Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 10

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 310: “Heaven and Earth”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire races to discover the source of an epidemic aboard a disease-stricken ship before hundreds of sailors die. And as Jamie locks horns with Captain Raines, Fergus finds himself torn between loyalty and love.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Claire and Jamie are separated once again — Claire on board the Porpoise, and Jamie left behind on the Artemis.
  • Claire gets down to business tending the sick. Jamie? Loses his sh*t completely, attempting a mutiny to get the captain to pursue the Porpoise and get Claire back.
  • Jamie is thrown in the brig. Fergus brings him food and water, but refuses Jamie’s command to steal the keys and free him so they can take the ship.
  • Meanwhile, Claire leads a valiant effort to stem the epidemic on the Porpoise and begins to see success once she traces the source of contamination to a cook’s helper.
  • Unfortunately, Claire also discovers that there’s a witness to Jamie’s crimes in Edinburgh on board the ship — the man who ended up burning down the print shop — and he’s informed the captain of the Porpoise that Jamie is wanted for sedition and murder. (The body in the cask of creme de menthe has been found after all).
  • Claire needs to find a way to warn Jamie, but the captain won’t give her the opportunity. A kind woman tending goats on the ship helps Claire escape.
  • As the episode ends, Claire jumps overboard, with hopes of drifting to the nearby island and finding a way to reach Jamie before he arrives in Jamaica, where he’ll be arrested.
  • Cutting back to Jamie, he’s released from the brig finally in order to help with navigation, after finally seeing Fergus’s point of view. He gives Fergus and Marsali his blessing to marry, but says they must wait and be married by a priest.

Insta-reaction:

This is going to be a short one, as I’m traveling this week and I’m viewing and writing on my laptop here in a little guestroom, without a whole lot of time to devote to getting this done.

Jamie and Claire had some brief moments of happiness last week, so of course this week they’re kept apart and are each dealing with a hellish situation.

Claire is amazing at dealing with the typhoid fever. She’s in her glory, giving orders and having them carried out, under the full authority of the captain. Claire’s knowledge of germs and diseases leads to some resistance and nastiness from certain of the men, especially after she orders the grog rations cut in half so that the rum can be distilled into pure alcohol. They men look at Claire as if she’s crazy, but all that dipping of hands in alcohol and her other cleanliness measure pay off, as by episode’s end, the epidemic seems finally to be under control.

Poor sweet Elias Pound! Elias is a 14-year-old on the ship, assigned to help Claire, and he’s sweet and oddly authoritative as he acts as her right-hand man. Sadly, just as most of the men seem to be healthier, even singing sea shanties in their hammocks. poor Elias is struck down by the disease. Like so many others, he’s buried at sea.

I wasn’t a great fan of the Jamie storyline. Jamie’s demands of Captain Raines aren’t reasonable, IMHO. He’s demanding that the Captain sail the Artemis at full speed in order to catch up with the Porpoise, which is a much bigger ship already at full sail. It’s just not possible, and the captain seems sincere in saying that what Jamie wants him to do isn’t safe. Jamie just doesn’t seem rationale, and his demands of Fergus aren’t particular fair or logical. Fergus is right to refuse — there’s the strongest likelihood that their attempted mutiny would lead to their deaths, dooming Marsali and Claire as well. Fergus’s decision not to obey Jamie is a huge step for him, and while Jamie thinks that only someone who understands love would move “heaven and earth” to rescue the woman he loves, Fergus’s reasoning about what’s best for Marsali is just as valid a demonstration of strong, true love. I’m glad Jamie finally gives in and offers his blessing.

Here’s where we get into parts of the story that never much appealed to me in the book, and which I hope will be resolved with less fuss in the show. The accusations against Jamie in the captain’s log on the Porpoise and the appearance of the witness against him seem like unnececessary plot complications at this point. The captains of the two ships were in agreement that they’d meet up in Jamaica, and Claire and Jamie could reunite then. But now, with Jamie at risk of arrest and possibly hanging, Claire is desperate enough to reach Jamie that she jumps overboard! What exactly the plan is once she floats ashore, I couldn’t tell. Annika (who helps Claire) gives her money — to buy passage on another ship? How does she expect to reach Jamie? Find a ship willing to intercept the Artemis for her? I’ve read the book several times, and I still don’t see the sense in what’s going on.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I have a pretty mixed reaction to this episode. On the one hand, I do love seeing Claire in doctor mode. She’s so calm and authoritative and knowledgeable, and doesn’t back down no matter what opposition she faces. She may have been upset initially at being hijacked against her will, but she buckles down immediately and is determined to fight and stop the disease, and frankly, she seems to be right in her element, finally getting to act as a medical professional with the backing and support of the people around her.

On the other hand, Jamie threatening a mutiny seems far-fetched and unnecessary. He knows he’s headed in the same direction as Claire, and I understand he’d be upset, but he goes too far. Fergus is sweet, but also shows backbone in this episode. He reveres Jamie and would do anything for him, but he actually draws a line and defies his wishes here. That must have taken incredible bravery. Good for Fergus.

I try not to dwell too much on comparison between the book and the show, but in this case, what I really missed from the book was Claire’s shipboard encounter with Lord John — not knowing who he was other than the new Governor en route to Jamaica, each ignorant of their signficance in Jamie’s life, but connecting over the moment of peace and quiet, and the desperation of being responsible for men’s lives. It’s a lovely little moment, and could have been a nice addition to the episode.

Wrapping it all up…

Based on the previews, it looks like the Claire/Jamie separation will drag on a while longer. These two just never catch a break. I wonder how they would ever fare if they had a solid month to just live peacefully somewhere, with no kidnappings or smuggling plots or spies or charges of sedition. Would they even know what to do with themselves?

Maybe that’s another reason Claire’s marriage to Frank was doomed to fail — not enough brushes with the law, political manipulation, or hiding from excisemen!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 9

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 309: “The Doldrums”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie leave Scotland, sailing to the West Indies on an urgent quest. When the superstitious crew looks for someone to blame after a string of bad luck, rescue comes from an unlikely source.

My take:

Although we’re technically past the half-way mark of the season already, episode 9 is a real new beginning for the show and the season. And hey, we’ve got a new theme song to go with!

Major plot points:

  • Cousin Jared helps trace the ship that took Young Ian — a Portugese ship called the Bruja, sailing for Jamaica.
  • Jamie and Claire book passage on the Artemis. Jamie declares that he will not set foot in Scotland again without Young Ian.
  • Fergus and Mr. Willoughby join them on the ship. Also, a stowaway — Fergus has brought Marsali with him.
  • Fergus and Marsali claim to be married, having been handfast that morning. Jamie begs to differ.
  • Ultimately, he allows Marsali to continue the voyage, but declares that she will bunk with Claire and Fergus will bunk with Jamie, in order to preserve Marsali’s virtue until she and Fergus can be properly wed.
  • The ship’s crew are very superstitious, and when the ship becomes becalmed, they start looking for someone to blame — a “Jonah” to throw overboard.
  • The wind finally returns, and the Artemis gets back underway, only to be stopped by a British man-of-war looking to “borrow” the ship’s surgeon.
  • Claire goes to the other ship to advise on treatment for the typhoid fever ravaging the crew — and then the ship takes off with her aboard.
  • Once again, Claire and Jamie are separated against their will.

Insta-reaction:

This:

If I could just see Claire and Jamie looking this happy and in love every day, I’d be good.

Anyhoo…

One of the biggest changes revealed in tonight’s episode is the amazing new version of the opening theme song, tweaked now to incorporate an island/Carribbean feel:

I just love it. It really captures the feel of the remainder of the season, with the emphasis on the sea voyage, the island culture, a hint of the mysterious and the danger awaiting — and with a nice connection from the torches in the new scenes to the lanterns of the dancers at Craigh na Dun, going full circle back to the beginning.

This episode felt like a breath of fresh air after the tension and strain of the last two. Claire and Jamie’s problems won’t evaporate immediately, and yet being alone together on a ship for months on end will hopefully give them the space to reconnect and regain their comfort with one another.

The filming for this episode was pretty glorious, taking full advantage of the beauty of being at sea to open up the horizons and give the characters more breathing space. The sunshine and open skies seems to portend an improvement in Jamie and Claire’s relationship — and even though they’re worried sick over Ian, there’s nothing they can do at this point but go on the voyage. I enjoyed seeing them living in the moment for the time being and taking time to be together.

