A Rare Love…A reflection on Outlander 3.5 ” Freedom and Whisky”

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I was prepared to hate that shop bell.  I had convinced myself that the episode would end with Claire opening that door and ringing that bell.  I was anticipating an exasperating cliff hanger.  We got a cliffhanger alright, but to my delight it wasn’t the one I was expecting.  Instead of groaning out loud my frustration as the credits rolled by, I found myself sharing Claire’s intake of breath at the sound of a voice recognizably Jamie’s.  I walked with her across that shop speechless, unable to answer his inquiry.  I held my breath as she came closer to the opening between the shop and the press room and saw Jamie’s back bent over the machine.  I could feel her tearful joy as she struggled to find words to speak and let him know she was there.  I watched his reaction as his body stiffened at the sound of her voice and as he turned with an almost comical look of suspicion.  His narrowed eyes suddenly flew wide and as she tearfully smiled down on him, the reality overwhelmed and he fell, “rather gracefully for a large man”.  Claire’s concerned face was the most satisfying cliffhanger moment I’ve ever experienced.  I was tearfully smiling. Bravo. Well done.

It’s the well done part that I want to reflect on.  I told a fellow fan after last week’s episode that I feel like I’m saying the same things over and over.  Everything has been so well done, so lovingly created, that I have found very little to “discuss”!  My critique hasn’t been very critical and I’m starting to see what those early reviewers saw in these first six episodes.

..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

…not just as a filler of the Game of Thrones void, but as an emotionally rich, powerful piece of storytelling in its own right…Vulture

.Then there is a bit more, an important addition that scales the Golden Globe nominated series to a new level. By that bit more, I mean that Balfe and Heughan are stronger than ever this year, as is the excellent Menzies… Deadline

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

……Over the past two seasons of the show, it’s become obvious that they’ve all worked hard to make the emotional bonds among their characters meaningful and even a little unpredictable…Variety

It has been well acted, beautifully produced, and intelligently…written.

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They do know what they’re doing

I see pictures of the fans with the cast from one “con” or another and even though it would be nice to meet them, the folks I really want to meet are the writers!  I’m fascinated.  I’m intrigued by how they are able to walk that fine line of honoring the source material and creating the show’s own independent personality and identity.  This week they fleshed out a story arc from the book about Claire’s decision to leave Brianna and go back through the stones. In my opinion, this time in Boston was a needed bridge between Claire’s future and her past.  Starz hashtag for the episode #impossiblechoices couldn’t have been more apt.  I had always wondered how Claire could possibly have come to terms with leaving her daughter.  I couldn’t imagine how she could do it!.  They had to make this okay for us.  They had to find a way to communicate why this woman would risk everything to go back. I needed to see how she arrived at that decision. What I didn’t expect to see was a bigger truth about the nature of love.

True love is rare. 

 

The Voyage to the Print Shop

I am fascinated with how the writers were able to get us to that print shop scene.  They have been drawing us a map to a true love’s reunion for the last three seasons.

Season 1

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Claire spends the first half of the season fighting her attraction to Jamie.  We are able to see that she is in danger of loving him.  Jamie asks her if what he feels when he lies with her is normal between a man and a woman.  Claire shakes her head and admits that, “No”, what there is between them is different.  We watched them grow closer and then there is the aftermath of Wentworth. In the Abbey, Jamie tries to send her away, but Claire won’t let him.  She tells him and us that the only way she can make sense of all that has happened to her is to believe it is because they are meant to be together and that she will take him anyway she can get him.

 

Season 2

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In season 2, we see them trying to find a way back to each other.  We see them fighting for their relationship.  They always do find a way back to each other despite all that happens and stands in their way.  When he takes her to the stones the second time, there is no doubt that their love is rare, mutual and passionate, “You are my home” insists Claire.  “And you mine, but this home is lost”, Jamie promises that not even death will separate them, “I will find you”. Claire’s anguished cries when she knows herself to be back in the future are heart-breaking.

 

Season 3

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This season they have led us to the print shop door by showing us how empty Jamie and Claire’s lives are without each other, but they have also shown us how rare their love really is.  Jamie is constantly reminded of Claire.  Her memories color everything for him.  He is a shell of himself without her.  We see both Jamie and Claire live with the knowledge that they have lost a love they will never experience again.  Everyone around them, Bree, Joe, Roger, Jenny, Ian, John. know that they have lived a “half-life” without their hearts.  When Frank asks if Claire could have forgotten Jamie with time she tells him, “That amount of time doesn’t exists”.  Jamie lights a candle for Claire because he remembers her …always.  Their love is mutual and rare.  Claire loved Frank, but whatever she felt for him paled in comparison to what she feels for Jamie.When Geneva asks Jamie what is the difference between love and what she feels, Jamie tells her that love is when you give your heart and soul to someone and they give theirs in return.  It is the “in return” part that this episode highlights.

