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Farewell & Adieu to you, Scottish Laddie: OUTLANDER s2 e2-4, Review & Recap

Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish Ladies,
Farewell and adieu, you Ladies of Spain

Traditional British Naval Song

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With the publication of the notorious Entertainment Weekly cover featuring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who play Starz’s Outlander‘s time-travelling Claire and her Scots husband Jamie, I foolishly imagined that the second season was going to be an in-depth exploration of their loving and sexually ignited relationship. You know, the thing all the book readers claim is at the core of the books, though it’s mostly absent from the show (except for a few episodes, like the Wedding one) and absent from Book One in the series. Alas, season 2 has proven a disappointment in that regard, leaving me once again to wonder where the show is going, and how many of the Starz Outlander writers have actually read the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon that the fans so vociferously love.

Spoilers,
Outlandish and Graphic

Episode 2

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In a brothel with whores and dildos, Jamie (Sam Heughan) meets a clownish Bonnie Prince Charlie, who doesn’t seem able to drink wine without spilling it, let alone lead a Scottish rebellion. But what do I know about Scottish history? Maybe Charlie isn’t the one who actually leads the rebellion: perhaps the French Jacobites do, in their desire to destroy the British Empire.

In any event, while Jamie is playing Bond, James Bond in the brothel, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is making friends with Louise, who has a caged pet monkey, and who reveals the latest de rigeur French “beauty treatment”: a Brazilian Honey-Pot.

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Louise also takes Jamie and Claire to Versailles, where Claire wears a dress of her own making, or at least of her own design. A dress that leaves little to the imagination. And one that stands out oddly at the French court, where everyone else is wearing florals and lace.

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There, Jamie gets to stand in the all-male audience that watches King Louis 15th attempt to defecate into a royal throne-chamber-pot, while giving advice to eat “porridge.” Very exciting stuff for our Scottish Lord Jamie.

Meanwhile, Claire runs into the dastardly Duke of Sandringham and meets his secretary, Alex Randall, younger brother of the villainous Black Jack (Tobias Menzies). The Duke’s secretary reveals that BJR is not dead, and then Claire worries — needlessly, as it will be revealed later — about Jamie’s discovering that his nemesis and rapist is still alive.

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The bulk of the episode centered around Jamie’s inability to perform sexually with his wife, due to flashbacks of his rape at the hands of BJR. Whenever Jamie attempted to be with Claire sexually, her face grotesquely morphed into that of his rapist. Whom Jamie then repeatedly “stabbed”.

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 Poor Jamie. Bad enough that he got repeatedly raped in Wentworth Prison, and then had his wife go all General Patton on him while attempting to “save his soul.” Now he has to re-live his experiences whenever he wants to make love to his wife.

Starz’s Outlander may be different from the book in that the Starz writers had more accurate information available to them, information about male sexual assault and the male body’s involulntary ejaculation to pressure on the prostate. Alas, Starz has once again failed male rape victims who might be viewers — and their female partners — by presenting the assault as “love-making”, even if Jamie is mistakenly viewing it that way.

Episode 3

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Though she and her husband Jamie are in Paris attempting to abort the Scottish rebellion at Culloden which will result in the destruction of the Highland Clan way of life, Claire doesn’t seem to have “any meaning” in her life. She feels bored and useless as Jamie runs from brothel to chess games to…

Does the man ever go to work at the job — in his cousin’s wine business — which supposedly supports this lavish lifestyle?

In any event, despite Jamie’s protests about Claire’s never being home when he needs her, she goes to work in a poor hospital, helping a nun with a dog do some really gag-me-with-a-spoon-gross-me-out stuff. Claire’s tasting the urine of a patient to determine whether he had sugar disease (diabetes) wasn’t the most repulsive scene of the episode, but it was close.

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Later, after some cutesey jokes about what a “minor composer” Johann Sebastien Bach was going to be, the Mother Superior plays a piece of music in a letter which Jamie’s pickpocket has lifted.

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Then Jamie and cousin Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) and Claire figure out that the “key is the key” to the code in the message. It was a silly scene, dragged out beyond belief, perhaps in an attempt to add humor, since virtually every time Claire said something, Murtagh didn’t understand her.

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The only problem with the music-decoding scene is that most viewers couldn’t figure out what the key was either. Only that it had to do with music. And that Jamie and Claire miraculously figure it out.

