Sunday, April 26, 2020

Episode 510: "Mercy Shall Follow Me" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 510 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Mercy Shall Follow Me".

*** 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 18th-century cobbler modifying a woman's shoe to add a little extra height to it.

As the episode begins, we are in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Stephen Bonnet and Forbes the lawyer are discussing their attempt to get Bonnet declared as Jemmy's legal father.

"But for now, I recommend that you lie low."
"I'd rather lay low under my regular mare there," Bonnet says, eyeing one of the girls in the establishment.

Judging from the very low-cut gowns, this appears to be a brothel -- Mrs. Sylvie's, to be exact, as we learn later. I'm having flashbacks to Season 2, where so much of the important business was conducted in Madame Elise's brothel.

"So I suggest you start to behave more as my lawyer, and less as my priest." Good line.

Forbes says he's provided the magistrate with a list of witnesses who were at the tavern on the night that Bonnet raped Brianna. This sounds awfully far-fetched to me, especially considering that it's been two years or so since that night.

I liked the way Bonnet said, "Not a word of this to anyone," in a deadly serious tone, a reminder that he'll kill anyone who crosses him.

Meanwhile, in a tavern elsewhere in Wilmington, Jamie, Claire, Roger, Bree, and Young Ian are making plans to capture Stephen Bonnet.

"I have a really bad feeling about this," Bree says. (She's obviously read the script!)

"I want Bonnet out of our lives for good," Roger says, "and nowhere near you or our son." True enough, but I wish they'd used the original lines from the book, which packed much more of an emotional punch:
“I willna have this man in the same world as my children,” he said, still softly, “or my wife. Do we go then with your blessing--or without it?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Claire is worried about whether Philip Wylie will keep his word.

"Well, if he doesn't, I'll likely be dead, so if ye could find the time, I'll appreciate it if ye'll make him suffer for it."

If that was an attempt at humor, it fell flat. I didn't like Jamie joking about the prospect of his death, considering that he came awfully close to dying for real in last week's episode.

Young Ian dressed in normal 18th-century clothing, in his disguise as "Alexander Malcolm", made me smile, but he looks VERY young, not believable as a prosperous whisky-maker.

Claire promises to help Ian cover up his facial tattoos, but that idea must have been dropped, as the dots are clearly visible in later scenes.

"Dinna fash," Jamie says. "Bonnet's only a man." But Roger, in particular, doesn't look reassured by that.

In the next scene, Claire and Bree visit a glassblower's shop. Claire wants him to make a glass tube for a hypodermic syringe, to replace the one Lionel Brown destroyed at Alamance.

"I prefer when they're made of glass. It's easier to sterilize." I liked the way Claire caught herself there, seeing the man's incomprehension, and substituted the word "clean".

"I swear [Jamie] is like a cat. Got nine lives, if not more." This reminds me of the bit in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES where Jamie recalls a fortune-teller in Paris telling him he had nine lives, and his discussion with Claire about how many he has left.

Jamie, Roger, and Ian arrive at Wylie's Landing. I was surprised that they just walked into the shed without checking first to see if anyone was there.

The dialogue here is based on this bit from THE FIERY CROSS:
“But you haven’t worked for Bonnet since February?” I asked. “Why not?”

Duff and Peter exchanged a glance.

“You eat scorpion-fish, you hungry,” Peter said to me. “You don’ eat dem, iffen you got sumpin’ bettah.”

“What?”

“The man’s dangerous, Sassenach,” Jamie translated dryly. “They dinna like to deal with him, save for need.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 100, "Dead Whale." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Roger's voice here sounds completely normal in this episode, as though the hanging had never happened. I don't like that.

Meanwhile, Claire and Bree are walking along the beach, looking for seashells, as though they're modern-day tourists. Seashells? Seriously? Is that the best the writers could come up with? It seems pretty contrived to me.

Back at Wylie's Landing, Roger announces that he wants to be the one to kill Stephen Bonnet.

"Now you tell me," Jamie says wryly. That made me smile.

Most of the dialogue in this scene comes straight from the book.
He saw Fraser start to speak, then stop. The man stared thoughtfully at him, and he could hear the arguments, hammering on his inner ear with his pulse, as plainly as if they’d been spoken aloud.

You have never killed a man, nor even fought in battle. You are no marksman, and only half-decent with a sword. Worse, you are afraid of the man. And if you try and fail …

“I know,” he said aloud, to Fraser’s deep blue stare. “He’s mine. I’ll take him. Brianna’s your daughter, aye--but she’s my wife.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 102, "The Battle of Wylie's Landing." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I'm really glad that they included Jamie and Roger solemnly vowing to avenge one another, because it's another indication of how much their relationship has matured.

Back on the beach in Wilmington, Bree and Claire are startled by the appearance of several whales, breaching in the ocean not far away.

"God, I love MOBY DICK!" Bree says. This is clearly foreshadowing.

Claire and Bree running on the beach is kind of silly, and as Bree says, not so easy when you're wearing stays -- to say nothing of floor-length skirts! But at least now we know where this bit in the opening credits from Season 5 comes from.

This scene seems very obviously designed a) to separate Bree and Claire (if Claire is looking for seashells, why is she climbing up the dunes, away from the water line?), and b) to cause them to let their guard down.

Meanwhile, at Wylie's Landing, a rowboat approaches and three men get out. Bonnet isn't with them.

Young Ian greets them, looking very young and innocent. When the leader asks where the barrels of whisky are, Ian looks scared, as though he hadn't expected that question, despite the fact that he and Jamie and Roger had plenty of time to plan this encounter. Through this whole scene, Ian reminds me far more of the young teenager he was in Seasons 3 and 4, rather than the fierce Mohawk warrior he's become more recently, and I found that disappointing.

Bonnet's men burst into the shed, and a fight breaks out. The proximity of the water made it more visually interesting, in my opinion, but it must have been a challenge to film!

"What took you so long?" Roger asks Jamie.
"You were doing so well, I didna think you needed the help." Good line!

And then Roger strikes the man at his feet with what might have been the butt of his rifle (I'm not sure) and he slumps, unconscious or maybe dead, it's not clear which.

In the next scene, Jamie is interrogating the survivor of the fight. "Where's Stephen Bonnet?" he demands, holding the point of a knife to the man's throat. But the man still won't talk. So what is Jamie proposing to do, exactly? Torture the man to make him speak? Frankly, this struck me as an empty threat.

Back on the beach at Wilmington, Claire has just found a large seashell, when she hears Stephen Bonnet's voice behind her.

Alarmed, Claire stands up and pulls out a small and harmless-looking knife, pointing it at Bonnet. It's clearly not much of a threat, especially against someone like Bonnet.

This scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles", though they've changed some of the details.

"How's my son?" Bonnet asks, and Claire snaps back instantly, "You don't have a son!"

Suddenly Bree runs up to them, takes one look at Bonnet holding her mother at knife-point, and freezes.

Claire shouts at her to run, but instead she stoops and picks up a pistol that's lying conveniently on the ground nearby. (Where did it come from? I have no idea.)
Marsali’s eyes were the size of saucers, her mouth clamped tight. Her gaze, thank heaven, was still trained on Bonnet, and so was the gun.

“Marsali,” I said, very calmly, “shoot him. Right now.”

“Be putting the gun down, colleen,” Bonnet said, with equal calmness, “or I’ll cut her throat on the count of three. One--”

“Shoot him!” I said, with all my force, and took my last deep gulp of air.

“Two.”

“Wait!” The pressure of the blade across my throat lessened, and I felt the sting of blood as I took a breath I had not expected to be given. I hadn’t time to enjoy the sensation, though; Brianna stood amid the myrtles, Jemmy clinging to her skirts.

“Let her go,” she said.

Marsali had been holding her breath; she let it out with a gasp and sucked air deep.

