The beginning of forever…A Reflection on Outlander 3.13 “Eye of the Storm”

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I’ve been waiting for that moment. I’ve been waiting for that moment when I would know that they know. When our hero introduces himself and his wife to the young Georgian family, he understands that for the first time in decades he is free to be himself without fear or subterfuge.  He is James Fraser and the woman safe in his arms is his heart, his love, his wife, Claire… who has promised never to leave him.  I’ve been waiting for forever to begin and this week it did. They are truly together, two halves of one whole.

Kudos to Matt B Roberts on his directorial debut and congrats to the writers’ room who somehow managed to wrestle this monster of a story into 13 episodes.  There were so many wonderful nods to the source material and its fans and yet enough surprises to keep me wondering what would happen next!  I love the show’s ability to call us back to previous scenes and seasons.  The Faith music caused me to get chills and they gave us a story that has come full circle.  The season began with Jamie near death and ends with Claire near death.  The dancing, so different and yet so reminiscent of Craig Na Dun, was a wonderful connection that explained the presence of the maroons.  And, constantly, woven throughout the story is the thread of fate.  We are reminded that all of this was meant to be and that there are forces beyond our understanding at work to both separate our two and keep them together.  There was a supernatural battle being fought for the shape of the future.  I had to wonder whether Zeus and Hera were at it again.

Saving Bree

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I was so proud of the observations I garnered from the last episode.  I talked about the differences between the two time travelers Gellis and Claire.  The scenes in Rose Hall bore out what I thought.  Gellis has completely identified herself with her ability to travel. Claire accepts it as just part of who she is, but it isn’t her identity.  I loved the interplay between the two.  The cat and mouse game was fascinating.  Our Claire is such a bad liar and Caitriona played it off so well, “My driver dropped me off at the bottom of the lane and I got lost trying to find the house…”.  yeah…riiiighttttt. On some level, we got the feeling that Gellis really wants to believe that Claire is her friend.  I believed her when she said it has been hard.  She is tearful when she asks Claire why she has pursued her all these years especially after she sacrificed everything for her at Cranesmuir. She is the outsider of all outsiders.  Gellis has never met another traveler besides Claire and she feels a connection to her and yet, she cannot trust her, “Why are you here?”  They come together “ominously” according to Gellis.  Claire is smart, but she cannot keep up with the deceptive Gellis.  She cannot think like Gellis because she hasn’t her motivation and mindset, her sacrifices for the “greater good” aren’t motivated by power. So, she reveals the very thing she shouldn’t in an effort to gain Gellis’ trust, Bree.  When we see Claire at the end of the scene looking around the hall, I could practically hear her saying to herself, “what the hell just happened?”

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Lord John!  What a great scene, played to perfection.  I loved that Jamie seemed a bit surprised at John’s ability to navigate this situation and his power play.  John large and in charge was a beautiful and sexy sight to behold! I loved Lt/Capt Leonard’s comeuppance, he deserved it the ungrateful little upstart. John is all a man should be, generous, loyal, loving, kind, and strong. I’m still hopeful Diana will write him a partner worthy of the wonderful man he is.

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The show keeps giving us great couples to love. We see the reflection of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in Fergus and Marsali and what wasn’t there to love about Margret and Mr. Willoughby? The show gave us another couple who loves beyond all understanding.  I admit to feeling that they and Jamie and Claire were very out-of-place in their surroundings.  They didn’t fit and I was a bit jarred by all that was going on around them. The frenetic dancing and voodoo like ceremony seemed so incongruous with Margret’s smiles and her holding “psychic” court.  Tein Cho’s assertion that they had been invited by these “kind people” was in direct contrast with the stereotypes around them.  It helped me see it all in a different light.  I got the feeling that this ceremony was ancient and wanted to know what the other ceremonies for standing stones and fire days looked like around the world.