Poor Jamie! He is not cut out for the life of a sailor. Mr. Willoughby to the rescue! Take note — if you ever find yourself in the middle of the ocean retching your guts out, make sure you have a skilled acupuncture practitioner along!

Jamie in paternal mode is a fairly funny Jamie. He’s very upset about Fergus and Marsali, who claim to have been courting for six months and to now be handfast (basically, declaring themselves wed in front of witnesses). In the books, Fergus is about 30 at this point and Marsali is 15, but it would appear that the show is fudging the age difference quite a bit to make the relationship more palatable. Jamie is so determined to keep Fergus from sleeping with Marsali that he declares that Marsali will share Claire’s cabin for the journey — only realizing a moment too late that this means that he and Claire won’t be sleeping together. Silly Jamie. (Fortunately, he and Claire do manage to steal some private time, and they seem very… um… satisfied by their time together).

The whole doldrums section — no wind, not enough water, the ship becalmed, the men becoming more and more superstitious — was a bit boring to me, to be honest, but luckily it went by pretty quickly. I do love when Claire gets righteous about the stupidity of superstitions (like touching the horseshoe or — gasp — having women on board).

No sooner do they get back underway that further bad news comes along in the form of the Porpoise, a British man-of-war with a decimated crew. Typhoid fever is spreading unchecked throughout the ship, with all senior officers already dead and a very young, inexperienced lieutenant now the acting captain. Claire has been immunized and knows she can’t catch the disease, and agrees to go see what advice she can offer. She explains to Jamie about her Hippocratic Oath, which is something Jamie can understand. Taking an oath in the 18th century is a binding, practically holy thing. This will matter throughout the course of the books, as Jamie treats Claire’s oath as something sacred, and this allows him to support her in pursuing whatever she needs to do to fulfill it, even if her actions are bewildering or defy society’s accepted roles for women.

In any case, apparently Claire’s advice to the Porpoise is a little too good, because they realize they need her and cast off, leaving the Artemis behind. Claire and Jamie are separated once again.

Poor Jamie — first sea-sickness, then getting stuck full of needles, and then his wife gets kidnapped at sea! Life with the Sassenach just isn’t easy.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Wow! I really, really loved this episode.

I suppose you could divide this season into thirds: First, there’s Claire and Jamie’s lives apart. Second, there’s the reunion and their time together in Scotland. And this episode marks the start of the final third, the voyage of Voyager‘s title, in which Jamie and Claire set sail for the new world, of course having no idea that they’ll not return for a very, very long time.

Once thing I really loved in this episode was Claire’s changing look. She’s been looking very starched and stiff since she returned to Jamie, buttoned up and in lots of formidable looking clothes with a scraped-back bun. As the journey progresses, she starts to shed her layers. The hair comes down, held back in a simple tie. The outer layers of coat and vest get discarded, and her skirt gets bunched up (sorry, I have no idea what the term is — not a fashion person, I!) so that it becomes more utilitarian, out of the way of her feet and enabling her to move about the ship with ease. I love too that her gray hair is back. In preparing for her return to Jamie, 20th century Claire dyed her hair. Now it’s back to being natural — and I actually feel that the grey streaks in her looser hair style and more relaxed clothing adds to an overall younger look for her.

Granted, the show has acknowledged that it’s not heavily aging the actors. Still, I love the idea that Claire is looking more youthful here simply because she’s finally starting to relax into her new life with Jamie. We can see them gaining a feel for their marriage again, exchanging small looks and gestures and intimacies. If not for the fact that their nephew’s life is in danger and they themselves are in the midst of a perilous sea voyage, this could almost be a 2nd honeymoon!

I’m really liking the actress playing Marsali. She’s got spunk and speaks her mind, and I like that she looks a bit like young Laoghaire too. Jamie insists that Fergus can’t possibly really know Marsali well enough to marry her since he presumably hasn’t told her about all the girls he’s slept with before — so he goes ahead and does that, and Marsali doesn’t seem to care. She’s headstrong and stubborn and knows what she wants. I had to laugh when she told Jamie that if he sent her home, she’d tell everyone that she’d slept with Fergus even though she hadn’t — so Jamie’s choice is to see her wed or see her ruined.

Wrapping it all up…

Heading into the final stretch of the season, I have a few trepidations. To be honest, I always found this section of the book kind of over-stuffed — but I’m hopeful that the limited amount of screen time will mean that the show whittles the often convoluted plot elements down to their essentials and leaves out some of the fluff.

The visuals in these sea-based scenes are stunning, and I can’t wait to see the action shift to Jamaica. Kudos to the production for taking advantage of the sets in South Africa. It must have been a delight to film there, and based on this first episode, it’s yielding beautiful results.

I’m sad that there are only four episodes left this season! How did that happen so quickly? The work of the cast and crew has been phenomenal in season 3, and the production overall seems to get better and better.

Sigh… I’m off to enjoy the scenes of Claire and Jamie’s Atlantic cruise once again.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 8

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 308: “First Wife”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire returns to Lallybroch with Jamie, where she does not receive quite the reception she was expecting. Unbeknownst to her, Jamie’s made some choices in their time apart which come back to haunt them with a vengeance.

My take:

For once, I may actually get an “Insta-Reaction” post up on the same day the episode airs… because I happened to be up late enough on Saturday to be able to stream the episode online instead of waiting to watch it when it aired on Sunday. The joys of being early! Onward…

Major plot points:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian arrive back at Lallybroch.
  • Claire is delighted to see Jenny and tries to reach out to her, but gets a very cold reception.
  • Jamie tells Claire that he’s been keeping something from her, but before he can get any further, two girls walk in and call him “Daddy.”
  • Uh oh! Turns out Jamie married Laoghaire two years earlier! Claire is horrified and feels betrayed.
  • Jamie explains that his marriage to Laoghaire wasn’t successful and that they’d been living apart.
  • Claire prepares to leave, but Laoghaire shows up again with a pistol and shoots Jamie.
  • Claire removes the birdshot pellets from Jamie, then gives him an injection of penicillin when he begins to become feverish from infection.
  • Lawyer Ned Gowan comes to Lallybroch to work out the dissolution of Jamie’s marriage to Laoghaire. The marriage itself is invalid, but Laoghaire wants to sue Jamie for distress.
  • To resolve the situation, Jamie agrees to pay Laoghaire a very high settlement and ongoing payments, which he can only manage by retrieving a box of jewels from an island, which he discovered during his escape from Ardsmuir prison years earlier.
  • Since Jamie’s arm is wounded, he can’t swim out to the island, so Young Ian goes instead. He finds the jewels, but is then kidnapped and taken aboard a sailing ship that arrives at the island.
  • Jamie and Claire can only watch helplessly from shore as the ship leaves with Ian.

Insta-reaction:

Whew. What a homecoming.

Inlaws – amiright?

It’s understandable that Jenny would feel so betrayed by Claire and treat her so coldly. The truth — that Claire traveled through time — simply wouldn’t be believed. (Okay, we can quibble about this. It’s a superstitious time. People believe in fairies and witches. Why wouldn’t Jenny believe that Claire traveled to a different time? It would explain so much!) Anyway, Jamie and Claire believe that they can’t share the truth with Jenny, which means they’re stuck with the lame story that Claire believed Jamie was dead, sailed off to the colonies, and has been there ever since. As Jenny points out later in the episode, she could have written! Jenny makes it very clear that life at Lallybroch has moved on without Claire and that’s she’s no longer a part of the family. Ouch.

As Claire and Jamie prepare for bed, Jamie’s on the verge of sharing with Claire what he’s been hiding… when we have the “Daddy!” moment. Not good. Claire is freaking out over the two girls — one of whom has very red hair — when it goes from bad to worse, as their mother walks in. It’s Laoghaire, right back to ranting about the “Sassenach witch”. It’s like twenty years never happened.

Jamie obviously has a bond with the girls, and Claire is heartbroken that he not only married the woman who once tried to have her killed, but that he apparently has a life and has children. How could he have let her think that she still fit into his life? Jamie and Claire have a very ugly fight, with broken things and face slaps and the beginning of angry sex, until Jenny literally throws cold water on them, since the whole house can hear what they’re up to.

