outlander 302 – surrender – thoughts on the episode, sam heughan, laura donnelly, and the book adaptation

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NOTE: Spoilers ahead, so read no further if you haven’t seen the episode or read the book.  

Screencaps courtesy of Outlander Online.


NOTES on Episode:

The 18th Century bits of this episode are based on events from Chapters 4 to 6 in Voyager, as well as a bit of dialogue from chapter 43.  Most of the 20th Century parts are original to the series, except for a few bits of taken from chapters 3 and 7.


Review:

This section of the book I thought would be hard to adapt because although some important, tangible events happen, there was so much of it that was based on Jamie’s inner dialogue.  Written by Executive Producer Anne Kenney, it is a remarkably focused story.

An interesting change from the book was that Anne made Jamie (Sam Heughan) far more feral than he had been in the book.  Due to his extreme grief at losing Claire (Caitriona Balfe), combined with his survivor’s remorse at surviving Culloden when so many did not, he pulls away from his family. Jamie is a shadow of his former self because he has emotionally checked out of his life.

And his family tries to pull him back, Fergus (Romann Berrux) accuses him of being a coward, Jenny (Laura Donnelly) lectures him on not really being there. Nothing seems to get through to him, not until things get more dire, the redcoats become more menacing and they search the house and Fergus loses his hand.

The pain Jamie had been feeling at losing Claire, like the phantom pains of Fergus’s missing hand and Ian’s leg as Ian pointed out, cannot be cured.  I love that Anne Kenney found that bit of dialogue in the book originally spoken by Duncan Innes (in which he was talking about his own missing arm in chapter 43), and used it here.  It articulated what Jamie was going through almost perfectly.

I absolutely adored the change that had Fergus shoot the raven.  In the book, Jamie did it, which didn’t really make sense to me. In shooting the raven, Fergus was doing what he told Jamie he would do: he defended his home.  It’s very sweet.

I loved the expanded role they gave to Mary MacNab (Emma Campbell-Jones).  There wasn’t much of Mary in the book before she made love to Jamie in the cave, so her getting involved in more events in the episode makes sense.  It showed Jamie that she is smart, strong, and a compassionate woman and one will to risk her life (by giving the redcoats the pistol the way she did) to protect the family, so she’s brave too.  She’s shown she has a real affection for the family and is unswervingly loyal.  So, when she offered to make love to Jamie, it was touching and sweet, when it could have come off as forced or out of character.

One of the most prominent changes from the book was the addition of the Redcoat, Corporal MacGregor (Ryan Fletcher) and his superior officer, Captain Lewis (Rufus Wright) and their threats to Jenny and Ian (Steven Cree). Their menacing presence and their threats against his family made the situation far more urgent for Jamie.

They weren’t going to stop harassing them not until they found him.  Their ongoing threat made Jamie’s decision to have Jenny betray him to the British Army the logical choice, which is slightly different than the way the book handled it.

One of the ongoing changes I’m not so keen on this season is that in the book the time jumps were handled differently.  While the book had gone between the 20th and 18th Century, just like in the show, in the novel they went between 1968 and the 18th Century, not 1948 or 1949.

The novel had the different times connected through Claire, Brianna, and Roger in 1968 investigating Jamie’s life in the 18th Century.  So, when they found out information about what Jamie had been doing back then, like being the ‘Dunbonnet’ hiding in a cave, Diana’s book then showed what Jamie was doing while living in that cave, etc. It added something extra to the going back and forth.  It tied in the different jumps in time to each other, so that going from 1752 at Lallybroch to Inverness in 1968, and so on, make more sense.

I understand the show wants to give us more than the book had about what went on with Claire and Frank in Boston, so they draw out the parallels between Claire’s and Jamie’s stories.  However, in trying to extend that out for as many episodes they will need apparently need to (if this continues through to when Jamie and Claire finally reunite) the danger is that not every facet of Jamie’s life after Culloden will resonate with Claire’s life with Frank.