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I love that Jamie and Claire are completely working together as a team.  The call back to Faith and their commitment to their daughter Bree was powerful.  They were in complete understanding, sealed with a kiss and a familiar nod.  Let’s do this.  What followed was primal. Claire was fulfilling her destiny.  I found myself wondering at the powers that were controlling or attempting to control them.  I’m not sure if Zeus or Hera won, but Bree is safe from the zealot Gellis. We were given a moment to fear that Claire was being drawn back through the stones and the only thing powerful enough to combat its lure was Jamie’s touch.  It is a lovely extended visual metaphor, the power of their reaching hands, we have seen them reach out to each other so often.  And, Jamie’s last look at Bree’s photo was everything. I loved that Jamie took the time to reassure Ian and Claire and drew them into an embrace and held them close.  At that point, I felt we all needed a hug!

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With time to serve her suitably

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True to form, Jamie and Claire have drawn close through facing difficulty together.  If there were any barriers left between the two they have been broken down by the time they are back on board the Artemis.  I loved that the show slowed things down and gave us this wonderful scene.  I was so happy to see them flirting and teasing.  The humor between these two is a joy that I have missed.  They are comfortable with each other once again.  You can feel the trust and confidence in their love and their future together.  It feels solid and true.  I recognized this couple.  They are altered by experience, but I recognized them nonetheless.  This was Jamie and his Claire, Claire and her Jamie, reveling in each other.

The Eye of the Storm

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I have given the next series of events a lot of thought.  It was fantastical to be sure.  At first, I was struck by how over the top it all was.  How in the world did Jamie know where to find her in that roiling sea and how could he have swam to her? Jamie is great, but that great?  So, I asked myself, why.  Why, did Matt and Toni and the others choose to play this in such an over the top way?  They certainly had the power to do it differently. What were they trying to tell us?  I thought and I thought and I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter.  It was a full-out, over the top, love letter to this couple and the thing between them that they cannot name, but is always there.  Why wouldn’t Jamie jump into the sea after Claire?  She would jump into the sea after him, or storm a prison, or travel through stones. Why would the thing between them not draw him to her? Why wouldn’t Zeus or Hera intervene to save them? One of them put them in a hurricane, why wouldn’t the other place them in the eye of the storm?

Forever Begins

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The story has shifted gears, it is no longer about falling in love or finding a way back to each other, but about how people stay in love.  The show has a chance to break new ground once more.  They can show us the intricacies of a long and loving marriage.  They can show us two people who are building a life together and stay together.  No matter what they face, and the Gods know they are always facing something, the love they share is a calm center in the storm.  Jamie and Claire are the core of this story, they are the anchor we hold on to that keeps us all enthralled and believing in the possibility of a love that is all that it should be.  I fell in love with the Jamie and Claire in Diana’s books and I’ve fallen in love with the Jamie and Claire in Ron’s show.  Both couples have a lot to tell us about living and love and I for one, am ready for the new world.

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot undo what you know or completely separate yourself from your expectations, even if you want to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break the established rules of television

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

Like nothing that has come before

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

Produced by people with quality aesthetic ancestry

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

Attracts a quality audience

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

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

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Succeeds against the odds after initial struggles

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

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

Large ensemble cast allowing for multiple plot lines

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

It has memory

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

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Defies genre classification

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

Tends to be literary

A book adaptation.

Social and cultural criticisms

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

Tends toward the controversial

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

Aspires toward realism

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

Recognized and appreciated by critics, with awards and critical acclaim

Well! Yes, more and more. #Goldenglobes

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

 

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

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Another expert:

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

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

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Amateur critics

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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One of my treasured memes created by ConnieBV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Review in Three Acts: Outlander 3:06 “A. Malcolm”

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Exposition

Prior to the Print Shop episode “A. Malcolm”, Outlander executive producer/writer Matthew B. Roberts, commented on Twitter that he just might go into hiding after the episode aired.

