Outlandish updates

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

Oops, wrong fandom.

Oops, wrong fandom.

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

First, from the world of books:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Previously released:

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

New (!!!)

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

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From the world of the Starz TV production of Outlander…

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

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

Cesar Domboy as Fergus (all grown up):

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Lauren Lyle as Marsali:

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David Berry as Lord John:

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John Bell as Young Ian:

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Wil Johnson as Joe Abernathy:

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Hannah James as Geneva Dunsany:

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Tanya Reynolds as Isobel Dunsany:

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Who else is excited for season 3???

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

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 13

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The 2nd season of Outlander has reached its end. I’ve been writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 213: “Dragonfly in Amber”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Flashing forward, Claire revisits the past and reveals to her daughter, Brianna, the truth. Back in the 18th century, the Battle of Culloden has arrived, and Jamie must do everything he can to save the ones he loves.

My take:

The Outlander season finale… sob.

Major plot points:

  • In 1968, Claire comes to Inverness with her grown daughter Brianna for the funeral of the Reverend Wakefield, where they meet the adult Roger (who was oh-so-adorable as a small child).
  • Brianna and Roger hit it off and go exploring, including exploring the secrets of Claire and Frank (who is apparently recently deceased).
  • Claire visits Lallybroch and Culloden, reliving memories of the past.
  • Brianna learns the truth about her parentage, but doesn’t believe Claire until she sees Geillis go through the stones.
  • Back in 1746, it’s the day of the battle of Culloden. Desperate, Claire and Jamie scheme to kill Prince Charles in order to stop the rebellion, but they are overheard by Dougal, who attacks Jamie.
  • Jamie kills Dougal. Rupert witnesses the death blow, and agrees to give Jamie two hours to get Claire to safety before he tells others of Dougal’s murder.
  • Jamie takes Claire back to Craigh na Dun. Claire does not want to leave Jamie, but he makes her go in order to protect their unborn child.
  • Jamie and Claire say good-bye, and she returns through the stones to the 20th century.
  • In 1968, Roger and Brianna tell Claire that they’ve discovered proof that Jamie did not die at Culloden, as Claire has believed for the past twenty years.

Insta-reaction:

Wow. What an intense and heart-wrenching season finale — the perfect conclusion to a tumultuous, emotional 2nd season.

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Where to start? The 1960s are probably a good place. Well done, show, for the great use of period music, hair styles, and even TV programs. Claire looks amazing in her mod hair-do, silver streaks and all. Claire is one hell of a woman, no matter her age or the era.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Brianna… well, let’s just say that I may need time for her to grow on me. And it’s not the character — book Brianna is fairly bratty and abrasive at first too. No, it’s the actress and her acting. She wasn’t terrible, but she does come across as pretty strident, and I wish we’d had a chance to see positive interactions between Bree and Claire before jumping so quickly into Brianna accusing Claire of adultery, lying, and being a crazy-pants.

Roger is awfully cute, though, and he sang a terrific rat satire for Brianna. Adorable.

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Claire’s journey back through her memories is a heartbreaker. First, she visits Lallybroch, now a boarded-up, desolate shell, where she hears bits and pieces of past voices in her mind, including the romantic poem that is so important in the book.

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Next, she goes to Culloden, where she visits the stone marker for Clan Fraser and spends what appears to be hours telling Jamie all about his daughter and their life over the past 20 years.

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It’s clear that Claire has never gotten over Jamie. She carries such a heavy air of sadness with her. What must it have been like for Brianna to grown up with a mother whose heart was always elsewhere? And how did Claire and Frank manage to stay married all these years, when they both knew she loved someone else? On the plus side for Claire, apparently she focused all her pent-up passion and devotion into her career — she became a surgeon! You go, Claire!

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I got absolute chills in the scene where Brianna is waiting for Roger at the university and approaches a crowd to hear a charismatic speaker talking about Scottish nationalism. Just the sound of that voice — it’s Geillis Duncan, pre-time travel, going by her original name, Gillian Edgars. Wow. I didn’t realize she’d be in this episode (although I suppose I should have anticipated a brief appearance by Geillis, to match book events). Back in season 1 at the witch trial, Geillis told Claire that she’d come from 1968. Toward the end of the episode, Claire, Roger, and Brianna are just in time to see Geillis disappearing through the stones. It’s eerie and lovely all at the same time.

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Okay, back in the bad old days of 1746, the battle seems lost before it’s even begun. Seriously, I wanted to throttle the Bonnie Prince, who refuses to see that his army consists of starving, broken down men who stand absolutely no chance against British soldiers. This is just tragic, and it’s awful to watch, knowing what’s about to happen. No wonder Jamie and Claire feel desperate enough to consider regicide… too bad Dougal showed up in time to interfere.

The fight between Jamie and Dougal was well-done, with every ounce of Dougal’s passions, resentments, and jealousies apparent in every move.

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And oh, that good-bye scene between Jamie and Claire. What is there to even say about it? I thought it was done so beautifully, with Jamie guiding Claire to the stone and holding her hand up to it, knowing she doesn’t have the strength by herself to leave him willingly. Tears… all the tears…

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Insta-reaction wrap-up:

There are big moments — Claire and Jamie’s good-bye tops the list — but small moments of great meaning and power too.

