Episode 602: "Allegiance" (SPOILERS!)

Jamie Episode 602

Here are my reactions to Episode 602 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Allegiance". This was a terrific episode, and I really enjoyed it.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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

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As the episode begins, Jamie and Young Ian arrive in the Cherokee village where Jamie is acting as Indian Agent. I like the details of the Cherokee encampment. The dialogue in this scene comes straight from the book, the first of many such scenes in this episode.

“We can kill them without guns, if we want to.” One eyebrow lifted a little, and Bird’s lips pursed, waiting to see what Jamie made of this statement.

He supposed Bird meant to shock him. He merely nodded.

“Of course you can. You are wise enough not to.”

“Not yet.” Bird’s lips relaxed into a charming smile. “You tell the King--not yet.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "People of the Snowbird". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I like the way Jamie reacts through this whole scene, calm and relaxed, but listening carefully, making no promises. The actor who plays the chief, Bird-Who-Sings-In-The-Morning, is very good, too.

The title card shows Adso the cat with Major MacDonald's scarlet uniform coat. That made me smile, thinking of their encounters in the book.

In the next scene, we see that Tom Christie and the fisher-folk have made progress on their encampment, with a church under construction. Claire removes the stitches from Tom's injured left hand, but he refuses to let her operate on the other hand, the one with fingers badly twisted by Dupuytren's contracture. This is based on a scene from ABOSAA chapter 23, "Anesthesia".

Tom: "I'm sure you'll be familiar with the letter from St. Paul to Timothy, in which he says--"
Malva: "Let a woman learn in silence. I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
Claire: "Clearly St. Paul also met a woman he couldn't out-argue."

Claire does a good job of keeping her temper, considering that she doesn't think much of St. Paul's views on women.

We get a brief look at Allan, who is smiling and friendly again, apparently with no hard feelings after the strapping Jamie gave him in last week's episode. (Apparently.)

"My daughter Marsali's with child." I liked the way Claire said that. The fact that Marsali is not related to her by blood makes not the slightest difference.

Malva is obviously eager to learn from Claire, but Allan disapproves. I liked Malva's expressions in this scene; as soon as Allan catches her eye, she drops her gaze and becomes quiet and obedient.

As night falls in the Cherokee village, Jamie discovers a pair of naked Cherokee girls in his bed. The dialogue here is taken straight from the book. This is one of my favorite scenes in ABOSAA, and I'm really glad they included it.

Feminine fingers wiggled gently in his grasp, and the hand’s fellow promptly took up operations in its stead. His first coherent thought was that the lassie would be an excellent baker, so good as she was at kneading.

Other thoughts followed rapidly on the heels of this absurdity, and he tried to grab the second hand. It playfully eluded him in the dark, poking and tweaking.

He groped for a polite protest in Cherokee, but came up with nothing but a handful of random phrases in English and Gaelic, none of them faintly suitable to the occasion.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "People of the Snowbird". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This scene is hilarious, just as in the book, and I think they did a great job with it! I love Jamie's reactions throughout the whole thing, especially his last line to Ian: "Ye'd be advised to stifle your glee." That's not in the book, but it made me laugh out loud.

In the next scene, Claire is checking on a very pregnant Marsali when Malva stops by. She shows Malva how to check to see if the baby is in the proper position.

"It seems to me the proper position would be out of my womb!" Marsali says with feeling. Great line!

Claire takes Marsali's arm to check her pulse, and sees bruises again, just like last week.

"[Fergus] did grab my arm, but only because I went after him with a posser." This is a slight change from the book. A posser is a device used for stirring laundry in a wash-tub, according to Wikipedia. Nice historical detail there!

"I am cursed with my mother's temper, and it got the better of me." Marsali is such a wonderful, likeable character, it's easy to forget that Laoghaire is her mother.

Marsali's description of why Fergus is acting this way is based on ABOSAA chapter 35, "Laminaria". But thinking about the abduction clearly bothers Claire, so she pleads a headache and goes home. As she steps into her surgery, she hears Lionel Brown's voice in memory, saying "Dr. Rawlings". That startled me, too.

