Thursday, October 26, 2017

“There’s the Two of Us Now” - A recap of season 3 episode 6 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown 

It was always going to be about the print shop. While every season of Outlander has had its emotionally draining episodes - ‘Wentworth’ in season 1, ‘Faith’ and ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ in season 2 - nothing was ever going to compare to this season’s ‘A. Malcolm’. After a Droughtlander of some 14 months and then a week’s break between episodes 5 and 6, during which the publicity was amped up more with each passing day, the anticipation for the longed for reunion was at fever pitch by the time the episode began. And as with any highly anticipated event, it was going to be virtually impossible to please everyone. Indeed, once the episode had aired and the discussion on forums began, it became obvious that opinions varied wildly - from those who loved every moment, to those who were bitterly disappointed by the changes and omissions from Diana Gabaldon’s original. Just like the characters of Jamie and Claire, a period of adjustment was needed! 

The episode begins with some finishing touches to Jamie’s wardrobe being administered by an unknown woman. The two engage in some friendly banter before Jamie leaves to start his day as Alexander Malcolm, Edinburgh printer and bookseller. Right from the outset we can see what a shock Claire’s reappearance is going to be.

Jamie has settled into a new life and a new routine. He strides through familiar streets, tipping his hat to people as he passes. Who the woman is remains to be seen. 

On entering the shop, Jamie checks the ledger and some printed material, when he hears noises below. Drawing a knife he listens more closely, relaxing when he realises he knows to whom the whispered voices belong. Telling them they can come out, Jamie waits until the two men appear. The rest of the scene establishes some more detail: Lesley and Hayes work for Jamie, but not as part of the official business of the print shop. Rather, these two have the task of delivering some more treasonous pamphlets further afield. Jamie cautions them not to draw attention to themselves, not to be caught and not to be seen by the legitimate customers. 

Whilst passing on these instructions, his regular assistant, Geordie appears and is visibly displeased to see the other two, who waste no time in ridiculing him on account of his goitre and his haughty demeanour. Indeed, these two seem to be the Edinburgh equivalent of Rupert and Angus. Jamie admonishes them for their teasing and they make a half hearted apology before departing. Jamie then asks Geordie to get some more ash for the press, a request that is met with some displeasure by the latter as it means retracing his steps. He is soon gone, however, and Jamie is left to begin his work.

We see that Jamie has added another skill to his repertoire, as he confidently operates the machinery to produce more printed pages. The bell rings and Jamie calls out to who he assumes in Geordie, asking where he had gone to get the ash. We soon realise that this is a repeat of the end of episode 5, but this time we see Claire’s reappearance through Jamie’s eyes, ending with the same graceful faint as the opening credits finally begin. 

Jamie quickly regains consciousness, to find Claire kneeling over him. Shocked, he realises that this time, she is no apparition, but actually real. He says her name in wonder, “Claire”, as she tells him that she had thought him to be dead. Their hands touch briefly, before Jamie reacts in discomfort, realising that in fainting, he had tipped over the ale pot. He stands and begins to undress, but halts, suddenly shy. He asks Claire if she minds, to which Claire, equally shy, replies that it’s all right, as they are married, or supposes they are. 

The two are unsure of each other, but the longing is there, gazing at each other in disbelief. Tentatively they move closer. Jamie tells Claire he would very much like to kiss her and asks if he may do so and breathlessly, she agrees. A tear falls down Claire’s cheek as their lips meet and the reunion begins. Jamie is also tearful as they break apart, telling Claire how often she had come to him whenever he had needed her: when he was fevered, alone or afraid, but that in those dreams, she had never touched him. He takes her hand, as she replies that she can touch him now. Together they recite the words that Jamie had spoken after their wedding. “Don’t be afraid,” Claire begins. “There’s the two of us now,” an emotional Jamie responds and they kiss again, less tentative this time. Their embrace is interrupted by a horrified Geordie, who promptly quits on the spot, accusing Jamie of conducting orgies in the shop before noon. He storms out and Claire fights back laughter, saying that she hopes she hasn’t caused trouble. Jamie reassures her that Geordie will return and that he will explain the situation, but has no idea how to do so.

Claire asks if he has another pair of trousers and Jamie realises that he is still standing there in only his shirt. He says he has another pair out the back, asking Claire to come with him, almost as if he is afraid that she will disappear again if he lets her out of his sight. Claire follows him and watches as he changes. Suddenly, Jamie remembers something: saying “the child!” Smiling, Claire pulls a packet of photographs from her cloak pocket, telling Jamie she thought he would like to see their daughter. Jamie begins to get emotional. “Our daughter?” he says. “She... knows?” We can see the tears welling up, as she comes towards him with the pictures, explaining what photographs are. 

Self consciously, Jamie pulls out a pair of glasses, telling Claire he will need them to see properly, as his eyes are not what they used to be. Declaring him to be as dashing as ever, Claire reassures him that he doesn’t look at all like the old man he fears he must be. She confesses to her own vanity, telling Jamie that she has dyed the grey in her hair, because she had wanted to look the same for him as when he had last seen her. Jamie responds that time doesn’t matter: she will always be beautiful to him. He caresses her cheek, then puts on his glasses and asks Claire to shown him their daughter. 

The scene that follows has been hotly debated already, with many book fans upset by how it has been changed. In the book, on seeing the photos, Jamie “falls completely to pieces” in Claire’s arms, overcome by the emotions of seeing Brianna. Indeed, it appeared as if this was precisely what was going to happen. But despite these directions being written into the script that has been published online, it doesn’t eventuate and the scene plays out differently. Undoubtedly, Jamie is emotional at seeing Brianna’s photos. 

He stares at the first picture for a long time, needing to sit down and closing his eyes as he asks about her name. He then wants to know more, asking about her first word. Happily, Claire supplies the details, adding that baby Brianna had been a good sleeper, smiling in her sleep just like her father. When Claire says that Bree also has Jamie’s red hair, Jamie replies with “like her sister, Faith” and the two share a nostalgic sad moment. Looking at Claire’s graduation photo with Brianna, Jamie learns that Claire is now a surgeon, commenting that she always had been, only lacking the title she now has.  Jamie expresses disbelief at Brianna’s ability to chop wood and becomes suitably patriarchal and stern at the sight of his daughter in a bikini. But at the point where book readers were still expecting Jamie to be overcome with emotion and bury his head in Claire’s shoulder, instead he hands the photographs back to Claire and stands. Claire worries initially that Jamie is angered by the bikini, adding that it is quite modest. But Jamie has a confession of his own. Pulling out his own version of a photograph in the form of a colour portrait, he proceeds to tell her about Willie, his son. This is news that comes to Claire far later in the book and under entirely different circumstances. Many fans are not happy with this change, with the primary opinion being that Jamie seems more interested in his son than his daughter. However, it can also be argued that this admission is, in fact highlighting that Jamie now has the person back in his life to whom he can tell everything.

