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

 

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

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

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

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

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

A Cage is a Cage

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

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

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

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

The Fly in the Ointment

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

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

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

You are a braw lad

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

This man

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has become

 

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this man

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

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

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

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

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

This woman

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has become

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this woman

 

The next part of the “Voyage” back to love

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

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

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

 

 

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

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by Beth Wesson

 

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

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

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Hard Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Character Development

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

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

This episode was full of poor devils.

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

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

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

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

Moving forward…

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

 

 

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.