Television

Outlander episode 501

Here’s how we’re going to do this: I will assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve watched the show. The post is based on notes I took while watching, so events should be mostly in the order they aired. Some scenes are going to get more attention than others. I am not trying to be a television critic. I am an Outlander fan who wants to comment on the show and how it compares to the book (when that’s important to me). For the most part, I no longer read what Diana Gabaldon says about the books or show. Sometimes I watch the Starz behind-the-scenes extras, sometimes I don’t. I’m not your source for all things Outlander.

That disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin.

Starting with a “cold open” for what might be the first time in this series, with Flashback Murtagh & Child Jamie.

Murtagh looks good young. I’ve loved him since Season 1, but I don’t remember finding him attractive until he came back as the Silver Fox he is now. Maybe it’s just that he’s cleaned up in this scene? Seems like he was always dirty and covered in twigs in the early seasons.

Poor Child Jamie. Flashback Murtagh is so intense. They are both grieving. (Ellen MacKenzie, we never knew ye. Count me in for the Ellen and Brian prequel, if ever that’s floated about. With young Dougal, Jocasta, and Colum? Bring it.)

New credits:

  • Claire’s and Jamie’s backs, individually, at the opening is an interesting choice.
  • Who’s on the beach?
  • Redcoats at war
  • Aerial shot of the Big House
  • Tarot hanged man — is this here for its symbolic tarot meaning, or a more literal one?
  • What is that badge or pin?
  • Claire’s running feet we’re used to; a man’s dragging feet is new
  • Tatanka!
  • Claire’s microscope!
  • Somebody’s got a gem
  • Burning pyres for war?
  • Giant wicker fiery cross

And here we go . . .

Kind of a “title card” of Bree getting ready at the end of the opening credits. When they had the cold open, I thought they might skip the title card, but no. I like it.

Roger getting ready:

  • Roger can’t shave himself, because Roger has lived a 1960s-70s safety razor life until now — and Jamie won’t let him forget it.
  • Jamie is aggressively shaving him; he needs to back down and breathe a minute.
  • Roger trying to talk while Jamie shaves him is like people trying to talk while the dentist works.

It only makes sense for them to give Roger and Bree the cabin. Jamie and Claire are building the Big House (more on that later), so they don’t need the cabin. Roger and Bree don’t have time to build a new one. Jamie could lay off the guilt, though — “Can’t have my grandson sleeping in the woods” — whatever, Mr. Lived-in-a-Cave-for-Seven-Years.

Roger is up-front about his lack of skills re: shaving, cabin-building, and really anything the past may require. He’s a scholar and a musician from a time with indoor plumbing and heating. And, Jamie seems to forget, until recently his experiences in the past have consisted of being beaten up (by Jamie!), sold into slavery (by Jamie!), and left (by Jamie and Claire!) to walk hundreds of miles with a festering wound that Jamie’s Great Healer of a Wife didn’t even treat. The man has not been at his best since he went through the stones.

Jamie is even a jerk about the wedding ring — “this one is certainly fit for my daughter.” Isn’t this the same man that gave Claire a wedding ring made out of the key to his house? It wasn’t a golden key with fancy filigree; it was a plain iron key. It was the thought that counted then, why not now?

Claire voice over — “Laying our foundations for the rest of our lives.”

Okay, this is where I rant about the fact that this is not The Gathering From The Book. This season is based on the novel The Fiery Cross (book 5). That book starts with a regional gathering of Scottish immigrants on Mount Helicon. (Actually, the previous book ends with the beginning of the gathering, and book 5 picks up the very next day.) All the major events of this episode happen at the gathering during that day — due to a famous-among-fans writing/editing error, it’s the world’s longest day. (A thousand things happen and Roger and Bree don’t get hitched until page 151.) People get married at the gathering because priests and ministers are there; they weren’t readily available in the backcountry, so folks had to take advantage of the opportunity. Everyone was at R & B’s wedding because everyone was already at the gathering. Claire runs a healing clinic, with a huge line of waiting patients, because all those people were at the gathering, and like priests, healers were in short supply in daily life.

