Poor Devils Now… a reflection on Outlander episode 3.3 “All Debts Paid”

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by Beth Wesson

 

I picture the Outlander’s writer’s room looking a lot like my house when I decide I need to organize.  My husband always shakes his head because my organizing tends to look like anything, but. “You KNOW it always looks worse before gets better!”, I remind him.  It seems I have to put everything out where I can see it before I can decide what is important, what can be thrown away, and how to put it all back together in a way that functions. It is a very long and messy process.  I’m pretty sure the task of adapting Diana’s Gabaldon’s big novels feels very much like cleaning at least three closets that haven’t been truly gleaned in 25 years. You have this huge amount of material to work through, favorites that you can’t bear to live without, limited space, and a need to have a system that helps connect things in a way that makes sense so that tomorrow you know where things go.

Now, here’s the difference.  They are working with words, ideas, metaphors, images, and characters instead of old clothes, purses, and boxes of children’s art projects.  Pulling on the threads of words and images both light and dark and weaving them into a pleasing pattern is a challenge I would love.  What I probably wouldn’t enjoy as much would be having to argue about those choices and having to compromise.  I understand the importance of having different voices in this kind of creative process, but I’m pretty sure I would feel strongly about my choices and find it difficult to let go.  Imagine finally getting that closet in beautiful working order only to have your mother-in-law come and tell you it’s all wrong! Now, I don’t know who is supposed to be the mother-in -law in this Outlander writer’s room scenario, but you get my point. I know these writers are dedicated to creating the best adaptation they can bring us whether we be book fans or not. I’ve watch them give space and respect to too many sensitive subjects to ever believe otherwise. This week, I saw Matt B. Roberts and the Outlander writer’s room tackle some significant storylines and character development, and arrange them in a way that will make sense tomorrow and in episode, 6, 8 or 10 for that matter. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to throw away some favorites, make hard choices, and fight to make the whole thing honor the source story and still be a its own story. They have fought the good fight and in my opinion, they won.

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Hard Choices

What Frank knew and didn’t know, what Frank did and didn’t do and whether that makes him one of the best or worst husbands has been a topic for debate in the fandom for a long time.  Diana has gone on record with her now famous “Defense of Frank” to let us know there is more to Frank’s story than meets the eye and reminds us that we only hear things from Claire’s perspective and that she has her own reasons for wanting to believe the worst of Frank.  And, so I was surprised to see Matt and team had decided to go with the Frank is “cheating” route right out of the box.  I’ve written a couple of posts about Frank and in each, I found it completely understandable that Frank would look for companionship, sex, and maybe even love outside this marriage.  What, after all, is a man to do with the knowledge that his wife has loved another man for almost 20 years?

When I think of Frank and Claire’s marriage warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true has become a twisted volatile mess.  The choice to make Frank less than perfect and less the martyr is a good one, in my opinion.  It also made this whole situation that much more painful and real.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the “separate lives” thing being Claire’s idea.  It sort of goes against the belief that she wanted the marriage to work and that she was still trying.  I’m not sure if they are trying to suggest that perhaps she was trying to be kind to Frank or that she thought she could handle a “modern” marriage?  Either way, she sure seems surprised he is seeing other people and that her marriage has truly become one of convenience.

On the night, where she should be celebrating with her family, with those that love her, she instead has to face the demise of her marriage to Frank.  Claire coming face to face with Frank’s infidelity and his strained, slightly intoxicated reserve was unnerving.   His mumbled comments, pointed emphasis on “Dr. Randall”, and the out of character insult “green ain’t your color Claire” felt as real as any argument over a “dead horse” subject as I ever heard or felt.   The idea that this conversation is really going nowhere, that you’ve heard it before, and that you are just wasting your time, energy, and emotion, is familiar.

Tobias’ allowed Frank’s frustration and his reaching his limits to be communicated subtly with a shaky sigh, a thrown pillow, his not knowing what to do with his hands, and his furrowed brow.  Cait’s portrayal of a hurt Claire with her eyes brimming with tears, a lifted chin, and arms crossed around herself was a painful thing to watch.  The reason they can’t play charades isn’t just because they are bad actors, it is because they aren’t close enough to read each other.  Their marriage is an absolute train wreck, full of anger, regret and remorse.

The night the clock truly does run out on their marriage was so awful.  I agreed with Cait when she said this scene in the book had some powerful stuff.  I can remember being so confused by Frank telling  her he was leaving and taking Bree while he was spooning with Claire in bed.  He seemed so urbane.  In this episode, his tender regard for how she is feeling is followed by his announcement that he wants a divorce and that he is taking Bree with him. Not the same, but still satisfying. I’m sure there were a myriad of reasons for the change, but my guess is we had to see Frank walk out that door. The idea that he has been biding his time and waiting for Brianna to come of age before leaving Claire is a bitter pill to swallow.  His insinuation that Bree loves him more has to sting.  Did Claire’s following her calling come at too great a price?  Was she in danger of losing her daughter?  My guess is yes.  It feels as if Frank might have cultivated this scenario whether he was conscience of it or not.

I know it is implied that Frank stepped up and fried the bacon and black pudding up in the pan , so that Claire could leave Bree well cared for while she became a doctor, but the scene where they discussed this in the books felt important to me.  It was some needed insight into how this choice and arrangement came to be.  We learn how Frank felt about the whole thing, and how Claire was willing to give this up for Bree’s sake.  I felt it would have been important to see how Frank recognized that Claire had always know what she was meant to do and how rare it is to be so certain.  He, however, prophetically warned that there was a price, a debt… to pay.  In this episode, we see Claire about to “pay” that debt with the loss of her marriage and maybe her daughter.  Frank seems genuinely surprised that Claire is upset. I think he truly believes she doesn’t care.

