Deep Thoughts Outlander 307: Crème de Menthe

This week is all about when people stop being polite and start being real. It’s like The Real World: Edinburgh. Claire and Jamie don’t get naked once this episode, but there is a lot of bared insecurity. Their second honeymoon over, the Frasers get down to the business of attempting to find their partnership once more. Despite some initial push-back due to the circumstance, Jamie doesn’t stand in the way of Claire being a healer, and despite disagreeing with the way Jamie handles the situation with Ian, Claire doesn’t blow his cover. But there are little clashes here that highlight the differences in their character, and the manner of lives they have lived when apart.

Spoilers ahead for episode 307.

Here are four takeaways:

Things Get Real. Real Shouty. Now that the thrill of reunion is past, we’re starting to see how some of the Frasers’ years of independence will work against them. These are no longer two young adults, but two middle-aged people with a lot of baggage that colors their decisions. No matter the time, Claire is a healer, first and foremost. Her instinct to save lives without judgment will clash not only with the fluid morality of Jamie’s current career path, but also the rigid gender roles and expectations of the 18th century. It’s not in Claire’s DNA to meekly accept limits, so it’s interesting to note when Jamie defers to her and when he chooses to assert his will over hers, and how that all works out for them going forward.

Bros Before Ho’s. Let me take a moment and fangirl over the joy of seeing Young Ian and Fergus BROTP’ing hard, talking about the ladies, Claire’s badassness and her general propensity for trouble, and the effects of brandy on a man’s mphhmm. Young Ian is an able negotiator in true MacKenzie fashion, but also a sweet peach-faced virgin, and the last time we ran across that combo it worked out pretty well for us. As for Fergus, I’m not surprised at all that he lost his virginity in a three-way, or that he’s got a practical, results-oriented take on art of seduction. What was a very gratifying surprise was hearing Fergus call Ian “brother.” This relationship is one of my favorites from the novels, and I may have clutched at my heart a bit when I heard that word.

Slim Shady. Now I love me some Jamie, but I must admit I laughed out loud at the “I didna realize lies had shades” line. This was a man lying about who he was since well before he met Claire, whose character is largely founded on gauging and reacting to nuance.  It doesn’t mean Jamie is dishonest, but he has always known when and to what degree to fudge the truth. That’s not a sin he can lay at Claire’s feet, who is if anything, a terrible liar. It seems to me that the fact that he didn’t get to parent either of his children should sensitize Jamie to the plight of a worried parent, not the other way around. As for calling back to the bikini and using that to deflect Claire’s pretty dead-on points about Ian, it seemed an obvious ploy to change the subject. Jamie is withholding an actual other wife from Claire, so his overreaction to being called out on a lie seems to stem more from guilt than righteousness.

Fire Sale.  The Print Shop was more than the scene of a sex-a-thon between two baby rabbits. It was also the physical manifestation of Jamie’s new life. Granted, it was largely cobbled together out of lies and treason and held together by prostitution, but there was a beat last episode — when Jamie cleaned the sign — where you could see real pride and accomplishment in what he managed to put together. Claire’s return throws a wrench into his life. He verbally reassures her of his commitment, but the reality of making space for her is more complex. This week, he literally watches that life go up in flames, a fire that ends one of his lives and forces a return home to Lallybroch, which in turn hints at the moment of truth that will likely come next week. In TV-speak, there’s nothing like the reassurance that nothing will happen (“Balriggan is miles from Lallybroch,” Jamie says confidently) to assure that it will.

 

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Deep Thoughts Outlander 306: A. Malcolm

I’m coming off my third re-watch, and it’s almost one pm and I am in my pajamas and I have NO REGRETS. I don’t think anything was ever going to equal the thrill of reading these moments after waiting years for these two to reunite, but there are a lot of nuances in this episode that became apparent after a few viewings, and that’s what I’ll address here. I’m off to a birthday party and then date night, so I won’t be live-tweeting, unfortunately. I’ll get into more detail in the recap when I write that.

Spoilers ahead for episode 306.

Here are five takeaways:

Room for secrets, but not for lies. This is the bit that proved to me the most that these are not the two people who left each other 20 years ago. Claire is no longer the one with secrets, but instead is open, sharing readily of herself and asking questions. Finding out about Willie was a change from the books, but it worked here to establish that, whatever else Jamie is tentative about with Claire, he is at first determined to hold true to the promise he made to her after learning she was a time-traveler. However, his work as a smuggler means that massaging the truth is his stock and trade. Book readers especially will note Fergus’s “What about…”/Jamie’s need to consult Ned Gowan and the seemingly partial translation of Yi Tien Cho’s honorific for his wife.

Tricorns are the suspenders of hats. It’s tough to be back in Scotland and see zero kilts, but it’s even tougher to be back in Scotland and see all the men in mullets and tricorns. Let’s face it, this wasn’t an attractive era for male fashion to begin with, but when you add the hair and the hats to it… It’s just not sexy. I’m sure there’s someone out there with a door-sized Hamilton poster ready to argue with me on the virtues of the tricorn, but it’s fine. I’m crossing my fingers for it to be a blessing in disguise, as these clothes will need to be routinely taken off in order to remind the audience that these men are, in fact, hot tamales. Or whatever the Scottish equivalent of a tamale is.