Once Laoghaire shows up again the next day and shoots Jamie, Claire has cooling off time as she picks the pellets out of Jamie’s shoulders and chest. Young Ian makes an adorable surgeon’s assistant, even picking up a bit of Claire’s medical jargon. As he’s recovering, Jamie shares more with Claire — about his loneliness when he returned to Lallybroch from Helwater, after leaving his son behind and knowing that he’ll likely never see him again. He was rootless and disconnected, until Laoghaire’s daughters made him laugh again. He wanted to be a father, and he wanted to be a husband, and Jenny encouraged the match — but it just never worked. Laoghaire was twice widowed, and at least one of her late husbands was presumably unkind and harsh to her in bed, because things just never clicked her for her and Jamie. He didn’t love her, but thought he could make a life with her and her daughters — but in the end had to leave rather than live with a woman who was afraid to have him touch her.

Claire was relieved to find out that the girls weren’t Jamie’s daughters, but rather his stepdaughters. Jamie had a great line about there being other red-headed men in Scotland — little Joanie’s red hair doesn’t automatically mean Jamie’s the father. The older daughter, Marsali, looks so much like Laoghaire! Great casting, show.

Claire finally sits and talks with Jenny. Turns out Jenny is responsible for Laoghaire showing up at Lallybroch — Jenny sent her daughter to fetch her. Not cool, Jenny. Jenny didn’t trust Claire and thought her return would only end up hurting Jamie. Without telling Jenny the whole truth, Claire gives her a partial truth that helps Jenny start to thaw a bit. Claire tells her that she married another man when she arrived in the colonies and tried to build a life with him, thinking Jamie dead. It was only after her husband died that Claire decided to return to Scotland to visit Jamie’s grave, and that’s when she discovered he was alive. Jenny admits to having loved Claire as a sister, and Claire says she loved her too. Baby steps, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope that Jenny can start to accept Claire again.

It was great to see Ned Gowan! He credits his longevity with never having married — such a scamp! (Who can argue, given that Jamie’s marriages just led to him being shot.) Lovely to see the affection between Ned and Claire — it was one of the few times this episode when Claire’s smile looked genuine, without the shadow of hurt hiding behind it.

The scene with Ned was quite interesting. Yes, the marriage to Laoghaire is invalid since Jamie’s “first wife” was alive the whole time. Laoghaire is threatening to sue Jamie, which could get ugly — but at the same time, pistols are illegal at that time, and Claire is all for turning Laoghaire over the British, which could result in transportation to the colonies for her, most likely to Virgina. (Gotta love Claire’s snide comment about Richmond being lovely that time of year.) Jamie won’t hear of it — he has the girls to think of. In the end, the amount of “alimony” he agrees to pay Laoghaire seems extortionary; not just a settlement amount, but ongoing yearly payments until both girls are settled in marriage. This decision on Jamie’s part will have an impact on his life with Claire for years to come. Interesting to see Jamie’s compassion here contrasted with Claire’s desire for vengeance against Laoghaire. Some wounds never heal. (She tried to have Claire killed! It’s not a forgive and forget situation.)

And then the episode ends with Jamie and Claire on the cliffside, watching Young Ian swimming out to the island to retrieve the cache of jewels. Claire’s still not sure she belongs with Jamie. Maybe it’s all a mistake. She had a career and a home and friends back in Boston. Does she still fit into Jamie’s life? Can they be happy? Jamie tells her yet again that he loves her and wants her, and asks her if she can take a chance on who he is now, for the sake of the man he once was.

Their moment of romantic reconciliation is interrupted by the arrival of the ship, and they’re helpless to save Ian from being kidnapped. Disaster strikes again, because Jamie and Claire just can never catch a break.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another strong episode, although with some key departures from the book.

Laoghaire and the girls show up in Jamie and Claire’s bedroom — but unlike in the book, they don’t walk in while they’re having sex. That’s a relief. Those girls do NOT need to see that.

The biggest change, I think, is that Claire doesn’t leave. In the book, she takes off (with Jenny’s encouragement), grabbing a horse and riding (slowly) back to Craigh na Dun, both determined to go back through the stones and hoping that Jamie will catch her before she does. He doesn’t come after her, though — Young Ian does, because Jamie’s been shot, has an infection, and is likely dying. Claire goes back to treat Jamie and save his life, but whether or not she’ll stay is up in the air. (Book spoiler: She stays.)

The changes work, although having Claire leave would certainly have been more dramatic. The action in the episode felt a bit rushed, but I guess it’s understandable, given how much ground the show still needs to cover.

The fight between Claire and Jamie was brutal, and Jamie says some things that border on unforgiveable. As she’s lashing out at him for marrying Laoghaire, he yells back at her that she left him! This is a devastating charge — she didn’t want to leave him; he forced her to go. It’s painful and awful, but also feels pretty real. Couples don’t always fight fair. Jamie knows that the facts don’t support what he’s saying, but at the same time, he’s saying what’s in his heart. She did leave, willingly or not, and he was left behind, and never got over the hurt.

One thing the show does very well, in some ways better than the books, is show the difficulty of Jamie and Claire’s situation. They can’t just pick up where they left off. It’s not all sunshine and roses. If they’re going to stay together and rebuild a marriage and a life, it’ll take real work, and it’ll take time. They knew each other heart and soul once, but they don’t really know each other at this point. They need to learn to be together all over again.

The Hogmany scene was excellent. It strongly conveyed how alienated Jamie felt, outside of the family and all the happiness right in front of him. It’s easy to see how the laughter of the girls and their affection and openness could charm him. Here are two girls who need a father, and here’s a man with two children whom he’ll never see or raise himself. Seems like a perfect fit, and even Laoghaire looked lovely at the party. We really can’t blame him for trying to fit himself into the role he’d spent so many years longing for. (Even though — ew — Laoghaire.)

The end of the episode represents the crucial turning point of the entire series. In the books, Ian’s kidnapping sets everything that follows in motion. If not for this event, Claire and Jamie would never have gone to America or built a life there. I suppose for viewers who didn’t know it was coming, this was probably a pretty jarring end to the episode. But it’s necessary for the next stages of the story, so off we go.

Wrapping it all up…

It’s definitely funny to see the ship at the end, and also to see more ships in the preview for next week’s episode. The production moved to South Africa for the filming of the seafaring part of the story, using the sets from Black Sails. It’ll be hard to watch the next episode and not be waiting for Captain Flint to show up! (Ah, wouldn’t that be amazing?)

All of a sudden (or so it seems to me), we’re 8 episodes into the season, with only five left. There is so much more that needs to happen to get through the rest of Voyager! Man, this is going to be a jam-packed rest of the season. Episode 308 felt rushed to me, and I’m afraid that the fast pace will only increase for the next several episodes. Which is fine – there’s a lot of story to cover — but I hope they do manage to slow things down enough for us to get more of the personal moments that we need. We really do need to see Jamie and Claire come together and start rebuilding their relationship. They still love each other, but they’re starting over again, and the show needs to give them a bit of breathing space to explore their relationship and rebuild the trust and the bond that has always connected them.

Still, terrific acting once again in this episode from the outstanding cast. They’ve breathed such life into these characters, so we really feel their pain, their anger, and their fears. Now let’s let the love back in a bit, shall we?

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 7

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 307: “Creme de Menthe”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire follows her conscience as a surgeon, even though it could put her and Jamie’s lives at risk. At the same time, Jamie attempts to evade the reach of the Crown as its representative closes in on his illegal dealings.

My take:

Major plot points:

Day 2 of Jamie and Claire’s reunion isn’t going so well:

  • We start where the last episode ended, with Claire being accosted by a stranger searching Jamie’s room. After a scuffle, he falls and hits his head.
  • Jamie thinks it would be best for the man to die. Claire is a doctor and can’t leave the man without trying to treat him.
  • In going to fetch herbs, Claire meets Archibald Campbell, who arranges for Claire to come see his sick sister Margaret later on.
  • Claire tries crude surgery on the injured man, drilling into his skull to relieve the pressure, but he dies anyway.
  • Sir Percival comes to search the brothel for Jamie’s smuggled liquor, but finds nothing, as Ian and Fergus have already removed it and sold it.
  • Ian has his first sexual encounter with a barmaid, after some coaching from Fergus.
  • Ian Sr. comes looking for Young Ian, and Jamie lies and says he has not seen him.
  • A man with a blind eye searches the print shop and finds Jamie’s seditious pamphlets. In a fight with Young Ian, the printshop catches fire.
  • Jamie rescues Young Ian, but the shop is completely burned.
  • Jamie agrees that he and Claire should take Young Ian home to Lallybroch.

