Outlander: A. Malcolm’s Print Shop and His Heart, Review

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Has everyone survived all the feels of the Print Shop episode? Has your breathing returned to normal? Well, maybe not yet. OK, you can have a few more minutes if you need them. Was it what you wanted? What you expected? Let’s look at some of the moments during the hour (plus):

Moment #1: It’s Me, Claire

I didn’t comment on this moment during my review of episode 305, because I knew more of this was coming, and why speculate? But the whole OMG, she’s back, is this a dream, why are my pants wet scene was heart-stopping! You can see 20 things going through Jamie’s brain at once – when did Geordie’s voice change? Why do I keep having this dream? Nooooo!!! OH YES!!! Jamie’s concern about his modesty, asking Claire to turn around as he removed his ale-soaked trousers, was sweet. And his halting confession to her said so much more. “I saw you so many times. You came to me so often. When I dreamed sometimes, when I was in a fever… I was so afraid and so lonely I knew I must die. Whenever I needed you, I would see you, smiling, your hair curled around your face. You never touched me.” And so we know, that though his outer life may seem busy and normal, his inner life is a desert, a wasteland. You can see him realizing that if she walks out on him again, that he’ll have no choice but to die.

But the next scene didn’t fulfill the promise of the first. I had so looked forward to the emotion that should have come with this – but it felt oddly selfish, strangely perfunct. Such a huge shock to the system, and his first views of Brianna – “Now show me… my daughter” – tried to hit that level of amazement and gut wrench – but didn’t quite get there. Just one little bit would have helped – in the book (and yes, I know, the show is the show…), Diana wrote, “He turned and leaned toward me, slowly, with the improbable grace of a tall tree falling. He buried his face in my shoulder and went quietly, thoroughly, to pieces.” Jamie is an emotional man, and just this one moment would have cemented it for me. (And, picky, I don’t think those are Sam Heughan’s hands holding those photos. Sam’s thumbnails are long, with a pronounced lunula, or crescent shape, at the base of the nail.)

When he told Claire, now, at this moment, about Willie, it became about “me” and not about “us.” I never quite believed, in the book, that he wouldn’t have told Claire about the boy, and felt it was highly improbable that she would have found out, for the first time, from Lord John, MONTHS later. But this felt too soon, too unlikely. Yes, they’re talking about children, but he didn’t ask Claire if she ever had any others.

While I’m nit-picking, this seems to be an appropriate time to bring up a long-standing nit – qualified by saying that I LOVE Bear McCreary’s music, but does anyone else feel like Jamie and Claire’s love theme is sad and wistful, when it should have an element of joy? Especially at this moment, when they’re reunited, something they both felt for so long would be impossible? I love a good theme, but I’m not sure I want to hear sad and wistful through what should be an amazingly beautiful moment. There are many moments throughout the show where sad or wistful accurately describes the state of the relationship, or longing for each other. Was there not some way the theme could have been adapted, so that we would still recognize it, but have a note happiness injected?

Moments #2 through Lots – We Meet…

Madame Jeanne – OK, he may be 20 years older, but if you can make a MADAME fall in love with you, you’ve still got it. I know she’s wishing that Jamie “took his price out in trade,” and it sure wouldn’t be the newest girl who had to take it. I LOVED the scene when Jamie first brings Claire to the brothel – “Mr. Malcolm and his…. wife”.

Fergus – He was so excited and confused to see Claire again! It was really cute. While I’m truly looking forward to seeing more of Cesar, I’m having a bit of trouble reconciling this soft-spoken young man with the brash and impetuous Romann Berruxx Fergus. In looks, no problem. But the demeanor is very different – young Fergus couldn’t sit still, spoke his mind, mouthed off; and older Fergus seems quieter, more respectful, somehow more serious. I think this is something I’ll have no trouble getting over, it may just take an episode or two.

Young Ian – I’m going to call it right now, no hesitations, absolutely yes. John Bell was terrific. He’s described throughout the books as “homely,” not necessarily in our current sense of “nearly ugly,” but more comfortable, average. And he was that. I can certainly see this young man not happy being confined at Lallybroch under his mother and da’s thumbs.

Mr. Willoughby – The actor, Gary Young, is just fine. But – licking the whore’s ELBOWS? Why would you change it from her feet? Who would be disgusted at an elbow fetish? (Honestly, who would HAVE an elbow fetish?)  And he was just a bit too forthcoming, too complacent, and not nearly drunk enough. Some of these small details become important plot points later on, and as I’ve said in previous reviews, it makes me wonder how they’re going to handle those pieces.

Geordie and Rupert & Angus 2 – The episode’s comic relief (besides the nearly broken nose in bed) was provided in part by the stick-up-his-butt Geordie (Lorn MacDonald).”I’m Free Church,” he says indignantly, coming upon the trouser-less Jamie kissing an unknown woman, “Working for a Papist is one thing. Working for an immoral Papist is another. It’s not even noon!” It’s likely we won’t see Geordie again, but it was a terrific moment.

