Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Diana Gabaldon's e-book on how to write sex scenes will be out August 16!

Diana Gabaldon is more than just an amazingly gifted novelist and a born storyteller.  She was a university professor for many years, and she's never lost that desire to teach, to pass on what she knows in order to help other writers and aspiring writers.

Diana's latest e-book, due out on August 16, 2016, is a NON-FICTION guide to writing sex scenes, including tips for writers, "dos and don'ts", and lots of examples from the OUTLANDER books!

This e-book is 118 pages long, and it's selling for $2.99.

Here are the pre-order links:


Diana posted an excerpt from this e-book a few months ago on Facebook. Here's her "annotated" version of the infamous windowsill scene in THE FIERY CROSS, from chapter 107, "Zugunruhe".


1) This book is only available in e-book form, not as a printed book. Keep in mind that it's only 118 pages long. If you don't have a Kindle, Nook, tablet, or smartphone, you can download an e-book viewer for your desktop computer.

When someone asked on Compuserve if a print version would be published eventually, Diana said, "Yes, probably, but I don't know when."

2) I have no information about the availability of this e-book outside the US. It's being published by Penguin Random House, which is Diana Gabaldon's US publisher. Given the complexity of international publishing rights, those of you in other countries might not be able to purchase it.

3) Yes, of course Diana is still working on Book 9 of the OUTLANDER series! The fact that this e-book on how to write sex scenes is being published now is not slowing down or interfering with her progress on Book 9. For one thing, much of the work on this e-book was completed several years ago, and for another, Diana often says that she likes to work on multiple projects at once, because it keeps her from getting writer's block.

We have been waiting for this one for a long time, and I'm glad it's going to be available soon!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Episode 211: "Vengeance is Mine" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 211 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Vengeance is Mine".

The script for this episode was written by Diana Gabaldon. For more information, look here and here.


There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









I liked the symbolism in the opening scene with Sandringham's wig falling to the floor.  My instant reaction was, "Oops, he lost his head."

Good to see Claire acting as a healer, though I do wonder where she picked up tooth-pulling skills. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing they'd teach in WWII nurses' training. I liked the way even Murtagh can't bear to watch.

"I must say this is a damned inconvenient time to be conciliatory." Good line!

Not sure I like the idea of Jamie being so forceful in support of continuing the push toward London, but it becomes clear a little later why he said it.

"But if we turn back now, all hope that currently resides in the hearts of our supporters will be filled with doubt and fear."  Huh?  This line as Jamie says it here makes no sense, and I can't imagine that Diana wrote it that way, with such mangled syntax. I'm surprised that no one involved with the production noticed how odd it sounded.

Good to see Rupert thinking about Angus. "He didna shite for a week for fear of being bitten" made me smile, and I liked the way Rupert raised the flask for a moment, as though toasting his friend's memory, before drinking. But no wonder the little boy is scared to death, hearing that!

And finally we see Charles Stuart making an impassioned speech without a single "mark me"! That catch phrase was getting really old, and I'm glad Diana didn't resort to it.

"So is there no one among you still willing to stand by your Prince, your rightful King, and your God?"  And once again, Jamie sticks his neck out. I liked the way he knelt with his sword before Charles, vowing his loyalty without saying a single word. This is Jamie in pure Highlander mode, in a way we haven't seen for a long time.

Andrew Gower was really good as Charles Stuart in this scene.

I liked the way Jamie and Claire embraced the moment they saw one another, taking comfort from one another's presence, as they've done so many times in the books. Jamie's explanation of why he was so forceful in support of the push to London makes sense in retrospect, since he's still thinking they might be able to change history.

"And you, Sassenach. I'll see you safe, no matter what happens." Yikes! Major foreshadowing here, and a reminder that time is running out.

The next scene, with Jamie speaking in Gaelic to Claire as she sleeps, is just wonderful, one of the best scenes in the whole season, IMHO.

"White dove" - Diana has said this is a deliberate reference to this bit in OUTLANDER:
"Your hair is silver-gilt and your skin is white velvet. Calman geal. White dove."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jamie's prayer is based on the Resting Prayer from the Carmina Gadelica.

Most of what Jamie says to Claire after she wakes comes straight from the book:
"Let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there’s no so much I can be saying to ye while ye wake, but the same poor words, again and again. While ye sleep in my arms, I can say things to ye that would be daft and silly waking, and your dreams will know the truth of  them. Go back to sleep, mo duinne.”

I turned my head, enough that my lips brushed the base of his throat, where his pulse beat slow beneath the small three-cornered scar. Then I laid my head upon his chest and gave my dreams up to his keeping.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 45, "Damn All Randalls". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This is one of my favorite quotes from the whole book, and I'm so glad Diana included a version of it here!

