Episode 501: "The Fiery Cross" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 501 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Fiery Cross". Overall I thought this was an excellent episode, and a terrific way to start Season 5!
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
I loved the opening scene, with Murtagh and eight-year-old Jamie on the day of Ellen Fraser's death. Murtagh looks heartbroken, as well he might, considering how he felt about Ellen.
Most of Murtagh's dialogue here comes word for word from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 19, "An Oath is Sworn", and I relaxed immediately, reassured by the familiar words.
"She's gone now, but I'll always be with ye. Always." This line from Murtagh made me cry. It's been less than three months since my own mother's death. But I liked the way Murtagh managed to get a half-smile from young Jamie. It helps to know you're not alone.
I won't comment in detail on the new opening credit sequence, since I already blogged about it here, but I will say that I like it more every time I watch it.
I liked the shaving scene with Roger and Jamie. I thought it was an effective way to establish their relationship right from the start. The line about the "cutthroat razor" comes from the opening chapter of THE FIERY CROSS, in which Roger did indeed cut himself shaving on the morning of his wedding.
Jamie's wig looks very good, a vast improvement from Season 4! It's a more mature, sober hairstyle, befitting a man who'll turn fifty soon, and with his hair tied in a proper queue, he looks -- finally!! -- like the 18th-century landowner he is. I'm very relieved to see this.
"Nervous?" Jamie asks Roger.
"About what the day has in store for me, or that you have a blade to my throat?"
Good line. This scene reminds me a little of the bit in Episode 106 ("The Garrison Commander") where Black Jack Randall shaves his young orderly.
I liked the way they explained that Bree and Roger would now be living in Jamie and Claire's old cabin: "Couldn't have my wee grandson sleepin' in the woods, now could we?"
Most of the dialogue in this scene comes straight from DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 67, "The Toss of a Coin", and it seems a little odd and out of place here, given that Roger has evidently been living on the Ridge for some time since the end of Season 4. Presumably Jamie knows by this time that Roger has very little in the way of 18th-century skills. Still, I enjoyed watching the two of them interact.
So Murtagh made a silver ring for Bree, similar to the one Jamie gave Claire in Season 4. We only got a brief glimpse of it, but I like the look of it. "This one's certainly fit for my daughter," Jamie says, and I agree.
And now we get our first look at the Big House. It certainly is big <g>, with room enough to hold all manner of guests, visitors, and future members of the household.
Bree looks beautiful in her wedding finery, and I think the costume designer did a wonderful job with her dress. It's lovely and elegant, and I like the embroidery. I don't mind that they changed it from the blue wool described in the book. (Here's an interview with Trisha Biggar, the show's new costume designer, in which she explains her decision about the wedding dress.)
I enjoyed the "something borrowed, something blue" scene very much. It's sweet to see Jamie taking it so seriously, wanting to make everything perfect for Bree on her wedding day.
"And no good love'll do either of them, if he gets himself killed." For those of us who've read the books, that's pretty ominous!
I love the expression on Jamie's face when Bree turns around and he sees her in her wedding dress for the first time. It's as though he never actually saw her as a beautiful woman before, only as his daughter.
The pearl necklace looks lovely worn in a double strand like that. In fact it's the first time I've seen that necklace that I actually found it attractive. It works very well with that dress.
"No matter where I am, I will always be your wee girl." Good line.
Jamie, Bree, and Claire step outside, and Jamie calls out, "The Frasers of the Ridge are here!" That line comes from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 18, "The Flames of Declaration"), but in this context, it struck me as a little odd, given that this is a wedding, not a Gathering. Still, it certainly got the attention of everyone assembled outside.
As Claire walks down the aisle, she nods to Governor Tryon and Lord John Grey, neither of whom were there for Bree and Roger's wedding in the book. Still, I was very glad to see Lord John there, considering all he did for Bree in Season 4.
Roger looks very handsome and dignified in his blue suit.
The wedding ceremony was just wonderful, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Well done!
On re-watching, I keep getting distracted by the little boy in the front row (Germain), who can't keep still in his seat.