Still, it worked pretty well in Dragonfly in Amber. The stakes kept rising until Claire went up Craigh Na Dun in two different centuries.  The 1746 visit to the top of the fairy hill meant she would never see Jamie again.  Then in the 1968 trip up that hill she learned that maybe she could.

It was also worked in The Battle Joined.  Claire and Jamie both had their battles to fight, both trapped by circumstances in situations they didn’t want or expect.

Despite what the producers said about this season showing parallels between Claire and Jamie’s stories, I am not sure it totally works here.   There is little in Claire’s life with Frank that is at all similar to the hell that Jamie was going through in Lallybroch.  Aside from missing each other and generally not liking sex with people other than each other, that is.

And the title ‘Surrender’ doesn’t make much sense.

Yes, Jamie ultimately had to surrender to the British.  In addition to not dealing well with his grief over losing Claire, he is doing more harm than good hiding out in the cave so he has to give himself up.  Not only to protect his family from possibly arresting and charging them with treason, but they also need the reward money to support the estate.

But what is Claire surrendering to?  Executive Producer Toni Graphia said in the ‘Inside ep 302’ featurette that Claire had to surrender to living her 20th Century life with Frank.  Perhaps that’s arguable, but it doesn’t work, really, in that way, especially since she doesn’t succeed in her surrender and Jamie ends up being carted off to prison at the end of the episode. So, her story isn’t really parallel to Jamie’s.

I don’t know, maybe it’s more like it’s almost the reverse of his story.  It has some features that are the same, in a broad sense: they are both trying to find a new role in their families and make it work, they are both grieving in the loss of the other. Yet, she fails at her attempts to ‘surrender’ to a life with Frank.  So, she has to choose a different path to find a meaningful role in her life, and she goes to medical school.  But with the all the misogynistic and sexist white male doctors around her, that is definitely going to be a fight, not a surrender.

So, no. I do not love the title.

I must say that the use of sex in this episode was interesting.  Starting out almost immediately with Claire’s masturbatory daydreaming of a naked Jamie bathed in the warm firelight of their bedroom at Lallybroch, the episode explored sex to an unexpected degree.

At first, I was surprised Claire initiated sex with Frank. And I must say, that I personally really didn’t need to see her having sex with Frank even once, much less twice.

It’s not that I hate Frank, it’s just that it was uncomfortable and not really very sexy, but I suppose that was part of the point in showing it.  Of course, sex with Frank isn’t as easy and as natural as having sex with Jamie had been for Claire.  And after everything that’s happened to her since she first stepped through the stones, it shouldn’t be.

Yet, while he’s not Jamie, Claire had made a bargain to raise Bree with Frank. While having sex wasn’t expressly part of that deal, they are Catholic and she is Frank’s wife in the middle of the last century.  It wouldn’t probably be a surprise Frank would have certain expectations in that area, as he showed in The Battle Joined.  Although, for him, it seemed to be more about emotional availability, not just the physical act of sex, that he was missing.

She perhaps has the same problem, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that she gives sex a try.  Who knows? Maybe she thought things would be like there were before she went back in time.

She likes sex a lot, and so Claire, as a character, has always been sexually forward.  In the past, she had has used sex to ‘connect’ with Frank.  Even a few times with Jamie, sex was a way to reconnect, like the make-up sex in season 1’s The Reckoning: or she had used it to reestablish intimacy, like in season 2’s Useful Occupations and Deceptions.

The sex-free life she’d had with Frank up to this point in the show must have been very frustrating because it also made her more isolated emotionally.  Claire’s making love with Frank was an attempt to reconnect with him, trying to make her life with him work on a more emotionally intimate level.  For what it’s worth, Frank also needed that as well, and sex was how they connected before. Why wouldn’t it work this time?

