Outlander Episode 8 – Both Sides Now

Are you all in mourning?  Well, have no fear, there will be plenty to read while Outlander takes a sabbatical.   Many of you are long time readers of The Big Books by Diana Gabaldon, while there’s been a mob of new fans recently introduced to the world of Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.   Waiting for Episode 9 will be like millions of kids going to bed in December asking their parents “Is tomorrow Christmas?”

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Back to business.  This week’s recap is done by Steve Martorano:

Producer Ron Moore continues to amaze me. Now up to the middle of its introductory “season”, the Outlander Starz series seems to be improving with every new episode.

Not that I fault any of the earlier episodes. I’m simply finding the story has a different feel on the TV screen, as distinct from the feel of reading the book. The characters are all well-casted, the production values are incredible, and what I would consider true to life for the time period. I keep mentioning to my wife words to the effect of, “That’s just how I thought he would look,” (respecting Ned Gowan, the lawyer),

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or “The cinematography is amazing,” (in regards to the locations where the show is being filmed).

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But now we have come the last episode before the season “break”. In Both Sides Now, the story on-screen is truly coming to life, and increasing in momentum.

Now, let me just let you know up-front, I’m the kind of guy who hates to wade through all the back-story and character building. I think I’ve made it pretty clear in my own posts on the book chapters that long lists of family trees and memory flashbacks have my head spinning at times. The problem is, I know logically that these kinds of things need to take place in order to connect the characters with the various plot points in the story, and to build in layers of foundational information which will show forth in coming chapters (and books). However, that still makes it very challenging for me until the story moves along a little further so we can see how that fleshes out in the unfolding adventure. It hasn’t happened a lot in the book, but the few times it has, it has distracted me a bit from the story itself.

The TV show has been very faithful to the book, and I think Ron Moore has been very shrewd in maintaining much of that minutiae for the first few episodes, because I’m sure this is exactly what the fan base wants to see; however, as I had mentioned in a previous post [chapter reviews on my blog], anyone not knowing the story could have readily lost interest, as not much traction was being gained on the story line.  Of course, I think the fans of the series wants to see every thought and nuance represented explicitly on the screen because they have invested so much emotionally in the characters through the book series that they want to “meet” these characters in person, so to speak. Now that the base characters are established and the story is on course, I am thrilled to see the creative stance that Ron is taking the story and representing it in a more dramatic way.

For example, in the wedding episode, he told the story in flashback, which I thought was a very clever way of keeping the emotional connection to the wedding day, but re-living the preceding events through the remembrances of Jamie and Claire on how their day went. Also, he took the privilege of glossing over Jamie’s recounting of his family tree by over-dubbing Claire’s thoughts on causing the distraction so they could become more familiar with each other. These, I think, were different ways of giving the same emotional information.

Now, in the latest episode, he takes the creative stance of splitting the story between 1945 and 1743. Hooray! All through the book, I have been telling my wife that Frank should be represented more in the story, and this unique telling of Frank’s perspective on his missing wife is, in my opinion, exactly what the story required to keep that tension of the double-marriage question in play.

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The episode begins with a phone ringing in the Inverness Police Department, which honestly startled me a bit, coming fresh from the richly-painted scenes of 18th-century Scotland in the preceding episodes.

Casting Tobias Menzes as both Frank and Black Jack was a great play, because it helps to keep the audience conflicted about the similarities (through heredity) and obvious dissimilarities through Claire’s experiences with Black Jack. Now that we get to see a bit more of Frank in the story, the connection (and conflict) becomes even more heightened.

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Rumors fly about Claire’s disappearance. In contrast to the Police Chief’s conclusion of her most likely finding another man, I especially enjoyed the conjecture of Reverend Wakefield surmising Claire could have lost her way from Craigh Na Dun, and slipped in to the river, floating down stream, but then finding her way out of the river and holing up in a cave somewhere eating fish and frogs due to her military survival training (!)

Mrs. Graham’s delivery of the Craigh Na Dun legend to Frank was, in my opinion, spot on. With her involvement in that spiritual side of the goings-on earlier in the book, she provided a well-placed balance of perspective that continues to drive the time-split dramatics later on.

As the story in old Scotland continues, Claire’s knife training

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and subsequent attempted rape at the hands of Redcoat deserters

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was very similar to the book. I thought the depiction of her trying to maintain her senses afterwards while realizing she was in shock added a lot of validity to the scene for her character. In the book, she releases the emotion with hysterical laughter. While this could still be a legitimate result of shock, it seemed a bit out of character for someone with such a strong and self-directed psyche.

A now very committed Jamie is determined to keep his new wife safe, and as is expected with Claire’s character, right after he has her promise to stay put until he returns,

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she immediately changes the game by heading off to Craigh Na Dun once she realizes where she is.

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Then, the big dramatic scene comes with the combined run to the Standing Stones; Frank in his time period and Claire in her time period. To my way of thinking, while outside the box of the original story, this was genius storytelling in the spirit of the book. What better way to keep the connection between Frank and Claire than by having Frank skeptically return to the Stones in his time period,

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while at the same time Claire has finally broken free from everything that has held her back and is running towards Craigh Na Dun in her time period.

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The overlap was masterfully done with the haunting shouts to each other just enough to tie them together, and yet tragically pull them apart again at the critical moment.

