Category: Caitriona Balfe

Outlander Review (Episode 8 – Both Sides Now)

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. The show won’t be back on the air until April 4, 2015.  That means you have 190 days from today to wait before the return of Outlander. Take a deep breath.  You can do this!  No doubt reruns will feed your addiction.  I’m sure Starz doesn’t want its fans to moan and groan from highlander withdrawals. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Episode 8 — the mid-season finale.

Yes, all things come to an end.  Even books in a series…eventually.  And so it is with mid-season one, the much anticipated and highly coveted Outlander on Starz. In a diversion from the book, this episode is heavily focused upon Frank and his desperate search for his beloved wife, who has somehow vanished into thin air.  Much of the focus of the story has been on Claire’s experience being sucked back in time, but I think this diversion adds richness to the series by exploring what Frank is dealing with as well.

Rightly so this episode is named Both Sides Now, but I’d like to add a third that it had a rather dark side.  The greatest criticism of this series has come from women who do not see this as a romantic novel, when there are instances of attempted rape, actual rape, and beating one’s wife with a belt.  I am staying neutral and not commenting. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion.  Of course, there are the groups of readers who have loved this story of Jamie and Claire regardless of the not-so-pleasant scenes of brutality tucked between the pages.

Variety has a rather good article and interview with Ron Moore about Episode 8 and some of the changes from the book, if you are interested.  He explains the reasons behind his departure from Diana’s text.  READ HERE  Here is a recap of tonight’s episode, which flips back and forth in time with parallel scenes and thoughts between Claire and Frank.

The police, after six weeks of searching, tell Frank they’ve done all they can do.  Their theory is that she ran off with another man. Reverend Wakefield throws out the possibility that the river swept her downstream when she wandered off and got lost.  His druid wife tells Frank the tall tale of Craigh na Dun and the stones that suck people back in time.  As Frank screams to the copper, “My wife is not with another man,” we are taken back to Jamie and Claire reminding us that’s exactly where she is while wearing two wedding rings.

After a scene where Frank is set up in a dark alley by some woman in order to steal the reward he’s offering, we see the dark ancestral side of the modern Mr. Randall.  The men in the alley are no match for angry Frank, who nearly beats to death his attackers and almost strangles the woman for her complicity in leading him into a trap.  Yes, the man is hurt, frustrated, and these poor people crossed Frank at the wrong time in his life.  His actions get him a preaching session from the reverend about turning from the dark side and back into the light.

Claire is given lessons by Angus on how to defend herself with a dagger. She finds the opportunity to do so when Redcoats turn up unexpected, interrupting Jamie and Claire doing the deed on the grassy ground.  Once again, we are faced with a potential rape, but Claire stabs her attacker in the back and Jamie brings down the other two men holding him from intervening.

The entourage of Dougal, Angus, Murtagh, Willie, Rupert, Jamie, and Claire (did I forget anyone?) continue on their journey to meet a man who might be able to clear Jamie’s name. However, to be safe, Jamie leaves Claire alone with Willie in the woods.  She promises Jamie to stay put, but when she realizes that they are near Craigh na Dun, she slips away and runs toward the mound.

This scene is the most powerful in the episode.  Frank decides to visit the area before he gives up and leaves for Oxford.  He stands by the stone crying (poor guy) and then begins to yell Claire’s name.  Claire hears him through time, and she yells his name in return.  Frank hears her voice, but then it is suddenly silenced. Just as she reaches the stone to touch it and return, those pesky Redcoats capture and drag her away to Frank’s disgusting ancestor, Black Jack Randall.

The dichotomy of the two characters has returned, as Randall and Claire play their cat and mouse game of let’s tell the truth.  Fed up, he binds her, pushes her face down on the table, and lifts her skirt.  Another scene of attempted rape ensues. (Poor woman how much of this must she endure?  I do see the point here.) When we think all is lost, Jamie bursts open the window, points a gun at Randall, and tells him to take his hands off his wife.