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Jamie sending Fergus back to Lallybroch, after signing the estate over to Jenny’s son so the property won’t be lost to the family. The good-byes between Jamie, Claire, and Fergus. Murtagh agreeing to see the Lallybroch men safely away from battle, but vowing to return to fight and die by Jamie’s side.

A few great little call-backs to earlier themes and episodes… My favorite is Roger saying that Craigh na Dun (where Geillis has just set her husband on fire) is like a “f*cking barbecue”, echoing Geillis’s line from the season 1 witch trial. Having Roger and Brianna tour Ft. William, the scene of Jamie’s flogging, is all kinds of chilling. And let’s not forget that Geillis murdered one husband in season 1, so seeing her get her start by murdering her first husband here in season 2 seems appropriate (and disturbing).

I’m not sure I loved the use of the dragonfly in amber as a token from Claire to Jamie, later seen by Claire in the Culloden museum. It’s kind of a big chunk of rock to tuck inside one’s shirt and carry into battle.

And really, I’m not sold on Brianna, but maybe she’ll grown on me. It didn’t help that Claire has a couple of lines where she talks about Brianna being so like Jamie. It would be fine if there were actually a resemblance, either in looks or gestures or body language, but I’m sorry — apart from red hair, there really isn’t a resemblance, and it felt forced for Claire to act as if there was.

I know some critics and viewers are already complaining that the entire season was a build-up to Culloden — and then the battle didn’t actually happen within the scope of the show. I suppose that’s a fair criticism, but it doesn’t particularly resonate with me as a book reader. In the book (Dragonfly in Amber), we never actually see the battle of Culloden. Jamie forces Claire to leave before the battle, and all we know of it is what Claire knows from history — the British won, the Scots lost, and Jamie and Claire’s scheming and plotting were all for nothing.

I’m okay with the season ending as it did, particularly knowing that the 3rd book fills in so many of the blanks. We can only assume that season 3 will pick up with Jamie and Claire’s story and fill us in on the battle and all of those lost years for both of them.

And furthermore…

It’s been a beautiful, crazy, turbulent season, from Paris aristocrats and royalty, Versailles and brothels, to Scottish lairds and chieftains, Highlands and moors. Visually, it’s been stunning, and oh, the Paris costumes! Kudos and much love and admiration to all of the cast and crew and production team!

The idea of at least two more seasons of Outlander, as confirmed by Starz, is such a thrill. Bring on season 3!

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Yup, so do we all, Claire.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 12

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The 2nd season of Outlander is almost over (sob). I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 212: “The Hail Mary”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

As Jamie puts all of his efforts into turning the Jacobite army away from the impending slaughter, Claire attempts to comfort the sick Alex Randall. Alex reveals an outrageous plan to save the mother of his child.

My take:

Last episode before the season finale…

Major plot points:

  • The Jacobite army is miserable and starving.
  • The Prince is as clueless as ever.
  • As of the start of the episode, the Battle of Culloden is only three days away. Jamie is still trying his damnedest to avert catastrophe, but it’s not looking good.
  • When Claire goes into Inverness to restock her medical supplies, she runs into Mary Hawkins. Mary is living with Alex Randall, and tells Claire they plan to marry. However, Alex is clearly dying.
  • Jonathan Randall turns up, out of uniform, to tend to his brother. In exchange for Claire’s medical assistance, he gives Claire information on the whereabouts of Cumberland’s army.
  • Jamie hatches a plan to sneak up on Cumberland and launch a surprise attack, but Prince Charles mucks it up, as expected. Now Culloden seems inevitable.
  • Alex’s dying wish is for BJR to marry Mary, so that she and her (Alex’s) unborn child will have legitimacy and protection.
  • Colum is dying too, and names his son Hamish as the next clan leader, with Jamie to serve as guardian until Hamish comes of age.
  • Two men witness their brothers’ deaths — Jonathan Randall and Dougal MacKenzie — and are left to pick up the pieces.

Insta-reaction:

The season is hurtling toward the end, which means the action is hurtling toward Culloden. No matter what Jamie and Claire try, it can’t be stopped. Jamie fails to convince the Prince that Culloden Moor is the absolutely wrong choice for a place to fight the British. Charles doesn’t listen. Jamie plans a potentially powerful sneak attack on Cumberland, and Charles screws it up. Is the lesson here that fate can’t be tampered with? That Culloden will happen, because it’s a fixed point in history that was always going to happen?

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Ugh. Bonnie Prince Charlie sucks. Hi, Jamie’s knee!

The Jacobites are wet, tired, and hungry. If Charles is looking for a strong fighting force to take a stand for his cause — well, this isn’t it. Sadly, the men seem to know it too. They’re surviving on broth made from what looks like a bunch of weeds. Even at full strength, they’d stand little chance against British cannons, but as is, it’s so clear that the battle will be a slaughter.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Meanwhile, the Mary/Alex/BJR storyline is quite well done. We’re used to seeing Black Jack Randall as pure monster, but here at last we see that he has some shred of humanity that’s manifested in his love for his brother. He initially refuses Alex’s plea for him to marry Mary. He promises to look after Mary and the child, and urges Alex to marry her before he dies. But Alex has no estate or fortune to leave her. Claire reminds BJR of the curse she put on him at Wentworth, telling him the day of his death — April 16, 1746, the day of the battle at Culloden. If BJR marries Mary and then dies, she’ll be left a wealthy and respectable widow with the captain’s pension to support her for the rest of her days.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Could a bride look any more miserable?