He said to Claire in Through a Glass Darkly, episode 201, that he couldn’t share her with another man, and that she had to leave Jamie behind her.  Yet there he is in Boston doing just that, sharing Claire with her memory of Jamie. For him, her initiating sex must have seemed like she was reestablishing her role as his wife.

What Frank didn’t realize is that Claire was incapable of ever keeping her part of the bargain, that Jamie is someone she can’t ever forget or leave behind.   So, when she couldn’t look at him, unable to be completely at ease with a man who looks so much like his long-dead relative Black Jack Randall, it must have been a huge blow to his ego.  It’s little wonder they stopped even pretending to be intimate and switched to twin beds.

In something that seemed similar, since Jamie also couldn’t keep his eyes open during sex, Mary initiated sex with Jamie.  Yet, it was different.

Mary isn’t in love with Jamie, or at least I don’t think so.  As she said, she initiated sex because she wanted to comfort him and herself.  She wanted give Jamie a gentle, loving intimacy to support him in the face of what will likely be a long, cold, and harsh imprisonment.  She knows the profound nature of his sacrifice for the good of his family, servants, and tenants, so it was her way to help him in a way.

What a daunting prospect for Jamie. Even though Ian said he wasn’t likely to be hanged, Jamie couldn’t be 100% sure of that, so he grabbed a little comforting intimacy while he could.  Still, he could not keep his eyes open.

What a sad episode for Jamie and Claire.  While her story ended on a hopeful note, starting medical school, meeting Joe Abernathy, and finding purpose in life despite a loveless marriage, Jamie’s took a darker turn as he was taken off by the redcoats.  It was an excellent outing for Anne Kenney.

Again, Sam Heughan put in another strong performance as Jamie. His very physicality is different.  He walked with almost mincing steps, like he was wearing shoes that hurt his feet and had needed to walk in them anyway.  What an interesting choice to make, that even walking around hurt Jamie.  His performance, with a deeper and a more quiet voice, his unwillingness to look the other people in the eyes, and his slow, deliberate movements gave Jamie a quiet menace that fit in perfectly with his state of mind. But his most powerful moments were later in the episode when he was forced to feel more than he wanted to, like when he cried in Jenny’s arms or a tear rolled down his cheek before kissing Mary.

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Damn, but that man can act.  He was awesome.

As much as I enjoyed Sam’s performance, I must say that there were points when I hated that wig and the fake beard, even as beautifully made as they were.  It made it harder to understand what he was feeling since I couldn’t completely see his face. It diluted the emotional intensity a bit, especially when he was falling apart after Fergus got hurt.  It didn’t help the scene was so dark…

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Laura Donnelly gave an outstanding performance as Jenny Murray, Jamie’s sister.  The pain she exhibited when Jenny was yelling at Jamie at the end was heartbreaking.   Laura made it clear that Jenny wasn’t lying, it was Jamie’s fault that she was there and she was angry at him for it.

While this isn’t a perfect episode, and not as quite watchable as last week’s outing, I honestly got a bit bored with the 20th Century stuff at times, which is why I didn’t mention it much… Though cute babies for the win.

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Overall, this was another strong outing…

4.5 18th Century Scottish flintlock pistols out of 5.

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Odd things I noticed:

– Jenny says that Jamie left to fight for the Stuarts ‘6 years’ ago, but this episode takes place in 1752, and he left to join Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, so that’s seven years…

– When Fergus has his hand cut off, and Jamie uses his belt as a tourniquet, the belt loosens as Sam picks Romann up and it looks like it fell off.

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– And why is Jamie wearing what he had been wearing at Culloden?  He came home in just his shirt and kilt.  Did he have more than one of the same jacket and waistcoat?

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2 thoughts on “outlander 302 – surrender – thoughts on the episode, sam heughan, laura donnelly, and the book adaptation

    • Thank you, I really appreciate that. If you read the books because you love the show, you will become obsessed with the books. Diana is a fantastic writer. The books are a lot of fun to read and very easy to reread.

      Like

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