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OUTLANDER Season Two, Will You Be Watching? …#springiscoming

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

It’s no secret that I’m an avid fan of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, as well as,  Ron D. Moore’s adaptation of the story for television found on the STARZ network in the U.S. and on Showcase here in Canada.

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What probably impressed me the most about Outlander’s first season was how the show’s creators manage to find two actors who were able to step into the roles of Jamie and Claire so effortlessly. I’m sure that was a concern for many fans, as we all had our own visions of Jamie and Claire, and getting the casting right was key if the show was going to get off the ground.

 

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The show’s outstanding scenery, music and the contributions from supporting cast members all came together to make Outlander’s inaugural season a huge success.

Outlander’s story is a long one as those of us who are still reading the series, it has been eight novels and the story is still not over. It’s filled with romance, adventure, and the harsh reality of living in the 18th century which includes a far amount of violence. Near the conclusion of Outlander, the first novel, readers and television viewers alike were presented with a particularly horrific act that for readers of the novel will not soon forget.

As Season 1 came to an end, we all knew what was coming as Jamie was left in the hands of Black Jack Randall in Wentworth Prison. From a pure production point of view, it was an incredibly difficult episode to pull off, the show’s creators did an amazing job. That said, I fear that there are images forever burned into my mind that I will never be able to erase! Okay, perhaps that’s being a little melodramatic, but I’m sure that there are others out there who agree with me.

After many discussions around the proverbial “water-cooler”, I think that despite the rawness of the season finale, most people that I’ve talked with will be tuning into Season 2. I know that I certainly will be, and from the looks of the first trailer for Season 2, the production values certainly appear to be of the highest quality once again. I also have a soft-spot for Dragonfly in Amber, the second novel in the series and as a history major, 18th century Paris was my favourite time period to study.

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So, the question is, will you be watching?

 

 

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#Droughtlander is Over…Finally! GUEST POST

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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I think that for all of us who are fans of Outlander, the television series, we can all agree that the return of Outlander couldn’t have come soon enough. The second half of the series kicked off with a bang as we were brought right back to where we left off, at the garrison of Fort William where Claire was being held captive by Captain “Black Jack” Randall. This episode, named “The Reckoning”, was different from the first half of the season because there is a change in narration. The episode is told exclusively from Jamie’s point of view. It was a real treat to hear Jamie’s voice as the central focus since the novels are primarily written from Claire’s perspective. All along I’ve really enjoyed the changes that the show’s writers have made because I strongly feel like they have only served to enhance and improve on the storytelling. These changes have given a voice to the thoughts and actions of the other characters in the story. Whether it’s additional scenes, dialogue or even just a lingering focus on a character’s facial expression, the creativity of the show’s writers has filled out the story in new and wonderfully, unexpected ways.

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If you have read the book, then you are well aware that there are some traumatic events to come, and I know that I am eagerly waiting in anticipation to see how the show will deal with the developments between Claire, Jamie and of course, Captain Randall.  One sensitive issue was the spanking scene, which caused much speculation between die-hard fans.  In the book, Jamie had to deliver corporal punishment to his wife for putting all of the Mackenzie men at risk by disobeying his instructions to stay put when he left to confront a deserter from British army who might be able to help clear his name. When the Mackenzie men mounted the attack to rescue Claire from the clutches of Randall, she put everyone’s lives at risk. The show kept very close to the original plot line and I thought that both Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe did a fantastic job pulling off what must have been a difficult scene to navigate.

In Episode 10, “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”, we begin the lead up to a significant twist in the plot that changes the course for Jamie and Claire. There were some excellent scenes and dialogue added that were the perfect complement to the story, such as Dougal’s drunken meltdown upon hearing of his wife’s passing or Laoghaire’s stubborn refusal to accept Jamie’s marriage when Claire confronted her about the ill-wish. There’s also a scene where Claire stumbled upon Geilles conducting a very similar pagan ritual dance that she witnessed at Craigh na Dun the night before she disappeared from Inverness in 1945. We also finally understand how Jamie became involved in a duel, an event that does not occur in Outlander (but does happen later on in in the series). This scene had been in the previews for the second half of the season and it left me wondering how the duel actually came to be.

