Monday, March 30, 2020

No new OUTLANDER episode the week of April 5th



STARZ will NOT be showing a new episode of OUTLANDER next week (April 5th).

They will be running a marathon of Season 5 episodes from 5pm - midnight ET instead.

Episode 508 will air on Sunday, April 12.

Please help spread the word to any OUTLANDER fans you may know. Thanks!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Episode 507: "The Ballad of Roger Mac" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 507 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Ballad of Roger Mac". I thought this was a fantastic episode, easily 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 "title card" shows Roger, in the 20th century, writing a song to play on his guitar -- and the title of the song, like the title of this episode, is "The Ballad of Roger Mac".

As the episode opens, the militia has gathered in Hillsborough, preparing for battle with the Regulators.

Hearing Roger singing "Clementine" to Jemmy, I got tears in my eyes, thinking of what's coming later. I'm very glad they included this bit.

Brianna, Lizzie, and Jemmy are staying with the Sherstons in Hillsborough, not far from the site of the battle.

"I barely knew my father before he was killed in WWII, and Jemmy is much younger than I was."

I could quibble with the details here, but I won't. In the books, Roger's father only saw him once, as an infant, so Roger has no memory of him. And clearly that's what Roger is afraid of, that if he's killed in the upcoming battle, Jemmy will be too young to remember him.

Their farewell is sweet (with a heavy dose of foreshadowing, for those who know what's coming!), and I like the way they call each other "Roger Mac" and "Mrs. Mac".

I loved the "Happy Birthday" scene, which is taken almost verbatim from THE FIERY CROSS chapter 58, "Happy Birthday to You". It's always been one of my favorite scenes in this book, and they did a really wonderful job with it!
“This is a morning my father never saw,” Jamie said, still so softly that I heard it as much through the walls of his chest, as with my ears. “The world and each day in it is a gift, mo chridhe--no matter what tomorrow may be.”

I sighed deeply and turned my head, to rest my cheek against his chest. He reached over gently and wiped my nose with a fold of his shirt.

“And as for taking stock,” he added practically, “I’ve all my teeth, none of my parts are missing, and my c*ck still stands up by itself in the morning. It could be worse.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Happy Birthday to You." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The next scene shows Governor Tryon inspecting the troops, discussing preparations for the upcoming battle. Jamie points out that Tryon's troops have cannons and other heavy artillery, but the Regulators do not.

And here comes Roger to join the troops, just a little late. Now that everyone is assembled, Jamie passes out cockades for the men to fix to their hats or coats. (In the book, they wore metal badges with "F.C." for Fraser's Company stamped on them, but the cockades work just as well and I think they're easier to see on TV.)

"I'll have one of those as well," says Isaiah Morton, stepping out from the crowd.

We haven't seen him since the episode in Brownsville, and it's clear Lionel Brown is still furious. "I should have killed you there and then. Nailed your hide to the tavern door."

Jamie breaks up their fight before it can escalate, addressing all the men in a commanding voice. "This man is willing to lay down his life. I'll not turn him away. If ye canna find it in yourselves to fight alongside him, ye may go."

That isn't in the book, but I liked it. It's totally in character for Jamie.

The next scene, with Jamie and the two young Findlay boys, is based on a scene from the book:
“[The] point of hunting is to kill something. The point of going to war is to come back alive.”

Jamie choked on a bite of corn dodger. I thumped him helpfully on the back, and he rounded on me, glaring. He coughed crumbs, swallowed, and stood up, plaid swinging.

“Listen to me,” he said, a little hoarsely. “Ye’re right, Sassenach--and ye’re wrong. It’s no like hunting, aye. Because the game isna usually trying to kill you. Mind me--” He turned to Roger, his face grim. “She’s wrong about the rest of it. War is killing, and that’s all. Think of anything less--think of half-measures, think of frightening--above all, think of your own skin--and by God, man, ye will be dead by nightfall of the first day.” He flung the remains of his corn dodger into the fire, and stalked away.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "The Militia Rises." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In the book, Jamie addresses his words to Claire and Roger, but I think it works well here to have him say this to the Findlay brothers, about to face their first battle, especially in view of what happens near the end of this episode.

"Ye canna waver," Jamie tells the boys, making sure to meet their eyes for a long moment, so they won't forget.

In the next scene, one of the British army officers informs Governor Tryon that a large group of Regulators, led by Murtagh FitzGibbons, is approaching.

Reverend David Caldwell, the Protestant minister who married Roger and Bree in Episode 501, arrives with a message from the Regulators. Caldwell, like Tryon, is a real historical figure.

"I come in hopes that we can settle this matter without bloodshed," he says.

Unfortunately, Tryon isn't in the mood to negotiate. "No," he tells Jamie. "A bold stroke is needed. To hesitate could mean defeat. I am Governor of this Province, and I cannot tolerate such a blatant disregard for the law to be allowed to go unpunished!"

Meanwhile, in Hillsborough, Bree and Jemmy are staying with Mr. and Mrs. Sherston. Mr. Sherston brings news that the Regulators are across the Alamance Creek.

"Where is that?" Bree asks.
"I can show you on a map."And Mr. Sherston very conveniently produces a large map showing the area around Alamance.

If you'd like to see it for yourself, Alamance Battleground is located near present-day Burlington, North Carolina.

Bree has a vague memory that she's heard of Alamance before, but she can't recall any details, only that "something definitely happened there." And the next thing we know, she's on horseback, galloping toward the battlefield.

This is a change from the books, where none of the characters had any knowledge of the Battle of Alamance from the history books, but I think it makes sense. If Bree has information that might make a difference, then she needs to bring it to Jamie and Claire in person. It's a logical, plausible explanation for her presence there on the day of the battle.

The next scene, with Jamie washing himself in the creek, comes straight from the book.
He took his dirk from its discarded sheath, and with no hesitation, drew the edge across the fingers of his right hand. I could see the thin dark line across his fingertips, and bit my lips. He waited a moment for the blood to well up, then shook his hand with a sudden hard flick of the wrist, so that droplets of blood flew from his fingers and struck the standing stone at the head of the pool.

He laid the dirk beneath the stone, and crossed himself with the blood-streaked fingers of his right hand. He knelt then, very slowly, and bowed his head over folded hands.

I’d seen him pray now and then, of course, but always in public, or at least with the knowledge that I was there. Now he plainly thought himself alone, and to watch him kneeling so, stained with blood and his soul given over, made me feel that I spied on an act more private than any intimacy of the body. I would have moved or spoken, and yet to interrupt seemed a sort of desecration.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "The Fiery Cross." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I thought they captured the essence of this scene beautifully! And I have to say, after seeing Jamie for most of this season with his hair in a formal queue, it's nice to see him (twice!) in this episode wearing his hair loose for a change.

I liked the way Jamie speaks about Dougal. It's been twenty-five years since Dougal's death at Culloden, and Jamie really does seem relaxed and at peace, talking about him.

And then Claire mentions Murtagh, and Jamie sobers at once. "Murtagh and I have fought back to back as well. This time we'll fight face to face, and no amount of prayer will help."

In the next scene, Brianna arrives at the militia camp. "I've come to warn you," is the first thing she says, before Jamie or Claire can utter a word of surprise or protest at her arrival.

"My professor said that some people consider this to be the spark of the American Revolution."

Well, Bree was (for a while) a history major in college, so it's just barely plausible. There's a clear parallel here to Claire, before Prestonpans, telling Jamie what little she could recall about the battle to come.
Mentally flicking the pages, I could just recall the two-page section that was all the author had seen fit to devote to the second Jacobite Rising, known to historians as “the ’45.” And within that two-page section, the single paragraph dealing with the battle we were about to fight.

“The Scots win,” I said helpfully.

“Well, that’s the important point,” he agreed, a bit sarcastically, “but it would be a bit of help to know a little more.”

“If you wanted prophecy, you should have gotten a seer,” I snapped, then relented. “I’m sorry. It’s only that I don’t know much, and it’s very frustrating.”

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Prestonpans." Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Bree is certain that Tryon's side will win the battle. Jamie's thoughts turn immediately to Murtagh. Could he be convinced to call off the fight if they assured him it was hopeless?

To my surprise, Roger actually volunteers to deliver the message to Murtagh. This is a change from the book, where it was Jamie's idea to send Roger across the lines, but I liked it.

"It's too dangerous," Jamie says.
"I know. But I'm the only one who can do it. He knows me. He knows I'm from the future. He'll believe it."

Roger has been much maligned this season, but here we see him taking action on his own initiative, including putting his life at risk, because he's the best person for the job, and not wasting a moment in worrying about what Jamie will think. That speaks highly of his character, if you ask me.

Bree looks worried, but Roger gives her a very slight smile, and she doesn't protest as he leaves on this very dangerous mission.

In the next scene, Claire and Bree are in the medical tent, making sure the supplies are ready to treat the wounded from the battle. Claire points out the penicillin, calling it "my secret weapon".

"Will the flag of truce really help him, if he's still over there when the shooting starts?" This is almost a direct quote from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 63, "The Surgeon's Book 1"), and I felt my stomach start to twist in knots, in anticipation of what's coming. (On the first viewing, it stayed that way for the rest of the episode.)

In the Regulators' camp, Murtagh is rallying his troops. "We cannot submit to tyranny!" he shouts. "We are not resisting law and order. We are fighting injustice!"

Sorry, but I can't get the image out of my head of Murtagh in Episode 502, ordering a man to be tarred and feathered right in front of him.

"[Tryon's] blood will soak this ground!"

These words, coming from someone I used to think was a likeable, sympathetic character, just turn my stomach.

Murtagh dismisses his men, and then sees Roger across the fire. They go into a tent for a private conversation.

"Tryon has a trained militia. You have farmers with knives and pitchforks."
"And they're brave as lions. They'll fight when the time comes."
"They have cannon, for Christ's sakes!"

I was a little startled to hear that kind of language from Roger, the minister's son.

Roger goes on, listing all the reasons he can think of why the Regulators can't possibly win, but Murtagh is unconvinced.

"If they wait--if you wait--in a few years, we'll all be fighting on the same side."
"Do you ken how long a few years is to men who've lost everything?" Good line.

The next sequence, showing Governor Tryon's ultimatum to the Regulators and Tryon and Murtagh reading it aloud, was very effective. I thought it was a clever and visually interesting way to include multiple points of view at once. The text of Tryon's letter comes almost word-for-word from the book:
To the People now Assembled in Arms, who Style themselves Regulators

In Answer to your Petition, I am to acquaint you that I have ever been attentive to the true Interest of this Country, and to that of every Individual residing within it. I lament the fatal Necessity to which you have now reduced me, by withdrawing yourselves from the Mercy of the Crown, and the Laws of your Country, to require you are assembled as Regulators, to lay down your Arms, Surrender up the outlawed Ringleaders, and Submit yourselves to the Laws of your Country, and then rest on the lenity and Mercy of Government. By accepting these Terms in one Hour from the delivery of this Dispatch, you will prevent an effusion of Blood, as you are at this time in a state of War and Rebellion against your King, your Country, and your Laws.

