Wednesday, January 30, 2019

OUTLANDER composer Bear McCreary talks about the music of Season 4

OUTLANDER composer Bear McCreary's latest blog post is all about the music of OUTLANDER Season 4. I found it very interesting, and I think many of you will, too! (There are spoilers in his post if you haven't watched all of the Season 4 episodes.)

Please note that we still do not have information on when the Season 4 soundtrack will be available for pre-order (Bear says at the end of the article that he is still working on the soundtrack), but I'll post here as soon as I hear anything.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Episode 413: "Man of Worth" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 413 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Man of Worth".


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









I liked the opening shot, showing two kids playing "cowboys and Indians" in a park, in what appears to be a suburban American neighborhood, sometime in the 1960s. The long-haired Native American man reading the newspaper is clearly meant to be Robert Springer, aka Otter-Tooth, the time-traveler with silver fillings in his teeth.

As the episode begins, we see a little bit of everday life in the Mohawk village of Shadow Lake, including several canoes. Roger is still imprisoned in the "idiot hut", following his unsuccessful escape attempt at the end of Episode 412, "Providence". Suddenly we see Jamie, rifle in hand, peering cautiously out from behind a tree. He and Claire and Young Ian have arrived at the village in search of Roger. Jamie takes out a spyglass (that's convenient -- I wonder where he got it from?) and scans the village, but there's no sign of him.

Some of the Mohawk men are playing a game similar to lacrosse, with sticks. You may recall that Young Ian referred to this once. Good attention to detail there!

Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian make their way slowly into the village, with their trade goods. Immediately they are surrounded by Mohawk warriors. Jamie and Ian do their best to explain what they're doing there, speaking a few words of the Mohawk language. Young Ian shows them the sketch of Roger that Brianna gave Claire at River Run.

Kaheroton, the Mohawk warrior who brought Roger here, steps forward. Hearing that Young Ian wants to trade for "Dogface" (aka Roger), he asks why.

"What is he to you that you would come all this way?"
"He's important to our family," Ian says, with vast understatement.

Kaheroton orders the three of them to be taken to the chief of the village. As a crowd gathers around them, notice that there appear to be no children in this village, only adults. (I will suspend disbelief and assume that the kids are hiding somewhere out of sight of the strangers.)

The Mohawk chief (played by Tom Jackson) is an old man, immensely dignified, and I like him very much. I was startled by the fact that he speaks excellent English, but I think that works well here, saving them from having to have someone else interpret for him.

"You want him very badly."
"Aye," Jamie says. "We hope to trade with you."

Not the best basis on which to begin a negotiation, when the other party knows you're desperate! No wonder the chief looks so confident, certainly in no hurry to make a deal.

Young Ian calls to the other Mohawk, inviting them to inspect the trade goods they've brought, including whisky. Claire removes her kerchief to show to one of the women, revealing the large opal she wears on a cord about her neck. Seeing the stone, the others recoil in apparent fear and horror, backing away from her. Their reaction is based on a scene from DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
"Did you mention the opal to Acts Fast?”

[Jamie] sat up straight at that, interested.

“Aye, I did. They couldna have been taken more aback had I pulled a snake from my sporran. They got verra excited--angry and fearful both, and I think they might well have done me harm, save I’d already mentioned the whisky.”

He reached into the breast of his coat and drew out the opal, dropping it into my hand.

“Best you take it, Sassenach. But I think you’ll maybe not want to show it to anyone.”

“How odd.” I looked down at the stone, its spiral petroglyph shimmering with color. “So it did mean something to them.”

“Oh, that it did,” he assured me. “I couldna say what, but whatever it was, they didna like it a bit. The war chief demanded to know where I’d got it, and I told them ye’d found it. That made them back off a bit, but they were like a kettle on the boil over it."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 57, "A Shattered Smile". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The chief's reaction on seeing the stone ("We will not trade with you. You must leave us at once.") increases the dramatic tension considerably, and seeing no alternative, Jamie leads Claire and Ian away. As they go, notice the young woman watching them. She'll be important later.

Now the action shifts to River Run, where Murtagh has just arrived, following his escape from jail in Wilmington. I liked the scene where Jocasta interrogates him (politely, but thoroughly) about where he's been and what he was doing that got him locked up in the first place.

"Dinna fash," Murtagh says. "As I told your nephew, I'm no an easy man to kill." In the show, perhaps. Of course, book-readers will recall that Murtagh died at Culloden.

Jocasta tells Murtagh that Brianna has been spending most of her time alone in her chamber, which explains why she didn't even bother to come and greet Murtagh when he arrived.

I liked Murtagh's reaction to the news that Brianna is engaged to Lord John. "She canna marry a Redcoat!" He doesn't bother to mention the fact that this particular British officer was the governor of Ardsmuir Prison when he was imprisoned there with Jamie, but I'm sure he must have been thinking that, too.

"I dinna recall asking your opinion on the matter," Jocasta says coldly. To me, that's a very strong echo of Charles Stuart in Paris in Episode 202 ("Not in Scotland Anymore"), saying almost exactly the same thing to Murtagh.

In the next scene, Bree and Phaedre are in Bree's bedchamber. Bree, very pregnant, is working on yet another charcoal drawing, but she's distracted, presumably with worry over Roger and her parents. Phaedre, acting as midwife, examines her and finds no problems, assuring her that "your bairn....will be perfect."

Back at the Mohawk village, Jamie tells Claire he intends to go back for Roger that night. When Claire protests, Jamie reminds her that he's done it before. "I ken a story. One where I went to Fort William and rescued you." Interesting. This isn't in the book, but I think it's believable that Jamie would be remembering that. Still, I agree with Claire that what Jamie is proposing seems awfully dangerous, even reckless, under the current circumstances.

Suddenly Jamie freezes, listening hard. "Don't move," he says, and a moment later several Mohawk men burst out of the woods. Jamie overpowers one of them, and then the same Mohawk woman we saw in the previous scene in the village steps into view. (I like her costume.) She tells them, "We're here for the stone. Give it to us. We will not harm you."

The young woman (I did not catch her name) tells them the story of Otter-Tooth. I liked this part very much. It's a slightly condensed version of the story that Tewaktenyonh told Claire in the book (DRUMS chapter 57, "A Shattered Smile"), and I think they captured the essence of it very well.
"He was a brave man,” she said, reflectively. “He didn’t beg. He told them the same things he had said before, but my brother said this time it was different. Before, he had been hot as fire; dying, he was cold as snow--and because they were so cold, his words terrified the warriors.

“Even when the stranger lay dead in the snow, his words seemed to go on ringing in the warriors’ ears. They lay down to sleep, but his voice talked to them in their dreams, and kept them from sleeping. You will be forgotten, he said. The Nations of the Iroquois will be no more. No one will tell your stories. Everything you are and have been will be lost.

“They turned toward home, but his voice followed them. At night, they could not sleep for the evil words in their ears."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 57, "A Shattered Smile". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
As the woman telling the story says, "They returned with white scalps," notice the man throwing a tomahawk in the firelight. So we finally see where that bit from the opening credit sequence comes from.

"It is said that one who possesses the stone has the power to see how my people's story will end." That's certainly true, considering that both Otter-Tooth and Claire are time-travelers from the future!

In the next scene, Bree (very pregnant) and Murtagh are talking about recent events. She assures him that the engagement to Lord John is a sham, and tells him that Jamie advised her to try to forgive Stephen Bonnet.

"Do you think you could forgive your father?" Murtagh asks. "For your sake, as well as his?" I liked the way Bree smiles a little as she says, "I already have."

Back at the Mohawk village, three canoes approach the village at night, and Jamie, Claire, and Ian manage to sneak in without being discovered. Claire and Jamie find Roger in the "idiot hut", and Roger, quite understandably, reacts with alarm at the sight of the man who nearly beat him to death.

Claire speaks reassuringly to him. "It's all right. It's Jamie. He won't hurt you. We've come to get you out of here."

Jamie's reply is almost verbatim from the book (DRUMS chapter 60, "Trial by Fire") but condensed a bit: "I've done wrong to you, MacKenzie. I've come to put it right. For now, you have my apology."

I'm glad he said it, but in this context -- hurried, whispering -- in my opinion it doesn't have the same impact as it did in the book, when the two men were alone, with time to focus their full attention on one another.

Their female guide tries to talk the guard into letting them go, and he fires his rifle in the air. I found the ensuing commotion, with all these men fighting in the dark, tomahawks flying and torches blazing, to be very confusing and hard to follow, but I liked the way Claire more or less glues herself to Roger, making sure that he's safe.

Unfortunately, our people are vastly outnumbered. Eventually they are surrounded, and one of the men points a pistol at Jamie's face. Claire, panicked, screams the Mohawk word for "peace", desperate to stop the man with the gun from killing Jamie right then and there. (Which would put an abrupt end to the series....) Fortunately for all of us, her pleading has the desired effect, and the fighting stops.

