Droughtlander Re-Watch: EP105 ("Rent")
*** SPOILER WARNING! ***
If you haven't watched all of OUTLANDER Seasons 1 and 2, there are SPOILERS in this post. Read at your own risk.
This is a very entertaining episode that stands up well to repeated viewings.
What a gorgeous location for the opening scene! Just breathtaking. I like Claire's hair worn loose over her shoulders like that. It's a much more flattering look for her than we've seen through most of this season so far.
Bill Patterson is terrific as Ned Gowan. I can't watch the scene where Claire treats Ned's asthma without recalling how she treated the Duke of Pardloe in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. But I liked the fact that she was able to help Ned. This is also foreshadowing of the way Claire treats Alex Randall's breathing difficulties in Episode 212.
The song the men are singing on the road is "The Maid Gaed to the Mill". Of course the lyrics about a young woman "getting her corn ground" remind me of Dougal's line near the end of Episode 106, when he tells Claire, "The thought of grinding your corn does tickle me." (For more about the song, look here.)
I love watching Dougal in this episode. He's just riveting, a bigger presence (at this point in the series) even than Jamie. And Graham McTavish appears to be really enjoying himself in this episode.
"Well, maybe Angus hates you. He hates everyone." I love the way Jamie smiles at Claire when he says this.
I'm impressed by the amount of detail in the villages they pass through on the road, not just the costumes, but the props, the livestock, the cottages with their thatched roofs, even the careworn faces of the crofters. The production team did a great job in this episode, recreating the feel of 18th-century village life in the Highlands.
They filmed parts of this episode at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, Scotland. I didn't get to see it on my visit to Scotland last July (there just wasn't time), but it sounds like a fascinating place.
The wool-waulking scene is terrific, very entertaining. I liked the fact that the lyrics included "mo nighean donn" (my brown-haired lass), which will of course become one of Jamie's favorite endearments for Claire. You have to give Claire credit for being willing to participate in the whole experience, even pissing in a bucket in full view of the other women, and taking it all in stride. ("Geronimo!")
I loved Angus's entrance. He's really not at all a sympathetic character at this point in the series, and it's interesting to watch the way his attitude toward Claire changes over the course of this episode in particular.
Watching Claire struggling with Rupert over the goat, the thought occurred to me that she really does tend to get herself in a lot of trouble, without Jamie looking out for her. Though Jamie is there, watching, he stays in the background, not interfering.
"Madam, is everything all right?" And here's our first look at Lt. Jeremy Foster. The first time I watched this episode, in 2014, I didn't immediately understand the reason for the clansmen's hostility toward him. Now, of course, it's obvious: they know he's a British soldier. I liked Angus's reaction to him, in particular.
The next scene, with Dougal's first speech to the villagers, is very well done. Even though I don't understand more than a word or two of the Gaidhlig, Dougal manages to convey a great deal through his tone of voice and body language alone. Riveting, as I said earlier. And the moment when he rips Jamie's shirt, exposing his scarred back to the horrified onlookers, is just as shocking as it was in the book. Very well done!
Poor Jamie looks so miserable, humiliated, sitting there without saying a word.
I liked Dougal's line, "I'm not bloody doing it. The lad can wear rags from now on." Here, in this scene, we see Dougal's cold-blooded ruthlessness on full display for the first time. Jamie's reaction, "I'll mend my own shirt", and the way he stalks out of the cottage, is just as I imagined from the book.
The mention of black pudding is a reminder of the scene in ABOSAA, of course. The scenery here, by the water, is really beautiful.
"It's a pity they don't allow women to practice law."
"Well, we have a few centuries before that happens."
I had forgotten about this exchange. LOL!
"Would I have to reconcile myself to spend the rest of my life among strangers, two hundred years in the past?" I couldn't help thinking, "Oh, come on, Claire, it's not that bad, really! You'll see."
