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Recap on Steroids Episode 206 Best Laid Schemes

Written by Matthew B. Roberts

Directed by Metin Huseyin

The podcast for this episode was narrated by showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and executive producer/episode writer Matt Roberts.

The title card for the episode was a series of torches which would not be familiar to people until seeing where they fit in the episode.

The deleted scenes from this episode are great. You can find them on the DVD and BluRay which can be purchased at our Shop Outlander Amazon shop.   You can also see them on the Outlander America YouTube Channel here.

 

As we noted in our recap for episode 205, originally episodes 205 and 206 were supposed to be together at some point but it became clear that it was too much for one hour.  Matt Roberts notes that their stories play longer than other television shows that he and RDM have worked on together.

The original script called for a dream sequence that turns into a nightmare for Jamie.  In it, Claire chooses Frank over Jamie but the face of Black Jack (similar to Frank’s, of course) haunts him.  When the camera in the actual episode catches up to him, he is still a bit shaken by that dream.  The dream sequence was actually never filmed, even though Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies were actually looking forward to filming it.  Matt said it also served as a way for Jamie to make peace with his promise to Claire to wait a year.

Murtagh walks in to tell Jamie that the duel with BJR will take place in two days but Jamie, strumming his fingers on the desk in his usual way, must tell Murtagh that the duel is off.  Murtagh leaves in disgust.

Claire is at the hospital assisting Monsieur Forez with cleaning a deceased patient.  Forez tells her he has been called to perform his “day job” as the Royal Executioner.  The King is not pleased with practice of the Dark Arts and so this prisoner will not just be hanged, he will be drawn and quartered while still alive.   He hints that this is what happens to both those involved in dark magic but also to traitors.  RDM commented that the scene creeps him out and he always wanted to cut it.  The scene was actually much longer in the original version.  I personally think it goes on too long even with the editing.  Forez hints to Claire that her friend Master Raymond is in danger.

Claire excuses herself and hurries off to Master Raymond’s to warn him.  There were two versions of this script; one had it already trashed by the King’s men and the other, as filmed, with the men not yet arriving.  Matt noted that it would have been crazy for Jon Gary Steele’s set design team to trash it and then have to put it together again.  There are so many small details in that shop.

Later that evening, Claire is being a good husband rubbing his pregnant wife’s feet.  RDM and  Matt note that this is something every husband should learn.  Jamie brings up the fact that he did not agree to wait a year to kill BJR because she had saved Jamie’s life twice.  He reminds her, quite correctly, that he’s saved her life just as much.  He also reminds her that he owes Frank nothing as Claire had a choice and she chose Jamie.  He told her that he delayed to keep Frank alive because of Charles Edward Stuart.

Claire is confused but Jamie explains that even though Charles is a bit crazy and not very bright, there is something about his passion that will make men follow him-even to their death at Culloden.   Jamie, with great sadness in his eyes, asks Claire to promise him that if they get to that point that she will go back through the stones to Frank so that their child will be safe.  Matt Roberts said that he personally would find that something difficult to ask and accept.  So would Frank, Matt.  So would Frank.

Matt felt the promise scene is one of the most important scenes of the season.

Matt and RDM got into a discussion about the fact that both Frank and Jamie are valid partners for Claire.   If Claire had never met Jamie, she would have been fine with Frank.  I disagree.  She was never her whole self with Frank.  I think this may be something that can only be understood by a woman.   Matt did comment that Claire and Jamie are soulmates and you can’t unring the Jamie bell.  (Not to be confused with violinist Jamie Bell.)  Yes, and Frank could never be her soulmate.

The next scene in the book was where Jamie accompanies Murtagh to Portugal to buy the wine before Comte could raise money for the prince.  Murtagh was supposed to fake smallpox but with Jamie’s chronic seasickness, he ends up looking like he has it.  RDM said it would have been a fun scene to shoot but sea battles are difficult to set up and film and it wasn’t worth it for one scene.  As we know, they will be relocating the set to South Africa to film the last third of Voyager on ships.

Instead, they wrote in the scene where Claire uses a mixture to fake smallpox on a reluctant Jamie.  Fergus is adorable in this scene as he is totally not paying attention to “mom” and she knows it.  Murtagh thinks it is charades and games and does not get why these continue to play them.   Fergus and Murtagh leave while Jamie wishes Claire had some Pepto from the 20th century.  They both realize that it is time to tell Murtagh the whole truth about Claire and what she knows about the devastation that awaits the Scots.

Out in the courtyard, a pissed off Murtagh is pacing and a still queasy Jamie begins to tell him the truth in Gaelic in case they are overheard.  The editing here is smart and does not recount things the audience already knows.  I always found it strange that after Jamie tells him the story in Gaelic for privacy, Murtagh responds about Claire being a witch in English.  But in true Murtagh form, he immediately believes Jamie but punishes him for his lack of trust with a good hook to the jaw.  (Or, as Matt says “ a Murtagh reaction”.) All is well with the two of them as Claire watches through the upstairs window.

RDM commented that Jamie and Claire are the ultimate power couple and when they team up, their strengths complement each other.

Claire sends Fergus and Jamie on their way to spike the wine with her fake smallpox concoction with another cute exchange with Fergus.  I really like how they made their relationship closer, quicker in this season.

Claire returns to the living room where Murtagh is still absorbing the news about Claire being from the future.  RDM suggested this scene and at first, Matt struggled with writing it.  He felt by having Murtagh write down all the years of Claire’s 20th century life, it would be real to him.  Murtagh asks Claire if she knows what will happen to them individually and she does not.  Murtagh correctly recognizes this knowledge as a burden for Claire.

We are treated with a nice montage of Jamie and Fergus riding to Le Havre.  These were all filmed as second unit footage, directed by Matt.  They arrive at the distillery in Le Havre which is actually a real distillery in Scotland known as Deanston Distillery.   Fergus spikes the wine and paints the mashed nettles inside their clothing.  A longer, deleted scene shows Fergus was nearly caught.

A tired Jamie returns as Claire awakens to ask him how it went.  Matt commented that he loves that the writers are given the freedom to write in humor as that is just as integral to who Jamie and Claire are as their intimacy.  Jamie jokes about their skills in creating havoc.  He collapses into bed while completing a few barrel roll kisses with Claire.

Back at the brothel, an angry Comte is discussing what to do next with the Bonnie Prince and he’s pissed at Jamie for being late.  (Hey le Dude-he was up all night creating pestilence on your ship.)  Charles decides to have Jamie drive another shipment himself but the Comte doesn’t trust Jamie and says he will join him.  This of course, throws yet another monkey wrench in to Jamie’s plans.

So, plan B (or is that C) is hatched with a fake heist to be initiated by a “French” Murtagh.  Jamie and Claire (who suddenly looks like she’s having triplets) watch as Suzette dresses him in hose and satin finery.  Claire is concerned that this plan is dangerous to which Jamie replies “Tis”.

Claire, hearkening back to the wedding pledge about secrets but no lies, tells him that it is OK to lie to her every once in awhile.  Matt liked this because he felt this was their married couple private joke.  Murtagh is not pleased and asks them not to let him hang in this outfit, which Suzette helpfully offers to get him out of.  IYKWIMAITYD

Once again hats off to Duncan Lacroix who was the perfect supporting actor in Season 3 but for some reason can’t even get Starz support for awards because his name doesn’t end with Menzies.

Later that evening, the ovary popping scene, I mean a lovely scene with Jamie and Claire in bed and bonding over their unborn baby.  Jamie feels his child kick for the first time and speaks to him/her about how he canna wait to meet them.  Sweetness turns to passion and an unsure new father-to-be worries that he might poke the kid in the head but Claire assures him this is not the case.  They begin to make love as we fade to black (the scorn of Season 2 sex…)

This incredibly lovely and hot at the same time scene was added late. Matt felt it was important as it is the first time they are a family.  RDM was opposed to it but now realizes it was important but not for the reason you might think.  He realized that they must reconnect after last week’s fight before breaking them up again coming up.  Yes, technically you are right Ron but once again you are thinking about plot rather than character.  Please try to think about it the other way around.

The men leave for their little fake heist while Claire visits Louise.  She can’t get into the conversation of simple and vain aristocratic women while she is so preoccupied but then chooses to try to plant the seed of sympathy for the poor into their minds.  After all, as RDM reminds us, these rich French women are doomed.  They, of course, don’t get it and she leaves to get away from their foolishness.

In the woods, the wagons led by Jamie and Comte drive straight into Le Murtagh the French highwayman.  (Note back to title card here as they have torches in the wagons.)   Murtagh points his gun at Le Comte who is all, I’m not backing down and so Jamie pretends to save him by jumping onto Le Murtagh.  Jamie gives Murtagh the subtle hint to play it up by knocking him out.

Claire left Louise’s for the hospital where she attends to patients while Fergus plays with Bouton, the amazing diagnosis dog.  She is obviously feeling tired and Mother Hildegarde tells her to lie down.  They both notice the blood on her leg and Mother H. lies to her and tells her it is normal.  Matt Roberts used to be an EMT and has delivered babies before so he knows that Claire, as a combat nurse, may not have recognized any symptoms of problems since soldiers don’t have babies.  Mother Hildegarde convinces Claire to stay the night and Fergus returns home to let Jamie know.

Le Comte and Jamie return to the brothel to break the bad news to the prince.  Comte does not trust Jamie over this but the smart plan to have Le Murtagh gun butt Jamie convinces Charles that he is just unlucky.  The Prince is upset and worries that he will have to return to his mother’s native Poland in disgrace.

Jamie returns home to grab some dinner from the buffet just as Fergus returns from the hospital to tell him that Milady will be staying the night.  They begin to share a meal and here you can see, as Matt tells us, that Fergus has a bad case of hero worship.   Suzette interrupts to tell them that the Prince is drunk and causing trouble at the brothel so Jamie must go to calm things down.  Fergus accompanies him to “guard his right” which are shades of Jamie’s soldiering time fighting with Ian.  Matt admits he likes to throw in nuggets like that.

At the brothel, Fergus wonders around and sees some perfume in a room that he plans to steal for Claire.  But, creepy central because you can see the redcoat hanging on a hook in the room.  (They originally had it on the bed but it looked like a blanket so they re-shot the scene.)  Fergus looks afraid as a shadow looms.  (Oh RDM, if only you had left it there…)

Claire returns in the morning to find Jamie gone but his brace remains.  (In the book, of course, he cuts his hair to keep it out of his eyes but TV Jamie has hair that is not quite as long as book Jamie.)  She is finally able to scare it out of Suzette that he has gone to duel with the Englishman.  Claire is beginning to experience a lot of discomfort but she tells Magnus to get her the carriage.  He insists that she cannot go alone and accompanies her.

The carriage storms out of the courtyard (and if you watch it, the back wheel actually fishtails in a rather dangerous way with Cait in it!)  Claire is upset and worried.  She touches her gold wedding ring wondering if Frank will die if Jamie kills BJR.   She goes back and forth with worry, anger and labor pains.

The duel was filmed in Glasgow’s version of NY’s Central Park and they had trouble keeping cameras away but they really didn’t want to have too much come out early as spoilers.  You can hear the clash of swords before you see them. Claire makes her way to the clearing, in obvious pain. She knows she can’t scream out to distract either man.

Sam and Tobias rehearsed for a few days and performed the duel scene a few times.  Matt commented that they really got a workout!    Claire watches in horror before a very big pain comes and blood drains from her body.  She begins to collapse just as Jamie stabs BJR in the groin and falls backwards.  The filming here is top notch as the French police ride in on horseback and chaos ensues.  Claire screams for Jamie and he forgets all else except the fact that she is lying there in her own blood.

Magnus helps her up to begin to take her home but she has presence of mind enough to tell him to take her to Mother Hildegarde or she knows she will die.  (Cut dialogue here is bystanders commenting that she’s going to die.)

The camera takes us from Claire, to a passed out (dead?) BJR to Jamie’s anguish at not being able to go to her as he is swarmed by guards.  Matt said they talked about who to end on and they end on Claire passing out in Magnus’ arms.

All is not good for the Fraser’s at this point.

 

Picture Sources: Starz, ScreenersTV and Heroes & Heartbreakers

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Title: Untimely Resurrection

Written by: Richard Kahan

Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon

It’s  Episode 205 of  OLA’s  continuing series of Recaps on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps!


gif-apostle-spoons

The podcast for this episode was narrated by showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and costume designer Terry Dresbach.

The title card for the episode was inside the King’s stables with the white horses being brushed and a blanket with the King’s emblem laid over their backs.  This was Richard Kahan’s first script and he did a great job.  You can tell he is a fan of the books as he writes Jamie and Claire very well.

One thing that came into my mind while researching the episode, podcast and script for this episode is that it would be really cool to have one of the actors do the podcast with RDM.    This episode was definitely one of those that would have benefited from that.  I would imagine the logistics of this would be difficult.

