Episode 701: "A Life Well Lost" (SPOILERS!)

Tom Christie in Outlander Episode 701

Here are my reactions to Episode 701 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "A Life Well Lost".


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









The episode opens with Claire standing on the gallows, with a noose around her neck, as we saw in the pre-season previews. I have always assumed this was a nightmare, and I was right about that, but I was surprised it turned out to be Jamie's nightmare, not Claire's.

I didn't care for Jamie's unblinking stare throughout the voiceover and the brief exchange with Ian that follows. I thought it was creepy and distracting and went on much too long!

I like the new opening credit sequence for Season 7, with the title song performed by Sinead O'Connor.

The title card for this episode shows Jamie walking through the torchlit streets of Wilmington, with "Sing me a song of a lass that is gone" playing softly in the background.

The next scene, with Claire and Sadie Ferguson in the jail cell, is taken almost verbatim from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES chapter 90, "Forty-Six Beans to the Good", and I thought it was really well done. Sadie Ferguson sounds very much like Davina Porter's version of her in the audiobook of ABOSAA, and that made me smile.

Next, we get a brief shot of Jamie and Young Ian, galloping through the countryside in pursuit of Claire, and then the focus shifts to Roger and Brianna. As they walk toward the church, Roger reminisces about his youth, in another bit taken straight from the book:

“It was more a matter of feeling obliged to curse and carry on in front of my friends, to prove I could.”

“What kind of carrying on?” she asked, scenting a story. He didn’t often talk about his early life in Inverness, adopted by his great-uncle, a Presbyterian minister, but she loved hearing the small tidbits he sometimes let fall.

“Och. Smoking, drinking beer, and writing filthy words on the walls in the boys’ toilet,” he said, the smile evident in his voice. “Tipping over dustbins. Letting air out of automobile tires. Stealing sweeties from the Post Office. Quite the wee criminal I was, for a time.”

“The terror of Inverness, huh? [....] I had no idea you were a juvenile delinquent,” she said, charmed at the thought.

“Well, not for long,” he assured her wryly. “Come the summer I was fifteen, the Reverend signed me up on a fishing boat, and sent me to sea with the herring fleet. Couldna just say whether he did it to improve my character, keep me out of jail, or only because he couldn’t stand me round the house any longer, but it did work. Ye want to meet hard men sometime, go to sea with a bunch of Gaelic fishermen.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Ambush". Copyright © 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

In the next scene, Roger accompanies Rev. McMillan to a nearby army camp to pray for a group of soldiers who are mustering to go north and fight for the British Army. I liked the visual of the tents set up in the encampment, but the scene itself was pretty contrived.

"The future Reverend MacKenzie was at the Battle of Alamance."
"Doin' what, exactly?"

Um, getting himself hanged, actually, but never mind....

One of the soldiers asks them for advice. Rev. McMillan and Roger look at each other, speechless, and then Roger says, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." I laughed out loud when I heard that (it's a famous quote by Muhammad Ali), but it seems silly in the context of a war where these men's lives will be at stake.

A moment later, the purpose of the quote becomes clear, when a man nearby says, "Ali." It's Wendigo Donner, last seen in a jail cell at the end of episode 605, "Give Me Liberty". He's a rather pitiful figure now, stuck in the British army camp as a conscript, but wanting nothing more than to go home.

"You get that, right?" asks Donner. Of course Roger gets it, having spent all of Season 5 wanting nothing more than to go back to the 20th century. Donner asks Roger to help him.

I thought this whole scene was very contrived, set up specifically to remind the audience who Donner is -- a time-traveler from 1968, like Claire.

In the next scene, we're back in the jail cell with Claire when a pair of Redcoats arrive, in search of a midwife. Most of the dialogue here is based on the book. Sadie Ferguson speaks up, saying that she is the murderess (a lie, of course), so the guards take Claire instead. Shortly thereafter, Jamie and Young Ian arrive at the jail, to find Claire gone. Jamie is furious at Tom Christie for not preventing them from taking her, but puts that aside in favor of finding out where Claire has been taken. After questioning the women at the jail, Jamie and Ian head off again, in the direction of Fort Johnston, where the sheriff has gone.

Now the scene shifts to the HMS Cruizer, shrouded in fog at anchor somewhere off Wilmington. The Cruizer was where Josiah Martin, colonial Governor of North Carolina, set up a sort of government in exile. It seems clear to me that the purpose of the fog was to keep the Cruizer from sailing away from Wilmington, but I found the fact that the fog never dissipated through the whole rest of the episode, even after days had passed, really distracting.

The scene where Claire examines Mrs. Martin, the governor's pregnant wife, is taken almost verbatim from ABOSAA chapter 92, "Amanuensis". I thought it was really well done, including some of my favorite lines:

"I’ve never known a murderess before.” She swallowed the last of the toast and licked the tips of her fingers before wiping them on the napkin.

