Episode 607: "Sticks and Stones" (SPOILERS!)

Episode 607 Jamie and Tom Christie

Here are my reactions to Episode 607 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Sticks and Stones".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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

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The opening scene with Malva confessing her alleged adultery with Jamie, in church, in front of all the other Presbyterians, was very well done. This scene follows up on a comment Malva made in last week's episode, "My father made me stand in front of the congregation and confess. Mr. MacKenzie told him not to, but he did it anyway."

"I lost my innocence. It was stolen. Taken by someone I trusted." There is another way to interpret what Malva is saying here, which book-readers will notice at once. I really liked the way they did that.

The "title card" shows a ladybug crawling up a blade of grass. It's an interesting visual, but it doesn't seem at first to have anything to do with the story -- and then we see that there is blood on the grass, and we realize all at once where we are: in Claire's garden, immediately after the murder of Malva Christie. Very well done, and a very effective segue into the next scene, where we see Jamie, Claire, Tom Christie, and Allan Christie, gathered beside the bodies of Malva and her baby.

Tom seems far more upset at the prospect of "a sinner [being] buried in holy ground" than at the fact that his daughter has just been brutally murdered. But Jamie insists that they will be given a proper burial, in consecrated ground, after her funeral.

"Malva Christie was full of life and light [...] and when I held that tiny baby, I felt that same light in him." This seems to be a subtle reference to a bit from the book that they omitted from last week's episode:

“Don’t go,” I said, “don’t go, don’t go, please don’t go.” But the vibrancy faded, a small blue glow that seemed to light the palms of my hands for an instant, then dwindle like a candle flame, to the coal of a smoldering wick, to the faintest trace of brightness--then everything was dark.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 84, "Among the Lettuces". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

If you've read GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, you'll recall the significance of that "small blue glow".

In the next scene, Claire is alone in the surgery with Malva's corpse, preparing the body for burial. A bowl of water nearby is red with Malva's blood.

She intends to stitch up the gaping wound in Malva's neck, but her hands are shaking and she can barely manage to thread the needle. Suddenly she hears Malva's voice, from her nightmare in Episode 606, saying, "You're of the devil." This leads into a brief flashback, confused bits of memory, including a bird sitting outside the window (the same one she saw in Episode 301, "The Battle Joined", not long before Bree was born -- interesting!) and the sound of someone pounding on the door.

Lionel Brown's voice, taunting her. "You best pull yourself together. You don't want Jamie rushing in here to save you." In fact, I do, because Jamie is still completely oblivious to Claire's growing distress and her use of ether.

Claire flees the surgery, trying to escape Lionel's voice and the memories, and reaches for a decanter of wine (?) Not sure what she's drinking, but it's clear she's gulping it down in a desperate attempt to push away the memories.

Jamie finds her in that state, and joins her in a drink, but he doesn't ask what's bothering her, so he has no idea it's more than just Malva's death. To me, it's obvious just from the tone of Claire's voice: dull, lifeless, without emotion -- but he doesn't react to her at all, and that bothers me. Jamie and Claire are normally so attuned to each other's feelings that this seems wildly out of character for Jamie.

Mrs. Bug comes in, announcing that Hiram Crombie has come to see Jamie, and it becomes clear that she not only heard Malva's public confession, but she apparently believes every word of it, including the false accusation against Jamie.

So they've given Mrs. Bug more to say in this episode. I said in a previous episode recap that the writers appear to have "lobotomized" Mrs. Bug, but I think that's too strong. They have, however, taken away the most appealing parts of her personality; there is no trace of warmth or humor in her at all, unlike in the book, and I find that really disappointing.

The next scene, between Jamie and Hiram Crombie, is not in the book. Hiram gives Jamie Tom Christie's Bible to use during Malva's funeral service, but that's not the real reason for his visit.

"Speak plainly. If you're to make unfounded accusations on my doorstep, then do it in no uncertain terms." - good line.

"Are we all to suffer on the Ridge because ye regret marrying a jealous Englishwoman with a sharp tongue and even sharper knives?"

Wow, that's harsh! But Jamie just lets it pass. I expected him to say something like, "I dinna regret it for an instant!", but he doesn't.

So Hiram continues. "Did your wife forgive Malva?"
And this, apparently, is too much for Jamie. "If you value your life, choose your next words wisely, Mr. Crombie."

And what if he doesn't? Is Jamie seriously suggesting he'll kill Hiram Crombie just for insulting him and/or Claire, or for spreading rumors? Fortunately for all of us, Hiram takes the hint and leaves.

Afterward, in the surgery, Claire hears Lionel Brown's voice again, feels him close beside her, taunting her: "You're selfish, that's what you are." He is relentless, and unsettling. It seems clear to me that Lionel's function in these scenes is to embody not just the memories, but what we would call in today's terms "negative self-talk", private thoughts that she can't share with anyone else, even Jamie.

And all of a sudden, that inner voice focuses on her guilt over Frank, which really caught me by surprise. "The lying, the loveless marriage. Leaving when you should have stayed. Staying when you should have gone."

