Episode 603: "Temperance" (SPOILERS!)

Fergus in Episode 603

Here are my reactions to Episode 603 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Temperance". I thought this was a terrific episode, with lots of material taken directly from the book.


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









The title card shows an iron poker being heated in the fire. The significance of this bit becomes clear as you watch the episode, and it's definitely appropriate.

I thought the opening sequence, with baby Henri-Christian floating down the river in his basket, was riveting and suspenseful. It's a nice change of pace to have an action scene to start off this episode. Roger's reaction, like many scenes in this episode, comes straight from the book:

Holding them with his glare, Roger had waded almost to the shore. There, he squatted and cupped a handful of water, which he poured over the head of the shrieking baby--who promptly quit shrieking.

“I baptize thee, Henri-Christian,” Roger had bellowed, in his hoarse, cracked voice. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost! D’ye hear me, wee bastards? His name is Christian! He belongs to the Lord! Trouble him again, ye lot of scabs, and Satan will pop up and drag ye straight down screaming--TO HELL!”

He stabbed an accusing finger once more at the boys, who this time did break and run, scampering wildly into the brush, pushing and falling in their urge to escape.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 64, "I am the Resurrection, Part 2". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The baby is unharmed, but Fergus is clearly upset.

The next scene, between Claire and Fergus, is really well done! I think César Domboy is doing a wonderful job this season, and he is fantastic in this episode, really channeling Book Fergus, IMHO. Most of the dialogue here comes from the book:

“I have parted my buttocks for money, milady,” he said simply. “And thought nothing of it, save when it hurt. But then I met milord, and found a world beyond the brothel and the streets. That my son might return to such places…” He stopped abruptly, unable to speak. He closed his eyes again, and shook his head, slowly.

“Fergus. Fergus, dear. You can’t think that Jamie—that we—would ever let such a thing happen,” I said, distressed beyond measure.

He drew a deep, trembling breath, and thumbed away the tears that hung on his lashes. He opened his eyes and gave me a smile of infinite sadness.

“No, you would not, milady. But you will not live forever, nor will milord. Nor I. But the child will be a dwarf forever.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Le Maître des Champignons". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Fergus makes it very clear that he feels guilty for once again being unable to protect his family. His despair is palpable. This is so sad!

Claire returns home to find Tom Christie waiting for her, ready for her to perform surgery on his right hand, which is affected by Dupuytren's contracture. As they come into the surgery, and Jamie joins them, the dialogue is mostly taken from the book (ABOSAA chapter 23, "Anesthesia") with the exception of this bit:

Claire: "God wants him to have the surgery, but the masochist is refusing the ether."
Tom: "Masochist?"
Claire: "Well, it's a word for--" [breaks off, seeing a warning look from Jamie] "--people who prefer to suffer pain."

The non-verbal communication between Jamie and Claire here made me smile. It's the sort of subtle exchange that Diana Gabaldon refers to in the books as a "marital look", and to me it says two things: first, that Jamie has heard Claire use the word "masochist" before, he knows it's anachronistic, but he also knows what it means; and second, that Jamie is telling her to back off, and not let herself get angry at Tom for his stubbornness. I liked that.

Jamie starts talking about what it felt like when Claire set the broken bones in his hand after Wentworth. Although this bit comes verbatim from the book, it doesn't quite work as well here, because in the TV version (Episode 116, "To Ransom a Man's Soul"), as you may recall, Claire knocked Jamie out with laudanum before operating on his hand. He wasn't conscious during the procedure, as Tom will be here without the ether.

In the next scene, Roger brings five-year-old Germain to the McCallums' cabin. I like the look of the cabin, inside and out. It even has a thatched roof, like the crofters' cottages in Scotland. Very rustic!

I had to smile at the way Germain is sort of skipping down the path. <g> They meet Aidan McCallum outside the house, and Roger tells him that Jamie wants to see all the boys involved in the incident at the Big House before supper.

Roger is interrupted by a scream from inside the cabin. It's Amy McCallum, staring in terror at a bucket of milk covered with a cloth, telling him that a "devil" has got into it.