The episode wraps up with Claire being swept up in the drama surrounding Geilles Duncan, and so once again, Claire’s life is in peril because she didn’t listen to her husband’s advice to stay away from Geilles. Oh the would-have, should-have, could-haves that plague Claire! Even though, I’m well familiar with what is to come, I find myself waiting with great anticipation for the last half of the season to unfold.

“But What About Frank?” – Outlander S1, Ep7 (The Wedding)

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The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority. – Stanley Milgram

Episode 7 – The Wedding

Most often when I consider the ripple effect reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander had on my life, it was in terms of how it may have impacted my choice of spouse rather than the relationships with my friends. For a number of years it was a personal mission to ensure that every friend, acquaintance and occasionally even strangers read it. The alchemy of this story has become legend between my friends and I. Though coincidentally my husband is a 6’4 former red head but of English, rather than Scots ancestry, other than his stature and once red hair he doesn’t bear much resemblance to the character, which now that I think about it, is probably a good thing.

From IMDB The Wedding (S1, Ep6) – Marriage to a Scot seems to be the only legal way out to save Claire from falling into the paws of Black Jack Randall. And Jamie accepts to become her husband and protect her. Claire is overwhelmed by circumstances that are forcing her into becoming an adulteress and a bigamist. The hasty marriage takes place and, in order to be legal, it must be consummated that night. 

Perhaps recommending and discussing Outlander was the first outlet for my many book related opinions that would later be fulfilled by the creation of my blog. My bestie resisted my efforts for a solid seven years …until Christmas showing up more than two hours late and in a state.

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When I asked her what the problem was she cried “But what about Frank?!?!?!?!?” I don’t remember what my response was other than I am sure a snort and something to the effect of “Obviously you haven’t read enough about Jamie yet!” However more than a decade later my opinion has changed somewhat and this thought seemed to echo throughout this most recent episode as Claire braced herself to consummate her marriage to Jamie.

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To avoid a torturous, literally, interrogation at the hands of Captain Randall, Claire is faced with an untenable choice. As a English subject she is at the mercy of their military, however if she were to become a Scot, Randall would have no legal means to impel her to submit to questioning. Rather than marry her himself Dougal has come up with an ingenious solution that not only secures her safety but keeps her accessible as his nephew, Young Jamie’s wife.

After watching the episode and recovering from the glory that is Sam Heughan sans vêtements, (truly, he is glorious) I found myself reflecting on my friend’s words. Told in flashbacks that are incredibly romantic you see the wedding from both Claire and Jamie’s perspectives. Despite wanting to smack Claire for her reticence I also found I could understand her reluctance to simply grab Jamie and deflower him already. Alas my gratification was not to be immediately fulfilled, truly this episode was possibly the most skilfully rendered yet and that it saying something after the visceral horror of Jamie’s flogging in The Garrison Commander, which proved that in this case my imagination did not come close to doing the torture justice.

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Twenty years ago when I read Outlander for the first time I don’t remember giving the sanctity of Claire’s vows to Frank much thought. However, when I laughingly reminded teachergirl73 of her distress, she was as dismissive as I once was of the small complication of having two husbands. Whether it was the long years of separation during the war or the degrading treatment at the hands of his doppelgänger or quite simply the irresistible pull of Jamie, it is clear that the hold of her other life is beginning to falter.

Unfortunately we will only be able to ponder this for the next 6 months following next week’s mid-season finale. In lieu of methadone I would highly recommend keeping the first 8 episodes on your PVR for repeated viewings.

Both Sides Now (S1, Ep8) – PROMO

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Outlander S1, Ep6 “The Garrison Commander”

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander

This episode begins with a significant departure from the book as Claire and Dougal are discovered by some red coat officers, one of them the lieutenant who tried to help Claire back in Episode Five, when Claire was having a good row with Angus and Dougal. That same lieutenant appears again just as Claire and Dougal are arguing once again and it is clear that the he believes that Claire is being held against her will. One would have thought that this was Claire’s chance to break free of the Mackenzie clan, she does not take it. Whether it was her previous encounter with Captain “Black” Jack Randall or because her time with the highlanders has not been all bad, she declares that she is a guest of the Mackenzie.

