Deep Thoughts Outlander 313: Eye of the Storm

So here we are, staring down another Droughtlander, and aside from thoughts specifically about this episode, I had some thoughts about the entire series.  Thinking back to where we started, with a pregnant Claire and the aftermath of Culloden, the scope of what needed to be covered is pretty overwhelming. For the most part, we got there…and there was a lot more sex.

Spoilers ahead for episode 313.

Here are five takeaways:

I’m surrounded by Frasers. Seasons 1-3 really did focus mostly on Claire and Jamie, but that won’t be the case being forward. While the Frasers’ story continues to take center stage, all the characters we’ve been introduced to as part of the expanded Fraser clan will need time and audience investment to develop properly. One of the issues going forward that was glaringly obvious during this episode is how adapting these increasingly more complex subplots will affect the flow of a televised series. This episode attempted to cover a lot of emotional and plot ground, and it didn’t always do so in a way that made sense to anyone who didn’t read the novels. One book per season may have worked up until now, but I really hope they’re negotiating at least two seasons per book going forward.

Who’s doing what to the who now? I had a hard time following the purpose of the coach pausing for the group walking with torches, and later, the masked dancers. Sure I’ve read the books, but I made a point of not doing so during the season, just to see if I could follow the story without them. I didn’t feel that either of these choices was given any context. I assumed the former was a group of escaped slaves (the “maroons” Father Fogden spoke of in 311), and the latter Geillis’ slaves practicing some of their native rituals, but this wasn’t really explained aside from using this group of people to represent a magical “other” that I’m not sure jibes with the story as told onscreen. Are we supposed to believe they are all infected with a sort of bloodlust, or that being okay with the sacrificing of a chicken, they decided Archie was a bonus?

Friendship is great but villains are better. I’ve said it before, but morally ambiguous villains are one of the things Outlander does best, and Gillian/Geillis Edgars/Duncan/Abernathy is one that’ll be missed. The second half of this season suffered from some disjointedness (the plot to find Young Ian took a slightly comedic detour that echoed the Dance Tour to Find Jamie from Season 1), but nothing helps pull your heroes together and give them a purpose quite like having a great antagonist. Part of what makes Geillis so fascinating to watch is her heartfelt, maniacal commitment to her cause. You get the sense that she truly does value Claire, even as you know she would kill her without a moment’s thought. It’s villains like these that throw our main characters’ heroism into stark relief: Ian’s bravery, Jamie’s steadfastness, Claire’s fierceness.

The sanctity of life. It seems like at least once per season, Claire’s commitment to a life with Jamie in the much less-regulated past means she ends up having to betray her physician’s oath and take a life. Each of these choices have been life-and-death, split-second decisions made to protect herself, but this is the first time she did so not for her own sake, but her daughter’s. In this instance, we also find out that Claire’s ability to suss out the cause of death of Joe Abernathy’s remains was because she was the one who dealt the blow, and the echo of that moment contributed to her insight. What doesn’t seem to ever click into place for our heroine, however, is any sort of regard for her own safety. Claire’s need to help the wounded during the storm that hits the Artemis after Ian’s rescue almost kills her New Moon-style.  I’m not sure which made me want to throw my shoe harder: knowing that Claire was putting herself in danger again, or knowing for sure that if Jamie and Claire made it on a crosspiece of timber, that Jack could have lived.

A Whole New World.  So thanks to Mother Nature, our heroes end up at the fictional Les Perles plantation, Georgia. It’s probably a safe move, because Jenny Fraser is waiting in Scotland with an itchy slapping hand and Young Ian’s been through enough. Also, much as I love that Scottish countryside, it’s been kind of a shark tank inside a snake pit for the Frasers. The colonies represent a chance to start their life over again, plus Murtagh is there, and that’s reason enough to visit a continent for anyone.