And this season’s Rupert and Angus (too soon?) are Lesley and Hayes, two of Jamie’s men from prison – do you remember seeing them in the Ardsmuir episode? Harassing Geordie, running errands – and generally being lovable goofs – did we need this again? We DID need to see some of the Ardsmuir prisoners – they’ll figure in future episodes (I hope, unless the story’s been changed so much). But I’m not sure we needed another Laurel and Hardy.

Dorcas And The Whores – friendly, hard-working girls all. What an interesting first 1766 breakfast Claire had! All kinds of helpful tips! It’s a little amusant thinking about how she would have told the girls that she wasn’t going to be taking that next customer after all. But of course, she didn’t have to, because Madame Jeanne came in and broke up all the fun.

THE Moment: The Reunion

Of course, this whole episode was about the reunion. Would they be able to reconnect? Would the amazing, soul connection they had 20 years ago remain? In previous episodes, Claire had already voiced her concerns, but I think they both figured out the answer to that question very quickly. “What we have, when I touch you…” it’s still there. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” Jamie tells Claire. “For me, it has always been forever.”

For Jamie, he’d take Claire no matter what hardship it meant that would bring. But he doesn’t know what she feels – is this a quick time hop to tell him about Brianna? “Why have you come back?” he asks. “Why do you think I’ve come back?” she replies, surprised that he even questions. “I dinna know. You’re the mother of my child and for that alone I owe you my soul. But have you come back to be my wife again or only to bring me word of my daughter?” Why now, he wonders? “I don’t want you to go,” he says when she asks. “But I must know. Do you want me?” He knows he couldn’t survive if she left again, and is hesitant to allow himself to believe she’s back forever.

Just as a matter of human nature, Claire’s decision to leave her 1960s life to return to a man she knew for only three years, was impetuous. How long could they have spent with Roger in Scotland that summer? Six weeks? And then she gave up the idea of finding him, only to have the possibility come back to life, be decided on, and preparations made, in the space of DAYS. This isn’t buying a car or choosing a vacation. It’s not even deciding to get married to someone in your own timeline. This is the biggest (fictional, of course) decision a person can make – leaving their child, their job, homes, friends – leaving everything you know behind for the possibility – just the possibility – of returning to a man you knew for a very short time, a very long time ago.

And if Jamie knew that, he would be understandably even more wary of Claire’s motives and intent, and her permanence. Yes, I’m sure she had “what ifs” and “if onlys” the entire time she lived with Frank. But since she believed Jamie had died on Culloden Moor, the possibility of returning wasn’t even a flicker in her future plans. Desire and decision are two completely different things. And Claire wouldn’t be human if she doesn’t have some doubts as she learns about Jamie’s life over the last 20 years. After all, he has a lot of things to be concerned about in the past she wasn’t part of – a child she just finds out about, a long prison sentence, whatever this shady profession is, and something that everybody seems to be hinting about and covering up.

The nearly 4 minutes of undressing was a little slow, I thought – I kept hearing Prince’s lyrics, “You don’t have to be too flirty, Mama, I know how to undress me.” But the echo of their wedding night was beautiful and unmistakeable – hesitant and careful, sexy, seductive, teasing and enticing. Matt Roberts has said that they wanted to give some extra time to this episode so we could really see their connection, and while I appreciate that, parts of it did drag a bit. I did like that they kept the bit about the zipper in the show – it’s the little moments that book readers look for. But where did Claire find a bum roll?

And did we really need the voiceover? It was more intrusive than instructive, breaking the mood. Yes, we knew that’s exactly what you were doing, Claire, trying to see if there was still a bond between you, if the flame was still there. Jamie’s a little more secretive, you’re a bit more judgey (and the “why do you have a room in a brothel” was shrill and uptight, when it could have been curious and interested, which would have been a better tone). But are you basically the same people you were 20 years ago? The same people you fell in love with? The physical connection is definitely still there. Is that enough to get you started? Enough to make you believe that the emotional connection can return?

And One More Moment…

The final scene, with the intruder in the room, is, I’m afraid, another instance of this production giving Claire the scenes that had been someone else’s in the books (killing Dougal, among others in season 2). We’ll have to wait and see how next week’s episode plays out. And if it is, will it work? Many changes from the books have worked quite well. And some others… well, let’s just say “The Watch.” And there was at least one jarring note here – in season 1, Jamie had to ask what “f**ing” was (sorry, we have a family-friendly Google rating to maintain), and here, the intruder uses that word – so was it or wasn’t it in common usage? Jamie had been a soldier – if people said it, he would have known it. It just seemed out of place.

What did you think? Did this episode meet your expectations? What made you sigh and wipe your teary eyes? What made you want to throw something at your screen? 

Inside Outlander – Episode 306 – Details about the Print Shop, Aging, and those Glasses

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Erin Conrad