Sunday, May 1, 2016

Episode 204: "La Dame Blanche" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 204 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "La Dame Blanche".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

I thought this episode was very well done.

The opening sequence, showing a man removing a pin from a carriage wheel and replacing the cover, is clearly meant as foreshadowing of what happens to Claire and Mary Hawkins later in the episode.

I love that view of the entrance to the palace at Versailles. Gorgeous!

The discussion of baby names is cute, and I like the way both Jamie and Claire react to each other's suggestions. "Dalhousie" comes straight from the book.

My first thought on seeing St. Germain was that he's like a walking storm cloud, spreading gloom and doom (and danger!) wherever he goes.

"I'd give good money to watch you do it." - good line.

I like Jamie's waistcoat in this scene. That light blue color suits him very well, IMHO.

A lot of people seem surprised or taken aback by Jamie's reaction to the news that BJR is still alive:

"This is wonderful news!....You've given me something to hold on to. Something to look forward to! And that is a gift. Thank you, truly."

It seems like such an odd, joyful reaction. But in fact, book-readers have seen a very similar reaction from Jamie once before, in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, when he thinks he's about to confront "Butcher Billy", the Duke of Cumberland:
"His heart beat painfully, eager, for all at once the future had a shape to it. No more long days of mere survival. He had purpose, and the glow of it lit his soul."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "When a Man is Tired of London, He is Tired of Life". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Much as we'd all like Jamie's life to have purpose, it would be better if that purpose was something other than the pursuit of vengeance. But keep in mind that a) he is awfully young in this episode, no more than 23 years old, b) the physical and psychological wounds left by his ordeal at Wentworth are not yet fully healed, and c) he's a Highlander and a "bloody man".

I love Claire's outfit in the scene with Master Raymond. Gorgeous! Really glad we got a look inside Raymond's inner sanctum, complete with the animal skulls.

"I'm fascinated by things not of this time." Terrific line! I like the way Raymond smiles at her. Clearly he knows she's a time-traveler like himself.

"You have no need to worry. You will see [Frank] again." Yikes!! This is not good news, to put it mildly, and I like the way Claire reacts. Notice the Frank musical theme playing softly in the background.

I'm glad they included Louise's cuckoo clock. <g> Much of the dialogue in the scene between Claire and Louise comes straight from the book, except for this:

"But how will I raise a child with a man who's not the father?"
"All that matters is that the child is brought up with love."

Major foreshadowing here!

The scene between Jamie and Claire was just terrific! All of it. Very emotionally intense, and I loved what they did with the "fortress" lines. This is one of the best scenes in Season 2 so far, IMHO.

"Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass."

I wanted so badly for Claire to reach out to him right then, and was disappointed when she didn't.  But the sex scene that follows more than made up for that!  I thought it was really well done, one of the best ones in the series so far, IMHO. Tender and loving. I think it was just right for Claire to be the one to initiate it. ("Find us.")

"But I think perhaps you've built me a lean-to, at least." (Rubs her belly.) "And a roof to keep out the rain." Awww! What a terrific way to incorporate those lines. I love it. <g>

I like the way the rain coming down on the roof changes from metaphor to reality, so to speak, with Charles Stuart's unexpected arrival. That transition was very cleverly done, IMHO.

"Mark me!" We really need a "mark me" drinking game for this season! <g>

"The way I see it, we're doing a bad thing for a good reason." In other words, the ends justify the means. I don't like that. I understand the necessity of it, but I don't like it.

I like the scene with Fergus and Murtagh very much! Hilarious. Fergus is very perceptive, especially where women are concerned. I hope Murtagh's misogynistic views of women don't rub off on him too much!

The scene with Monsieur Forez is very much as I imagined from the book. Glad they included the hanged men's grease. I loved Mary's reaction to it.

"You, Madame, are a great deal better than nothing." Another line straight from the book, and high praise indeed, coming from Mother Hildegarde.

And now we see the broken (sabotaged) carriage wheel as shown in the very beginning of this episode.

I like Sandringham's wig in this episode much better than the one he was wearing when last seen.

Charles Stuart walks into the room with his nose in the air, exactly as described in various places in DRAGONFLY.

Notice how Mary's stammer entirely disappears when she talks about Alex. <g>

The attack was suitably sudden and violent, and I think it was a good decision to keep the focus mostly on Mary.

The costumes at the dinner party are fabulous! I like the way they intercut the scenes relating to the rape and its aftermath with the opulence of the party.

So Jamie wants to rush out and find the intruders, and it's Claire's idea to try to carry on as though nothing has happened. Jamie even offers to cancel the party, and Claire refuses. That's a change from the book, and I didn't care for it. It makes Claire look more decisive than Jamie is.

On the other hand, I liked very much the way Claire steels herself to meet the guests. ("OK. Let's go.")

