The Canonization of Frank Randall: Do TPTB Have a Pathological Man-Crush on Tobias Menzies?

la-et-st-tobias-menzies-interview-20160516-snap First, let me say that I, and from what I read, most other Outlander fans are DONE with Frank Randall. I tried to be somewhat diplomatic about him in my last post (How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Randall?), but having watched the first five episodes of Season 3, the gloves are coming off about my feelings on the portrayal of “show” Frank. And a warning: my language may get a little “salty,” so if that offends you, stop reading now. Oh…and there are some spoilers for Episode 305, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and don’t want to know anything about it, go away until you’ve watched it.
I’ve tried to be patient; I knew, based on Season 1 and 2, that Frank would have a much greater role in the first half of Season 3 than he has in the books (and that he deserves, imho). I had prepared myself for it and accepted it. I had planned to say nothing more on the subject of Frank. But, then I watched episode 305, Freedom and Whisky, and it just pushed me over the edge.

What. The. Actual. F*ck., Ron Moore & Co?

That whole scene at Harvard to honor Frank with a fellowship was just ridiculous, a waste of time and completely unnecessary to the story (and I am sorry, but as much of a history nerd as I am, I don’t think there’s a ton of “groundbreaking work” done the field of European studies).   For non-book readers, this event did NOT happen in the story. Additionally, the part of the scene with “Sandy” and Claire also did not happen. The only purpose for including this scene was to bestow sainthood onto poor, long-suffering Frank, to make Claire look like a heartless bitch and to verty hamhandedly hit the viewer over the head with the message of not squandering an opporttunity to be witt the “love of your life.” But to do it this way?  What the hell?  Would our Claire honestly stand there and be berated about her choices, in public, by Frank’s MISTRESS?  The woman doesn’t exactly hold the high moral ground in this situation. And then to drag Bree into it? Oh, HELL no.  (And Candy…is that your name, honey? Clearly Frank did not share your feelings or he would have left Claire for you as soon as Bree was old enough to make her own choices about continuing to see him, but he didn’t, so…maybe you need to reevaluate the depth of his ‘love” for you).

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I honestly do not understand this obsession that TPTB have with Frank. This story is NOT ABOUT FRANK, people! It was NEVER about Frank. There was NO love triangle between Frank, Claire and Jamie. Let me say very plainly that, as a fan of the books and the show, I am sick and tired of having this notion shoved down my throat. Every time I hear one of the producers/directors/writers say during a podcast/interview/episode recap that we “have to see the relationship between Claire and Frank to truly understand the story,” (and by association, to understand Claire) I want to throw large projectiles at my television.  We do NOT, I repeat, do NOT need to know about Frank and his relationship to Claire in ordet to understand her, or her love for Jamie. We’re on to your message, and it reeks…

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I am fully aware, as are all fans, that this is an adaptation and that the show will not be exactly like the books. I have no problem with that. But as I have said in many of my previous blog posts (Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex , Looking for Mr. Fraser ) I very much take issue with changing the essential natures of the characters. The portrayal of Frank is the most glaring example.
I never really disliked Frank until Voyager. One can feel sympathy for him in Outlander (book 1 and the show). But the show runners have really gone off the rails where Frank is concerned, and are continuing to do so. In my opinion, they went way overboard (and wasted valuable screen time that would have been far better spent on the Jamie and Claire relationship) by focusing so much on Frank’s pain and his search for Claire. Why do I think this, you ask? Because THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT FRANK. While one could imagine these events occurring in the story, they did not, in fact, appear in the books. There was no mention of Frank’s search for Claire, or his anger, frustration and downright douchiness to the local Scottish police. Personally, I think it was omitted from the book for good reason: BECAUSE THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT FRANK.
And then there’s Voyager (the book). Frank knew he was incapable of siring children (he KNEW, and to my recollection, never mentioned it to Claire when she first came back). Consequently, he “claimed” Brianna as his own, and never failed to lord his self-righteous “benevolence” over Claire. There are so many examples of Frank’s being an utter dick to Claire in the book that I could fill pages and pages repeating them here (which I will not. I’m only going to include one passage a bit further down as an example. If you haven’t read the book, just take my word for it. It’s there). However, in the show, we see the exact opposite. Even in portraying Frank’s infidelity, he is made out to be the victim. Poor Frank, married to a woman who is still in love with Jamie and who ignores him because she is “married” more to her career than to him, so OF COURSE it’s completely reasonable that he would seek love outside the marriage (I’m rolling my eyes so hard right now that they may stay this way).

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I knew that we would have to endure scenes between Frank and Claire in Season 3. My question is, why spend so much valuably limited screen time on it? Jamie’s is the more compelling story during the twenty-year separation. Think about all that happens to him versus Claire; there are only three major events that happen to Claire during this period: the birth of Brianna, graduating from medical school and her discovery that Jamie was alive. That’s pretty much it. And the truly interesting part of her story during that time was the search for Jamie with Brianna and Roger after Frank’s death . Why not focus the first few episodes predominantly on the events in Jamie’s life? So much more was happening to him during that time: Culloden and its aftermath, his time in hiding as the Dunbonnet, Ardsmuir Prison and his developing relationship with Lord John Grey, his time at Helwater as MacKenzie the groom and all that occurs with Geneva and Willie, and finally his re-birth as Alexander Malcolm, printer and smuggler. Those passages in the book were so beautiful and fully fleshed-out in comparison to the chapters about Claire in the 1960’s. I’m glad they covered all of them in the show, but they were a bit rushed because we just “had” to watch Frank and Claire’s marriage disintegrate, too. Was that really necessary?
I am not saying that the show runners should have completely ignored what was happening with Claire in the 20th Century. Not at all. We needed that juxtaposition against Jamie’s life in the 18th century. But given the two parallel story lines, it would have been more faithful to the book to put more time and energy into portraying Jamie’s story in the past, and then focusing on Claire, Brianna and Roger’s search for Jamie in the present. What we did NOT need was the canonization of poor, pitiful, long-suffering Frank.  Want to know why we didn’t need that?  THE STORY ISN’T ABOUT FRANK.
Even in the scenes that should have been about Claire, the TPTB made them about Frank:  the scene with Millie was really about making Claire feel guilty about Frank, Claire’s graduation party was about…you guessed it…Frank (not about Claire’s amazing accomplishment of becoming a doctor in the 60’s, as it should have been), the fights between Claire and Frank made Claire out to be the “bad guy,” while Frank was the put-upon, martyred victim.  And speaking of “that fight” between Claire and Frank (where Frank finally tells Claire he wants a divorce and wants to move to England with Bree), I have a few comments:
In the book, this is how it went down, mostly in the chapter entitled “To Lay a Ghost”:
Frank announces that he wants to go on sabbatical in England and is taking Bree with him (the announcement, by the way, is made ONE SEMESTER BEFORE BREE’S GRADUATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL! This was incredibly selfish & Frank clearly did not giving one thought to Bree’s feelings.  It was all about him).
     “I’m going now. For good. Without you.”
     “Why now, all of a sudden? The latest one putting pressure on you, is she?”
     The look of alarm that flashed into his eyes was so pronounced as to be comical. I laughed, with a noticeable lack of humor.
     “You actually thought I didn’t know? God, Frank! You are the most…oblivious man!” (and then, instead of protesting or denying it (as one would do if one was innocent of the accusation), he says:
     “I thought I had been most discreet.”
     “You may have been at that,” I said sardonically. “I counted six over the last ten years—if there were really a dozen or so, then you were quite the model of discretion.”
Then we have a rather despicable passage that shines a light on Frank’s racism, in which he reveals his true motive for wanting to remove Bree from Boston: that he doesn’t want her around “those kinds of people,” i.e. African Americans, specifically Joe Abernathy and his son). What a great guy!
Claire finally explodes:
     “You have the absolute, unmitigated gall to tell me that you are leaving me to live with the latest of a succession of mistresses, and then imply that I have been having an affair with Joe Abernathy? That is what you mean, isn’t it?”
Frank then announces that he doesn’t need her permission to take Bree (there is also the strong implication that he is angrier about the possibility that Claire had an affair with a BLACK man, and not just that he thinks she had an affair in general). Claire counters that she CAN, indeed,  stop him (the following passage was very closely mirrored in the show, with a few notable omissions that made Frank look bad). She says:
     “You want to divorce me? Fine, use any grounds you like—with the exception of adultery, which you can’t prove, because it doesn’t exist. But if you try to take Bree away with you, I’ll have a thing or two to say about adultery. Do you want to know how many of your discarded mistresses have come to see me, to ask me to give you up?”
Frank responds a bit further on:
     “I shouldn’t have thought you minded. It’s not as if you ever made a move to stop me.”
     And then later, “You might have behaved as though it mattered to you,” he said quietly.
     “It mattered.” My voice sounded strangled.
     “Not enough.” OUCH.
You can see how this scene was subtly changed to make Frank seem like the victim and so much better than he was in the book. The directors/writers completely ignore his racism and his selfishness about pulling Bree out of school a few months before she would graduate high school. In fact, they turned this around, too. In the book, it was CLAIRE that pointed out that Bree wasn’t an irresponsible teenager; that she was a level-headed adult. In the show, they had Frank make that observation (because he was SUCH a better parent than Claire). In the book, it was Frank that was treating her like a child. Let’s face it, folks: book Frank is an asshole. Show Frank is practically a saint.
Finally, let’s talk about episode 305, Freedom and Whisky. Finally, we “non-Frank” people are thinking, “Great! We are done with Frank. He’s dead and gone. R.I.P. Hasta la vista, baby. Claire is free to follow her heart.” But Noooooooo. Frank is back from the grave, getting his posthumous adulation from the University, while Claire is accosted by his mistress, whining about how he was the “love of her life” and how she (Claire) is horrible person for not “letting him go” (as if she had kept him prisoner in a deep pit in their basement .

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Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, people, LET IT GO! He’s dead! Get over it! Move on! (If I see a tramp stamp of Frank’s face above Claire’s ass when Jamie peels off her corset next week, my head will explode…truly).
Please don’t get me wrong. I am THRILLED that Droughtander is over and our favorite show is back. For the most part (except for the Frank stuff), I am loving this season.  The production value and the acting has been, as always, outstanding. Further, none of this critique has ANYTHING to do with Tobias Menzies. He is fine actor and probably a lovely person.

So, regarding Frank, is this it? No more Frank?  No Frank flashbacks, Frank hauntings, Zombie-white walker Franks?  Are we done with this, now? Yes? GOOD.