Wm. Tryon


(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "Ultimatums." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
At the words, "I lament the fatal necessity," notice Jamie, standing alone with his head bowed. This is a bit from the opening credit sequence of Season 5, but we didn't know the context until now.

Afterward, Murtagh meets again with Roger in private Murtagh seems subdued, very quiet, almost regretful. He tells Roger that he tried to persuade the men to disperse, but they would not. Roger must leave, now, while there's still time.

Roger begs him to leave as well, "for the sake of the love your godson bears you." But Murtagh says nothing.

In the next scene, Roger encounters a woman hanging out laundry in the Regulators' camp. He recognizes her as Morag MacKenzie, the young mother whose baby he saved from being thrown overboard on the Gloriana in Episode 407, "Down the Rabbit Hole".

Most of this scene is taken from FIERY CROSS chapter 64, "Signal for Action".
He gripped her hand hard, pulling her toward him, overcome with the need somehow to protect her and her children. He had saved them once; he could do it again.

“Morag,” he said. “Hear me. If anything should happen--anything--come to me. If you are in need of anything at all. I’ll take care of you.”

She made no effort to pull away, but searched his face, her eyes brown and serious, a small frown between those curving brows. He had an irresistible urge to make some physical connection between them--this time for her sake, as much as his. He leaned forward and kissed her, very gently.

He opened his eyes then, and lifted his head, to find himself looking over her shoulder, into the disbelieving face of his many-times great-grandfather.

"Get away from my wife."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 64, "Signal for Action." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
When William Buccleigh MacKenzie stepped into view, I was so caught up in the story, and so distracted by the fact that he doesn't at all resemble my mental image of the man we came to know as "Buck", that I completely failed to notice that the actor playing him was Graham McTavish, who played Dougal in Seasons 1 and 2!

I think it was a brilliant casting choice, and I'm so glad Graham was available and willing to do it! I can't imagine a better way for the show to emphasize the fact that Dougal and Buck are father and son.

Back in the militia camp, Jamie is searching for Roger, with no success, when Governor Tryon appears.

He offers Jamie a Britisn army uniform coat, just like the one Tryon himself is wearing. (And very similar to the one Black Jack Randall wore.)

Jamie manages not to say what I was thinking, which was, "Are you insane?!?? Hell, no!!" He replies politely enough, but Tryon won't take no for an answer. And eventually, Jamie has no choice but to submit, and wear the uniform of the same British army officers who tortured, imprisoned, and abused him, and menaced his family at Lallybroch, all those years ago.

I really hated this! I can tolerate it only because I understand on some level that they needed to make Jamie stand out visually, so that the viewers would be able to spot him at a distance in the filming of the battle. But I just don't think Book Jamie would have done this in a million years.

Meanwhile, back at the Regulators' camp, Morag's husband, Buck, is furious with Roger, barely able to contain himself. Most of the dialogue in this part comes straight from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 66, "A Necessary Sacrifice").

Back at the militia camp, the troops are moving off toward the battlefield. Claire comes out of her tent, takes one look at Jamie, resplendent in the Redcoat uniform, and says, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" I loved the look on her face when she said it.

I'm so glad they included Jamie and Claire's goodbyes here, almost verbatim from the book:
“I couldn’t let you go without saying … something. I suppose ‘Good luck’ will do.” I hesitated, words jamming in my throat with the sudden urge to say much more than there was time for. In the end, I said only the important things. “Jamie--I love you. Be careful!”

He didn’t remember Culloden, he said. I wondered suddenly whether that loss of memory extended to the hours just before the battle, when he and I had said farewell. Then I looked into his eyes and knew it did not.

“‘Good luck’ will do,” he said, and his hand tightened on mine, likewise frozen to the current that surged between us. “ ‘I love ye’ does much better.”

He touched my hand, lifted his own and touched my hair, my face, looking into my eyes as though to capture my image in this moment--just in case it should be his last glimpse of me.

“There may come a day when you and I shall part again,” he said softly, at last, and his fingers brushed my lips, light as the touch of a falling leaf. He smiled faintly. “But it willna be today.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "The Surgeon's Book 1." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
As the battle begins, notice the very tall pine tree snapped in half by a cannonball. That made me smile, because I have pine trees like that in my back yard.

I liked the battle scenes very much. They must have taken a tremendous amount of time and effort to film. I liked the way it started out very orderly, very "civilized", the two armies facing one another and firing in ranks, but soon degenerated into something like guerrilla warfare, with the militia hiding in the woods, and eventually morphed into hand-to-hand combat.

In the confusion, we see Isaiah Morton go down, wounded. A few minutes later, he's brought into the medical tent, where Claire assesses his condition.

"He's been shot through the lung, from behind," she says.

Back in the thick of the battle, the situation has descended into chaos. One man is beating another man's face in with a rock. William Buccleigh MacKenzie appears to have gotten away, uninjured.

In the medical tent, Lionel Brown has noticed Isaiah Morton being treated, and he's not happy about it, to say the least. When Claire points out that Morton was shot in the back at close range, Lionel knocks her syringe to the ground and stamps on it, shattering the glass and spilling the precious penicillin into the dirt.

Claire stares, in shock, unable to believe what just happened. And the first thing to go through my mind was, "So, I guess they're going to need the snake-fang syringes after all."

On the battlefield, the Redcoats are taking prisoners.  It's difficult to make out what's going on, but you can clearly see a group of men surrendering, and then some of them tied behind horses.

Suddenly Jamie comes face to face with one of the Regulators he knows, a man named Withers. The action in this scene is based on an incident from FIERY CROSS chapter 65, "Alamance", involving a pair of minor characters called Joe Hobson and Hugh Fowles.

Withers aims his pistol straight at Jamie, but before he can fire, a blow from a musket butt knocks him down. Jamie finds himself staring at his godfather, who has just saved his life. Murtagh takes two steps toward him -- and suddenly he's shot by one of the young Findlay boys.

"I did what you said, Colonel," the boy says proudly. "I didna waver." Watching this, I felt a little sick, but nothing compared to what Jamie is feeling.

Sam Heughan and Duncan Lacroix are just marvelous throughout this whole sequence. Jamie lays Murtagh down gently, tries to put pressure on the wound in his abdomen, but it's clearly futile.

"I released ye from your oath. Ye had no cause to save me. You should have done as I asked."
Murtagh shakes his head. "I'd never betray your mother, no matter who asked."

I liked that very much.

"Dinna be afraid, a bhalaich. It doesna hurt a bit to die." That did it, now I have tears in my eyes. I'm so glad they remembered this line, one of Jamie's few memories of Culloden.
“He was sitting against a tussock near the middle of the field--Murtagh. He’d been struck a dozen times at least, and there was a dreadful wound in his head--I knew he was dead.”

He hadn’t been, though; when Jamie had fallen to his knees beside his godfather and taken the small body in his arms, Murtagh’s eyes had opened. “He saw me. And he smiled.” And then the older man’s hand had touched his cheek briefly. “Dinna be afraid, a bhalaich,” Murtagh had said, using the endearment for a small, beloved boy. “It doesna hurt a bit to die.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 54, "The Impetuous Pirate." Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I loved the expression in Jamie's eyes when Murtagh died. He looked lost, alone and afraid, like a young boy.

Jamie calls for the other men to help him get Murtagh to the medical tent. Claire feels for a pulse, finds none. Jamie looks at her with desperation in his eyes. "Heal him!" But there is nothing she can do.

Murtagh's death and the reactions to it were handled with great sensitivity, befitting a character who is so beloved by fans and who has been part of the OUTLANDER TV series since the very beginning. It reminded me somewhat of the reaction of the other characters after Angus died in Season 2.

Watching Claire tenderly caressing Murtagh's face, crying, I was struck by a thought. Murtagh was one of the first people Claire encountered on her arrival in 1743. In fact, if it weren't for Murtagh, she and Jamie might never have met in the first place. It's rather mind-boggling to contemplate, isn't it?

Jamie stumbles outside, still overcome with shock and grief, and immediately runs into a jubilant Governor Tryon, who is eager to celebrate his victory in the battle. What he says to Tryon here comes almost word-for-word from the book, and I love the way Sam delivered these words:
"You will kill and maim, for the sake of your glory, and pay no heed to the destruction ye leave--save only that the record of your exploits may be enlarged. How will it look in the dispatches ye send to England--sir? That ye brought cannon to bear on your own citizens, armed with no more than knives and clubs? Or will it say that ye put down rebellion and preserved order? Will it say that in your haste to vengeance, ye hanged an innocent man? Will it say there that ye made ‘a mistake’? Or will it say that ye punished wickedness, and did justice in the King’s name?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 72, "Tinder and Char." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I liked the way Jamie drops the red coat on the ground just before he walks away. He only makes it a few feet away before his mask crumbles and he starts to cry, but he's turned away from the others, and no one notices.

Claire takes Murtagh's brooch, presumably to give to Jocasta as a keepsake.

Jamie finally pulls himself together enough to realize that Roger is still missing. He and the others search the field, finding no trace of him.

And then, without warning, we see a huge tree in the distance, with three bodies hanging from it. I gasped when I saw it, even though I knew it was coming.

Jamie comes closer, and now we can see the white flag of truce in the pocket of one of the hanged men. Roger!!

Slowly, they start to lower him to the ground -- and then the episode ends.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

*** IMPORTANT NOTE! ***

STARZ will NOT be showing a new episode of OUTLANDER the week of April 5th. Please come back in two weeks to see my recap of Episode 508.

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, March 22, 2020

Episode 506: "Better to Marry Than Burn" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 506 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Better to Marry Than Burn".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The opening title card shows Phillip Wylie, covering his face with a cone while a slave powders his hair.

I loved the opening scene, a flashback showing Jocasta, her husband Hector, and their sixteen-year-old daughter Morna fleeing for their lives after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. This whole sequence is riveting, suspenseful, and reasonably faithful to the book version, although they changed a few of the details.

Their coach is galloping down the road when the sight of a pair of English dragoons forces them to stop. Hector Cameron gives a false name, but that doesn't prevent the soldiers from searching the coach. At first they find nothing, but then one of the soldiers bends down to give the girl, Morna, a boost into the coach, and he spots a heavy box hidden underneath.

"Gold! With the King of France's mark on it. It must be intended for Charles Stuart."

Hector pulls out a pistol, and in the confrontation that follows, he manages to kill both Redcoats, but in the process, he accidentally shoots his own daughter, Morna. This scene comes straight from the book:
A pistol shot startled all of them into momentary immobility. Leaning from the coach’s open door, Hector had fired at the soldier holding Morna—but it was dusk and the light was poor; perhaps the horses had moved, jostling the coach. The shot struck Morna in the head.

“I ran to her,” Jocasta said. Her voice was hoarse, her throat gone dry and thick. “I ran to her, but Hector jumped out and seized me. The soldiers were all standing, staring with the shock. He dragged me back, into the coach, and shouted to the groom to drive, drive on!”

She licked her lips and swallowed, once.