Claire and Murtagh witness the marriage of BJR and Mary, with the ceremony conducted at the foot of Alex’s bed as he lays dying. In the book, Claire and Jamie are there, but I think it’s actually a wise choice to leave Jamie out of the scenes with BJR. There just isn’t enough time left in the episode or in the season to delve into Jamie and BJR’s complex relationship and the emotional fall-out Jamie would suffer from being in the same room as him. Alex’s death and Mary’s marriage worked just fine as it was presented.

Colum’s arrival was well played as well. He’s also dying, but first makes sure to announce his plans for the clan succession. Dougal is devastated — why wasn’t he chosen to be the next laird? But Colum points out that the men of the clan won’t follow Dougal; if it were otherwise, Dougal would have men with him at the Jacobite camp (which he doesn’t). Further, Colum knows that Jamie will always put his men before the cause, but Dougal can’t say the same — he’d sacrifice himself and all of the MacKenzies for the rightful king. Colum dies after taking the medicine Claire has left him with, allowing him to die quickly and painlessly… and dying before he can hear Dougal’s pained speech about his love — and resentment — for his brother.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Two deaths, two brothers — interesting contrasts with the dying men’s last wishes and the willingness of those left behind to carry them out.

Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie are out of time. By the end of the episode, all efforts have failed. Culloden is the next day, and nothing will stop it.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

What is there to say? We’ve been building to this moment all season. All of the plotting and scheming that Claire and Jamie have done — and it’s all led back to the same outcome. Claire looks hopeless throughout much of the episode. She’s not one to give up, but she sees that there’s no way out of what’s to come. It’s heartbreaking.

Outlander Season 2 2016

And furthermore…

One sweet and unexpected moment is thanks to Murtagh. Rather than see Mary marry a monster like Jonathan Randall, Murtagh tells Claire he’ll marry Mary himself. It’s a sweet little speech he makes, about never having married or had children, but how he’s been a good godfather to Jamie and how he’ll protect Mary and the child as his own family. You can see that as Murtagh talks, he actually kind of likes the idea. Not that he loves Mary, but I think he’s taken up by the sweet little picture he’s created of himself with a pretty little wife and a child to raise. Claire brings him back down to earth, of course, pointing out that none of them may survive Culloden, and only by marrying BJR will Mary be provided for as a widow.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Still, bless Murtagh and his big, gruff heart!

… which makes me even more apprehensive about watching the season finale. Please, please, please don’t stick to the book when it comes to who lives and who dies! I don’t think my heart can take losing Murtagh. (Sob, sob, sob)

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 11

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The 2nd season of Outlander is entering the home stretch. I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 211: “Vengeance Is Mine”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and the Highlanders are sent north after the Jacobite leaders decide to halt their march on London. A band of redcoats makes trouble for the Scots, leading to a most unexpected reunion for Claire.

My take:

3rd to last episode of the season!

Major plot points:

  • The Prince’s army has advanced into northern England, but lacking the support of his generals to march on and attack London, the Prince has no choice but to turn back and return north into Scotland.
  • Jamie and Claire set out to lead the Lallybroch men to Inverness, but they’re attacked by redcoats along the way.
  • After being cornered in a church, Jamie agrees with Claire’s plan to trade her (as a pretend hostage) to the British in exchange for the Scots’ safe passage. Jamie and Claire plan to reconnect near the garrison to which Claire will most likely be taken.
  • After some convoluted back and forth, Claire ends up as a “guest” (prisoner) of the Duke of Sandringham.
  • Claire realizes that the Duke’s servant is the one who attacked her and Mary in Paris. The Duke admits that he arranged the attack and rape as a way to pay off a debt owed to the Comte St. Germain.
  • The Duke has set a trap for Jamie, but he’s able to rescue Claire and Mary (the Duke’s goddaughter, also staying at his home).
  • Murtagh cuts off the Duke’s head, Mary stabs her rapist, and they all make their escape.

Insta-reaction:

This episode was written by Diana Gabaldon herself, and it’s great to see her take on this action-packed segment of the story. People who expected Diana’s screenplay to exactly mirror the book were undoubtedly surprised — proving once and for all that this is an adaptation, and that even Herself changes the source material to fit a new medium.

Okay, descending from soapbox.

11/01-03 Int Tavern. Princes Charles convinced to return to Scotland, Jamie disagrees 11/08 Jamie says a prayer over Claire

Another terrific episode! The initial scene has the Prince demanding that his generals heed his call to march on London. The military men unanimously feel that it would be a foolhardy mission and basically refuse. Only Jamie stands by the Prince and tries to rally the others, but to no avail. Why does Jamie support the Prince? Not because it makes sense militarily, that’s for sure. It’s clear that Jamie is keeping in mind all that he’s learned from Claire, including the fact that the Jacobites never did advance on London. If Jamie can make it happen this time, then perhaps the further outcomes can be changed too… but alas, the plan fails.

Dougal makes a return from his exile to deliver a message to Jamie. The Prince and his cronies have already departed, and Jamie is to take the Lallybroch men to Inverness to await further orders. Jamie and Claire exchange a brief, ironic look, seeing as the last time Claire was in Inverness was 200 years in the future!

The escape on horseback, trying to outrun and evade the pursuing redcoats, is quite well done, with our little band of heroes galloping through the woods and Dougal making an impressive jump from his horse to Rupert’s in order to save Rupert from falling off.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Rupert is shot in the eye, but survives. Claire gets the chance to perform all sorts of nasty medical procedures in this episode, from tooth extractions to pulling the bullet out of Rupert’s eye socket. That woman has got a backbone made of steel!