End of mid-season one, and the cliffhanger has been played. Of course, those who have read the book know the outcome.  The second half of season one may be the most controversial if Ron Moore, the executive producer, goes down that road showing the consequences of Claire’s disobedience and Jamie’s belt meeting her often exposed bottom in this series. For some reason, I don’t think that’s going to go over well with some women in the audience not familiar with the written text.

Nevertheless, the episodes have ended. Life returns to normal, and maybe I can finish book four in my own series, which only contained one attempted, not welcomed advance of a despicable nature. From my own experience, I can tell you that romance books containing potential rape or rape scenes do not often sit well with some readers.  It’s a path that I try to avoid if possible.  It appears that many fans, however, are so taken by Jamie’s character, that it either doesn’t bother them or they have turned a blind eye in order to enjoy the man in the kilt.  Whatever the reason, get your calendars out, your markers, and start checking off the next 190 days you must live before more episodes arrive.  I just hope for your sake the world doesn’t end before then.

Outlander Review (Episode 7 – The Wedding)

The Scottish referendum to depart from the United Kingdom did not pass on Thursday, September 18, 2014.  However, millions of women passed out on Saturday, September 20, while watching Outlander, Episode No. 7, The Wedding.

Fainting episodes, heart palpitations, and profuse sweating can be attributed to Jamie Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser. The marriage was consummated (multiple times), and Starz made sure to give us breasts, bottoms, moaning, seductive touching, and virginity lost. They did warn viewers with “N=Nudity” and nudity we got.

Now that I’ve dabbed my forehead with tissues and wished I was in Claire’s place, I’ll attempt to write down tonight’s episode.  If I’ve missed something, blame it on Jamie’s abs and bottom, plus those blue eyes and piercing looks.  :inserts swoon:

It was a great episode, only put together a little oddly.  Rather than making it sequential, it bounced back and forth from here to there, which I found a bit annoying.  Nevertheless, it starts with Claire and Frank deciding to wed in the spur of the moment, and Claire admits that after a while you forget your life in the past.  Whether she truly does is another matter, because Frank’s ring only comes off her finger and stuffed down her bulging bosom just before she weds Jamie.

The wedding scene starts with the kiss after pronouncement of husband and wife, making you wonder if you were late for the wedding.  It quickly moves to Claire and Jamie alone with one task looming ahead of them — the consummation.  However, instead, it turns into hours of sharing, drinking, and talking, flashing back and forth between scenes.  Jamie tells Claire about his family, expounds stories, and admits he married her to keep her safe from Randall. His chivalrous confession of promising to protect her with his body as well is endearing.

Everyone downstairs is enjoying the drunken reception of booze and food (along with a cat nibbling at the table leftovers). The purpose for the crowd hanging around is to await word the bride and groom have done the deed.  Rupert and Angus burst into the room at Dougal’s orders at one point hoping to witness something.  Nothing’s up yet, so Jamie kicks them out.

Claire appears extremely nervous and out of sorts in many scenes. Their time together is awkward, to say the least. Jamie finally kisses her, and then seductively traces his fingers along her skin.  He slowly undresses Claire down to her shift, fondles her breast, and the kisses get a bit hotter. Claire wants her own turn, so she frees him from his kilt and leaves him in his shirt.  Well, after another kiss, Jamie loses it and sort of attacks her body from behind, but she turns him around and he ends up on top of her in bed.  It doesn’t take long to lose his virginity, but Claire doesn’t look like she’s really enjoying the experience while he enjoys his first time with a woman.  We could make some jokes about how fast it took, less than a minute from my count, but I will behave.

Afterward, he asks her if she liked it, but she doesn’t say anything.  He just figures, like the men told him beforehand, that women don’t care for it. He admits that he thought it was always done from behind like horses do it, and Claire has a good laugh.

As the evening progresses, it’s more flashbacks that include Jamie’s conditions for marrying Claire, which included: (1) a church wedding by a priest; (2) a wedding band; and (3) Claire must have a wedding dress.  Obtaining each of those items were lighthearted moments as to how they came about.  As they recall the wedding together, Jamie and Claire tell each other how they felt.  The conversation is used for viewers to finally see the wedding itself.  Jamie is extremely handsome in his full Scottish regalia, and Claire is beautiful in her wedding gown.  (You might enjoy this article from Vanity Fair about the costume designer’s choice for Claire’s dress. Click Here)

The wedding vows are touching, but it’s not without blood as Dougal slits their wrists, binds them together, and their blood mingles. Those romantic words are spoken by Jamie and Claire:

‘Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone. I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One. I give ye my Spirit, ’til our Life shall be Done.’”

