Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 5

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 405: “Savages”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire’s medical expertise proves invaluable, but she begins to fear for her life when tragedy strikes her patients’ household. Jamie and Young Ian travel to a nearby town to recruit settlers for Fraser’s Ridge.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian have built a nice home for themselves in the mountains.
  • Jamie and Ian travel to town to try to recruit settlers for Fraser’s Ridge, while Claire attends the birth of a baby to a nearby German family.
  • Herr Mueller almost shoots a group of Cherokees, but Claire makes peace.
  • When Herr Mueller’s family dies of measles, he blames the Cherokee and takes revenge.
  • Jamie meets many Scots in town, but none are willing to settle on land and then lose it when they can’t pay their taxes.
  • MURTAGH LIVES!!!
  • Murtagh is also a Regulator, so there’s that.
  • Meanwhile, in 1971, Roger discovers that Brianna has gone to Craig na Dunh to attempt to travel through the stones and find her parents.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 405, “Savages” — wow, so much to love!

First off, nice job on the cabin, Jamie! That’s a mighty fine looking home there on Fraser’s Ridge, with lovely furniture, a comfy feel to it, and a nice batch of livestock, including the infamous white sow. I might not want to live there full-time, but that looks like an awesome vacation getaway, doesn’t it?

Claire has grown closer to the healer from the Cherokee settlement, who teaches Claire about local herbs and gives her language lessons. They’re really sweet together. Kind of gave me chills when she told Claire “She is here” about Brianna — although naturally Claire thought she meant “here” as in always in Claire’s heart. Little does Claire know…

Herr Mueller’s daughter gives birth to a healthy baby girl, and the family is extremely grateful to Claire. He loses his shit completely, though, when he sees a group of Cherokee stopping to water their horses at the stream in front of his house — stealing his water, according to him. Jerk. Claire prevents a shoot-out and convinces everyone to calm down, but when the Cherokee leader sprinkles herbs over the water as a blessing, Herr Mueller is convinced that he’s cursed the water.

Later, when the daughter and her baby die quickly from measles, he’s even more certain of the curse, and comes to Claire to show that he’s taken care of everything — by presenting her with the Cherokee healer woman’s scalp. Claire is horrified. Violence begets violence, you know, so that night the Cherokee shoot up the Mueller cabin with flaming arrows, and Herr Mueller and his wife both die. Yeesh.

Jamie has the more peaceful story this episode. He and Ian pass out flyers and try to recruit Scotsmen to come settle on Fraser’s Ridge, but the people they meet, while very polite, are having none of it. They’ve already all lost farmland to unscrupulous tax collectors, and aren’t willing to go through that again.

Jamie sends Ian off to get the horse’s bit fixed, and we hear a familiar voice coming out of the blacksmith’s mouth…

MURTAGH!!!!

IT’S MURTAGH! HE’S ALIVE! And damn, he looks good with white hair!

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Everyone’s favorite godfather is alive and well and living in North Carolina, having survived being transported to North America and spending years in indentured servitude. The reunion between Jamie and Murtagh is all we could have hoped. (I’m not crying – you’re crying!) But Murtagh surprisingly turns down Jamie’s invitation to come make a home on Fraser’s Ridge. It turns out that Murtagh is a ringleader of the Regulators, a groups who are stirring up rebellion against the tax collectors. Uh oh. I smell politics! Jamie never can stay clear of trouble for very long, can he?

The episode ends with a brilliant scene as Claire hears a stranger approach the cabin whistling… the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B! I adored her reunion with Murtagh — the absolute joy and affection on their faces!

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But wait, that’s not quite all — let’s not forget about our 20th century storyline, which is really heating up in its short scenes this week. It’s 1971, and Roger has followed Brianna to Inverness. He learns that she took a one-way taxi trip to Craigh na Dun, then asks Miss Baird at the local B&B if perhaps Brianna left anything behind when she checked out. After some hesitation, she hands over a letter addressed to Roger — her instructions were to wait a year and then mail it, but she caves to Roger’s look of woe and hands it over. Brianna’s letter to Roger is brief: She’s found out that something bad will happen to her parents, and she’s going to try to get to them to stop it. Must be the fire Roger learned about in the last episode! She closes by telling Roger that she really did care for him, and asks him not to follow her. He looks broken-hearted, poor lad.

And then we see Brianna, dressed in a 70s version of ye olde clothing — looks like Gunne Sax to me. (Remember those? Anyone?) She approaches the standing stones on Craigh na Dun, and then… she’s gone!

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Am I starting to sound like a broken record? I can’t help it — this really is another terrific episode! Through the opening scenes of the family bustling around the cabin and Claire spending time with the Cherokee healer, we get a visual sense of how time has passed and how much Fraser’s Ridge has become their home.