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At the time, I laughed because I understood where he was coming from.  The Print Shop sits on hallowed ground inside the book fan’s hearts.  I laughed at his tweet, but a part of me shivered.  I’ve seen the cast, producers, directors, designers, and the writers eviscerated by fans on Social Media. I was actually concerned for him! And, I wondered, if in part, his decision to take on writing the Print Shop scenes was based on taking one for the team! On the other hand, he got to write the Print Shop.  What a wonderful challenge.  I’ve enjoyed Matt’s adaptations in the past and I know that he “gets” how important this story and its characters are to the fans.  I trust him.  However, as much I trust him, it is difficult for us book fans to objectively watch the show. There is no way to undo what you already know.  There is no way you can completely eliminate how you related to the material or circumvent what you placed importance on. We each read the words on the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, but how we each interpreted them is as varied as we are. I have my own personal version of the print shop, as does every other book fan.

Through the last two seasons, I have come to understand and accept what it means to adapt a book for the screen. Fortunately, for me, I have enough life experience and a mind open enough to recognize when my expectations are unreasonable or just plain unrealistic. After reflection, I usually understand that it is impossible for another person to be able to tell this story putting emphasis on just those things I find important because for them it is a slightly or vastly different story than mine.  Impossible, a part of me knows it is impossible, yet every week I tune in to see how well “they” told “my” story.  I watch with an eye looking for my favorite scenes and an ear waiting to hear the next line of my favorite dialogue. This week was no exception. I know this is a tough concept, but “They” aren’t rewriting Diana’s books, they are telling a visual episodic story based on her books. That is reality. It might be reality, but Matt understands that the reality that he is writing an adaptation won’t mean shite to some fans this week.  They will want to see their version of the print shop on that screen.

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Imagine my surprise when after viewing “A. Malcolm” for the first time, I was the fan looking for matches and straw.

This week it was difficult for me to deal with reality and let go of the strong expectations I had placed on this adaptation. The material in this episode was just too close to my heart and it felt personal. It took me several viewings to see what story I was actually being shown. So, this is the story of my watching episode 3.06 written mostly in real-time from my immediate reactions… if I sound bit beside myself…I was…DON’T JUDGE ME UNTIL THE END…pretty please with sugar on top?

Act I: With Bated Breath

I’m trying to get a grip because after watching A. MALCOLM, Outlander’s Print Shop scene for the first time, I’m in shock and not in a good way.  I have never been so disappointed in an episode in the entire time I have been watching the series. Where is the power, the need?  I’m struggling to understand why the focus went where it went especially when it should have been so clear!!!

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited.
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life “RESURRECTED” from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender!

Instead…

  1. tender exchange with a madam
  2. Geordie
  3. eyeglasses
  4. business as usual
  5. background boobs
  6. lesser dialogue
  7. just less…

I have defended this show and these writers because I could always see a rationale for what and why they did what they did and if I didn’t understand, I was patient because I knew they had a long-range vision for the story and I would know the reason eventually.  But THIS moment will never come again and there isn’t enough time to rectify it because “that amount of time doesn’t exist”.

ACT II: Taking Off the Book Goggles

It has taken me hours to calm down.  I was nothing short of angry, disillusioned, and sad. I gave myself a little time to reflect and realized that I have felt this way before, maybe not to this degree, but I had felt this before. I forgot to take off my book goggles. So, I’m going in again and going to try to look at what is actually on the screen and not pay attention to the scenes in my head.

Easier said than done.

Alright, so the emotional staring, touching, and shaking was there. Just not in the amount that I expected.  I yearned for that “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook in each others arms with “longing of twenty years” streaming down their faces.  What I got was way too short and left me feeling as dissatisfied as finding out there would be no J and C carved into their flesh, a fight in the abbey with Jamie’s demons or my patiently waiting for that final night that was meant to tide them over for a lifetime and finding it had been turned into a quickie.  And, I still can’t even find the words to express my disappointment over the scene with Bree’s pictures. In my mind and heart, it is the most poignant scene in the entire book if not the series. He has just seen Bree…Claire is there….there is closure…his sacrifice wasn’t in vain…so, his reaction is to tell Claire he has another kid? …sigh…WTH?

