance to be remembered as a great show.  Ron tweeted that they try to please both book and non reading fans, but ultimately, they are trying to tell the best story they can tell.  I, for one, am thankful they are not influenced by the whims or immediate reactions of fans.  I know that some fans have running issues with how the characters are being portrayed and I know the writers and producers do read and respond to fan feedback, but that feedback cannot be the driving force behind creative choices.  From the AVclub article:

…Both book and film should be addressed as independent entities. …This means not going into an adaptation with a mental checklist of things that must be in the movie to make it good, and evaluating a film based on what’s on the screen, not what got left off. In that sense, a “good adaptation” may have to involve a good-faith effort from the viewers, who participate in the process by giving that story a chance on its own terms… But it takes two to tango. If viewers have a responsibility not to see a book as an unalterable outline for the film, then filmmakers have a responsibility to respect the book, to acknowledge that there’s a reason they’re telling this story, rather than another story altogether… Filmmakers should ask “What in this book do I want to emphasize?” The key words are “in this book.” Meaning, part of a good adaptation is knowing what to cut or revise, even if it makes the fans cry, but part of it is maintaining a meaningful relationship to the source material. Robinson

I went in search of criteria for what makes a “quality” TV series that will “last forever” and whether Outlander fits that criteria.  Please understand that my “lite” research is in no way exhaustive or particularly academic. I just read what I can find and use it to make meaning for myself.  Having qualified my bonafides, I did find some interesting stuff.  The study of what makes “quality” TV is a fairly new one and has picked up steam since the cable and streaming programming have increased their presence in the landscape of what is available for us to view.  I found some of the same scholars being quoted and cited in most of the articles and information I read.

One of those people most often quoted or cited was Robert Thompson.  He is considered an expert in TV.  He teaches on the subject, is founder of Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture and has authored, co-authored, or edited six books on the subject.  Here is his take on what constitutes quality TV.

Robert Thompson: …quality television has the following characteristics: It must break the established rules of television and be like nothing that has come before. It is produced by people of quality aesthetic ancestry, who have honed their skills in other areas, particularly film. It attracts a quality audience. It succeeds against the odds, after initial struggles. It has large ensemble cast which allows for multiple plot lines. It has memory, referring back to previous episodes and seasons in the development of plot. It defies genre classification. It tends to be literary. It contains sharp social and cultural criticisms with cultural references and allusions to popular culture. It tends toward the controversial. It aspires toward realism. Finally, it is recognized and appreciated by critics, with awards and critical acclaim…

I found myself mentally ticking off the boxes in regards to Outlander.  

Break the established rules of television

From the very beginning this show has shown itself to be willing to take risks and create itself outside of the box.  The biggest risk being bucking the idea that a show marketed to women was destined to fail.

Like nothing that has come before

Like the books they are based on.  Have you ever try to tell someone what this show is about?

Produced by people with quality aesthetic ancestry

Ron Moore and company have a track record that impresses and his work continues to held up as an example of what can be done in television. This show is no small undertaking.

Attracts a quality audience

The ready-made base for this show were intelligent, educated women from all walks of life from around the world.  These were women who were in love with “big books” that bent genre were richly full of details and that spoke to the truths and ironies of life with characters who struggled with hard choices and for the most part chose to do the right thing despite the cost to themselves.  Not everyone in the fandom is there for the deeper story, but many are. I love it when I see folks who thought the story was “housewife porn” catch on and become wowed by this story.

Outlander is already considered a phenomenon to those who have fallen under the spell of the books and this exceptional adaptation. In its third year on TV, it feels primed to break through even wider, not just as a filler of the Game of Thrones void, but as an emotionally rich, powerful piece of storytelling in its own right.

http://www.vulture.com/2017/09/outlander-season-three-review.html

Succeeds against the odds after initial struggles

Those of us around since the beginning remember the initial reviews for the series.  We were disappointed that critics were just buying into and repeating “pop culture” cliches surrounding the buzz about the story and not giving it a chance.  The ready made fan base, “the book fans”, knew this story and its depth and adventure.  Our battle cry was “just wait and you’ll see” and they did.

