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

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Exposition

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

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

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

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

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

Act I: With Bated Breath

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

Focus for the reunion

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

Instead…

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

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

ACT II: Taking Off the Book Goggles

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

Easier said than done.

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

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

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

ACT III: When Living in the Boonies is a Boon

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

I teared up.

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

Focus for the reunion

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

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

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

Denouement: Where the Author Ties It All Together

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

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

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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!

 

 

Spoilers for sure! Lord John… only because he was not born the right person…

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Season three of Outlander on Starz will introduce some of the book series most popular and beloved characters. Fans are excited to see John Bell play Jamie’s nephew Young Ian and Australian actor David Berry will be filling Lord John Grey’s fashionable shoes! I have to wonder if David had any real idea that he was about to play a character who was so interesting he inspired Diana Gabaldon to write a spin-off series of books .

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Because Diana is all about tweaking expectations, Lord John’s character is a unique individual who challenges our notions of what it means to be a man.  Diana has always described LJG as small and hard bodied with delicate features that include lips and eyelashes that would make any woman jealous.  I can see David Berry’s features fitting the bill, but I don’t believe he is as physically small as the character is described in the books. However, if I’ve learned anything from watching the show for the last two years, it’s that physically fitting the part isn’t as important as embodying the spirit of a character. Caitriona Balfe certainly didn’t fit the exact description of Claire in the book, but it is now tough for me to picture the Claire I had in my head because Cait has done such a great job of portraying the important parts of Claire’s personality.

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The scene at the trial where she won’t bear false witness and her coming to terms with the loss of Faith come to mind. Both moments represented things I much admired in Claire; her integrity, her ability to be pragmatic, and her honesty and they were portrayed to perfection.  Sam, Tobias, Grant, Graham, and many of the other actors were not exactly like the characters I had pictured in my head, but it hardly seems to matter now because for me the show has earned a separate, but interrelated identity.  I will still always have the books and that Jamie, Claire, and BJR and now, I also have the Jamie, Claire and BJR of the show.  As one of my readers put it, “I have a double helping of Outlander”.  I have found myself looking forward to seeing how things will be the same and different and whether I will like it or not.  Mostly, I’ve liked it and learned to appreciate the storytelling and the acting.

In some ways, I am sorry that they will not be able to use size as a part of John’s story. Diana used his smaller stature to bust stereotypes. He is small, but authoritative, beautiful, yet masculine, and the aggressor in most of his relationships.  He understands duty and while unashamed of his sexual preference, he is aware that if he is “found out” it would ruin the lives of those he loves and protects.  Please remember that it wasn’t that long ago that homosexuality was considered a disease.  Coming out in any time period isn’t an easy thing to do, let alone the 1700’s. Diana shows us how one gay man lived as honestly as he could while unable to show the world who is really was, heartbreaking and inspiring.

 

Slightly Different Reflections of the Same Truth

 

I loved this response of Diana’s to a reader on Twitter who expressed concern over changes from the book to the TV series.

image As Diana so eloquently stated, the show and books reflect the same truths. Storytelling is a lens through which we see it.  It’s something Diana does well. One of the reasons her novels have to come to mean so much to me is the truths I find revealed between those pages. The show is telling their version of her story of truths. They are telling us a story about what it means to be human, to persevere, make difficult choices and having to live with the consequences, to suffer loss, and to love…in all of it’s different shades of being.

So, I’ve been thinking of Lord John Grey and what truths the show and David Berry will get a chance to show us.

The Truths

Truth #1: Character has nothing to do with sexual orientation

Tom and Lorenzo, TV critics once wrote about Outlander and their feelings about the character Black Jack Randall.

…In other news, Black Jack Randall is clearly not entirely heterosexual. His face practically lit up at the sight of Jamie coming through his window and within seconds he asked him to a) take off his shirt, b)take turns raping his wife, and c) enjoy himself by watching Jack rape his wife. It’s all very sexually charged, and we suppose we can get offended by the idea of the evil raping gay character, but we’re willing to let this play out for a while. Jack is definitely in danger of becoming an unstoppable Terminator-like supervillain, though. We wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of a scaling back on the mustache-twirling.   http://tomandlorenzo.com/2015/04/outlander-the-reckoning/

Diana has gone on record saying that Black Jack is not gay.  She calls him an equal-opportunity sadist.  But, I know a lot of viewers like Tom and Lorenzo believe that he is gay.  I wrote an article about Tom and Lorenzo’s review and I remember saying I wanted to write to tell them one of the most beloved characters in the series was a gay man. I knew that the information based on my knowledge of the books wouldn’t really be appreciated or help them review the show as presented, but I so wanted to defend Ms. Gabaldon’s representation of gay men. Diana’s characters are so layered and well developed, I have often said that it is possible to talk about and analyze them as if they were real people. John Grey’s story is a compelling look at what life might have been like for a homosexual in the 1700’s when it was illegal to be gay.

