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.
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.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.
“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.)
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.Richard Rankin did a good job of communicating the urgency of the situation, even though we couldn't tell what he was thinking.
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.)
"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.”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."
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 78, "No Small Thing." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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?”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.
“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.)
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.I liked Roger praying over Jamie. That seemed very natural and very much in character.
“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In the next scene, 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?”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.
“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.)
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.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.
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.)
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?”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.
“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.)
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.”In the next scene, Claire meets Fergus and Marsali's newborn daughter Félicité for the first time.
“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.)
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."Well, whatever the reason, James Fraser, you made the wise choice," Claire says, and leans down to kiss him.
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.)
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.
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