Nothing about this episode can top the reappearance of Murtagh for me. We’ve been waiting for it, not all that patiently, ever since we saw him being led away from Ardsmuir last season. It was totally expected, and yet totally stunning to hear that gravelly voice being rude to Young Ian in such a perfectly Murtagh sort of way.

The Mueller storyline is awful and tragic, and drives home the ironic episode title. Just who are the savages here?

And furthermore…

I’ve liked the little scenes of Roger and Brianna so far this season, and I’m ready for their storyline to kick into high gear. The show is sowing little seeds about the upcoming developments, including this episode’s weird but touching moment of Jamie describing his dream of Brianna’s birthmark to Claire. Okay, Jamie’s clairvoyant now? Brianna is coming to him in dreams? Doesn’t matter — it’s goofy (it’s also in the book), but it’s still sweet. Bring on the big Jamie/Brianna scene already!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 4

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 404: “Common Ground”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Having been led by providence to Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie, Claire and Young Ian begin to build a home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the 20th Century, Rober tries to reconnect with Brianna.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • The Frasers say goodbye to Fergus and Marsali and depart for the mountains.
  • They reach Fraser’s Ridge and start to build a home there.
  • Their Cherokee neighbors aren’t thrilled to have them around.
  • After killing a bear-monster (you’ll see), Jamie reaches an accord with the Cherokee and they agree to live in peace with one another.
  • Meanwhile, in 1971, Roger finds evidence that Claire found Jamie and that they settled in North Carolina. He shares the news with Brianna.
  • According to Brianna’s roommate, Brianna has gone to visit her mother. Uh oh…

Insta-reaction:

Episode 404, “Common Ground”, is yet another slow-build episode — not that that’s a bad thing; it’s just tonally different than the hectic pace of episodes from previous seasons. In this episode, the emphasis is on Claire and Jamie’s journey to establish their new home. Yes, there’s some danger and excitement along the way, but your enjoyment of this episode might be directly proportional to how much you enjoy watching people chop down trees, smoke meat, and use a whetstone. (I liked it! Call me an armchair woodswoman, I guess.)

First off, there’s a tender good-bye. Marsali is now visibly pregnant, and she tearfully confesses to Claire that she misses her mother. It’s a sweet moment, as Marsali acknowledges the bad blood between Claire and Laoghaire, and Claire actually says something nice about (the evil witch) Laoghaire by reassuring Marsali that she was a good mother, and that Marsali will be too. It’s a shame that Claire won’t be present to care for Marsali during the birth. Meanwhile, Jamie needs more settlers for Fraser’s Ridge, and Fergus’s mission is to recruit people, preferably Scots, and preferably some of Jamie’s Ardsmuir men. So can we finally get Murtagh??? Please?? After the baby is born, Fergus and Marsali will move to the Ridge as well.

Off the Frasers go, with Young Ian and Rollo, to pursue the American dream. Jamie is super excited to stake out the new homestead and plan the cabin he’ll build, but the group is unsettled by a visit from some Cherokee, who glare at them menacingly and then depart. Are they threatening the Frasers? Will there be violence? One of the horses is injured by (what they assume to be) a bear, and some nights later, Jamie encounters the bear in the woods, only to realize that it’s a man dressed up as a bear with deadly claws. The man-bear tries to kill Jamie (he’d already severely wounded John Quincy Myers), but Jamie manages to kill the man-bear instead.

 

Jamie brings the man’s body to the Cherokee camp, and it turns out that one of their men speaks English. He explains that the dead man was exiled from the tribe and went mad. Jamie and the Cherokee declare their intentions to live in peace, and later, some members of the tribe come to visit at Fraser’s Ridge. An older woman describes a vision she’s had of Claire’s future, both of Claire’s growing power as a healer and a more ominous statement about something (unnamed) that will happen that won’t be Claire’s fault. Not that that’s creepy or anything.

And wait, there’s more! In 1971, Roger is back at Oxford, missing Brianna — he hasn’t seen her since their big fight at the festival in North Carolina. As he reads a book about Scottish settlement in colonial North Carolina, he comes across a picture of a place identified as Fraser’s Ridge. He reaches out to the book’s author, and receives documents back including a copy of the document signed by James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, a plan of their land, and a letter describing Fraser’s Ridge and a woman named Claire who was a healer. At last — proof that Claire survived her trip through the stones and reunited with Jamie! Not only that, but basically an address for where Claire and Jamie settled. Roger calls Brianna with the news, in a very awkward trans-Atlantic phone call. Brianna is thrilled, but there’s clearly a lot of unspoken emotion between Roger and Brianna.