I was relieved to see, in the next scene, that the Dougal I know from the books is back! <g> I was very disturbed by his behavior in last week's episode, but here he seems entirely back to normal.

As soon as I heard "Inverness", I felt a chill of foreboding (not for the last time this season, I'm sure!), because Culloden is not far away from Inverness.

"How long since you've visited Inverness?"  Oh, about 200 years, give or take a few months. >g>

Gorgeous views of the Scottish countryside as they make their way back into the Highlands! I especially love those glimpses of the snow-covered mountains.

I like the fact that we're seeing more of Claire's healing skills in this episode.

"I wish I could give you a tetanus shot." Good line. I was thinking that Claire must have said that, or at least thought it, many times over the years, and then I remembered Byrnes, the overseer in DRUMS OF AUTUMN who died from tetanus.

The attack on their camp took me completely by surprise, just as it did the Highlanders. (I guess the guards haven't learned much since Prestonpans, to let the enemy sneak up on them like that.) I liked their hasty departure from the camp, under fire -- very dramatic and suspenseful.

I loved Dougal's display of expert horsemanship after Rupert was shot! Very impressive, and even if that was a stunt rider, it still must have taken a lot of effort to film, not to mention skill on the part of the rider.

Speaking of horsemanship, I was glad to see Fergus riding with Murtagh. Much safer for Fergus to be with an expert, battle-trained rider like Murtagh, than riding by himself in these conditions.

I wasn't really surprised to see Rupert wounded in the attack (knowing what happens to him in the book), but the sight of that bloody eye socket caught me off guard, making me shudder.

I loved the brief glimpse of Jamie's bare knees when he crouches down with Murtagh by the stone wall. (Yeah, there is definitely something about a man in a kilt....)

That church is bigger than I expected. I had always pictured it in the book as a very tiny, cramped little building. I liked the way Jamie approached very cautiously, and I thought his encounter with Ross was an effective way to increase the tension in the scene.

"I decided to take a closer look at a musket ball." Great line, and a good example of the way Diana can bring out a bit of humor even in the midst of a very grim situation.

Claire is amazingly calm, considering that she has presumably never dug a musket ball out of a man's eyeball before. (I'm thinking of all the times in later years that she'll have to operate on injured or diseased eyes -- Jocasta in ABOSAA, Lord John in MOHB, the poor slave on Jamaica in VOYAGER with the loa-loa worm, etc. <shudder>)

I liked Claire's comments about pirates, and Rupert's reaction.

The scene where the Redcoats threaten to set fire to the thatch is just as tense and suspenseful as it is in the book, though the details are a little different.

I loved this exchange between Jamie and Dougal:

"I'm the one with the price on my head. Maybe I can bargain with them, give myself up in exchange for your freedom."
"Oh, stop being such a hero!"

Two thoughts flashed through my mind simultaneously when I heard that: Jamie at Wentworth, giving himself to BJR in exchange for Claire's freedom, and Claire in one of the later books, saying something like, "Of course he's a bloody hero, he can't help it!"

The argument between Jamie and Claire was well done. My favorite part was this bit:

"You stubborn Scot!"
"I will NOT!"

We haven't seen the two of them nose-to-nose, shouting into each other's faces, since "The Reckoning" in Season 1. I loved this!

Dougal had a good point about the soldiers possibly recognizing "Red Jamie". In the book, they're more concerned about Claire herself being recognized, but of course Jamie is at least as notorious as La Dame Blanche, so it's better for him to stay out of sight.

"We will find each other. Trust in that." Good line!

Dougal is very good in this scene.  I especially liked the way he said, "Oh, I'll be glad to. As soon as the true king is wearing that crown."

Through this whole sequence, in fact, I was thinking what a relief it is to see the Dougal we know from the books, in contrast to the one from last week's episode!

Rupert's last line to Claire ("Gi' her one for me") comes from the book.

Good news and bad news when Claire gets to the town: Hugh Munro is here (yay!), but there's a broadsheet with Red Jamie's face on it tacked to the inn's front door (uh-oh!)

I thought Claire was pretty clever and quick-witted in the scene with Hugh, recovering quickly from her surprise at seeing him and managing to get her message across without arousing undue suspicion from the Redcoat escorting her.

Good to see Simon Callow as the Duke of Sandringham again. He's so much fun to watch!  Notice that he's wearing a different, much less formal, wig in this episode, in the privacy of his own home.

"So tell me, does it ever occur to ye that takin' Claire to wife might not have been the wisest thing ye ever did?"
"No." (drawing his dirk) "It doesn't."

LOL!  I love that.

The scene with Claire and Sandringham is not in the book, but I quite enjoyed watching these two match wits with one another.

Sandringham: "The last thing I would do, my dear, is to blurt."  I giggled at that, because I hear Diana's voice so clearly here. We have had discussions on Compuserve about Lord John's tendency to blurt things out under stress.