The episode begins after the dinner party and the post-dinner fight with some having been hauled away to the Bastille.  RDM mentioned that this show actually ran shorter, but they made cuts as feedback from the studio and network was that it was running long.  (Editorial comment: This is why a bunch of middle-aged white guys should not make decisions about what women want out of a character-driven story of a strong, married couple!)

The previous episode was going to end with a scene with King James as he was going to be invited to the dinner party in an early version of the script.  So much changed for the end of 204 and the start of 205.

The camera pans from the clearing of the dinner table to the chaos of broken items and overturned furniture to a worried Claire.  A deleted scene had Claire stressing by the fire with Fergus joining her to brush her hair.  He explains the story of LaDame Blanche, and through Claire’s questioning, we also learn the story of Fergus.  I thought this was a lovely scene, and one where it showed Claire really coming to care for Fergus as her adopted son and not just Jamie’s.  This was one of three deleted scenes in this episode that I felt added both depth and insights into the characters.

Jamie returns to find Claire still up and Fergus fast asleep.  He picks up their sleeping son and meets Claire in their bedroom.  (Side note:  I like that the script had Jamie kiss Claire on the forehead but in the episode Jamie kisses her hand.  It was sweeter.)

Jamie tells Claire that Duverney vouched for them, but that the Duke of Sandringham fired Alex Randall, since he was still in prison.  They discuss how Claire got away from the attackers (hard to believe that half of 204 and the start of 205 is all the same day!) and she mentioned they called her LaDame Blanche.   Jamie confesses to having called her that at Maison Elise to be able turn away prostitutes without looking unmanly.  At first Claire is incredulous that he could risk her being seen as a witch again, but then realizes that this probably means the attackers frequent the brothel-and that narrows down the suspects.  Jamie makes a mental note to assign Murtagh to watch the Comte, just in case St. Germain still has revenge on his mind.

Jamie sits down, exhausted, on the bedroom couch next to Claire in the script, but I like the choice (by Sam? the director?) of him standing and snuggling Claire from behind while he seems to inhale her.  It reminded me of the snuggle from behind scene in Lallybroch from Season 1, where they express their love to each other for the first time.

The next morning, a kilted Jamie is in his office at the winery talking with Murtagh.  (RDM provided an interesting tidbit that the office was a redress of the set that was the Inn from Episode 201.)  Murtagh confesses that he feels guilty that he failed Jamie by allowing his wife to be attacked.  Jamie reassures him that he was outnumbered, but nonetheless Murtagh vows to lay vengeance at his feet.  Jamie charges him with this vow as he knows a proud Highlander would want it.

Richard Kahan noted something interesting in the script notes.  He said Sam added a subtle subtext to this scene by showing that Jamie, for a split second, also wonders if Murtagh could have done more.  Kahan noted that “Sam brought an awesome subtle flavor” to the scene.

Meanwhile, Claire sneaks in a visit to Mary to see how she is doing.  (Mary’s room is another redress of a set-Louise’s apartment.)  I liked Claire’s purple suit here, it felt very 18th century yet very modern, too.  Mary is writing a note explaining the details of the attack in order to free Alex.  She then confesses to Claire that she and Alex intend to be married.  Claire hides the fact that this terrifies her as it may prevent Frank’s ancestor (the offspring of Mary and Jack Randall) to be born.  She considers not delivering the letter to leave Alex in the Bastille but decides against it.  Richard Kahan was very complimentary of Caitriona Balfe in the notes, saying she is a writer’s dream.  I have read that sentiment from other writer’s as well.

Terry Dresbach explained that Mary was wearing a cute cap here but they get pressure not to put caps on leads.  This might explain why Jamie rarely wears the Highlander cap but Murtagh and Dougal often are seen with one.

Back at the winery, Murtagh has left on his quest and Bonnie Prince Charlie shows up.  He tells Jamie he is rid of the female haze and can focus on their quest. (It got me thinking that if he had been more focused on Louise and their baby, would he have given up or delayed the plan? )  He explains that there is a shipment of wine that is coming in, and he needs Jamie to help the Comte St. Germain to procure it so they can make some money for the cause.  Jamie is naturally not keen on this idea, but has to agree.  The look on his face is one step forward, two steps back in their plan to prevent Culloden.

Alex Randall is released from the Bastille and takes a walk with Claire.  Claire notices he is ill (who couldn’t, the constant coughing is like an anvil saying ALEX RANDALL IS SICK).  She makes a decision to talk Alex out of marrying Mary, given his lack of position and ill health.  Was I the only one thinking that if a man is coughing and obviously has something potentially contagious that the pregnant nurse walking with him should protect herself better?

Jamie meets up with Le Comte at the brothel.  jamie-and-comteIn a great writing/acting decision, the pride of both men intervene as Jamie will only speak English and Comte will only speak French. Jamie gets his point across that he will kill the man responsible for attacking Claire.   The mutual disdain at the table is palpable.

Jamie returns home to tell Claire about the Prince’s plan, and they realize that they must try to stop him.  Claire gets an idea about simulating smallpox, but tucks it in the back of her mind for later.  Jamie presents her with a wooden case containing 12 Apostle spoons that are a family heirloom.  He had Jenny send them so he could present them to Claire as a christening gift for their baby.  Producer Toni Graphia came up with this idea after research.

Claire opens up to Jamie about her fears of being a good mother.  Not only is this a natural way to feel, but Claire lost her own mother when she was five and so has no real maternal role model other than Jenny.  Jamie reassures her that they will learn together.  jamie-reassuring-claire-about-baby A longer version of this scene is part of the DVD deleted scenes.  It’s too bad it wasn’t kept in, especially if the show was running short as RDM noted.

Richard Kahan said that this part of the script went through many revisions.  There was even an intense sex scene at the end of one of them.  But as a new father himself, he felt the more emotional connection was the better way to go.  There must have been some editing on set, as the scene ending with Claire saying “I do love you” and Jamie’s reply of “I love you too, mo nighaen donn” were not in the published script.

Jamie and Claire meet the Duke of Sandringham at Versailles to assist him at a horse sale.  This was originally scripted as  dressage, but the production people thought it would take days to film correctly.  Jamie looks at horses with the Duke while poor Claire must take a ladies’ walk with Jamie’s former girlfriend, Annalise.  Claire’s dress here was an unusual print which I claire-analisedidn’t like when I first saw pictures, but it actually matches very well with the garden surroundings.  Terry commented that there was a lot of criticism when pictures were released during the “Droughtlander,” but that the dress was seen out of context.  I would agree.  She also commented that many said the long yellow gloves looked like dish washing gloves, and to my surprise, RDM said “that’s because people are idiots.”  No, Ron.  I am no idiot, and that was my first thought, too. I love yellow, but that was too much yellow, and since yellow dish washing gloves are kind of an iconic symbol of women 40 years ago, it’s not a stretch.

Annalise comments to Claire that she knew him as a boy, but Claire has made him into a man.  She then notices a man staring at Claire, and to Claire’s horror, it is Black Jack Randall standing in full uniform.  Annalise runs off to find Jamie before Claire can stop her.

RDM said that he and Tobias Menzies talked about how Jack should behave in this sequence.  RDM said that Jack had taken all he wanted from Jamie at Wentworth and so his demeanor should be a bit lighter.  Richard Kahan noted it made him even creepier.  Jack is  thrilled to see Claire and even more so with the fact that Jamie was there.  Claire, whose heart is probably pounding out of her chest at this point, cannot control her contempt; but the King is on a stroll with his entourage and protocol beckons.

Jamie arrives but cannot draw his sword in the presence of the King.  Louis picks up on the fact that black-jack-bowsClaire and Jamie don’t seem to like BJR and he mocks and humiliates him.  Jamie enjoys this very much. Jack notes that he is there to try to help his brother Alex get his position back.  We know that Jack and the Duke have had dealings together in the past.  Two peas in a rotten pod.

Claire pretends to be unwell to be excused by the King.  Once Jamie confirms that she’s OK, he turns back to speak to Jack.  RDM wanted the scene to be from Claire’s POV as she watches in horror wondering what they are saying.  I thought that was an effective choice on the part of RDM.  Jamie returns to her side with a look of utter joy on his face as BJR agrees to a duel, and Jamie can taste his blood at that moment.  On the carriage ride home, Jamie looks like a kid headed to Disney World while Claire’s mind races as to how she can stop this.  Jamie jumps out of the carriage at home to start planning the duel with Murtagh while Claire takes the carriage to the Bastille.

Murtagh and Jamie are discussing duel logistics when Claire walks in looking upset.  She tells them that she signed a petition saying BJR was part of the attack.  She knows he will have an alibi, but it buys a few days for her to talk Jamie out of it.  She even asks Murtagh to leave.

What follows is some of the best acting seen on television, in this or any other 2016 program.

As RDM notes, when Sam and Cait have to fight as Jamie and Claire, they dig deep.  He said that “these two actors can take you places.”  And “Jamie and Claire are the show, and these two characters are brought to life by these two actors.”  (I am biting my tongue about how this doesn’t reconcile well with all the Jamie and Claire cut scenes on the DVD…)

jamie-claire-dirk-205Claire begs Jamie to wait a year because if he kills BJR; otherwise Mary will not conceive the child that will become Frank’s ancestor.  As the script notes, Jamie looks at Claire as if she is insane.  He cannot believe she is asking this of him after knowing all he went through physically and emotionally and how it impacted the most intimate parts of their relationship.  He asks her to kill him instead.  She throws the dirk away and seconds later she pours salt in an open wound by saying “you owe me a life.”

Jamie is a man of honor and agrees to one year.  He kisses his sword in “goodbye for now” (great move by Sam Heughan here as this was not in the script).  She goes to hug him, but he says quietly and coldly…Dinna.TOUCH.me

The scene ends with them being far apart in the room and even farther apart emotionally.

Richard Kahan noted that in one of the versions of the script, Jamie walks from room to room  yelling with Claire running after him yelling back.  (Hey Richard, how did he know that is what goes on in my house during an argument!)  Kahan also said he loved writing the scene and that Sam and Caitriona “elevated it beyond measure.”

The deleted scenes from this episode are great. You can find them on the DVD and BluRay, which can be purchased at our Shop Outlander Amazon shop.   You can also see them on the Outlander America YouTube Channel.

 

All pictures sourced from Starz/Sony, OutlanderAmerica Pinterest.  Last gif sourced from varietyofwords via Tumblr

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Title: LaDame Blanche

Written by: Toni Graphia

Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon

It’s  Episode 204 of  OLA’s  continuing series of Recaps on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps!

dinner-wife-intro

 

If you want to see some very funny deleted scenes from this episode and others, then pre-order the Season 2 DVD or Blu Ray from our Shop Outlander Amazon page here.  It is targeted to be in-homes on November 1st.

The podcast for this episode was narrated by showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and executive producer Toni Graphia who also write the script.

The title card for the episode was a broken wagon wheel and the episode was referred to in the writer’s room as the dinner party episode.

The opening credits include shots of Versailles.  RDM noted that this was mostly done with visual effects that incorporated actual historical shots of Versailles.

The opening scene is of Jamie playing chess with Duvernay but this time, Claire is there.  She is distracting Jamie with baby names, causing him to lose a game.  Initially, the baby naming discussion took place in a more intimate setting but the writers wanted to underscore how little they have spoken about the baby given the logistical challenge of their quest and the emotional wall created by Jamie dealing with the Wentworth aftermath.

The Comte interrupts them and spoils the game.

chess-comte

Claire leaves the table to get a drink.  A sequence cut from this scene includes her overhearing many French women talking about how bored they are and then a few say

I shouldn’t mind making that tall red-headed Scot growl and show his teeth. 

Yes, he can castle my queenside any time.

How do you say I know the feeling in French?

Claire normally would be used to other women admiring Jamie but this time it cuts to the quick as  they have not been intimate in months.  She takes a drink and realizes something isn’t right.  Jamie notices that she is in distress and runs to her side.   They choreographed this scene to make you suspect the Comte St. Germaine but we don’t know for sure if he was the mastermind at this point. The sequence where the royal physician wants to bleed her is cut for time.

Jamie and Claire return to the house.  The interesting this is this scene was shot before the Prague chess room scenes.  Toni commented that they often shot out of sequence in Season 2, even months apart and she noted how the crew and especially the actors, were brilliant in keeping the continuity of the scene and especially the emotion.  RDM said shooting that way is called cross-boarding.

Claire is forced to tell Jamie that Black Jack is alive.  There were many discussions in the writers’ room about how and when she should tell him.  The reveal comes to a head when Jamie wants to throw a dinner party to show Sandringham how weak Charles is so that he will see him as a bad investment.  With Sandringham will come Alex Randall and Claire knows she has no choice to tell Jamie.  They also played around with Jamie’s reaction and decided he would be overjoyed.  Sam Heughan  played this well as the script simply says “this is wonderful news” but he read it as “this is…wonderful news” with a dramatic pause and a look to the heavens as if saying Thank GOD.

Side note:  RDM noted they were well into story boarding for Season 3 at the point of this episode airing.  The episode aired on April 30th in the US so that must mean they had known about Season 3 as early as March, if not before.