Insta-reaction:

Well, the honeymoon is over.

Jamie and Claire had one blissful night of lovemaking in the last episode, but now in the cold hard light of day, the reality of the rest of the world comes crashing back in, leading to danger from without and conflict between Jamie and Claire.

I can only imagine what’s going through Claire’s mind during the events of this episode. She thought she knew what she was getting herself into, and had accepted the uncertainties she’d face. Before traveling back through the stones, Claire knew that it was possible that Jamie would no longer have room for her in his life. It was a calculated risk, and one that she took for herself and for Brianna, putting her faith in the love she and Jamie had shared, and hoping it would be enough for them to build a new future on.

And here she is, back in Jamie’s world — and in her shoes, I’d probably be asking myself what the f*** I just did to my life. Once again, she finds herself married to a man on the wrong side of the law, with no home, no standing, and no way to fulfill her professional goals. She asks Jamie if they can find someplace else to live (what, brothels aren’t homey enough for you Claire?), but Jamie says money is too tight. Claire suggests that she can set up shop in the back of the printshop as a healer, but Jamie doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic. Honestly, he seems to mostly be looking at Claire as if she’s trouble throughout this episode. A nice docile wife would, I guess, have agreed to let the injured man die — but instead, Jamie has Claire back in his life, putting her medical vows first even when it thrusts them into greater danger. Deja vu all over again, right Jamie?

As for Claire, she’s quite clear with Jamie that she’s a physician and a surgeon, and it’s also clear that she may be regretting walking away from her 20th century medical career, with its clean hospitals and surgical implements and medicines. No, she doesn’t regret finding Jamie, but I think it’s hitting her bit by bit that she’s back in the 18th century, where she has no authority and lacks the most basic of decent medical resources.

Mr. Willoughby seems like a good assistant to Claire. As I probably mentioned last week, I’m very thankful that the show is treating his character as a respectable adult, rather than as the caricature he is in the books.

Young Ian and Fergus are adorable together (and basically are adorable always, in any setting). So now we know that Fergus lost his virginity at age 15 in a menage-a-trois. Oh, Fergus. Never change. Fergus gives Ian a few tips that seem to work pretty well, because before he knows it, he’s heading to bed with the pretty barmaid. Sure, there’s the confusion that seems to plague the virginal males of the family — no, Ian, you do not have to do it from behind. Don’t worry, Jamie was befuddled at first too, but you’ll learn. Sadly, Ian’s first experience is interrupted by the printshop bursting into flames, but I’m sure he’ll have plenty of opportunities down the road.

Claire’s reunion with Ian Sr. was interesting and difficult. He looked at Claire with love, but also with hurt, I think. He tells Claire that he and Jenny mourned for her for years. It’ll be hard for them to accept Claire’s cover story — that she thought Jamie was dead and fled to the colonies. It begs the question of why she never wrote or tried to contact Jenny in any way, and there’s no good answer. Either Claire tells the truth about time travel, which they may or may not believe, or she sticks to a story that makes her sound hard-hearted and uncaring toward the Murray/Fraser clan. Still, Ian had tears running down his face while embracing Claire. He may be hurt, but he loves her anyway. I wouldn’t expect instant forgiveness from Jenny, Claire.

Claire is shocked that Jamie lies to Ian Sr. and says that he has not seen Young Ian. Clearly, Young Ian is involved in Jamie’s less-than-legal business dealings, and just as clearly, Jamie doesn’t want Jenny and Ian to know anything about it. Claire doesn’t understand how Jamie can lie to his family, and a rather ugly exchange ensues in which Claire makes a nasty comment about Jamie not understanding what it is to be a parent. Jamie of course brings up Brianna’s bikini as an example of Claire’s questionable parenting choices. Ouch. Boy, there is a lot of tension simmering beneath the surface.

And of course, the lies don’t end there. We finally hear spoken what we know already from the books, when Fergus asks Jamie the big question:

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Uh oh. Jamie’s lies (and lies of omission) are about to catch up with him in a big way. Next week’s episode should be explosive.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

After the highs of the reunion last week, this week’s episode feels pretty low. Lots of unhappy people, lots of tense situations, not a whole lot of joy for anyone.

Claire and Jamie are both now facing the reality of what her return means. She instantly (although through no fault of her own) causes dangerous complications for him, his business partners, and the family. She’s realizing that her fantasy of a quiet, peaceful, loving home with Jamie is as far from reach as when she was in Boston.

Both are realizing that there are things about the other that maybe don’t fit their rosie-eyed pictures. Claire sees Jamie both disregarding the value of a human life and telling lies, two things that are absolutely contrary to her values. Jamie sees once again that having Claire in his life means having a wife who can’t be relied upon to follow his orders or sit on the sidelines.

They do love each other. Jamie affirms yet again that he wants her. But the open question here is whether they truly fit together any more, after so many changes and so many years. Can they rebuild a new version of their life and their marriage that will give them the happiness together that they both want?

I must admit here that I found this section of the book kind of irritating, so it’s no wonder the episode didn’t especially appeal to me either. It was very well done, as they all are — but I just find this section of the plot getting on my nerves. Jamie is so busy with his random illegal business obligations that he doesn’t pay very much attention to Claire’s needs and just expects her to fit herself into his life. Okay, fine, so he didn’t know she was coming and does have an actual life that he was living, so it’s not like he’s not justified in his actions. Maybe there is no easy answer.

I just know that in Claire’s shoes, if I found the love of my life after 20 years and he was too busy smuggling, hiding bodies, and telling lies to make me feel welcome back into his life, I might be asking myself some really big questions right about now.

“Creme de Menthe” shows that perfect love still has jagged edges, and that no matter how deep and true the romance, people have to live in the real world. For Jamie and Claire, the question is whether their love is enough to see them past their differences and the changes wrought by their 20 year separation. They’re not out of the woods yet.

Wrapping it all up…

I probably should have mentioned this back at the beginning of the season — but I am not reading along with season 3, and it’s been years since I’ve read (or re-read) Voyager. I mention this because I’ve already heard that a lot of book readers are steaming over this particular episode and its omissions and additions vis-à-vis the book. During season 1, I made a point of reading the relevant book chapters prior to watching each episode, and I found that this approach actually detracted from my enjoyment of the show. It just put too great an emphasis on noting the differences from the original source material to the TV adaptation.

I decided going into season 2 that I’d do it book-free. I remembered enough to know where the major plot deviations were, but didn’t have the details so vividly in my mind that I’d get upset about the delivery of certain lines or whether something should have happened upstairs or downstairs (for example). It was a much happier viewing experience for me. I was able to savor the beautiful parts, admire the artistry and choreography of complicated scenes, and simply enjoy the production.

So far, this approach is absolutely working for me in season 3. Which brings me back to this episode. As I mentioned, I didn’t particularly love this part of Voyager, so if they skim over some of the smuggling adventures as a means of moving the plot forward, I’m fine with that. And no, Claire doesn’t drill into a man’s head in the book — but I’m okay with that too. Here, in the TV episode, it’s a shorthand method of demonstrating the differences Claire and Jamie still have to overcome.

So — no, episode 307 isn’t the best of the season, but I think it did what it needed to do to get us from point A (the reunion) to point C (the beginning of the rest of their lives together). It’s okay. It’ll all be okay.

And anyway, since when did Jamie and Claire ever have smooth sailing?

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 6

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 306: “A. Malcolm”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

After decades apart, Jamie and Claire finally reunite and rekindle their emotional and physical bonds. But Jamie’s new business dealings jeopardize the couples’ hopes for a simple life together.