At daybreak, the chief calls the villagers together, Jamie, Claire, Roger, and Ian kneeling on the ground before him. The chief orders the Mohawk who were involved in helping to rescue Roger (including the woman) to be exiled from the village. I'm not quite sure why he said that in English, unless he wanted to make sure Jamie and the others understood him.

This next part is extremely well done, emotionally intense and riveting to watch.

"Take the stone. Leave the village. Never return," the chief says. But he is adamant that "Dogface will stay in the village."

Suddenly Jamie is on his feet, offering himself in exchange for Roger. (This is something they discussed briefly in the book, but he never actually did.) Watching both Jamie and Claire here, it's impossible to miss the very strong echoes of Jamie at Wentworth, offering himself to Black Jack Randall in exchange for Claire's freedom. And you can see the memory of that in their eyes, and especially in Claire's face, as she hugs Jamie tight.

Watch Young Ian there, too, as he looks first at Roger, then at Jamie and Claire. You can see him coming to his decision.

"I'm staying," he tells Jamie, very firmly.

And then he adds something that is not in the book, but it's very fitting and absolutely in character for Ian: "You must promise that ye'll leave and no come back for me. I've chosen this."

A quick glimpse of Roger, watching this sacrifice on his behalf, not understanding the full significance of it, but clearly seeing the three of them grieving, staggering under the emotional impact.

Claire comes foreward and hugs Ian, crying, but she knows she can't change his mind. And then it's Jamie's turn.

"Ye once said ye wished me to become a man of worth."
"Ye dinna ken how worthy you are," Jamie says, and embraces him. "Cuimhnich," he whispers. "Remember."
"I willna forget. Never."

I like this very much! The words are slightly different from the book, but the emotional impact is just as great.

Jamie bows formally to the chief and turns to lead Claire and Roger away. Ian takes a single step toward them, then stops himself. The look on his face is just heartbreaking.

John Bell is really amazing in this scene. It's been fascinating to watch his transformation from a boy to a man in the space of just a season and a half on the show (counting from his first appearance in Episode 307), and I am really going to miss him in Season 5.

Meanwhile, back at River Run, Jocasta and Murtagh are drinkiing whisky together in her parlor. I liked this whole scene, particularly the part where Jocasta stands up and tells him in no uncertain terms exactly what she's alway thought of him:

"Truth be told, i never liked ye. you used to descend on Leoch like a dark cloud of rain, stayin' well past your welcome, drinkin' our ale, and gripin' about everything! The way you glower and stare, you make folks uneasy. You were stubborn as a mule then, and you haven't changed a bit. I canna believe I allowed ye to darken my door."

I laughed when she threw her drink in his face. For a blind woman, she has pretty good aim!

HOWEVER.... I absolutely hated the next scene, where Murtagh and Jocasta are in her bedroom after having sex. No. Jumping into bed with one another on the spur of the moment like that, as though they're a young couple hooking up in 2019? Sorry, I don't buy that at all, and I'm going to try very hard to un-see it and pretend it never happened.

Meanwhile, in a clearing somewhere on the road home from the Mohawk village, Claire asks, "How are you going to tell Jenny?' Good question, considering that in the books, this incident caused a major rupture in Jamie's relationship with his sister that was not mended for nearly two years.

Roger's temper suddenly snaps, and he takes a swing at Jamie, who is caught by surprise. Jamie doesn't seem upset at all. He simply lets Roger hit him as many times as he wants, taking his punishment for his part in the ordeal Roger has been through.

I liked the way they cut between Jamie and Roger's fight and Young Ian, back in the Mohawk village, running the gauntlet. Roger fights better than I expected, considering that he still has one arm in a sling.

As for Ian, he did a lot better than Roger in running the gauntlet, but then again, he's younger, much better nourished, and not worn down by weeks of captivity and being forced to walk 700 miles. I liked the bit where Ian dove between the warrior's legs. <g>

I was rather put off by how happy and excited Ian looked when he learned he would be adopted into the tribe. Grinning from ear to ear, as though he's forgotten all about the fact that he's leaving his old life and his family behind -- forever, as far as he knows. It just seemed inappropriate to me, under the circumstances.

The scene with Roger, Claire, and Jamie in which All Is Revealed to Roger is just wonderful, very well-written and well-acted, and very, very faithful to the book! Richard Rankin, especially, does a terrific job with this very pivotal scene, as he tries to absorb the life-altering news that a) Bree was raped by Stephen Bonnet just after Roger left her, b) she's pregnant, and c) it might be Roger's child, but then again it might be Bonnet's.

When Claire squats down to speak eye-to-eye with Roger, I was struck by the calm, matter-of-fact way she delivers the news of Bree's rape, and it occurred to me that Dr. Claire Randall must have delivered bad news to patients and their families in just that same tone of voice many, many times over the course of her medical career. Odd that I've never had that thought when reading this part of the book.

Suddenly Jamie's fury boils over and he shouts in Roger's face. "Coward! Bree was angry with you, so you left her! You ran away!"

Roger punches him again, and Jamie shakes a fist at him, furious. "That was the last unanswered blow!" He seems about ready to send Roger back to the Mohawk.

"I didn't leave because we argued. I left because she told me to go." Um, yes -- in the course of an argument! This line makes no sense, IMHO. But it's a very small thing.

The rest of this scene is virtually word-for-word from the book, except for this exchange between Roger and Claire:

"I need time."
"Well, if you need time, you'd better take it, because this is our daughter, and you'd better be sure."

I like that very much! We don't often see Claire in mama-bear mode.

Meanwhile, back at River Run, Brianna is in labor, assisted by Phaedre and Jocasta. I understand why Claire and Jamie couldn't be there for Jemmy's birth, and while that's disappointing, I'm fine with the way they did it. Except for one thing.

"Where is he?"
"Phaedre's cleaned him up, and she'll bring him in, if you're ready to see him now."

I don't understand. This was presumably a natural childbirth, without painkillers of any kind, with no complications that we know of. So why didn't Bree see the baby immediately after he was born? Why did they not even let her hold him until after he was cleaned and wrapped in a blanket, and Bree herself was dressed in fresh clothes?

In their eagerness to make this scene closely parallel what we saw of Bree's own birth as shown in Episode 301, they seem to have forgotten that this isn't 1948, she's not recovering from ether or any other anesthesia, and there's no reason (as far as we know) why she should be unaware of her surroundings immediately after the birth. I've never had children of my own, but I've watched plenty of childbirth scenes on TV, and this just struck me as contrived and not realistic.

On the other hand, that little baby is awfully cute! <g> The next time we see him, he's two months old. Phaedre rushes in to announce that riders are approaching, and one of them is Claire.

Bree is obviously shocked and devastated that Roger didn't return with Jamie and Claire. "He's alive," is all Jamie says. Rather cold comfort under the circumstances, to say the least!

Murtagh fills Jamie in on the situation at the jail, but he assumes that Bonnet died in the explosion. ("I got out. He didn't.") Um, Murtagh? You're forgetting my number one rule when it comes to OUTLANDER: Don't make assumptions, because most of the time they turn out to be wrong. <g> And if the events of this season haven't demonstrated that, I don't know what would.

Claire and Bree finally have a moment alone, and Claire says she wants to take Bree and the baby home to Fraser's Ridge. Bree nods but says nothing, and they have a nice little mother-daughter hug.

The dinner scene that follows is Extremely Awkward, filled with the deafening silence caused by Roger's absence, aka the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Finally, just as Jamie, Claire, and Bree are preparing to take their leave of River Run, Bree looks out the window and sees a rider coming up the path. It's Roger, of course, and Bree flies down the stairs and across the lawn as fast as she can. I liked their reunion, though I was disappointed that Roger didn't even get to see the baby, let alone claim him as his own son.

"I may be stubborn, but I'm not a fool. I love you! I always will."
[Much frantic kissing, hugging, etc.]
"I love you, too."

Just then a group of Redcoats on horseback gallops down the path, nearly trampling Bree and Roger. All that commotion, and what did they want? Merely to deliver a letter from Governor Tryon to Jamie.

"He's ordered me to muster a militia to fight the Regulators." All right, that's more or less consistent with the books. "Hunt down and kill the fugitive, Murtagh FitzGibbons."

Kill him? Kill him? Not "arrest him", "bring him to justice", or any other actions that the colonial governor in charge of enforcing British law in North Carolina might reasonably be expected to order someone else to perform. Just plain murder. (And presumably, although they didn't say it, Jamie will risk losing his 10,000 acres if he refuses to comply.) I really don't like that.

I thought this episode was quite good overall, but I was rather underwhelmed by this cliffhanger ending. It doesn't seem like such a difficult problem for Jamie to deal with, and the ethical questions left a bad taste in my mouth at the very end. For me, this was the least satisfying ending of all four seasons so far.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes.