Claire's gown is fabulous! And I love the embroidery on Jamie's waistcoat.

Alex is very good in the scene in the attic with Mary.

"Mark me" - again! LOL.

Sandringham is boorish and annoying at the dinner party. But I liked this line: "I must say that the combination of [Jamie and Claire's] respective beauties results in a child of unfathomable pulchritude."

Right after Jamie raises his glass to Claire, their eyes meet for a moment and she nods, very slightly, as the signal that he should spring the news about Louise's baby.

I like the Comte's line to the effect that "if Madame is worried about the cooking in her own home, perhaps we should all have a stone." Good point!

The melee in the hall is pretty much as I imagined from the book. But I love the bit they added at the end, where Fergus sits down at the dining table and helps himself. LOL!

So we have a cliffhanger ending, with lots of loose ends to be resolved in next week's episode. I can't wait!

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 205.

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

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

April poll results

Here are the results of the April poll, which asked the question, "Have you tried to get other people to read the OUTLANDER books, or watch the TV series?"
  • 24.57% - Many times!
  • 23.71% - All of the above.
  • 22.13% - I got one or more of my close friends or family members addicted.
  • 6.61% - Of course! I enjoy being an OUTLANDER ambassador.
  • 6.61% - I've tried, but so far without success.
  • 4.17% - I've given copies of OUTLANDER to my friends or coworkers.
  • 3.88% - I've been spreading the word about the TV series and trying to get people to watch.
  • 2.73% - I've recommended OUTLANDER to strangers in the bookstore or library.
  • 2.30% - No, I haven't tried.
  • 1.01% - I got my book club to read OUTLANDER.
  • 0.43% - I've recommended the books on Facebook, Goodreads, or other online sites.
  • 1.87% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • All but the book club
  • Most of the above
  • I got the Fug Girls to review it
  • I have been praising Outlander on the telenovela site that I frequent for awhile
  • Many Times, Given Copies to Relatives, Spreading the word, & Ambassador
  • The books, yes- TV series, no
  • most of the above
  • Several of the above
  • I started an Outlander book club at work because I wanted someone to talk Outlan
  • Not all of the above but close!!
  • I've really tried! But no takers--their loss.
  • I spread the word on Pinterest!
  • A few, but they must prove themselves worthy! :)
There were 696 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated! Please take a moment to vote in the May poll, which is all about how you discovered the OUTLANDER books.

Happy Birthday, Jamie Fraser!



Wishing a very happy birthday to our favorite red-heided Scot, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, who turns 295 years old today! He was born on May 1, 1721.

In honor of Jamie's birthday, I'm reposting the "ABCs of Jamie Fraser" list that I originally posted here in 2011. I hope you enjoy them!

ABCs of Jamie Fraser

I borrowed this idea from a writer's exercise that was posted on Compuserve. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. Here's my alphabet for Jamie Fraser.

All quotes from the OUTLANDER books are copyright © Diana Gabaldon, of course.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * * 

If you haven't read all of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books, you will find spoilers below! Read at your own risk.

A - Ardsmuir. As difficult as those three years in prison were for Jamie, caring for the other men gave him something to live for.

B - Boats. Sheer torture, for someone who suffers from seasickness as acute as Jamie's. "I hate boats," Jamie said through clenched teeth. "I loathe boats. I view boats with the most profound abhorrence." (DRUMS, Chapter 6, "I Encounter a Hernia")

C - Claire
, of course. And his children -- all of them, whether they're born of his blood or not.

D - Duty.
Jamie takes his duty seriously, even when it means doing things he doesn't want to do, like raising a militia company to fight against the Regulators in FIERY CROSS.

E - Eloquence.
Jamie's way with words takes my breath away sometimes. "And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you." (DRUMS, Chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics")

F - Finger.
Jamie's much-abused fourth finger on his right hand, which caused him so much pain and trouble for years, and now lies buried at Lallybroch, with Ian. "I'll keep it safe 'til ye catch me up." (ECHO, Chapter 81, "Purgatory II")

G - God.
Jamie's Catholic faith is very important to him, even if he's rarely in a position to go to Mass or have a priest hear his confession. And sometimes God answers his prayers. ("Lord, that she may be safe. She and the child.")

H - Humor.
I love Jamie's sense of humor, especially when he teases Claire. "I'll gie ye the rest when I'm ninety-six, aye?" (FIERY CROSS, Chapter 40, "Duncan's Secret")

I - Intelligence.
Jamie is a very smart man, and a logical thinker. And he learns very fast!

J - Jenny.
Say what you will about her, but Jamie loves his sister as deeply as he does Claire.

