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!


  1. Sam tweeted today that the omission of the falling to pieces was his decision as he felt it would stall the scene and have seemed melodramatic. Don't know why they didn't include Bree's kiss. Don't know why they changed the exact dialogue from the book to introduce the pictures. I personally thought the introductory book dialogue flowed better. While I wish they didn't bring the Willie reveal into this scene, I think it could have been handled better and showed that Jamie was a bit more invested in Bree and more sensitive if there was something, anything, more emotional in between the transition. Holding the pictures to his heart and pocketing them would have been a good start.

    While it shouldn't take multiple viewings to get all the feels (to me it seems like I have to convince myself), the parts I really had a problem with was the Fergus and Wee Ian introductions. They fell very flat and disingenuous to me. Not enough depth, surprise, shock, for this situation...all too matter of fact for me.

    Enjoyed your blog...thanks for your insight.

  2. WOW!!! Extremely well written, and spot on! As a writer, aspiring screen writer, avid all things Outlander fan, I commend and agree with you, Laura, 100%! Now, let's hope having Jamie and Claire reunited takes off from here, and their adventures translate from the page to screen without anymore disappointments.
    Nancy McGehee Guillory

  3. Glad someone made this point. It was the moment I was most looking forward to, Jamie discovering his terrible sacrifice was not in vain. I don't mind Willie being introduced early but the contrast did undermine the significance of both revelations. After the lost opportunity that is Episode 302, I had hoped to see the effects of grief on Jamie so that the lifting of it would highlight the character arc he undergoes throughout this book, emerging from the shadows to be Jamie Fraser once more.

  4. I agree on all your very well articulated thoughts. I have always watched the show with the understanding of adaptation and what you might get and what makes zero sense and in this episode, I was disappointed as well with the addition and deletions. Thank you

  5. This show has so many wonderful opportunities to showcase some very important iconic parts from the book, you often want to scratch your head when they are missed. You have articulated perfectly what my thought were on this episode. I watch each episode with an open mind but with all the hype going into it, I was also a bit disappointed.
    You need to keep blogging. Wonderful job

  6. Thank you Laura! You eloquently translated all I was feeling as I watched the Print shop episode. I was so disappointed! I almost cried at the end, not from the emotion of the piece, rather the emotion of my loss.

  7. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this!!! You put into words what I could not. Do I still love the show? Of course! I loved what Matt, Maril and Cait all did. I am so saddened and disappointed with Sam for wanting to change things. The whole Willie thing was probably the most shocking and hurtful thing that could have happened (not to mention the not falling apart at Bree's pictures). Have I ever nitpicked any other episode? Absolutely not! This is the first and only one. It was the most important one in my opinion. The only one that really mattered. I am so glad you wrote this!

  8. Where have you been ???? I have been out here thinking I was completely insane to be upset , with , the rewritings and odd adds and here you picking them up. Thank you so much. Thank you. You nail it on Jamie and the pictures. But he also seems to smug and harsh with, Claire. This Jamie and shame on Sam for portraying