Lokeoking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out, 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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Season 4 marathon on STARZ Jan. 27

For those of you in the US: STARZ will be showing a marathon of all 13 episodes of OUTLANDER Season 4 on Sunday, January 27, starting at 8 am, and culminating with the season finale at 8 pm.

Please pass the word to anyone you know who may be interested!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Episode 412: "Providence" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 412 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Providence".


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









The opening shot shows the Mohawk drinking what appears to be whisky from a gourd dipper. This is a fairly subtle reference to what Roger did near the end of the episode.

We pick up where we left off, with Roger running the gauntlet upon his arrival at the Mohawk village of Shadow Lake (aka Snaketown, in the book). A particularly hard blow takes him in the left arm, and he ends up flat on his back in the dirt.

One of the women fingers his beard and calls him "Ehhaokonsah," which we learn later means "Dogface".

Notice that one of the warriors is carrying an Iroquois war club, like the one shown here. Those of you who have read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER will recall that Major Siverly attacked Jamie with a similar weapon (SP chapter 20, "Stalking Horse"). Seeing details like that adds considerably to the authenticity and realism of this Mohawk village, and I'm glad they included it.

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, Fergus tells the other Regulators that Murtagh has been arrested. "I won't let him hang," Fergus says firmly.

The scene switches abruptly to Brianna and Lord John at River Run. I liked this scene very much. It's taken almost verbatim from the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 62, "Three-Thirds of a Ghost").

I like Bree's gown in this scene very much. It's lovely.

"No--no, if I sit down, I won't be able to get back up." This line from the book doesn't quite work here, since Bree doesn't appear to be heavily pregnant. But I liked the way Bree visibly pulled herself together after hearing the news.

"I suppose it's too late to add what he did to me to that list [of Bonnet's crimes]?"
"It would only bring shame upon you, and be of no consequence."

I liked the way Bree drew in her breath on hearing "no consequence." But she doesn't lose her temper.

Lord John is very calm, confident that the threat has been eliminated, Bonnet will hang "next week" (ha! little does he know!), and justice will prevail. But he hasn't quite reckoned with Bree's Fraser stubbornness. She announces that she wants to see Bonnet.

Bree goes out onto the veranda (finally, a sunny day! <g>) and Lord John follows. I love watching the two of them match wits. Most of this is verbatim from the book, but I loved this added bit:

"Your father entrusted me with the task of looking after you. I'm not sure that includes taking afternoon tea with a murderer!"

In answer, Bree hands him the letter from Jamie that he brought her in last week's episode.

I'm so glad that they included this letter almost word-for-word from the book! The use of voiceover here was very effective.

Lord John agrees to help her, and then he asks to feel her belly. "My God," he says, just as in the book. "He's real." I'm glad they kept that bit. It's a sweet moment.

Meanwhile, in the Mohawk village, Roger is adjusting (with difficulty) to life as a slave. He's now wearing a sling on his left arm, which was apparently broken during the beating on his arrival. I love the level of detail in the village -- the longhouses, the costumes, all of the props that make it seem like a real place. Kudos to Jon Gary Steele and his team!

Roger is still making knots in his string, but he stops when he sees he's being watched. A Mohawk woman orders him to carry firewood to one of the longhouses. On his way there, he meets a young Mohawk woman named Johiehon (played by Sera-Lys McArthur) with a baby. She's wearing a crucifix, although Roger doesn't ask her about it, and she speaks to him in French -- the first Mohawk to speak kindly to him since his arrival. The woman gives him herbs for the pain of his broken arm. Roger asks her to help him escape, but she refuses.

The Mohawk warrior Kaheroton (Braeden Clarke) who brought Roger here warns Johiehon that Roger is dangerous. She speaks to Kaheroton with affection, and it's clear that they have some sort of relationship.

Back in Wilmington, Lord John and Brianna have come in a carriage to visit Stephen Bonnet in jail. Bree looks like she might be about to be sick. She tells Lord John she's just not "used to being this size", but that's not the real reason. She's clearly not at all looking forward to seeing Stephen Bonnet again.

"A baby is expected. Memories are not. They...simply come." I didn't like this line. Lord John is not noted for saying the obvious. But aside from that, I love the way Bree and Lord John relate to one another in this episode.

"You are impossible not to like," Bree tells him, and I laughed out loud at that. So true!

Back in the Mohawk village, Roger is still delivering firewood, breaking all sorts of unwritten rules of Mohawk etiquette in the process: pointing, speaking when another man is speaking, etc. He's an outlander here, just as Claire was when she first arrived at Castle Leoch, and I think the comparison is interesting.

Johiehon comes to Roger's defense, saying that he does not know their customs, but Kaheroton is angry and knocks Roger to the ground. The commotion attracts the attention of the Mohawk chief, who orders Kaheroton to put Roger in a separate hut reserved for captives.

As they make their way across the village, Kaheroton asks Roger how he came to be a captive.

"Did you break your word of honor?"
"My loyalties were to a woman."
"Then you should not smile upon Johiehon."

He has a point. Roger's weakness for young mothers with babies always gets him in trouble!

Roger is shoved into a large circular hut with walls made of brush. It's broad daylight, but Roger is so focused on his own situation that he fails to notice the presence of the other captive until he speaks.

I really enjoyed watching Yan Tual as Père Alexandre Ferigault. He does a wonderful job! Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 54, "Captivity I").

The priest is holding a small Bible. That detail isn't in the book, but I like it.

Père Alexandre tells Roger that the Indians call him "Dogface", and that they are in the "province" of New York. He asks how Roger came to be here.

"I suppose you could say I walked here," Roger says, half-laughing, but with an expression that seems to say that he's laughing because it hurts too much to cry. Wonderful performance by Richard Rankin here, and throughout the whole episode! His face is so expressive.

Meanwhile, back at Fergus and Marsali's house in Wilmington, Fergus is trying to come up with a plan to rescue Murtagh. He's built what looks like a scale model of the jail, laid out on the table. Marsali asks what he's doing:

"Well, you know Germain likes to play with cups and spoons."
"Aye? Well, what's your excuse, seein' as how our bairn's in his crib?"

Cut to a brief shot of Germain, supposedly a toddler well over a year old at this point, who lies propped up in a bassinet, silently watching them, but neither moving nor making any sound, not even reacting at the sound of his name. As I said in my recap of Episode 411, this baby Germain is a prop, nothing more. They're making no effort whatsoever to treat him like an actual living, breathing toddler, and I find that VERY disappointing!

To Fergus's surprise, Marsali doesn't object to his plan to rescue Murtagh from jail.

"You're not angry with me?"
"Not unless you're not going to try." Good line.

Marsali wishes Claire were here. "She risked her life to save [Jamie's] when he was imprisoned at Wentworth."

This jerked me momentarily out of the story, thinking, "Wait a minute. How on earth does Marsali know that?!" Who would have told her? It's not the sort of thing that Jamie or Claire would have told her about, to say the least, and it happened before Jamie met Fergus, so I'm not even sure Fergus would have heard the story. So how does she know? Unless maybe she heard it from Murtagh, who was there at the time.

I liked Marsali's little "pep talk", and I liked even more Fergus's suggestion that the time has (finally!) come for them to move to Fraser's Ridge. Yay!! I hope this means we'll see them all reunited on the Ridge by the end of next week's episode, or at least at the beginning of Season 5.

Back in the Mohawk village, Père Alexandre tells Roger the story of how he fell in love with a Mohawk woman. The gist of the story is the same as it is in the book, with one exception:

"I was prepared to allow God to take me, until I felt a woman's hands upon me. Soft, cooling hands. She cared for me with the gentle touch of an angel." This isn't in the book, but I like it. It's a reasonable explanation for how he came to fall in love with her.

Père Alexandre tells Roger that he fathered a child with this Mohawk woman. But there's a problem:
"The difficulty was that I had always, as a priest, refused to baptize infants unless both parents were Christian and in a state of grace. This is necessary, you understand, if the child is to be raised in faith--for the Indians are inclined otherwise to view the sacrament of baptism as no more than one of their pagan rituals.”

Alexandre drew a deep breath.

“And of course I could not baptize this child. [....] not because of its mother--but because its father is not in a state of grace."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 56, "Confessions of the Flesh". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I have to admit that I have always been somewhat in awe of Père Alexandre: a flawed, fallible human being, to be sure, but also a man with such an unshakable faith in God that he will not make any exceptions to his faith, not even to save his own life.

"I cannot perform the sacrament of baptism."
"I doubt very much that the Mohawk are perturbed by the niceties of the church, Father."
"No, but you see, Roger, I am. I have broken faith with my God and my calling. I know that I am damned. I will not also damn this child with the false blessing of a fallen priest."

Wow. I like that VERY much! It's refreshing to see a character (any character) on TV these days with such a strong sense of morality. They did a wonderful job of portraying this whole tragic situation, while retaining the emotional power of the original.