The scene that brought this all in to focus for me was the scene with Sandy the mistress and Claire.  At first, I was incensed for Claire. This woman had no real idea what things were like between Frank and Claire and why they stay together.  Claire wasn’t trying to have it all!  Claire wasn’t being selfish.  But, then I rewound the scene.

“You should have let him go. … All those years you never wanted him, but you wouldn’t give him up. He told me he stayed with you for Brianna, but I knew a part of him was still in love with you and always would be no matter how much you broke his heart. I had to live with that because he was the love of my life and I wanted him even if it meant I had to share him with you.  I could have made him happy, but you were selfish you wanted it all.  So, you lived a lie and made Frank and Brianna live it too. You threw away 20 years with him and I would give anything just to have one more day.

Sandy just encapsulated the desperate state of most relationships.  She was talking about her relationship with Frank, but ironically, she could have been talking about Frank’s relationship with Claire. “… but I knew a part of him was still in love with you and always would be no matter how much you broke his heart. I had to live with that because he was the love of my life and I wanted him even if it meant I had to share him with you.”  Frank knew Claire still loved Jamie, but he lived with it because she was the love of his life.  He too believed he could make her happy.  They lived a lie alright, but it wasn’t because Claire wouldn’t let Frank go. The lie they lived was because Frank loved Claire more than she loved him and he couldn’t let go. Sandy lived in discreet shadows because she loved Frank more than he loved her and she couldn’t let go.  I wonder how many people hang on to relationships where the love isn’t mutual. How many settle for less.  I believe to love and be loved equally is the exception not the rule.

Frank and Claire’s marriage didn’t work because there wasn’t enough time for her to ever forget her love of Jamie and his love of her. Sandy also reminded me that it has been twenty years.  Twenty sad and lonely years, pining for the person with whom Claire can be her true self.  What wouldn’t any of us give for just one more day with the love of our lives?  What would Claire be willing to give or risk for the chance of one more day with Jamie?

Brianna reminds her mother that if what she felt for Jamie was that powerful, she must trust that he feels the same.  She wants her mother to be happy and she knows without Jamie that will never happen.  She reassured Claire that she is her mother’s daughter and that she will be fine.  “He gave me to you. Now, I must give you back to him”. The decision to leave is made because the chance to love and be loved equally and passionately is the greatest reward any of us could hope to obtain and the only thing worth the risk.

The answer to Claire’s question is “no” to have gone once is not enough because to experience true love is worth the voyage again.  Claire decides she will once again travel beyond the moon to find and live in a rare and mutual love.

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“My marriage to Jamie had been for me like the turning of a great key, each small turn setting in the intricate fall of tumblers within me. Bree had been able to turn that key as well, edging closer to the unlocking of the door of myself. But the final turn of the lock was frozen–until I had walked into the print shop in Edinburgh, and the mechanism had sprung free with a final, decisive click.”
― Diana GabaldonVoyager

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you go home?… a look ahead to Outlander 3.5 “Freedom and Whiskey”

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I’m continually amazed that I haven’t run out of things to write about Outlander.  Every time I think I’ve gone to the well one time too many times something will happen…in real life that reminds me of something that happened in the books.  And, once again, I am inspired to write.  I marvel at the depth of the characters and story Diana Gabaldon has written.  I wonder what she thinks of those of us who ponder and mine her stories and find,…well, what do we find?  I find inspiration and truth, truth about life and relationships. The TV adaptation of Diana’s story has turned out to be no less engaging and just as full of inspiration and truths.  Last week, we saw truths about life moving on after loss, how life doesn’t always go as planned, “…you will hear no in this world…’, how life can hand us unexpected blessings, the miracle of mercy, and self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

This week our characters are all heading “home”.  As a reader of the books, I know what is awaiting Jamie at Lalleybroch, but what the show has done so wonderfully is help me flesh out some of the things the book only touches on.  In many instances, they have deepened and enriched my understanding of this story and its characters.  This next episode appears to be attempting to do just that.  The clip I saw of Claire and Bree looks to fill in one of those gaps in the book and more deeply develop my understanding of some of the main characters, specifically Claire and Bree.

In the clip, Bree has decided to quit Harvard.  She says she needs a break.  She said her mother isn’t listening, a daughter’s lament worldwide.  She says she has tried to be her old self.  It isn’t working.  I hope that there is more to this story arc because right now Claire is looking pretty self-absorbed. Really?  She didn’t know this news might affect her daughter long-term? Think about what has happened to Bree.  She recently discovered that she has been lied to her entire life about who she is.  The father she loved isn’t her “real” father.  He lied to her too.  And, who her real father is is too unbelievable to be true and yet,… she saw Gellis go through the stones.  Of course her life would feel foreign to her, she isn’t who she thought she was, no one is who she thought they were.  She might understand her mother better, but that doesn’t take away the years that came before. The home she had and the person she was no longer exist.  Brianna can’t go home.