In Lord John, Diana has created a man who rivals Jamie in integrity and that is saying quite a lot.  And, …he is as different from BJR as you could get!  Viewer’s of Outlander on Starz met Lord John Grey as a sixteen year old who snuck into the Jacobite’s camp and tried to slit the notorious highlander “Red Jamie’s” throat.  He was prepared to die rather than give information, but relented when he thought a woman’s (Clever Claire) honor was in jeopardy.  Jamie spared the young Lord’s life and so, the young soldier acknowledged the debt of honor with a promise to kill Jamie once the debt was met. Raised to believe that a man’s word is his bond and his actions a reflection of his worth, Lord John is a man that lives his life by a code of decency and honor.  

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Truth #2: Love is complicated and yet, simple

Ron Moore and company will get the chance to expand on the theme of unrequited love. I say expand because they have let us see the relationship between Frank and Claire.  I have always maintained that Frank’s biggest sin is simply that he wasn’t Jamie.  Through no fault of his own, (Claire always said that she loved him and tried hard to get back to him) Frank is unable to regain what he once had with Claire.  There is nothing he can do to regain her love.  Her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s and he isn’t Jamie.

Like Frank, Lord John Grey was simply not born the right person;

"Do you know," he said again, softly, addressing his hands, "what it is to love someone, and never- never!-be able to give them peace, or joy, or happiness."

He looked up then, eyes filled with pain. "To know that you cannot give them happiness, not through any fault of yours or theirs, but only because you were not born the right person for them?"

Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59

Lord John has had the misfortune to fall in love with a man who can never return his feelings.  Jamie has very real reasons for associating homosexuality with the abuse he suffered at the hands of BJR and could not, in my opinion and Claire’s and Bree’s , have a relationship with a man.  But, perhaps the greatest impediment for John is not his gender, but the fact that he just isn’t Claire.  Jamie’s heart is irrevocably Claire’s and John isn’t Claire.

Could you call a man who would never touch you- would recoil from the very thought of touching you- your lover? No. But at the same time, what would you call a man whose mind touched yours, whose prickly friendship was a gift, whose character, whose very existence, helped to define your own?

—-Lord John in Lord John and the Plague of Zombies

One of the most wonderful truths Diana’s Lord John teaches us is that love is a gift to be honored even if it is never returned in kind.  Lord John makes a conscious choice to love Jamie because to not love him would leave a hole in his soul.

"I hated him for as long as I could. But then I realized that loving him...that was part of me, and one of the best parts. It didn't matter that he couldn't love me, that had nothing to do with it. But if I could not forgive him, then I could not love him, and that part of me was gone. And I found eventually that I wanted it back."

Lord John in Drums of Autumn, Chapter 59 

One of the most character revealing conversations between the two men was over Jamie’s young son William. John had rightfully guessed William’s true parentage and came to Helwater to tell Jamie he would be marrying William’s Aunt Isobel. This will essentially make him the “orphaned” William’s step-father.  Jamie tells Claire that he tested LJG’s motives by offering him his body in exchange for John taking good care of William.  He assures her if Lord John had failed that test he would have cut his throat right there and then.

“Ye dinna want me, then?” 

Grey got to his feet, dusting the seat of his breeches. “I shall probably want you to the day I die,” he said matter-of-factly. “But tempted as I am—” He shook his head, brushing wet grass from his hands. 

“Do you really think that I would demand—or accept—any payment for such a service?” he asked. “Really, I should feel my honor most grossly insulted by that offer, save that I know the depth of feeling which prompted it.” 

“Aye, well,” Jamie muttered. “I didna mean to insult ye.”

