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.

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“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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