Claire bothers me. Has her time with Frank beaten her down this much?  Has all her self-confidence been eroded?  I don’t recognize this mouse. What the hell is THIS Claire feeling?  I want the Claire who puts her chin up and goes after what she wants. Feeling scared and a bit insecure is one thing, but if she was that frightened and sure he had made a life without her, why did she make the decision to go? I want to see that she has “…the devil’s own courage.”

Okay, I felt the scene in the brothel was very well done. Walking through that parlor, hearing the noises through the walls increased the anxiety and doubts for both of them. They have had no time to really talk and it was a great way to show us Claire is worried that Jamie is too different and Jamie worried he is too changed. I felt a lot of key dialogue was kept here and like the idea that they spent time talking over dinner, filling in details about their lives apart and seducing each other with hands that break bread and mouthes that burst grapes. It was condensed and I realize that was needed, but I’m still grieving over the lost scenes in the print shop. Because, without them this beautiful sex scene just doesn’t have the same depth of meaning. Those folks who have been waiting for sex between these two will be satisfied, but I wanted no doubt left that these two have burned with a need for each other that went beyond lust. This sex should be the final piece in the puzzle that brings them all the way home to each other.

ACT III: When Living in the Boonies is a Boon

And, sometimes the universe intervenes.  I watched it a third time on my computer. My internet is so slow that it was buffering about every 30 seconds. It forced me to slow down and really look. What I saw in between the buffers was mesmerizing.

I teared up.

How could I have missed so much?  Was I so invested in MY story that I couldn’t see THE story being told?  I was transferring my expectations onto this episode and missed all the nuance. The power and need I longed for was there, but made all the more powerful for the carefully tender way it was presented. I thought there wasn’t any chemistry between these two actors? What a laugh. I’m not sure my husband of 41+ years and I are more in tune with each other than these two. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this episode, so let me revisit my first points again…

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited. 
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is resurrected from the dead. What I saw this time was the wonder. Claire reaching out to touch him, but stopping herself, but then having to reassure herself that he is there in the flesh. The catch in her voice when she tells him she thought he was dead. Jamie staring and whispering her name reaching out for her. 
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been resurrected from the dead.  Jamie’s words about seeing her smiling with her hair curling about her face were some of the most heartbreakingly intimate lines I’ve ever seen delivered. “But, you never touched me”, and she says, “I can touch you now”.  It seems as if the world should stop, but it still turns, life goes on despite what has just happened. Instead of angels tears, we got spilled ale and wet pants and a gentle bit of comic relief that reminds us that this whole situation is bizarre.  Jamie forgot she was still his wife until Claire poses the question with her heart and her hope in her eyes. They have been apart a lifetime. We see the conflicting emotions on his face and the audience knows something is wrong. We see Claire follow him to the back room and look around at his world, the life he has made without her and we feel her fear that she will see something that will dash all her hopes. She walks as if she is unsure of her footing, doesn’t know what to do with her hands or what to do next, but her smiles say it all.  She cannot hold them back, but they are tremulous. Their eyes are quick to tears and their voices thick with all their suppressed emotion. They are strangers with familiar faces. A beloved memory become flesh. 
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life resurrected from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender.  He tries to hold it together, but is overwhelmed, closes his eyes and asks for her name.  When he hears it, he takes in a breath as if he is breathing her to life. She has a name. He has a child named Brianna. We see a tender moment when he remembers their first-born Faith and we know he has never forgotten. Claire is moved by their shared grief and we recognize with her the depth with which this man loves. I still miss him slowly falling apart in her arms allowing himself to finally express the weight of all that has happened, but what I saw instead was moving. What I once saw as an odd reaction to seeing Brianna’s pictures now makes more sense. He has another child he has lost. He shares Willie with Claire. He shares, his shame, guilt, sorrow, and joy with …Claire, the only person with whom he can share such a thing because she is his home, his sanctuary, the only place where he need not “guard his words or hide his feelings”. Claire will love Willie because he is Jamie’s. We start to see the unconditional love and trust that still exists between them. Moment by moment, word by word, we see them draw closer. 

