Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 2

Season 3 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 302: “Surrender”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Hiding in a cave, Jamie leads a lonely life until Lallybroch is threatened by redcoats pursuing the elusive Jacobite traitor. In Boston, Claire and Frank struggle to coexist in a marriage haunted by the ghost of Jamie.

My take:

Major plot points:

Once again, the episode follows two separate times. We see Jamie’s world in 1752, and Claire’s in 1949.

  • Six years have passed since Culloden. Jamie is a silent, shattered shell of a man, living in a cave in the woods near Lallybroch.
  • Despite being in hiding, a legend seems to have sprung up about the “Dunbonnet” — a red-haired outlaw who covers his hair with a brown bonnet.

  • The redcoats come by Lallybroch regularly to harass the family and search for Red Jamie. They arrest Ian over and over again to try to force information from the family.
  • Things come to a head for Jamie when he’s nearly caught in the house soon after Jenny gives birth to Young Ian, endangering the entire family. Next, Fergus taunts the redcoats who follow him, until one cuts off his hand. Jamie rushes him to the house and his life is saved, but Jamie feels terrible about the horrible danger the family is in because of him.
  • Finally, he decides that Jenny should turn him in to the redcoats, so that the family will collect the reward offered for his capture and clear themselves of any further suspicion.
  • The night before this plan goes through, Mary McNab brings Jamie a final meal in his cave, trims his hair and shaves his beard, and invites him to sleep with her as a last comfort before he goes to prison.
  • The next day, Jamie and Jenny put on a performance for the British, who show up during Jamie’s supposed homecoming and take him off to prison.
  • Meanwhile, in Boston, Claire continues to dream of Jamie. While she’s resumed a sex life with Frank, she does so with her eyes shut, and Frank realizes that she’s still with Jamie in her heart and in her head.
  • Brianna is about a year old, and although Claire has thrown herself into motherhood, she misses having something meaningful to contribute to the world.
  • By the end of the episode, we see Claire attending her first anatomy class at Harvard Medical School, where the professor scornfully remarks that between her and the “Negro” student, they’ve become very progressive. The other students (white, male) act like jerks, but Claire and Joe Abernathy, the sole African American student, introduce themselves, and it’s clear that this will be the start of a lasting friendship.

Insta-reaction:

This show. Really. They are just ON this season, and it’s glorious.

Poor Fergus. The actor playing him is so adorable and sweet, although I believe this is the last time we’ll see him. By the time we focus on Fergus again (assuming more or less the chronology from the books), years will have passed and we’ll have an older actor playing the character. Meanwhile, though, this Fergus has grown up a bit since season 2 — he’s taller and his voice is deeper! Such a sweetie. The scene with the British officers was horrible*, although I appreciate how faithful to the book the scene was where Fergus and Jamie talk afterwards, and Fergus reminds Jamie that he’d once sworn to support him for the rest of his life if he ever lost his hand while in Jamie’s employ, a very real possibility for a pickpocket. (How ironic that he finally suffers this fate after “going straight”, no longer a pickpocket but just a boy working on a farm.)

*Does it strike anyone else as implausible that the soldiers would pin Fergus down and chop off his hand? Why would they do this? Maybe they’d beat him or take him away, but really, cut off his hand? It seems so out of place. In the books, it’s accidental. Same perpetrator (British soldier), same outcome for Fergus, but a little easier to accept than an act of outright brutality that’s just a bit too out there.

Jamie is so shattered in this episode. It’s painful to look at his face and realize that his life is just completely empty. He loves Jenny and her family, but as Ian points out, Claire is Jamie’s heart, and now his heart is gone. Gotta love the Dunbonnet look on Jamie, with the long hair* and scraggly beard. Such a wild man! The scene where he brings home the deer to feed the family and silently butchers it shows Jamie’s awful, continuous pain so clearly.

*Although if the point of the “dun bonnet” is to cover up Red Jamie’s signature hair, it’s not very effective. Those glorious red locks flowing past his shoulders are not exactly inconspicuous.

I did feel that the episode should have shown the world beyond Lallybroch in the Scotland scenes. Based only on the show, you might assume that the Fraser/Murphy family is specifically being targeted, when in history, we know that this was the time of the Clearances, when the British army ravaged the Highlands, destroyed the clans, and left the people starving and under constant threat of imprisonment and worse.