Murtagh observes that Jamie seems in a good mood and Claire admits that she was forced to tell Jamie that BJR is alive.  She takes a playful poke by saying “I don’t know what you were so worried about.”  RDM said he fought to keep this scene in.   Unfortunately, it required that the next sequence had to be cut where Claire comes upo Jamie and Fergus discussing which of the women at the brothel likes to talk.  Jamie wanted to know which one he could talk with but not have to partake.  I think it was a mistake to cut this because it would have put an important upcoming scene with Jamie and Claire in better context.  Many non-book readers were disappointed in Jamie for the later scene but if they had seen this exchange, they would have realized his motivation.

I think this is another editing decision that was chosen because of favorite scenes by a writer or producer without thought as to how the audience would interpret or prefer.  While I admire how they tackled a long, complicated book in only 13 episodes, the editing decisions were often head scratchers.  This will become extremely apparent  in episode 207 but you’ll have to wait a bit for that recap!

Claire returns to Master Raymond’s shop.  Both RDM and Toni noted this is their favorite set with so many details that the viewer barely has time to notice.  Toni pointed out something that I hadn’t noticed in the episode.  When Claire is holding up a prehistoric skull, Raymond tells her he is fascinated by things not of this time.  And he is looking at Claire, not the skull.  He knows or at least suspects.  They really wanted to create a sense of mystery about Raymond.

Claire is worried about Frank.  She loved him once and given that she now has met Mary Hawkins, she wants to understand what that means for Frank.  RDM had the idea of throwing the bones on an animal hide, something Claire would remember given her travels with her archeologist uncle.   When Raymond says “you will see him again”, Claire is perplexed but the audience knows this to be true from episode 201.  She receives her magic stone necklace.  This piece is important to later episodes and so they let Terry Dresbach select the stone.

Claire then visits Louise who shows off her new cuckoo clock.  The original script had Louise sitting for a portrait with her monkey and the monkey would escape.  But the production manager said “The monkey stays in the cage!” so the changed the script.  Louise confides in Claire that she is pregnant by her lover.  In a large piece of foreshadowing, Claire tells her that it is possible to raise a child with love even if her husband is not the father.  One version of the script had Louise reveal that Charles is her lover but they decided to have Jamie and Claire figure that out later.

Jamie returns home that evening very much in the mood.  He straddles Claire on the bed and as he lifts his shirt (even Toni gave an impressed woo! during the podcast at Sam’s, um,  assets), Claire notices bite marks on his thighs. Toni wanted to make sure that the audience knows that Jamie would never be untrue to Claire but this was more complicated than that.    The script note says it all “in the long, clueless tradition of husbands throughout time”,  Jamie begins to explain to Claire that nothing happened but he was trying to reconnect with himself so that he could reconnect with her.  Using a whore from the brothel who liked to talk a lot (see cut scene with Fergus), meant he could test that while being true to her.   This leads to a very vulnerable discussion on both their parts; Claire about how she’s tried so hard but this should be a happy time for them and Jamie finally revealing just how deeply Wentworth has impacted his psyche.  This included the infamous blade of grass speech originally from Book 1 that Maril Davis had remembered (thank you, Maril!)  RDM praised Diana Gabaldon’s writing of the speech and as Toni pointed out, words are only as good as the actors who deliver them.

Jamie leaves to sleep by himself in the daybed.  They always wanted to use this for a sex scene and it ended up being right that it be the first time for Jamie and Claire since arriving in Paris.  The blue lighting emphasized that it was just Jamie and Claire finding each other again in the darkness.  RDM ‘s line of Come find me fit perfectly.   Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe both commented in a number of interviews that they fought for a pregnant sex scene and they did it beautifully.  There is a brief moment of shock in Jamie’s eyes where BJR  may have started to creep his way back in but Claire grabs his face and secures her to him.  They are as one in every sense of the word once again.

Jamie tells Claire later that she has helped him start the healing process back to himself.  She has built him a roof with a lean to.    The sounds of banging on the roof brings him face to face with Charles in the window.  Andrew Gower did all his own stunts here from letting them pour water on him to show it had been raining, to jumping through the window and letting Sam tackle him.  An interesting point is that in the book, this is actually the first time the reader meets Prince Charles.  The book is told from Claire’s point of view so it was always her hearing Jamie describe his meetings with Charles.

Charles is injured and through conversation, Jamie and Claire put 2 and 2 together to realize that he is Louise’s lover and the father of her child.  They later plan how they will use this information at dinner.  A pang of conscience over hurting Louise for the greater good is part of it but they close the plan with a kiss as the scene fades to the setting of an elaborate dinner table.  The Jamie and Claire theme plays in the background as we are left to presume that the blade of grass is about to be a 3 room cottage.

Toni and RDM noted how very complicated this dinner party scene was for the director.  They had 16 seats but because the women’s clothing is so wide, they had to limit females.  They have to get Claire out of the house by sending her to Le H’opital to assist Mother Hildegarde.  Toni noted that this scene was almost cut a number of times but she really wanted to work with Frances De LaTour.  (Another time when a writer’s favorite scene takes up time that might have been better served elsewhere?)  A cut scene from here is when Mother Hildegarde tells Claire that she should be a doctor and that she could arrange for her to do an apprenticeship.  Production note: this scene was filmed on day 1.

A fun knife throwing scene takes place outside between Murtagh and Fergus where it seems brothel born and raised Fergus knows more about women than Murtagh.  I always love these two as it reminds me of gruff old uncle scenes.  fergus-and-murtaghToni noted that this scene didn’t move the plot forward as it was pure character and those scenes often suffered in the cutting room during season 2 but she was glad it made it.  (Note, this was the most common criticism of season 2 but part of that is due to the structure of book 2, in my opinion.)

Claire, Murtagh, Mary and Fergus leave to head back home when Murtagh discovers the carriage wheel is broken.  They decide to walk back with Fergus being instructed to go ahead to tell Jamie that they will be delayed.  RDM noted this was complicated with regards to timing of how long they were there, how long would it take to sabotage the carriage, how long of a walk is it, when is dinner served, etc.

Back at the ranch, Jamie beings to greet guests with the first to arrive being the Duke of Sleezingham and his secretary, Alex Randall.  Jamie is aware they were coming but still, as Toni notes, a great shiver runs through him when he sees the resemblance.   The actor who played Alex showed up to the first table read wearing the same glasses as Tobias Menzies.  Too bad they couldn’t have taken a picture of that.

Louise arrives with her husband and comes face to face with Charles who wears his heart on his sleeve.  Awkward!  Murtagh, Mary and Claire walk through the alley when Murtagh is knocked unconscious and a group of thugs attack and rape Mary.  This scene was shot many times and Toni noted it is difficult for the crew to watch.  (Note: If it is difficult to watch film, perhaps extrapolate that might be just as hard or harder for your audience?)  All of the attackers were stuntmen and not actors so they dubbed their lines.  Claire is recognized as LaDame Blanche (the title of the episode that is never explained until 205) and they run off.

When they return home, Mary is taken upstairs and Jamie wants to cancel the dinner party but Claire notes the show must go on, there is too much at stake.  She sedates Mary and leaves Alex to watch her, warning him that she may wake up disoriented.  Uh oh, you know that ain’t gonna be good.

The seating arrangements are strategic.  dinner-partyCharles must sit across from Louise, Duke sits across from Charles and the Comte next to Claire who suspects he is behind the attacks.  We do too as he seems surprised to see her there.

Jamie and Claire’s plan takes shape exactly as they had hoped in that Charles is upset with Jamie’s “accidental” announcement that Louise and her husband are expecting child.  Sandringham takes shots at the pope and Comte makes it quite clear he knows what kind of necklace Claire is wearing. (This is actually extremely important in another few episodes.)

Unfortunately, Mary wakes up and mistakes Alex for another attacker and runs into the parlor.  He tries to tackle her to quiet her and the men from the dinner party mistake it for an attempted rape.  A brawl ensues.  RDM noted that they wanted to make it a lighthearted brawl because a serious one would be over in seconds with Murtagh and Jamie killing everyone.  So, they tried to make it like the 3 Musketeers.  I felt it went on for too long and seemed out of character for them.  The humor is saved when the camera pans over to Fergus in the now empty dining room, enjoying the “spoils of war”.

Don’t forget!  Pre-order the Season 2 DVD or Blu Ray from our Shop Outlander Amazon page here.

 

All pictures sourced from Starz

 

 

 

 

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Title: Useful Occupations and Deceptions

Written by: Anne Kenney

Directed by: Metin Huseyin

These season 2 Recaps on Steroids incorporate an OLA writer’s opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps!

ol-s2-3-jamie-meets-fergus4

The podcast was hosted by Ronald D. Moore (RDM) with guest Anne Kenney who is both an executive producer of the show and the writer of this episode.  RDM noted that unlike their typical episode shooting of blocks of 2, this episode was shot as part of a super block of the first three episodes.

The title card for this episode was a game of chess which takes place both literally and figuratively in the episode (as reflected by the title itself).  RDM noted that they added more French language to the Skye Boat song and to the imagery in the opening sequence.

Before I get into the recap, I will note that it was interesting to me that both RDM and Anne Kenney seemed to find this episode difficult to write and edit.  Both commented that there is so much background information (exposition) in both what was going in historically and the fact that the book is told from Claire’s point of view.  In the book you don’t get to see as much of what Jamie has to do during the day, but here they had to show it.  I got the sense that they were frustrated with so much plot in this season.

The opening scene shows Jamie coming home very early in the morning only to have to change and do his “day job” at Jared’s winery.  This has become the rhythm of their new life with Jamie rarely home and Claire being a bit bored.  But she supports it as the scheme was essentially her idea and Jamie is the primary person to carry it out.  Anne pointed out that although she is bored, they did not want to make her come across as whiney.

Anne misses Jamie in his kilt but notes he wears the French finery very well.  They sometimes pull bits and pieces from other books and so they brought back Sawny, the wooden snake carved for Jamie by his late brother William when they were children.

The scene of Louise, Mary, and Claire playing cards allows for both comic relief at Mary’s innocence and the necessary exposition for Claire to make the mental connection that when Frank showed her his family tree it showed Jack Randall marrying Mary Hawkins.  She can barely concentrate after that.

Anne wanted to show a Claire/Frank scene there, and RDM felt it was necessary to feel like a real love triangle.  This is where I strongly disagree with how RDM views the show.  Once Claire makes the decision to stay with Jamie in season 1, she never once has the desire to return to Frank.  She just always wants to make sure that Frank is never harmed in any way as she notes more than once that he is “innocent in all of this.”  I think RDM feeling this way explains some writing and editing choices.  It’s probably a debate that will continue into Season 3.

Magnus (butler) and Suzette (Lady’s maid) are shown more prominently in this episode (in more ways than one!).  I loved both characters and actors.  Magnus is so very French when he says zee search for zee little snake continues after Claire returns home.  You can tell that he thinks it is quite silly but is loyal to his household as well as his lord and lady.

Murtagh hooking up with Suzette was not initially the plan.  Anne thought it might be interesting to have him feel an unrequited love for Mary Hawkins, and although they didn’t play it that way, there is a bit of a reference to it in later episodes.  Having Murtagh be with Suzette also gives Claire an excuse to visit Master Raymond again to get birth control for her maid.

The writers discussed how to have Murtagh react when Claire tells him that BJR is alive but that she has not yet told Jamie.  They all felt that it was appropriate for him to agree that Jamie should not be told for fear of getting into more trouble.  RDM liked the chemistry that develops between Murtagh and Claire in this episode.  Originally he had edited the script for that scene to be done on a beautiful balcony that had been built by Jon Gary Steele’s team, but the director chose to keep them inside.  It is hard to tell in a podcast, but RDM seemed annoyed by this.

The title card takes center stage as Jamie is playing his afternoon chess game with Msr Duvorney.  The setting for these games was shot in a beautiful library in Prague.  RDM scouted that location in Prague, but was that there for the actual shoot.  (As an aside, I am surprised at how little the show runner is actually on set.)

chess

Anne doesn’t play chess, so the way writers create scripts in this case is she will write “Tech” in the areas where she doesn’t know the chess moves.  It is short hand for additions to be put in by those with technical expertise on any particular subject.    At work we called them SME or subject matter experts. RDM noted that when writing Battlestar Gallactica scenes, he had many scripts with Tech written everywhere.

Another interesting set notation is that the market outside of Master Raymond’s apothecary is actually the courtyard of the apartment set, just repurposed for these scenes.

Anne commented on Claire’s beautiful yellow dress.  She asked RDM where the clothes go after shooting, and he said Sony has an archive of the best or most iconic pieces.  Some of the secondary or extras clothing will get repurposed for season 3.

Master Raymond helps Claire and her daytime boredom by mentioning that they need volunteers at the L’Hopital.  RDM noted that the hospital exterior was Prague, but the interior is Glasgow Cathedral.  It just goes to show you how everyone has to work together to not let the viewer realize that walking into the hospital and actually being in the hospital are shot months apart in different cities. Kudos to the actors and crew.