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Tobias Menzies, who plays Capt. “Black” Jack Randall, gets to display some fabulous acting skills he gives us a look at the deeply disturbing nature of Black Jack’s character. The scene where Jamie was flogged by Randall was truly horrific, which for anyone who’s read the book would know.  The show’s decision to change the retelling of the event from Dougal to Randall, certainly provided Menzies with the opportunity to show his breadth and depth as an actor. The problem is, when actors get to play characters that are as polarizing as Black Jack, I think that it’s sometimes hard for audiences to see them any other way.

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This is where Menzies will get the chance to prove his acting ability. We have only seen bits of Frank Randall, Black Jack’s future heir and much nicer, kinder alter ego, as after the first initial episode we have only seen Frank in Claire’s memories. This has allowed the truly twisted and demented personality of Black Jack to dominate. By getting to play both characters, Menzies has the role of a lifetime where he gets to play both sides of the coin within the same production. I’m really hoping for more glimpses of Frank in future episodes and to see if Menzies can make me like Frank again or at the very least feel compassion for him, because right now my response to the question, “What about Frank?” is “Who cares!“.

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Outlander, S1, Ep. 4-5 “Taking Oaths and Warmongering…”

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Episode 4 – The Gathering

I really do think that script writers for Outlander, have done an excellent job translating the original story with a new and original perspective.  The evidence of this expertly interwoven storytelling is demonstrated in Episodes Four, Five and Six. Although this post will deal exclusively with the events of Episode Four “The Gathering” and Episode Five “Rent”. Episode Six “The Garrison Commander” requires a post all on its own (once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand).

“The Gathering” is a very significant turning point for both Jamie and Claire as they both try in their own ways to avoid becoming more involved in the power and the politics of the Clan Mackenzie.  Of course, neither Jamie nor Claire can avoid the inevitable push and pull that is the Clan, but then again, it would be a much different story to tell if both characters escape plans had been successful.

The fourth episode opens with Claire playing with the children of the castle in the woods. To her guards and anyone else watching, it merely appears that Claire is having fun playing a version of “hide and seek” with Hamish Mackenzie, Colum’s son, and the rest of the castle’s offspring. However, Claire’s intentions for playing in the woods with the children are much more serious. What she is in fact doing is reconnaissance of the property surrounding the castle so that she can plan her escape. As she secretly leaves “breadcrumbs” to mark her escape path, to everyone else, she appears to be getting into the festivities of the Gathering.

All seems to be going as Claire has planned until she discovers Geilis Duncan in her surgery, who is openly snooping through Claire’s meager belongings as well as her stores of various herbs. Subtly malicious in her friendliness Geilis questions a clearly wary and uncomfortable Claire about her husband, she leaves her with a warning that the “highlands are no place for a woman on her own”.

In a significant departure from the original story-line, just as Claire’s getting ready to flee the castle, she is interrupted at her surgery door by Laoghaire. The young girl has come to seek Claire’s help with “moving Jamie’s heart forward” with a love potion. This is another one of those moments where Claire does not fully appreciate the superstitious nature of the highland folk. Claire thinks it is a sweet and innocent request from a young girl with a crush, and does not fully appreciate what this request might cost her in the future.

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The rest of the episode travels along following most of the original story-line, where Jamie inadvertently is forced into swearing an oath of sorts to Colum, thanks to Claire, despite what the political and personal consequences might be for him. There is a wild boar hunt where Claire and Dougal have a bonding moment as they help a fatally injured clansman pass on with dignity. At the end of the episode, Dougal declares that he will be taking a group to collect the rents from those living on the Mackenzie lands that couldn’t make it to the Gathering and that Claire will be going with him.

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Episode 5 – Rent

The tone of Episode Five is quite different from the way Claire is treated in the book. While travelling through the Mackenzie lads, Claire is treated as an outcast most of the time. The clansmen are far more antagonistic towards her and she is treated quite poorly by them. The only exceptions to this treatment seem to be Ned Gowan, the Clan’s lawyer/accountant and Jamie. But I felt at times that even Jamie was colder towards her in this episode than he ever was in the book at this point. The novel portrays Claire’s relationship with the clansmen as more jovial and light-hearted, and there’s a greater sense of camaraderie.

