Sunday, November 18, 2018

Episode 403: "The False Bride" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 403 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The False Bride". I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, and I think it's the best one of the season so far.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The opening shot shows the giant effigy of a stag that is featured at the Gathering near the end of the episode. A very striking image!

The episode opens in Inverness in 1970, with Roger moving out of the manse, and Fiona and her new husband Ernie moving in.

"You're leaving Scotland to go to a Scottish festival?" That made me giggle.

So Bree has transferred to MIT to study engineering, just as in the book. That's good.

"I may not read tea leaves like my grannie, but I can see you're in love with her," Fiona says. "Now go get her." I like that.

Meanwhile, back in the 18th century, we pick up where Episode 402 ("Do No Harm") left off, with Jamie and Claire preparing to leave River Run. Watching Jamie with his Aunt Jocasta, I kept thinking, doesn't he own a comb? Or at least have access to one he could borrow, in a house as grand as this?  That wig with the unkempt fringe is really starting to bother me.

"I heard there's a town with a great number of Scottish settlers there."
"Aye, Woolam's Creek."
"Claire can practice her healing, I can find work as a printer."

Town?? They're headed into the backcountry, aka the wilderness. In the book, there was nothing resembling a town in that area, certainly not a town large enough to need the services of a printer.  But they got the name right, at least. In the books, Woolam's Creek is a little settlement that eventually developed at the base of Fraser's Ridge.

I liked the awkward little bit where Jamie tries to give Jocasta the bag of coins, but of course she doesn't react until he puts it into her hand. That seems realistic. Notice that he did take the money after all (watch what he's doing as she says, "And one last thing....")

The box with Jamie's mother's things is a nice touch. I have a feeling they'll make use of that, later.

The next scene, with Jamie and Young Ian, is very good. "You sailed to France when you were younger than I am now" is a bit of an exaggeration; Jamie didn't go to Paris until he was eighteen. But nitpicking aside, I liked the way Young Ian stood up for himself.

"I'm no the same lad ye kent in Scotland." No, he's not, and I like very much the way he's maturing this season. It's entirely appropriate for him to be the one to write to Jenny and Ian to inform them of his decision to stay in America.

The farewell scene between Claire and Jocasta is very awkward, made even more so by the physical distance between them. I didn't like the way Claire stayed by the door at first, not even coming close enough to speak to Jocasta face-to-face, as though she couldn't bear to be in her presence.

"If ye truly loved Jamie as much as ye say ye do, you'd want him to be the man he was born to be." This strikes me as very strong foreshadowing of the end of this episode.

I laughed out loud when I saw Clarence. Another piece of their future life falling into place. <g> And it's good to see John Quincy Myers again.

Back in 1970, Bree meets Roger on his arrival at the airport. "North Carolina, here we come." Wow, that's a long way to drive! I'm not sure what airport that's supposed to be, but it must be 900 miles, at least, from Boston to the North Carolina mountains, and easily 500 miles or more from NYC, if he arrived at JFK.  In the book, the Celtic Festival is about 150 miles from Boston, a reasonable driving distance. I can understand that they wanted to show Roger and Bree in the mountains in the same location as Jamie and Claire, but the logistics don't make any sense. Oh, well.

At any rate, I'm glad to see Bree's blue Mustang. <g>

The view as they drive into the Blue Ridge Mountains is pretty realistic. Roger picked a particularly beautiful time of year to visit. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 3, "The Minister's Cat"), and I was pleased to see they at least attempted to include the word "coccygodynious", which is one of my favorites among all the unusual words in the OUTLANDER books. Too bad they mangled the pronunciation of both that word and "alagruous", though.

Sophie Skelton's American accent is much better in this episode than it was in previous seasons, IMHO. It sounds much more natural.

I loved the bit where Bree kisses Roger and nearly causes him to run off the road. <g> And the transition at the end of that scene, where the view of the blue Mustang heading toward the mountains morphs into a view of Jamie and Claire's wagon and horses heading toward the very same mountains, was very clever. It reminded me strongly of the scene in Episode 108 ("Both Sides Now") where we saw Frank on one side of a distinctive rock formation, heading toward his car, and Claire, on the other side of the same rock but in another century, being dragged off by the Redcoats.

Notice that Myers makes a point of showing them where Mt. Helicon is, and mentioning the Gathering held there every year.

"I love this land," says Young Ian. And really, looking out at that sweeping vista with the gorgeous autumn foliage, what's not to like? <g> That looks like a pretty realistic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to me. The waterfall is gorgeous. And I liked the bald eagle.

So Young Ian announces that he's going to go with Myers, evidently for no other reason than to get a closer look at the Indians, and Jamie agrees, saying only, "Dinna get your heids scalped."

Claire is right, of course, about Boston being dangerous soon. It's no more than a couple of years before the Boston Massacre, which took place in March 1770.

"I want us to make a home together. A place that's ours."  Awwww! Good line. Notice the Jamie and Claire theme playing in the background.

I'm enjoying the glimpses of wildlife in this episode, including the pair of turkeys shown here.

Hearing thunder in the distance, Jamie says, "There's a storm coming. We'll abide in a tavern when we reach the town." Um, Jamie?  You realize you're in the middle of the woods, right? Do you see any towns nearby, let alone taverns?