By the end of the episode, Roger makes two more unexpected discoveries. First, Fiona gives him a copy of an obituary from a newspaper in the 1770s, relating the deaths of James and Claire Fraser. The year is illegible. Roger decides not to tell Brianna — why burden her with knowing that her parents only had a few years together before dying tragically? When he tries to call Brianna again, her roommate Gail answers. Didn’t Roger know? asks Gail — Brianna left a few weeks ago to go to Scotland to visit her mother. Uh oh! It seems that a certain red-head is on her way to Craigh na Dun!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I really liked the outdoorsy feel of the episode, seeing Jamie’s joy at building a home for his family, and Claire’s delight in working with Jamie to start something new and special. Ian was adorable as always… and Rollo! Well, Rollo is always amazing. Good dog, Rollo.

I love that Claire and Jamie are never far away from expressing their love, devotion, and attraction at any given moment. These two are just perfection.

The show is being very careful to be sensitive in its portrayal of the Cherokee. So far, so good. Let’s see how this progresses.

I was waiting for Jamie to wrassle a bear like he does in the book — but I suppose it would be pretty tricky to actual film something like that, and we wouldn’t want to add any real scars to all the prosthetic scars Sam Heughan already has to deal with. So the substitution of a crazy man who thinks he’s a bear is okay by me… although I do miss the book scene of Claire slapping the bear with a fish. What a great scene! (Go look it up if you haven’t read it!)

I’m liking Roger and Brianna’s story so far this season too. They’re getting enough screen time to start building up interest, but not enough at this point to frustrate viewers by taking away from Claire and Jamie time.

 

And furthermore…

Claire finally broke out her britches! I was thinking early in the episode how annoying it must be to chop and build and haul things in the middle of the woods while wearing full skirts and petticoats… and by the end of the episodes, Claire’s in pants and looking SO much more comfortable.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 3

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 403: “The False Bride”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire search for a place to call home. Meanwhile, in the 20th century, Brianna and Roger’s romance heats up and then fizzles during a road trip that winds up highlighting their differences.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie and Claire leave River Run to set out for the mountains, planning to settle in a town there and start a new life.
  • A thunderstorm strands them in the woods, where Claire discovers a strange skull.
  • They find a beautiful location and decide to settle there.
  • In 1970, Roger and Brianna go to a Scottish festival in North Carolina.
  • Roger proposes to Brianna, but she’s not ready for marriage.
  • This seems to be the end of their relationship. *sniff*

Insta-reaction:

Episode 403, “The False Bride”, is not particularly action-packed, but it does present some iconic moments and emblems near and dear to book-readers’ hearts, and sets the tone for both Claire and Jamie’s new life as well as the 20th century story involving Brianna and Roger.

Jocasta blames Claire for denying Jamie a good life as a landowner, a chance to become the laird he was meant to be, but Claire holds her own. Jocasta is one tough cookie, but Claire’s spine is just as strong. Meanwhile, Ian asserts himself to Jamie and makes Jamie see that Ian isn’t a “lad” to have all his decisions made for him anymore. Jamie graciously concedes that Ian is man enough to make up his own mind now, and Ian chooses to stay in America with Jamie and Auntie Claire. Luckily for all concerned, there aren’t any telephones, so they won’t be on the receiving end of some choice words from Jenny when she finally finds out that her boy isn’t coming home to her after all.

And we meet yet another important four-legged Outlander character: Clarence the mule! I admit it — I giggled when he was introduced. Clarence, like Rollo, is a part of the story and a member of the Fraser family.

Claire and Jamie get some quality time together in the woods, riding, talking, and camping under the stars. Jamie worries that he has nothing to offer Claire, but as she makes clear, all she really wants and has dreamed of is the chance to finally create a home with him. Just think of it — all these years, all these adventures, and yet Claire and Jamie have never truly had a home together. They also discuss Brianna’s future and her lack of career plans. For Jamie, it’s unheard of for a young adult to be trying to find their direction in life — either they have a calling, such as Claire being born to be a healer, or they go into their family’s trade. No such thing as being “undeclared” in the 18th century!

The discovery of the skull and Claire’s vision of the Native American ghost is pretty much straight from the book. Hate to say it, but the bit with her shoes comes off a bit silly on the screen, but that’s okay — I don’t suppose it’s any sillier than touching a big stone and traveling 200 years, is it?

There are key discoveries on the trip — a patch of strawberries, the opal, the silver fillings on the skull. I love how the show keeps to the important visuals that really call back to the source material, yet feel organic as presented. The view of Fraser’s Ridge is just absolutely lovely. It’s easy to see how Jamie and Claire could be swept away by the sight, and feel so strong a connection to this place, enough to want to make it their own.

Meanwhile, I was really charmed by the 20th century storyline. As always, the show does a great job of setting the tone through the clothing, music, cars, and even fast-food choices that surround the characters. It was so nice to see Brianna and Roger again, and the juxtaposition of a Highland fair in the North Carolina hills with Jamie and Claire’s travels through the same land worked really well. The festival was perfect, and I loved seeing Brianna and Roger enjoying themselves together, especially in a setting where Brianna could feel connected to her Scottish roots.