…But tucked inside Outlander‘s salacious exterior is an intelligent, well-acted drama about the nature of love and intimacy, with an often radical position on sex…. NPR

Large ensemble cast allowing for multiple plot lines

As the story progresses and we see new characters added, we will see more plot lines with Jamie and Claire the matriarch and patriarch of a large extended family and story. We will become invested in the stories of Roger and Bree, Fergus and Marsali, Wee Ian, Auntie Jocasta, Lord John, and all of the folks on Fraser’s Ridge.

It has memory

This is one of the things I am most enamored of in this series. They are always calling us back to events in the story with beautiful parallels, dialogue, and visual metaphors.

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Defies genre classification

A historical, sci-fi, adventure, romance…did I miss anything?

Tends to be literary

A book adaptation.

Social and cultural criticisms

They are subtle and the more effective for it, in my humble opinion. The treatment of and value of women is one of the key criticisms and a timely one.

Tends toward the controversial

Think about the subjects this show hasn’t been afraid to tackle, from male rape to miscarriage.

Aspires toward realism

The detail and care given to suspending our disbelief is staggering.  Everything is telling us a story and everything is thought out.  Terry Dresbach, the show’s costume designer, Jon Gary Steele, production designer, the writers and producers, the actors have all taken the time to share the inner workings of the their jobs and how much they think about the story and how to present it to us. They have given us realistic standing stones and mystical ceremonies, Scottish and French castles, witch trials and apothecaries, battles and prisons, print shops, brothels, and ocean voyages.  It is a show wrapped in a fantasy, but I challenge anyone who suggests this show doesn’t strive to show us the truth in relationships, war, loss, and love wrapped in a richly detailed and realistically beautiful package.

Recognized and appreciated by critics, with awards and critical acclaim

Well! Yes, more and more. #Goldenglobes

…Often the Starz drama is lauded for its incredible set and costume design and ambitious cinematic scope, but the series’ pensive, poetic exploration of the human heart’s mysteries, and the quixotic nobility of commitment, is singularly brilliant and underappreciated in the realm of top shelf TV dramas. Salon

 

As you can see, Outlander easily meets the criteria Robert Thompson sets forth for Quality TV.

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Another expert:

Dorothy Swanson  (Viewers for Quality Television) argued that “A ‘quality show’ is something we anticipate before and savor after. It focuses more on relationships than situations; it explores character, it enlightens, challenges, involves and confronts the viewer; it provokes thought and is remembered tomorrow. A quality show colors life in shades of grey.”

This show does focus on relationships, provokes thought, and despite the frustration of some fans lets us see life and our characters as complicated imperfect people and their life choices in “shades of grey”.  We anticipate each episode and savor after (how many times have you watched the print shop, lol).  I anticipate re watching these shows for years to come just like I re read the books.

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Amateur critics

One of the interesting phenomena I read about when researching this topic was the rise of amateur critics due to the easy accessibility afforded by the internet.  I guess I should consider myself one of these at this point!  I watch and continue to watch Outlander because it continues to hold my interest and I am fascinated by the creative choices that are bringing my favorite characters and stories to life.  The characters and story are recognizably Outlander and yet, uniquely it’s own entity and I am enjoying the hell out of coming along for the ride this team of hardworking creatives is taking me on.  Will this story last forever? Yeah, I think it will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FYI: My Outlander Blog is going to remain a place for respectful discussion

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This last year has been a tough one both personally and globally.  Since October of last year, my daily stress level has been hovering around a 7 out of 10.  I’m pretty sure many of you can relate.  Along with crap I’m dealing with personally, I feel bombarded by bad news, new lows, and feeling powerless to effect change.  But, I’m a survivor and a fighter.  I can usually figure out what is worth worrying about and what needs to be let go of.  I do what I can to help change my little part of the world and hope that if we all decide to do the same we can make changes that matter.