Meanwhile, the Claire and Frank scenes are an odd mix of hopeful and hopeless. There is a spark, such as when Claire and Frank coo over Brianna (and it doesn’t hurt that Frank is clad only in a towel at the time). Claire is a sex-positive woman, and there’s only so long she’s going to go without. In the two sexual encounters between Claire and Frank (as well as in the scene of her pleasuring herself while Frank sleeps), Claire takes the lead and does what feels good to her. Frank is too astute not to get what’s going on. No matter how much he loves her and wants her, he recognizes that she used to look at him while they made love, and now she keeps her eyes closed. Not very subtle, Claire. At the beginning of the episode, they’re sleeping side by side in the same bed — but by the end, they say good-night and sleep in twin beds, in the same room but with empty space between them. This marriage is not doing well, no matter the happy faces they put on for company.

On a positive note for Claire, I’m thrilled to see her starting medical school (where I’m sure she could run circles around all those awful people in her anatomy class — how many of them have performed amputations and sewn up battle wounds, hmmm?). However, I would have liked to have seen some discussion of this between her and Frank. Was he supportive? Did he realize she needed something in her life besides house and baby? Or is he just so defeated already by her distance that he sees this as maybe a way to ground her in her life a bit more? I know a one-hour episode can’t possibly include everything, but I feel like there’s something missing as background to Claire’s showing up in anatomy class.

Jamie’s interlude with Mary McNab was sweet and nicely done. She’s a kind woman who appreciates what Jamie has done for all of Lallybroch and knows how he’s about to sacrifice himself. Her offer of comfort and healing is something Jamie needs, even if he doesn’t think he wants it. It’s been too long for him since he’s allowed anyone to really reach him or touch him, and just for this moment, he’s able to make a connection.

The parallels between Jamie and Claire’s lives lie largely in the sexual encounters shown. Claire reconnects sexually with Frank, but always with Jamie on her mind  and in her fantasies. Jamie abstains from human contact, barely even speaks when he’s around people, and is thoroughly withdrawn from other people, living only in his mind and with his memories of Claire. He does finally allow himself to be touched by Mary, which perhaps is a first step for Jamie in accepting that his life with Claire is truly over.

By episode’s end, both Jamie and Claire have made life-changing decisions — Jamie by turning himself in and facing years, or possibly a lifetime, in prison, and Claire by enrolling in medical school. They’ve both been feeling trapped by what their lives have become, although Claire is opening a door to professional freedom and achievement, while Jamie will not be free for a long, long time.

The episode title, “Surrender”, is an interesting choice. Jamie has surrendered to the British, but I’d say he’s also surrendered his isolation and mourning, finally giving in to the reality of his life without Claire. He’s lived in limbo for all these years, but now he’s accepting that this is the life he has. Claire makes it clear that she’ll never give up her longing for Jamie, but she too takes steps in this episode to embrace living this new version of a life — and while she’ll never fully connect with Frank (could there be a wider gulf than the foot separating their two beds?), she’s surrendered to the need to find meaning where and when she is. A surrender is not a happy condition — it implies giving up and giving in — but there’s also an element of acceptance: The person surrendering can’t have what he or she truly wanted, and now they agree to move forward and accept the punishment or consequences, without what they desire most.

Such a sad way to think about Jamie and Claire’s lives. And no wonder adult Brianna feels that her mother was never truly present emotionally.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

A powerful, moving episode that’s quite faithful to the overall flow of the book, even keeping intact certain pieces of dialogue. I feel that the Jamie and Claire sections really flow together well, and the cutting from one era to another never feels jarring. The mood I get from all this is interconnectedness  — despite the distance and years between them, there’s still a firm tie between Claire and Jamie that can’t be undone or ignored.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 1

Season 3 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 301: “The Battle Joined”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

After living through the Battle of Culloden, Jamie is at the mercy of British victors, until his past provides his only hope of survival. Meanwhile, a pregnant Claire attempts to adjust to life in 1940s Boston.

My take:

Major plot points:

We follow two separate plot threads, Jamie’s and Claire’s.

  • Jamie wakes on the battlefield in a heap of bodies, half-dead and with visions of the last day flashing before his eyes.
  • We see him at Craigh na Dun after saying good-bye to Claire, then arriving at Culloden, where Prince Charles still thinks he’s going to have a victory.
  • We see flashes of Jamie on the battlefield, carnage all around him, finally killing Black Jack Randall while receiving his own seemingly fatal wound.