His declaration that he wants to spend the rest of his life with a wife who truly loves him is nothing more than any of us deserves.  Despite his declaration, I loved that in a last moment of vulnerability, he asked Claire is there could ever have been a chance of her forgetting …”him”. It was not the simple and honest “No” from the book, but instead a poetic declaration that was just as honest and just as devastating.

I grieved with Claire for her first love, her lost love, her Frank.

 

Character Development

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“Do you find your life burdensome, Mr. Fraser?”, asks Major John Grey.  A reasonable question to ask of a man whose life has been so drastically altered.  A poor devil now.

Jamie answers that he believes that the real burden in one’s life is to care for people you cannot help, not in having no one to care for.  Emptiness, but no great burden.  There is so much emptiness in these characters lives.

This episode was full of poor devils.

Poor Claire. Poor Frank. Poor Jamie. Poor John Grey.  Poor…Murtaugh.  Everyone has been cold and hungry for years.  Prisoners not just languishing behind barred doors and cold stone walls, but in minds, spirits, and hearts.  Everyone is starving.  Everyone is shivering with cold, which is the toll of living lives as prisoners to repressed thoughts, feelings, and memories.

We see a Jamie once again altered.  He has indeed just exchanged one prison for another.  He has exchanged one group of people in which to feel responsible for, yet another.  He is quiet, but not withdrawn. He seems cautious, distrustful, reserved.  And yet, he seems to have found a sense of himself he was missing in the cave.  He is a prisoner, but not cowed. “There is nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done to me”, he tells John Grey.  There is a sense of personal power in this statement.  He has faced and survived more horrors than any one man should have to stand, and so, what is there left to fear?  I see the makings of the wise man Jamie becomes.  He knows what things are truly valuable in this life and what things are worth fearing.

I was glad to see the show has indeed “saved Murtaugh”.  I had some pangs for how his presence might alter the story by lessening Jamie’s loneliness, but then I thought about what hell the poor man had been through and decided Murtaugh was a fair enough gift to give Jamie.  We saw Jamie offered an opportunity for further healing in the form of Lord John Grey and his honorable actions.  He surprises Jamie with his concern for the men under his care, his integrity, and his personal generosity.  We start to see Lord John earn Jamie’s hard to be won trust and a tenuous friendship begins.

John shares a personal story and makes himself vulnerable in front of Jamie.  With eyes glistening with tears he claims,”There are some people you grieve over forever”.  His openness and willingness to share his personal grief with Jamie appears to give Jamie a sense his own grief is in safe hands. He shares his own loss and we see Sam Heughan utter Claire’s name in a voice so full of longing and with a face so full of emotion it would make an angel weep. The scene that follows was no less remarkable in the depth of emotion shown and restrained.  Kudos to both of these actors for such a poignant heart-breaking performance.  This was one of those times when the TV series truly enriched the book series for me.  Seeing John’s offer of condolence turn into something more and the horror, betrayal, and pain that caused for both was heartbreakingly painful to watch.

Moving forward…

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The debts paid in this episode are all ones we can recognize in our own lives. We pay back kindnesses, give into admitting our mistakes, and reap what we sew,.  Jamie and Claire are altered by their grief, changed by their experiences, and forced to move on with their lives.  This episode managed to encapsulate what was most important for moving these characters and the story forward.  They painted us a picture of two people who are truly missing their other half and finding living hard as a result.  The show has taken on the challenge of showing us the story of Jamie without Claire and Claire without Jamie.  It is not a pretty tale and yet, it has been beautifully told.

 

 

Spoilers for sure! Lord John… only because he was not born the right person…

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Season three of Outlander on Starz will introduce some of the book series most popular and beloved characters. Fans are excited to see John Bell play Jamie’s nephew Young Ian and Australian actor David Berry will be filling Lord John Grey’s fashionable shoes! I have to wonder if David had any real idea that he was about to play a character who was so interesting he inspired Diana Gabaldon to write a spin-off series of books .

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Because Diana is all about tweaking expectations, Lord John’s character is a unique individual who challenges our notions of what it means to be a man.  Diana has always described LJG as small and hard bodied with delicate features that include lips and eyelashes that would make any woman jealous.  I can see David Berry’s features fitting the bill, but I don’t believe he is as physically small as the character is described in the books. However, if I’ve learned anything from watching the show for the last two years, it’s that physically fitting the part isn’t as important as embodying the spirit of a character. Caitriona Balfe certainly didn’t fit the exact description of Claire in the book, but it is now tough for me to picture the Claire I had in my head because Cait has done such a great job of portraying the important parts of Claire’s personality.

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The scene at the trial where she won’t bear false witness and her coming to terms with the loss of Faith come to mind. Both moments represented things I much admired in Claire; her integrity, her ability to be pragmatic, and her honesty and they were portrayed to perfection.  Sam, Tobias, Grant, Graham, and many of the other actors were not exactly like the characters I had pictured in my head, but it hardly seems to matter now because for me the show has earned a separate, but interrelated identity.  I will still always have the books and that Jamie, Claire, and BJR and now, I also have the Jamie, Claire and BJR of the show.  As one of my readers put it, “I have a double helping of Outlander”.  I have found myself looking forward to seeing how things will be the same and different and whether I will like it or not.  Mostly, I’ve liked it and learned to appreciate the storytelling and the acting.

