Outlander: Ep. 307, Creme de Menthe Hangover – Review

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We’re now into the second half of season 3 – Jamie and Claire are together, and as the hashtag for the episode reads, #StartingAgain. But while there were some interesting changes to the book plot and some definitely enjoyable moments, overall, this episode left me wanting Pepto Bismol to deal with my Creme de Menthe hangover.

Moment #1 – Death of an Agent

This whole event – and I’m going to roll the attack and the life-saving attempt into one moment – left me cold. And a little nauseous. I’ve seen the episode several times now, and haven’t watched any of the “surgery” bits. Why do those need to be in here? (like the amputation scene in The Garrison Commander in S1…) Yes, she’s a surgeon, and has “an oath upon her,” as Jamie, in the books, tells more than one person. But I can’t be the only one who doesn’t care to watch skin being sliced and blood spurting. This particular bit of surgery, though, is in the books, but in a completely different place, with a completely different character. Of course, we’ve seen this happen before in this show – writers take something that happens to another character somewhere else in the books, and moves it to a different spot, or takes a line said by one character and moves it to another. We get the moment, or the line, and sometimes it works – Murtagh telling Claire that Jamie needs a wife who is a woman and not a lass – and sometimes it doesn’t. If you’ve read the books, you know where we get Claire drilling a hole in someone’s head to bring down the swelling (and if not, you’ll probably never see it, because why would they do the same thing twice? which is what I’m thinking, and it was more successful at that point than it is here, both as a plot point and as a life-saving operation).

The whole story line, changed from Mr. Willoughby having killed the man, to Claire doing it by accident, truly felt like the writing team was trying to stuff Claire into every possible scene. Was it to show us what an excellent surgeon Claire is? To set up Claire’s dedication to her oath? To be a catalyst for the drama that comes after? We already know Claire is talented and dedicated. There’s enough potential conflict just in a 20th century woman coming back to her long lost 18th century man. It made Claire start her first full day with Jamie in shock, unhappy, taking with it all the joy of the night before. And Jamie’s constant “Sassenach, Sassenach, Sassenach” started to grate! As endearing as it is, it’s not a word that trips off the tongue, and his repetition – whether this was written this way or Sam’s choice (and I sure hope it was written that way) – took me out of the scene, hoping he could, for ONCE, just say CLAIRE!

And after this, even seeing the results of what happens when he leaves her alone, Jamie STILL gives in and lets her go off, unaccompanied, to her next patient – in a city she doesn’t know, to meet people she doesn’t know. Take the escort, woman!! You may have come thousands of miles, and 200 years, to find your long lost love, but you really have no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing!

One thing this scene did do well, though, is to really highlight the stark differences between what Claire has lived with her entire life (minus three years a long time ago) and the realities of what she has to accept now. The treatment of women is different, even though there was still a great deal of sexism – as we saw when Claire started medical school. Here, in the 1760s, women were even less than they were in the 1960s.  Jamie tries to explain the realities of 18th century justice to her – she could be arrested for his murder, as she was alone with a man in a brothel. She’s a woman with no history, and the only people who could vouch for her have their own unsavory reputations, and a great deal to lose by doing so. The safer thing, for all of them, Jamie tries to make her understand, is to let the man die – and he deserves it – and make him disappear. But Claire can’t do that. She’s stubborn, as Jamie remembers. She’s opinionated. She’s not easily swayed. And she’s not willing to let the emergency of the situation become more important than her medical oath. And even with all of that, and the scary looking trephine, he STILL dies.

Moment #2 – Young Ian Loses His Virginity

While I still don’t quite understand why Jamie would have entrusted his 16-year-old nephew, rather than his 30-year-old, ahem, right-hand man, to sell the brandy he needed to move, AND FAST, that really doesn’t matter. It was great to see Ian and Fergus working together. Both Cesar Domboy and John Bell were terrific, and I’m quite excited to see more of them. Last episode, I had some trouble reconciling Romann Berruxx’s Fergus with Cesar’s – not that I at all disliked Cesar (quite the opposite), but Romann had been the embodiment of the Fergus I know and love from the books, and Cesar’s Fergus seemed too soft-spoken to me. But in this episode, suddenly none of that mattered. The twinkle in his eye, his ooh la la, completely won me over. (Read StarryMag’s interview with Cesar here!) “Two women, and one MOI.” Oh, Fergus, I can see that.