Best of all, the story does not suffer in the least, because Claire still ends up back in Fort William at the mercies of Black Jack,

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and the resulting “cliff-hanger” ending with Jamie attempting to save her…

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All in all, while I know die-hard fans might disagree, I think the visual medium allows this kind of latitude in the telling of the story, and it helps to keep the same emotions in play, all the while remaining faithful to the richness of the original tale. In reading the book, Diana’s writing is so engrossing that much of the depth of the story builds effortlessly around the scenes; that is almost impossible to translate exactly into another medium. However, with Ron’s creative vision for the story, I’m impressed with just how far he can stretch the storyline without reducing its historic or emotional impact. In fact, I believe in many ways it assists the telling of the story.

I encourage others, even if you haven’t read the story, to engage with this very unique production that has real depth and meaning. While defying conventional description, Outlander proves to be a vivid depiction of the political maneuvering in historical Scotland overlain with the moral questions of war, friendships, and severed relationships through unique circumstances. I’m very much looking forward to future episodes.

Steve Martorano lives in Vancouver, Washington with his wife and four children.  You can read his chapter reviews of Outlander here.  Photos added by Savvy Santana and are from STARZ and Matt B. Roberts.

 

“The Wedding” – Eroticism at its best.

“The Wedding”, the episode that Outlander fans have been tweeting about for months, wanting to know about the dress, the ceremony, how the wedding night would occur…etc.  So, was it what you expected?  It wasn’t quite what I expected, yet it was done well and went off without a hitch – except for the couple that got hitched.

Again, there were deviations from the book, which readers of the book should expect by now.  This keeps the fans of the books on their toes yet keeps the storyline in a form so as to keep new watchers hooked.  Why the writing team deviated from Claire’s wedding to Frank we may not know, but while she appears joyous to marry Frank (circa 1935),

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She has the deer-in-the-headlights look right after her nuptial kiss to Jamie, 1743.

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We see the couple as they are pronounced man and wife and the story takes us through a series of flashbacks revealing events that have led up to the wedding.  I’m not going to recap everything, just my take on some scenes that really worked.

Clearly the couple are nervous. Claire gets drunk (again), or maybe she hadn’t recovered from the hangover that she woke up with.  Jamie tells Claire there are three conditions that he tells Dougal must be met for him to agree to marry Claire.  Dougal – a bigger cad you’ve never met, but a completely crude fellow that I quite enjoy.

Jamie’s conditions: a wedding by a priest in a kirk, a wedding ring, and proper wedding attire for her (and him). Okay, now that we have the formalities out of the way, what hit me most about this episode (and I’ve watched them all a dozen times at least), was the eroticism of The Wedding Night.

Starz has made the promise of sex more appealing through erotic touch than watching a virgin bridegroom stumble his way through his own deflowering.  Warning, while there is no _explicit_ content, the content is suggestive and may be considered R-rated.

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To the female fandom: how many times did YOU close your eyes and feel Jamie’s hands caress your flesh, to remove a ribbon from your neck?   You can bet millions of of viewers wished they were on the receiving end of that simplest of undressings.  Of course, Jamie being a virgin-but-not-a-monk, knew he needed to undress his bride, yet he doesn’t know he is starting a firestorm in Claire’s loins.

How many of you brown haired lasses would like to hear Jamie say “mo nighean donn” in a breathless whisper while brushing a stray lock of hair away from your neck?  I’ve seen how many twitter handles are out there, resembling the Gaelic phrase of “my brown haired one/lass”.   Fess up and make sure you have a bib for your drool for every time you rewatch this episode.  Don’t forget to check back in after you buy a box of L’Oreal “Mo Nighean Donn”, the newest color on the market.  I want to see how many new bottle brunettes there are following this episode.

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What of the male fandom out there?  As I tweeted before this episode, I have no doubt there will be many babies born in the couple of weeks before or after June 20th.   Did you care that your women folk were drooling over Jamie like he was real, while you were secretly (or maybe overtly) drooling over Claire?  Or maybe you just didn’t care about your women have been yakking about for months, years, decades?  Yeah, I’m sure there are a few of you who wished you were Jamie.

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Oh right, back to business.

Jamie to Claire: You’ve not told me what you did all day…

Uh, I don’t need words for that! claire and the bottle

So, while the liquid courage is flowing at record levels in her blood, Claire decides to take this bedding business into her own hands.  She’s already deflowered Jamie, so it’s time for her to be dominant…

The moments the throngs of women have been waiting for…

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Anticipation…

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Well, the next frames instigated the “thuds” heard around the proverbial world (the US anyway).

The barest whisper of a touch has the potential to be more sexual than just about anything else.  ‘Nuff said.

Now, the sales of long, single strand pearls probably skyrocketed after this scene.  Guys, if you haven’t gotten one for your lass for her birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or just becuase, then you’d better get cracking.  They aren’t just to wear with her little black sweater.

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And then…reality check!

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Girl, you have yourself two husbands in two spatial dimensions.

I commend Starz on how they have presented the much anticipated wedding night.   What happens next?  For those who’ve read the books (like me), we all know what will happen…but from what I’ve heard, Episode 8 will be a cliffhanger.

Thanks for reading my first ever post.  I decided to take one aspect of the episode to write about since there have already been endless recap’s out on the internet. The comments and thoughts contained herein are purely my own. Images are (mostly) from Starz.