Jamie is finally going home to Scotland to the place that has always been his dream.  The place where he had hoped to live a quiet life.  He is happy to be going home to the bosom of his family, but it has been a long while and life there has gone on without him.  He is not the same man who left, so many years ago.  In some ways, he is better.  He has moved on and made peace with the loss of Claire, but he also comes home with more loss. Most importantly, he is coming home to a place where he has no real purpose.  The estate is no longer his and has been run for years without him.  Claire isn’t there.  William isn’t there.  I’m sure they will be over joyed to have him home a free man for the first time in decades.  But, I suspect the novelty of freedom will soon fade and he will soon face a predicament similar to Brianna’s …who is he…where is his place?  Will he feel at home or will he feel himself to be an Outlander.  Can Jamie go home?

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We know that Claire will soon be given information that will change the course of her life and I am so glad that it appears the show will let us see her grapple with that decision.  It isn’t a small one.  I’ve said several times since this season started that her choice to go through the stones was monumental.  She truly doesn’t know what is on the other side.

…Jamie and Claire have not had the luxury of time together to change and grow.  They have become the people they are now because of the things that happened to them while they were apart.  And, it occurred to me that each may be longing for someone who no longer exists.  Scary stuff.  It makes that trip through the stones an even bigger gamble than I first thought and that ringing shop bell sounds a bit more like a harbinger of uncertainty than of hope…

…What could possibly make Claire take that risk, along with traveling through the stones and leaving her daughter for what she has to believe is forever?  I have to wonder if she truly had a plan B.  What was she going to do if she found him married or recognizably altered from the man she knew?  Would she have stayed just to be near him committed to loving him however she could? Does she love him that much? It feels very much like blind faith to me. Faith that the man she loved and still loves would be there.  Despite whatever he had to endure, she has to believe he will still be her Jamie. My own life experience tells me she is probably right, but it was still a hell of a risk…

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The decision to go will have to be made very quickly, there will a small moment of time in which they believe they know where Jamie will be.  I’m so glad the show has decided to let us see Claire and Bree make that decision together.  I want to hear what a conversation like that could possibly sound like.  The regrets and grief she would have about leaving her daughter would be real and her doubts and fears about what she’ll find in that print shop would be real.  I have no doubt that Caitriona will play them all to perfection.  Have I said how amazing the performances have been this season? Yes? Well, it bears worth repeating.  They have moved me.

Going to post my poem again because I can and because I’m feeling Claire’s insecurity and fear, but lord I’m excited to see it all play out…..

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by Beth Wesson

Happy Birthday Cait…A poem for you

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Caitriona’s Smile

 

I think it is her smile

when I see her in a moment of

naturalness

I then see the woman under the patina of fame

a natural girl quick to laughter

and hugs

yeah, it’s all there in her smile

 

by Beth Wesson

 

I Know What Lord John Grey is thinking… a look ahead to Outlander 3.3 “All Debts Paid”

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The clip I can’t stop watching!

I keep re watching the clip from Outlander’s next episode “All Debts Paid”.  I find myself mesmerized by Lord John Grey.  I have to laugh at myself because I know these characters so well that I’m all up in what’s going on in Lord John’s head when he sees Jamie.  I’m already interpreting his facial expressions and body language!  This is one of the big issues we book fans turn TV series fans have to deal with…knowing too much! My knowing what Lord John is thinking is actually kind of ironic because I’m pretty sure this actor, David Berry, did not know as much about his character at this point in filming the story. I believe I heard him say he got the role one day and was on set the next. An actors’ life is a strange one to be sure. So, how did he manage to embody that character so quickly?  It’s gotta be magic or Kismet or some other kind of cosmic luck or a casting department that are clairvoyant geniuses! Seriously, their track record deserves its own olympics!  I KNOW Cait and Sam had no real idea just what kind of plum roles they had landed.  I think I remember reading about Sam telling a director/friend that he had just gotten something he thought might be a big deal. I’m pretty sure he knows now that it was.  However, that whole first season, I continued to wonder if they truly knew what great characters they were going to get to play.  Did they know they were going to get to play characters that struggled with real issues, made hard choices, lived with integrity, and evolved?  Do they know it just keeps getting better?

We fans have had eight books to get to know these characters intimately.  In Lord John’s case, Diana felt he was interesting enough to give him his own book series. His character arc of being a gay man in the 1700’s is interesting.  What would life be like for a gay man in a time when knowledge of your sexual orientation could get you killed and ruin the lives of everyone you care about?  Some would say not so different than now. Lord John is definitely one of my favorite characters. I’ve written before that I think he might actually rival Jamie in honor, integrity and loyalty and Claire for being caring and kind.

Recently, I read some research on the topic of loneliness.  I thought about that research this week after watching Outlander ‘s last episode “Surrender”.  Jamie, Claire, and Frank were all suffering from loneliness. The research I read suggested that loneliness was monstrous in its effects on the people who suffer it, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  They went on to distinguish what is true loneliness vs transient feelings of being lonely.  They concluded that the cause of loneliness was a want of intimacy.  I believe one of the deeper looks that Diana gives us in the life of Lord John Grey is also one of loneliness and a want of intimacy.

Psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, an early researcher in the topic of loneliness, claimed that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She suggested that we often guiltly avoid the lonely because it “touches on our own possibility of loneliness”.  The research, I read, suggests that there is a high frequency of loneliness in those who feel other, different, those that feel discriminated against. When the HIV epidemic was at its zenith, scientists found they were able to predict which patients would die sooner.  It wasn’t those who lacked family or support systems, as they expected.  It was those who were still in the closet.  The inability to be yourself and be accepted for who you are can have devastating consequences.  Lord John Grey is a man who must be in the closet and that takes its toll. When you are forced to present yourself as someone other than who you are every word must be watched, every look practiced, every touch measured, and every piece of information about yourself policed. A person forced to stay in the closet lives in constant fear of exposure or blackmail.  Intimacy and even friendships can, and at times must, be limited. Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John gives a look into the loneliness these sharp limits can create.

outlander-staffel3-john-grey.jpgWhen these two men, Lord John and Jamie Fraser, meet again in Ardsmuir Prison they are both lonely.  They are both in positions that require them to keep themselves somewhat separate from others.  Lord John is the governor of the prison and as such, holds a position of authority that makes few his equal. Jamie finds himself in a similar predicament. The men in the prison look to him as their leader and chief. As governor and as MacDubh, both men hold a position that naturally places them in a higher “social” station if you will.

Jamie has spent the years since he lost Claire in some type of “prison”.  Ardsmuir has provided him with more company than he has had in years and believe or not more freedom.  He is no longer being hunted, he is no longer a danger to those he cares about, but he is still without the intimacy that would relieve some of his loneliness. The prisoners give him something to care for and about, but they look to him as a leader more than friend and treat him with deference.  He is different and apart from them. John’s prison is the secret he must keep.  John has family and friends, but other than his occasional lover, he has no one with whom he can be himself.  He is different and apart from everyone even his own brother.  John has to measure every word he speaks and hide his true self from everyone.  He craves intimacy.

Despite, the difference in their stations and the odd circumstances under which they interact, it is not surprising that they would strike up a tenuous friendship. Had they met under different circumstances, they would have found they had a lot in common. John and Jamie are both learned men who share a love of books and philosophy. They are both soldiers who have had the responsibility of leadership. They get each other’s sense of humor. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of those they love.  And, I think as men of integrity, they recognize the honor in the other.

Lord John has the misfortune to fall in love with Jamie, 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 his reaction to John’s revealing of his desires is nothing short of violent and complete rejection. The fact that they are able to be friends after all, and in the end, speaks volumes about both men. I can’t help but believe that Lord John’s friendship became the most important of Jamie’s life and his for John, as well. I believe that each was able to help the other heal.

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

John challenged Jamie’s beliefs about love and friendship and made him a more tolerant and empathtic man and Jamie gave John the acceptance he craved and a purpose of sorts, someone worthy to love.

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

I am so looking forward to watching this relationship develop, watch the show handle another difficult subject with sensitivity, and wonder at the power of acceptance and love.

 

 

 

 

Phantom hearts and Purgatory…a reflection on Outlander 3.02 “Surrender”

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This move to Sunday night programming is throwing a definite wrench into my reflection and writing.  My real life is full of grandchildren’s athletic events, activities, and my own school work. There is rarely a day that I don’t have something to attend or something to grade.  My old Outlander viewing/writing schedule found me watching the show either lying in bed at midnight with headphones and an iPad or viewing early Saturday morning with two mini doxies on my lap and sipping several cups of coffee with cream. I would write a few notes and watch again and write a few more notes.  I would then watch the show on the big screen Saturday night with my husband, let my thoughts percolate until Sunday morning,  spend a few hours writing, revising, and proofreading and then hit the publish button around noon. Soon, I would find myself frantically correcting the proofreading errors I saw after I hit publish…sigh.

My time to write and reflect has been shortened by half and I am finding myself jealous of those folks who have access to “screeners” and time to sit with their thoughts. These episodes are so full of meaning, I could write pages.  I could write about how young men continue to dream of the glory of war and guns that become as rare and as mythical as unicorns. I could write of how hard life is and how quickly hardship can age and change us all. I could write of the cost of war and the destruction of the highland way of life, of sacrifice, and family.  I need time to think and so, I’m hoping my readers will wait until I find my focus and voice.

Jamie Grieves

Yesterday, I opened Twitter to find someone tweeting about episode 3.2 , “It looks like Jamie is missing Claire a lot more than she misses him”.  I quickly shut my feed, not wanting to be influenced before I had a chance to form my own opinions, but now I think that tweet might have help me find my focus…grief. Did Jamie miss Claire more?