K - Killing.
Jamie kills when he must, in self-defense or in defense of his family or loved ones. But it bothers him. "I am a violent man, and I ken it well," he said quietly. He spread his hands out on his knees; big hands, which could wield sword and dagger with ease, or choke the life from a man. (DRUMS, Chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience")

L - Lallybroch.
I don't think you can fully understand Jamie's character without appreciating how much Lallybroch influenced him. It's sad to think that he might never go back there.

M - Memories.
Will Jamie ever recall more of Culloden, and what happened with Jack Randall?

N - Nephew.
Jamie bonded with Young Ian when he was only minutes old, and they've been through quite a lot together.

O - Outdoors.
Where some of Jamie and Claire's most memorable "mmmmphmm" moments have taken place. :-)

P - Prestonpans.
The location of Jamie's fateful encounter with the sixteen-year-old Lord John Grey.

Q - QED.
Three letters that symbolize Jamie's short-lived career as a printer in Edinburgh.

R - Red-heided.
All teasing about "the nameless and abominable colour of his hair" aside, this is one of the things I liked best about Jamie from the beginning, because I'm also a left-handed redhead. :-)

S - Stubbornness.
"Jamie was a sweet laddie, but a stubborn wee fiend, forbye." Jenny's voice by her ear startled her. "Beat him or coax him, it made no difference; if he'd made up his mind, it stayed made up." (DRUMS, Chapter 34, "Lallybroch")

T - Tone-deaf.
One of Jamie's more endearing traits, in my opinion, and proof that he's not perfect.

U - Uxorious.
Roger refers to Jamie as "deeply uxorious" in ABOSAA. It's an archaic word that according to Diana Gabaldon means "a man who was clearly and obviously in love with his wife."

V - Vows.
The blood vow at Jamie and Claire's wedding, for one. Jamie's promise never to beat her again, for another. "I don't make idle threats, Sassenach," he said, raising one brow, "and I don't take frivolous vows." (OUTLANDER, Chapter 22, "Reckonings")

W - Will-power.
Jamie has an amazing strength of will. Whether it's submitting to rape and torture at the hands of Jack Randall without fighting back, or not reacting to the presence of a pair of naked Indian girls in his bed in ABOSAA, his self-control is impressive.

X - eXample.
Jamie doesn't lead by sitting back and giving orders. He leads by example, as when he takes the punishment for Angus MacKenzie's possession of a scrap of tartan at Ardsmuir. No wonder his men will follow him anywhere.

Y - Youthful.
It's hard to remember just how young Jamie was in OUTLANDER, barely 22. Even in his mid-50's, he still looks remarkably good for his age. As Claire remarks, "Do you know, you haven't got a single gray hair below the neck?" (ECHO, chapter 8, "Spring Thaw")

Z - Zippers
, and other oddities of 20th-century life that Claire has had to explain to Jamie over the years.

If you're on Twitter, please tag your tweets today (Sunday, May 1) with #HappyBDayJAMMF, in celebration of Jamie's birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jamie, and Happy Beltane to all of you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Watching Diana write (a brief Book 9 excerpt)

Diana Gabaldon posted something very interesting on Facebook yesterday: a detailed example of how she writes. It's a very brief snippet from Book 9, just a couple of sentences, but Diana goes into great detail about how and why she chose each particular word or image.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!!  * * *

If you haven't read the last chapter of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8 of the OUTLANDER series), then this particular excerpt contains a Major Spoiler.

If you've finished that book, this brief snippet from Book 9 isn't very spoilerish, in my opinion, but everyone's tolerance for spoilers is different, so use your own judgment.

I'm normally a strict excerpt-avoider (no, I don't read #DailyLines!), and in fact I think this is the first bit of Book 9 I've peeked at. I made an exception for this one because it's such a brief snippet, and I very much wanted to see how Diana deconstructed it.  I think it's fascinating to see how she does that!

If you like this sort of thing, here are two more examples:

Annotated version of the "Coda in Three-Two Time" from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.  Diana Gabaldon included this piece in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION Volume 2 that was published last year.

Annotated version of the windowsill scene from THE FIERY CROSS, chapter 107, "Zugunruhe".

I hope she'll do more of these in the future.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Episode 203: "Useful Occupations and Deceptions" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 203 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Useful Occupations and Deceptions".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

Overall, I thought this episode was very well done, and much closer to the book than I expected.

I like the combination of the very ornate chess pieces and the music, evocative of 18th-century France, at the very beginning. It sets the stage very effectively.

Claire wakes in her bed, alone. Not a good sign!

Jamie comes home at dawn, immediately heads out again -- does he ever sleep, or eat? I'm glad Claire commented on his lack of sleep. I liked the way she gently pushed the servant away to tend to Jamie herself.

"I would not want to be late for tea." In his exhausted state, Jamie completely missed the sarcasm in Claire's tone. That's unusual -- he's usually so sensitive to her moods and needs, but not here.