He has not spoken of Willie to anyone, not even Jenny and he is as keen for Claire to know about Willie’s personality as she is for him to know about Brianna’s. Claire is unnerved by the revelation, asking Jamie if he had been in love with Willie’s mother. She is noticeably relieved to discover that he wasn’t, but says only that she knew when she decided to come back, that Jamie would have had a life. This opens the door for Jamie to ask about Frank and whether she had left Frank to return to him. They skirt around the 20 years of the Randall marriage, Claire answering Jamie’s question about whether she had been happy with Frank by saying that she had been happy raising Brianna with him. Outside a bell rings and Jamie realises the time. He says that he needs to get to the tavern and asks Claire to accompany him. She replies that wild horses couldn’t keep her away and the scene ends. It is a scene that allows both Jamie and Claire to learn a little of each other’s lives in the 20 years they have been apart, but for those who felt the focus should have been on Brianna, it falls disappointingly short, despite the lovely acting throughout by both Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. (Indeed, during a Twitter chat with the Outlander Writers, Sam Heughan weighed in on the ‘falling completely to pieces’ debate, stating that the action lines in the script are guidelines only and that it had been his own creative choice to show an internal fall, rather than tears that could have appeared melodramatic and stall the flow of the scene. And with that, the debate seems to be closed!)

Jamie and Claire walk through the streets, as Claire updates Jamie on the fate of Bonnie Prince Charlie and how he managed to escape after Culloden. Claire remarks that while Charles is indeed alive in 1766, he is not living a happy life. Their conversation halts, as Jamie indicates a young man standing nearby.

The man in question utters a shocked “Milady?” and Claire realises that this is Fergus all grown up. The two embrace, Claire commenting on what a handsome man he has become, to which Fergus agrees! Claire notices the wooden hand that Fergus now wears and cradles it gently between her own hands, asking what happened. Fergus explains that he lost it fighting the redcoats. “Bravely,” Jamie adds. When Fergus asks Claire where she has been for so many years, Jamie and Claire share a brief look - this is not an explanation they have decided upon yet. So Claire follows Frank’s interrogation advice from season 1 - to stick to the truth as much as possible - and tells Fergus that, believing them all to be dead and not wanting to bring harm to Lallybroch as the wife of a traitor, she had gone to America. Fergus accepts this story and tells Jamie that he needs to speak to him about their friend, Mr Willoughby. They leave Claire in the marketplace for a few moments.

Once alone, Fergus asks Jamie if Claire will be staying with him. When Jamie replies that he hopes so, Fergus says, “What about...?” Book readers know the truth behind Fergus’ question, but it remains a mystery for tv only viewers at this point. Jamie agrees that he hasn’t had time to think it through, but that he will need to consult Ned Gowan on the law. Leaving that particular problem behind, the talk turns to Mr Willoughby and the trouble he has gotten into. Shortly afterwards, Claire is following Jamie to the tavern known as the World’s End, discussing the fact that Claire had told Fergus the truth of her disappearance, aside from leaving out the 200 year time difference. 

At the World’s End Tavern, Jamie is forced to pay a prostitute for the unwelcome attentions of Mr Willoughby, a Chinese man who, somewhat the worse for drink, has licked the woman’s elbow without permission. Claire begins to introduce herself to the man, with Jamie interrupting before she can utter her surname, announcing her to be Claire Malcolm, his wife. 

After they share a brief look, Jamie leaves Claire with Mr Willoughby so that he can keep his business appointment. This business turns out to be a meeting with an Englishman who Jamie pays to keep silent about his activities. Jamie tosses a purse onto a cask, but the man, annoyed at being kept waiting, is after 25% more “tax”, saying that he has heard that Jamie is dealing further afield to Arbroath and Dundee. Jamie disputes this, saying that he only deals in the High Street and won’t be paying any more. But as he walks away, the man’s parting comment indicates that there may be some danger ahead. 

Returning to Claire, Jamie discovers that she and Mr Willoughby, real name Yi Tien Chao, have been getting acquainted. Mr Willoughby has painted a heroic picture of Jamie, telling Claire how he would have died were it not for him. Claire is impressed and Jamie does not dispute Mr Willoughby’s account, deeming him to be an interesting fellow. Jamie and Claire leave, with Claire addressing Mr Willoughby by his real name and Mr Willoughby calling her by a phrase that Jamie translates as “honourable wife.” The look he gives Willoughby indicates that there is perhaps more to the story however. 

The introduction of this character has also been altered from the book, where the portrayal of Mr Willoughby has been seen by some as stereotypical and potentially racist in the 21st century. TV Willoughby is dressed more neutrally and has a finer command of the language, allowing him to tell his own story to Claire, rather than have others tell it for him. It will be interesting to see this character develop in future episodes. 

Night has fallen and Jamie is leading Claire towards a building that turns out to be a brothel. The woman from the opening scene returns, greeting Jamie warmly, kissing him on both cheeks. 

But Madam Jeanne’s expression freezes as Jamie introduces Claire and we witness a frosty, polite encounter between the two women. There is obvious jealousy on both sides, that Jamie chooses either not to see, or to ignore. Jeanne questions Jamie’s wisdom about bringing Claire to the establishment but he merely asks if his room is ready as they will be spending the night. Jeanne dispatches a maid to see to fresh linen and hot water and watches unhappily as Jamie and Claire walk upstairs. 

Inside, Claire is uncomfortable. With the noises of the establishment audible through the walls, she wonders why Jamie has a room in a brothel, asking if it is because Jamie is a good customer. 

Jamie is quick to explain. He apologises for bringing her to the brothel, but states that it is more comfortable than the print shop. He tells Claire that far from him being a customer of Madame Jeanne’s , she is one of his and that he has a room because he is often abroad on business and it is convenient to have somewhere to come for a hot meal and a bed on short notice. Claire accepts his explanation but it is clear that she is still uncomfortable.

Jamie asks her why she has come back - is it to be his wife, or to bring news of their daughter? Claire repeats that she has come back because she had previously thought him to be dead.

Jamie responds that he had tried hard enough. He asks Claire how she had found out he was alive and she tells him briefly of Roger’s help, adding that when she saw the name A. Malcolm she thought it might be Jamie and decided to take a chance. Still, Jamie wants to know why she has come. Claire asks if he is trying to tell her something. Does he have other ties, another life? Jamie responds that he has burned for her for over 20 years, but that they are different people now, who know each other less than when they were first wed. “Do you want me?” Jamie asks. Claire steps towards him, saying, “Whoever you are, James Fraser, yes, I do want you.” She adds that she might be a horrible person now herself, to which Jamie responds that he doesn’t think he cares. They are about to kiss when they are interrupted by a knock on the door: it is the maid with their dinner.  Once it has been delivered, Jamie firmly bolts the door. 

The next scene begins with them sharing a meal, slowly getting to know each other by telling stories, in the same way that they had done on their wedding night. Finally, Jamie asks Claire the inevitable question: will she come to bed with him? Claire smiles and agrees - and the next anticipated part of the episode begins. 

There are many parallels between the reunion lovemaking and the wedding night lovemaking. Both scenes begin with the slow undressing of each other, as this time they reacquaint themselves with each other’s body. Both are self conscious, smiling shyly and nervously. 

