Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

As we prepare to ring in 2018, I thought it would be appropriate to have an old-fashioned Hogmanay celebration, as they might have celebrated it on Fraser's Ridge 250 years ago.

This picture shows a cabin built around 1820 near Grandfather Mountain, NC (very close to where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located).  This is very much the way I picture the original cabin on the Ridge.
A firstfoot was to bring gifts to the house: an egg, a faggot of wood, a bit of salt--and a bit of whisky, thus insuring that the household would not lack for the necessities during the coming year.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I can't participate in a first-footing myself, even if I lived in Scotland (redheads being considered extremely bad luck on such an occasion), but I'd like to share these small tokens with you anyway.

Many of you will remember the Hogmanay celebration in OUTLANDER Episode 308 ("First Wife"), a very festive occasion celebrated with plenty of food, music, and dancing.

Here's an article about Hogmanay Traditions in Scotland.  From what I can tell, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are an even bigger deal than New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square.

Happy New Year, and best wishes to all of you in 2018!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Attention NY and NJ fans: Optimum dropping STARZ!

Maril Davis (executive producer of OUTLANDER) tweeted this today:

I hope the campaign is successful. It would be a real shame (understatement!) if fans in the NY/NJ area weren't able to see future seasons of OUTLANDER!

Please help get the word out! If you have trouble getting through to the website, call their toll-free number (844-71-STARZ), and try the website again later.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Year in Review

2017 has been an unforgettable year for OUTLANDER fans all over the world! Here are some of the highlights of the past year:

January 18 - The winners of the 2017 People's Choice Awards are announced. OUTLANDER won in all four categories where it was nominated!

Favorite TV Show
Favorite Premium Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series
Sam Heughan, for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor
Caitriona Balfe, for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress

You can see the full list of nominees and winners here.

February 15 - STARZ announces that Season 3 of OUTLANDER will premiere in September 2017. While many fans were disappointed to hear we'd have such a long #Droughtlander, I was actually relieved, because it meant that for the first time since 2013, I would have the spring and summer free of "thread explosions" on Compuserve. Keeping up with the TV-series discussions while the season is in progress is quite exhausting!

February 18 - Jeff Woodman, narrator of the Lord John audiobooks, shows up unexpectedly on Compuserve, and makes some very interesting comments. In particular, I was delighted to see this:
I've retired from audiobook narration, but will continue to do the Lord John books as they emerge because I just LOVE them!
The whole thread is worth reading, particularly message number 17, where he goes into some detail about his work. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

March 13 - Here are my ABC's of Brianna, posted in response to a request from one of my blog readers. Hope you enjoy them! I've done ABC's for Jamie, Claire, and Roger as well. Next year I think I'll add Lord John and Young Ian to that list.

Late March-Early April - Diana Gabaldon travels to South Africa to visit the set of the OUTLANDER TV series! (For those of you who don't know, the production relocated to Capetown, South Africa, for a few months to film the final episodes, including the seagoing scenes, for Season 3.) Here's Diana's account of her first day on set.

April 17 - STARZ releases the first official trailer for OUTLANDER Season 3!

May 1 - We get our first bit of Season 4 casting news: These adorable Northern Inuit puppies will play Rollo! (Details here.)  For those of you who don't know who Rollo is, or may be wondering why a pair of puppies are important enough to rate their own casting announcement: You'll either have to wait until Season 4 to find out, or read DRUMS OF AUTUMN (book 4 of the OUTLANDER series). But trust me, Rollo is an integral part of the Fraser family! He steals nearly every scene in which he appears in the books, and I'm sure he'll be a hit with the TV viewers, too.

May 3 - OUTLANDER is mentioned on "Jeopardy!" I think that's very cool. <g> In case you're wondering, no, it's not the first time.

June 1 - Diana Gabaldon's fans all over the world celebrate the 26th anniversary of OUTLANDER's publication in 1991 with the hashtag #WorldOutlanderDay. As always, it was a lot of fun.

June 3 - My mom and I visit the newly renovated American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, VA (formerly known as the Yorktown Victory Center). You can see a detailed account of our visit, with lots of photos, here. We had a wonderful time, and I especially enjoyed the "living history" parts of the museum, with re-enactors in 18th century costume. The photo above shows a re-enactor firing a musket. Highly recommended for OUTLANDER fans!

June 13 - "Past Prologue", a story by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry, is published in an anthology called MATCHUP, edited by Lee Child. This short story features both Steve Berry's character Cotton Malone, and....Jamie Fraser! For more about how this story came about, see Diana's Facebook page here. "Past Prologue" is a terrific story, very entertaining, and if you haven't read it yet, here are a few reasons why I think you really should.

June 13 - Good news for UK fans: After a three-year wait, the OUTLANDER TV series will finally be shown on TV in the UK, on the More4 channel. Look here for details.