“He isn’t about to let me go, and it doesn’t matter,” I said fiercely to them both. “Marsali, shoot him. Now!”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Just as in the book, the gun misfires. Bree runs toward her mother and Bonnet, and within moments he's knocked both of them to the ground, unconscious.

Claire wakes on the beach, alone. She calls for Bree, but she has no idea where Bonnet may have taken her. Can you imagine how terrified Claire must have been at that moment? What's she going to do next?  We don't know, because the scene shifts at this point to Bonnet's hideout, and Bree's point of view.

Bree wakes on a couch in Bonnet's house, to find him pouring tea, of all things. (Stephen Bonnet most definitely does not strike me as a tea-drinker.)

Sophie Skelton and Ed Speleers are excellent in their scenes together. This first scene is well done, and Bree reacts exactly as I would expect her to. But this whole "Bonnet kidnapping Bree" plotline is based on events that occurred toward the end of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, so it takes some getting used to, for book-readers like myself who were not expecting it to happen so soon.

"I have something for you," Bonnet says, and turns to a chest on the floor nearby. The moment his back is turned, Bree grabs a fireplace poker. She glances over at the bed, obviously fearing that Bonnet will try to rape her again. But Bonnet has something else in mind.

He opens the chest, which turns out to contain a set of rag dolls. "For our son," he says proudly.

Sorry, but I don't find this believable in the slightest. The Stephen Bonnet we know from the books, and the one we have seen in the show up to this point, is a sociopath. Yes, he can be charming, but he doesn't care at all about anyone but himself. It's completely out of character to think he would take the trouble to acquire a chest full of toddler toys for "his son" to play with.

"I want to do right by you and him. To be a real father," Bonnet says, looking up at Bree with this earnest, innocent puppy-dog expression, but I don't buy it for a second.

All I can think is that it's almost a Jekyll and Hyde situation. "Good Bonnet" just wants to be Jem's daddy, but "Evil Bonnet" is interested only in what will benefit himself. He doesn't really want to be Jem's father; what he wants is to get his hands on Jocasta's property, the estate of River Run. And the more we see of "Good Bonnet", the more the sight of him turns my stomach.

In the next scene, Claire is galloping down the road, and somehow manages to find Jamie, Roger, and Ian, to warn them that Bonnet has kidnapped Bree. That's awfully convenient for the plot, though it seems Highly Improbable that she would just happen to run across the three of them on the road.

Back at Bonnet's house, Bree enters the dining room wearing a fancy gown, and finds Bonnet waiting for her with the table set for dinner.

I really disliked the whole idea of Brianna teaching Bonnet table manners and how to act like a gentleman. Bree went along with it because she didn't want to anger him, but again, I think it's totally out of character for Bonnet. "Good Bonnet" may want to learn proper table manners and how to behave like a gentleman, but "Evil Bonnet" doesn't care a bit about what society thinks of him, as long as they let him do what he wants.

"I don't think anyone can teach you a damn thing," Bree says, and I agree. Do you really think he cares for one second about following proper etiquette? It's preposterous, in my opinion.

"What I need is something I can't buy."
"A moral compass?"

That made me laugh out loud. Great comeback from Bree!

The rest of this conversation is just boring. Bree as Miss Manners? <sigh>

After dinner, Bonnet won't leave Bree alone. She tries to tell him it's "improper" for the two of them to be alone.

"I can have some of my men come and join us, if you'd prefer." Um, thanks but no thanks!

As a way to pass the time, Bree suggests, "You could read to me." Bonnet clearly doesn't like this suggestion, so she offers to read to him herself.

I liked the way they did this. Bonnet's reaction is consistent with what we know from the book:
"Stephen Bonnet canna read, nor write much more than his name.”

I stared at him.

“How do you know that?”

“Samuel Cornell told me so. He hasna met Bonnet himself, but he said that Walter Priestly came to him once, to borrow money urgently. He was surprised, for Priestly’s a wealthy man--but Priestly told him that he had a shipment coming that must be paid for in gold--for the man bringing it would not take warehouse receipts, proclamation money, or even bank-drafts. He didna trust words on paper that he couldna read himself, nor would he trust anyone to read them to him. Only gold would do.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I didn't care for the rest of this conversation at all.

"If I were to tell Jeremiah my story -- our story -- would he....feel for me?"

Again, this man is a sociopath! He has no interest in what other people feel for him, as long as they do what he wants. And hearing Stephen Bonnet babble on about "Will you teach me how to love?" just turns my stomach.

Bree reaches for a book, conveniently placed nearby, and I thought, why would a man who cannot read have books in his house? But Bree is a quick thinker. She offers to read to Bonnet the way she reads to Jeremiah, and to her relief, he agrees.

"This book is a good one. I think you'll like it." And Bonnet settles back happily to listen, like a kindergartener at story time. The expression on his face just made me roll my eyes.

Bree begins to tell him the story of MOBY DICK, from memory, pretending to read along in the book. That was a good idea, but I found the rest of this scene extremely boring and tedious. I came very close to fast-forwarding through it even on the first viewing, something I have never done with this show in five seasons. I just don't find "Bree and Bonnet's Storytime" to be compelling TV, to say the least. It seemed to last forever.

"And Ahab is drowned, then?" Bonnet's look of horror is genuine. We know from his conversation with Claire in Episode 401 ("America the Beautiful") that Stephen Bonnet has a deep fear of drowning.

"The sea....it comes for me. Darkness closes in. I cannot move. No one comes. No one ever comes."

He's clearly having a premonition of being "stakit to droon", just as in the book:
“Since I was a lad, I’ve dreamed of drowning,” he said, and his voice, normally so assured, was unsteady. “The sea comes in, and I cannot move--not at all. The tide’s risin’, and I know it will kill me, but there’s no way to move.”

His hand clutched the sheet convulsively, pulling it away from her. “It’s gray water, full of mud, and there are blind things swimmin’ in it. They’re waitin’ on the sea to finish its business wit’ me, see--and then they’ve business of their own.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 105, "The Prodigal." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And then Bonnet wants to know how to comfort little Jeremiah? Oh, come on! Enough already.

Bree has finally had enough. "A lady would say good night now," she says firmly. "And she would go to her bed. Alone."  Remarkably, that actually works. Bonnet goes out at last, locking the door.

The next morning, Bree wakes to find a woman setting out breakfast dishes on the table. It's the same woman we saw in the brothel in the opening scene of this episode.

I thought the breakfast conversation between Bree and Bonnet was awkward and not very interesting. Bree is doing her best to talk Bonnet into letting her go.

"Should we not spend more time together here, first, to bond?"  That word "bond" jumped out at me as being a very modern 21st-century concept.

Bonnet agrees to let her go and bring back Jemmy, while he looks for a place to live in Wilmington. All he asks in return is a kiss. So she kisses him, reluctantly, and his attitude changes abruptly to fury, because he can tell she's faking it.

"I'll show you what you're missing," he says, and turns to the whore we saw before, who has just come back into the room.

The scene where Bonnet has sex with Eppie comes straight from the book.
Bonnet didn’t bother answering, but thrust the bottle into her hand, whipped off the kerchief that hid the swell of her heavy breasts, and began at once to undo his flies. He dropped the breeches on the floor, and without ado, seized the woman by the hips and pressed her against the door.

Guzzling from the bottle she held in one hand, the young woman snatched up her skirts with the other, whisking skirt and petticoat out of the way with a practiced motion that bared her to the waist. Brianna caught a glimpse of sturdy thighs and a patch of dark hair, before they were obscured by Bonnet’s buttocks, blond-furred and clenched with effort.

She turned her head away, cheeks burning, but morbid fascination compelled her to glance back.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 102, "Anemone." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I liked the actress who played Eppie, though I didn't catch her name. She did a good job.

Bree takes off her wedding ring (I stared at it, wondering where she'd got a gemstone that size) and gives it to Eppie, begging her to get word to Roger.

In the middle of their conversation, Bonnet opens the door, and Eppie leaves with him without another word.

"F*ck!" Bree says under her breath. That surprised me a little, as Bree normally doesn't use that sort of language.