“‘She is dead,’ he said to me. Over and over, ‘She is dead, you cannot help,’ he said, and held me tight when I would have thrown myself from the coach in my despair.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "The Frenchman's Gold." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Maria Doyle Kennedy gives a wonderful performance as Jocasta, here and throughout the whole episode. She's really a joy to watch. Her face is so expressive!

The next scene takes place at River Run, some 25 years later. Finally, we get our first look at Duncan Innes, Jocasta's fiancé. Duncan is much older than I expected (in the books, he's described as being in his mid-fifties, only a few years older than Jamie), but he's a shy, kind, considerate man, just as in the books.

Duncan gives her a gift that comes straight from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 4, "Wedding Gifts"): a pillow filled with lavender. It's embroidered with the MacKenzie clan motto, "Luceo non uro", which I thought was a nice touch.

I really disliked the way Jocasta rudely interrupted Duncan's earnest little speech with a curt, "Thank you," as though she was speaking to one of her slaves, rather than her about-to-be-husband.

"In time, Mr. Innes may afford me a wee bit of...peace," Jocasta tells Ulysses. But in the meantime, she can barely even manage to be polite to him? Geez.

In the next scene, we see Jamie holding a formal document where Jocasta names Roger and Bree's son Jemmy as heir to River Run.

"What??!?!?" I said, when I saw this. I really hated this. It's awfully contrived, and it blatantly contradicts what we saw just a few weeks ago in Episode 501.

So Jocasta just blithely ignores Roger's reaction (“I do not want your money. My wife does not want it. And my son will not have it. Cram it up your hole, aye?”) and does whatever she feels like doing anyway. And Jamie doesn't just stand by and let her get away with it, but actually signs his name to the document as a witness? Didn't it ever occur to him that Jemmy's parents might have something to say about this?

"River Run has a new master," Jamie says, smiling. I admit the thought that the "master" is barely old enough to walk is slightly amusing, but I still don't like this At All.

Meanwhile, back on Fraser's Ridge, Bree and Roger are caring for Jemmy, who is suffering from a cold. Suddenly Adso the kitten comes in, dropping a dead grasshopper at Brianna's feet. Roger and Bree notice more grasshoppers at the window.

Back at River Run, a gigantic wedding gazebo has been set up to hold the wedding reception for Jocasta and Duncan. Only Jamie and Claire are not joining in the festivities. Jamie seems preoccupied.

"It should be Murtagh, at Jocasta's side," Jamie says. Oh, come on! The most wanted Regulator in the Colony of North Carolina, marrying Jocasta Cameron? That was never going to work, and Jamie of all people should be smart enough to know that.

I like Claire's hairdo in this episode.

The dancing scene seems to be an excuse to show off the costumes, which are well done.

Lord John is among the dancers. "I must have danced with every young lady in the province," he says, and from the expression in his eyes, he didn't enjoy it much. But then, of course, he's gay.

Governor Tryon is also at the party, along with his wife. She seems to be a friendly and likeable character.

I didn't like the way Jamie seemed to be sucking up to Tryon: "We're fortunate to have a governor so wise and merciful to offer pardons to [the leaders of the Regulation]."

Tryon mentions an act recently passed, "prohibiting ten men or more from gathering under certain circumstances." I'm sure many of you thought at once, as I did, of "social distancing" and other efforts being made all over the world to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Back on the Ridge, the tenants have all gathered at the Big House to discuss what to do about the swarm of grasshoppers approaching their farms. Everyone is talking at once, until Roger shouts, "Fire!" and they all fall silent.

"That panic you felt in your chest, the instinct to protect yourselves from danger. Now imagine if there really was a fire."

And again, we're seeing this play out all over the world right now, with people panic-buying toilet paper and other supplies. Panic is a natural reaction, but we have to fight against it, and I'm glad Roger understands that.

Unfortunately for Roger, the men are looking to him for answers, and he doesn't have any.

Back at River Run, Claire is chatting with the Governor's wife when they notice Phillip Wylie arriving by boat. He looks distinctly odd, with his face powdered and ghastly white, but this is very much as described in the book:
Phillip Wylie was a dandy. I had met him twice before, and on both occasions, he had been got up regardless: satin breeches, silk stockings, and all the trappings that went with them, including powdered wig, powdered face, and a small black crescent beauty mark, stuck dashingly beside one eye.

Now, however, the rot had spread. The powdered wig was mauve, the satin waistcoat was embroidered with--I blinked. Yes, with lions and unicorns, done in gold and silver thread. The satin breeches were fitted to him like a bifurcated glove, and the crescent had given way to a star at the corner of his mouth. Mr. Wylie had become a macaroni--with cheese.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "In Cupid's Grove." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I liked Claire's description of Wylie:

"I found him rather..."
"Persistent?"
"I was going to say annoying."

Claire wanders over toward a group of ladies, one of whom is telling the others about advice she read from a "Dr. Rawlings" on how to avoid becoming pregnant. I thought it was a good thing Claire hadn't been sipping her drink, or she surely would have choked on it. "Dr. Rawlings", of course, is a pseudonym for Claire, and the medical advice they're discussing is hers.

Watching Claire butting into their conversation with her own unsolicited comments, I was reminded very strongly of the scene in Episode 206 ("Best Laid Schemes...") where Claire suggests to some French ladies in Paris that they might consider helping the poor, or words to that effect. She means well, but the ladies just don't know how to react.

As Claire turns to go, she nearly collides with Phillip Wylie, and accidentally spills her drink. They make small talk for a few minutes, but it's clear that Claire wants him to go away, and fortunately Mrs. Tryon shows up to rescue her, claiming that Jocasta wants to see her.

Back on the Ridge, there are more grasshoppers in evidence. Bree tries to console Roger, but he's still mentally comparing himself to Jamie.

"I wish your father were here."

He's sure Jamie would have found a solution, but he has no idea what it might be. "I'm done trying to out-think him," he says -- and then he has an idea.

Roger remember a story his father used to tell him when he was a boy, about farmers who used smoke to drive away a swarm of locusts. I don't know if there really is a story like that, but plagues of locusts and grasshoppers have certainly occurred from time to time throughout history. Look here, for example.

The swarm of grasshoppers in this episode is based on an incident in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, but in that case it was Claire, not Roger, who came up with the solution:
I shuddered in memory. A cloud of the nasty goggle-eyed things had come whirring through, just at the end of the barley harvest. I’d gone up to my garden to pick greens, only to discover said greens seething with wedge-shaped bodies and shuffling, clawed feet, my lettuces and cabbages gnawed to ragged nubbins and the morning-glory vine on the palisade hanging in shreds.

“I ran and got Mrs. Bug and Lizzie, and we drove them off with brooms--but then they all rose up in a big cloud and headed up through the wood to the field beyond the Green Spring. They settled in the barley; you could hear the chewing for miles. It sounded like giants walking through rice.” [....] "We torched the field, and burnt them alive.”

[Jamie's] body jerked in surprise, and he looked down at me.

“What? Who thought of that?”

“I did,” I said, not without pride. In cold-blooded retrospect, it was a sensible thing to have done; there were other fields at risk, not only of barley, but of ripening corn, wheat, potatoes, and hay--to say nothing of the garden patches most families depended on.

In actual fact, it had been a decision made in boiling rage--sheer, bloody-minded revenge for the destruction of my garden. I would happily have ripped the wings off each insect and stamped on the remains--burning them had been nearly as good, though.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "Le Mot Juste." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Roger's solution is somewhat different, but certainly worth trying, and I love the way his whole face lights up as he explains what he has in mind.

Back at River Run, Governor Tryon explains to Jamie that he intends to arrest any of the Regulators who have been involved in rioting -- and obviously that includes Murtagh. Tryon makes it clear that he wants to resolve the Regulator problem once and for all before leaving for his new post as Governor of New York.

Meanwhile, on the Ridge, Roger is making smudge pots, to produce large amounts of smoke. A pot full of dung mixed with oil and goose fat must stink pretty powerfully when heated, and I found it a little odd that despite the smell, Bree and Roger and the others don't even bother to cover their noses or mouths.

Meanwhile back at River Run, the party is still going strong. Phillip Wylie catches Claire alone. I liked the "choreography" in this scene, as Wylie moves to block her every time she attempts to leave.

"I know an Irish seafaring gentleman who does business in the port of Wilmington." That can only be Stephen Bonnet, of course.

Claire takes Wylie to another room and pours him a glass of whisky. "My husband makes it," she says -- but surely the raw spirit Jamie has been distilling on the Ridge won't become fine whisky for a few years yet? I choose to believe that Claire was fudging the truth a bit, and that the decanter was filled with Jocasta's whisky, not Jamie's.

"Which one is he, pray tell? Silver, or gold?" Wylie has noticed that Claire wears two wedding rings, and he seems intrigued by the idea.

Wylie asks when her first husband died. Awkward question! Clearly she can't say 1966, and there's a long pause while she searches for words. "A lifetime ago," she says at last. Good answer! I liked that.

"He must have been quite the man to have inspired such devotion after all these years." I have to smile at that, thinking of the enormous amount of discussion I've seen on the subject of Frank on TheLitForum.com and its predecessor, the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, over the years.

Now Claire is asking Wylie for help with Jamie's whisky-making venture. I was really startled that she would bring it up behind Jamie's back like that. Why is she trying to draw Stephen Bonnet's attention to Jamie? That sounds extremely dangerous, and very much out of character for Claire, who (in the books) wanted both herself and Jamie to have as little as possible to do with anything connected to Stephen Bonnet. I don't like it.

"[Bonnet] doesn't do business with people he doesn't know."
"Thankfully we -- I -- would be dealing only with you. And of course, there'd be your share of the profits."

Again -- this is Jamie's whisky-making operation, not Claire's. Where does she get off proposing a scheme like that without even consulting him?

Back on the Ridge, the tenants have started lighting the smudge pots. It's a big operation, but Roger seems to have things under control.

"You know, when your father left me in charge, I thought I'd have to mend a fence, wrangle the odd runaway cow. but no, I get a Biblical plague." Good line.

The next scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 43, "Flirtations". Phillip Wylie takes Claire to the barn to see Lucas, his prize stallion. I don't know what kind of horse that is, but in the book, Lucas was a Friesian, like this.

I thought this scene was really well done. Even though I knew it was coming, seeing Phillip Wylie kiss Claire without warning or consent like that seems much more shocking on screen, in this age of #MeToo, than reading about it in the book.

Claire shoves Wylie backward and he lands on his backside in the manure pile. Just then Jamie walks in, takes one look at the situation, and hauls Wylie upright, holding a knife to his throat.

"Stop!" cries Claire. "Are you really going to kill someone at your aunt's wedding? He's not worth it."

Good question, especially since we viewers saw Jamie choke a man to death with his bare hands just last week!

Jamie's reaction, once he's alone with Claire, is much more subdued than in the book. "What were you thinking, spending time alone with a man like him?" is all he says.

Contrast that with his reaction in the book:
“I’m up to my ears in Majors and Regulators and drunken maid servants, and you’re out in the stable, canoodling wi’ that fop!”