When Claire is finally standing naked before Jamie, she asks him to “bloody well say something”, to which he replies that she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Claire asks if he is as scared as she is and reminds him of their wedding night, when he had held her hand and said it would be easier if they touched. They do, but the initial stage of their lovemaking is clumsy - Jamie’s forehead coming into contact with Claire’s nose and then him crushing her as they lie on the bed. But their giggles soon give way to passion and their first time is urgent, with the joy and relief at finally finding each other taking over. 

Afterwards, they lie talking together, Jamie complimenting Claire’s body and how he can’t keep his hands from her. Claire replies that he has more hair on his chest now and declares their lovemaking to be like riding a bicycle. The term confuses Jamie, but giggling, she explains that it just means they haven’t forgotten what to do. The familiar noises of the brothel break into the conversation and Jamie comments that he should have taken her to a tavern. Claire answers that of the places she had imagined their reunion, she wouldn’t have picked a brothel and asks Jamie if he will finally tell her how he makes a living. She says that he can’t possibly be just a printer, as he is in too good a physical condition.  Lightheartedly, she suggests a few possibilities, as Jamie strolls back to the food and helps himself to some grapes. The two are much more at ease with each other now, teasing and joking together. Claire says that the last time she saw him Jamie was a traitor and he confirms that he still is, adding that he spent years in prison for treason after the Rising. His expression clouds for a moment at this memory, and Claire tells him that she knew that, and a bit more. Again, she asks what he does for a living. 

Jamie answers that he is both a printer and a traitor, with the printing press replacing his sword as a weapon. He has been arrested for sedition, he tells her, 6 times in the past two years, with his premises seized twice. Claire asks what happens when the authorities are finally able to prove his activities and Jamie responds by saying he will likely be hanged. It is said light heartedly and Claire responds in kind, but it is nevertheless a real danger. Jamie asks if she wants to leave. Claire tells him that she did not return to make love to him one time, but that she came back to be with him. Jamie tells her how after finally being able to touch her and knowing her to be real, he couldn’t bear to lose her again. Claire replies that he won’t lose her, adding as an afterthought, “not unless you do something immoral.”

Jamie seems to react at this and Claire asks if there is something else he hasn’t told her. We see him hesitate for a brief second, before the lighthearted mood returns. Printing seditious pamphlets isn’t profitable, he says and admits to smuggling whisky, cognac, brandy, rum and French wine, thereby explaining why Madame Jeanne is his customer. The alcohol is stored in the brothel’s cellar; some going to Madame Jeanne herself and some kept in storage until it can be moved on. 

Claire checks one last time: does Jamie accept part of his payment in trade, adding while she asks that it is none of her business. “Is it not?” Jamie counters and the second lovemaking begins. This time it is slow and tender, with the two looking into each other’s eyes constantly as they reconnect.

Afterwards, Claire runs her fingers over the long scar on Jamie’s leg, asking “How?”
“Culloden,” he whispers, after a long beat.
Seeing the weight of the memory on him, Claire says, “I will never leave you again.”
“You were right to leave,” he says in return. “You did it for Brianna.” He tells her that he knows that she is a wonderful mother and that she has given him a child who is alive and safe. “Because of her,” he says, “we will live forever, you and I.” Tenderly, he kisses her forehead and they sleep, but it is obvious that Claire’s last waking thoughts are of their daughter.

The next morning, Jamie is watching Claire as she wakes. When she looks at him, saying that she wanted to check that he was really there, he tells her that he could watch her for hours, looking for ways in which she is different and yet still the same. He strokes her hair, calling her “Mo nighean donn” and asking if she remembers, which of course she does. They reminisce about the time they had previously discussed what it was like between them and the depth of feeling when they touched. They speak of how they hadn’t known back then why the connection was so strong and still don’t, but the feelings are as strong as they ever were. Jamie says that he never thought he would laugh in a woman’s bed again, or even come to one, except as a brute blind with need. “Is that what you’d do?” she asks, “when you had the need?” Again, he looks troubled and starts to speak, but Claire stops what appears to be the beginning of a confession, telling him that they don’t have to rush things. She only has one question and asks it, unable to look at him as she does so. Had he ever fallen in love with anyone else after she left?

His answer is immediate and honest. “No, Sassenach,” he says. “I never loved anyone but you.” Breakfast threatens to interrupt their third lovemaking session, but Jamie sends the servant away, mischievously answering Claire’s question, “Don’t you want to eat?” with “Aye”. It is not food he has in mind though and the scene fades to black!

When Claire wakes some time later, a reluctant Jamie is finishing dressing. He tells her to go back to sleep, saying that he must take care of some business. Reminding her that she is Mrs Malcolm in Edinburgh, Jamie tells her not to go anywhere until he returns. She tells him that she isn’t likely to move, as her legs are like jello and entreats him to “Hurry back, soldier.” He kisses her once more and leaves. 

A knock on the door comes a while later, while a partially dressed Claire is eating the remains of the food from the previous night. A young boy peers into the room, in search of Jamie, asking Claire if she is Mr Malcolm’s woman. Claire says that she is and asks his name, which he gives as Ian Murray. Realising that he must be Jenny and Ian’s son, Claire introduces herself as young Ian’s aunt, telling the 16 year old that she knew his parents a long time ago. 

“But you’re dead!” he replies, telling Claire that the old women at Lallybroch had said Claire to be a wise woman, a white lady or a fairy, who had possibly returned to the fairies after Culloden when Jamie came home alone. Again, Claire tells her version of her story, explaining that she had gone to the colonies after believing Jamie to have died on the battlefield at Culloden. She confirms when Ian asks, that she has returned to be with Jamie once again. Ian tells her that it’s very fine to meet “Uncle Jamie’s wife” and asks Claire to tell Jamie that he is looking for him. Ian gives one last briefly puzzled smile, that Claire misinterprets but book readers do not, and he is gone. 

Dressed in shawl and shift, Claire heads downstairs, finding the young ladies of the establishment having breakfast. Believing Claire to be the new girl, the others introduce themselves, teasing Claire about her reddened neck and stiff gait, which they say is indicative of a busy evening’s work. They promise to show her where the herbs are for washing and start to give advice on how to avoid pregnancy as well as a trick to ensure that a client’s passion doesn’t last overlong. When a new customer is heard in the other room, the girls begin to complain, until they decide that as the new girl, Claire will have to take him. 

But when Madame Jeanne comes in, she is horrified to see Claire sitting amongst her girls. Expressing disgust that food had not been delivered to the room, she promises that the maid will be in trouble. Claire replies that this is not necessary, as she has been enjoying the chat with the ladies. But Jeanne is insistent that Claire return to the room, saying that she will have the rest of the meal sent up. Claire sees the frostiness of the other woman’s demeanour, but she is sure of herself and Jamie now and is no longer unnerved. With a cheery goodbye to the others, she heads upstairs.

But on opening the door to their room, Claire is shocked to see a man already inside, obviously searching for something. She tells him to leave, but he shuts the door. Dismissing her as a whore, the man tells her to wait on the bed until he has found what he has come for. 

Claire tells him that she is no whore and that this is her husband’s room. The man smirks. “Then you can tell me where he keeps his ledgers,” he replies. When Claire says that she has no idea, he comments that maybe he can jog her memory and moves menacingly towards her. Claire repeats her demand that he get out, but he grabs her by the throat and the episode ends. She hasn’t been 24 hours back in the 18th century and already, Claire is in trouble!