In the next scene, Jamie and Roger confront Philip Wylie in Wilmington, demanding to know where Bonnet is, but he says he doesn't know. Roger puts a knife to his throat, and immediately Wylie starts talking.

"There's a brothel, he frequents, Mistress Sylvie's. He and I have had meetings there." Right. Because in OUTLANDER-world, a brothel is a logical and desirable place to discuss business in public. <sarcasm> This was a cliche by the end of the first half of Season 2, and I don't think it makes any more sense now, in Wilmington, than it did in Paris 25 years before.

Meanwhile, at River Run, Forbes the lawyer has come to call on Jocasta.

We get a very brief glimpse of Jocasta's husband, Duncan Innes, and once again he's basically treated like a prop, a character with little or no personality of his own. Speaking as someone who loved the character of Duncan Innes in the books, I find that disappointing.

Forbes comes into the parlor and sprawls on the sofa opposite Jocasta in a very rude manner, considering that he's a guest in her home.

Jocasta passes along all the latest news from Fraser's Ridge, but Forbes isn't even pretending to listen. He's openly taking advantage of the fact that she can't see him.

"I want you to help me bestow some gifts upon my family." That got Forbes' attention in a hurry!

Meanwhile in Wilmington, Jamie and Claire are visiting Mrs. Sylvie's establishment. This is based on a scene from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES chapter 56, "Tar and Feathers", but their motivation for coming there (to find out Bonnet's whereabouts) is entirely different.

Looking at all of the whores in Mrs. Sylvie's brothel, I couldn't help thinking that they all looked like figures out of a Rubens painting, something like this.

Eppie is there -- having evidently taken a boat and a Pony Express to get all the way from Ocracoke to Wilmington in no time at all. <g>

Back at River Run, Jocasta is dictating to Forbes a list of all the gifts she wants to give to her extended family (and some who are not even blood relatives): Marsali and Fergus and their children, Young Ian, Bree and Roger, even Lizzie. I was half-expecting her to mention the Beardsley twins and the Bugs as well, since she seems to be listing every significant character on the Ridge. Enough is enough already, we get the point!

Through all of this, Forbes is getting more and more agitated, until finally he bursts out, "No! You can't give away my money!"

And then he grabs a pillow and tries to smother her. Jocasta struggles hard, kicking over a small bell on the table. At the sound, Ulysses comes in and wraps an arm tight around Forbes' neck, apparently either snapping his neck or strangling him, I couldn't tell which. Either way, Forbes is dead. Ulysses hurries to revive Jocasta, who is shaken but evidently unhurt.

I was startled when Ulysses called her, "Jocasta", and even more when he kissed her hand. Maybe they are laying the groundwork for future plot twists?

Back at Mrs. Sylvie's, Claire diagnoses Eppie as having anisomelia, one leg shorter than the other. She explains how to treat it by adding height to the shoe on the shorter side. This is very much in character for Claire, to gain the trust of a stranger by offering medical help or advice, and it certainly worked in this case.

Eppie tells them where to find Bonnet, and they waste no time in finding a boat. Young Ian is back in Mohawk attire, having traded "Mr. Malcolm's" clothes for the boat.

The next scene, where Bree is displayed for sale to Mr. Howard, comes straight from the book:
“Good teeth?” Howard rose on his toes, looking inquisitive, and Bonnet obligingly yanked one arm behind her back to hold her still, then took a handful of her hair and jerked her head back, making her gasp. Howard took her chin in one hand and pried at the corner of her mouth with the other, poking experimentally at her molars.

“Very nice,” he said approvingly. “And I will say the skin is very fine. But--”

She jerked her chin out of his grasp, and bit down as hard as she could on Howard’s thumb, feeling the meat of it shift and tear between her molars with a sudden copper taste of blood.

He shrieked and struck at her; she let go and dodged, enough so his hand glanced off her cheek. Bonnet let go, and she took two fast steps back and fetched up hard against the wall.

“She’s bitten me thumb off, the bitch!” Eyes watering in agony, Mr. Howard swayed to and fro, cradling his wounded hand against his chest. Fury flooded his face and he lunged toward her, free hand drawn back, but Bonnet seized him by the wrist and pulled him aside.

“Now then, sir,” he said. “I cannot allow ye to damage her, sure. She’s not yours yet, is she?”

“I don’t care if she’s mine or not,” Howard cried, face suffused with blood. “I’ll beat her to death!”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 107, "The Dark of the Moon." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
William Howard is a real historical figure who bought Ocracoke Island, NC, in 1759. According to this article, most of the natives of Ocracoke today are Howard's descendants.

Sophie was just terrific in this scene, absolutely channelling Book Bree, in my opinion.

Bonnet agrees to sell Bree to Howard for six pounds, but Howard insists they must go to his boat, where his assistant, Manny, is holding his purse. That seems like a pretty contrived way to get them all outside.

Manny turns out to be the same man who was at Wylie's Landing. Ian shoots him with an arrow, very much as he did the wild boar in Episode 508.

Bonnet tries to run to the boat, but he stumbles in the sand, and Roger manages to tackle him, pummeling him with his fists and finally knocking him out cold.

Jamie pulls out a flask of whisky. In deliberate echo of the scene in Episode 401 ("America the Beautiful") where we first met Stephen Bonnet, he allows him a sip from the flask.

"Know that whatever happens, the last face you'll see on this earth willna be that of a friend." I liked that.

The decision on what to do with Bonnet is ultimately left up to Bree. "I want to take him to Wilmington. I want him to be judged according to the law," she says, in an odd monotone, as though she's still in shock from recent events.

In the final scene, Stephen Bonnet is sentenced to death by drowning, tied to a stake in the middle of the river in such a way that he will eventually drown when the tide comes in.

Realizing that his worst nightmare is coming true, Bonnet screams, but no one on shore reacts. Slowly, the water rises, and suddenly a rifle bullet strikes Bonnet in the head, killing him instantly.

Bree and Roger are standing on the shore, and it's clear that Bree was the one who shot him.

"Was that mercy?" Roger asks. "Or was it to make sure he's dead?"

Bree doesn't answer, and the episode ends. I didn't like that at all. I wanted very much to hear her say, as in the book:
"I’m the only person in the world for whom this isn’t murder.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 117, "Surely Justice and Mercy Shall Follow Me." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Leaving it ambiguous, as they did here, just makes it look like an act of pure vengeance, but that's not what it was to Bree, at all.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 511, and look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

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, April 23, 2020

Diana Gabaldon has broken her shoulder!


I'm sorry to hear that Diana Gabaldon has broken her right shoulder.

Please join me and OUTLANDER fans everywhere in wishing her a speedy recovery!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Episode 509: "Monsters and Heroes" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 509 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Monsters and Heroes".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


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This was a fantastic episode! I've always loved this part of THE FIERY CROSS, and I'm just delighted that they included so much of Diana Gabaldon's original dialogue, as well as most of the Good Stuff from that part of the book. In my opinion, they came as close as they possibly could to "filming the book", which is just amazing to watch. This episode has already claimed a spot on my personal list of all-time favorites from the whole series. Great job by the whole cast and crew!

The opening title card is a close-up view of a buffalo. Very appropriate! I loved the way it turned to look straight into the camera. (Note: It's probably an American Bison, but I'm using the term "buffalo" throughout this post because that's the word used in the book.)

As the episode begins, Claire is examining a very pregnant Marsali. Notice the wooden stethoscope Claire is using. It's a model called a Pinard, mentioned in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.

"You know, after two, you could probably deliver this baby all by yourself."
"It does make me feel better that ye'll be there."

This is ironic foreshadowing, considering what actually does happen.

Interesting that Marsali has come to think of Claire as "my ma", or at least as a mother-substitute. Her relationship with Claire has come a long, long way since Season 3, no doubt about it!