The scene with Mary Hawkins and Louise is hilarious, just perfect! I actually think it's funnier here than in the book, because while Claire manages to keep from laughing (as in the book), Louise shows no such restraint, and her laughter is infectious. Definitely a keeper!

"In Sussex" - I wasn't expecting this little flashback, but I think it's a clever way to show Claire's sudden realization of exactly who Mary Hawkins is. I paused the screen on the genealogical chart, then went and got out my OUTLANDISH COMPANION Vol. 1 Revised and Updated Edition to compare the two. In case anyone's wondering, the names shown in Frank's family Bible here are exactly the same as in the chart on p. 208 of the OC. <g> The format of the chart has been rearranged a bit, to simplify it and put the focus on Frank's direct ancestors, but it's recognizably the same set of names.

Most of the chart is in what appears to be the same font as that chart in the OC (I thought that was a nice touch <g>), but if you look closely you can see that the last several names, including Frank's, are in a different handwriting, indicating that these names were added later.

(If you're not familiar with the OUTLANDISH COMPANION books, look here for more information.)

The scene with Murtagh and Suzette took me totally by surprise! LOL.

"Since when did ye become such a priggish scold?" I wondered that myself, though not in those words, and was glad Claire apologized right away.

The reason Murtagh gives for not telling Jamie immediately about BJR is plausible, but I didn't expect it. He's right, Jamie would probably tear off to Scotland immediately in pursuit of his vengeance, but I still really don't like Claire and Murtagh keeping secrets from Jamie. ("Oh, what a tangled web we weave...." and all that.)

I liked this exchange:

Claire: "I don't suppose you've ever thought of birth control?"
Murtagh (baffled): "Control??"

That library at Versailles is magnificent -- and immense! Kudos to Jon Gary Steele for his wonderful set design.

I liked the banter between Jamie and Duverney during and after the chess game, but I didn't care for the odd camera angle when they stood up, where the camera was looking up at them from below. I found it disconcerting and a little distracting.

I loved the Comte's air of menace and barely controlled fury at sight of Claire.

Master Raymond's use of the word "contraceptive" seems jarringly modern, at least to me. I didn't think the term was in common use in 1744. (Was he testing to see if she would react to the word?) On the other hand, I liked the fact that he was the one who suggested that Claire work at L'Hôpital des Anges. This is a change from the book, but I think it works well here.

"In need of helping others" - that's very perceptive of Master Raymond, and I very much hope Jamie will come to see it too, in time.

That first scene in L'Hôpital des Anges was wonderful, just as I'd imagined, and I'm really glad they were able to keep so much of the original dialogue from the book. My only small comment in this part is that Sister Angelique, the nun who introduces Claire to Mother Hildegarde, is so tiny that Claire looks twice her size! Either Claire has gotten taller in the last couple of episodes <g>, or she's wearing high heels under her gowns that make her tower over average-size women. Even Mother Hildegarde looks smaller by comparison.

Mother Hildegarde and Bouton are both terrific! I'm so thrilled to see Frances de la Tour playing this role, as I predicted back in 2009. She's just right for Mother Hildegarde. And Bouton is very cute. <g>

The scene with Charles and Duverney and Jamie in the brothel was notable for Jamie's first glimpse of young Fergus, and for the fact that Jamie was unnaturally quiet, taking little part in the discussion. I think they could have shortened that scene somewhat.

I wondered at first why Jamie didn't go out searching for Claire when she didn't return before dark, but then I remembered that Murtagh was with her.

The scene between J&C on her return was very good, but Jamie's body language throughout really bothered me. It seemed very unlike him -- keeping his back turned, hardly even looking at her, not touching her at all. And when she puts her hands on his shoulders, clearly trying to ease some of his stress, he puts her hands away from him, gently but firmly refusing to let her touch him.

Jamie's whole demeanor in that scene was so cold, distant, and angry that I found myself actually wondering if the TV viewers who have not read the books would conclude that he no longer loves Claire or feels any affection for her at all. (!) I found it very disturbing.

UPDATE 4/24/2016 7:39 pm: I mentioned my concerns about Jamie's body language in the Episode 203 discussion on Compuserve. Diana Gabaldon's reply is definitely worth reading! Her explanation might help other people who are having difficulty with Jamie's reactions in this scene. It certainly helped me!

"Indulging yourself with poultices and potions" - that's pretty harsh, IMHO, especially given that her skill with those same poultices and potions saved his life after Wentworth. I hope he was just snapping at her out of fatigue and frustration -- and in fact that's how I interpreted his, "When do I get to find meaning in my day?"

The scene where Jamie chases after Fergus is really good! After all the talking in the last couple of episodes, it's nice to see an action sequence! I liked the music during the chase, and I laughed whe Jamie turned Fergus upside-down to empty out his pockets. <g>

Romann Berrux is wonderful as Fergus, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him. Just one small quibble: at one point he says to Jamie, "Just when we are very busy and, like, the gentlemen are very drunk." Like?? Why is he talking like a kid in 2016? I wish they had edited that word out, because it jerked me momentarily out of the story.