What we got instead was the best thing I never knew I needed…

  1. We got to see a tender dance between two people trying to find each other again that felt believable.
  2. We got to see that despite his “unsavory” occupation and living in a “kittle hoosie”, Jamie has maintained his values and beliefs; he is concerned she left Frank to be with him and even though it hurts he wants to know if she was loved, shocked she would think him a customer of the Madam, guilty over Geneva, continues to take care of his responsibilities even when Claire is suddenly there because people depend on him, and he still fights for justice, this time with words. He is still the man she loved at his core.
  3. We saw a woman on the edge of no return. She really was afraid because she really had risked it all. She had no plan B. She was vulnerable, anxiously looking for proof, for evidence that she wasn’t wrong and …found it.  “What was once true is true again”. It has always been forever for him. He has loved no one but her.
  4. We saw two starving people make love and revel in the miracle of what it was between them that they could not name, but was still there. As predicted, Jamie “breaks through” the layers of deprivation and defense and then they delight in each other, slowly exploring and letting their bodies express what it means to each to be together again.
  5. We got to believe in love.

Denouement: Where the Author Ties It All Together

The show cannot win, it is literally impossible for them to please everyone. And, so they only have one choice, to do what they think best tells the story and hope that it plays well on the screen. If my personal investment in and reaction to this episode is any indication, “A. Malcolm” might generate some feelings and maybe Matthew B. Roberts, was right to believe he needs to go into hiding! Not because he didn’t do a good job, but because of the books in our heads. He might have wanted to show my “slobber knocker” and “gently fell to pieces” moments, but for whatever reason it didn’t work or maybe they just decided to go a different way.  Either way, I had to let go and just watch what story I was being told not the one I thought I should be told. At this point, it is hard for me to believe I could have ever been upset. It is a beautiful story, beautifully told. I tried to think of an image that would encapsulate this episode and what came to mind was Jamie and Claire, as a red rose bud with petals tightly layered, a thing of potential beauty.  Moment by moment, word by word, touch by touch, their souls are nourished and in the end…they bloom. The episode addressed important emotional beats and once again walked that fine line between honoring the source material and staying true to themselves and the story they are telling. Our beloved books will always be there and we can visit our print shops anytime we want, but I’m hoping that other fans who forgot to take off their book goggles like me will have the faith to take them off and watch this print shop twice or thrice. It is everything the Print Shop was meant to be and more.

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P.S. I know I haven’t said much, other’s have and done much better than I could have, but how wonderful were the costumes and sets?! They continue to add so much to my understanding of these characters and this story. The neckcloth is bringing sexy back! And, the thought Terry put into Claire making her own outfit!  I’m so grateful for what she shares with fans. The research Jon Gary must have done to give us the print shop! It all feels so real and has to impact these performances! What a quality production, so detailed and lovingly created.  And, the new characters?! I’m pretty sure Geordie is every sarcastic passive aggressive person I’ve ever worked with! LOL!  Young Ian and Fergus…how perfectly perfect they are …sigh…makes me excited for the future.

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!

 

They really will need couple’s therapy…A look ahead to Outlander’s “Of Things Lost”

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I opened my Twitter feed the other day and saw someone had wished a fellow fan a happy birthday with one of those Outlander memes featuring Jamie.  I smiled because it was impossible not to!  The meme was of Jamie smiling shyly at Claire when she brought him lunch at the stable.  His megawatt boyish charm is blinding! I thought to myself, “well, there was a simpler time”.  Then I chuckled because I’m not sure Jamie has ever had a “simpler” time. He and Job seem to be brothers from another mother.  Yes, he was an outlaw and yes, he has had the skin flayed off his back, but he still seemed so young, fresh, unaltered by what had happened to him.

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I found myself still thinking about that meme today.  I found myself thinking about the evolution of these characters and how necessary, however heartbreaking, it was for us to see the time between the stones and the reunion.  Once again, I find myself having my understanding of the story deepened by seeing it told on a screen.

They are not the same people who said goodbye at those stones.