As well as being the most anticipated episode of the season, it is highly likely that this will also be the most controversial. While fans are undoubtedly thrilled to see Jamie and Claire reconnect at last, dissatisfaction remains for many, as to some of the alterations to the story. While ultimately tv and book are different mediums, it will be interesting to see what details appear in future episodes and what else may change from Diana Gabaldon’s words. Of course, we do have the luxury of both mediums now and despite what else happens, Jamie and Claire have certainly been reunited. It truly is “the two of them now.”

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She admits that she was one of the fans who wanted to see Jamie fall completely to pieces, but does think that Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe did a beautiful job of showing the longing and uncertainty of 20 years spent apart. She is certainly looking forward to the rest of the journey, changes or not!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

As the saying goes, The Sum of Its Parts!

Outlander Homepage Originals by Laura Michelle Martin

There are so many blogs out there. Why would I want to put one out there? I could not remain silent regarding the mischaracterization at the print shop.

I have no passion for nitpicking. I gain no satisfaction from pointing out what’s wrong. My joy is found in the lives of these deep rich characters Diana Gabaldon created and gave to the world in all media.

I am devoted to the integrity of the characters and their story being communicated authentically in what they say and what they do where it matters most. Critical thinking isn’t criticism for the sake of saying “that’s wrong”. Group thinking and a mob mentality that “if you don’t like then don’t watch” is a feeble argument. When something is done well, I praise it and if I don’t, I usually move on. This week’s scene at the print shop however, was disappointing at a level that I need to address because TPTB stepped too far out of character and slighted a defining scene in this story.

There was a lot of HYPE going into “A. Malcom”.

It was the one episode that production knew they had to get right. Finally after 20 years apart, after all the years of longing and yearning, the bell jingles at the door of the print shop. He realizes Claire is standing on the balcony and faints falling to the ground rather gracefully for such a large man. Two weeks go by and the anticipation builds. Production said a lot was from the book. That is correct. They also said there would be a few surprises. Correct again. Did the surprises have the desired effect? From the mixed reaction heard across the fandom, well, it depends on who you ask.

There are always going to be compromises in adapting a huge story into episodic television. Some scenes don’t fit across one medium to the other and are changed. Sometimes lines and scenes and the actual voice gets moved around to fit within time and further the plot. Of course there are going to be comparisons to the source material. The show is based on a book! It isn’t unreasonable to make them.
Yes, I can separate show from book and do. The show is an extension of the book. However, there are some scenes that are definitive.
The print shop is one of them. It needed to be clean and cohesive. It is a key scene that production hyped for months. I can deal with additions and subtractions so long as they serve a purpose.

The scene in Jamie’s back room where Claire introduces Brianna to Jamie is an epic fail.
Were there things they got right? Yes. Were there additions? Yes. Were there subtractions? Yes. Does it all make sense? No.
It isn’t about how much is in the book. It’s about what was added, what was subtracted. What would those characters do in that moment? It isn’t about Book VS Show. It isn’t about "it’s in the book" therefore it must be in the show. Matt Roberts KNOWS what’s in the book. Diana consults with them. All the pieces for getting that scene and those moments right were all there. Do all the additions and subtractions serve a purpose? Do they further the plot? Do they echo the motives of the characters? Are they serving the story or serving something else?

Addition: The pictures are in a plastic bag.

This goes entirely unnoticed by Jamie. Not a deal breaker. He is overcome with his wife- HIS WIFE – is standing there in his print shop with him. He is half-dressed, barefoot, and the little detail is overlooked. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that she’s there. He gets a pass.

Additon: Jamie’s glasses. Not a deal breaker.

It was an easy way to age him without having to spend more time in the makeup chair. Good on you, Sam Heughan who is credited with that choice. There was a lovely scene in Edinburgh in a few years where they both get spectacles showing they grow old together, but it isn’t really a big deal in the grand scale of things.

Subtraction: A kiss on the cheek from his daughter.

What a missed opportunity! Brianna accepted Claire’s story. She did the soul searching; did the researching. She wrapped her head around an implausible tale that her father was an 18th century Highlander named Jamie Fraser. She had no idea of his existence. Remarkably she accepted the truth, the idea of him, the idea of her mother loving him more than life and his wanting Bree to survive because he loved his unborn child so he sent her mother back through the stones. He became real to her. She gave Claire permission to go back knowing she might never ever see her again leaving her alone in the world. She gave her back to him. Bree only asked that she tell him about her and give him a kiss on the cheek.

Subtraction: He did not “thoroughly fall(s) to pieces”. This is a big one.

He puts on his glasses and sits down to take a look at the pictures. He asks her name, first word, etc. and it follows the book in dialogue. Yes, you can see he is emotional. His face, voice, and demeanor show it. There is no gasp in going from black and white to color. He is outraged at the scandalous bikini just like in the book. In the book he was so overcome with emotion Claire took over showing him the pictures. He could scarcely take it all in. They sat side by side talking and asking questions as he was introduced to their daughter. This scene is a defining moment. He became Brianna’s father. The child was no longer the prayer he said nightly that it be safe. The child now has a gender, the name after his father as promised, features like his red hair that he could see that were no longer a product of his imagination. Their child became a reality in that moment. He should have fallen to pieces. This subtraction took away depth. Thoroughly falling to pieces is being so overwhelmed and overcome with emotion that he is rendered inarticulate. He sobs and weeps with joy for the gift his daughter is and she is alive, beautiful, and safe. The prayer he prayed was answered and he doesn’t have to rely on faith any more. He now has proof in one image after the other spanning her childhood. He can see she was seen safe. She lived. They both did and now Claire is there the bearer of his child, the love of his life with news of her and the desire to be with him always. It isn’t unreasonable that he would thoroughly fall to pieces. This scene was handled with as much depth as that puddle Claire stepped in when she stepped off the coach. It is no surprise people are not pleased with the lack of care this was given.

Addition: He sees the baby’s red hair and mentions it is like her sister, Faith.

They didn’t mention Faith in the book, but this serves a purpose. It acknowledges the family they made together. It also ties the past and present together. They had two girls and he still had their deceased daughter present in his heart and mind. He never saw Faith. He never held her in his arms. He only ever saw her grave. He always wondered about Bree, but now he sees her likeness and himself in his children. They are his. This is also an addition that honors their history. It honors the love they shared and the family they made together. It makes it that much more poignant that she is giving him the images of his living daughter where she could not with Faith. She could only describe her. They suffered a terrible loss with Faith. When he was comforting Claire in Paris he said they were the only two people who could share in that pain of losing Faith and prayed God would bless them with another child. Bree was the blessing after that loss. They tied that together beautifully for show and book fans. Well done.

Addition: He hands the photos back to Claire. Wait. What? Yes, he hands them back. I could deal with him not thoroughly falling to pieces if he put those pictures in his breast pocket close to his heart. It would show his never wanting to let her go.

Even Cait felt it as Claire
It felt dismissive to me that he gave them back to Claire. He gave back their daughter to her. This man saved a toy snake from his brother. He has few possessions except those that are meaningful to him. He would never part with those so easily especially when he has a portrait of his son. How’s that for a timely transition? Read on.