Ian put it perfectly when he explained how a missing hand can still hurt even when it is no longer there and that, he reminded Jamie, was just a hand…”Claire was your heart”. The overwhelming sadness I felt watching Sam Heughan’s portrayal of Jamie cannot be overstated. His portrait of a man who has lost everything, including his heart, was visceral. I felt him.  I felt his absolute and abject loneliness. I felt his pain.  His heart has been ripped from his chest and yet, he lives. I marked his body language. He reminded me of a dog that has been beaten too many times. It was if he expected the next blow to happen at any moment and as a result, shies away from as much human interaction as possible. He walks as if he always has the deadweight of the deer on his shoulders.  He is never without the heavy weight of burden and grief. He is awkward and slow to respond and you wondered how often he ever spoke. It was almost as if he had to go find his words. He is emotionally exhausted.

It is true that the mind and soul can only take so much before they shut down and It appears as if he has stopped caring.  He just gives a slight nod when he hears Ian has been arrested, again, and Fergus cannot provoke him to a reaction even when he calls him a coward.  As I watched, I kept thinking it isn’t that he doesn’t feel, it’s that he feels too much.  He can’t escape his loss, it is all around him. Lallybroch has always been his dream, his place of refuge, but even it is now a reminder of all that has been lost. He cannot even live in the open without causing them all danger and so literally and figuratively exists in shadow. He has no where he can go, he has lost both of his homes, Lallybroch and…Claire.

Claire Grieves

“My mother. My mother lives in another world.”  says Bree.

Our glass faced Claire cannot completely hide her feelings even when she tries.  And,…she tries. If Jamie feels too much in his grief, it seems Claire feels too little. Jamie wakes from Culloden to another nightmare, living instead of dying.  Claire didn’t have to wake up to the nightmare of living without Jamie.  She has been forced from the beginning to walk into hers.  She believes that Jamie died at Culloden and believes herself to be a widow. As a result, her grief is different. Her grief is about trying to find a new normal, a new self without Jamie.  She suppresses and moves on because she promised Jamie she would. She suppresses and moves on because she promised Frank she would.  She suppresses and moves on because she has a daughter who needs a mother.  She can’t afford to lose herself in her grief.  She has to let go of the past because she has a future. Feelings, however, cannot stay suppressed inside the skin forever.  Caitriona Balfe’s subtle performance let’s us see how hard she is trying. Her feelings come to the surface and escape through a crack in her facade in the form of a flinch, a comment, a look of longing, displaced anger, and emotional distance.  Claire needs to be in the present, but she cannot truly come back from the past.  She too is trying to find a way to live without her heart and the phantom hurts and burns and keeps her up at night.

Filling in the Cracks With What Mortar Comes Handy

Jamie and Claire are only human. Jamie so closely relates sex to love that he cannot bring himself to seek the comfort of laying with anyone but Claire. Jamie longs for tenderness, for the gentleness of a woman’s touch, for intimacy to take away the sting of his loneliness. Mary’s acknowledgement of his love for Claire and her offer of something less than, but something they both need to keep them whole, is just too sweet to resist.  And, so he closes his eyes and faces his need with a single tear. Claire misses her husband…Jamie. She misses how he completes her and makes her feel alive and whole. And, so in her loneliness she reaches for her husband Frank, across their bed, closes her eyes and faces her need.

Finding a New Normal

They can never truly be the same again, but come to the realization that they have to find a way to live. For Jamie, it took the loss of Fergus’ hand to wake him up to the realization that he does have something to live for and for the first time in six years, he looks to the future and takes action.  He is trying to find a new normal, a way to live without his heart.  He has so few options, but he takes advantage of the one he has been given by the redcoats. He sends himself to prison to provide for Lallybroch and his family.  He keeps them safe the only way he can by exchanging one type of prison for another.  In truth, I had the feeling that this is Jamie’s purgatory for the sins he believes he has earned and he is enduring, “even 200 years” without Claire, until he can find her again in death.  In the book, Jamie understands that his life will hold little happiness and he accepts that is his lot.

Claire suffers her own type of purgatory, living in neither heaven nor hell, in her marriage of convenience. Like Jamie, she has surrendered to her circumstances.  She has accepted the things she cannot change and has come to the realization, that for her, finding a new normal must include the element of living for more than just herself.

“I once believed I was whole. But, the man I loved was Jamie.  I was part of something bigger than myself”.

She misses her calling as a healer and making a difference.  We see them both surrender to a new future, a new normal, and watch them move away from the past to the sound of bagpipes playing Scotland the Brave.