Claire's voiceover about how "the colors of our lives were changing" is poetic, but not really necessary. I found it rather distracting as I was trying to focus on what the women were doing -- dyeing cloth with indigo.

The next scene, with Roger and Bree in bed, is taken from THE FIERY CROSS chapter 89, "The Moons of Jupiter". Jemmy is now old enough to talk, and just as in the book, he's expanding his vocabulary:
“MAMA! Chit, Mama!” Jemmy informed her, beaming, as she swung him up out of his cradle with a grunt of effort.

“You rat,” she said, affectionately. “You aren’t very popular with Daddy this morning. Your timing stinks.” She wrinkled her nose. “And not only your timing.”

“Depends on your perspective, I suppose.” Roger rolled onto his side, watching. “I imagine from his point of view, the timing was perfect.”

“Yeah.” Brianna gave him a raised brow. “Hence the new word, huh?”

“He’s heard it before,” Roger said dryly. “Many times.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 89, "The Moons of Jupiter." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love that they included some humor in this episode! It's a hallmark of Diana Gabaldon's writing, but we don't see enough of it in the show, and I think we really needed it, after the very grim events of Alamance and the aftermath of Roger's hanging.

Roger and Bree's conversation is interrupted by someone pounding on the cabin door. It's Jamie, calling urgently, "Are ye in there?"

They scramble quickly for their clothes, but Bree is wrapped only in a blanket and Roger hasn't quite got his breeks on when Jamie comes in. I loved the expression on Jamie's face as he sees their state of undress.

"Could do with a good marksman," Jamie says. He looks at Roger -- no, that won't work, Roger can't shoot -- and then at Bree, who declines on the grounds that she's supposed to be helping the other women with the indigo dyeing. It seems a lame excuse, given her skill at shooting, but Jamie doesn't question it.

Jamie, Roger, Young Ian, Fergus, Josiah Beardsley, and the Lindsay brothers set out on the hunting expedition. It's not clear at first what kind of game they're looking for. Jamie suggests that they split up, he and Roger going in one direction and the rest of the group in another, and they'll meet back at the Big House at the end of the day.

Most of the scene that follows comes straight from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 90, "Danger in the Grass".)

"I hope we're not hunting cows," Roger says. No, not cows. DEFINITELY not cows!

Jamie and Roger suddenly get a view of a nearby clearing, where a herd of buffalo is peacefully grazing. (We will assume the beasts are responsible for the neatly-mowed look of the grass. <g>)  Even knowing it was coming, the sight took my breath away, as I recalled that at this time (1771) there were millions of these animals in North America.

Jamie takes a shot at the nearest buffalo, but the animal gets away. He stops by a tree to reload his rifle, motioning for Roger to follow the buffalo. But moments later, Jamie cries out in pain, and we see a rattlesnake coiled at his feet. Jamie has been bitten!

Jamie chops furiously at the snake with his dirk, slicing it into pieces. But it's too late; the damage has already been done. This scene is very close to the book, except for the location of the puncture wounds. In the book, Jamie was bitten on the calf, but here he was bitten above the knee.

Roger cuts deep into Jamie's leg with a sgian dubh, and sucks at the wound.
There was no panic, but his sense of urgency was rising. How fast did venom spread? He had no more than minutes, maybe less. Roger sucked as hard as he could, blood filling his mouth with the taste of hot metal. He sucked and spat in quiet frenzy, blood spattering on the yellow leaves, Fraser’s leg hairs scratchy against his lips. With the peculiar diffusion of mind that attends emergency, he thought of a dozen fleeting things at once, even as he bent his whole concentration to the task at hand.

Was the bloody snake really dead?
How poisonous was it?
Had the buffalo got away?
Christ, was he doing this right?
Brianna would kill him if he let her father die. So would Claire.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 90, "Danger in the Grass." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Richard Rankin did a good job of communicating the urgency of the situation, even though we couldn't tell what he was thinking.

"Go find the others," Jamie says. That strikes me as a really bad idea, leaving him alone and seriously injured in the middle of the wilderness, but Roger doesn't argue.

Just as he's about to leave, Roger spots the snake's severed head lying on the ground, and picks it up, wrapped in a cloth. (Good thinking!)

In the next scene, the women of the Ridge are dyeing cloth blue with indigo.

"It's a good day for dyeing," Lizzie says. That made me laugh, a little nervously. Of course she means the indigo, but under the circumstances, I agree with Bree and Claire, it's a very ominous thing to say!

When Bree asks Claire, "Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?" I smiled, recognizing another scene based on the book
“I am ... what I am. Doctor, nurse, healer, witch--whatever folk call it, the name doesn’t matter. I was born to be that; I will be that ’til I die. If I should lose you--or Jamie--I wouldn’t be quite a whole person any longer, but I would still have that left. For a little time,” she went on, so softly that Brianna had to strain to hear her, “after I went ... back ... before you came ... that was all I had. Just the knowing.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 78, "No Small Thing." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
But Bree is concerned about her own prospects, so Claire adds, "You're an engineer, Bree, and whatever they call that here, you just have to find a way to be that."

I'm glad they included this. We've seen almost no hint of Bree's engineering skills in the show since she arrived in the 18th century, and it's good to be reminded.

And what about Jamie? Claire's answer is different from the book. "A laird, husband, father. Those are no small things to be."

In the book, she calls him "A man. And that's no small thing to be." Big difference!

"Be patient," Claire tells Bree. "If going back to our time isn't a possibility, Roger will find his purpose, and so will you."

So it sounds like they are finally letting go of the idea, repeated so often in the early part of Season 5, that Bree and Roger intend to go back through the stones at the earliest possible opportunity. I'm cautiously optimistic that they've put that notion aside now, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, back in the woods, Roger is searching for the other men. He tries to call out, but it's clearly very painful, and he can't keep it up. So he fires his rifle and his pistol, hoping to attract their attention. No good. He turns and heads back toward Jamie.

The next scene, in which the rest of the men return home without Jamie and Roger, reminded me strongly of a scene from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER:
“Aye,” Ian said, “have ye brought any of the men back with ye, or is this only a visit?”

“Brought them back?” [....] “What d’ye mean, Ian?” he demanded. “The men should all ha’ returned a month ago. Did some of them not come home?”

I held small Maggie tight, a dreadful feeling of foreboding coming over me as I watched the smile fade from Ian’s face.

“None of them came back, Jamie,” he said slowly, his long, good-humored face suddenly mirroring the grim expression he saw on Jamie’s. “We havena seen hide nor hair of any of them, since they marched awa’ with you.”

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41, "The Seer's Curse." Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
When Roger returns to Jamie, he finds him cooking pieces of the snake over a fire. "Fair is fair," Jamie says, as he takes a bite.

Roger asks if he's been drinking too much whisky, and Jamie actually laughs. I think this is the first time we've seen Jamie relax enough in Roger's presence to laugh, which is remarkable under the circumstances.

In the middle of the night, Jamie asks if Roger knows the Last Rites. "I know a prayer for the sick," Roger says, "and before ye ask, no, it's not in Latin." Both of them chuckle at that, and so did I.

Jamie explains his plan for arranging a meeting with Stephen Bonnet.

"I don't know if I could take another man's life. Even one who's done what Bonnet has done." Roger is being honest, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

I like this conversation. Jamie talks about his first meeting with Bonnet, how he let the man go, and he lists all the horrible things Bonnet has done since then, up to and including what he did to Bree.

"A hell of a time to get philosophical."
"No time like the present," Jamie says. "And you're a university professor, or so everyone keeps telling me." (And then he leans over and vomits.)

But there's a difference in their interactions now. This is a life-and-death emergency, and there's no more time for animosity or resentment between them. For the first time, they're speaking as equals, man to man, not father-in-law to son-in-law, let alone Colonel and Captain. The more I see of this, the more I like it. Jamie and Roger's relationship is finally (at long, long last!) falling into its rightful place, and I find it just as fascinating to watch on TV as I do in reading the books.