A many-shaded love. Literally, that one shade is grey. Hold your tricorns up high if you noticed that Claire’s outfit when she returns to Jamie is in the same greys and whites of both her wedding outfits. When Claire was first married, she was largely of the same mind as her husband-to-be, who recognized her as an intellectual equal. Her second wedding was engineered for her and the fussiness of the gown is uncharacteristic for her. Although beautiful, Claire is a woman attracted to simple, classic lines. Even if many of the beats and camera angles hadn’t echoed E107, the clothing here (not to mention the way it was removed) is a clear call-back to that episode, and had the feel of a re-commitment between these two characters. Claire’s dress, once she removes her cloak, is not only firmly in her style wheelhouse once more, but also imparts the fact that she is older, wiser, and ready to be a partner in marriage once more.

Wink to the book readers on this one.

That’s life, isn’t it? When you think you have your shit together…you don’t.

What kind of dog is that? I like that they kept this passage from the book in, even though it occurs later then, and I was happy that it opened the door to Jamie speaking about Willie (not in the books), but I missed the segue they used for the William conversation that, in the books, diverges instead towards Claire’s feelings of loss at having left her daughter behind and Jamie comforting her. He does tell her here that he knew she was a good mother, but this was an emotional beat that was not directly about them and their reunion that I would have very much liked to see onscreen. Here’s hoping they insert it later.

Pros and Cons. I guess the adrenaline of running back to the love of your life after twenty years and some good lovin’ make you forget that the past is full of people trying to kill him. Claire has returned from a peaceful existence in the Boston suburbs back to a world that is lawless in many respects. Even though she is back with Jamie, his warning that he is not the same person he was and the fact that she is accosted in his very rooms serve as a reminder that there is more than a personal re-connection that will need to take place now that Claire has returned to the 18th century. There will have to be a re-calibration to the dangers this century poses, and how and why her husband seems to always draw them to himself.

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Outlander Recap 303 – All Debts Paid

Boston, 1956. Seven years have passed since the last time we saw Claire. Morning at Chez Settle, and Frank Randall is cooking black pudding in TWO different kinds of fat to try to offset the insidious influence of Madison Avenue on little Brianna.

Claire, still looking crisp and professional, is studying gallbladders, but it doesn’t stop her nabbing a bite on the way to the table. As Frank jokes about either an English breakfast or Dickens as an antidote to Brianna’s excessive Americanism, we get a chance to look at the Randalls closely for the first time since we saw them in separate beds at the end of 302. They are both in crisp white tops and tan bottoms, he a pair of classic khakis and she in a slim pencil skirt. They are clear-eyed and chatty, and for all purposes, a perfectly matched pair. It is only when they begin speaking that the cracks begin to show. Claire, no doubt remembering that this is a person who she used to enjoy spending time with, offers Frank an evening out. She doesn’t have class tonight, she says, why not go see a film about a messed-up family? Or maybe another film about a messed-up singing family?

(more…)

Deep Thoughts Outlander 305: Freedom and Whisky

I freaking loved this episode. I wanted to bundle it in something pretty and display it proudly in my home. I need to name a child after it, and then when people ask me “Why is your child called ‘Freedomandwhisky?” I can sit their pristine little tushes down on my sofa and give them a parade of feels. Afterwards we can get drunk together and eat ice cream, and the world will seem a better, happier place. Not to say this was a happy episode, per se. What it was was about identity and change. As Semisonic once said, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” The revelations in episodes past all have their emotional payoff here, as characters experience new beginnings that come from some other beginning’s end.

Spoilers ahead for episode 305.

Here are five takeaways:

Randall aftermath.  One of the things this episode did really well was to tie up the emotional loose ends of the turbulent Randall marriage. Claire made a commitment to Frank, once upon a time, to forget Jamie. She made a commitment to Jamie to keep their daughter safe, and watch over her. To some extent, keeping each of those promises meant defrauding the other. Her choice (and it was a choice) to stay with Frank up until the end of his life impacted lives aside from their own, and it felt honest and real to see Sandy’s bitterness, hear Joe’s brief, brutal summation and watch Brianna doubt Frank’s love. Even though she is our hero, and despite a keen scientific mind, Claire doesn’t always analyze her own motivations, and usually sidesteps blame when it comes her way. It’s one of those quirks that defines and humanizes her character, and the reason so many people end up entangled in so many shenanigans in her name.

The return of Magical Claire. Not since Master Raymond in Season 2 have we gotten a hint at the book’s allusions that Claire’s healing powers are, at least in part, magical. In that timey-wimey way Outlander has, her examination of Joe’s “pretty lady” bones is mostly instinctual, and it yields some insights that are in no way scientifically derived. The surgery that she encouraged Joe to attempt on his own would have undoubtedly been a failure, as he would have closed without extracting the necrosis she instinctively knew was there. Geillis and Claire were both called witches, and certainly Geillis owned that title much more than her time-traveling companion, but there might be more there than meets the eye. Her notebook is no longer seen as the ravings of a madwoman, but instead a reference manual for time travel, as evidenced by Brianna’s gift of a topaz necklace to aid in Claire’s return. These little moments are touched on very briefly, but very distinctly, and certainly bear watching.