That's a low blow. Claire made her peace with the memories of Frank a long time ago. But her subconscious (personified by Lionel Brown) won't let her forget. So she reaches for the ether bottle (yet AGAIN!)

Sigh. I am so utterly sick of this whole ether storyline <understatement!!>, and I'm starting to fear that they (the writers, I mean) won't stop until they destroy Claire's sanity or her character or (God forbid!) both. Enough is enough already, for God's sake! Please, just stop this nonsense!!

The next scene features Roger and Bree. I was relieved at the change of scene, but even switching to Bree and Roger's point of view doesn't lift the overwhelming sense of despair that permeates this episode so far. It's depressing, and unpleasant to watch.

Roger wants to go and comfort the Christies in their grief, but Bree dismisses that rather coldly: "You know you're not the minister." Given what we learn later in this episode, that had to hurt Roger, but he doesn't let it show.

Lizzie comes in with a message for Jamie, but the important point here is that Bree finds foxtails or something similar in Lizzie's hair. She's been fooling around with someone. But who? (Two guesses!)

Jamie and Roger go out to speak to Obadiah Henderson, who is upset because Young Ian has been asking nosy questions, trying to discover who Malva's murderer might have been.

Henderson asks Jamie, "Is it true she cut the baby out of Malva's belly before she slit her throat, or was it the other way around?"

Jamie takes a step forward, and Henderson steps down, emphasizing the difference in their heights and making Jamie appear to be looming over him, menacing him with his size. But this only makes things worse.

"Are you going to threaten me, the same way you threatened Mr. Crombie?" Good point. What's Jamie going to do, kill everyone who is spreading vicious rumors?

Roger reminds Henderson that he saw him having sex with Malva (in Episode 605, "Give Me Liberty").

Later that night, Ian finds Lizzie in the stable. Ian is looking for the Beardsley twins. Has she seen them? Lizzie laughs a little nervously. "Well, no, not really."

Ian senses she's hiding something, and she is, but it's not what he's thinking!

The next scene features Roger, Bree, Jamie, and Ian discussing the possible suspects over dinner.

"I wonder if that has anything to do with that love-charm we found?" Bree says.

Grrrr! I hate it when the show makes a point by bashing the viewers over the head with a sledgehammer. (No, the fact that we SAW Malva sawing away at the sin-eater's fingers with a wee pocket-knife in Episode 605, "Give Me Liberty", has nothing at all to do with the fact that the love-charm requires human bones as one of its ingredients. Just a coincidence. Nothing to see there. Move on....) Give the audience credit for enough intelligence to put two and two together on their own! Geez.

"Where's Perry Mason when you need him?" Bree says.

We're a third of the way through the episode, and FINALLY we get the first bit that comes from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. That line is the title of Part 10 of ABOSAA.

The way everyone on the Ridge is speculating about possible suspects reminds me of this quote:

For myself, I found such open speculation rather a comfort. I had, of course, been engaging in private conjecture nonstop--and an exhausting business it was, too. Not only was it unpleasant to visualize every man I knew in the role of cold-blooded murderer--the process obliged me continuously to reimagine the murder itself, and relive the moment when I had found her.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 85, "The Stolen Bride". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The major difference, of course, is that in the show, Claire herself admits the possibility that she might have killed Malva, because of the nightmare she had under ether in Episode 606 where she threatened Malva with a knife.

"You know this feeling where you've left the house and you think you've left the oven on--" she quickly corrects herself "--I mean, a candle burning."

I smiled a little at that, but only a little. The situation is so depressing that even this anachronistic reference to 20th-century technology, which might otherwise have been entertaining or humorous, if Jamie had reacted to it, doesn't help lift the mood.

"I took some ether, and I had a lie-down."
"Christ, Sassenach! You put yourself to sleep?!?"

FINALLY he realizes! How many months has she been doing this? How many times have we seen her self-medicating with the ether, all through the whole of Season 6, and Jamie never, ever suspected, not once. Book Jamie is not nearly so oblivious! I'm glad he finally learned what she's been doing, but I wish his face hadn't been completely in shadow when he reacted to it.

While Claire is telling Jamie about her dream, I was distracted by Jamie's typical 18th-century pre-bedtime routine. Fiddling with the fire (whether poking it up or smooring it for the night, I'm not sure), heating a bed-warmer over the fire, and so on. I always find this sort of historical detail fascinating. <g>

Jamie tries to be the voice of reason here. "It doesna matter what they think." But that approach isn't working, as we see that night when Claire wakes to find Lionel Brown sitting by her bed, watching her. Even in sleep (not ether-induced unconsciousness) she can't escape this.

I like the shot of the river. I didn't realize until now how close it was to the Big House. Claire's voiceover, like so much of the dialogue in this episode, is not from the book. But again, even in a voiceover, she can't escape Lionel.