“I am not a murderess,” I said.

“Well, of course you’d say so,” she agreed. She took up the cup of tea, surveying me over it with interest. “You don’t look depraved--though I must say, you don’t look quite respectable, either.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 92, "Amanuensis". Copyright © 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

In the next scene, the focus shifts back to Roger and Bree. Roger is carrying a bag of provisions -- food, and a hammer. Bree realizes at once that he's going to try to help Donner escape.

Bree objects strongly, on the grounds that "[Donner] just stood by and did nothing while my mother was brutally attacked, and then he ran and hid like a coward." (Referring, of course, to Claire's ordeal in Episode 512, "Never My Love".) This leads into a discussion of whether Roger would ever act like that. This scene isn't in the book, but I liked it.

"You would never, ever, stand by and watch a woman be hurt," Bree says, referring to that horrible night when she was raped by Stephen Bonnet in the tavern, while Bonnet's men were nearby, hearing her screams and doing nothing.

So Roger tells her the story of another horrible night, on the Gloriana in Episode 407, "Down the Rabbit Hole", when Stephen Bonnet threw the little girl into the sea. "And though I was desperate to intervene, I was frozen. I wanted to save them, but I couldn't. [....] So how can I condemn [Donner], as a man or as a minister?"

And then Bree just walks away, putting an abrupt end to the conversation.

In the next scene, we're back with Claire on the Cruizer, still shrouded in fog. Claire tries to talk Governor Martin into letting her go ashore to get medical supplies, but he refuses, telling her to make a list of what she needs instead. Just then, Major MacDonald comes in, and -- just as in the book -- he recognizes her at once and is surprised to see her there. Unlike in the book, their relationship here is, if not openly hostile, certainly not friendly in the slightest. Major MacDonald casts doubt on Claire and Jamie's loyalty to the Crown, making Governor Martin instantly suspicious. As Major MacDonald turns to go, Claire calls him a "manipulative bastard". She's right, in this instance at least. He's made her situation much more difficult.

In the next scene, Tom Christie receives Claire's note from the governor's aide, Tate. It's a list of items she requires, including:
- Camphor
- Potassium Nitrate
- Vir Meus

"Vir meus" is Latin for "my husband". Notice the smile that comes over Christie's face when he says, "I'm very happy to be of service both to Mistress Fraser and to the Crown." He's thinking of Claire, of course.

Back on the Cruizer, Claire and Gov. Martin have a rather tense conversation. Martin is appalled that an accused murderer has been tending his wife. Claire tries to assure him that she's innocent, that she tried to save Malva's unborn child. Then she brings up the fact that the Martins have lost children of their own.

"I know what it's like to lose a child," she says. "There is no greater pain. It's unspeakable." Oh, God! I thought at once of that heartwrenching episode 207, "Faith", where we saw her grief for ourselves.

Unfortunately, Gov. Martin is unmoved. "To be charged with murder is one thing. But to be suspected of treason is quite another." (Well, he's got a point.)

In Wilmington, Tom Christie gives Jamie the note from Claire, and Jamie immediately takes off for the Cruizer, without even bothering to let Young Ian know where he's going.

Back on the ship, the fog is so thick that there's almost no visibility. This is getting ridiculous. Surely the fog must lift at some point! No time to ponder this, though, because Jamie is on his way! (The scene where Claire watches Jamie rowing toward her in a small boat is very much as described in ABOSAA chapter 96, except that the book version doesn't feature this dense fog.)

[When] a small boat came out of the haze, I knew at once that it was Jamie. He was alone.

I watched the long, smooth reach of his arms and the pull of the oars, and felt a sudden deep, calm happiness. I had no notion what might happen—and all the horror and anger connected with Malva’s death still lurked at the back of my mind, a great dark shape under very thin ice. But he was there. Near enough now to see his face, as he looked back over his shoulder toward the ship.

I lifted a hand to wave; his eyes were already fixed on me. He didn’t stop rowing, but turned round and came on. I stood clinging to the rail, waiting.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 96, "Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot". Copyright © 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The scene that follows, with Jamie and Governor Martin, is almost verbatim from the book, except for the fact that Claire is not present, so we don't, of course, get her thoughts and reactions. I have always loved the way Governor Martin springs the trap, saying that he will only release Claire if Jamie supplies 200 troops to fight for the Crown. It seems an insurmountable obstacle, leaving Jamie with no way out.

