You are a braw lad…Outlander 3.4 “Of Things Lost”

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I’m finding myself grateful this morning that I am not writing these reflections for anyone, but myself.  I’m grateful I don’t find myself in the position of having an editor tell me to write about Sam Heughan’s top hottest looks or sexiest moments to sell a magazine. Instead, I find myself this morning ready to write about the story I was told last night, a bittersweet tale told in moments, metaphors, and performances that suspended my disbelief and touched my heart because …I want to and need to.  “Of Things Lost” was an amazing installment in this epic story of two people who strive to make the best of their lives with what they have been given.

As I predicted, we are seeing our main characters, Jamie and Claire, move on.  It has taken them a long while to reach this point.  They are no longer spending their lives chasing ghosts. They are living in their own present.  For Claire, it was the missing manifests that brought her back down to Earth.  “This is what Mrs. Graham warned me about”, Claire tells Bree.  Our Claire is a realist, pragmatic, and strong.  She recognizes the futility of what they are attempting and I suspect the prospect of the pain of looking and not finding him would just be too much for her.  When she tells Bree it is time to go home, I felt a lump in my throat because Jamie is no longer that home. Her home is now the life she has been given and created with patients who need her and a daughter who once again calls her mama.

For Jamie, I suspect his “missing manifests” moment came on the selkie island.  He somehow came to understand that Claire is truly gone.  When John doesn’t kill him, he leaves Jamie no choice, but to begin to live his life in the present and in the knowledge that he will never see her again.  We see him begin to talk about his memories of her and for the first time, say her name out loud.  He is putting her in his past and taking a hold of the future John Grey has offered him. Jamie is done chasing Claire’s ghost.

They are living lives with less than they wanted, but with more than they had. Their losses have become intricately woven into the fabric of who they are and how they experience life.  Just like they are for all of us who have lost those we care for.  We carry our memories with us and they color our new experiences.  Our couple are never far from each other’s thoughts, but it is different now.  I was moved by the sadness these two live with, the knowledge that they have lost a great and one time love.

A Cage is a Cage

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Most of this episode dealt with Jamie’s life at Helwater where we see him slowly begin to come back to being himself or, at at least, the self he is now become.  The Lady Isobel comes to see the beautiful horses and laments the fact that her father keeps them confined. Jamie assures her that he has seen many stables and these are the finest. She then reminds us that a gilded cage is still a cage.  Jamie may be moving about unshackled in fresh air, but someone else still holds power over his life and freedom. It is a fine place, but he is still a prisoner.

The Lady Geneva is about to find herself in a gilded cage.  She is to be married to a rich and titled man old enough to be her grandfather.  She has had her life’s path dictated to her at the ripe old age of seventeen. These types of marriages amongst the nobility were the norm rather than the exception and I would suspect that Geneva wasn’t the first young lady to try to take back some say in her own life’s experience. I wouldn’t want my maidenhead given to an old goat like Elsemere either.  Jamie just has the misfortune to be vulnerable to her attempt at blackmail.  He has to believe if she is reckless enough to demand this of him, she is reckless enough to go through with her threats.

I loved how the show handled Geneva. This scene was problematic for many reasons and I felt the choice to leave Geneva sure of her decision served the story and characters well.  There wasn’t really anything to be gained by sticking to the book in this instance. I felt that they truly got to the underlying emotions of this scene.  I thought the choices Jamie makes with Geneva were totally in character with who Jamie is.  He is at heart a kind and compassionate man.  When Geneva tells him she is doing this for herself it changes everything for him.  He understands.  She is in her own way imprisoned.  Her choices are not her own.  He sets about this transaction with some pity for her and being who he is tries to make her first time as good an experience as he can.  He is not in her room by choice and would not have chosen it, but it is inevitable and he has to make a choice to stay angry or choose compassion.  He chooses to be compassionate despite her taking unfair advantage of him. He is the one with the merciful heart.

In a way, he takes back some of his own power in this situation by choosing to be kind.  In the book, Jamie describes being aware of an extraordinary mixture of feelings when faced with Geneva in her bridal night rail.  I felt that here.  There was anger, tenderness, lust, fear and as always Claire was never far from his thoughts. When Geneva tells him she loves him, Jamie slowly shakes his head. The moment he explains the difference between sex and love to Geneva was a watershed moment. It was sad and, yet wonderful and called us back to his asking Claire if it was always so between a man and a woman, what he feels when he lies with her. No, was her answer, it is something like it, but no.  What he had with Claire was different because it was love.  Is it truly better to have loved someone with all your heart and soul and lost them than never to have loved at all? Despite all the pain, I think Jamie would say,… yes.