Jamie & Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59


Lord John passed the test and Jamie tells Claire,

"He loved me, he said. And if I couldn't give him that in return-and he kent I couldn't-then he'd not take counterfeit for true coin."

He shook himself, hard, like a dog coming out of the water.

"No. A man who would say such a thing is not one who'd bugger a child for the sake of his father's bonny blue eyes, I'll tell you that for certain, Sassenach."-Jamie & Lord John in Voyager, Chapter 59

I can remember reading that scene and wishing my high school kids could understand what Lord John understood. You truly don’t want someone who doesn’t want you.  Don’t settle.  Don’t take counterfeit for true coin.

 

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The fact that they eventually become friends speaks volumes about both men.

There was not easiness between them any longer—but there was honesty. And that was a thing he had had—ever would have—with precious few men.---Lord John in The Scottish Prisoner, Chapter 18

I can’t help but believe that Lord John’s friendship became the most important of Jamie’s life.  On some level, it is not surprising that they would become friends. Had they met under different circumstances, they would have found they had a lot in common. John and Jamie are both learned men who share a love of books and philosophy. They are both soldiers who have had the responsibility of leadership. They get each other’s sense of humor. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of those they love.  And, I think as men of integrity, that they recognize the honor in the other.  John challenged Jamie’s beliefs about love and friendship and made him a more tolerant man and Jamie gave John a purpose of sorts and someone worthy to love. 

In fact, I think Claire saw John as a real competition for Jamie’s affection. In a scene in the cabin on Fraser’s Ridge, Claire is lying in bed pretending to sleep while John and Jamie play chess across the room. In true Claire fashion, she examines her feelings of animosity towards John and admits that she feels jealous of  Lord John’s relationship with Jamie. She can see what Jamie sees in Lord John and is a bit threatened by their connection over William. Leave it to Diana to make Claire’s only real competition a gay man.  John truly does understand Jamie, as only another man can.  I love this conversation between Brianna and Lord John that proves that point:

"I have never spoken to your father regarding Geneva, Ellesmere, or William himself--save to inform him of my marriage to Isobel and to assure him that I would fulfill my responsibilities as William's guardian to the best of my ability."
She set her foot on the stone, driving it into the soft sand, and stopped.
"You never said anything to him? What did he say to you?" she demanded.
"Nothing." He returned her stare.
"Why did you marry Isobel?"
He sighed, but there was no point in evasion.
"In order to take care of William."
The thick red brows nearly touched her hairline.
"So you got married, in spite of--I mean, you turned your whole life upside down, just to take care of Jamie Fraser's illegitimate son? And neither one of you ever talked about it?"
"No," he said, baffled. "Of course not."

From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 116

I believe Brianna’s response was…”men”. John loves Jamie and cares about those Jamie loves because that is what you do when you love someone.

Before you say this was unfair to John’s wife Isobel, remember this was a time of arranged marriages. Why not John?  He  cared about Isobel and William.  I could think of far worse situations and men for her to be married off to.  Can you say Ellesmere? I have always felt sorry that this wonderful man never found the love he deserved, but Diana isn’t done writing his story yet and I’m hopeful for him.

So complicated and yet, to choose to love makes everything simple.

I’m sure there are many more truths to be found in Lord John Grey’s story.  These are just two that meant a lot to me and I can’t wait to see how David Berry and the show choose to reflect them.  And, I hope Tom and Lorenzo watch to see the honorable and beloved Lord John Grey.

Spoilers: They tried to live without their hearts…Jamie and Claire the years apart

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imageAfter hearing the distressing noise, Lord John approaches the door thinking of perhaps going into the room to see if Jamie is alright.  He hears heavy breathing and realizes that Jamie has awakened from a bad dream. He overhears the big Scot talking to his lost wife, “Could I but lay my head in your lap, lass. Feel your hand on me, and sleep wi’ the scent of you in my bed”.  John knows he shouldn’t be hearing this extremely private conversation and tries to back away quietly. Before he gets away he hears Jamie sob and then whisper, his voice full of longing and pain, “Christ Sassenach, I need ye”.

Cue me, ragged intake of breath and leaky eyes.