On a final note, I admit that I was squeeeeing like a teenager when Claire walked into that print shop at the end of Ep. 305. Judging by the sex scenes between Claire and Frank and Jamie and Geneva (which I had no problem with, as they are part of the story…although thank GOD they spared us the breast-feeding scene! That would have been way too “Game of Thrones/Lysa & Sweet Robin” for any of us to deal with! I think I would have had to bleach my eyeballs if I had been forced to witness THAT), I think TPTB got the message last year. We want to see the intimacy and physical love between Jamie and Claire that is integral to their characters and their relationship. Fortunately, it looks like we’re going to get it this season (and hopefully more than just next week). I am excited beyond belief to see our favorite power couple back in action, together, where they belong, going forward to live their crazy lives.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m glad that Frank is really most sincerely dead?  Let’s hope he stays that way.

 

 

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Randall?

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Frank, Frank, Frank… Love him, hate him or just don’t care about him, people have verra strong opinions about Frank Randall. Is he the tragic hero in this tale, or just a condescending philanderer? I suppose the answer depends on how one feels about Frank and his role in this series.
Personally, I’m kind of in the middle; I neither hate nor love him. The problem, for me, is that he’s just not a compelling character. Any interest I may have had in Frank ended when Claire went through the stones. If you’ve read the books, you know his story mostly ended there. Yes, there are some glimpses into Claire’s life with Frank when she left Jamie and came back to the 20th century. There are also occasional memories about him imparted to the reader from Claire and Bree in later books. And there is the letter Frank writes to Reverend Wakefield about Jamie, which I will address later. But those passages take up very little of the overall story. Consequently, I have two main questions for the Powers that Be who bring us the show: 1. Why is Frank being given a much larger role than he has in the books, and, more importantly, 2. Why are they altering his character to make him more likeable in the show?
In my reading of the books, there is a lot more going against Frank than for him, but in fairness, I will say that I think Frank got a raw deal: he marries Claire, WWII intervenes a few months later and they are separated for years by their respective roles in the war effort. They both survive the war, come back together, practically strangers, and decide to go to Scotland on a second honeymoon so they can get to know each other again (or arguably, for the first time). They are there for a few days, and WHAM, Claire disappears into thin air.
Imagine being in that situation: someone you love has just vanished without a trace. No clues, no evidence of foul play, no closure. Just gone. What a horrible thing to endure – always wondering what happened to that person. Did he/she leave you, without even the courtesy of telling you why? Or was it more sinister? Was the person kidnapped? Murdered?
So, we have this poor man, whose wife has been inexplicably gone for nearly 3 years, trying to get on with his life when, suddenly, she reappears, telling a crazy tale of time travel. Oh, and she’s pregnant with another man’s child. Does she allege that she’s been held captive and was raped? No. The pregnancy is quite clearly voluntary and wanted(that’s GOTTA hurt). He takes her back (out of duty or love, I’m not sure), even though he is not buying her story, and says the they will raise the child as their own. Claire, reluctantly, agrees.
Given these circumstances, I am not unsympathetic to Frank. He didn’t do anything to cause this situation, and he stands by Claire when most men would not have done so. As Claire tells Roger in Voyager:

“He was a very decent man.”

So, we know from Claire herself that Frank was a good guy, and despite his other faults (and he has quite a few), I think, deep-down, he was. Frank is not my favorite character, but not because he was unfaithful to Claire. I don’t care for him because he’s often a pompous, condescending ass, and “frankly” (see what I did, there?) kind of boring. Before I continue, let me state that YES, Frank was unfaithful to Claire, despite people’s protestations to the contrary (including, unfathomably, Diana Gabaldon’s, who stated not long ago, that Frank’s infidelity was “ambiguous.” No, it wasn’t. It was quite unambiguous. While it is true that Claire never finds Frank and one of his mistresses in flagrante delicto, nor does he ever say “Hey Claire, guess what? I’ve been shagging everything in a skirt for the past twenty years!” the implication is pretty clearly written. I won’t repeat all of the evidence here, but if you want a prime example, read chapter 19, To Lay a Ghost, in Voyager, when Claire is thinking back on the argument she and Frank had right before he was killed in the automobile accident. He never once denies her accusations; he admits them. In response to her telling him that she knows he has been unfaithful he says:

 
“I thought I had been most discreet.”

 
Sounds like an admission to me! In many ways, one could argue that he was justified in seeking affection outside the marriage when he wasn’t getting any inside of it (although, personally, I think divorce is a better option than infidelity). But as I said, his infidelity is not the problem. Frank and Claire have a difficult marriage that is held together by the love they share for Brianna. In some ways they love each other, too, but not in the way that Jamie and Claire do, not even close.
The problem is Frank’s role in the story. Why make it more important than it was in the books? Now that we are in season three, and Claire has returned to the present, I suppose the producers must give time to what is happening in Claire’s life to juxtapose what is happening in Jamie’s to keep the story balanced. But does it need to be equal time? There is a lot more happening to Jamie during their twenty-year separation than to Claire. Why not spend a bit more of the first part of the new season focused on Jamie, rather than wasting valuable screen time, say, beating us over the head with the misogyny of 20th century America (seriously, one scene of that would have been more than sufficient; we got the message the first time), or watching Claire try to light the pilot on the stove? Jamie’s story during that time is much more involved–and spelled out in detail in the book–so why not use the time to stick closer to the story instead of speculating about the details Claire & Frank’s awkward marriage?
I do like the way they are moving back and forth between Jamie and Claire’s lives during their separation. What I object to is spending more time than necessary on Frank and deliberately making him more likeable in the show than in the books. This is not his story. He is a secondary character. I’ve said in previous posts how irritated I was that the writers and directors were altering Jamie, Claire and Frank’s personalities, especially in Season 2. Diana wrote these characters in a specific way; they don’t need to be changed.

One need only look at two other popular book series-to-film franchises: Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. I am a huge fan of both of these series and the thing I like so much about the film versions is that the essence of the main characters has not been changed from books to screen. Good, evil or some combination of the two, they are the same characters I loved in the books. I can only imagine how daunting a task it is to adapt a large book series to the small (or large) screen. Scenes must be cut, minor characters removed, or merged with other characters (which I hope they did with Murtagh. THAT’S a change I could get behind!), storylines altered or removed, etc., to bring the story to life on screen. The same is true of Outlander, and I completely respect that. What should not happen is for the personalities of the major characters to change, because that alters the essential essence of the story itself.
Here is an example from the first episode of this season, “The Battle Joined”. Mostly, I thought it was excellent, except for the very end. Even though we know next to nothing of Bree’s birth from the books, the way that it was interpreted in the show was not consistent with the character’s “book personalities.” It made no sense to have Frank carry in newborn Bree, give her to Claire, who takes one look at her (completely ignoring her beautiful red hair, and therefore her connection to Jamie), and tells Frank how sorry she is for being so horrid to him and that now they can begin a happy life anew. What???
They chose to hearken back to Claire’s distress at losing Faith during the beginning of that scene, when she wakes and asks if her baby is dead. What would have been truer to the story, in my opinion, would have been to focus on her loss of Jamie, given baby Bree’s resemblance to him (don’t tell me that the first thing she would have seen would have been that gorgeous hair!).

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There is no reason they couldn’t have done this: open the scene with Claire holding Bree, stroking her red hair, and feeling the absence of Jamie. Show her expressing her deep love for her child and her deep sorrow at knowing Jamie will never hold her. Maybe even have her imagining that Jamie is there with her, looking at Bree over her shoulder. That’s what I think book Claire would have done. Frank might be standing near the door watching her. He comes in, a brief, unspoken tension between them, and then he asks her to hold Bree.  When Claire sees Frank holding this baby, Jamie’s baby, and falling in love with her anyway, THAT would have broken down the wall between them. That would have achieved the same purpose of the scene, i.e. to bring Claire & Frank closer together, while staying true to the personalities of these characters and the larger story.

 
Frank’s Letter to Rev. Wakefield “Prepping” of Brianna for the Past
In Episode 2, “Surrender”, we saw Frank beginning to write a letter to Reverend Wakefield to see if he could find information about Jamie Fraser. Book readers will know, somewhat, what this is about. (SPOILER ALERT from the book) Frank eventually finds out that Jamie Fraser was an actual person and that he did not die at Culloden, which he doesn’t tell Claire or Bree (another thing which does not endear him to me). Instead he has a “marriage stone” (a headstone without birth and death dates) for Jamie (that says “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Beloved husband of Claire”) put in the kirkyard of St. Kilda’s church in Scotland near Jack Randall’s grave. He does this because he is fairly certain that one day Claire will take Bree to Scotland. He believes that Bree will look for Frank’s ancestors, Jack’s headstone, and then she and Claire will see Jamie’s. This is how Claire ends up telling Bree about Jamie in the book. He later writes a letter explain his actions to Reverend Wakefield. Roger finds this letter and tells Jamie about it (oh, and by the way, he kind of admits to his adultery in this letter as well). We don’t know exactly how much Frank knew, or when, but somehow he comes to believe Claire’s story, because as Bree is growing up, he “preps” her for life in the eighteenth century (teaching her to shoot, hunt, make fire, ride a horse, etc).
This part of the story is a wee bit murky. Having a headstone put in a graveyard in Scotland near Jack Randall’s grave on the off-chance that Bree would research her genealogy and that she and Claire would find them is quite a long shot. We do know that the reason he does all of this is so that they both will know about Jamie, and Claire will find out he didn’t die at Culloden, without him (Frank) having to tell her. I always found this to be a pretty selfish, cowardly thing to do to Claire. I understand that he was afraid she would leave him, but he was reasonably sure she wouldn’t leave Bree (or try to take her away). But he wanted to leave her and was well-aware of the love she had for Jamie, so why not tell her? He took the choice away from her.
The other part of this, that we don’t know, is why he believed Brianna would go back to the past at some point. 1. Why would he think she would believe the story? 2. Even if she did, why would he think that she could travel back, just because her mother could? 3. I assume that Frank didn’t think he would die at the age he did, and he never told them what he knew while he was alive because he didn’t want to lose Bree (he even threatened, right before he died, to take Bree away from Claire and move back to England (in the semester before she graduated from high school, by the way, another selfish act). So, if he believed he would live to a ripe-old age, and he had no intention of sharing the grave information while he was alive, what was the point of all these machinations? Even if he knew, somehow, that Bree could travel to the past, does anyone really believe he would have told her sooner, and risk losing her, maybe forever? I suppose Diana may explain all of this in her last book, but for me, even if she turns Frank into the secret hero of this entire story (like Snape in Harry Potter), I will still think it was pretty awful of him not to tell them.
So there you have it, my thoughts on Frank Randall. Thankfully, he won’t be around much longer. Winter is coming and those cold Boston streets are covered in black ice.

