Top Ten Moments from Outlander Episode 406
Welcome back to the #Ridgeshit Variety Hour
Last week’s episode was so heavy on the awesome #ridgeshit that we were very aware that it would be almost impossible for them to surpass the homey comfort we felt. BUT OH NO! We got some water gathering, leech saving, willow-bark tea steeping, tree-sawing wholesomeness this week. On top of that, we hear the word “privy” and enjoy a lengthy hunting trip and tour of the land. Was it enough? Not nearly. Was it at the very least some comfort to us in an hour of DIScomfort? Hearty yes.
Lord John Grey’s Wilderness Fantasy
We all know that David Berry is a fantastic actor, and has been impressing us since he first showed up at Ardsmuir and broke our hearts a little, loving a malnourished and surly and heartsick Jamie Fraser over a chess board. But just watching him ride up to the Ridge and not be able to take his eyes off wood-sawing JAMMF long enough to hobble his horse properly, I went through a full gamut of emotions with him: nervousness, lust, elation, lust, excitement, lust, pride, lust. It couldn’t have been easy for his first view of Jamie since Jamaica to be WILDERNESS HOT JAMIE, complete with open shirt, loose hair, black breeches and saw calluses. He might be able to still feel shame, but I have none.
Claire and Murtagh: BFFs
Anytime these two can find common ground, commiserate, laugh and have a grand time, I’m reminded that in the graphic novels, Murtagh sees Claire come through the stones for the first time and he held that secret from everyone forever, and that makes me laugh. But also, their relationship softens both Claire and Murtagh into more relatable and familial folk. Let’s face it: both can be cantankerous and brusque; any chance the writers get to soften their edges is welcome. Sand them down against one another and the effect is doubled! I like to see them smile. I would LOVE to see them gang up on characters they mutually dislike.
There was a period of time when every Outlander fan found herself obsessed with the idea of Jamie as Daddy. That happens right around the end of season 1 (or Book 1) when you find out Claire is pregnant and continues until you find out about stupid Willie. I remember distinctly wishing when watching season 3 and when reading Voyager that Jamie would have had more time simply being a young father. His acute sense of honor, his attentive affection, and his penchant for vicarious pride would make for a potent combo that would send most women into baby-making heat. But he was robbed of those moments, and we were robbed of those looks, those Daddy!Jamie looks. Until this episode. A veritable feast for those of us with Daddy!Jamie kinks, Sam Heughan did a masterful job of portraying the conflicted emotions of a father under rein. All the pride and affection and honor without the authority to father. EEP, the pain.
Nothing Is New Under the Sun
It’s good to know what even before there was the United States, there were uncomfortable family dinners of talking politics. We aren’t so far removed from our own Thanksgiving dinners with MAGA-loving relatives that we can’t relate. The scene between Lord John and Murtagh, with Claire and Jamie playing centrist referees, was inevitable after what we learned about Murtagh last week. His entire life right now is caught up in fighting the British powers that be and their unfair taxes; Lord John and his pretentious lifestyle is the epitome of it. I would have liked to see a little more heightened tensions during the dinner and after. Having Murtagh disappear might have been the easy way through this episode’s narrative, but it allows us to forget that central tension 1/3 of the way in, when it could have creatively been used throughout.
Baby Daddy Drama
I’m putting this down as a top ten moment because I simply HAVE to discuss it, and otherwise I have to wait until Hangoutlander, and I’m not sure I can. From the moment Lord John hops off his horse with his awkward unrequited boner, the tension of this episode is set up: Will Willie recognize Jamie as Groom Mac, and what will the consequences of that be? Claire and Jamie both make mention of the bigger consequences of Willie and Jamie occupying the same space: that Willie (or someone else without discretion) could come to the realization that the two are eerily similar, coming to the correct assumption that Jamie fathered a bastard and William is no earl. Willie and Murtagh are the only ones on the ridge who start out in the dark. There is no one else in the episode to hide it from. AND YET. These two both explode the primary tension less than 15 minutes in.
Granted, Willie recognizing Jamie as Mac has fewer implications for any of them. It’s simply a vehicle for emotional suffering. What real world consequences exist in this realization? None, really. But then why is it made an issue from the outset? And why, if they decided to make it an issue, is it swept away with as a tension so early on? Perhaps it gave Jamie the freedom to treat Willie with familiarity and fatherliness once the connection was exposed, but in that case, it should have had a bigger impact on how Willie treated him in return – for good or ill. Instead it seemed like non-issue, taken care of with one conversation about why he didn’t look back. Shouldn’t Willie, entitled and pampered as he is, feel embittered or abandoned and take it out in different ways – whether small and passive aggressive or overt? The intended impact felt neutered by the ensuing blandness of Willie’s response.