June 16 - Last day of filming on OUTLANDER Season 3!
For those of you who wish we could have more than 13 episodes per season, please note that Season 3 took almost ten months to shoot (from August 21, 2016 to June 16, 2017). The cast and crew deserve a bit of a break! The last thing we want is for the actors to burn out.

June 27 - Diana Gabaldon's story collection, SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, is published.

I was thrilled to see the following in the Dedication:
This book is dedicated with the greatest respect and gratitude to Karen Henry, Rita Meistrell, Vicki Pack, Sandy Parker, and Mandy Tidwell (collectively known as “the Cadre of Eyeball-Numbing Nitpickery”) for their invaluable help in spotting errors, inconsistencies, and assorted rubbish.
Thank you, Diana!!

For more information about SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, see my FAQ page here.

July 19 - Diana Gabaldon announces the birth of her first grandchild, a boy named Santiago. Welcome, Santi, and congratulations to Diana, her daughter Jenny, son-in-law Iain, and the rest of the family!

August 15 - The TV tie-in paperback edition of VOYAGER is released. Look here for more information.

August 28 - My Outlandish Observations blog turns 9 years old! Thanks to all of you for your support!

September 10 - I went with my mom to see Diana Gabaldon at the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. We had a wonderful time, and it was great to meet so many OUTLANDER fans!

The highlight of the evening for me, of course, was getting to see Diana, for the first time in more than four years. When she saw me approach, she told the woman assisting her, "She's a friend," and gave me a hug. I thanked her for the wonderful Dedication in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL (which is quite a thrill for me personally!) and then she signed my copy.

The inscription reads, "To Karen, Expert in Eyeball-Numbing Nitpickery!" This is a reference to the fact that she very generously let me read the stories in this collection before they were published (an honor and a privilege!), and I was able to spot some issues with dates and such that her copy-editor didn't catch.

September 10 - December 10 - OUTLANDER Season 3 airs on STARZ! Here are my Season 3 episode recaps:

Episode 301: The Battle Joined
Episode 302: Surrender
Episode 303: All Debts Paid
Episode 304: Of Lost Things
Episode 305: Freedom & Whisky
Episode 306: A. Malcolm
Episode 307: Crème de Menthe
Episode 308: First Wife
Episode 309: The Doldrums
Episode 310: Heaven and Earth
Episode 311: Uncharted
Episode 312: The Bakra
Episode 313: Eye of the Storm
October 9 - Filming begins on OUTLANDER Season 4!

October 11 - STARZ announces two new cast members who will play major roles in OUTLANDER Season 4 (and hopefully in future seasons as well!) Ed Speleers will play Stephen Bonnet, and Maria Doyle Kennedy will play Jamie's aunt, Jocasta Cameron.

October 24 - A special hardcover 25th Anniversary Edition of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is published! This book has the same type of faux-leather binding as the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition that was published in 2011, and it comes with a ribbon bookmark.

Early November - A major controversy erupts in OUTLANDER fandom when a number of OUTLANDER Facebook pages had their content removed without warning, apparently due to an over-zealous bot called Counterfind, run by Sony. Here's a post by Diana Gabaldon from November 11, addressing the situation, and an article by Matt Carter that explains the fans' point of view pretty accurately. I was lucky that my Outlandish Observations page was not affected, but I was shocked and very disturbed by what happened. I sincerely hope that never happens again!

November 13 - Compuserve announces the closing of its forums, including the Books and Writers Community where I have been Section Leader (moderator) of Diana Gabaldon's section since 2008. We were all shocked and saddened at the news, but the forum staff immediately began looking for a new online home. (See below.)

November 14 - My Outlandish Observations Facebook page now has more than 10,000 followers!!

December 13 - Introducing! This is the new home of the former Compuserve Books and Writers Community. is a community of readers, writers, book-lovers, and fans of All Things OUTLANDER (Diana Gabaldon is there most days, participating in the discussions and answering questions), and we invite you to come and check it out!

Reaction to the new forum has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I am both delighted and vastly relieved that the transition went smoothly. It's been only a little more than two weeks since the new site went live, and already we have more than 1200 members, and well over 7000 posts. What a wonderful way to close out 2017!
This has been an amazing, unforgettable year for OUTLANDER fans! I'm delighted to see all the new people who've found their way here in recent months. Thanks to ALL of you who take the time to visit Outlandish Observations, and I wish you all the best in 2018!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books

Here are some Christmas-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books. This has become an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating this week!


If you haven't read all of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books, you may find SPOILERS below! Read at your own risk.

1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....
"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"

She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.

"For Christmas," she said.

"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar. "When?"

"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Home for Christmas". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows 18th-century style Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, when Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:
"What if I tell you a story, instead?"

Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.

"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"

"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."

"An Englishman, I daresay?"

"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."

I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The illustration above, showing Scrooge with Marley's ghost, comes from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve. You may recall that he brought her a box of sugar plums, like the ones pictured above.
“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.

“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.