This season, Starz had to adapt a 979-page book into 12 episodes. I understand that they didn’t have time to mess around with a mountain full of hundreds of extras, reproducing “the longest day” just for the sake of book readers. Ok. But essentially moving the gathering to Fraser’s Ridge causes some things to not make sense. I will point them out as we go, because I can’t help myself.

Back to Claire prepping Bree to walk down the aisle. “White satin and orange blossom” — Claire says (or thinks) this in the book as well and it seems like a specific image. Was that a 1960s thing? What would that look like? (Ok, I looked it up. I guess it was How Things Were Done among a certain set for many years: http://www.victoriana.com/bridal/powell/blossoms.htm )

Jamie doing “old, new, borrowed, blue” is cute — I don’t believe there was an opportunity for this sort of attention or conversation between them at the gathering, so this is one benefit to giving the wedding its own space. I like how he is trying to make things right for her. It’s similar to his insistence on doing things “the right way” when he and Claire got married, but that was his notion of the right way and this is Brianna’s.

I cannot overstate how glad I am that Jamie does not have bangs this season.

Back to talking about Roger: “He has you to teach him,” Claire says — only if Jamie can stop being an ass about it, I say.

The Big House is huge and looks finished to me. Maybe there’s a door off its hinges here or there? It’s finished with trim and all their stuff is moved in. It’s extravagant! Are we supposed to believe Jamie built this by himself? Oh, maybe a few neighbors helped? But not any reality-TV homebuilding crews? Oh-kay. (Also, does Starz know there’s an even bigger house required down the road? Where do they go from here, River Run?)

It’s good that Bree has the pearls for her wedding. That’s right. (Others have mentioned that the pearls have had a clasp added since J & C’s wedding night; that’s true, but I didn’t notice at the time. Most likely I didn’t want to think about J & C having sex wearing those pearls while he’s clasping them around their daughter’s neck.)

“The best thing, I don’t have to imagine you,” Brianna says. This is all very sweet, but I think the emotion on Jamie’s side makes more sense than on Bree’s. She wouldn’t have been imagining him at all until about two years ago.

I like that she says je suis prest — total pandering (to the audience? to Jamie?), but I love it.

Jamie yells, “The Frasers of the Ridge are here!” before walking Bree down the aisle and it’s just a weird nod to the gathering they are not having. It feels out of place at a wedding. Having all of these people at the Ridge just for the wedding makes it seem like R & B are local celebrities and that’s not right. Jaime may be “the laird” of the Ridge, but that doesn’t make his daughter a princess. These people have homes and land of their own to tend. (Not that we saw them settle last season, but that’s an entirely separate rant.)

I love that Lord John is here. I welcome LJ anywhere. He wouldn’t have been at the gathering, so that’s another TV plus.

The physical setup of the stage for the wedding seems very modern. I have no idea how they would have actually done it in the 1770s, but this feels wrong. Maybe we are supposed to understand that it was Brianna’s idea?

Marsali is wearing a ridiculous hat that is probably exactly what a respectable married woman should be wearing. I forget that because Claire and Bree go hatless all the time. Although, Jocasta has no hat (she does have a cap).

I enjoy Jamie’s shade about it not being a Catholic ceremony, but I assume that all would have been discussed in advance, so him saying it now really doesn’t make sense. At the gathering it has to be a Presbyterian minister because he’s all they have, as the Catholic priest has been arrested. (The books are full of wacky side plots like that.) So Jamie is unhappy that the ceremony is suddenly Protestant. (Though that works well for Roger.) But here, obviously they’ve been planning this event for months, had to specially invite the minister, etc. Jamie should have had time to get over it.

