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Black Jack

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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!


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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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Outlander‘s Tobias Menzies on Black Jack’s Brother and the Things You Do for Love

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The 2016 Emmy race has begun, and Vulture will take a close look at the contenders until voting closes on June 27.

In the last year alone, Tobias Menzies has played five very different characters, two of which are on the same show. On Outlander, he stars as Frank Randall in 1945, who suffers the loss of his wife, Claire, when she accidentally travels back in time to the 18th century, and Black Jack Randall, Frank’s assumed ancestor in the past, who torments Claire and her new husband Jamie whenever they cross paths. Although one is ostensibly good and mild-mannered, and the other veers toward villainy and sadism, Menzies manages to find their common ground and make them incredibly distinct, without the usual crutches of say, an accent, a limp, or anything too obvious. During a recent visit to New York, Menzies chatted with Vulture about a pivotal trip to the bathroom, confronting two different Jamies, and why he decided not to cry during a death scene.

I heard a story about how you first decided to become an actor, and it involved a trip to the bathroom?
[Laughs.] Yeah, really early on, when I was young, we went and saw a production of The Wind in the Willows in a theater. At the intermission, I went to the toilet, and in the urinal next to me was the actor playing Badger. I didn’t quite know why he was in the urinal meant for the audience, and not backstage, I’m not quite sure about that, but there was something thrilling about seeing someone I had looked up to on the stage, and then seeing him beside me having a piss. There was something really about that which stayed with me. It seemed a little bit of magic in a way, this sort of mythical figure breaking through and just being there. And that was the first time I engaged with the idea of wanting to be an actor, and also being a person.
It seems fitting for the kinds of characters you’re attracted to, in which you take these people and really humanize them, warts and all.
That’s what’s interesting about humans, that we’re always a massive contradiction. There’s a lot more to everyone, isn’t there? What I’m interested in doing is making the character more three-dimensional, big or small, because that’s what’s both great and infuriating about people. Everyone has a family. Everyone comes from somewhere. So it’s harder to demonize someone when you see them with their family, as you do with Black Jack in this most recent episode. You have to engage with Jack the sibling, which is always complicated. That’s one of the benefits of doing a television drama over a long period of time — you get to explore these little contradictions. And one of the benefits of doing the TV show from the books is we can fill in the gaps, and color in more of the characters around Claire, and that’s particularly true of Frank.

We might not have thought we’d get to see a tender side of Jack, just as we might not have thought we’d get to see a more violent side of Frank. But perhaps these men have a few things in common. Do you approach them differently?
Not massively. There are a few physicality things that are different with Jack. Frank is closer to my own physicality. It’s mainly instinctive, really. I suppose it’s gotten more instinctive the more I’ve done it, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. But I never regarded Black Jack as someone who didn’t have tender feelings somewhere. My main thought was that I was keen for him to not be so confident. In the first season, we saw someone with an absolute self-belief, that arrogance, that belief that he’s indestructible. But since then, in different ways, and in much lesser ways, he’s still affected by what happened at Wentworth Prison at the end of season one. We only had a couple of chances to convey that, starting with Jamie and Claire in Versailles, and then with his brother. But these scenes speak to somebody who is a little more lost, a little bit away from his comfort zone, away from his natural territory and strength. And that felt like an interesting development, rather than have him be unaffected at all.

You talked to author Diana Gabaldon for guidance on how to portray that, correct?
Yes. Her main point was that Alex is probably the most important relationship in Jack’s life. It’s not what you usually see or would imagine that he has in his life. It’s someone whose good opinion he values, and that only helps to enrich the person we think we know. So with Alex’s imminent death, and then his demise, it challenges everything for Jack, and brings all of that up to the surface.

