Outlander Recap 304 – Of Lost Things

I can’t go on.
I’ll go on.
~Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

We stumble. We stutter. We rise. We are lifted. ~Anthony of Padua

 

Scotland, 1968. At the Reverend Wakefield’s house, Roger get his link analysis on, narrowing the Jamie search window to 1766 by theorizing that time has passed at an identical twenty-year rate for both Jamie and Claire.

Brianna and Claire are looking though prison records, but there’s no mention of Jamie. As they talk, Fiona stops by with tea and scones, and her admonishment to Roger to eat more prompts Bree to vividly imagine those two frolicking like shih tzu puppies.

Her expression is so syrupy that Roger winces at the unspoken implication, but Claire doesn’t notice at all. She has found Jamie’s name on the prisoner list for Ardsmuir Prison, number 7, James Fraser. Looking through the prisoner rolls, Roger determines he was there from 1753 to 1756, when the prison closed. He and Bree head off to celebrate with some whisky, and a hopeful Claire is left alone to ponder the possibilities.

Helwater Estate, England. 1756. Lord Dunsany, his wife and two daughters arrive at the estate after an Italian holiday. Dunsany asks Evans, his butler, to bring “the new groomsman” to him at the house. That message telephones its way down the chain of command until the head groom gets to a serious Jamie, who is going by the name Alexander MacKenzie and sporting the entire front half of Molly Ringwald’s hair from Pretty in Pink.

John Grey told Dunsany that Jamie had fought at Culloden, spared John’s life and was honorable. Dunsany lost his son Gordon in the rebellion. Jamie concedes that “many good men were lost on both sides,” and Dunsany replies that he respects a man who fights for a cause. It comforts him to think that Gordon died for what he believed in, and as far as he’s concerned the end of the war meant an end to the quarrel — but not Lady Dunsany. She never got over her son’s death, and “carries a great hatred for any Jacobite.”

As Dunsany speaks, it’s obvious that the mention of his son still pains him, as well. Jamie picks up on it, commenting that the “pain of losing a child never leaves you,” and confessing that he’s lost two of his own. Dunsany seems touched, and after a moment of quiet reflection, resolves to tell his wife that Jamie is just a groom that came well-recommended by John, and not a prisoner. “But you are a prisoner, MacKenzie. Mind you don’t forget it.”

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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 303 – All Debts Paid

The bulk of my first impressions have to do not with story this week, but the casting and production. This was the end of the three-episode arc that dealt with the Randall marriage and Claire’s early life in Boston, and to get her back to Scotland, Roger, and the search for Jamie (not to mention to get Jamie through his years of hiding and imprisonment) would take some serious editing. Spoilers ahead for episode 303.

Here are my five initial takeaways:

  • Hats off, Tall Ships. I think this episode more than any other to-date shows the successful complexity of what it can be to adapt a book to a series, hit all the high points and still evoke all the emotion of the longer passages and dialogue that can’t possibly be covered fully when working with limited time and resources. Ardsmuir especially, though drawn very sparingly, communicated both its squalor and the closeness of the men in a very sad, very dear way. The Randall marriage, as well, saw a period of eleven years pass in less than thirty minutes, and it felt very real, even if not 100% faithful to the Voyager novel. The economy in no way detracted from the emotional resonance, and that’s worth applauding.
  • Okay fine, I get it, LJ fans. I have been through YEARS of people telling me that Lord John is the bee’s knees, and I need to read all his books…and I’ve resisted. I just didn’t see it, and I was holding some of his actions in Echo against him, but David Berry’s portrayal just broadcasts this integrity that I find a really appealing trait in a man who is a well-disguised outsider. Maybe his station in life has afforded him some privilege, but his sexuality has also dealt him very bitter blows, and they have ennobled his character instead of rotting it. He is, in many ways, the anti-BJR. It was incredibly touching to see both he and Jamie find the noble heart of each other, and I look forward to seeing more of him.
  • Always take a Murtagh. I’m not ashamed to say I leapt out of my seat like a joyous kangaroo when I heard his voice, and I started flailing my arms when I saw his dear beard and brows. I was so, so, touched that the show brought Duncan Lacroix back for another episode, even if it might be some time before he’s seen again. I know that at some point in life Jamie has to grow to become Murtagh-like himself, but in what has been a very dark first few episodes, it was a welcome ray of sunshine to see such a beloved character again. I hear the rumors about what his role might be in season 5, and all I can say to that is BRING IT. Put him in a pig costume and make him the white sow, I don’t care. I need my Murtagh.
  • Poor Frank. Two paths diverged in a wood, and on one was TV Frank.  So many differences between these two characters. There is a lot of dislike of Book Frank, and it has seemed to some that the TV version has been sanctified in a way the “real” Frank does not deserve. If I have come away with anything from the show, however, it’s that reality is uncomfortable, and the fact that Claire fell in love with another man doesn’t  automatically make the man she chose first into a villain, nor does it make her actions where he is concerned always heroic. There were a lot of shades of grey in the Randall marriage, and I feel like the writers were very successful at navigating difficult subject matter. That scene where Claire’s tear drops on his face, an echo of the same tear he cried the last time she saw him alive? Gut-wrenching. Real. Poetic. I’ll miss the tremendous Tobias Menzies, but I hope to see him in flashbacks.
  • Breecyclopedia. There is so much emotional soil being laid down in these first few episodes about Brianna’s upbringing that explains so much about non-Jamie parts of the character. You can count me among the people who never connected with book Brianna, but the show is illustrating so many of the behaviors that I found bratty and why she needed to develop them. Bree is brash and direct because she lived in the shadow of her parents’ false reality. She is emotionally reserved because she saw the unhappiness of unrequited love in not only her father, but also Claire. She is independent because she had a working mother and intellectual father who encouraged her to make her own choices and think for herself, and she is analytical because she has learned to probe situations and people instead of taking what they say at face value. She is in a way not only three people’s greatest hope for the future, but the product of all their past mistakes… and all their enduring virtues.