Ah, and let’s not forget the silver bracelet! Another book element, nicely done.

It all falls apart, of course. Roger is in love with Brianna, and while she’s ready to sleep with him, he only wants her sexually in the context of committing to a life together. He is a bit much in this scene, although with the best of intentions and the biggest heart. Still, he’s not doing a great job of reading Brianna — the more he gushes on about getting married, having a home, having a bunch of kids, the more freaked out Brianna gets. It’s not just that she’s young, still in college, still trying to figure out what she wants in life. She’s also haunted by not knowing what’s become of her mother. Did she make it back to Jamie? Are they together? Are they safe? What’s more, Brianna is well aware of her mother’s own history, having fallen in love at a young age and gotten married, then finding that her heart belonged elsewhere. Brianna is worried that it’s too soon for her to make a big decision like marriage, but Roger takes this as rejection.

I can relate to Brianna’s reaction, absolutely — it does feel quick, and so much in her life is up in the air. She has feelings for Roger, but she’s not ready to decide her whole life at the moment. Sigh. An ongoing refrain for so many fans while reading the books is “Poor Roger!” — Diana Gabaldon just isn’t kind to his character. Sadly, the end of this episode is the first “Poor Roger” moment, but it won’t be the last.

(Poor Roger!)

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This was a slower episode, in many ways, yet I loved it. The focus here is on the characters and their relationships, and I felt like this episode gave the two couples room to talk, to relate, and to plan. Sadly for Roger and Brianna, things are bumpy, but of course this is just the beginning of their story. Meanwhile, Jamie and Claire have a mostly peaceful ride together, and it’s just right and sweet and deserved for these two to have time to be happy and safe in one another’s company.

And furthermore…

I know this season was filmed in Scotland, but damn! They’re making fake North Carolina look so, so beautiful!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 2

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 402: “Do No Harm”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie visit his Aunt Jocasta at her plantation, River Run. When tragedy strikes at the plantation, Jamie and Claire find themselves caught between what’s right and the law of the land.

My take:

Major plot points:

Picking up on the river:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian arrive at River Run, Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s prosperous plantation.
  • Claire makes her feelings about slavery very clear.
  • Jocasta announces that she’s named Jamie her heir and manager of her business — meaning he (and Claire) will be de facto slave owners.
  • A slave named Rufus injures an overseer. Claire saves him from a gruesome death, only to discover that the law is not on her side.
  • The neighboring plantation owners and overseers demand that Jamie hand over Rufus, or they’ll attack River Run.
  • Claire and Jamie face an impossible choice — turn Rufus over, where he’ll be tortured and killed, or give him a painless death themselves.

Oh, and Ian learns about that fearsome North American mammal, the skunk.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 402, “Do No Harm” does not mince words when it comes to making clear what an awful chapter of American history Jamie and Claire find themselves in. The show tackles slavery head-on, and despite wanting to do good, Jamie and Claire are pretty much slapped in the face by how powerless they are to make any difference.

First, though, we have the aftermath of the attack on the river. Jamie blames himself, of course, both for trusting Stephen Bonnet in the first place, and then for failing to protect the people under his protection. Poor Lesley has been buried on the riverbank. Now that Bonnet has stolen all their money and gemstones, Jamie and Claire arrive at Jocasta’s as poor relations, with basically nothing to their names but the clothes on their backs.

Auntie Jocasta, played by the amazing Maria Kennedy Doyle, is glorious. She’s self-assured and regal, and it’s not until Ian tries to present her with flowers that the Frasers realize that she’s blind. Aided by her right-hand man, the house slave Ulysses, Jocasta is always in control. Jamie is fond of her, especially as she reminds him so much of his mother (her sister), but Jocasta and Claire butt heads pretty quickly, as Claire expresses just how wrong she thinks slavery is.

Jocasta invites all her neighbors to a party welcoming Jamie and Claire, and makes the surprise announcement that Jamie will be both her heir and her business representative, effective immediately. As Jamie points out, it’s quite the Mackenzie move — by announcing it publicly, she basically backs Jamie into a corner and doesn’t leave him any room to decline.

Jamie immediately jumps in with his intent to free all the slaves once he’s in control and pay the men and women a wage for their work. His idealistic views are quickly shut down by Jocasta and her trusted friend Farquard Campbell. The law of North Carolina places so many obstacles in the way that even with the best of intentions, Jamie could not possibly hope to afford the amount that would be necessary to pay as bond for all of Jocasta’s slaves, not to mention being able to prove that each freed slave had earned their freedom through meritorious service — saving a life.