It's nice to see them attempting a little light-hearted banter for once, though. Claire, teasing Jamie about living in a brothel, smiles in a way we've rarely seen before.

As the scene ends, we get a quick glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

"I thought ye said you wanted to live in a town, in the backcountry?"  That's an oxymoron, I think. They still don't really understand what living in the backcountry is going to involve.

This next bit comes from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS, the "rowboat scene" in Chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience".

"If it was only me, I would live as [an outlaw] again. And when I was auld, I would lie under a tree and let the wolves gnaw at my bones. But it's not just me. It's you. And Ian. Fergus, Marsali. You understand? I would lay the world at your feet, Claire, but I have nothing to give you."

But the emotional intensity of the original scene is mostly lost here, in Sam's calm delivery, which I found disappointing. Jamie doesn't seem anguished, or even particularly upset. And Claire? She just looks at him and says nothing. Quite a contrast from her reaction in the book:
He honestly thought it mattered.

I sat looking at him, searching for words. He was half turned away, shoulders slumped in despair.

Within an hour, I had gone from anguish at the thought of losing him in Scotland, to a strong desire to bed him in the herbaceous borders, and from that to a pronounced urge to hit him on the head with an oar. Now I was back to tenderness.

At last I took one big, callused hand and slid forward so I knelt on the boards between his knees. I laid my head against his chest, and felt his breath stir my hair. I had no words, but I had made my choice.

“ ‘Whither thou goest,’ ” I said, “ ‘I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.’ ” Be it Scottish hill or southern forest. “You do what you have to; I’ll be there.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Suddenly Clarence the mule runs off, carrying most of their baggage, and Claire takes off after him, leaving Jamie behind.

Meanwhile, back in 1970, Roger and Brianna are attending a Highland festival that looks very similar to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held every year in Linville Gorge, NC, in the area where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located. Scottish dancing, caber-tossing, men in kilts everywhere! If you've never been to one of these gatherings, I highly recommend it. They're a lot of fun, even if you don't have a drop of Scottish blood. <g> Here's my blog post about my first visit to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 2010.

Naturally, being surrounded by All Things Scottish makes Brianna think of her mother. Richard and Sophie are both very good through this whole sequence, very comfortable with one another. And maybe it's just me, but I'm finding Roger's Scots accent easier to understand in this episode.

The bit with the portrait was a surprise, but now we see where the sketch of Bree in the opening credit sequence may have come from.

I liked the ceilidh dancing scene. The fiddle music is upbeat and fun, Bree and Roger are clearly having a good time, and their enthusiasm is infectious. It's wonderful to see both of them looking so happy!

Back to Jamie, alone in the woods. Clarence has returned, but Claire is nowhere to be found. And Claire, for her part, is lost in the woods, alone without food or supplies, lying unconscious on the ground in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. And before we can even absorb all of that, the scene shifts again. (Building up the suspense for non-book-readers.)

I loved hearing Richard Rankin singing!  The song, "The False Bride", is not one I'm familiar with, but it's lovely. You can see the lyrics here.

So Bree gives Roger a book about "Scottish Settlers in Colonial America". It's not hard to guess where that's going to lead, if you know the books. Bet you anything there's a death notice buried in the pages of that book somewhere, and Roger's going to find it.

The scene with Roger and Bree in the cabin is very good, capturing the essence of the scene in the book (DRUMS, chapter 18, "Unseemly Lust"). I'm very glad they included the bracelet.

"This whole weekend's been perfect," Roger says -- and then it all comes crashing down in the next moment. He's talking about having a home, and kids, and she's clearly not ready, but he's not listening. Most of this scene is taken almost word-for-word from the book. Great job by both Richard and Sophie!

"I love you, dammit! But you don't love me."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to."

And as he walks out, I'm left wondering how on earth they're going to manage that long drive back home. "Awkward" doesn't begin to cover it. <g>

Thunder and lightning bring us back abruptly to Claire's situation, waking alone in the woods in the middle of a storm. I was actually less worried about her ability to survive this in the show than in the book, probably because it hasn't been all that long since we saw her in Episode 311 ("Uncharted"). We know she has very good survival skills and doesn't scare easily, even when left on her own.

She finds a bit of shelter under a fallen tree and takes her boots off, and then she notices the skull half-buried in the ground nearby. As if that isn't spooky enough, we hear the sound of wolves howling nearby, reminding us that she's alone and defenseless. (I thought that was a good addition.)

The opal is much bigger than I thought it would be, but there's no question what it is, or who it belonged to. When Otter-Tooth's ghost appears, he's wearing the opal on a cord around his neck. I didn't expect that, but I like it.

He's not nearly as scary or savage-looking in appearance as the description in the book:
He was tall, and he was naked. Beyond a breechclout, he wore nothing but paint; long stripes of red down arms and legs and torso, and his face was solid black, from chin to forehead. His hair was greased and dressed in a crest, from which two turkey feathers stiffly pointed.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Skull Beneath the Skin." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
But as he turns around, you can see blood on the back of his head, in the same place where Claire noticed what appear to be cracks in the skull.

Back in 1970 at the Highland Festival, Roger and Bree attend the Calling of the Clans. At least they're still on speaking terms. But then Bree says, "Maybe I don't believe in marriage at all," and I start to wonder how Roger is going to talk her into the hand-fasting later on. Wait and see, I guess.