I was surprised and delighted to see this scene on TV.  I didn't think they would bother to film this, but it's important for the development of the (platonic!) relationship between Amy and Roger.

He didn’t know what made him look at Aidan at that moment, but he surprised a fleeting look of deep interest that vanished immediately, leaving the boy with a preternaturally solemn expression.

So it was with a certain sense of forewarning that he leaned forward and gingerly lifted the cloth. Even so, he let out a yelp and jerked back, the weighted cloth flying sideways to clack against the wall. The malevolent green eyes that glared at him from the middle of the bucket disappeared and the milk went gollup!, a spray of creamy drops erupting from the bucket like a miniature volcano.

“Shit!” he said. Mrs. McCallum had backed away as far as she could get and was staring at the bucket in terror, both hands clapped across her mouth.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "A De'il in the Milk". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Once he removes the bullfrog, Roger and Amy have a little talk. She is under a lot of stress and understandably depressed, living as a single mother with two young children and no one to help her support them. At this point she must be feeling that they made a grave mistake in coming to the Colonies.

"I'll never see it again--Scotland," Amy says, sniffling. "Will I?"

If you've read GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, you know the answer to that. The knowledge of what comes much later makes this scene really poignant.

Roger promises Amy that he won't let her starve. That's all he can do, for the moment.

Meanwhile, Marsali is trying out a new invention, a spinning wheel that Brianna made for her. This is based on a scene from ABOSAA chapter 38. "It's a muckle wheel," Marsali says. "Muckle" means "big" in Scots, and indeed it is! The wheel is larger than I pictured, but I think Bree was pretty clever to build something like that from scratch!

I was delighted to see the "vrooms"! The little cars were Roger's invention in the book, and they're perfect for keeping the little kids entertained indoors.

The scene where Claire operates on Tom Christie's hand is very well done, very close to the book. Claire offers Tom something to bite down on, "for the pain," and he refuses, saying, "I'd rather say my prayers." And just as in the book, Jamie recites from the Bible as Tom screams and groans with the pain.

"The right hand of the Lord is exalted,” he read, squinting over Christie’s shoulder at the book. “The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. Well, that’s appropriate, no?” He glanced down at Christie, who had subsided, his free hand clenched in a fist against his belly.

“Go on,” Christie said, voice hoarse.

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord,” Jamie went on, his voice low but firm. “The Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over unto death.”

Christie seemed to find this heartening; his breathing slowed a little.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "Anesthesia". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Meanwhile, Young Ian finds Malva, peering through the window into the surgery, trying to see what's going on. He calls her Claire's apprentice, and she smiles shyly at him. He offers to walk her home.

Claire finishes stitching up Tom's hand and gently stretches the fingers out flat, while Tom looks on in amazement. The operation worked! The Z-shaped incision, like the one shown here, is characteristic of this type of surgery.

Watching Young Ian and Malva walking together, I'm struck by the difference in their heights. Ian always looks so short in comparison to Jamie, but here he seems a head taller even than Malva. I didn't realize she was quite so petite. Possibly another reason why people tend to underestimate Malva? The quote from Shakespeare, "Though she be but little, she is fierce" comes to mind.

"I suppose if my ma could see me, she'd be worried about my eternal fate as well." Good line. Ian has changed quite a lot from the young teenager he was in Season 3.

The next scene, with Jamie and the boys, is not in the book, but I liked it very much. The visual of the red-hot poker is certainly eye-catching, and no doubt terrifying to the kids.

"Touch the bairn or the poker." And baby Henri-Christian looks up with that adorable, innocent expression. Awww, he's cute! One by one, the boys reach out to touch him, to prove that there's nothing to be scared of. It's a very sweet scene.

And here's one of my favorite quotes in the whole book:

“One of the lads asked me was it true, what Mr. Roger said, about the wean belonging to the Lord? I told him I certainly wouldna argue with Mr. Roger about that--but whoever else he belonged to, Henri-Christian belongs to me, as well, and best they should remember it."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 64, "I Am the Resurrection, Part 2". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I'm so glad they included this bit! Speaking as someone with a disability (I was born with cerebral palsy, and have difficulty walking), I have always found Jamie's unconditional acceptance of Henri-Christian, in the face of considerable hostility from others in the community, very moving. The fact that he is a little person doesn't make any difference to Jamie. He's a child first and foremost, a member of Jamie's family, and that's all that matters.

