Sunday, December 3, 2017

Episode 312: "The Bakra" (SPOILERS!)

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

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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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.
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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.

22 comments:

Cathie Jones said...

I almost don't know what to think about this episode. I really don't like it when they decide something in the book, that isn't necessary to move the story forward, is "cool." That blood bath took a lot of time that could have been spent on the real story.

I agree that there wasn't any tension between Lord John and Claire, at least not as much as there should have been.

The party in the book was so exciting, with so many things happening, and Yi Tien Cho getting into trouble. And that thing with Margaret Campbell was strange. Not so much in this episode, it was just background.

The highlight of this episode, to me, was the return of Geillis Duncan. You're so right that her accent has improved. I very much enjoy Lotte's acting and am so glad to see her villainous self again.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was some tension between Claire and Lord John. Enough to see that Claire could read John’s expression and silently figure it out but not be overly dramatic about it. I thought it was just enough tension.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mr. Willoughby went to Margaret because he could see that her brother was mistreating her. He has a love of all women after all. I thought it was more compassion, rather than infatuation. I have to admit most if this season has felt flat to me. I do love Lord John, cant take my eyes off him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "observation"! I always enjoy reading them. In regards to the blood bath. I think they wanted to show how crazy and twisted Gellis is or has become. I still can't see how they are going to wrap everything up next week.

Peg Oneal said...

This episode was disjointed, totally detached from the characters themselves and felt contrived - rather like most of this S3. - The writers have exquisite source material yet continue to create crap that has no bearing on the over-arching story. Lastly Jamie's strong character is fading rapidly and Claire's has become hardened. Not liking where this is going at all!

laine said...

In the middle of that shipboard speech that supposedly had all the crew and passengers enthralled, this is what Willoughby has to say about Scottish women, not just the whores:

"For the love of woman, I am come to a place where no woman is worthy of love. To a place where women are coarse and rank as bears. Creatures of no grace, and these women disdain me as a yellow worm, so that even the lowest of whores will not lie with me".

So now we're supposed to believe that Yi Tien Cho is smitten with Ms. Macdonald? Is she not "coarse and rank as bears"? Shouldn't the writers have erased this part of the speech if they planned to hook up the bigoted Asian with a Scottish object of his bigotry?

Katarzyna said...

I don't understand why the script is so different from the book. Diana Gabaldon described the whole meeting at the Governor's ball wonderfully. I really read it five times, and I still have at my eyes Lord John who wants Jamie. And then the scene in the bedroom after the ball. When Jamie describe Claire an awkward situation. Why did they cut out the murder that Jamie was being accused of? It does not make sense and the movie is boring at times.

Kath from Poland

Debbie said...

I believe that Claire really did assert herself and her position as Jamie's true love when, in replying to Lord John's observation "He thought you had returned to him-and now you have." -she responded with grace,but finality-"Yes-I have."

Debbi said...

The highlights of this episode were the return of Geillis in all her twisted evilness and when Jamie and Lord John meet. Geillis is totally unhinged and Lord John portraying, without even having to say a word, his continuing love for Jamie as is noted by his initial instinctual move towards Jamie when they are in the study and then immediately holding himself back and wearing the gem Jamie game him "as a reminder of their friendship".

Other than that, I agree, that this episode felt very disjointed - mostly contrived. The scene where Claire is holding the bill of sale for the slave in her name and Jamie says you wanted me to do it.....what??....so uncharacteristic of Jamie...weak...not sure what they are doing with his character. Another is when Jamie is complementing Claire,as they are entering the ball, the camera is not even on them the whole time and then her reaction is flat. This is only time he called her 'my brown haired lass" since referring to it during the reunion episode.

Overall, this episode came across as rushed...since the reunion, the episodes come across as attempting to pack in way too much. Interesting to see how everything will be wrapped up in the final episode. I believe the writers should take pause and maintain the richness of characters and the storyline.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen saw it last night it was ok but a lot of scenes didn't make any sense like Mr.wilowuby falling in love with Maragrat Campbell and the way Clare and Lord John behaving towards each other was fake , I too found the blood bath bad and I thought terrible , once again CLaire causes trouble at the Slave Market and now Jamie has to find a way to free the slave thanks to her . Gellis was the only one whose acting didn't seem tired and stiff at times she is the perfect villan , and I'm getting very tired seeing Jamie once again separted and him again in the hands of redcoats its getting tiring , so I hope the season final is worth it , it think it will be because the writers know that fans like me wil be watching I liked this but season 4 is the one I will be watching 'Drums of Autumn ' is a favorite of mine so will be watching that in 2018 . please post more soon. Happy Week. sincerely .