The Calling of the Clans was fun to watch, but what I saw in both Roger and Bree's faces as he said, "The MacKenzies are here!" was utter misery.

I liked the burning of the stag. A very dramatic visual, to say the least! But that shot of Roger standing there in front of the bonfire, feeling his dreams of life with Brianna go up in flames like the stag, is painful to watch.

Back in the 18th century, Claire wakes the next morning to find the storm has passed. Her boots are gone, but there are footprints leading away from her shelter. She takes the skull and the opal and follows the footprints, which eventually lead her back to Jamie.

And just as in the book, Claire's boots mysteriously appear out of nowhere. So we're meant to believe that the ghost led both Jamie and Claire to that spot by the stream? That's a little different from the book, but I'm not complaining. I liked Claire's reaction to the realization that the skull belonged to a time-traveler.

The scene in the strawberry field is well done, if truncated somewhat from the book. The landscape here is just gorgeous, and I can understand why Jamie says, "This must be the most beautiful land I've ever seen."

"I know that look on your face, Jamie Fraser. You're in love."  That made me laugh, but it's true. He's found his place at last.

I'm so glad they included this bit from the book (Chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing"):

"Do ye trust me, Claire?"
"With my life."
"And with your heart?"
"Always."

I love that last shot, looking out over the gorgeous scenery, as Jamie says, "And we'll call it Fraser's Ridge." Awwwww! Wonderful, just wonderful, and a perfect way to end this episode.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 404.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Episode 402: "Do No Harm" (SPOILERS)



Here are my reactions to Episode 402 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Do No Harm".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The opening shot of a slave (Phaedre?) winding an ornate and beautiful grandfather clock is very appropriate.

As the episode begins, Jamie is in a somber mood, blaming himself for the incident on the river at the end of Episode 401 in which Stephen Bonnet and his gang attacked and robbed them, killing Lesley and stealing their gemstones and Claire's ring. I like the way the overcast skies seem to reflect Jamie's mood.

"Now that murderous bastard's free to prey upon others. That's my cross to bear." Good line, and of course he's right. (Serious foreshadowing, for anyone who's read the books!)

River Run looks grand and elegant, very much in the style of old Southern plantation houses. I like the look of it from the outside, but naturally the sight of such wealth and opulence just reminds Jamie of how much they've lost.

"Now we're penniless."
"It wouldn't be the first time. You hadn't a shilling to your name when we were first married."

I like this (complete with the Jamie and Claire theme playing in the background). It's not in the book, but it's true enough, after all. As is her reminder that Jocasta is family.

Watching Jamie take off his hat, bowing to Jocasta, I couldn't help wondering why on earth he didn't bother to comb his hair before meeting her? (It's not Jamie's fault. I blame the wig.)

I liked the scene where they meet Jocasta. Maria Doyle Kennedy is really wonderful as Jocasta, and it's fascinating to see how she greets them, relying on touch and sound in place of visual cues. The bit with Young Ian offering Jocasta a posy of flowers was a clever way to introduce, right from the start, the fact that Jocasta is blind. Ulysses isn't quite what I pictured, physically, but that doesn't matter at all. He acts exactly as described in the books, always at Jocasta's side, quietly informing her of things she can't see.

"I am now gifted with hearing that would be the envy of many a gossip, and the ability to scent truth from lies, if ye catch my meaning."

I didn't care for this line. Why would Jocasta's blindness give her an advantage in detecting falsehoods?

As they walk up the path toward the house, you can see the slave cabins off to the right.

I love the interiors of River Run. Production designer Jon Gary Steele did a wonderful job with all the details, everything from the porcelain teacups to the furnishings in Jocasta's parlor.

I don't find it believable that Jocasta was keeping a close eye on Jamie all these years. Maybe she did know about his being in the wine business in Paris all those years ago, but how on earth would she have found out about what he was doing in Edinburgh, considering that he was living there under an alias?

The scene with Ian, Rollo, and the story of the skunk adds a welcome bit of humor, and I'm glad they included it, but I can't understand why they didn't shoo the dog out of the house the moment they detected the stink. Instead, they let him loiter in the hall just outside the parlor, presumably spreading the stench over everything he touched. (I'll have to suspend disbelief on this point.)

As they follow Ulysses up the grand staircase to their room, Jamie remarks on the similarities between Jocasta and his mother, Ellen.

"I always wished ye'd kent my mother, but having ye meet my aunt is...just fine." I like that, and the way Jamie and Claire smile at each other when he says it.

I love the shocked look on Ulysses' face when Claire says, "Call me Claire." And she hastily amends that to "Mistress Claire."

And here's our first look at Phaedre, played by Natalie Simpson. She's beautiful, and I enjoyed watching her in this episode. She has a way of reacting with her body language more than with words, so you have a pretty good idea what she's thinking.

Claire turns to the window, watching the slaves working in the fields nearby, and there's no question what she's thinking, either. Jamie's attempt to cheer her up with, "One day, it will all be different," doesn't help.

I liked the next scene, with Young Ian and John Quincy Myers. Myers' physical appearance reminds me irresistibly of Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, but he sounds like Myers did in the book, and I enjoyed listening to him talk.

"I've been allowing my beard to grow," Ian says. (Oh, really? If he has, it's very hard to see.)
"You've a long wait on your hands," Myers replies, making me laugh.