Beats me how they did it.

Episode 4

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Alas, episode 4 continues the Bond, James Bond escapades of the married pair. This time, they plan an elaborate dinner for the Duke of Sandringham, whom they believe is the author of the musically-coded note.

At least, I think they think he’s the author.

I got a bit confused.

In any event, Jamie and Claire plan to trap Sandringham by also inviting Bonnie Prince Charlie to the dinner. Then, for some reason, Claire decides, on the day of the elaborate banquet, that she has to go to the hospital. She claims that her servant won’t allow her in her own kitchen.

But if it’s Claire’s kitchen…

Never mind…

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Claire takes English Mary with her to the hospital, though for the life of me, I could not figure out why. I guess she thought English Mary — who is supposedly an ancestor of Frank’s and who is in love with Alex Randall, brother of Black Jack — was also bored or something.

On the way home from the hospital, the carriage breaks down, and in her hurry to get home in time for the banquet, Claire and Mary walk.

Whaaa????

Sure, they’re followed by Murtagh, but anyone could have figured out that it was a bad move.

And sure enough, it turns to tragedy when Claire and Mary are set upon by well-dressed “brigands,” who rape Mary in a graphic and violent scene.

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Does this mean that Mary, who eventually marries Alex Randall, as far as I can determine, will already be pregnant and thus will have a child that will only nominally be the ancestor of Frank Randall?

Not only do I not know, I simply do not care.

Outlander & Sexual Violence

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What is it with Diana Gabaldon and graphic rapes?

What is it with Herself and sexual violence?

In book one, which I read after I had seen all of season 1 of Starz Outlander, none of the sex scenes are even hinted at: all of them are left entirely to the readers’ imagination.

Except for the two rapes.

One is between Jamie and Claire, who continues to have intercourse with her despite her verbal objections, her physical resistance, and her fighting him, simply because she is his wife. (Chapter 23)

The other, far more violent and graphic, takes place between Jamie and Black Jack Randall in Wentworth Prison. It is related to Claire by Jamie after he is rescued.

Now, in season 2 episode 4 of the show Outlander, which may differ from the books, English Mary, who was a virgin, is graphically raped.

It was impossible for me to watch in its entirety, so I admit I missed the part of the episode where the “brigands” attempted to rape a very pregnant Claire, then stopped, apparently exclaiming that she was La Dame Blanche (according to other reviews of the show).

Afterward, however, I didn’t care about the dinner party, especially since poor Mary was lying, in shock and pain, upstairs in Claire and Jamie’s house, with Alex Randall attending her.  Confessing his love to the unconscious Mary.

Who cares if Charlie’s mistress Louise was pregnant with his child but had convinced her husband to accept it as his, claiming he’d been too drunk to recall intercourse with her?

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Who cares if Claire was wearing a duller than dull gown and a rock-necklace to her own banquet,

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to which Sandringham invited the villainous Le Comte de St. Germain?

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Who cares if Jamie and Claire continued their Bond, James Bond machinations by intentionally trying to upset Bonnie Prince Charles by revealing Louise’s pregnancy?

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I disliked the two protagonists so much by that time that I decided it was pointless to watch any more episodes of Starz’s Outlander.

I mean, if you don’t like the show’s two protagonists, and the third one is a despicable rapist, what’s the point of the show?

I don’t see anything like the image presented in the cover of the Entertainment Weekly (above, at start of post).

I don’t see much love and affection between Jamie and Claire. Instead, they’ve reverted, mostly, to the bickering that characterized their relationship in the second part of season one.

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It’s time for me to say Farewell, Scottish Laddie, and Farewell, English Claire.

There are too many other interesting shows for me to watch to wade through multiple episodes of Outlander, trying to follow the serpentine and mostly absent storyline, only to be presented with yet another graphic rape, and with protagonists who are becoming increasingly unsympathetic.

I’m sorry for Cait and Sam, who probably believed these were their break-out roles.

I’m sorry for the book fans who don’t think the Starz show lives up to their expectations.

But mostly, I’m sorry for any writers, book or show, who think that constantly presenting sexual violence and graphic rape scenes, involving both sexes, is good writing or good fiction.

I’m more sorry for those books’ readers, though.