The scene where they see the Watch burning crofts is not in the book, but I think it's a good addition. Notice the way Jamie takes off without a word as soon as he sees the men of the Watch. Having seen some of those men at close range in Episode 113, "The Watch", I know they're not necessarily evil, but I had forgotten that they were as likely to terrorize the local citizens as to provide protection for them. Very dangerous!
"I don't sit with thieves!" This reminds me of Jamie, in ABOSAA, saying, "Ye were always bolder than was safe." Here, it's only Jamie's intervention that saves her. (Perhaps he learned something from the earlier scene?) I like the way Jamie defuses the situation through his sheer physical presence -- "She doesn't want it." -- towering over Angus, and making the other man back down without so much as putting a hand on his dirk.
"You're not to judge things you don't understand." But of course, she does, constantly; she can't help it. For that matter, so does everyone else -- Dougal and Angus in this episode in particular, but also the clansmen in general, who don't trust her, don't understand her motives, and therefore tend to view all her actions in the worst possible light, just as she is now doing.
The rent-collecting scene at the next village is a somber affair, especially compared to the earlier scenes. I liked the scene with Torcall and Dougal very much.
"Christ, I'd die in my blood before I'd let that whey-faced Sassenach use me so." And finally, we're back to the book. <g>
Effective use of flashback here, to fill in a little of the historical background for the benefit of viewers who aren't familiar with the Jacobites. And I liked the bit of the "Skye Boat Song" playing in the background there. It's not just the OUTLANDER theme song; the original lyrics tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie fleeing into exile after the '45. Very appropriate!
The confrontation between Jamie and Dougal was well done, and the dialogue is almost word-for-word from the book, but I really wish we'd been able to hear it better! Their voices are so low in the first part of the scene that it's almost impossible to make out what they're saying unless you turn the volume way up, and I found that really disappointing, for such an important scene.
I liked Jamie's line, "My neck is my own concern! And so is my back."
The scene between Jamie and Claire is very good, except that in the book, the scene takes place right after the first time Jamie was forced to show his scars in public. Not so in the TV version. "He'll use you like that again," Claire says, but of course the TV viewers already know that, having seen it a few times already. Oh, well.
"A man has to choose what's worth fightin' for." And before too much longer, Jamie will decide that Claire herself is worth fighting for. <g>
More gorgeous scenery. Matt Roberts called this episode "a love letter to Scotland", and it's really true.
The scene with the executed men is horrifying, but I found myself wondering if such things actually happened in Scotland at that time.
Dougal's speech that evening is just mesmerizing, no matter that I don't understand a word of it. Terrific performance from Graham McTavish! It can't be easy to perform a scene that dramatic in a language you don't speak, and he did an amazing job.
The scene where Claire discovers Jamie outside her door is wonderful, just as I'd imagined it from the book -- except that I wonder why she went to sleep fully clothed, stays and all? (But that's a minor point.)
I like this exchange between Claire and Ned:
"Outmanned we might be, but I would match our fighting hearts against the best army in the world."
"Fighting hearts don't stand a chance against cannons."
Ned's "History be damned" is also a great line.
The fight was very entertaining, and it's certainly an effective way to show that Angus will fight to defend Claire. But the way it's presented in the TV show, Jamie isn't even present for the fight, and he never gets a chance to show that he's had enough of Dougal's humiliation of him. So that conflict between Jamie and Dougal is left unresolved, and I didn't like that.
I like the way Claire finally relaxes enough to joke with the men a little bit.
The sight of Culloden Moor is very sobering, but I always have to smile a little at the sight of the (totally fictitious) Clan MacKenzie stone. When I visited Culloden for the first time in 2012, I asked our guide about the MacKenzies, and he said no, there is no stone for them there.
By the end of the episode, relations between Claire and the MacKenzies may have improved somewhat, but Dougal is still as suspicious as ever.
And here's Lt. Foster again. "Are you here by your own choice?" Wow, that's quite a cliffhanger, and one that took me completely by surprise on the first viewing. Great way to end the episode!
Please come back next week for my reactions to Episode 106, "The Garrison Commander".