Outlander has been my little bit of escape from a world that is just too full of scary, monumentally important things.  For a little bit, I can escape into a fantasy and share the fun of watching my favorite books put on the screen and talk about it with fellow fans.  For the most part, Outlander has been a good healthy escape from the pressures in real life. There was a point mid drought that I considered not writing the blog anymore.  It just seemed too trivial a concern.  There were so many other things I could be spending my time on besides writing about a book/tv show.  But, when push came to shove, I realized I enjoyed it and that was okay.  We are allowed to participate in things we enjoy even if they seem trivial.

My blog has always been a place where people are welcome to discuss the show and books.  I have never had much of a problem with my readers saying disparaging things about the author, cast or creators of the show.  I have always been proud of the intelligent and articulate way they are able to disagree and still be respectful.  But, in the last few weeks, I have seen some folks find their way to my blog who somehow believe I will give them an open forum to spew their disrespect, conspiracy theories, and vitriol.  I will not.  So, if you notice that your posts have been taken down or not approved, please understand you are not welcome.  I TRULY don’t need more stress in my life and I am weary of opening my feeds and reading the fan drama du jour. I’m tired of looking the other way when “fans” use the cast, crew and creators as their personal punching bags and I certainly won’t tolerate it on my own blog page. I’m tired of the entitlement that makes it okay to forget there are real people working to bring a story to the screen they hope we will like. The whole thing is making me sad.  I can understand critiquing the show, truly.  I have done my share. But, it is starting to morph into something much less reasonable and sane.

I don’t really “know” any of these people who work the show other than through interactions on social media, but I do know they are real people who work hard and try to create the best product they can just like the rest of us do at our own jobs.  No one deserves some of the disrespect sent these folks’ way.  They can’t win.  Even, when they try to engage fans and answer questions it all goes awry.  On Twitter a fan responded to some of the latest disrespect by saying , “Here we go again actors can’t have political opinions and writers aren’t allowed to get insulted.”  I found myself shaking my head in agreement, here we go again. There truly is a difference between critique and criticism.  People making this show are prepared for one, but don’t deserve the other.  They have done nothing to deliberately “ruin” anything for anyone, they have made creative choices. If you like them fine and if you don’t fine, but good lord…get some perspective and maybe some courtesy?

I’m starting to understand there are a lot of people who have a say in how this “product” gets delivered to us. Writers write things that don’t make the cut, actors act out their interpretation of the character, directors try to fiddle with a scene and the acting until it feels right, editors cut and rearrange and decide which scenes work with feedback from producers and the studio, and finally it gets put in the “can”.  As fans, we truly don’t know what went down or what influenced what.  My husband was a football coach for a lot of years and I had to sit in the stands and listen to people pass judgement on him.  It was frustrating and I had to fight down the need to defend him.  He reminded me often that he was capable of standing up for himself and that he had a tougher skin than I might think.  I know these people are tougher than I think too, but damn …I keep thinking they shouldn’t have to be. I’m so friggin tired of living in a world where it is now the norm to be rude, offensive and judgmental of others.  And today, I’m sad that one of my few escapes is starting to feel like one more pile of shit I have to deal with.

 

“Did you believe we were all just frozen in time?”…A reflection Outlander 3.08 “First Wife”

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One of my treasured memes created by ConnieBV

Last week I read Connie BV’s “Deep Thoughts” on Outlander’s episode 3.07 “Creme De Menthe”.  I laughed, per usual, but one line she focused on stuck with me, “Balriggan is miles from Lallybroch”.  It was uttered by Jamie the “King of …rationalization”.  I laughed out loud and told her I was making it my new catch phrase for times when I KNOW shite is about to hit the fan!  We facetiously wondered what could possibly go wrong? Connie made me some memes in honor of all those who try to reassure themselves with “logic”. I’m pretty sure Jamie’s next thought was “And, Jenny’s cool, so I got that going for me”.