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While out collecting the rents, Claire finds her own amusement by helping a group of women working wool.  Enjoying her afternoon working with the village women, Claire takes the opportunity to ask some questions about Craigh na Dun, trying to figure out how far away she is from her escape. Claire’s day takes a turn for the worse when she gets into an argument with Angus about how she is spent her day. Emboldened by some whiskey shared with the other ladies,  she makes quite a scene, causing Dougal to step in. It is while Claire is in the midst of an argument with Dougal in front of the townsfolk that tensions become more heightened as an Englishman appears from one of the huts and tries to intervene. This gallantry on the part of the Englishman does not go over very will with the clansmen and when it looks like swords and blood might start flying, the lone Englishman backs down. After Dougal and his party leave, we see that he is actually a British officer.

This trip is not just to collect the Mackenzie rents. Unbeknownst to Claire, Dougal is also using the trip to collect funds for the Charles Stuart, the Catholic king and “rightful” heir to the Scottish throne. His tactics to help the return his king to the throne begin with using Jamie’s back as the proof that the British are not fit to rule. But when they come across the bodies of two highlanders strung up for all to see. Dougal’s retelling of finding the desecrated bodies left in the open for the crows to eat, helps to further his warmongering cause. Claire tries to warn Ned Gowan, strongly implying that the Scots won’t stand a chance against the British army, but it is to no avail.

There is a moment near the end of the episode that seems to help break the tension felt between Claire and the clansmen. Following inappropriate comments from others about the “Sassenach” the Mackenzie men start a room clearing brawl. In defending her honour the Mackenzie men find a way to coexist peacefully with Claire.

As the party moves on to the next town, Dougal and Claire have another conversation where he questions her about who she really is and why she is in Scotland, as he knows about her conversation with Ned Gowan about the fate of the Stuart cause. Claire tries to tell Dougal that she is just trying to save his life and that of his men when they are interrupted by the British officer that they encountered earlier in the episode. The episode comes to a close with Dougal clearly outnumbered, and the lieutenant questioning Claire if she is being held against her will. You’ll have to watch Episode Six, “The Garrison Commander” to find out what Claire’s response is…

The Garrison Commander (S1, Ep6) – PROMO

 

 

If Scotland Had Been Watching Outlander, the “YES” Vote Would Be A Slam-dunk!

GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

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The premiere of Outlander, the television series, is rather convenient given that on Thursday, September 18th, the people of Scotland will be asked to cast their vote, “Yes” or “No” to the following question:

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

You can read all about why the Scots should vote “Yes” according to the Scottish government’s website on the vote:

http://scotreferendum.com/

If you want to read why the Scots should vote “No”, check out the UK government’s response:

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/scottish-independence-referendum/about

But here’s the irony of it all, the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, haven’t been able to view the show (unless they have tried online streaming) because none of the television networks have picked it up yet! The fact that the entire show has been filmed in Scotland, and it’s a story involving a rather significant piece of Scottish history as it was the last attempt to force the English out of the country, seems not to matter.

Now before you start… , reminding me that the story is NOT real and it’s just a TV show, I know all of that….I haven’t completely lost touch with reality. But it does beg the question that if the Scots could see the show right now, with the most important vote they will ever participate in their lifetime in two days time, how would the show influence the voting?

In the first few episodes, the most inflammatory acts of British oppression, really only come from one man, Captain “Black Jack” Randall. We know from the first episode, that he is not a nice guy, (to say the least) and as Claire hears more about Jamie’s experiences with Randall, we realize just how bad he is. At that point, we just assume that he is evil incarnate and that he’s just one guy with too much power.

“The Garrison Commander”, S1, Ep6 paints a very disturbing picture of how little respect the English ruling class had for the Scottish people. The scene that I refer to involves Dougal, Claire and a room full of British high-ranking officers. I won’t give the away the details except to say that the appalling arrogance and disrespect demonstrated towards Dougal, was unbelievable. Again, as this a fictional story, and this particular storyline is meant to invoke sympathy for the Scottish clans in its viewers. The unmitigated display of disdain for the people of Scotland, is also the interpretation of the show’s writers and what I assume is loosely based on real events and journals about the attitudes of the time that would have been authenticated in part through research. But I know that as I watched the scene, I was appalled, and I cannot help but think that if I were a Scottish national, it would be a very difficult scene to swallow and not have some kind of reaction. Given the current political climate in the country today, I think that the “No” side is pretty lucky that no network has picked up the show yet.

How is it possible that the UK could be losing Scotland? Perhaps it is a 21st century version of that same English arrogance that is ushering the people of Scotland down a path to separation?

