Outlander: Better to Marry, or Is It? Ep. 506, Review

Outlander is, more than usual, the show I’m most excited about. Halfway through, this has been a generally excellent season. This episode is, with a few exceptions, continuing along that line. But honestly, as I sit here in my social distancing state-mandated lockdown, away from my parents and my kids, the temptation to give in and say “I don’t really care anymore” is pretty deep. However – more than usual, we need the distraction and the care. Are there lessons to be taken to heart? Something in the beautiful Jamie and Claire relationship, in Bree and Roger’s, in Jocasta and Murtagh’s, heck, even in Adso and the locusts’ relationship, that has something to teach us? (I’m tempted to say that it’s Adso and the locusts that is closest to the state of the world today…) So, because I know that all of you need just as much spiritual renewal and empathetic support as I do, I force myself to sit here and write this. And I promise not to analyze all those relationships and preach anything to you. I’m sure you just breathed a sigh of relief.

Better to Marry …

Is it though? Jocasta has chosen to go into her life’s final chapter with a new man (not a Cameron, surprise surprise) by her side. Is he the man of her dreams? A man who loves her to distraction? No. He’s not even a man who is her equal in status, but thanks to the writers’ prestidigitation, the only thing we really know about him is that he was a prisoner at Ardsmuir with Jamie and Murtagh (and he seems to be missing at least a hand… yes, I’ve read the books, I know more than that, but non-book-readers don’t, and for this revised storyline, I don’t think it matters). But as a blind, elderly woman in the 1770s, she can’t manage her estate herself – and her only male relative, Jamie, has declined to fill that spot.

photo courtesy Starz

So the writers have brought in Duncan Innes, who, in the books, was a sweet, caring man who had shown Jocasta that he would care for her, do the things that only a man in that society could do, but still take direction from this strong woman. And so, we have another wedding this season – one bigger and grander even than Roger and Brianna’s (which really shouldn’t have been as big and grand as it was). I was struck by how beautifully our fabulous crew tricked this one out – appropriate, given Jocasta’s place in society.

photo courtesy Starz

The costumes, particularly the men’s, were gorgeous. The women’s gowns, even though we didn’t really see much of them beyond Jocasta and Claire, looked elegant and expensive. That pavilion was to die for! Who wouldn’t want to get married there (although we haven’t seen the actual ceremony)? And to have your guests arrive, George Washington style in that little punt, up the river….. I’m starting to think it’s too bad my son is getting married in October rather than June. But Trisha Biggar’s first season as costume designer and Jon Gary Steele’s last as production designer have combined to give us some stunning looks.

photo courtesy Starz

The story of Jocasta and Hector’s flight through Scotland, and the death of their daughter Morna was brief, but well done – I could tell, very quickly, that was what this scene was, but I was surprised – at first – by the man who came out of the carriage speaking in the poshest London accent. Of course, you knew immediately why. And then, the surprise of the chest of gold hidden under the carriage – there was no way this wasn’t going to end in tragedy. Of course, there’s more to this story – and it will have to come up if they’re going to give us the full storyline with Mr. and Mrs. Bug – but we learned all we needed at the moment to understand Jocasta’s fear of getting involved with another man who might put his cause before her. (More about this in a couple of paragraphs!)

screencap courtesy Outlander-Online.com

What interesting guests Jocasta had to her wedding! Somehow, I always pictured Philip Wylie as fairly attractive, even powdered and dandified, and the actor that plays him, Chris Donald, is truly an attractive man, but … ye gods!!! smarmy on the inside and outside! “Rake” isn’t quite the word I’d use – not that I’m coming up with something that’s both family-friendly (we have to keep it clean here at TIBS) and functionally appropriate – but I’m sure you can come up with some.


Wylie, despite his creepy reverse-cougar fixation on Claire, is nonetheless the conduit to Steven Bonnet that Jamie has been looking for. It would have been easier on him had he not come across Wylie assaulting Claire in the barn, just after Claire shoved him into the sh…., and threatened him with his wee knife, but when has anything been easy in Outlander? Questions have arisen as to why Jamie will use his “Alexander Malcolm” name – the plan, as I understand it, is to use Wylie as a cutout, since he says that Bonnet won’t do business with anyone he doesn’t know. And probably some that he does – do you really think he’ll do business with JAMIE FRASER? Nope. So Wylie tells him he got the whisky from Alexander Malcolm, never setting up a meeting – or so he thinks – and Jamie will surprise our impeccably dressed snake in the grass.

screencap courtesy Outlander-Online.com

Of course, this is now complicated by Gerald Forbes spilling the (incorrect) info that “Bonnet’s son” has been named the heir to River Run! What disaster will that set in motion? It’s possible that there’s more to happen related to the wedding festivities – we haven’t actually seen the wedding yet, and at least in the book, there was lots of action still to happen. Whether the writers picked it up or not…

Her Excellency, the wife of Governor Tryon, was a friendly if talkative lady, wasn’t she! I liked her – steering Claire away from further contact with Wylie, downplaying the Governor’s insistence on protocol… as a matter of fact, I liked the little mini bit of relationship between His and Her Excellencies, with him telling Jamie that his wife cried for a week when they moved to North Carolina. She wasn’t just his ornament, and I appreciate that in Outlander.

screencap courtesy Outlander-Online.com

One thing I did miss, though, and this is a bigger issue, is Roger and Bree being at the wedding. I get that they pulled a later storyline into this episode (more in a bit), but the way Roger has been written – throughout the series – rankles (ha, just realized I did that…). As a historian, Roger should be taking this all in, making notes – in the book, he was at the wedding, and wrote down all of the songs he was hearing for what he believed to be their eventual return to the 20th century. He was fascinated by actually living in the history he had long studied, and his misgivings were more ethics-based than whine-he-doesn’t-respect-me based.