My take:

Major plot points:

Really, what more do you need to know besides JAMIE AND CLAIRE ARE REUNITED! Okay, exuberant celebration aside, here’s what happened:

  • Jamie is living a busy life in Edinburgh as a printer, but apparently with some less legit business going on the side.
  • Jamie is shocked by Claire’s sudden appearance in his print shop.
  • Claire shows Jamie a packet of photographs of Brianna. Jamie is clearly moved. Jamie tells Claire about his son Willie.
  • They head out to meet Mr. Willoughby, first running into Fergus in the street.
  • Jamie brings Claire to his room in the brothel, where they reconnect over dinner before going to bed together.
  • Claire learns that in addition to being a printer, Jamie is also a smuggler. Also, he keeps a room in a brothel. (But he doesn’t partake of the wares.)
  • Young Ian makes an appearance.
  • While Jamie is out on business, Claire has breakfast with the ladies of the house. When she goes back up to Jamie’s room, she finds a dangerous man searching the room.

Insta-reaction:

Ah! The reunion! The printshop! It was all so glorious and romantic… and yes, awkward too. It’s been 20 years. I loved how the actors shows the strangeness of this reunion. For Jamie, it’s practically a supernatural moment. He never thought he’d see Claire again, and can’t quite believe she’s real. And for Claire, after years of yearning, and then all that searching, it all comes down to this moment.

They begin with tentative kisses. Neither quite knows the other at this moment. Claire can’t be sure Jamie wants her, and wonders if she still fits into his life. Jamie wants to know why Claire is there — has she come to be with him, or is she only there to bring him news of their daughter? It all feels so real. It might be nice to imagine that they’d simply fall back into one another’s arms as if no time has passed, but this is so much more realistic. They’re both self-conscious about having aged (Jamie is adorable in reading glasses!), and there’s so much life to catch up on.

Certain book moments are captured splendidly. I love the scene of Jamie looking at photos of Brianna. First, Claire has to explain what photographs are… and then she has to reassure Jamie that it’s perfectly normal for a teen-aged girl of the 1960s to be hanging out in a bikini. Somehow, I don’t think Jamie will ever get with the program on that one.

Jamie’s business keeps getting in the way of the reunion, but again, that makes it feel more real. Jamie has commitments and business dealings, and none of these stop just because Claire walks in the door.

The meeting with Fergus in the street was brief but lovely. I’ll miss young Fergus, but I think this grown-up version will do just fine! The love he feels for Claire is palpable, and there’s a sweet but sad moment when Claire touches Fergus’s replacement hand. For book readers, we all probably caught Fergus’s questions to Jamie “what about…?” and know exactly what it means. I’m glad the show kept the little hints that there’s something more to Jamie’s situation than what Claire knows.

As for their first night together, it was beautiful and sweet, and in some ways a call-back to their wedding night. Claire and Jamie are upstairs in his room, and first get to know one another all over again over dinner, filling each other in on the missed years — where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and who they are now. When they’re finally ready to go to bed together, they’re eager but shy. Claire covers herself up once she’s naked, not sure if Jamie will still be attracted to her after all these years. (He is.) They’re tentative at first (and Claire has to teach Jamie what a zipper is), but ultimately they fall back into the intense sexual chemistry that they’ve always had.

The show makes clear that their reunion won’t be easy. They have so much to catch up on, and really need to find out who they each are all over again. But this episode shows that the foundations of love and desire are still there, and indeed have never left.

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

The reunion was all I could have hoped for, and then some.

One change from the book that really made me happy is that Jamie tells Claire about Willie right away. We know that there are still some secrets he hasn’t told, but there’s no reason to keep this from her. Claire wanted to know if Jamie loved Willie’s mother, and he told her he didn’t, although we can assume he’ll tell her much more about just how Willie came to be at some point down the road. I’m so glad that this is out in the open between them. If they’re to succeed in rebuilding a life together, they have to be honest. For Claire especially, who gave up an entire world — her daughter, her profession, her own time — to be with Jamie, she needs to know what’s in Jamie’s heart if she’s to stay. Willie is too important to Jamie for him to keep secret from Claire.

The new cast members all appealed to me — Young Ian, Older Fergus, and Mr. Willoughby. Young Ian is a particular book favorite of mine — I can’t wait to see more of him in action!

Ah, this episode really delivered! The production team wisely gave extra time to this episode, and the story was allowed room to develop and blossom. We got to see the initial disbelief and euphoria, the joy, the shyness, the uncertainty, and everything else that would be natural for these two to feel after so many years apart. Neither has been fully their true selves for the past 20 years, always missing some essential part of their own soul. Now they’re together, and yes, they’ll have to work to rebuild a life that they can share and to rediscover how to be together, but their love remains, and with that, we can feel assured that Jamie and Claire will be okay.

If only they didn’t have to deal with dastardly villains and run-ins with the law for at least a day or two…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 5

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 305: “Freedom & Whisky”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Brianna grapples with life-changing revelations and Claire must help her come to terms with the fact that she is her father’s daughter. Roger brings news that forces Claire and Brianna to face an impossible choice.

My take:

Major plot points:

This episode is 99% Claire — the focus is on her life in Boston following her return from Scotland, her relationship with Brianna, and the decision she must make about whether to attempt to return to Jamie again.

  • Claire is clearly a skilled surgeon, but her professional success and close friendship with Joe Abernathy still don’t fill the hole in her life.
  • At a ceremony honoring Frank, Claire is confronted by his long-term mistress. Awkward.
  • Roger shows up to experience “an American Christmas”, but also to hand something to Claire — proof that Jamie was alive, living in Edinburgh and working as a printer, only a year before.
  • Claire initially rejects Roger’s information, insisting that she can’t leave Brianna. But Brianna convinces Claire that the time has come to find the man she loves.
  • Claire heads back to Scotland, through the stones, and ends up back in Edinburgh in 1766. She finds A. Malcolm’s printshop, and enters to see Jamie working over the printing press.
  • Claire and Jamie lock eyes… and then Jamie faints.

Insta-reaction:

This was, by necessity, a slower episode — especially relative to the previous four, with their emphasis on Jamie’s travails post-Culloden. Here in 305, the drama is mostly internal. It’s all about the choice facing Claire — a choice she never really believed she’d have to make.

On the one hand is the man who still haunts her every waking moment. It’s been 20 years, but she’s never forgotten or stopped loving Jamie. But until Roger shows up with his new proof, the idea of actually seeing Jamie again was just a dream, not a real possibility.

And of course, on the other hand, there’s Brianna. Can Claire make a decision that will result in probably never seeing her daughter again? Claire has a powerful, touching conversation with Brianna about all she’ll miss — seeing Brianna marry and walking her down the aisle, being a grandmother to Brianna’s children — and simply being a part of her daughter’s life.

Brianna is a young woman who’s been through a lot in the past year, losing the only father she knew and finding out the truth about her real father, and now faces losing her mother as well. She handles it with grace and poise. She NEEDS Claire to go, to find her father and make sure he knows that he has a daughter. Brianna still isn’t fully formed as an adult, but she insists to Claire that it’s time. Brianna will be okay — now it’s time for Claire to find Brianna’s father.

The scene at the ceremony for Frank struck me as a bit unnecessary. Why bring Frank’s mistress back into the story? She accuses Claire of selfishness, of refusing to let Frank go when he could have had years of happiness with someone who really loved him. Now, we know that Claire did offer Frank a divorce after the debacle the night of her graduation. So why force this scene now?

In thinking about it, it ties in with the scene earlier in the episode in Brianna’s history classroom at Harvard, when the professor discusses Paul Revere, then talks about the difference between historical facts versus what gets passed down through time. History depends on whose version we’re hearing. So back to Frank — did he tell the other woman that he’s the one who chose to stay in the marriage? Perhaps her version of history feels real to her, but it’s based on her source, who didn’t share all the information with her.

And speaking of Brianna’s history class… The professor informs Bree that she’s failing the class. Bree suggests that she’s just not smart enough, which is nonsense. Before Frank’s death and the trip to Scotland, she was an outstanding student. Clearly, Brianna has been through some life-altering events. As she sits in class, she’s drawing sketches of campus architecture rather than taking notes on the lecture, and later, giving Roger a tour, she becomes animated talking about the intricacies of the building’s design. Brianna is a history major, following in her father’s footsteps, but this is a clue that her true passion lies elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how much more of Brianna we see this season, and whether her career/education path gets more attention.

Roger, as always, is a sweetheart. He’s so awkwardly romantic with Brianna, and he cares for Claire so much. It’s not just the historian in him that gets him to keep digging for Jamie when it seemed they’d hit a dead end. Roger is now entangled in the story of Claire and Jamie (and Brianna), and he doesn’t want to let go of the connection.