Claire goes straight for her ether bottle, puts a few drops on the leather mask, and lies down on the cot, seeking a temporary oblivion, just like last week.

For those of you who don't like the way Claire is self-medicating with ether, here is part of what Diana Gabaldon had to say about it on TheLitForum last week:

[If] you were noticing things at the very end of the episode, you see Claire take the bottle of ether and put several drops into the Ferguson mask (personally, I think the production team's having discovered the Ferguson mask has a lot to do with this turn of plot events; I may have mentioned before their utter inability to pass up a striking Visual? Mmm...), which she then immediately applies to her face. I.e., a) it's a very small amount of ether, not a jugful, b) it's put into a confined space in a liquid form (which does not explode) and c) once inside the mask, it vaporizes quickly, but little or none of the vapor is going to escape the leather mask. (It would, if they were using the more common 18th-century style basket-and-gauze mask that Claire uses in the books.) So candle or not, there's almost no risk of explosion or fire.

[....]

As for Claire huffing the stuff as first-aid...abuse of ether used to be not uncommon among physicians. (Cf., John Irving's CIDER HOUSE RULES.) And, as noted, Show-Claire is not Book-Claire.

I would encourage anyone who's interested to click on the link above to read Diana's whole post. You have to sign up in order to read or post on TheLitForum, but it's free. (For those of you who don't know, I've been moderator of Diana's section of the forum since 2008.)

At any rate, I'm glad they didn't make a big issue of the ether in this week's episode. We have plenty of other things to focus on!

The next scene takes place in Bree and Roger's cabin, where Bree is making matches using white phosphorus. This is another scene that comes straight from the book, but I liked the addition of Bree's drawing showing exactly how she's going to make the matches.

“I know how—in theory. But it might be a little tricky in practice.”

“Why is that?” he asked warily. “Well, it bursts into flame if you expose it to air,” she explained. “That’s why it’s packed in water. Don’t touch, Jem! It’s poisonous.” Grabbing Jemmy round the middle, she pulled him down from the table, where he had been eyeing the jar with greedy curiosity.

“Oh, well, why worry about that? It will explode in his face before he has a chance to get it in his mouth.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "Further Mysteries of Science". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Fun fact: White phosphorus was used to make matches, starting in 1831, but it was so toxic that its use was banned by many countries by the end of the 19th century. Here's a very interesting video showing what it can do.

Jamie returns home from the Cherokee, clearly in a hurry to get home. I didn't like the way he rudely dumped his coat into Mrs. Bug's arms without even a word to her before going upstairs. He finds Claire in their bedroom.

"I've missed ye, Sassenach. I must have ye." Clearly Jamie has only one thing on his mind. <g>

They proceed to have sex right there on the floor, and they make enough noise that Mrs. Bug hears them from downstairs. This seems a deliberate echo of the scene in Episode 101, "Sassenach", where Mrs. Baird overhears Frank and Claire bouncing on the bed in their room in the B&B.

Afterward, Claire is lying on the floor, and Jamie is sitting beside her -- fully dressed (!) That threw me out of the scene completely, because I couldn't help wondering how on earth he managed to have sex with her without actually unfastening his breeks? Or, if he didn't actually have sex with her, what was the point of all that wrestling on the floor? I can only conclude that somebody on the production team didn't think this scene through. It's just about the only scene in this whole episode that I didn't care for.

The dialogue here is straight from the book, again:

"Just now, I was actually trying to rank ‘I love you, I like you, I worship you, I have to have my c*ck inside you,’ in terms of their relative sincerity.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "Le Mot Juste". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

But I think this scene would have worked a lot better if they were actually in bed, talking together afterwards.

The conversation suddenly turns very serious, as Jamie asks her which side the Cherokee will support in the coming war. Claire doesn't know, but she assures him, "I know you'll do the right thing."

They are interrupted by the arrival of Major MacDonald.

"Oh, my apologies! You asked one simple question about past allegiances, and I bored ye half to death with my ramblings."

I actually agree with this. Not that the historical background isn't important, but bombarding us with a list of dates and events doesn't really help us understand the context.

