And, the layers come off… Outlander 3.11 “Uncharted”

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Outlander on Starz  took us on a voyage across the seas and into uncharted territory this week.  The show has also provided my maiden voyage into fandom and it has been a trip filled with treasure troves of unique opportunities to learn about film-making. Terry Dresbach, the costume designer for the show, has been very accessible to fans who are genuinely interested in what she does and how she does it.  She has been open to questions and very generous in sharing the thoughts and the work that goes into creating for the show.  Because of Terry’s generosity, I’ve learned that costume designing is about supporting the story and helping to develop the characters.  I’ve learned that costume designing isn’t about parading pretty clothes across the screen, unless that is what the story warrants.   I have learned that costuming is storytelling.  And, this week, Terry once again proved she is a great storyteller.

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I’m constantly amazed at fans who aren’t willing to give the story time to develop or wait to see the costumes in context.  Terry often takes a lot of flack for PR pictures or magazine photo shoots that show the characters in costumes ahead of airing or styled for the shoot.  If you hung around social media this season, you couldn’t have helped but notice that there was a kerfuffle over Claire’s non-period blouse and a scandal over what shall forever be know in Outlander lore as “Beltgate”.  The now infamous “Batsuit” has had its share of critics.  Terry’s choice to have Claire make her own dress was a departure from the books and one given much consideration and deliberation.  She thought about the story and Claire’s place in it.  Terry asked herself what she would she do if she was traveling back in time for a second time.  What would Claire do to prepare herself for circumstances, difficulties, and needs that she could anticipate having.  The result of that thought process was a suit made of raincoats with secret pockets.  The suit was a wonderful mixture of available modern materials made to look as period appropriate as Claire could manage.  Her period inappropriate blouse was deliberate.  It was a nod to the story and Claire’s character.  She wore a blouse she borrowed from the daughter she was leaving behind.  She was wearing a reminder of her daughter on her skin.  I can imagine that for awhile the clothing even smelled like Brianna.  I am called back to Jamie sniffing Claire’s arasaid at the stones in the Culloden flashback.  Brilliant, but the thought that went into that garment doesn’t stop at utility and sentimentality, it becomes a metaphor for Claire’s personal journey.

Terry’s design told us Claire’s story layer by layer.

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The Claire at the beginning of the season is a Claire who has repressed feelings and a Claire who has deliberately disconnected parts of herself, especially those parts that she closely associates with Jamie like her sexuality.  She has wrapped herself in her work and her identity has been shaped by her identity as a healer.  She has closed herself off to protect herself.  The Claire we see travel back through the stones is buttoned up and covered in tailored layers and fitted stays.  As the story progresses and we see Claire forced to come to terms with her reality, we see her lose her layers metaphorically and physically until finally, we see her completely herself unencumbered.  We finally see Claire, her hair loose and dressed only in her shift, at ease with herself, confident and rejoicing in her sexuality with her Jamie.  The suit has served her and the story well as we watched it become an integral part of Claire’s survival and her shedding of her layers.  The choices Terry made in context of the story are pure genius.  The thought that she put into that costume more than enhanced the story it was an essential part of helping us understand Claire and her journey back to her authentic self.  As Claire sheds her layers of protection she reveals the strong unique and beautiful woman we hoped was still there underneath.

I would love to say that the rest of this episode was as wonderful as Terry’s costuming, but…I can’t.