And just as we’ve started to see this tender side of Jack, his violence emerges again with Alex’s death. His reaction is odd, to say the least…
It’s perhaps the biggest change from the books, for him. And originally in the script, it was written that Jack wept. He was just full of emotion. But we’ve all seen the scene where a brother cries at the bedside of his loved one, and that didn’t seem quite keeping with the character of Jack. And we could see that he was emotional about his brother passing. So we decided to skip the crying, and have him physically attack the body of his brother. It had to be something odder, something weirder, something more violent. It’s a weird expression of his love: If you abandon me, I will destroy you. And it felt surprising. It’s the last thing you’d expect, but it’s also keeping with the character.

Frank, Black Jack, and even Edmure Tully, who you play on Game of Thrones, are all very different characters, and you give each of them a complete sense of self. But it seemed like all three were placed in these positions that they didn’t want to be in, where they had to make a difficult choice, and they ultimately chose the person they loved over themselves. Frank takes back Claire and agrees to raise another man’s child. Black Jack gives up military intel and marries Mary for his brother’s sake. And Edmure gives up Riverrun to protect his infant son, even though he’s never met him.
All three of them, yeah, it’s a theme — the things you do for love. We talked quite a bit about Black Jack’s betrayal of the British army, of his battalion, that he gives their secrets to Claire. I was worried that it seemed too easy of a choice to make. Whatever you might think of Black Jack’s morality, I think he is a loyal soldier, a loyal subject. He wrestles with that, even though we don’t see it. He’s in disguise, because these two armies are very close to each other around Inverness. And he feels vulnerable around Claire because of his concern for his brother. I don’t think he enjoys having to ask her to aid his brother, but it’s his only choice. We both need each other, and distrust each other. And Alex is so important in his life, he’s willing to make that bargain. There was a lot to play with there.

With Edmure in Thrones, you could almost argue that it’s an expression of self-love. Self-protection. Self-preservation. He feels much more cowardly in that decision, and obviously he doesn’t want to lose his family, his people, his castle, but that character is less about the expression of love than Frank is. Jack, love is very weird for him. But they are all different facets of, What are you made of, in extreme situations? When the shit hits the fan, which way do you go? And why? They certainly all have that in common, that larger theme of love and betrayal, cowardice and heroism.

You really feel Edmure is a coward? He seemed prepared to deny Jaime Lannister, until his son became part of the equation. My interpretation was that he betrayed his uncle to save his son. And he’s also endured a lot over the years, being a prisoner.
You’re right. Thinking back on playing that first half of that scene with Jaime Lannister, he actually has arrived at a place of despair and has resolved himself to die, denying Jaime. He’s forced to engage with what that entails, all the ramifications, what would follow from that apparently heroic act of saying, “No.” It would result in great suffering. Edmure now, the man we met in these last few episodes, is not the man we met before, the almost comic, buffoonish character of season three. He has changed. And I guess you can’t be a hero unless you feel fear. So maybe he’s heroically being a coward! There certainly is a moral dimension to the scene with Jaime, the investigation of Jaime’s position, to see Edmure wrestling with that larger question. Game of Thrones seems increasingly a meditation on deeply flawed people. I don’t think there are many inherently good people. Everyone’s been compromised. Everyone’s in a position they don’t want to be in.

How did you manage to fit in not just Game of Thrones, but also The Night Manager and Catastrophe? You’re juggling so many characters at the moment…
It’s a good problem to have! Catastrophe, I went to do that, almost as an in-joke. Sharon Horgan is an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other and worked together for many years. So whenever she calls me up and asks me to do something, I generally do it. She’s a brilliant woman, and it’s a particularly brilliant show. The Night Manager, I fit in between season one and two of Outlander, and then I did Thrones in the middle of shooting Outlander, in September or October? And I also fit in the new Underworld film in Prague, where I play a vampire.

One day, you’re a sadist British redcoat, the next a prisoner of war, the next a vampire…
I had a few different personalities going around my head! Weirdly, I didn’t find that hard. I don’t know what that says about my psyche. [Laughs.]

 

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