And again, Claire wakes in bed alone. <sigh> Fergus's flattery made me laugh, but in the scene with Jamie and Claire after Fergus leaves, once again Jamie's body language is subtly "off", IMHO, and he can't seem to turn to face her directly.

Claire's "That's a good plan" seemed to me to be a peace offering, acknowledging that she values what he's doing.

I like that little bed in the alcove!

The scene with Claire, Mother Hildegarde, and Bouton is just as I've always pictured it from the book -- just perfect!

And here Jamie appears in his kilt for the first time in quite a long time. <g>

The Bach reference makes me giggle. Mother Hildegarde is wonderful in this scene, which is taken almost verbatim from the book.

I loved the way J&C turned to look at each other and said, "Sandringham" at the very same time. They're starting to be able to work as a team again, and I was glad to see it.

"This calls for a celebration," Jamie says, and then we see a genuine smile from him for the first time all episode. (The line about "fighting feathers" is based on a line from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 11.)

"To my wife, who's always there when I need her." It's not quite up to the standard of his toast on their wedding night <g>, but it's sincere, and I took it as the closest thing she'll get to an apology. And I was very relieved to see Jamie take Claire in his arms (finally!) and kiss her.

I don't blame Claire one bit for not wanting to burst Jamie's bubble of happiness by telling him about Black Jack Randall right then and there. But it's an interesting twist. If the goal of the writers at the end of the episode is to leave you wondering what's going to happen next, I think it worked very well.

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 204.

Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:

Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mandy!



Wishing a very happy birthday to Amanda Claire Hope MacKenzie, aka Mandy, who was born on April 21, 1776.

That would make her 240 years old, which is rather mind-boggling to contemplate, considering that she was only a toddler when last seen in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by and about wee Mandy.  Hope you enjoy them!

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

If you haven't read all eight of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books, up to and including WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, there are Major Spoilers below. Read at your own risk!

1) Roger holds his baby girl for the first time.
Roger had never felt so terrified as he did when his newborn daughter was placed in his arms for the first time. Minutes old, skin tender and perfect as an orchid’s, she was so delicate he feared he would leave fingerprints on her--but so alluring that he had to touch her, drawing the back of his knuckle gently, so gently, down the perfect curve of her fat little cheek, stroking the black cobweb silk of her hair with an unbelieving forefinger. 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 114, "Amanda". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) We get our first hint that baby Mandy may have inherited her parents' time-travel gene:
Jamie Fraser took his father’s ruby ring, and held it over the face of his granddaughter. Amanda’s eyes fixed on it at once, and she stuck out her tongue with interest. He smiled, despite the heaviness of his heart, and lowered the ring for her to grab at.

“She likes that well enough,” he said, skillfully removing it from her grip before she could get it into her mouth. “Let’s try the other.”

The other was Claire’s amulet--the tiny, battered leather pouch given to her by an Indian wisewoman years before. It contained assorted bits and bobs, herbs, he thought, and feathers, perhaps the tiny bones of a bat. But in among them was a lump of stone--nothing much to look at, but a true gemstone, a raw sapphire.

Amanda turned her head at once, more interested in the pouch than she had been in the shiny ring. She made cooing noises and batted wildly with both hands, trying to reach it.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 114, "Amanda". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Roger and Claire, not long before the MacKenzies returned to the 20th century.
"Mandy's got my mother's hair."

"Oh, good," Claire said dryly. "I'd hate to think I was entirely responsible for it. Do tell her that, when she's older, will you? Girls with very curly hair invariably hate it--at least in the early years, when they want to look like everyone else."

Despite his preoccupation, he heard the small note of desolation in her voice, and reached for her hand, disregarding the fact that she still held a plant in it.

"I'll tell her," he said softly. "I'll tell her everything. Don't ever think we'd let the kids forget you."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) Jemmy and Mandy at Lallybroch:
"But Mama! Mandy hit me!” came an indignant report from the top of the stairs. Looking up, she could see the top of his head, the light from the window glowing on his hair.

“She did? Well—”

“With a stick!”

“What sort of—”

“On purpose!”

“Well, I don’t think—”

“AND …”--a pause before the damning denouement--“SHE DIDN’T SAY SHE WAS SORRY!”

[...]

“MANDY,” she bellowed. “Say you’re sorry!”

“Non’t!” came a high-pitched refusal from above.

“Aye, ye will!” came Jem’s voice, followed by scuffling. Brianna headed for the stair, blood in her eye. Just as she set her foot on the tread, Jem uttered a piercing squeal.

“She BIT me!”

“Jeremiah MacKenzie, don’t you dare bite her back!” she shouted. “Both of you stop it this instant!"