I felt the blood rising behind my eyes, and curled my fists, in order to control the impulse to slap him. “I was not ‘canoodling’ in the slightest degree, and you know it! The beastly little twerp made a pass at me, that’s all.”

“A pass? Made love to ye, ye mean? Aye, I can see that!”

“He did not!”

“Oh, aye? Ye asked him to let ye try his bawbee on for luck, then?” He waggled the finger with the black patch under my nose, and I slapped it away, recalling a moment too late that “make love to” merely meant to engage in amorous flirtation, rather than fornication.

“I mean,” I said, through clenched teeth, “that he kissed me. Probably for a joke. I’m old enough to be his mother, for God’s sake!”

“More like his grandmother,” Jamie said brutally. “Kissed ye, forbye--why in hell did ye encourage him, Sassenach?”

My mouth dropped open in outrage—insulted as much at being called Phillip Wylie’s grandmother as at the accusation of having encouraged him.

“Encourage him? Why, you bloody idiot! You know perfectly well I didn’t encourage him!”

“Your own daughter saw ye go in there with him! Have ye no shame? With all else there is to deal with here, am I to be forced to call the man out, as well?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Flirtations." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think Jamie should have shown more jealousy here.

"How are we supposed to get him back on side?" Claire asks. It sounds as though there's a word missing. Shouldn't it be "our side"?

Back on the increasingly grasshopper-infested Ridge, the tenants are setting out smudge pots in the fields, using sheets and other cloths to create a breeze to try to control which way the smoke drifts. There certainly is a lot of smoke!

Suddenly, the main swarm of insects arrives. It's immense, filling the whole sky, much as the passenger pigeons did in Episode 503. Everyone hunkers down in the fields, choking and coughing, to wait it out.

Watching all this, I couldn't help thinking that as visually interesting as it is, there's not really any dramatic tension here. Once Roger decided on this plan, it seemed inevitable, at least to me, that he was going to succeed, and so the outcome was utterly predictable. But maybe I'm biased, knowing how the similar scene in ABOSAA turned out.

Back at River Run, Jamie finds Phillip Wylie in the library. He drops a bag of coins on the table in front of Wylie.

Jamie threatens to tell the Governor's wife all about Wylie's activities. "One word in her ear and within a fortnight, every man, woman, and child in the province of North Carolina will ken what kind of 'gentleman' you are."

Instead, Jamie proposes that they play a game of whist, where Wylie will wager the stallion, Lucas, against Jamie's bag of coins. Wylie laughs out loud (and he has a very high-pitched, distinctive laugh), saying, "If you want to play at this table, Mr. Fraser, you're going to have to produce something far more valuable."

The next scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 46, "Quicksilver." Jamie asks Claire for her gold wedding ring to use as a stake.

"If we get the horse, we get to take revenge on a man much worse than Phillip Wylie." How? This makes no sense to me. How will taking Lucas damage Stephen Bonnet in any way?

"Stephen Bonnet tried to rip this [the gold ring] out of my throat, or have you forgotten?" Good line, and I loved the way Cait said the lines through her teeth. Furious, but in control of herself.

The whole question of whether Jamie is doing this for Bree's honor or for his own seems blatantly obvious to me. Phillip Wylie offended Jamie's honor by trying to seduce his wife, and so by 18th-century standards, of course it's Jamie's honor that he's fighting for.

"Then you might as well take both of them," Claire says -- and just as in the book, she drops both rings in his palm and walks away. I thought Cait was very good here.

Watching this, I'm really, really glad that they finally replaced Claire's original wedding ring with this silver one in Season 4! I can't imagine how they would have pulled off this particular scene if she'd still been wearing the old one.

Back on the Ridge, after the crisis has passed, Lindsay comes to thank Roger for his help. "My family willna go hungry this winter, thanks to you -- Captain."

So Roger has now won the trust and gratitude of Jamie's tenants, and that's a good thing, but his relationship with Jamie is still on very rocky ground. We'll hope that Jame looks on him a little more favorably after this experience.

Bree sees one last grasshopper crawling away, and brings her hoe down hard on it with a satisfied expression.

The next scene, between Jocasta and Murtagh, is well-written and well-acted, but I really didn't care for it. I'm just sick of what the fans have taken to calling "Murcasta" at this point, and I'm amazed they spent so much of this episode on such a lengthy scene between the two of them. Enough already!!

It's completely implausible, anyway. Are they seriously expecting us to believe that Murtagh, the most wanted man in the entire Colony of North Carolina, just arrived and walked into the house under the Governor's nose, so to speak, without anyone seeing him except Ulysses? (Though to be fair, I can understand Ulysses not wanting to have him shot the night before the wedding.)

Murtagh gives her a brooch made of silver, similar to the one he wears on his chest.

"Will ye wait for me?"

What kind of a ridiculous question is that, the night before her wedding? It makes no sense at all, and I really do think Murtagh has lost his senses.

"[You said] you wouldn't stand in the way of my happiness."
"Well, I'm standin' in the way of it now!" he shouts at her.

My reaction to that was, "Why don't you just go away?" Honestly, I'm so tired of this plotline!

"My father told us that you could place a MacKenzie in the hottest fires of hell itself, a fire that would burn any other man to bones, but a MacKenzie wouldna burn. A MacKenzie would survive." I like that.

And then she proceeds to tell Murtagh her version of the events we saw at the beginning of this episode, when she and Hector and Morna fled after Culloden.

"I left [Morna] there in the mud, lying next to strangers. Her bones may be there still, on the road, gone to dust, while I've sat here for thirty years, growing old in a palace made from the gold that took her from me."

I like that very much!

"My blindness is punishment for leaving her, for not looking back." Wow. That's a line I didn't notice on the first viewing.

"And I ken what sort of man you are."
"What sort of man is that?"
"A sort of man who will lose everything for what he believes in. The sort of man I swore I would never give my heart to again."

And then Murtagh finally says the words: "I love you, Jocasta MacKenzie."

I'm wearing out my eye-rolling muscles, watching this. Enough already! OUTLANDER is not and never was meant to be the story of Murtagh and Jocasta's One True Love, and I for one am utterly sick of it, no matter how beautifully written or well-acted it might be.

In the stables, Claire goes to see Lucas the stallion. "I hope you're worth it," she mutters, clearly still upset about the rings. Then Jamie comes in, obviously drunk, but holding the rings.

"Ye say and do what ye like, no matter the consequences. You think too much from your own time."

This sounds very much like Jamie in Episode 109, "The Reckoning." Surely they know each other better than that by now?

"You're a woman like no other, Sassenach, but don't forget, you're still a woman." This is really clunky writing. What does that even mean? Claire slapping him at that point made no sense to me either.

I did like the way they came together afterward, though. I sometimes think of Jamie and Claire's love for one another as a giant magnet, drawing them closer even when they try to fight against it. And you can see that here, in Claire's body language.

The sex scene here is taken from FIERY CROSS chapter 49, "In Vino Veritas".
I made a noise, and he clapped a hand over my mouth. Speared as neatly as a landed trout, I was just as helpless, pinned flapping against the wall.

He took his hand away and replaced it with his mouth, engulfing mine. I could feel the small urgent growls he was making in his throat, and felt another one, much louder, rising in mine.

My shift was wadded high around my waist, and my bare buttocks smacked rhythmically against the roughened brick, but I felt no pain at all. I gripped him by the shoulders and held on.

His hand skimmed my thigh, pushing at the drifts of linen that threatened to come between us. I remembered, vividly, those hands in the darkness, and bucked convulsively.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 49, "In Vino Veritas." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scene afterward starts out very much like the book, but then Jamie says something I didn't expect:

"[Wylie] was almost in tears, 'til I told him I'd trade him the beast for a whisky partnership."
"And an introduction to the best smuggler in North Carolina."

Did I miss something? When did Claire have a chance to tell Jamie the details of her conversation with Phillip Wylie? It seems he's following her plan to the letter, but how did he even know about it?

"Promise me that Stephen Bonnet will never take another thing from us again."
And Jamie takes the rings from his bag and gently puts them on her fingers, one at a time. I really liked the way he did that.

The next scene shows Forbes the lawyer and Stephen Bonnet in a coffeehouse.

"Your son is now the proud owner of River Run," Forbes tells him.

So the earlier scene with Jocasta and Jamie signing the formal document was only needed to set up this specific plot twist. That feels very contrived to me, and I don't like it at all.

In the final scene, Governor Tryon appears to be done with his attempts to pursue the Regulators individually. He tells Jamie to gather his men and meet him in Hillsborough within a fortnight, prepared for war. And on that very ominous note, the episode ends.
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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 507.

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.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

OUTLANDER quotes to get you through the coronavirus



How are all of you coping with the coronavirus? I have been staying mostly at home for about a week, only venturing out long enough to stock up on groceries and do a few essential errands.

As I always do in times of stress, I find myself reaching for Diana Gabaldon's books, looking for comfort, or words of advice, or just reassurance that other people have lived through horrible times, all throughout human history, and found a way to survive.

I've always admired the resilience of Diana's characters. Even faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, they don't give up, ever, and I find much to admire in that. So I thought I'd offer this collection of quotes from the OUTLANDER books, by way of distraction. Hope you enjoy them!

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, you may encounter spoilers below.


1) Jamie, in Holyrood Palace, suffering from a bad cold.
A sudden spasm of coughing shook [Jamie's] frame, and he leaned against the door once more, this time for support.

“Are you all right?” I stretched up on tiptoe to feel his forehead. I wasn’t surprised, but was somewhat alarmed, to feel how hot his skin was beneath my palm.

“You,” I said accusingly, “have a fever!”

“Aye well, everyone’s got a fever, Sassenach,” he said, a bit crossly. “Only some are hotter than others, no?”

“Don’t quibble,” I said, relieved that he still felt well enough to chop logic. “Take off your clothes. And don’t say it,” I added crisply, seeing the grin forming as he opened his mouth to reply. “I have no designs whatever on your disease-ridden carcass, beyond getting it into a nightshirt.”

“Oh, aye? Ye dinna think I’d benefit from the exercise?” He teased, beginning to unfasten his shirt. “I thought ye said exercise was healthy.” His laugh turned suddenly to an attack of hoarse coughing that left him breathless and flushed. He dropped the shirt on the floor, and almost immediately began to shiver with chill.

“Much too healthy for you, my lad.”
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "Bargain with the Devil." Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) The next quote is very appropriate these days, with all our lives being disrupted, and many people having to cancel or postpone long-planned trips or events.
Pointless to spend too much time in planning, anyway, given the propensity of life to make sudden left-hand turns without warning.
(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "A Distant Massacre." Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


3) Claire, telling Jamie about the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918-19. (If you're interested in learning more about it, I highly recommend John Barry's THE GREAT INFLUENZA.)
“I was born at the end of a war--the Great War, they called it, because the world had never seen anything like it. I told you about it.” My voice held a slight question, and he nodded, eyes fixed on mine, listening.

“The year after I was born,” I said, “there was a great epidemic of influenza. All over the world. People died in hundreds and thousands; whole villages disappeared in the space of a week.”

[....]