I loved Claire’s plum suit in this scene; it reminded me almost of an 18th century business woman’s suit.   Here she meets Mother Hildegard, played to perfection by 3-time Olivier Award winner Frances de LaTour.  (For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, she played Madame Maxim.)  RDM noted they saw many French actresses before Frances was cast.  Really?  You made this icon audition?    Apparently they auditioned many pups for Bouton, the diagnosis dog, too.  I wonder if Frances had to do chemistry tests with them!

While Claire is emptying bed pans and tasting urine for diabetes diagnosis, Jamie is back at the brothel.  He is caught between a rock and a hard place as Msr Duverney and Bonnie Prince Charlie discuss financing the war, and Jamie learns that the prince has been working some side deals to get money.  Charles makes Duverney an offer he can’t refuse, and Jamie keeps a (barely) composed face as his plan falls apart before his eyes.

RDM noted that they spent a lot of time discussing the political process of the day because it was “wildly confusing.”  As I mentioned earlier, in the book from Claire’s POV all of this plot is exposed as Jamie tells her the story of his day, so they were creating this from nearly scratch.

The script had many, many revisions in this part.  In fact, when they were working in the next block of episodes 204 and 205, they had to go back to make more revisions in 203 so that everything lined up properly.  Anne noted that they struggled with how to tell enough without making it boring.  RDM said that it was like giving a history lesson without giving a history lesson.

(Side comment: Anne and RDM really conveyed the frustration and difficultly of adapting the Paris part of the book. I think we will find that Season 3 will feel more like Season 1 with the major exception that Jamie and Claire spend a lot of time apart in the first third of the book.)

Jamie returns to the house to tell Claire what he learned only to find her not there.  They wrote this scene a few ways.

First Cut: Claire discovers an annoyed Jamie. Anne felt it made Jamie look too much like a jerk.

Second Cut: They made sure to show the emotional journey Jamie went through as he waited for Claire so the audience would share Jamie’s stress.

The book version is more 18th century man/20th century woman (i.e. cut 1), but they wanted to show more of Jamie’s side.  They also had to get  more exposition in there of Mother Hildegard being a musical prodigy and the Goddaughter of the Sun King.

Anne noted that this scene was important because they had to come apart only to come back together.  They had extensive conversations with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe as the two had concerns about how to move forward with the plot.  (An aside about Sam and the script, whenever the  word baby was written, he changed it to bairn.)

It is important to show that Jamie and Claire are a team but they need conflict and drama too.  There were a lot of writer’s room discussions about their “fight” as it gave Claire a sense of what a real 18th century wife would have to deal with.  Interestingly, RDM felt that Claire would have been unhappy as a 20th century wife after the war as she would have had to go back to a more traditional role.  (I think this is always one of the interesting things about Outlander in that the 18th century husband was often more progressive than the 20th century one.)

Jamie leaves angry after they have their disagreement, and Suzette clues Murtagh in on their problems in the bedroom.  Murtagh knows how these two usually are in that regard (he even comments about it when Claire finds him with Suzette) and he is concerned.

RDM made a comment here in that he didn’t want the show to be about when Jamie and Claire were going to have sex again.  But I kind of think they set it up that way by having two BlackJackus Interruptus scenes in the first two episodes.

Jamie returns to the brothel, tired and miserable in both his personal life and his political one.  There is a weird body painting scene of one of the prostitutes (which took up too much time, in my opinion) that was RDM’s idea.  The one good thing out of this scene is that Jamie notices what our friend young (soon to be) Fergus is up to as the boy deftly cleans tables and pockets.  Jamie is at first amused, and then a lightbulb goes off over his head about the value Fergus could bring to their cause.

The book scene of Jamie meeting Fergus is very different with Jamie followed to the dock by a bunch of men and Fergus helping him.  Anne felt it was too complicated.  I liked the revised scene better but it did mean we lost one of the more iconic lines about entering a brothel with a very big sausage.

The chase scene happened in Scotland.  I noticed Sam was slipping and sliding in this scene.  I think perhaps those very awesome boots were a little too slick on the bottom.

ol-s2-3-jamie-meets-fergus5

Romann Berrux as Fergus is perfection in casting.  RDM said they wanted someone who was French but could speak English.  He commented on the child labor laws that they must follow.  I think you have it easier than the showrunner of Stranger Things, Ron.

The funniest part of the podcast was when they said they refer to Jamie’s sporran as his Mary Poppins bag as he keeps so much in there it seems to be bottomless.

Jamie and Fergus make a deal and Jamie finds that Fergus had lifted Sawny in his nightly pick pocketing.  They both return to the house where Claire wakes up to the noise and finds Fergus munching away in the dining room.  An amusing set commentary here is that the bedroom and the dining room were the same set, so these were obviously filmed at different times.

The distance between Jamie and Claire is literal and figurative as they walk down the hallway, separated by walls in their apartment and in their relationship.  This scene was well directed and acted; it made me really feel for both of them.  They need each other but have so many things pulling them apart.  Jamie explains his plan for using young Fergus (formerly Claudel, which “wasna very manly”).

Fergus begins stealing letters for Jamie and Murtagh who copy them and try to decode them while Fergus returns them.  RDM really wanted to show some actual pickpocketing but production felt they couldn’t pull it off.  Jamie and Murtagh find some letters that are actually music, and Murtagh remembers that Mother Hildegard knows both German and music.

murtagh-jamie-decoding-letters

RDM noted that in the book this scene went on for a very long time (as some scenes do in this book series), and one scene was between Jamie and Claire talking about trust.  They were talking about the letters but were really talking about themselves. There was a hint of using it later, but that would be impossible given that it takes place in France.

 

Back at the hospital, Bouton is diagnosing an infection.  The actual pulling of the wood from the man’s leg was filmed later, and those aren’t even Cait’s hands in the scene.

The hospital scene is a turning point for Jamie and Claire.  Jamie makes the gesture to come to her this time. Claire backs him up when Mother Hildegard is a little suspicious of the motive for his request.  Both appreciate that in each other and once again they realize they are better together.

A little comic relief in the form of Claire knowing a little something about Mother Hildegard’s friend Johann Sebastian Bach.  Jamie looked quite proudly at Claire there, as he is reminded at how much more she knows.  That was not in the script, but a nice touch there by Sam Heughan.

mother-h-j-c-piano

RDM noted that it is rare for Diana Gabaldon to give a nod to the time travel within the regular plot, and so when she does it is effective.

The music helps Jamie decode the message and discover that the other snake in this episode, the Duke of Sandringham, is involved.  Jamie is happy for the progress and grateful for his wife’s support so, as with Episode 202, we end with Claire wondering if/when to tell Jamie that Black Jack is still alive.  I felt that for the entire hour, we barely moved forward with the exception of finding out that Sandringham is playing both sides and of course, meeting Fergus.  The majority of the episode seemed there for exposition, which we will see play out in the next two episodes.  Stay tuned in two weeks for the Recap on Steroids of episode 204.

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Picture sources: Starz

 

 

 

 

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Title: Not in Scotland Anymore

Written by: Ira Steven Behr

Directed by: Metin Huseyin

Approximately, every two weeks, OLA will be publishing an episode-based Recap on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps as they take many hours to prepare and create!

Red Dress (source: Starz)

The podcast was hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) with guest Terry Dresbach, who is currently nominated for an Emmy for Outlander Season 2 costume design.

The title card for this episode showed the dressing of French noblewoman, Louise De Rohan.  Terry noted that this dress was the most complicated dress of the entire series.

Before I get into the recap, I will note that this episode was one of my least favorite of the season.  It was interesting to go through the podcast and script with that in mind as certain comments or notations helped me to understand why I didn’t like it as much as so many of the other episodes.  Then again, even a less than satisfying episode of Outlander is still better than most anything on TV.

The episode opens with Jamie and Claire making love.  Immediately you notice a few things; Jamie’s back has no scars, his hand is not mangled and he and Claire are happy.  However, all of that becomes an actual nightmare when Claire’s face morphs into Black Jack Randall’s and Jamie repeatedly stabs him with his dirk until they are both covered in thick, dark red blood.  Jamie wakes up in full sweat from the nightmare.

I really liked the notation in the script that said “in the 3AM of Jamie Fraser’s soul, Black Jack Randall lives on.”  It described the entire scene perfectly.

RDM noted that this was an unusual opening for two reasons.  First, they almost always open with exterior shots and in this case you went from Jamie’s head to their bedroom to the exterior shot.  In addition, writer Ira Steven Behr felt it was important to remind the audience that Jamie was still dealing with his Wentworth rape.  (It’s interesting to hear more about this opening as the writer took credit for it in the writer’s notes as did RDM but Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe said they felt it was important for Jamie and Claire not to resume their sex life as if nothing had happened.)

The second difference for this scene as a show opener is that the original opening for the script called for Claire to be massaging oil into Jamie’s hand to help heal it then ask if Jamie can make love to her finally.  The lovemaking turned violent nightmare happened after that.  I am glad they made the change as the original opening had weak dialogue and did not seem at all to be things Claire would say.

<As a side note, this makes me once again wish for one of the extras on the Season 2 DVD to be a camera in the writer’s room.  I’d love to see the creative process.>

RDM asked Terry Dresbach if the outfits would have been Jared’s to loan to Jamie and she said no, he would have had them made.  She also noted that Sam is 3 sizes bigger than the actor who played Jared.    She said Claire would have gone to a dressmaker as there was no such thing as clothes off the rack in those days.  She discussed her inspiration for dressing Claire as 1940’s Christian Dior (who used the 18th century as inspiration) and the fact that as a modern woman of the 1940’s, Claire would have dressed a bit like a fish out of water.  This is the first time in her 18th century life that she is in charge of her own clothes so she would have dressed in an acceptable yet different way.  The first outfit, is the famous CD Bar suit.  I recommend visiting the YouTube video of Terry giving a summary of the Season 2 costume strategy (note it also contains a great discussion of set design as well).

What I found most interesting is that Terry always has a strategy in both her overall approach and almost a running dialogue in her head as to why an outfit was chosen by the character.  It is clear to me that costume design is a whole lot more than fabrics and buttons.   Every 18th century costume you see from people walking the streets of Paris to the dozens at the party for King Louis were dressed by her team.  They have to get on set at 3 AM on days where there are a lot of extras to dress.

The exterior Paris shots in this episode were filmed in Prague months after the interior shots were done in Scotland so kudos to the cast for making it feel seamless.

Claire sets out to visit an apothecary to help Jamie sleep better and avoid nightmares.  Master Raymond’s apothecary shop was something that Terry and set designer Jon Gary Steele were most excited about.  It was typical for an apothecary of its day including the stuffed crocodile.  The script notes that the sign outside says Raymond, the Herb Seller.  Raymond’s coat is Terry’s favorite and is worth a closer look.  It is embroidered with alchemy and diseases/cures.  For example, look for the large yellow eye on the front that is meant to represent yellow fever.   Terry notes that it was also important that Master Raymond’s assistant (Delphine) was dressed as a middle class person and not a servant.  In the script, Raymond and Claire discuss Louise and both agree that she is outgoing and interesting, yet very shallow

.Raymond and Claire (Source: Starz)

Costume choices for Jamie and Murtagh were meant to be simple yet represent their status.  Terry notes Sam was dedicated to wearing the kilt during parts of Paris so when they did dress him in pants, he still had to maintain the heroic look.   There were many discussions about the bandage for his left hand.  Terry calls it the “sexiest bandage ever made” and the writers discussed its importance and Sam gave input on flexibility.  It was felt that it served multiple purposes; some practical and some emotional.  Terry said Jamie might be embarrassed at his mangled hand so the bandage hid it to avoid questions yet was flesh colored as well.  The writers felt it would also mean Sam would not have to remember to hold his fingers stiff if the bandage was on, yet if you look at scenes throughout Season 2, Sam always remembers.

The sword practice between Murtagh and Jamie shows that Murtagh will give Jamie no sympathy just as Jamie would expect.  It also slips in the little fact that dueling is outlawed in Paris, something we will sadly find out in greater detail later in the season.

The beautiful gray dress Claire wears back at the house when Jamie receives word from Jared that Prince Charles will receive him is one of my favorites and I believe we see it again in 207.  The sash/chain she wears was one often worn by women of the house and contained anything from a sewing kit to smelling salts.

Jamie informs Claire that they will meet the prince at a brothel and that gets an eyebrow raise from Claire as it would from most wives.  Many fans noted that Sam’s hair looked different throughout this scene and it was clear that some of it was filmed at the end of the season when they go back in and do “pick-ups” or retakes.

Jamie and Murtagh meet up at the brothel where Prince Charles holds court.  RDM and Terry discussed how brothels in 18th century Paris are not the bawdy whorehouses that you typically see portrayed in American westerns.  Women working in these brothels were often well bred and were expected to be able to have an intelligent conversation in addition to their other “talents”.    The scene with the women waving/selling dildos was originally discussed as just more bawdy stage act.  RDM loved that scene while Terry did not and I would agree with her.  I think that’s one of the times you can tell both the writer and editor were guys.