I liked Claire and Jamie's whispered exchange:
"Brave face, darling."
"It's as brave as I can muster, given that it's not in Latin and conducted by a Catholic priest."
Claire: <rolls eyes>
As Roger and Bree exchange their vows, Jamie looks over at Fergus and Marsali, smiling at each other with love in their eyes, and then he looks at Claire, and we get a brief flashback of Jamie and Claire's wedding in Season 1, the two of them speaking those same vows -- and it ends with Jamie and Claire, in the present day, echoing Brianna's, "As long as we both shall live." I thought that was really effective, very moving.
At the wedding reception afterward, I was struck by the variety of guests present, ranging from John Quincy Myers to Jocasta and Ulysses. And suddenly I really missed Young Ian. Every other important character is here (well, except Murtagh, but we'll get to that in a bit), but Ian is far away with the Mohawk.
I like the dialogue in Jamie's conversation with Governor Tryon.
"But I can't help but feel myself robbed of the satisfaction of seeing one particular story being brought to its conclusion. Your dispatches have kept me enthralled for these past few months, but a few too many twists and turns of plot for my taste. You know, I like to see a villain get his comeuppance."
This is, of course, a reference to his having ordered Jamie to track down and kill Murtagh in the final scene of Season 4.
The little boy who plays Germain is very cute. "Grand-pere says [....] all Presbyterians have hair-ticks." That made me laugh out loud.
Germain is a little older in the show than he is in the book, but I'm not going to complain about it. If they aged him up for convenience, to make it easier to get him to say his lines or do what they needed him to do in certain scenes, I'm willing to suspend disbelief. The fact that he's dark-haired rather than blond like Book Germain took me by surprise at first, but I'm not bothered by it.
The scene with Bree and Roger cutting their wedding cake was very nice, a little touch of the 20th century coming through. As the newlyweds looked up at the crowd, I half-expected to see a wedding photographer snapping pictures, and it took me a second to think, "Oh, right. Remember when they are!"
"But you did come back," Bree says, "and that's all that matters." I'm so glad that's settled between them!
On the other hand....
"Maybe when we go back, we can do all this again, and I'll be a little more prepared." So Roger isn't sure they should stay for good. Notice the look on Bree's face as he says this. Uh-oh! That's an issue that's going to come up again, I'm sure.
I liked the fiddle music in the dancing scene. The tune is called "My Love She's But a Lassie Yet," and it's based on a poem by Robert Burns. Here's a video.
As darkness falls, the festivities get much more raucous, with John Quincy Myers leading a drunken tongue-twister contest. Notice the young man who recites "Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers." Myers calls him Morton, so this must be Isaiah Morton. I wonder how much of Isaiah's storyline from the book will appear in Season 5?
I thought Lauren Lyle was terrific as Marsali in this scene. And Lord John, trying to elevate the tone of things a bit with the reference to Shakespeare, and totally failing, made me laugh.
I was vaguely aware that the "mashed potato" was a dance from the 1960s, but I'd never actually seen it before, so (prompted by Bree and Claire's conversation) I found this video from 1962. I can't quite picture Jamie dancing like that, can you? <g>
It's good to see Jamie and Lord John having a quiet moment to speak together. In THE FIERY CROSS, Lord John doesn't appear at all except through letters, so I see this in-person meeting as an unexpected treat for both of them. I thought this was an effective use of adaptation, to condense the original material without losing too much of the flavor of it. Lord John seems to be finding his role as stepfather to an almost-teenager (William is about twelve at this point) rather stressful, and he informs Jamie that William has gone to England, just as in the book.
The other piece of news Lord John brings is much more disturbing: Stephen Bonnet is alive and has been sighted "in the province". Brianna, just passing by, reacts with shock and horror at the sound of Bonnet's name, and we see a brief flashback of her rape. How awful for Bree, to have to relive those memories on her wedding night, of all times!
I liked Claire's comment that Frank "would be delighted that you're marrying an Oxford man." That's undeniably true.