“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:
Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Speaking of Christmas traditions, here's one, from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) And what would the holidays be without sweets? <g> Check out Outlander Kitchen's recipe for molasses toffee, as described in this scene from THE FIERY CROSS:
With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie, and I had made up an enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot. Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Quakers don't have any special Christmas celebrations, but there's no denying that Denny and Rachel Hunter found Christmas, 1777, a particularly memorable occasion, thanks to Dottie!
"Well, that is odd,” Rachel said, turning to look first at her brother, and then at the small clock that graced their rooms. “Who goes a-visiting at nine o’clock on Christmas night? It cannot be a Friend, surely?” For Friends did not keep Christmas and would find the feast no bar to travel, but the Hunters had no connections--not yet--with the Friends of any Philadelphia meeting.

A thump of footsteps on the staircase prevented Denzell’s reply, and an instant later the door of the room burst open. The fur-clad woman stood on the threshold, white as her furs.

“Denny?” she said in a strangled voice.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

8) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected. (The photo above, by krbnah on Flickr, shows Inverness at Christmas, 2009.)
She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...

After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...

Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Home for the Holidays". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wishing all of you the best in this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A wee giftie from Diana!

Diana Gabaldon sent me this lovely gift basket of dates from the Sphinx Date Co. in Scottsdale, AZ, where she lives.

Here's the inscription on the card accompanying them:

The card reads, "Dear Karen, Happy Hannukah and a Great New Year! Thanks for Everything -- especially the gift of your friendship! Love, Diana".

Isn't that sweet of her?  I'm delighted that she values our friendship as much as I do. It's a very precious gift to me as well, as you can imagine.

The dates look yummy and I'm sure I'll enjoy them very much. <g>

Thank you, Diana!! And Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

REPOST: OUTLANDER 12 Days of Christmas

Because it's that time of year again....

OUTLANDER: 12 Days of Christmas

This is one of the very talented Julia LeBlanc's first OUTLANDER videos, posted in 2015. I think it's hilarious. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


As some of you may may be aware, the Compuserve Books and Writers Community will be shutting down on Friday, December 15.  This online forum, in its various incarnations, has been Diana Gabaldon's main online hangout for more than thirty years. I've been hanging out there on a daily basis since 2007, managing the discussions (aka "herding the bumblebees") in Diana's section of the forum.

We have a thriving and very active online community there, and while we were initially stunned and devastated by the news of the forum's closing, the forum staff immediately began looking for a new online home. We've been working hard over the past month to get everything ready.

I'm delighted to announce the opening of!  The forum software has changed, but the structure and purpose of the forum itself is basically the same as it was before. is a community of readers, writers, book-lovers, and fans of All Things OUTLANDER.

And speaking of OUTLANDER:  Yes, in case you're wondering, Diana Gabaldon will be posting there, participating in discussions and answering questions, just as she always has.

Please come and check out the new forum at  You'll need to register in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.  Keep in mind that the username you choose when you sign up will be the name that appears beside your posts on the new forum. 

If you have questions after you've signed up, please post on the new forum (rather than leaving a comment here), and we'll do our best to try to help.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Episode 313: "Eye of the Storm" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 313 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Eye of the Storm". I thought this was a terrific episode, well-written, suspenseful, and very faithful to the book. A wonderful way to end Season 3!


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









Here are my reactions to OUTLANDER Episode 313, "Eye of the Storm":
The episode opens with a dream-like sequence, accompanied by Claire's voice-over: "I was dead. Everything around me was a blinding white, and there was a soft, rushing noise like the wings of angels. I felt peaceful and bodiless, free of terror, free of rage, filled with quiet happiness."

This is a direct quote from VOYAGER chapter 63 ("Out of the Depths"), but I thought it was an odd choice for the "title card" of this episode, when we'd last left Claire alive and unharmed, watching Jamie being dragged off by Captain Leonard's men. Even for book-readers who know what it means, IMHO to begin at the end of the story like that is jarring.

The scene where Claire watches a procession of black people with torches marching down the road is visually interesting, but also somewhat puzzling. Are they escaped slaves -- maroons?  We never do learn the answer to that.

At the inn, Fergus and Marsali discover that Claire has gone in search of Young Ian.

"Fergus Fraser. I'm your wife. I'm going with you." That's a very Claire-like sentiment, coming from Marsali. <g>

Meanwhile, snooping around the grounds of Rose Hall in the dark, Claire encounters a rather mangy-looking dog, nosing around what turns out to be the corpse of a boy. And before we (or Claire) have time to recover from the shock of this discovery, the slave Hercules (who is huge, just as described in the book) grabs Claire from behind.

I love Young Ian's fury in the scene with Geillis:  "I'm tired of your bletherin'! So leave me be or get on with it, you BITCH!"

I absolutely loved the scene between Lord John and Captain Lieutenant Leonard of the Porpoise. David Berry was in top form, absolutely channeling Lord John!  The way John talks to young Leonard sounds exactly the way a (former) Lieutenant Colonel would dress down a junior officer who's overstepped his authority. Just perfect!