“I have seen that,” he said softly, with a glance at the stoppered bottles. “Plague and ague run rampant in a city, half a regiment dead of flux.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "A Noisome Pestilence." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


4) News stories about the exhausted, overworked doctors and hospital staff in the hardest-hit areas made me think of Claire, in VOYAGER, fighting the typhoid epidemic on the Porpoise essentially alone, with little more than a few barrels of alcohol.
I ached desperately; my head throbbed, my back was stiff and my feet swollen, but none of these was of any significance, compared to the deeper ache that knotted my heart.

Any doctor hates to lose a patient. Death is the enemy, and to lose someone in your care to the clutch of the dark angel is to be vanquished yourself, to feel the rage of betrayal and impotence, beyond the common, human grief of loss and the horror of death’s finality. I had lost twenty-three men between dawn and sunset of this day. Elias was only the first.

Several had died as I sponged their bodies or held their hands; others, alone in their hammocks, had died uncomforted even by a touch, because I could not reach them in time. I thought I had resigned myself to the realities of this time, but knowing--even as I held the twitching body of an eighteen-year-old seaman as his bowels dissolved in blood and water--that penicillin would have saved most of them, and I had none, was galling as an ulcer, eating at my soul.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 48, "Moment of Grace." Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) If you think a few days of "self-quarantine" are hard, imagine what Jamie must have felt, spending seven years living alone in a cave.
“You didn’t really mind, did you?” [Brianna's] voice was soft, and she kept her eyes on the valley below, careful not to look at him. “Living in the cave near Broch Mhorda.”

“No,” he said. The sun was warm on his breast and face, and filled him with a sense of peace. “No, I didna mind it.”

“Only hearing about it--I thought it must have been terrible. Cold and dirty and lonely, I mean.” She did look at him then, and the morning sky lived in her eyes.

“It was,” he said, and smiled a little.

“Ian--Uncle Ian--took me there to show me.”

“Did he, then? It’s none so bleak, in the summertime, when the yellow’s on the broom.”

“No. But even when it was--” She hesitated.

“No, I didna mind it.” He closed his eyes and let the sun heat his eyelids.

At first he had thought the loneliness would kill him, but once he had learned it would not, he came to value the solitude of the mountainside.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 42, "Moonlight." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


6) In times of emergency, when proper medical equipment is unavailable, sometimes you have to improvise. Thank God Bree is a) a quick thinker, b) an engineer by training, and c) imaginative enough to come up with a solution that no one else would have thought of.
“See, the thing is,” she said, sounding rather dreamy, “pit-vipers have beautiful engineering. Their jaws are disarticulated, so they can swallow prey bigger than they are--and their fangs fold back against the roof of their mouth when they aren’t using them.”

“Yes?” I said, giving her a slightly fishy look, which she ignored.

“The fangs are hollow,” she said, and touched a finger to the glass, marking the spot where the venom had soaked into the linen cloth, leaving a small yellowish stain. “They’re connected to a venom sac in the snake’s cheek, and so when they bite down, the cheek muscles squeeze venom out of the sac…and down through the fang into the prey. Just like a--”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said.

She nodded, finally taking her eyes off the snake in order to look at me.

“I was thinking of trying to do something with a sharpened quill, but this would work lots better--it’s already designed for the job.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 93, "Choices." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) When you're suddenly faced with a highly contagious, potentially fatal disease, it helps to have an experienced doctor nearby. The advice Claire is giving Jamie seems awfully familiar to us now, doesn't it?
“We can’t let Willie be near him,” I said, low-voiced so as not to be overheard; Willie and Ian were by the penfold, forking hay into the horses’ manger. “Or Ian. He’s very infectious.”

Jamie frowned.

“Aye. What ye said, though, about incubation—”

“Yes. Ian might have been exposed through the dead man, Willie might have been exposed to the same source as Lord John. Either one of them might have it now, but show no sign yet.” I turned to look at the two boys, both of them outwardly as healthy as the horses they were feeding.

“I think,” I said, hesitating as I formed a vague plan, “that perhaps you had better camp outside with the boys tonight--you could sleep in the herb shed, or camp in the grove. Wait a day or so; if Willie’s infected--if he got it from the same source as Lord John--he’ll likely be showing signs by then. If not, then he’s likely all right."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Plague and Pestilence." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
8) At a time like this, it's tempting to succumb to panic, but we have to fight against it, to stay focused on what needs to be done.
“But—” Brianna stopped dead, her mouth too dry to speak. Don’t go! she wanted to cry. Don’t leave me alone! I can’t keep him alive, I don’t know what to do!

“They need me,” Claire said, very gently. She turned, skirts whispering, to the impatiently waiting Robin, and vanished into the twilight.

“And I don’t?” Brianna’s lips moved, but she didn’t know whether she had spoken aloud or not. It didn’t matter; Claire was gone, and she was alone.

She felt light-headed, and realized that she had been holding her breath. She breathed out, and in, deeply, slowly. The fear was a poisonous snake, writhing round her spine, slithering through her mind. Ready to sink its fangs in her heart. She took one more breath through gritted teeth, seized the snake by the head, mentally stuffed it wriggling into a basket, and slammed down the lid. So much for panic, then.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "A Feeble Spark." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
9) This next quote seems very apt in the current crisis, when governments in many places have been slow to react. We're going to need all the sensible suggestions people can come up with in order to deal with this!
There is a saying, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I promptly invented its analogy, based on experience: “When no one knows what to do, anyone with a sensible suggestion is going to be listened to.”

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Prestonpans." Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
10) Finally, here are some thoughts about hand-washing, something we're all paying a lot more attention to these days:
A surgeon scrubs before operating for the sake of cleanliness, of course, but that isn’t all there is to it. The ritual of soaping the hands, scrubbing the nails, rinsing the skin, repeated and repeated to the point of pain, is as much a mental activity as a physical one. The act of washing oneself in this obsessive way serves to focus the mind and prepare the spirit; one is washing away external preoccupation, sloughing petty distraction, just as surely as one scrubs away germs and dead skin.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "The Fiery Cross." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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I hope you've enjoyed this collection. Wishing you all the best of luck as we get through this. Stay safe!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Episode 505: "Perpetual Adoration" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 505 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Perpetual Adoration". I thought this was another very good episode.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The episode opens with Claire in 1968, in a Catholic church, presumably St. Finbar's, the parish church in Boston Claire attended with Frank and Brianna. I didn't care for the opening voiceover, but the important point, "How many times have my prayers been answered?" leads directly into the next scene, with Claire in her surgery on Fraser's Ridge, examining a specimen in the microscope.

I love the mixture of emotions on Claire's face, as though she's afraid at first to believe that she has finally, at long last, found the penicillium spores she's been trying so hard to grow for weeks. But there they are.

Marsali comes in, and her joy at this discovery is really infectious. "Paintbrushes!" she says, referring to the shape of the spores under the microscope. I'm glad Claire had someone to share this moment with! In the book, we didn't get that, because she did so much of her experimenting alone.

The opening title card shows Claire in 1968, in the doctors' lounge of the hospital, looking through an assortment of magazines and books, until she finds THE IMPETUOUS PIRATE. I laughed when I saw that, as it's an inside joke only book-readers will fully appreciate. (More about that later.)

I loved the opening montage, with Claire's voiceover reciting (verbatim) the Prologue from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
Time is a lot of the things people say that God is.

There’s the always preexisting, and having no end. There’s the notion of being all powerful--because nothing can stand against time, can it? Not mountains, not armies.

And time is, of course, all-healing. Give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of: all pain encompassed, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Remember, man, that thou art dust; and unto dust thou shalt return.

And if Time is anything akin to God, I suppose that Memory must be the Devil.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, "Prologue". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
As the voiceover ends, we're with Claire in 1968, where she's meeting Bree for lunch. I liked Bree's concern for her. ("Are you OK? You sounded kind of weird on the phone.")  Frank is dead, and the two of them have to look out for one another.

"I just lost a patient," Claire says, and it's only later that we realize who she must have been referring to.

Claire talking about a patient who died from a reaction to penicillin despite having been tested for it ahead of time is frightening, given what we've all been going through lately with the coronavirus. Even if the probability of an inaccurate test reading is very low, it does exist, and sometimes patients die as a result.

In the next scene, Roger and Bree are in bed, having just had sex. I like the easy banter between them, the way Bree teases him, calling him "captain".

"You know how to get through to people," Bree tells Roger. And that's true, though we haven't seen that aspect of his personality much in the show, up to this point.

"I gave my oath to your father, to be in his militia, and those words mean something to him...and to me." Good line.

In the next scene, Jamie and Fergus and the rest of the militia arrive in Hillsborough. All the townspeople stare at them suspiciously, thinking they might be Regulators bent on mayhem and violence, but the tension eases as Jamie identifies himself as a militia colonel.

At a nearby ordinary, or tavern, the first thing we see is a WANTED poster with Murtagh's picture on it, very much like the poster of "Red Jamie" that we saw during the Rising in Season 2. The Redcoats are evidently taking turns throwing knives at Murtagh's face.

Lieutenant Knox is there, and seems relieved to see Jamie with his militia. He's had no luck in locating Murtagh ("A shadow in the dark, that one"), but he does have some news from Governor Tryon.

"The governor intends to pardon the leaders of the Regulator movement."

I was really surprised at that. It seems completely out of character for Tryon, considering how determined he was earlier in the season to see them brought to justice.

"As you know, I did something...excessive in the jail."

I didn't like this at all. This is clumsy writing, an example of the "As you know, Bob" technique, telling the viewers (or readers) something that the characters themselves are already aware of. It's only been a few weeks at most since Jamie witnessed Knox murdering the Regulator in Episode 502. Not likely that either Jamie or the TV viewers would forget that!

Knox tells Jamie that he has sent for the prisoner rolls of Ardsmuir Prison in Scotland. He's discovered that Murtagh was imprisoned there, but he evidently has no idea that Jamie was there as well.

Knox encourages Jamie to throw a knife at Murtagh's picture, which he does. but the blade lands just to one side of his godfather's head.

Claire's voiceover, as we transition from this scene to the hospital in Boston in 1968, is not in the book, but I liked the spiderweb imagery. It reminded me of the notion of the "butterfly effect", how small actions can reverberate across time and end up having much larger effects.

In the next scene, we're introduced to Graham Menzies (played by Stephen McCole), a Scottish patient of Claire's. Another terrific bit of casting, in my opinion. McCole has a friendly face, a twinkle in his eye, and a lovely Scottish accent, making him a very appealing character, just as he was in the book. The story of Graham Menzies is told in VOYAGER chapter 56, "Turtle Soup". They've changed some of the details for the show, but I was glad to see that his personality came through intact.

"I consider myself American these days," Claire says. This is one of those differences between TV Claire and Book Claire that they have emphasized a little too much in the show, if you ask me.

"Would you believe," Graham says, "I've lived here for more than 20 years, and still no one understands a damn word I'm saying?"

Actually, I think his accent is easy to understand. It's Roger's accent that I often have trouble with.