Roger asks if Père Alexandre still loves Johiehon. As Roger listens to his (very poetic and beautiful) reply, you can see him thinking about Brianna.

"I have prayed that my love for her would abate, that I would stop seeing her face in my dreams, that I would stop feeling the touch of her hand, stop smelling the rainwater perfuming her hair, stop hearing the gentle lilt of her laugh floating on the wind. But my prayers have gone unanswered."

Suddenly a couple of Mohawk men burst into the hut. They strip the priest naked and drag him away. "Pray for me, Roger," Père Alexandre says, and then he is gone.

Alone in the hut, Roger starts looking for a means of escape, and he begins digging a hole in the dirt with a rock. As night falls, the Mohawk return, dumping the naked and bleeding form of Père Alexandre on the dirt floor.

This scene unfolds almost exactly as it did in the book. To his horror, Roger discovers they have cut off the priest's ear. Roger tends to him as best he can, and then he starts to pray.

"O Father of Mercies and God of all comfort, we humblee beseech thee to visit and relieve the sick servant for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy. Comfort him with a sense of thy goodness...."

This appears to be a version of the Ministration of the Sick from the Book of Common Prayer. I found it (the whole scene, in fact, but this prayer especially) very moving, as the first glimmerings we have seen in the show of Roger's own religious faith and his desire to help and comfort others. He must have heard this prayer, or some version of it, many times, growing up in the Reverend's house.

Afterward, they sit talking. Père Alexandre is visibly annoyed by Roger's casual blasphemy. Again he refuses to fake a baptism ceremony, even though doing so might save his life. "I will not mock the sacrament, even to save my own life."

"Do you know why I can say you're an idiot?" Roger asks. "Because I've been an idiot myself. And he proceeds to tell the priest the whole story (well, except for the bit about time-travel!) of what happened to him.

This part is not in the book, but I love Roger's whole speech. Richard Rankin does an amazing job in this scene.

"Instead of finding her, I found a man who...I now believe was her father...who beat me near unto death and sold me to the Mohawk."

So he did figure out that it was Jamie, after all.

"I found a way home. All I had to do was reach out and touch it." You can hear in his voice what a miracle that must have seemed to him.

"....and hesitated, like an idiot, because after all that, I still loved her." I knew this, of course, but it's good to hear him say it, for the record.

"There's a saying where I come from: Look out for number one. Well, from now on, that's me."

I don't like this, and in fact I don't believe it. Roger says this experience has changed him, and it most assuredly has, but it hasn't altered the core of his personality. We know that for a fact, because we've just witnessed that personality in action, caring for Père Alexandre with tenderness and compassion, speaking of Brianna with love. Naturally he's focused on self-preservation at the moment -- in the middle of a life-and-death struggle for survival -- but not (we hope) at the cost of his own humanity.

"Save yourself. Because if you don't, no one ever will." Wow, that's a bleak outlook on life if I ever heard one.

Roger tries to persuade Père Alexandre to help him dig an escape tunnel, but the priest is unmoved. Eventually Roger gives up talking and resumes his "Great Escape" routine. And after a moment, the other man joins him. They dig all night, and in the morning, all they have to show for it is a hole that "isna big enough for a cat," according to Roger.

Père Alexandre announces that he doesn't intend to escape with Roger. I like this scene, and the conflict between them, very much. Roger tries his best to persuade him, but Père Alexandre is adamant, willing to die for his beliefs. And when Kaheroton comes for him in the morning, he refuses to baptize the child, and he is taken away to be executed.

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, Lord John and Brianna are about to enter the jail where Stephen Bonnet is being held.

"Well, your mind is made up. I couldn't help but notice that the rest of you seems rather apprehensive." Good line from Lord John. He agrees, reluctantly, to wait outside the cell while Bree goes in to talk to Bonnet.

Meanwhile, outside in the street, Marsali is driving the getaway wagon. <g> The Regulators are assembled and ready to make their move to free Murtagh.

The scene between Brianna and Bonnet is very close to the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 62, "Three-Thirds of a Ghost"), and I enjoyed it very much. Bree is outwardly calm, holding herself under tight control the whole time she's speaking with him.

Meanwhile, Fergus and the other Regulators approach the entrance to the jail. The guard tries to refuse them entry, and suddenly there are half a dozen pistols pointed at his face. "I do not think permission will be necessary," Fergus says drily.

In the cell, Bree opens her cloak to show Bonnet her baby bump. It might be my imagination, but somehow her belly looks much bigger in this scene than it did earlier in the episode.

"I have no choice but to live with what you've done to me. But you will be forgotten! My baby will never know your name, will never even know that you existed. While you rot in the ground, I will raise my child to be a good person, to be nothing like you."

Good addition! I like this very much, and Sophie's delivery of it was excellent.

They eliminated a lot of the action from the book at this point, but I'm glad they included the scene where Bonnet gives her a gemstone, "for [the baby's] maintenance," and tells her to "take care of him".

Things are very chaotic and confused when the Regulators break into the cells, but somehow in the confusion, Fergus and Lord John recognize one another. One of the Regulators grabs the keys from an unconscious guard and they manage to free Murtagh, who is startled to see Brianna.

As they're heading out of the cell block with Murtagh, we see the keys lying on the floor -- very conveniently, just beyond Bonnet's cell. That's extremely contrived, if you ask me, yet another case of the writers hitting the viewers over the head with the thought: Bonnet's going to escape!

After a brief argument over who is going to escort Brianna to River Run (Lord John wins that one), we learn that the Regulators have lit fuses around the building, preparing to blow up the jail as a diversion to cover their retreat as they rescue Murtagh. (In the book, of course, the purpose of the diversion is to cover Bonnet's retreat.) Bree insists that they take the unconscious guard with them.

The instant they leave, Bonnet is on his feet, straining to reach the keys.

The explosion is very vivid and dramatic, and I was impressed with Marsali's fearless wagon-driving in the midst of a very scary situation.

Suddenly we're back in the Mohawk village with Roger, who has managed to tunnel his way out of the hut. (I don't find this believable at all, but I'm trying to ignore that.) He frantically tries to hide, hearing the priest's screams as he is being tortured, and then takes off running through the woods. With no food, no water, no weapons, a broken arm, and no clear idea of where he's going. Yeah, that's going to work. <rolling eyes>

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, the Redcoat leader has a brief conversation with Lord John and Brianna. Lord John tells him they don't know where Murtagh may have gone. (I'm betting on the Ridge, myself, but I could certainly be wrong.)

Back in the woods, Roger is still running, listening to Père Alexandre's screams. "Don't listen," he tells himself. "He chose his fate. He wanted this." But the more the priest screams, the more Roger wavers, calling himself an idiot, until finally he can't stand it anymore, and he heads back to the village.

He arrives in time to see Père Alexandre, tied to a stake with his feet in a pyre, screaming, and the entire village watching him slowly burn to death, including the woman with the baby. Roger is horrified, to say the least, and suddenly he sees the only possible thing he can do: he can end the priest's suffering right then and there. He takes off running toward the kegs of whisky, which no one is watching. Grabbing one of the kegs, he hurls it with all his strength (one-handed!) at the pyre, causing a huge burst of flame as the alcohol catches fire.

I really didn't see that coming at all, but I liked it! A very vivid, dramatic, and emotionally intense scene, that becomes even more so when the priest's lover, Johiehon, puts down her baby and, with tears in her eyes, walks into the flames and embraces him -- just as described in the book.
“She didna look to left or right, but walked straight into the fire.”

“What?” Roger’s throat closed with shock, the exclamation emerging in a strangled croak.

The flames had embraced the girl in moments. A head taller than the folk near him, Jamie had seen everything clearly.

“Her clothes caught, and then her hair. By the time she reached him, she was burning like a torch.” Still, he had seen the dark silhouette of her arms, raised to embrace the empty body of the priest. Within moments, it was no longer possible to distinguish man or woman; there was only the one figure, black amid the towering flames.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 60, "Trial By Fire". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Roger's look of bug-eyed astonishment and horror mirrors exactly the way I felt, watching this. I tend to forget about this scene, since we did not get to witness it firsthand in the book, but they did an amazing job of bringing it to life. Unforgettable, tragic, and heartbreaking.

And that final shot of Kaheroton cradling the baby girl, with such an expression of grief in his eyes. Wow. What a powerful, emotionally intense scene to end on.
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 the season finale, Episode 413.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out, 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, January 13, 2019

Episode 411: "If Not For Hope" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 411 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "If Not For Hope".


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









The little scene immediately before the opening credits, showing Roger in the shower in the 20th c., was jarring and surprising, and probably messed with the minds of a lot of viewers who haven't read the books, considering where we left Roger at the end of last week's episode. It reminded me a bit of Episode 108 ("Both Sides Now"), which opens with the sound of a telephone ringing. I liked it.