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Why did Claire jump off that ship…oh yeah…

I can see why Diana Gabaldon said Outlander episode 3.11 “Uncharted” was one of her favorites this season.  It was full of scenes right from the book.  It pains me to say this because I know how hard these folks work and how much love goes into this production, but I wasn’t quite as impressed.  It wasn’t because there weren’t some delightful scenes because there were delightful scenes.  It would be hard not to love Jamie giving Fergus his name, the wedding, a pot smoking priest, and turtle time. Hang on to your rafts made out of barrels, but I think they needed to throw away the book this week.  I love this show, but this week, I loved it less.  Having said that let me explain where I think things went wrong.  They ran up against some uncharted territory.   They tried to adapt Voyager.  We all knew it was going to be hard and wondered how the hell they were they going to be able to do it.  The answer is not easily.  If you have to have your “Laurel and Hardy” comment on the ludicrousness of the improbability of your plot then…maybe you need a different plot! LOL!  I know it is story about time travel and the whole thing is crazy, I know that they want to honor fan expectations and wishes, but I want them to tell the best story they can and I’m not sure the source material helped them do that this week.  I think they struggled to wrestle this monster of a story arc into some kind of logical shape…sigh…they can’t win, LOL.

Please understand this is just my own personal opinion, but I think in the pressure to fit it all in they lost what held it all together.  They struggled to advance the relationship at the core of our story, Jamie and Claire. I get why Claire felt the need to get off that ship and the show did a better job of showing that her plan had a chance of success when we could actually see civilization on the shore.  She lets the current take her to town, she is able to get on the next ship outta there and somehow intercepts Jamie before the Artemis gets him and then we have time for the Jamaica story line.  But, instead of that we have Claire wandering an island.  My husband, a non book reader, asked “How is she going to get to Jamie if it takes her days to wander this island?”  Good question.  By the time she makes it to the Father’s hacienda, she is in no shape to continue her journey.  I think the time Claire spends struggling to get to Jamie was meant to show us her devotion and help her shed those final layers, and there were some moments between Claire and the father that remind us of Claire’s sacrifice with Brianna and the truth of her need of Jamie, but it still fell short of the epiphany I was hoping for.  I’m still waiting for the “Jamie is the key” voice over!

After learning the father’s story, getting called a “hoor” one more time and talking to the coconut, Claire believes she is back in pursuit of her goal, to get to a ship and find Jamie, but instead she thinks Jamie may have been shipwrecked just down the hill… to the right, to the right! In the show’s defense, it didn’t seem so improbable when I was reading the story.  The words “delightfully coincidental ” come to mind instead.  I think it is the flow that feels off.  It felt like the scenes book fans wanted to see were plugged in. Instead of a plot that advances the characters’ growth and the story’s goal we got a series of events all loosely held together by Claire’s desperate need to get to Jamie.  It felt formulaic. Claire pockets a mirror because she is so vain? She has a premonition she might need a mirror? The scene of Jamie running off the boat and to Claire made me wince and laugh out loud.  I’d have been waiting at the shore when the boat came in and probably sunk to my knees in relief. It felt horribly melodramatic and then…nothing.  We don’t hear any of the convo that needed to happen between the two. “I still can’t believe you jumped off that ship” was delivered with such casualness that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been accompanied by a knee slap.  I thought a scene like the one by the river in “The Reckoning” was warranted.  They needed a private moment. Everything is delivered like an exposition and very anticlimactic.

Why are they on that ship in the first place…oh yeah…

gotta get to Ian and all the stuff that happens in Jamaica …keep your hands and feet inside the ride and hold on to your remote this is gonna go all rollercoaster on us.

What has been left unresolved…oh yeah…

their relationship.  Maybe I am completely wrong here, but when is the convo going to happen?  When is Claire going to tell us or Jamie that she made the right choice?  I know the writers have said that actions speak louder than words, and Claire is notoriously bad at expressing her feelings (which makes when she does that more powerful), and Claire’s efforts to save the man she loves are heroic.  The tender snuggly moments at the wedding boded well and I loved the father’s blessing, but I think at some point Jamie and the viewers deserve to be reassured that she “just can’t live without you James Fraser”.   And then again, maybe, I need to wait until they are done telling the story!