Outlander Season 2 2016

The Duke is as sly and slimy as ever, playing Claire and setting a trap for Jamie. It’s great to see Mary step up and fight back, rather than remaining the meek little girl, “soiled goods” to be married off to whomever the Duke considers most advantageous for himself. Hugh Munro makes a welcome reappearance as well, acting as go-between to make sure that Jamie knows where Claire is.

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Murtagh sure can swing an axe! The end of the Duke is bloody and splattery. Remember back in Paris, after the attack in the streets, when Murtagh swore he’d lay vengeance at Claire’s feet? Well, now he literally has, placing the Duke’s severed head right in front of Claire’s toes.

Outlander Season 2 2016

It is a totally engrossing episode, and the action pretty much never lets up. Claire was in full-on badass mode, and it looked good on her! I hate knowing that the end is near and that disaster is just ahead, but at least this episode didn’t leave such a foreboding of tragedy as the previous one did.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Rupert is mourning his friend Angus the only way he knows how, by telling stories about Angus’s missing front teeth and other randomly weird facts. So, in comradely support of Rupert, I’m including this picture from last week, because I miss Angus too!

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And furthermore…

While packed with action, the episode still allowed room for some more personal moments, such as Jamie saying a prayer over Claire as she sleeps before joining her in bed. It’s a sweet, tender moment that shows the depth of love and commitment between Jamie and Claire. Their love is so strong that even a moment of simply a quiet embrace tells the whole story of their devotion to one another.

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It’s hard to believe we’re already so close to the end of the season! It seems like there’s still a lot of story to cover in the next two episodes — Alex Randall, Culloden, and Claire in the 20th century, as well as Roger and Brianna and Claire’s big reveal to them. I have such faith in the production team, though! I’m sure the next two episodes will be heartbreaking and amazing.

And now that we know that there will be at least two more seasons, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that this wonderful story will continue onward!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 10

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The 2nd season of Outlander is entering the home stretch. I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 210: “Prestonpans”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Trusting in Claire’s knowledge of “history”, Jamie leads the Jacobite army into a critical battle with British opposition. Meanwhile, Claire attends to the dead and dying, a reminder of the truest cost of war.

My take:

Outlander goes to war…

Major plot points:

  • It’s the Battle of Prestonpans, in which a surprise attack allows the Jacobites to defeat the British in a brief and bloody battle.
  • Jamie takes command and leads the Highland troups.
  • Dougal is fierce in battle, but takes a bit too much delight in gory bloodshed, and ends up earning the disgust of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
  • Rupert seems gravely wounded, but it’s Angus who ends up dying from his battle injury.
  • Fergus sneaks off to fight, but is shocked beyond measure by the experience.
  • Claire’s knowledge of history is proven correct, as the Jacobites win the battle — but that would seem to prove as well that the disaster at Culloden is inevitable.

Insta-reaction:

What a bloody, violent episode. As in the book, by this point in the story the war takes precedence over everything else. Claire and Jamie are fighting on the same side — he with a sword, she with her clean surgical tools and honey water.

The directing and production values of the episode are stellar. The battle is shown in all its awful gore, and it’s not at all glamorized. The devastation of man-to-man combat is horrific. There’s really not much to say about it. War is hell, and Outlander doesn’t flinch from showing it as such.

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Dougal is startling in this episode. He’s hungry for the Prince’s regard, and earns it early on by scouting out the bogland that lies between the Scottish and British armies, but loses Charles’s favor when he glories a bit too much in the death of the British soldiers — who are, after all, King James’s subjects, just like the Scottish. While Prince Charles is dedicated to providing medical care and honorable treatment to the British prisoners, Dougal thirsts for blood. Only Jamie’s intervention prevents Charles from permanently exiling Dougal.

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Fergus’s eagerness to be a part of the fight brings him to a battle that he’s not prepared for, and Claire’s comforting of him afterward shows how strongly maternal she feels toward Fergus, who has in essence become an adopted son for Claire and Jamie.

Angus’s death is unexpected and shocking. Book readers know that, in the books, Rupert dies after a different battle (and who knows, he still may). As Angus watches over a gravely wounded Rupert, I couldn’t help wondering if this was the moment, and steeled myself to say good-bye to a character I’m quite fond of. And then Angus keels over, dying suddenly from the injury caused by a cannon blast — severe internal bleeding that went unnoticed. There’s nothing to be done; Claire is powerless to save Angus.

RIP, Angus. We'll miss you.

RIP, Angus. We’ll miss you.

It’s a solemn end to the episode, as even in victory, the men toast and sing to their fallen comrades. For Jamie and Claire, there’s the thrill of surviving the day’s battle, but the anguish of seeing history unfold just as Claire knows it to be. If Prestonpans unfolded exactly as it did in history, then nothing has changed, and perhaps this demonstrates once and for all that nothing can change. And in that case, the slaughter at Culloden will happen, must happen, and Claire and Jamie both know it.

Heartbreaking.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This was a well-done, masterfully produced episode that was violent and disturbing, yet left me a bit cold. Even though I admire the way it was done, an episode devoted almost solely to battle left me disheartened and wishing for more personal interactions. And yet, knowing the book, I know that there’s little time left for Jamie and Claire. At this point in the story, there’s no more room for exploring their love and commitment. The clock is ticking; Culloden is drawing near.