Addition: He shows Claire the miniature of his son.

This is an epic fail. How awkward and inappropriate is this? Jamie and Claire were eacn other’s second skin. She is back with news of their child. She is miraculously back and standing in the same room with him. She lovingly hands him pictures of their daughter so he would never have to wonder. He hands them back and jumps up to the mantle and proceeds to show Claire a portrait of his bastard son and they talk about him. Jamie comes to life describing Willie. Light comes back into his eyes. Don’t tell me this doesn’t diminish a moment that belongs to Claire and Bree and their family. What purpose does this serve? William’s introduction comes in a few more episodes when they get to Jamaica. I have heard the argument that Bree wasn’t real to him, but Willie was because he saw him, loved him, knew him. Faith was real to him though he never saw her. The idea of Bree was always real to him. She lived in his heart. It isn’t like two strangers are comparing their kid’s baby pictures over a dram at The World’s End. He admitted to being with another woman and acknowledged a huge secret WITHIN AN HOUR OF HER ARRIVAL. It doesn’t make it better that he didn’t love the boy’s mother. It was a slap in the face and to her credit and possibly shock, she handled it rather well. She realized he had a life without her. You have to question the timing of this reveal. This. Makes. No. Sense.

Let’s talk about Claire and her experience. The improbable journey back into the past sees her back with the love of her life. She tells Jamie she wasn’t happily married, but she and Frank loved raising Bree together. She is standing there anxious, insecure, and vulnerable. Those are 3 adjectives that seldom describe Claire. Why would Jamie hand back the pictures of their daughter to her and flaunt his son? How must that feel to her? She would have stayed and died with him!

 She knows Jamie’s had another life as she expected he would. Twenty years is a long time. He is going by an alias. He has secrets. What else is he keeping from her? I have to wonder that while he beats around the bush telling her what he does for a living later at the brothel, when at the first opportunity he tells her about a bastard son that he isn’t likely to ever see again. He doesn’t tell her about his other family up in the Highlands and that he might be a bigamist, yet Willie was an absolute necessity for him to come clean about? Of all the secrets he has, why Willie? He didn’t tell her about L’heery because he feared she’d leave. Did he think acknowledging his son who he wasn’t likely to see was the least of his many secrets? Maybe we’ll find out. I just hope Fergus comes back with good advice from Ned Gowan.

I could go on that I saw a picture with two different hands holding those baby pictures. No, I didn’t catch it while watching.

Someone posted a picture. Honestly, I was wrapped up in the episode as it was unfolding. You catch things in watching again. No hawkeye points for me in that instance, but again, it is the characters that drive this story not the bait and switch of who is holding those pictures. There were additions and subtractions and subtle changes, but they really aren’t a big deal unless they misrepresent the characters.

I find it interesting that Outlander Community, the fan interaction site for Starz, published the print shop scene from the script and it was written that Jamie did indeed fall to pieces, after “A. Malcolm” aired. Matt gets this story. Maril gets this story. Moreover, they know these characters. We may never know why it didn’t make the final cut. All evidence from the books and the 34 episodes leading into this episode paint a Jamie that would not have done what was done in the print shop. A fan on twitter asked Diana Gabaldon if she liked the addition of Willie. When I didn’t think I could love Diana more, she answered. (Insert tweet from Stephanie). So, do I feel validated? You bet I do! No one knows those characters better than she does. There is a disconnect. It doesn’t ring true and I didn’t need Diana or Maril to tell me. There are things Diana has no power to change. Please don’t say “Jamie wouldn’t fall to pieces because…” Jamie did because his creator said he did. No other rationalization matters. Jamie didn’t flaunt his son because it wasn’t the time and place. He was terrified she would leave. Nothing says family bonding like, “Oh, she is a bonnie lass. Can you hold those while ye have a look at my braw lad?”

When I didn’t think I could love Diana more, she answered. So, do I feel validated? You bet I do! No one knows those characters better than she does. There is a disconnect. It doesn’t ring true and I didn’t need Diana or Maril to tell me. Please don’t tell me that if Diana likes it than who am I to complain. There are things she has no power to change. Don’t say “Jamie wouldn’t fall to pieces because…”. Jamie did because his creator said he did. Jamie didn’t flaunt his son because it wasn’t the time and place. He was terrified she would leave. Nothing says, “Oh, she is a bonnie lass. Can you hold those while ye have a look at my braw lad?”

The additions and subtractions have to be grounded in substance and represent who and what are happening and where in a specific context. It has to all add up in the end. It has to be cohesive. Authenticity matters. Substance matters. Make changes where it makes sense and serves a purpose, but please do not do it at the expense of the integrity of the characters that drive this story. Please don’t insult my emotional intelligence. I have enormous respect for this production. I credit the writers, directors, performers, EVERYONE who brings this story to life in this medium. The show gives these characters another “life” and sometimes a different narrative. I beg you see it safe and please don’t take away its soul.

Until “Crème De Menthe”, thanks for reading.

Peace, love, and Outlander.

Laura Michelle Martin is an admin of Outlander Forever, Outlander Homepage and an organizer for Outlander in the City event productions!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

“Gang Thegither” - when original writing and TV adaptations combine! A recap of season 3 episode 5 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown

The thing about good writing is that it really makes you think. When it’s writing that adapts a story that you already knew, it makes you think about things from a whole new perspective. When it’s really good writing, it brings you to new understandings as a result. When it does all three, there’s a good chance that you’ve just watched an episode of Outlander that was written by Toni Graphia. “Freedom and Whisky” was an amazing episode from start to finish, not because of the fact that it contained the beginnings of the longed for reunion between Jamie and Claire, but rather because it brought the perspectives of Claire, Brianna and Roger together in a way that the book doesn’t. In doing so, it complemented the original beautifully. It was clever, clever stuff and an honour to watch! 

The episode begins with an operation in 1968. Back in Boston and back doing what she does best, Claire refuses to stop the surgery even when the patient’s blood pressure is lowering and Joe tells her she is out of time. Using a mixture of instinct and determination, Claire finds the necrosis that would otherwise have gone unnoticed and saves a life. 

It is a short scene, but one that establishes a couple of very important facts: Claire is a talented surgeon back at the top of her game and she will not back down from what she knows to be right, even if it involves danger and risk. As the scene ends, she and Joe share a brief look; hers of satisfaction, his of respect.

Meanwhile in a history lecture, Brianna is doodling on a notepad. While the lecturer speaks of the historical figure of Paul Revere, Brianna is drawing archways. Her attention is captured however, when the lecturer announces the famous poem about Revere’s ride to be a lie, speaking instead of the man who did complete the mission, a man who has been lost to history because, “Revere had a better publicist.” The other students chuckle, but Brianna is obviously affected by the words. After class, the professor speaks to her. A previously outstanding student, Brianna is now failing, not only in history but in other subjects too. If her results do not improve, her future at Harvard is in jeopardy. Declining the opportunity to talk to her teacher, who was both a colleague and friend of Frank’s, Brianna merely says that everything is fine. 