I laughed then, but we all know things really are about to hit the fan and Jamie is hoping against hope, and it won’t be funny.  In this latest Outlander episode, “First Wife”, written by Joy Blake and directed Jennifer Getzinger, Jamie gets caught between his desperate attempt to keep Claire and the reality of the twenty years he has lived without her.  And, Claire seriously considers whether perhaps, …she made a mistake in coming back through the stones. The show makes sure we understand that very little time has passed since Claire rang that shop bell, but that a lot has happened in that short period of time.  No one has had time to think this whole thing through, as they are carried away on the tide of current events.

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I have said that the series is often able to enrich my understanding of this story. This time what they have enriched for me is how truly bizarre this situation is. Claire has literally dropped back into Jamie’s life after twenty years. That wasn’t a hard sentence to type, but the reality those words represent should make it hard to comprehend. How could anyone know what to do in this situation? Who in the world has ever had to deal with a situation like this? In my post on episode 3.06 “A. Malcolm”, I wrote that Claire had been “resurrected” from the dead. The shock Steven Cree’s Ian displayed on seeing Claire in 3.07 was what I would expect from someone who has just seen a ghost, but Laura Donnelly’s Jenny brought shock to a whole new level.  Jenny tried to play it cool, but just couldn’t manage.  With a shaky voice, shallow breaths, involuntary swallows, and body language that felt to me something very akin to fear, Laura let us see that Jenny had believed Claire was dead, “and, here ye are”.  Claire’s “I know it must be a shock” was the understatement of the century and her cheery “you look well” almost seemed a ludicrous thing to say, but it effectively served to emphasize that Claire really had, as Jenny later asserts, believed they “were all just frozen in time” waiting for her to return.

Claire is a woman out of time, out of her element, and maybe less prepared for life in the 1700’s than she was before.  Her memories of Lallybroch and the past most certainly were frozen, and perhaps, idealized. The reality that time here has marched on without her is suddenly becoming real, little boys grow up and have children of their own, babes are bewildered by strange faces, and husbands lie to their family.  Everything looks the same, but it doesn’t feel the same. She has once again become an outlander, a stranger in a strange land, instead being welcomed back as a lost love one, she is being held at arms’ length by people who see her as the woman who abandoned and hurt Jamie. They are suspicious and no one seems to be rejoicing in her return.  Except perhaps Young Ian, who seems to recognize how important she is to Jamie, “he is lucky you are here”.  Her welcome home to Lallybroch is not what she hoped for or expected, I think. I loved that Jenny is calling Claire on her shit and as Ian proclaimed, stirring it like it’s God’s own work.  Her reaction is believable, it has been 20 years and Claire couldn’t even write a letter?  Yeah, …right…she flat out calls Claire a liar.  I kept yelling at the TV tell her the TRUTH!  Jenny can handle it!

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A couple of reviews I read last week commented on how they were relieved that Ian seemed to doubt Claire’s story because they were having a tough time dealing with everyone just accepting the explanation at face value.  I chuckled when I read this because in the books the excuse is even more implausible.  The show let us know right away that at least Jenny and Ian aren’t buying it and within the first couple of minutes of the episode, I was sure that they were going to tell them the whole story.  It sure would have made sense to try because they took pains to let us know that everyone suspects Claire of being more than she appears, from Young Ian’s “Do you live in a dun?” to Jenny saying she doesn’t know who or “what” Claire is.  I was left wondering what Jamie’s real reason was for not telling them because hmmm, Jamie, you have images painted with light and wrapped in thin flexible glass for proof. Claire’s insistence that if she doesn’t tell the truth a wall will always exist between her and Jenny becomes the catalyst for Jamie trying to tell Claire the secret he fears above all things to tell her. Despite appearances, Jamie is an honorable man and he cannot stand lying to her or having a wall between them.