And finally, after soul-searching and conversation upon conversation, Claire decides to go. She makes herself an 18th-century-appropriate traveling outfit with lots of hidden pockets so she can store her penicillin, syringes, and other 20th century must-haves (the show calls it her Batsuit!), and she’s ready to go.

Claire says goodbye to Brianna and Roger in Boston. It would be too hard to have Brianna with her at the stones — perhaps she wouldn’t have the strength to really leave her. And next we see, she’s in Edinburgh!

From Boston…

 

… to Edinburgh!

Finally, finally, we get the start of Claire and Jamie’s reunion. There’s absolute joy on Claire’s face as she finally sees Jamie working at the printing press. And then Jamie hears her voice! He freezes, slowly turns and sees her, and then passes out! Well, naturally — Claire has been on a journey back to Jamie for months, but Jamie has had absolutely no warning. It’s taken him 20 years to come to terms with losing Claire and rebuild a life for himself, but he never expected to actually see her again. And then there she is, suddenly, standing in front of him! Fainting dead away is a reasonable response, given the situation.

And…. fade to black! That’s the end of the episode. Oh, it’ll be a long, cruel couple of weeks until we see what happens next, but we can be sure that good things are in store for Claire and Jamie!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another strong episode for a fantastic season. I can already imagine that there’s some grumbling going on among fans who can’t stand being Jamie-less for a full episode (or thereabouts), but anyone who’s read the book knows that we’d caught up to as much of Jamie’s life as we could expect to see as of the end of last episode. Yes, there are still some years to cover, but we’ll find out more about those when Claire does. Meanwhile, knowing that he’s a printer in Edinburgh is all that was truly important for the sake of getting Claire to finally go to him.

I’m glad that the show took a shortcut along the way, showing Claire stepping out of the taxi and into 18th century Edinburgh. We didn’t really need to see her arrive in Scotland, go to Craigh na Dun, travel through the stones, then find transportation to Edinburgh. We know that’s what happened without seeing it on screen. A book can take the time to show every detail, but in this visual medium, with a limited amount of minutes per episode, it was more important to get Claire to her destination than to spend time on the journey — especially since we’ve seen her go through the stones twice now, and Geillis once. We know how it works, so the show was right to get straight to what matters most, bringing Claire and Jamie together.

Thinking about the stones and time travel for a moment more, it’s lovely to think about the differences in Claire’s journeys. The first time she went through, it was purely by accident. She made no decision, but was pulled through without knowing what was happening. The second time, she went through the stones to save her child. It was deliberate, but done very much against her will and desire, and felt like the end of her real life. It was a moment of despair and heartbreak, from which Claire never truly recovered. How lovely, then, that Claire is owning her life and destiny here by choosing the stones this time. She’s fully cognizant of what she’s leaving, and makes the decision to go back in time in order to consciously choose a life with Jamie. Such a beautiful testament to the love she feels for him and its power.

On a different note, I enjoyed the scenes showing Claire and Joe Abernathy*. They’re colleagues, but also friends — probably the only friend Claire has. Claire tells Joe a partial truth about Jamie — that he was her true love and Brianna’s real father, and that she may have a chance to reconnect with him. Joe is supportive and enthusiastic (yet another person pointing out to her that no one really bought the fairy tale that she and Frank were happily married). Joe offers Claire reassurance that she’s still attractive.

*Side note: It’ll seem odd and unimportant to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but the scene with the skeleton in Joe’s office isn’t just a throwaway. It may seem weird in this episode, but there’s a reason to include it. ‘Nuff said.

It’s odd to see poised, careful Claire showing this type of vulnerability, wondering if Jamie will still want her now that she’s 20 years older. I was a little disappointed by her deciding to cover up her gray hair before leaving for Scotland. What will she do when the roots grow back in? Can she make a hair dye from acorns or something? Still, this too shows the internal fear which she hasn’t shared with Brianna. She knows she’ll always love and want Jamie, but she really doesn’t know what his life has been like over the past 20 years. Will he still want her, love her, or have room for her in his life? She’s stepping out into the unknown with no guarantees at all. I suppose I can understand her doubts and fears, as she looks at her gray hair and (completely unnoticeable) wrinkles. (Wouldn’t we all love to look like Caitriona Balfe as we age??) And this highlights how truly brave she is. It’s not just the danger of the time travel and the uncertainties inherent in the passage through the stones. Even if all goes according to plan and she finds Jamie, she really has no idea what he’ll be like and whether she can restart a life with him.

And she goes anyway. Like I said, that’s bravery — and love.

A final note:

Oh, the cruelty of whoever puts together the Starz calendar! We now have a two-week wait for the next episode, which means we won’t see the Claire and Jamie reunion until October 22nd. How shall we bear it?

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 4

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 304: “Of Lost Things”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

While serving as a groomsman at Helwater, Jamie is pulled into the intrigue of a British family. In 1968, Claire, Brianna and Roger struggle to trace Jamie’s whereabouts, leaving Claire to wonder if they will ever find him.

My take:

Major plot points:

Since Claire and Jamie are still apart (spoiler alert — not much longer now!!), this episode follows two separate timelines.

In Claire’s world:

  • We’ve now caught up to where Claire’s story left off at the end of season 2. Claire, Brianna, and Roger are determined to find Jamie.
  • They realize that time moves equally in both time periods. Since it’s been 20 years since Claire came back through the stones, they begin searching historical records to try to find out where Jamie was 20 years after Culloden.
  • They’re able to trace Jamie through his time at Ardsmuir, but the trail runs cold once the prison closes.
  • Out of options, Claire gives up and heads back to America with Brianna.
  • Brianna and Roger share a kiss before she leaves.

In Jamie’s world:

  • Jamie is a groom at Helwater, serving the household of the Dunsany family. Lord Dunsany knows that Jamie was a Jacobite, but advises him to keep this a secret, as Lady Dunsany hates all Jacobites, having lost her son at Prestonpans. Jamie goes by the name Alexander MacKenzie while at Helwater.
  • The Dunsanys have two daughters, Isobel and Geneva, and Geneva is a pistol.
  • John checks in on Jamie regularly, as promised, and the two have resumed their chess games and their friendship. Things turn awkward when John’s brother Hal shows up, since he knows who Jamie really is.
  • Geneva is promised in marriage to the Earl of Ellesmere, a man old enough to be her grandfather. She’s pissed.
  • Geneva blackmails Jamie into sleeping with her. She wants to lose her virginity to someone young and desirable, unlike her husband-to-be.
  • Geneva is soon married, pregnant (with Jamie’s child), and then dies in childbirth. Ellesmere knows the baby isn’t his (they never consummated the marriage), and threatens to kill the baby, but Jamie kills him instead, earning the eternal gratitude of the Dunsanys.
  • Lady Dunsany is so grateful that she offers Jamie his freedom, but he declines so he can remain near William, his (secret) son.
  • After many years, the resemblance beween Jamie and Willie is becoming obvious, and he realizes it’s time to leave. Willie is heartbroken, and so is Jamie.
  • John marries Isobel, who is Willie’s guardian. John will raise Jamie’s son.

Insta-reaction:

Oh, this season. This show. It’s just so ON. Killing me here.

Jamie’s story is the dominant one in this episode, with good reason. What happens to him in the years shown is just way more important and dramatic than the month Claire et al spend doing research. I mean, I’m glad they’re doing it, but let’s be real — how exciting is it to watch three character sift through papers and take notes?

Therefore, onward with the Jamie side of things.

Kudos to the show on the marvelous casting choice for Geneva. Sadly, we’ll only see her this one episode. Actress Hannah James was fabulous in PBS’s Mercy Street (watch it if you haven’t yet!) — and it’s funny, but when I watched Mercy Street, there were certain scenes where she reminded me of Claire, so it feels appropriate to have her playing against Jamie in this episode. She did a wonderful job of capturing Geneva’s strong will and high spirits, yet also captured the vulnerability behind the bravado in the crucial scene with Jamie.

Speaking of which…

I was glad that the show made some changes from the book in terms of the sex scene between Jamie and Geneva. In the book, there’s a moment that has generated endless (really, I do mean endless) debate among readers — namely, at the moment of penetration, Geneva tells Jamie to stop because she’s changed her mind, and he says no, and goes right ahead. I’m not getting into it here — was it rape? If he didn’t live up to his side of the bargain, would she take revenge? Look, book readers have been talking about that scene for AGES. I’m just happy the TV series didn’t go there.