I liked the glimpse of Bree's artwork in the first shot of the episode itself: charcoal drawings depicting life at River Run, including a number of sketches of slaves. I really appreciated the fact that this episode emphasized Bree's artistic talent. I've always liked that aspect of her character in the books, because it's something that she did not inherit directly from either Jamie or Claire.

As the episode opens, Lizzie finds Bree drawing by candlelight, and she's frightened by the pictures. Lizzie apologizes again for her role in the huge misunderstanding that caused Jamie to beat Roger nearly to death and send him away. Bree speaks kindly to her, and it's clear that she has already forgiven Lizzie. Jamie, on the other hand, is another matter.

"Even if I could forgive him for what he did to Roger, I can't forget the things he said to me."

The next scene shows Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian somewhere in the woods, trying to track down Roger. Jamie asks Claire what she knows about the Mohawk, and she says she's only seen them in movies.

"If there was a moving picture about us--about me--I'd be seen as a fearsome brute." That made me laugh a little.

Ian reports that the Mohawk have taken Roger to a village called Shadow Lake ("Snaketown", in the book), some two months' travel to the north. Unlike in the book, the local Indians refuse to guide them there, leaving Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian to find their own way. That sounds exceedingly risky, to say the least: three white people traveling all that way through unknown territory, with no clear idea of where their destination is located?

When they stop to make camp, Jamie and Claire seem to be consciously avoiding each other, and Ian has picked up on it. "I hate to see ye both sufferin' so." He's really quite perceptive, for a seventeen-year-old, just as in the book:
"But you think he thinks I’m angry at him?”

“Oh, anyone could see ye are, Auntie,” he assured me earnestly. “Ye dinna look at him or speak to him save for what ye must--and,” he said, clearing his throat delicately, “I havena seen ye go to his bed, anytime this month past.”

“Well, he hasn’t come to mine, either!” I said hotly, before reflecting that this was scarcely a suitable conversation to be having with a seventeen year-old boy.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "Blame". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Meanwhile, in Wilmington, Fergus is trying to track down Stephen Bonnet. In the tavern, he sees a wanted poster -- not of Bonnet, but Murtagh, who is wanted by the authorities in connection with his Regulator activities.

Fergus returns home, frustrated and depressed. "There's no work in Wilmington for someone like me." Someone with one hand, he means. I wonder what has changed? Fergus and Marsali have been living in Wilmington for several years by this time, since the beginning of Season 4. He had no trouble making a living before this. Why now, all of a sudden? That doesn't make sense to me.

Marsali is sympathetic, but she clearly doesn't like "harboring a wanted man under our roof," even if he is Jamie's godfather.

In the next scene, we're back at River Run. Phaedre bustles in, telling Brianna she must be fitted for a new dress, for a party Jocasta will be hosting for a visiting lord "from Mt. Josiah" and some other important men in the county.

Bree is distracted by the way Phaedre looks in the light from the window. She asks Phaedre to sit, and returns to her sketchpad.

"What are you doing, Miss Fraser?"
"I'm drawing you."
"Why on earth would you do that?"
"Because you're beautiful."

I liked Phaedre's reaction to that, very much. She's clearly startled, and a little flustered, to hear a white woman saying such things to her.

Later, Jocasta comes to see Bree. She appears alone, without Ulysses. She seems sympathetic, making it clear that she knows that Bree has little to occupy herself at River Run, and she tries to shake Bree out of her depression, saying, "There's comfort to be found in the company of others."

I like Jocasta's recollections of her older sister Ellen, Jamie's mother. Maria Doyle Kennedy is excellent, and thoroughly believable, as Jocasta.

Back in Wilmington, Marsali comes into the back room where Murtagh is sleeping, deliberately makes enough noise to wake him up, and says, "Tell Fergus ye want him to fight alongside ye."

Most of the dialogue in this scene is taken from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, the scene where they're preparing to go and fight for the Stuarts, and Jenny makes a similar plea to Jamie on Ian's behalf.
"Tired of marriage, are ye?” he asked conversationally. “Likely it would be easier just for me to take him out in the wood and shoot him for ye.” There was a quick flash of blue eyes over the mash tub.

“If I want anyone shot, Jamie Fraser, I’ll do it myself. And Ian wouldna be my first choice as target, either.”

He snorted briefly, and one corner of his mouth quirked up.

"Oh, aye? Why, then?”

Her shoulders moved in a seamless rhythm, one motion fading into the next.

“Because I’m asking ye." [....] "He’s a whole man to me, and always will be.” She looked directly at her brother. “But if he thinks he’s of no use to you, he wilna be whole to himself. And that’s why I’ll have ye take him.”


“I’ll have a whole man,” she said steadily. “Or none."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Moonlight". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's an interesting twist to see the scene in this context, with Fergus. His situation is somewhat different from Ian's in DRAGONFLY, in that he's lived fully half his life with a missing hand. Surely he's long since adjusted to it, and overcome any lingering feelings of inadequacy?

The scene shifts abruptly to River Run, on the night of the dinner party. Bree looks lovely -- and much older, somehow -- in Jocasta's borrowed gown.

Here's our first look at Gerald (aka Neil) Forbes, played by Billy Boyd, whom many of you will remember as Pippin in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. He's smaller than I imagined from the book, but he has a nice smile and a friendly expression.

I liked the awkward little moment when Judge Alderdyce's mother says, in a shocked tone, "You mean to say you draw Negroes?!?" And we get a quick glimpse of Ulysses a moment later, clearly uncomfortable but trying to pretend he's not hearing a word of this conversation.

As Lt. Wolff steps forward, notice the way he literally shoves the smaller Forbes aside. How rude!

Forbes shows Bree a collection of jewels: sapphire, emerald, topaz, and diamond. Fortunately for all of us, she restrained herself from blurting out, "Oh, topaz! That's my birthstone. Just like the pendant I gave Mama, before she--oh, um, never mind...."

Seriously, though: she doesn't react at all to the sight of the gemstones, which struck me as odd, considering how important she knows gemstones to be for time-travel. The dialogue in this scene is the same as the book, but the subtext -- what Brianna is thinking -- is missing.
Sapphire, emerald, topaz, diamond. And her father’s ring held a ruby. Five stones of power, the points of a traveler’s pentagram, the guarantors of safe passage. For how many? Without thinking, she spread a hand protectively over her belly.

She realized the trap Forbes thought he was luring her toward. Let her make a choice and he would present her with the unmounted stone on the spot, a public proposal that would--he thought--force her either to accept him at once, or cause an unpleasant scene by rejecting him outright. Gerald Forbes really knew nothing about women, she thought.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Lord John Returns". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I was relieved when Lord John appeared. David Berry is excellent as always in this episode.

"I'm an acquaintance of your parents," Lord John says, with vast understatement, but Bree doesn't respond.

Back in Wilmington, baby Germain's crying is distracting Murtagh from his meeting with the Regulators. Lying in his cradle, Germain appears not to have aged much if at all since we saw him in Episode 408 ("Wilmington"), but that was a few months ago, just before Bree became pregnant. I didn't like that at all, and I sincerely hope that they intend to age him up appropriately by the end of the season!

Murtagh does as Marsali asked, and invites Fergus to join the Regulators, but Fergus politely declines. "I'm honored that you've asked, but my place is here, with Marsali and Germain." And if you've read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, you can clearly hear the echo of Ian the Elder's voice, saying, "Guarding your weak side, man."

Marsali comes in just in time to hear this, looking much happier, and announces that Bonnet's ship, the Gloriana, has arrived in port.

Meanwhile, back at River Run, the dinner party is in progress.

"....But not the strangest thing that happened during my time in Jamaica," Lord John is saying, and my ears perked up. Is he about to tell the story of his encounter with a zombie? <g> Alas, no. He turns to Bree instead, saying, "Your turn."

What follows is by far my least favorite part of this episode, a scene that is most definitely not in the book.

Bree tells them that psychology is "the science of the soul, if you will." That's a bit of a stretch.

"Must I close my eyes, when you are before me?" asks Forbes, and Lt. Wolff rolls his eyes at this shameless bit of flirting. I liked that.

The bit with Judge Alderdyce went on interminably, to the point that on the first viewing, I actually started yelling at the TV, "Enough already! Get on with it!" On the second viewing, I see the point of this very long digression: to let the TV audience register two things:

a) Judge Alderdyce is keeping secrets from his mother
b) Judge Alderdyce and Lord John are exchanging covert glances across the dinner table.

It's no surprise to me that Lord John was thinking about Jamie in that imaginary forest. <g> But this is also a Major Clue for viewers who don't know, or may have forgotten, about his unrequited love for Jamie Fraser. Of course, Bree herself has no idea about that, at least not yet.

"He's an honorable man," Lord John says, speaking of Jamie.
"Don't talk to me about my father's honor!" she snaps, beginning to get angry. And then she seems to consciously realize where she is, and that it won't do to make a scene in public.