 

A Wee Coo’s Top 10 Hopes for Outlander Season 3

Droughtlander is OVER! Season 3 of Outlander is upon us, and I’m verra excited about it. (PRINT SHOP…need I say more?) I sincerely hope the producers took the criticisms of last season seriously and got themselves back on track for Season 3.  I’ve already seen the list of episode titles, so I know that many of these will be included (YAY!).  Hopefully S3 will spend time developing Jamie and Claire, and the relationship that we love so much from the books. I know we’re all dying to watch what’s been going on with Jamie during the 20 year separation (which, in my opinion, is the more compelling story), but we also need to spend time in the future.  Hopefully they will use those episodes wisely and won’t spend too much time dwelling on Frank and Claire’s passionless marriage, focusing instead on Bree and Claire’s relationship, Roger and Bree’s burgeoning love story and, of course, the search for Jamie Fraser.
So, here are my top 10 “must sees” for Season 3, not in any particular order. (Note: some of the pictures are from S1 & S2)

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1. A. Malcolm (of course). Every time I read this chapter, honestly, I’m sobbing, especially when Jamie is looking at the photos of Bree and goes “very quietly and thoroughly to pieces.” Kills me every time. There is a huge amount of pressure on the director, writers and actors to get this right. And not just the first moments together. They need to get the love scenes right, too. Jamie and Claire are both so scared and vulnerable that “first time”—just amazing in print. It may not have the same emotional impact on screen as reading it, but I think the writers and directors understood how important this reunion (all aspects of it) was to the fans. I think this will be just phenomenal to see.  We know Sam and Cait can pull it off.  The writers just had to go right to the source for inspiration. “Dinna be afraid,” he said softly. “There’s the two of us now.” SQUEEEEEE!

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2. Fergus’ hand. So heartbreaking when this happens and Jamie is helpless to stop it. But Fergus’ comeback is the best!
“Do you not recall our agreement, Milord?”
…”Agreement?”
“Yes, when you took me into your service in Paris. You told me “….if I should lose an ear or a hand while doing your service…”
“I would support you for the rest of your life.” Jamie was unsure whether to laugh or cry, and contented himself with patting the hand that now lay quiet on the quilt. “Aye, I remember. You may trust me to keep the bargain.”
“Oh I have always trusted you, milord,” Fergus assured him.

“So I am fortunate,” he murmured, still smiling. “For in one stroke, I am become a gentleman of leisure, non?” C’est magnifique.

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3. Jenny and Jamie/Wee Ian’s birth. I love this entire passage in the book: the British soldiers barge in, Jamie is hiding with the newborn baby Ian in the armoire, trying to keep him quiet, young Jamie is wailing and cursing at the soldiers, thinking the baby had died and it was their fault, Jenny trying to keep it together to save everyone, even though she just gave birth. Just fantastic. It was also so touching in showing the relationship between Jamie and Jenny, how lonely he is and how sad she is to see it.
“I ken ye mourn Claire.” His sister’s voice came softly from behind him. “D’ye think I could forget Ian, if he doesna come back? But it’s time ye went on, Jamie. Ye think Claire would want ye to live alone all your life, with no one to comfort ye or bear your children?”
He didn’t answer for a long time, just stood, feeling the soft heat of the small fuzzy head pressed against the side of his neck….
“She was with child,” he said softly at last, speaking to [his] reflection. “When she—when I lost her.” More sobbing.

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4. Culloden and Ardsmuir Prison: This will be incredibly sad and hard to watch, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the battle, and later the relationship between Lord John (one of my other favorite characters) and Jamie.

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5. All of the happenings at Helwater. Can’t wait for the scenes with Geneva, Willie’s birth, Ellesmere’s death, and young Willie’s time with “the groom” MacKenzie.

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6. “Daddy! Who is that woman!” – One of the iconic passages in the book. Poor Marsali (no one should see their “father” doing that, even if it IS Jamie…hmmmph!). As much as we all hate Laoghaire, this should be great fun to watch.

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7. Claire caring for Jaime after the gunshot. In the book, it always annoyed me that Claire ran off after finding out about Laoghaire, especially after swearing that nothing would make her leave him ever again, but I do love the scenes with them together, while he’s healing.
“Would ye care to tell me why jabbing pins in my arse is going to help my arm?” (literally laughed out loud when I read this, and again when he later says he should have let them burn her twenty years before).
And then when he opens up and starts to tell her what happened after Helwater, it just breaks your heart:
I was here,” he said softly, “but not home.”
I could feel the pull of it around me—the house, the family, the place itself. I, who couldn’t remember a childhood home, felt the urge to sit down here and stay forever, enmeshed in the thousand strands of daily life, bound securely to this bit of earth. What would it have meant to him, who had lived all of his life in the strength of that bond, endured his exile in the hope of coming back to it, and then arrived to find himself still rootless.
“And I suppose I was lonely,” he said quietly.
Again with the sobbing.

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8. Roger and Bree: I’m so looking forward to seeing this relationship blossom  Roger has always been one of my favorite characters in this series and I love Rik and Sophie together! Can’t wait for Drums of Autumn to really see them in action!

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9. Turtle Soup! Oh MY…there IS, in fact, an episode of this title. This was one of the hottest, sexiest scenes I’ve ever read (and I read A LOT). Should be FANTASTIC. (Yes, I’m jumping up and down and squealing like a teenage girl).

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10. Lost at sea and found again in the New World. The hurricane was pretty harrowing in the book, and I’m 99% sure they will include it in the show. Jamie and Claire seem to lose one another, again, but, at last, they survive to start their new life in the Colonies. Fraser’s Ridge (and Drums of Autumn) here we come!!

Looking for Mr. Fraser

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What is it that we love so much about the Outlander books?  Is it Claire and her bad-ass self? The history? The adventure? The steamy sex? The love story?  For me, it’s all of those things.  But above all else, it’s one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.

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 Outlander:  1636 vs 199

Dragonfly in Amber: 1832 vs 133

Voyager: 2508 vs 121

What are those numbers, you ask?  Mentions.

One of the best features of e-books is that they let readers (ok, maybe just me) indulge my obsession to find information about my favorite books quickly and easily (i.e., gather data, take notes, and highlight and/or bookmark favorite passages).  After the finale of Season 2, and to support my hypothesis that the show runners were getting off track where Jamie Fraser is concerned, I did a little search of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, the three books in the series where both Jamie and Frank appear.  The figures above show the number of times Jamie is mentioned versus the number of times Frank is mentioned.  The difference is pretty striking.  It’s also quite obvious who is the more important character.  Can’t dispute hard data, Ron.

Some fans (and apparently the showrunners) think that Outlander is strictly Claire’s story, and by extension, the story of her relationships with Frank and Jamie.  I don’t entirely agree with that.  In the wake of Season 2, I found myself in numerous discussions about this very topic with other “book people.”  I wasn’t surprised to discover how many of us see it quite differently; we see the Outlander series as more Jamie’s story than Claire’s. And even when we didn’t agree on that, two things about which we all did agree was that it is NOT Claire and Frank’s story, nor is it a “love triangle” between Jamie, Claire and Frank. The central character in the series is really Jamie.  The story may be told from Claire’s perspective, but her narrative is all about him: how he smells, the way he looks, his intelligence, his bravery, his sense of humor, the way he makes her feel…The few times she mentions Frank, it is usually to tell us that he was a good father to Bree and to let us know that in comparison to Jamie, as a man and a husband, he is woefully lacking (whether or not she had a hand in those failures is a topic for another post):

Jamie. Jamie was real, all right, more real than anything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945.  Jamie, tender lover and perfidious black-guard.

Perhaps that was part of the problem.  Jamie filled my senses so completely that his surroundings seemed almost irrelevant.  But I could no longer afford to ignore them.  My recklessness had almost killed him this afternoon, and my stomach turned over at the thought of losing him.

-Outlander

*Note: this passage is from right after she tried to get back to Frank, but was picked up by the Redcoats and taken to Fort William. Makes me wonder if her heart was really in it, or did she just feel guilty and obligated to try and return to Frank? Just something to consider.

As I mentioned, I realize that some people still see Claire as the main character-that the story is about Claire and what happens to her, and that Frank is just as important a part of her life as Jamie. I ask those people to please read the books again.  Once Jamie comes into her life, almost everything Claire does and says is relayed to the reader through the prism of Jamie: how events affect him as an individual, them as a couple, and the world they inhabit.  He is like the sun; a powerful, magnetic force to which everyone is drawn and around which everything revolves.  The difference in Outlander, though, is that the depth of feeling isn’t one-sided. For Jamie, Claire has the same overwhelming pull for him as he does for her

“I had thought I was well beyond that stage, had lost all trace of softness and was well set on my way to a middle age of stainless steel.  But now I thought that Frank’s death had cracked me in some way,  And the cracks were widening, so that I could no longer patch them with denial. I had brought my daughter back to Scotland, she with those bones strong as the ribs of Highland mountains, in the hope that her shell was strong enough to hold her together, while the center of her “I am” might still be reachable.

But my own core no longer held in the isolation of “I am,” and I had no protection to shield me from the softness from within.  I no longer knew what I was or what she would be; only what I must  do. (my emphasis)

For I had come back, and I dreamed once more, in the cool air of the Highlands.  And the voice of my dream still echoed through ears and heart, repeated with the sound of Brianna’s sleeping breath.

“You are mine,” it had said. “Mine! And I will not let you go.”

-Dragonfly In Amber

*Note:  these are Claire’s thoughts after 20 years apart from Jamie.  Her first instinct after Frank’s death is to run back to Scotland, in search of a ghost. Her grief is palpable-but it’s not for Frank.

……………………….

“It’s a lot too late to ask that,” I said, and reached to touch his cheek, where the rough beard was starting to show. It was soft under my fingers, like a stiff plush.  “Because I’ve already risked everything I had.  But whoever you are now, Jamie Fraser-yes.  Yes, I do want you.”

-Voyager

I don’t mean to say that Claire isn’t also a wonderful character, and Caitriona plays her brilliantly.  She embodies the characteristics that many of us, as women, possess ourselves (or wish we did!): strength, intelligence, resilience, compassion, resourcefulness, sensuality, and yes, a certain degree of recklessness and a “damn the consequences” attitude.  But for all of her great, and not-so-great, qualities, I would go so far as to suggest that Claire is at her most interesting when she is with Jamie (and before I get a lot of comments suggesting I’m being sexist, NO, I do not think a woman needs a man (not even Jamie Fraser) to be interesting, fulfilled or complete!).  I just happen to think there is a good case to be made for Jamie being the more fascinating character. (Side note: I’m not saying that he is perfect. If he were, he wouldn’t feel so “real” to the reader. However, I really wish the whole “King of Men” moniker could just be erased.  It’s silly and turns the very interesting character of Jamie Fraser into more of a caricature. Nobody wants to see that. Ron practically rolls his eyes whenever he says it, and Sam looks uncomfortable whenever someone mentions it.  Jamie Fraser is supposed to be a human being (granted, an exceptional one), not a comic book super hero).

