Friday, October 24, 2014

Outlander – Episode 7, The Wedding – Recap

This is the episode everyone was waiting for, whether she (or the occasional he) had read the book or not, and the ratings reflected this anticipation: the highest for any episode.  The Wedding was watched by 3.8 million viewers and broke ratings records for Starz. Pretty amazing for a station people either didn’t know they had (yours truly) or subscribed to just for Outlander.
In the previous episode, Dougal extracted Claire from a vicious confrontation with Captain Randall and told her he couldn’t protect an English citizen but even Black Jack would not dare touch Claire if she were married to a Scot.  Still stunned from being punched in the stomach by someone who so closely resembles her lost husband Frank, Claire reluctantly agreed to marry Jamie – after ascertaining Jamie didn’t object. 

This episode begins with a flashback to Claire and Frank’s wedding: she is about to meet his parents for the first time when he sweeps her off to a registry office, and their kiss fades into Claire and Jamie’s wedding kiss.  Then the newly married 18th century couple is alone at last in their wedding chamber, both nervous.  Claire suggests a drink and Jamie makes a gallant toast.   Although he is clearly very eager to consummate the marriage, he knows she is apprehensive and tells her not to be afraid; he won’t jump her.   She tells him she has some questions and he warily agrees to answer them.   Claire asks why he agreed to marry her.  Jamie flashes back to Ned Gowan and Dougal telling him this was the only way to protect her from Randall.  Dougal then made a lewd comment about Claire (implying anyone would enjoy having sex with Claire) and Jamie said angrily that if she becomes his wife, Dougal will have to refer to her with respect.  “So you married me to keep me safe?” she asks.

“You have my name, my clan, my family and, if necessary, the protection of my body as well,” Jamie promises. Swoon! Claire is nearly as affected as I am, and sits beside him and he is about to kiss her when she panics and asks about his family as a distraction.  Time goes by while they get to know each other slightly better and Claire relaxes.   Rupert and Angus burst in to see whether Jamie has done the deed.  Once Jamie has got rid of them (one hopes he locked the door this time), Claire suggests they go to bed.

“To bed or to sleep?” Jamie inquires with a meaningful look.  “Either way” he offers politely to help her remove her corset.  He undresses her very carefully and they kiss, accompanied by lots of heavy breathing. 

“Where did you learn to kiss like that?” Claire asks, surprised.
“I said I was a virgin, not a monk,” Jamie tells her, with a triumphant smile.

Their first encounter is over quickly, perhaps because Jamie is a novice (albeit very enthusiastic) or impatient but also because they have both been told the marriage must be consummated with witnesses nearby.  Talk about embarrassing!   Jamie and Claire appear very comfortable together afterwards but when she starts feeling guilty about Frank and darts out of the bedchamber to get them food, she is caught off guard by all the MacKenzies who are lying in wait and shout out all sorts of inappropriate questions.  She is barely dressed and frozen with horror but Jamie gallantly guides her back into the bedroom and takes the brunt of the abuse.   

While he is gathering food, Dougal glares at him and says resentfully Jamie hasn’t thanked him properly for his bride.  Dougal is hating Jamie’s wedding night, which is not good uncle behavior.   He warns Jamie not to rush back to Claire or she’ll have too much power over him.  Dougal doesn’t realize Claire already has so much power over Jamie that Jamie repeats the whole conversation to her!  Claire secretly likes that but gulps down some more whiskey anyway (she has been drinking pretty steadily since Dougal told her about the wedding).  Her hard head for alcohol is one of the ways in which she fits right into the 18th century!

Jamie, getting back into the mood, leans over Claire and calls her “mo nighean donn”  (my brown haired lass) for the first time.  More swooning.  He tells her how he obtained a Fraser tartan for their wedding (he had not been seen in one previously because that would be advertising his identity and remember there’s a bounty on his head).  It may be hard for a modern audience to understand how important wearing the tartan was for a loyal clansman, but the English knew, thus banned it after Culloden so as to completely wipe out whatever sparks of rebellion might be left.  There is a flashback to a very improbable chat with stern-looking Murtagh – Jamie says he wants to look his best at the wedding to honor his mother.  Murtagh was sweet on Ellen MacKenzie who chose another man and died when Jamie was a child but when Jamie asks what his mother would have thought of Claire, Murtagh says, "Do I look like a gypsy?"  

