Sunday, April 12, 2015

Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 110 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! *** 

There are SPOILERS below!  If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.

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First, a quick comment about the opening credits. At “billow and breeze”, notice Simon Callow’s credit as the Duke of Sandringham.  I liked the dueling pistols in the opening bit. Fascinating to see what’s involved in loading one – like a miniature version of a musket. <g>

The opening sex scene starts out straight from the book, complete with the “butterfly wings” of Jamie's tongue. <g>  My first thought on watching this was that Jamie learns VERY fast! My second thought, when Murtagh started pounding on the door and calling, “Wake up!”, was that this is very similar to the scene in FIERY CROSS chapter 89 (“The Moons of Jupiter”), where Jamie comes knocking on Bree and Roger’s cabin door to find Roger half-dressed and Bree still lying in bed.

"Jamie, if I tell you something, will you promise not to ask me how I know?”
“I told ye, I’d never ask ye for anything ye didna wish to tell me.”
It's good to see this here.

Jamie talking about returning to Lallybroch – this is simplified somewhat from the book. Here, the only thing stopping Jamie from going home seems to be the price on his head, not his guilt over what he thinks happened to Jenny. But I really liked Jamie’s line, “We’d be happy there. I know we would.” Also the way his whole face lights up when he talks about it.

Nice to see Ned Gowan acting lawyerly. <g> I love the twinkle in his eye just before Murtagh says, “If ye have something on your mind, Ned Gowan, then speak it.”

The scene between Laoghaire and Claire is one of my favorites in the whole episode. Very well done!

"Jamie Fraser was and is mine. And you did both of us a wrong past bearing when ye stole him away.”  - good line, and I’m sure she still believes that 20 years later!

The dialogue in this scene is really good. I especially liked this: “He must have to get himself swine drunk of a night before he can stand to plow your field” – SLAP!  (Well, she deserved it, for being so nasty, but my impression was that Claire apologized because she’s trying to be the adult in this conversation.)

Geillis performing her “summoning” in the woods beneath a full moon is suitably mysterious and eerie. And I liked very much how they showed the similarity between what Geillis is doing and the dancers on Craigh na Dun from Episode 101.  (Including the music, which is one of my favorite bits from that episode.)

The revelation of Geillis’s pregnancy is, of course, not at all the way it happens in the book, and I thought Geillis’s reaction was out of character. In the book, she didn’t seem happy at all about the pregnancy, more resigned to it, saying "accidents happen", or words to that effect.

“My darlin’ Dougal” – I didn’t like this. In the books, Geillis doesn’t believe in love. Is this an act for Claire's benefit, or are we expected to believe she’s actually in love with Dougal, and not just interested in him for his money and power?

I liked the way they used the flashback with Frank and the Reverend to explain why Sandringham's association with Dougal is important.

The whole scene with the changeling was VERY well done, and I was relieved to see they went back to the book. I liked the mist in the air around the trees. Claire’s reaction to finding the baby was very good.  (I kept thinking of her cradling Malva’s baby in ABOSAA.) Jamie crossed himself left-handed again, just as in Episode 105, but aside from that, Jamie in this scene is very much the way I always imagined from the book. He’s gentle with Claire, seeing how upset she is about the baby.

I liked Jamie’s reaction to Claire signing her name “Claire Elizabeth Fraser”.   And it made me think: Frank found records of citizens complaining about BJR’s activities. Was this document part of that historical record?  Just speculation, of course, but interesting to think about. <g>

Simon Callow is wonderful as the Duke of Sandringham!  And I like the set decoration here – the furniture, the paintings on the walls, everything gives it a very authentic 18th c. feel.

HOWEVER....I have a problem with this scene. As well-acted and beautifully shot as it is, it simply doesn’t make sense to me, in terms of the story.

“Ah! So Lord Broch Tuarach has sent you along to soften me up. To play on my well-known sympathies for the weaker sex.”
“I can assure you, Your Grace, that Jamie has no idea I’m here, and nor would he approve if he did.”

OK, so how did she manage to get there from Leoch? Someone would have had to take her in a carriage, or ride along with her on horseback for protection and to show her the way. I don’t believe she could just sneak off by herself without Murtagh or Auld Alec or someone else knowing.  And considering what happened the last time Claire wandered off without Jamie's knowledge, it seems very unlikely that she would do so again only a few days later.  The logistical issues here make this whole scene seem both contrived (set up only to get the Duke and Claire to meet) and unnecessary.

But I do love Simon Callow’s performance, and the dialogue in this scene is terrific!  “Libelous falsities”, etc.