Consider this:  would you be more interested in reading a story about Claire without Jamie, or one about Jamie without Claire? I know, I know, most of us would prefer them together as a couple, but indulge me.  I know which I would choose.  Even Diana Gabaldon finds Jamie the more interesting character:  beyond the core Outlander series, Virgins is about Jamie, The Exile is about Jamie, The Scottish Prisoner is about Jamie (even though it’s in the Lord John series).  Are there any additional books or novellas about Claire? No.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe Diana has even said that she relates more to Jamie than to Claire.  And why not?  Jamie is a much more compelling and nuanced character than Claire.  We know what Claire will do in almost every situation (usually something that ends up putting Jamie and/or herself in mortal danger…lol), but Jamie often surprises us.  In addition, it is Jamie that develops the most over the course of the series.  We see him as a young, slightly reckless warrior, a survivor of sexual assault, an outlaw, a prisoner, a merchant, a conspirator, a soldier, a laird, a printer, a smuggler, a pioneer… Most importantly, we see him grow and mature as man, a father, a grandfather and a husband to Claire.

So all of this begs the question: why are TPTB (the powers that be) changing the story and minimizing Jamie’s character in the show?  In Jamie they have a beautifully rich character in his own right, they have enough great prose and dialogue in the books for 50 episodes per season and they have the perfect actor to play him. It makes no sense to shift so much focus away from the most beloved character in the books. Here are some examples of what I mean.

For the most part, I loved Season 1, and after re-reading (again) Outlander, I realized why. THEY STUCK (MOSTLY) TO THE BOOK AND USED A LOT OF DIANA’S DIALOGUE.  Perhaps that’s less interesting for the screenwriters, but their job is to adapt an existing piece of work to film, not to re-write the characters. Wisely, that’s what they did in Season 1.  I will take exception to two, rather major, changes to the first season.  The first was in The Wedding. In the show, the focus was on Claire.  In fact, in the recap after the episode, both Ron and Terry said that it was “all about the dress, Claire’s entrance, the way Jamie reacts to her,”etc., etc. But if you re-read that passage in the book, you will see that they were wrong.  Diana wrote it from the completely opposite perspective. Diverging from societal norms, this wedding wasn’t all about the bride; it was about the groom:

It was a “warm” Scottish day, meaning that the mist wasn’t quite heavy enough to qualify as a drizzle, but not far off, either.  Suddenly the inn door opened, and the sun came out, in the person of James.  If I was a radiant bride, the groom was positively resplendent.  My mouth fell open and stayed that way.

A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight–any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance.  A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breathtaking.

Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion and striking of feature, he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler I was accustomed to–and he knew it. Making a leg in courtly fashion, he swept me a bow of impeccable grace murmuring “Your servant, Ma’am,” eyes glinting with mischief.

“Oh,” I said faintly.                                                                                                         

-Outlander

Don’t get me wrong. I loved that episode, and still think it was one the best hours of film that I have ever seen.  I loved the way they started after the ceremony and worked backward. I loved the sex scenes, going from awkward first encounter, to the passionate, lust-filled round 2, to the beginnings of falling in love at the end. I loved the scene between Jamie and Murtagh talking about Jamie’s mother and how Claire’s “smile was as sweet” as Ellen’s.  I loved the “bible smack-down” between Willie and the priest.  It was romantic, funny, emotional and sexy as hell!  In short, it was perfection, so I didn’t mind the change.

At the time, I also didn’t really think anything of shifting the focus from Jamie to Claire when, for example, the writers had Jamie thinking that it was the vision of Claire that was “like the sun coming out,” instead of the other way around. I appreciated that the reversal was made as Ron’s homage to his wife, Terry.  In fact, I thought it was quite a sweet gesture and didn’t think it took anything away from Jamie’s character to do it. However, in retrospect, having seen all of the other changes where the focus was moved from Jamie to Claire in Season 2, I’m beginning to think that maybe it was more deliberate, and less romantic, than I originally thought. Maybe I’m just cynical.

The other significant change to Season 1, which I mentioned in my previous post, was the failure to allow time for Jamie to heal and for he and Claire to reconnect after his assault at the hands of BJR. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were brilliant with what they were given.  But why was that entire section skipped when it was so hugely significant to the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship? Those of you who have read the books know what I’m talking about (the length and intensity of the “exorcism,” the tentative first intimate encounter, the passion and re-connection in the hot spring, and yes, even the dark humor). There really was no excuse for it, given that they had three additional episodes in which to address it.  Both Maril and Terry are huge fans of the books; I find it difficult to believe that this subject never came up in private discussions,  in the writer’s room or when they were blocking out the episodes before filming. I mention it again here because it was a rare, but crucial, misstep by TPTB.  Not only did it fail to give both the characters and the audience a much-needed catharsis after the events in Wentworth Prison and to Ransom a Man’s Soul, it resulted in the writers having to alter the natures of the core characters and much of the flow of Season 2.  I suppose we’ll never know why they chose to eliminate those scenes from Season 1, but someday I’d really like an honest answer to that question.  I would much rather know it was a miscalculation rather than an intentional decision to prop up Frank’s character and undermine Jamie’s.

As for Season 2, I’ve already made my thoughts known on the altering of Claire & Frank’s characters, the diminishing of Jamie’s and on the nearly complete, and incomprehensible, lack of sex and intimacy between Jamie and Claire (see Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex). I won’t revisit them here.  In preparing to write this post, I re-read many different parts of the first three books, among them “the print shop scene.”  As always, it brought me to tears.  I so want the filmed version to do the same.  I mean, seriously, I want to be like this when I see it:

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As of this writing, the cast and crew have reconvened in Scotland and are ready to start filming Season 3, Voyager.  So here are my pleas to Ron, Maril, and all of the directors and writers:

  • Please DO NOT continue down the path you were on in Season 2.  Focus on Jamie – and on the relationship between Jamie and Claire.  A LOT happens in Voyager, but don’t get so lost in the “action” that you forget why millions of fans love these books.  If we want to watch a high-seas adventure in the Caribbean with lots of gratuitous and unnecessary sex, we’ll watch Black Sails.  There are many scenes you can skip or merge together for the sake of time. Some suggestions:  99% of Claire’s life with Frank, the serial killer in Edinburgh, Mr. Willoughby, some of the events in the ocean crossing, much of the voodoo in the Caribbean.  There are plenty of things you can skim over that won’t affect the story going forward to Drums of Autumn. Please do not skip over Jamie’s time without Claire (i.e., Ardsmuir, Lallybroch, Helwater) or any of the time with him when she returns. Those scenes are far too important not to include in all their glory.
  • PLEASE, do not make the mistake you made in Season 2 (and yes, I do think it was a mistake) by skimping on the love story (including the sex) that is the heart of Outlander. There is no shame in producing a top-quality love story. They are sorely lacking on television today. You have enough talented people working on this show that you can weave the romance between Jamie and Claire seamlessly into the history and adventure of the story.  You did it in Season 1 and it was adored by critics and fans alike.  I challenge you to do it again. Let us see more of this:

“Do ye know?” he said softly, somewhere in the black, small hours of the night. “Do ye know what it’s like to be with someone that way? To try all ye can, and seem never to have the secret of them?

“Yes,” I said, thinking of Frank. “Yes, I do know.”

“I thought perhaps ye did,” He was quiet for a moment, and then his hand touched my hair lightly, a shadowy blur in the firelight

“And then…” he whispered, “then to have it all back again, that knowing. To be free in all ye say or do, and know that it is right.”

“To say ‘I love you,’ and mean it with all your heart,” I said softly to the dark.

“Aye,” he answered, barely audible. “To say that.”

His hand rested on my hair, and without knowing quite how it happened, I found myself curled against him, my head just fitting in the hollow of his shoulder.

“For so many years,” he said, “for so long, I have been so many things, so many different men.” I felt him swallow, and he shifted slightly, the linen of his nightshirt rustling with starch.

“I was Uncle to Jenny’s children, and Brother to her and Ian. ‘Milord’ to Fergus, and ‘Sir’ to my tenants. ‘Mac Dubh’ to the men of Ardsmuir and ‘MacKenzie’ to the other servants at Helwater. ‘Malcolm the printer,’ then ‘Jamie Roy’ at the docks.” The hand stroked my hair, slowly, with a whispering sound like the wind outside. “But here in the dark, with you…I have no name.”

I lifted my face toward his, and took the warm breath of him between my own lips.

“I love you,” I said, and did not need to tell him how I meant it.

  • Please stop changing the story by focusing so much on Claire (and giving so many great lines written for Jamie to Claire).  Diana wrote them for Jamie for good reason. It doesn’t bolster Claire’s character to diminish Jamie’s.  Claire is not a character who would give up everything for a man who was not her equal.  And Jamie wouldn’t be with a woman that was angry and shrewish.  If he wanted that, he would have stayed with Laoghaire.  And therein lies the secret to what makes this story so popular with your key demographic, i.e., women.  Jamie and Claire are not only soul-mates; they are a match of equals.

“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart-and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”

“I know that,” I said, and my voice shook. “That’s why I’m so afraid. I don’t want to be half a person again. I can’t bear it.”

-Drums of Autumn

  • Please, please, please stop with the Frank lovefest.  I have nothing against Tobias Menzies, but ENOUGH. This story is NOT about Frank. We don’t need to see every detail of Claire’s life with Frank.  Even the non-book readers can infer what those 20 years were like. Personally,  I don’t want to hear from RDM & Co. ever again about how we “need to include Frank so that we can understand Claire.” No…we don’t.  And we really don’t if you keep changing Frank’s nature.  “Book Frank” was kind of jerk; not the nice, understanding saint you changed him into.  If Frank were that wonderful, why would Claire want to go back to Jamie? Why would she have spent that entire 20 years in love with a ghost?  The story needs to make sense to the non-book readers.  If you truly want to understand Claire, you need to focus on JAMIE.

“All the time after ye left me, after Culloden-I was dead then, was I not?”

“I was dead, my Sassenach-and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I still do.”

The grass fell away.  Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours-we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched my, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours.  Claire-I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”

The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sunwarmed stone and cool water, and the sharp musky smell of his body next to mine.

“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”

“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.

“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”

-Drums of Autumn

 

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(Not sure who made this .gif, but thank you!)

 

You have found the perfect actor to play Jamie Frasier in Sam Heughan.  Diana has created one of popular literature’s most beloved characters in Jamie Fraser.  Give Sam his due; let him run with it.  The fans will love you, and the show will be all the better for it.

Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex

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Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (4)

Paul Newman once said that the secret to his 50-year marriage to Joanne Woodward was due to “the correct amounts of lust and respect.” Sound like anyone else we know? If you’re a fan of the Outlander series of books, you’d probably laugh and say “Of course! That sounds just like Jamie and Claire!” If you’ve only seen Season 2 of the television series, I’m not so sure that’s who would immediately come to mind. I can’t tell you how sad that makes me.

At its heart, Outlander is Jamie and Claire’s love story; it’s the glue that holds everything else together, no matter the events happening around them. That’s why we love it. Not the history, not the time-travel, not the medical information, not the other characters. It’s not that we don’t appreciate all of those things and how they inform the story. We do. But it’s Jamie and Claire that keep us coming back for more. I’ve read that Diana Gabaldon hates it when people refer to her books as “romance” novels, which I completely understand if they are lumping them in with cheesy Harlequin Romances with Fabio-like creatures on the cover. In that sense, no, they are not “romance novels.” But they are, in fact, a great love story.  (Here’s a little-known coo factoid:  I almost never read the Outlander books because I thought they were “bodice rippers” and considered the genre beneath me. I am forever grateful to my friend Lynne who told me that they weren’t that at all, then urged me to get off my high horse and READ THEM because, like so many of you, I have fallen in love with Jamie and Claire’s story). I was thrilled when I learned it was coming to television, and Season 1 did not disappoint.  However, Season 2, like Claire and Jamie’s bed, has left me a wee bit cold. So my question to Ron Moore is this: What have you done with Jamie and Claire and why are you killing their love story?
I thought long and hard about whether or not to write this critique of Season 2. After all, the season is drawing to its close and it is what it is. Nothing I say can change it. What I can say is that at the end of Season one, I was left wanting more, dreading the long Droughtlander ahead. This year? I kind of just want it to be over. The lack of connection between Jamie and Claire this season makes me almost not care what happens to them. Almost (I haven’t entirely given up hope). And I’m not alone. There has been a lot of grumbling out there on social media this season, and we’re all pissed off about the same thing: The passionate, funny, wonderfully compelling couple that we love from the books (and Season 1) have all but disappeared.
So I considered not bothering. It’s just a TV show, right?  Who cares?  Well, dammit, I DO. And then I watched the penultimate episode last night, The Hail Mary. It should have been called The Hail Black Jack Randall. I have nothing against Tobias Menzies. He’s a fine actor. But we are ONE EPISODE away from the finale and they just used a good portion of the entire episode as a showcase for Menzies, when ONCE AGAIN, they missed the boat and failed to focus on the most important event of the story, the inevitable parting of Jamie and Claire (you thought I was going to say Culloden, didn’t you?). That decided it. I had to get it off my chest.

Let me start with a few statements:

  1.  I am a huge fan of the books.
  2. The casting for the show is spot on. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect Jamie, Claire, Black Jack/Frank or any other character. This is not an indictment of any of the actors or their performances, which have all been amazing.
  3. I DO NOT believe that the show should be “exactly like the books.” I understand perfectly well that changes are necessary to adapt the story and move it forward within a visual format and a limited time frame. Two totally different mediums-I get it. Further, there have been many changes from the books that I loved (the enhancement of certain characters, for example: Angus, Rupert, and Murtagh (ESPECIALLY MURTAGH!), the depiction of Claire during her time as a nurse in WWII and the resulting PTSD, and the relationship between Claire and Murtagh, to name a few). But I can see no valid reason for changing the personalities of the central characters. Not one.
  4. I loved 95% of Season 1 (I’ll explain my issue with the other 5 % later, or you can see my recap of To Ransom a Man’s Soul from last year: “I Just Want This To Be A Pleasant Experience For Us Both” ).
  5. I don’t hate Season 2. I appreciate all of the hard work put in by the cast and crew. It’s beautifully done-the performances, the production value, the sets, the costumes. So…hate? No. Disappointment? YES. Why? Jamie and Claire are MIA.

Ron Moore had every opportunity to film all of the intrigue and action that was in Season 2 without watering down Jamie and Claire’s love story. For some unfathomable reason, that’s not what he chose to do. In making that decision, he did the fans a huge disservice, in my opinion.  As I said, I understand the need to change plot lines and time frames, to add or delete certain characters. What I do not understand, and what was completely unnecessary, was changing the essential natures of Jamie and Claire and their relationship.
(Note: I am laying this decision at the feet of RDM as Show Runner. I have no idea if he is the one who made this choice or not. But the buck stops with you, Ron, so ultimately, it’s your responsibility).
Claire and Frank
Let’s face it, book readers know that book Frank was kind of an ass to Claire in the years after she returned to him. He resented her medical career, he was a bigot to her closest friend, Joe Abernathy, he wanted to leave her and take Bree with him, he lied to her about Jamie’s fate, he was unfaithful to her…you get my point. He may have been a good father to Bree, but he sucked as a husband. Unlike his portrayal in the first episode of Season 2, book Frank wasn’t exactly loving or “grateful” upon her return:

“Yes,” I said. “I told him. All about the stones –about Jamie. Everything.”
“Did he believe you?” Roger asked quietly.
My lips felt sticky from the lemonade, and I licked them before answering.
“No,” I said. “Not at first. He thought I was mad; even had me vetted by a psychiatrist.” I laughed, shortly, but the memory made me clench my fists with remembered fury.
-Voyager

He was, in fact, quite angry, not weeping with joy at her return. Some would say rightfully so, given that she admitted to being in love with, and marrying, another man. Not to mention being pregnant with this other man’s child. And yet, he chose to stay with her. Personally, I don’t think it was out of love for Claire.  It was more out of a sense of duty. As Claire explained to Roger,

“He said no one but a cad would dream of abandoning a pregnant woman with virtually no resources.”
-Voyager

So why the change? Why waste a lot of valuable screen time on Frank, instead of focusing on Jamie’s recovery, which was not dealt with at the end of Season 1? I recall Ron explaining that he wanted to show Claire’s “conflicted feelings” about Frank and Jamie. But that’s not the story.  Once Claire fell in love with Jamie and decided to stay, there was no conflict. She never considered going back to Frank.

Outlander is a love story between Jamie and Claire, not a love triangle between Jamie, Claire and Frank. So why imply that in the show? It’s an overused theme in film and literature (and has NO place here).The only purpose it serves is to undermine the strength of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in the eyes of the viewers.  Claire did not go back to Frank out of love for HIM; she went back out of love for Jamie and to save their child:

“Claire,” he said quietly. “Tomorrow I will die. This child…is all that will be left of me—ever. I ask ye, Claire—I beg you—see it safe.”
I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.
At last I bent my head to him, the wind grieving in my ears.
“Yes,” I whispered. “Yes, I’ll go.”
-Dragonfly in Amber

And then there was the scene in the show with the wedding ring. The only way Jamie’s ring would have come off book Claire’s hand would have been if Frank had cut it off of her cold, dead finger. She would NEVER have started to take it off, as she did in the show. It was completely out of character for Claire.

“No!” I exclaimed, panicked, as Frank tried to twist if off my finger (my emphasis). I jerked my hand away and cradled it, fisted, beneath my bosom, cupped in my left hand, which still wore Frank’s gold wedding band. “No, you can’t take it, I won’t let you! That’s my wedding ring!” (again, my emphasis).
-Voyager

So, once again, show Frank is portrayed as being oh so loving and sympathetic by “stopping” her from removing Jamie’s ring, and telling her to wait “until she was ready” (which of course, for book Claire, would have been NEVER). As the above quote shows, book Frank tried to take it from her and she basically told him to sod off. Yet another not so subtle RDM suggestion to the audience that Claire’s marriage to Frank was the stronger, more significant relationship, which, as we book readers know, it was not.

Claire and Jamie
Outlander fans love Claire and Jamie. She’s smart, witty, resilient. He’s intelligent, funny, brave. They are completely in love with each other (and oh, by the way,  would never be unfaithful to each other-so what was the true purpose of the attempted seduction by Laoghaire in Season 1 and in bringing Jamie’s old flame Annalise into the story in Season 2? To imply that Jamie would cheat on Claire? That’s the impression given to the audience, even though book readers know that would never happen. Another unexplained diminution of Jamie’s character).

This is also a good place to remind people that Jamie and Claire are enormously sexually attracted to each other throughout the entire series (even in MOBY when they are in their sixties, they are still all over each other- AND HAPPY TO BE THERE). It’s as integral to them as breathing and a huge part of how they express their love and commitment to each other. It was covered beautifully in Season 1 – not overdone or gratuitous in the least.  And it was a fair representation of Jamie and Claire.  However, in Season 2, that Jamie and Claire are nowhere to be found. Even if we get “the big sex scene” in the finale before she goes back, it will be too little, too late. In fact, after this cold-bedded season, it’s going to seem rather incongruous with the state of their of their Season 2 marriage.
As I mentioned earlier, I said I loved 95% of Season 1. The 5% with which I took issue was about time management. In my opinion, The Watch and The Search should have been combined into one episode in order to leave adequate time to deal with the aftermath of Jamie’s assault. That could have solved a lot of the intimacy issues we’re seeing in Season 2. There were SIXTEEN episodes in Season one. Ron and Co. knew what was going to happen to Jamie at the end of the season. It didn’t take a genius to see that that they would need to deal with the aftereffects of it. That’s not something someone just “gets over.” To many of us, Jamie’s recovery felt rushed and insufficient because they didn’t plan adequately for it. We were denied a thorough enactment of the opium-induced “exorcism” (a scene that would have been amazing to see,by the way..Sam and Cait would have knocked it out of the park!). Even just including the very end would have been lovely and touching:

“Jamie, love,” I said, whispering through a bruised throat, “Come then, lay your head, man.” The mask trembled then and broke, and I held the big body hard against me, the two of us shaking with the force of his sobbing.
-Outlander

More important than the exorcism, though, were the beautiful, intimate scenes in which Jamie and Claire reconnect physically, which was pivotal to Jamie’s recovery:

I didn’t bother asking what he was doing there; that was becoming quite plain. Nor did I ask whether he was sure. I had my own doubts, but would not voice them for fear of making self-fulfilling prophecies.