Even though Prestonpans was a win for the Jacobites, it’s plain to see that it’s all just a bloody waste. They’re hopelessly outmatched when it comes to the full might of the British army, and their ultimate defeat is inevitable. Given that, it’s like watching a tragedy unfold in slow motion.

We know from episode 1 of this season that it won’t end well, and that Jamie and Claire will be separated. Knowing what’s coming, each episode that brings the end closer is just another twist of the knife, another reason for heart-ache.

And furthermore…

The battle was bloody and terrible, but perhaps the most disturbing piece of all was watching Dougal move from one wounded British soldier to another after the battle, finishing off any who’d survived. Disgusting… and his murder of Lieutenant Foster was extremely shocking and brutal. Dougal’s always been a hard character to feel any kindness toward, but there’s been a noble edge to his overall bastardness that makes him somehow grand, even though he’s a sexist, manipulative schemer. At this point, though, it’s pretty much impossible to feel anything but disgust for him.

I hate to end this insta-reaction on such a down note, so here’s a cute Fergus picture to sustain us:

8/ 06  Ext Lallybroch Jamie & Claire prepare to leave:  Fergus can't travel with them. Claire takes a look back as she leaves

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 9

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The 2nd season of Outlander is entering the home stretch. I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 209: “Je Suis Prest”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie reunite with the Lallybroch and MacKenzie men as they train. Jamie’s power struggle and Claire’s personal battle weigh upon them, but new information comes when an Englishman pays a visit to their camp.

My take:

Outlander goes to war…

Major plot points:

  • Jamie and Claire bring their group of Lord Lovat’s men to meet up with the men of Lallybroch.
  • These men need some serious training before they’re ready for action.
  • Jamie and Claire are reunited with Dougal, Rupert, and Angus.
  • Claire suffers from PTSD, flashing back to the anguish of the WWII battlefield as she sees the Highland army training and hears the gunfire.
  • Dougal and Jamie have a power struggle.
  • We meet Lord John!

Insta-reaction:

It’s all quite rosy to start with. The Scottish scenery is beautiful, as always. There are smiles and hugs all around as Jamie and Claire arrive at the main camp and are reunited with the Lallybroch contingent, headed by Murtagh. Wee Fergus is adorable as always and has a lovely little greeting for “milord” and “milady”. It seems like quite a happy reunion at first with the MacKenzie men, as Claire delivers kisses on the cheek to Angus and Rupert. Dougal is there as well — turns out that it’s just the three of them from the MacKenzie clan, as Colum is sticking to his decision to stay out of things. Even young Willie seems to have committed gross betrayal by getting married and moving to Ireland.

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Jamie and Murtagh quickly realize the sorry state of their “fighting” men, who are largely farmers armed with pitchforks and old swords. Dougal is all for pushing on towards Prince Charles’s camp — he wants to make sure they’re ahead of the game in terms of grabbing a seat at the prince’s table. Jamie isn’t having it. He insists that the men need to be turned into soldiers first. This isn’t a cattle raid; they’ll be marching into battle against highly trained British soldiers armed with muskets and cannon, and need to know how to fight together if they have any chance of success.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Dougal and Jamie’s power dynamic here is very interesting. Dougal tries to assert himself as more knowledgeable and better able to lead, but Jamie does not back down. He’s not on MacKenzie land anymore and doesn’t owe Dougal anything. Jamie basically tells Dougal to fall in line or leave, and Dougal seems to comply… although not without a slimy scene with Claire where he tries to strong-arm her into supporting what he wants. Claire tells him to f*ck off, so go Claire!

There’s also this:

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Dougal manages to disrupt Jamie’s careful, disciplined training session by staging a Highland charge. It’s the old ways vs the new ways, and Jamie puts Dougal in his place pretty quickly… but Dougal sure does look good wearing just a kilt and plenty of mud.

Claire’s situation is intense, yet makes perfect sense. Although Jamie fought as a mercenary in France years earlier, Claire’s really the only one present who fully understands the horror of war. As she sees the men train, laugh, complain about the food, and deal with the mundane details of army life, she’s brought back again and again to her experiences as a battlefield nurse during World War II. She know only too well that the young men who share a light-hearted meal may very well end up as cannon fodder. When she finally has a complete breakdown, Jamie wants to send her back to Lallybroch where she’ll be safe and away from the battle, but she refuses. What Claire cannot abide is being helpless and alone. She’ll stick with Jamie no matter what and do what she can to keep trying to rewrite history.

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Lord John!!! Well, he’s not really known as Lord John here, but book readers know and love this character. As in the book Dragonfly in Amber, a young British lad sneaks into the Highlanders’ camp and tries to attack Jamie. He’s just a teen, but shows a lot of courage, even if it’s pretty foolishly carried out. He refuses to talk, even under threat of torture, until Claire puts on an act, pretending to be a captured Englishwoman being held prisoner by these Scottish barbarians. In order to protect Claire’s honor from the ravishing of the Scottish captain (ha!), the boy gives his name, William Grey, and gives all sorts of helpful details about the nearby British camp.