The next scene, with Jocasta and Murtagh, was well done, but I am still not at all enthusiastic about what the fans have taken to calling "Murcasta". Enough already!
Jamie and Claire babysitting baby Jemmy was quite entertaining, and a good way to give Roger and Bree some privacy on their wedding night.
I thought Roger's serenading Bree with "L-O-V-E" was fantastic! Richard Rankin did a fabulous job with that song, which I hadn't heard before. It's a Nat King Cole song from 1964, and it works amazingly well in this context. I have always loved the use of "Yesterday" in the book (very poignant and eerily appropriate lyrics), but it would have been much too expensive, and anyway I think the upbeat tone of "L-O-V-E" suits a community wedding celebration much better.
I enjoyed the montage. The sex scenes with three different couples made me think at once of the "CODA IN THREE-TWO TIME" from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. Even Murtagh and Jocasta didn't bother me much in this context, since the focus wasn't only on the two of them.
Notice the elderly couple kissing at about 34:15, just before Jemmy cries. Mr. and Mrs. Bug, perhaps? Also Marsali, gesturing to her belly and smiling at Fergus. Another baby on the way!
That shot of Bree on her wedding night, lying wide awake in bed after having sex with Roger, but (from the look in her eyes) clearly still preoccupied with Stephen Bonnet, is heartbreaking. It's a shame that thoughts of him had to intrude on such an otherwise perfect day, but Sophie did a good job of conveying that without words.
The next morning, Jocasta and Murtagh reassess their relationship.
"In another lifetime, you and I might have had more time," Murtagh says. He sounds regretful, but ready to break it off.
"Duncan Innes has proposed marriage," Jocasta announces.
My eyes popped wide open in surprise at that. This is, I believe, the very first reference to Duncan in the TV show, and I really hope it means that they are planning to bring him into the series this season (at long last!), and assume his rightful place in the OUTLANDER universe. But I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much.
Jocasta makes it clear she hasn't decided whether to accept Duncan's proposal, so it could come to nothing in the end. Still, Murtagh's "I'll no stand in the way of your happiness," and the way Jocasta pulled her hand out of his at the end, make me cautiously optimistic. I'll be watching eagerly to see where this leads.
Meanwhile, back at the Big House, Lizzie is flirting with a young man who turns out to be Josiah Beardsley. He certainly looks the part, even if he's a bit older than the fourteen-year-old described in the book. And he appears to be wearing a wig similar to Jamie's awful wig from Season 4. It suits him far better than it did Jamie!
The scene with Roger and Jocasta is just terrific, very much as I've always pictured it from the book, and I'm so glad they kept the dialogue intact.
“If ye canna love the lad for himself, I thought ye might treat him well for the sake of his prospects.”I just love the bit at the end, after Roger storms off. Ulysses is laughing quietly. "As you hoped, Mistress?" And she smiles in satisfaction, saying, "Even better."
He stared at her, words jamming in his throat. His face felt hot, and the blood throbbed dully in his ears.
“Oh, I ken how it is,” she assured him. “It’s only to be understood that a man might not feel just so kindly toward a bairn his wife’s borne to another. But if—”
He stepped forward then and gripped her hard by the shoulder, startling her. She jerked, blinking, and the candle flames flashed from the cairngorm brooch.
“Madam,” he said, speaking very softly into her face. “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?”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Pride". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Claire, in her surgery at the Big House, examines Josiah and says his tonsils need to be removed. Jamie tells him Claire will do the surgery if Josiah agrees to come and settle on the Ridge.
And now the Governor is back, referring to Jamie as "Colonel" and telling him, "It's time for you to fulfill your oath." He leaves, with most of his troops, and Jamie, having no choice, says they will prepare to leave within a week.
Meanwhile, Roger returns to the cabin after his explosive meeting with Jocasta. He kneels down by the crib where Jemmy lies, and cuts his hand with his dirk.
"Roger, what are you doing?"
"Something I should have done a long time ago."
Yes, indeed! say all the book-fans out there (including me!) who were disappointed not to see this in the finale of Season 4.
