Outlander: Heroes In the Spotlight – Review, Episode 509

Are you tired of crying during Outlander episodes? Tired of emotional, tear-inducing stories? Tired of holding your breath, hoping your loves survive, greeting them when they return? No? Me either. And to my friends who say they don’t tear up (yes, I’m pointing at you, and you know who you are), you lie to save face. Once again, I’m searching for superlatives in my thesaurus. One more terrific episode!

SYNONYMS. very good, superb, outstanding, magnificent, of high quality, of the highest quality, of the highest standard, exceptional, marvellous, wonderful, sublime, perfect, eminent, pre-eminent, matchless, peerless, supreme, first-rate, first-class, superior, superlative, splendid, admirable, worthy, sterling, fine.

When I look for a theme in the episode, as I often try to do, I find one that smacks me in the face – relationships. This could have been – and almost was – a tribute to Jamie upon his death (so glad it wasn’t, but it could have been). How did he affect the people in his life? What was the Jamie effect? Were – are – these people better for having been close to him? Yes. And was he a more complete person for having them in his life? Again, yes.

While I don’t always have trouble with changes the series makes from the original book material, I, and many other fans, often breathe a sigh of relief when we hear familiar lines, see familiar scenes, even if they’re a bit moved around and embellished (in the book, Marsali was newly pregnant, not about to deliver, during this event). But overall, this episode did a very good job of heightening tension, condensing things that took pages and pages to write. The issues I had with the episode were more sins of omission, rather than commission – and I can only suggest that you read the books to understand.

Sins of the Father

The only relationship that actually moved in this episode was the one between Roger and Jamie. From last week’s “he doesn’t respect me” to this week’s quite definite display of respect, Roger has truly become Jamie’s son. And you could see Roger grow with the newfound knowledge that yes, Jamie did respect him. You could see his own confidence in his place in this world expand. “Perhaps this is my penance,” Jamie tells Roger, speaking about killing Steven Bonnet. “Unfortunately for you, the son must pay the for the sins of the father – for my mistakes, you must do this.” And when Jamie says this, you can see that Roger understands what Jamie is telling him – all is forgiven, on both sides; you are dear to me; I trust and respect you. Roger has given up on expecting this kind of acceptance from Jamie, but has needed it. So, even though he would have done his best to keep Jamie alive to get back to Claire, now he is as desperate as a son would be.

Throughout the episode, you can see the change in Roger – the bit of joking, the familiarity, the increase in the comfort they get from each other’s presence. And Roger has given into the “Jamie Effect” – if Jamie believes that Bonnet must be killed, and not wait for whatever possible justice may some day be meted out by official means, then yes, it must happen. Roger must put aside his personal qualms for the good of his family, and play his part in this endeavor, and “rid this Earth of him that h never harms another being. There’s a fine line between monsters and heroes,” Jamie tells him.

Both Sam Heughan and Richard Rankin were excellent in the desperate effort to get Jamie back to Claire. Roger’s reaction to the snakebite may have seemed casual, telling Jamie he didn’t know last rites. “You aren’t going to die. We both read that obituary,” he says. Roger had to actually be terrified – can you imagine what would happen if he was the one to come and tell them that Jamie had died? No, he had to keep spirits up – his own, not necessarily Jamie’s. Jamie has had enough experience with near-death events – he understands well what’s happening to him, and in typical Jamie fashion, is making light of the situation – Ian even tells Claire that he was making snide remarks about Roger’s help back to the Big House.

But Roger can’t even let himself think that Jamie will die – not when he’s just learned that Jamie does truly care for him. So he refuses to admit it to himself, in the woods or in the house. He jokes when Jamie tells him he wants to sleep in his own bed; he jokes when Jamie wakes up after not having his leg amputated. This episode, as serious as it was, had some lovely lighter-hearted moments, even if most of them were coffin humor – Jamie telling Claire she needs to work on her bedside manner was especially sweet.