In some ways, I am sorry that they will not be able to use size as a part of John’s story. Diana used his smaller stature to bust stereotypes. He is small, but authoritative, beautiful, yet masculine, and the aggressor in most of his relationships.  He understands duty and while unashamed of his sexual preference, he is aware that if he is “found out” it would ruin the lives of those he loves and protects.  Please remember that it wasn’t that long ago that homosexuality was considered a disease.  Coming out in any time period isn’t an easy thing to do, let alone the 1700’s. Diana shows us how one gay man lived as honestly as he could while unable to show the world who is really was, heartbreaking and inspiring.

 

Slightly Different Reflections of the Same Truth

 

I loved this response of Diana’s to a reader on Twitter who expressed concern over changes from the book to the TV series.

image As Diana so eloquently stated, the show and books reflect the same truths. Storytelling is a lens through which we see it.  It’s something Diana does well. One of the reasons her novels have to come to mean so much to me is the truths I find revealed between those pages. The show is telling their version of her story of truths. They are telling us a story about what it means to be human, to persevere, make difficult choices and having to live with the consequences, to suffer loss, and to love…in all of it’s different shades of being.

So, I’ve been thinking of Lord John Grey and what truths the show and David Berry will get a chance to show us.

The Truths

Truth #1: Character has nothing to do with sexual orientation

Tom and Lorenzo, TV critics once wrote about Outlander and their feelings about the character Black Jack Randall.

…In other news, Black Jack Randall is clearly not entirely heterosexual. His face practically lit up at the sight of Jamie coming through his window and within seconds he asked him to a) take off his shirt, b)take turns raping his wife, and c) enjoy himself by watching Jack rape his wife. It’s all very sexually charged, and we suppose we can get offended by the idea of the evil raping gay character, but we’re willing to let this play out for a while. Jack is definitely in danger of becoming an unstoppable Terminator-like supervillain, though. We wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of a scaling back on the mustache-twirling.   http://tomandlorenzo.com/2015/04/outlander-the-reckoning/

Diana has gone on record saying that Black Jack is not gay.  She calls him an equal-opportunity sadist.  But, I know a lot of viewers like Tom and Lorenzo believe that he is gay.  I wrote an article about Tom and Lorenzo’s review and I remember saying I wanted to write to tell them one of the most beloved characters in the series was a gay man. I knew that the information based on my knowledge of the books wouldn’t really be appreciated or help them review the show as presented, but I so wanted to defend Ms. Gabaldon’s representation of gay men. Diana’s characters are so layered and well developed, I have often said that it is possible to talk about and analyze them as if they were real people. John Grey’s story is a compelling look at what life might have been like for a homosexual in the 1700’s when it was illegal to be gay.

In Lord John, Diana has created a man who rivals Jamie in integrity and that is saying quite a lot.  And, …he is as different from BJR as you could get!  Viewer’s of Outlander on Starz met Lord John Grey as a sixteen year old who snuck into the Jacobite’s camp and tried to slit the notorious highlander “Red Jamie’s” throat.  He was prepared to die rather than give information, but relented when he thought a woman’s (Clever Claire) honor was in jeopardy.  Jamie spared the young Lord’s life and so, the young soldier acknowledged the debt of honor with a promise to kill Jamie once the debt was met. Raised to believe that a man’s word is his bond and his actions a reflection of his worth, Lord John is a man that lives his life by a code of decency and honor.  

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Truth #2: Love is complicated and yet, simple

Ron Moore and company will get the chance to expand on the theme of unrequited love. I say expand because they have let us see the relationship between Frank and Claire.  I have always maintained that Frank’s biggest sin is simply that he wasn’t Jamie.  Through no fault of his own, (Claire always said that she loved him and tried hard to get back to him) Frank is unable to regain what he once had with Claire.  There is nothing he can do to regain her love.  Her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s and he isn’t Jamie.

Like Frank, Lord John Grey was simply not born the right person;

"Do you know," he said again, softly, addressing his hands, "what it is to love someone, and never- never!-be able to give them peace, or joy, or happiness."

He looked up then, eyes filled with pain. "To know that you cannot give them happiness, not through any fault of yours or theirs, but only because you were not born the right person for them?"

Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59

Lord John has had the misfortune to fall in love with a man who can never return his feelings.  Jamie has very real reasons for associating homosexuality with the abuse he suffered at the hands of BJR and could not, in my opinion and Claire’s and Bree’s , have a relationship with a man.  But, perhaps the greatest impediment for John is not his gender, but the fact that he just isn’t Claire.  Jamie’s heart is irrevocably Claire’s and John isn’t Claire.

Could you call a man who would never touch you- would recoil from the very thought of touching you- your lover? No. But at the same time, what would you call a man whose mind touched yours, whose prickly friendship was a gift, whose character, whose very existence, helped to define your own?

—-Lord John in Lord John and the Plague of Zombies

One of the most wonderful truths Diana’s Lord John teaches us is that love is a gift to be honored even if it is never returned in kind.  Lord John makes a conscious choice to love Jamie because to not love him would leave a hole in his soul.

"I hated him for as long as I could. But then I realized that loving him...that was part of me, and one of the best parts. It didn't matter that he couldn't love me, that had nothing to do with it. But if I could not forgive him, then I could not love him, and that part of me was gone. And I found eventually that I wanted it back."

Lord John in Drums of Autumn, Chapter 59 

One of the most character revealing conversations between the two men was over Jamie’s young son William. John had rightfully guessed William’s true parentage and came to Helwater to tell Jamie he would be marrying William’s Aunt Isobel. This will essentially make him the “orphaned” William’s step-father.  Jamie tells Claire that he tested LJG’s motives by offering him his body in exchange for John taking good care of William.  He assures her if Lord John had failed that test he would have cut his throat right there and then.