She excuses herself, but before she can leave the room, Forbes speaks up, proposing that they go for a walk together. And Bree promptly faints. The timing in this scene makes it look like she deliberately faked fainting just to avoid talking to Forbes, but she faints at this point in the book, too (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 58, "Lord John Returns"), so it may just have been a combination of stress, pregnancy, and overly-tight stays.

Afterwards, in the parlor, Lizzie comes in, full of concern for Bree "in your condition", and it's only then that Lord John realizes she is pregnant.

"Did you lose your husband?"
"I suppose I did lose him in a way, yes." Well, yes, in a manner of speaking....

Bree explains the situation in a few brief words, and then Lord John pulls out a sealed letter that Jamie sent him, to give to Brianna.

This makes no sense to me at all. Why would Jamie have sent a letter addressed to Bree all the way to Lord John at Mount Josiah Plantation, a distance of several hundred miles? Yes, I know the geography in Season 4 is largely fictional. <rolling eyes> But still.... why wouldn't Jamie simply give the letter to Murtagh, to hand to Bree when they arrived at River Run?

I don't like it. It's a very convoluted way of handling what should have been a straightforward matter. If Bree doesn't want to open Jamie's letter, fine, but there was no need for Lord John to deliver it in person.

The next scene, with Bree and Jocasta speaking frankly, is very well done. Both Sophie Skelton and Maria Doyle Kennedy are excellent.

"What if I don't want a husband?"
"What does want have to do with it?"
"Everything? Ye've a bairn coming! Your time to be particular is long past."

This is taken almost verbatim from DRUMS chapter 50, "In Which All is Revealed", except of course it was Jamie who spoke those lines, not Jocasta. I think it works well in this context, because Jocasta is just as appalled at the idea of Bree having a child out of wedlock as Jamie was in the book.

"Like you, Ellen was with child before she wed." That's a good point. I like the way Jocasta's expression softens as she recalls Ellen outwitting her brothers, but then changes to dead seriousness again as she focuses on Brianna. "But the important thing is, the bairn was born in wedlock! If yours is not, he'll be branded a fatherless bastard. His life will be ruined."

And the words just hang there in the air between them, as Bree absorbs what Jocasta is telling her.

"Ye canna live on hope." Actually, I think Jamie would have a thing or two to say about that, if he were present. Listening to Jocasta talk about how Roger's not coming back, urging Bree to move on, I keep thinking about Jamie during those twenty endless years of separation, refusing to marry again, despite the fact that common sense told him Claire was gone forever. What else did he have, but hope, and faith in God, to sustain him during the worst parts of their years apart?

The next scene brings us back to the tavern in Wilmington, where Murtagh and Fergus have finally spotted Stephen Bonnet. I thought they captured him far, far too easily, making it look like child's play, and I didn't like that one bit. I would have liked to see some sort of a struggle, at the very least.

Back at River Run, Bree is unable to sleep. She looks briefly at the sealed letter from Jamie, but doesn't open it. Then she goes downstairs for a snack, and hears mysterious noises nearby, which turn out to be Lord John having sex with Judge Alderdyce -- out in the open, in plain sight, where anyone passing by could see them.

OK. The writers needed to establish Lord John's homosexuality in no uncertain terms, in a way that Bree would be sure to see it. I get that. I'm also aware that this show sometimes chooses to make a point by bashing the audience over the head with a sledgehammer. <wry g> But that still leaves the question: Given the considerable risk to both of these men if they're discovered (sodomy being a capital offense under British law at the time), why on earth would they have this encounter out in public, in a house that's full of guests and slaves who might come upon them at any moment?

I can only conclude (and this is my rationalization only, not based on anything in the episode itself) that Lord John was so drunk that he lost sight of his common sense and let down his guard entirely. Very, very risky! And very much out of character for Lord John, especially when you consider that this occurred about a dozen years after the incident with Percy Wainwright in LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.

In a house with that many rooms, surely they could have found a room with a door, and shut it firmly behind them, or even locked it?

I hate it when characters on TV shows do stupid, stupid things for no reason other than because it's convenient for the plot. This is sloppy writing, and I wish they'd found another way to do it.

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, Murtagh and Fergus are loading Stephen Bonnet's unconscious body into a wagon when Murtagh is apprehended by the local authorities. Fergus escapes, but Murtagh is arrested.

Back at River Run, Phaedre wakes Bree the next morning with the news that Forbes is planning to propose to her. Bree arranges to meet Lord John outside for a private conversation.

This whole scene between Lord John and Brianna is one of my favorites in DRUMS OF AUTUMN. I was really looking forward to seeing it on TV, and I think Sophie Skelton and David Berry did a terrific job with it. My only regret is that it's abbreviated, compared to the scene in the book, and they omitted some of my favorite bits, like this one:
"[....there] isn’t any reason why I can’t marry you.”

He repressed a strong urge to bang his head against the wall.

“There most assuredly is.”


“To name only the most obvious, your father would undoubtedly break my neck!”

“What for?” she demanded, frowning. “He likes you; he says you’re one of his best friends.”

“I am honored to be the recipient of his esteem,” he said shortly. “However, that esteem would very shortly cease to exist, upon Jamie Fraser’s discovering that his daughter was serving as consort and brood mare to a degenerate sodomite.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "Blackmail". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Still, they caught most of the flavor of the original, for which I'm grateful.

"If I marry Forbes, I'll be exhanging hope for a broken heart. But I'll do what I must, for the sake of my child."

This sounds like Bree has given up, and resigned herself to marrying Forbes. What happened to her Fraser stubbornness?

And just when it appears that Forbes might succeed in proposing to Brianna after all, Lord John steps in just in the nick of time, and announces that he's engaged to her himself. I wonder if viewers who have not read the books will understand that he did this just to protect Bree from unwanted suitors, that he still has no intention of actually marrying her.

Forbes bows stiffly to them and leaves. He didn't look particularly angry, but book-readers know that Bree has just made an enemy of Forbes by rejecting him, and this decision will have serious repercussions in the future.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the woods, Rollo has found the bones of Roger's fellow captive, the man who died on the trail in Episode 410, "The Deep Heart's Core". Amazingly, Young Ian recognizes him, because the man was missing two fingers on one hand. (If that detail was shown in last week's episode, I totally missed it.)

"There's hope that Roger's still alive," Claire says, stating the obvious.

Back to River Run, where Lord John and Bree are talking on the veranda. John tells Bree about Willie.

"I love him more than life itself." I didn't like this. Not only is it overly sentimental for Lord John, but it's such a cliché. I much prefer the original dialogue:
"So you see, there is no blood between us at all--and yet were any man to impugn my affection for him, or to say he is not my son, I would call him out on the instant for it.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Forgiveness". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Hope is at the very heart of love." That's a pretty clunky bit of dialogue, and I'm not even sure what he meant by it.

As Lord John leaves, Bree finally breaks the seal on Jamie's letter and reads it, but we don't find out what it says, at least not yet.

Back in the woods, Jamie, Claire, and Ian have buried the unnamed man. Late that night, Claire comes to Jamie in their tent (and that is an ENORMOUS tent!) I loved this whole scene. Very well-written and well-acted.

"When I made you that promise, there was no one else in my life who could come before you. But I don't know if I can keep that promise anymore."

I like this line very much. Claire is, of course, referring to her promise of honesty that she made to Jamie very early in their marriage: in the book, on their wedding night; on the show, when she tells Jamie the truth in Episode 111, "The Devil's Mark".

"I canna be a father to her, Claire." Ohhhh, that's sad. After the absolute joy of his getting to know Bree, it breaks my heart that he could even think that.

The part beginning, "I never thought I'd be jealous of a dead man" comes straight from the book. (DRUMS chapter 53, "Blame") This is really wonderfully done! I couldn't be happier with the way this scene turned out. It's tender and heartfelt, and one of those scenes where I don't see Sam and Cait at all, I see Jamie and Claire, come to life on the screen. And even after four seasons, I still think that's amazing.

Finally, at long last, Roger and his captors arrive at the Mohawk village of Shadow Lake. The amount of detail in this scene is just staggering: the longhouses, the costumes, all of it. I thought they did a good job of conveying a little of what this must feel like from Roger's point of view. It's really too much to take in all at once, especially combined with the Mohawk shouting in an unfamiliar language.

Suddenly Roger finds himself shoved between a double line of Mohawk warriors, all of them shoving, hitting him. The gauntlet. And before he reaches the end, a blow knocks him unconscious, and that's the end of the episode. Wow. I really was not expecting it to end like that.

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 412.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out, 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.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Diana Gabaldon!

Wishing a very happy birthday to Diana Gabaldon, author of the OUTLANDER series, who turns 67 years old today!

Diana, I hope you have a wonderful birthday, and thank you so much -- again! -- for creating this AMAZING story!!

If you're on Twitter, please join OUTLANDER fans worldwide in celebrating Diana's birthday with the hashtag #HappyBdayDG.