Throughout their whole conversation about the Indians, I couldn't take my eyes off the young slave boy, filling the tub from a wooden bucket. Ian and Myers basically ignore him as though he's invisible.

"Indians dinna sound that much different from Highlanders." It's fitting that Ian should be the first to recognize that, though I'm looking forward to Jamie coming to that same realization himself, eventually.

The next scene, with Jamie and Jocasta on the porch discussing slavery, is well done. I like Claire's red dress.

"Over the years, I've found my slaves to be more productive when treated with benevolence. [....] Why, some of them are so dear to me, I consider them friends."

Notice Claire's body language throughout this whole speech. I'm impressed that she managed to keep her mouth shut as long as she did, and not at all surprised that she got the hell out of there as quickly as she could.

In the next scene, with Lt. Wolff, I didn't find it believable that Jamie (who's been in the Colonies only four months) would be offering advice on agriculture.

"The cultivation of wheat along the river will likely bring ye a bushel of regret." That's a nice turn of phrase.

"Rice, however, would thrive along the river." Since when is Jamie an expert on the cultivation of rice, a crop that certainly doesn't grow in the much colder climate of Scotland? By the way, if you're skeptical (as I was) about the idea of growing rice in North Carolina, check out this article on the history of rice cultivation in the Cape Fear region.

I liked Jocasta's observation that "a woman's unsolicited views are not always welcome." Obviously something she learned from experience!

The scene with Claire being fitted for a new gown is taken mostly from the book (Chapter 10, "The Return of John Quincy Myers"), with only minor changes.

"She's got bonny eyes of indigo, and a bosom lassies would dream of," says Phaedre. Of course she can't describe Claire as having golden eyes like a tiger's, when TV Claire does not. I was a little surprised to hear Phaedre speaking in a Scottish accent, but it's plausible, for the same reason that the slave Josh, in the book, spoke that way.

I like Jocasta's gown in this scene. That's a lovely color.

Jocasta, asking Claire what she thinks of River Run: "Many others have marvelled at its grandeur. But what is it that ye most admire?" Is she just fishing for compliments?

When Claire says, "I don't agree with keeping people as property," notice how Phaedre looks up -- staying quiet, so her mistress won't notice.

I like this whole discussion between Claire and Jocasta, two strong-willed, opinionated women with opposing views. It's a pleasure to watch. Very entertaining.

Claire is a very bad liar, but she's forced to think quickly in order to answer Jocasta's question about how she came to share Quakers' views on slavery. "I...um...healed some Quakers once." Good effort, though it didn't sound very convincing.

"[Jenny] made mention in her letters [...] that ye were...spirited, headstrong, that ye'd no blush to share your thoughts on any matter, versed in it or no."

Haha! This line is a keeper, and pretty much nails Claire's personality. <g> Considering that Laura Donnelly has announced that she won't be returning as Jenny in Season 4, it's good to hear from Jenny indirectly, so to speak.

I love the costumes at the party. Claire's hairstyle took me by surprise -- it's very unusual to see her with her hair down like that -- but I liked the look, once I got used to it. Good to see they remembered Jocasta's friend, Farquard Campbell. He's shorter and considerably younger than I pictured him from the books.

"The Indians were on these lands first," Young Ian says. That strikes me as a VERY modern, 21st-century, PC attitude, something I wouldn't have expected from him. I think they're trying too hard to portray Young Ian as sympathetic toward the Native Americans, considering he hasn't actually encountered any yet.

And again, we see Ulysses quietly assisting Jocasta when she appears in front of her guests.

Jocasta's announcement that she intends to make Jamie her heir was certainly unexpected, but Jamie doesn't show much reaction. I would have expected him to be more startled, even angry, that she'd made that decision without even consulting him. But I suppose he didn't want to make a scene in front of all those guests, so he put on the sort of expressionless mask that we've seen Book Jamie assume many times.

But even when he and Claire are alone, he doesn't show any reaction. He analyzes it rather dispassionately, calling the move "calculated, something Colum or Dougal might have done", giving no hint of his own feelings. I didn't like that.

Jamie's first impulse, when Claire insists vehemently that she can't own slaves, is to propose that maybe they could work to make the slaves' lives better -- "a spark that might light a fuse" -- and he seems completely oblivious to the look of misery on Claire's face. That seems totally out of character for Jamie, who is generally so attuned to what Claire wants and needs, and I didn't like it at all.

The next scene, where Jocasta and Farquard Campbell discuss the details of the proposed arrangement with Jamie, is just terrific, very well-written and well-acted. James Barriscale, who plays Farquard, is wonderful, with a very commanding on-screen presence.

I liked the fact that Jamie refused the fat purse full of coins that Farquard handed him.

Farquard's reaction to Jamie's desire to free the slaves is very well done, and provides a welcome bit of overt conflict and drama in an episode that's so far been mostly talk. Listening to him methodically lay out all of the steps that would need to be taken in order to free the slaves, it rapidly becomes clear (to Jamie and to the viewers) how impossible this is.

"Ye canna put a price on freedom!"
"But the Assembly can, and does. One hundred pounds sterling a slave. That's over 15,000 pounds!"

Wow.

"You are newly come to North Carolina, and ye dinna comprehend the difficulties you will not only face, but also bring about, by entertaining such outlandish notions!"

