Episode 306: "A. Malcolm" (SPOILERS!)
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
First, a brief general comment: I thought this was an excellent episode, and I was delighted to see how much of the original dialogue they managed to include! This episode strikes me as a love letter to Diana Gabaldon's words; Matt Roberts, who wrote the script, is a huge book fan, and it definitely shows.
The opening scene, with Madame Jeanne adjusting Jamie's stock and helping him with his cloak, is clearly a bit of misdirection for the benefit of non-book-readers. I imagine a lot of viewers will be wondering, who is this woman? His wife? His mistress?
As Jamie walks down the street, I thought, "This is the first day of the rest of your life" (echoing Claire's thoughts from VOYAGER chapter 24, immediately after she arrives in the past). For Jamie, of course, it starts out as just another ordinary day.
Notice the fiddle music playing here. This is the same folk song ("Comin' Thro' the Rye") that we heard in Episode 112 at Lallybroch.
I smiled when Jamie paused to rub away a smudge of dirt from the printshop sign.
The printshop set is really quite elaborate, complete with drying pages hanging from the rafters. Very impressive work by production designer Jon Gary Steele!
The two unnamed men remind me a little of Angus and Rupert. I was a little taken aback to hear them call him Mac Dubh, as the Ardsmuir men did, rather than Jamie Roy, but that's a minor point. I liked this bit:
"We didna plan to."
"Aye, ye did plan to. That's why I told you not to do it."
The bantering between Geordie and the others went on a little too long, but I liked Geordie.
It's fun to see Jamie demonstrating how to work the printing press. Apparently Sam Heughan actually took lessons in how to do this.
Jamie wearing spectacles took me by surprise, and at first I didn't like it, but as long as he's only wearing them occasionally for reading, I can live with it, as a way to show his aging.
I love the way they showed Jamie's POV here! Shock, disbelief, wondering if he's imagining things. And then he turns around, and she smiles at him, and....
His eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor in a shower of papers and oddments that had been sitting on the press--he fell rather gracefully for such a large man, I thought abstractedly.Perfect, just perfect!
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "A. Malcolm, Printer". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The title cards, printed on Jamie's printing press, were a nice touch.
The scene where Jamie wakes to discover that Claire is real is excellent, very close to the book, just condensed slightly, and I loved it!
Even when Jamie is taking his breeks off, he can't stop staring at Claire.
I love the way Jamie says, "I want...I would very much like to kiss you." Very much as I've always imagined from the book.
I like Jamie's hesitation before he asks, "Our child?" (Note the "our", which is a change from the book, but a good one, IMHO.)
Jamie's startlement when he sees the photos ("What the devil?") is not in the book, but I thought it was believable.
"For years I had the eyes of a hawk, but my sight isna what it once was." Well, I don't like this, but I'll get used to it.
"Time doesna matter, Sassenach. Ye will always be beautiful to me." Awwwww! What a terrific line! I can easily imagine Jamie saying this to Claire many years later, in their old age.
I was surprised that Jamie didn't show more of a reaction to the sight of the photos, but then I remembered that Jamie often wears an expressionless mask to hide strong emotion. I think that's what Sam was trying to convey here.
So they kept in the line where Jamie says Brianna is "an awful name for a wee lassie", but they left out the line where he takes that back, telling Claire the correct Scots pronunciation, and assuring her that it's a beautiful name? I don't like that.
"She has your red hair."
"Like her sister. Faith."
I gasped in surprise when I heard that. Not that I'd forgotten Faith, exactly, but I didn't recall that she also had red hair.
The collection of photos is pretty much as I imagined from the book. Jamie's reaction to the photo of Bree in a bikini is toned down a little from the book, but still believable.
I definitely was NOT expecting the revelation about Willie to happen in this episode, let alone so soon after their reunion! It's going to have ramifications for later episodes, obviously, and I wonder if this means we won't get to see that very dramatic scene between Claire and Lord John on Jamaica. But I'm inclined not to worry about that too much in advance.
I have already seen some comments about how Jamie telling Claire about Willie somehow detracts from his joy over seeing the photos of Brianna. I disagree with that. True, we didn't see the bit where "he buried his face in my shoulder and went quietly and thoroughly to pieces" -- but I don't think it means Jamie loves Bree any less, just because he decides to tell Claire right away about Willie. I think he was trying to give her honesty, as he promised on their wedding night.
I guess we have to assume that Lord John, or maybe Isobel, gave Jamie the miniature of Willie before he left Helwater? I can't imagine how else he would have acquired it. (This is one of the pitfalls of moving a scene from its original place in the text.)
