Ahhh, the simple, sweet return to Lallybroch…the welcoming family, the returning laird…
But nothing is ever simple, and it’s rarely sweet, here in the Outlanderverse. After last week’s difficult episode, and correspondingly difficult review, with the firestorm of comments and discussion that followed, I figured this episode had to be easier. But it isn’t! With its strong, anticipated and controversial events, my review of episode 11 almost wrote itself. This one, though, is tougher! Overall, I really enjoyed the episode, seeing Jamie return to his home.
This was a quieter episode, with its focus on relationships. We see just the quickest glimpse of Claire and Jamie’s new understanding, as they head to Lallybroch. The beautiful sweeping helicopter views of Scotland brought us to the charming discussion of airplanes. Jamie is an educated, curious man – but he must have been completely boggled with Claire’s descriptions of what had been everyday life for her. Can you imagine his reaction to descriptions of 20th century life – machinery, politics, transportation, education, communications? Ron Moore had said on Twitter that once they finished the scene at the campfire at the end of Episode 11, the stones would “be in their rear-view mirror” – so we can only imagine the conversations they must have had about why she stayed. I had hoped that we’d get a little more development of this – up to this point, we’ve had seen very little of Jamie and Claire’s private life, their growing attraction, the small things that build love. I missed any explanation from Claire to Jamie of why she decided to stay with him, what compelled her to leave Frank forever.
But I was happy to see that scene, near the end of the episode, where they finally open up to each other. “I wanted you more than I wanted anything in my life,” he says. “I wanted you from the first moment I saw you, but I loved you when you wept in my arms that first night at Leoch. Now I wake up every day and find that I love you more than the day before.” And Claire, usually quick to respond, can only say, “I love you.”
Part of the problem is translating a medium that has basically unlimited development time to a medium that requires much greater structure. In a book, you have the leisure to develop and explore relationships, show the small caring gestures and important conversations. But a TV show needs to have a crisis and climax each 60-minute episode. The extended talks that Jamie and Claire must have had are missing. Watching characters sitting around a campfire for hours, or leisurely chatting while on horseback don’t make great TV. And that’s so sad, because we haven’t really yet seen what makes them the soul-mates we know them to be. And in fact, I wonder if Claire has really seen it yet, either, from her treatment of Jamie once they’re at Lallybroch. When Jamie returns to bed after taking care of Ronnie McNab, completely and totally soused, she’s so cold to him! Yes, he’s drunk as a skunk, but he’s still sweet. I don’t do well if I’m woken up in the middle of the night, either, but she’s just recently made a huge declaration (if not yet in words) of love for him – she has to bitch at this sweet man, who’s just tried to solve a problem she brought to his attention?
Because of the demands of TV, also, there’s a fair amount of time compression. We don’t see the days and weeks going by – and this episode would have been a good place to play out a little of that time, maybe with a Claire voice-over somewhere between the Quarter Day scene (and why did that have to happen the day after they got to Lallybroch? It could easily have been stretched out a little bit) and the end – “Days passed. Jenny and I started to become comfortable with each other. I had time to meet the tenants and learn my place on the estate…” If you try to figure out the timeline to this point, you may come the conclusion, as I have, that Claire hasn’t been in the past for very long – she went through the stones on Halloween, and scenes seem to be following each other very quickly. Without any kind of accounting for days, I’m thinking we may only be at the end of January at this point, 3 months later, not enough time to develop those relationships.
I had trouble with how bitchy Jenny was, and for how long, but I understood this one better. (Still, calling Claire a “trollop”? Good way to start out that sister-in-law relationship.) But Laura Donnelly, as Jenny, is terrific. You can see the steel in her backbone – Ian’s story of how she told him they were getting married (“and as I was still explaining to her how we couldna do any such thing, I found myself saying my I Do’s…”) was a great example. Seeing the scars on Jamie’s back finally brought her to understand that while she had been abused by Randall, Jamie had carried the brunt of that abuse. They hadn’t seen each other in more than four years – she and Ian didn’t even know that he was alive. The grief that she’s carried, both for her father and her brother, coupled with the contentiousness of their reunion, and the shock of the unexpected loss of her position as lady of the household (and, no doubt, pregnancy hormones!) all had to contribute to her extended bitchiness.
Jamie, of course, carries a lot of responsibility for the rift – his first words to her were “Why would you name him after me? Did you not think I’d suffered enough for what I’d let happen that you must name Randall’s bastard after me to be a reproach so long as I live?” Ian understands the sparks, having known both of them their entire lives. Talking to Claire late at night, he says, “You’re surprised she has a gentle side? She’s a Fraser – their hearts are as big and soft as their heads are thick and strong.” But their rapprochement at Brian’s grave was gentle and caring, healing to both of them.