Claire says she's going to perform surgery to remove his gall bladder. This was major abdominal surgery in those days, unlike today, and Claire prescribes a course of antibiotics, saying that she'll run some tests first. That's very ominous, especially given Claire's earlier conversation with Bree, and from this point, it's clear that Graham Menzies is doomed.

As Claire walks away, she hears Jamie's voice in her head, as clear as though he's standing right there with her: "'Tis but one more scar. Nothing worth brooding over." (This comes from the aftermath of the duel in Episode 110, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs.")  The sound of Jamie's voice gave me chills. I really wasn't expecting that. Very well done!

I liked the way the next scene begins with Claire checking Kezzie for symptoms of an allergic reaction to penicillin, making it obvious that she's trying to follow the same protocol she would have used in 1968.

"Everything you do as a doctor involves risk," Claire tells Marsali. "Even after you've done all you can, there could still be unforeseen complications, sometimes even fatal."

I liked that, as applied to Jo and Kezzie's surgeries, but it's really obvious on re-watching that Claire is thinking about what happened to Graham Menzies.

Where did Claire get a syringe? In THE FIERY CROSS, the lack of a proper syringe to inject the penicillin was what prompted Bree to invent the snake-fang syringe that saved Jamie's life. Does that mean we won't get to see that, later in Season 5?

Notice how interested Lizzie is in the proceedings. <g>

The tonsillectomy is very well done, and reasonably close to the book (THE FIERY CROSS chapter 36, "Worlds Unseen"), except for the fact that Jamie is not present. The cauterization looked realistic to me, as a layperson, complete with a little puff of smoke.

In the next scene, Roger is trying to distract a squalling Jemmy by showing him various shiny objects, to no effect at all (accompanied by a completely unnecessary voiceover from Claire, which seems very oddly placed here) when he accidentally knocks over a container on the shelf. And for the second time this season (!), Roger discovers something important that Bree has been hiding from him, when it falls to the floor by accident. This device is already getting old, and I hope they don't do it again.

What Roger has found is the gemstone Stephen Bonnet gave to Bree in Episode 412, "Providence". I was surprised to see that Roger recognizes it, and it leads into a riveting flashback scene between Roger and Stephen Bonnet, on board the Gloriana, that is not in the book.

"Women will do anything for trinkets, coins, jewels...." I don't know about anybody else, but the sight of Stephen Bonnet dispensing advice about women turns my stomach.

"Did ye not play the ace of hearts in the last hand?" Roger asks. Very risky, considering Stephen Bonnet's temperament, to confront him directly like that, and I was glad Roger backed down at once. My thought was, yes, of course he cheats at cards, but it's not worth getting yourself killed for pointing it out!

Later that evening, Bree returns to the cabin to find Roger in a somber mood. He shows her the gemstone. "It's Bonnet's, isn't it?"

Bree rolls her eyes skyward -- not in annoyance, I think, so much as a "Lord, give me strength" sort of expression. She tells Roger about the time she went to see Stephen Bonnet in jail and how Bonnet gave her the gemstone, "for [the baby's] maintenance."

This scene is taken from THE FIERY CROSS chapter 6, "For Auld Lang Syne", and I think Richard and Sophie did an excellent job with it!

Roger is incredulous that she would have kept a gift from Stephen Bonnet, but Bree says it's for Jemmy, his "ticket home" in case he's able to travel through the stones.

I really wish they'd stop emphasizing this idea, that Bree and Roger want to go back to the 20th century, in every single episode. It's getting very annoying and tiresome!

Roger wants to know the real reason Bonnet gave her a gemstone, and finally Bree admits the truth. "Because I told him Jemmy was his."
“I told him the baby was his; he was going to die, maybe it would be some comfort to him, to think that there’d be … something left.”

Roger felt jealousy grip his heart, so abrupt in its attack that for a moment, he thought the pain was physical. Something left, he thought. Something of him. And what of me? If I die tomorrow--and I might, girl! Life’s chancy here for me as well as you--what will be left of me, tell me that?

He oughtn’t ask, he knew that. He’d vowed never to voice the thought that Jemmy was not his, ever. If there was a true marriage between them, then Jem was the child of it, no matter the circumstances of his birth. And yet he felt the words spill out, burning like acid.

“So you were sure the child was his?”

She stopped dead and turned to look at him, eyes wide with shock. “No. No, of course not! If I knew that, I would have told you!”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "For Auld Lang Syne". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And then Bree adds, "Roger, I'm so sorry! I am so sorry!" I was glad to hear this, actually. In the book, she never actually apologizes to him for it, because their conversation was interrupted by strangers approaching.

"They were just words. Words you were never, ever meant to hear."
"Words have consequences."

I like that. But then the scene gets even more emotionally intense.

"Roger, how could I ever know for sure that Jemmy is his?"
"You told him so. You've never said as much to me!"
"I didn't think I needed to."

And that should have been the end of it, except that Roger looks into her eyes and asks very seriously, "What do you truly believe?" (Is Jemmy Roger's, or Bonnet's?) And Bree can't answer him.

Roger gives her back the gemstone, takes his rifle, and leaves without another word.

Wow! This is a rare instance where I think they actually improved on the original scene, giving it more emotional power than it had in the book. I loved it!

In the next scene, we're back in 1968, and Claire has just arrived at the church for her weekly Perpetual Adoration session. (That's a beautiful church, and I'm wondering where they filmed it.)

The scene between Claire and the priest felt a little contrived to me. "The devotion between man and wife, there's nothing like it" is a sentiment guaranteed to make Claire even more depressed, as she remembers both Frank (dead less than two years at this point) and, of course, Jamie.

"It reminded me of someone....someone I lost."
"No one's lost who's not forgotten."

Nice words, but they sound so generic, like something you'd see on a Hallmark card. And of course, mere words can't even begin to reach the depths of her grief and longing for Jamie.

I liked the next scene, with Claire and Roger. It's good to see the two of them bonding, growing closer.

"Intuition comes with listening, and time." Good line.

Interesting to see Claire opening up a bit, to Roger, about her marriage to Frank.

"But to make it work, you had to lie to Brianna for most of her life, about her real father. Do you ever regret that?"
"No. No, what was important was that Bree felt safe and loved by both her parents."

Watching Claire in this scene, I can't help but be struck by how much happier, even younger, she looks now, than in the scenes set in 1968. The contrast is really noticeable when we see 1968 Claire and 1771 Claire back to back like this. I think Cait did an excellent job in portraying the differences.

"Brianna was devastated and angry when I told her that Frank wasn't her real father. You witnessed that."

More "As you know, Bob" writing. <sigh> Of course Roger wouldn't be likely ever to forget that! Still, I thought Claire gave him pretty good advice in this scene.

Roger returns to the cabin, bringing Bree a large amount of the chanterelle mushrooms she'd been searching for the day before. A peace offering of sorts.

"I'm sorry, Brianna. I'm sorry for everything."

If I was glad that Bree apologized earlier in the episode, I'm even more so to hear this from Roger. I loved the quiet, matter-of-fact way he said it. And I think that word "everything" encompasses an awful lot, including the huge fight on their handfasting night, and Brianna's rape, and leaving her to go aboard the Gloriana without a word. Now that they've both apologized to each other, maybe their relationship will be a little easier going forward.

Bree tells Roger that Stephen Bonnet is still alive. I loved Roger's reaction, jumping to his feet as though he wants nothing more than to go and kill the man with his bare hands, right that instant.

Watching Roger, kneeling at Bree's feet and promising her very seriously that the minute they know for sure that Jemmy can travel, they'll head for the nearest stones, I had a queasy feeling in my stomach, knowing all too well what's coming later this season. If he's so determined to find a way to go back, now, how is anyone going to convince him to stay, after that happens?

The next scene goes back to Jamie and Lt. Knox, in the ordinary with Murtagh's WANTED poster on the wall. Jamie has just been informed that Murtagh won't be pardoned along with the other leaders of the Regulation. And recalling that we saw Murtagh actually ordering the tarring and feathering (!) in Episode 502, I have to say I don't blame the Governor for that decision.

Knox tells Jamie his militia is to stand down and go home. So, just as in the book, they went through all that -- the Beardsleys' cabin, the events in Brownsville, traipsing all over the colony of North Carolina with all those men -- only to end up going home with nothing to show for it.

Jamie politely declines to assist further in the hunt for Murtagh, and Knox doesn't argue.

Abruptly we're back in 1968, with Graham Menzies in his hospital bed, shortly before his surgery. He says he wants to be out of the hospital in time for his next Perpetual Adoration shift at St. Finbar's.

Claire says Graham reminds her of someone she used to know in Scotland, years ago.

"He must have been a fool."
Claire laughs a little. "Well, if he was, then I was equally so."

Interesting. Claire claims later that she never spoke of Jamie to anyone, until she told Bree and Roger the truth.

Claire tells Graham she's going to start him on penicillin, in preparation for surgery the next day.

Meanwhile, in Lt. Knox's quarters, Jamie comes to deliver the muster roll with the names of all the militia members. (Presumably including Roger, as well as those men who deserted in Brownsville.)

Knox invites Jamie to play a game of chess, and their conversation is a little reminiscent of Jamie and Lord John playing chess at Ardsmuir.

Back in 1968, at the hospital, Claire is shocked to learn that her patient, Graham Menzies, has died of anaphylactic shock.

"Why wasn't I notified?"
"I...I don't know, I'm new here," says the very young nurse.
"Well, that's no excuse! I should have been called!" Claire shouts at her, dropping her clipboard and storming away.

I'm not sure what to think of this reaction from Claire. We've never seen her react by yelling at subordinates when a patient dies, so it seems somewhat out of character. But then again, I remember Claire in VOYAGER (in the book), slamming her fist down on the ship's railing of the Porpoise over and over again in impotent rage over losing so many patients.

I liked the next scene, with Claire and Joe Abernathy, where Claire is reading THE IMPETUOUS PIRATE. It's inspired by the scene from VOYAGER:
“Let me guess,” [Joe] said. “Valdez just teased aside the membrane of her innocence?”

“Yes,” I said, breaking out into helpless giggling again. “How did you know?”

“Well, you weren’t too far into it,” he said, taking the book from my hand. His short, blunt fingers flicked the pages expertly. “It had to be that one, or maybe the one on page 73, where he laves her pink mounds with his hungry tongue.”

“He what?”

“See for yourself.” He thrust the book back into my hands, pointing to a spot halfway down the page. Sure enough,

“…lifting aside the coverlet, he bent his coal-black head and laved her pink mounds with his hungry tongue. Tessa moaned and…” I gave an unhinged shriek.

“You’ve actually read this?” I demanded, tearing my eyes away from Tessa and Valdez.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, the grin widening. He had a gold tooth, far back on the right side. “Two or three times. It’s not the best one, but it isn’t bad.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Roots". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Joe is sympathetic -- he's no doubt lost his share of patients -- but he can see there's something bothering her, beyond just Graham Menzies' death. Claire looks miserable, but she won't confide in him. Not yet.

Meanwhile, back in Lt. Knox's quarters, Jamie and Lt. Knox are playing chess. Knox seems to be trying much too hard to be Jamie's friend. The two men barely know one another, and Jamie hasn't given any indication that he wants to be more than an occasional chess partner.