 

 

 

 

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It’s a long way down to where they started… a reflection on Outlander 3.10 “Heaven and Earth”

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In my review of Outlander 3.06 “A. Malcolm”, I wrote about having expectations of the print shop reunion.  I jokingly said I missed the “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook with the longing of twenty years streaming down their faces. I got over my missing scene because after I calmed my book-loving self down, I realized what the show had given me was practically perfect in every way. After watching 3.10 “Heaven and Earth”, written by newcomer Luke Schelhaus and directed by David Moore, I thought of my missing “slobber knocker” scene again.  I thought about why it had been important to me and decided it was because it was a visceral reminder of the need Jamie and Claire have of each other.  True to form, the show gave me what I was missing, they just didn’t give it to me as I expected.  This week they gave me that need and the somewhat frightening reality of what that kind of need can do to people.

I have written about why we needed to see the 20 years apart between these two in order to understand the reunion.  I also wrote about the period of transition I thought we were going to see after the reunion.  The show has taken pains to let us see that though our couple’s memories of each other remained frozen in time, they were not.  They both had lives and they are both changed by the time they were apart.  Claire’s fear that she would find the man she left changed came true and she is certainly not the same woman who left Jamie 20 years before.  It has been more difficult than any of us could possibly have imagined.  I believe they are at the core the same people they each fell in love with, but 20 years of wearing masks, suppressing feelings, and doing what you need to do to survive have covered those cores in layers of protection.  It is a long way down to where they started and I’m not sure how long or what it will take to get them both back there, but I think we saw part of that journey in this episode.

 

Confined and Compartmentalized

I’ll admit that I watched and re watched and re re watched the initial hold scene between Jamie and Fergus. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. It seemed out of character for Jamie to be so callous and manipulative (and, I saw today that Diana agrees).  It wasn’t a very flattering look for a “king of men”.  I kept watching trying to figure out what exactly the writers were trying to show us.  Then it hit me.  I’d been there.  I’d been Jamie stuck in a cell and powerless to protect someone I desperately loved.  Without going in to too much detail, last December I found myself sitting in an ER with a loved one, powerless to protect them or effect change and angry, very angry.  I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make it different, but there was absolutely nothing I could do and my anger grew to rage.  I understood Jamie attacking Fergus unfairly.  I recognized his displaced anger because I had displaced my own.  I took my frustration out on someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I truly think I lost my mind for a bit or a least control of my emotions.  I was being irrational and unfair, but I couldn’t stop myself. With my personal experience on my mind, I watched the scene one more time.

Jamie Confined

I think we are seeing Jamie’s past pain resurface.  Claire being taken from him has brought him to a dark place, I think we see Jamie as close to madness as we have ever seen him.  When he realizes his wife has been kidnapped and the captain is complicit, he reacts violently and as a result is thrown into the hold. Just before he is pushed down into the cell, we see him desperately look to the Porpoise, as it puts distance between him and Claire.  He is once again confined, “I’m well acquainted with the inside of a cell.”  I couldn’t help, but give this statement more meaning than the literal.  Jamie has spent the better part of 20 years without personal agency.  He has been confined in more ways than one.  His being once again behind bars has to be bringing it all back, the loss of Claire and the desolate life he lived without her.  The thought of losing her again is now made more cruel by her miraculous return and their tenuous bond.  He truly can’t lose her again.  He is desperate.

It isn’t just the plague that concerns him, “There is more than disease on that ship there are 300… men.”  A very timely statement given the current atmosphere and the idea that women are never safe from molestation.  As we see what transpires on the Porpoise, we know that Jamie’s fears are not unfounded.  Claire is in danger from men.  He needs to get to her. He needs to protect her.  He needs her. But, he is locked up and powerless to reach her… once again.