I’ve always sort of taken the time-travel element of this story in stride. I guess I just saw it as a plot vehicle to get Claire where Diana needed her to go.  It was always there in the background, but I guess I never really focused on it much.  However, this episode reminded me that it is actually more important to understanding this couple than I first thought.  Jamie’s statement that sometimes it is hard for him “to believe she is actually here” might be the second biggest understatement of the century. I have to wonder how unearthly Claire must seem to Jamie, his own personal miracle. He escaped from prison because he thought she might have returned and was living on an island guarding a treasure with the selkies?  I had to remember that he saw her disappear through the stones and the possibility of her magical return had to have lingered. When he doesn’t find her, I saw the parallel to Claire giving up on the search when they couldn’t find the manifests. It hurts too much to hope.  Jamie had to finally accept she was lost and move on and accustom himself to live in the bit that was left to him. The irony that it is his moving on that may cause him to lose her again is life at its most unfair.

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I have been wondering how they were going to handle Jamie marrying Loaghaire since they allowed him to know she tried to have Claire killed. No matter how many times Claire assures her self and us that she knew when she made the decision to come back Jamie would have had a life, there is NO way to truly understand the enormity of those 20 years apart, to know what you would face or what things would actually be like. Abstractly knowing Jamie had a life and actually coming face to face with his wife and family are two vastly different things. I laughed out-loud when Claire said “I told you to thank her not marry her!”  The writers didn’t even try to justify it.  I couldn’t help but wonder if they knew they had dug a hole they couldn’t get out of and just let it be what it was, a choice that has let all feel betrayed. I could have come up with some plausible excuses, he wasn’t actually there to see “Leery’s” bad behavior at the trial, she was sixteen at the time, a young jealous girl who might not have truly understood what she was doing (I’m not even buying this one), he was attracted to her at one time, he believes that she had feelings for him, and they need him. But ultimately, Claire cannot understand how he could marry THIS woman of all people.

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The fight between our beloved two was glorious and all that I hoped it would be.  All of their feelings came to the surface, his anger that she left him, his jealousy of Frank and his grief over Brianna, and her anger that he forced her to go and to live a life she no longer wanted. Jamie is desperate, to find her and then lose her again is more than he can bear. He needs her to listen with all her heart.  But, Claire is more than disillusioned, hurt, and confused.  He lied to her and given all that has happened, she has to be wondering if he truly is the man she once loved.  I got the feeling that Claire is struggling to be the woman Jamie loved, as well.  Old habits are hard to break.  After the almost angry sex, I could literally see her donning her defenses, trying to hold it all together, trying to keep her heart from breaking.  She had to feel her sacrifice was in vain and that she had made a horrible mistake.

Even though he admits to his jealousy, his cowardice, his need of her, I’m sure there will be fans who don’t blame Claire for being angry and those that won’t forgive him for marrying Loaghaire. But, if you couldn’t understand Jamie reaching out for something to fill the lonely void in his life, after watching the first five episodes and Hogmanay at Lallybroch, then you aren’t human. That he still didn’t get what he needed, to be a father, a husband, and had married a woman who was afraid of his touch, tore at my heart. It also makes the night he spent with Claire that much more poignant.  He had nothing but the print shop to call his own and suddenly… Claire, his one and only love, his true wife, his heart. This episode helped me understand that his lying about his marriage wasn’t a defect in his character, it was an act of a truly desperate man, “I canna tell you how it felt when I touched you today and knew you to be real”.  Her coming back has changed everything.  Claire’s existence without Jamie was sad and she does understand when Jamie says he was a ghost, she was a ghost too.  She was as haunted by his memory as he was of hers and she lived in the shadows in the bit that was left to her too, but it was different.  Claire had a life, a daughter, a career, things to look forward to even if they didn’t include a love like Jamie. But, Jamie was robbed of everything.  All that he had lost, the soul deep deprivation, his need of her became very real this week and his casually delivered, “if you aren’t going to stay, I’d rather die and be done with it” was the truth.  He will not survive losing her again. He will grieve himself to death calling for his lost one against the skies.  I needed Claire to forgive him. I needed her to listen with all her heart. It wasn’t quite what I got and I was disappointed despite all the wonderful this episode truly was.