In the next scene, Ian reveals to Jamie and Claire that Lizzie is pregnant, and at long last, 26 minutes into the episode, we finally have a scene that is taken mostly from the book. Of course Lizzie's father, Joseph Wemyss, is not in the TV show, so they gave Joseph's lines to Ian, but otherwise the dialogue is very close to the book:

“Joseph,” he said with just a touch of menace. “It’s cold.” He wiped his nose on the back of his hand. “Who’s debauched your daughter? Give me his name, and I’ll see him wed to her in the morning or dead at her feet, whichever ye like. But let’s do it inside by the fire, aye?”

“Beardsley,” Mr. Wemyss said, in a tone suggesting visions of utter despair.

“Beardsley?” Jamie repeated. He raised one eyebrow at me. It wasn’t what I would have expected--but hearing it came as no great shock, either.

“Which Beardsley was it?” he asked, with relative patience. “Jo? Or Kezzie?”

Mr. Wemyss heaved a sigh that came from the bottoms of his feet. “She doesn’t know,” he said flatly.

[....]

“Well, then,” he said firmly. “We’ll have the two of them in, and find out the truth of it.”

“No,” said Mr. Wemyss, “we won’t. They don’t know, either.”

I had just taken a mouthful of raw spirit. At this, I choked, spluttering whisky down my chin.

“They what?” I croaked, wiping my face with a corner of my cloak. “You mean … both of them?”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "Double-Dealing". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is one of the funniest situations in ABOSAA, and one that I was particularly looking forward to seeing on screen. Unfortunately, they played it with such deadly seriousness, owing to the current situation in the aftermath of Malva's murder, that the humor was largely lost, and that's a shame. Neither Jamie nor Claire seem terribly shocked that Lizzie would do such a thing, only concerned about piling scandal upon scandal.

"I'll see one of them wed to Lizzie or both Beardsleys dead at her feet," Jamie says ominously, in quite a different tone than he used when saying something similar to her father in the book. Combined with his threat against Hiram Crombie earlier in the episode, this makes Jamie sound awfully bloodthirsty and violent. But he doesn't really want to kill anyone; he's just trying to get to the bottom of the situation and make sure Lizzie is wed as soon as possible.

In the next scene, Roger is working on his sermon for Malva's funeral. Bree's comment about Jemmy being worried about ghosts is based on a scene from the book:

Her lips tightened a little at the thought of Malva Christie, who had perhaps gone to a rendezvous of her own in Claire’s garden. Who? she wondered for the thousandth time, even as she automatically crossed herself, with a brief prayer for the repose of Malva’s soul. Who had it been? If ever there were a ghost that should walk …

A small shiver passed over her, but that in turn gave her a new idea.

“I think it was Mr. Buchanan Angelina saw,” she said firmly. “But if you ever should be afraid of ghosts--or anything else--you just make the Sign of the Cross, and say a quick prayer to your guardian angel.”

The words gave her a slight sense of dizziness--perhaps it was déjà vu. She thought that someone—her mother? her father?--had said exactly that to her, sometime in the distant past of her childhood. What she had been afraid of? She no longer remembered that, but did remember the sense of security that the prayer had given her.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Old Master". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

But then they take this bit from the book and give it a dark and very disturbing twist:

"And then Jemmy asked me if that would stop his granny turning him into a ghost, too."

As if this episode wasn't depressing enough, now they're making Jem afraid of Claire? I really don't like this! It feels gratuitous to me, thrown in to shock the viewers more than because it's needed for the plot.

The dialogue in the next scene, with Claire and Lizzie, is taken straight from the book, and I thought they did pretty well with it. I liked the way Lizzie's whole face lights up when she thinks about the twins. But in my opinion, the absence of Joseph Wemyss drains this situation of much of its conflict, and thus, its dramatic tension.

“But it was … er … both of them? That’s what your father said. Poor man,” I added, with a tone of some reproach.

“Oh.” She cast down her pale lashes, pretending to find a loose thread on her skirt. “Ummm … well, aye, it was. I do feel something terrible about shaming Da so. And it wasna really that we did it a-purpose …”

“Elizabeth Wemyss,” I said, with no little asperity, “rape aside--and we’ve ruled that out--it is not possible to engage in sexual relations with two men without meaning to. One, maybe, but not two. Come to that…” I hesitated, but vulgar curiosity was simply too much. “Both at once?”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "Double-Dealing". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

In the show, Lizzie doesn't have to be concerned with what her father will think. He's far away in Scotland, if he's still alive. And so the only person who has any influence over her behavior is Jamie.

I was surprised that they toned down Claire's response here. "I'm not sure it's possible to engage in sexual relations with two men without meaning to," she says rather mildly, with no tone of reproach, only sounding sad and depressed. Is she just too preoccupied with her own problems to be shocked by what she's hearing? I thought she took this too calmly, under the circumstances.

The conversation between Roger and Mr. Bug is not in the book. I didn't care for it. Arch Bug clearly doesn't think much of Roger's parenting skills or his ability to handle a man's work, such as slaughtering a sow. This conversation is notable mostly for yet another mention of Arch traveling to River Run, as we've seen multiple times over the course of this season.