So Ian and Fergus, excited after their successful sale, take to the local tavern to celebrate. Did you think there was was something missing here? Young Ian asks Fergus if it was really true that French brandy really “increases the firmness of a cockstand,” and Fergus tells him that in his experience, it has the opposite effect, but that the important part was that he convinced the brandy’s buyer that it did? Huh? When? I just checked the script, posting on OutlanderCommunity.com, and it’s not from a scene that was written – it just feels clunky and added at the last minute. There was a better way to introduce this scene, and the writers should have found it.

Outlander Season 3 2017- John Bell (Young Ian Murray), Cesar Domboy (Fergus)- Outlander 307 CR: Aimee Spinks/Starz

And…. why was Ian asking? It turns out he has his eye on a lovely waitress/hoor, Brighid! I really do try to separate the book from the series. Really, I do. And this change, I understand from a one-hour-TV-episode-format standpoint. You want to end the episode on a major note, in this case the printshop fire. And you have to get there somehow. The next episode starts somewhere else, geographically. So you can’t have events in the order in which they appear in the book, which means that the motivation for the deflowering has to be different. The loss of virginity itself is important for future reasons, so it has to happen. But it seemed tossed into the story, with little setup, and a bit rushed. But Ian was very sweet, following Fergus’s instructions – “tell her how beautiful she is. Offer her a drink – anything her heart desires.” And what waitress/hoor could resist that sweetness? Apparently, Uncle Jamie and Young Ian got their sex education in the same places, because they both try it the same way the first time (but in Ian’s defense, why was Brighid leaning over the bed that way?? Awkward…)

Ian proved himself brave – he gets Brighid out quickly, and he fights off Sir Percival’s spy. John Bell was terrific here – and it wasn’t an easy scene to film! I had the chance to talk with John last week, so look for my exclusive interview with him – details about this scene and more coming up.

Moment #3 – The Campbells

To me, this was the most successful deviation from the book in this episode. If you recall (if you read the books), there was a subplot about a serial murderer, and Margaret Campbell had some connection to Jamie and the Jacobites at Culloden – I can see why they decided to cut all of that. It made for some interesting reading, but it would have been difficult to incorporate both stories into the show. But by recasting them as creepy “fortune tellers,” I thought this worked really well. Margaret has some kind of, well, gift, that gives her a sight into people when she touches them. When Claire takes her hand to check her pulse, she begins raving about tree toads and the moon and Abandawe – “Abandawe will devour you!” As soon as Claire lets go of her hand, she stops and retreats into her stupor.

Archie tells Claire that she approaches people on the street and “tells them things they don’t want to hear” – that’s just scary (and seasonally appropriate!). They’re leaving the next day for the Indies, and Archie is afraid the sailors will throw Margaret overboard, as superstitious a lot as they are, and he doesn’t “want to disappoint a wealthy client.” Even if you haven’t read the books, you KNOW this is going to come back again, somehow – we’re in for a supernatural ride! The second part of the Fiend story intersects with Mr. Willoughby, and as they have changed his character considerably, trying to shoehorn the Fiend in and get it to fit wouldn’t be at all easy. This story eliminates that little branch in a cool and creepy way.

Outlander Season 3 2017 Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall Fraser), Alison Pargeter (Margaret Campbell)- Outlander 307 CR: Aimee Spinks/Starz

Moment #4 – The Fight

Leading up to the fight was my Moment of the Week, when Ian comes looking for his son and sees Claire. We just don’t get enough of Steven Cree – he’s fantastic whenever we see him, and this was no exception. The immediate tear that came to his eye, the mingled joy and surprise was so evident (as was his embarrassment at the place he found himself in, and the casual caress of the whore as she walked by).