It is in this scene that we first meet Bonnie Prince Charlie (BPC).  Terry discussed his costume versus the others and since he is of English birth but brought up in Italy, so she felt he had a little Versace in him.  This meant he got the salmon colored coat, one that would not look good on a very tall redhead.   Andrew Gower (BPC) did a very good job in this role throughout season 2 and I would agree with RDM that he played it so that you could believe he was inspiring to men yet at the same time very annoying and not quite up to the task.  Terry said she loves Andrew and that he is really very good looking but managed to make you believe he was this big goof.   <As an aside, Andrew sings and you can find some short videos of him out there as well.>

Ira wrote the first “Mark me” as a way for BPC to note when he was saying something important.  Andrew picked up on that and would often insert his own Mark Me into his scripts.  This, of course, became the Outlander Season 2 drinking game on Saturday nights.

I loved the non-verbals in the first scene with Jamie, Murtagh and BPC.  It’s quite amazing to think that this man who was the cause of the wiping out of Scottish culture had actually never stepped foot in Scotland.  Murtagh’s expression was that he wasna buying what BPC was selling and Jamie had an oh crap look on his face.  The important part of this scene was that Jamie was honest with him about what was really going on in Scotland in order to try to dissuade him from the rebellion.  Jamie felt that he had to try the honorable way first, before he started working to betray the prince’s trust.  Just diving into the betrayal would have gone against JAMMF character.Jamie Murtagh BPC Brothel

(Source: Starz)

Meanwhile, Claire is having an interesting time of her own.  She is at the home of her new friend Louise de Rohan, a free-spirited yet simple minded French noblewoman.  Louise is going through the new fad of waxing.  RDM noted that they did not want her naked in this scene so Terry made a robe that covered her up yet gave glimpses of sexiness.  (I thought the actress, Claire Sermonne,  used the robe beautifully as a prop.)  Claire’s dress was again 1940’s inspired and somewhat like a masculine suit.  Women of that era took over many men’s jobs while they were fighting the Second World War and so a more masculine style of dress influenced fashion.)

Louise has a bikini wax and tells Claire it is a new way of turning men on.  Claire is desperate to help Jamie through his difficulties in bed and decides to give it a try.   Later that night in their bedroom, she shows him what she’s done.   Jamie almost gets there but not quite.  Sam and Cait play this very sensual  and the “you’re honeypot is bare” brings a smile as Jamie is both intrigued and aroused.   For a while, Claire thought her plan succeeded until BJR breaks through.

A discussion in the writer’s room changed this from the sensual time in the book to one that would be a problem.   They felt it was important to keep that intimacy separate for a little longer since intimacy is so important to Jamie and Claire, but Jamie is not ready.  Terry asked RDM how he deals with people (i.e. book readers) who are upset about changes like that.  He explained that in a book, the author can talk directly to you but that’s not possible in TV.  (I don’t think that quite answered the question!)   I think RDM can get a little defensive when fans push back but at the same time he must get that a lot and it is a big, unenviable challenge to adapt a very popular piece of literature.  For the most part, I liked some of the small changes made this year to the story itself.

Probably the most anticipated scene of episode 202 has to do with the red dress with the neckline down to there that Claire has made to attend King Louis’ party (thanks to Louise’s connections).   I loved the shade of red and especially the killer shoes Terry designed but I found it to be so wide as to look silly. She looked like she had a 2 x 4 in the back.  Terry noted that the red earrings (and all her earrings in fact) came from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Sam and Cait (and Duncan) played this scene very well with probably my favorite line being “Christ Sassenach, first your honeypot, now this” in sotto voice to show Jamie’s great sense of humor.   The brilliant shade of red stands out in the crowd as the Frasers make their entrance.  Jamie runs into his former love interest (Annalise) and once again the non verbals in the scene are the best.  Jamie looks like he wants to crawl under the table, Claire is playing both the slightly threatened wife and yet the confident wife teasing Jamie while Murtagh looks on in pure bemusement.  That part of the scene was great.  However, I hated Claire’s hair-styling here.  I thought it made her look old, which is crazy since Caitriona looks younger than her actual years.  The contrast was even starker as a clean-shaven Sam with his hair pulled back looks like the mid-20’s Jamie that he is as did the actress playing Annalise.  It left me with a love/hate feeling for that scene.

The party was filmed in Wilton Palace in England and the bridge outside of the palace has been used in a previous filming of Pride and Prejudice.  (Unfortunately, they did not note which version!)

Annalise’s connections get Jamie (and at Claire’s insistence, Murtagh) to meet the king.  Unfortunately, meet the King means attending his bathroom duties.  Executive Producer Anne Kenney loved this scene but I did not (and neither did Terry).  It was only 2.5 minutes but felt like 10.  Both RDM and Terry loved Lionel Lingeler as King Louis and I thought he did a great job throughout the season as well.  But this scene was quite unnecessary, IMO.

One of their favorite secondary characters was the Monsieur Duverney, the Minister of Finance.  RDM loved the actor (Marc Duret) and said he brought a lot of small interesting things to the part.  Terry notes the contrast between the rather plainly dressed men of Scotland to the French nobleman.  They gave him an extended part by attempting to seduce Claire on the bridge to be able to tie him back to later plots.  RDM felt it was better television to hear the splash after Jamie tosses him over the bridge than to see it.  Marc Duret came up with the idea of trying to dry his long wig by the fire and then putting on the silly thing when the King arrived.  A nice comedic choice, I agree.

The arrival of King Louis in all his splendor along with his mistress in her Janet Jackson-esque swan nipple rings was an important scene (he makes note of Claire) and unnecessary in that we had to see these nipple rings at least three times as Murtagh drools.  RDM loved the multiple side shots of this and Terry did not.   (Editorial comment: Maybe Ron should stop thinking like a guy and start thinking about what his mostly female audience would like.)  Terry cracked me up in her discussion of designing the swan nipple rings at her table while her kids asked her what she was doing and she casually answered “designing nipple rings”.

The initial script had one of the French women asking Murtagh what a Scotsman wears under his kilt and Murtagh obliges to show her.  This was cut but I wonder if it will make the DVD.  It was not in the final script so they may not have filmed it.

Claire has the shock of the night times two when she first runs into the smarmy Duke of Sandringham.  Murtagh is NOT happy but Jamie must remind him that to draw your sword when the king is present means death.  Sandringham takes great pleasure in introducing Claire to his secretary, the younger brother of Jack Randall.  Alex Randall not only looks like BJR but he proceeds to tell Claire that his brother is very much alive.   Claire does not know how Jamie will take this news as he has already been struggling mightily with the aftermath of Wentworth.   The fireworks over the palace resemble the fireworks in her head as she struggles to decide her next steps. In the meantime, Sandringham slithers away but not before giving her a “gotcha” smirk.

RDM notes that Simon Galloway has such fun playing Sandringham (and it shows).  Terry commented that although his dress was fancier than the Scots, it was still subdued compared to the French. They also discussed the resemblance of the actor playing Alex Randall to Tobias Menzies.  RDM said that there had been some discussion as to whether Tobias should play Alex but he felt that was too much.  It also did not make as much sense as they changed the story in the book from Claire actually thinking Alex was Jack to one of more straightforward introduction.  (Personally, casting Tobias would have been a small shark jump moment.)

The episode ends with the audience wondering if/how/when Claire should tell Jamie that Black Jack is alive and if this will put Jamie over the edge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: Through a Glass, Darkly

Written by: Ronald D. Moore

Directed by: Metin Huseyin

Approximately, every two weeks, OLA will be publishing an episode-based Recap on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps as they take many hours to prepare and create!

LeHavre 201Source: Starz

The podcast was hosted by Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and also included post- production members Michael Hall (an editor who worked with Ron on both Battlestar and Star Trek) and Alicia Bessette who focuses on sound and music.

The beginning of Season 2 was actually filmed in a super block of 3 episodes versus the more traditional block of 2 episodes used for Season 1.  Each episode must be approximately 59 minutes and 35 seconds of actual TV time.

Book fans noted right away that the show began not in 1960.  Instead, RDM chose to start it just after Jamie sends Claire through the stones in a heart-wrenching farewell that will ultimately be shown in episode 213.   RDM noted that originally they wrote the beginning of S2 as the end of S1 after the beautiful shot of Jamie and Claire on the ship to France.  Frank’s feet walking into the hospital would have been the start of 201.   They discussed this with the network who wanted the more beautiful ending.  Good call, Starz.

It actually was interesting to watch 201 over again after seeing the entire season.   It really connects where Claire was just moments before and her anger that Jamie’s wish of returning her to safety in the 1960’s worked.  The significance of the loss of the ruby from Brian Fraser’s ring will be made clearer as the “rules” of time travel are learned.  (My personal opinion is she needs the jewel to go back but that the pull of Jamie will always be enough to get her safely through the stones whenever she goes back in time.)

Michael Hall’s primary job in this episode is to cut and edit the multiple shots of scenes into one cohesive scene for television.  He noted that there was originally a lot more voiceover when Claire comes through the stones but he cut that to be more cinematic.  According to the script, Claire has a conversation with Jamie about wishing she was dead but she knows she made a promise to him.  She tells him that she could not have born the thought of seeing him die at Culloden.

The scene with the Scottish man confronting Claire on the road was filmed very late in the series.  I recall an interview with Caitriona Balfe where she was annoyed  about how it came together so she channeled that emotion into her anger with the man in trying to learn the fate of Jamie, Murtagh and clan Fraser at Culloden.  Her grief is just as palpable as if she had learned of it 200 years before.  I encourage all who watch all of Season 2 to rewatch this episode with that in mind.

The transition to the theme song (introduced for the first time partly in French) ends with a title card of Wee Roger holding his plane.  RDM noted that making the title cards significant became a “thing” in Season 1 and now great care goes into them.  Because of that they have become more challenging for production.  Matt Roberts handles the title cards and they must be 16.6 seconds.

Alicia Bessette selected the music that was playing in Claire’s hospital room as Frank approaches her for the first time.  She described how hard it is to find music that fits the era, was playing in Scotland at that time and that they can get cleared for TV.  In many cases they are lucky in that Sony’s Music division can be very helpful. The music reminds Claire of how noisy the 20th century was, just adding to her desire to be anywhere but there.   And while she prepared herself for the Frank/BJR resemblance, it still startles her.

Fun fact: The dog walking by as Claire looks out the window belongs to RDM and Terry Dresbach!

As an aside, even though some of the podcast tidbits were interesting, I found myself getting annoyed during the podcast that it was all production and not much story.   For instance, when Claire is eager to share her story with Mrs. Graham and she believes her, none of this was discussed in the podcast.  Yet, I thought it was an important part of the story in both Claire needing to tell someone and that someone would not only believe her but perhaps help her find out what happened to Jamie.  But seeing how much they loved talking about production  did help me understand the mental filter that RDM most likely uses to make certain creative choices.  I think he focuses more on a good television show rather than the good story.  It’s neither right or wrong but I think some times filter improves things and sometimes it hurts things.

The scenes with Claire and Frank led to a discussion in the podcast.  Alicia Bessette was Team Frank as was RDM.  I found this to be interesting as these are the people who edit the story.  (For the record, Team Jamie all the way here.)  RDM is amused that the fans get upset. My problem with that is not so much that he’s kind of ignoring what his “customers” like but that it can create a mood that may not be true to the story.   In the end, the creative process is subjective.

In the scene where he wrote Frank accepting Claire’s “affair” with Jamie, RDM associated that back with episode 101 where Frank tells Claire he could forgive her for having an affair during the war. I see it in a different way.  I think Frank forgave her because he himself had affairs (and SPOILER ALERT will continue to have them as they raise Brianna).  end spoilers

RDM stated in the podcast that Frank wants to be a noble guy with moral courage.  I saw it as avoiding the humiliation he felt when the police told him to accept that his wife took off with another man back when Claire first disappeared.  I accept various points of view on Frank; the original book version, RDM version, my version.   I wish the TV version was closer to a mix of all three.

Michael Hall was very impressed with the performances of Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe as they discuss where Claire has been for the last few years.  Tobias left for England as this scene was being cut and stopped into the editing room to see the scene.   Michael Hall notes that Tobias was very humble about it and asked “did I get it?”  Michael told him it was an Emmy worthy performance.  He hated to cut anything.    They filmed that scene in only 2 takes and he loved the way Cait performed Claire with great restraint when she really just wants to send him away.  She sees BJR in Frank’s anger but just as in the 18th century, she’s not backing down.  I wonder how much Tobias and Cait bring back and forth to the scenes when they are playing opposite each other as either Frank/Claire or BJR/Claire.

Frank tearing apart the Reverend’s tool shed was executive producer Ira Steven Behr’s idea after the first draft of the script and also took 2 takes as the crew was tired of setting up the shed again.  Good thing Tobias is good at breaking things!