Foreshadowing

I was moved by both Jamie’s and Claire’s visions of each other. I felt sorry for them both, he for seeing her and realizing once again that she is gone, and her for her loneliness, for the intimacy she craves.  But, both scenes left me with a vague sense of unease.  Their images of each other have been frozen in time. Jamie sees Claire in her 1700’s clothing with her wee herb basket on her arm, smiling gently at him, all womanly grace and beauty.  The reality of who Claire is becoming is more warrior than woman.  She is going into battle and it will change her.  Claire’s vision of Jamie glowing in firelight, forever young and virile and smiling, is a far cry from the feral bedraggled and imprisoned man he continues to be.  Jamie is no longer the warrior he once was and struggles to find agency. His struggles will affect who he becomes, as well.  I am once again afraid that when they do finally reunite, they may not find the man and woman they once loved.  But, I trust in the power of love to overcome and who Jamie and Claire are when they are together…something bigger than themselves.

 

 

 

When Art Imitates Life and that is a Wonder…Outlander 3.1

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There were a lot of good articles written this week by reviewers who have seen the first few episodes of Outlander.  There was a lot of great insight, but I keep going back to the article written by Maureen Ryan of Vanity Fair  .  The article on the surface seems to be a report of a conversation had between the actors about the show and their roles in it, but I believe her article, in truth, goes to the heart of what is making this show successful.  She speaks to the care and committment given to honoring the source material and its characters.  She speaks to the commitment to their craft of all involved and their desire  to get this thing right.

Heughan: What’s funny is Jamie actually never wanted to be involved in any of this. He never wanted to be part of the Jacobites, he just wanted an easy life. He wanted to be with his wife. It’s just fate, and history has just forced him to this point. When we meet him again [when he’s older], he’s printing seditious material. He is a rebel again. He just wanted to go home to Lallybroch. But history has forced him into that situation.

Menzies: He’s not driven by ego, is he?

Heughan: No.

I found myself astonished that she would end the article in this way.  I know she has been doing this for a while, but wow, what a great choice.  I looked up from reading and said , “She gets it.  They all get it.”  I’ve always maintained that it is possible to find truths about life, what it means to be in a relationship, what it means to love, in the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books.  I recognized myself and others in her stories.  If the sci-fi, time travel situation Claire finds herself in seems like fantasy, the feelings don’t.  I would often find myself nodding my head in recognition while reading.  It is perhaps why these novels remain one of my favorites and I re-read and never tire of what I find there.  Like the actors in Mo Ryan’s article, I find I can analyze these characters and their motivations because they are written with such depth.  Yes, Jamie isn’t motivated by ego.  Yes, Claire has a calling.  Yes, Frank is a tragic character whose only real fault is that he isn’t Jamie.  And, yes, it isn’t about ego for these actors, either, it is about their craft.  And, yes, because of the talent and commitment of all involved, it looks like the TV version of this story is only getting stronger and will have the chance to represent on-screen the reasons I love these characters and what they have to tell us about…us.

The Battle Joined

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I heard that the first 10 minutes of episode 3.1 were breath-taking. I didn’t realize they meant that literally.  I had to stop watching, catch my breath and gather my emotions. I was shaking.  I guess I knew that it might be difficult to watch this episode, but they have handled difficult subjects so well, I found myself anxious to watch how they handled the battle of Culloden.  This morning I find myself glad I did and reflective about what I saw. Because, despite its fantasy wrapping there is truth about real life in Outlander.

I am reflective, in part, because we just buried my dear mother in law yesterday.  Through no fault of her own my mother in law had to struggle to find a new path forward.  Her life and happiness had been compromised by circumstances beyond her control. Mental illness had robbed her of everything she valued; her work, her marriage, her children.  When we knew the moment was near, the hospital sent a pastor to the room.  He gathered us around the bed and asked us to tell him about our mother.  An overwhelming sadness came over me for her difficult life, for her struggle to find a purpose, a grip on her reality through all of her illness and loss. We all struggled to find anything positive to say and it broke my heart.  So, naturally, when I watched Jamie, Rupert, Claire, and Frank trying to deal with the sad circumstances they had been handed, I once again found myself nodding my head in recognition of life’s sometimes sad truths. The lives Jamie, Claire and Frank now face remind me in a very real and emotional way of our mother’s difficult and disappointing life. Sometimes life is unfair.  Sometimes life is cruel.  Sometimes we have no choice but to move forward even when we cannot see a way ahead or even want to go. Outlander’s imitation of life is a wonder.

One of the things I have learned is that this is no longer just Diana Gabaldon’s story, it is also Ron Moore’s.  I know that Ron is a student of human nature and that fact was very evident in this particular episode. In the guise of a Sci-Fi fantasy, Ron Moore wrote a wonderful episode that told us these truths about life, moving on and more.

Black Jack and Jamie

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Viewers of the series will recognize that this is a moment Jamie had longed for, the chance to kill Black Jack Randall.  He had desired nothing that was happening on that battlefield, but this…he wants.  We all want this.  We all want Jamie to get the revenge he deserves, longs for and needs. The look on his face while he waits for Jack to see him is almost triumphant.  But, somewhere in the battle the feeling changes. One of the reviewers this week suggested that this death dance was “homoerotic”.  I’m not sure I agree. It is hard to understand, but in an a way more than physical, Jamie knows more about Jack and Jack knows more about Jamie than perhaps anyone else in either of their lives. That last embrace on the battle field felt more intimate than erotic.  The horrible bond between them is finally broken and yet, it felt fitting that these two men should fall as entwined in death as they were in life.  The irony that, in the end, that very entanglement probably saved Jamie’s life, is not lost on me.