 

 

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I would’ve dated every character on Outlander.

First, let me say that this is what happens when the hiatus runs long and I’m on medical leave and I end up watching what amounts to 48 straight hours of Comic Con videos and photos and thinking, “Damn. These are some ridiculously attractive people.” A recap of the promo is a bit much for my short bursts of energy as things stand, but this rolled right out, ha ha.

Let me say first that obviously the series is more than the love scenes, and of course the actors on the show are talented, incredibly generous with charities and time spent connecting with the fandom. Absolutely true that the sum of the narrative is about more than physical bodies and the collective gravity-defying sex appeal of the cast. Now that we have established that, I’m just going to talk about the sexy, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, jump ship.

For purposes of this rumination, I am going to stick with the principal S1-S3 characters. The adult ones, or the ones that will be adults by the end of S3. Also, when I refer to “boy-me,” that’s because I am cis hetero. Insert your own gender/orientation as it applies. Or don’t, and taste the rainbow. Live a little.

Fergus Fraser- I have yet to see adult Fergus onscreen, but if the social media reaction is any gauge at all, he’s going to be propelled straight into heaven by giant, gusting sighs. Fergus combines the earnest face of a renaissance angel with the easygoing rough-and-tumble-ness of your favorite boy band member, and 14-year old me would be HERE FOR IT. Tween/early teen me had a short list for the ideal boyfriend: be arguably prettier than me, have an accent and be super into insecure, cantankerous young women. Fergus and I would have been blissfully happy right until I met him in person at my local mall and fainted dead away, ending our brief, blissful love.

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5 Outlander Characters That Hate A September Premiere More Than You Do

Because this popped into my head and I won’t be doing any more pieces for Scotland Now/The Daily Record till September, when, for all we know, we might all be in the depths of a nuclear winter and I might not have access to Tumblr. Or fingers.

Slight book spoilers, but nothing beyond what’s already in the press. Read on at your own peril.

1. Frank Randall. This poor bastard is likely the only character that wishes the premiere was two weeks after never. He finally convinced Claire to give it a go for old times’ sake, moved across the ocean, is fathering a child that isn’t his, all in the hope that he can recapture the past.  The inevitable breakdown of his hope and rise of his IDGAF-ness will be both tragic and riveting. I both dread it and also CAN’T WAIT.

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2. Bree Randall. Not only does she have to listen to Claire constantly justify herself by describing how SCORCHING the sex was with her bio-dad, the revelation that Jamie is alive (past alive, currently dead, it’s very timey-wimey), means that Bree will now also have to shoulder the burden of making herself a 20th-century orphan x3 vs. leaving human baby chinchilla and potential bae (Roger) behind before they even hit first base. Either way, someone’s getting c*ckblocked.

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3. Roger Wakefield. There are a lot of dangerous things that happen in the Outlander-verse, but none is as guaranteed to be risky as falling in love with a Fraser. Much like Moses parting the Red Sea, loving a Fraser requires brass balls, excellent hair, and divine intervention. From the moment Roger spied Bree across a room, he hitched his wagon to Satan’s ponies, and it’s only a matter of time before he joins mom-in-law Claire on the dark side. Ain’t nothing like a Randall woman to make a Mackenzie boy lose his gotdamb mind.

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4. Claire Fraser-cum-Randall. Claire is not here for a lot of things, and now those things include the Bonnie Prince Charlie, traditional gender roles and the 20th century. We get the sense at the end of S2 that the Randall marriage was unhappy–and we’ll get to see that progression happen–but we’ll also see the pain and loneliness that Claire hides from everyone else, and her despair at never seeing Jamie again. Now that she knows he is alive, she’s pointed herself right at him like a bouffant-y, sexually frustrated arrow, but the man she is going back to won’t be the one she left behind.

5. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Jamie finished up S2 by giving up his wife and child after agreeing to betray his King, killing his uncle and heading off to die in war. You wouldn’t think things could get worse for our Scottish Aslan, but you would be SO WRONG. War. Prison. NO KILTS. Not only does he get to live in constant ignorance of what happened to his family, but that bod is like a Ferrari that only gets driven to oil changes and that is a crying shame. Basically, underneath Jamie’s lagoon of sadness lives a subterranean village of suck, and he has barely set foot on what will be an island cave filled wall-to-wall with WTF.

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Outlander recap: Season 2 Episode 13 – Dragonfly in Amber

Outlander recap: Season 2 Episode 13 – Dragonfly in Amber