In the next scene, we're back with Roger and Bree. Roger announces that he has changed his mind. He's not going to help Donner to escape from the British army after all. He's going to pray for him instead, to ask God to "help him to help himself." To me, this seems very vague, cliched, almost like a Hallmark card or a motivational poster. Couldn't Roger at least have come up with a Biblical quote, a psalm or something to express what he means? This sort of help is well-meaning, but of no practical use at all to Donner in his current predicament. I mean, if you see someone dangling from a cliff, do you reach out a hand to pull him up, or do you just stand there and pray for him to find the inner strength and fortitude to help himself climb up on his own?

This seems very much out of character for Roger, whose faith most often expresses itself in his need to help other people -- Morag, and Father Alexandre (the priest he met during his time with the Mohawk), and the McCallum family, and anyone else who would welcome it -- but always in practical ways. Not just praying for them and leaving it to them to solve their own problems. I didn't like this at all. And yet, Bree's reaction is to smile and say, "You're going to be a great minister." Sorry, I just don't get it. <shrug> It struck me as Roger spouting platitudes, empty words, instead of doing what he could to help, and that didn't sound like the Roger I know (from the books OR the show!) at all.

In the next scene, Jamie and Ian return to the tavern in Wilmington, where they encounter Tom Christie, who has been drinking whisky -- even though he is a strict teetotaler, as we saw in Season 6. That's very much out of character for Tom, and I didn't care for it. I don't like the thought that Tom would allow whisky to cloud his judgment as he makes what may be the most momentous decision of his whole life.

Tom's conversation with Jamie is not in the book, but I thought it was plausible, for the most part. I love watching Mark Lewis Jones in this scene (and the one with Claire that follows.) I think he's pretty much channeling Tom Christie, and it's amazing to watch. Sam Heughan is also excellent in this scene.

"Let me go to the Cruizer and tell the Governor what I have done. Let me look Mistress Fraser in the eye one last time, and confess."

I found this confusing. What he has done? Confess -- to what exactly? Obviously that becomes clear after Tom explains everything to Claire in the later scene, but there's no way Jamie could know what he intends to do at this point. Yet Jamie asks no questions. He just lets it pass without comment, and instead repeats the promises he made to Claire on their wedding day.

"I dinna need your help." This is Jamie "stubborn as a rock" Fraser talking. He absolutely does need Tom's help -- if there's a way out of the trap Governor Martin has laid for him, he has no choice but to take it -- but he's too stubborn to admit it, or even to ask what Tom has in mind.

"I have no name that carries any weight in this world. A broken family, no clan of my own. Allow me to do this."
"I can say nothing to dissuade ye?"

I like that, but again, is Jamie a mind-reader? How does he know what Tom is planning? All Tom has asked is to be able to meet with the Governor, and with Claire. But Jamie acts as though he knows that Tom is offering to literally sacrifice his life, without Tom ever actually saying it. (We learn the answer to this near the end of the episode. More about this below.)

Notice the bell ringing at that moment. It strikes me as metaphorical, in a "Send not to know for whom the bell tolls/It tolls for thee" sort of way. It's ringing for Tom Christie.

I like the idea of Jamie's eulogy for Tom. I thought that was a nice touch, to have them reconcile, at long last, while there's still time.

"Despite our differences, a man I respected, and whose respect I hope I had in return." - Good line!

The scene between Tom and Claire on board the Cruizer is just wonderful! It's one of those scenes I refer to as "filming the book", and both Cait and Mark Lewis Jones did a wonderful job with it! The dialogue comes almost verbatim from ABOSAA chapter 97, "For the Sake of One Who Is".

"Do you know who the baby's father really was?" Claire asks. But if Tom knows, he won't answer.

"Now I know that I--I love you." This line isn't in the book, but I think it works well here, to make sure the viewers understand what's motivating him to make this sacrifice.

I love the look on Tom's face as he says this next part, my favorite part of this whole scene. Looking into Claire's eyes and smiling, totally at peace with his decision.

“I have yearned always,” he said softly, “for love given and returned; have spent my life in the attempt to give my love to those who were not worthy of it. Allow me this: to give my life for the sake of one who is.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 97, "For the Sake of One Who Is". Copyright © 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

That's such a powerful statement, and even more so when you realize that he intends literally to sacrifice himself for Claire, just as Jamie did when he offered himself to BJR at Wentworth. Even now, having read/listened to ABOSAA well over twenty times, it still takes my breath away, and Mark Lewis Jones's performance here is just mesmerizing!

Later, after Claire and Jamie are reunited, they're lying in bed in an inn, fully clothed, apparently exhausted by the stress of recent events. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes from ABOSAA chapter 98, "To Keep a Ghost at Bay". Jamie reveals that Tom did in fact tell him what he planned to do, before he told Claire. So that must have happened off screen, at some point before the scene where Jamie discovered Tom with the whisky (where I noted above that Jamie seems to know things that the viewers do not.) I still think that's really confusing for the TV-only viewers. Oh, well.