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Epilogue I, "Lallybroch". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) This scene from ECHO hit me like a gut-punch the first time I read it. Mandy may be only a toddler, but I think she does an amazing job of telling her parents what's wrong and communicating the urgency of the situation. Thank God Bree and Roger took her hysteria seriously!
He made it to Amanda’s room a half step before Brianna and scooped the child out of her bed, cradling her against his pounding heart.

“Jemmy, Jemmy!” she sobbed. “He’s gone, he’s gone. He’s GONE!!” This last was shrieked as she stiffened in Roger’s arms, digging her feet hard into his belly.

"Hey, hey,” he soothed, trying to rearrange her and pet her into calm. “It’s okay, Jemmy’s fine. He’s fine, he’s only gone to visit Bobby overnight. He’ll be home tomorrow.”

“He’s GONE!” She squirmed like an eel, not trying to get away but merely possessed by a paroxysm of frantic grief. “He’s not here, he’s not here!”

"Aye, like I said, he’s at Bobby’s house, he—”

“Not here,” she said urgently, and thumped the palm of her hand repeatedly on the top of her head. “Not here wif me!”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 85, "Son of a Witch". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) Many of you will recall that Diana Gabaldon said repeatedly that she wanted an octopus on the cover of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. She didn't get that, but I knew there would be an octopus reference in the book somewhere:
Mandy unbuckled her seat belt and popped up on her knees. She’d pulled her arms out of her sweater so they flopped around, and now just her face was poking out of the neckhole.

“I’m an ottopus!” she said, and shook herself so the sweater’s arms danced. Jem laughed, in spite of himself. So did Mam, but she waved Mandy back down.

“Octopus,” she said. “And put your seat belt back on right now. Octo means eight in Latin,” she added. “Octopuses have eight legs. Or arms, maybe.”

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Radar". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Mandy's counting makes me laugh.
"Go, Mandy. Right now. Mummy will be there before you can count to a hundred. Start counting now. One...two...three..." She moved between Cameron and Mandy, motioning firmly with her free hand.

Reluctantly, Mandy moved, murmuring, "Four... five... six... seven..." and disappeared through the back kitchen door.

[....]

"Think fast,” he shouted up at her. “Your wee lass will hit a hundred and be back any second!”

Despite the situation, Brianna smiled. Mandy had very recently been introduced to the idea that numbers were infinite and had been enchanted by the concept. She wouldn’t stop counting until she ran out of breath or someone stopped her.

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "A Step Into the Dark". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
8) I love the way Jem is so protective of his little sister.
There was a lot of screaming and crying going on inside the Buchans’ house, and he felt his chest go so tight he couldn’t breathe.

“Mandy!” He tried to call, but her name came out in a whisper. The front door was hanging open. Inside, there were girls everywhere, but he picked Mandy out of the muddle in the lounge instantly and ran to grab her. She wasn’t crying, but she latched on to him like a leech, burying her black curly head in his stomach.

“It’s okay,” he told her, squeezing the stuffing out of her in relief. “It’s okay, Man. I gotcha. I gotcha."

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "The Number of the Beast". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
9) I don't have words to express how relieved and grateful I am that the MacKenzies found each other at last.
"Think ye might have lost something,” Buck said gruffly, and handed Mandy carefully down to him. She was a heavy, lively weight in his arms—and smelled of goats.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed, beaming at him as though he’d just come in from work. “Mwah! Mwah!” She kissed him noisily and snuggled into his chest, her hair tickling his chin.

[....]

Roger was crying again, couldn’t stop. Mandy had burrs and foxtails stuck in her hair and in the fabric of her jacket, and he thought she might have wet herself somewhere in the recent past. Buck twitched the reins, as though about to turn and go, and Roger reached out a hand and grabbed his stirrup.

“Stay,” he croaked. “Tell me it’s real.”

Buck made an incoherent noise, and, looking up through his tears, Roger could see that Buck was making an inadequate attempt at hiding his own emotion.

“Aye,” Buck said, sounding almost as choked as Roger. He looped his reins and, sliding off into the road, took Jem very gently into his own arms. “Aye, it’s real."

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 108, "Reality is That Which, When You Stop Believing in It, Doesn't Go Away". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Birthday to our favorite time-traveling toddler and "feisty wee baggage", Mandy MacKenzie!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Episode 202: "Not in Scotland Anymore" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 202 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Not in Scotland Anymore".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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


S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

First, a general comment: Ira Steven Behr is by far my least favorite of the OUTLANDER writers, and it showed in this episode. The costumes were amazing, and I liked the new characters, especially Louise, Master Raymond, and Mary Hawkins. I enjoyed many scenes, but I thought the show dragged quite a bit in the second half, especially on the first viewing. There was very little dramatic tension or conflict in this episode, and I found myself, on the first viewing, checking the time every few minutes during the Versailles scenes, which is something I rarely did in Season 1.