"Jocasta bequeathed River Run to wee Jemmy." Roger doesn't react, but I'm still angry about this. What part of "cram it up your hole, aye?" did Jocasta not understand!?!

"I have reason to believe Bonnet will try to claim your son as his own." Yes, and this is one of those plot points that they made incredibly obvious earlier in the season.

"[The witnesses will say that] Bree was willing to lay with him for a silver ring."

Um, not to nitpick a dying man, but a) it's "lie", not "lay" (Diana Gabaldon says she can't get them to use the word correctly), and b) it wasn't a silver ring, it was a ring made out of an iron key.

And speaking of nitpicking, I laughed a little to hear Jamie correcting Roger, the minister's son, on a Bible verse.

"There's a fine line between a monster and a hero," Jamie says.

So, what does that mean, exactly? Roger has basically just admitted that some people need killing, that the world would be better off without Stephen Bonnet. So if Roger kills another human being, he's a monster, but if the person he kills happens to be Stephen Bonnet, he'll be a hero, for doing away with him? That's my take on it, anyway.

"Even though I blamed ye for hesitating to come back," Jamie says, reaching out to touch Roger's arm, "I'm glad you're here."

I love that! Thank God they've reconciled at last.

At dawn the next morning, Roger sets out for home, pulling Jamie on a travois behind him.

"If I go to hell, I'm glad you're coming with me," Jamie says. If that line sounds familiar, it's because it's very similar to a remark by Ian the Elder in Episode 113, "The Watch", that was taken from Diana Gabaldon's story, "Virgins".

I'm so glad they included Jamie's dying wishes to Roger regarding Claire and the others. That was very well done, and almost word for word from the book. When Jamie says, "Tell Claire....I meant it," he is referring to what he told her when they first settled in North Carolina:
“So long as my body lives, and yours—we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

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

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I liked Roger praying over Jamie. That seemed very natural and very much in character.

In the next scene, a search party led by Young Ian is hunting for Roger and Jamie. Roger hears them calling in the distance. But he is exhausted from pulling the travois as fast as he can, and he has no voice left to call out. So how can he make them hear him? In desperation, he starts pounding a stick against a tree, over and over again, then picks up the travois again to keep moving. Just when he is about to collapse from exhaustion, Rollo finds them.

I liked the way they did that, though I thought it would have been even more realistic if Roger had re-loaded the rifle or the pistol and fired another shot into the air.

The next scene is in Claire's surgery, where Jamie lies on the table, looking in pretty good condition, except for the bright red color of his leg. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from FIERY CROSS chapter 91, "Domestic Management", but when Claire mentions the word "autopsy", Jamie stiffens.

"Autopsy? Like what you did to Leith Farrish?"

Farrish was the "prop-corpse" in Episode 502 ("Between Two Fires") whose gory carcass was featured in scene after scene. I really wish they hadn't gone out of their way to remind us of that!

Claire asks Marsali to tell the others to find maggots for Jamie's leg.

"Fergus said Jamie was making snide remarks about the sled Roger made." I hope he was just joking, in that case. We have had quite enough of Jamie belittling Roger!

The scenes of everyone on the Ridge looking for maggots in the dirt just looked sort of silly to me. Maggots feed on dead flesh, so wouldn't you need an obviously-dead animal of some kind? And if so, it wouldn't be likely to be buried so far underground that you'd need to dig it up.

While Claire has a whispered conversation with Bree, Jamie's eyes fix on Claire's amputation saw, lying on the table nearby.

The dialogue here comes from the book:
“Bloody man. Stepping on a snake! Couldn’t you have looked where you were going?”

“Not whilst chasing a thousand-weight of meat downhill,” he said, smiling. I felt a tiny relaxation in the muscles under my hands, and repressed the urge to smile back. I glared down at him instead.

“You scared bloody hell out of me!” That at least was sincere.

The eyebrow went up again.

“Maybe ye think I wasna frightened, too?”

“You’re not allowed,” I said firmly. “Only one of us can be scared at a time, and it’s my turn.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 91, "Domestic Management" . Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I thought Claire was much too subdued in her reaction. Jamie's basically giving her a chance to let out some of her frustrations, to shout at him if she wants to, but she doesn't take advantage of it, and that surprised me.

That evening, Jamie climbs briefly out of bed and manages to grab the amputation saw. The scene that follows comes almost verbatim from the book, and I thought Sam was just perfect!

(Side note: Jamie really needs a living will, don't you think? <g> "No amputations of major body parts without my express permission," that sort of thing.)

In the next scene, Roger tells Bree about Jamie's plan to lure Stephen Bonnet to Wylie's Landing. He says Bonnet may be planning to take Jemmy away from them. The whole scene seems designed to get Bree's reaction to things that Roger, and the audience, already know, and so it feels repetitive to me. I also don't think Roger would be insensitive enough to mention the word "rape" in Bree's hearing.

If you ask me, Stephen Bonnet's continued existence is enough of a threat all by itself. This whole idea of Bonnet wanting to claim Jemmy just feels very contrived, and I don't like it at all.

Fortunately, we're distracted at this point by the arrival of a buffalo at the Big House!
It had walked casually through the paddock fence, snapping the rails as though they were matchsticks, and stood now in the midst of the pumpkin patch by the house, vines jerking in its mouth as it chewed. It stood huge and dark and wooly, ten feet away from Jemmy, who stared up at it with round, round eyes and open mouth, his gourd forgotten in his hands.

Marsali let out another screech, and Jemmy, catching her terror, began to scream for his mother. I turned, and--feeling as though I were moving in slow motion, though I was surely not--snatched the saw neatly from Jamie’s hand, went out the door, and headed for the yard, thinking as I did so that buffalo looked so much smaller in zoos.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 91, "Domestic Management" . Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
I loved this scene! Except for the part where Claire shoots the buffalo (dramatic, but much too reminiscent of #SuperClaire from Season 3 for my taste), it was very much as I've always pictured it from the book. I'm impressed that they were able to pull it off.

In the next scene, Claire is treating Jamie's leg wound with maggots.

"He's a great comfort, that Roger Mac." Awwww! I'm SO glad they've finally mended their relationship!

CGI or not, the sight of the live maggots wriggling inside the wound in Jamie's leg made me shudder, in a way that seeing them in a bowl did not.

Afterwards, Claire and Bree watch the men of the Ridge dividing up the buffalo meat. Claire says the infection is too deep for the maggots to make any difference. If only they had a way to inject the penicillin!

In the surgery, Jamie tells Roger, very firmly, "I wish to sleep in my own bed." This is something we heard about, but did not witness firsthand, in the book.

Roger gives in without an argument. "Ferrying you about is becoming an everyday occurrence," he says wryly. Good line!

Claire is still struggling with an impossible choice. Wait too long, and amputating the leg may be the only option to save Jamie's life. But amputate too soon, and she may cripple Jamie while there's still a chance he might recover. It's agonizing, and we can see that in her face.

Between them, Roger and Young Ian get Jamie upstairs to his bedroom.

I liked the discussion about amputation among the three of them very much. It's a good point, that Fergus and Ian the Elder both survived amputations and went on to live happy and productive lives. I was a little taken aback by the vehemence of Young Ian's reaction, but I liked it. It's refreshing to see someone standing up to Jamie. I don't think Ian would have done that before his time with the Mohawk.

"I never thought I'd see the day I'd be ashamed of you, Uncle." Wow.

Claire finds Jamie lying in his bed upstairs. She glares at Roger, asking what on earth is going on, and Roger mutters something about "going to see about...a thing", and leaves the two of them alone.

The scene between Ian and Fergus is very good. We haven't seen the two of them in a scene alone together since Season 3, I think, and it's good to see them interacting as adults.

"Marsali and I try not to think about what we lack, but about what we have." Good attitude!