"I would have done the same, and counted my life well lost, if it saved ye. If he feels the same, then ye’ve done nay wrong to him, to take your life from his hand.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 98, "To Keep a Ghost at Bay". Copyright © 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I've always loved that line, and of course I was expecting it, given the title of this episode, but I still loved hearing Jamie say it.

And then Jamie does something I totally did NOT see coming, at all. After Claire falls asleep, he surprises Richard Brown in his inn room, and it's obvious from his demeanor and Brown's reaction that he's threatening to kill Brown.

"You harm a hair on my head and my kin will hunt you down, kill everyone you hold dear," Brown says.

But Jamie replies that Ian and his Cherokee friends will be dealing with the Browns. "We'll have no more trouble from them." (Really? What did they do, kill everyone in Brownsville?!?)

It's clear that Jamie is determined to kill Brown, to put an end to the threat once and for all. And as he lunges for the dirk on the table nearby, the episode ends.

That was a very unsettling ending. Yes, Jamie is a "bloody man", but to kill a man in cold blood like that? I really didn't expect that, and I find it disturbing.
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 702.

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. For more about the forum, look here.


Carol said...

Thank you for another logical analysis of the Outlander TV episodes, in this instance, Episode 1 of Season 7.

I especially appreciate them because I have to wait for the release of the DVDs.

Lisa said...

You verbalized the parts that I felt were out of place much better than I myself did. Thanks so much for this excellent recap!

Linda in Nevada said...

Just a reminder...
In S6, when Brown was looking for a judge and determined they would have to go to Wilmington, Jamie saw Tom looking at Claire and we just knew that Jamie realized that Tom was in love with Claire. No dialog was necessary.

Julie said...

Thank you for the recap.I don't agree with all your opinions but I respect them x

Carol said...

Thinking about the possibility of Jamie feeling obliged to kill Richard Brown, I find myself in favour of this ending. The book never satisfactorily tied up what happened after Jamie and Claire returned to Frasers Ridge, other than the Brown men much later joining Jamie's militia en route to Wilmington.

Anonymous said...

Although it was a shock to see Jamie go after Richard Brown and presumably kill him ,, we do see him in the later book kill the ,, fat lumpkin ,, who raped Claire, is this a similar situation .?

Liz said...

I liked the ending. Jaimie has killed before and he is a man of violence. He would destroy anyone who threatens Claire. He said "Kill them all" when he rescued Claire from Brown, (brother). It is not his nature to be violent, but he has learned the necessity of it to protect his loved ones.

vivian said...

I felt differently about the fog. I thought of it as an artistic expression of the isolation of Claire and of the governor not as a weather statement. Tom comes out of the fog….the unknown…to save Claire. I was very impressed with the staging and lighting in this episode.

Susan Smith said...

I so appreciate an objective critique. So brave As with the cult like following on Facebook, one gets hammered for any negative comment. I know they are speeding through the books and must take a lot of short cuts but I agree that a lot just feels out of character. You would also think the writers would understand Jaimie’s appeal. He is a man! A real man! So why must they weaken other male characters like Roger and previously Ian? Lame in my opinion. Thought they did fairly well just the same but the filming seems cheaper than before. I am at a loss for proper adjectives but it felt amateur. Thank you. Well done cliffs notes.

Susan Lilly said...

Um, Jamie kills Richard Brown is ok not cold Blood the Browns are bad guys. Send him to Scotland so he can’t save Clair. Ya Richard is a bad man used his power as to be mean.

Jan said...

It's been a long wait for this new series, and I think episode 1 did a very good job of tying up several story-lines from the last series.
I think I may be alone in really not liking the new introductory music, but I think it's a bit contrived, or maybe, just not to my taste.
Loved both Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones) and Richard Brown(Chris Larkin). Both gave excellent performances, and I'm glad Jamie dealt with the Browns, they would just have caused more trouble at a later date.
Sam and Catriona both gave their usual great performances, they really do embody their characters to perfection. Briana and Roger? I was slightly bored, I'm afraid. I'm not particularly looking forward to their ongoing storyline, their characters desperately need some oomph! Still, no real complaints from me, I'm just glad we are finally getting the new series.
Thank you.

CT said...

I'm with Jan on the opening introductory music. I am not a huge fan of Sinead O'Conner but she had an amazing voice many years ago. As a singer myself I know that our voices change and her's certainly has. It is deeper, raspy and frankly she sounds tired. I will add a caveat. I like the whispered vocal tag at the end.

Marty said...

I don't like the intro music for this season at all. Sinead sounds like she is forcing it and her voice is raspy and harsh sounding. Not musical at all.....

Sherry Campbell said...

I agree with several others about not liking the intro music. I will be fast forwarding through the intro each time I re-watch.

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