Now, to the episode itself:

The gown in the opening scene is amazing, and looks very authentic! I keep thinking of the way a reviewer somewhere described the Season 2 costumes as "costume porn", and it's really true in this episode! <g>

The nightmare was very well done, if gory. Notice how BJR's eyes pop open at the very end. <shudder>

"He's alive, in my head. I couldna get him out." - good line.

I liked the way Claire dealt with his nightmare. She seemed concerned, but matter-of-fact rather than panicked. This clearly isn't the first time they've been through this, and it surely won't be the last.

That bed looks so luxurious, especially when you compare it to many of the places they slept in Season 1.

Claire and the housemaid: "I shall endeavor to be sloppier in my personal habits." This takes the situation in the book (Claire is frustrated and bored because the servants handle everything so well that there's nothing for her to do) and turns it around, so here we see a servant who is frustrated because Claire is in effect doing her job. Interesting twist. <g>

I liked the music as the carriage moves through Paris, and I was fascinated by the costumes worn by all the extras in the streets. The costumes in this episode alone must have taken a phenomenal amount of work for Terry and her team!

I loved Master Raymond's shop. It's bigger than I thought it would be, but otherwise looks very much like the image in my head. I'm glad they included the stuffed crocodile! (In case you're wondering, crocodiles were traditional in apothecary shops for centuries. For an explanation, check out this video, which I found a few years ago.)

Dominique Pinon is terrific as Master Raymond! He's a very appealing character. Note that what he prescribes for Jamie's nightmares is valeriana officinalis -- the very same valerian root that Claire used as a sedative in Episode 104, "The Gathering". I was surprised that Claire didn't comment on that, since she's obviously familiar with it. But that's a minor detail.

I liked the sword-fighting scene between Jamie and Murtagh very much. It makes sense to show that Jamie is gradually getting the strength back in his injured hand, and I loved the way the bystanders gawked at the two of them.

"Dueling is outlawed in France." (Can you say foreshadowing??)

"Yet another wrong to mark against this misery of a country." - good line from Murtagh, who really lives up to his dour reputation in this episode.

"Lard-Bucket and Big Head" - LOL! I love Jamie's reaction to this. It's the first time we've seen him laugh since before Wentworth, and you can see his old personality reasserting itself. Sam looks terrific in this scene, like he's really enjoying himself.

"Dinna fash. We won't be here forever."
"No. But it'll seem so."

I liked this exchange. Wondering if this is meant as a response to fans complaining that the story has moved away from Scotland?

"Maison de Madame Elise" -- so this is not just any brothel, it's the one where Fergus was born. Book-readers should catch the reference, even if it doesn't mean anything yet to some of the TV viewers. It does seem high-class, for a brothel. The bit with the dildos (what are they made of, ivory?) took me by surprise, but Charles is right, this is vulgar.

Charles looking down his nose (figuratively speaking) at Murtagh: "I don't recall asking for your opinion, or even inviting you here this evening."
"Where he goes, I go." (just like Dougal in the beginning of Episode 106, talking to Lt. Foster)

"The clans canna agree on the color of the sky." - good line

Murtagh's speech to Charles was very good, even eloquent at times, but I thought it was risky to be so blunt, considering what we know from the book about Charles' volatile temper. I expected Charles to take offense at his boldness and order him to get out, and was surprised by his reaction: "I see you [Jamie] have the heart of a true patriot, willing to risk my divine wrath in order to safeguard your countrymen."

I'm really glad they subtitled the Gaelic in Murtagh's response: "Not too late to slit his throat."

I love Claire's dressing gown in the next scene -- gorgeous!

The waxing scene was very good. I love Claire Sermonne as Louise, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. She seems just perfect for the role! A little flamboyant and over-the-top, but Louise was like that in the book, too, so it fits. Mary Hawkins is very young and very shy, just as in the book. Those huge eyes just add to the impression of naivete. I loved the way she and Claire both reacted to the idea of waxing one's "honeypot".

The sex scene with Jamie and Claire that follows is, of course, different from the book, but I think it works very well. "I thought you'd be intrigued. Something different." And of course Jamie's a quick learner. <g> I did think Jamie would be more shocked at what she'd done, though.

It seems clear that the point of this scene (unlike the one in the book) is to show that Jamie hasn't yet recovered from the trauma of Wentworth. Having him see BJR's face while making love to Claire was shocking, but IMHO very effective. I actually moaned out loud at that fleeting glimpse of BJR's face.

"It's OK. It's OK." Claire's use of 20th-century slang here is a little jarring, but I would still consider it in character. She's used the expression before (talking to young Rabbie at Lallybroch, for example) and Jamie clearly has heard her say it often enough to understand what it means. A very poignant moment, and I like the way the scene ends, with Claire holding Jamie and Jamie clutching his injured hand. Very well done.