Jamie and Claire are never not in trouble for very long. When word comes that an overseer has been attacked by a slave, Jamie and Claire rush to the scene. The slave, Rufus, is being strung up on a tree by a hook through his belly. Claire has him cut down and brought back to the main house, where she proceeds to perform surgery on him right on Jocasta’s dining room table. Claire’s amazing, so of course she’s successful, and Rufus stands a good chance at recovering…

… but that sucks too, because the overseers are demanding blood. They want Rufus, or they’ll attack River Run and take him. A deal is struck — Jamie will hand him over at midnight. Ulysses points out to Claire that it would have been better for her to let the boy die. At least, it would have been relatively quick. Now with the furious overseers demanding “justice”, he’ll be ripped apart.

Jamie points out to Claire that perhaps her oath to “do no harm” might mean in this case that she give poor Rufus an easier death than the one that awaits him at the hands of the mob. In tears, Claire agrees, giving Rufus a tea laced with aconite, then talking quietly with him and holding his hands as he dies. As the clock strikes midnight, Jamie carries Rufus’s body outside, where the angry mob drags him through the dirt and strings him up from a tree.

Welcome to the South, Claire. Maybe North Carolina isn’t the best place for the Frasers to settle down after all.

Further musings:

We meet a favorite book character in this episode, John Quincy Myers, a mountain man who will interact with the Frasers in their future adventures. He and Ian share a very cute scene in which they treat Rollo after his encounter with a skunk and talk about Myers’s experiences with Indian women. Ian seems to be finding a lot to admire about Myers. It’s pretty much the only light scene in the episode, which may be why I enjoyed it so much.

I assume since we just saw Claire doing surgery on the dining room table, we won’t get the book scene of Claire doing surgery in the same location on John Quincy Myers’s… um… private parts… during a dinner party, with a crowd of onlookers. But damn, that would have been funny.

Other key book characters introduced include Phaedre, Farquard Campbell, and Lieutenant Wolff. These are all characters we see a lot of in the books, but I suppose it’ll depend on how much emphasis and screen time River Run gets in the TV version whether we see much more of them.

And one more thing:

Claire is gorgeous in red — reminded me of those bad old days at Versailles! She looks lovely in Jocasta’s white dress too. I really liked the scene of Jocasta deciding how Claire should look, even though she can’t actually see her. Jocasta is no one to be trifled with.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another strong episode, although the romantic in me missed having any Jamie/Claire intimacy this episode. Oh, get your minds out of the gutters! It’s not about the sex, but I missed seeing them having any deeply connected moments. (I know, it wouldn’t have fit at all in the mood of the episode… but I just love them together, always.)

And furthermore…

It was good to see that Jamie and Claire are on the same page when it comes to this chapter of history. In their earlier days together, Claire was often at odds with Jamie, who struggled to understand her point of view and often ended up explaining traditions and customs of the times to Claire. Here, they’re both strangers in a strange land, figuring it out together, and they’re a united team. Despite the painful subject matter and the no-win situation they’re in in regard to Jamie being Jocasta’s heir, it’s clear that Jamie is on the same side as Claire when it comes to slavery and the impossibility of them accepting the status quo or being a part of it in any way.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 1

Season 4 has begun! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 401: “America the Beautiful”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie cross paths with Stephen Bonnet, a pirate and smuggler who enlists their help. Claire illuminates Jamie on some of America’s history, leading him to wonder if it’s possible for them to lay down some roots.

My take:

Major plot points:

Aaaaaand we’re back! It’s 1767, in North Carolina:

  • Jamie’s friend Gavin Hayes, who was imprisoned with him at Ardsmuir and came on the journey last season to find Ian, has been sentenced to death for killing a man. While Jamie had an escape attempt planned, Gavin feels he deserves to pay for his crime and asks for the rescue attempt to be cancelled.
  • Gavin is hanged, but other prisoners escape.
  • Jamie and Claire plan to sail back to Scotland as soon as they can sell some gemstones in order to afford the voyage. First, they need to bury Gavin, and take his body to a cemetery.
  • They find one of the escaped prisoners hiding in their wagon, a man named Stephen Bonnet, who describes himself as a smuggler and a pirate, and asks for help in escaping. Because he claims to have been a friend of Gavin’s, Jamie agrees to help.
  • Jamie and Claire, along with Ian and Lindsay, sail upriver. They’re heading toward River Run, the plantation owned by Jamie’s aunt Jocasta.
  • On the river, they’re attacked by a band led by Stephen Bonnet. He kills Lesley, beats Jamie, and steals their gemstones and one of Claire’s wedding rings.

Insta-reaction:

Season 4 opens rather quietly, all things considered. It feels like the start of a new chapter — which it really is. Jamie and Claire are together, Culloden and the Rising are long in the past, and they have an opportunity to start a new life in a new country.

Of course, if life went smoothly, it wouldn’t be Outlander. What would Jamie and Claire do with peace and quiet?