"Men like Fitzgibbons never change." Oh, really?  Look at Murtagh in the final scene of Episode 501 and the opening scene of Episode 502. He's changed, all right, but not for the better.

An aide brings Knox the list of the Ardsmuir prisoners, sent from Scotland. Jamie tells him that his name is on that list, but Knox doesn't believe it at first. There are a lot of James Frasers in Scotland, after all.

"Aye. But only one from Broch Tuarach."

Knox scans the documents and discovers that Murtagh's surname is actually Fraser.

"What kind of deceitful devil wears the guise of honor and talks of justice and mercy?" Good question, especially on re-watching, after we've seen what Jamie does next.

"I'm no traitor," Jamie says. Well, actually, pardoned traitor would be more accurate. <g>

"But I will not stand by and watch my kin hunted like a dog for protecting those that can't protect themselves." I like this line very much.

Knox draws his knife and threatens Jamie with it. "I believed you were a good man," he says, gesturing with the blade of the knife, which I thought was a little odd.

And as Knox heads for the door, apparently to summon his men to arrest Jamie, Jamie suddenly lunges for him and gets an arm around his throat.

I thought at first he meant just to knock him unconscious, and I watched in open-mouthed horror as Jamie literally choked Knox to death with his bare hands (!) and then proceeded to lock the door and meticulously cover up all traces of the crime, laying Knox in his bed, throwing the list of Ardsmuir men into the fire, and creating enough smoke from the hearth that it would appear Knox died of smoke inhalation.

I couldn't stop saying, "WHAT?!  WHAT??!?" the first time I watched this.  Even if Jamie was acting in defense of Murtagh, it's very hard to see this as anything other than cold-blooded murder. I was really shocked.

Jamie escapes out the window and climbs down from the roof, and just then we hear a "meow!" from somewhere nearby.

It's Adso! But much as I'm glad to see the wee gray cheetie (another piece of the OUTLANDER story falling into its rightful place), it's not enough to make me forget about what just happened.

The scene where Jamie gives the kitten to Claire is sweet, and I liked the fact that they kept some of the dialogue from the book (THE FIERY CROSS chapter 18, "No Place Like Home"). But I can't get the image of Jamie strangling Lt. Knox out of my head.

The final scene between Claire and Bree is not in the book, but it answers the question of why Claire and Bree were in the UK at the beginning of Season 2.

"I've requested a leave of absence."
"You're taking time off?" Bree is incredulous. Her mother, surgeon at a busy Boston hospital, is taking an extended leave?

Back on the Ridge, Claire is still thinking about Graham Menzies.

"Do you know what I finally realized, after all these years? Just how much I owe him. His death had a profound effect on me, so much so that I took a leave of absence from work and went to London with Brianna. And that was where we learned of Reverend Wakefield's passing. Had we not attended that funeral, we would never have crossed paths with Roger, or found you."

It is really remarkable, isn't it? The details are a little different in the books, but the "butterfly effect" triggered by Graham Menzies' death is the same, and I like that very much.

"Welcome home, soldier," Claire says, addressing him as she did a few times in Season 1. I haven't thought about that in a long time.

I thought the voiceover at the end was unnecessary and added nothing to the episode. In my opinion they should have ended on that final shot of Jamie and Claire. But it's a minor point.

Overall, I thought this was a very good episode, and I continue to be very pleased with the way Season 5 is progressing.
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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 506.

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, March 8, 2020

Episode 504: "The Company We Keep" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 504 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Company We Keep". I thought this was an excellent episode, and they did a good job in adapting this part of the book.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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The opening title card shows an unidentified but well-dressed man, tossing a silver coin. On re-watching, it's clear that the man must be Stephen Bonnet.

As the episode begins, Roger, Fergus, and the militiamen are arriving in the tiny settlement of Brownsville. Almost at once, they find a musket pointed at them from the main building, but the man holding it is aiming not at Roger but at one of the militia members, Isaiah Morton. (You may remember Morton from Episode 501, "The Fiery Cross", as the young man who was the first to swear an oath of loyalty to Jamie.)

This scene comes straight from the book (THE FIERY CROSS, chapter 28, "Brownsville"), and I relaxed at once, relieved that they're starting off with a scene that follows the original so closely.

Gunfire erupts from the window, the militia return fire, and Roger and Fergus take cover. Suddenly a teenage girl runs out of the building, sobbing, "Please, Isaiah, say you'll do right by me!" An older woman, evidently the girl's mother, drags her back inside, but not before the girl shouts, "I'd rather die than be without him!"

Roger, hunkered down listening to the gunfire overhead, is trying to decide what to do. But he's hardly a trained soldier, and this is the first time he's ever been under fire. So he mutters to Fergus, "I suppose we'd better do as they ask."

Fergus is surprised, but he follows Roger's instructions to fetch some whisky from the provisions they've brought with them. Roger orders the militia to stand down, and the shooting stops.

Meanwhile, back on Fraser's Ridge, Brianna and Mrs. Bug have returned from a shopping trip, presumably to the nearby town of Woolam's Mill, which seems to have a Colonial Home Depot, and maybe also a Colonial Walmart or equivalent. <rolling eyes>

"We got paper and books, fabrics, linen, cotton...." Bree says. (No mention of how they paid for it all....)

Mrs. Bug climbs down from the wagon, chattering to her husband Arch about preparations for supper, in a more characteristic way than we've seen her speak so far this season.

Meanwhile, Bree finds a silver coin in Jemmy's basket. Everyone is mystified. Where could it have come from? Mrs. Bug tells Bree that a stranger -- an Irishman -- had noticed Jemmy. "Saying, what a handsome lad, and did he take after his mother or his father?"

This conversation is based on a scene between Roger and Phaedre at River Run that takes place in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Was a big man, tall as you. Light-haired; he wasn’t wearin’ no wig. Was a gentleman, though.” By which, he assumed, she meant the man was well-dressed.

“And?”

“He looks round, sees Mr. Benjamin a-talkin’ with Miss Jo, and he takes a step to the side, like as he don’t want no one takin’ notice he there. But then he sees Mr. Jem, and he get a sharp kind of look on his face.”

She pulled Jem a little closer, recalling.

“I ain’t likin’ that look, sir, tell you truly. I see him start toward Jemmy and I go quick and pick the lad up, same as I got him now. The man look surprised, then like he think something’s funny; he smile at Jem and ax him who his daddy be?”

She gave a quick smile, patting Jem’s back.

“Folk ax him that all the time, sir, downtown, and he speak right up, say his daddy Roger MacKenzie, same as he always do. This man, he laugh and ruffle Jem’s hair--they all do that, sir, he gots such pretty hair. Then he say, ‘Is he, then, my wee maneen, is he indeed?’ ”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "Stakit to Droon". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I wasn't expecting this, but I think it fits well here, and it's obvious that only someone who knows the books very well could have chosen this particular bit.

Brianna is clearly unnerved by Mrs. Bug's story. She's sure it was Stephen Bonnet. She tells Lizzie they should move into the Big House temporarily, for safety while all the men are away.

Meanwhile, in Brownsville, Lionel Brown (played by Ned Dennehy), father of the girl we saw earlier, is keeping a wary eye on Roger, who urges him to sample the whisky they've brought.

Roger offers a toast "to the men of Brownsville", and is met with utter silence. He informs Brown of his "obligation" to join the militia, and Lionel Brown replies in a low, menacing tone:

"The only present obligation I have is to my daughter, and these men here, who'll break that boy's neck without hesitation if I give the word."

That line isn't in the book, but I liked it. Lionel Brown comes off as a much more intelligent and dangerous man here than in the book, and he definitely bears watching.

Brown tells Roger that he had arranged a match for his daughter with another man, but "Morton got to her first."

The next bit comes word for word from the book:
“He’s dishonored my daughter,” Mr. Brown replied promptly, having recovered his composure. He glared at Roger, beard twitching with anger. “I told him I’d see him dead at her feet, if ever he dared show his wretched countenance within ten miles of Brownsville--and damn my eyes if the grass-livered spittle-snake hasn’t the face to ride right up to my door!”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Brownsville". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Meanwhile, somewhere on the road, Jamie and Claire have stopped beside a stream. Claire is holding Fanny Beardsley's newborn daughter.

"She's a bonnie wee thing," Jamie says, and for the rest of the episode, they refer to the baby as Bonnie.

Jamie is fascinated by the sight of Claire holding an infant. Such a sad thought, that he never got to hold either of his children when they were babies, and that they weren't able to raise Brianna together.

"Do we bring a newborn all the way to Hillsborough?" Claire asks. "I'm not sure it's the best way to put the fear of God into the Regulators, unless they're afraid of a few dirty diapers."
"The surest way to send any man scurrying for cover," Jamie replies, smiling.

It's a cute exchange, and I like the bantering between them, but in the book, it was in fact Jamie who changed the newborn infant's clout.

Back in Brownsville, Fergus tells Roger that a few of the men have deserted. So his first try at command wasn't very successful. Time for a new approach. By the time Jamie and Claire arrive in Brownsville, Roger is entertaining the crowd, singing "Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie" (see one version of the lyrics here) while another man plays the fiddle.

I love the way they're including Roger singing so often in the early part of this season. Richard Rankin has such a beautiful voice!

Jamie and Claire inform the Beardsley twins that Mr. Beardsley is dead, Fanny is "gone for good", and Jamie has their indenture papers. Jo asks if they can ride to Hillsborough to fight with the militia.

"How old are you?"
Jo shrugs.
"Ye canna be older than fourteen."
"We must be older than that!"
"No, I'm telling ye, you're fourteen. Too young to fight."

I like the way they did that. It makes sense, given that Jo and Kezzie, in the show, can't believably pass for fourteen. So Jamie meant what he said in last week's episode. They're under his protection, and he's going to protect them in the only way he can, by keeping them out of the fighting.

The next order of business is to find a nursing mother to feed the baby. I liked Fergus's reaction to the sight of Claire with the newborn ("You work fast, milord"), which is pretty close to the way he reacts in the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 31, "Orphan of the Storm"), even though the words are different.

Claire is introduced to Lucinda, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Brown, who immediately puts the baby to her breast. (Where is her own infant? We don't find that out until later.) Lucinda notices right away that the baby is part black, but she's not bothered by it.

The next scene, between Roger and Jamie, is not in the book. I was a little taken aback to see Roger in "Oxford history professor" mode, and it's probably not a coincidence that when he talks like this, he reminds me quite a lot of Frank, who has a similar background.

"Do you know where the expression, 'Dutch courage' comes from?"
"I'm sure you're about to tell me," Jamie says, not really listening.

So Roger starts to explain, and quickly gets carried away. <g> "Take the First World War, for example...."

Jamie really isn't paying any attention, or he would have at least reacted with, "The what?" or "Oh, aye, Claire told me about that. The Great War, she called it." But he doesn't respond at all, because he's preoccupied with more immediate matters. He's counting heads, noticing that several of the men are missing.

Roger takes Jamie to see Isaiah Morton, who's being held captive in a little shed, saying, "I had to do something."