"I'm afraid the army takes a more traditional stance in these matters, preferring to grant a title of command only when it has been earned."

That's actually not true; as we've seen in Diana's books, British army officers at the time (including both Lord John and his brother Hal) actually bought their commissions. But I can understand the impulse to say it just to watch young Leonard squirm. <g>

"...before you dispossess him of his freedom." - nice turn of phrase there!

I like the way John says "Lieutenant Leonard" at the end, biting off each syllable.

I liked this exchange between John and Jamie:

"Seems we've been indebted to each other so many times, I lost count."
"Until the next time, then."

The scene with Geillis and Claire is very good. I like Geillis much better in this episode than in Episode 312. Seeing her in this scene, it's not difficult at all to envision her as the aged-up version of Geillis from Season 1, something I had a hard time doing in "The Bakra".

"I sacrificed all for you, and still you come into my home and lie to me."

Ha. That's rich, considering that Geillis lies about just about everything.

On the other hand, I do give Geillis points for doubting that Claire would ever voluntarily leave Jamie. <g> ("Not even war could part the two of ye.")

"I had to. For the safety of my child."  Even though it's been 20 years, my heart hurts for Claire, having to re-open that old wound.

"I've read better stories in Mills & Boon," says Geillis skeptically, referring to a well-known British publisher of romance novels.  And Claire, in desperation, produces the photos of Brianna as proof.

"You actually met her at the university in Inverness in 1968." Many of you will recall that meeting, from Episode 213 ("Dragonfly in Amber").

Geillis, on her late husband Greg Edgars: "He was one of my favorites. Handsome. Such a lovely c*ck." <snort!>

And while Claire is thinking of Jamie -- on the other side of the stones all those years, somehow drawing her to him -- Geillis has already moved on, plotting her next move, which will clearly have something to do with the "200-year-old baby".

In the next scene, Claire, locked in the guest room, hears Young Ian outside. Then there's a noise at her door. She raises the candlestick to bash the intruder over the head, and nearly hits Jamie instead. (I liked the parallel to the scene in Episode 105, "Rent", where she has a similar encounter with Jamie. <g>)

It's not entirely clear to me how Jamie managed to get into Claire's room, but I don't really care, as long as they're back together.

The scene with the dancers around the fire is exotic and mysterious, and I think the drums add considerably to the effect.

Notice that one of the men is wearing a crocodile headdress, just like Ishmael did in the book.

I love the way the scene flashes back to the dancers at Craigh na Dun from Episode 101 ("Sassenach"). That's very appropriate -- how could Claire not be thinking about the last time she witnessed something similar? -- and I thought it was a nice touch.

And suddenly Mr. Willoughby appears out of nowhere, and the dancers fall silent. His rapturous expression when he talks about Margaret Campbell seems way over the top to me. "She is the first woman to truly see me, the man that I am, and I see her. We wish to be together."

This, on the basis of a few hours' acquaintance?  Sorry, but I don't find that believable.  Even if they had a simultaneous "coup de foudre" moment, falling in love with each other at first sight, it's only been a day, at most, since the Governor's Ball where they met.

The scene with Margaret Campbell is suitably spooky and unnerving.

"I see you in an orchard of death, sown with blood.  I see the rabbit." And for those who didn't get the reference, we see a brief glimpse of Jamie lying wounded on the battlefield after Culloden in Episode 301 ("The Battle Joined"), and the rabbit that appeared nearby.

"I see a bird on a windowsill. He sings to you when you are sorrowful -- but you hear him [meaning Jamie]." This, of course, is a reference to the bird that Claire saw through the window of her house in Boston, in that same episode, at a time when she was still grieving deeply for Jamie.

Margaret Campbell speaking in Brianna's voice is not nearly as eerie and spine-tingling as it is in the book (the audio version of this scene always gives me chills!), but I suppose they weren't able to have Sophie Skelton dub those few lines. Oh, well.

And here comes Archie Campbell.  Mr. Willoughby looks at him with utter contempt: "You are not welcome here."

I thought Claire was a little slow to get the point about the "200-year-old baby". After all, Geillis mentioned it only a short time before, when she saw the photos of Brianna. But it's only now that Claire seems to make the connection to Bree.

The next sequence must have been complicated to film. There are actually three separate storylines taking place simultaneously:

- Claire and Jamie, realizing that one of the photos is missing and Geillis must have stolen it
- The confrontation between Archie Campbell and Yi Tien Cho
- The dancers around the fire, who are now engaged in some sort of ritual involving sacrificing a rooster and drinking its blood

With so much going on at once, it's hard to know what to pay attention to.  If you're not watching closely, you'll miss the point where Yi Tien Cho kills Archie Campbell. (Right after Jamie and Claire talk about Abandawe.)

When Jamie and Claire return to the fire, they're startled to see the black man in the crocodile headdress drinking blood. As disturbing as that is to watch, it's somewhat less so than the scene in the book:
[Margaret] clutched the gurgling, struggling trussed carcass tight against her bosom, crooning, “Now, then, now, then, it’s all right, darling,” as the blood spurted and sprayed into the teacup and all over her dress.