It is clear that David Cameron’s government has been blindsided by the increased support for Scottish independence and now at the 11th hour, his government is scrambling to turn the tide. What will be the final outcome? The polls are declaring it a tight race right now but it could be that after Thursday’s vote we see something that the highland clans could not achieve back in 1745, a free Scotland.

For further reading on the topic check out the following links:

Outlander, S1, Ep. 3 “The Way Out”

 

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

The third episode of Outlander opens with a flashback memory that Claire has of saying goodbye to Frank as she goes off to her nursing post along the front lines, leaving him behind to play spy. As her train is pulling away, Frank makes Claire promise to return to him, and she does. I find myself really enjoying the flashback moments that Claire has of her life with Frank. In the book, Frank is present for such a short time and then he’s gone, but in the show, the writers have given us a more fulsome character. It’s nice to get an answer to the question of “What about Frank?“, especially one that provides us with a clearer look at Claire’s relationship with her husband. So as Claire comes back to the reality of her current situation, it is this promise to return to Frank made so many years ago, that is clearly weighing on her.

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Early on in the episode, a very popular travelling poet and musician, Gwyllyn, has arrived at the castle to provide entertainment for the Laird and his clan. Claire finds herself sitting with Jamie McTavish and the young girl Laoghaire, who clearly has a crush on Jamie. Claire tries to point out how lovely Laoghaire looks to help the young girl’s cause, but it all basically falls flat. It is clear that Jamie is not interested in the young girl. Not too long into the evening, Jamie asks Claire to take a look at his bandages, and off they go to the surgery, leaving Laoghaire to enjoy the night’s entertainment on her own.

Later on in the episode, Claire makes some comments speculating on Jamie’s love life while talking with Murtagh and his opinion of Laoghaire is classic!  Murtagh points out that Jamie needs a woman, not a lassie, and that Laoghaire will be a lassie still when she is 50. No truer words have ever been said, as those you who have read farther in the series might appreciate the accuracy of that statement.

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Back at Claire’s surgery, Jamie and Claire share an intimate moment, where they discuss how he doesn’t mind her seeing his scars, but that he doesn’t want others to see them. Jamie explains that once people see the scars, that is all they can see about and they no longer see him for who really is. As Claire is examining his shoulder wound, we see the first real sparks of chemistry between them. Sam Heughan definitely has the “smouldering” look down pat! All I can say is give us more!

Also in this episode, we get to see some foreshadowing of future troubles to come. The bottom line is no one trusts Claire, with the exception of perhaps Jamie, which is natural given the fact that she’s saved his life and patched him up many times over in their brief acquaintance. But no one else from Colum and Dougal to the staff of Castle Leoch to the villagers really knows what to make of Claire’s sudden appearance.  As much as she is trying to fit in, Claire isn’t fooling anyone, including Geilles Duncan, the fiscal’s wife and local herbalist, who seems to have quite the knack for always steering the conversation back to Claire and her life before arriving in town.

Then there is Father Bain. He is clearly one of those priests that thinks ruling with an iron fist is the way to do God’s work. He believes that Claire is a servant of Satan when she interferes with the treatment of a sick boy. Claire realizes that the boy has been poisoned, but the priest insists on an exorcism. After much hoopla, Claire, with the help of Mrs. Fitz (the boy’s aunt), forces her way past the priest to give the sick child the treatment that he needs, ultimately saving the boy’s life. Instead of being grateful, Father Bain is livid. He doesn’t care for being upstaged by a woman, and a Sassanach to boot! I suspect that in the 18th century, this response would have been a fairly typical reaction by most men (see Auralee’s post on surviving in the 18th century). So while it is clear that Claire has garnered the respect of Mrs. Fitz, she has also made an enemy of Father Bain.

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As the episode comes to a close, Claire has some renewed hope that she might actually make it back to her own time. Gwyllyn tells a story of woman who travels through time, about 200 years,  coming through some standing stones during “Samhain” (pronounced “Saween” what is known as Halloween today) just as Claire did. The woman in Gwyllyn’s story goes on living her life in the past, and even falling in love, but then eventually returns through the stones to her own time. Claire realizes that this legend must have some truth to it, now that she has lived the experience herself. Claire is more determined than ever to get back to Craigh na Dun, as she vows to do whatever it takes to leave Castle Leoch.

The Gathering (S1, Ep4) – PROMO