I thought Major MacDonald being allergic to cats was a clever idea, reminding book-readers that he and Adso really Did Not Get Along At All, without having to have the wee gray cheetie himself make an appearance.

Young Ian was very good in this scene. He doesn't like the fact that Jamie is withholding information about the Cherokee's true motives. They want guns; why not say so?

"It's not your place to speak up in front of the Major." This is the first time in a long time that we've seen Jamie and Young Ian in conflict, and I thought it was well done and believable.

"There will come a time when I will fight alongside the rebels. They will win the war." Good to hear this stated so clearly, because the audience needs to know this. Especially given the fact that Jamie wore a Redcoat uniform (under duress, but still...) at the Battle of Alamance last season.

Ian is clearly taking this very seriously, and that's good.

In the next scene, Jamie, Claire, and Germain join Roger and the Presbyterians for old Mrs. Wilson's funeral, held in the partially-built church. Most of the dialogue here comes straight from the book (only substituting Germain for Jemmy), and I thought they did a terrific job with it! The woman who plays Grannie Wilson is just wonderful, very much as I always pictured her.

“Grannie!”

Jemmy was wiggling as though a colony of ants had taken up residence in his breeches, an expression of agonized urgency on his face.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead ... rr-hm ... yet shall he live--” With the end in sight, Roger was making a gallant finish, forcing his voice past its limits, hoarser than ever and cracking on every other word, but firm and loud.

“Just a minute,” I hissed. “I’ll take you out in a--”

“No, Grannie! Look!

I followed his outthrust finger, and for a moment, thought he was pointing at his father. But he wasn’t.

Old Mrs. Wilson had opened her eyes.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "I Am the Resurrection." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I thought Richard Rankin was excellent in this scene as well.

Next we have a brief glimpse of Mr. Bug (one of the most silent characters in Diana's books) actually telling wee Jem a story (!), and Mrs. Bug (the most talkative character in the books, by far, and one of the funniest) still utterly lacking in personality, still fading into the background, totally unremarkable. That's really disappointing. Why can't they give Mrs. Bug any better dialogue? There's plenty of it in the books, in this very scene, but Mrs. Bug leaves before Bree announces her big news. (Oh, well. "The book is the book, and the show is the show." I have to keep reminding myself of that.)

The dialogue here is taken mostly from ABOSAA chapter 21, "We Have Ignition".

"You're with child!" Lizzie exclaims, leaping instantly to the wrong conclusion, just as she did in Season 4. Bree reacts much more calmly to that than I thought she would, but clearly she's disappointed when the reaction to her invention of the matches is underwhelming, not at all what she was hoping for.

Roger announces that he's been asked to preach a sermon next Sunday, as a lay minister. "I hope the Reverend's up there watchin' me, proud." I liked that, a reference to the fact that Reverend Wakefield, who raised him, was of course also a minister.

"I was asked never to darken the doors of the church again," Claire says. Jamie clearly doesn't like that, but before he can say anything, Marsali goes into labor.

"Something seems wrong," Marsali says, and indeed, things are not proceeding normally. Claire is worried because the baby hasn't moved in hours, and Fergus is nowhere to be found.

Jamie and Claire's quiet conversation about Fergus blaming himself follows the book almost exactly:

"Why, for heaven’s sake?” I demanded in exasperation. “It wasn’t his fault!”

He gave me a look suggesting that I had missed something patently obvious to the meanest intelligence.

“Ye think that makes a difference? And if the lass should die--or mischief come to the child? Ye think he’d not blame himself?”

“He shouldn’t,” I said. “But rather obviously he does. You don’t--” I stopped short, because in fact he did. He’d told me so, very clearly, the night he brought me back.

He saw the memory cross my face, and the hint of a smile, wry and painful, showed in his eyes. He reached out and traced the line of my eyebrow, where a healing gash had split through it.

“Ye think I dinna feel that?” he asked quietly.

I shook my head, not in negation, but in helplessness.

“A man’s wife is his to protect,” he said simply, and turned away.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Laminaria." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I really liked the scene between Roger and Fergus, which is not in the book. Roger knows from experience what it's like not to be there for the birth of his child, of course. He didn't have a choice, but Fergus does, and he's squandering it.