 

The remainder of the episode focuses on the lovemaking between Jamie and Claire.  She finally relents to her situation and her shy nervousness dissolves. Her boldness in bed with Jamie is quite hot, as she pleases him in ways he never dreamed. The scenes didn’t hold anything back. I often wonder how these stars do these portions so intimately with their modesty patches and not get aroused. Let’s not go down that road.

The episode ends with Claire the next morning picking up her wedding dress and Frank’s ring falling to the floor from the bodice where she shoved it before the wedding.  It rolls across the floor, falls into a crack, and Claire picks it up and places it back on her finger on her right hand.  She then looks at both of her hands and the two rings declare she belongs to two different men. It’s quite the thought-provoking ending.

Next week’s episode looks intriguing, as Frank in the future deals with Claire’s disappearance.

Well, my question to you, is how many times are you going to watch the rerun of this episode?  Try not to overdo it, ladies.  Once again, I don’t find myself as emotionally involved in this story as many fans are, but that’s probably due to my own emotions intertwined in the stories that I write.  Nevertheless, Diana had a good idea that apparently appealed to many.  She’s very fortunate to have her story come to life on screen.

 Most tender moment: Claire and Jamie saying their vows.

Most humorous statement:  Jamie’s confession regarding the lovemaking position.

Most disturbing moment: Dougal making a pass at Claire after she becomes Jamie’s wife!  (Stinker)

(Quote:  Gabaldon, Diana (2004-10-26). Outlander: A Novel (p. 195). Random House Publishing Group.)

 

Outlander Review (Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander)

Antagonist.  Archenemy.  Villain.

Adversary. Foe.

In Outlander, it is none other than Black Jack Randall.

At first, Tobias Menzies allows us to meet mild-mannered Frank, and then turns us around and makes us hate him as the vilest character whoever set foot in Scotland. Black Jack dwells in darkness, and darkness is where he belongs. Tobias does an excellent job of switching from light to darkness in his role, and he should be congratulated for his performance. Now that I really hate him, let’s talk about Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander.

Last week we were left hanging with Claire while she stood speechless after being asked if she was in Dougal’s company of her free will.  It’s a damned if I do and damned if I don’t moment. She could risk the lives of all the men of the clan, or take her chances again with the captain of the dragoons.  You know she’d rather just run off to the stones by herself and get the deed done without any help from the Scots or the Brits, but at this moment she can do neither.  What’s a woman to do?

Well, Claire reiterates that she is a guest of the Clan MacKenzie. Nevertheless, the lieutenant informs her that Lord Thomas will want to meet her anyway, and leads her and Dougal to a small village swarming with Redcoats. The scene that follows, from what I can tell, is an addition from the producers, wherein the book she goes directly to Captain Randall. Claire is introduced to a room full of men dining in their British finery of red and gold, with those George Washington powdered wigs.  Welcomed as a fine British lady, she sits at the head of the table, while Dougal stands beside her chair and looks at seven officers in the British army. She feels right at home, while she thinks Dougal is the outlander this time.

If Starz wanted to lace this series with the deep misunderstandings and prejudices between the Scottish and the English, they did a good job.  It’s enough to make the referendum pass on September 18 when Scotland will vote whether or not to leave the United Kingdom.  Every cliche insult is flung toward Dougal from: (a) I can’t understand a word you’re saying to; (b) what’s underneath that kilt? Even after he leaves the room, the comments continue about the Scottish being ignorant, superstitious, and impossible to make peace with because they’re not loyal subjects. Ouch! The prejudice is as thick as the powder on their wigs.  Once again, these deviations from the written word may upset some fans.  However, I think this scene is important in that it shows it’s not just Black Jack Randall who despises the Scottish, but it’s an overall prevailing sentiment from the British Army and aristocracy.