Claire takes the news about Willie pretty calmly under the circumstances!
I really appreciated that they included Jamie's description of Willie, verbatim from the book:
"What is he like?” I asked softly. “Your son?”The brief conversation about Frank was OK, but I kept thinking that it should have taken place MUCH later (perhaps on the Artemis), after they'd had a chance to reconnect. I think Frank is the very last person in the world Jamie would be thinking about at this point, when he's barely recovered from the shock of seeing Claire again.
He smiled slightly, without opening his eyes.
“He’s spoilt and stubborn,” he said softly. “Ill-mannered. Loud. Wi’ a wicked temper.”
He swallowed. “And braw and bonny and canty and strong,” he said, so softly I could barely hear him.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "In Which Much Is Revealed". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"It was hard for him. But he loved Brianna, so we made it work."
"So...you were happy wi' him."
"I was happy raising Brianna with him. He was a very good father to her."
That's a fair assessment. (Now can we please stop talking about Frank?!?)
I really liked César Domboy as the adult Fergus. The scene where he meets Claire is very good. I miss his hook, but I understand why they went with a wooden hand instead (much easier for the actor to manage, and for the costume people to camouflage). Fergus's personality comes through vividly in this scene. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him later in the season!
I like this exchange between Fergus and Jamie:
"Aye, I havena had time to think it through. With Claire back, I'm not sure it's even a concern."
Not surprising that Jamie doesn't want to think about that! On the other hand, he mentioned Ned Gowan, so he's at least starting to form the beginnings of a plan.
I think it's reasonable that Claire would tell people she's been in the Colonies, rather than in France as in the book.
"I thought it might be wise to leave out the whole 200 years in the future part." LOL!
Mr. Willoughby is somewhat older than I expected, and he speaks MUCH better English than he did in the book.
Presumably the gentleman Jamie meets in the basement of the World's End is Sir Percival, although he's not mentioned by name.
So Madame Jeanne refers to Jamie as Monsieur Malcolm, not Fraser as in the book? Interesting.
I like the whole scene where Jamie asks Claire why she came back. Very close to the book!
The undressing scene is very well done. Notice all the parallels: Jamie unbuttoning Claire's bodice, Claire unbuttoning his waistcoat. Claire removing the stock about his neck, Jamie removing her neck-cloth. I liked the way they worked the zipper in there. <g>
"Christ. Claire. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." I'm glad they included this line!
"Do you want me now?" "God, yes!" And they fall down together on the bed, Jamie bends to kiss her again, and CRACK! they bump noses, just as in the book. I laughed out loud at that, taken by surprise.
The sex scene was tasteful and well done. I was a little surprised to hear Claire say, "Do it now, and don't be gentle," something she only thought, but did not say aloud, in the book.
The dialogue in the scene afterward, where they're just lying in bed talking, is taken almost verbatim from the book, and I really appreciated that. We didn't get nearly enough of this sort of intimacy between them (I don't mean sex, but the two of them lying in bed just talking, teasing each other, etc.) in Season 2, and I really missed it.
"The press was a weapon, into my hands again." I listened to this several times to make sure that was what he said, and I think it's a little awkwardly phrased. I can understand that they didn't have time to tell the story of how Jamie became a printer, but I think this line could have been smoothed out more.
I'm so glad they allowed the extra 15 minutes in this episode, to give them time to show Jamie and Claire reconnecting emotionally, which is, after all, far more important than the sex scenes, in terms of their character development. So much of the dialogue in this part is taken verbatim, or nearly so, from the book, and I love it! It gives me a real thrill to see these scenes that I love so much coming to life on TV.
(Random observation: I don't think we have ever seen Claire so happy at any point in all three seasons. Her smile is infectious!)
Great to see John Bell as Young Ian, at last! He claims to be sixteen, but of course he can't be more than fourteen. (Keeping in mind that we saw his birth in 1752 in Episode 302.) He doesn't look much like my mental image of Young Ian, but I'll get used to that soon enough, I'm sure.
The "whores' brunch" is an entertaining scene, very close to the book, although there's no mention of a murdering Fiend roaming the streets of Edinburgh. I don't quite understand why Claire came down to breakfast wearing only her shift, with a blanket wrapped around her, except maybe that she's not yet used to thinking like an 18th-century person.
The intruder in the bedroom took me totally by surprise, but I think it's an effective cliffhanger. It reminded me of the cliffhanger ending of Episode 112 ("Lallybroch"), where MacQuarrie holds Jamie at gunpoint.
I really enjoyed this episode! Sam and Cait both gave excellent performances, and Matt Roberts did a wonderful job with the script.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my reactions to Episode 307.
Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.