"I don't know what it is that has you in this state, but it doesn't matter. Marsali needs you NOW. So for tonight, pull yourself together and be the man that Marsali thinks you are, the man that you promised her you'd be. Even if you have to pretend. And maybe when you see her, you won't have to."

I love that! Wonderful writing. Richard Rankin is just riveting here. Roger rarely gets angry, but this is one of those times, and it's absolutely justified, IMHO.

Back at the Big House, Marsali worries that she might die. "Adso," she tells the cat, "if I am to die, don't be letting Mistress Fraser be doing any autopsies on me." Yikes!! I didn't like being reminded of that ridiculous, gory "prop-corpse" in Episode 502, "Between Two Fires".

Marsali asks for paper and ink, to write to her mother, Laoghaire, in Scotland, but before Claire can oblige, Fergus arrives. He proceeds to administer what Carol and Tracey of My Outlander Purgatory used to call "Fergus Lamaze" <g>, massaging her breast and suckling her. Fergus's explanation of what he's doing comes almost word-for-word from ABOSAA chapter 35.

"I'll not let you go," Fergus tells Marsali. Awwwww!!

While they wait, Claire and Malva have a private little talk about sex. This comes word for word from the book:

“There is another reason for intercourse, you know,” I said, speaking over my shoulder as I headed for the door. “When you love someone, you want to give them pleasure. And they want to do the same for you.”

“Pleasure?” Her voice rose behind me, incredulous. “Ye mean some women like it?”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "In Which Things Gang Agley." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Meanwhile, Bree finds Ian outside, praying in Mohawk. He asks her about what will happen to the Indians, and then he apologizes, because, "Knowing what will happen to them, I'm responsible, too." That's an interesting point. What will he feel compelled to do about it?

The baby is finally born. Marsali greets Fergus with a tired smile, saying "Never again."

It's a boy. Fergus murmurs "Bonjour" to the baby, over and over. Eventually he turns around toward the camera, and you can see his face change as the realization hits him.

"Il est nain." He is a dwarf. And then he hands the baby to Claire and walks out.

He's definitely smaller than the usual baby, but he's very cute!

I'm so glad that the people in charge of the show did not pull any punches here, that they let this baby, Henri-Christian, be what we'd call today a little person, just as he is in the books. It's going to be a challenge, no doubt, to find a baby with dwarfism to play Henri-Christian as he grows up, but I hope they make the effort. The show has up to now treated characters with disabilities very respectfully, just as Diana Gabaldon does in the books, and I trust that will continue.

In the next scene, we're back in Bree and Roger's cabin. Roger uses one of the new matches to light a candle. Bree is discouraged. No one except Roger seems interested in her matches; they only want her to get pregnant, and she and Roger have been trying for some time without success.

Their conversation is interrupted when young Aidan McCallum knocks on the door. He got lost in the dark and found his way there. Roger offers to walk him home, but first shows him one of the matches, and Aidan is suitably impressed.

"My wife made it," Roger says. "She's a genius." And that naturally makes Bree feel better.

The next morning, Arch Bug and Kezzie Beardsley prepare to depart for Cross Creek with a wagon full of supplies to trade. Mrs. Bug addresses her husband very formally as "Mr. Bug", but again, there's no affection or humor between them, let alone any indication that they are deeply in love.

Two things to note here: 1) Mr. Bug will be stopping at River Run, where Jocasta lives, and 2) Lizzie saying, "I'll try to keep your brother out of trouble." Both are foreshadowing, for people who have read the books.

The Cherokee chief, Bird-Who-Sings-In-The-Morning, comes to visit the Ridge. When he learns that Jamie decided not to convey his request for guns to the King, and Jamie refuses to explain why, Bird is clearly angry, but he says only, "This is not the last you'll hear of us, Bear-Killer," with ominous music playing. That can't be good!

Ian is still opposed to Jamie's decision not to give guns to the Cherokee. "Brianna told me of the injustices the Indians will face. If that is their fate, then they deserve every chance to protect themselves. And if you willna help them, then I will." It's a good argument. I'm just not sure how Ian is going to do that.