Good line (I always smile whenever anyone uses that word "outlandish" <g>), and he's right. Jamie is an "outlander" here in many ways, unfamiliar with the local laws and customs, and somewhat out of his element.

In the next scene, where Jamie and Claire discuss Governor Tryon's offer of land, I don't understand why Claire is so set against the idea. "Accepting Tryon's offer will lead us to fighting in another war" -- why? At this stage, they still have plenty of time before the Revolution gets underway. But Jamie seems interested in the idea -- his eyes light up when he talks about recruiting settlers for the land.

Unlike in the book, no one utters a word of protest when Claire insists on accompanying them to the sawmill, despite the obvious danger. I rolled my eyes at the idea of Claire reattaching Byrnes' severed ear, and I'm glad they didn't pursue that idea.

The sight of the slave impaled on the hook is horrific, just as it's described in the book. I liked the way Jamie reacted, angrily ordering them to cut the man down and pointing his pistol in Byrnes' face. This is the Jamie we know from the books, and I'm glad to see it.

Farquard, to his credit, reacts appropriately to the situation, saying, "Your lawlessness will not be tolerated, no matter the provocation."

I was surprised by Claire's insistence on taking the injured slave back to the house for treatment, but I didn't really have a problem with it. It makes the whole situation in the rest of this episode much more dramatic and suspenseful. And it's consistent with her assessment in the book:
It was slowly dawning on me that the man I touched was possibly not fatally wounded, in spite of his horrible injury. From everything I could sense and feel, I thought that the curve of the hook had gone upward through the liver. Likely the right kidney was damaged, and the jejunum or gallbladder might be nicked--but none of those would kill him immediately.

It was shock that might do for him, if he was to die quickly. But I could see a pulse throbbing in the sweat-slick abdomen, just above the piercing steel. It was fast, but steady as a drumbeat; I could feel it echo in the tips of my fingers when I placed a hand on it. He had lost blood--the scent of it was thick, overpowering the smell of sweat and fear--but not so much as to doom him.

An unsettling thought came to me--I might be able to keep this man alive. Likely not; in the wake of the thought came a flood of all the things that could go wrong--hemorrhage when I removed the hook being only the most immediate. Internal bleeding, delayed shock, perforated intestine, peritonitis--and yet.

At Prestonpans, I had seen a man pierced through the body with a sword, the location of the wound very much like this. He had received no treatment beyond a bandage wrapped around his body--and yet he had recovered.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "The Law of Bloodshed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Of course it didn't happen that way in the book, but here we're going to see that scenario played out to its logical conclusion.

Back at Jocasta's house, I laughed a little when I realized that they were going to do a variation of the surgery-on-the-dining-table scene from the book. Claire's whole demeanor in this scene, making her preparations, reminded me vividly of William's description in ECHO of Claire as "the curly-wig giving orders like a sergeant-major." (AN ECHO IN THE BONE, chapter 56, "While Still Alive")

The medical box Jamie gave Claire in Episode 401 is really coming in handy in this scene! <g>

In the middle of this life-and-death situation, Jocasta walks in, unaware of what's going on. Naturally she's horrified, but at least she doesn't order Claire to stop what she's doing.

The contrast between the gory scene in the dining room and the very genteel, civilized atmosphere in Jocasta's parlor is very striking.

"Rufus is under my protection," Jamie says. That line isn't in the book, but I thought it was a good addition. Still, it's by no means enough to defuse the situation. I liked the way Jamie stepped away from Jocasta at the end of the scene, leaving her alone to make her decision.

Meanwhile, Claire tends to Rufus, who is awake and asking questions.

"Why did you heal me, Mistress?"
"Well, why wouldn't I?"

Good answer. Short and succinct, and it's the truth, after all.

"From what I can tell, that Byrnes is a son of a bitch." LOL! Good line.

Rufus's story of being abducted with his sister and sold into slavery is tragic, of course, but it also helps to humanize him, making it easy to empathize with his situation. Young Ian is unusually subdued after that, obviously seeing the parallels between what happened to Rufus and his own experience of being kidnapped and forced onto a ship against his will.

In the hallway, Claire encounters Ulysses, "keeping an eye on things". He informs Claire that by saving Rufus's life, she may have condemned him to a much worse fate: "It would have been better for us all had he died on this hook." And the dramatic tension cranks up another notch: what are they going to do now?

I liked Claire's reaction to the news that Rufus is to be turned over to the authorities to be executed. She responds exactly as I hoped she would: "No! No, I can't do that." And this time, Jamie shows sensitivity to her feelings, whispering, "I wish there was another way."

The circumstances are somewhat different than in the book, but the end result is the same. This is a tragic, no-win situation, a moral dilemma with no easy answers, just as it was in the book.
"If I save him, will they let him live?” I asked him, under my breath.

His eyes flicked from one to another of the men behind me, weighing the possibilities.

“No,” he said softly. His eyes met mine, dark with understanding. His shoulders straightened slightly, and he laid the pistol across his thigh. I could not help him make his choice; he could not help with mine--but he would defend me, whichever choice I made.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "The Law of Bloodshed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And suddenly there's an angry mob gathered outside, demanding Rufus's blood. Jocasta goes out to talk to them, leaving Jamie alone with Claire.

"I ken ye swore an oath to do no harm, but perhaps ye could aid him the way you did Colum?"