Side note: There’s actually a small change from the book that I quite approve of. In the episode, it’s Claire’s own idea to pose as a captive in order to get the boy to talk, whereas in the book, Jamie initiates it, going so far as to rip open Claire’s dress and fondle her in front of everyone. She gives him a well-deserved slap afterward, as I recall, as she really does not appreciate being manhandled this way, even if it’s ultimately for a good cause. So kudos to the show for giving Claire her own power here!

What else? Well, there’s quite a bit of punishment by lashing in this episode. First, two men who fail at their sentry duties are given six lashes each, by Jamie’s command and delivered by Murtagh. Later, Dougal’s men are responsible for letting William Grey into camp, and they are to be lashed as well — but so is Jamie. Jamie declares that it’s his own failure, because the boy saw their unshielded fires which led him toward them in the first place, so Jamie insists that he take a punishment as well. Hey, any excuse for a shirtless Jamie, I guess.

Claire and Jamie are affectionate and close. I always end up taking the temperature of their relationship each episode, and they seem to be right where they should be. There are a lot of little touches and caresses, and Jamie is very in tune with the nuances of Claire’s behavior, noticing that something is wrong way before she’s ready to admit it and talk to him about her battlefield trauma. They’ve clearly resumed their hot and steamy sex life, and even though they didn’t have time for it what with all the battle prep, they seem to be back on track.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I couldn’t help feeling a sense of looming sorrow watching this episode. There’s an innocence to Jamie’s preparation of the men and the excitement that they feel. As we watch a training montage, which shows the progress they’re making, I was still overwhelmed by the fact that history isn’t going to change, and no matter how hard Jamie tries, he’s still marching a group of ill-prepared civilians into a war against a professional army, completely outmatched in terms of numbers, weaponry, and abilities. It’s horrible to look at all of the Highlanders here and know the destruction that they’ll be facing.

And furthermore…

Jamie is back in his dad’s coat! Jamie wore his father’s leather coat back in the first season when he was resuming the role of Laird of Lallybroch, and in this episode, it seems to denote his leadership role. It’s a great bit of continuity, as well as a symbol of Jamie taking on responsibility in a way that he associates with his own father.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 8

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Season 2 has begun! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 208: “The Fox’s Lair”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie call upon Jamie’s grandsire, Lord Lovat, in an attempt to elicit support. However, a visiting Colum MacKenzie has other plans, and Lord Lovat’s manipulations ensure that his own interests will be served.

My take:

Hello, Scotland!

Major plot points:

  • Jamie and Claire return home to Lallybroch.
  • Potatoes are very exciting.
  • Charles Stuart has forged Jamie’s name on a document supposedly signed by his supporters, so that even unwillingly, Jamie is now a traitor.
  • Claire and Jamie realize that the only way to still change the future is to help Charles to win, now that he’s landed on Scottish soil and the rebellion is underway.
  • Jamie goes to seek support from his obnoxious grandfather, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. Ick.
  • Laoghaire turns up! Double ick.
  • The MacKenzies, led by Colum, are remaining neutral, but Lord Lovat finds a way to play both sides.

Insta-reaction:

Scotland! Scotland! Scotland!

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Paris was pretty, but it’s lovely to be back in the Highlands. And I was really pleased with the new opening credits, which drop the French chamber music in favor of a warlike drumbeat and more bagpipes. Glorious.

It’s not clear how much time has passed for Jamie and Claire, but apparently long enough since the Paris trauma for them to have found their way back to a loving, romantic, and intimate relationship. Thank the gods and goddesses — no one likes to see these two at odds.

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Claire and Jenny seem reunited as sisters, and there’s briefly peace and harmony at Lallybroch, with Murtagh and Fergus there as part of the family too. Sadly, the calm doesn’t last long, as Jamie is forced into the position of having to either stay and fight for Charles and Scotland, or flee and leave his entire family behind to face the certain destruction following Culloden and the Clearances. Not much of a choice. Jamie can never abandon his people or his home, so despite all of their maneuvering in Paris, Jamie will end up fighting for Charles after all.

Potatoes! And Jamie's knee.

Potatoes!

Lord Lovat is every bit as slimy as we’d expect. He’s mean to everyone around him and has no respect for women (which is actually putting it mildly — he’s abusive and it’s implied that he’s married at least two of his three wives by force). Lord Lovat (the Old Fox) only acts based on his own gain, so he tries to extort a price from Jamie for his support of Charles — he wants Lallybroch. Ugh, this guy is the worst.

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Colum shows up for a visit too, and he wants them all to stay out of the Rising. Claire has an understandably tense reunion with Colum, given that she holds him responsible for her arrest (in season 1) and her trial as a witch.

The biggest surprise of the episode is the appearance of Laoghaire. Book readers know that she isn’t in book 2 at all, so it’s a break from canon to have her appear in this season. She’s come with Colum to Lord Lovat’s castle as Colum’s maid, and while there, she begs Claire for forgiveness, saying that she’s prayed to God, knows she’s done wrong, and repents of her actions toward Claire. Claire refuses to absolve Laoghaire, but ultimately agrees to ask Jamie to think kindly of her again in exchange for Laoghaire playing a role in gaining the support of Young Simon, Lovat’s son and heir.

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I can hear the book fans screaming from here! First of all, let’s face it, no one likes Laoghaire. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. People HATE Laoghaire. She’s an awful little wench who almost cost Claire her life. So here’s a big difference: In the books, Claire never tells Jamie about the role Laoghaire played in causing her arrest. In the TV show, Jamie absolutely knows, and both Jamie and Claire blame her for Claire’s near death.