Then to Claire’s shock, Black Jack Randall bursts into the room, which is more like the scene in the book but also extended. He questions Claire further, and she tells another tall tale that sounds even more confusing than the one she told the Laird at the castle.  When she mentions how she’s heard rumors about Randall loving to flog people, it opens up another flashback. He recites the flogging of Jamie with a hundred lashes on top of the hundred lashes already received. We don’t get just the story, we get the gory visual effects of sliced flesh, gashes, dripping and pooling blood, and untold suffering that Jamie endured.  Jack wanted to break him, but Jamie was unbreakable.

Tobias Menzies does a rather good job of revealing the darkness of Jack’s soul as he portrays the reason for Randall’s brutality. His sadistic nature is unfurled as he tells Claire about how the crowd watched in horror while he beat Jamie, but he thought it a thing of beauty as he created a masterpiece upon Jamie’s back. The man’s heart is as black as hell itself, and Claire makes the mistaken assumption that he can be redeemed.

Randall’s interrogation of her continues, asking if Dougal is raising money for the Jacobites. Claire lies, of course, but Randall doesn’t believe a word.  He quickly dashes her conclusion that he can be saved, by punching her in the stomach. Then he orders another soldier to kick her while she lays groaning on the floor. No doubt it would have continued if Dougal hadn’t come to her rescue.  Randall relents, but orders him to bring Claire back at Noon the next day for further interrogation.

Well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that the Scottish people of 1743 were superstitious, and Dougal takes her to St. Ninian’s spring. He asks her if she’s a spy once more, and since she doesn’t drop dead after drinking the water, he finally believes her declaration that she’s not. “Anyone who drinks the water and then tells untruth will ha’ the gizzard burnt out of him.” Claire’s gizzard survives.

Dougal then explains to her the only way of keeping her from Randall is to have her become Scottish through marriage. The plan is set in motion, the marriage contract drawn, and Jamie and Claire are going to wed.  Never you mind she’s not a virgin but he is. At least one of them will know what they are doing! At the end of the episode, Claire does what she does best to cope. She grabs a bottle of liquor from one of the men and storms off to get drunk.

Now, I know all you lasses cannot wait until next week when vows are spoken, wrists get slit, blood gets mingled, and consummation of the marriage bed comes to pass. The question on everyone’s mind is how much skin are we going to see? Based on Claire’s romps in the sack with Frank, this could get hot.

Frankly, I don’t care if I see her boobs again–what’s under that kilt is on everyone’s mind. In order to handle it, I suggest cold showers before and after the episode airs. I bet, though, you’ll all just tune in and watch it again an hour later. Bring tissues in case you drool.

Most tender moment: Claire and Jamie discussing their impending marriage.

Most humorous statement: Lord Thomas to Claire, “You do know how to order men about.” Dougal’s response, “Aye, she does.”

Most disturbing moment: Black Jack flogging Jamie.

Outlander Review (Episode 5 – Rent)

Rent, Rebellion, and Raunchy Jokes 

The romance between Claire and Jamie is a slow burn. Starz admitted season one was going to take time to unfold the heated love story. They also took a rather leisurely pace with Episode Five, Rents.

As promised, Dougal allows Claire to travel with the familiar characters, plus a few new ones, on their trip across MacKenzie lands to collect the rent. Rent comes in all shapes and sizes from a pence to a pig, handed over to Mr. Gowan, a solicitor, who collects and writes receipts. Claire is civil to this newcomer, which is quite contrary to her behavior with the rest of the clan the entire episode.

In this part of the story, there are three things striking about Claire. One, her hair is flowing and not tied back. Those beautiful curly locks make her look very attractive. Second, her wardrobe with the fur collar and cuffs, worn for traipsing through the Highlands, seems a bit out of place. It makes me wonder who at Leoch is providing the obvious expensive wardrobe, or if the costume designer for the show is just have loads of fun dressing her up. Third, her attitude on this trip equates to one sour pickle. She flashes her scathing looks and wields a sharp tongue in almost every scene—except toward Jamie, of course. Frankly, I wanted to slap her a few times myself because her attitude had become a bit irritating. It appeared as if Claire was burning every bridge between the relationships she had forged and the trust gained.