Speaking of Ian – OK, I’m in love. Peacemaker, friend, lover, brother – Steven Cree’s Ian is all of that. He, like Gary Lewis, can carry off his CGId disability so that you never question the authenticity. I loved his small gestures – reaching out for Jenny’s hand after she’s told Jamie of what happened with Randall, his incredulous looks at Jamie as he collects – and returns – the rents. We won’t see him much throughout the run of this show, I’m sure, and that will be a loss.
Jamie’s relationship with his father, and by extension, with Lallybroch itself, is one of the most important of his life. We had a brief glimpse of Brian, as he desperately tried to comfort his son on his way to Randall’s office. Jamie’s love for his father, and his need to live up to his father’s expectations, are heartbreakingly obvious as he tells Claire about that short encounter affecting Randall’s proposal. He says that Brian wouldn’t have given a thought or care if Jamie had been “buggered,” but with the feel of Brian’s kiss on his cheek, knew he couldn’t disappoint his father by giving in. But his guilt at being the cause of his father’s death from a stroke during his flogging, and over not having seen his father die or even his grave, push Jamie to try to emulate his father, or at least how he thinks his father would act. Memory of his father, tinged by both grief and guilt, play into his arguments with Jenny. And she feels it too – she’s carried the guilt of his death on her head as well, thinking that if she had given into Randall, he wouldn’t have beaten Jamie so badly and Brian wouldn’t have suffered the stroke.
The scene at the millpond was quick, but important. (Jamie was underwater one minute and 45 seconds.) That was the moment that she began to realize that maybe her view of what had happened the past several years was wrong. “But out at the millpond,” she tells him, “when I saw the scars on your back, scars laid down with such fury…” “I know it’s not your fault, or mine either,” Jamie replies. “There’s a devil in that man that no one can influence.” And finally, brother and sister lay down their anger. “And if your life is a suitable exchange for my honor, tell me why my honor is not a suitable exchange for your life. Are you telling me that I may not love you as much as you love me? Because I’m telling you now, Jamie Fraser, it’s not true. Welcome home, Laird Broch Tuarach.”
The grief-tinged joy Jamie takes in being in his father’s room was lovely. Telling Claire that Brian put his boots in front of the fire, that he always had a book open, and finally, digging the ancient blade out from under the bed helped us see how important Brian, and his unconditional love for his son, were to Jamie’s sense of self and duty. (Did you catch Jamie wearing Brian’s coat on Quarter Day?)
“When are you going to talk about RANDALLLLLLL?!??!” I hear you. I’ve been putting that off. Tobias Menzies deserves an award. What award, I don’t know… creepiest? I’m truly sorry that our first… perhaps only… full frontal of the season had to be Black Jack, futiilely rubbing himself trying be ready to rape Jenny. Obviously, rape is about control and power, not sex, and when Jenny took away his ability to control her, she took away his power as well. She’s lucky he didn’t kill her. Creepier, though, than Randall attempting to “ready” himself was when he ran his finger over Jenny’s face and her throat, then slowly put his finger, still stained with Jamie’s blood, into her mouth. I couldn’t help but gag as she did.
And Claire now has some understanding of what Jamie had told her recently about Jack Randall – “It’s personal, ye ken, between us.” Randall has a sick obsession with Jamie that will get even harder to watch in the next couple of episodes. (If you haven’t read the books, start looking for a comfort object to have on hand – a blankie, a stuffed toy, a big bottle of whisky…). “He bandied around words for a while. He likes to do that, play with his toys,” Jamie tells Claire.
At the end of the episode (keep in mind that this is written before the episode officially airs, and I haven’t seen next week’s teaser) – who are the four – maybe five, did you catch someone sitting in a chair? – men in the study, threatening Jamie? Could this be repurcussions for having beaten Ronald McNab? Jenny said that their tenants are all like family, and none would turn Jamie in, no matter what the price, but are they really that trustworthy?
I can’t end this review without talking a little bit about the beauty of the sets here. Lallybroch itself, as we saw in today’s Outlander newsletter, “is a real, 16th century tower house” on the Hopetoun Estate – Hopetoun House was used as the Duke of Sandringham’s estate two episodes ago. But the interior is quite striking, with the wallpaper and furnishings! MAJOR kudos to Jon Gary Steele and the production crew for building such a beautiful interior. Read more about it on Yahoo TV.
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