Well, that was different! In that – as much as I loved last week’s episode, I can’t say the same for much of this week’s. It was two completely different stories with no intersection, two completely different tones – not a surprise, I suppose, since it had two different writers (Luke Schelhaas and Toni Graphia). And while one part of the story – the Jamie half – made an effort to move the season forward, the Claire half was often baffling in its odd choices.
Doctor Fraser, Medicine Woman
I’ll confess, I’m a wimp. I’ve never liked the explicit blood and gore that Outlander serves up – cutting off limbs, autopsies, etc. This is a personal problem, and I’m sure that there are some of you who aren’t bothered by it. Good on you, but now I still have to go eat dinner. I would be a Bree in this regard. So for all of you Marsalis, I apologize in advance. And while I understand what it meant to the story, I truly think that a little less bowel on the table would go a long way.
Beyond that, we know that Claire, being a headstrong modern woman, rather than a submissive one, has no choice but to try to save anyone needing help. Of course she’s going to use her 20th century training and knowledge to achieve that goal. Of course she’ll cause problems, have her motives and methods questioned, and generally upset the local population. She can’t help it, she’s Claire. But when did Bree get so prissy about it? She knows who her mother is. Still – really? pulling a Geillis and burying a box of rocks? She needed a body to train her new apprentice on, I guess… I’ve seen several people say tonight that “Claire would never do that.” I don’t agree – it’s a very Claire thing to do. As a 20th century woman, she doesn’t see things the same way those “backwards thinking” 18th century people do – and physicians have been stealing bodies and using them as test subjects for hundreds of years. She didn’t invent this; she wasn’t the first, she wouldn’t be the last. The coffin full of rocks, though – that’s a little out there.
But honestly, much of the rest of the Claire sections defy logic! Something Claire would never have done is use up all of that expensive, precious flour and make thousands of loaves of bread (have you ever made bread? It’s a long, time consuming process, and without a commercial oven, sorry, no way did she make all of that). A couple of extra, sure. But a little goes a long way – how many pieces can you rip one loaf into?
And then – the most logic-defying choice of all – how do you think any penicillin is going to develop if you cover them all up? Diana Gabaldon weighed in on this, with this comment on her Facebook page this morning – “I did tell the writers–several times–that if you’re trying to catch penicillin spores from the air, you don’t put your bread samples under glass to make sure the spores don’t land on them. My guess is that they didn’t want to give up the spectacular visual of all that gleaming Pyrex.”
Here’s another one. Claire and Jamie are NOT wealthy settlers. The house, the leaded glass in the surgery doors, the freakin’ CLOCHES on top of all of that bread, even the waste of food that they’ll need for the winter – these are people who worried about being able to feed everyone they were responsible for there on the Ridge. It’s not just them – it’s Bree, Roger and Jemmy, Mr. & Mrs. Bug (an older couple that, in the book, Jamie hired to help run the farm and the house; in the show, they just mysteriously appeared), Marsali, Fergus and their ever-expanding brood. With so many people paying exorbitant amounts of tax to the Crown that they’re starving and turning to the Regulators to fight for their ability to live, Jamie and Claire living as the series is showing them is just throwing it in the faces of the common people. No wonder the Regulators he finds in the jail at Hillsboro don’t think much of him. Jamie’s not a lord, like our friend John Grey. He arrived penniless on the shores of America; he had to gamble to make enough to get to River Run. This is just all wrong. I love Jon Gary Steele, and think he’s brilliant – this was a miss. The house is too much, too perfect.
And, ok, I’ll address the minor issue of Roger’s eye exam – other than attempt to placate book readers, there was really no reason for it, if they’re going to change the exam’s result. In the book, Claire diagnoses Roger with monocular vision – he can’t focus on something with both eyes. It’s not something that he would notice under any other circumstance, and I’d bet a lot of you have it and have never noticed. But to say, no your eyes are just fine, you’re just a bad shot, is demeaning to Roger’s character, makes him “less than” in one more way. At least if he has a reason why he can’t hit the broadside of the pig pen, his masculinity is intact, and it would be something that Jamie might not understand, but accept because he’s an intelligent man. There was no reason to change this little bit from the book. And I take my Roger seriously. Don’t make him less than.
Speaking of Roger….
He’s really having a tough time. And he realizes he doesn’t belong in the 1700s, he’s ready to go back to 1969 – except for Jem. And except for the fact that his wife seems to like being there, with her mother and new-found father. There is no point in their current relationship where Roger feels that he is Brianna’s equal. He tells her that Jamie doesn’t respect him – and the feeling, at the moment, is probably mutual. He cares for Claire, but he’s known her for a while. He can’t keep his family safe – he knows his wife was raped. Seeing her sketch of Bonnet puts it into a perspective he may not have had before – he wasn’t around for the immediate aftermath, and by this time Brianna has figured out how to tamp down her reactions enough that he probably has little idea how traumatic it was. He’s seen people die from curable problems, he knows there’s war coming. He has no skills that will be useful to provide for his family here in North Carolina’s backwoods. And all of that is difficult for anyone. Is it a surprise he wants to leave? And now, to find another thing he’ll never be able to do as well as Bree can, or even competently, if not expertly?