The crowd had cried out at first, but now was quite still, watching. The flute, too, had fallen silent, but the drum beat on, sounding much louder than before.

Margaret dropped the drained carcass carelessly to one side, where a boy darted out of the crowd to retrieve it. She brushed absently at the blood on her skirt, picking up the teacup with her red-swathed hand.

“Guests first,” she said politely. “Will you have one lump, Mrs. Malcolm, or two?"

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "The Crocodile's Fire". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
Just before Jamie turns to leave, notice that one of the men around the fire has put on Campbell's wig.

As they approach Abandawe, a circle of standing stones is clearly visible on the hill ahead of them. So the cave presumably lies directly underneath the stone circle.

"We lost Faith. We will not lose Brianna."  Great line, and a touching reminder that Jamie has never forgotten their first daughter.

Meanwhile, in the cave, Geillis is laying out gemstones in a patten on the floor.  Young Ian lies nearby, bound and gagged.

I love the way Geillis's eyes bug out as she says, "I have to, Claire. For the greater good."  She looks truly insane there.

I found it a little hard to follow the action at the end of the fight. Here's what I think happened, as best I can make it out:

Jamie picks up the dirk and holds it to Hercules' throat. Geillis says, "This is God's will," and starts toward the pool of water that Claire has guessed must be the time portal.  Claire screams, "NOOOO!!" and lunges for Hercules' machete, lying forgotten on the floor.  And then Claire rushes at Geillis with the machete, with the full force of her body and her rage behind it. The blade catches Geillis full in the throat, and she falls dead.  Jamie lets Hercules go, saying, "You're free."

While Jamie unties Young Ian, Claire stands there, frozen with shock, the bloody machete still in her hand, staring at Geillis's body on the floor. Then the portal starts making an unearthly sound, and she starts toward it, only to be pulled back by Jamie at the last second. I thought that was very well done.

Just before they leave the cave, notice Young Ian gathering up the gemstones. (Good thinking!)  Jamie grabs the singed photo of Brianna, and they make their escape.

"I knew you'd come, Uncle Jamie. But ye left it a bit late, aye?"  This line comes straight from the book.

Meanwhile, Claire is still in shock, as she realizes that she actually held Geillis's skull in her hands, in 1968.  I thought this bit was really well done, even better than the very subtle way it's done in the book.

"But first I must hold you both," Jamie says, gathering Claire and Ian into his arms. I loved that!

The "noises ye don't make" scene, aboard the Artemis, is one of my favorites from VOYAGER, and Sam and Cait did a fantastic job with it!  The whole scene is almost word-for-word from the book. Perfect, just perfect!!

The hurricane sequence is amazing, riveting to watch, and it must have been immensely complicated to film.  My first thought, watching the rain pounding on the deck, was, "Didn't anybody check the Weather Channel?"  I was kidding, of course, but it really underscores how difficult and dangerous a sea voyage could be in those days: completely at the mercy of the weather, with no ability to predict even the most massive storms in advance.

So Claire goes up on deck, leaving Fergus, Marsali, and Young Ian below, which doesn't strike me as a very safe place to be in a storm like that. Not that anywhere on the ship is safe, but how would they get out if the ship started to sink?

The sight of the mast breaking is terrifying!  For a moment, Claire and Jamie lean on the rail, and it looks like they might be safe. Then they look up, and see this monster wave coming!  I liked the look on Jamie's face when he realizes Claire has gone overboard.

The underwater scene where Jamie rescues Claire is fascinating to watch.  There's a sort of mystical quality to it, like an underwater ballet.  Still, I wish they hadn't shown part of this scene already to open the episode. I felt a bit cheated, thinking, "As beautifully filmed as this is, as lovely as the words are, why are they showing it to us twice?"

"Damn you, Sassenach, if you die here now, I swear I'll kill you!"  This is very close to the line in the book.

The camera pulls away slowly, showing the two of them floating in a vast, vast ocean.  And then it pulls back still further, until we can see that they are in fact in the literal "eye of the storm".  I thought that was very cool!

The next scene, where they wake on the beach, is not in the book, but I thought it was well done. Jamie is clearly terrified that Claire is dead, until he kisses her and, like Sleeping Beauty, she awakens.

"I thought you were dead."
"I told you I'd never leave you again."

I love that!

At the very end, Jamie and Claire are in each other's arms, hugging so tight that you feel they'll never let go. <g>  And I have the same peaceful, contented feeling I always get at the end of VOYAGER:  Jamie and Claire have no idea what's coming next, but whatever happens, they'll face it together.

What a terrific way to end the season!  I loved this episode, and I think the whole cast and crew did a great job.
I hope you enjoyed this recap.  Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Episode 312: "The Bakra" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 312 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Bakra".