The episode begins with a scene from 2000 BC, somewhere in North America, as a primitive tribe constructs and dances around and through a circle of stones**. Claire’s voice-over muses on the meaning of circles and the importance people attach to them as symbols… and we cut to the hangman’s noose, shortly before the execution in 1767. Jamie, being Jamie, can’t stand the idea of letting one of his men die (although he did actually kill a man, in self-defense) — but Gavin doesn’t want any thrilling heroics. He just wants to meet his end while seeing the face of a friend, and Jamie agrees.

**Sorry, I thought the dancing at the stones scene was a little silly. I suppose the show needed to demonstrate that there are stone circles everywhere, so when they stumble across one later on, it won’t be completely out of the blue… but really, 2000 BC? It came off a bit silly. (It also reminded me of the First Slayer from Buffy, but I digress.)

Anyhoo…

There’s a lovely moment later in a tavern, after Gavin is already dead, when first Lesley and then the entire group begin singing a Gailigh song in Gavin’s honor. Quite beautiful. (Of course, book people will be shaking their heads a bit, since book-Jamie is utterly tone deaf, can’t recognize songs, and certainly never sings.)

The priest has denied burial to the hanged man, so Jamie determines that he and the gang will take Gavin’s body to consecrated ground under cover of night and give him a decent burial. While driving the cart, Jamie and Claire discuss their gemstones and the plan to sell the stones so they’ll have enough money for all of them to book passage back to Scotland. Little did they know that a living man was snuggled up with the corpse in the back of the wagon… listening to every word.

At the cemetery, Jamie and Ian dig a grave. Ian has a flashback to Geillis (season 3) and freaks out, and Jamie has to talk him down. Ian describes being forced to have sex with Geillis, even though he didn’t want to, and asks Jamie if he’s ever lain with someone against his will. Yes, he has, Uncle Jamie tells Ian, and he offers him words of wisdom for getting past it. It’s a touching scene, showing Jamie at his paternal best, being strong for someone who needs him.

Stephen Bonnet turns up in the back of the wagon, and turns on his charm. He speaks fondly of Gavin, and asks Jamie to give him the chance to escape. He doesn’t seem particularly dangerous. Jamie and Claire agree to drive him in the cart into the woods and to a meeting point near the river, where he’ll find a way back to his friends. Despite a close encounter with a redcoat roadblock, they make it and say good-bye to Bonnet. Jamie and Claire settle in for some sexy cuddles and a night of camping in the woods, then wake to appreciate the beauty of the land all around them.

Back in town, Jamie and Claire prepare for a fancy dinner where they expect to meet a man who’s known for collecting expensive things, including gems. The governor of North Carolina will also be there. At the dinner, Claire wears a beautiful ruby around her neck, which definitely catches eyes as intended. Meanwhile, Jamie has caught the governor’s eye. He offers Jamie the chance to settle on his own piece of land and start a community of his own in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s a tempting offer. Claire reminds Jamie that the American Revolution is only a few years away, and they don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of history. Jamie thinks about Brianna growing up in the United States, and sees this as an opportunity to help create a country that will be a home for his daughter in the future.

Ian wants to stay with Jamie and Claire, but Jamie wants to send him home to his mother. Fergus and Marsali will stay in town, since she’s pregnant and not up to traveling. Yet another lovely bit, when everyone celebrates Marsali’s pregnancy. I love the look on Claire’s face — last season, Marsali and Claire first broke the hostility between them when Marsali asked Claire for advice on birth control. Guess she didn’t stick with the plan for very long! In any case, all are happy, and since this is Outlander, it’s actually a rare treat to see a group of happy people all at once.

And one of the most eagerly awaited moments happens this episode:

ROLLO!! Ian won a beautiful dog named Rollo in a dicing game. Awwwwww, Rollo! This is the start of a beautiful relationship. Rollo is the best.

So, things go south, as they tend to do for the Frasers. After a lovely day on a river barge on the way to visit Aunt Jocasta at River Run, near Cape Fear, the boat is tied up for the night. Stephen Bonnet turns up — because no good deed goes unpunished — and he and his men attack the Frasers’ company, beating Jamie fiercely, stealing the gemstones, slitting Lesley’s throat, and being super mean to Claire! Bonnet tries to take Claire’s rings from her. Thinking fast, she tries to swallow them, but he forces a finger into her mouth (gross, and also super intimidating) and gets the silver ring — Jamie’s ring!! — away from her.

And the episode ends, with America the Beautiful playing over the horrible scene.

Further musings:

Claire’s knowledge of the future is coming in handy once again. With the Revolutionary War on the way, America might not be the safest choice for a new home, and Jamie doesn’t want to fight any more wars — so it’s touching that he wants to help make a home for Brianna. At the same time, with the current state of affairs in 1767, sides aren’t neatly drawn, and Jamie has sworn an oath of loyalty to the King. But as Claire points out, they know the outcome of the coming war already. This time, they need to be on the right side of history.