Instead, we see Jamie in an impossible position. He hates what Geneva is demanding of him and has no intention of complying — but she’s got him by the you-know-whats. She’s making threats not only affecting his parole, but also making clear that even his family back at Lallybroch could be endangered. So Jamie is very much coerced into having sex with Geneva. But Jamie is Jamie, so even though he’s there against his will, once he shows up in Geneva’s room, he’s kind to her. He knows she’s scared, but she makes clear that she’s determined to go ahead with it. Jamie gives her permission to watch him undress, and asks permission before touching her. He tries to guide her through the process so that she’ll take pleasure from it, which she clearly does. She even declares her love for Jamie, but he (kindly) points out that what she feels isn’t love, just the aftermath of really good sex. (Well, he didn’t say it quite that way, but that’s the point.)

The confrontation with Ellesmere is a little confusing (although highly dramatic). If Ellesmere and Geneva never had sex, why did he wait until she gave birth to freak out so completely? It’s not like he couldn’t tell that she was pregnant.

I liked Isobel very much. She’s the meeker of the two sisters, but has her own thoughts, and I enjoyed her interactions with Jamie, from her confessions of feelings for John to her sorrow and anger over Geneva’s death to gratitude toward Jamie, and acknowledgement of his role as William’s father. Knowing the book, I think I know what’s next for Isobel, but it would be nice to see her down the road too.

Okay, and then there’s the moment when Jamie offers his body to John, as a payment for his request to John to take care of William after Jamie’s departure. Seemed a bit out of the blue to me. It’s been 7 or 8 years since Ardsmuir, and the two men have reestablished a friendship based on respect. Why would Jamie feel the need to offer himself in this way? Clearly, John would do anything for Jamie, no sexual bribes needed. Jamie has some very screwed up notions about sex, methinks… although who can really blame him, after everything he’s been through. John, bless him, expresses gratitude as he turns down Jamie’s offer. They’ve cemented their friendship for sure, and John is set to be Willie’s stepfather.

I did like the little moment when John tells Jamie that he’s getting married, and Jamie asks “to a woman?” Yes, Jamie, to a woman. Unless John can figure out how to time travel to the 21st century, he really doesn’t have too many choices, does he?

So sad to see Jamie leave poor Willie behind. I would have liked to have seen more of the two of them together, but the scenes we did see were enough to establish the strong bond between them. Jamie’s hand-carved snake is a wonderful, personal gift for Willie, as is the secret baptism Jamie gives him when Willie declares that he wants to be a “stinking Papist” too.

Back to Claire for a moment — it’s hard to see her giving up, but I suppose she feels that they’ve reached a dead end and that there’s no hope left for finding Jamie. I was surprised to see Fiona giving Claire the pearls. It’s hard to believe that Claire would have given the pearls to Mrs. Graham, but I suppose this was part of her letting go of the past (just like allowing Frank to burn her 18th century clothing — that still makes me mad!). Perhaps the pearls here are meant as a foreshadowing of sorts, although Claire doesn’t know it yet. They’re a piece of her past that she thought was long gone, but they’ve now come back into her life. What else from her past will she find? (Hint: Jamie.)

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I feel like this showing is coming together in a smooth and seamless way that’s hard to define. Maybe it’s just that I wasn’t thrilled by the Paris plotline last season (note: I thought the acting and production were fabulous, but the storyline itself was problematic in several ways). Trying to change history and stop a rebellion is big and outrageous, and in some ways takes the emphasis away from the personal. So far, in season 3, the stories are intensely personal. It’s all about the characters and their journeys — maybe that’s why I’m loving it so much.

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the 3rd book in the series, Voyager. The first third or so, showing Jamie and Claire’s time apart, just blows me away, most especially Jamie’s 20-year struggle post-Culloden and all that he’s suffered and experienced. Later on, the book starts feeling kitchen-sink-y to me. I’ve warmed to it over the course of subsequent rereads, but the fact remains that certain plot elements hinge entirely on the unlikeliest of coincidences, and there’s just so much thrown in (voodoo, slave uprisings, and pirates, to name but a few) that it’s a difficult book for me to fully swallow.

Given all that, I’d say the show is doing a remarkable job. They have a tremendous amount of ground to cover this season. Voyager is a big book (870 pages in the paperback edition!), and there’s just SO MUCH PLOT. With 13 episodes in the season, a lot will have to be condensed in order to fit. So yes, book fans may complain about details being omitted at Ardsmuir or Helwater, but ultimately, the show has a story to tell and has to put all these story threads together in the best way possible to create a beautiful TV show — even if characters or actions end up on the cutting room floor or have details swapped out.

Episode 304 covers crucial years in Jamie’s life. After the sorrow of losing two children, as he mentions to Lord Dunsany — baby Faith, stillborn during season 2, and Brianna, who while alive is lost to Jamie nonetheless — Jamie finally has a child of his own. And while he can’t claim Willie, he can love him with all his heart, and that, I think, makes all the difference. Jamie now has meaning in his life, after all those empty years after losing Claire. And even though he’s forced to leave Willie behind by the end of the episode, he’ll always hold Willie close in his heart. Jamie Fraser is no longer alone, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 3

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 303: “All Debts Paid”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

In prison, Jamie discovers that an old foe has become the warden – and has the power to make his life hell. Claire and Frank both put their best foot forward in marriage, but an uninvited guest shatters the illusion.

My take:

Major plot points:

Once again, the episode follows two separate timelines, as we see Jamie and Claire’s separate lives.

In Claire’s world:

  • Claire and Frank’s marriage is worse than ever. There seem to be occasional warm moments during Claire’s medical school years, but then we find out that they have an “agreement”, which allows Frank to cheat so long as he’s discreet about it.
  • Claire and Joe Abernathy graduate from medical school. At a graduation celebration at Claire and Frank’s house, Frank’s girlfriend/mistress/”harlot” shows up an hour early for her assignation with Frank. A holy row ensues later. Claire felt humiliated in front of her friends and colleagues. Frank reminds Claire that she’s the one who first allowed someone else into their marriage.
  • They discuss divorce, acknowledging that their marriage is a sham, but decide to stay together because of Brianna.
  • Jumping ahead several years, Brianna graduates from high school, and Claire is a busy surgeon. Frank informs Claire that he wants a divorce, has been offered a post back in England, and want to take Brianna with him. Big fight. Bottom line: Brianna, at age 18, can decide for herself.
  • Frank leaves after their fight, and Claire is called back to the hospital to perform surgery. After the surgery, Joe finds Claire to give her bad news: Frank has been killed in a car crash.
  • Claire says a tearful good-bye to Frank, and tells him that she did truly love him once. He was her first love.

In Jamie’s world:

  • Jamie is a prisoner at Ardsmuir prison. It’s awful. Rats abound, and the men are cold and sick.
  • Jamie is the only Jacobite officer in the prison, and is the only prisoner kept in shackles.
  • Lord John Grey arrives to take up his post as the new governor of Ardsmuir. His predecessor (Harry Quarry!) lets him know that Jamie is the unofficial chief of the men, and that Grey should seek him out.
  • This is the same John Grey (then known as William Grey) who scuffled with Jamie back on the eve of Prestonpans.
  • Murtagh lives!!! He’s at Ardsmuir with Jamie, sporting a white beard. He appears to be quite ill, but Jamie is able to negotiate with Grey for medical care for Murtagh.

  • Jamie and John eventually develop a respectful relationship, but John misreads Jamie’s openness and makes a slight pass, which Jamie rejects and can’t seem to forgive.
  • By the end of the episode, Ardsmuir is being shut down. All prisoners are sentenced to transport to the American Colonies, where they’ll serve 14 years in indentured labor before earning their freedom, if they survive the passage. Murtagh is sent off for transport, but Grey has other plans for Jamie.
  • John takes Jamie to a beautiful English estate called Helwater, where he’ll serve his sentence. John now considers all debts of honor paid.

Insta-reaction:

Another glorious episode — perhaps a bit of a slow burn, but full of tremendous performances all around. The character moments are fully realized and heartbreaking and REAL.