The idea of Claire writing a note in Gaelic makes me laugh.

So the man Mary is supposed to marry is a Mr. Granger. I wonder why they changed it from Isaacson (later Isaacs), as in the book?

"Customarily I'd be given a tip on delivery." I didn't like the anachronistic sound of this. The reference to tipping seems much too modern.

The scene with Claire, Sandringham, and Danton is very good.

"You could be hanged side by side. So romantic."  I thought instantly of the famous scene in the movie THE AFRICAN QUEEN, with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn: "I now pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution." <g>

I liked the scene with Jamie, Murtagh, and Hugh Munro very much. In the middle of a very serious situation, the letter from Claire, with its misspelled and ungrammatical attempt at Gaelic, adds a bit of very welcome humor.

The secret door hidden behind a painting took me completely by surprise. Very cool!

Mary's stammer seems to be much less evident now, even when she's terrified.

Sandringham, in his banyan and sans wig, seems like a rather ordinary, even pitiful old man. I loved the fact that when Jamie burst into the room, the first thing Sandringham did was to shove his wig haphazardly back onto his head.

I was very startled by the fact that Mary actually killed Danton, her rapist. But I thought it was very fitting, for someone who's been portrayed as essentially powerless to be the one to take her own revenge.

And before I had time to absorb the shock of that, Murtagh steps forward, raises the ax, and in three massive blows, relieves the Duke of Sandringham of his head. I don't think I've ever cheered at the sight of such a gruesome, horrific murder before, but I was glad to see Sandringham get what he deserved!

Murtagh laying vengeance at the feet of Claire and Mary Hawkins is based on a scene from the book, and I'm glad they included it, because it ties back to a scene near the beginning of Episode 205 ("Untimely Resurrection"), where Murtagh vowed to Jamie to do just that.

"I think we'd better go," Mary says. And the last thing we see as the episode ends is Sandringham's elegantly-dressed but headless body, sprawled on the floor.

I really enjoyed this episode! Congratulations and many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for writing such a terrific script!

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 212.

Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:

Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Episode 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions
Episode 204: La Dame Blanche
Episode 205: Untimely Resurrection
Episode 206: Best Laid Plans...
Episode 207: Faith
Episode 208: The Fox's Lair
Episode 209: Je Suis Prest
Episode 210: Prestonpans 

Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Diana Gabaldon's Episode 211 to air this weekend!

Diana Gabaldon, author of the OUTLANDER books, wrote the script for OUTLANDER Episode 211, "Vengeance is Mine", which premieres on STARZ on Saturday, June 18. Here's the official preview from STARZ.

This is the first time Diana has written a script for a TV show. She described that process in detail on her website here.

Diana spent three weeks in Scotland in November 2015 on the set of OUTLANDER, watching the filming of her episode. Here's her detailed account of what it was like. (Hint: cold and wet, most of the time!)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I really can't wait to see this episode, and to hear more of the behind-the-scenes details. After you've seen the episode, be sure to check out the podcast for Episode 211, featuring Ron Moore and Diana Gabaldon, which will be available on the STARZ website sometime next week.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Episode 210: "Prestonpans" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 210 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Prestonpans".


There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









I like the opening bit with the bagpipes and drums very much.

The sight of the dead Highland soldier was a very sobering way to start the episode, a reminder of the terrible human cost of war. I liked the fact that Claire took the dead man's weapon.

The next scene, with Charles Stuart and his generals, is only hinted at in the book (because DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is told almost entirely from Claire's point of view, and she wasn't there), but I liked it. Good to hear directly from some of the key players, like O'Sullivan and Lord George Murray, and the dialogue in this scene is very good.

"Since when did a Scotsman shy away from a bit o' mud?" Good line.

I giggled when Charles Stuart said, "Mark me!" This is the first of at least four or five times that he utters that trademark phrase over the course of this episode.

I like Charles Stuart's costume, which seems to be based on this famous portrait, but I wish we'd seen him wearing either a white cockade or white rose, symbol of the Jacobites.

"Why must the Scots be such intractable people?" Charles asks, with his nose haughtily up in the air, totally disregarding the fact that he himself is supposed to be a Scot. I loved the irony in that.

"The British are my father's subjects also."
"I'm afraid the British have never been a friend to the Scots."

Throughout this episode, as with all of Ira Steven Behr's previous scripts, the characters make no distinction between "English" and "British". I found that somewhat jarring, as well as historically inaccurate. Most of the men fighting on both sides of this conflict were British citizens, after all, including Jamie and all of his men.

"But surely Lady Broch Tuarach would prove obedient to an edict from her lord and master?" I love Jamie's reaction to that. LOL!

Sitting around the campfire, Angus acts like a mischievous little boy, in stark contrast to the grim demeanor of the rest of the men. I liked the way Ross and Kincaid reacted.