  • Jamie’s life is ultimately spared by Lord Melton, older brother of John Grey, who considers there to be a debt of honor due to Jamie’s sparing of John’s life at Carryarick.
  • Meanwhile, Frank and Claire are beginning their life together in Boston.
  • Claire is not well-suited to the life of a faculty housewife, expected to look pretty, stay quiet, and prepare dinner on a modern-day stove.
  • Claire can’t allow Frank to touch her. Things are tense.
  • Finally, Claire goes into labor, and delivers a healthy baby girl. Claire and Frank declare themselves ready for a new beginning, which is immediately tested by a nurse asking where the baby got her red hair. Oops. Loaded question.

Insta-reaction:

Such a beautiful episode. Really, I couldn’t have asked for better.

Book readers will know that while Voyager starts with Jamie lying wounded on the battlefield, wondering if he’s dead already, we never actually see the Battle of Culloden. It’s quite effective that it’s shown, with all its horror and carnage. The Jacobites are running with swords into the line of fire from guns and cannon, and they just don’t stand a chance.

And that blasted Prince Charles, still dreaming of victory as he shows off his pretty silver cups while the men devoted to a Stuart restoration rush to their deaths. So terribly, needlessly tragic.

Jamie’s vision of Claire on the battlefield is lovely. She’s all he can see, and he has nothing without her.

I enjoyed the brief moments of Murtagh during the battle and the quick interchange between him and Jamie. His fate, at least on this episode, is unknown, although I think it’s safe to assume that he met the same end here as in the book. Or does he? Is the show leaving open the possibility that we’ll see him again? Murtagh’s death in the books was one of the hardest to take. A fan can hope, right?

(But how could he have survived Culloden? The British killed everyone wounded on the battlefield, and if he wasn’t wounded or dead, he would have found Jamie or died trying.)

Where’s Murtagh???

I know, I know… this really is probably just wishful thinking on my part. A key piece of the coming years of Jamie’s life is how alone he is. Having Murtagh there would change the dynamic and shift the story quite a bit, so I can’t really see the showrunners going in that direction. I guess I just don’t want to say good-bye to him. I do love the character!

Rupert plays a heroic role, looking after the few survivors as they await their turn to be executed, before making his own good-bye to Jamie and facing death. I love that he stepped up and acted as a leader in these scenes, and that his parting with Jamie was full of affection, not dwelling on Jamie’s killing of Dougal. It must be nice to have the belief systems of these Highlanders — Rupert takes comfort in the idea of being with Angus once again. (Are we crying yet?)

Hal, Lord Melton, is a book favorite of mine, and while I don’t expect to see him again this season, I felt his portrayal and his handling of the moral dilemma presented by Jamie was quite good. And it was great seeing Jamie end up back in Jenny’s loving care by the end of the episode.

As for Claire — well, this housewife role is clearly not for her. It’s almost painful to see how voiceless and powerless she is as a woman in 1948. This is a woman who advised kings and chieftains, engaged in high-level political scheming, and performed amputations, battlefield medicine, and more. And yet when she offers an opinion at the Harvard faculty club, she’s treated as impertinent and out of line, with nothing of value to say because she’s a woman, and a pregnant one at that. And then later, when the doctor asks Frank about her contractions instead of Claire, and then sedates her against her will — infuriating! We assumed when Claire first arrived in the Highlands that she’d be shoved into a powerless role because of her sex, yet it’s really here in the late 1940s that Claire is more pigeon-holed than ever before.

It does seems an important point that she mentioned that Harvard Medical School began admitting women just a few years earlier, giving a hint of her own next step. Claire is a woman whose calling in life is to be a healer — sitting home making dinner, staying quiet, and not worrying her pretty head about anything absolutely isn’t her.

Likewise, if we really think about it, Claire has never been a housewife before. From the opening of episode 1, season 1, we know that Claire has never had a home of her own. She and Frank married and then were separated by war, which she spent on battlefields and hospitals. They no sooner reunite than they’re separated again by Claire’s trip into the past, where she certainly wasn’t a housewife, instead involved in non-stop action and called on time and time again to use her remarkable skills as a healer. She’s never had a home or the expectation that home was where she was meant to be. It’s so not Claire! Ugh, 1948, you’re the worst.

Poor Frank. I’ve never been all that fond of him, but he does seem to be getting a pretty raw deal here. It still doesn’t really make sense to me that he and Claire chose to remain together and stay married. How can they ever expect to get past the three years they were apart, and the fact that Claire fell passionately in love with another man? I’m not sure either of them is being realistic about the deep layers of hurt and sorrow between them.