Then Jamie turns to Germain, kneeling down to look him in the eyes, very serious: "Henri-Christian also belongs to you, Germain. He needs your protection, understand?" This line is not in the book, and it actually made me cry when I first heard it. Book-readers will understand why. I liked that very much!

In the next scene, we're in Marsali and Fergus's cabin, at night. Marsali returns to find Fergus slumped in a chair, drinking again, oblivious to one of his little kids calling from the next room, "I'm really hungry!"

"How much drink have ye had?" Marsali asks.
"If I'm still talking, then not enough. Maybe I need another."

Both César and Lauren Lyle are very good here!

"Let this be a comfort to ye, Fergus, for I mean it to be. Lionel didn't die. I killed him." Great line, and I love the way she says it.

Fergus can't believe what he's hearing, so Marsali recaps the events of Episode 512 ("Never My Love") after Claire's rescue, when she was alone with Lionel Brown.

If she meant it as comfort, Fergus certainly doesn't see it that way. "I don't need a woman to protect me!" he shouts at her.

Very calmly, Marsali pours a jug of water over his head, but he barely reacts. Finally she shouts at him to leave the house.

"I will have a whole man, or none at all." Interesting. This is almost a direct quote from the books, but in the original context it was Jenny, talking about Ian the Elder, in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 34, "The Postman Always Rings Twice".

But in Fergus's current state of mind, what will Marsali's comment do to him? He must be thinking that he hasn't been "a whole man" since he lost his hand at the age of sixteen, and he can't change that, so what's left? Nothing. His marriage is crumbling, he can't provide for or protect his family, and he feels like a failure.

Meanwhile, in their bedroom in the Big House, Claire seems preoccupied. Jamie tries to make a joke, but she doesn't react. She looks into the mirror and sees Lionel Brown's face looking back at her. Naturally she's startled, but she won't tell Jamie what's wrong. She goes downstairs to check on Tom Christie, who is sleeping in the surgery.

Claire takes a long look at the ether bottle and mask on the table, but she can't very well use the stuff with a patient right there in the room, so she rejects the idea. Good for her! I was relieved to see that.

The rest of this scene comes straight from the book (ABOSAA chapter 24, "Touch Me Not", and it's more or less exactly as I always pictured, except that Claire still seems subdued, not really her normal self. Clearly the brief vision of Lionel Brown is still on her mind, unsettling her.

Claire examines Tom's hand and demonstrates some simple exercises he can do to strengthen it, then goes out to make him something to eat. As she leaves the room, we see her visibly pulling herself together, trying to shake off the memories, comforted a little by the presence of Adso the cat.

I love that they managed to get almost this entire scene into the show, verbatim, including this bit:

“Mistress Fraser,” he said, speaking very precisely, “I am an educated man. I do not think ye are a witch.”

“Oh, you don’t?” I said, rather amused. “So you don’t believe in witches? But there are witches mentioned in the Bible, you know.”

He stifled a belch with his fist and regarded me fishily.

“I did not say I do not believe in witches. I do. I said ye aren’t one. Aye?”

“I’m very much obliged to hear it,” I said, trying not to smile. He was quite drunk; though his speech was even more precise than usual, his accent had begun to slip. Normally, he suppressed the inflections of his native Edinburgh as much as possible, but it was growing broader by the moment.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Touch Me Not". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Back in the bedroom, Jamie tells Claire a little about what it was like at Ardsmuir. Again, this comes straight from ABOSAA chapter 24, and I loved seeing it on screen. I think Sam did a good job with it.

The next day, Ian and Malva go out collecting cattails or something similar. They're spending far more time together than they ever did (on page, at least) in the book, but I think it's believable.

"You're not a Christian, I suppose?"
"I dinna ken what I am, or what I believe. But I'll always have a home with Uncle Jamie. [....] I dinna ken if my place is with them, or for how long."

This is a reminder, as we saw in Episode 602 ("Allegiance"), that Ian is conflicted. Is he Mohawk, or Scots, or something in between? It's good to see this mentioned, at least briefly.