Roger and Jamie discussing vegetarianism, of all things?!? This is "presentism" on the part of the writers, I think. Yes, there are plenty of people in our time who choose not to eat meat for a variety of reasons. It was not nearly so common in the time Roger comes from, circa 1971. It seems an awkward way to bring up the subject of Roger's experiences with killing.

"What I did to that Brownsville man....isn't it the same as what happened to Malva?" I think Roger is referring to the man he killed during Claire's rescue in Episode 512, "Never My Love".

"I can see that ye want to take care of them, the folk here," Jamie says, and abruptly I realized the real point of this conversation: Roger's decision to become a minister. Most of this scene comes verbatim from the book:

“The preaching, aye, I suppose I’ll manage. But it’s the other things--oh, God, this sounds insane, and I do believe I may be. But it’s the burying and the christening and the--the--maybe just being able to help, even if it’s only by listening and praying.”

“Ye want to take care of them,” Jamie said softly, and it wasn’t a question, but rather an acceptance.

Roger laughed a little, unhappily, and closed his eyes against the sparkle of the sun off the water. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. “It’s the last thing I thought of, and me growing up in a minister’s house. I mean, I ken what it’s like. But someone has to do it, and I am thinking it’s me.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 51, "The Calling". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I'm really glad they included this bit! Richard Rankin does an excellent job in this episode, but especially here. In an episode where I found few things I really liked, his performance stands out, in a good way. But I also liked Jamie's reaction.

"I have eyes to see it, lad," he says, smiling, and claps Roger on the shoulder in approval.

Watching Roger talking about what it might be like to fight with an army, I can't help thinking of his experiences in BEES at the Battle of Savannah.

I'm so, so glad that Jamie and Roger's relationship has matured to this point, where they can speak as equals about things that are really important to them. This whole scene was terrific!

The only slightly jarring note was Jamie's line at the end. "Your wife. She has eyes, too." In the book, he's referring to Roger helping Amy McCallum, but Roger put an end to that relationship in Episode 605, so I don't know what Jamie means in the context of the show. [UPDATE 4/25/2022 8:27 am: Thanks to a number of you who have pointed out that Jamie is referring to Roger's calling. For some reason I never understood that, in spite of having read/listened to ABOSAA more than 20 times over the years.]

Meanwhile, Claire is in her surgery, where the not-yet-buried corpse of Malva Christie still lies on the table, decently covered in a shroud. Claire is still being tormented by Lionel's voice in her head. "You bring pain to everyone around you," he says.

"Stop it," she whispers. "Just stop it!"

I agree wholeheartedly!! The longer this ether storyline goes on, the more I hate it. Please, just let this end (PLEASE!!!) before Claire loses her grip on sanity or it destroys her character completely.

Claire reaches for the ether bottle, crosses the room to sit down while she finishes her preparations, only to find Lionel sitting right beside her, still talking. This time she takes the ether while sitting up, which doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't the mask fall off the moment she loses consciousness? Plus she'll fall backwards off the bench and probably hit her head.

But I do like the montage of very brief audio clips from past seasons that they featured here. That was effective, and included some scenes I haven't thought of in a long time. For example:

- BJR's "Beautiful lies" (Episode 106, "The Garrison Commander")
- Father Bain, "I smell the vapors of hell on you" (Episode 103, "The Way Out")
- Geillis, "You can come out now, Claire" (Episode 110, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs", just after Claire sees her dancing naked in the moonlight)
- Geillis, "You only have yourself to blame for this" (Episode 111, "The Devil's Mark", referring to the witch-trial)

Finally, the day of Malva's funeral arrives. The grim tone of this episode continues, as Jamie and Claire face their accusers among the fisher-folk publicly for the first time since Malva's murder.

"I'll not dignify any rumors with a response," Jamie says. That made me think of our situation today with rumors and false accusations spreading everywhere online. Refusing to respond just makes the people spreading the lies and rumors bolder. I don't think it will work too well for Jamie, either.

This whole sequence is not in the book. Personally I don't think it's believable that Claire would subject herself to public scorn by showing up at the funeral, where the whole community has turned against her, nor do I think that Jamie would allow her to do so, out of concern for her safety. But obviously it makes for a dramatic scene, so I'm not surprised that they decided to do this.

Jamie and Claire take seats in the back of the church and Roger begins his sermon. We get a good look at the handmade coffin, which looks convincingly rustic.

The men move to pick up the coffin and suddenly realize, they're short one pallbearer. (In that whole community of fisher-folk, they couldn't find one single man to fill this role? Really?? I find that very contrived.) Jamie steps forward, about to volunteer, but Allan says, "No. Not him." So Ian volunteers instead.

As they file out, Claire's attention is drawn to the heartbreakingly tiny white coffin left behind, containing Malva's baby boy. She moves toward it, and Allan, seeing this, lets go of his sister's coffin.

I was more than half expecting the coffin to land on the floor, but fortunately that didn't happen. It hardly matters. I found this upsetting to watch, definitely not behavior that any civilized person would condone at a funeral. And then Allan confronts Claire, who is holding the little white coffin, and the situation gets worse.

"You put that down! They're dead because of you!"