Jamie tells Claire he gave Dougal some conditions about their marriage (Dougal in disgust, “It would be easier to kill you both!”): first, that they be married by a priest (they are both Catholic); second, that a special wedding ring be made for Claire from a key he’d been carrying around in his sporran; and third, that someone find Claire a suitable wedding dress.  I could have done without seeing Ned Gowan being “entertained” in the brothel where he locates a dress for Claire, but he certainly found her a lovely gown, although much too low cut.

While Jamie was being so thoughtful, Claire was hung-over, but both she and Jamie look resplendent when it’s time for the wedding.  It’s the first time we’ve seen Jamie dressed up (his hair looks a bit odd) and he is more stunning than she is!   Overcome, she says she doesn’t even know his name!   He looks into her eyes, and says, “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.”   The wimpy priest Dougal frightened into performing the wedding without bans does his part and they are married in a church we’d all like to visit, full of candles and clansmen in attendance.  At the end of the ceremony Claire is startled when their wrists are slightly cut (by helpful Dougal) and bound together so they can utter a Gaelic vow of unity.  (In the book, Claire and Frank got married at the same church as Claire and Jamie, but London makes more sense.)

After they discuss their recollections of the wedding, Claire is touched by the care Jamie took to make her wedding day memorable and she expresses her appreciation by asking him to remove his shirt so she can show that his scarred back is not repugnant to her.   After a few minutes, Jamie asks her to remove her shift and then gazes at her carefully.

“Have you never seen a naked woman before?” she asks gently.  

“Aye, but not one so close. And not one who’s mine,” he says, and carries her to the bed.  This time Claire uses their encounter to show him what pleases her, to explain about orgasms, and stun him with oral sex.   Afterwards, Jamie falls asleep and Claire ventures outside the bedchamber where Dougal is lying in wait.  He reports that he visited Captain Randall and broke the happy news that Claire had married his nephew.
“I commend you for doing your duty but it needn’t stop you from sampling other pleasures.  I find you to be the most singular woman, Claire.”   He caresses her chin.
“I’m Jamie’s wife!” she protests.  This is absurd!  Has Dougal ever looked in a mirror?  Probably not often, due to a general scarcity.  But, seriously, even if Claire weren’t falling in love with Jamie, why would anyone want to sample Dougal?  In his dreams!
Luckily, Rupert interrupts.  Claire thanks him for getting her wedding ring.  After she returns to the bedchamber, Rupert jokes to Dougal that Claire looks “well ridden” – gross.   This annoys Dougal so much he slaps Rupert and sends him away.

Back in the bedchamber, Jamie wakes up and sees Claire looking melancholy (well, you might feel guilty too if you were a bigamist who enjoyed having sex with your new husband).  He gets up and removes a string of pearls from his handy sporran and drapes them over Claire’s bare shoulders, telling her they belonged to his mother.  They have sex again and this time it shows that Claire really cares about him, and is not merely doing her duty/saving herself from Captain Randall.

The next morning Jamie heads down to breakfast ahead of Claire.  As Claire picks up her wedding dress from the floor, her Frank wedding ring falls out and bounces across the floor symbolically, landing between floorboards.  I was afraid it was going to disappear but Claire pulled it out and put it on her left hand.  She holds her hands out and surveys both wedding rings as the episode ends.
What’s Important About This Episode:

·        This episode is primarily eye candy for the loyal fans and was beautifully done.  The sex scenes were broken up by flashbacks toadvance the story (not to mention the dark bedchamber must have been challenging to film in).  There were some humorous interludes in and out of the bedroom (but what was with the creepy cat?).  My friend Carla complains that the miniseries omits the humor that made the book unique, so it was good to see some laughter that didn’t involve pervy clansmen crudeness.