If you want to send birthday wishes directly to Diana, her Twitter id is @Writer_DG, or you can post on her Facebook page.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Episode 410: "The Deep Heart's Core" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 410 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Deep Heart's Core".


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









The opening shot shows the whisky-making still in front of Jamie and Claire's cabin on Fraser's Ridge.

As the episode begins, Jamie and Brianna are having a father-daughter talk. Jamie's hand is bandaged, but he's evasive when she asks what happened.

"Your mother told me what happened. Did ye ken the man?" Jamie asks, meaning the man who raped her. Bree says no, and Jamie, realizing that they can't very well have a private conversation this close to the house, invites her to take a walk with him.

"I don't want to be married."
"With a bairn coming, ye must."
"I can't. I love someone else, back in my time."

This is toned down -- considerably! -- from the scene in the book. (Just as a side note, I really didn't like Jamie saying, "Yeah," like someone living in our own time. But it's a minor point.)

"And I will travel through time myself to tell him."

Huh?!? I really don't like this line, AT ALL. We know Jamie can't time-travel! Diana Gabaldon has always been very, very clear about that. It seems to me that this is a very clunky way of avoiding what he said in the book:
"It’ll make no difference to him,” Jamie said, grasping her harder, almost fiercely, as though he could make things right by pure force of will. “If he’s a decent man, it’ll make no difference. And if it does--well, then he doesna deserve ye, and I shall beat him into pulp and stamp on the pieces, and then go and find ye a better man."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 47, "A Father's Song". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Anyone who saw Episode 409 ("The Birds and the Bees") already knows that "beat him into pulp and stamp on the pieces" is precisely what Jamie did to Roger.

I liked the way they handled the next part, where Jamie and Bree talk about whether she could have done anything to prevent the rape.

"I feel so stupid. I could have avoided it. I followed him into a dark room by myself." This bit isn't in the book, but Bree is articulating here what many readers have expressed over the years, the idea that her own recklessness (in the book, going aboard Bonnet's ship by herself) put her in danger.

I'm glad to hear Jamie say firmly, "It's not your fault, Brianna. Never think that." I thought his body language was interesting in this scene. He's standing a few feet away -- to give her space? Because they're still too new to each other for him to comfort her with his touch? I'm not sure.

The bit beginning, "I'm thinkin', are ye maybe playin' with the truth a bit?" comes straight from the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN, chapter 48, "Away in a Manger").

I think Sam looks terrific in this scene <g>, and that makes the harshness of his words come as even more of a shock. "Maybe you enjoyed it?" is not in the book, but it's calculated to infuriate many viewers (especially in this era of #MeToo) every bit as much as it does Brianna.

Jamie's physical assault on Bree is not as brutal as it is in the book, but it's still shocking to watch. I liked the way Jamie said, "No, and you couldna have stopped him either," making the point very clear, in case anyone watching this scene misunderstood his intent.

"Would ye think yourself a coward because you couldna fight off a wolf with your bare hands?" The word is "lion", not "wolf", in the book. It seems odd that they would change that, considering that book-readers will recall instantly that Claire did in fact fight off a wolf in OUTLANDER with her bare hands.

"It took courage not to fight." Good segue into the discussion of Wentworth. Most of the dialogue here is taken straight from the book.

"I did kill Randall." This is a change from the book, matching what we saw in Episode 301, "The Battle Joined". In the books, Jamie doesn't remember the events of Culloden, so he has no clear memory of exactly how BJR died.

"I keep thinking, if he was dead, maybe I could forget." I like the way Jamie reaches out to touch her then, gently, saying, "Ye willna forget. But time will let you heal." And I can't help saying, "Awwwww!" when he puts an arm around her and she leans into his shoulder, seeking comfort.

Abruptly, the scene shifts away from Fraser's Ridge, and we're somewhere in the woods, watching a group of Indians on horseback go by, with Roger and another man tied behind the horses. The Indians are armed with rifles.

The sight of the second prisoner took me aback at first, but I think including another white prisoner was effective, for two reasons:

1) To give Roger someone to talk to, so we can tell what he's thinking, without resorting to voice-overs.

2) To add even more urgency to his need to keep up with the men on horseback (because his life depends on it, literally) and his need to escape (ditto).

Roger was tied behind the horses in just this way in the book:
In the morning, they set off again. No question of riding this time; he walked, and as fast as he could; the noose was left around his neck, hanging loose, but a short length of rope bound his wrists to the harness leathers of one of the horses. He stumbled and fell several times, but managed to scramble to his feet, in spite of bruises and aching muscles. He had the distinct impression that they would allow him to be dragged without compunction if he didn’t.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 51, "Betrayal". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
As they trudge down the path, suddenly the other captive stumbles and falls. Roger tries to help him up, pleads with his captors to give them water, only to be knocked down with a vicious blow. "You do not speak!" the leader of the Indians tells him, in English. Roger forces the other prisoner to get up, and they set off again, faster than before.

They make camp near a river at nightfall, and the Indians tell stories around the fire (an Iroquois creation story involving twin brothers, Flint and Sapling), leaving Roger and the other man tied to a tree. I like the way they're using the Mohawk language there, every bit as incomprehensible to Roger as Gaelic was to Claire, in the beginning.

Roger is making knots in a bit of string, to keep track of the days, an idea that comes from the book. He says it's been a week since he was sold into captivity.

"I've been observing landmarks too, so I can find them later on my return."
"You think you'll survive?"
"I have to. I can't die like this, not here, not now. I'm going to escape. I'm going to get back--to my wife."

I like that very much. All of these things -- Roger's intelligence, his determination to survive, and his love for Brianna -- will be critical to getting him through this ordeal alive.

Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, Claire is talking with Bree about the possiblity of aborting the baby. Most of the dialogue here comes verbatim from DRUMS chapter 49, "Choices".

No matter what your views are about abortion (and I really DON'T want to get into a political discussion!), this is a difficult scene to watch, as Bree and Claire both wrestle with this decision. It's harder, perhaps, for those of us who've read the book, because we have seen that unborn fetus as an infant and a little boy, as the unique human being he will become.

"I know this is an impossible decision," Claire says, "but I want you to know, it is an option." Giving Bree the option, but letting her make the final decision.

My heart just aches for Bree, watching this scene. And for Claire as well. She would do anything to save her daughter pain or heartbreak, but she can't protect her from this.

In the next scene, Young Ian offers to carry some buckets of water into the house for Bree. Jamie watches, amused. "He's smitten wi' ye, lass."

"It's nice, to have a cousin. I never did before." Good point.

I like the bit where Bree and Jamie watch Claire peacefully tending her garden. In the book, the sight reminds Bree of a poem called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats.
"Innisfree," Brianna said involuntarily, stopping dead at the sight.

"Innisfree?" Jamie glanced at her, bewildered.

She hesitated, but there was no way out of explaining.

"It’s a poem, or part of one. Daddy always used to say it, when he’d come home and find Mama puttering in her garden--he said she’d live out there if she could. He used to joke that she--that she’d leave us someday, and go find a place where she could live by herself, with nothing but her plants."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The last line of the poem is where the title of this week's episode, "The Deep Heart's Core," comes from. I like that very much, even though the poem is not actually referenced in the episode itself.

Now we get a brief montage of life on Fraser's Ridge: tending the farm animals (including the White Sow), trading with the Cherokee who live nearby, enjoying family dinners, etc. It all looks idyllic and too good to be true, which should give you a clue that things are going to change soon.

I loved the scene with Claire and Brianna talking about what they miss from their own time. It's a great addition -- reminiscent of the "how pizza came to the colonies" scene between Bree and Roger in THE FIERY CROSS chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons" -- and I thought it added a welcome bit of humor to an episode that's been pretty grim so far.

The dream sequence, where Roger abruptly morphs into Stephen Bonnet, is shocking, and very effective! You may recall that they've used this "dream turns into a nightmare" trick once before, in Paris in Season 2, when Jamie had a nightmare in which Claire turned into BJR. But in this case I thought it worked even better. I shuddered when Stephen Bonnet appeared, saying, "Go AWAY!!"

Even in her dreams, Bree couldn't fight him off. These nightmares are going to haunt her for a long time.

Lizzie is concerned enough about the nightmares to assure Bree that the rapist won't come near her again. She seems sure of it, and when Bree asks how she knows that, Lizzie confesses that the man she'd seen in the tavern in Wilmington came to the Ridge, but Jamie beat him "nearly to death" and then had Ian send him away.

And just like that, the first of a series of metaphorical explosions goes off -- BOOOOMMMM!! -- as Bree realizes that it must have been Roger.

I always love watching these explosions in the book (I find them Highly Entertaining, to say the least!) and they did a great job with them in this episode. I enjoyed seeing Bree's face transform as what Lizzie is saying sinks in.

The next morning, Bree bursts into the cabin when the others are having breakfast. "Where is Roger?!" she demands. Uh-oh!