Roger tries to intervene, but Allan ignores him, grabbing the little coffin out of Claire's arms. The reason for his distress over the baby's death is clear to book-readers, but I hope they spell it out for the viewers at some point, too. I thought Alexander Vlahos did a good job as Allan in this scene.

The burial proceeds, but we're left with the same grim, depressing feeling that we've had throughout this episode.

In the next scene, we're back to the book, as Jamie attempts to make Lizzie choose which of the Beardsley twins she will wed. The dialogue here, and in the handfasting scene that follows, comes straight from the book, and I was glad to see it:

“Ye’ve a child in your belly. Nothing else matters, but to do right by it. And that doesna mean painting its mother a whore, aye?”

Her cheeks flamed, a patchy crimson.

“I’m not a whore!”

“I didna say ye were,” Jamie replied calmly. “But others will, and it gets around what ye’ve been up to, lass. Spreading your legs for two men, and married to neither of them? And now with a wean, and ye canna name its father?”

She looked angrily away from him--and saw her own father, head bowed, his own cheeks darkening in shame. She made a small, heartbroken sound, and buried her face in her hands.

The twins stirred uneasily, glancing at each other, and Jo got his feet under him to rise--then caught a look of wounded reproach from Mr. Wemyss, and changed his mind.

Jamie sighed heavily and rubbed a knuckle down the bridge of his nose. He stood then, stooped to the hearth, and pulled two straws from the basket of kindling. Holding these in his fist, he held them out to the twins.

"Short straw weds her," he said with resignation.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "Double-Dealing". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

In the next scene, Bree and Roger are in their cabin, discussing Roger's decision to become a minister. Bree is conflicted about it. She likes seeing Roger preach (her whole face lights up when she says, "You're so good at it!") but she has concerns about what it would mean for their family.

"We both know what it's like to have parents constantly on duty, called away at all hours." Interesting comparison between Claire and Rev. Wakefield. I never considered that before.

I'm so glad that they included this bit, which is one of my all-time favorite Roger quotes in the whole series:

"I swear to ye, Bree,” he said. “Whatever I’m called to now--and God knows what that is--I was called to be your husband first. Your husband and the father of your bairns above all things--and that I always shall be. Whatever I may do, it will not ever be at the price of my family, I promise you."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 52, "M-I-C". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Bree points out that she is Catholic. What would his congregation think?

"If they have a problem with it, they can go to hell." Wow, that's strong language coming from an almost-minister!
"Sure. I just hope you have a more diplomatic line ready, when the time comes."

I liked that. This whole scene makes me happy (for the first time in the whole episode) because I know how important this decision is and will be for Roger.

In the next scene, Claire gets out of bed late at night, unable to sleep. She tells Jamie she's going to make herself a cup of tea. Tea, in the Colonies in 1775? There IS no tea, at least of the sort that the British are so fond of. Still, maybe she has some chamomile or valerian in her surgery, and she means to brew some into a tea to help her sleep?

Jamie looks after her with mild concern, but once again, he says nothing. What is the matter with him?!? He's normally so attuned to Claire's moods and needs, but here he seems mostly oblivious to her emotional distress, and I really hated that. She's in trouble, her sanity appears to be dangling by a thread, and he doesn't even ask her what's wrong. I hated this. It's very much out of character for Jamie.

The next morning, Claire has a talk with Lizzie, who tells her, "The day Malva died, I knocked at the door, but it was locked."

So it wasn't Malva knocking after all? Claire seems relieved. She puts the ether bottle away (maybe for good?) and seconds later, Lionel Brown appears in front of her.

"You think you can get rid of me?" He shakes his head, smiling. "This is not over, Claire."

As much as I hate this, it makes sense to me. He's a manifestation of her subconscious, so he won't go away, ether or no ether, until she deals with the problem.

Claire flees the house, slamming the door on her way out, and finally (FINALLY!!) her distress catches Jamie's attention. He sees that she's afraid of something in the surgery, but he goes in there anyway, perceiving no threat.

"You won't believe me," Claire says. "It feels like I'm going crazy. I don't recognize myself."

I totally agree with that last sentence. I don't recognize many aspects of this season's version of Claire, terrorized by her memories, filled with fear and self-doubt, and using ether to try to escape it all.

"I didn't kill Malva, but--what if I would've had? For us?"

Claire's syntax here confuses me. I don't get what she's trying to say. "What if I had killed her?" or "What if I would have killed her, for us?" They should have cleaned this up in editing, but I suppose at that point Caitriona was on maternity leave and not available for re-doing dialogue.

Finally, Claire tells him everything: about Lionel Brown, and hearing voices, and taking ether. All of it. I liked Cait's tearful delivery of this speech very much. It reminds me of the scene in Episode 111, "The Devil's Mark", when Claire told Jamie the truth about where she came from.

"And it's all because of my selfishness. Because I desperately wanted to be with you."

Jamie comes closer, but still he doesn't touch her. He's still frowning at her, not offering emotional support or reassurance, and I want to shake him, hard, and force him to give her some sort of comfort. A hug, maybe. Just something to acknowledge her emotional turmoil. He's holding back, and I really don't like that.