Okay, Claire and Frank. What a bitter, sad state of affairs. At the beginning of the episode, as Frank is cooking breakfast and Claire suggests they go see a movie, it seems for a moment as though they’ve reached some sort of pleasant middle ground in their marriage. But no. Frank has seen the movie already, and it’s clear that he’s seen it WITH someone — and that someone is not just a work colleague. Apparently, they’ve agreed that Frank can do as he please and see other people, so long as he’s discreet, and he’s kept his word. And is seems like Claire is okay with this, so long as she doesn’t have to think about it too much. She seems to have perfected the art of denial.

Frank’s discretion slips later on, though. Years later, Claire hosts a party at their house celebrating her medical school graduation. There’s to be a dinner at a restaurant following, which Frank will be skipping… but the dinner is scheduled for 7:00, and Frank thought it was at 6:00. Did he really get the timing wrong, or is this his passive-aggressive way of humiliating Claire? His girlfriend shows up at their house an hour early, and Claire answers the door. Oh, if looks could kill! The girlfriend is shown into the house to stand mutely near Frank while Claire and all her guests walk past them to leave for dinner. Yikes. Painful.

The fight later that night between Claire and Frank is terrible (although brilliantly acted). I read in an interview with Caitriona Balfe that they were going for a “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” feel here, and they really nail it. The years of slow poisoning of the relationship lead to this scene in which Frank is drunk, Claire is angrily smoking, and the venom between the two is fully on display. Frank should never have invited his mistress to the house, of course — especially not on Claire’s graduation night. But really, who can blame him for pursuing love and affection when there is none at all in his home? Claire and Frank are both essentially good people, but they do awful things to each other. In our time, they never would have stayed together all those years. But Frank has seen fathers shut out of their children’s lives after divorce, and he will not risk his relationship with Brianna, despite Claire’s assurance that she would never try to keep them apart. Frank has some justice on his side when he points out to Claire that her promises don’t really mean a whole lot.

Finally, when Brianna graduates from high school, the moment of truth arrives. Frank informs Claire that he intends to accept a post at Oxford and take Brianna with him to live in England… and Claire’s not invited. He wants a divorce, and wants to remarry his girlfriend as soon as he can. It’s a bitter and angry scene once again, and yet another that makes it clear that Claire will absolutely never have room for anyone in her heart but Jamie. We also learn, at least from Frank’s perspective, that between her medical career and her yearning for Jamie, Claire has not been a particularly present mother, something Brianna hinted at at the end of season 2 as well.

Frank walks out, Claire goes to the hospital to perform surgery… and Frank dies. Claire’s good-bye to Frank is yet another quietly heartbreaking moment. She did love him… once.

And the Jamie story:

Ardsmuir is just as awful as we’d expect. The men are sick and cold and starving. And yet, when John becomes aware of the rats in the cells and orders a guard to have cats brought in, thinking he’s doing good by getting rid of vermin, Jamie points out the flaw in the plan: The prisoners count on the rats for food. They’d rather endure the filth and the bites and not lose the meals the rats provide.

Fan favorite Murtagh, who dies at Culloden in the books, is alive! Although not doing very well, with a nasty cough and seemingly very weak. Still, it’s wonderful that he and Jamie are together. Jamie does the best he can to care for Murtagh and the other prisoners, remembering his lessons about medical herbs  from Claire. It’s sweet to see Murtagh speaking of Claire, although the pain on Jamie’s face — poor man has really nothing to live for.

Later, after a piece of the plot that involves a dying man who may know the whereabouts of missing gold and a prison escape — an overly convoluted piece of the story — we see an incredibly powerful scene between  Jamie and John. Jamie makes clear that he realizes who John is after all, and basically begs him to settle the debt between them by ending Jamie’s life. As John holds his sword to Jamie’s throat, there’s an almost ecstatic look that crosses Jamie’s face. His suffering will finally be over. It’s not to be, though — John is far too honorable to hurt or kill an unarmed man.

John and Jamie develop a friendship of sorts as they meet in John’s chambers to eat, play chess, and have Jamie serve as the informal representative of the prisoners. They’re evenly matched in terms of sensibility and intellect and seem to truly enjoy one another’s company. Jamie finally opens up about his wife, and John shares the story of losing someone himself. Without being 100% explicit, it’s clear that this “particular friend” who died at Culloden was a man that John loved. All might have been well, had John not misinterpreted Jamie’s sympathy as perhaps something more than just compassion. John places his hand on Jamie’s, and Jamie threatens to kill him if he doesn’t stop touching him.

Oof. Poor John. The tears running down his cheeks! And poor Jamie too. Had Jamie not had the experiences he did at the hands of Black Jack Randall, perhaps he could have more kindly declined John’s interest. But this situation is all too familiar for Jamie: He’s a prisoner, at the mercy of a British officer, with no power of his own, subject to a redcoat who holds his life in his hands. It’s just too much. Of course Jamie reacts with coldness and the threat of violence. This is a man who suffered PTSD from his torture for years — given his past, he actually shows a great deal of restraint!

Oh, it was heartbreaking to see Jamie pulled off in one direction while Murtagh is taken off in another. They didn’t even get to say good-bye! A sentence of transport could easily be a death sentence — many of those being shipped to the colonies won’t survive the journey. John is again sparing Jamie from possible death, both from his sense of a debt to the man as well as the emotional connection he now feels for him. Jamie may not realize it yet, but John has given Jamie a gift with his new terms of imprisonment at Helwater.

Minor complaint: John rides his horse with Jamie led behind with a rope attached to his wrists as they travel from Ardsmuir to Helwater… for three days? Are we really to believe that John would drag Jamie along like that for so long? Maybe the show producers were going for dramatic effect, but it actually seemed ridiculous to me (and — book note — Jamie rides a horse too in the book version), and not in keeping with John’s sense of dignity.

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I do need to watch this episode again. (I watched in on my phone while on a plane, and missed some dialogue — and the tiny viewing screen resulted in my not recognizing Murtagh until about halfway through the episode!). I’m sure I missed some key moments, lines, looks — these episodes are all so rich, and deserve full attention!

I am thrilled that the show is keeping Murtagh around. Based on the events of the books, I feel certain that Jamie and Murtagh will reunite later this season and that Murtagh will have an ongoing role in the story. There’s another character from the books he could easily replace, and given that Murtagh is a fantastic character whom fans love, I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll see more of him.

This episode was light on action, but that’s okay. The character moments are really what matters here. For once, I’d say that at least on my initial viewing, the Claire parts were even more powerful than the Jamie parts. The slow, tortured disintegration of Claire and Frank’s marriage is so painful and so well done. Tobias Menzies has done a phenomenal job as both Black Jack and Frank, and it’s sad to think that his time with Outlander is now over (although there’s always the possibility of flashbacks, I suppose). Claire and Frank should never have stayed together, and although they did so with the best of intentions, they were simply miserable for much of their 20 years together.

In the books, we’re led to understand that Frank was unfaithful to Claire throughout their marriage, post-time-travel, and we don’t particularly have sympathy for him. (Diana Gabaldon has also alluded to readers only getting Claire’s perspective in the books, so how certain can we be that Frank cheated at all?) Here, Frank is definitely involved with someone, but it’s unclear whether this was multiple affairs or one long-lasting relationship. It’s easier to feel sympathy for TV Frank — he’s in a loveless marriage, through no fault of his own, and lord knows he’s tried to reconnect with Claire. He seems to have had her blessing to seek love (or at least sex) elsewhere — Claire only minds when his outside activities impact the illusion they’re maintaining of having a happy home. As someone who never cared for book Frank or felt much compassion for him, it’s good for me to more fully see the pain the man suffered all those years and his basic decency in the face of an impossible situation.

It’s interesting that the show hasn’t kept Claire and Jamie’s stories in perfect parallel, time-wise. Claire’s story is now caught up to where we saw her at the end of season 2, more or less. I assume we’re ready to pick back up with her, Roger and Brianna searching for signs of Jamie in the historical records. Meanwhile, there are still quite a few significant years ahead for Jamie, most of which I believe will be covered in next week’s episode.

All in all, I continue to be impressed with season 3. The story structure is being handled with great care, and the acting is out of this world. No one wants to see Jamie and Claire apart for too long, and yet, the work the cast is doing in conveying the sorrow of their lives is A+ material.

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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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