In the books, Jamie confesses to Claire that he had not been afraid for a very long time and that with her return he began to feel fear again because he had something to lose once more. I think the show has shown us that reality, in Ardsmuir Jamie tells John Grey to do what he will, there is nothing they can do to him that hasn’t been done.  He had lost everything that truly mattered to him.  And, even though he cares for his men, his family, Willie, Murtaugh, and Fergus, it is his loss of Claire that changed him forever. He is not complete without her and having found her once more he, “…would do more than lie to keep her.” He would in fact move Heaven and Earth and risk Hell, as easily as the prick of a pin.  I can remember sitting in that emergency room my thoughts spinning from one possibility to another, looking for a way out, looking for a way to fix things, looking for a way out of my fear.  Jamie is doing the same. His fear and desperation have made him irrational, he is grasping at straws and ignoring the facts of their situation as described by Fergus.  When Fergus doesn’t buy into Jamie’s irrational and desperate plans, Jamie’s impotent fear and anger become displaced and Fergus becomes the unfortunate target.  In the mist of his despair and displaced anger, Jamie says he was right to deny his blessing on the marriage to Marsali because Fergus doesn’t know what love is.  Saying this out loud brings a last desperate idea to mind.  He will do more than lie to keep Claire, he will in fact, use Fergus’ love for Marsali.  The darkness he has inhabited to survive without Claire has made this possible, but we all cringe at the cruelty and manipulation and we know it will not come without a cost to his relationship with Fergus.

Luckily for Jamie, he has good will on account.  He has lived a life of honor, been there for those God has given him charge of, and sacrificed his own interest for others over and over. “You can trust me to keep my word” says Jamie,”I have always trusted you Milord” says a newly maimed Fergus.  Fergus is in the unique position of knowing what Claire means to Jamie and what he was like after losing her.  And, after hearing the sailors discussing Jamie, himself and Marsali, he realizes what it is Jamie is feeling.  He tells Jamie he will not bring him the keys and place them all at risk.  He tells Jamie he is willing to move Heaven and Earth to keep the woman he loves safe even if that means he cannot marry her.  Marsali understands that it is not only love of her, but love of Jamie that makes Fergus tell him, no.  He will move Heaven and Earth to keep Jamie safe, as well as Marsali.  And, God, I love Marsali for telling him if he doesn’t understand that then he “doesn’t deserve” to be set loose.  They love him and so, they do what is best for him and risk his anger and…forgive him because sometimes we forgive those we love even when they do not deserve it.  Fergus is indeed like Jamie and proves himself to be his son by his noble actions.  To Jamie’s credit, he gets it right in the end and gives them his blessing.

Claire Compartmentalized

Despite my need to see Jamie forgiven and he and Claire together forever and all well between them, Claire stubbornly refuses to reassure Jamie that all is well and that she is there forever.  The specter of those 20 years apart continues to haunt them. There have been moments where she seems to come close and she has never denied her love of him, but just when it seems they are finding a way back to each other something conspires to keep them apart.  I loved the moment in the “Doldrums” when Jamie realizes that he must let Claire be who she has become and lets her go despite his need to keep her by his side. He takes her into the hall, but when he sees her standing there with her arms crossed, a look of challenge on her face, he resigns himself to the reality that she will go whether he says no or not. He touches their wedding ring as he says he has taken an oath or two himself and taken them all seriously.  He is devoted to her and trying hard to be the man she needs him to be. Through out this episode we are reminded that a word given is a bond, Claire, Jamie, Fergus, the Captain all are bound by their oath.

On the English ship, we see Claire slip into her familiar role as surgeon.  She knows exactly who she is when she is healing the sick and it serves to emphasis how unsure she is when she is not.  Watching her deal with the plague was a glorious celebration of the woman who is Claire and I have to wonder if anyone could have done this job besides her.  Her sense of self and her authority in the face of so many men was honed in another time when women in medicine were just as rare and looked upon with suspicion.  Having her abilities, knowledge, authority questioned by men is nothing new.  She handles what ever they throw her way with the aplomb of a woman who has been there and done that.  There is no doubt who is in charge. I loved the irony of authority being given to the youth of the captain and Mr. Pound.  I believe the unusual circumstances that led a third lieutenant to become captain and a 14 year.old to be addressed as sir were actually in her favor.  The band of unlikely save the day.