He tries a logical argument. Bree wouldn't exist, Roger wouldn't have a wife or a son, without her.

"Without you, our whole world crumbles into dust."

Actually, he's right. Without Claire, the whole OUTLANDER universe (books and show and everything else we've come to love about these amazing stories and characters) would never have happened.

"What if I can't make this voice stop, without the ether? What if there's no magic words that are gonna make it right? And I feel like I'll never get better?"

I'm worried about that, too. Her grip on sanity appears rather tenuous at the moment, and there's only one episode left in Season 6.

"After Wentworth, you found me, in the dark. I let you into my mind, into my soul. Let me do the same. Dinna lock me out. Let me join you. I canna do that when ye put yourself to sleep. We have to face this together."

I like that, very much. And the next part is even better:

“I’m honest enough to say that I dinna care what the right and wrong of it may be, so long as you are here wi’ me, Claire,” he said softly. “If it was a sin for you to choose me ... then I would go to the Devil himself and bless him for tempting ye to it.”

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "The Royal Stud". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I have always loved that quote, and it fits really well here, though it took me by surprise to see it here.

And finally, at long last, Jamie takes her in his arms. Awwww!!

So that was catharsis, for Claire, and I'm glad to see it. But I am skeptical that this will put an end to it completely. She is damaged now, psychologically, in ways that will take time to heal, and she will need time to regain her confidence. I would not be surprised if she hears or sees Lionel Brown again in the final episode next week. She's right that words alone will not cure this. Not even Jamie's most romantic words. But I hope that eventually she will heal.

In the next scene, we're back in Bree and Roger's cabin, and Lizzie and the Beardsley twins have asked Roger to marry her to Josiah. This scene comes straight from the book.

“Do it for them,” [Bree] said softly. “Please? It’s not a marriage, exactly--but you can make them handfast.”

“Aye, well, but they ought to be counseled … her father …” His protests trailed off as he glanced from her toward the trio, and she could see that he was as much touched by their innocence as she was. And, she thought, privately amused, he was also very much drawn by the thought of performing his first wedding, unorthodox as it might be. The circumstances would be romantic and memorable, here in the quiet of the night, vows exchanged by the light of fire and candle, with the memory of their own lovemaking warm in the shadows and the sleeping child a silent witness, both blessing and promise for the new marriage to be made.

Roger sighed deeply, then smiled at her in resignation, and turned away.

“Aye, all right, then. Let me put my breeches on, though; I’m not conducting my first wedding bare-arsed.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 74, "So Romantic". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The following scene, where Jamie and Claire learn that Lizzie is now handfast to both of the Beardsleys, is enjoyable, but I prefer the original, with the news delivered amid the chaos of a family breakfast, and Jemmy wanting to know what a "bigamist" is. Another opportunity for humor passed up. Oh, well.

The MacKenzies depart for Edenton, and not long after that, Jamie and Claire hear hoofbeats pounding toward the house. A large group of men, well-armed, led by Richard Brown, rides up to the Big House. The dialogue here is almost verbatim from the book:

“We’ve come for your wife,” said Richard Brown. There was an unmistakable note of gloating in his voice, and hearing it, the down hairs on my body rippled with cold, and black spots floated in my field of vision. I stepped back, hardly feeling my feet, and took hold of the doorjamb to my surgery, clinging to it for support.

“Well, ye can just be on your way, then,” Jamie replied, with the same unfriendly tone. “Ye’ve nothing to do with my wife, nor she with you.”

“Ah, now, there you’re wrong, Mister Fraser.” My vision had cleared, and I saw him urge his horse up closer to the stoop. He leaned down, peering through the door, and evidently saw me, for he smiled, in a most unpleasant fashion.

“We’ve come to arrest your wife, for the dastard crime of murder.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 87, "Justice is Mine, Sayeth the Lord". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

And on that very suspenseful note, the episode ends.
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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 the season finale, Episode 608.

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20 comments

Kyenser said...

I enjoy your recaps! I think when Rodger and Jaimie were talking in the field about Roger becoming a minister and Jaimie said, “ Your wife has eyes too.” He meant Bree had eyes to see that Rodger felt the calling to become a minister, just as Jaimie had noticed this in Rodger. That he shouldn’t be nervous to discuss it with her. I think I like the way they use text from the books but not necessarily where it is in the books? I too was glad to see the ether storyline make sense with Claire taking on blame for all the evil they’ve overcome due to her choosing to be with Jaime out of her own time. I did like the tie in to her helping Jaime after Wentworth and now he will do the same for her. I think it’s true her character doesn’t normally ask for help and prefers to be the one doing the helping/healing. Thank you for your thoughts each week! I look forward to reading them!

Scottie Culnane said...