The blood oath Roger swears comes word-for-word from DRUMS:
Roger knelt in front of her, and reaching out, pushed the shawl aside and smeared a broad red cross upon the downy curve of the baby’s forehead.I have always loved this bit in the book, and I'm delighted to see it here. Better late than never!
“You are blood of my blood,” he said softly, “and bone of my bone. I claim thee as my son before all men, from this day forever.”
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "Child of My Blood". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jamie comes home to break the news to Claire about the militia. I just love the way he says, "Tryon wants a Scot. I'll give him a Scot!"
Watching Jamie wearing the full regalia of a Highlander for the first time in many years, I thought immediately of this quote from DRUMS:
A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight--any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored Highlander in the prime of his life is breathtaking. He hadn’t worn the kilt since Culloden, but his body had not forgotten the way of it.I loved Claire's reaction to seeing Jamie dressed like this. Cait does a marvelous job of showing how conflicted she is, without saying a word. Of course she must find him irresistible, dressed much as he was on their wedding day (how could she not?), but she only looks at him with a slight, worried frown on her face. And then she nods slightly, as if to say, "Do what you have to do."
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "The Return of John Quincy Myers". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jamie walks outside, where night has fallen, and proceeds without a word to take a torch to the large Celtic cross in the yard. That gets everyone's attention in a hurry. When the crowd assembles, Jamie tells them the story of the fiery cross, taken almost word-for-word from the book.
“In the Highlands of Scotland, when a chieftain would set himself for war,” he said, his tone casually conversational, but pitched to be heard throughout the dooryard, “he would burn the fiery cross, and send it for a sign through the lands of his clan. It was a signal to the men of his name, to gather their weapons and come to the gathering place, prepared for battle.”I thought Sam was just mesmerizing during this speech, absolutely channeling Jamie Fraser with his words, tone of voice, and body language. Just perfect!
There was a stir in the midst of the crowd, a brief nudging and more cries of approval, though these were more subdued. A few men had seen this, or at least knew what he was talking about. The rest raised their chins and craned their necks, mouths half-open in interest.
“But this is a new land, and while we are friends”--he smiled at Gerhard Mueller--“Ja, Freunde, neighbors, and countrymen”--a look at the Lindsay brothers--“and we will be companions in arms, we are not clan. While I am given command, I am not your chief.”
The hell you aren’t, Roger thought. Or well on your way to it, anyroad.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Playing With Fire". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Stand by my hand," he says, gesturing to Roger. But Roger just stands there, frozen with shock, and before he can decide whether to step forward, another man (Isaiah Morton) has come forward to be first to swear the oath.
I was surprised to see the ceremony. I wasn't expecting something so formalized, nor so closely resembling the oath-taking at Castle Leoch from Episode 104, "The Gathering". But I thought it worked well.
Jamie calls Roger by name, and says, just as in the book, "Be a shield for your family, and for mine. Son of my house." And he gives Roger the rank of Captain. As Roger is absorbing that, Jamie murmurs, "You'll be safe by my side." And knowing all too well what's coming later, I felt a chill up my spine at those words.
Roger has clearly been paying close attention, because he recites the oath flawlessly and without hesitation, after hearing it only once.
And then Jamie calls Fergus, "son of my name and of my heart", which made me go, "Awwww!!"
The last scene in the episode serves as sort of a bookend to the first. Jamie and Murtagh, alone in the woods. Jamie tells Murtagh about Tryon's order, and the coming confrontation with the Regulators. As they talk, Murtagh begins putting together a miniature stone circle on the ground, complete with a tall central stone like the one at Craigh na Dun.
"Claire, Brianna, Roger....they all came to this time from another. And because they did, ye have everything you've ever wanted."
That's insightful, coming from Murtagh.
"It's no longer safe for you to remain here," Jamie says. "I know you stayed because of the vow you made to my mother, and to me. Now, I release you from it." And he tells Murtagh to go. "Be hard to find."
As the episode ends, Jamie crouches on the ground, weeping for his godfather, and for what he may be forced to do.
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 502.
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