Alicia Bessette noted that the Reverend Wakefield’s house was a very cool home in real life, although the exterior and interiors were two different houses.  She said that sometimes you would be surprised at the small details that require attention including things like there was  no white trim around windows in the 1960’s.

I was hoping that they would discuss the scene where Claire agrees to stay with Frank and where she starts to take off her ring.  This was not in the book and both author Diana Gabaldon and executive producer Maril Davis had to talk RDM out of writing it that way.  OLA was fortunate to attend the NYC premiere and there was a noticeable gasp from the audience when she attempted to take off the ring.  It was simply not who Claire is.  If she chose to keep Frank’s ring on during her years of happy marriage to Jamie, there is no logical reason why she would not do the same in reverse.

The scene on the airplane flying to the United States was almost entirely done with CGI except the window.  The transition was originally nothing special but Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told RDM it was boring and to make it more cinematic.  I was a little taken aback that they landed in New York first but maybe there were no direct flights to Boston in the 1960’s.  I feel your pain, Claire.

Many will notice that there was a date error when Claire and Jamie exited the ship into Le Havre France.  The note on that scene showed 1745 when the correct date (and noted in the script) was 1744.

I recall that Sam Heughan said that he wanted to play Jamie as half a man in these early episodes and that he should look different right down to his hair.  (As an aside, I hated his hair in these first few episodes because he didn’t look like JAMMF but I think that is exactly what Sam was going for.)

Other random observations in this episode from the podcast.

*Cait is always spot on with her instincts in her voiceover work and they rarely require multiple takes unless she wants to try something else

*The network occasionally aske=s Sam to Americanize his accent in a few scenes as his brogue is too thick and hard to understand.  This will also happen from time to time with other Highlanders.

* It is hard to cut scenes said in French when the editor doesn’t speak French but Maril Davis is fluent.  Is there nothing she can’t do?

*I was disappointed that some of the humor in the script between Jamie and Claire was cut for the program.  I think non-book readers miss a lot of what makes their relationship so special and humor is one of them.  Most edits seem to be for time constraints.  It’s quite amazing to read how much more they film that never makes it.  Adding up all the episodes and you could probably save a month of the filming season.  However, I hope many of the missing scenes in Season 2 make it to the DVD.  (You can pre-order the DVD or blu-ray  at the OLA Amazon store.)

RDM noted that the scene where they watch the Comte’s diseased ship burn was originally written by him  with the following exchange:

Jamie:  Another country, another enemy. Life with you is never dull, Sassenach

Claire: If you want dull, you should have married Laoghaire.

Cait asked RDM to cut that line as she thought it wasn’t appropriate for the moment.

It was learning that plus what Sam said about Jamie at this point in time so soon after Wentworth makes me confident that Cait and Sam know and care about their characters as much more than just an acting role.

 

 

 

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Dragonfly in Amber
[for the sake of cohesion, I’m not writing this scene by scene as I normally do]

“Children accept the world as it is presented to them”. Reverend Wakefield’s words couldn’t be more true. Brianna only knows Frank as her father.  As she describes him to Roger I can’t help but think, Huh??  But that’s Bree’s reality. However, for someone who seems to love her dad, she’s asking an awful lot of questions regarding who he was and what he was like. Because she knows there’s a back story to her parents’ marriage. And for some reason, she only wants to learn of it after Frank is gone. Because of his temper? Because sometimes after death we idolize someone and don’t want to face the fact that they weren’t as perfect as we’d like to remember?  I love the references she makes about her mum “living in another world”, “she’s insane”.  It lead me to think that Claire has never been 100% present in Bree’s world. That a part of her, for the past 20 years, has been somewhat cut off at times, when she may have allowed herself to turn inward and return to Jamie in her mind. She may never have spoken of him, like she promised Frank, but Frank couldn’t control her thoughts.

Bree is sensitive, argumentative, ready to battle her mother at every turn. That could be grief talking. Or young adulthood. Because Bree is at a point in her life where she notices relationships, and how they work.  What she may want in one, or doesn’t want.  And because she knows there’s an “incident” in her parents’ marriage, the curiosity is killing her. She’s desperately trying to make sense of it. And we witness for ourselves how she tries to talk to her mother about it, but Claire shuts it down.

I love how she is with Roger.  It’s the 60s, and she’s forward and blatantly teasing/flirting/interested in Roger and giving him lots to think about.

Older Claire. The voice tone is different, measured, controlled. This Claire doesn’t put her foot in her mouth.  This Claire thinks before she speaks. I love the conversation between her and Roger in front of the fire. He’s asking how you say goodbye, thinking she’s talking about Frank, when in fact, we all know she’s talking about Jamie.

At first, I found the transitions between the 1960s and the 1700s very jarring. I didn’t like it.  It was too harsh.  But after a while I realized that it very much mirrored Claire. Her present life is having to face the harshness of her past life. And she doesn’t mourn her recently passed husband, but her long dead husband. Which is why the trip to Lallybroch broke our hearts.  When she is faced with her happiest memories and she sits on those stairs and pictures Jamie, her Highlander, Laird of Lallybroch, he isn’t looking as she last saw him, but as he is in her mind. Strong. Tall. Handsome. God, one might even say, Majestic. She feels him on her lips and closes her eyes in remembrance of all she wanted. And had to live without. And we see the crack. The very small fissure in a very tough exterior that is Dr. Claire Randall.  And then, she visibly pulls herself back together again. That’s how she’s done it. That’s how she’s lived for 20 years and managed half a life.

And when Claire is on Culloden Moor and the woman asks if she’s a Fraser, Claire says, “Yes. I am.” and gives a small smile.  Because now she can finally claim her true identity. She can freely call herself Claire Fraser. And she can finally speak to Jamie and of Jamie at the same time. Through Brianna. Brianna IS Jamie to her, in looks and manners. She could always share everything with Jamie, and he would listen.  And she does, again.  And only when she’s come back to him to tell him that he was right, and Brianna is alive, can she say goodbye. Their story wasn’t finished until she could tell him he had a daughter.  And now both soldiers, she and Jamie, can rest easy.

When she’s back in Inverness leaning against the car, it echos the very first time she’s in Scotland. Dreaming of vases and settling down. That Claire, on that trip, was cute and bouncy and happy. This Claire is serious and melancholy and guarded. Which war did more damage? History may say it was WWII but not for Claire. Culloden changed her forever.

Did anyone else catch the parallels in Brianna and Claire’s confrontation? Because in this moment, Bree is Frank.  And Claire is repeating the same speech she gave Frank when she returned, speaking of another man that she loved deeply.  But Bree is also Jamie, because she wants honesty, where Frank really didn’t want the story at all. Brianna states that Claire isn’t perfect, just as Frank declares that she is not the Virgin Mary, and they both accuse her of being fucked by someone else. And once again, Claire reiterates it was all so much more. In the face of their anger, she will not diminish who and what Jamie is to her. Claire tells Bree that she didn’t want to fall in love, that she fought it, yet it was the most powerful thing she’d ever felt in her life.

Also, when Bree talks about “every other bored housewife” did anyone else think she was referring to Frank’s affairs? Because I sure did.

And when we flip back to Culloden we see a very desperate Claire. A reactionary Claire. The direct opposite of the Claire we’ve just seen in the 60s. And it’s a different Jamie. Flashback to Jamie back in Paris telling Murtagh he would never stoop to regicide, but now, NOW he’s looking at Claire considering her plan. We see how Culloden has changed and shaped Jamie as well. Jamie is cold and tired and really, really gaunt. (Well done, Mr. Heughan. I believe you are as weak as you say you are.)  And he is 100% done with Bonnie Prince Wackadoodle thinking he’s Jesus Christ. This is why Jamie can entertain Claire’s plan. Because the Prince is quite clearly, out of his mind. It’s changed him enough that he’ll commit murder. And he does. To protect Claire. To protect Scotland. It’s just not the murder he expected to commit. But in order to move forward in this desperate attempt, one more obstacle has to be overcome. And in the midst of battling Dougal the look on his face says, “don’t make me do this, Uncle”. And when Claire joins in, the sheer horror on both their faces gave me chills.

When it’s time to leave the camp, we finally see the depth of Claire’s love for the first time. She begs Jamie to run away with her. She begs him to let her stay and die with him. Jamie accepts his fate, but Claire will not. Until they speak of the child. And in the middle of this turmoil we have Jamie’s small smile, and Claire’s in return as they share this beautiful secret. And as Jamie once told her that she was his home, she tells him that now.  And she tries to argue, but you see Claire give way to obedience. Remember (as I’ve mentioned before) when Claire promised Jamie before he punished her, that she would do what he said, even if she didn’t agree with it? (Ep. 109)  Claire proves yet again that she loves and respects Jamie. Jamie never demanded her obedience. It was Claire’s to give freely.

The Stones.  My God, the Stones.  The reversal of roles.  When Jamie stops Claire from going through the first time because he isn’t ready, she does so now. And again, Jamie gives Claire choices. He lets her decide how to tell Frank. In some small way he probably expects Frank to believe it, because he believed it. He doesn’t doubt Claire. He trusts her implicitly. Claire knows Frank is different. But how can Jamie conceive of someone who doesn’t literally worship Claire like he does? Claire begs and it’s heartbreaking. Claire Beauchamp hasn’t begged once. Not once. Except now. And as Jamie lists his crimes you can tell in his voice he regrets none of it. Because it’s been for Claire. And as he tells her he will stand before God, and punctuates his sentence with kisses, you can hear in his voice all the love he feels for her, and you can hear his desire for her rising. When he takes her to the ground it echoes the moment in the glade when he says, “Does it ever stop? The wanting you?” Because for Jamie it never stops. Never. And he’ll have his wife before she goes. And as the cannons distract him, he nods at Claire but this time she doesn’t nod back. She doesn’t. And won’t. Because in this they are not Team Fraser.  Instead of repeating the vow “Blood of my Blood” as she did on her wedding day, Claire initiates it.  And they stare and memorize each other’s faces as Jamie walks Claire back to the stones. Her “I love yous” are so much more passionate than the first one she said at Lallybroch, so long ago. And Jamie is so moved by it. And the fact that he keeps nodding and she won’t respond is breaking my heart. Claire will not lie. She will not give him any indication that this is okay with her, because it’s not. Honesty pledged is honesty honoured. Jamie’s voice breaking on her name, it’s too much. I can’t even see through my tears to type this stupid sentence…

Finally, when Brianna accepts her mother’s word, and echoes Jamie’s words of “I believe you. I don’t understand it, but I believe you” Claire cannot contain herself. Bree’s acceptance plays beautifully across her face. Then, when she asks for honesty, it’s more than Claire could hope for. Jamie’s daughter, indeed. And as gotham-ruaidh so eloquently reminded me, the sun breaks over Craig Na Dun in the form of Jamie Fraser.   “…and the sun came out, in the person of James.”– Outlander, “A Marriage Takes Place”

Other Thoughts:

Richard Rankin does an amazing job of showing us how Roger is hit by the lightening bolt that is Brianna Randall.

Gonna go all shouty caps here and say THE TRANSITION FROM BRIANNA SLEEPING TO JAMIE GAVE ME CHILLS. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.

I like Geillis in this episode.  I like seeing her past.  And I like how it won’t clog up Voyager and take time away from the scene we will be waiting for.  And I LOVE, “Why are you here?”  And did anyone else catch the hesitation in Geillis after Roger introduces himself???  Ah, time travel.  How do you work?

Murtagh’s bow to Fergus. Perfection. Fergus’ nod to Jamie.  And Jamie’s nod back.  Frasers.  Family.  And Murtagh, Godfather until the end.  His promise to Ellen, to watch over Jamie.  Even if it means dying together.

Fucking barbeque.  Fucking barbeque???? Nicely played.

I’m gonna say it again.  Dragonfly in Amber is a beast of a book to get through. And the writers did an amazing job of cutting it down into manageable pieces and making it coherent. However, I’m excited for the new writers next season and what they may bring to the table.

But I want to end by saying that the cast was stellar this year. Extraordinary. Sam Heughan’s acting is nuanced but the way he uses his voice as a tool is outstanding. He delivers lines like no other.

But Caitriona Balfe stole every damn scene she was in this year. Every. Scene. She was beyond amazing.  I love her Claire so much more than book Claire. We really are lucky to have them.

 

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‘Outlander’ Review: “Dragonfly in Amber”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

From the upscale halls of Parisian royalty to the blood stained battlefield on Culloden Moor, Outlanderbrings fans on a life-altering journey with season two. The monumental season two finale, “Dragonfly in Amber” effortlessly weaves together the 1745 and 1968 storylines, introduces two, fan favorite book characters and leaves fans with an emotional pit in their stomachs.