·        Claire feels very guilty about marrying Jamie when she is already married to Frank.  Hence all the scotch.   However, Jamie is sufficiently attractive that anyone would forget Frank temporarily. 

·        It wasn’t quite as obvious in the book that Dougal lusted for Claire (he does have a wife and a girlfriend), although he did kiss her on the night of the Gathering, and there’s another incident later on.   But he is delusional if he thinks he’s competition for Jamie. 

·        Diana makes it clear that she want Claire to be perceived as very comfortable with her sexuality, no matter what century she’s in.  Claire is confident about everything, however.  People are attracted to her not just because she is beautiful but because she is courageous and self-possessed – look at the way she stood up to Captain Randall.  They don’t know she’s a time traveler but they know she’s not like the women they know.

·        Will Claire’s handsome husband make her forget her determination to return to the standing stones?

Starz has just announced that Outlander will return for its midseason premiere on April 4, 2015.  Can't wait!

Images copyright to Starz

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The New Moon with the Old (Book Review)

Publication: 1963, Corsair paperback edition 2012
Genre: Fiction
Plot: Since her mother died, Jane Minton has sought live-in positions and has no permanent home so is full of anticipation for her new job as secretary/housekeeper to the attractive Rupert Carrington, a London businessman.  When she arrives, luggage in hand, at the Carringtons’ country home she meets his children, three adults: Richard, a mid-20s aspiring composer; Clare, pretty and ineffective; Drew, determined to write a novel set in the Edwardian era; and 14-year-old Merry, a precocious teen planning to go on the stage. When disaster strikes, Rupert is exposed as an embezzler and flees the country, while the Carrington offspring and Jane must join forces to save their existence at Dome House.

Author: Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith (1896 – 1990) was an English novelist and playwright.  Smith is best known for her novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians which became a Disney (ugh) movie and for I Capture the Castle which, amazingly, I never read until my Betsy-Tacy cohorts recommended it about 15 years ago.  The title of this book apparently refers to a Coleridge poem.

Audience:  Anglophiles; fans of authors like D. E. Stevenson, Nancy Mitford, Rebecca Shaw, Katie Fforde

What I liked: I enjoyed this from the first page: She did not believe in omens but instantly knew this was a good one: the afternoon sun, coming from behind the clouds, had turned the grey of the glass dome to a shimmer of gold.  Seen from this hill top where she had got out of her car to reconnoiter – and there could be no doubt that was Dome House – the effect was quite dazzling and extremely cheering. 

Think of all the wonderful books that begin with an intrepid heroine approaching a unique house, and you won’t be able to resist either, although this is not a gothic romance but is very funny, light English fiction.  Jane is older than the traditional heroine, late 30s, but I enjoy older heroines now more than I did as a teen.   The book follows the four Carrington offspring as they cope with their father’s disappearance and try to make their way in the world.  It becomes more about their, albeit improbable, efforts and adventures than about Jane, who has become so fond of the siblings that she wants to stay with them and help them stay together.

Incidentally, it doesn’t sound very stressful to be the housekeeper for a large house with two maids (at least, pre-embezzlement when there are unlimited funds). The book is dated, in a charming way, and nowhere more than in its depiction of the beloved and faithful retainers who are taken to lunch every week by the Carrington siblings and join them to watch television at night.

What I disliked: While some readers complain that nothing really happens in this book, I disagree; however, I have always been a fan of riches-to-rags-type books.  I will say that perhaps I have read too much chick lit and was hoping for a happier ending for the heroine, Jane!  Nor did I care for the storyline/romantic interest of the eldest son.  It is an unusual book but delightful. 
Source: This book and another by Smith, The Town in Bloom, were gifts from Emily Gold who was delighted to find I was unfamiliar with them. Thank you for a great read. What lovely new covers and they are now available inexpensively at Daedalus