Related Posts

Through a Glass Dark and Dull:
Outlander season 2 Premiere

Outlander, the Show:
My Blogs from Season One

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Sing me a song of a lass that is gone: Episode 14 of Starz’s OUTLANDER

Warning: Spoilers Silly & Galore

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
O, could that lass be I?

images-1After S1 E11 “The Devil’s Mark” of Starz’s hit show Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series of novels, I thought the show was going to take off like a meteor for those of us who haven’t read the books and weren’t already huge fans. The witch trial of that episode, with Geillis’ self-sacrifice to save Claire, Jamie’s dramatic and loving gesture to give up Claire so that she could return to her own time through the stones at Craigh na doon — all of it finally was knitted together so perfectly that I thought I would become a fan, if not a fanatic, of the show.

Alas, to my great disappointment, it didn’t happen. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot fall in love with the show, its characters, or its plot, despite the tremendous promise shown in “The Devil’s Mark.” It has, indeed, become, as writer of Episode 14, “The Search,” Matthew B. Roberts called it, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

The Good

outlander-jenny-fraser-laura-donnelly-and-claire-randall-caitriona-balfejpg-7f7855_624wScriptwriter Roberts claimed that the “Good” in this episode was Claire (Caitriona Balfe, R) and Jenny (played wonderfully by Laura Donnelly, L), and I admit that, despite the fact that Jenny seems unbelievably mobile after just giving birth to a breech-baby in the last episode, Jenny and Claire seem more competent together than separate. The writers of the show call Jenny and Claire “Cagney & Lacey” as well as “Thelma & Louise,” and the allusions to the latter pair, at least, were obvious is last night’s episode.

images-14Leaving her newborn bairn and crippled & wounded husband Ian (Steven Cree) behind, Jenny led the search for her missing brother, proving herself the more competent of the two women.

Jenny is some kinda bad-ass, lemme tellya.

Wearing a pistol in front at her waist and behind, she knows how to track the bad guys as well as Hawkeye from The Last of the Mohicans, and can tell how close they are by picking up their horses’ droppings, which are “still warm.”

images-15She knows how to sneak up on an enemy encampment and spy, even better than Bond, James Bond.

Unknown-3She knows how to torture the evil Redcoats without blinking an eye,  almost as well as the villainous Black Jack Randall himself.

images-16Jenny’s so good at being “the good” that her behaviour influences Claire’s, causing her to get “tough” and take some serious offensive action rather than always being a victim waiting to be resuced.

imagesThere was some fine female-bonding, led, in E 14, by Jenny. We’ve seen some evidence of this in Outlander before, and it’s during these scenes that some of the better aspects of Claire’s personality come out.

She bonded with women in the drinking & urine-wool-dyeing scene.

images-12She bonded somewhat with Jenny in the clothes-washing scene (and more, later, in the labor scenes).

images-7And Claire bonded with Geillis throughout the earlier episodes.

images-2In fact, if there is a “good” in E 14 as the writer of the latest episode claims, then it’s the relationship Claire develops with other women, who seem to bring out the better qualities in her. In fact, Claire seems to be more independent and efficient when she’s paired with another female, whether it’s someone she respects, like Jenny, or someone she cares for, like Geillis.

But I disagree with the writer who claimed that “Jenny and Claire” were “the good” in E 14.

It was Jenny who was the good, and she was very, very good.

In fact, she was so good, she was bad.

The Bad

outlander-season-1bblack-jack-randall-tobias-menzies2jpg-d12c7b_624wI hadn’t read the article interviewing the writer of E 14 before I saw the show, but after I read it, I reflected on which character might be “the bad.”

I thought Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) was going to be “the bad” this season, since he was shown mercilessly flogging Jamie earlier in the season (Part 1, 2014), but he’s scarcely been seen since. Despite the threat of his raping Claire, she was saved by husband Jamie. He wasn’t in last night’s episode either, so, “the bad” is not yet (consistently) BJR, as fans affectionately refer to him.

images-8I thought Claire might “betray” Geillis” during the Witch Trial, as lawyer Ned suggested, to save her own life, so I thought that her behaviour, in that episode, was going to be “the bad.” But Claire refused to to it, both women were condemned to burn as witches, and then Geillis melodramatically sacrificed herself to take attention off Claire so Jamie and she could escape. So that “betrayal” wasn’t “the bad,” either. And Geillis proved herself to be pretty “good” in that sacrifice, despite her infidelity with Dougal and her murder of her husband Arthur to be with Dougal.