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









The episode opens with Young Ian's kidnapping by pirates. John Bell is very good here, furious and resisting them in any way he can.

The next thing we know, Young Ian arrives on Jamaica and is promptly tossed into a cell of some kind. The story the boy Henry tells is terrifying, but I thought his voice sounded odd: dull, lifeless, almost without emotion.

We get our first look at the exterior of Rose Hall, as Ian is taken to see the Bakra.

I didn't like Geillis's "blood bath" at all!  I thought it was really disgusting, to the point where I could hardly stand to watch, even though I kept telling myself the blood was fake.

Ian does his best to withstand Geillis's questioning, until he drinks the second cup of tea:

"What are you thinking?"
"That maybe my uncle took the jewel."
"Why do ye think that?"
"Because he's the only one who kent where the treasure was."

Ian's reaction throughout this bit is just priceless! I loved it.  And Lotte Verbeek is excellent as Geillis, as always.

The title card shows the treasure-box and what is clearly meant to be Geillis's hand digging through the jewels, looking for three sapphires -- and frustrated and angry at finding only two.

Meanwhile, the Artemis arrives at last at Jamaica, and almost immediately Jamie and Claire encounter Kenneth McIver, an employee of Jared's.  I liked McIver, played by James McAnerney.  He has a friendly face, and it's a relief to see someone who welcomes them with open arms, especially in contrast to Mamacita in last week's episode.

As Jamie and Claire walk away, I realized that Claire was still wearing the remains of the "batsuit", which looks remarkably undamaged considering everything she's been through!

The visit to the slave market is very much as described in the book, except for the part where we learn that the new governor of Jamaica bought all of the Bruja's slaves. Why would Lord John do that?

The horrific scene where the slave girl is branded comes straight from the book, and I liked Claire's reaction, looking very much as though she's trying to keep from throwing up.

The scene at the slave auction is really well done, every bit as I've always imagined it from the book.  Jamie's entrance reminded me very much of how he shoved his way through the mob at the witch-trial in Season 1.

Claire is understandably horrified at the news that Jamie has bought the slave in her name.

"The bill of sale needed a name to make it legal," Jamie says, "and you were the one who wanted me to do it."

Huh??  It's true that the book doesn't say exactly why the bill of sale has Claire's name on it, rather than Jamie's, but I think this is a really lame excuse, very uncharacteristic of Jamie.

"We'll keep him safe. Take him wi' us and set him free when it means he truly can be."

This, on the other hand, rings true to me, and I thought it was a good line.

I liked the scene with Claire and Temeraire. I think it was a good decision on the part of the writers to have Temeraire be from Jamaica, rather than newly arrived from Africa. Not only does he speak and understand English (which Book Temeraire did not), but he's familiar enough with the local conditions on Jamaica to be able to be of help to Jamie and Claire, so we see him as much less of a victim than he was in the book.

And if Temeraire does what Jamie wants, "we shall be indebted to ye."  I like that. It's a change from the book, but it's a logical reason for Temeraire to help them, and it makes sense.

Meanwhile back at Rose Hall, Geillis is meeting with Archibald Campbell and his mad sister Margaret, and she is not happy, to put it mildly.

I liked the mention of the "Brahan Seer", though the nature of the prophecy is quite different here than it was in the book.

"The prophecy states that a seer must hold all three sapphires at once. 'Tis the only way I'll ken when the new Scottish king will rise."

In the book, Archibald Campbell explains the prophecy to Claire as follows:
"This is the original language of the prophecy,” he said, shoving Exhibit A under my nose. “By the Brahan Seer; you’ll have heard of the Brahan Seer, surely?” His tone held out little hope, but in fact, I had heard of the Brahan Seer, a sixteenth-century prophet along the lines of a Scottish Nostradamus.

“I have. It’s a prophecy concerning the Frasers?”

“The Frasers of Lovat, aye. The language is poetic, as I pointed out to Mistress Abernathy, but the meaning is clear enough.” He was gathering enthusiasm as he went along, notwithstanding his suspicions of me. “The prophecy states that a new ruler of Scotland will spring from Lovat’s lineage."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "The Crocodile's Fire". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"[Dougal] died a hero in the Battle of Culloden," Geillis tells them. Oh, really? That's not the way I heard it!

Later that evening, the Frasers, plus Mr. Willoughby, arrive at the Governor's ball, dressed in finery the likes of which we haven't seen since Jamie and Claire were in Paris.

"You look like a dandy," Marsali says, and she's right.

I liked the way Terry Dresbach "repurposed" some of the costumes from Season 2 here.  The gown Claire is wearing, for example, is based on one she wore in Episode 202, "Not in Scotland Anymore".

"You are a vision, mo nighean donn. To look at you, we could be back at Versailles."
"That was a very long time ago."
"Ye look as 'twas yesterday."