We next see them two weeks later, preparing to leave for Versailles. I like the way Jamie teases Murtagh: "You could have at least washed your knees, you swine." "I did."

The red dress is breathtaking, but it appears several inches too short, and I don't think it's the camera angle, because we see the same thing later as she walks across the courtyard outside. That's a shame. All they needed was a couple more inches of fabric (yes, I realize it's probably a lot more complicated than that! <g>), to make sure the gown would touch the floor. I found this distracting, and IMHO it diminishes the overall effect.

On the other hand, I loved Jamie's expression as he catches sight of her. Also his smile as he says, "I suppose it'll have to do." The business with the fan is just as I imagined from the book.

I liked seeing Versailles lit up at night. "Costume porn" indeed -- the costumes in this whole part of the episode are just amazing!! I like Louise's gown, and Mary's, too.

The scene with Annalise de Marillac is just priceless, especially for Jamie's reactions. <g>

Now, about that scene in the King's chambers: Yes, it's based on something in the book, but I think it went on for far too long. Did we really need to spend that much valuable screen time on Louis XV's bathroom habits, especially when we've been told over and over that they often have to cut scenes from these episodes due to time constraints? I suppose Ira Steven Behr thought this would be hilarious to show on screen. I didn't find it very amusing. In fact, I think he missed the point of this scene in the book entirely:
"That sounds an awful way to live,” I remarked, wanting to distract him. “Not watching owls, I don’t mean--the King. No privacy, ever, not even in the loo.”

“I wouldna care for it myself,” Jamie agreed. “But then he’s the King.”

“Mmm. And I suppose all the power and luxury and so forth makes up for a lot.”

He shrugged. “Well, if it does or no, it’s the bargain God’s made for him, and he’s little choice but to make the best of it."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Royal Audience". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I wish they'd found a way to keep that bit in the show.

I did like the King's line: "Is that so? Unfortunately the King has never acquired a taste for peasant food."

Claire's fan in the next scene is gigantic, compared to the little one she was carrying when they left Jared's house. I laughed when I saw that. But again, in the scene in the courtyard, Claire's gown is too short.

I liked the way they combined M. Duverney's role with that of the obnoxious courtier in the book. (Duverney's wig looks like a drowned animal pelt after it's retrieved from the fountain.) So this is how Duverney's friendship with Jamie begins, by way of apology for his boorish behavior toward Claire? I really doubt Book Jamie would be so forgiving, so quickly. It's clearly intended here as a plot device to get the two of them interacting, but I found it contrived.

The "nipple dress" is stunning, and very much the way it's described in the book:
She was, in current vogue, wearing a gown cut below both breasts, with a bit of supercedent gauze which was clearly meant for the sake of fashion, as it couldn’t possibly function for either warmth or concealment.

It was neither the gown nor the prospect it revealed that had rattled me, though. The breasts of “Nesle,” while reasonably adequate in size, pleasant in proportion, and tipped with large brownish areolae, were further adorned with a pair of nipple jewels that caused their settings to recede into insignificance. A pair of diamond-encrusted swans with ruby eyes stretched their necks toward each other, swinging precariously in their gold-hooped perches. The workmanship was superb and the materials stunning, but it was the fact that each gold hoop passed through her nipple that made me feel rather faint.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Splendors of Versailles". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The King's comments to Duverney made me laugh. But I didn't like the way he passed over Claire in the red dress without even asking who she was. In the book, the whole point of the red dress was to attract attention, but it doesn't appear to have had much effect on Louis here.

I wasn't expecting to see Sandringham here (I missed Simon Callow's name in the opening credits on the first viewing) but he was very good, as always. Claire's fury at seeing Sandringham is much easier to understand if you assume that Jamie told her how Sandringham gave BJR that petition of complaint, and BJR burned it in front of Jamie's eyes in Wentworth.

Lawrence Dobiesz is very good as Alex Randall. I'm glad that they didn't have Tobias play this role as well.

"I'll have to tell Jonathan that I met you." I gasped at this, but the more I think about it, the more I dislike what they did here. The revelation that BJR is still alive is a huge plot point, and yet we learn about it through telling, not showing, so it has far less dramatic and emotional impact than it did in the book. I was very disappointed in that.

The voiceover at the end was also disappointing. So they're setting up a situation where Claire is going to intentionally withhold vital information from Jamie? What about all that talk about honesty? I sincerely hope that she doesn't keep this secret from him for very long, because I think he's going to be furious if he finds out she knew BJR was alive and didn't tell him at once.

Overall, I liked this episode better on the second viewing, but I wish they'd found a way to inject more dramatic tension and conflict into it. I hope we'll see that in future episodes!

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 203.

My recap of Episode 201 is here. Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.