I do like the flashback to Jamie & Claire’s wedding. I’m a sucker for that. But I think it’s hilarious that J & C have to be yanked back to the present: Oh, yeah — our daughter’s wedding. That’s why we’re here. (Podlander Drunkcast pointed out that Claire was so drunk at their wedding that she textually does not remember it, so as sweet as this is, it has to ignore that fact to work. But still: awwwwww.)

Love the reception/1770s after party.

I don’t like Governor Tryon and I especially don’t like his shade about Jamie’s letters. Did he just call Jamie a thief? Wha wha what??!

We like to see a villain get his comeuppance too, Governor. Wait.

Is that Germain? He’s huge! The “hair ticks” thing is funny, although yet another dig at Roger.

Wedding cake looks like a fruitcake on the outside and a chocolate cake on the inside. What would period-appropriate wedding cake have been? (I looked it up: fruitcake-like. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcolonial.html#colonial )

I looooovvvee Jocasta: “Wed. At last.”
“At least your aunt likes me.” Poor fool, Roger.

“Maybe when we go back we can do all this again and I’ll be a little bit more prepared.” Record scratch. Ok, first of all — “when we go back?” Roger, what do you think is happening, here? Was the “can’t go through the stones with a kid” thing from last season not clear? And “you’ll be more prepared”?! Your kid is a year old and you’ve been here a while now. Did you not realize you were marrying Brianna during the months of preparation for this event? How much prep time do you need? That’s just a dumb ass thing to say.

Back to the party: this tongue twister game is fun and I love that Marsali nails it. She owns the floor. (And I laughed when they rejected Lord John’s Shakespeare.) Marsali knows who she is, where she is, and what’s expected. There is power there that the time travelers don’t have and that sometimes Fergus doesn’t even have, simply because he is French. Plus, Lauren Lyle is delightful in the role.

Did I already say give me Lord John anytime, all the time? LJ talking to Jamie is nice and important, but I love him alone too.

Bree overhears them talking about Bonnet possibly being alive. The show really does not need to flash back to her rape. Sophie Skelton does a good job of showing Bree’s shock and distress on her face, and they already flashed back to part of it in the “previously as” for this episode — not that anyone is starting this show in season 5; I mean, really. The source material has more than enough rape for years and years. We don’t need to flash back to it. We know it happened. We know who Bonnet is. Enough. 

Claire should have known by the way Brianna was walking that something was wrong, but she does pick up on it when she sees her face. They have a sweet conversation about Frank (Bree doesn’t hate him like I do, and Claire is a good sport about it due to years of practice at being a good sport about it). The “you’d end up with a Chad or a Chip” line is no good, because it makes me think of the fight she and Frank have in the book where Frank reveals that what he’s actually afraid of is Bree ending up with a Black man and ugh, Frank, why are you the worst?

Ulysses delivers Jocasta to a twig house. Murtagh doesn’t appreciate her calling it a shack. “Perhaps I made a hasty judgment,” Jocasta says. Heh. Too bad Jocasta can’t see how hot old Murtagh is. Silver Fox indeed.

Jamie needs to stop bashing Roger. I mean, really.

I like that Roger serenades Briana. 

That sleeping baby is a doll. I mean, an actual prop.

I like the sex montage. It’s funny and sad to think that Jamie and Claire have never tried to have sex while a baby slept before. A common things parents deal with that they missed out on.

LJ is the last one upright among the drunkards. A gentleman can hold his liquor.

 Poor post-coital Brianna. Ouch, that’s a good look on Sophie Skelton’s face. 

Jocasta looks younger with her hair down and no cap. This makes me wonder how old the actress is. Maybe we are the same age? Stupid Hollywood. (I looked it up: Maria Doyle Kennedy is 55. Caitriona Balfe (who plays Claire) is 40. I am right in the middle, age-wise.)