The good hand gently explored my face, smoothing away the wetness on my cheeks.
“Were ye afraid for me?” he asked
“Yes,” I said. “I thought it was too soon.”
-Outlander

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It bothered me a bit at the time, but I truly believed that Ron and the writers would add these intimate scenes in Season 2. We, as the audience, needed that catharsis as much as Jamie and Claire.  Alas, I was wrong. They chose to go a completely different, and far less compelling, way to portray both Jamie’s recovery and it’s effect on Jamie and Claire’s relationship.
The sexual and emotional bond between Jamie and Claire is what heals him. Why would you deliberately choose to eliminate that from the story? It is a huge event that intensifies the bond between them forever; a turning point in a love that is supposed to transcend time. Instead, when they finally do make love, 4 episodes into Season 2, it’s Claire that initiates it. In the book, it was Jamie that found the strength to come to her. After what he suffered at the hands of BJR, that took an enormous amount of courage and trust on his part. But he was driven to act by his love and desire for her.  It was as much his sustenance as food and water. But instead of showing us Jamie’s struggle to recover by seeking Claire out, they showed him pushing her away (undermining Jamie’s character…again.  Is anyone else noticing a pattern here?).
Jamie and Claire’s relationship is built on the strength of their love, their physical and emotional passion for each other and the candid humor between them. It is those things that we love about them and their story. These have been lost on the viewers (and missed by the readers) this season through the very obvious lack of playfulness and sex between them. I understand that there are a lot of serious, heavy issues to deal with in DIA, but “book Jamie and Claire” struggle through them together with tears, laughter and intimacy. Season 1 had plenty of heavy drama as well and the love story didn’t suffer for it. We just aren’t seeing that connection this season.  Maybe someone needs to remind Ron and Co., before they start the scripts for Season 3, that DG’s books have sold over 26 million copies and earned her legions of fans for good reason.
Another example of this lack of connection was the difference between how book Claire
and show Claire reacted to Jamie’s “La Dame Blanche” story. In the book, it was a very funny and sweet exchange:

“So you told them I was La Dame Blanche,” I said, trying to keep any hint of laughter out of my voice. “And if you tried any funny business with ladies of the evening, I’d shrivel your private parts.”
“Er, well…”
“My God, they believed it?” I could feel my own face flushing as hotly as Jamie’s with the effort to control myself.
“I was verra convincing about it,” he said, one corner of his mouth beginning to twitch. “Swore them all to secrecy on their mother’s lives.”
“And how much did you all have to drink before this?”
“Oh, a fair bit. I waited ‘til the fourth bottle.”
I gave up the struggle and burst out laughing.
“Oh, Jamie!” I said. “You darling!” I leaned over and kissed his furiously blushing cheek.
“Well,” he said awkwardly, slathering butter over a chunk of bread. “It was the best I could think of. And they did stop pushing trollops into my arms.”
-Dragonfly in Amber

In the show, she’s practically spitting venom at him for spreading that story.  That is NOT Jamie and Claire. What are you thinking, Ron? There is such a wealth of great dialogue in the books. Why not use it?  Diana Gabaldon is a consultant to the show.  These are her characters; she knows them inside and out.  Use the treasure trove that she’s given you.
This year what we have is a couple completely at odds with each other. In the first half of the season, Jamie was hostile and reclusive, internally dealing with his trauma; Claire was shrewish and angry, acting more like his mother than his wife. Someone decided to write it that way. They did not have to. They could have dealt with Jamie’s recovery as it was in the books, which would have conveyed not only his anguish, but also the depth of the love between he and Claire, instead of portraying them as some dysfunctional married couple that barely touch each other. It doesn’t get much better in the second half. Although Jamie’s strength as a leader is more apparent (finally), the relationship between he and Claire is almost platonic. A kiss here, an embrace there. Where are the Jamie and Claire we know and love?  Certainly not here.
I’ve seen many blog posts and Twitter chatter making excuses for the lack of intimacy this season, going so far as to accuse the people who wanted to see more of it as wanting only sex but no plot.  THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE SAYING.  I’ve also seen the response “use your imaginations; you don’t have to see everything.” Seriously? That’s what I do when I read the books.  Last time I checked, film was a VISUAL medium.  So I take issue with that.  Are these people reading the same books I am?  Jamie and Claire have A LOT of sex. They revel in it. They can barely keep their hands off each other. They’re like magnets. It’s who they are…and we love them for it. By way of demonstration, I give you this passage from DIA that, I think, sums up their physical and emotional relationship perfectly:

“Claire. To feel the bones of your neck beneath my hands, and that fine, thin skin on your breasts and your arms…Lord you are my wife, whom I cherish, and I love wi’ all my life, and still I want to kiss ye hard enough to bruise your tender lips, and see the marks of my fingers on your skin.”

He dropped the towel. He raised his hands and held them trembling in the air before his face, then very slowly brought them down to rest on my head as though in benediction.

“I want to hold you like a kitten in my shirt, mo duinne, and still I want to spread your thighs and plow ye like a rutting bull.” His fingers tightened in my hair. “I dinna understand myself!”

I pulled my head back, freeing myself, and took a half step backward. The blood seemed all to be on the surface of my skin, and a chill ran down my body at the brief separation.

“Do you think it’s different for me?” I demanded. “That I don’t sometimes want to bite you hard enough to taste blood, or to claw you ‘til you cry out?”

I reached out slowly to touch him. The skin of his breast was damp and warm. Only the nail of my forefinger touched him, just below the nipple. Lightly, barely touching, I drew the nail upward, downward, circling round, watching the tiny nub rise hard amid the curling ruddy hairs.

The nail pressed slightly harder, sliding down, leaving a faint red streak on the fair skin of his chest. I was trembling all over by this time, but did not turn away.

“Sometimes I want to ride you like a wild horse, and bring you to the taming-did you know that? I can do it, you know I can. Drag you over the edge and drain you to a gasping husk. I can drive you to the edge of collapse and sometimes I delight in it, Jamie. I do! And yet so often I want”-my voice broke suddenly and I had to swallow hard before continuing- “I want…to hold your head against my breast and cradle you like a child and comfort you to sleep.”

My eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see his face clearly; couldn’t see if he wept as well. His arms went tight around me and the damp heat of him engulfed me like the breath of a monsoon.

“Claire, ye do kill me, knife or no.” he whispered, face buried in my hair. He bent and picked me up, carrying me to the bed. He sank to his knees, laying me amid the crumpled quilts.

“You’ll lie wi’ me now,” he said quietly. “And I shall use ye as I must. And if you’ll have your revenge for it, then take it and welcome, for my soul is yours, in all the black corners of it.”

The skin of his shoulders was warm with the heat of the bath, but he shivered as with cold as my hands traveled up to his neck, and I pulled him down to me. And when I had at length, taken my last revenge of him, I did cradle him, stroking back the roughened, half-dry locks.

“And sometimes,” I whispered to him,” I wish it could be you inside me. That I could take you into me and keep you safe always.”

His hand, large and warm, lifted slowly from the bed, and cupped the small round swell of my belly, sheltering and caressing.

“You do, my own,” he said. “You do.”

– Dragonfly in Amber

That’s the Jamie and Claire we want to see, Ron. Please, I’m begging you…bring them back.

P.S. A word of advice for Season 3… If you don’t want to completely lose your audience, you’ll take the print shop scene pretty much word for word from the book. I don’t think the fans would ever forgive you if you screw that one up. I’m still trying to forgive you for nearly killing  Jamie and Claire’s love story this season. I hope I succeed.

 

“I Just Want This To Be A Pleasant Experience For Us Both”

Like many people I was dreading this episode the most.  On the one hand, I had a very definite set of expectations about it, and on the other, I had no idea how they would include the wealth of material remaining in the story, while dealing with the extremely difficult subject of Jamie’s rape and torture.  Based on the series as a whole, and the Wentworth Prison episode in particular, I did not think that Ron Moore, Anna Foerster and Ira Stephen Behr would be gentle about his ordeal, to paraphrase Jamie. They weren’t. In spite of how brutal it was, and as strange as this may sound, I found this episode to be incredibly beautiful. Oh, Lord, maybe Black Jack is rubbing off on me.

The finale was brilliant.  Once again, all of the actors outdid themselves, especially the three principals.  But this episode belongs to Sam Heughan, hands down.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance that raw (and I’ve see a LOT of films/shows/theater).  He was ridiculously good.   It took a lot of guts to allow himself to be that vulnerable and exposed.  He held nothing back. Very few actors are willing, or able, to put everything on the line like that. In doing so, he gave us the gift of an incredibly powerful performance.  I’m a wee bit in awe of you right now, Sam.

On to the show…there has been a lot of complaining about specific scenes that were left out from the book. Enough already. Please hear me out.  Were there some things I would have liked to see? Yes, of course.  Here are the very few things I missed, and why (not just because they were “in the book”):

  1. I missed Jamie and Claire finding their way back to each other physically. I would have liked the scene where Jamie crawled into bed with Claire, both of them scared to death: her fear of it being “too soon”, and his of being able to respond to her sexually without seeing Randall. A very slow, tender. love-making scene would have been cathartic to the characters and to the viewers.  That scene was very powerful in the book and important in bringing him back to her.  They could have even incorporated the end of the fight scene with that, having the two of them weeping after making love, with Claire telling him “to lay his head, man.”   However, given the time constraints of the show, I understand why this was left out.  Since there was not a lot of time spent on Jamie’s recovery, that kind of intimacy between them would have been incongruous and unrealistic.
  2. The scene where Jamie explains that Randall has completely destroyed his “secret fortress” and then later, as he recovers, telling her that he’s managed to build a little lean-to with a roof.
  3. The exchange where Jamie is examining his hand and crying. Claire sees him and misunderstands, apologizing for not doing a better job.  And then his reply to her, that he was crying with joy that he still had a hand with which to hold her, and oh yeah, she also gave him back his life and his manhood.

(I’m still secretly hoping they manage to add some version of all of these back in to the beginning of Season Two…hint, hint Ron and Maril). I think these omissions could have been included if they had combined The Watch and The Search episodes into one.  As much as I enjoyed both of them, the time would have been better spent on an additional hour of To Ransom a Man’s Soul: the hour we had, and an hour for a much slower recovery time for Jamie at the Abbey.  Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. Just my opinion.

That being said, I went into this episode with an open mind.  I took Diana Gabaldon’s advice to heart;  I PUT THE BOOK DOWN. As of this writing, I’ve watched the episode probably eight times, each time paying careful attention to the details and references to scenes from the book, of which there are many. You just have to allow yourself to notice them.

This episode, like the last, was harrowing and intensely uncomfortable to watch. But, as I said in my last blog post, I think it was necessary to see what really happened between Randall and Jamie in that dungeon, especially for the non book-reading viewers.  I don’t think it was “too much” or exploitative. The critics (just regular people, not the professionals) have mainly commented that (1) it focused too much on Randall’s pleasure/Jamie’s pain and not enough on Jamie and Claire, and (2) the final “encounter” with Randall was upsetting because Jamie “participated in it,” “consented to it” or “enjoyed” it. Seriously, people?