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There are movies that I have only watched once.  It isn’t because they weren’t good movies it was because they were emotionally exhausting.  It is usually the type of movie were circumstances intervene to keep people apart that should be together and two people together that should be apart.  And, usually you care for everyone involved to the point that you feel all of their pain.  For some reason, A River Runs Through It comes to mind. There is a wonderfully sad human story being told, but it is just too much.  I need Claire to come to understand that nothing else matters because they love one another.  I need the moment when she understands that Jamie is the key that unlocks her true self and knows she cannot live without him. Maybe that moment will come soon.  I sure hope so because I don’t think this couple can take much more and neither can I. They deserve some happiness before they have to face next shite storm, but I’m afraid the time for that moment passed when Claire’s anger lived beyond that hearth and on to that cliff.  I know she is still there and her running to the shore with him spoke of her devotion and I know she loves him, but I’m so ready for some of this strain to be gone. Please hurry up and let us see the joy in their being together because right now, “we are mated for life” is feeling like a sad resignation rather than an epiphany.  Jenny is right, this doesn’t look like happiness to me, either. Fingers-crossed that next week Claire says yes to Jamie’s question and they can begin again and forever, loving each other with all their hearts.  Jamie is right it has never been easy for them nor will it ever be, but I never doubt that they will face it together.

 

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PS: It was so hard to write about this episode, I chose to focus on Jamie and Claire, but there was so much I could have written about, the acting, the sets, the costumes, the writing, directing, the overall feel, the attention to detail, Jamie’s finger tapping, his tell that he is nervous, Jenny calling us back to her “trollop” comment the first time Jamie brought Claire home by calling her a “stray”, giving us the lovely gray lag scene and then ripping it away from us with the shock of Loaghaire, the lovely nods to the book lovers, and Lalleybroch full of laughter.  What a joy it is to watch a show that surprises you every week, that lets us see a real human story wrapped in the guise of a sci-fi fantasy.  Bravo.

A wee bit of chaos…Outlander 3.7 “Creme De Menthe”

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I loved Jamie’s assertion to Claire, in this week’s episode of Outlander “Creme De Menthe”, that what they were experiencing was not “but a wee bit of chaos”.  It kind of summed up this last week in the fandom, too.  Jamie assures Claire that they had dealt with this kind of thing before and survived. As a fandom, so have we. It has been an interesting week, to say the least.  Lots of discussion about adaptations. I’ve got to say that I was anxious for a new episode to be shown, so that we might be able to move on a bit.  That this episode was an all-out adaptation was irony at its finest!  Story-lines were condensed, characters changed, action moved, etc.  Everything we book fans hate.  But, unlike last week, I was expecting no “kerfuffle” because I saw this as one of those episodes that happen every season, full of foreshadowing and intros to new storylines. Then I was told this morning that even Diana Gabaldon had a few things to say about this episode on CompuServe.

Dear Vicki–
    You know I said there was one “Laoghaire-redemption-like” thing this season?   Mm.  Hm.
     Jamie lie to Ian’s face?   The one person in the world (other than Claire, who was there) that he ever told about Wentworth?  His blood-brother from the age of eight, his brother-in-arms, his brother-in-law, his best friend, for whom he’d lay down his life?
     Oh, sure.  Why wouldn’t he?
     As for Claire…you should have seen her _before_ I said Intemperate Things…

–Diana
www.dianagabaldon.com

I’m assuming they heard her and tempered Claire.  Diana has always maintained that she is mostly happy with the adaptation.  Of course there will be things she is less happy with, but I have to say I admire her ability to be so objective about the whole process.  I’m pretty sure if I were in her place I’d be as protective as a mother tiger.  Last week, Jodi Picoult, a very popular writer who has had her books adapted to screen and might know a thing or two about the subject, tweeted that the Outlander folks are doing a great job and Diana agreed.

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.

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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.