In his bed upstairs, Jamie is near death, when he calls for Claire. This scene comes straight from the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 93, "Choices"), and it's very well done.
"How do you feel?”
“Like a pile of moldy tripes.”
“Very picturesque,” I said. “Can you be a trifle more specific?” I put a hand lightly on his side, and he let his breath out in a sound like a small moan.
“Like a pile of moldy tripes …” he said, and pausing to breathe heavily, added, “.… with maggots.”
“You’d joke on your deathbed, wouldn’t you?” Even as I said it, I felt a tremor of unease. He would, and I hoped this wasn’t it.
 “Well, I’ll try, Sassenach,” he murmured, sounding drowsy. “But I’m no really at my best under the circumstances.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 93, "Choices". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
Cait and Sam are both excellent in this scene! Claire's terror and desperation at the prospect of his death is palpable, affecting me even though I know perfectly well how it's going to turn out.

Afterwards, they lie cuddled close together, Jamie still so weak he can hardly move. But he tells Claire he has changed his mind. "When the time comes, you may take my leg."

Meanwhile, in their cabin, Roger is contemplating the snake-head that he saved. It seems useless now, with Jamie on the brink of death, and he's about to pitch it into the fire when Bree stops him. She takes the snake-head, staring at it, and suddenly you can see the proverbial lightbulb go on over her head, as she gets an idea.

Somewhere in the woods, Marsali goes into labor, while Fergus is looking after Germain and baby Joan. She insists there's no time to wait for Claire; the baby is coming now. So, what is Fergus going to do? Leave his preschool-age son in charge of his little sister while his mother gives birth only a few feet away?

Claire is busy preparing Jamie for the amputation, with only Young Ian as her assistant. Jamie wiggles his foot, obviously thinking it may be the last time he ever has the chance to do that. I was startled to see Claire's hands shaking slightly as she prepares to make the first incision.

At the last possible instant, Bree and Roger burst through the door. "Wait!" cries Bree.

She explains her idea, to use the snake's fangs as a makeshift syringe.
“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.)
In the next scene, Claire meets Fergus and Marsali's newborn daughter Félicité for the first time.

The scene that follows, with Roger and Jamie, is very well done.

"I wanted to point out that you are in fact alive."
"I didna think ye'd be one to gloat....Professor." But this time it's clear that Jamie is only teasing.
"I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity. I may never get another one."

I like that very much.

Later, Jamie seems to be on the mend, sitting up in bed and reading. Claire comes in. "You tried to die on me, didn't you?"

This whole conversation is, again, straight from the book.
“It was as if there was a--it wasna a door, exactly, but a passageway of some kind--before me. And I could go through it, if I wanted. And I did want to,” he said, giving me a sideways glance and a shy smile.

He had known what lay behind him, too, and realized that for that moment, he could choose. Go forward--or turn back.

“And that’s when you asked me to touch you?”

“I knew ye were the only thing that could bring me back,” he said simply. “I didna have the strength, myself.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 93, "Choices." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Well, whatever the reason, James Fraser, you made the wise choice," Claire says, and leans down to kiss him.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 510, and look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

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

Saturday, April 18, 2020

#WeStandWithSam



As some of you may have heard, OUTLANDER's Sam Heughan spoke out on Twitter yesterday about the "constant bullying, harassment, stalking and false narrative" he has endured since the OUTLANDER TV series premiered six years ago.

Please take the time to read all of Sam's comments below. I think it's really important for the whole OUTLANDER fan community to understand what's been going on, and what an enormous personal toll it's taking on the actors, their friends and family members.






This is just horrible! What is WRONG with these people?!?? I really hate the idea of a bunch of crazed stalkers (they don't deserve the term "fans") making Sam's personal life so miserable, and I worry he may eventually come to feel it's not worth continuing in the role.

It's probably going to be a long hiatus before filming can begin on Season 6. I sincerely hope that Sam manages to find some peace, and a respite from this sort of nonsense.

If you'd like to show your support for Sam Heughan on Twitter, please use the hashtag #WeStandWithSam. Let's show him and the rest of the cast that the vast, vast majority of OUTLANDER fans think this sort of behavior is horrible and totally unacceptable!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Culloden anniversary



Today is the 274th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.



I like this video very much. (The song is "The Ghosts of Culloden", performed by Isla Grant.)



Diana Gabaldon noted in her blog post about her 2008 visit to Culloden that she saw the place where Jamie woke after the battle, thinking he was dead.  When I asked her on Compuserve a few years ago if she recalled where that was, exactly, she said,
Jamie made it almost to the second government line.  He woke in a little swale or dip (you recall he was lying in water), about forty feet off the path that leads from the Visitors Centre--maybe a couple of hundred yards beyond the VC itself.
The photo below shows the area where the government lines were, marked with a red flag.



I was lucky enough to be able to visit Culloden in 2012, and again in 2016.  It's an amazing place, and the Visitors Centre is very well done.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Episode 508: "Famous Last Words" (SPOILERS!)



Here are my reactions to Episode 508 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Famous Last Words".

*** 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 Roger teaching a class at Oxford in 1969. I didn't care for this scene. I thought it went on for far too long, and I was distracted by how dimly lit the classroom was. What kind of university classroom, especially in a prestigious school like Oxford University, doesn't have overhead electric lighting? I couldn't figure out why they didn't just turn the lights on.

On re-watching, the bit about the phrase "bury the hatchet" is clearly foreshadowing of the end of this episode.

"Like bullets, once fired, we can't take [our words] back. They have impact, so choose them wisely." Ironic, considering that Roger doesn't always follow that advice.

I was a little taken aback by Roger being a silent-movie fan, but it makes a nice segue into the "silent-movie" motif that we see throughout this episode, starting with the "title card" sequence.

The immediate aftermath of the hanging, shown as a silent movie, takes some getting used to. This is such an emotionally intense, suspenseful scene, and I was disappointed that we didn't get to see and hear it in the usual way. (I feel much the same way about the sequence that ends Episode 401, "America the Beautiful.")  But it's clear they were following the book fairly closely, complete with the broken pipe stem used as a makeshift breathing tube, and Jamie's lines at the end:
“You are alive,” Jamie said. Blue eyes stared intently into his, so close he felt warm breath on his face. “You are alive. You are whole. All is well.”

He examined the words with a sense of detachment, turning them over like a handful of pebbles, feeling the weight of them in the palm of his mind.

You are alive. You are whole. All is well.

A vague feeling of comfort came over him. That seemed to be all he needed to know just then. Anything else could wait. The waiting black rose up again, with the inviting aspect of a soft couch, and he sank gratefully upon it, still hearing the words like plucked harpstrings.

You are alive. You are whole. All is well.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70, "All is Well." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In the next scene, Claire is examining Roger in the cabin on Fraser's Ridge, three months after the hanging. Claire and Bree try to get him to speak, but he just sits there, silent. I liked the closeups of Roger's face in this scene, as a way to let us see exactly what he's feeling. Because he doesn't speak, we have to pay much closer attention to his facial expressions, body language, and so on.

Richard Rankin did an amazing job in this episode, just as I hoped he would. He's known this moment was coming since fans first started lobbying for him to be cast as Roger, and I couldn't be happier with his performance in this episode! His eyes are so expressive, and that helps a lot.

I thought the use of the "silent movie" technique to show us Roger's memories of the events leading up to the hanging, and his PTSD throughout this entire episode, was creative and very effective.

Governor Tryon's words are chilling: "Pick three. Hang them and leave them there as an example to all."

The next scene, with Bree and Claire, is not in the book, but I thought it was a good way to show what Bree is feeling. I hadn't heard the expression, "the thousand-yard stare", before, but it definitely fits.

"It's like he's drowning in silence." Good line.

"I'm afraid that he's lost."
"No matter how lost he is," Claire says, "you just have to have faith that you find him."

Claire is obviously remembering Jamie after Wentworth, and the nightmares and other signs of PTSD that he suffered for a long time afterward.

In the next scene, Jocasta has come to mourn Murtagh. Standing before his little cairn, wearing the brooch he gave her around her neck, she sings a version of a traditional Scottish song called "The Flowers of the Forest". (See the lyrics here.)