Claire’s confronting Sandringham about the Jacobite gold from Dougal strikes me as awfully risky (Jamie’s line in ABOSAA, “Ye were always bolder than was safe” comes to mind”), especially in view of what we know about her encounter with him in DRAGONFLY.  If she needs him to be a friend rather than an enemy, deliberately provoking him like this seems a very odd way to go about it.

I didn’t care for the scene where Dougal goes berserk with rage and grief.  Yes, it’s dramatic, and visually interesting to watch (I liked their use of the targes, in particular), but what was the point of it, exactly?  Just to show that Dougal had feelings for his dead wife?  (And why on earth would he feel that her death from a sudden fever was his fault? Surely such things were common enough in the 18th century!)  Or was it only designed to show off Dougal’s sword-fighting skills?  It felt way over the top and unnecessary to me, and not just because this is a scene that’s not in the book.

Whatever Claire gave Dougal, it’s a VERY fast-acting sedative!  Laudanum, maybe?

I liked Colum’s line at the end of the scene:  “Watch over him. I’ll deal with the sodden fool when he regains sobriety."  And this line (from Rupert?): "If ye drop him, I’ll have your balls.”

Geillis is terrific in the next scene with Claire. She seems almost gleeful at the news of Maura’s death.  And I love her reaction when Claire says, “Your husband might have something to say about that.” The look in her eyes, combined with that little sound she makes, is just priceless. <g>

“What the hell are the MacDonalds doing visiting the Duke of Sandringham?”  I had the exact same question.

“I must admit that shielding [Randall] from the consequences of his misdeeds sometimes feels like a full-time occupation.” – great line

This whole plotline about the duel seems very contrived. “The MacDonalds and the MacKenzies are sworn enemies, but this is not a clan matter.” That makes no sense -- it seems to me that ANY interaction between two clans who are "sworn enemies" becomes a clan matter by definition -- and Murtagh is absolutely right that Jamie should have stayed out of it, that there will be other chances. I saw this as Jamie’s stubbornness (“It’s a risk I have to take”) overcoming his good judgment, and I didn’t like it.

The banquet scene was very good. I liked the way Colum presented the Duke with the dirk to carve the bird.  Arthur’s death scene was done very well, especially Geillie’s reaction (“anything but a grieving widow”) and Claire’s diagnostic skills.

But I totally could have done without the duel. Dramatic but pointless, is the way it seemed to me.  At times it looked like something out of a completely unrelated 18th-century costume drama, not OUTLANDER as we know it. And I really don’t understand why Jamie took part in the bantering with the young men afterward. He’s only half a MacKenzie, and we have no reason to think he had any dealings with MacDonalds in the past. So why does he react so strongly to their insults?  Just an excess of testosterone, or is there something more to it?

It seems to me that Jamie’s “Is it true the MacDonalds learn of love by rutting with their mother?” actually provoked the fight. Of course, when the young MacDonald rushed at Jamie with his sword drawn, calling him a “buggering sodomite”, Jamie had no choice but to fight back, but I still think the whole fight was totally unnecessary and (for the third time in this episode) contrived purely for dramatic effect.  It’s only luck that Jamie wasn’t seriously injured! 

I liked Claire giving Jamie the silent treatment afterward. “You’re not normally a close-mouthed woman, Claire. I expected noisier displeasure.” – good line.  (And finally we see where the bit from the opening credits with Claire stitching a wound comes from. <g>)

The scene with Colum, Dougal and Jamie is very good.  Colum is absolutely riveting, totally in command, and Gary Lewis does a wonderful job in this scene, as does Graham McTavish. I was surprised to see Dougal go all soft-hearted over Geillis (I think that’s the first time we’ve seen a genuine smile from him in the whole series, in fact), just because she’s carrying his child.  But I liked Colum’s reaction, pointing out the parallel between this child and Hamish and making it clear he’s not actually going to let Dougal marry Geillis. In fact, I love Colum’s dialogue throughout this whole scene.

I was certainly not expecting Colum to order Jamie away from Leoch along with Dougal, but it’s an effective way to make sure Jamie is out of the way when Claire is arrested for witchcraft. 

The farewell scene between J&C was well done. I liked Dougal’s line, “I said kiss her, dinna swallow her”.  <g>

“Come back to me, James Fraser” is an echo of the flashback scene with Claire and Frank at the train station in an earlier episode.

Nice to see the young lad from “The Way Out” again, this time bringing Claire the note from Laoghaire.  “Claire, Come quick. Geillis” was all it said, and she took one look and galloped off, completely disregarding Jamie’s warning. That's pretty reckless of Claire -- somewhat more so than in the book, where it's made clear that the message stated Geillis was ill.

I liked the scene between Claire and Geillis, except for the bit at the very end where they put Claire in the 18th century version of a paddywagon. That seemed far too modern, and totally unnecessary in a small village like Cranesmuir. Why not just make the prisoners walk?