The Fly in the Ointment

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The fly in the ointment of this episode for me wasn’t Geneva, it was John.  My reaction to the scenes with John and Jamie were for the most part okay… there were some changes, slightly different, but okay.  I found myself feeling puzzled by this easy camaraderie.  I’m sure the “all these months comment” was meant to speak to the passage of time that has allowed Jamie to reflect on Lord John and his kindnesses. I needed to see Jamie and John in that awkward exchange where he blurts out a chess move in an effort to let John know he had been forgiven.  I know, I know, the book is the book, the show is the show and I can understand their need to move this relationship ahead and I liked Hal being the catalyst for Geneva’s blackmail scheme, but… my acceptance and resignation that it was a good representation of Jamie and John’s relationship came to a screeching halt when Jamie offered his body to Lord John before Lord John told him of his impending marriage.  NO.  It would have never happened that way.

The whole offer was meant as a test of John’s sincerity and motives.  In the book, Jamie meant to slit his throat had he accepted the offer.  IF what they were going for was that Jamie was willing to make any sacrifice to keep his son safe, it fell very flat for me.  More than flat.  I just didn’t get this change or how it advanced the story arc. They already had set us up to believe that Jamie trusted Lord John with the conspiratorial looks between the two and Jamie’s comments about Lord John looking out for his welfare, and his belief that he would keep his secret.  All they had to do to make this okay for me would have been to have Jamie offer after Lord John told him he was marrying.

The extra hand hold was a nice callback to that moment in Ardsmuir and the rest of their exchange was touching and very revealing of John’s character. I found myself grateful right beside Jamie for having a man like John as a friend and for him being in Willie’s life. So, instead of letting this fester, I’m just going to take a note from Lord John’s book and not be insulted because I know the depth of feeling from which the offer ( and scene) was made.

You are a braw lad

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I would be remiss if I didn’t do more to acknowledge Sam Heughan’s performance.  His ability to emote is nothing short of staggering. I have been so impressed and moved.  He has completely inhabited this character.  He makes me believe that he is truly feeling what Jamie feels.  Sometimes he is subtle (when he sees Geneva’s pregnant belly and he gives a slight shift in his attentive stance beside the carriage) and sometimes not (when he looks at the baby in the carriage and suddenly changes his mind about leaving Helwater), but I love that he can take me inside Jamie’s heart and mind.  I certainly hope those with the power to give him awards are paying attention because he deserves all the accolades he can be given.

One of my favorite pictures of my husband is him standing in front of the nursery room window at the hospital.  He has both arms raised and braced on the window frame as he stares intently at our daughter in her bassinet.  He was in awe.  It is a wonder to recognize a miniature replication of your own features and expressions on a brand new small face, to know that this little person is part of you.  When Jamie looked at his son, I knew what he was feeling.  I saw the wonder on his face.

To his delight he finds out the child has been named William and they are calling him Willie, the same name as Jamie’s beloved older brother.  The moment that followed was beautiful.  He glances furtively into the buggy and then addresses his child.  You are a “braw lad”  Jamie tell his son.  The last words his own father said to him.  He then tells him not to fash that he is there. And, we know he will be.  This wonderful man has been denied fatherhood too many times.  He becomes a role model to his son despite the difference in their stations.  He cares for, spends time with and teaches William.  In a very real way, Jamie is a “father-figure” to little Willie.  In my opinion, Jamie was as a good of a father to William as he could possibly be.  Jamie made a decision that resulted in the enrichment of both of their lives.  You can feel Jamie’s pride and delight in his son and then his fear…  This season of what must have been some of the happiest days of Jamie’s life must come to an end because it has become dangerous for them to be seen together.  As Lord John states, “some sires stamp their get”.  Willie looks too much like Jamie and people are starting to notice and when Jamie calls Willie a little bastard, you get the feeling that he has heard it before.  There has been talk.  William’s resemblance to Jamie places them all in danger.

I know that it is difficult for us to understand why Jamie just doesn’t tell people he is Willie’s father. It’s a different time.  His son is an Earl and as a result has all the advantages that come with his station. Do you take that away from him?  Do you label him a bastard? Do you cause the Dunsanys to be shamed.  They have lost two children, does he now take away their grandson? No.  The whole situation is complicated and heart-wrenching. With the assurance that Lord John Grey will make an appropriate and caring step-father, Jamie makes the sacrifice to leave his son.

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The moment the show gave us of Jamie in the stable with his son was a gift, Willie wants to be like Mac, Jamie being able to baptize his son and give him his name, Jamie giving Willie a snake like the one his brother had given to him, and sharing how he prays for those he cares for and has lost.  I’m sure he will soon be lighting a candle to St. Andrew for a  little boy named Willie who he will remember… always.

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Easter egg:  Did anyone else recognize the entertainer in the pub’s as the “Sassenach” entertainer in the gypsy camp?  Nice touch on the costume Terry!

 

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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.

 

chess

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.