Oh, that moment in the hospital when Claire wakes up and says “where’s my baby?”!! Stunning. Such a beautiful and powerful throwback to the tragic stillbirth of her first child. In the moment when Frank brings her newborn daughter to her, we can see hope finally beginning to shine in Claire’s eyes.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

A stellar beginning to season 3! Kudos to the cast — their emotions are so raw and spot-on. Kudos as well to the production staff, especially in regard to the staging of the battle and its aftermath. Simply breathtaking and devastating.

And furthermore…

I’m just so damn glad that Droughtlander is over! It’s been a long time, but worth every moment of waiting if the full season promises to be as great as its first episode.

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Outlander season 3: The EW cover shoot

Yes, I’m back on an Outlander-obsessed roll! Season 3 airs in 15 days! And somehow, that seems forever.

The wonderful folks over at Entertainment Weekly put Outlander on its cover this week, and it’s amazing! There are three cover versions:

Plus oodles of terrific pics on the inside too:

So how long do we have to wait until the season 3 premiere? Click here to see my countdown clock!

And while we wait… I guess I’ll just have to watch the trailer a zillion more times.

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Outlandish updates

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So maybe you’ve noticed that I’m a bit of an Outlander fan.

Oops, wrong fandom.

Oops, wrong fandom.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Outlander, so I thought — on this rainy Saturday morning — I’d gather up the bits and pieces of Outlander-world news that have come up in the last few months.

First, from the world of books:

sadSadly, it would appear that we’re not getting the 9th book in the main series in 2017. I know. I know. It’s hard. Diana Herself has made it clear that it takes as long as it takes, and it’s going to take a while. At least we have a title: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.

What does the title mean? From Diana Gabaldon’s website:

Talking to your bees is a very old Celtic custom (known in other parts of Europe, too) that made it to the Appalachians. You always tell the bees when someone is born, dies, comes or goes—because if you don’t keep them informed, they’ll fly away.

What does this imply for our beloved characters? Discuss amongst yourselves.

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In other book news, there are a couple of new releases to report.

img_4030First, there’s a new hardcover edition of the story Virgins now available! Virgins was originally released as part of an anthology (Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin, published 2013). Early this year, Virgins was released as a stand-alone e-story. And now, finally, I have my very own, very shiny new copy to place on my shelves!

Chronologically, Virgins takes place prior to the events of Outlander, telling the story of Jamie and Ian as young mercenaries (and virgins) in France. It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling, and I encourage fans of the series to check it out.

Unfortunately, the hardcover isn’t available directly from US sellers, but I got mine from Book Depository — and since they ship worldwide, it really wasn’t a problem. (And shipping is free, so the price was reasonable too.)

i-give-youSecond, especially for those who write, or those who want to write, or simply for fans, Diana released an e-book entitled “I Give You My Body…”: How I Write Sex Scenes, which is pretty much just what the title says. It’s Diana’s explanation of her approach to writing sex scenes, with tips and excerpts. The book is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Herself — always loads of fun.

 

 

 

 

Finally, here’s yet another reason to cheer! While we’re not getting a Big Enormous Book (as DG calls them) in 2017, we will have a new release to gobble up. Coming in June, Diana is releasing a collection of stories from the Outlander world.

seven-stones-lgSeven Stones To Stand or Fall is now available for pre-order from Amazon and other online sources, with a projected release date of June 27, 2017. The collection includes seven stories, some new and some previously published. The stories are…

Previously released:

  • The Custom of the Army
  • The Space Between
  • A Plague of Zombies
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows
  • Virgins (yes, again!)

New (!!!)

  • A Fugitive Green: A story about Hal and Minnie and how they first met.
  • Besieged: About Lord John and his mother Benedicta

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From the world of the Starz TV production of Outlander…

Season 3 filming is underway! No word yet on the air date, other than sometime in 2017. There are endless number of fan sites dedicated to the show, with countless behind-the-scenes tidbits and photos, so I won’t bother tracking them down here.

I do want to share the major casting updates of season 3, for those who haven’t seen them yet. New additions to the cast include:

Cesar Domboy as Fergus (all grown up):

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Lauren Lyle as Marsali:

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David Berry as Lord John:

david_berry-original

John Bell as Young Ian:

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Wil Johnson as Joe Abernathy:

wil-johnson

Hannah James as Geneva Dunsany:

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Tanya Reynolds as Isobel Dunsany:

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Who else is excited for season 3???

Here’s hoping our long and painful Droughtlander ends soon!

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