I’ve been rereading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite of the Lord John books.  Last night, I reached the scene where Lord John Grey hears Jamie cry out as if he was having a nightmare. This is one of those scenes that causes me to take an involuntary sob. The characters have become so real to me that I feel invested in their lives and experience moments of crippling compassion when I read of their moments of distress or pain.  I feel what John feels and what Jamie feels and have to put the book down and take a moment to recover, laugh at my silliness, and curse and simultaneously love Diana for writing books and characters that can move me this much.  I’ve often wondered if Diana feels the kind of empathy I do when she writes. Does she have to take a break and recover, does she smile through her tears at the beauty of these poignant moments she has written?

Diana has written many moving scenes in her novels, but this particular scene gets me every. single. time.  I’m curious as to why this scene, in particular, makes me so…so…verklempt! Reading that scene and “overhearing” Jamie’s private moment with his vanished wife makes me feel like I’m right beside Lord John trying desperately to get away from that door. Like Lord John, I want to go into that room and offer Jamie comfort, but I know there is nothing I can offer that would comfort him.  With that realization, we can now think of nothing worse than Jamie knowing his private pain and moment of grieving was overheard and we are quietly careful as we move down the hall.

Loved Diana’s metaphor of John missing a step and coming down hard as he escapes detection. Hearing Jamie longing for his dead wife brought John back down to Earth hard. The heart wants what it wants, but John is a realist and no fool.  He knows this man will never be his. This man will never be his because his heart belongs to a woman and a ghost at that.

It’s Claire’s ghost that I find myself thinking about this morning and Jamie’s as well, the ghosts of their lost love. I think this scene affects me so much because it is one of those rare moments when we get to see what Jamie is thinking and feeling.  We can guess how lonely he has been without Claire, but this overheard private moment confirms it.  He is trying to live without his heart and having a tough time of it. He needs her. Time hasn’t cured this. A decade separates him from that moment on Craig Na Dun and yet, his need of her hasn’t lessened.  His grief feels raw to me.

I’ve also been thinking this morning about the print shop and how the TV series is going to get us there.  I know there has been some speculation because people can’t wait to see our couple back together.  They want to get to the “good stuff”.  I understand that is “good stuff” and I would love to see them stay as faithful to that scene in the book as possible, but the show has to think about viewers other than book fans. I am reminded of an article I read about adaptations and good story-telling.

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

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

“…even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…”, the truth is those moments at the print shop need to be earned.  They need the context of knowing what has come before.  It will not be enough to segue way from Claire’s realizing Jamie might still be alive to her going back through the stones. Viewers will need to know what life was like in the in-between.  And, whether we want to admit it or not, we book readers will too.  Those moments at the print shop are meaningful and moving because of what happened in those twenty years apart and who Jamie and Claire were without their hearts.  They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss.  In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Fergus, William, Jenny, Ian, and their children. They go on…they exist.  Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other.  Diana chose to tell Voyager in a mixture of present day with flashbacks to the past that slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion.  The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh.  We get glimpses of the deprived and lonely existence Jamie led.  We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience.

We will need to see what life was like for Claire. I know this isn’t a popular idea for many fans because it means more Frank.  But, to ignore what life was like for Claire would not serve the story well and lessen the impact and meaning of the print shop reunion. These glimpses of life with Frank are sprinkled throughout the story, but it makes sense to me that the show will need to rearrange things and tell the story more chronologically. What was life like for Claire?  She made a promise and I believe truly tried to make it work with Frank.  She did love him, but what ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. Frank believes they can make it work. He needs to make it work because he loves her, but her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.  As a result, what started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted convoluted mess.

One of the few looks Diana affords us of Claire’s life with Frank comes from her remembrance of the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do? What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?  When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.

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I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”

“Yes.”

He breathed heavily, almost a snort.

“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him.  damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly.  “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”

“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”

They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,

“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you?  Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”

“No.”….

Diana Gabaldon Voyager

The last straw had been reached for Frank, but it also served to let us see how impossible it has been for Claire to love anyone but Jamie and to live without him.  The show foreshadowed this with Breanna’s comments about her mother living in another world. She is present physically, but she left her heart in another time, another place. She is living a life she no longer wants, but tries for Bree’s sake.

The story will be best served by the show showing us how empty and difficult their lives were without the other. So, when the ‘voyage’ finally leads us back to the print shop, as viewers, we will be entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.

The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Her nervous look at her reflection in the shop window, his fainting dead away at her sudden appearance, their holding each other both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures?  My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear. And for Claire, loving and being loved by Jamie was like  “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

Lord knows, the sailing will never be smooth for these two, but at last they will be together and nothing else will matter.