“Ye dinna want me, then?” 

Grey got to his feet, dusting the seat of his breeches. “I shall probably want you to the day I die,” he said matter-of-factly. “But tempted as I am—” He shook his head, brushing wet grass from his hands. 

“Do you really think that I would demand—or accept—any payment for such a service?” he asked. “Really, I should feel my honor most grossly insulted by that offer, save that I know the depth of feeling which prompted it.” 

“Aye, well,” Jamie muttered. “I didna mean to insult ye.”

Jamie & Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59


Lord John passed the test and Jamie tells Claire,

"He loved me, he said. And if I couldn't give him that in return-and he kent I couldn't-then he'd not take counterfeit for true coin."

He shook himself, hard, like a dog coming out of the water.

"No. A man who would say such a thing is not one who'd bugger a child for the sake of his father's bonny blue eyes, I'll tell you that for certain, Sassenach."-Jamie & Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59

I can remember reading that scene and wishing my high school kids could understand what Lord John understood. You truly don’t want someone who doesn’t want you.  Don’t settle.  Don’t take counterfeit for true coin.

 

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The fact that they eventually become friends speaks volumes about both men.

There was not easiness between them any longer—but there was honesty. And that was a thing he had had—ever would have—with precious few men.---Lord John in The Scottish Prisoner, Chapter 18

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, that they recognize the honor in the other.  John challenged Jamie’s beliefs about love and friendship and made him a more tolerant man and Jamie gave John a purpose of sorts and someone worthy to love. 

In fact, I think Claire saw John as a real competition for Jamie’s affection. In a scene in the cabin on Fraser’s Ridge, Claire is lying in bed pretending to sleep while John and Jamie play chess across the room. In true Claire fashion, she examines her feelings of animosity towards John and admits that she feels jealous of  Lord John’s relationship with Jamie. She can see what Jamie sees in Lord John and is a bit threatened by their connection over William. Leave it to Diana to make Claire’s only real competition a gay man.  John truly does understand Jamie, as only another man can.  I love this conversation between Brianna and Lord John that proves that point:

"I have never spoken to your father regarding Geneva, Ellesmere, or William himself--save to inform him of my marriage to Isobel and to assure him that I would fulfill my responsibilities as William's guardian to the best of my ability."
She set her foot on the stone, driving it into the soft sand, and stopped.
"You never said anything to him? What did he say to you?" she demanded.
"Nothing." He returned her stare.
"Why did you marry Isobel?"
He sighed, but there was no point in evasion.
"In order to take care of William."
The thick red brows nearly touched her hairline.
"So you got married, in spite of--I mean, you turned your whole life upside down, just to take care of Jamie Fraser's illegitimate son? And neither one of you ever talked about it?"
"No," he said, baffled. "Of course not."

From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 116

I believe Brianna’s response was…”men”. John loves Jamie and cares about those Jamie loves because that is what you do when you love someone.

Before you say this was unfair to John’s wife Isobel, remember this was a time of arranged marriages. Why not John?  He  cared about Isobel and William.  I could think of far worse situations and men for her to be married off to.  Can you say Ellesmere? I have always felt sorry that this wonderful man never found the love he deserved, but Diana isn’t done writing his story yet and I’m hopeful for him.

So complicated and yet, to choose to love makes everything simple.

I’m sure there are many more truths to be found in Lord John Grey’s story.  These are just two that meant a lot to me and I can’t wait to see how David Berry and the show choose to reflect them.  And, I hope Tom and Lorenzo watch to see the honorable and beloved Lord John Grey.

Women Love Jamie Because He Talks In Bed…why yes,…he does and why yes,…I do

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I’ve been re-reading The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon and I forgot how many of my favorite scenes were in this book!  I think I forget because the focus when people talk about The Fiery Cross is usually about the pages (and more pages) devoted to the gathering  that I jokingly (and affectionately) call the longest day ever written.  To tell the truth, it was a bit of a slough the first time I read it, but true to almost everything Diana has written, over time, I have grown to appreciate those chapters more and more.  She has become my favorite writer and as a person who fancies herself a writer, I’m always eager to read anything about Diana’s writing process or  what she thinks about her own characters.  I want a keek at her brain!  So, I was thrilled when I recently got a delightful glimpse into her thoughts about her well beloved character James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser… who talks in bed.  

Erin Conrad, of Three If By Space, tweeted from an EW fan convention that Diana, responding to a fan question, said the reason women love Jamie is “because he talks in bed”.  I giggle-snorted when I read this and then thought, “Why yes,..yes, he does and it is definitely swoon worthy”. In fact, some of my favorite  Jamie moments are found in their bed.  

There has been a lot of discussion in the fandom about what we hope to see in season 3 of Outlander on Starz.  One of the biggest things fans hope to see is more time in bed with Jamie and Claire.  Some want to see them make love because let’s face it , Diana wrote some fantastic love scenes and as one of my readers put it, “I’m not paying Starz to use my imagination!” Yep. Another reason some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together. Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words. However, the things Jamie does say in bed…sigh…are funny, playful, moving, tender words that really could move a heart to love him.

I tried to think of my favorite moments and to tell the truth it just isn’t possible!  Each time I would think I’d narrowed my choice down another heart warming or pounding moment would leap to mind.  From Outlander to Written in My Heart’s Own Blood, the relationship between the two is both revealed and shaped in their bed and choosing a favorite seems impossible because each moment is a part of the whole, each moment important.