The remainder of her companions—Dougal, Angus, Rupert and the lot of burly men around the campsite—are a raunchy bunch, telling lewd stories. Claire, on the other hand, is sulking propped up next to a tree. She grumbles to herself that everyone hates her and has excluded her from their presence. Frankly, let’s face it—she doesn’t exactly have much in common with the rutting band of merry men speaking Gaelic. Jamie feels sorry for her, comes over with a peace offering of bread, and leaves her with a reminder that they treat her that way because they don’t trust her.

A few days later during one of their rent gathering sessions, she gets bored and wanders off in the small community. She meets a band of women sitting around a table rolling fabric in a pool of hot piss. She joins the group, grabs the cloth, and gets down and dirty with the locals. Apparently pee sets the dye in the fabric. When she is about to add her tinkle in a bucket, Angus barges in and hauls her roughly away by the arm. The clan is ready to leave, and his physical treatment only enrages Claire further.

She ends up having a hissy fit and an unpleasant scene unfurls with Angus and Dougal as she tries to return a goat to one of the women who needs it to feed her child milk. An Englishman intervenes over Claire’s harsh treatment, who appears to be one of the villagers. He asks if she’s all right, and Claire looks at him in astonishment. Before she can respond, the stranger is threatened by Angus. The Englishman doesn’t press the matter but retreats. He disappears in the shadows and puts on his Redcoat uniform, which unfolds later in the episode.

It’s obvious as we watch the hour continue that Claire becomes aware that more than rent gathering is occurring by Dougal. He is also raising funds for the rebellion, which she knows will end up in catastrophic loss. There are multiple flash-forwards between Claire and Frank as he tells her the history behind the massacre at the battle of Culloden. Ironically, in one scene Claire is standing by Frank at the battlefield location and looking at a MacKenzie memorial stone, which is one of many that commemorate those who lost their lives.

If you hated history as a subject, take a deep breath because you’re going to get one regarding Jacobitism, King James, and the house of Stuarts in this episode. Claire tries her best to warn Mr. Gowan and Dougal that their efforts are for a lost cause. Of course, her advice isn’t understood, and neither is her meddling as she tries to change the course of history without much forethought over the consequences. It’s understandable that Claire has the burden of knowledge in the presence of these men, but is powerless to change their minds. She cannot help but wonder how many of the men she knows will still be alive in 1746.

Even though the episode is filled with snarky jokes aimed as Sassenach, and she thinks they should kiss her English ass, Claire learns a lesson. When a brawl ensues at one of their stops over an insult hurled at Claire, the men rise into action. Afterward, she discovers it ensued because someone called her a whore. To her surprise, Murtagh replies, “You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you but God help any other man who does.”

As far as Jamie and Claire, the scenes vary. Jamie admonishes Claire not to judge what she doesn’t understand, and reminds her it doesn’t matter where she came from–she’s here now. He saves her from Angus’ knife at her throat, brought on by her sharp tongue hurling insults. However, the memorable scene is Claire stumbling over Jamie outside her door. When she discovers he is there to protect her, she invites Jamie to sleep in her room instead of the floor. His cute virginal response and the look on his face is priceless.

“Sleep in your room with ye? I couldna do that! Your reputation would be ruined!” 

The episode ends with a cliffhanger and the Redcoat she met earlier finding Dougal and Claire alone by a stream. He reappears with a band of Redcoats on horses and looks at Claire and asks her once again behind the boldness of his status, “Are you here by your own choice?” Don’t expect an answer until next week.

Guess who’s back? Your favorite sadistic Frank look-a-like, Black Jack Randall. The only good return of that blackguard is that it will soon lead to a marriage so all ye lasses can swoon over Jamie losing his virginity.

Overall, the episode was slower paced, historically rife, and not as exciting as others.

Most tender moment: Jamie turning down Claire’s invitation to sleep in her room.

Most humorous statement:  “You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you but God help any other man who does.”

Most disturbing moment:  Angus losing his temper with Claire.

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