Brianna returns home to an empty house and spends a few minutes lost in nostalgia. In quick succession, she looks at an ornament on the Christmas tree from her first Christmas,  Frank’s armchair, his pipe, (which she smells) and photographs from when she was a baby. 

This is such a clever scene. Much has been written about the character of Bree, as well as the portrayal of her by Sophie Skelton, a lot of which has been negative. But with this simple scene, Sophie Skelton does a superb job of portraying the sadness that Bree is feeling, in a way that must surely give these critics food for thought. With the book shown through Claire’s perspective, readers don’t get the chance to focus on how hard the events have been on other characters too. In a short space of time, Brianna has lost the man she thought was her father, discovered an almost impossible to believe tale about her actual father, begun to reconnect with her mother and become attracted to a man who she has left behind when her mother announced it was time to give up the search and go home. Is it any wonder that she has behaved in what many have said is a “bratty” way? In the few moments of this scene, Brianna has no dialogue, but we are left in no doubt as to the depth of her emotions, her loneliness amplified by the soulful Frank theme playing in the background throughout. Bravo to actress, writer and director, for bringing in another dimension that complements the original story and shows the weight of events on Brianna. 

The next scene begins with a pensive Claire looking at a photograph of Brianna in her graduation robes. Given that he is now the person who has known Claire the longest in Boston, as well as being her closest confidante, Joe notices that his “Lady Jane” is miles away, and comments that she has the look that she had when she first returned from Scotland. Not one to give up, Joe asks Claire if she had met a man and finally gets her to talk in somewhat guarded terms about Jamie. 

When Claire mentions that she had hoped to reconnect but that fate had had other plans for her, Joe responds with his opinion of fate - a line that has fast become a fan favourite. (This is another example of where a writing adaptation complements the book, as it was not a sentiment expressed in Diana Gabaldon’s version!)  A nurse interrupts the conversation with the delivery of some files, but Joe is not about to let Claire off the hook, saying that their conversation is to be continued. 
A taxi pulls up outside the Randalls’ Boston house and with the lyrics of “Show me a man who’s got a good woman” playing in the background, a nervous Roger Wakefield gets out of a cab, telling a disinterested driver that it’s probably the most brilliant or most daft thing he has ever done. As he rings the doorbell, he can hear a spirited argument coming from the two good women inside. He sighs, realising that once again, he is about to be in the middle of a Brianna and Claire quarrel. 

An irritated Brianna opens the door, but her mood quickly brightens at his “Happy Christmas”. She leads Roger inside, to greet a surprised Claire, who tries initially to make light of the situation that he has interrupted. She tells him that Brianna has decided to withdraw from Harvard and move out, a decision that Brianna states is hers to make. With this the argument begins again, with Brianna expressing a little of the emotion that we had seen in her previous scene. She tells her mother that she couldn’t just come back to Boston and be who she was. Despite her trying to do just that, it hasn’t worked. A car horn beeps outside, and Brianna grabs a box of her belongings, telling an uncomfortable Roger that they will hang out the next day. 
Claire insists that Roger stay in the house and, over drinks, they begin chatting. Roger too is readjusting to a different family situation: with the Reverend dead, it is his first Christmas alone and so he has decided to swap the Inverness house of books, dust and old Christmas traditions for an American festive season, where hopefully he will be able to make some traditions of his own. Claire tells Roger of the Randall Christmases, where she and Frank would read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to Brianna, until either she grew out of it, or they did. With a brief humorous mention of the quarrel, Claire questions the reason that Roger has arrived unannounced. She knows that it can’t only be for an American Christmas, but adds that she is pleased that Brianna will have someone with her who understands what she has gone through in the past few months. Fortified by whisky, Roger tells Claire the real reason for his visit. 

Describing himself as a historian who pursues something like a dog with a bone, Roger takes an envelope from his case. He tells Claire that he has succeeded in tracing Jamie; showing her an article written by an Alexander Malcolm in 1765 that quotes lines from a Robert Burns poem that Claire had once shared with Jamie. Given that Robert Burns was only 6 years old in 1765, plus the fact that the writer has used Jamie’s middle names, an excited Roger is sure that the author is Jamie, therefore proving that he is still alive just one year earlier in the parallel time period. 

But Claire doesn’t react in the way that Roger expects. Pacing around the room, emotions rising, Claire says that she could have lived the rest of her life not knowing; that she had shut the door to the past 20 years before. The news that Jamie had survived Culloden had started her hoping, something that she tells Roger she can’t go through again. Roger persists: this isn’t just hope, he says. With this news, Claire can return to Jamie. His face falls though, when Claire reminds him that in doing so, she would be leaving Brianna in the midst of her own personal crisis. As a mother, she can’t abandon her daughter. Roger is crestfallen, immediately asking what he can do to help. 

He agrees to Claire’s request not to tell Brianna of his discovery and retires to bed, citing jet lag. Left alone, Claire spends a sleepless night, looking first at the article, then Ellen’s pearls, as the Jamie and Claire theme plays softly. 

When Claire enters Joe’s office, she discovers him looking at a skeleton. Joe’s friend, an anthropologist has sent the skeleton looking for a cause of death. Claire picks up the skull and describes it as a 150 year old murder victim. On examining other pieces of the body, Joe confirms that someone had indeed tried to cut the woman’s head clean off. He wonders how Claire knew it was a murder victim, to which she answers that the skeleton just “felt like it”. The mystery isn’t completely solved though: although found in a cave believed to be a slave burial place, Joe knows that the woman wasn’t black, by the length of the the tibia bone. 

A somewhat disquieted Claire says that “bones don’t lie.” Joe agrees, adding that they tell all and immediately segues into their previous discussion, asking Claire what she hadn’t told him about “her man in Scotland”. 

Without telling him the full story, Claire admits that Jamie was Brianna’s real father, a fact that she had told Brianna while they were in Scotland and that the revelation is the reason that Bree has been struggling so much. Joe replies that the news explains a lot. He tells Claire that no one had ever thought that Frank and Claire were a perfect couple and that he has watched her live a half life for 15 years. If she has a second chance at love, he tells Claire, she should take it, adding that Brianna will “come round”.

Roger is watching daytime tv when Brianna comes home, a drama called “Dark Shadows”, where the characters are discussing the feelings of a woman time traveller. 

(Interviews since the screening of the episode have revealed that not only was this a legitimate episode of an actual show, but that it also screened on the date that the episode is set: December 23rd 1968. It is a rather amazing coincidence!) After discussing the perils of Roger’s addiction to day time tv, the two begin an hesitant flirtation once again. Brianna tells him that she is glad he has come; Roger says that he wanted to experience an American Christmas, complete with lobster rolls and Boston Cream Pie. Saying that she can probably help him with that, Brianna invites him to a function that afternoon, where a fellowship is being named in honour of Frank. Brianna suggests they go early, so that she can show him the hallowed halls. Roger agrees and they settle in on the couch to watch the rest of the episode.