SPOILER FOR BOOK/SEASON 3!!!!

(I know I said already that there would be spoilers, but an extra warning can’t hurt.)

In Voyager, the 3rd book, the big reveal is that Jamie ends up married to Laoghaire during the years after Claire has returned through the stones. (I’m trying to vague things up a bit — it really goes against my nature to be spoilery!). This is super outrageous to Claire (and to readers), because Laoghaire is the evil little twit who almost got Claire dead… but Jamie didn’t know, or else he couldn’t have agreed to the marriage, we’re led to understand.

But now, TV Laoghaire has come and asked for forgiveness, and has made it clear that she still hopes Jamie will love her some day. In the “Inside the Episode” feature afterwards, the director implies that Laoghaire is included here in order to make things that happen later make more sense. I know, I know — readers are probably outraged right about now. But I guess the show’s thinking is that viewers could never accept Jamie marrying Laoghaire later on without at least seeing some act of contrition on her part.

You know what? I’m just not going to worry about it too much. I can’t get too worked up about it. Hopefully, this is the last we’ll see of Laoghaire this season, and now we move on.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I’m super happy to be back in Scotland (obviously)… but I also have to admit that this week’s episode felt a little uneventful after the last few episodes in Paris. While there was political maneuvering and debate in this episode, there was a distinct lack of drama. That’s okay, I suppose — this truly is a bridge episode, moving up from the French court into the second half of this season’s plot, the actual Rising back in Scotland. This episode had to set the scene, get us back to the Highlands, and starting moving the chess pieces around. It did that, and now we’re ready to dive into the more military-focused back half of the season.

Remember, we still need to find out exactly why and how Claire ended up back in the 20th century at the beginning of the season!

And furthermore…

Was Jamie holding the baby at Lallybroch not the sweetest and saddest thing? I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for Claire to watch him with a baby in his arms, with their loss still so fresh in their hearts.

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And of course, Jamie wearing kilts 24/7 is a win for everyone.

 

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 7

s2 poster

Season 2 has begun! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 207: “Faith”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire is brought to L’Hopital des Anges where doctors try to save her life and that of her unborn baby. King Louis asks Claire to judge two men accused of practicing the dark arts — one an enemy, one a friend.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Claire’s baby is stillborn — a girl, whom Mother Hildegarde baptizes with the name Faith.
  • Jamie is being held in the Bastille for dueling, a crime which could leave him locked up indefinitely.
  • Claire’s only option for saving Jamie is to appeal directly to the King, which comes with its own cost.
  • Claire learns that the reason that Jamie broke his promise and went ahead with the duel is because Randall attacked and raped Fergus at the brothel.
  • Jamie and Claire visit Faith’s grave before leaving France to return to Scotland.

Insta-reaction:

There’s a little fake-out at the beginning of the episode, when we see Claire with a red-haired girl in Boston in 1954. So non-book readers maybe breathed a sigh of relief that Jamie and Claire’s baby was healthy after all and all that blood last time was just a scare?

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Not so fast.

It’s a heartbreaker, plain and simple.

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Claire’s baby daughter is born dead, and the scenes of Claire discovering the fate of her baby are simply wrenching to watch. The raw pain on her face is intense, and the entire episode focuses on Claire’s suffering.

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The scenes at Versailles are painful to watch for other reasons. It’s all so very cut and dried and business-like. First, Claire must identify the black arts practitioner for the King, which ends with the Comte St. Germain’s death by poison, thanks to Master Raymond’s sleight of hand. Then there’s the matter of Claire’s payment to the King in exchange for Jamie’s freedom — the most transactional sexual encounter we’ve ever seen on this show. It’s awful in its matter-of-factness.

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And then there’s the Fergus scene. I didn’t think the show would go there — I assume BJR’s rape of Fergus would be implied and left off-screen. Wrong. While no body parts are shown, it’s quite clear what’s going on, and it’s gut-churning. I’m shocked, in a way, that the little actor playing Fergus was put into those scenes, and can’t imagine how Tobias Menzies managed to carry out BJR’s part either. Just horrifying.

Outlander Season 2 2016

I’m keeping my insta-reaction brief. What can I say about such an upsetting and tragic episode? Claire suffers the torments of hell in losing her baby, and the scene of her rocking and singing to the dead infant is both beautiful and horrible.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Claire and Jamie’s reunion was painful as well. The hurt, the fear, the pain between them — it’s so brutal and brittle and emotionally raw. I’m glad that they joined hands at Faith’s grave at the end. Despite their loss and deep pain, despite the betrayals and tragedies, they’ll remain together and find a way forward.

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This is the end of the Paris portion of the season, and I’m glad! It’s been well-done, and full of gorgeous eye candy, but the heart of Outlander is in Scotland, and I’m glad they’re going back.

 

And furthermore…

 

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The only momentary break in the tension for me during this episode was when we see Jamie’s face when he returns home from the Bastille. I get it, he was there for… weeks? months? Long enough to grow a scraggly, bushy beard that looks like a stick-on out of a Halloween costume kit. It was totally distracting — it did not look real at all, and kind of made me laugh before getting re-absorbed by the interactions on the screen.

But other than that — a powerful, memorable, painful episode.