We’ve had two scenes this episode of Claire asserting her 20th century view of the 18th century. First, when Claire describes a future US that will stretch all the way to the Pacific, Jamie asks about the people who already live there. Bad things, Claire explains. We’ll see how the show handles the upcoming encounters with native tribes. Later, Claire tries to criticize the boat captain’s treatment of his slave, only to find out that the man is free, working for a wage. Slavery will be an ongoing issue — Claire and Jamie’s next stop is Jocasta’s plantation. And yes, as you’d expect on a tobacco-growing plantation in the south, Jocasta is a slave owner.

And one more thing:

Spoilery bit ahoy: In the book, Stephen Bonnet takes Claire’s gold ring (she manages to swallow the silver ring.) Later, it’s that gold ring that catches a certain someone’s eye and leads to all sorts of trouble –and that always bothered me, because really, it’s just a plain gold band. How could someone recognize it as Claire’s while seeing it in passing in a crowded tavern, completely out of context, and with no idea that Claire’s ring had actually been stolen? So yeah, this way is much better. I’d wager all my gemstones that Claire is the only person in North American (or possibly the world at that time) with a silver ring made from a key — definitely recognizable as something quite distinct and unusual. So in my mind, the changing of the rings is big improvement. Yay, show.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Such a great new beginning, promising new adventures in a new land. I love the changes to the theme song, as it now sounds more like an American folk song. Lovely, lovely version.

As I said earlier, this episode mostly feels a bit quiet, but that’s okay. It has to reintroduce us into the lives of the characters, establish their new circumstances, and set out their goals and challenges. The Frasers are at a crossroads, living in the colonies but aiming to return to Scotland. Their lives are in a lull as they prepare, but they seem to mostly be enjoying their rather peaceful times together as a family. The peace and quiet don’t last, of course — the last few minutes of the episode make clear that the new land has its own dangers in store for the Frasers. Still, Jamie and Claire are obviously still very much in love, Fergus and Marsali are happy and beginning a new chapter in their own lives, and Ian is… well, Ian is precious and wonderful, as always. So this episode can be excused for feeling like a family reunion at times — it’s nice for us to get a chance to appreciate some smiles and happiness before diving back into the drama and life-threatening peril around every turn.

And furthermore…

Once again, the start of a new season makes me happy all over again that so much care has been devoted to turning our beloved books into a beautiful TV series. Kudos to the cast and crew for making it lovely and special. It’s obvious how much love goes into each and every episode.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Outlander happiness: Check out the season 4 poster!

Ah. This made my week:

Gorgeous, right?

With just over two months to go until the season 4 premiere on November 4th, it’s time to start getting excited!

And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer for the new season:

 

November, please get here NOW.

Three new stories by Diana Gabaldon

Well, June was quite a month for fans of Diana Gabaldon, who has graced us with with not one, not two, but three new stories! Actually, that should probably be 2 1/2, since the 3rd is coauthored. No matter! We fans will take what we can get.

Most excitingly, for Outlander readers, is the publication of Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, a collection of stories set in the Outlander-verse. Five stories have been published previously in anthologies and as stand-alones:

  • The Custom of the Army (a Lord John story)
  • The Space Between (about Fraser relations, Master Raymond, and the infamous Comte St. Germain)
  • A Plague of Zombies (more Lord John)
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (about Roger’s parents during WWII)
  • Virgins (about Jamie and Ian as young, virginal mercenaries in France, prior to the events of Outlander)

Having read all of these previously*, I’ll just focus on the two new pieces from Seven Stones:

A Fugitive Green: A 100+ page novella about Hal and Minnie — that would be Lord John’s distinguished older brother Harold, Duke of Pardloe, and his beloved wife Minnie. This is their origin story, of sorts. In A Fugitive Green, we get the tale of how Minnie, the daughter of a spymaster and book dealer, met and ended up married to a young, newly widowed British officer on the verge of utter disgrace. Minnie is sent by her father from Paris to London to carry out some book deals as well as some espionage, with the ulterior motive of getting her a rich and well-placed husband along the way. Meanwhile, Hal is dealing with the aftermath of a scandalous duel and his wife’s death, and Hal’s best friend is busy trying to get Hal cleared of any guilt related to the duel. When Minnie and Hal meet, sparks fly. We’ve certainly seen both of these characters as adults and gotten a taste of their fiery marriage, and their unusual meeting and marriage has been spoken of, but here we see it first-hand (and yes, the famous hearth rug too.) It’s all quite delicious, and I enjoyed seeing Hal in his 20s, with a certain amount of romance and vulnerability that his older, more hardened self rarely (if ever) displays. Hal has become a favorite of mine over the course of the main Outlander series as well as in the assortment of Lord John novels and novellas, and I appreciated getting this new view of Hal and Minnie and the start of their relationship.