During their honeymoon, Claire muses about finding herself  the sexually experienced one in the relationship and thinks “…there are in fact only a limited number of ways in which two bodies can meet, and we had not yet established that territory of intimacy in which the act of love takes infinite variety.” Diana has always maintained that writing a good sex scene isn’t about the exchange of body fluids, but about the emotional connection.  Jamie and Claire’s sex life moves into the territory of “infinite variety”  because of what is said in their bed and each “coming together” becomes unique and important.  It is the words that are said between the two that make the physical act meaningful.  When Jamie and  Claire are in bed it is as if the world goes away and he speaks to her as we all wish our men would speak to us, open and vulnerable because they trust us to be gentle with their hearts.

JAMIE THE COMIC

IMG_0427Many of the moments in Jamie and Claire’s bed are funny; what animals have you seen, hedgehogs, and the King of Ireland come to mind.  When Claire returns to him in Voyager the importance of these moments becomes clear when Jamie tells Claire he never thought he would laugh in a woman’s bed again.  Being able to laugh together in bed is rare gift of intimacy and comfortableness.

“Aye, well,” he said. “I dinna recall Adam’s asking God to take back Eve—and look what she did to him.” He leaned forward and kissed my forehead as I laughed, then drew the blanket up over my bare shoulders. “Go to sleep, my wee rib. I shall be needin’ a helpmeet in the morning.”

OUTLANDER Chapter 36:

Their laughter often makes me as teary eyed as their more serious moments.  But, the serious moments are so revealing and represent the many different levels of intimacy.

EMOTIONAL JAMIE

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One of my favorite things about Jamie is his gratefulness and I’m always moved by his expressions of gratitude for what God has given him and that most certainly includes  his relationship with Claire.

 “And yet”—he turned me toward him, hand closing gently over one breast—“yet when I think of you wi’ my child at your breast….then I feel as though I’ve gone hollow as a soap bubble, and perhaps I shall burst with joy.”
He pressed me tight against his chest, and I hugged him with all my might.
“Oh, Claire, ye do break my heart wi’ loving you.”

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER Chapter 6:

VULNERABLE JAMIE

does-it-stop“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?” “Even when I’ve just left ye, I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again.”  OUTLANDER, Chapter 17

I loved this scene because of the awe and wonder he expresses.  To me this is the moment when he begins to understand that sex is more than the physical act.  Every woman wants to hear that a man cannot stop feeling desire for her and that he aches for her.

JAMIE IN CHARGE

master“Not yet. We’ve time. And I mean to hear ye groan like that again. And to moan and sob, even though you dinna wish to, for ye canna help it. I mean to make you sigh as though your heart would break, and scream with the wanting, and at last to cry out in my arms, and I shall know that I’ve served ye well.”       OUTLANDER, Chapter 41

This scene signaled that Jamie has come into his own as a lover and that Claire is no longer the teacher and he the pupil. He has become aware that he has the power to make her feel and he revels in it. She, I’m sure, revels in his power, as well. Take charge Jamie is hot.

HONEST JAMIE

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Jamie is a very emotionally mature man, a man who takes ownership of his perceived failings. His honesty is startling and endearing and gives Claire permission to reveal her own confusion and weaknesses.  He makes her feel emotionally safe with his openess.

“I always thought it would be a simple matter to lie wi’ a woman,” he said softly. “And yet… I want to fall on my face at your feet and worship you”-he dropped the towel, and reached out, taking me by the shoulders-“and still I want to force you to your knees before me, and hold ye there wi’ my hands tangled in your hair, and your mouth at my service… and I want both things at the same time, Sassenach.” He ran his hands up under my hair and gripped my face between them, hard. “I dinna understand myself at all, Sassenach! Or maybe I do.”  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER Chapter 17

 POSSESSIVE JAMIE

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 “All right,” he whispered. His eyes bored into mine, daring me to close them, forcing me to hold his gaze. “All right. And ye wish it, I shall punish you.” He moved his hips against me in imperious command, and I felt my legs open for him, my gates thrown wide to welcome ravishment.
“Never,” he whispered to me. “Never. Never another but me! Look at me! Tell me! Look at me, Claire!” He moved in me, strongly, and I moaned and would have turned my head, but he held my face between his hands, forcing me to meet his eyes, to see his wide, sweet mouth, twisted in pain.
“Never,” he said, more softly. “For you are mine. My wife, my heart, my soul.”

Outlander chapt.29- 

Sometimes jealousy is okay and sexy.  Who wouldn’t want to be this man’s wife, heart, and soul?

GENTLE JAMIE

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I’ve often told my husband those moments when he is gentle are extremely meaningful to me.  When he looks tenderly into my eyes and touches my face gently with his big hands, I feel cherished.  Jamie has so many of those moments when his gentleness lets Claire know she is cherished. This scene when she wakes and finds he is watching her sleep and murmuring his love to her makes me tearful everytime.

“What is it, love?” I whispered. “Jamie, I do love you.”
“I know it,” he said quietly. “I do know it, my own. Let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there’s no so much I can be saying to ye while ye wake, but the same poor words, again and again. While ye sleep in my arms, I can say things to ye that would be daft and silly waking, and your dreams will know the truth of them. Go back to sleep, mo duinne.”
I turned my head, enough that my lips brushed the base of his throat, where his pulse beat slow beneath the small three-cornered scar. Then I laid my head upon his chest and gave my dreams up to his keeping.                                                                    OUTLANDER CHAPT 45

JAMIE A LOVE FOR ALL TIME

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Every woman wants to find a mutually passionate relationship.  She hopes to find someone she feels free to love with all her heart . Jamie’s ability to express his love for Claire is nothing short of poetic.

“I was dead, my Sassenach–and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I always will.”