Uncle and Father

Ian and Fergus both had their moments (well, Fergus’s moment wasn’t WITH Jamie, but it was ABOUT him). Having been raised by an amputee, Ian saw that life goes on – you can be sure that Ian, Sr. never made a deal about the missing leg. For them, it was just a fact. Life goes on. To Ian, he could only see Jamie’s insistence on death over amputation as cowardice – afraid to deal with the inevitable difficulties. Afraid to deal with the change in how people might see him. Afraid to go on living as a human being, and not a demi-god to the residents of the Ridge – even though Jamie would never admit this. Ian is not only appalled by this attitude, he’s scared to pieces!

As he tells Jamie, he ran away from home to join him in Edinburgh, and often wished that Jamie were his father and not his uncle. He’s seen his uncle as a superman, able to survive any hardship, turn anything into an advantage, protect his family no matter what the danger. And now, that superman may be brought down – for refusing to face something that Ian knows to be manageable. If that happens, the compass of Ian’s life has tilted, his idol has crumbled. And that prospect often causes anger, which he seems to regret quickly, by the time he beings to talk to Fergus.

He tries to keep Fergus from going to see Jamie – not because Fergus couldn’t handle it, but because he doesn’t think Jamie could stand being faced with someone who has lived for years with what Jamie fears. But Fergus reminds him that their relationships with Jamie – as uncle, father, idol – transcends this. That he has stood beside both of them, rescued them, cared for them, fought for them, and they need to be prepared to do the same.

I didn’t quite understand the reason to include the birth of Fergus and Marsali’s baby in this episode – that was the one element that seemed disjointed. To see the entire family out on a jaunt was a little startling – just as it was to see Jamie, Claire and little Jemmy last episode on Ian’s return. Marsali had already been told, in the beginning of the episode, that it was really any minute now – would she have been that far away? A friend commented that she was surprised at Fergus’ seeming fear of the birth – I didn’t see fear, I saw, “oh crap, I have two small children with me, what do I do with them? And I know Germaine will take this moment to run away. And one hand?? How am I going to do this, with one hand, holding wee Joanie in the other arm?” All in all, this scene probably didn’t belong in this episode. It didn’t add anything to the episode, and they easily could have left the beginning scene of Marsali telling Claire that she considers her her “ma” without the abbreviated labor scene. Even that opening scene didn’t add anything to the rest of the episode, but wasn’t quite as out of place.

Because You Need Me

I’ve had difficulties with the way Jamie and Claire’s relationship has been portrayed since Season 1. When Claire had to decide between going back to Frank or staying with Jamie, I didn’t think they had done a very good job of showing us how extraordinary their love was, and wondered if non-book readers, new to this epic story, would think she had any real reason to stay. In Season 3, when she returned to Jamie, but continued to question out loud, after the debacle with Laoghaire, whether she had done the right thing by coming back, I hated every minute of that.

The basic tenet of their love is unquestioning, complete to the soul. Yes, even that kind of love has its moments, especially upon learning about the marriage to Laoghaire, but the writers carried her doubt through to several more episodes and never truly resolved it. But the central story in this entire series is Jamie and Claire. The books aren’t written in individual plots and resolutions – this is truly the story of a marriage and the family and events surrounding that marriage. Frequently, while we’ve seen little bits of tenderness, the relationship has been in the background. Sure, they love each other. But yawn, life goes on.

This episode, though – there’s no way you could watch this episode and not totally understand how this love is timeless and transcendent. His need for her, for her touch; her desperation at the possibility of having to amputate against his wishes… THIS was the relationship we fell for in the books. No matter how much they love the people around them – Bree, the grandchildren, Jenny – it’s each other they need the most. Twenty years of separation, a longing for that love that took Claire away from her own time – this is the love story I want. And I’m so glad they showed it in this episode. You could truly feel Claire’s fear of losing Jamie, you could feel his surety in her love. Yes, truly, when you channel Diana Gabaldon’s genius into these scripts, you get a superior episode. We say every season that Sam and Caitriona deserve all the awards – this season, and for this episode, they really do.

Whether I’m dead, or you, whether we’re together or apart, I will always love you.

Thanks to Outlander-Online.com for use of their screencaps!

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