He's referring to Claire giving Colum the dose of "yellow jasmine" in Episode 212 ("The Hail Mary") that was intended as a means for him to take his own life. So here, unlike in the book, it's Jamie who comes up with the idea to deliberately give Rufus a drug that would kill him.

"I'm going to make you a tea," she tells Rufus. We don't learn what's in it, but it apparently takes some time to take effect. Claire helps him to drink it, then sits with the dying man, holding his hand, talking soothingly to him -- just as she did in Episode 104 ("The Gathering"), with Geordie, the man who was fatally injured during the tynchal -- encouraging him to focus on memories of his sister, in happier times.

"I watch the moonlight on water, and I think, Abena might be somewhere, under the same moon. And I dream--I dream I might see my sister again one day." Awwww, that's sad.

When the clock struck midnight, I thought, judging from the sound, that it must have been a church bell or something like that. Maybe it was just my imagination, but the sound seemed much too loud, way out of proportion to what I would have expected from a grandfather clock.

As Claire settles the dead slave's hands across his chest, you can see that this is the bit they included in the opening credit sequence. It didn't mean anything to me before, but now, every time I see that bit in the opening credits, I'll think of this very poignant moment, with Jamie and Claire kneeling at the dead man's bedside, praying for his soul.

And as the mob drags Rufus away, fixes the noose around his neck and strings him up from a tree within sight of that grand mansion, I saw the expressions on Jamie and Claire's faces and thought, that's it, the decision is made and there's no going back now. There's just no possible way they can stay here, after what's happened.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 403.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Episode 401: "America the Beautiful" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 401 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "America the Beautiful". I thought this episode was very well done, and I really appreciated the fact that they used so much dialogue from the books.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The opening scene took me totally by surprise. 2000 B.C. ?!?  Wow! I stared bug-eyed at the screen the first time I saw it, mesmerized. This is a clever way to convey the idea that there are stone circles in North America (foreshadowing!), and they have evidently been there for at least four thousand years. I thought the closeup of the noose was a very effective transition into the next scene.

Jamie slips a handful of coins discreetly to the jailer, and he's let in to speak to Hayes. The explanation of what exactly Hayes did to deserve hanging is different from the book (here, a man caught Hayes kissing his wife, they got into a fight, and Hayes kicked him down the stairs, where he presumably died from the fall) but I think it works pretty well. I think Jamie's concern for Hayes is very much in character, a side of him that we haven't really seen much since Ardsmuir.

"What about a drop for my soul as well?"  And here we get our first look at Stephen Bonnet, played by Ed Speleers.  I think he's just terrific in this role!

I liked the drumming as the prisoners approached the gallows, very much as it's described in the opening scene of DRUMS OF AUTUMN. And true to his word, Jamie makes sure that Hayes sees him smiling just before the end.

In the commotion after the hanging, you can clearly see Stephen Bonnet observing the scene and thinking, "That's it, I'm outta here!"

I have commented elsewhere about the new opening credit sequence for Season 4, so I won't talk about it here, but for the most part I like it.

Beautiful shot of a bald eagle in the title card, and certainly fitting for an episode titled "America the Beautiful".

The scene in the tavern with Gavin's caithris was well done, even though I didn't understand the Gaelic words. They included the celebration of his life, but omitted my favorite part:
Duncan, drunker than ever, fixed the soldiers at the next table with a baleful glare, sweat pouring down his face.

"A Shasunnaich na galladh's olc a thig e dhuibh fanaid air bàs gasgaich. Gun toireadh an diabhul fhein leis anns a bhàs sibh, direach do Fhirinn!!" Wicked Sassenach dogs, eaters of dead flesh! Ill does it become you to laugh and rejoice at the death of a gallant man! May the devil himself seize upon you in the hour of your death and take you straight to hell!

Ian blanched slightly at this, and Jamie cast Duncan a narrow look, but they stoutly shouted "Èisd ris!" along with the rest of the crowd.

Fergus, seized by inspiration, got up and passed his hat among the crowd, who, carried away by ale and excitement, happily flung coppers into it for the privilege of joining in their own denunciation.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A Hanging in Eden". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's fitting that Gavin's friend Lesley should be the one to sing the caithris, though I miss Duncan Innes and I still hope they haven't eliminated his character from the TV series entirely.

Young Ian's flashback scene was very effective, and I really liked the scene between Jamie and Ian afterward.

"Some ghosts can only be banished by speaking their name and foul deeds aloud."

At first I thought this sounded like a rather modern attitude (has Claire been telling him about psychotherapy? <g>), but in the context of Jamie's recovery after Wentworth, it makes sense. And it gives Ian time for the sort of emotional catharsis that he did not get in the final episode of Season 3.

John Bell is terrific in this scene! And I really like the way Jamie comforted him. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from VOYAGER chapter 62, "Abandawe."

Their discovery of Bonnet hiding in the wagon also comes straight from the book. Watching Jamie with his hands around Bonnet's neck, I couldn't help thinking that if he had killed Bonnet then and there, it would have saved everyone a tremendous amount of trouble and heartache. But of course he didn't.

"I won't bother you again," Bonnet says. "You have my word." Ha! And as I always do when I reach this part in the book, I'm mentally yelling at Jamie, "No! Don't trust him, you idiot, what are you doing?! You're going to regret this, big time!"