So who, in an episode modeled after the iconic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, were the bad?

Were the Redcoats “the bad”? Not in last night’s episode: Jenny took care of them before they had the chance to do anything bad.

Were the Gypsies “the bad”? They delivered Claire the message they’d received that had been intended for her. That was honorable, considering they stole her routine, and even though they wanted more money for the message.

I looked at the article again.

According to the writer of “The Search,” the “bad” was Murtagh.

outlander_s01e14_stillMurtagh (Duncan Lacroix)?

The “bad”?

Really?

Jamie’s godfather, who was revealed to have been madly in love with Jamie’s mother and to have given her two beautiful bracelets as a wedding gift, the bracelets that Jenny gave Claire (in a quite unbelievable gesture) last episode? Murtagh who tells Claire that she’s not the only one who loves Jamie? Murtagh who revealed that he considers Jamie to be a “son”?

That Murtagh is the bad?

Unknown-1No, I don’t think so.

I’ll tell you what was “the bad” in E 14: the silly, time-wasting, throw-away-plot antics (“shenanigans,” the episode-writer called them) of Claire singing some weird-o version of “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” while dressed as a boy.

UnknownYeppers, I kid you not.

That was Murtagh’s plan for “searching” for Jamie: to have him dancing, badly, and — after Claire told him he needed to sing a song with more of a beat — to have Claire singing, even more badly,  and dressed as a boy, while traveling around the country so that Jamie would “hear” of them and get them a message. (Claire tells a man from a country with some of the oldest and most famous folk-music in the world that he needs to sing a song with more of a “beat”? Please, somebody, tell me that was not in the book.)

In any event, Claire’s singing routine was so bad, I found it difficult to get through the episode.

It was so “bad,” it was boring.

And we hadn’t even gotten to “the ugly” yet.

The Ugly

images-4For a couple as in love with each other as Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) claim to be, they sure do bicker a lot. And I mean a lot. Like virtually all the time. When they’re not having sex. And they’re not having nearly the amount of sex they had when they first got married. In fact, after the “oral pleasure” scene which opened E 10, the two haven’t had relations at all. At least, none that the viewers have been shown, and I assume that’s one of the reasons for the popularity of the show (and the books): to show this fabulous, fantastic, fantasy sexual relationship between the two.

But bickering?

Oh, boy, do they ever.

In fact, beginning with E 12 after Jamie took Claire to his ancestral home of Lollybroch, it’s almost all they did. Jamie got all Laird-ly with his sister Jenny and her husband Ian, who was a childhood friend of Jamie’s. He also got all Laird-ly with Claire, comparing himself, at Lollybroch, with the MacKenzie at Castle Leoch. Basically, Jamie told Claire in no uncertain terms that she was to keep her mouth shut in public if she disagreed with him, though he implied that she could throw crockery at him in private (as he claimed Letitia did to the head of the Clan MacKenzie, her husband Colum, in their private chambers).

So… the basic message was this: don’t disagree with me in public; throw crockery at me in private. Ouch. What a dreadfully ugly message. I think I’d prefer the bickering, as much as I dislike it, to the passive-aggressive violence of thrown & broken crockery. In any event, I don’t see Jamie & Claire’s attraction to each other, especially now that the sex seems to have disappeared.

But the bickering… Yeah, that seems pretty “ugly.” Their love has disintegrated into virtually constant bickering or separations. In E 14, I was waiting for them to find each other, be briefly happy, then start picking at each other again.

But what do I know?

That’s not the “ugly,” as the show’s episode-writer intended it.

I haven’t read the books (and so am blogging only on the Starz version of Outlander). I’m not one of the show’s writers, who are apparently looking to other successful dramatizations for inspiration in writing these episodes. This week, it was the Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, because E 14 had “the horses and the guns.” (You can read the original article for yourself by clicking on the link to it above.) Last week, producer-writer Toni Graphia apparently based Jamie’s character and behaviour on that of the characters in HBO’s wildly successful (though unevenly written) The Sopranos.

What, according to the writer of E 14, was “the ugly” in “The Search”?