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 6

s2 poster

Season 2 has begun! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right 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 206: “Best Laid Schemes”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire use Claire’s medical knowledge to devise a scheme to stop a deal which could fill the war chest. When Claire learns Jamie has gone back on his word, the couple is met with dire consequences.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Claire and Jamie have made up after the big confrontation last episode.
  • Jamie declares that he and Claire are even, in terms of saving one another’s lives.
  • Jamie makes Claire promise to go back to Frank if he should end up dead at Culloden.
  • Claire fears for Master Raymond’s safety, as the king is having practioners of the black arts arrested and executed.
  • Jamie tells Murtagh the truth about Claire and time travel.
  • Jamie and Claire’s plan to thwart Charles’s financial success actually works, although it’s quite complicated and involves much scheming and action.
  • Jamie goes back on his word and duels with Randall.
  • Claire appears to be miscarrying as of the end of the episode.

Insta-reaction:

NOOOOO!

Even knowing what will happen, I kept hoping it wouldn’t.

But let’s start at the beginning. It’s nice to see Claire and Jamie talking through their problems, rather than being permanently divided. Jamie makes clear that he’s honoring Claire’s request to spare Randall not because of any debt he owes her, but because he himself has a stake in Frank’s survival. If things go badly and they’re unable to stop the Rising and the devastation of Culloden, Jamie wants to be sure that Claire has a man who loves her to protect and care for her and the baby. He makes Claire promise to return to her own time and to Frank, if Jamie should die. Sob!

6/ 18INT Jamie & Claire's apartment - Parlour Jamie makes Claire promise that if the time should come, she'll return to Frank through the stones

The plan to interfere with the wine deal between Charles and the Comte St. Germain is complicated, relying on Claire’s use of herbs to try to fake a smallpox outbreak on the ship carrying the wine. I actually prefer the TV version of this scheme to the book version, which is more drawn out and involved Jamie actually sailing on the ship from Portugal. The episode gets the job done, but in a more condensed fashion. The end result is the same – Charles is ruined financially.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Meanwhile, Claire is getting close to her due date and is sporting a spectacularly huge baby bump, but that doesn’t keep her from her work at the hospital. Hanging out with the society ladies — whose idea of social justice is getting the police to move poor people out of desirable neighborhoods so they don’t spoil the scenery — is upsetting to Claire, so she works at the hospital even harder, hoping to distract herself while Jamie is out on his wine adventure. Mother Hildegard is worried about Claire’s health and forces her to rest. Claire is having some spotting, which Mother Hildegard assures her is normal at this stage of pregnancy — but her face tells a different story.

Finally, Claire comes home to discover Jamie is gone. He’s left her a note of apology — he’s gone off to duel Randall after all. Claire rushes after him in the carriage, clutching her belly the whole time. This is not good. She arrives mid-duel, and doesn’t dare to cry out for fear of distracting Jamie and causing either his death… or Frank’s. Jamie wounds BJR in the crotch (okay, admit it, it’s awfully satisfying to see the blood pouring out), and Claire begins to bleed profusely as well. She screams out Jamie’s name just as the gendarmes arrive to arrest Jamie for dueling, and Claire passes out in a servant’s arms.

Outlander Season 2 2016

This is not good at all.

Damn. Even having read the book, I wanted things to be different.

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Beautiful acting all around. Claire and Jamie’s intimate moments are sweet, sensual, and loving. I adored the scene of Jamie talking to Claire’s belly. Hi, it’s me, I’m your dad! What a cute moment… tinged only by the knowledge that bad things are coming.

Great moments for Fergus in this episode too. Is that kid the epitome of adorableness, or what? I loved the way the fateful moment in the brothel was done, with Fergus exploring the room with the red coat hanging in the corner. Never has a piece of clothing been so threatening! Ah, wee Fergus is just so precious.

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Was Claire wrong to rush after Jamie? She couldn’t change the outcome of the duel, and was already experiencing some pain and bleeding before she even rushed off in the carriage. Would she have begun hemorrhaging anyway, even if she’d done nothing? It certainly looks that way, but dashing off like that was not a wise choice. I understand her emotional distress, but still, she must have known that her health and the baby’s health were already at risk. Oh, Claire.

Then again, I’m sure she sees it as Jamie’s fault, breaking his promise to her with no regard for their marriage or for their baby.

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The truth about why he went ahead with the duel will come out next episode, I’m sure, but this is one more horrible moment that has the potential to damage the love and trust between Jamie and Claire. They spend so much time and effort worrying about other people — and the entire future of Scotland, for f*ck’s sake — that they seem to put their own lives and marriage on the back burner.

And furthermore…

Wasn’t Murtagh in fancy clothes hilarious? He’s the last man on earth to want frills and flowers. What was the point of his dressing up? Now that I think about it, I think the idea was to implicate Les Disciples, the band of aristocrats who carry out such thuggery as rape and theft for the sake of a thrill — so if Murtagh and the other men carrying out the wine theft were dressed in fine clothing, Les Disciples might be blamed. It wasn’t really clear during the episode, I didn’t think, but now I guess it makes sense. And anyway, it’s worth it to see Murtagh all fancy-like.

Final thought: I’m so glad Jamie finally brought Murtagh into the loop. He’s been operating on blind faith when it comes to  Jamie and Claire’s scheming, but he’s certainly more than earned their trust and deserves to know the truth about Claire and her time travel. It was a sweet moment between him and Claire, and I do love that he punched  Jamie in the face before being okay with the secret keeping.

Outlander Season 2 2016

All in all, another terrifically well-done episode!