I liked the sweet, innocent expression on Bonnet's face as he asks "that you allow me to bury a friend."  Note to self: psychopaths can be charming!

The next scene, with the soldiers inspecting the wagon, is taken almost word-for-word from the book. But when Claire asks Bonnet if he's wounded, he replies, "Danu the Luck-Giver was with me." (Foreshadowing, for anyone who's read the book!)

The scene between Claire and Bonnet is very good. I was surprised to hear Bonnet telling her about his fear of drowning, because we don't learn that in the books until ABOSAA chapter 105, "The Prodigal". But it's effective here, making Bonnet appear even more sympathetic, and I liked the way they made the connection to Claire's near-drowning in the hurricane at the end of Season 3.

"Travelers in these woods -- they're often set upon by thieves and outlaws." I love the way Bonnet says this with a straight face, the picture of innocence. <g>

As soon as I saw Jamie bare-chested in the next scene, I thought, rather cynically, "OK, the show's almost half over, time for a sex scene!"

"It isn't wrong to be alive, Sassenach." Huh? Why would anyone think it was wrong? Claire certainly hasn't given any indication that she feels this way. Or is this Jamie's way of saying he feels guilty over not being able to save Gavin Hayes?

"Don't you see how small a thing death is between us?" I wasn't expecting to hear that in this context, but I'm glad they included even part of this quote from DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics", in the show.  It's one of my all-time favorites!
“So long as my body lives, and yours—we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In the next scene, with Jamie and Claire looking out at the woods, I like the kerchief (or whatever it's called) that Claire is wearing tucked into the bodice of her costume. The dialogue in this scene is very good.

The next scene shows Claire and Jamie dressing for dinner with the Governor.  Terry Dresbach did an excellent job with both of their costumes, and the ruby pendant looks just right. The other thing I liked about this scene is that J&C are finally, FINALLY, comfortable in touching one another casually, showing affection even in small moments like this, as when Jamie puts his arms around her from behind. That's a good sign.

I found the dinner scene a little hard to follow, because of our unfamiliarity with all these new characters. All these gentlemen wearing wigs are hard to tell apart! I'm sure one of the dinner guests had to be Philip Wylie, but I couldn't quite figure out which one he was.

"I'm sure the very thought of inequitable taxes brings out the savage in all of us." Good line.

Does this dinner party scene remind anyone else of the infamous dinner party in Episode 204, "La Dame Blanche"?

"Cross Creek....at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains." Um, no, not unless they moved the mountains a whole lot further east!  All you have to do is look up the distance from Fayetteville, NC (the modern name for Cross Creek) to Asheville or Boone, NC, to see that it's quite some way from Cross Creek to the area where Fraser's Ridge will be located.

The scene with Jamie and Governor Tryon is well done, but I don't understand where this reference to a quitrent that must be paid in coin came from. In the book, the issue was that Jamie, as a Catholic, was not eligible for a land grant; it had nothing to do with money. Here, it appears that Governor Tryon is willing to waive the requirement of the cash payment in return for a pledge of loyalty to the Crown.

"And with [the money] left over, I can purchase a printing press...." I was a little startled by this, until I remembered that in the TV show, Jamie's printing press did not survive the fire in Episode 307. But I was glad to see that the rest of the dialogue in this scene was taken almost word-for-word from the book.

The scene where we meet Rollo is just priceless. "I won him. Lucky roll of the dice, so I called him Rollo." <g> I like Rollo's coloring, which is more wolf-like than I had pictured from some of the behind-the-scenes photos. Young Ian seems to be more self-assured in this scene than we've seen him before. I liked that and I want to see more of it.

In the next scene, I love Young Ian's reactions throughout, from his obvious excitement on learning that Jamie and Claire will be settling in America, to his blatant eye-roll when Jamie says, "Your parents....want you to grow to be a man of learning and influence, a man of worth," which made me laugh. Typical teenager!

I liked the way Fergus and Marsali announce that Marsali is pregnant. I think it makes sense for them to stay behind in Wilmington for the time being.

Watching Lesley in this scene the first time I saw the episode, it occurred to me that he wasn't going to survive. He's basically fulfilled his dramatic function at this point, and therefore he's expendable, like one of those "red-shirt" security guards on the original STAR TREK.

Finally, they set out on their journey up the river to Cross Creek. I was happy to see that the TV version of the Cape Fear River looks very much as it does in real life.

I loved the scene where Jamie gives Claire the medical chest. Just wonderful, and very close to the way I imagined it from the book. Great job!

Now, about that final scene. I'm sure it was meant to be riveting and emotionally intense, just as it is in the book, but IMHO the effect was nearly destroyed by that "America the Beautiful" song overlaying the final action sequence.  It was anachronistic (much too modern, IMHO), FAR too loud, distracting (not in a good way!), and completely inappropriate, emotionally, when juxtaposed with the very disturbing and violent scene taking place on the screen. This is a life-and death situation (Lesley is actually murdered right there in front of our eyes!) and one that will have major repercussions for the rest of the season and far beyond, as book-readers know all too well. Why couldn't they simply have let us hear what was going on, and left the song for the closing credits? Major fail, IMHO.  I will be muting this whole scene every time I watch it from now on.

Overall I thought they did a good job with this episode, and I'm looking forward to next week!