Dougal.

outlanderdougal-mackenzie-graham-mctavishjpg-c995a3_624wNow, the episode-writer admits that the actor who plays Dougal — Graham McTavish — is a “very handsome man,” but that it was his behavior in asking Claire to marry him that was “ugly.” Dougal wants her to marry him after Jamie’s dead,  of course, since he’s apparently already been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death, if he hasn’t already been executed — so that Dougal can have control of Lollybroch.

images-11Not that he wants it for himself. After all, he asked Claire to marry him in the tunnels filled with goods that he’s smuggling to raise money to bring back Bonnie Prince Charlie. So, he clearly wants Lollybroch for the same reason: to return the Scottish king to the throne. And he must only want Claire to get Lollybroch, despite the fact that he’s made several passes at her already, including one on her wedding night.

That is apparently what makes him “the ugly.”

On
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
and Starz Outlander

I respectfully disagree with the writer of E 14 “The Search.”

You know what I think is the “ugly”?

The writing of this show.

It’s the “bad,” too.

In fact, I’m starting to look forward to the feared and rumored “Wentworth Prison” episode — despite the violence that people say will be in it — because, at least, something will happen.

You know a show’s writing has deteriorated to a bad and ugly place when a woman who’s survived incest and rape by parents of both sexes is beginning to look forward to an episode that is rumored to include rape, sodomy, and torture.

Why do the writers of Starz Outlander feel it necessary to look to other successful shows and films in order to write each episode of this show? I think it’s distracting and unsuccessful, at the very least, as well as insulting to the books, the readers, and to the audience of the show.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
O, could that lass be I?

Yes, it soon could be. Only I won’t be gone through the stones at Craigh na doon. I just won’t be watching Starz Outlander on Saturday nights. Maybe I’ll just get the books and read them instead since fans are so passionate about them.

I hear Gabaldon’s Outlander books are not based on either The Sopranos or on Sergio Leone’s classic Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

And now at my back I hear Tuco (Eli Wallach) as he’s standing in the cemetery on a wooden grave-marker, a rope around his neck, trying not to lose his balance, desperately screaming, “Blondie” as Clint Eastwood’s character rides away on his horse with his own portion of the stolen gold…

Cue Ennio Morricone’s memorable soundtrack…

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Filed under Actors, Books, Movies/Television, Outlander, Violence

By yon bonnie banks, and by yon bonnie braes: Starz’s daring OUTLANDER

First of all, I must admit that I have never read any of the books in the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series, so any reviews I write will be based strictly on the Starz adaptation, and no comparison with the books will be attempted. There are always fans of the books who don’t like the series and vice versa, as HBO’s TrueBlood, adapted from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire novels demonstrate. I watched that series without ever reading the books, and given that the first novel in the Outlander series weighs in at a hefty 800+ pages, I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it before the series continues. From the first episode, however, I have to say that Starz is taking an incredibly bold and daring step for a premium channel: making a series that seems devoted primarily, if not entirely, to female viewers.

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I have to say that I find the entire concept of Outlander interesting, especially since I wasn’t aware until recently that so many Romance novels included time-travel (would that be fantasy or science fiction?) in their themes. Since I’m familiar with the tremendously well written and interesting Lesson series by Jennifer Connors, I was happy to give Outlander a hearty go.

In the Connors’ series, the romance-mocking heroine time-travels at the end of each novel — once she and the hero of the book in question have fallen in love and married or otherwise joined their lives together — only to find herself in a completely different time period facing yet another hero which requires her wit and adaptability, and tests her courage, independence, and modern 21st century feminism. From the photos released by Starz, it looks like Outlander will only be set in two periods: post-war 1945 and 1740s, but both locales seem to be the same, the Scottish Highlands.

Still, given that Claire is a nurse during the war with recognized skills, and given her droll sense of humor whenever she seemingly playfully mocks her husband Frank’s interest in his own geneology, Claire seemed the right kind of heroine to make a time-travel romance fascinating, especially since the novel is sometimes listed as an historical drama, and I like history.

The premise is simple enough, and the voice-over of the opening of the first episode was compelling:

People disappear all the time. Ask any policeman. Better yet, ask a journalist. Disappearances are bread-and-butter to journalists. Young girls run away from home. Young children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives reach the end of their tether and take the grocery money and a taxi to the station. International financiers change their names and vanish into the smoke of imported cigars. Many of the lost will be found eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.