Claire has never been as open with her feelings as Jamie nor as eloquent in expressing them, but we can judge how she feels through her actions.  She does share with us that she is feeling the impact of being separated from Jamie.  It has been less than a day and fifty miles only that separates her from him, but she tells us it feels like 200 years.  Talking about leaving Jamie and actually leaving him seem to be two totally different things. Despite her misgivings and confusion there is no doubt that she loves him and that the only comfort she finds in him not being with her is that he is safe from the typhoid.  However, she seems to be able to function without him in a way he cannot without her and Elias discovers her secret for us.  She tells him there is a word for what she does, compartmentalizing.  She has learned how to put different parts of her life away into compartments and keep her feelings separate, so that she can do her work.  We know that she has been doing this with her feelings for Jamie for 20 years and we wonder when and what it will take to make her take those feelings out of the boxes she has stored them in and incorporate them into who she is now.  How long will it be before Claire can become whole once more?

We may have seen Claire come close to understanding her need of Jamie when she reads the captain’s log and discovers that Jamie has been found out and is in danger.  We see what she is willing to do to keep him safe.  We see Claire lie to those who trust her, threaten to cry rape, and even commit murder.  I had no doubt that if Claire had believed cutting Thompkins’ throat would have kept Jamie safe, she would have done it, despite her oath to do no harm.  As she listened in horror to the story of the body being found in the cask of Creme de Menthe, the charges against her husband, and the unlikelihood that the captain could be convinced to not write a report once they reach Jamaica, she understands that she may lose him again.  Her eyes filling with tears were powerful evidence that she cannot lose him again and so, she jumps into the bottomless sea for Jamie’s sake. Nice metaphor that.

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No matter what happens around us

The fact that these two were meant to be together is never in doubt for us, but we have to be patient while they peel back the layers and find the way down to where they began.  They need to know that whatever it is between them that they cannot name is powerful enough to keep them together despite anything that goes on around them.  Maybe the very real possibility that they may lose each other again will be enough to make them both accept they are mated for life and fated to be together through time and past all understanding.

Some final thoughts

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Elias: How impressive was Albie Marber as Elias Pound ? ! The character was a delight and I loved his chemistry with Claire.  In the time he was on-screen, Albie managed to make us care about his Elias and as result, mourn his loss. I felt his concern and love for his shipmates and his respect for Claire. His delight in her telling him he was an impressive young man was heartwarming and his cheeky smile at her cursing adorable. His concern for his men touched me, “Feel better Mr. Owens”.  May we all have children of such strength and integrity.  I couldn’t help, but think of the difference between the young men in this episode and the extended period of adolescence in our culture.  It spoke to the fact that children will rise to what is expected of them and that we do our children no favors by taking the opportunity for self-sufficiency away from them.  We need to allow our kids to make choices and mistakes.  Mr. Pound was an impressive young man and if I was his mother, I too would be proud.

Typhoid Fever: Claire’s process in dealing with the plague was fascinating and gruesomely realistic.  The effort that goes into this production continues to stagger.  When Claire looked around the deck, I felt as overwhelmed as she must have been.  I’ve of course never been around something like this, but it felt pretty real.  I was pleased to see there was more to the story than just dealing with the disease.  They did a wonderful job of letting us see the human side of such an event and I couldn’t help, but be reminded of all of the natural and unnatural disasters we have had this year and the stories of humanity that came out of those.  We saw the frailness and preciousness of life, and the real grief over the loss of fellow human beings.  The burials and Lord’s prayer were moving, in the end, we are all the same.  We all want to be loved, cared for and respected.

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Swabbing: On a lighter note, my husband’s favorite uncle retired from the Navy and had a little dachshund he named Swabbie.  I thought Swabbie was the name given to most lower ranked sailors because they “swabbed” the decks.  I got puppy fever one day and came home with two little dachshunds, I promptly named the little brown one Swabbie in an effort to endear my husband to my suprise purchase.  After this episode, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at my dog in the same way again.  Swabbie doesn’t sound so cute anymore!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

–Diana
www.dianagabaldon.com

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

A 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