 

Jamie and Claire have changed quite a bit, thanks to our writers. Claire was rather bitchy in this episode, and Jamie, except for one lovely moment, early in the episode, really didn’t show any concern for her! At the beginning of the hour, when he walks in the room and sees her, shaking and knife in hand, he doesn’t touch her except to take the knife away. No consolation, no “are you alright?” I expected him to grab her up and hold her – no, not at all.

Before she leaves for the Campbells, Claire apologizes for having brought chaos into Jamie’s life, and this was the only tender moment of the episode, a callback to words he told her on their wedding night. “I’m grateful you’re here, no matter what the cost. I would give up everything I have for us to be together again. Don’t you see, since you left, I’ve been living in the shadows. Then you walked into the print shop, and… it was as if the sun had returned and cast out the darkness.” And this, less than 24 hours after they’ve been together, is the extent of the tenderness they share in the entire episode.

Claire suggests they find their own place; Jamie says, “Leave the brothel? We have everything we need here.” She throws his lie to Ian about the whereabouts of his son in his face; he tosses Bree in a bikini right back at her. He literally pushed her away, rightly so, and with very good reason, 20 years ago – now, he shouldn’t be questioning her parenting, saying “I had no say in raising her.” This isn’t the Jamie and Claire we know. The writers, in this episode, have completely lost the sense of who this couple is. I hear some of you screaming “adaptation!”, but even in an adaptation, where there are some things that deviate from the original source material, it MUST retain the feeling and basic character ideals in order to be successful. As much as I love this show – and I do – it doesn’t always meet my expectations. And I’m just a fan, like you are, dear reader, and I expect that your opinions differ, but this is mine.

Yes, they fight, and yes, they can hold their own. But they don’t snipe at each other. The “real” Jamie is grateful for everything Claire did to keep Brianna safe and healthy. He’s jealous of the time Frank had with her, sure, but grateful to him as well. This Jamie is hard, unyielding, inconsiderate. I don’t like either of these people. Claire doesn’t give him more than a half-smile the entire episode – everything’s been grim, from the attempted rape and accidental death to the burning of the print shop. Can’t the writers hold on to just a little of the joy we saw in episode 306? I was surprised that the trailer for the next episode included the line at the cliff (and if you haven’t seen the trailer, I won’t repeat it), but after this episode, I’m not surprised that she felt that way.

But this is the difference between Jamie in Season 1 and Jamie all grown up in Season 3. As this production has portrayed them, Claire was the driving force in their relationship. Jamie was willing to be led, Claire had all the ideas. Like I said at the start of this post, the writers moved Diana’s lines and story around, changing who said what – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – and inserting Claire into areas where she hadn’t originally been, all to make her the stronger character. Now, though, Jamie has lived without her for 20 years, and gone through unimaginable hardships, and come out the other end, at least in this version, harder, more self-reliant, more of a leader, less willing to take direction from anyone. And Claire hasn’t discovered that yet. She’s the same hard-headed woman she was, used to getting her way, directing everyone and everything around her, and she has now run into the Wall of Jamie. So of course they’re going to clash. Of course she’s not going to as readily see the love she had had. And she will have to bend, and Jamie will have to open, as all soul mates must, if they’re to survive.

The Final Moment

I’m not going to say too much about the burning print shop – watch the Inside the Episode for details on how they did it. I’m not surprised Jamie rescued his portrait of Willie – the only thing he has of this son he never expects to see again. And as excellent as it was, Sam’s Batman leap from the catwalk onto the burning floor was just a little much – sure, Sam is a superhero, but this was a bit too literal (still, I’m not complaining too loudly – it was kind of fun).

In all, I just don’t see this as an episode I’m going to watch more than I have. They can’t all be gems, and  unfortunately, this one is going on the bottom portion of my list.It’s probably not the worst one, but the misrepresentation of Jamie and Claire really threw it for me.


For insights into the sets, this episode’s script, and more, check out OutlanderCommunity.com.

And for this episode’s Inside Outlander, click here!

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Erin Conrad