When season two of Outlander began, fans learned that Claire (Caitriona Balfe) had been sent back through the stones to 1948 leaving Jamie (Sam Heughan) behind. Not only had Claire returned to Frank (Tobias Menzies), but she was also pregnant with Jamie’s child. Now after twelve, emotionally charged episodes, fans return to the future storyline, this time in 1968. Writers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts do a beautiful job at bringing Diana Gabaldon’s book to life as they effortlessly intertwine the 1745 Battle of Culloden with Claire’s 1968 storyline. With the 1745 storyline feeling claustrophobic and rushed, the 1968 storyline breathes and lets the weight of Claire’s decisions fully sink in. More than any other episode the repercussions of time travel are at the forefront. Outlander is about time traveling and dealing with those consequences and the season two finale gets back to that basic theme.

Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

After an entire season of waiting, fans were finally introduced to Roger Wakefield MacKenzie and Brianna Randall Fraser in an epic 90-minute finale. Following so much secrecy surrounding Brianna and Roger’s introduction into Outlander, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin were formally ushered into theOutlander family. Rankin brings his A-game and brings Roger to life with as much heart and charisma as his character has on the page. One of his first outstanding scenes in finale comes between him and Balfe. After Claire and Brianna arrive in Inverness after the passing of Roger’s adoptive father, Reverend Wakefield, Claire begins to relive the mistakes of the past. One night when she can’t sleep, Roger and Claire have a heart to heart about saying goodbye to those you love. It’s a small scene in the grand scheme of the episode, however it introduces Rankin as a formidable scene partner for Balfe. Rankin’s ability to be the calming voice amongst a sea of chaos in this episode of Outlander proves he’s the right man to bring Roger to life.

When it was first announced that Outlander would come to life on TV, the first thing fans did was dream cast their favorite characters. Of course, Jamie and Claire were at the top of the list, but next came their daughter, Brianna. The actress stepping into the role had to embody characteristics from Heughan and Balfe and be able to bring this eloquently crafted character to life. Seeing British actress Sophie Skelton bring the role to life in the finale is something truly special to witness. From the moment she walks the halls of Roger’s house, Brianna Randall Fraser has leapt off the page in the most perfect way. Skelton has several key moments in the season two finale. Between her chemistry with Rankin to going toe-to-toe with Balfe, Skelton proves herself in this episode.

Caitriona Balfe in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Caitriona Balfe in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

With more storylines going on than ever before, each actor on Outlander steps up their game and delivers truly remarkable performances. First off, Caitriona Balfe leads the cast with such fierceness and heart that it’s hard to separate Balfe from her character. Only leaving the screen a few times in the finale, Balfe gives her second best performance this season. Between Claire’s life in 1745 to her new world in 1968, Balfe effortlessly separates the two versions of Claire, while still maintaining a common thread: a constant love for Jamie. Balfe has several Emmy award worthy moments in the finale and for some of them she doesn’t even have a scene partner.

With Roger showing Brianna around Scotland, Claire decides to visit a very special place: Lallybroch. In one of the most emotional moments, Claire pulls into the abandoned estate and it’s hard not to shed a tear for the place that housed so much life and promise in the 18th century. As Claire exits her car, voice overs from past episodes come flooding back reminding her of everyone and everything she left behind. With no dialogue uttered, Balfe delivers a remarkable performance. With a beautiful score byBear McCreary, coupled with a silent, sobbing Balfe, Outlander proves it can thrive in the quiet moments as much as the big ones. What really brings this scene home is when Claire is seated on the steps of Lallybroch and envisions a strapping Jamie standing in the entrance. As Heughan voiceovers a beautiful poem, Balfe weeps. Any fan will surely remember this scene and it’s all thanks to an utterly speechless performance by Balfe.

The next cry-inducing moment for Claire comes in 1968 when she visits the Clan Fraser memorial on Culloden Moor. Again, a scene that only consists of the beautiful Scottish scenery and a perfectly executed monologue by Balfe. “Here I am,” Claire utters to Jamie’s grave. Claire says she isn’t going to cry, but I never promised anything. In a heartfelt moment, Claire tells Jamie all about Brianna. How she is named after his father, how she was raised and every detail she can possibly remember. This small moment is where Balfe truly shines and proves she can own a scene even when her scene partner is a rock.

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

Although the actual Battle of Culloden doesn’t take place in this episode, tensions are high as the Clans prepare to march into battle. Tensions seem to be the highest between Claire and Jamie as the duo decide whether or not to kill Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Andrew Gower) before the battle commences. Of course, nothing can go as planned for the duo as Dougal (Graham McTavish) overhears their entire plan. In one of the most intense scenes in the episode, Jamie and Dougal fight in closed quarters. Heughan and McTavish bring a monumental book scene to life as Dougal’s world comes crashing down in front of him. With one last struggle, Jamie turns Dougal’s knife on him. A great addition to the TV show from the books, Claire assists Jamie as the great Dougal MacKenzie takes his last breath. Between seasons one and two, McTavish brought Dougal to life with equal parts intensity and heart. Dougal’s death and McTavish’s absence will loom large on Outlander going forward.

Before I discuss the gut-wrenching final Jamie and Claire scenes, let’s go back to 1968 for a second. After exploring Scotland with Roger, Brianna begins to piece together her parents past. When she discovers the news article about Claire’s disappearance and realizes Frank couldn’t possibly be her real father, Brianna confronts her mother. Skelton does a great job and combining characteristics of both Jamie and Claire to create Brianna. She has Jamie’s heart and Claire’s scientific mind. So, when Claire begins spewing some “nonsense” about time travel and her real father dying during the Battle of Culloden, Brianna doesn’t believe her at all. This is a scene book fans have been waiting for and both Skelton and Balfe did it justice. It was a rare sight to see Claire step back and be a lesser presence in a scene with another character. If anyone was going to loom larger in a scene, it would be her daughter. Skelton and Balfe do an incredible job at establishing their mother/daughter bond from the beginning. It will be wonderful to see Balfe and Skelton grow that bond going into future seasons.

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

Outlander may thrive on time travel, war and perilous historical situation, but at its core it’s a story about love. No matter where you place Jamie and Claire, their love story will come bubbling to the surface. Jamie makes the harrowing decision to send Clan Fraser back home to minimize casualties. Before the battle begins, Jamie first must get Claire to safety and then he will come back and die in the battle alongside Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). With this decision, Outlander delivers a gut-wrenching farewell that should earn the two stars Emmy nominations.

There are two major parts to the Jamie and Claire farewell. Both scenes fans have been dreading since season two began. The first part comes when Jamie tells Claire he has decided to send her back through the stones at Craigh Na Dun. If this scene was a test before the final goodbye, I failed miserably. From the moment the camera pans and you see Claire’s face as she realizes Jamie’s plan, I was a goner. On top of Jamie telling his plan to Claire, he also reveals that he knows Claire is pregnant. In order to save Claire, their child, and to keep his legacy alive long after the sun sets on the Battle of Culloden, Jamie must say goodbye to his love. Heughan and Balfe nail this scene. Heughan brings Jamie’s conflicting emotions to life while Balfe perfectly encapsulates Claire’s grief. The duo continue to amaze audiences and critics alike and it has been an honor and pleasure to watch them work.

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

Like I said, there are really two major parts to this goodbye. The second part probably qualifies as the scene that fans used the most tissues on all TV season. I should’ve bought stock in Kleenex before this scene because an entire box of tissue met its demise. Claire and Jamie ride to Craig Na Dun and it’s there that Heughan and Balfe deliver one of their best scenes this season. From Balfe’s gut wrenching pleading to Heughan’s stoic moments, Outlander shines the brightest during this scene of total defeat. Balfe and Heughan exceed every expectation and bring this pivotal scene from Dragonfly in Amber to life.

“Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.” Heughan delivers this iconic line from the novel perfectly. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, Heughan is the breakout star of Outlander. He has grown so much as an actor during the first two seasons. Heughan, alongside Balfe, have brought two iconic fictional characters to life with grace, heart and tenacity. This final goodbye between Jamie and Claire showcases Heughan and Balfe at their strongest. With one final kiss, Jamie steadies Claire and walks her towards the stones. A beautiful moment perfectly executed by every department onOutlander. From the synchronized choreography executed by Heughan and Balfe to the incredible location to the writing, Outlander proves it’s a heavy hitter. With one final tear down Jamie and Claire’s cheeks, Claire passes through the stones leaving fans and Jamie utterly heartbroken.

Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin and Caitriona Balfe in the Outlander episode "Dragonfly in Amber." Photo Credit: Starz
Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin and Caitriona Balfe in the Outlander episode “Dragonfly in Amber.” Photo Credit: Starz

Back to 1968, Roger, Brianna and Claire come across Gillian Edwards (Lotte Verbeek), Geillis Duncan before she travelled back in time through the stones. In the last five minutes of the episode, Claire, Roger and Brianna rush to the stones to stop Geillis from going back in time and ultimately dying. In an unforgettable moment, Roger, Brianna and Claire witness Geillis travel through the stones and in that exact moment a number of things happen. One, Brianna now believes Claire’s journey into the past. Second, if fans pay close attention they can hear Roger and Brianna mention the buzzing near the stones. Only time travelers can hear the buzzing near Craigh Na Dun, which means Roger and Brianna can travel back in time. An important plot point book fans will know a lot about.

Now that Brianna believes Claire about Jamie living in the past, she asks Roger to reveal some pertinent information. In a heart warming moment, Roger tells Claire that five Fraser’s made it out of Culloden and were taken to be executed. One Fraser escaped and survived: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. With tears in her eyes and her daughter by her side, Claire looks to the stones and decides she needs to go back and find Jamie. A beautiful full-circle moment perfectly executed by Balfe, Skelton, Rankin and the entire crew of Outlander. With this final moment, Outlander season two comes to a heart-breaking, but hopeful conclusion. From high-society Paris to the Battle of Culloden to 1968 Inverness, Outlander accomplished a lot this season and gave fans a hell of a ride.

Looking ahead, for fans that aren’t prepared to go into “Droughtlander” pick up Gabaldon’s third novelVoyager. Start preparing for a season of learning more about Brianna and Roger as well as Claire’s tireless efforts to reunite with Jamie. Until then, this reviewer (and sassenach) raises a glass of whisky to a heart pounding, Emmy-Award worthy season two of Outlander.

Outlander returns with season three next year on Starz

Overall Grade: A

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OUTLANDER REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE

Outlander
Starz

As the second season of Outlander officially concludes Saturday night, many fans have recently binged on, discussed, and reexamined the past twelve episodes that have occupied our social media feeds for the past five months. “Come for the action, stay for the conversation” I wrote in a February 29 article responding to the Entertainment Weekly cover that generated heated debates from both fans and detractors as to its appropriateness and message. I admit that my first reaction to the two leads, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, embracing on a bed with only the fabrics of one kilt and one sheet between them (plus the inclusion of “bodice-ripping” in the cover lines) was “Oh, geez,” because I knew it would only fuel the misconception of the show as some Harlequin revue of heaving bosoms and muddy kilts and PASSION. As I noticed all the details referencing prior events and characters’ motivations (physical vs. mental scars, sexual intimacy influencing spirituality), I realized that was the kicker: the image both acknowledged and countered that cover line. 

Outlander
Entertainment Weekly

Over the last thirteen episodes (yes, I’ve screened the finale but won’t reveal spoilers), the brilliance of Outlander has been its continuous ability to place those assumptions under the microscope and flip them over, reshape them, or recontextualize them. “Brilliance” as a descriptor is in danger of being reduced to the worth of a participation medal for any show that requires a thinking hat, but what makes this show so worthy is that it challenges the assumptions of not only its detractors, but also for its most ardent fans. The intricate and painstaking process of adapting Diana Gabaldon’s epic story of Jamie and Claire for the medium of television means change is inevitable within the confines of time, space, budget, context, and other variables. This is what makes the show an interpretation of the novels, not a word-for-word mirror image of each chapter, and it carefully balances the wants of the book fans with the needs of the strictly show fans. Each facet of its production, from dialogue to costumes to cinematography, demands the engagement of the audience (and often repeated viewings) to discern the meaning behind the images: issues of power and control, masculinity and femininity, and the manipulation of genre and stereotype. 

To put it plainly: it is one of the smartest and most proactive shows on television, embracing love and passion and intrigue and refusing to apologize. Will Outlander ever break free of its “kilty pleasure” stereotype in the press? It’s getting close. I don’t think anyone could watch “Wentworth Prison,” or “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” or “Faith,” or “Prestonpans,” just to name a few, and still reduce the show’s appeal to only one gender or viewers who like only one genre. Yes, the romance of the two leads is at the forefront of their ongoing story, and rightfully should be celebrated as part of a healthy adult relationship. Jamie and Claire’s friendship and later marriage unfolds and matures within a violent and chaotic world, where their decisions are tempered by forces beyond their control as well as factors they try their hardest to influence. 