“Duncan Innes has proposed marriage.” Oh, has he? Interesting, since I don’t think that name has ever been mentioned before in the previous 4 seasons of this show. And they chat about who the hell Duncan Innes is for the viewers at home.

“I have yet to give him my answer.”
“I’ll no stand in the way of your happiness.”

And she lets go of his hand. Oh, this is hard. Jocasta needs a man to front for her at River Run, they made that clear last season. Murtagh obviously can’t be that man, since the Governor is out to hang him as a public spectacle. She’s crushed, but she’s an eminently practical person. Part of her must understand that Murtagh can’t be her public man. He can only be her twig house fairy king. Sniff.

And here we get the line up of patients from the gathering. I’ve already complained about the not-gathering enough, but I do like seeing Claire healing. And I’m glad this is the next day, so we avoid the longest day nonsense. (And: Josiah Beardsley!)

I love this scene. Here’s Jocasta, queen even when in front of her tent. Roger leaves in disgust, then comes back just to tell her off:
“I do not want your money. My wife does not want your money and my son will not have it. Cram it up your hole, aye?”

That’s straight from the book, but since the scene is written in Roger’s POV, we don’t get this beautiful exchange:
“As you hoped, Mistress?”
“Even better.”
I think Ulysses chuckling was my husband’s favorite part of this episode.

Jamie: “He certainly doesn’t sing for his supper.” Another dig at Roger.

Tryon: “Out of respect for your daughter’s wedding I deferred speaking of this until today.” Really? You weren’t the guy talking to him about this yesterday at the actual wedding?

One week and Jamie has to go with a troop of redcoats to hunt Murtagh. Splendid.

Roger claims Jem with the blood oath now. “Something I should have done a long time ago.” Well, yeah, in the books it’s the very first thing he does when he comes back, before even talking to Brianna. (I was reminded of this by Podlander Drunkcast.) Here it’s private and in the books it was more public.

Exposition to remind us why Jamie has to pretend to hunt Murtagh and how this fits in to the approaching Revolutionary War. They have a duty to the tenants who have suddenly appeared, blah blah. Jamie has an idea to give Tryon a Scottish show and claim the loyalty of the men of the Ridge at the same time. So he goes, right then, and dresses in his plaid and kilt. How long does that take? Long enough for a team of people to weave the damn wicker Celtic cross he marches out to burn? 

(This walking shot really is all knees, Ginger and Summer of The Outlander Podcast were right.)

This cross was not there before. It is large and intricate. I completely understand that the show didn’t want to use a simpler, easier-to-make cross because it would remind viewers of horrific racist acts. Very wise choice. It’s just hard to believe Jamie decided to do this on the spur of the moment. (Also, my husband cannot stop making Nic Cage The Wicker Man references.) That thing is twice Jamie’s height and on a solid base.

 “Stand by my hand.” No one. Roger is a deer in the headlights. 

Then this guy — who is this guy? He knows the oath. Says it clear and loud, so Roger can follow. (Learned later it’s Isaiah Morton; that is not how I pictured him.)

Jamie calls Roger by name now since he didn’t get a clue. This would have been a great thing for him to have prepared with Roger in advance. If only he treated Roger like an equal, a potential co-conspirator. But no, Jamie has to have one up on him, always.

And Roger knows the oath.

(Who is the third guy on the side? When did he take the oath?)

“And I will not light the cross again until the time has come for us to do battle.” 

“Fergus, son of my name and of my heart.” Always love that.

And then all the men line up. What does Tryon think of this display?

Cut to cliff side with an even gianter wicker cross that the ladies of the Ridge were up all night making? I mean, what the hell?

Now we end where we began, Jamie and Murtagh. “If you wait, we’ll be fighting on the same side.” If only that could happen. Jamie releases him from his vow. Can he do that? Is that how it works? Would Murtagh ever accept that? Ellen’s ghost isn’t releasing him. “Please. Be hard to find.” Ok, that made me tear up. Oh, crying Jamie. Fin.

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