Mommy’s Little Girl. Bree’s statement that she is more her mother’s child than either of her fathers’ is more revealing than she knows. Her “Everything is fine,” to her professors, her intense privacy and her pride are all callbacks to Claire. Certainly that deep breath in the kitchen, echoes Claire’s deep breath at the doors of the morgue after Frank’s death. Children do as we do, not as we say, and she’s certainly learned to suppress intense emotion and get on with it. Despite her very real loss of identity in finding out about her biological father and wondering if she was truly loved, questioning the authenticity of her own story, by the end of the episode the selfishness that has has been her most frequently cited negative trait is beautifully offset by her choice to actively encourage her mother to go back in time and retake the life that she unwittingly interrupted. It is a lovely, generous, action, and it served to endear me to the character in a way I didn’t experience until much later in the books.

Shipping RedBeard. I loved seeing the further blossoming of Brianna and Roger’s relationship. Series Roger is endearingly geeky and goofy, but that fumbling exterior covers up a deep well of understanding about what it means to be well-loved. Roger may have experienced a lot of pain and loss in his life, but he was also raised with honesty, and the stories he heard held deep, meaningful resonance. Brianna’s worldview has been forcibly shifted, and Roger’s upbringing gives him the means to remain grounded and hopeful in the face of her doubts, without needing to convert her to his way of thinking. He has all the patience of Frank with the emotional intelligence of Jamie, and this is a marriage of viewpoints that calls to the parts of Brianna that are in turmoil. Roger doesn’t deny his pain, and he understands loss. Bree is practical, analytical. Roger is introspective, sensitive. They are uniquely positioned to cover each other’s deficits and reinforce each other’s strengths — and they are cute as sleeping baby mice together.

But the book… I always understand the reasons for changing things from the book, but this was one of few episodes where I only briefly made a mental note, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. Usually there are a couple of lines or edits that will make me wistful enough to crack the books open a bit, but for me at least, Outlander is like Cinderella. There’s the source, the bible if you will, and then there are all the interpretations. The interpretations tell the story, but they also reveal insight into the teller. The things they choose to highlight, the things they leave behind, their own impressions of the past, and current times. One of the gifts of this particular retelling of this story is the ability to see the emotions we have so long held in our minds and hearts transposed onto real faces and bodies. I think this is one of the most exquisitely delicate episodes of this show produced so far, and I really feel it did justice to the wait.

 

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Deep Thoughts – Outlander 304: Of Lost Things

This week is all about those overarching themes. This far into the story and with the print shop looming, Jamie and Claire’s lives are connecting in deeper ways, in best-case scenario decisions, fleeting joys and banked regrets that will turn them into the more damaged, deeper versions of the characters that book readers have been awaiting for some time, and which series watchers will come to appreciate even more as the series expands. Spoilers ahead for episode 304.

Here are four takeaways:

  • Closure. Ten years after the Battle of Culloden, we are seeing some signs that the hatred between the Scots and the English, at least as far as Jamie is concerned, is starting to ebb.  Not only is there the cementing of his friendship with John, but his empathy with Lord Dunsany’s grief about losing a child. Bree and Roger confess their mutual fears to each other, and forge a delicate new connection. In each century, some negative things must first be purged before they can be replaced.
  • The laws of attraction. Isobel wants John, despite Jamie’s warning that soldiers don’t make great husbands, and John will take her, despite wanting Jamie. Roger’s torch for Bree couldn’t burn brighter if he were standing on Ellis Island, and Bree… appears to like him pretty well. Ellesmere wants Geneva because of her appealing pettishness, not thinking it will in any way impact him. Geneva wants whatever part of Jamie she can get, and calls that part love. Aside from Claire, the world is full of romantic compromise that makes the best out of affection and attraction, but not love.
  • Many kinds of parents. Geneva’s desire to have a say in who deflowers her results in Jamie’s first opportunity, however indirectly, to parent a child. That child makes John a father in much the same way that Brianna made Frank one, or Roger the Reverend. All these children are tied together by the love of two people, which will cause a ripple effect in their lives that will alter their very identities.
  • Hard rain, harsh truths. Geneva’s plan for Jamie resulted in a child neither expected, the death of a man, and a shadow over the child that ultimately results in Jamie having to give him up or risk his legitimacy. Claire is putting the professional life she worked so hard for on pause while she searches for Jamie in the past, and that state of suspended animation finally shatters when she decides to throw in the towel and go back to Boston. Roger confesses his feelings to Bree and gets a kiss, but she leaves,, just as he feared. The further the story progresses, the less love is about open hearts, and the more it is about seeing the possibility for pain, and persevering despite it.

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