Awwwww! That's sweet. Sam is not bad-looking in that wig, either. <g>

And then Claire encounters Archibald Campbell on her way into the ball. "His sister Margaret was my patient in Edinburgh," she tells Jamie. I was not pleased at the reminder of that awful scene from Episode 307, "Crème de Menthe", where Claire is in such a hurry to tend to her patient that she doesn't seem to care about Jamie at all, even though it's been less than 48 hours after their reunion. 

But putting that aside....

It's very sobering to hear Claire telling Jamie when slavery will end. Whether the answer is 70 or 100 years from now, it makes no difference. They'll be long since dead before it happens.

The lady's curiosity about Yi Tien Cho, and Jamie's introduction of the Chinaman, come straight from the book. And then Yi Tien Cho takes one look at Margaret Campbell, telling fortunes across the room, and he is clearly smitten. I didn't expect that at all, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Is Yi Tien Cho in love with her, or just attracted by her strangeness?

Finally, Jamie catches sight of the Governor, and is shocked when he sees who it is: Lord John Grey, former governor of Ardsmuir prison, and stepfather to Jamie's son Willie.

"Perhaps it's because of your coming through the stones?"
"Perhaps what is?"
"The ghosts that keep coming into our lives, drawn to us the way we are drawn to each other."

Well, perhaps. <g> The OUTLANDER universe does seem like an awfully small world sometimes!

I love the look of surprise and joy on Lord John's face as he recognizes Jamie.

And as they cross the ballroom, moving off to speak in private, we get our first sight of Geillis at the ball.

The scene between John, Jamie, and Claire is awkward and a little tense, but there's no particular dramatic tension or conflict here -- in marked contrast to the way Lord John's appearance is handled in the book, where it comes as a huge shock, both to Claire and to the reader.
My hands trembled so violently that I nearly dropped [the miniature]. I set it back on the desk, but kept my hand over it, as though it might leap up and bite me. Grey was watching me, not without sympathy.

“You didn’t know?” he said.

“Who—” My voice was hoarse with shock, and I had to stop and clear my throat. “Who is his mother?”

Grey hesitated, eyeing me closely, then shrugged slightly.

“Was. She’s dead.”

“Who was she?” The ripples of shock were still spreading from an epicenter in my stomach, making the crown of my head tingle and my toes go numb, but at least my vocal cords were coming back under my control. I could hear Jenny saying, He’s no the sort of man should sleep alone, aye? Evidently he wasn’t.

“Her name was Geneva Dunsany,” Grey said. “My wife’s sister.”

My mind was reeling, in an effort to make sense of all this, and I suppose I was less than tactful.

“Your wife?” I said, goggling at him. He flushed deeply and looked away. If I had been in any doubt about the nature of the look I had seen him give Jamie, I wasn’t any longer.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "In Which Much is Revealed". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I have always loved that scene in the book. I've known for weeks that we weren't going to get to see it in the show, but I'm still disappointed.

"He's a good lad. I've missed him," Jamie says. Understatement!!

The pace of the episode slows way down at this point, and stays that way for quite a while.

"The sapphire you gave me at Ardsmuir. I wear it to--remember our friendship."  I like the idea that Lord John wears it openly, not hidden away in his pocket.

Outside, by a fountain, Mr. Willoughby comes to speak to Margaret Campbell.

"You are a rare soul."
"And you are rarer still."

Um, why? I don't get it. He takes one look at her and falls instantly in love? We have no idea if Margaret might have feelings for him in turn, and why would she? She's never laid eyes on him until this evening, and they've never so much as spoken to one another until now.

Their instant attraction just doesn't make sense to me. It feels contrived, as though the writer had a particular goal in mind as the end point for this subplot (that's speculation on my part, as we still don't know how this is going to end) and arranged their attraction to serve that goal, rather than letting their relationship develop naturally.

Meanwhile, back at the ball, Lord John comes to speak to Claire. More polite small talk about the drinks, which I found boring and repetitive, echoing as it does J&C's earlier conversation at this very ball. 

Then they discuss their infamous first meeting before the Battle of Prestonpans. Lord John has always viewed that encounter as highly embarrassing, one of the most humiliating moments of his life, and yet they stand there reminiscing about it -- and about Geneva and Willie -- as though he and Claire are old friends.  No conflict, no dramatic tension, no strong feelings (of jealousy or anything else) in evidence at all, as far as I can see.  Their conversation is very civilized, very cordial, but I just don't find it interesting at all. And so it feels like the episode is dragging interminably.

"Well, it certainly is a pleasure to finally meet the love that was his every heartbeat."

That's unusually poetic of John, but Claire doesn't respond to it, only smiles and turns away.  And then she sees Geillis -- and finally, things start to get interesting again!

I really don't like that wig Geillis is wearing. It's unflattering and awkward-looking, IMHO, especially in contrast to the way the other ladies are wearing their hair.

Notice the "dancers at Craigh na Dun" music as Claire goes outside in search of Geillis. Nice touch!

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world."  Geillis quoting from CASABLANCA made me laugh out loud. Great way to remind the TV viewers that Geillis, like Claire, is a time-traveler from the 20th century.