When Malva reached up to touch his face, I thought, "GO AWAY!" Be careful, Ian, this girl is trouble! (Of course the characters never, ever listen to me....)

In the next scene, Claire is examining Tom's hand, a week after the surgery. Tom's attention is drawn by a novel, TOM JONES, by Henry Fielding, that Claire has left on the table. This is a real book, published in 1749. You can read it online here.

The discussion about reading novels comes, again, almost verbatim from the book, with one exception. They changed the line where Tom says, "I burnt her books" to "I threw them all away." I suppose someone thought the reference to book-burning was too inflammatory for a modern audience, or something like that.

Still, the rest of the scene is basically intact. I'm glad they included my favorite part, Tom's thoughts on the beneficial effects of reading novels and discussing them as a group:

“It was distraction, to be sure. In such conditions, distraction is not evil,” he assured me. “While it is of course more desirable to escape into prayer …”

“Oh, of course,” I murmured.

“But beyond that consideration … it drew the men together. You would not think that such men--Highlanders, crofters-that they would find themselves in particular sympathy with … such situations, such persons.” He waved his free hand at the book, indicating such persons as Squire Allworthy and Lady Bellaston, I supposed.

“But they would talk it over for hours—whilst we labored the next day, they would wonder why Ensign Northerton had done as he had with regard to Miss Western, and argue whether they themselves would or would not have behaved so.” His face lightened a little, recalling something. “And invariably, a man would shake his head and say, ‘At least I’ve never been treated in that manner!’ He might be starved, cold, covered in sores, permanently separated from his family and customary circumstances--and yet he could take comfort in never having suffered such vicissitudes as had befallen these imaginary beings!”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "The Captive". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I have always seen this as Diana Gabaldon's commentary on readers' reactions to her books, and some of the discussions that she's seen online over the years, on Compuserve (now TheLitForum.com) in particular.

Tom mentions, as he is leaving, that Richard Brown offered his group the protection of his Committee of Safety. That can't be good!

The next scene, with Jamie and Malva alone in the woods, is another one that comes from the book.

"Some say this place is like [Scotland], though. Do you think so?"
"Something like it."

That's based on a direct quote from the book, but in this context, it makes me laugh, because although the characters are in the woods somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina, as many of you know, all of the filming of the North Carolina locations takes place in Scotland.

Meanwhile, Tom Christie is reading TOM JONES, and does not like what he sees at all:

Secondly, that what is commonly called love, namely, the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate whitehuman flesh, is by no means that passion for which I here contend. This is indeed more properly hunger; [....] so may the lover of this kind, with equal propriety, say, he HUNGERS aftersuch and such women.


And, lastly, that this love, when it operates towards one of a different sex, is very apt, towards its complete gratification, to call in the aidof that hunger which I have mentioned above; and which it is so far from abating, that it heightens all its delights to a degree scarce maginableby those who have never been susceptible of any other emotions than what have proceeded from appetite alone.

(From TOM JONES by Henry Fielding, Book VI, chapter i)

It's quite tame by modern standards, but you can see where this might offend Tom's sensibilities! (Just as an aside, I like Tom's spectacles a lot. They look very authentic. <g>)

In the next scene, it's Quarter Day on Fraser's Ridge, and just as we saw in Episode 112, "Lallybroch", way back in Season 1, the tenants have all come to pay their quarterly rent. I was impressed with the number of people we see in this sequence, especially considering Matt Roberts' comments in the Episode 602 podcast about how difficult it was to film with COVID precautions limiting the number of people on set, and so on. Matt said (paraphrasing) that one of the things they tried to do was to give the impression that the Ridge was populated, showing as many people as possible even though they couldn't do large crowd scenes with hundreds of extras. I think they did a good job with that here.

Lizzie flirting with the Beardsley twins -- both of them! -- made me smile, knowing what's coming.

Marsali is making small talk with Evan Lindsay, one of Jamie's Ardsmuir men, when he asks if she'll introduce him to her sister.

