outlander 308 – first wife – thoughts on the episode, sam heughan, caitriona balfe, laura donnelly, and the book adaptation

outlander-s03e08-first-wife-title-card

NOTE: Spoilers ahead, so read no further if you haven’t seen the episode or read any of the books, especially “Voyager.” 


Screencaps courtesy of Outlander Online, except for the one of Claire’s shoe, and the screenshots of the script and the graylag passage from the book; those are mine.

NOTE:

This episode was set in 1767 and was largely taken from Chapters 32 – 39 of “Voyager,” although the bit about Jamie going to the Silkie Island was from Chapter 10.


Written by Consulting Producer, Joy Blake (producing and writing vet of shows “Heroes” and “Ghost Whisperer”), who is new to the “Outlander” this year, this episode was an excellent adaptation of this section of the book.  There was a lot of stuff that was trimmed from the book, as usual, or moved around, but the choices Joy and the other writers and producers made were solid ones.

And there were a lot of choices to make since this was a pretty big chunk of the book to distill down to an hour.  It is from more than 8 chapters.

They made some changes to accomplish that, as usual, but they weren’t really major ones, there were more like minor adjustments to condense things in order to get everything to fit.

One tweak was how Jamie (Sam Heughan) dealt with Young Ian (John Bell).  In the book, it was quite the moment, Jamie felt so guilty over what happened and lying to his sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly) and brother-in-law Ian (Steven Cree) that he had Young Ian thrash him once he was done thrashing his nephew.  The book had Jamie be less averse to the idea of corporal punishment, but given how things have turned out, it makes sense show-Jamie wouldn’t feel the same way book-Jamie did.  Young Ian is like a son to him, he wouldn’t hit him any more than he would hit Claire (Caitriona Balfe).

Another one of the changes in this part of the season were all the hints about Jamie having a secret he was keeping from Claire.   That secret was that he had married Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson).

In the book, there were very subtle hints Jamie was hiding something from Claire.  There were side-eyes and whispered conversations that stopped once Claire got into earshot, and a few things said that without context didn’t really lay out the truth, but doing things along those lines probably would not have been obvious enough.  Not only that, but it would probably have taken more time, so the change made sense and was more practical.

I liked they didn’t wait long to get in the revelation, Marsali (Lauren Lyle), Joan (Layla Burns), and Laoghaire entered Jamie’s bedroom at about 20 minutes into the episode or so.  Dropping hints about this secret before it was finally disclosed didn’t lessen the impact, even though honestly, I was a bit worried it might have.

My gosh, that was a powerful moment, which was beautifully acted by all concerned.  It was a heart-wrenching scene, Claire so heartbroken, Jamie so ashamed, Laoghaire mad with jealousy, and Joan and Marsali so betrayed…


As an aside, when I pronounced her name in my head while reading the books, I thought it sounded like ‘Mar-SAH-lee,’ instead of rhyming with ‘parsley’ or ‘Mars-Lee.’


Anyway, the way the argument that ensued after, with Claire and Jamie going after each other and segueing into sex was brilliant.  The scene worked out better than the way the book handled it.

In the show, I loved that Jamie was just about to tell Claire about Laoghaire and that there was something he wanted her to listen ‘with all your heart’ to what he wanted to say to her.  It didn’t seem right that Jamie never tried to tell Claire in the book, so I’m glad they had him do it in the show.  It was an excellent change.

It was just Jamie’s luck that Marsali, Joan, and Laoghaire picked just then to show up.  He was incensed and ashamed, and Claire was horrified and obviously shaken to her core.

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Once they got to arguing about his marrying Laoghaire, of all people, it was heartbreaking to see Claire try and deal with this betrayal of her love and trust.

outlander-s03e08-first-wife-jamie-claire-arguing

This was something unforgivable for her, and she was devastated by that.  I don’t know if I totally bought her leaving Jamie at this point in the book, but the way they played it in the show it really worked.  Claire risked everything. She gave up her daughter and her comfortable life in Boston and in the series, I could see how to her it seemed a wasted effort.  I liked it was totally her choice to leave.

In the book, Jenny had encouraged her to go and wasn’t sorry about sending for Laoghaire because she wasn’t willing to risk Jamie getting hurt again.  Even though it was a subtle difference, it seemed like this was better motivated.

I also liked how it came to be that Laoghaire shot Jamie. In the book, it was all off camera, as it were. Claire only found out about Jamie getting injured after she left.  It was a far better choice to have Jamie tell Claire she is the only woman he ever loved and Laoghaire losing her temper when she overheard that.

The only thing I was sorry about with this adaptation was that we didn’t get the Claire outright declaring she would stay with Jamie after spending about half the episode worrying that she maybe she couldn’t…

Although once Young Ian was kidnapped by the pirates at the end, it was sorta implied, she returned his look of love when he said that they were mated for life, just like how he described the extremely strong pair bonding of graylags.

And Jamie telling her the beautiful story of how those geese mate for life, if you kill one you must wait to and kill the other because the bird’s mate would mourn itself to death, was perfect.  They took the lines almost word-for-word from the book.

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It’s a beautiful way to explain how Jamie sees Claire.  As flawed a man as he is, he doesn’t see his love for Claire as just love, it goes far beyond that for him, like it does for her. It’s a lifelong pair bond, like the graylag birds he described: Jamie and Claire are mated for life, totally lost without the other…

Jamie and Claire aren’t birds of course, but they are really not capable of living without the other.  While they hadn’t, in fact, mourned themselves to death, both had not really lived in the twenty years they were apart.

I am so glad that, as many things they cut from this part of the book, that they kept that bit of dialogue.

That idea is in essence what this novel is about and it was perfectly adapted in the episode.

I am amazed just how good the acting was, although I shouldn’t be surprised.  Despite the fact that this episode was (due to scheduling) was filmed out of order, in the same block as episode 302, “Surrender.” So, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe had not yet filmed the reunion episode when doing this one, and yet had to infuse their performances with the residual emotions from that.

The emotions they played seemed so raw and almost primal.  Sam was especially effective as Jamie.  My favorite bit was right before he was apparently about to tell Claire about Laoghaire when he told the story of the graylag.

While I had previously voiced concern before about how Caitriona can at times be inconsistent, this episode was a very strong one for her.  The devastation she exhibited as Claire was heartbreaking to watch as she fought to deal with Jamie’s betrayal and to argue with him about her feelings and   As good as that was, her anger when talking to Jamie was clear.  She was furious at him and kept herself in check, no throwing of pottery or screaming, yet Caitriona played it perfectly.  This was a terrific outing for her.

Another performance I liked was Laura Connelly’s.  While Jenny had some moments came off as forced or stiff, Laura’s scene with Sam, while Jenny and Jamie talked about Claire’s ‘death’, was terrific.

While this episode maybe wasn’t perfect, I adored so many things about it the episode rose above its limitations.  The outing was overall an excellent adaptation of this part of the book.

I give this episode 5 out of a possible 5 pairs of graylag geese.

Graylag_geese_(Anser_anser)_in_flight_1700

Odd things I noticed:

– When Jamie and Claire run down to the beach, you get a quick glimpse of Claire’s boot, and there is a support of some kind between the heel and the sole, perhaps to make it more stable and less likely to cause her to twist her ankle…

outlander-screenshot-first-wife-claire-shoe

 

– The script said it’s set in 1766, but the previous episode (and all episodes since Claire went back to the 18th Century in “A. Malcolm”) have been set in 1767.

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