"We're here for gore and glory." That seems an odd way to put it.

"Put that blade down! Or I'll ram it up your arse until ye taste it." Good line from Murtagh.

Just as we saw in Episode 105 ("Rent"), Jamie seems to be the only one who can make Angus back down from a fight.

I liked the discussion between Jamie and Dougal very much. Jamie handles his uncle very skillfully here, I thought. The tactical situation is clear enough, even to those of us who are not military experts <g>, and Jamie is obviously inviting Dougal to volunteer for the job, though he never asks him directly if he'd be willing to do it.

The scene that follows, with Dougal crossing the boggy ground on horseback, is well done, visually interesting, with a fair amount of dramatic tension. I liked the way they showed the English soldiers reacting to the sight of this lone Highlander advancing on them.

I liked the contrast in Angus and Rupert's reactions to meeting Charles Stuart:

"Are ye really? Did you hear that? I'm talkin' to the Prince!"
"An honor to make your acquaintance, Your Royal Highness."

What a sight! Dougal out there in the middle of that boggy moor with the enemy soldiers firing at him, and yet he plays it very cool, confident, hardly even reacting when he realizes a musket ball has grazed his head. And then he returns to a hero's welcome from the other Highlanders, and a hearty embrace from the Prince.

"Mark me, if I had a hundred men like you, this war would be over tomorrow." What a boost to Dougal's ego that must have been!

But the best line of the scene goes to Dougal: "And now I'm off to change my breeks, because the hero of the hour has shat his pants." LOL!

And finally, some twenty minutes into the episode, we get to see Claire! I thought the only thing missing from her instructions to the other women regarding nursing was some mention of germs, or at least the importance of washing their hands and boiling instruments between uses.

I liked Fergus's muttered, "Women's work", when Claire says he will be responsible for keeping the kettle fires burning. Obviously he thinks he's missing all the excitement!

The scene where Claire meets Richard Anderson is very close to the way it's described in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 36, "Prestonpans". The next scene, with the generals, is not in the book, but I thought it was a good addition.

"Fortune drops out of the sky and onto our doorstep. Convenient, is it not?" Good line. This is indeed one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" moments, but it actually happened! From Wikipedia:
Although there was much argument among the senior Jacobite officers, Lord George Murray was convinced that only an attack against the open left flank of Cope's army stood any chance of success. However, Jacobite Lieutenant Anderson was a local farmer's son who knew the area well and convinced Murray that he knew an excellent route through the marshlands. Following his advice, Murray began to move the entire Jacobite force at 4 am walking three abreast along the Riggonhead Defile far to the east of Cope's position.
Meanwhile, the Highland soldiers wait, and make their own preparations. I liked the little scene between Ross and Kincaid, and I imagine that this sort of conversation has taken place among soldiers on the eve of battle for thousands of years. Notice Angus listening intently. For those who've seen this episode more than once, it's impossible to see the discussion between Angus and Rupert as anything other than foreshadowing, or possibly Angus having a premonition of his own death. But we're accustomed not to take Angus very seriously, so first-time viewers might tend to dismiss his comments.

"Now shut your gab, before ye bring the Devil's own eye upon us." Good line from Rupert.

I liked the scene between Jamie and Murtagh, especially for Murtagh's thoughts on the difference between traditional Highland raids and a full-scale battle like this.

"Five hundred, a thousand would have to be slain before our deaths take on any meaning." I can't hear this line from Murtagh without thinking of Culloden, and the more than 2,000 Highlanders who died there.

"In Paris, I almost lost my marriage, trying to stop all of this from happening. I failed."
"We. We failed."

Gotta love Murtagh, who refuses to let Jamie bear that burden of guilt alone.

Fergus is just terrific in the next scene! "I will steal [General Cope's] sword. A general cannot fight without his sword." And I liked the way Claire hugged him, almost as if Fergus were her own son.

Angus saying goodbye to Claire is almost unbearably sad, especially after the first viewing, when you know what's about to happen!

"The promise of history" -- so Claire has already told Murtagh that the Scots will win this battle. Good!

Watching Jamie and Claire say their farewells, I was struck by the fact that this is the first of many times she'll send him off to battle alone.

"On your way, soldier." This is clearly a reference to Claire's line, "On your feet, soldier," in Episodes 101 and 108. Nice touch.

I liked the conversation between Jamie and Charles Stuart just before the battle. "Mark me, I don't believe my father is all that fond of me." LOL!

Claire's little pep talk to her "nursing staff" wasn't terribly inspiring, judging from the women's expressions. The younger woman, in particular, looks terrified.

On the battlefield, as the men wait, notice the drums in the background, heightening the tension.

I really liked the way they caught the English soldiers by surprise, coming out of the fog like that. Including the lone sentry who was evidently asleep on his feet, leaning on his musket, and taken completely unawares by the Highland charge.