Deep Thoughts Outlander 312: The Bakra

By now, I should know that Claire or Jamie telling the other that they won’t be separated again ends with them being separated again, but what can I say? If loving this show is wrong, I don’t want to be right. We finally arrive in Jamaica, and get to revisit characters, outfits and plot points that went a bit MIA for a while. We also got to check back in with everyone’s favorite Scottish Regina George, and their favorite Lovelorn English Lord, and our first-ever (if brief) POV from a character other than Jamie and Claire. In truth, Young Ian’s time with Geillis represents a kind of Wentworth in his life, and these experiences cause the character to grow in ways that will be very exciting to see onscreen. Finally, the introduction of the prophecy of the Brahan Seer (referred to as The Fraser Prophecy in the books) marks the beginning of the story’s shift past Claire and Jamie as a couple, to encompass their entire dynasty and what it potentially means to the future of Scotland. One more episode to go!

Spoilers ahead for episode 312.

Here are four takeaways:

Return of the Mack. The Mackenzie plotline we last revisited in the 1960s with descendant Roger Wakefield picks up once more with the re-appearance of his five-times great grandmother Geillis. Geillis is now an Abernathy, having black-widowed her way into what I can only assume is a goat plantation on Jamaica and being referred to by the Jamaican patois nickname of “Bakra,” which means slave driver (literally ‘back raw’). It’s a thrill to see her, mostly because Outlander excels at the Morally Irreverent Villain, and the story overall is better when our heroes are, well, being heroes. I know Geillis is evil and probably a sociopath, but I just love her. I didn’t even get angry when Claire basically provided her a plot outline at the Governor’s reception, because there was a true closeness and friendship between these women. The seminal difference is that Claire values human life, and Geillis doesn’t (it’s a small distinction, but pretty important). Geillis’s #1 concern is still putting a Scottish ruler on the throne, and the fact that she speaks more affectionately of Dougal’s testicles than their child should probably tell Claire something. That, and all the husband-killing.

More Things on Heaven and Earth. It’s been hinted at for a while now, but this week Outlander slides feet-first into the religious cultural collision of the Caribbean.  A rich native culture fused with African traditions from the slave trade and European religions to create spiritual practices that fascinate people even today. The first hint came back in 306, when we first met Margaret Campbell and she prophesied about Abandawe, the cave that Father Fogden would later tell Claire was used for sacred rites. The alligator skeleton last episode was a callback to the one that hung in Master Raymond’s shop.  Jamie himself heard talk of a “white lady,” equating her to Claire, and not an actual witch. For all that they are 200 years apart, Claire and Jamie are both highly pragmatic, and except for the stones, have yet to experience the collision of magic and spirituality that so vividly color the Caribbean experience of spirituality. It’s an entirely new worldview, and it’ll be interesting to see how each character processes and interacts with this new take on spirituality.

The Importance of Being Other. The slave market was as hard to watch as I anticipated, but I didn’t anticipate the line that would make my head snap back. The slave merchant’s disdainful “What do you take me for,” in response to Jamie’s inquiry about selling a white youth was so matter-of-fact and time-appropriate that it instantly set the scene.  It was, like the men and women lined up like so much window dressing, a ruthlessly effective way to make a point about these people’s standing and significance in the world at that time.  So, too, is the way that Yi Tien Cho is first addressed at the Governor’s reception, the young woman marveling that “Goodness, he even speaks English” when the ‘he’ in question is standing right in front of her. The show slightly alters the circumstances of both characters, but there are lovely allusions to both Yi Tien Cho’s and Temeraire’s humanity that are doled out with respectful kindness. Temeraire’s assistance is requested, not demanded. Terms are set up that he is free to accept or reject. Jamie and Claire refer to people as “enslaved,” and to him as a manservant.  Yi Tien Cho is given a formal, respectful introduction by Jamie at the ball, and, despite his claim that he came to a place where women reject him, he finds a mutual admiration and understanding in fellow outsider Margaret Campbell.