Later that afternoon, the two are indeed walking through the halls of Harvard, which look remarkably like the ones that Brianna had been sketching in her history lecture. While Brianna is interested in telling him about the cloisters and the fact that they are the only example of Gothic architecture in the building, Roger is more interested in how many people have walked through the halls over the years, what conversations they may have had and what secrets were etched in the arches’ nooks and crannies. 
It highlights the differences between their ways of thinking: as a historian, Roger focuses on the people; whereas despite visiting the place many times since Frank first brought her as a young girl, she has only ever been intrigued by how the arches were built and how each stone is held in place by the pressure of another. It is a formula, she says, based on measurements, calculation and precision and that as a result, there is a truth to the building. Roger comments that she doesn’t sound like the daughter of a historian. This is precisely the point, says Brianna. She isn’t the daughter of a historian, but of an 18th century highlander. Again, we are reminded of her struggle. Roger tells her a story of his own father, of whom he has few memories, other than stories that the Reverend told him. With emphasis that becomes important later, Roger tells her that knowing his father helped him to know himself and that everyone needs a history. But Brianna is not convinced. History is just a story, she counters, that changes according to who is telling it and compares her own story to that of Paul Revere or Bonnie Prince Charlie. History can’t be trusted, she says. It is an important conversation, not only in order to better explain why she has withdrawn from studying history at Harvard, but why she has been struggling in general. Everything she had thought to be true has been turned upside down. She would much rather put her trust in stone and measurements than in people. 

At the service for the bestowing of the Frank W Randall Fellowship in the field of European Studies, Claire finds herself face to face with none other than Professor Sandy Travers, the woman who had shown up at the house on the evening of Claire’s graduation and the woman that Frank had hoped to marry. After a couple of moments of uncomfortable small talk, Sandy confronts Claire. Claire should have let Frank go, she says. 

Despite Frank telling her that he was only staying with his wife for Brianna’s sake, Sandy had known that part of him was still in love with Claire, something that wouldn’t change no matter how much Claire broke his heart. Sandy lived with this knowledge, she says, because Frank was the love of her life and she had wanted him, even if it meant sharing him with another. This is a sad parallel to Frank’s situation, who had known he was sharing Claire with Jamie’s ghost. Sandy calls Claire selfish, making Frank and Brianna live a lie while she threw away 20 years, whereas Sandy would have given anything for one more day. 

As an uncharacteristically silent Claire watches Sandy walk away, Brianna has noticed the exchange and how unnerved her mother is. Afterwards, Brianna asks who the woman was, revealing to Claire that she had recognised her. When in a bookshop with Frank years ago, they had stopped to talk to Sandy and Brianna had noticed Frank look at Sandy the way he had once looked at Claire. Brianna reminds Claire of the promise they had made to each other at the stones; that there would be no more lies between them and so Claire tells her daughter the truth: Frank had loved Sandy for many years and had been planning on marrying her. Brianna then shares one of her fears: if she looked so much like Jamie, then Frank must have seen another man every time he looked at her and must have hated her as a result. Claire is quick to dispel that fear, telling Brianna that she had been the most important thing in Frank’s life and that raising her had been his greatest joy. The dam broken now, Brianna continues. Surely Claire must have resented her then, as she was the reason that Claire had lost Jamie? Again, Claire reassures her. The moment she had seen Brianna and nursed her, she had never felt another feeling like it. She loves Brianna for Brianna, she says, not for the man who fathered her. She does agree though, that she still thinks of Jamie and, adding that there is something else she needs to be honest about, pulls the copy of the article written by Alexander Malcolm, from her purse. Immediately, Brianna recognises the name, and tells Claire that this means she can go back. When Claire tells her that her life is in Boston with her daughter, Brianna counters that she is all grown up and can live on her own. While she loves her mother, she doesn’t need her in the way that she did when she was little. Although she knows this, it is something that Claire doesn’t want to discuss any further.

The scenes involving Sandy have caused much controversy since the episode aired. Some have said that they were unnecessary, given that in the books it was never confirmed that Frank had had an affair at all. Furthermore, others argue, Claire would not have remained silent in such an exchange. To have her say nothing was not true to Claire’s personality. However, these scenes also serve to remind us of the ripple effect that actions can have on others. Again, in the book everything is viewed from Claire’s eyes. We can’t see how others think and feel and here, we can. We can see that the sadness was not contained to just Claire, but that her decision to stay in a marriage where love, despite the best of intentions, had gone, had consequences for others too. While Sandy was a character invented for television, Frank was not. It reminds us again, of the sadness that he endured, tempered with the joy of raising Brianna. Finally, Claire’s actions of finally telling Brianna the truth totally threw her daughter’s life into turmoil, causing her to doubt not only her own family history, but whether Claire and Frank had ever truly loved her. Far from being unnecessary scenes, it can be argued that these are strong complements to the original, allowing us to think far more deeply. 

The next scene too, where Claire, Joe and the other medical staff are watching a broadcast of the Apollo 8 mission, has been criticised by some as unnecessary. Again though, it is important to consider the symbolism of the lines it contains. As they listen to Jim Lovell’s voice, Joe says, “How can you take a trip like that and come back to life as you know it?” 

The answer is, of course, that you can’t. You have seen things that you couldn’t have imagined and your life can’t be the same as it was. This is a direct parallel to Claire’s experience, as she suggests in her following voiceover. Travelling through the stones is as foreign to most people as travelling into space. You can come back to your life, but it can never be the same. Perhaps, she muses, it is enough to have gone once. To contemplate travelling a third time, with all its risks and associated losses, is becoming a decision that Claire is unable to make. The scene ends with the Jamie and Claire music reaching a crescendo as Claire stares up at the moon, whisky in hand. 

In fact, it is Brianna who must make the decision for her. Sitting on their couch, Claire tells Brianna that they may never see each other again and that she is not sure whether she can cope with never being able to see Brianna get married or have children of her own. 

Brianna agrees that it won’t be easy, but that she has realised while trying to figure out her own identity, that she is more Claire than either of her fathers. If she turns out to be half the woman Claire is, she says, then she will be fine. Claire has to go back, she says, to tell Jamie everything about his daughter, so that he will finally know her too. But then Claire shares her own insecurities - what if Jamie has forgotten her, or has ceased to love her? In a beautiful switch of mother/daughter bonding, it is Brianna who takes on the reassuring parent role now, saying to Claire that she has to trust that the feelings she has for Jamie, which are unlike anything else she has ever felt, must be the same for him. “You gave Jamie up for me,” Brianna tells her mother, “Now I have to give him back to you.” The two embrace, with Jamie’s place in the hug being represented by the theme music playing as mother and daughter cling tightly to one another. 

But Claire still requires an opinion that Brianna cannot give her. In their office, Claire puts Joe on the spot: is she attractive sexually? Joe is suspicious, asking if this is a trick, but Claire says that she needs an honest male opinion and he is the only male she can ask.

Joe realises that Claire is asking because of “her man” and Claire admits that she is thinking of giving it another go, but it has been 20 years. Has she changed that much since Joe first met her? With a chuckle, Joe replies that Claire had been a “skinny white broad with too much hair and a great ass”, adding that Jamie would be in heaven when he saw her. It is what Claire needs to hear, but she watches Joe with sadness as he gets his coat. She knows, as he does not, that this is their farewell. She thanks him and they wish each other a Merry Christmas. 