I hope you enjoyed this recap.  Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 402.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The bumblebee-herder prepares for OUTLANDER Season 4



As some of you may know, Diana Gabaldon gave me the title of "Chief Bumblebee-Herder" in the Acknowledgements of one of her books a few years ago. I love the imagery, which is a very apt description of what I do in my role as Section Leader, aka moderator, of the Diana Gabaldon section of TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community.

This little story sort of bubbled up last night while I was contemplating how insanely busy the next three months are going to be on the forum while OUTLANDER Season 4 is in progress. This is the first piece of fiction I've ever posted online. Hope you enjoy it!
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THE BUMBLEBEE-HERDER PREPARES FOR OUTLANDER SEASON 4
Copyright 2018 by Karen Henry

I open the door of the storage room and take a cautious step inside. I haven't been in this little room for almost a year. It smells a little musty, and there's a thin film of dust covering all the exposed surfaces. In the dim light, I can just make out the shapes of cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins of various sizes, stacked against the walls. I venture further into the room, careful not to trip, for there are small items scattered over the floor. I spot what I'm looking for on a high shelf at the back of the room. Straining up to reach it, I pull it down for a closer look, coughing a little at the dust. It's a bulky object, but not too heavy, resembling an old-fashioned hard-sided suitcase, with metal clasps on the side facing me.

This isn't the place to open it, though. I drag the case out into my bedroom and set it down on the floor, running my fingers over the embossed gold lettering on the top. "OFFICIAL BUMBLEBEE-HERDING GEAR," I read out loud, and at once I feel the knot in my stomach begin to unclench. It's going to be all right. I can do this!

I flip the clasps open, and a soft, golden light emanates from within the case. Slowly, carefully, I raise the lid and peer inside. The suit appears to be in excellent condition, showing no signs of wear even though it's been ten years since I first acquired it. I pull it out, one item at a time.

Bumblebee-herding gear is specialized equipment, and this particular suit was custom-made just for me. It bears a superficial resemblance to a beekeeper's protective suit, but it's much more comfortable. It has to be, because it's designed to be worn all day, every day, for months at a time, except when I'm sleeping. I run my fingers over the soft, fleece-like inner layer, smiling at the familiar feel of it.

The outer layer of the suit is smooth and slightly cool to the touch. I don't know what it's made of, but the label inside says it's flame-proof, which is definitely a good thing, under the circumstances! Whatever this material is, it's lightweight and flexible enough that it doesn't impede my movements at all. That's essential. Bumblebee-herders have to be able to react quickly to unforeseen events. I was told by the person who gifted me with this suit all those years ago that the outer layer is impervious to bee-stings. "Let them buzz all they want to. As long as you're wearing this suit, they can't hurt you." And so far, that seems to be the case. I've been through some rough times, bumblebee-herding, but I hardly ever get stung.

Putting on the suit takes some time. It's been almost a year and I'm having to re-familiarize myself with how it works. Suddenly I hear a pair of voices in my head, a man and a woman:

"I havena done this for a verra long time."
"Neither have I."

Smiling at the memory of Jamie and Claire, reunited after twenty years, I rummage in the case until I find the boots, and slip them on. They look just like an ordinary pair of brown leather boots, but they have two unique features. They've been specially treated with an invisible coating that makes them resistant to bee-stings, just like the suit itself. And when I put them on, I can move with far more speed and agility than I'm normally capable of. If you're going to herd bumblebees, you have to be able to move very fast when needed!

Next, a pair of leather gloves, roughened at the fingertips so I can type, or tap on a phone, while wearing them.

And last but not least, the headgear. This is the part of my equipment that most closely resembles a beekeeper's costume. The fine netting keeps the inquisitive insects away from my face. But I doubt most traditional beekeepers wear a microphone attached to their headgear. I reach up to check that it's securely fastened. A bumblebee-herder has to make herself heard over all that buzzing!

Just about ready now. I check the suit pockets. The right pocket is empty, but the left one holds a small object resembling a spray bottle, with a nozzle on top. My left hand curls around it, and I press down briefly on the nozzle, just to make sure it's still working. At once a wisp of smoke wafts from the bottle, and I nod, reassured. Smoke stuns the bees.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I mutter under my breath as I head for the door. "Bring on Season 4!"
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If you're looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER, including in-depth discussions of both the books and the TV series, check out TheLitForum.com! You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free. Diana Gabaldon often posts on the forum, participating in the discussions and answering questions.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?



The topic for my November poll is, "How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?"

Please take a moment to vote, and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page to explain your choice, or tell the story of how you found the books.

I discovered OUTLANDER in November 2006, so it's been almost 12 years for me. (You can see the story of how I found the books here.) What about the rest of you?

October poll results



Here are the results of the October poll, which asked the question, "Which NEW character are you most looking forward to seeing in OUTLANDER Season 4?"
  • 24.17% - Rollo
  • 13.06% - Jocasta Cameron
  • 11.34% - Stephen Bonnet
  • 5.04% - Lizzie Wemyss
  • 4.93% - Nayawenne (aka Adawehi)
  • 1.72% - Phaedre
  • 1.60% - The White Sow
  • 1.15% - Ulysses
  • 0.11% - Governor Tryon
  • 33.10% - All of the above
  • 0.46% - I'm not interested in the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 3.32% - Other
There were 873 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the November poll, which asks, "How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?"