The grass fell away. Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours–we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire–I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”

 DRUMS OF AUTUMN, chapter 16

Jamie has raised talking in bed to an art form and we readers find ourselves appreciating his talent…a lot. I know that Jamie is a fictional man and perhaps ideal, but I can’t help but believe that real men could learn a thing or two about talking in bed from him.   Diana has created a man who makes us love pillow talk and him.

Spoilers: They tried to live without their hearts…Jamie and Claire the years apart

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imageAfter hearing the distressing noise, Lord John approaches the door thinking of perhaps going into the room to see if Jamie is alright.  He hears heavy breathing and realizes that Jamie has awakened from a bad dream. He overhears the big Scot talking to his lost wife, “Could I but lay my head in your lap, lass. Feel your hand on me, and sleep wi’ the scent of you in my bed”.  John knows he shouldn’t be hearing this extremely private conversation and tries to back away quietly. Before he gets away he hears Jamie sob and then whisper, his voice full of longing and pain, “Christ Sassenach, I need ye”.

Cue me, ragged intake of breath and leaky eyes.

I’ve been rereading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite of the Lord John books.  Last night, I reached the scene where Lord John Grey hears Jamie cry out as if he was having a nightmare. This is one of those scenes that causes me to take an involuntary sob. The characters have become so real to me that I feel invested in their lives and experience moments of crippling compassion when I read of their moments of distress or pain.  I feel what John feels and what Jamie feels and have to put the book down and take a moment to recover, laugh at my silliness, and curse and simultaneously love Diana for writing books and characters that can move me this much.  I’ve often wondered if Diana feels the kind of empathy I do when she writes. Does she have to take a break and recover, does she smile through her tears at the beauty of these poignant moments she has written?

Diana has written many moving scenes in her novels, but this particular scene gets me every. single. time.  I’m curious as to why this scene, in particular, makes me so…so…verklempt! Reading that scene and “overhearing” Jamie’s private moment with his vanished wife makes me feel like I’m right beside Lord John trying desperately to get away from that door. Like Lord John, I want to go into that room and offer Jamie comfort, but I know there is nothing I can offer that would comfort him.  With that realization, we can now think of nothing worse than Jamie knowing his private pain and moment of grieving was overheard and we are quietly careful as we move down the hall.

Loved Diana’s metaphor of John missing a step and coming down hard as he escapes detection. Hearing Jamie longing for his dead wife brought John back down to Earth hard. The heart wants what it wants, but John is a realist and no fool.  He knows this man will never be his. This man will never be his because his heart belongs to a woman and a ghost at that.

It’s Claire’s ghost that I find myself thinking about this morning and Jamie’s as well, the ghosts of their lost love. I think this scene affects me so much because it is one of those rare moments when we get to see what Jamie is thinking and feeling.  We can guess how lonely he has been without Claire, but this overheard private moment confirms it.  He is trying to live without his heart and having a tough time of it. He needs her. Time hasn’t cured this. A decade separates him from that moment on Craig Na Dun and yet, his need of her hasn’t lessened.  His grief feels raw to me.

I’ve also been thinking this morning about the print shop and how the TV series is going to get us there.  I know there has been some speculation because people can’t wait to see our couple back together.  They want to get to the “good stuff”.  I understand that is “good stuff” and I would love to see them stay as faithful to that scene in the book as possible, but the show has to think about viewers other than book fans. I am reminded of an article I read about adaptations and good story-telling.

…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…

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

“…even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…”, the truth is those moments at the print shop need to be earned.  They need the context of knowing what has come before.  It will not be enough to segue way from Claire’s realizing Jamie might still be alive to her going back through the stones. Viewers will need to know what life was like in the in-between.  And, whether we want to admit it or not, we book readers will too.  Those moments at the print shop are meaningful and moving because of what happened in those twenty years apart and who Jamie and Claire were without their hearts.  They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss.  In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Fergus, William, Jenny, Ian, and their children. They go on…they exist.  Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other.  Diana chose to tell Voyager in a mixture of present day with flashbacks to the past that slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion.  The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh.  We get glimpses of the deprived and lonely existence Jamie led.  We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience.

We will need to see what life was like for Claire. I know this isn’t a popular idea for many fans because it means more Frank.  But, to ignore what life was like for Claire would not serve the story well and lessen the impact and meaning of the print shop reunion. These glimpses of life with Frank are sprinkled throughout the story, but it makes sense to me that the show will need to rearrange things and tell the story more chronologically. What was life like for Claire?  She made a promise and I believe truly tried to make it work with Frank.  She did love him, but what ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. Frank believes they can make it work. He needs to make it work because he loves her, but her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.  As a result, what started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted convoluted mess.

One of the few looks Diana affords us of Claire’s life with Frank comes from her remembrance of the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do? What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?  When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.

.Outlander Season 3

I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”

“Yes.”

He breathed heavily, almost a snort.

“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him.  damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly.  “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”

“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”

They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,

“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you?  Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”

“No.”….

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The last straw had been reached for Frank, but it also served to let us see how impossible it has been for Claire to love anyone but Jamie and to live without him.  The show foreshadowed this with Breanna’s comments about her mother living in another world. She is present physically, but she left her heart in another time, another place. She is living a life she no longer wants, but tries for Bree’s sake.

The story will be best served by the show showing us how empty and difficult their lives were without the other. So, when the ‘voyage’ finally leads us back to the print shop, as viewers, we will be entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.

The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Her nervous look at her reflection in the shop window, his fainting dead away at her sudden appearance, their holding each other both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures?  My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear. And for Claire, loving and being loved by Jamie was like  “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

Lord knows, the sailing will never be smooth for these two, but at last they will be together and nothing else will matter.