I don’t normally do re-caps, but for this episode, I felt like I needed to go through the episode in order to address these comments. Perhaps some people simply don’t understand the concept of torture and rape and their effects on a victim, especially in extremis.  I plan on using a lot of stills from the episode, so if you were offended by the show, you won’t like these images either.

We open with a the British fife and drum corps greeting the new day, thus informing the viewer that Jamie has been with Randall for a good 12 hours (if you recall, it was about dusk the day before when Randall pushed Claire down the corpse hole).  The camera then focuses on a naked and battered Jamie in the dungeon, looking a bit like a corpse himself.

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The frame draws back, and we see that Randall is in the bed with him, also naked, so we know “the deed’s been done.” Randall looks like a he just had a great one-night stand (if he could have high-fived himself, he would have). The look on Jamie’s face?  Vacant, dead, in shock… (Were you getting as sick a feeling as I was at this point?)  This opening shot was pure cinematic genius.  It told the viewers volumes without a word being spoken.

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Randall gets up and starts to dress.  Jamie reminds him that he owes him a debt (to die). Randall takes out his knife, seemingly to oblige Jamie’s  request.  But, he’s distracted by a strange noise out in the corridor.  He leaves to investigate. Jamie’s voice hitches in his throat seeing Randall leave…he whispers something in Gàidhlig.  I don’t know what he said, but it broke my heart.

Focus on Randall in the corridor, trying to figure out what the hell that noise is….He looks.. and IT’S THE COOS!!! (And boy were we pissed! We trampled that son of a bitch and left him in a puddle of his own blood.  I actually did a little happy dance during this scene).

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Murtagh, Rupert, and Angus rush in to Jamie’s cell and find him on the floor.  It’s clear from the looks on their faces that they know what’s happened to him. Murtagh gently covers him, hoists his godson over his shoulder and they get the hell outta there.  The barely contained rage on his face says it all.

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In the wagon on the way to the Abbey, Rupert notes that Jamie reeks of lavender oil.  Claire says it’s used to relieve pain. (Author’s note:  It’s also an oil…i.e., a lubricant. A fact which will be significant at the end of the episode), Jamie is hallucinating and sees Randall when Claire leans over to check his injuries. He freaks out and tries to strangle her.  Serious PTSD, or as Claire would know it, shell-shock. They race off to the Abbey where the monks have offered them shelter.

Claire is alone with Jamie. He keeps flinching from her and telling her not to touch him. She asks him again what Randall did to him.  He replies, “Too much. And not enough.” His face is just…lost. (You’re killing me, Sam).

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Jamie flashes back to the dungeon.  Randall offers him a drink and then pries the nail out of Jamie’s hand, the pain of which causes him to vomit and fall to the floor.  Randall picks him up like Mary’s evil twin brother and lovingly tells him what a “magnificent creature” he is. He assures him that “the worst is over.”  NOT.

Pietà – Michelangelo

Coincidence? I don't think so...

Coincidence? I don’t think so…

Randall kisses him, but Jamie’s having none of it.  He reminds him that his men can have Claire brought back within the hour and that they have an agreement. Jamie says it was that he wouldn’t resist. Randall responds, “So that’s your plan, to submit, like Christ on the cross?  We’ll see about that.”

He hoists Jamie up on the stool and pries his legs apart, trying to arouse him with his hand and his mouth.  He explains “Jamie, I just want this to be a pleasant experience for us both.” (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth).

Jamie is clearly in hell, wanting with every fiber of his being to resist, knowing he swore he wouldn’t in exchange for Claire’s life.

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He lashes out at Randall, telling him to “take his pleasure and be done with it”, spitting in his face. (Yeaaah, probably shouldn’t have done that, lad). Randall pulls him to his feet, drops Jamie’s kilt, turns him around and slams him (and his mangled hand) face down on the table, informing him that “one way or another, he will get a response from him.” He then proceeds to brutally rape him, so brutally, in fact, that Jamie finally screams in agony (which is exactly what Randall has wanted from him since the flogging…to hear him scream.  He clearly gets off on that).

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Again, kudos to Sam. Anyone else NOT cringing here?

That was one of the most vicious things I’ve ever seen on film.  Horrible to watch, but incredibly well-done by Heughan and Menzies.  There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind how much Randall is hurting Jamie.  Nothing pleasurable to see here, folks. At least, not from Jamie’s point of view.

Back in the present, Jamie is interrupted from his “daymare” as Claire tries to give him laudanum so that she can set the bones in his hand.  He tells her that Randall made him crawl, beg, and in the end, made him “verra much want to be dead.” He takes the bottle from Claire and tries to swallow all of it before she grabs it from him.  She realizes just how much he wants to die. Personally, I thought Jamie’s suicidal thoughts and actions in this episode were actually more realistic than in the book. While it’s true that he is a Catholic and believes that suicide is a mortal sin, it makes sense that he would have been so traumatized and depressed that he would to want to die, given everything that happened to him.  We have to remember that Jamie’s only sexual partner up to this point was Claire, the woman that he loves unconditionally. For him, love and sex are completely intertwined.  Randall decimates that belief through his manipulation of Jamie’s mind and body.

Claire sets the broken bones in his hand (while Jamie is still hearing Randall in his drug-induced stupor). When she finishes, the monk tells her to go and rest. She goes to the chapel for some quiet time when Father Anselm comes in.  He offers to hear her confession and she tells him everything that’s happened to her, including the time travel.  In the end, she also confesses that she feels responsible for what has happened to Jamie.  He absolves her of her sins (and also thinks it’s pretty cool that she’s from the future!)

Claire goes to Jamie’s room to check on him.  The monk tending him tells her that he is still refusing to eat.  She tries to be matter-of-fact with him, telling him his hand is looking better and that she can give him a regime to help restore the use of his fingers.  He tells her that she “canna save a man that doesna want to be saved.”  She is becoming more desperate and afraid for his mental state.

Screenshot (58)As an aside, Caitriona Balfe’s face is so expressive. Just like Claire, you can read every single feeling, thought and emotion on it.  Another amazing performance from her as well.

After a brief scene with “the boys” talking and worrying if Jamie is going to recover, Murtagh leaves after Willie makes a really stupid remark about how his uncle starved himself to death.  We then see him in Jamie’s room and they are having a conversation in Gàidhlig. There is no translation, but none is needed. We really didn’t need to understand the words to understand the meaning. (However, If you want to know what was said, here’s a link:  https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/63756291/2604/

Jamie starts flashing back to the dungeon again.  Not sure if everyone thought this, but in my view, this was that scene in the book that we were (thankfully) spared from witnessing (that one might have been too much, even for me).  You know, the bloody blowjob scene. We see Jamie on the floor, blood “and other things” on his face. He is gagging and spitting something out of his mouth. His upper thighs have blood on them.  Although there is no cut on Jamie’s chest, as in the book, this is that scene.Screenshot (160)

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Once again, nothing pleasurable to see here, either. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that, again, Jamie has been subjected to still more intense abuse.  Randall is sitting on the floor watching Jamie struggle. He asks him, “Am I close?  Have you reached your limit yet?” Jamie is obviously in a huge amount of physical pain, but the viewer doesn’t know exactly why.  Those of us who have read the books know all too well what Randall has done this time.   In some ways, the show version was worse; we see the blood on his face and thighs, but we don’t know from where it came.   Ughhhh.

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He then proceeds to prey on Jamie’s weakened mental state by conflating himself with Claire, playing on Jamie’s delusions, thus breaking him down even further.  It is completely heart-wrenching watching Jamie realize that he will never see Claire again.  He sobs, “She’s gone…there’s no more Claire”.

Ahhhhhhhh! Stop it!  This is just so bloody awful.  But the worst is still to come.Screenshot (70)

Not only does Randall want to completely destroy this man, now he wants Jamie to prove to him that he belongs to him by branding him…no wait, by getting Jamie to brand himself for him, the bastard.Screenshot (78)

Back to the present, Willie comes to Jamie to tell him that Murtagh has gone to secure passage on a boat to get out of Scotland.  He asks Jamie what he can do to help him. Jamie asks for his blade, to put himself “out of this black misery.” Willie, of course, refuses to give it to him.

Claire confronts Murtagh with this information.  He knew about it, but was sworn to secrecy by Jamie.  He tells Claire that he “refuses to watch Jamie waste away. To die like an animal in the woods with it’s foot caught in a trap.”  He will kill him himself, if it comes to that.  Claire collapses in his arms.

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When she comes to, she and Murtagh decide it’s time for drastic measures.  She anoints herself with oil of lavender, and holds it under Jamie’s nose to bring back the nightmare of Randall.  He tries to get away from her and the smell, but she refuses to give in. They wrestle and fight, he is on top of her, telling her he doesn’t want to hurt her.  She screams that it’s too late for that, since he wants to kill himself and he won’t tell her why. She cries “Do you want me to hate you?” She tears off his bandage and finally sees the brand, which has healed enough to now be a discernible “JR”.  Jamie confesses that he did it himself. He then finally tells her the rest of what happened.

Screenshot (88)“He made love to me, Claire.” (notice that he has not called her Sassenach at all, reminding us that he no longer feels any joy).  We go back to the dungeon in Jamie’s mind.  He is laying on the pallet, watching Randall clean himself across the room. Randall approaches him, gently moves his ruined hand, and them revives him with oil of lavender.  (Author’s note: Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing relaxing properties, and is used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.)  

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Randall pours some oil on his hands and on Jamie’s genitals.  He moves Jamie’s good hand, encouraging him to masturbate. Jamie finally appears to relax as he feels some relief from the hours of pain that he has endured. Randall rubs some oil into the burn from the brand, murmuring for Jamie to imagine that it is Claire that is caressing and caring for him. There is a very interesting moment just then: Randall bends over and kisses Jaime, and in his delirium Jamie lifts his head to return the kiss. Randall pulls back, and the look on his face tells us that he knows he has Jamie; he knows that he’s won. As long as he can keep Jamie in his present mental state, thinking of Claire, he can break him.  Randall rubs some oil on himself, gets behind Jamie and enters him, gently this time. Jamie responds to him and gets lost in the pleasure he is feeling, even to the point of reaching back for Randall.  Randall whispers to him, “Say my name, Jamie.” Jamie responds and calls him Claire.  Immediately after he reaches orgasm, Jamie comes back to reality, lowers his head, and cries in shame and despair, Randall strikes the final emotional blow by telling him that Claire will never forgive him. Both he and Randall know that he has been broken.