This man

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has become

 

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this man

This scene in “All Debts Paid” was for me the culmination of all that has gone before. This is a man sick at heart.  Much of what was happening here was related to Black Jack’s abuse and I’m sure Jamie is deeply resentful that he has been made to feel those feelings, but there was more.

I read a comment by Sam Heughan that there was sadness there in that moment.  I definitely felt that.  We saw Jamie smiling over a remembered taste, playing chess by a warm fire, enjoying camaraderie with another man. Basically, we see him participating in something that smacks of normalcy, able if only a short while to be no one, but himself.  We see him trusting. When Lord John asked about his wife you can see Jamie struggle with the decision to talk about her and then he consciously lay aside his glass and spoke her name…

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and then…it is all taken away with a touch.  He can have nothing.  Even this small moment is taken from him.

Despite all that happens to him, Jamie manages to survive and retain his core beliefs and values.  I know it is flippant and hurtful to suggest that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  It is one of the ways we continue to re victimize the abused to suggest that suffering trauma is somehow character building.  But, Jamie does go on and overcomes and in some ways, becomes a better man because of his experiences.  Unfortunately, Jamie probably knows more about himself than most of us ever will.  On the other side of his life experiences, Jamie emerges a sadder, but wiser man.  He is different.  He doesn’t expect to find his life filled with happiness and is resigned to that reality.  But, he is also no longer afraid for himself and that gives him the freedom to speak power to truth.  “There isn’t anything you can do to me that hasn’t already been done”, Jamie tells John Grey.   I don’t think he has been afraid of anything for a very long time.  His personal losses have been too great.  Oh, he still cares about those around him, but those things that were his and his alone, “Lord that she might be safe, she and the child”…are gone.  We are about to witness the beginnings of Jamie finding his new normal, a life less than he wants, but more than he had.

The same can be said of Claire.  Her years of living a life she no longer wanted, trying and failing at her marriage, becoming a doctor, the guilt she feels about Frank, never being able to openly grieve, keeping secrets, knowing she will never again love and be loved the way she was with Jamie has taken its toll.  You can see her struggle to navigate living and interacting in a life she feels a stranger in.  She throws herself into service to others, but her heart and mind are never fully there.  A part of who she is has been cut off, deliberately.  Unlike Jamie, she does have something to live for and love, but even that relationship is strained because there is always a part of herself that she can never share.

This woman

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has become

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this woman

 

The next part of the “Voyage” back to love

Another chapter in their journey of learning to live without their hearts has come to an end.  Claire is now no longer trapped inside a marriage of convenience and Jamie is no longer behind the walls of a prison.  The next episode of Outlander, “Of Things Lost”, will give us a glimpse into the next chapter in this voyage, we will see how each learns to say goodbye and accept their new reality.  And, finally, move on to create a new life resigned to their loss. I suspect we will see each continue to think of and long for each other, but I also suspect we will see this longing change to a tempered melancholy.

Luckily for us all, a reunion of these two lost souls will happen and not a moment too soon!  I don’t think I could take much more! We will see Claire struggle even with the choice to look for Jamie, and risk getting hurt again. And, the choice to leave Bree for what she has to believe is forever?  Unfathomable.  Jamie, on the other hand, has NO idea what is about to walk through that print shop door.  The reunion will be amazing.  Our couple has longed for each other for over twenty years.  A dream is about to come true.  What once was lost has been found.  That moment when they see each other and know it to be true will be so emotional that I’m pretty sure I will sob.  I’m too invested in these characters not to.  The show and the actors have done an excellent job of letting us see how empty and lonely Jamie and Claire are without each other.  But,… the shock will fade and they will perforce begin to forge a new life together…with the people they are now.  Twenty will change a person and I’m sure they will have some struggles in getting back to the people they were when they were together and I’m thinking that will be bittersweet to watch unfold.  That they will fight for each other and fight with each other, I have no doubt.  They are soul mates, their other’s half, meant to be.  But, I’m thinking Josh Horowitz might be right, they probably really will need couples therapy!  Go ahead and click on the picture…you know you want to!

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Hang on guys it’ll be worth it in the end!

 

 

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.