Murtagh slips quietly outside, and Young Ian starts to follow, only to be stopped in his tracks by Bree's voice.

"No, he stays! He was involved in this too -- weren't you, cousin?" I like the way she puts a nasty emphasis on that last word.

More confusion ensues, as they try to work out what happened.

"He didna bed you?"
"No! Well, yes, he did, but...I wanted him to."

This sounds remarkably like the exchange between Roger and Jamie in the book (Chapter 46, "Comes a Stranger"), moments before Jamie starts beating him. It's not noticeably more effective, except for the fact that Bree does manage to tell Jamie that they were handfast.

Cue the explosions, round two:

"To think I was defending your honor, and now I come to find ye claim yourself violated upon findin' yourself with child--" Jamie says, furious.
Bree slaps him hard across the face. "I WAS violated, you self-righteous bastard! By someone else!"
Jamie stares at her in shock.
"You beat up the wrong man!"

I loved that. Perfect, just perfect!

The look of shock on Lizzie and Ian's faces is just priceless.

"My father would never have said the things you said to me. He was a good man. You're nothing but a savage." That last line is not in the book, and it made me gasp. Wow, that's harsh!

"Then who was it?" Ian asks.

Bree and Claire exchange glances, and then it's Claire's turn for a devastating revelation. "It was him," she says, placing the ring on the table.



This third bombshell is a soundless explosion, but no less powerful.

"Now where in hell is Roger?" Bree looks at Jamie, who looks at Young Ian.

"I--I sold him to the Mohawk."


The fourth and final explosion goes off with the impact of a cannon blast, leaving everyone in the vicinity reeling with the shock.

Bree slaps Ian, but her rage is not really directed at him. She realizes it was a misunderstanding.

Jamie kicks over a chair, furious, and Bree lashes out at him. "No!! You do not get to be more angry than me!" Good line, and I really think she has a point. From her point of view, Jamie has ruined her life, and destroyed any possibility of her future happiness.

With an immense effort at self-control, Bree manages to speak calmly. "Now, how do we get Roger back? Where do the Mohawk live?" She's a logical thinker, even under extreme stress.

Claire informs her that the Mohawk live in upstate New York, at least 700 miles away (!)

I really could not be happier with the way they portrayed this sequence, which is my favorite part of DRUMS OF AUTUMN, and such a critical point in the story. Excellent performances by Sophie, Sam, Cait, and John Bell!

The focus switches briefly back to Roger, still on the road with the Mohawk. His fellow prisoner has died during the night.

"Today we ride faster than yesterday," the leader of the Mohawk tells him, and they set off again.

Back on the Ridge, they're making plans to go after Roger.

Ian explains, "It's said that [the Mohawk] adopt folk into their tribe, in order to replace those as are killed or die of sickness." Can you say foreshadowing??

He shows them a medallion that the Mohawk gave him when he sold Roger to them.

Jamie says it will take four months or more to travel to the Mohawk village and back. Clearly, Bree can't go with them, pregnant.

Claire and Bree have a brief private conversation, and Bree says she's decided to keep the baby.

"It could be Roger's, right?"
"It could be."
"If there's even the slightest chance it's his, then I'm gonna keep it. Not just for him, but for me, too."

I like that.

Bree insists that Claire must go with Jamie and Ian, but for a different reason than in the book.

"The last time Roger saw them, they beat him and sold him to the Mohawk. He won't see them as rescuers. He'll run." Good point! "He needs to see the face of someone he knows and trusts, and if it can't be me--"

This is a very logical argument, but Claire absolutely refuses to consider leaving Bree and Lizzie alone on the Ridge -- "not in a million years!" So Jamie suggests that they go to stay at River Run with his Aunt Jocasta.

Murtagh volunteers to escort them, which I thought was a good idea.

"I'll ask Tom Burley to look after the crops, and the animals," Jamie says. He really needs a factor for the Ridge! Where are the Bugs when we need them?

So their plans are settled, but all the deception has left Jamie and Claire upset with one another. Jamie, because Claire knew about Bonnet and didn't tell him. Claire, because Jamie told her he'd injured his hand by hitting a tree, when he'd been beating the crap out of poor Roger.

Jamie tells Murtagh to find Stephen Bonnet. "Bring him to me in secret. I'm gonna kill him."

Meanwhile, somewhere on the road, Roger is furtively picking apart the rope that binds his wrists, exactly as described in the book:
Strand by strand, the hemp came free, until no more than a single thread of rope held him to the pony. He waited, sweat streaming down his ribs from fear and the effort of the climb, rejecting one opportunity after another, worrying from moment to moment that he had left it too late, that they would stop to make camp, that the brave who led his pony would turn and see him, would think to check.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 51, "Betrayal". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Back at the cabin, Claire and Bree say their farewells, and prepare to leave. Bree gives Claire a sketch she made of Roger.

At the last minute, Ian rushes up to Bree, saying, "For my part in this calamity, I want ye to know, if we dinna find him--" and he drops to one knee. "It would be my honor to take your hand in the holy sacrament of marriage."

I didn't like the way they shoehorned Ian's proposal in here. It doesn't really fit.

They take their farewells, and depart in different directions, Murtagh and Bree and Lizzie in the wagon, Jamie, Claire, and Ian on horseback.

Meanwhile, Roger is STILL on the road, still tied behind a horse, looking absolutely exhausted. They stop to drink, and the Mohawk leader offers Roger his canteen. Shortly after that, Roger stumbles and falls partway down a steep hill, hanging on by the rope caught around one wrist. He yells for help, and when the Mohawk try to pull him to safety, the rope breaks, sending Roger rolling down the hill.

Roger immediately takes off running as fast as he can through the woods, pursued by his captors, and eventually he manages to lose them by hiding in the bushes. (He eludes them pretty easily, but I'm not going to quibble about it!)

Meanwhile, Murtagh, Bree, and Lizzie have arrived at River Run. Lizzie stays with the wagon while Murtagh and Bree are admitted to Jocasta's parlor by Ulysses.

Ulysses tells Jocasta he has a letter from Jamie, and Murtagh speaks up, quoting from the letter: "This letter is carried to you by my godfather, Murtagh FitzGibbons Fraser." Finally! This is the first time in a very long time that we've heard Murtagh call himself Fraser.

I liked the reunion between Murtagh and Jocasta very much, especially this bit:

"Ye must have taken careful note of my hands, to recall them even after thirty years have passed."
"How could I not? You could hardly keep them from my sister, every day of her young life. Every time I looked at her, there you were with a hand out to help her, or with flowers in them for her."

Bree steps forward to be introduced, and explains her predicament in a few brief words, very calmly. Jocasta welcomes her warmly to River Run.

Meanwhile, Roger has discovered a stone circle in the middle of a clearing in the woods. The stones are very definitely emitting a buzzing sound. He walks around and around the tall stone in the middle, staring at it, as if to convince himself that it's real. Finally he fishes the two gemstones out of the hiding place in his breeches and stares at them. His ticket home, right now, if he wants it.

And as he starts to reach toward the stone, I started yelling, "No! No! No!!"

And just like that, the episode ends. What a perfect spot for a cliffhanger ending!
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 411.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out, 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.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

RIP, Diana's dachshund JJ

Sad news to start off the year. Diana Gabaldon's beloved dachshund, JJ, has died. From her Facebook page:
I'm sorry that I have to begin the year myself with bad news; my lovely dog JJ died this afternoon (complications from a freak accident he suffered two weeks ago) and we buried him next to my garden, where he loved to hunt rabbits and toads with his brother, Homer.

Homer is bereft and so are we.
JJ and Homer were litter-mates, part of Diana's family since 2009.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

December poll results

Happy New Year! Here are the results of the December poll, which asked the question, "Have you ever been to Scotland?"
  • 28.77% - No, but I'd love to visit there some day!
  • 17.67% - I visited Scotland long before I knew Diana Gabaldon's books existed.
  • 13.02% - Yes, I've been there more than once.
  • 11.21% - I visited Scotland after I discovered the OUTLANDER books.
  • 5.44% - I'm making plans to go to Scotland in 2019.
  • 4.53% - I went on an OUTLANDER-themed tour of Scotland.
  • 4.19% - I visited Scotland as a result of seeing, or hearing about, the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 3.85% - I've lived in Scotland all or part of my life.
  • 2.60% - I'd like to visit, but I can't travel due to age or health reasons.
  • 2.49% - No, but I'd like to see some of the locations shown in the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 1.93% - No, it's too far away and/or I can't afford it.
  • 0.79% - No, I like reading about Scotland or seeing it on TV, but I don't have any desire to go there myself.
  • 3.51% - Other
There were 883 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I've been to Scotland twice, in 2012 and 2016, and I had a wonderful time! The photo above, showing the Fraser clan stone at Culloden, was taken during my first visit there, in 2012.

Please take a moment to vote in the January poll, which asks, "Would you go through the stones, if you could?"