Geillis's story about how she avoided being burned as a witch comes almost word-for-word from the book.

Is it just my imagination, or is Lotte's Scottish accent better now than it was in Season 1?

The little black coral fish on Claire's necklace comes from the book, and it was indeed a gift from Jamie.

Back in the ballroom, Geillis is introduced to Lord John, and at once notices the sapphire he's wearing.

"Given to me by a friend."
"Given to you by a prisoner," Jamie corrects him.
"Well, I tend to omit that detail."

Good line.

I didn't like seeing Lord John agree to have his fortune told by Margaret the seer. John has real secrets, the sort that would put his life in danger if anyone found out, and I don't think he would risk being exposed in public like that, in front of a ballroom full of partygoers.  Imagine what would have happened if Margaret had had a vision of Lord John in the throes of passion with Percy Wainwright, or if she'd blurted out something about how much he's attracted to Jamie Fraser?

Margaret, for her part, is clearly in distress.

"This'll bring death. I can feel it."
"Oh, can ye now? Ye'll do it anyway, or I'll get out the stick!"

That took me by surprise. I had no inkling that Archibald Campbell might have been abusing his poor sister in any way.

I liked the way Margaret's eyes pop wide open right before she begins to speak.

"When twice 1200 moons have coursed
Tween man's attack and woman's curse,
And when the issue is cut down,
Then will a Scotsman wear a crown."

And the sapphire falls into Margaret's hand, but Lord John doesn't seem to notice. I really hope he gets it back!

"A child that is 200 years old on the day of its birth" can only mean Brianna, of course.  But Geillis has no idea of Brianna's existence yet -- does she?

"I brought you here to tell me when it will happen, and instead ye give me the bloody case of Benjamin Button?" Another pop-culture reference. <g>

Meanwhile, Marsali and Fergus are having a quiet romantic moment, when it's interrupted by the arrival of British soldiers, led by Captain Leonard of the Porpoise.

Outside, Temeraire relays the news that Ian has been taken to Rose Hall.

"She lied to me!" Claire says, and I wonder how she could be so naive. Geillis lies about almost everything, and she always has -- sometimes for her own entertainment.

Temeraire leads them to a path where he says he can find the escaped slaves -- maroons -- and Jamie and Claire wish him well and let him go.

Moments later, they hear hoofbeats approaching, and Jamie shoves Bree's pictures and Willie's miniature into her hand "for safekeeping", seconds before Captain Leonard appears.

I loved Claire's reaction when Jamie is arrested. She's right to be furious with Captain Leonard.  "I am the only reason any of you survived!"

And as the episode ends, Jamie and Claire are separated (AGAIN!) and Jamie is under arrest (AGAIN!)  This is really getting old. Still, I don't suppose they'll stay apart for long. We've only got one episode left.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my reactions to the season finale.

Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November poll results

Here are the results of the November poll, which asked the question, "Would you go through the stones, if you could?"
    There were 879 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated.
    • 25.71% - Of course, if Jamie Fraser was waiting for me!
    • 21.5% - Maybe for a short visit, but not to live there permanently.
    • 10.69% - No. I like reading about it and/or watching it on TV, but I have no desire to time-travel myself.
    • 9.10% - Yes, but I'd have to bring some essential items with me.
    • 8.87% - No, I couldn't leave my family and friends here.
    • 8.53% - Yes! I'd love to see the 18th century.
    • 3.98% - No, I wouldn't survive in an earlier time.
    • 3.07% - No, I'd miss the conveniences of modern life too much.
    • 1.93% - I'm not sure.
    • 1.71% - No, it took a lot of hard work to live in the 18th century.
    • 1.37% - I don't believe time-travel is possible.
    • 0.91% - No, it sounds too dangerous.
    • 2.62% - Other
    Here are the responses for "Other":
    • The primitive state of dentistry in this period would put me off.
    • Only if I could come out the other side at least 40 years younger!!! :D
    • Maybe, provided I could bring someone with me.
    • If I lost my sense of smell, could not get sick or injured and could return back
    • I;m too old now...wish I'd been asked 30 yrs ago, I might have said yes!
    • Yes but I would travel to Egypt is African American Friendly
    • No way!
    • after the rapture I will travel space and time at the speed of light,,,yea
    • i would visit for awhile
    • Too old
    • It is only a matter of time before we time-travel!
    • If I could go back to the 1940's I would in a NY minute!
    • Yes, if I could go 200 years into the future.
    • If I were single I would go
    • Yes, on assumption I could return but might stay
    • Would need to be invisible.
    • No, I don't think I could survive!
    • maybe if I was in my 20's.
    • Yes. I'm just too old now.
    • Only to go back about 45 yrs and change some decis
    • No, my Jamie is here :)
    • Love Jamie but couldn't leave my kids
    • I'm black so, no.
    Please take a moment to vote in the December poll, which is all about your favorite gifts from Diana Gabaldon's books.