"Careful now, she's far too young for the likes of you, and she's in Scotland forbye." Marsali is, of course, speaking of her younger sister Joan, whom we got to know in Episode 408 ("Down the Rabbit Hole"). when Bree stayed briefly with Laoghaire and Joan at Balriggan. I was a little startled by the reference, but it reinforces the idea that this is a small community, where everyone knows everyone else's family connections.

Fergus wanders outside, clutching a flask and looking ready for a fight. He catches a couple staring at him:

"Have you never seen a man with one hand before? Or a dwarf? Are we so hideous?"
"Hideously drunk," the woman replies. "But as to your son, I think 'grotesque' may be the word. You tell us if you can bear to look at him yourself."

Ouch!! Fergus throws his drink in her face, and a fight breaks out. Tom Christie calms things down, calling for "pity and kindness". Good luck with that!

I thought Roger's sermon, with the reference to the story of Moses in his basket, was really effective. I didn't see that coming, but I should have. It's perfect!

Meanwhile, Claire finds that Tom has returned the book to her, with a note saying, "This is filth. I thought better of you." Judging by the very neat handwriting, Tom's use of his right hand seems much improved. That's confirmed in the next scene, where we see Tom give Malva the thrashing with his belt that he wanted to give her in last week's episode.

The scene that follows is one that is described by Jamie in the book, but we didn't actually see it. I thought it was really well done, very powerful.

Jamie sees Fergus walking by himself in the woods, and follows him. Fergus takes out a knife and slits his wrist. Jamie reaches him in time and gets a tourniquet around the arm to stop the bleeding.

"I'm nothing. I'm useless," Fergus says. Jamie counters with every argument he can think of, and finally, he settles on the words from the book:

“Don’t you know?” I said very softly, tracing the small, neat line of his ear. Tiny, stiff blond hairs sprouted in a tiny whorl from the tagus, tickling my finger. “Don’t any of you know? That it’s you. Not what you can give, or do, or provide. Just you.”

He took a deep, shuddering breath, and nodded, though he didn’t open his eyes.

“I know. I said that to him, to Fergus,” he said very softly. “Or at least I think I did. I said a terrible lot of things.”

They had knelt together by the spring, embracing, wet with blood and water, locked together as though he could hold Fergus to the earth, to his family, by force of will alone, and he had no notion at all what he had said, lost in the passion of the moment--until the end.

“You must continue, for their sakes--though you would not for your own,” he had whispered, Fergus’s face pressed into his shoulder, the black hair wet with sweat and water, cold against his cheek. “Tu comprends, mon enfant, mon fils? Comprends-tu?

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 64, "I am the Resurrection, Part 2". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I think they absolutely nailed this scene! Just wonderful. And when Fergus comes home, he tells Marsali, "I'm sorry. Never again," and takes wee Henri-Christian in his arms. Awww!!

Finally, we have a visit from Major MacDonald, bringing the guns Jamie requested for the Cherokee. He shows Jamie and Claire a newspaper article about the Boston Tea Party, which took place on December 16, 1773. You can see the realization in Claire's face. The war is coming. Not quite yet, but it's coming.

"It's almost here." And on that ominous note, the episode ends.
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 604.

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.


Violet Daraitis said...

Bees. Amy. Bear. !!!
Good review of the episode, Karen, as usual spot on. I was glad to see Cesar Domboy to get some screen time. He is a fine actor and we finally get to see him in action. Same with Lauren Lyle.

Lone Star said...

Didn't Marsali say something similar to Murtagh (in the series, not the book) when she asked Murtagh to ask Fergus to help him with the Regulators or some such? That she wanted a whole man?

Karen Henry said...

Lone Star - yes, I think you're right! I haven't watched that episode in a long time and I had forgotten that. Thanks!


CyndiCon said...

"since he lost his hand at the age of sixteen"
How can this be? Did you do the math that I don't know about. He seemed so young in the episode when this happened. I just find this amazing if this is true. I don't remember it mentioned in the books.

Karen Henry said...


Fergus was about 10 in April 1746 at Culloden. The incident where he lost his hand occurred in VOYAGER chapter 6, two months after Young Ian was born, so probably January 1753. So Fergus was about 16 at the time. (More or less. We don't know exactly when he was born.)


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