Claire and Frank

 

I always admired the fact that in Diana’s Gabaldon’s books there were a lot of “ahas” and connections. Things discussed on the first pages of the series come into play in later books and the same can be said of most things she adds.  It is one of the joys of delving deeper into her stories. I love and continue to love how this show also makes connections with its past episodes.  They give us lots of “aha” visual moments.  The scenes between Frank and Claire reminded me so much of the early moments in Jamie and Claire’s marriage.  Claire is in a relationship that she doesn’t really want, but has agreed to be in out of necessity.  She is trying her best to make the best of a bad situation, but her suppressed feelings keep rising to the surface.  When Jamie tried to touch her intimately at the table after they first make love, she flinched.  She flinched because she still loves Frank and at this moment, his touch feels too intimate, and I would argue that she is already afraid of her feelings for Jamie.

Claire is once again in a relationship she doesn’t really want.  When Frank puts his hand on Claire’s shoulder in the kitchen you can watch her try.  She tolerates this touch because she knows she should, but when he reaches for the stomach that carries Jamie’s child?  She flinches.  Unfortunately, for them both, this time Claire is not conflicted by her feelings.  Her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.

 

I thought the fight that followed also echoed the fight between Jamie and Claire at the river, the “good fuck” convo, Claire’s chin up in defiance, the moment they both realize that they have perhaps gone too far, and Frank, in his own way, making her realize she was tearing his guts out.  At the river, Claire goes to Jamie and asks his forgiveness.  In Boston, we see Claire begin to go to Frank and then stop.  She cannot bring herself to come all the way back to him, she cannot come back from the past. The show has already done a wonderful job of showing us that sometimes wanting something to be true and working hard to make it happen isn’t enough.

 

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“Where’d she get her red hair?”

Rupert Thomas Alexander Mackenzie

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Saying goodbye to Rupert was bittersweet.  In the end, his loyalty to his friends and clan, his pride in the face of his captors, and the dignity in his last moments spoke volumes about himself, the highlanders, and the senseless loss of lives.  When he spoke up, stood straight, and took charge of his last moments as best he could, I was proud.  Who would have thought that Rupert would become the leader Dougal could never quite be.  “I will not go to my grave hating you. God will judge us both and I trust in his mercy.”  The gift he gave Jamie and himself with these words was moving.  May we all choose love and trust in mercy.

Overall, this tale was told with sensitivity and creativity, the performances were stellar, the sets and costumes perfection, the battle joined was gruesome and yet moving, and I was left wondering how I was going to wait until next week.

After watching this episode, I understand a bit more about why actors and show runners might do what they do.  Sometimes, you get a chance to work on a project like Outlander.  Sometimes, in the guise of entertainment, you get to be part of something bigger than yourself.

 

A Review..of the Reviews…Droughtlander ends

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DJKMHDsUQAAemJO.jpgThose of you around since the beginning can remember the excitement we all felt about Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander finally being  put on a screen.  We had waited a long time for someone to come along with a “plan” that would do justice to her epic, hard to describe, genre-bending story.  We couldn’t wait for the world to see what we believed to be one of the best stories ever written.  We just knew people would fall in love with it as much as we had.  So, we speculated and discussed and hoped that Starz and Ron Moore and company would do it justice.  I can remember how excited we all were to read what others, non-book fans, critics, thought of the series.

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I’ll admit to being a bit invested in the show’s success and maybe not the most unbiased of reviewers of the reviews, but reading those first articles was a real eye-opener for me and other fans.  I learned a bit about how the critique game seems to work and about the biases that seem to be inherent in that field of endeavor.  We learned very quickly that the show had an image issue.  It was being dismissed because of it’s perceived subject matter and the fact that it was a show being marketed to women.  To quote my writer self of three plus years ago:

I find it very disturbing that in addition to disparaging middle-age, it seems being a woman disqualifies us as purveyors of what is worthy.  Really? Look around.  I believe that the world is full of …women… who work, pay taxes, run for office, educate, raise families, run charities, serve in the military, run and create businesses, heal and write.  And, us middle-age ones often have enough money to buy books AND movie channels! Not sure some folks understand that women are a force to be reckoned with!  But, take it from this middle-aged woman who tries to create a loving home for her family and at times is bored (not while reading Diana) some t.v. Execs and media moguls are about to find out!