Outlander
Starz

Much has been written and rightly so about costume designer Terry Dresbach’s magnificent creations that have adorned the characters both in Scotland and France, from a salon in the 1740s to a country house in the 1940s and 1960s. Following Dresbach online is participating in a master class about what costumes bring to and reflect about the story and what they reveal about the characters. Claire’s Highland wardrobe was primarily a matter of function and defense against the elements (i.e. the layers upon layers of wool) while her Parisian dresses reflected her very pointed political and social strategy. As she and Jamie establish themselves in Paris to try to thwart the Jacobite rebellion, their carefully structured public personas were shown through their appearance and style. As Jamie needed to perfect the image of the successful businessman to the French elite as well as his Scottish heritage to Prince Charles Stuart, Claire utilized her newfound wealth and privilege to design a wardrobe that reflected her most unique situation: as a woman of the future, she brings a 1940s sensibility to mid-18th century haute couture with equal parts refinement and titillation. 

Throughout the Paris episodes, each creation was an examination of womanhood under the spotlight: confronting societal expectations with a silent protest in each cut of skirt or peek of décolletage. Like a sartorial chess game, Claire had to predict what situation she would be in, and what lines of etiquette she could tiptoe across, and who she had to impress. Of course, as a woman of the 1940s transplanted to the 1740s, as she becomes acclimated to Paris society, her style becomes brilliantly meta, such as when she wore a gown that resembled the famous Bar Suit of the late 1940s by Christian Dior, which was itself inspired by 18th century designs. She is a woman of her own time asserting her identity within the societal structures of the 1740s. 

Outlander
Starz

As Outlander blends elements of science fiction, military history, and action-adventure, when considering the aspects of romance and love it is crucial to examine how the male characters are portrayed. There are several types of love depicted on the show: romantic love, filial love, love of country, love of self. While we are predisposed to focus on the women and their displays of love, the Outlander writers place as much if not more emphasis on how their male counterparts deal with matters of the heart (or lack thereof). 

Outlander
Starz

James Fraser is certainly the dashing, attractive partner of Claire, but the paths they take towards loving each other are very different. Jamie knows romance on a more personal level than Claire, as his parents, Brian and Ellen, ran off and eloped. Claire was orphaned at a very young age and raised by her uncle; as she lead quite a nomadic existence until adulthood, she has a deep, internal craving for home. For Jamie, his family home of Lallybroch is his stability and sense of self, and his years away from it – first as a soldier and later an outlaw – have made the farm his idyllic dream in most of Season One. When he tells Claire in “The Reckoning” that he fashioned her wedding ring from the key to Lallybroch, as she is his home now, you can see that emptiness in both of them has been filled. 

The spiritual connection between the two continues to develop in and out of the bedroom, as Jamie’s respect for Claire as a healer and Claire’s witness of his increasing skill as a leader of men make them ideal partners, best friends, lovers, and soulmates. Jamie recognizes that love is all-encompassing and requires sacrifice and devotion, and he demonstrates this not only for his wife but for his home and family and clan. This is what makes Sam Heughan’s performance so heartbreaking after Wentworth: even the demonstration of love has been tainted. After his assault by Jack Randall, he cannot physically connect with his wife, causing him to literally and figuratively withdraw from her for the first few episodes. When Claire discovers the bite marks a prostitute left on his thighs in “La Dame Blanche,” and surmises that he can still muster the will for physical intimacy, just not with her, he confesses his ongoing torment. This is not something a romantic male lead is supposed to experience, let alone admit to, but Outlander presents his suffering honestly and openly, and it is Claire who comes to him later that night, assuming the roles of protector and nurturer and lover, instigating their physical reunion. 

Outlander
Starz

Once the episodes return to Scotland, we see the Frasers continue to work together in a shared cause to save their friends and Highland culture altogether. Jamie rides with his wife by his side, consults her in all matters, and recognizes her independent and tenacious character. The weight of prescience about Culloden weighs on the couple, and one of the most tender scenes shared between them is when Jamie is leaving for Prestonpans. He says no words to his wife, but their passionate kiss and his deep bow to her is testament enough to the emotion between them. 

Outlander
Starz

Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is one of the most romantic characters in the last two seasons, and not because of his brief romance with the chambermaid in Paris. Jamie’s godfather carries the burden of unrequited love for Ellen Fraser and a steadfast devotion to her son. He is grave and intense and gruff in a Gary Cooper sort of way, his dark eyes attesting to the hard life he has lived and his social awkwardness in Paris revealing his introversion and isolation from home. Murtagh is a romantic in the unswerving attention he pays to his loved ones, which come to include Claire, and his appreciation for love itself. When he argues with Claire in “The Search,” or wraps Jamie in his kilt and carries him out of Wentworth, or later argues with him against suicide in the Abbey, or becomes Fergus’s unwitting big brother back in Scotland, or offers to wed Mary Hawkins to save her from possible abuse by Jack Randall, his gallantry is unaffected by pretension or expectation. He has not been lucky in love, but he will not let that stop him from devoting his life to helping others, and recognizing love in turn. 

Outlander
Starz

On the other hand, Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) merely thinks he is a romantic. He is in love with passion and desire and glory. Most devoutly, he is in love with himself, and his attentiveness to his beloved in terms of appearance and bearing is tenderly wrought. He is in love with dramatic gestures, and frivolous women, and the faux-liberality that comes with strong wine and dimly lit brothel parlors. Unfortunately, his rose-colored glasses extend to grander schemes, where a combination of ego and entitlement layered over a foundation of daddy issues threatens the very lives of the people he hopes to regain sovereignty over. He sees the romance of war, the style of military regalia, the songs and tributes and crowns of laurels. He cannot be bothered with the elements, the mud, the broken of body and sick of heart. That would ruin the spectacle he has created in his mind, the everlasting glory of his predestination that renders the reality around him a necessary sacrifice. He is a foolish dreamer that has created a nightmare that all come to see except himself. 

Outlander
Starz

Frank Randall is a polarizing character, depending on how actively you feel he participates in the hand he is dealt. Without spoiling the books for the “show fans,” the television portrayal of Claire’s hapless first husband is fantastically done because he is not relegated to the dimwitted cuckold nor some beastly tyrant who drove his wife into the arms of another. He loves Claire, and she loved him, though not at the intensity of her connection with Jamie. He loves her enough to want to rekindle their passion at Inverness in the first episode of Season One, and he loves her enough to want to start over with her unborn child in the first episode of Season Two. Frank believes in new beginnings, and when Claire physically and spiritually can not return his love, he channels it into a devotion to Brianna who he takes as his own child. 

Outlander
Starz

Finally, how could Jack Randall have any part in a discussion of love? Praise must be heaped on Tobias Menzies for not only portraying Frank with heart and hope, but exposing the pathology of Jack in a meticulous, brutal way. A year ago, I debated whether or not Jack could experience love in a review of the last two episodes of Season One. In “The Garrison Commander,” he interrogates Claire as a possible spy and tries to get her to confess by assuming the persona of a man in need of redemption. Just when he moves her to tears with his profession of remorse, he physically beats her and assures her that he is in total command of the evil with which he surrounds himself. Later, moments before raping Jamie in Wentworth Prison, Jack challenges Jamie’s determination to remain numb to the assault by saying, “You think I cannot control the darkness I inhabit?” He wants his victims to know and believe in his complete power over them, and over the evil that causes one human to commit such cruelty to another. 

I thought Jack might have some degree of anhedonia as a result of his wartime experiences combined with a diseased psyche, especially given his displays of physical and verbal rage. He cannot experience love with anyone but his brother Alex, so he desecrates the flesh out of self-hate. Even worse, he has mastered how to pantomime acts of love as witnessed in his final assault of Jamie, when he figures out how to break him by emulating Claire and displaying a grotesque tenderness. Not satisfied merely to destroy a man physically, he requires the active participation of the victim in his own violation: if Jack can not unite with another in love, to achieve that physical and spiritual connection that comes with true intimacy, then they will unite in fear and anguish. 

Outlander
Starz

As the books were written by Diana Gabaldon, and the show has several female producers and writers (Maril Davis, Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney), and a female costume designer (Terry Dresbach), the female gaze and perspective is finely tuned and acutely felt throughout the episodes. The challenges and risks of being a woman both in Scotland and France in the 1740s, including issues of reproductive health and social stability, are examined from Claire’s modern perspective. Something as natural as pregnancy and childbirth could bring a slow, painful death, while a victim of rape could face social suicide if the assault were made public. As Claire navigates the different worlds she and Jamie live in, she has the ability to discern the parameters from which she must conduct herself, and with whom, and to what extent. She has come to a time where women are considered property and marriage a business transaction, and she utilizes the preconceptions of the men she encounters to her advantage in order to survive. The objectification of the male gaze is not limited to the 1740s, either: as Jen Yamato points out in her condemnation of recent profiles of female celebrities by male writers, a woman’s worth is still relegated to a Likert scale of how threatening, physically attractive, and useful she is deemed to be. Regardless of the environment in which she lives, Claire has to gingerly tread the social minefield where her intelligence, independence, and foresight could elicit begrudging respect as easily as distrust or even danger.  Like Jamie, however, Claire possesses a natural grace and dignity alongside her resourcefulness that establishes trust, both from the other characters and the audience. We believe in Jamie and Claire, in their actions and decisions, and in the endurance of their love for each other. Throughout the show, Claire’s roles as healer, lover, mother, friend, and leader continue to evolve as she confronts each new challenge with a resiliency and fortitude, bolstered by the man who she allowed into her heart and soul. 

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Outlander Season 2 Finale Preview: Will War Break Claire and Jamie Apart?

Kate Hahn
Outlander

Steffan Hill/Sony Pictures Television Inc.

Before dawn on a freezing morning last winter, Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who play soulmates Claire and  Jamie Frasier, arrived on set in the rugged Scottish countryside to shoot a heartbreaking scene for the Season 2 finale. The pair soon got chills—and not from the cold.

“When the sun came up, there was this magical layer of snow,” recalls Heughan, who makes fans swoon as the heroic 18th-century Highlander in love with feisty time-traveling former WWII battlefield nurse Claire. “The whole place looked like a Disney set. It was perfect for such a powerful scene,” Balfe adds.

RELATED: How Outlander Is Taking the Art of Love (and War) to Paris in Season 2

But the action on Outlander, as fans well know, is far from Disney fare. This season has seen the couple challenged by a move to France, the fallout from Jamie’s rape in prison, the devastating loss of their child and now the impending Battle of Culloden, a clash between Scotland and England that will kill thousands and wipe out Highland clan culture, which the duo failed to stop. “Jamie thinks he’s going off to die [in battle],” Heughan teases. “His hand is forced and some of his actions have dire consequences. Ultimately, he and Claire get trapped.”

The action in the supersized 90-minute finale cuts between Claire and Jamie dealing with a disastrous chain of events leading up to the war in Scotland and incidents that happen more than two centuries later, in 1968, when a middle-aged Claire visits Scotland with her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna, or “Bree” (Sophie Skelton), whom she has raised with husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) despite her undying love for Jamie.

To prepare to play an older Claire, Balfe watched films starring some of her favorite actresses—Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep—and compared performances they gave in their twenties to those later in life. Balfe changed the register of her voice, deepening it to give her character more authority, and she even tweaked her posture. “I was interested in how she carries herself, how the weight of experience rests on her,” Balfe says. “In 1968, Claire’s got all of these memories flooding her mind. Everything is unnerving her.”

RELATED: TV Guide Magazine Cover Party Celebrates Starz’s Outlander (PHOTOS)

Claire’s distracted mood doesn’t sit well with Bree, who is suspicious. “She thinks her mom’s lying to her,” Skelton says. “Bree’s a very logical person. She majored in history! And she’s strong-willed.”

The mother-daughter tension builds to a powerful argument. The scene, created by writer-producers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts, was penned before the rest of the script so it could be used to audition actresses for the part of Bree. The moment will be familiar to readers of the bestselling Outlander novels—but not an exact copy. “We’re very mindful of the mass of loyal book fans,” Roberts says. “We try to give them what they want, just not how they expect it.”

Sam Heugan and Caitriona Balfea

Starz

Sam Heugan and Caitriona Balfea

The quarreling mother and daughter get a mediator in the form of another new face in the series, a grown-up Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin), whom viewers met in previous episodes as a boy in 1940s Scotland. “Roger’s intelligent both academically and emotionally, and he’s quite charming,” says Rankin, a Scottish actor who grounded himself in the role by spending two weeks in the Highlands before shooting began and found a visit to the Culloden battlefield “deeply haunting.”

Roger is instantly smitten with Bree, and the two soon join forces to unlock some secrets from the past. “For her, it’s more about the excitement of solving this puzzle,” Skelton says. “Bree isn’t very easily swept off her feet.”

A good portion of the finale, however, deals with Claire’s inner emotional life in 1968 as she revisits some of the places she knew with Jamie in the 1700s, including their onetime home, a now dilapidated Lallybroch. “It was really sad because it looked so abandoned and discarded,” Balfe says. “It’s the tragedy of time and what it does to places.”

No matter how time and fate conspire to drag Claire and Jamie apart, “This is a love story. They’re lovers who are meant to be together,” Graphia says. “It’s safe to say they’ll always find each other. We just don’t know when, where and how.”

Outlander, Season Finale, Saturday, July 9, 9/8c, Starz.

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