The Jamie Fraser Fan Club. I wallowed in Lord John’s return like a pig in mud. Beautifully embroidered, sapphire-accented mud. Not only is the chemistry between Sam Heughan and David Berry electric, but add Caitriona Balfe to the mix and it’s like I’m back in high school and someone just shouted “Fight” down the hall. I am desperately craning my neck trying to find every nuance of expression and hear everything that is being said. The warmth between Jamie and John is so gratifying to see, because it is obvious that Jamie appreciates this man not only for the care he gives his son, but knows of his feelings for him and is tenderly solicitous of him. There is a true bond there, and while Claire is at first as warm as Jamie, it doesn’t take her long to notice that John’s attachment to her husband is more than friendship. When John speaks to her and very subtly attempts to test her relationship with Jamie by alluding to their great shared secret…and finding out Claire knows everything. Claire in turn gently but pointedly asks for clarification on the ‘gift’ of the sapphire, and John admits Jamie surrendered it after he went searching for her, thinking she had come back, “And now you have.” Claire’s smile is kind, but her eyes are solemn, and her words, an unmistakable warning. “Yes. I have.”

Deep Thoughts Outlander 311: Uncharted

Claire’s streak of improbably surviving things that would kill the rest of us continues. This time she lands on modern-day Haiti, her clothes intact and her hair looking way better than it should and narrowly misses the three-day survival deadline. Because she’s Claire, she finds a nutty priest (he literally uses a coconut as a life coach), swans about in a fly robe and manages to be called a whore by an older woman whose only daughter ran away with a priest. That’s right, Mamacita. GLASS HOUSES. While the first half had some of the comedy that I always love to see, the second half was an emotionally satisfying dessert. I would watch the hell out of a Fersali spinoff.

Spoilers ahead for episode 311.

Here are four takeaways:

A quarter hour is way longer than you think. I understand the need to impress Claire’s peril upon the audience, but that’s about ten minutes more than I wanted to spend watching her wander around the island. Just for comparison’s sake, that’s about two more minutes’ more screen time than was spent on Culloden, which was much more of a big deal in my mind. I get that it was to illustrate the passage of time and call back to the peril she was in due to hitting her third day sans water, but I wish we had spent more time with Jamie and Fergus, maybe gotten a hint of the storm that broke the Artemis’ main mast. Instead we got an extremely aversive introduction to the flora and fauna of Hispaniola. I’m not even talking about the snake. It was the ants that made me want to bathe myself in a cloud of Raid. And how is it that it took Claire about two days to find Father Fogden, but only a few hours to run back to shore to find Jamie? Of course, running to meet your sexy gingersnap puts wings on your heels, but I don’t think it adds an engine. Ah, Outlander. You are a time-travel show in more ways than one.

Geography is hard. I can’t tell you the number of maps I looked at to figure out where who was when, or how teensy the Turks portion of Turks and Caicos is when you’re desperately hunting for Cockburn Town. That strugglebus was on a circuitous route. It was nice to see the Americas featured, however, and to recognize and lust after fried plantains. I was, however, confused by the Spanish subtitles. Following the idea that the show doesn’t subtitle Gaelic or Chinese because Claire wouldn’t understand them, but did subtitle the French in Season 2, does that mean Claire speaks Spanish? Why then does Fogden translate for her? (An aside: I must congratulate the actress that played Mamacita for her very convincing Cuban accent. I could tell it wasn’t native, but I couldn’t identify what colored it until I saw she was Spanish and had lived in the U.S. Good job, Vivi.) In any case, because I had to make a visual for my own visual reference, here’s my super highbrow map of this episode, for the map dunces like me.

Eat your heart out, Jenny Fraser. There is a new HBIC in town, and her married name rhymes with “Taser.” Marsali is adaptable and practical, which is a necessity for joining the Fraser clan, but she also is a girl who, as Fergus says, “speaks her mind.” Fiercely loyal, she repeatedly speaks up in Fergus’s defense, first to Jamie, and now to Father Fogden. She is a Jenny Fraser for the next generation, imbued with all the grim shrewdness of a country girl and the genetic bull-headedness and managing nature to see her plans through. What is especially endearing about Marsali, and especially this episode, is her perceptiveness.  Sheh alone, in Claire’s absence had the stones to tell Jamie to snap out of it and trust in Fergus’s love for him last episode, and this episode she finally comes clean to Claire about the real status of the Jamie/Laoghaire marriage, and her fears for her own. Claire and Marsali connect on the very deep level of headstrong women who value their agency, and it did my heart good to see Fergus get what he has long wanted, a woman like madame.