(This is from the Starz Tie-in version of the novel, and may have been added since the original book doesn’t appear to have this “prologue”.)

Claire and her husband Frank, separated for at least five years because of the War, have gone on a “second honeymoon” to the Scottish Highlands to “reconnect” (and so Frank can research his direct ancestor John “Black Jack” Randall, a politically protected British military leader who attempted to quell Scottish uprisings: Tobias Menzies plays both Frank, in 1945, and Black Jack, in the 1740s).

Both readers and reviewers have commented on the “hot sex” in Outlander. Not having read the books, I cannot speak to their content, but I’m afraid I saw no “hot sex” in the opening episode, though Claire constantly claims that “Sex was our bridge back to one another… As long as we had that, I had faith that everything would work out.” Though there was the obligatory complete nudity for Caitriona Balfe but not for any of the males, I didn’t find the bedroom scenes between Frank and Claire even mildly erotic. And Claire’s voice-over made them seem forced. One shouldn’t have to tell viewers they’re watching an erotic scene: they should know that.

In fact, the scene when the couple visits the ancient, abandoned castle and Claire sits on a table, spreading her legs slightly with a “come hither” look to her husband Frank was more erotic than any of the full-nudity-for-her/shirt-off-for-him scenes. When Tobias Menzies, who has a very sexy voice, by the way, as Frank, put his hand up his wife’s dress, between her legs, and matter-of-factly commented, “Why, Mrs. Randall, you seem to have left your undergarments at home,” before kneeling before her… that was erotic.

But it disturbs me that Claire doesn’t seem to take Frank’s interests seriously, especially as he investigates his own family history in the Highlands or tells her some of the history of the places they’re visiting. She almost seems to mock him at times — I thought I even caught some eye-rolling on her part — so I began to wonder why exactly they had to “reconnect” after the War. I wondered if the reason they needed to “reconnect” had to do with something other than their only seeing each other 10 days in the past five years.

In any event, I pushed those faint disturbances aside as I continued watching the episode. The scene where Frank and Claire spy on the women re-enacting an ancient Druid rite at a Henge of stones was exotic and lyrical. The choreography and music were haunting and effective. In this scene, as in the opening, Claire’s voice-over also worked well: “I had a feeling I didn’t belong there.”

Unfortunately, it was also at that moment, I knew my boyfriend would never be watching Outlander with me. The Henge dance was basically a lovely and haunting Celtic ballet, and as much as I liked it and found it moving, I knew that had he been there to see it, that’s the time he would’ve picked up a book and started reading. (Like the Emperor Franz Josef in Milos Forman’s Amadeus, who “doesn’t like ballet in his opera,” my boyfriend doesn’t like “ballet” in anything, but especially not in historical dramas, which he loves.)

Yes, Starz is being very daring, attempting to make a series for a predominantly female audience. But I’m female, and I find that kind of gender-specific genre drama rather dull. Still, I have my fingers crossed. The series is based on a set of best-selling novels, and how could more than “25 million readers” be wrong?

When Claire returns to the Henge, ostensibly to gather a flower, and touches the center stone, she is inexplicably transported back in time to the same place, circa 1740s. When she regains consciousness, she is in the past, confronting both Black Jack, whom she first mistakes for her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies in a dual role), and a small group of Scottish Highlanders, among them Jamie (Sam Heughan). As the prettiest person in the series, the only male in the past with relatively short hair and virtually no beard, I quickly gathered that he will become Claire’s love interest and/or conflict in the past.

In fact, virtually all the images available for Outlander involve Claire and Jamie, or Claire and the 1740s Scots, not even the British Black Jack, so I assume that will be the focus of the show. I’ve heard that it’s historically accurate and well-researched, and I hope that’s true because I love a good historical drama, like Starz’s Spartacus where, though we know little about the major real-life players, a brilliant drama was constructed around the basic facts of their lives.