Back at the house, Brianna, Roger and Claire sit around the fire and exchange gifts. Claire has unwrapped a box of coins that Brianna and Roger found in an antique shop, while Roger hands her a book called “Scotland, the Nation.” Claire admits that she has also been thinking about what to take and that she has borrowed some penicillin and scalpels, as they will be needed more in 1766 Edinburgh than 1968 Boston. 

Brianna has another gift, handing Claire a topaz necklace. Not only is it to help her travel safely through the stones, it has added significance as Brianna’s own birthstone. Putting it around her neck, Claire confirms that she did indeed lose two gems in each of her previous trips - from her jewelled watch and Jamie’s ring. Brianna asks how Claire will carry everything she needs and the talk turns to the making of a garment. Brianna teases Claire as to her ability to do so, but Claire assures her that after years of making pageant costumes, she knows what she is doing. Roger is impressed. Claire can have her own utility belt, he jokes, like the caped crusader. As the Batman TV music begins under Brianna’s observation that Roger watches a lot of tv, the scene changes.

By the time the final chorus of “Batman” is done, so too is Claire’s outfit. Looking in the mirror, she then takes care of the grey in her hair.

When Brianna and Roger return, Claire is wrapping the scalpels into a leather pouch. They compliment her new look hair, assisted by “Miss Clairol” and she shows them “the batsuit”, complete with its hidden pockets that will allow her to take all her supplies. Borrowing Brianna’s blouse to complete the outfit, Brianna assures her that it will be perfect, marvelling at Claire’s ingenuity at making the outfit out of raincoats. 

This is another departure from the books, where Claire had gone shopping to buy an 18th century dress. Fans have criticised the making of the “bat suit” as well as the music used - wasn’t this a wasted scene? Yet again, this scene, although undoubtedly different to the novel, serves a number of purposes. First, to the general observer, Claire is a bit of a “superhero”. In the 20th century, she overcomes the prejudice against women and becomes a successful surgeon. In the 18th century she did the impossible, by travelling through solid rock, being impervious to many of the diseases of the time, having knowledge of the future and healing people with her combined skill of 20th century medicine and 18th century herbs. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it highlights Claire’s skills to adapt to a situation. She has made Brianna’s pageant costumes; she knows what type of outfit she will need; she is fiercely independent, so therefore she makes it herself. Thirdly, there was a humorous suggestion that it could have been a nod to Sam Heughan’s previous role as Batman in a touring production. While this one is unlikely, this scene can still stand on its own as important in terms of symbolism - and is certainly arguably more satisfying in terms of characterisation than a one-off moment in a dress shop. Again, it is an example of the tv writing complementing Diana Gabaldon’s original. 

Roger leaves to fetch a “last provision”, giving Claire and Brianna a moment alone. Claire tells her that Roger is a good one, Brianna replying that she knows.  The moment of truth has come. Claire gives Brianna her resignation letter to be given to Joe and the deeds to the house, which are now in Brianna’s name, along with all the bank accounts. Brianna hesitates. She can’t believe that Claire won’t let her come along to Scotland to say goodbye. But Claire recounts the two journeys she has already made: the first time she was terrified, the second, heartbroken. 
She wants this time to be peaceful. If Brianna was with her, she might never go. But Brianna is adamant that Claire is going.

She will miss her  mother so much, she says, but wants Claire to find Jamie and give him a kiss from her. Claire then gives Brianna her final gift: Ellen’s pearls from her wedding night, suggesting that Brianna can wear them on hers. The two tearfully embrace, as Roger returns with whisky as a final “nip for the road.” Claire thanks him for everything and he pours them each a dram. Brianna makes the toast: to freedom and whisky.

It is dark as Claire takes the halting steps down the path towards her waiting cab. Tearfully, she turns and blows a kiss to Roger and Brianna, who watch from the window. Brianna closes the curtains and cries in Roger’s arms, as the cab pulls away. She tells him to stay there for a moment and disappears into the kitchen. 

Then, showing the emotional strength that proves her to be her mother’s daughter above all else, Brianna dries her eyes, puts on a Christmas hat and takes a plate of prepared food from the sideboard. It is time to get on with her own life. 

Roger is waiting for her and laughs at the lobster roll and boston cream pie that Brianna is holding. Planning on starting Roger’s new American Christmas tradition, Brianna suggests that they can watch a Charlie Brown Christmas later on that day. But Roger has a final gift for Brianna. He watches intently as she unwraps a copy of A Christmas Carol. It is the perfect gift and the look on his face shows that he understands her completely. It is a look of love, and of recognition of the loss that she has experienced, both in the past few months and in the past few moments.

Her returning look is of equal tenderness and they share a kiss beyond the impulsive one of the previous episodes. Curling up together on the couch, Roger begins eating as Brianna starts to read and we are left in no doubt that they will both, indeed, be fine. 

This time, we do not see Claire’s journey through the stones. Instead, in a clever parallel to the first episode of season 2, when Frank’s 20th century outstretched hand turned into Jamie’s 18th century one; so too Claire’s 20th century step out of a cab turns into her 18th century step out of a carriage. She has arrived in Edinburgh. 

We watch as she emotionally gathers herself, reacquainting herself once again with the sights and sounds of an earlier Scotland. After a moment, she stops a young boy, asking for directions to Alexander Malcolm’s print shop. Immediately she is told what she needs to know: just down the way and to the left in Carfax Close. The moment is at hand and we see the mixture of disbelief and hope on her face as she begins to walk. 

These looks only intensify as Claire finds herself standing in front of the sign that bears the name “A Malcolm: Printer and Bookseller”. She runs her fingers briefly over the name and climbs the stairs, pausing at the top to touch her hair one last time before opening the door. The bell rings as she steps inside. She looks around for a moment, before starting at a familiar voice.

It is Jamie. Slowly, she advances towards him, her breath coming quickly. Jamie stands on the floor below, examining a page of type, calling to his assistant, Geordie, asking what had taken him so long. “It isn’t Geordie,” she says, haltingly. “It’s me. Claire.”

This is the only time we see Jamie in the episode and, like he always does, Sam Heughan conveys everything without the need for words. We watch his spine stiffen as he hears her voice, watch him turn slowly and then see his eyes widen as he looks up in complete disbelief to see her standing there. 

Their theme song swells as the two of them gaze at each other, before he faints dead away, leaving Claire to take a shocked breath and the episode comes to an end. The reunion will have to wait!

Adapting a well loved book for a television audience is often a thankless task. Every fan will have their own opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done and it is impossible to please everyone.

Even in an adaptation as faithful as Outlander’s has been so far, there have been many discussions on fan forums about the choices that have been made - and this episode was no exception. While the vast majority of the comments about Freedom and Whisky were positive, there were still plenty who questioned the validity of certain scenes. It is perhaps useful to remember the overall effect of the writing as a whole - does it complement the original, so that viewers can consider characters and events with new insight? This reviewer would argue that Toni Graphia has done this to perfection and deserves every accolade going!

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. Her heart was racing the entire time that Claire walked up those print shop stairs and she can’t wait to see the story continue. She also hopes that any criticism of Sophie Skelton stops now, as she thinks Miss Skelton did a phenomenal job portraying Brianna’s conflicted emotions in this episode!