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Yeah,…we need to see the years without their hearts.

 

“I’m the Laird. That’s me”….Jamie and Brian …Outlander Episode 12

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Sometimes when I watch Outlander on Starz, I get an epiphiany.  I’ve read the books… a lot…, but sometimes this visual version helps me understand something from the story better.  There are advantages to seeing emotions on an actual face.

Starz showed us a small scene with Jamie’s father Brian.  That particular scene in the hallway of Ft. William was all that I pictured when reading Outlander and more.  It was right after Brian had just had a session with Black Jack.

Let me repeat that.

BRIAN HAD JUST HAD A SESSION WITH BLACK JACK!

What that means to the story, I am only now truly coming to appreciate.  The panic I heard in Brian’s  voice, the earnest need to have a “moment” with his son written all over his face and the assurance that “whatever happens” he would be there for Jamie,  took on new meaning for me.  What must have happened in that session?! We can only imagine what Black Jack said, but most assuredly, what DID happen was Jamie’s father recognizing what sort of man held his son’s life in his hands.

I get the feeling that Brian knew there was no “way out” for his son.  The Captain was going to give Jamie 100 lashes upon 100 lashes and there was nothing he could do to stop it.  At the very least, Brian had to believe that Randall meant harm that would effect Jamie for the rest of his life; torture, imprisonment.  I believe Brian’s real fear was that his son would die a horrible death right in front of his eyes.  So, he left his “Braw Lad” the only things of value he could give him; his faith in God and his love.  How many times must Jamie have thought of that kiss over last four years…heart-breaking.

In the books, Brian’s character and back story are revealed when Jamie tells Claire the stories of his own childhood. Here is what I know of Brian Fraser:

  • He is a fair man
  • He is a loyal man
  • He is a wise man
  • He is a man of faith
  • He values education
  • He respects women
  • He is a leader
  • He is a family man
  • He has a wry sense of humor
  • He Is a man of honor
  • He is a man of integrity

And…he wants to be a better man than his own father and…he is.  Jamie was lucky to have such a father as a role model, but it’s a lot to live up to.

Like many of us who lose someone close to us without the benefit of closure, Jamie has regrets and feels guilt.  His father died while watching the whipping and at some level Jamie believes it is his fault.  We all know someone who feels this type of guilt and regret. It is one of the common themes in the human condition.  Jamie’s response to these events is understandable and maybe even predictable.  Guilt and regret are feelings that aren’t always rational or accurate, but they still plague us.  We cannot help what we feel when we lose a loved one.

Feelings just are.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Jamie has been unable to return home.  He has had a loooong time to think and feel.   In a very real way, his ability to deal with his grief has been delayed.  Jamie has been unable to finish his  business with his sister and deal with what the death of his father means to his position at Lallybroch.  Left unaddressed and unexpressed feelings can warp our views and maybe even change how we react or in Jamie’s case overreact, to what we think we see and hear.  I think Jenny’s comment, “No word in four years” speaks volumes.  Jamie is struggling with his feelings to the point that he couldn’t even bring himself to write home. Guilt.

I’ve seen some social media posts that have suggested that Jamie becomes an instant “arsehole” when he goes through the gates of Lallybroch and that it was just too big of a change in his personality for them to believe.  I’ve even seen folks write that the change was so extreme that Claire didn’t “recognize” the man she married.  I don’t think this is the case at all! I think Claire knew exactly what was happening to Jamie.  She just didn’t know exactly what to do about it!  The subtle and significant looks on Claire and Ian’s faces during the uncomfortable exchanges between the siblings told the viewer that EVERYONE knew!  My God,  the tension was so thick you could have cut it!

It really wasn’t hard to understand.  Jamie feels guilty about Jenny and that makes him misinterpret situations and act defensively.  Jenny is angry and secretly blames her brother for her father’s death. Her brother brought home a Sassenach to be lady of Lallybroch. A Sassenach who has never run an estate or home…like she has…for four years.  She’s coming out sideways too!