… Than to Burn

Poor Murtagh! How many of you screamed at your TV when Murtagh told Jocasta, a couple of episodes ago, that he wouldn’t stand in the way of her happiness? She wanted you to stand, stand tall, stick your arms out ward off any others attempting to provide happiness! And now you tell her that “anyone could see” that she didn’t love Innes? She told you that, fool. If you tell a woman that you want her to be able to hear in a man’s voice all the things that words don’t say, you need to be able to hear that in hers as well. And sorry, dear Godfather, you can’t blame anyone else for this.

But he had to try, didn’t he? As much as it broke both of their hearts? To find, late in your life, a great love, and have anything other than a happy ending to your story? A friend recently said that she didn’t like this relationship, that she felt it cheapened Murtagh’s love for Ellen. But that was 50 years and many lifetimes ago. And in a way, I think that Murtagh falling in love with her sister honored her memory – he was able to recall the things he loved in Ellen, see them magnified in Jocasta, and actually have a chance to put that passion into action.

screencap courtesy Outlander-Online.com

The token he gives Jocasta is called a luckenbooth. (I actually remembered this on my own – I am the QUEEN of trivia!) The first Luckenbooth brooches date from the late seventh century. This traditional gift was given by a man to his sweetheart on their betrothal. It was considered a lucky charm, protecting the wearer against the evil eye. It looks like two hearts put together – a good symbol for love!

screencap courtesy Outlander-Online.com

In Matt Roberts and Maril Davis’ “World of Outlander” video (see it at the end of this review), they talk about letting this scene play out, not worrying about the length, and giving the actors space to show the complete heartbreak both feel. Maria Doyle Kennedy and Duncan Lacroix both did a fantastic job of this – how could she have agreed? To become a runaway bride, and announce to the entire assemblage of guests, including the man who is hunting her honey, that she’s dumping her intended for The Colonies’ Most Wanted? Of course not. Beyond the fact that, as Tryon says, “there’s what is done,” she couldn’t – not just didn’t want to – commit to a man who she knew, as she said, would put his cause first.

The one bit in all of this that rubbed me wrong was the way Jocasta treated Duncan Innes. As he’s attempting to tell her how he’ll care for her and bring her his sincere feelings, she treats him like an underling, like one of her servants. “Thank you,” she abruptly dismisses him. Murtagh criticizes him, Jamie has had not a word for his former prison mate except to say that it should have been Murtagh. It seems that his biggest plus is his lower status – willing to be subservient to the wealthier and more  powerful woman. She certainly could have married many men  in the Colony – but they would expect to actually be the master of River Run, not the figurehead. And none of this warrants dismissing him like that.

Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em

Locusts, that is. Good thing Roger had a grudge against Jocasta! For the first time, in this episode, I think Roger turned his brain on and stopped feeling sorry for himself. He had a task in front of him – he had a solution, and he acted like a leader. It was important to both Roger and the men of the Ridge that he be respected. As Jamie’s son in law, he needed to be seen as equal and worthy, not the poor relation dragging and whining. And had he not come up with a way to keep the voracious horde from the crops, he would have been responsible for the fate of everyone on the Ridge. The other men weren’t coming up with anything workable – they wanted to burn Jamie’s field, after all. And could Jamie himself come up with such a non-destructive solution? I doubt it.

The Slow Burn – a Word from Diana

The one scene that disappointed me – but not on first watch – was the makeup sex in the barn. I’m not the only one – Diana didn’t think much of it, and didn’t hesitate to say so (although she did comment that she wouldn’t have if she hadn’t been asked directly about that scene).

“Look down”? At WHAT? 10 yards of skirt fabric? Your shoulder? There was no way she would have seen anything that you wanted her to see. The fight leading up to the passion in the barn was too short, too abbreviated. Remember the fight Claire and Jamie had after he spanked her in Season 1? There, the sparks were truly flying. The encounter was extended, full of pent up anger, overlaid with the beginnings of deep love. Here, we saw so little of her anger and the reasons for it. Yes, we could understand it, we could sympathize, but we shouldn’t have had to imagine it. And then – one slap, he grins at her, she gives in? Oh man…. if everything could be worked out so easily! Is it possible there’s more in the script that didn’t get filmed (or maybe filmed but not in the final cut)? That’s the only thing that makes sense here. What did you think? Awkward? Worthy?


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