 

Besieged: In which Lord John, wrapping up his governorship of Jamaica, is informed last minute that not only is his mother Benedicta unexpectedly in Havana, but that the British fleet is about to invade Cuba. What’s a devoted son to do but sail off with his trusted valet Tom Byrd and rush to the rescue? I’ll be honest — despite my love for John and my joy at another adventure with Tom Byrd, this story left me cold. It was mostly people (well, John) rushing from place to place, lots of military talk, and not a whole lot of character depth. The action felt a bit mind-numbing after a while — haciendas and forts and rushing around — and I just didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it’s wonderful to spend time with John, but I would have liked to see him interact more with his mother and Tom rather than being caught up in an action story the whole time. There’s also a very sad development, if you’ve read the Lord John novels and are familiar with John’s extended family, but other than that, I actually found Besieged rather skippable.

 

And finally, a Gabaldon story that’s only kind of a Gabaldon story. In the new anthology MatchUp, bestselling authors are paired up — one male, one female — to create stories together featuring some of their well-known characters. For those who are into these type of stories (crime thrillers), I’m sure there’s lots to enjoy from authors such as Sandra Brown, Charlaine Harris, etc etc etc. For me, I picked up MatchUp at the library strictly for the sake of Herself.

In MatchUp, Diana Gabaldon is paired up with Steve Berry, and together they’ve written a story — Past Prologue — centered around Berry’s lead character, Cotton Malone. In Past Prologue, Malone is in Scotland (to be clear, that’s modern-day, 21st century Scotland) for a private book sale. When he wanders away from Ardsmuir for a walk across the moors, he finds himself at a stone circle… and then, poof! finds himself in the year 1755. And for those who know their Outlander history, that means that Ardsmuir is a prison housing Scottish rebels, among them a tall red-haired man who stands out in a crowd. Malone ends up meeting the one and only Jamie Fraser (pausing here for hearts to melt). The plot of the story isn’t that important, but the Jamie moments are a lovely little treat, with a lot of heartbreak squeezed into one small conversation.

Past Prologue isn’t essential to the Outlander canon, but for fans, it’s a fun way to get a glimpse of familiar characters and settings. Not a bad way to pass the time!

 

*If you’re an Outlander reader but haven’t yet read the five already-published stories, I’ll just say that my two favorites are A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and Virgins.

**Further note: As always, I’ll mention that the audiobooks are a great option for enjoying the Gabaldon novellas. Jeff Woodman is particularly wonderful narrating anything related to Lord John, and I really enjoyed the Virgins audiobook as well.

***I’ve written about a few of the these stories/novellas in other posts. Check them out:
A Trail of Fire
Virgins

Save

Save

Save

Thursday Quotables: Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

MOBY

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
(published 2014)

My book club is getting starting with a group re-read of book #8 in the Outlander series — but already, just a few chapters in, I’m finding little bits and pieces that amuse the heck out of me, like this one:

Fraser stood quite still for a moment, breathing slowly and regarding Woodbine as a tiger might regard a hedgehog: yes, he could eat it, but would the inconvenience of swallowing be worth it?

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Thursday Quotables: “Virgins”/Dangerous Women

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

17279560

“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon
from the anthology Dangerous Women,
edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Tor, 2013

“Ye dinna have to come in, man,” he said to Ian. “I can do it alone.”

Ian’s mouth twitched, but he shook his head and stepped up next to Jamie.

“On your right, man,” he said, simply. Jamie smiled. When he’d been five years old, Ian’s da, Auld John, had persuaded his own da to let Jamie handle a sword cack-handed, as he was wont to do. “And you, lad,” he’d said to Ian, very serious, “it’s your duty to stand on your laird’s right hand, and guard his weak side.”

“Aye,” Jamie said. “Right, then.” And rang the bell.

I’ve been walking on air all week, now that Dangerous Women is in my hands and I’ve been able to spend time once again with Jamie Fraser. “Virgins” is a story set prior to the events of Outlander, and it’s such a delight to see a younger version of Jamie and Ian — and the bonds of brotherhood and friendship between the two, rock solid since childhood.

And in case you’re wondering: “Cack-handed” means that Jamie is a leftie!

Click here if you’d like to see my initial thoughts on the Dangerous Women anthology.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click below (next to the cute froggy face) to link up your post! And be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables too.
  • Have a quote to share but not a blog post? Leave your quote in the comments.
  • Have fun!

Say hello to Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser!

Big news in Outlander world today! After driving fans everywhere absolutely bonkers with all the waiting, Starz has just announced the casting of Claire in its upcoming Outlander TV series.

Say hello to Caitriona Balfe, our new Claire!

CF

I’ll have to take Diana Gabaldon’s word for it in terms of Caitriona’s acting abilities (quote from DG’s Facebook page:

yes, I saw her audition videos with Sam (they were _great_!)

… but she certainly has the right look! Beautiful, isn’t she? Who else is getting really excited about the series?

Outlander fans, what do you think?