Jamie doesn’t want to let his father down.  He wants to be the Laird his father was.  He has a new wife and tenants he wants to impress.  So, maybe….he tries too hard at playing the “Laird”. Understandable. In my opinion, Jamie becomes the more loveable for his misguided attempts to be the man his father would be proud of. The fact that his sister called him on his shite was so true to sibling form that it made me laugh out loud!  He isn’t perfect. He is stubborn and at times brash, but he is willing to admit when he is wrong and move on. I loved Ian’s advice and Claire’s “dealing” with her “I’m the Laird” husband. She dumped his ass on the floor to get his attention! Wonderful.

I think Brian would have been proud of his children as he looked down at them embracing in the graveyard dealing with their grief and their love for one another.

“Frasers, their hearts are as big and soft as their heads are thick and strong” Ian Murray, Jamies’s best friend and Jenny’s husband.

Book boyfriends and Jamie Fraser…some lite research

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I’ve been seeing a term used a lot lately; it’s the term book boyfriends. There are polls, websites and blogs dedicated to the topic. In fact, one of my posts was used by an on-line book club to spark a discussion about alpha book boyfriends.

Evidently, there is an established criteria that male fictional characters are being measured against to establish their book boyfriend worthiness. Included in this criteria are characteristics such as strength, wit, fighting skills, looks, and virility.  The members of The Saucy Wenches Book Club were discussing the merits of their favorite book boyfriends and why each needed to be included in a list of top Alpha Book Boyfriends. Reading the bantering of the members was enlightening. One of the bones of contention was the idea that James Fraser, of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, might be too perfect to reign atop the ultimate alpha book boyfriend list!  If Jamie is too perfect, he’s my kind of too perfect!  These “flaws” that people love in their book boyfriends make for interesting reading, but do not equate to desirable qualities in a good real-life relationship.  In fact, take my advice as an old woman with a 38 yr. marriage under her belt, should you encounter a man with some of these “interesting” flaws, run. run like hell!  There seems to be a difference in what women want in real-life and….Hmmmmm…..

This discussion piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know more!  I started googling book boyfriends.  There were pages of links to the words’ use, but curiously enough, I couldn’t find a definition.  Thinking that I must be mistaken, I googled again. Nope!  Even the urban dictionary lacked a definition for this phenomenon.  Well, I thought to myself, SOMEBODY is missing out on some interesting social research!  Now, I know falling in love with fictional characters isn’t new, but has it ever been studied?  I mean, we know they’re not real, right? Right!  And yet, the feelings they inspire are real. At least…while I’m reading..and Fangirling with my like-minded friends. Seriously, if someone had just walked into the room during one of these sessions, I’m pretty sure they would think we were all lusting after a real man. Hmmmm….interesting.

So… I googled, “why do we fall in love with fictional characters?”.  I found that there seems to be a couple of trains of thought:

  • Women who fall in love with fictional characters are unhappy with themselves and their own lives.
  • We desire the kind of love the character offers.

I’m not sure I’m too happy about either of those options. So, I set about to find evidence to disprove the idea that the reason I love James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is because I’m some desperately unhappy woman with low-self-esteem and an unrealistic idea of love and relationships!  There had to be another explanation. There are too many of us out there who would appear to be highly functioning, relatively happy women with okay self-esteem who love book-boyfriends! Soooooo,…… Let the “lite” research begin!

THE FINDINGS

One of the first articles I came across was written by a Yahoo contributor named Kyra Lennon. Back in August of 2010, she wrote an article exploring her love for J.K. Rowlings character Sirius Black. She had come to the conclusion that her love for Sirius was just an, “Extension of my love of J.K. Rowlings writing skills.”  Whoo hoo! I liked this!  It’s Diana’s fault! If she wasn’t so damn skilled at writing three dimensional characters, I wouldn’t have an issue!  My love for Jamie is just a natural progression fueled by my appreciation of Diana’s writing skills.  Sigh…..nope…still wishing I was Claire.  Damn….and that rationale sounded all “intellectual” and everything!

Ms. Lennon went on to add that she thought the “fantasy” for women was that these male characters could be perfect. “They will never disappoint or hurt us and they’ll be there when we need them”. She added she felt loving fictional men was okay, as long as it isn’t an obsession.  Obsession. Well, there’s a term I’ll need to clarify!