I liked the discussions, both with Bree and with Claire about why he can’t shoot the squirrels. Claire asks him about his father – his real father, an RAF pilot shot down during the war (if you haven’t yet, consider reading Diana’s novella A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows, which fits in somewhere during Written in My Own Heart’s Blood – the story of Roger’s dad and what really happened). But having lost his father at a very young age, and then raised by a man of the cloth, he understands the pacifist part of him that couldn’t even kill a squirrel. It’s not so much the squirrel killing that bothers him, I suspect – he knows what’s on the horizon, historically speaking, and that there’s every likelihood that he won’t have the luxury of conscience in the coming years, if he and his family stay. Jamie may be a “bloody man,” but Roger isn’t. And it’s going to get harder and harder to continue with that value.
But beyond the deep emotional connection was one that’s a little more fun – the Tufty Club! Who could kill a fluffy animal that you associated with such benign memories? Could you shoot a bunny if you loved Peter Cottontail? Roger was probably not a member of a Tufty club, since they didn’t start up until 1961, but he definitely knew of them!
— Outlander (@Outlander_STARZ) February 22, 2020
One thing Roger does well – he does sing beautifully, whether it’s at the service for the box of rocks or to his lovely little son. Roger has a talent. I hope we’ll hear the nickname given to Roger in the books. His music is a bridge to ….well, we can’t really say their past, can we? Time travel really messes with your tenses.
Two Fires Burn Hotter Than One
Yes, Jamie really is walking between two fires (although, so is almost everyone in this episode in one way or another). He’s unable to tell almost anyone the real truth. During the ride with Knox, he’s dismissive and dissembling – playing with words that could go either way. WE know that his sympathies lean more toward the Regulators, and that he knows the British will be defeated in a few short years. But he has responsibilities that require him to put those aside, and at least on the surface appear to be enforcing the King’s laws. So he parses his words carefully. “I admire a man who puts duty and honor above all else,” Lt. Knox says. “Then you’d admire the man who chooses to starve rather than betray his conscience?” Jamie replies, outwardly referring to the people they just passed, but really referring to himself. He’s fighting with that conscience, but he really has no choice. If it was just him, he’d never have been in this position, but it isn’t just him.
It was, as always, a joy watching Sam Heughan say more in silence than many actors say with a page of dialogue. You could see him trying to silently communicate with the prisoners, standing behind Knox, to get them to understand “shut up shut up shut up.” And of course, with that “I am Spartacus” move, it’s obvious they didn’t get the message – although, at that point, they really had no reason to trust Jamie or to understand that he knew more about what was happening, and sympathized with them.
As for Murtagh – don’t give me this “he would never.” Sure he would. Murtagh’s a man of expediency. He had no trouble killing the Redcoat messenger when Jenny and Claire were on the start of the trek to find Jamie in Season 1. He never seemed to have a moment of regret or conscience with any of the other men he had killed – they were were in the way, they deserved it. He had lived under other men’s rule for way too long, and was fighting to make sure other men were able to live free. Unlike Roger, Murtagh had no pacifist father, no psychological constraints. You moved out of his way, or you got what you deserved. Tar and feathers – brutal, but no more so than shooting prisoners, taxing until families starved, selling human beings into bondage for years. Get on board, or get rolled over. And Murtagh is the steamroller. His short-lived civilized life as Jocasta’s lover just covered up his other life as leader of the Regulators. He’s not a reformed man, he’s not a kind man (at least to those outside his immediate circle) – he’s a man of his times and his experience.
No, Damn YOUR ….
And just a word about the return of the villain we hate to love – or love to hate. All cleaned up now, is he! Bonnet’s trying to play the gentleman – like trying to put a dress on the white sow. You can make her look better, but she’s still a pig. There’s a large streak of psychopath in Bonnet – anyone crossing his path really should consider taking the long way around. Tumbrill certainly didn’t know him well when he says, “Not like you, Bonnet, why not kill the man outright?” Why indeed – why kill him when you can get your jollies AND warn other people not to cross you? And – did you catch what he replied? “I considered it, but I want to set a better example. I’m a father now!” A better example – of what? Certainly not mercy. His satisfied, nearly orgasmic smirk as he walks out of the tavern says that the example he was setting was more of a warning. Let’s hope he doesn’t have the opportunity of coming across the child he believes to be his – sweet Jemmy! – but this is Outlander. Those hopes are futile.
— Outlander (@Outlander_STARZ) February 24, 2020
This week’s “Inside Outlander”:
— Outlander (@Outlander_STARZ) February 24, 2020
Here’s a video with some of the Tufty Fluffytail TV spots from the ’60s. Some are even in Gaelic!
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