Caitriona Balfe as Claire & Tobias Menzies as husband Frank (L), Sam Heughan as Jaime and Balfe as transported Claire (R)

Caitriona Balfe as Claire & Tobias Menzies as husband Frank (L), Sam Heughan as Jamie and Balfe as transported Claire (R)

There were many things I liked about the first episode of Outlander. Frank is an interesting, intelligent, smart, complex man. Claire was a nurse, and a competent enough one that, in the War scene, I thought she was a doctor and almost whooped for joy. Still, she knows enough to help the wounded Jamie after she’s time-transported to the past, and she has a nice cursing vocabulary on her: one that astonishes the Scots, who claim they’ve never heard a woman talk like her before. I like that in a woman.

Claire seems also more sensitive to the energy of the Henge — the earth, the Universe, whatever — than her husband Frank. After the dance, he, too, touches the center stone, but then starts jotting notes in his little tablet. (She touches it later, when she returns alone, and is jolted out of her present life into the past.) She’s not afraid to speak her mind, even when surrounded by male strangers who look quite the ruffians. She uses her medical knowledge to gain their trust. When she uses the historical knowledge about British ambushes that she gained from Frank, she earns a bit of trust from the Scots but also makes them wary. They suspect she may be a spy. She quickly learns when to be “seen and not heard.”

The foreshadowing in the series is subtle but effective. Frank tells her he kept drawing the lines of her palm during the War — he doesn’t know why — then the Reverend’s wife or housekeeper reads Claire’s palm and comments that the lines are unusual, connecting the two scenes. I hope the lines of her palm, which are repeatedly described as unusual or memorable, will have something to do with her survival in the past as well as with her return to the present. Or at least with the Henge stones and why she was transported when she touched them, but Frank wasn’t when he did. I’ll just have to wait and see, as will anyone who’s not read the novels.

Claire’s not the typical romance novel heroine in terms of her looks, and I admire that. These days, it seems almost obligatory that the heroine have raven hair, green eyes, and a buxom figure, no matter where or when the novel’s set, and it’s refreshing to have a dark-haired, dark-eyed actress, with a sometimes pout but an otherwise ordinary face, and quite a thin body (too thin, in my humble opinion) playing the lead role. Caitriona’s Claire is tall, feisty, and pouty. I like those qualities so far. She’s smart and takes command whenever there’s a situation that requires her knowledge or skills to save someone or to prevent slaughter. I like that, too. Most of the men, including her husband Frank, seem taciturn so far, while she’s the articulate one. I really like that, and just hope it doesn’t become a cliché — with all the men being sort of brutish, brainless hulks with only nice bodies and good fighting skills.

The Scots are protective of her — they prevent her being raped by Black Jack, and the clan leader won’t condone “rape” when the men suggest “testing” to see if she’s a whore; then the man who saved her from Black Jack ventures his opinion that she’s “no whore.” Even though, curiously, the Scots don’t question her anachronistic hairstyle, dress, shoes, jewelry, or (slight) makeup; and even though they fear she may be a British spy, they still defend her honor and her body. And they instantly obey her whenever she goes into her “Nurse” role, so they accept, without question, that she has more knowledge of some things than they, simply from the tone of her voice. That makes me like the male characters so far.

Alas, however, I won’t be able to share Outlander with my boyfriend. Despite the fact that rifles and pistols, swords and knives, running and chasing, shooting and potential violence abounds, he’s declined to watch any of the repeat showings. He said he “read what it was about” in the description. That is not a good sign. I attempted to tell him some of the things that happened in the premiere episode. He looked blank and more than mildly bored. It doesn’t look like he’ll even give Outlander a chance. He wouldn’t even watch the Outlander trailer.

That’s quite a risk for Starz, doing a show that seems aimed primarily at a female audience, because many females, like me and all my educated, career-women friends, don’t necessarily like gender-specific fiction. I like all kinds of fiction, as do they. I like history. And I wouldn’t like to see Outlander degenerate into a formulaic romance where a woman who, for some unspecified reason, has fallen out of love with her husband, whom I found to be the most intellectually and physically attractive man in the show, to fall in love with a man from the past just because he’s pretty and brawny and rides a horse and has a Scottish accent and speaks Gaelic.

If you missed the first episode last Saturday, and haven’t caught any of the reruns, Starz has it available on its website free of charge: you don’t have to be a Starz subscriber to watch the premiere episode of Outlander. It airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping Outlander, despite some of my misgivings from the first episode, becomes more of a Starz Spartacus historical drama than a Lifetime femme-in-jep movie of the week.

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Filed under Actors, Books, History, Movies/Television, Outlander, Violence