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Yeah,…we need to see the years without their hearts.

 

Jamie and Claire Fraser…Courtiers

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Soon, (a relative term) Outlander fans will be making a weekly appointment with Starz to watch their favorite couple Jamie and Claire Frazer navigate the salons, ballrooms, and dining rooms of the French Court of Louis the XV. The picture Starz painted of the Frasers’ new life in the first Season 2 trailer was visually far and away from muted and earthy Scotland.  Being a curious soul, I found myself wanting to know more about life in Versailles.

The story goes that Louis’ great grandfather, Louis the XIV, worked for thirty years to make the palace opulent as recompense for a childhood of relative poverty (it’s said he slept on tattered sheets and his mother had to pawn the crown jewels).   Versailles was literally built around an old hunting cabin and eventually was half-a-million square feet, had 700 rooms , 67 staircases. and 6000 paintings.  No surface was left unadorned. Gilded paneling, crown molding, brocaded or flocked wall coverings, allegorical paintings of Greek gods, floors patterned with parquet or colored tiles were found in every room.  Everything from furniture to finishes was embellished. It was a visual feast.

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Louis the XV was said to be a bit less into the pomp and ceremony his great grandfather seemed to enjoy, but still, on a daily basis anywhere from 3,000 to 10, 000 people were in attendance at the palace.  In an effort to gain control over the nobility, the King often required them to live with him.  Attending the King took them far from the daily operations of their estates and put them under his watchful eye.

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A courtier is defined as a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage or a person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc.   This certainly described life for the courtiers of Louis the XV. Currying the king’s favor was serious and tricky, courtiers needed to tread carefully because the King could make them or break them. Nobles needed his permission to do basically anything, so remaining in his good graces was vital. 

…a very varied society with a rigid hierarchy. Some were there by birthright, others by social obligation, others out of self-interest or curiosity, and others still to earn their living. The high-ranking nobility were often present, currying the favours of the master of Versailles.

…Among the courtiers, those who held a role were said to be “established” at Court. These roles, either inherited or purchased, often very dearly, corresponded to a function or office.

… Living quarters in the palace were also highly sought after. They avoided much travelling back and forth and provided a place of retreat for those moments when one was not at Court.

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/?option=com_cdvfiche&idf=D49E0D38-2622-D151-2217-6E71CAB84BE0

 

To stay in a state of royal grace required being up on the latest rumors and news. Information was power and the court was where everything was happening, kind of like the Outlander fandom x1000. #KingSam and #QueenCait  These folks lived by a very strict code of etiquette and adherence to the Monarch’s whims. Whether it be it how to sit properly, knowing the latest dance steps or wearing the latest fashions,  being a courtier was serious business and a serious competition. With so many in attendance gaining the King’s attention was no easy task.

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“beauty or wit, rivaled with dazzling finery to attract the Monarch’s attention.”

Hence, the need, as  Outlander’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach says, for everyone to look like “a butterfly”.  Enter Jamie and Claire, a tall red-headed Scots decked out with plaid and his English rose dressed in a blood red gown. You just know that Terry and her crew will have created a dress worthy of the King’s attention!

There is a lot more to know about this world and I’ll be writing these little tidbits to help satisfy my curiosity and maybe enriching my watching experience.  Hope you’ll join me as I explore!

 

 

 

 

Jamie Fraser….portrait of a father…in Outlander

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My re-blog in time for Father’s Day!

My Outlander Blog!

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Spoilers: this post contains info about the entire series

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Every year, Father’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. on a Sunday in June. This day is often filled with family get-togethers, BBQ and gifts of some really ugly ties!  This wonderful family day can be bittersweet for many including myself. Memories of imperfect relationships, complicated emotions, and regret tend to rear their ugly heads.  It took me years of living and reflection to be able to look at this particular relationship with any semblance of objectivity. I had to become an adult with adult children before I could truly begin to understand my father.  I’ve heard people say, when discussing parental dysfunction, “he did the best he could with what he had”. I’m not sure that was true in my fathers’ case. It seems to me he had been given a lot to work with…

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He Thought He Was Going to Die… now… how does he live… Outlander Episode 15 & 16

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I WAS prepared.  The scenes at Wentworth unfolded much as they had in the book.  The menace was there.  The eerie certainty that Black Jack Randall would have his way was there from the moment he rode in to ” save” Jamie from the noose.  He could barely contain his relief and excitement.  His masterpiece lives and is his.  Tobias’ portrayal of Jack’s sick fascination with Jamie was perfectly executed in shades of reverent respect and barely contained sadistic lust. He would have his surrender. I was horrified and moved.

I’ve tried to boil down what exactly it is that moves me so much about the scenes between Claire, Jamie and Black Jack in that dungeon in Wentworth Prison. I think it has to do with this piece of dialogue from the book;

You can’t,” I whispered. “You can’t. I won’t let you.” His mouth was warm against my ear. “Claire, I’m to hang in the morning,. What happens to me between now and then doesna matter to anyone.” I drew back and stared at him. “It matters to me !” The strained lips quivered in what was almost a smile, and he raised his free hand and laid it against my wet cheek. “I know it does, mo moduinne . And that’s why you’ll go now. So I’ll know there is someone still who minds for me.”

The gut-wrenching knowledge that this could truly be the last time she saw him, knowing she had to leave him battered and in pain and in the fiendish hands of Black Jack Randall was painful to watch.  Her only chance to save him was to leave him …but… she knew she was leaving him to face his last few hours on Earth in a nightmare. Jamie was sacrificing his life to save hers… his compliance was being assured with a threat to his wife’s life.  He is keeping his word to give Claire time to get away,  He thought he was going to die, so what did it matter… her decision… his decision… both rooted in their love for the other. This is what moves me so much.