The battle scene must have been immensely complicated to film!

In the makeshift hospital, Claire is clearly in her element, totally focused on the job in front of her. Even when she sees that Kincaid has died, she doesn't pause to grieve, only closes the dead man's eyes and goes back to her work.

And meanwhile, there's young Fergus, all alone in the middle of the raging battle, armed with nothing but a knife that looks extremely small and ineffective compared to the swords, dirks, and muskets carried by the men all around him.

Angus, coming into the infirmary with the badly injured Rupert, really startled me when he bellowed, "NOW!!" at Claire. And at that point, just from the tone of Angus's voice, I became convinced that Rupert was going to die from his wounds.

"Just a cannon blast. It's nothing." But it wasn't nothing, at all.

And finally we see where the brief glimpse of Claire stitching a wound in the opening credit sequence comes from.

The flashback to the battle scene with Rupert and Angus was interesting, but I had to watch it several times to understand exactly what happened to them.

Jamie returns at last, bone-weary but exultant, and Claire is so relieved to see him alive and (more or less) unhurt that she has no words at first.

The scene with Fergus and Claire is really well done, almost exactly as I had imagined from the book, except for the fact that Fergus is sitting beside the cannon, not riding atop it. Romann Berrux is wonderful in this scene!

Dougal killing the wounded English soldiers -- I really didn't like this! It made me sick to my stomach to watch, in fact, thinking of "Butcher Billy" and the English soldiers slaughtering the Highland wounded on the battlefield at Culloden. It seems to me that Dougal's actions here are every bit as morally repugnant as what Cumberland's troops would do a few months later, and I don't really care why he did it.

I wasn't at all expecting to see Lt. Jeremy Foster again! (For those of you who don't remember, Lt. Foster was the young English officer who asked Claire at the end of Episode 105, "Are you here by your own choice?", and then escorted Claire and Dougal to Brockton in Episode 106. Very appropriate to bring him back for this episode!

"You've won a battle, but you will never win this war." And Dougal, who doesn't like being told things he doesn't want to hear, promptly stabs him in the belly, "honorable man" or not.

The next scene begins with Jamie and Angus and the others standing over Rupert's unconscious body, making small jokes. Jamie starts to refer to Rupert in the past tense -- "Aye, the man could eat" -- and then catches and corrects himself.

The sight of Angus drinking from that flask made me wonder, is that what killed him? If he had internal injuries, a perforated intestine or something, then taking anything to drink would be incredibly dangerous, wouldn't it? I don't have a medical background, but it seems very likely that this is what happened to him.

But first, we get a scene that comes straight from the book. I thought it was well done, though they cut some of the funniest bits. I think that's understandable, with a badly wounded Rupert lying only a few feet away.

Charles Stuart's entry, and his speech to the men, is very much consistent with the way it's done in the book, but I was startled to see Dougal blundering into the room, shouting, "Victory!" and interrupting the Prince in mid-sentence.

"My God, sir, where is your Christian charity?" Good question!

I liked Jamie's solution for getting Dougal out of the way, without losing his services to the Jacobite army. It's pretty clever, and it also ensures that Dougal won't be too far away, because as book-readers know well, we will see him again before this season ends.

"But I know what you're up to. You champion me and you exile me, both at the same time. That's a plan worthy of my brother Colum." Good line.

And then, finally, we go back to Angus, and it hits me like a gut-punch: he's not going to make it! I totally did NOT see this coming the first time. The look Claire exchanges with Jamie, in which she acknowledges silently that there's nothing she can do to save him, is just heartbreaking.

Wonderful performance by Stephen Walters as Angus!

It's strange how things work out. Angus as he appears in the OUTLANDER TV series did not exist at all in the books, but it's impossible to imagine Season 1 without him. There are so many wonderful scenes and humorous bits of business where his presence helped to lighten the mood, and he and Rupert had such wonderful chemistry together. I'm really going to miss him!

Rupert taking possession of Angus's sword was a very moving gesture. As he sits back down, he cradles the sword to his chest, almost as though it's a living thing, all he has left of his friend.

In the wake of this tragedy, the Frasers are in no mood to celebrate the victory in battle. As Claire points out (and the look on her face breaks my heart), the fact that she was right about the victory at Prestonpans means that she's also right about "the disaster awaiting us at Culloden". What a sobering thought, and neither Jamie nor Murtagh have any answer to that.

The drinking song the men sing at the end, "Down Among the Dead Men," was actually referenced in Diana Gabaldon's novel, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
Tom had been humming under his breath as he went about the business of supper and now escalated to whistling. Absorbed in his own thoughts, Grey hadn’t noticed what he was whistling but suddenly caught a phrase that echoed in his head with its words: Down among the dead men, let him lie!