Well done. I agree with you.

tuffy said...

totally, 100% agree with your assessment of Claire regarding the ether stuff and her 'going mad', her being unrecognizable. And with Jamie's apparent obliviousness, for SO long. doesn't make sense for ANY close couple, never mind Jamie and Claire...

regarding the scene where Claire tells/confesses to Jamie, to me that was not Jamie ''frowning'' or being cold, rather it was something that Jamie did very very well in the book: namely he LISTENED to Claire, incredibly hard. i felt like he was doing that in this scene, and considering, feeling, thinking at the same time. i thought it was well done actually, Sam was quite successful here--it was one moment where i felt the old Jamie a bit... though again i continue to find the whole 'ether jumble' and all it entailed in that confession, just a terrible part of this series.

what an inordinate amount of time was spent on this ether situation! and how many things had to change because of it! it was just so false, and a failed attempt at sensationalism (for whatever reason). it is out of place for Claire and her character, and THINK how much time could have been spent on the actual storyline and plot from A Breath of Snow and Ashes, instead!! that book has SO much in it! why fill this season with the ether stuff instead?! i am very sad about that, and think the writers and producers who ok'd that were sadly, wrong.

robrrt said...

I can understand why they did this season the way they did, all special filming circumstances considered, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Glad to see someone else finally voice their agitation. Episode 6 has been the only one that seemed "episodic" this season. Otherwise it's just been a soap opera. They've had Claire mewling about like a scared mouse for 6 episodes just so the king of men can step in on ep7 and make everything right? The film industry remakes movies all the time; how about a remake of this season. Because that's not Claire, books or show.

Katscheid said...

Excellent re-cap! I agree that I absolutely do not like the whole ether bit. It diminishes BOTH Claire and Jamie. Claire suffered from PTSD throughout the rest of the books. They do dream montages All the Time…I’m not convinced they could’ve Easily shown her panic attacks and what she was going through. The writers always have to add their own spin on the stories, and most of the time, it’s terrible. Jamie and. Lauren are so attune to each other, that Jamie would immediately know something was wrong. I’ll never believe that Claire was huffing ether for all those months and he didn’t know. When she finally does tell him and they talk, it ends with a buddy hug and a forehead peck good grief. I feel like with each season, the writers are making it worse and worse. I don’t want to hear about Covid (they were tested daily) and Cait pregnancy being excuses for their lack of chemistry. It’s been bad for a few seasons. I want the passion from season 1.I want the passion fromTHE BOOKS. The fact that they’re older has Nothing to do with their lack of passion and chemistry. Then there’s the lack of Humor. What’s up with that? The whole Lizzie thing was so dang funny in the books. On tv- nada. Don’t even get me started on Claire inserting herself into that situation at the funeral by picking up the baby casket. Good grief. In that time babies were buried with the mother, so I have no idea what that junk was about. I was so excited for this season. Everyone saying it was comparable to season 1. Really? I don’t see it. At. All.

Terry said...

I totally agree with your assessment of Jamie's lack of connection with Clair through this whole season. He's very unJamielike. It shows especially when she confesses her ether use because she is seeing things & hearing voices. He just stands there, wooden faced. The Jamie we know & love would have had his arms around her & whispering Gaelic endearments to try to comfort her. My only thought was that this was being shot when the Covid pandemic was still raging. I enjoyed your recap.

Linda in Nevada said...

I feel that they have really short-changed the story by eliminating many
moments (most?) of the humor that helped cement Jamie and Claire's relationship. I am glad, however, that they have played down Claire's repeatedly hitting, kicking, cursing treatment of Jamie. There are many times that, though she threatened him with cutting out his heart and eating it for breakfast if he ever struck her again (E101), she felt it was quite all right to physically and psychologically abuse him.
(I think I kept watching/reading just to find out how he continued to have this great love for her when she had such a violent attitude toward him.)
But...weren't the Bugs brought over from Scotland at the gathering in Ep. 5? So Mr. Bug wasn't still in Scotland at this point. He was on one of his many trips to River Run (which, hopefully, will be explored later). And I miss Mrs. Bug being "Chatty Kathy" as it definitely contained bits and pieces of them being in London. Why were they there?
For the most part, S6 is still staying closer to the books more than any season has, since S1.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading your posts. I am disappointed in the writing this season (where is Matthew Roberts?). At the end of Season 5, Claire gave the heartrenching monologue that she won't let what happen to her, break her. And now she's knocking herself out and questioning her actions through creepy Lionel? I don't like the implication she doesn't remember if she killed Malva. I don't like the distance between Jamie and Claire. Their love is the heart and soul of Diana's books and Jamie would know Claire is distressed. The best scene was when Claire told him but I agree, it took too long to get there. And while the actress who plays Lizzie is good, what's funny in the books is that she's this frail wee thing who ends up in a menage a trois. Brianna doesn't seem to have much to do. I used to enjoy her interactions with Jamie, telling him about the future or showing off her shooting skills, but they rarely have a scene together. Overall, this season feels heavy and lacks the humor, warmth, strength and love that are in Diana's books.

Anonymous said...

Claire was gang raped for goodness sake, why would that not have am effect on someone

Anonymous said...