Later, Bree finds Jamie on the porch. "You look like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders." I'm reminded of Laoghaire in Episode 109, "The Reckoning", telling Jamie almost exactly the same thing in the infamous "boobs on the bank" scene.

Bree tells Jamie the fisher-folk are almost done building a church, and that becomes one more thing for him to worry about. As he says, "A church in Tom Christie's hands can become a weapon of war."

Jamie's solution is to remind Tom Christie of his Freemason's vow. "Let this be a meeting-house, neither Protestant nor Catholic. A place where every man, woman, and child may enter freely, with God in their hearts."

Tom doesn't really argue. He asks if he should tear down the steeple, and Jamie says no, even suggesting that it should have a bell. "One that calls all to worship, or to their lessons." So Tom may end up being a schoolmaster after all.

Jamie walks away saying something about window-panes. I think it's a safe bet that the next time we see that meeting-house, it will be equipped with both a bell and fancy glass windows, never mind how expensive such things were in those days or how poor the fisher-folk are.

Tom goes into his cabin and discovers that the milk has gone bad. He blames Malva. "It's because you're spending too much time with Mistress Fraser!" he shouts at her. "You have the same dark soul as your mother, and you know what became of her."

He removes his belt and orders her to bend over to be whipped. But then he discovers that his right hand is too damaged to wield the strap, and he can't manage it.

Back in Marsali and Fergus's cabin, Ian holds baby Henri-Christian for the first time. This scene comes straight from the book:

Ian bent his head, smiling, and brushed his lips across Henri-Christian’s big round head.

He said something soft to the baby, in what I thought was Mohawk.

“What’s that ye said?” Marsali asked, curious.

“A sort of blessing, ye’d call it.” He patted Henri-Christian’s back, very softly. “Ye call upon the wind to welcome him, the sky to give him shelter, and the water and the earth to yield him food.”

[....]

“Believe me, cousin,” he said, very softly, “your husband grieves. But he will come back.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Winter Wolves." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I loved that! So poignant, seeing Ian holding the baby, not knowing if he will ever hold a child of his own.

In the next scene, Tom Christie comes to tell Claire he has changed his mind, and he will allow her to operate on his right hand after all.

Late that night, Claire finds Jamie writing in his study. A letter for the Governor, recommending that he provide guns for the Cherokee. What made him change his mind? The realization that Ian had a child with his Mohawk wife.

"He fights for them because they are his family. His allegiance is to them. And my allegiance is to him." With that, he seals the letter with a wax seal. It's done, and he'll have to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be.

I think it's more complicated than that, actually. Jamie (half-MacKenzie, half-Fraser) has understood all his life what it means to have conflicting loyalties. Now he sees, perhaps for the first time since Ian's return from the Mohawk, that Ian, too, is dealing with that same dilemma, and he, too, will be forced to choose sides in the oncoming conflict. A profound thought on which to end a terrific episode!

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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes, and please come back next week for my recap of Episode 603.

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.

4 comments

ingeborg oppenheimer said...

karen, as always your observations add depth and breadth to diana's material, and are a welcome adjunct to her writing.

Unknown said...

I always look forward to your Observations, Karen. What an episode! I was totally blown away. As always, when they stick to the books as the source, we get the payoff desired. Not only was Sam amazing coming into his position as Laird, Roger has stepped right into his calling as Reverend. Ridge Rev lol!. Looking forward to E3. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I also enjoy your recaps. Look for them first thing every week. I agree with you on not having liked the autopsy story last season, but I loved Marsali's comment to Adso. I also liked her comment about being cursed with her mother's temper. Lauren Lyle was a powerhouse in this episode.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen
Thank you somuch for yourre-caps. I love reading them. I was wondering if the actor playing Major MacDonald is the same person who played the 'unfortunate' tailor who wasmaking Colum's frock coat in series one? He is very like him!

Also, do you think Claire's ether reliancecould be foreshadowing some sort of reference to her 'extended illness' later on?

Thanks again for the discussion opportunity :)
Leanne

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