More Frasers than you can stab with a branch. Oddly enough, Jamie and Claire’s reunion wasn’t the emotional high point of this episode. That was reserved for the funny, touching, memorable wedding of Marsali and Fergus. From Fergus’s untidy ponytail to Marsali’s sweet shawl and earrings, to the candlelight in the reverend’s garden are meant to evoke an aura of intimacy and ease. A wedding is a simple thing, really. It’s the building of a relationship that is difficult, and the maintenance of the ties that keep a family together. Marsali’s tart admonishments for Father Fogden are more than a girl mouthing off: they are the impatient nudges of a woman set on getting her heart’s desire, and the fact that this desire is a bastard boy with no last name and only hand speaks to the worth of her character and the love she can give. The fact that Fergus can’t even finish chastising her for her outspokenness before claiming that it is one of the things he loves about her shows the same for him. Jamie and Claire’s exchange of wry glances also tells the audience that Fergus isn’t the only one who appreciates an outspoken female. Finally, Fergus’s quiet admission that he has no last name, and Jamie’s assertive claim that he is a Fraser brought me to tears. Marsali turns immediately, startled. In contrast, her husband-to-be stills, then turns with shining eyes to regard his father before saying his full name proudly for the first time. So the Frasers grow, having lost both a son and daughters, to claim Fergus and Marsali for their own. In turn Fergus, who once sacrificed a hand to keep Jamie safe, now receives the final portion of the lifetime of care he was promised as a boy: the protection of Jamie’s name.

Deep Thoughts Outlander 310: Heaven and Earth

This week’s episode wasn’t impactful for any plot-driven reasons. As a matter of fact the biggest plot reveal, Captain Leonard’s intent to arrest Jamie, receded into the background to make room for a resolution to the Fergus/Marsali wedding, a viable plan for rescuing Claire from the Porpoise, and to allow for some much needed character development as we continue to rediscover the expanded Fraser clan.

Spoilers ahead for episode 310.

Here are four takeaways:

The Family You Choose. Fergus and Jamie have arguably been together since the latter left Ardsmuir, and their last moment on-screen when the former was still a child was the touching reminder that Fergus knows Jamie better than anyone. Because we, along with Claire, are still coming to understand the aspects of Jamie that changed in the last twenty years, this episode was pivotal for the audience’s understanding of their unique bond. Fergus is a man, but one with deep love and respect for Jamie, who has seemingly — except for handfasting Marsali — always deferred to Jamie when it comes to decision-making about their mutual paths. Now with Jamie locked up and their fates resting on him, he once more shows the boundless loyalty and insight about human nature that make him such an asset, and Jamie ultimately bestows upon him not one gift, but two: his blessing upon a marriage with his adopted daughter, and a verbal recognition of the depth of their attachment. “Mon fils,” Jamie calls him. My son.

Fersali Is Strong. It becomes clearer every day why Marsali, raised by a mother with a long history of unfortunate decisions in love (and most recently set aside by a father figure she had grown to trust) is attracted to Fergus’s loyal, devoted, steadfastness.  Fergus, raised by women and predisposed to appreciate their individuality, offers her the chance to express herself as a true partner, and to have a marriage where she has input into her future and decisions, unlike Laoghaire. But where Fergus is a pickpocket, teasing out truths and subtly making points, Marsali is much like her mother and her Auntie Janet: a sword that cuts mercilessly to the heart of the matter. She’s not always correct, but she’s fierce and committed: qualities that can’t help to appeal to a boy who grew up with no true sense of belonging and whose only other solid attachment to a woman was Claire Mothereffing Fraser. Lastly, the realest part of this episode was Marsali trying to sneak in a quick deflowering while Jamie was in the clink. I see you, girl. Way to keep it 100.