Great rundown….& like you, I truly hate the whole ether contrivance. Such a waste of time bluntly. This season is probably the best since seasons 1 & 2, but it is either frenetically packing 500 pages into one episode, or adding all this fluff that does nothing for the story except chip apart the central love story. Appears the writers are so determined to insert modern day topics (addiction/PTSD/vegetarianism… you name it) that they seem to have missed the point of the story, and/or missed that this is the 18th century. I seriously hope that’s the end of all that nonsense. And it would be really nice if they’d work in more relationship & humor next season. It doesn’t all have to be death, rape & drama all the time. I miss powerful Jamie & sassy competent Claire from first couple seasons. Sam & Cait are both so talented & so good together. I love seeing them working together. But some of this reminds me of college students trying to write skits…. Where the words must have sounded better in their heads…any chance of bringing back writers from season one? (& yes I’m still overall enjoying seeing this offshoot from the books. But sometimes I can’t help but say ‘what??? Huh???’)

Elise Skidmore said...

I agree with your assessment for the most part, especially the bits with Claire seeing Lionel's "ghost" and MOST especially that they have her huffing the ether. Not only because it's not her character, but because it makes it seem like ether is plentiful and not expensive/dangerous to make. Drives me crazy every time they have her take a hit.

Marcie said...

I'm so glad i found your re-cap. I am very disappointed with this season. I sure hope it gets better. I am listening to the books, but have not caught up to this season yet. Thanks to everyone for your insights! I am a first time
reader and second time watcher. You all help me to fill in the gaps.

Tara Parker said...

Great review,Karen! I completely agree. The ether thing needs ro go. Jamie not being more emotional seeing Claire in pain was hard to watch. Not my favorite episode.

Auntie Judy said...

I’m glad I’m not the only one who has problems with the writing this season. It’s been painful to watch; such a departure from the spirit of the books. This part of the story was difficult, but they’ve made it worse, I think. Hope next season is done better. No more of these made-up storylines.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recap.
To me Jamie is aware that something is not oke. maybe not from the start of the season but definitely since ep 6 en 100% in ep 7. You see him reacting to her body language, he gives her subtle hints that she can tell him everything. Everyone knows that you can ask "are you oke", but if the person doesn't want to answer and you keep asking, you'll probably pushing the person away. So when Claire confesses, he then can act on that, not before...

Shelljo said...

I was SO looking forward to the Beardsley weddings, and the entire humor around the situation. The writers ruined it. RUINED it. I’m so disappointed in this season.

Adrienne said...

I enjoy your recaps very much and come by to see what your thoughts are after the episodes.

I just found Outlander at the beginning of the pandemic and binge watched all the episodes on Netflix, bought all the books read through them all, watched season 5, read all the books again last year just in time for Bees to come out and waited patiently for season 6 and I have to say I am so disappointed with it.

I think the Christie characters were brought to life perfectly from the book but I feel like they have just butchered Jamie, Claire and Bree into weak and pitiful characters this season. These are the strongest characters in the books and the writers have just seemed to water them down on the show. Jamie not being in tune to Claire like he always has been, letting people talk about his wife where in the past he would've probably choked them. Claire and the ether, ENOUGH already with this storyline, they have totally ruined everything that Claire represents in the books, Bree moping around, like she doesn't know what to do with herself and reminding Roger he's not a minister, and not to mention Mrs. Bug, she's such a lively character in the book, and where's the funny interactions between Maj McDonald and Adso or the white Sow?!?!

What happened to all the passion Jamie and Claire? I actually noticed this in season 5 in the barn sex scene. They looked like the were confused and didn't know what to do with each other and this season has gotten worse. I saw someone else made a comment about them keeping their distance because of the pandemic but the pandemic didn't keep Obadiah Henderson off of Malva in the church so I'm not buying that. There is clearly something off with the chemistry between Sam and Caitriona. Maybe it did have to do with her pregnancy but I can't dismiss the fact that there is something off with with Sam's acting this season. The intensity is gone. Jamie is usually very intense in all of his interactions with everyone whether it's someone he's fighting, a family member or friend he's defending or Claire that he's loving, he just seems off.

This season has just had so much lacking. I can't believe I waited this long for this.

Unknown said...

You named off so many of the little (and big) things that we all have quibbles with. We're all quick to blame the writers, but I think the producers have to shoulder some of this, too. Why would they let this story go in those directions - - and most especially, Sam and Cait....they know their own characters the best....so, I'm not understanding why these storylines ever even came into existence.
Don't get me wrong, it's still one of the more outstanding shows out there, but I find myself wishing I hadn't read the books, so I wouldn't know the "true" story of the scenes.
Thanks for your blog and views - always look forward to your recaps.

Auntie Judy said...

I wonder if the writers read these comments. If they might be aware of how the fans feel.

Niki said...

I agree with you about the ether. Watching episode 7 (I haven't seen 8 yet), I couldn't help but roll my eyes, make sounds of disgust, and say, "Enough of this already!" This isn't the Claire we know from the books. She's tough and smart and no-nonsense.

I also agree about the lack of humor and about Jamie.

I don't hate this season overall, but I do hate the ether story line.

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