Cait’s tears of pain and grief gutted me. But, Sam’s silent tears and eyes wide with pain shook me …beyond words. It took me a moment’s reflection to understand what I was feeling and to understand those tears silently falling down his cheek. I saw the agony visited on his heart.  He was doing what he never thought he’d do…he was giving in …and suddenly he could still feel his father’s kiss, but now it was forever linked with the revolting kisses on his back and the taste of his wife’s salty tears of anguish on his lips. Yeah…I was moved and horrified.

The sacrifice was bigger than either of them could imagine.  The deliberate infliction of pain and humiliation by the rapist and sadist named Black Jack Randall, a man who finds his pleasure in the total domination of another, could not have been imagined despite the evidence before them both. Jamie naively believed that he would be able to remain unaffected by Black Jack Randall’s advances.  He knew there would be pain involved and he would feel repulsed, but he believed he could remain emotionally distant.  His illusions will be shattered within minutes.

What will we see in Episode 16 and the Aftermath of Wentworth

Later, In the book, Jamie feels the need to tell Claire what he experienced. He tells her that anyone can be broken if you work hard enough at it and Black Jack worked hard at it.  He wanted Jamie’s surrender, he wanted him broken and begging. His dark appetites for control and power over this seemingly unbreakable man were satisfied.

BJR will rape Jamie. The damage done physically would heal. What is more difficult to heal, of course, are the wounds that cannot be seen. Like many who suffer such trauma, once the shock fades and he has had time to process what has happened, Jamie feels distraught to the point of wanting to die. It is his own belief that suicide is a “mortal sin” that prevents him from taking his own life to end his despair. That and a desire not to give Black Jack Randall one more moment of his life, “…he has damned me in life. He willna damn me in death”.  .

What we haven’t talked about is the part a lot of rape victims don’t talk about, physical arousal during a rape.  This seems to be the aspect of the rape that  causes Jamie the greatest mental conflict. This is the part that causes him to cry out in anguish,

“… he hurt me -hurt me badly- while he did it, but it was an act of love to him. And he made me answer him- damn his soul! He made me rouse to him!”  The hand bunched into a fist and struck the bedframe with an impotent rage that made the whole bed tremble.”

The guilt, rage and shame that Jamie expresses over his physical arousal and orgasms at the hands of his rapist causes Jamie to question his identity.  I’m not saying that he questions his sexuality; he is hetero.  However, I do believe for the first time, Jamie isn’t sure he can trust himself.  He feels betrayed by his own body and mind.  Adding to the confusion is  BJR’s use of pain and mental gamesmanship.  We know that Jamie does recover enough to be with Claire and they go on to live their lives.  But, the fact that he was able to have a functioning relationship with Claire?  A miracle

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there was some sound scientific theory behind Claire’s rescue attempt.  She used his own weakened and traumatized  mind to set him free.  It was sort of like a version of aversion therapy.   She exposed him to what he feared, but this time…he got to fight back. His Highland Warrior spirit fought its way home.  It makes sense, but the fact that it worked?  A miracle.

Like so many of us who journey through this world with the baggage of our past, Jamie must find a way to carry his knowledge and pain. He was going to die…so, now how does he live? The aftermath of Wentworth is living a life with a self-image, a core, that has been torn apart and patched back together. The scars are always there. Jamie is not the same man he once was. And… he discovered things about himself in that dungeon he didn’t know and now regrets knowing.

Jamie came to his wedding bed a virgin. His experience of sex up until Wentworth was found in the arms of his loving wife. Like many men, I believe Jamie closely relates sex to love. In fact, in one of the later books, Claire makes a comment to Jamie that love and sex are actually two different things. Jamie’s reply is that for him …they are very close. He associates sex with love. How confused must he be by his own body and its traitorous response to Black Jack’s “acts of love” .

In Dragonfly in Amber, Jamie has returned home from a night observing and resisting debauchery. He and Claire fight and he admits it was a near thing;

Too close,” he repeated, moving back a bit. “It was too damn close, Sassenach, and it scared me.” …”…it was … well, those women. What I felt like with them. I didna want them, truly not …” … “But the … the lusting, I suppose ye’d call it … that was … too close to what I feel sometimes for you, and it … well, it doesna seem right to me.” …“I always thought it would be a simple matter to lie wi’ a woman,” he said softly. “And yet … I want to fall on my face at your feet and worship you”— he dropped the towel and reached out, taking me by the shoulders— “and still I want to force ye to your knees before me, and hold ye there wi’ my hands tangled in your hair, and your mouth at my service … and I want both things at the same time , Sassenach.” He ran his hands up under my hair and gripped my face between them, hard. “I dinna understand myself at all, Sassenach! Or maybe I do.” …“Such things— the knowledge of them, I mean— it came to me soon after … after Wentworth.”… “I thought at the first that Jack Randall had stolen a bit of my soul, and then I knew it was worse than that. All of it was my own, and had been all along; it was only he’d shown it to me, and made me know it for myself. That’s what he did that I canna forgive, and may his own soul rot forever in hell”…“You’ll lie wi’ me now,” he said quietly. “And I shall use ye as I must. And if you’ll have your revenge for it, then take it and welcome, for my soul is yours, in all the black corners of it.”

This story of a woman and the man that she loves is so much more than a romance or an adventure. To me, the books and show are a monument to what it means to be human and … to the power of true love.

“Blessed is the influence of one true loving soul on another” Unknown