He jerked, with a quick, reflexive glance at Fraser. “Down Among the Dead Men” was a popular song, originally from Queen Anne’s time, but, in the way of popular songs, with words often adapted to current feeling. The patrons of this afternoon’s pub had been singing a blatantly anti-Catholic version, and while Fraser had given little outward sign of offense, Grey was well enough accustomed to his facial expressions--or lack of them--as to have detected the attention to his ale cup that hid the smolder of his eyes.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Fireside Tales". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And the last thing we see in this episode is Rupert's grief-stricken face.

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 211. That's the episode Diana Gabaldon wrote, and I'm looking forward to it very much!

Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:

Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Episode 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions
Episode 204: La Dame Blanche
Episode 205: Untimely Resurrection
Episode 206: Best Laid Plans...
Episode 207: Faith
Episode 208: The Fox's Lair
Episode 209: Je Suis Prest

Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A few thoughts about the differences between the OUTLANDER books and TV show

I posted the following message on Compuserve this morning, about the differences between the OUTLANDER books and the TV show. I thought the rest of you might like to see it, too.
I think as time goes on, it's getting easier for me to separate the books and the show. Think of a map showing two roads that run in more or less the same general direction from Point A to Point B. The two roads intersect in places, they go off in separate directions from time to time, but when viewed from a distance, they're traveling roughly the same route. I think this is a reasonably good analogy for the differences between the books and the show. Some of the details may be different, but the overall direction the story is heading is mostly the same.

Season 2 has taken some detours off the main "highway" of the story (more so than Season 1 did), but I think at this point they've mostly found their way back. The Claire we see in Episode 207 is essentially indistinguishable (IMHO) from Book Claire. The Jamie we see in Episode 209, acting as the leader of men he was born to be, is very close to my image of Book Jamie.

Whizzing along the highway of the TV show at high speed, we don't see many of the details that bring the story so vividly to life in the books. (The humor, the lyrical descriptions, the quiet moments with Jamie and Claire just talking, enjoying one another's company. The list goes on and on....) But I believe it is -- still -- essentially the SAME story. <g> Condensed, compressed, occasionally going off on detours that we didn't expect, but it's still recognizably the same story, and the same characters, when viewed from a distance.

Much as we'd all love for the TV show to take us on a long, leisurely drive down that other road, the one that meanders through the Scottish countryside (and the streets of Paris, and the French court at Versailles), moving slowly enough to savor the sights, sounds, and smells of the land we're passing through (and including all of our favorite scenes from the books, either verbatim or as close to the original as possible), the realities of TV production won't permit it.

I can't speak for anyone else here, of course. But for myself, when I "put the books down" (as Diana has said more than once) and try to take the show on its own terms -- and that doesn't AT ALL mean agreeing with every decision they make! -- I find it's much easier to come to terms with the differences.

IMHO they're not irreparably damaging Diana's story or characters with the creative decisions they've made so far, and I don't think they will in future seasons, either. The journey is a bit different, but the overall path they're following is at least heading in the same direction as the books, and I find that reassuring.
What do you think?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Episode 209: "Je Suis Prest" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 209 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Je Suis Prest".


There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









The opening shot of a very obviously 20th-century vehicle is a little jarring, but it makes perfect sense after seeing the episode.

I liked Murtagh's bantering with Jamie in the first scene. "No much to look at, are they?"  Indeed they are not! And it was good to see Fergus again.

The music throughout this episode is just wonderful! I recognized the tune the man is singing immediately as the same one Gwyllyn the bard played on his harp at the end of Episode 103, "The Way Out".

Good to see Angus and Rupert! They have definitely been missed this season.

I am more ambivalent about seeing Dougal again, and I couldn't help but notice that Claire is less than thrilled to see him.

"Did Colum change his mind, then? Is the Clan MacKenzie to join the cause?"
"Colum's mind is his own. It's no concern of mine. We are here to pledge our hearts and swords to the glorious cause."

This makes no sense to me, in terms of the way the Highland clans operated. Dougal had no authority to take any of the MacKenzie men to war without his chief's approval, but here he doesn't seem to care one bit about what Colum thinks.

"They dinna march. They walk, they stroll, they caper about, but they dinna march." Good line.

I loved watching Murtagh as drill sergeant! He's terrific in that first training scene.

Claire's first brief flashback startled me, but it makes sense that she would be thinking about her previous experience in WWII.

"OK, Fergus, show us what you've got!" Apparently this clansman has been spending too much time with Claire, and her use of 20th-century slang has rubbed off on him. <g>  (Diana Gabaldon has commented on the fact that it's almost impossible to keep the actors from saying, "OK," even though it's not in the script.)

I liked the montage of the training sequence. The music was very good.

I laughed at the American soldier saying "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ." So that's where Claire got it from!