I Wanna Know What Love Is. Jamie, single-minded in his need to recover Claire after their recent reunion, is almost feral in his insistence that true love means “moving heaven and earth” for the beloved. But he forgets that he isn’t the only one with a beloved on-board, nor is Claire the only life he’s accountable for. Apparently love is also narrowing your depth of focus to exclude everyone in your life but one person. This didn’t ring true to me, but I can understand why it was written this way. If not for some conflict, the plot on the Artemis would have been very dull. Still, it felt less like shrewd, leader-of-men Jamie and more like a plot device. It’s the object of Fergus’s love herself that reminds Jamie of his commitments outside Claire, and the need to step carefully and intelligently around the dual landmines of Jamie’s arrest and Claire’s abduction. Jamie comes to see the wisdom in this approach, and in the effect Marsali and Fergus have on each other. It’s a different kind of love, but just as worth protecting.

A Life Wasted. The surprising emotional heart of this episode didn’t center around one of our regulars, but rather a supporting character we met at the very end of last week’s episode. Elias Pound isn’t much younger than Young Ian, but he’s much worldlier, having lived half his life at sea. The combination of dutiful soldier and tender young man seems designed to pull at a mother’s heart, and it certainly affected Claire. I can’t imagine she didn’t think of the children she has cared for in her life, and the one she now seeks. Claire is a mother whose children are not with her, and Elias is a motherless child. Pound’s plaintive question about Claire’s ability to “remain calm in the face of so much death” is precisely the kind of question one asks of a parent when trying to make sense of the world, and his gift of the rabbit’s foot is both a callback to the accidental bunny theme running through this season (Jamie at Culloden; Bree’s bunny) and a heartbreakingly chivalrous gesture by a boy who is gamely attempting to be the best man he can, before his time runs out.

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.”

(more…)

Deep Thoughts Outlander 308: First Wife

This week, the series came roaring back with the goodness. Last episode was the troublesome middle child in the Fraser Reunion Trilogy, but this week resolved all my issues with 307. 308 was all the things I love about Outlander: real talk, athletic sex that serves the story, a successful Bechdel test, emotions, Science!Claire and more fun words (kebbie-lebbie, Hogmanay) than you can shake a stick at.

[Quick personal update: Still doing the recaps, just very slowly. I knew the moment the series changed from summer to fall that I would likely not be able to keep up, so for the meantime there are these, and recaps to come when life slows down.]

Spoilers ahead for episode 308.

Here are five takeaways:

The Gideon of Scotland. For a dude who is nominally childless, Jamie sure does have a lot of kids. Only William and Brianna are of his body, but besides Fergus and now Young Ian, we find that he has played father figure to Laoghaire’s two daughters, and that he was upset when his nephews didn’t recognize him upon his return from Helwater. Jamie genuinely loves children, and enjoys their company. The two young men closest to him, Young Ian and Fergus, differ in that one was bred in a whorehouse and is no stranger to crime, and the other raised in a peaceful home, with only the stories of his uncle’s (mis)adventures to aspire to. The real kicker with children is that as much as you counsel them with words, it’s the actions that they mimic, and Ian Sr.’s advice to Jamie to be mindful of Ian’s love and tendency to follow him “like a puppy” proves to not only be accurate, but premonitory.