The critics and entertainment writers for the most part seemed to latch on to each other’s perceptions and the same pop-culture cliques were bandied about and sprinkled through almost every article we read.  We repeatedly saw comparisons to Game of Thrones, insistence that this was bored housewife porn, and that it was romantic fluff not to be taken seriously and that it certainly wouldn’t be watched by men and therefore was doomed to failure.  We weren’t happy campers. Our battle cry was “Just wait you’ll see!” We KNEW why Starz bought Ron Moore’s pitch.  They recognized a “ripping good yarn” when they saw one.  Kudos to them for taking a gamble and not being afraid to produce a show targeted to a female audience.

I’m happy to say that the reviews got better as the seasons progressed and more and more folks have started to sit up and take notice of this show.  Men do watch by the way, but even if they didn’t, I would say that Starz has to be happy they took the risk.  Outlander is a great show and despite our occasional grumbling about what has been left in or out of the story or departures from the book, most fans are thrilled and proud of the production.  This season it appears our hopes for the show, its producers, directors, stars, writers, production/creative directors, their staff and crews have come true.  Me thinks “they” finally get it and Diana’s wonderful story and the loving produced production will finally get the attention and accolades they deserve.

I haven’t found a single negative review.

In fact, the praise as been nothing short of remarkable. Here are some of my favorite comments and some links to the articles.

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NPR

…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….

…Physical intimacy advances character development rather than checking a prestige-television boobs box. Claire and Jamie have a real relationship, and their connection is more than chemistry; it’s the work that goes into any couple’s emotional and sexual life…

…It’s a romance, but it’s not a fantasy. So go ahead — watch Outlander with pride. It’s more than a pretty face (and buttock)…

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2017/09/08/548990502/pop-culture-happy-hour-outlander?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

Vulture

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

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

EW

…Outlander remains a broad-minded entertainment, but what gets me the most hot is the romance — and how everything else the show does well makes the romance more ravishing.

…In season 3, Outlander, TV’s best romance, soars by making you fall in love with it all over again. A–

http://ew.com/tv/2017/09/07/outlander-season-3-ew-review/

Deadline

…Like The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones, Outlander often hits the target because of its brazen approach. Yet, to its credit and craftsmanship, in this latest chapter of Claire and Frank’s tale there is an empathetic and insightful touch the series previously only hinted at in its bodice-bursting passions. It’s a touch that makes Season 3 of Outlander something you’ll want to see this fall.

…Then there is a bit more, an important addition that scales the Golden Globe nominated series to a new level. By that bit more, I mean that Balfe and Heughan are stronger than ever this year, as is the excellent Menzies. I also mean (and Heughan fans hear me out) the doomed heart of the early part of this new season, which Moore has called transitional: the grinding reality of Claire’s loveless, faithless but child-rearing marriage to her first husband and Black Jack descendant Frank in the Boston of the mid-20th century.

http://deadline.com/2017/09/outlander-review-season-3-sam-heughan-caitriona-bafle-tobias-menzies-starz-video-1202163051/

Salon  (loved this)

…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.

…Romance tends to be dismissed as a soft genre. “Outlander” is anything but soft. Time and again it visits unspeakable cruelties on its hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), Claire’s great love in the 18th century, including in the second season finale, when Jamie virtuously sends Claire back to the 1940s and into the arms of her first husband, Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), who is waiting for her.

For all of the despair the narrative visits upon its characters, “Outlander” remains as seductive as ever, in part due to the dangled promise of the second season finale that its lovers would one day be reunited. Because of this, the story never sinks under any ballast of hopelessness, choosing instead to spend time allowing viewers to perceive the pangs of loss in order to sweeten the arrival of any uplift fate, or the show’s writers, deem fit to dispense.

http://www.salon.com/2017/09/06/outlander-in-the-third-season-alls-unfair-in-love-and-war/

Hollywood Reporter

This article interviewed the creators and cast and it confirmed for me that they get it too. They know these characters and the story and they care. This is a quote from writer executive producer Matt B. Roberts.

“What’s so interesting to me is that people always talk about the print shop scene, and really for me it’s the print shop episode,” she says with a smile. “[Writer] Matt Roberts did such a great job in giving fans, hopefully, what they want in trying to create his own story as well. For me, it’s just the whole episode I needed to get right, not just that moment. It’s not just one scene.”

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/outlander-season-3-preview-ron-moore-maril-davis-caitriona-balfe-tobias-menzies-1035596

Variety

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This article is written by Mo Ryan, one of my favorites, who always seems to be thoughtful and honest.

…Over the past two seasons of the show, it’s become obvious that they’ve all worked hard to make the emotional bonds among their characters meaningful and even a little unpredictable.

In this article, the actors discuss their characters and how they decided to “play” them.  While discussing Jamie, Tobias asserts:

Menzies: He’s not driven by ego, is he?

Heughan: No.

http://variety.com/2017/tv/features/outlander-season-three-sam-heughan-caitriona-balfe-tobias-menzies-interview-starz-120255065

Yeah, me thinks they all get it and I couldn’t be happier.