The contrast between the Fraser clan badge with "Je Suis Prest" on it and the WWII Airborne insignia was very effective in showing Claire's inner turmoil. I liked the quiet little scene between J&C. But when Jamie apologized for bringing her here, I wish Claire had pointed out that she insisted on coming with him, or something to that effect.

I liked Jamie's speech to the men (beginning, "Foolishness and games") VERY much! Sam did a tremendous job with that scene. It reminds me very much of Jamie's speech at the Gathering in FIERY CROSS chapter 15 ("The Flames of Declaration"), and you can see in this scene, finally, why he's a born leader.

And then, of course, Dougal's Highland charge (which looked like something out of BRAVEHEART) a moment later completely undercuts Jamie's message to the troops. No wonder Jamie was annoyed! But the timing made me laugh.

I liked the scene with Jamie and Dougal. Jamie seems finally to have found his confidence (perhaps having a taste of real leadership of a group of men for the first time helped with that), and he's no longer willing to defer to Dougal.

"If ye canna abide to these terms, take your men and be on your way."  Dougal looks rather stunned as he replies, "As ye say."

I was 100% on Claire's side in her confrontation with Dougal. I loved the way she met his gaze straight on when she said, "My husband and I share everything."  I think Claire, too, is much more confident than she was when she last had dealings with Dougal MacKenzie, and I saw flashes of La Dame Blanche when she looked at him.

I loved Claire's reaction when Dougal says, "He is a better man than I." I wanted to applaud when she grinned and said, "Truer words have never been spoken."

I was not expecting Claire to say "F*ck yourself," but I'm not surprised that she finally told him off. She's probably been wanting to say that to him since Wentworth.

"He's no your friend, OK?"  Another slip, this one by Graham McTavish. Oops. 

Another good montage of the men learning to fight.  The music in this scene is wonderful, and very fitting.  I liked Murtagh's line, "I am starting to feel proud!"  (As well he should!)  And when the men raise their pikes and other weapons into the air, we see where the bit in the opening credit sequence comes from.

"Claire doesn't usually beat around the bush. She speaks her mind, whether ye want to hear it or not." Good line from Murtagh, and something he learned from experience during the search for Jamie.

I loved Claire's reaction to the sight of Angus's feet. The transition to her memory of giving a lecture to WWII soldiers about foot hygiene was very effective, and I liked the look on her face as she steps outside. Very good performance by Cait!

"Ross and Kincaid" -- we're more than halfway through this episode, and this is the first reference to something specific from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.

And again, Jamie has found his "leader of men" voice, talking to the new recruits. <g>  His line, "This is treason. If we fail, then all those who support the Stuarts are likely to end up on a scaffold", is based on a line from DRAGONFLY chapter 35, "Moonlight", in the scene where Jamie talks to Jenny.

"I'll not reive another clan's men." Good line!  The term "reiving" refers to the Highland tradition of cattle-raiding, and I liked Jamie's use of it here.

"You know, all I hear is talk, and talk, and more talk, about fighting and war and bein' a soldier, but I don't see any action." This sums up pretty succinctly how I felt about this episode on the first viewing. But I liked it much better the second time around.

I liked the fact that Jamie put Dougal in charge of the sentries. Good idea.

And FINALLY, we're back to the book!  The scene with Jamie punishing the sentries is very close to the way it's described in the book.

"Ross and Kincaid were neglect [sic] in their duties."  I think he means negligent. <g>

Six lashes doesn't seem like much, by the standards of 18th century army discipline, but it's probably all they had time to show in this scene.

Poor Claire, walking across the encampment and flinching every time a shot goes off. I liked the way she was trying to get a grip on herself, just before the flashback started.

Notice that Claire loses her helmet in the explosion when the jeep is hit. Presumably they did that for dramatic effect or something, but I didn't like it.  I don't find it believable that her helmet -- which appeard securely fastened a few moments before -- would just fly off like that. (I had the same reaction in Episode 101 when Claire goes through the stones and almost immediately loses her belt and wristwatch.)  And then she tries to stick her unprotected head up above their shelter? Idiot! She could have got herself killed, which would have put an abrupt end to the whole OUTLANDER story.

Very effective transition back to the 18th century. My first thought was, "Thank God Jamie found her!"

I liked the next scene, with Jamie and Claire, very much.

"For two years I've tried to stop this war from coming. Now that it's here, I'm not sure I'm ready to go to war again."  Good line. (Yes, her math is a little off. I'm not inclined to be picky about it. <g>)

"Helpless and powerless to move, like a dragonfly in amber."  This is not just a reference to the title of Book 2 of the OUTLANDER series. There are all kinds of references in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER to things that are stuck, unmoving, frozen. Here's a blog post I wrote a few years ago with some examples.

"Except this time it will be worse, because I'll know that the people out there dying alone are people I know. People I love."