The self-satisfied smirk on Laoghaire’s face was just priceless! Great way to end the episode.

On the whole, I think this episode had a lot of enjoyable moments, but in my opinion it strayed much too far from the book at times. The acting and the dialogue were first-rate, though, which probably means I'll enjoy it more on subsequent viewings. And they did manage to set things up very effectively for the witch-trial next week.  (The previews for that episode look FANTASTIC!)

What about the rest of you?  I'd like to hear what you thought of it.

Here are my previous OUTLANDER episode recaps.  Please come back next week for more!

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"

24 comments:

Sweet Bee said...

Agree, upon first viewing extremely disappointed...deviations from the book, arghh and the first episode where I had these thoughts as I watched. But upon subsequent viewings as a non reader, mostly enchanted. The show allows alternative beginnings and endings almost as if operating in an alternative universe...so quite happy! Now I have an expanded visual version of the writings!!!

shalibon said...

Karen: I agree, this episode deviates the most but it also gives us more insight into the backstory with Colum Dougal and the Duke. After several viewings, I appreciate it more. The only thing I have to say is that Jamie needs to slow down as he matures. The line about 'you don't flatter me overmuch but I can't fault your observations' seemed rushed. His actions generally seem like knee jerk kind of reactions. Gary's acting was superb and from that side, I liked the episode a lot.

Tammy Roden said...

Karen I agree with you on all accounts, as far as the McDonald's I know they were with the watch that took Jamie, in chapter 33, so not sure if they've tied that in somehow . Makes me wonder if they will cut out Murtugh and Claire on the road looking for Jamie, looking at an upcoming scene looks like Claire and dougal face each other in the castle instead of a cave asking for his help. Thanks Karen enjoyed reading !

Linda Schultz said...

Very good review
The only thing I saw was it was Rupert who said "If ye drop him, I’ll have your balls.” But it went so quickly it was easy to get them confused.

liz m said...

I think that duel is being used to set something up and will make sense eventually. Maybe the Watch, maybe something else.

Anonymous said...

Too many deviations from the book to end up in the same place - the duel, Dougal's scene, Gellie doing witchy stuff at night...I think it was Rupert who said, "if you drop him, I'll have your balls." While watching the program, STARZ crapped out and I lost about 12 minutes. I watched part of it a second time because I missed the scene with the changeling baby earlier. Have to watch it again to get the whole episode in one sitting. Good dialogue, acting and I like how Claire and Jamie's relationship is growing. Cait does such a good job at portraying Claire's transparent face. Sam as Jaime is growing on me. ;-) Victoria

Anonymous said...

Excellent and I agree, which lumps me with the "reactive" fans group. One can critique and still see this as a separate entity from the book.

Margaret Day said...

I also agree with you Karen. I would have enjoyed it just as much, if they kept it closer to the book in regards to Sandringham. Just add Jamie's perspective. But I am sure there is a reason why they did it the way they did.

Dee D said...

Spot on commentary. On the whole I found this episode had so many inconsistent deviations from the original book, I kept on saying to I myself "what?" Claire going off not once but three times, by herself (seeing Geillis dance under the moon--hey wouldn't Jamie notice she wasnt in bed??, and then to repsond to the note, and of course seeing the Duke). Seems awfully contrived. Its as if Ron decided to snip one too many story lines for the future-doesnt bode well for consistency down the line! And who the heck gets an abdominal wound stitched standing up??
The opening scene was done very well, but for the rest- bah humbug!

Anonymous said...

I thought this episode was brilliant. It told the same story but in a visual way - it can't be exactly like the book. They are doing a wonderful job of adaptation.

Anonymous said...

I saw this episode as a "set up" episode for future episodes. Not all that satisfying at least in what we have to compare it against from the first half of the series, but perhaps it will become better with time. I always watch these over again and they usually grow on me, and as mentioned above there were several great moments. It's a difficult book series to put turn into a screen adaptation - hopefully the more they are able to stay with the book's story line the happier we will be.

Carol said...

I totally agree with your observations. Some scenes were totally unnecessary, Dougals ranting, the duel. I also wish we saw more of Jamie's humor. Seems like a few lines every episode would help. His humor is one of his endearing qualities.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I had the same thought as Dee D, how did Jamie not know Claire was out in the woods in the middle of the night?? I found that and the duel a bit "thrown in for effect" but not sure if they are using those added bits to get to plot points down the track. Overall I still enjoyed the episode and there were enough direct book quotes to keep this DG fan happy.

Anonymous said...