NEXT

I found a WIKI page entitled, “How to Cope with Being in Love with a Fictional Character”.  It didn’t take me long to realize these people were serious! This was REAL advice for those who found themselves obsessed with someone who wasn’t real.  The article pointed out that loving a fictional character can cause you to disconnect with real-life and judge others harshly because you are focusing on perfection. They deemed this to be unhealthy and encouraged people to “fall out” of love. (ya’ think?) The very serious wake-up call for their readers who were seeking help was to understand that the character they are in love with…can’t love them back.  Wow.

AND

Uh..oh…a response to a fan written by Karen Moning, the author of the Fever Series, and creator of Jericho Barrons some serious book boyfriend material.  He is one of those seriously flawed, but totally readable and sexy characters that many women love to love. Ms. Moning seems to be aware that some fans have difficulty keeping reality and fantasy separate and warns us to, “not pretend they are real”.  Women who compare real men to fictional men have,” expectations that are way too high”.  Not, sure I agree. Oh, I’m okay with the don’t pretend they are real part, but what defines way too high?  If she means the whole idea of a man who never smells, burps or forgets to take out the garbage, etc. then okay, but what’s wrong with aspiration and emulation? What’s wrong with having standards? Good is good!  I’m not so sure some men couldn’t learn some things from fictional characters! Nobody is perfect, but don’t we all want to grow and become better versions of ourselves?  I know good when I see it, fictional or real!

….and…

Debra Montieth wrote an article in 2009 asking the question, “Why do women love fictional characters?” Her conclusion? How could they not?  Most fictional heroes are affectionate, beautiful, perfect lovers, listeners, protectors, sensitive and faithful. What’s not to love? This would appear to support the whole “women will get unrealistic expectations theory”, but she was like all, “so what”!  I liked her.

A GENERAL CONSENSUS

Many of the articles I found agreed that engaging in a relationship with a fictional character can be healthy not harmful. They pointed out that getting away from everyday life and real relationships for a bit is a good thing.  They point out that a little escapism never hurt anybody. But,….there’s always a but…they all warned that women need to be on guard against obsession. There’s that word again!

TO TELL THE TRUTH

To tell you the truth, I didn’t find a lot. I found lists of the top book boyfriends extolling the afore mentioned criteria, but not any serious research.

I found articles on why women love bad boys. That might correlate. Being able to love a bad boy on the page would be much easier and safer than loving one in real-life.

I did find one item of real research entitled, “Research of Mass Media Effects on Individuals and Society” by Mary Lou Galician, 2009.  It wasn’t directly aimed at book boyfriends or the women who read them, but it did have some things to say in general about romanticism and it helped me clarify obsession.

The author points out that at the obsessive extreme, ” romantic relationships are a form of addiction”.  This obsession results in, “disabling attachment filled with anxiety, fantasy,and over dependence”.  She labels this as , ” false love syndrome” which is mythical and stereotypical .  Real love she points out is about shared goals and commitment. Real love is “productive, enlarging and joyful” .  Good things to know.

I GUESS I HAVE TO GUESS

Due to a lack of documented research or my ability to find it, I have come to the conclusion I have to make a hypotheses.  My best guess based on my experience and observation.

WHY I LOVE JAMMF

I guess I do kinda blame Diana.  She didn’t write a romance. Instead, she wrote a love story. As a result, she created a character with character and substance.  Jamie isn’t a book boyfriend. No, rather, I find him to be as close to the real thing, a man, as I’ve ever read.  He isn’t perfect, but he does exemplify a man with values, integrity and the ability to love.  I believe Ms. Gabaladon has written a character worthy of my admiration. I recognize a good thing when I see it!  I know he isn’t real and I know he doesn’t love me back.  But, I do think he is a man worth emulating and I think men could do far worse than learn a thing or two from Jamie Fraser.

I’m not unhappy with my life, but I do enjoy the escape from the everyday Ms. Gabaldon’s books offer.  I think it’s ok to live In her world for awhile. After all, she does .  I find it healthy.  It challenges me mentally and emotionally.  However, I am on the look out for the obsession part! I laughingly say I’m obsessed, but I am still able to reign it back and function.

I’m sure there are woman out there desperately unhappy and looking for an unrealistic love.  But, most of the women I know understand the difference between fictional and real. And, sometimes the fantasy helps when real life sucks. If you want to know what I really think of James Fraser read my article on this site called “He’s a Man and That’s No Small Thing” http://wp.me/p4mtBT-41. It’s the one used for back-up info in the alpha book boy friend contest.