I like this very much! And of course Jamie's promise that "you will never be alone again" is major foreshadowing of his sending her back to Frank on the eve of Culloden.

I managed to stay away from spoilers for this episode, so I was quite startled (in a good way!) when the young William Grey showed up.<g> I'd been lying on the couch, and the instant I realized who the young man attacking Jamie must be, I sat bolt upright, absolutely riveted to the screen. This has always been one of my favorite scenes in DRAGONFLY, and I thought it was well done, though they cut out most of the funniest bits, as well as the young William Grey's unusual vocabulary. For example:
"Weel," he said, the Scots accent growing broader under the strain, "ye ha' my own word, of course, though I quite see that ye might have some hesitation in accepting the word of a ..."--his lip twitched despite himself--"of a Scottish poltroon. Perhaps ye would accept the assurances of the lady herself?" He raised an eyebrow in my direction and Kincaid sprang at once to free me, fumbling awkwardly with the gag.

"Jamie!" I exclaimed furiously, mouth freed at last. "This is unconscionable! How could you do such a thing? You--you--"

"Poltroon," he supplied helpfully. "Or jackal, if ye like that better. What d'ye say, Murtagh," turning to his lieutenant, "am I a poltroon or a jackal?"

Murtagh's seam of a mouth twisted sourly. "I'd say ye're dogsmeat, if you untie yon lass wi'out a dirk in yer hand."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Prestonpans". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Interesting that in the TV version of the scene, it's Claire who comes up with the idea of making the boy talk by pretending to be Jamie's captive. But I was glad to see that most of this scene is taken straight from the book. The struggle between Jamie and Claire really was quite enjoyable, and very close to the way I've always imagined it (save for the fact that no bodices were ripped on TV). Claire's expression right after Jamie says, "Hold her" is just priceless. <g>

The "debt of honor" speech and Jamie's farewell to the boy are just about exactly as I always pictured from the book, except that I didn't expect Jamie to bow to him in farewell. I thought that was a nice touch -- a mark of respect, from one honorable man to another.

In the scene afterward with Jamie, Dougal, and the men, I thought it was really interesting (and probably wise!) that Jamie didn't go out of his way to rebuke Dougal or his men in public for the lapse in security that let the boy get through their perimeter. He could have been harsh with Dougal, but instead he took the blame, and the punishment, himself, exactly as he did in the book.

And then Jamie does something I really didn't expect, and orders Dougal to stay behind and guard the camp during the "commando raid".  And much to my surprise, Dougal acquiesces with hardly a word of protest -- in the process proving that he isn't, in fact, a complete narcissist after all, despite what Claire said earlier, because he's able to set aside his ego (at least in this situation) for the sake of the group as a whole.

It remains to be seen how long Dougal will tolerate this state of affairs, but I thought that was a really interesting way to resolve Dougal's story arc in this episode. This sort of creative approach to problem-solving has always been a hallmark of Jamie's leadership style in the books, and it's good to see it here as well, in a context that doesn't exist in the book.

The scene where Jamie returns from the raid was very good. The cotter pins are larger than I expected!

"You should get dressed."
"That's not what I expected you to say."


I love the marching song they used here. Very fitting, even if I don't understand a word of the Gaelic.

When Jamie tells Dougal to go down and "announce our presence to His Royal Highness, Prince Charles Edward Stuart", I took that was a peace offering of sorts, and a generous one at that, giving Dougal something he wants: a chance to meet the Bonnie Prince in person, and the opportunity to take the credit for bringing these additional troops.

I thought Claire's "Je suis prest" was a fitting way to end this episode. Ready or not, there's no way to avoid what they all know is coming.

Matt Roberts did an excellent job with the script for this episode. He's a longtime fan who really understands the characters, and it shows.

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 210.

Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:

Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Episode 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions
Episode 204: La Dame Blanche
Episode 205: Untimely Resurrection
Episode 206: Best Laid Plans...
Episode 207: Faith
Episode 208: The Fox's Lair 

Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.

Friday, June 3, 2016

90-minute Season 2 finale to air July 9 on STARZ

Here's some information about the schedule for OUTLANDER's season finale, episode 213, titled "Dragonfly in Amber".

According to the July schedule available on the STARZ website, there will NOT be a new episode of OUTLANDER on Saturday, July 2nd. STARZ will be running a marathon of episodes 201-212 from 12pm-midnight on July 2 instead.

The finale will be 90 minutes long, and it will be shown on STARZ from 9-10:30 pm ET/PT on Saturday, July 9.

Personally I think this is the right decision, not to show the finale over the July 4th holiday weekend in the US. Some of you will recall that they made a similar decision last year, when the final episode of Season 1 was delayed a week because of the Memorial Day holiday in the US.

Please note: this is for the US only! I have no information about the schedule for the season finale in other countries.