After Jocasta and Ulysses depart, Jamie sits on the steps, taking from his pocket the brooch Murtagh was wearing when he died.

Jamie's voice sounds odd in his conversation with Jocasta. I suppose Sam was trying to show that he's still choked with emotion at the thought of Murtagh's death, but it's been three months already. I would have thought he'd be more accustomed to the loss by now, but it's clearly been a major blow to him, and the pain isn't lessening much with time.

In the next scene, Lord John brings the news that Governor Tryon has given Roger a grant of 5,000 acres of land in the backcountry. This comes from the book (THE FIERY CROSS chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale"), but unlike in the book, where Bree learned the news in front of strangers (the Sherstons), here she is free to say exactly what she thinks.

"Tryon can keep his land. I don't need land! I need my husband back," Bree says, and stalks out of the room. I liked that very much.

The scene shifts to Roger. He appears to be packing some papers, but when he reaches for a knapsack to put them in, just the sensation of his fingers brushing the rope handle of the bag causes another flashback. I thought that was very clever, and probably realistic, that the feel of rough rope would be a trigger for his PTSD.

In this flashback, for the first time, we get a good look at Roger's face through the burlap sack, staring out at the Redcoats, and it becomes clear: we're seeing exactly what he saw on that day. That's an intriguing idea, and I'm glad they found a way to convey Roger's point of view.

We see Roger free one of his hands from the rope binding them, slowly enough that the Redcoats don't notice. At the moment of the hanging, we see a closeup of Roger's eye, terrified but obviously thinking very fast. He reaches up and manages, just in time, to hook his free hand under the rope around his neck -- an action that may have saved him from suffocating before the others found him.

This comes straight from the book:
His hands had come free; he had managed to hook the fingers of one hand beneath the rope. The fingers were nearly black, all circulation cut off.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69, "Hideous Emergency." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
But I think seeing him do it on screen is even more effective. Imagine having the presence of mind to do that, knowing you may only have seconds to live.

I really liked Roger's reaction afterward, seeming battered and exhausted by the memories.

The next scene, in which Lord John brings Brianna an astrolabe as a gift, is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 77, "A Package from London."  It makes sense, in the show, for Lord John to bring the astrolabe himself, but I was a little taken aback that Bree knew how to use it with no instruction whatsoever.

Later that evening, Jamie comes home to find Claire sitting at a table in near-darkness. Again, the lighting is odd. There are candles in glass sconces all along the walls, but Claire has no candle to see what she's doing at the table? That makes no sense to me.

"Is there a medicine for grief in your time?" Jamie asks.

Again I'm surprised that Murtagh's death has hit him so hard. It's strange to see Jamie depressed, and I think it's somewhat out of character. He's lost loved ones before, including his brother Willie, his parents, his uncles Colum and Dougal. And of course he was separated forom Claire for twenty endless years. But this feels different, as though he's more affected by Murtagh's death than any of the previous ones. I don't like that.

Meanwhile, life on the Ridge goes on, and it appears the women are doing all the work of maintaining the farm. Laundry, cooking, candle-making, feeding the chickens, etc., etc.  Roger is keeping busy building stairs for the loft in their cabin, which is a good sign, as he's starting to take a little interest in something other than his own problems.

Jamie sees little Jemmy's fascination with the steaming teakettle, and warns him to be careful, calling him "a chuisle".  This bit comes straight from the book, and I'm glad they included it, along with the bit that follows:
I caught a glimpse of firelight shining on the bones of [Roger's] face, and then his expression changed in an instant, from wariness to horror. He lunged to his feet, mouth open.

“STOKH!” he roared.

It was a terrible cry, loud and harsh, but with a ghastly strangled quality to it, like a shout forced out around a fist shoved down his throat. It froze everyone in earshot--including Jemmy, who had abandoned the fireflies and stealthily returned to an investigation of the coffeepot. He stared up at his father, his hand six inches from the hot metal. Then his face crumpled, and he began to wail in fright.

Roger reached across the fire and snatched him up; the little boy screamed, kicking and squirming to get away from this terrifying stranger. Bree hastily took him, clutching him to her bosom and burying his face in her shoulder. Her own face had gone pale with shock.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 75, "Speak My Name." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Richard Rankin played that just perfectly, in my opinion. But then Bree asks him to say her name, and he can't bring himself even to try.

The next scene, with Roger sawing wood outside while listening to Bree singing "Clementine" to Jemmy, was very well done. Sophie Skelton has a lovely singing voice! But it broke my heart to see Roger's reaction, as he burst into tears.

I loved the "hide and seek" bit with Jemmy (who is finally old enough to talk!) That little boy may not be a redhead, but he's awfully cute!

The game is interrupted suddenly by the sound of a wild animal, which turns out to be a large boar. And suddenly I realized what we were looking at, and I sat bolt upright, staring at the screen in shock. I hadn't expected Young Ian's return to occur until much later in the season, and it took me totally by surprise. (But in a good way. <g>)

Young Ian is considerably changed from when we last saw him, of course. He seems older than a nearly two-year absence would account for -- definitely no longer a teenager, but a young man. I liked the way they did the Mohawk tattoos, very much as described in the books. But it's the sadness in his eyes, the frown lines on his face, that stopped me in my tracks.
“Do you suppose something dreadful happened to his wife? And the baby?” I felt a deep pang of distress, both for Ian, and for the slight, pretty Mohawk girl called Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa--Works With Her Hands. Ian had called her Emily. Death in childbirth was not uncommon, even among the Indians.

Jamie shook his head again, looking sober.

“I dinna ken, but I think it must be something of the kind. He hasna spoken of them at all--and the lad’s eyes are a great deal older than he is.”

[....]

I knew what Jamie meant about Ian’s eyes, and knew for certain that he wasn’t the same impulsive, cheerful lad we had left with the Mohawk.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 109, "The Voice of Time". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think John Bell captured that very, very well.

Roger's reaction to seeing Ian was well done. He looked like he badly wanted to say something (whether that was "thank you", or "good to see you", or only, "glad you're OK"), but the words wouldn't come out.

I laughed at Ian's reaction to seeing the Big House for the first time: "It's...big." <g>



The scene with Marsali reading tarot cards for Roger was just ridiculous, and not at all believable. Marsali was raised as a Catholic; she was only fifteen when she left home; and it's impossible to imagine her mother, Laoghaire, who was absolutely sure Claire was a witch, approving of this.

I can only conclude that the TV writers fell in love with the image of the "hanged man" tarot card from the brief mention in the book (FIERY CROSS chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale"), and decided, as they sometimes do, that they needed to hit the audience over the head with a sledgehammer in order to make sure that every single viewer got the point. ("HANGED man, get it?") The way it's done here seems unnecessarily cruel to poor Roger, showing him that card over and over again. And to what end?

"Just a bit of harmless fun," Marsali says, as though she's a middle-schooler caught tormenting a weaker child on the playground. And she never does apologize to Roger for causing him distress. I really hated this!

Bree is trying hard, but for someone who's just suffered a sudden disability, I don't think "You're still you" is persuasive.

Look at it from Roger's point of view. His old life, everything upon which he based his image of himself as a man, husband, provider, his feelings of self-worth, etc. -- all of that is gone.  Even before the hanging, he could barely cope with his new role as a man of the 18th century.  He was already feeling grossly inadequate, especially as compared with Jamie.  Then he loses his singing voice -- seemingly, the only thing he had that was of value to the 18th century people around him.  OK, it's gone, possibly forever.  So what does he do next?

Well, it seems to me there are basically two choices.  You either spend the rest of your life wallowing in self-pity for all the things you've lost...or you pick yourself up and try to do what you can to live your life to the fullest with whatever you have left. And over the course of this episode, we see Roger struggling with this. I think it's very realistic, and it will take time for him to come to terms with it.