Karen thank you for your thoughts. Last week I was in the unhappy minority concerning book deviations and this week even more so. I miss the time we had in the book to see J&C bonding and being seen as a couple. Miss the Jamie talking to Hamish scene about adult relationships. This week Claire does not seem to adhere to her "I will obey you" declarations of last week without the statement of Gellis being ill. Duel pretty silly/staged. So the Grants and the McDonalds are key McKenzie foes? I enjoyed Simon Callow but not the contrived story line. My viewing was interrupted by my concern for where does Jamie think Claire is the night she goes to see Gellis? Also "love/interest" expressed by Gellis and Dougal for each other is more than Jamie expressed for Claire to Laoghaire/others so far? (appreciate greatly DG's observations of "missing" lines in edited version we received) Disappointed overall except with J&C scenes together. Lets see what happens next week. I need to feel the love between the main characters next week for the screen translation to work once again or I fear more future disappointment for me diminishing overall enjoyment with the adaptation. (Been through this with True Blood but it did not occur until subsequent years not during first season?)

Hawaii said...

I agree that they strayed too far from the book. I have been impressed so far with their keeping to the book.

Ing B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Karen, I so agree with everything you say! Loved the series so far but ep 110 is not a favorite. Dianas story is so strong and every part is there for a reason, so any alterations has to be VERY good, explain or convay something important about the characters or their behavior. Imo Jamie is smart enough to understand the duell is a trap! Hope the next one will be better :)

Ing B said...

I loved this episode even more so on the 2nd viewing. re the duel scene I think it may be explained in future episodes eg the watch...If Jamie has sufficiently annoyed the McDonalds they may be motivated to turn him over to the British. As for jamies crude joke I can forgive a young 23 year old jamie caught up in the moment...we all know his quick tongue has got him in trouble before. This Is not the older sensible jamie we all love from later books...The laoghaire interaction from last week shows us that! also I thought it was colums voice re dougals balls...A bit of big brotherly concern notwithstanding his anger! will have to watch and listen again...sigh..oh well someone has to do it. I also thought the baby scene was beautifully done...heart wrenching and perhaps setting us up for france. I Do think that there were a couple of what Karen calls logistical issues...Claire watching geilis dance in the hours before dawn...did jamie just let her get out of bed or was he somewhere else? and claire getting to the dukes place although I assume it wasn't far and claire could have grabbed a horse saying she was off to the village and kept going. Claire doesn't seem to need an escort any more and we know our claire would just go off if she thought she could! my overwhelming feeling though is one of faith in the wonderful storytellers we have here...There is not enough time for there to be superfluous scenes and I think all will be revealed in time...A bot like diana's books really! As a long time reader and listener I am loving the luscious scenery costuming and musical score of this "adaptation"!

Robin said...

Delurking with regards from Israel...

I completely agreed with both your highs and your lows (how on earth did Claire manage to even get to Sandringham for pete's sake?). The duel seemed utterly contrived, and it seems clear that Sandringham set up the brawling afterwards as well to try and get rid of Jamie. And a lovesick Dougal distraught over Maura while mooning over Geillis, who mooned right back at him? Ick. Colum on the other hand was powerful and believable, and the interactions with Laoghaire were very well done (can I have a chance to slap her myself? please? pretty please?). I enjoyed it on the whole despite these misgivings but I did keep getting bogged down in those details that felt off - the paddy wagon for one, since the thieves' hole was meant to be right in the village, and did anyone else notice that Jamie was holding the quill in his left hand?

Gennie Callard said...

In the show, Claire is a hard woman, in the book she's tough. There's a difference. She always has a look on her face like she's just eaten something ghat doesn't quite agree with her. It's not a stubborn set of her jaw, it's an annoyed with the world look.
And in the book, I find Jamie far more mischievous. I miss that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis of the episode. Thanks for sharing the author's comments about the scene with Jamie and Leery in episode 109. The way it was cut, it seemed like Jamie was leading her on a bit. Good to know that wasn't what was shot! I could have done with less (or none) of Dougal's meltdown and had more of the original scene with Jamie and Leery.

Anonymous said...

I believe Claire used Valerian Root as a sedative to knock Dougal out fast as it was used as a tranquilizer in the past. I imagine Claire increased dosage by following Geillis' directions as Angus didn't feel effects of Claire's efforts until later and only felt drowsy. (What a head he must have!!)

mamabear said...

I thought the show intimated that perhaps Geillis was responsible for Maura's death as well (bribing a servant in Maura's home to administer poison perhaps?) whereas I totally missed that in the book (if it was there at all.) I thought knowing or suspecting that Geillis might be responsible for Maura's demise ight be why Dougal was reacting in such a nutso manner: intense guilt and self-recrimination.

Anonymous said...

I think this episode was used to setup Dragonfly in Amber. Also, in order to get through the second half of this season, they need to pare away some of the background, ie. finding out now that Dougal is the father of G's baby and the motivation for Colum's actions...