Dishonorable Second Wife. Whatever else you can say about her (mouth like a sailor, cute daughters, fine ability to sew a pleated cap) maybe the most relevant thing, to me, is that Laoghaire MacKenzie MacKenzie MacKimmie Fraser is a woman who courts unhappiness. I never hated this character like a lot of people did. I have a lot of sympathy for her early unrequited love of Jamie. I think her setup of Claire was more heedless than evil. To me, she is more of a cautionary tale about the dangers of drawing self-worth solely from the object of one’s affection. As a young woman, Laoghaire let her feelings for Jamie and an assumed moral superiority over Claire draw her into sinful and criminal behavior. As an adult, holding on to her unhappy union with Jamie supersedes everything. She is not above using her children, a gun or the law. And I don’t think it’s because Laoghaire truly values what Jamie provides. She’s an attractive woman, and could still marry elsewhere. The reason Laoghaire balks at giving Jamie up is because having him is the sole thing that has given her life meaning, and if he goes, he takes her identity with him.

Ghosts of Past and Present. For all the comparisons that can be legitimately drawn between Frank and Laoghaire — most obviously the fact that they both failed miserably in their chance at happiness because the person they loved would never love them back, and their resulting bitterness — what struck me most deeply was their differences. Frank wanted to make things work with Claire, but ultimately decided to let her go. Laoghaire and Jamie seemingly struggled from the very beginning, but even when the end was inevitable Laoghaire turned to violence rather than accept the inevitable. Frank and Claire both struggled to put parenting Brianna first, while Laoghaire thinks nothing of subjecting her daughters to their stepfather’s humiliation, leaving Jamie to console little Joan and assure her of his love. It’s not the first time I’ve thought that, after all is said and done and for all her own suffering, Claire was much luckier in their life apart from each other than Jamie.

If You’re Coming for Jenny Murray, Make a U-Turn. The world according to Jenny Murray might have shades of grey in it, but probably only two or three. She is, without a doubt, the best representation of the moral compass of the time. Jenny’s greatest asset is her ability to see directly into the heart of a matter. Her greatest failing is her resistance to applying that insight inward.  She may have seemed hard, but when Claire first came back, Jenny gave her a brief opportunity to come clean. When Claire attempted to resume their old closeness without its accompanying honesty, that door shut tight. Instead, Jenny hastened to arrange matters to lance the infection she saw poisoning her family.  Not even Ian agrees with the way she dealt with the situation, but where other people have self-doubt, Jenny has a gold-plated statue of herself giving herself a thumbs-up. I may not always agree with her, but she speaks a lot of truth (love her pointing out that Claire went looking for Jamie last time she was told he was dead, and that by leaving him, she left the rest of his family, including Jenny herself). I can’t help but love a woman whose f*ck field is so very, very fallow when it comes to anything other than her family.

The Power of Love. One of the things I have always loved best about the story of Jamie and Claire is that neither is perfect in anything but their love for one another. Time and again it has served as both an inspiration and a reality check. As much as we all love to call him the King of Men, it’s instances like this that show how Jamie gained the wisdom he did to truly earn this moniker. He and Claire were not married long before their separation, and though his delay in telling her the truth was understandable, so is Claire’s disappointment. These are two people who have risked much to be together, and though it would be tempting to make their reunion all wine and roses to compensate for their time apart, it felt very satisfying to finally see the depth and complexity of these feeling exposed and discussed. Unlike last episode, this all flowed, it all felt rooted in genuine emotion. This is the part of marriage that almost no one shows on television: the constant reaching out, past hurt and pride, that ties each pearl and sinew of a lifetime together. The look, touch, or words from one heart to another to say, “Are you still in this with me?” “Are we okay?”

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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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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?

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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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Outlander Recap 302- Surrender

I don’t know about y’all, but I need to have my portrait done by the individual responsible for capturing the Lindsay-Buckingham-level hippie-hotness and general IDGAF-ness of the Dunbonnet. Put that portrait on my grave. Staple it over my wedding photo. I want someone to capture me being that aggressively detached about anything, but instead here I am, writing another novella-length recap of a show that makes me cry like I’m watering a face-garden.

I’m not the only one involved in an unhealthy relationship right now. The main three characters are all in a holding pattern which two of them will break, only one by choice. Also, as advertised, there is a lot of sex, and all of it is sadder than that which preceded it. I’m going to write the publicity department a strongly-worded letter. I was sold a false bill of goods, damn it! Here’s a visual:

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