Seeing that her approach isn't working, Bree tries a different tack:

"I know how badly you were hurt, and how scared you must have been. But I went through something awful, too, something dark and ugly. And believe me, all I wanted to do was to crawl into a hole and die. And sometimes I still do. But I didn't, and I don't, because I have a husband and a son who still need me!"

I love this! Sophie is just wonderful in this scene. The dialogue is just terrific. And through it all, Roger just sits there like a block of wood, hearing her words but not reacting at all.

The family gathers for dinner, in a dining room that is getting more luxurious all the time. Where in the world did they find the money for a chandelier, fine china, and fancy glassware? I can only conclude that Jocasta must have brought a wagon-load or two of gifts and supplies when she visited.

Everyone is curious to hear about the Mohawk, but Ian will say only, "They were...good people." A very awkward silence follows.

Jamie brings up the need to survey Roger's land grant, to have it properly registered with the government. But Bree says she doesn't think Roger's quite up to that yet, and so Jamie proposes that Young Ian go with Roger.

This is a change from the book, but I like it. It will give the two of them a chance to get to know one another, and they're both clearly suffering from major personal traumas, so it makes for an interesting dynamic betwen the two of them. Having Ian along as a companion on this trip will also enable them to avoid yet another episode of a lone character wandering through the wilderness for an extended period of time, as they did with Claire in Episode 311 ("Uncharted") and Bree in Episode 407 ("Down the Rabbit Hole").

Late that night, Roger is alone, playing his guitar, and still being tormented by PTSD flashbacks, while he tries to sing "Clementine", in a voice barely louder than a whisper. I was relieved that he didn't smash the guitar when he set it down, but my heart just breaks for him, realizing the immensity of what he has lost.

I liked Jamie's conversation with Ian.

"There are things ye keep hidden from others. Ye and Auntie Claire both." That made me think of Jamie saying, "Respect has room for secrets, but not for lies," on his and Claire's wedding night.

That shot of Ian in profile, as Jamie says, "I understand," makes him suddenly look far more Mohawk, far more alien and unfamiliar, than he does when we see him face to face.

Fortunately, little Germain is not scared by this fierce-looking Mohawk warrior. I loved the interaction between the two of them. It seems very natural that a child that age would be curious rather than frightened.

"Sometimes it feels as though I'm herdin' cats!" Marsali says. I laughed at that. You think herding cats is a challenge? Ha! Try herding bumblebees, which is Diana Gabaldon's term for what I do, managing the OUTLANDER discussions on TheLitForum.com.

"Bairns are only lent us for a short time by the Creator, if we're lucky." And here's our first, subtle hint of what is troubling Ian. But I was glad to see he relaxed enough with Marsali, reminiscing about their childhood, that he smiled a little.

As Marsali talks about sometimes feeling guilty about how happy she is with her life on the Ridge, it seems to me that Ian must have had similar thoughts, because we know from the books that for the most part he wasn't unhappy, living with the Mohawk.

Back at Roger and Bree's cabin, Roger is preparing to leave with Ian on the surveying trip.

"I didn't get to finish my degree [before going through the stones]," Bree says. Really? That's a change from the books.

She folds a paper airplane. "I know that a sheet of paper is not meant to fly, but sometimes we have to adjust our expectations, to bend and reshape ourselves." That's bordering on preachy, in my opinion. He'll do that when he's ready, not because she's telling him to. But he puts the paper airplane in his bag anyway.

So the three of them, Roger, Ian, and Rollo, set out on this surveying expedition. Ian, naturally, does the talking for both of them. When they camp for the night, Roger lets Ian hold the astrolabe. In the process, he sees a wampum arm-band that Ian wears, and reaches out to touch it. But Ian pulls back, not letting him examine it. Book-readers will recognize the significance of that arm-band, but Ian isn't ready yet to talk about it.

Back on the Ridge, Claire discovers some poisonous water hemlock is missing from her surgery. From Wikipedia:
[W]ater hemlock is considered one of North America's most toxic plants. Ingestion of Cicuta can be fatal in humans and there are reports in the medical literature of severe poisoning and death as early as 1670.
With preschoolers wandering through the house, I wonder why she doesn't keep something that poisonous under lock and key!

Meanwhile, Roger and Ian are taking a break from the surveying. Roger shows Ian the paper airplane.

"Couldn't always understand the Mohawk. Sometimes I'd talk to the birds instead, so I didna feel so alone." Roger, of course, also has memories of being alone among the Mohawk, unable to understand them. But he can't say that to Ian.

"D'ye ever wonder how they ken which way to go, when winter comes?" This seems to be a reference to the story Jamie tells Claire in FIERY CROSS chapter 107, "Zugunruhe", about Lawrence Stern and his experiments with bird migration patterns.

And then Roger looks up into the branches of this big tree, and the sight causes him to have a nightmare, reliving the hanging yet again. I liked the way he wakes with a hand at his throat, trying to loosen an imaginary noose round his neck.

In bed that night, Claire wonders aloud if Roger might not want to come home, if he might prefer to die, as Jamie did in the depths of his despair after Wentworth. It's a real possibility, and neither of them can dismiss it.

Back to Roger, who is standing at the literal edge of a precipice, a very steep cliff. Just one step, and he could end his suffering then and there.

Another flashback, but this time it's not silent. We hear Tryon's voice, faint but unmistakable. And then suddenly we see the scene in full color for the first time, blue sky, green grass, Roger pulling desperately at the rope around his neck -- and then he sees Brianna in his mind, smiling at him.

I love the way they did this, that the thought of Brianna was what pulled him back from the brink of death, from a literal abyss of despair. (Why not? It's worked for both Jamie and Claire in the books, more than once.) And so Roger throws the paper airplane into the air, and then turns and walks away, having made his decision. He's going to live, after all.

Roger wakes the next morning to find Rollo whining, and Ian nowhere to be found. The dog is tied to a stake in the ground. Roger tugs on the rope, but nothing happens -- no flashbacks, thank God. It's just a rope.

Ian, meanwhile, is quite literally burying his hatchet (aka tomahawk), a clear reference to Roger's comment in the opening scene with the students at Oxford. It's an emotional moment for Ian, he's fighting back tears, but we don't really understand why, until he pulls the poisonous roots from his pocket. So he means to kill himself? That's a change from the books, no question about it.

Fortunately, Roger interrupts him just in the nick of time, kicking away the cup with the poison in it. Ian is furious, but what he keeps demanding is, "What did you see?" (As he was about to die, Ian means.)

Roger clears his throat painfully, then croaks, "I saw my wife's face."

Ian reveals that his Mohawk wife is not dead, but "she is lost to me."

"You buried your weapon, your voice. Now you dare to use it against me?"
"You're right. I did. And now I have to pick it up again and fight. Can you?"
"I dinna ken."
"Then dig up your weapon, and come home with me until ye do."

I like that.

When Roger arrives home, he greets Bree with a smile. "Brianna," he says, in a hoarse whisper, but clearly enough.

"Part of me died that day....Everyone wants the old Roger back, but I'll never be that man again." I think that's realistic. He can't go back to the way things were before, but he's not ready to die. He's chosen the harder option: to pick up the pieces of his life and move on.

"What mattered was the last face I saw. That face was yours." Awwww!

And as the episode ends, Roger's final words come straight from the book, the perfect note to end on:
“I always sing for you, hen.” He came behind her, drew her back against him, so that her head rested on his shoulder, her hair cool and live against his face. His arm curled round her waist, holding her secure. He bent his head, nuzzling for the curve of her ear.

“No matter what,” he whispered, “no matter where. No matter whether you’re there to hear or not--I’ll always sing for you.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "On The Night That Our Wedding Is On Us". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I loved the duet of "Clementine" between Roger and Bree in the closing credits! Very sweet.

Finally, just a general comment. After the fast pace of the last few episodes, it's a real luxury to have a slower-paced episode, mainly focused on character development. Giving the story room to breathe, giving Roger time to come to terms with what happened. I think they really needed that.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

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