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen this season has been great and there are plenty of good episodes there were some that I watched more than once and some I didn't care for but in general I liked it a lot and hope the season final is just as great , will be watching next Sunday . please post more soon. Sincerely

♥Susanlynn said...

Thank you for the review, Karen.
I thought that the writers managed to condense a great portion of the story into this episode. My favorite part was the meeting of LJG, Jamie, and Claire. Some of the intensity was gone due to Jamie having told Claire about WIllie immediately when she came to the print shop. However, you could sense the dynamic happening between the three as soon as CLaire noticed John beaming at Jamie as they approached. From that point forward, Claire was watching them carefully , and I think that she already senses that LJG is hopelessly in love with Jamie, and she let him know in subtle ways that Jamie is hers. I noticed the tears in Jamie's eyes as he talked about WIllie.

Anonymous said...

Does Lord John Grey not take the sapphire back from Margaret when the fortune telling session ends?

Susan said...

Yes, Lord John quickly pulled the sapphire out of Margaret's hand. I agree with SusanLyn about the meeting of LJG, Jaimie and Claire. It was also a favorite of mine, too. Lotte's portrayal of Geillis was fantastic. The blood didn't bother me, seemed totally in character for Geillis.
It does seem like Claire and Jaime just keep getting pulled apart and I think the most satisfying episodes are those in which we get to see Claire and Jaime really connect on an emotional level.

Anonymous said...

I didn't enjoy it. I don't like the changes from the book which seem to be getting more and more pronounced.

It makes me very fearful for season 4 and beyond. We won't recognise the story any more if they continue on in this vein.

Susanlynn said...

I saw that John took back the embroidered fob that his gem was attached to, but did Archie get the gem?

margaret wilson said...

I just didn't like this episode. Geillis blood bath scene was just too much- too weird even for Geillis. The sexual tension between Lord John and Jamie was too strained and Claire just seem awkward the entire episode. It was too chopped together by the writers.
I couldn't believe Jamie didn't want to know more about his son. As a parent, all I would want to know is every little detail I could about my child. I was not a fan of the powdered wig. Sam H. looked pale.
I'm ready for them to get to the mainland.
I think this season has dragged ever since the reunion episode.

margaret wilson said...

I did not like this episode at all. I think the show has dragged ever since the reunion episode.
The scene with Lord Gray was so awkward – there was too much sexual tension between Lord gray and Jamie – you would think Jamie would be excited to show off Claire after 20 years apart, but he seem too "into" Lord Gray.
I wish the riders have not strayed from the novel – that would've been a great scene at the party for Claire to find out about Willy, I understand the time constraints, but this entire episode seem chopped up. Just way too much going on.
The powdered wig look terrible. I'm ready for them to move on to the mainland and see all of the Fraser's ridge storyline.

Kyla said...

I’m glad people are starting to speak up about changes from the book. I understand that some things must be omitted or condensed for TV but why change these awesome stories beyond recognition? Perhaps we were all so happy to see the books on screen we let the writers believe we were ok with any deviation from the books? I agree that if they go much further we will lose the essence of Diana’s story.

Anonymous said...

Susanlynn

Since the stone was only needed for the reading, Mr. Campbell didn’t need to take the stone and it went back to LJG.

In regards to people not liking the storyline, I think they are doing a great job having to condense these huge books. They take liberties with the storyline and I think that was the agreement when they decided to do the show. They add as they like and I think overall they do well. I watched Season 1 before I read the book and the wedding episode was way better than the book version, IMO. Stick to the books if you don’t like they way the show is going. I enjoy both, separately for what they are.

L. Bishop said...

I am wondering if Jamie being a wanted man (again) will end up being motivation for all of them to go to the colonies.

Susan said...

Karen, you do a wonderful job reviewing each episode and I look forward to your comments and others too. I think the writers do a great job bringing Diana's story to life. Diana's books are long and complex, not easy to translate to the TV screen. Not everyone will be happy with every part of every episode but I am always excited to "watch" Claire and Jaime's journey. The quality of this program is rare, beautifully done, with real heart for the characters and for us, the fans! I truly appreciate what they bring to each episode and will always applaud the writers and cast for going above and beyond to bring Diana's books to us in another dimension. Thank you Karen for giving us fans a place to express our love for not only Diana's books but for Outlander as well!