"D'ye ken the meaning of the word 'Captain', Professor MacKenzie?" Jamie asks coldly, biting off each word precisely. Ouch! "Your men left because you betrayed their trust."

I'm on Roger's side here. What else was he supposed to do under the circumstances, having zero command experience or training?

Jamie confronts Morton: "Now, what disarray have you and your c*ck brought upon our endeavor?" Good line.

"I already have a wife," Morton confesses. I really thought Jamie was going to hit him, but instead he draws his dirk and cuts the young man's bonds.

"My heart had a mind of its own. 'Twas as if I had no say in the matter." And this is something that Jamie, of all people, can understand, given that he fell in love with Claire so quickly.

Roger pleads for clemency. "After all, 'love makes fools of us all,'" he says, in the tone of a quotation (from Thackeray, I believe, though there's no way Jamie would know that). So he's still in professor mode, and again Jamie doesn't react -- but in fact, he does take Roger's advice, and I think that's significant. He tells Morton to go, right away.

Meanwhile, Claire is telling the other women a slightly modified story of what happened to the Beardsleys.

Alicia's mother is philosophical about it: "Fanny Beardsley may be strange, but she isn't the first woman to find herself in an...unsuitable...situation, and she certainly won't be the last." Her words are clearly intended for her daughter's ears.

Claire accidentally spills a little of her drink on a broadsheet lying on the table nearby. Alicia picks it up, curious. "It speaks of ways to prevent becoming with child."

Getting a closer look at the paper, Claire realizes that this is in fact a copy of her own medical advice, written in Episode 502 under the pseudonym, "Dr. Rawlings". So this is what was written on the other side of the paper Fergus grabbed in last week's episode. Among other things, "Dr. Rawlings" advises against the use of pills containing mercury, and against the practice of blood-letting.

Claire takes the paper. "I could use it to, um, light a fire." Wow, she really is a terrible liar!

Outside, Roger has resumed singing. This time it's "Twa Recruiting Sergeants" (lyrics here). I laughed when I recognized the song. It's very appropriate, considering their mission!

Jamie is still brooding over the fact that Roger's actions cost them several men. "Actions have consequences, Sassenach."
"Yes, I know they do, but everyone can make a mistake."

It's a good point, and Claire is probably the only one who could have told him that.

Claire shows Jamie the paper, and naturally he wants to know who Rawlings is.
"Beauchamp, Randall, Fraser, now Rawlings. You have another husband I should ken about?" Good line.

They go to find Fergus, who confirms their suspicions about how the printer got hold of it. Jamie doesn't think it will cause trouble, "unless someone tries to find the author." Gee, what do you suppose the chances of that might be? (I hate it when the show advertises possible future plot twists as though there's a bright red flashing arrow pointing to the words.)

Suddenly there's a commotion outside. "Morton's gone!"

Lionel Brown is understandably furious, but Jamie insists Morton is under his protection. And just when I thought things might escalate out of control, Richard Brown arrives.

I liked the actor playing Richard Brown (Chris Larkin) very much. From the moment he appears, he has a very commanding presence, and I couldn't take my eyes off him.

Jamie says that if any harm comes to Morton, "I'll have no choice but to consider ye traitors to the Crown, no better than the Regulators we were sent to disperse."

Wow! That particular threat is not in the book, and it strikes me as bold and very risky.

Lionel Brown and his men take offense at the word "traitors", but Richard Brown calms the situation, saying, "You sound foolish. And a drunken fool at that." I had to smile at that, because that pretty much sums up my impression of Lionel Brown from the books, especially in ABOSAA.

I liked the next scene, though it's not in the book. Richard Brown reminds me a little of Clive Russell as Lord Lovat in Episode 208, "The Fox's Lair", in terms of his sheer physical presence and force of personality.

It turns out that Richard Brown has no love for the Regulators.

"So if you have come recruiting, you could not have found any better men in all the Carolinas. We'll ride to Hillsborough with you. But they'll all be answering to me."
"As long as you're in agreement you'll answer to me."

I liked this very much.

Lionel Brown invites Claire and Jamie to stay in his house overnight. "What kind of man would I be, if I allowed a lady to sleep outside with the militia on a cold, dark night." This strikes me as foreshadowing, and very ominous.

Meanwhile, back on Fraser's Ridge, Germain and Jemmy are playing quietly by the hearth in the evening. Bree goes out to get more wood for the fire, and when she comes back, Jemmy is nowhere to be found.

Bree questions Germain: "Where's Jemmy? Where'd he go?"
"Ball," Germain says. "Ball."
Marsali questions him.
"Ball," he says, pointing.

Now I'm wondering if Germain has suffered some sort of brain injury, and I'm only half-kidding, because I can't think how else to explain why he's suddenly reduced to communicating like a one-year-old. What happened to the Germain we saw in Episodes 501 and 503, who was speaking in age-appropriate complete sentences? I didn't like that at all.

Bree is starting to panic, and you can see the thought cross her mind: what if Stephen Bonnet is somewhere nearby? Fortunately, they locate Jem pretty quickly, safe and sound.

Back in Brownsville, all of the Browns are signing up for the militia. Mrs. Brown shows Claire to a spacious bedroom, which seems awfully luxurious compared to the rest of the house. She tells Claire that the young mother who has been nursing the Beardsley baby recently lost a premature infant.

Claire and Alicia Brown have a heart-to-heart talk, in the course of which Alicia reveals that she is pregnant. The dialogue in this scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished". It's a touching scene, and Alicia comes off as a more sympathetic figure than she was in the book, in my opinion.

I liked the next scene, between Bree and Marsali, very much. It's fun to see the two of them bonding.

"I never told you this, but...I killed my father." Marsali says this very matter-of-factly, but I was startled, until she explained further. The abuse she describes ("He broke my lip. I couldn't speak for a month") is worse than anything described in the books, although I have no trouble believing that it could have happened that way.

"You see, thinking, no matter how hard or long, doesn't make something come true."

I like that. Marsali has the makings of a pretty good amateur psychologist. <g> I'm glad that Bree has found a friend, even if she can't tell Marsali everything that's bothering her.

Claire examines Kezzie Beardsley and discovers that he, like his brother, needs his tonsils out. I liked her exclamation of "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" We haven't heard that in a while.

Jamie, hearing the news, tells Claire she must go back to the Ridge with the twins. "We didna spend a day in hell to secure the safety of those lads to see them suffer now." Good line.

Jamie summons Roger by addressing him as "Roger Mac". I like that a lot. I think it's the first time he's called Roger by that nickname, which book-readers will recognize as one of the most common ways Jamie refers to Roger in the books. It may be a small thing, but to me it felt like a piece of their relationship falling into its rightful place.

Jamie tells Roger he is to take Claire and the twins home to the Ridge the next morning.

"I made ye a captain without time to prepare ye, or teach ye what the word meant."
The tone of his voice is apologetic, but Roger (the walking dictionary!) takes him literally. "From the old Friench, via Latin...."
"Take my wife home." And Jamie walks away without another word.

Roger is still feeling very much inferior to Jamie, and this seems to confirm his worst fears. "He doesna have any faith in me."
Claire disagrees. "He just entrusted you with the one thing he loves most."

I love that!

Back at the Big House, Brianna looks through her old drawings, of baby Jemmy and of Bonnet, and pitches them all into the fire. Too bad she can't dismiss the memories so easily.

The sword-dancing scene is a lot of fun. I liked watching Jamie's reaction as the first men tried it, shaking his head as if to say, "No, that's not at all how it's supposed to be done!"

Sam did a great job with the sword-dance. It must have taken a lot of practice to get that right! I just wish he'd been wearing his kilt. Still, I think he captured the essence of the scene as described in the book:
He knew--and had not needed Roger to tell him--that the old ways had changed, were changing. This was a new world, and the sword dance would never again be danced in earnest, seeking omen and favor from the ancient gods of war and blood.

His eyes opened, and his head snapped up. The tipper struck the drum with a sudden thunk! and it began with a shout from the crowd. His feet struck down on the pounded earth, to the north and the south, to the east and the west, flashing swift between the swords.

His feet struck soundless, sure on the ground, and his shadow danced on the wall behind him, looming tall, long arms upraised. His face was still toward me, but he didn’t see me any longer, I was sure.

The muscles of his legs were strong as a leaping stag’s beneath the hem of his kilt, and he danced with all the skill of the warrior he had been and still was. But I thought he danced now only for the sake of memory, that those watching might not forget; danced, with the sweat flying from his brow as he worked, and a look of unutterable distance in his eyes.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scene that follows is excellent, too, very much in the spirit of the original scene in the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished")

"I have no life but you, Claire. But if ye wanted another child, I thought that perhaps I might give ye one. One that ye wouldna have to suffer carrying."

"Please know, that if it's at all possible, I love you even more for wanting to take the chance. I also regret that we were never parents together. But regret isn't reason enough." I love the look in Claire's eyes as she says this.

"I'm grateful for every day we have." And once again I'm struck by what a miracle it is that they are in each other's arms at all, after those twenty endless years of separation.

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. Hurrying to investigate, they find Alicia Brown, who has accidentally shot herself in the arm with a pistol while attempting to commit suicide.

"You are not alone," Claire tells her, very seriously, "and your baby is worth living for." She's speaking from bitter experience there, no doubt remembering those first months after she returned through the stones to Frank, when her unborn child was the only reason she had for continuing to live.

Jamie goes out to find some whisky at Claire's request, and runs into Isaiah Morton, who insists he must see Alicia before he leaves.
“[The] lass kens ye’ve a wife already,” he said brutally, "and if her father doesna shoot ye on sight, she may stab ye to the heart. And if neither of them succeeds,” he went on, drawing himself up to his fully menacing height, “I’m inclined to do the job myself, wi’ my bare hands. What sort of man would slip round a lass and get her with child, and him with no right to give it his name?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 32, "Mission Accomplished". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This bit is taken almost word for word from the book, but Jamie's tone is much calmer than the words suggest. I thought he would have been angrier. (That's not a complaint, just an observation.)

Jamie takes Morton up to see Alicia (somehow not noticed by any of the other members of the household?) and they have a tearful reunion. There's a knock at the door, but Morton makes no effort to hide. (Risky, considering how many of the Browns would shoot him on sight!)  It turns out to be Roger.

"Are ye telling me that if someone told you to leave, and you'd never see [the woman you loved] again, you'd stand for it? That you'd obey without a fight?"

Interesting, on a couple of levels. Claire and Jamie can't help but think of their farewell before Culloden, when Jamie begged her to go, to save their child's life. And Roger has to be thinking about the huge fight he had with Bree on their handfasting night, when he left her, only to find out that she'd been raped by Stephen Bonnet a short time later.

The scene where Jamie lets the horses out of the barn to cover the lovers' escape is vivid and dramatic, and must have been a challenge to film.

"All you can hope for is that the good may outweigh the harm that may come of it." And as the episode ends, that's not a bad thought to leave us with. With luck, Isaiah Morton and Alicia Brown will find happiness, at least.
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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 505.

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