I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but to me, this scene was extraordinary.  It evoked so many conflicting things:  the emotional torment was completely repellent yet, disturbingly erotic in those few moments of Jamie’s pleasure. But the self-revulsion that it dredged up for him was impossibly painful to witness.  Who knew the price of an orgasm could be so costly?  I know that there are a lot of people out there that hated this scene and felt that it completely diverged from the book.  It didn’t. The description in the book was not exactly how it was portrayed on screen, but only in that it was not as detailed.  Jamie told Claire that Randall aroused him. What exactly do people think he meant by that? Jamie is an incredibly strong character.  Pain wasn’t going to break him, no matter what Randall did.  The only thing that could was a physical and emotional betrayal of his love for Claire.

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We are returned back to the present in the Abbey, with Jamie trying to explain how it “felt so good not to be in pain”. Claire has been listening quietly, letting him tell her what he has been trying so hard to hide.  She doesn’t recoil from him, She doesn’t judge him. She just tries to reassure him that there is nothing to forgive, that she understands that he did what he needed to do in order to survive, but he can’t, or won’t, hear it.  He is consumed with guilt and self-loathing because he succumbed to momentary pleasure at the hands of a man and in doing so, betrayed his vow to her.  He can barely meet her eyes when he tells her that he can’t be a husband to her anymore, and he won’t be less. The issue isn’t her forgiving him; it’s his inability to forgive himself.

He tells her “I lie here feeling that I will die without your touch, but when you do touch me, I want to vomit with shame,” Claire finally breaks down, taking his face in her hands, whether he wants it or not.  She reminds him of the promise he made to her on their wedding night, and tells him that Randall may have had his body, but she will be damned if she lets him have his soul.  I  thought this was a great change from the book, where it was Jamie who said that (as a reason for not committing suicide). In my opinion, it made a much more powerful impact coming from Claire. Screenshot (125) Screenshot (128) Screenshot (143) Screenshot (145)

This dialogue was beautifully written, with Claire crying and telling Jamie that everything that has happened to her, and to them,  only makes sense because they are meant to be together, and if he gives up and takes that meaning away from her, she will die right along with him. That finally gets his attention. He sees how much she is suffering along with him (perhaps he is thinking of when he told her that he could stand his own pain, but that he wasn’t strong enough to bear hers?). He tries to reach for her, but still can’t quite bring himself to touch her. He despairs “How can ye want me like this?” For Claire, that’s not even a consideration. She throws her arms around him, telling him she’ll have him any way she can, always, and holds him until, at last, he embraces her in return. For us, the viewers, there is such a profound sense of relief in seeing them back in each others arms, knowing that they can overcome this.

There follows a brief scene of Murtagh cutting the brand out of Jamie’s chest, literally and figuratively cutting him out of Jamie and Claire’s lives.  But I think we all know (readers or not) that a shadow of him will always be there.  Still, it’s a moment of triumph and we’re all glad to see Jamie emerging from the darkness.

The last scene of the episode finally allows us to breath…literally.  We’re outside on the beach, the wind is blowing, the sun it shining,  Claire is saying goodbye to Rupert and Angus (that little bit of comic relief was cute, but silly, in my opinion).  She, Jamie and Murtagh are rowed out to the Cristobel, headed for the safety of France.  Claire is a bit green around the gills, and Jamie teases her a bit about it, the first sign of lightheartedness between them that we’ve had.  We soon find out that Claire’s fainting spells and nausea are the result of being pregnant.  She asks him if he is happy to hear it.  At last, that smile we love, while still a bit haunted, is back.  Yes, Sassenach, he is verra happy.

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I Wanna Do Bad Things With You

I don’t know what you’ve done to me,
But I know this much is true:
I wanna do bad things with you.
I wanna do real bad things with you.

-JW Randall, Capt of His Majesty’s  8th Dragoons

*Disclaimer:  I ken verra well that there is NOTHING funny about rape and torture.  But in the interest of my own self-preservation, I will try to find some humor in order to cope with what’s coming.  Fair warning…there will be stuff in here that ye willna be able to unsee!

Ha!  Fooled ye, didn’t I?  Ye thought maybe I started writin’ about True Blood, didn’t ye?  No.  I just like the theme song…and it seemed apropos to use it here.  I may have mentioned in a recent tweet that I’m “freaking the f*ck out” over  the upcoming final episodes of Outlander (ye ken what I mean…WENTWORTH).  I really, really hope Ron D. Moore didn’t hire James Wan to direct the last two episodes (look it up).  I think we’ll see some award-worthy performances from Sam, Tobias and Cait, truly.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasna scairt shiteless about watching it (it was horrific enough in my wee coo heid when I read it!)  I do want to see what they do with this verra heavy material, but do I really want to see Jamie/Sam being raped and tortured (even if it is just a TV show)? Not so much.

So, aye, I’ll watch it…but I’m going to need a LOT of whisky (see previous blog for my recommendations!) and perhaps a valium…or three.  Sooooo…I thought I’d put together a little preemptive preparatory blog to deal with the post-viewing PTSD that is sure to come. So I asked myself. “Moo,what ‘s the best way to confront this?”

Option 1:  Revisit some of the worst things I’ve ever seen on film in attempt to numb myself to it… The hobbling scene from Misery (NEVER gonna unsee THAT). Prince Oberyn’s death in Game of Thrones (still in therapy).  The crucifix scene in the Exorcist…disturbing, to say the least (the “your mother sucks c*cks in hell” line was particularly memorable).  The absolute worst thing I’ve ever seen, though, is the torture sequence from the Japanese film Audition.  Still makes me cringe and squirm and cough up a few hairballs just thinking about it (aye, hairballs, I tell ye!). In fact, I’ve never actually seen the whole thing…I just can’t…it’s that messed up.  This is what I imagine Wentworth will be like.  The young woman in Audition, like BJR, totally relishes her victim’s pain.  She’s giddy with it.  She’s like a kid in a candy store. She’s surgically precise.  She takes her time about it, aye? (and not in the good Jamie way, ye ken?). But on some level, it’s a wee bit vindicating, because the victim in the film is kind of a douche.

Here’s the clip, if you’re really curious…but seriously, don’t watch it.  I’m not kidding. Just…don’t.

You watched it, didn’t you?  Don’t blame me, I told ye not to!  That’s some seriously sick shit.  But the big difference re: Outlander is that Jamie Fraser is not a douche! He doesna deserve this!  So maybe trying to become immune through violence overload won’t work. It’s still going to upset me to no end to see this happen to Jamie (and by necessity, Sam).  I know, I know…it’s a great acting challenge, yada yada yada.  I’m still planning to brush my bangs over my eyes.

Option 2:  How about a new version of how things go down between BJR and Jamie? (ye see what I did there? #fellatio #buggery).  Here goes:

Set the scene:  Jamie is in BJR’s red room of pain, sitting on the bed, chained to the wall.  Suddenly, the door swings open, and BJR strolls in, twirling his riding crop and making little squeaky noises because of the enticing sensations from his nipple clamps.  A mash-up of  2 Live Crew’s “Face Down, Ass Up” and “Me So Horny”  is playing at low volume in the background)

Well, my fine, red-haired lad, are you ready for me to be your back-door man?

He pulls up a stool and leans forward.

BJR:  So, Jamie, do you like gladiator movies?

Jamie:  no answer, narrows eyes

BJR:  Ever seen a grown man naked?

Jamie:  Mmmmphm

BJR:  Jamie, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

Jamie: What the hell are ye on about, a bhalgair?  I need to leave. (he tries to yank the irons out of the wall)

BJR:  Not so fast, Weasley

Jamie: Who’s Weasley?

BJR.  Forget it.  You’re going nowhere, Rusty.  Look what I brought you…this lovely board.  Here, you look uncomfortable. Lie back.

(ye didna think I would sneak that in, did ye?)

Jamie: Thalla ‘s cac!  I canna believe ye did that!. Ye are a dirty bird, Jack Randall!  So now that I canna get away, what are ye plannin’ on doin’ with me?  And who the hell is Rusty?

BJR:  I’m thinking we should get to know each other better.

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Jamie:  Och!  In yer dreams, ye bastard!

BJR: No, Strawberry Shortcake…in RE.AL.I.TY.  Remember, you promised to play with me if I let the foul-mouthed scold go…

Jamie: That’s my wife yer slanderin’..I’ll thank ye to refer to her as the lady she is.

BJR:  If she’s a lady, then I’m a Vermicious Knid.  Anyway, no harm done.  Let’s play a game!

Jamie:  Ye mean like Battleship?

BJR:  (rolls eyes) No…it’s a game I like to call Hide the Haggis.  Or we could play “Let Me Peek Behind Your Sporran”

Jamie:   My sporran, and what’s behind it, is my own concern.  And I dinna like haggis.

BJR:  You are trying my patience, Ginger Boy.  Here, let me see your hand for a moment, will you?

(ok…that doesn’t happen…but almost!)

BJR: Think fast! (tosses the Crabtree & Evelyn Lavender Body lotion at our hero)

Jamie:  Ye bastard! Ye chopped off my fookin’ hand!…now ye want to play catch? Yer such an arsehole!

BJR: You’re hurting my feelings, Big Red.  Boys only want love if it’s torture. Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t, warn ya. You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain,

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BJR:  Haters gonna hate.  As far as below the belt, all in good time, mon petit Tête de Carotte.  Now put some of that stuff on…I love the smell of lavender in the morning.

Jamie: Why do ye want me to do that?  And it’s night time, ye clot-heid.

BJR

Jamie: Yer sick.

BJR:  Am not.

Jamie:  Ye are, too!

BJR:  Am not

Jamie: Yes, ye are!

BJR:  I know you are, but what am I?

Jamie:  Stop that!

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Jamie:  I really dinna like you.

BJR:  (put’s on “Love To Love You, Baby”)

Jamie: I dinna like disco, either.

BJR:   You don’t like much, do you?  Me, disco, haggis. How about reading?  Do you like to read?

Jamie:  Aye…(hesitatingly).  Why do ye ask?

BJR:  Have you red pubes?

Jamie:  Mmmmphm.  Yer nae funny.

BJR:  puts on Olivia Newton-John’s Physical

Jamie:  Och! Do ye no have anything decent in yer wee box?  Any bagpipes?

BJR:  Good Lord…NO. How about this. It’s English, so it must be superior (Changes music again)

Jamie:  Ye filthy sassenachs are all mad!

BJR:  Ok, Bluey…let’s get it on! And no, I don’t know why Australians call redheads “Bluey”…they’re all criminals, so what do you expect?  Now, kiss me, you fool!  (leans in to kiss, Jamie)

Jamie


Later the next day, Capt. Randall forces his junior officers to have lunch with him.  In the roll of BJR, the lovely Kim Cattrall.

Corporal Hawkins stoms out:

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Ok…so if it went down something like that, it might be easier to swallow.