And that doesn’t even take into account Murtagh’s magical insight; there has been no reason for him to suspect that Jamie is Willie’s father. He hasn’t observed a likeness of manner or bearing or appearance. Jamie hasn’t been overly territorial, and is only emotional right before Murtagh figures it out. NOTHING else leads up to this, and we are left to assume that Murtagh just knows Jamie (and how Boy Jamie must have looked) well enough to get it. But it would be cool if they had shown us the build up to that realization.
This Mess is Fraught
I’ve always been intrigued by Claire’s relationship with John Grey. If you’ve been following That’s Normal for any length of time and have read my book reviews or watched our hangouts, I’ve made it pretty clear that I do not do well with jealousy tropes. If a book is headed down the path of a third character making inroads into a fave relationship, I will have a hard time getting through it. I really don’t like it. I don’t like the tension it creates, and I really don’t like the sense of instability it gives a character. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it, but I don’t enjoy reading it.
Claire and Lord John have one of the most interesting reciprocal jealousies I’ve ever read. She’s not jealous that Jamie may want John, but she’s nevertheless unsettled by their closeness and history. Watching these two navigate their precarious relation to one another over their love for the same man is intense and intriguing, but doesn’t leave me with the same uncomfortable emotions that I normally hate about this trope. Not to mention this was some of the best dialogue ever from the books, and I was glad to see it mostly unchanged in the show. David Berry and Caitriona did amazing stuff with it.
I might have been watching on my laptop and not my flatscreen, but did this episode seem strangely without green screen? Regardless, the open air, the landscape, the atmosphere reminded me of camping and hanging out at Fall Creek Falls here in Tennessee (not far from North Carolina), and I liked it. Add to that Jamie’s rabbit fur chic, ability to hold a truly gigantic musket upright while he rides a horse, tickling trout, taking none of Willie’s shit and quietly being wilderness-confident and I was a goner.
Take an unscientific survey of Outlander fans, and you will find a majority of them (if they don’t outright hate him) have conflicted feelings about the Earl of Ellsmere. When I first watched this episode, I remembered exactly why that is. Willie is hard to love. From a young age he’s overly impressed with and dependent on his own privilege. And he ever has the proper amount of respect for the man we all know to be King of Men and his real dad. His behavior is contrasted by Fergus, pulled out of poverty and made into a man of substance by virtue of his own abject respect for Jamie. And by Young Ian, precocious though he is, still humble, respectful and capable. Willie, on the other hand is none of those things. But I found myself understand better this week … why would he be? He hasn’t been raised by Jamie Fraser; he’s not going to get his honorable bearing just through genetics. And despite his whining and condescension, he is still polite from the get-go, still shows deference and is … still a child. A child who has very recently lost his mother – on a sea voyage. I’m sure he’s experiencing some trauma so being a bit of a dick about having to use the outhouse is understandable. Missing the only father he knows and lashing out in fear-induced brattiness? Also reasonable. And let’s not forget that after just a few days with Jamie in the wilderness, he grows into someone with a better sense of what it means to be a man. Imagine if he’d had the same amount of time Young Ian or Fergus had. Or a lifetime.
If you are new to Outlander or its fandom, you may not be aware that one of the greatest moments in fandom history was when they decided in season 1 to do away with the thistle ring of the book and instead have Jamie make Claire a ring fashioned from the iron key to Lallybroch. OH THE UNREST THAT ENSUED. It is well-documented in this piece I wrote when it happened, and I guarantee you that some of your most favorite fandom ladies are quoted (not by name because that would be unkind, and we ALL know this fandom is about the kindness – their quotes notwithstanding). No one mentions it much anymore, especially since that ring is sold considerably less now, but it was a major bone of contention at the time.
When Claire lost it to Stephen Bonnet I had a feeling the writers were going to come back around to Jamie putting a ring on it. After all, in Drums of Autumn, Claire loses Frank’s ring, and gets it back by a series of very convoluted coincidences that would really take a sharp eye and a strong suspension of disbelief in a show not great at letting nuance reign. So what did the writers do? They threw a bone to the fandom and had Jamie make Claire the thistle ring, complete with inscription. Very sweet. I’m glad she’s be-ringed once more.
You’ll notice that the bathtub sex scene did NOT make the top ten, and if you join us Monday night at 9pmEST for #Hangoutlander you will find out exactly why. If it was one your top ten, let us know in the comments. Or join our Facebook Group to discuss with all our awesome members.