You couldn’t fire a bit across the World Wide Web this week without hitting a preview for Outlander‘s next installment, Wentworth Prison. Scarce was the review of last week’s episode, however, save discussion of lactation. BRAVA to Laura Donnelly, whoever was responsible for creating the working prosthetic mammary glands, and everyone who had anything to do with bringing this proper demonstration of the human female breasts’ intended function, true to the passage in the novel, to television. #Freethenipple.
Unfortunately, most of the remaining talk about The Search fixated upon how little it did to advance the overarching series plot. While a lot of pastoral goings-on during the Lallybroch episodes was lost to editing, this rather brief portion of the book was expanded into a full-blown Murtagh and Claire road show to the outer Highlands.
While I generally agree with the sentiment that languid pace and added devices seemed out-of-step with where we’ve been or where we’re going in this season, we have to remember that this is a television series, not a miniseries. The two formats are written in a fundamentally different way. There’s far greater expectation that each episode of a television series stand on its own, with its own conflicts, arcs, and such encapsulated within each program.
No, I didn’t really mind that we got a bit of respite before the next two episodes hammer down upon the audience. What I did mind was the contrivances of dialogue that, in lesser actors’ stead, would have derailed the viewing experience for me altogether. As it is, their depiction, in concert with nuanced music by Bear McCreary, stupendous costuming by Terry Dresbach, and breathtaking cinematography by Neville Kidd, still kept the experience worthwhile.
On my first day as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives, I learned that one of the most important things in soap opera acting is reacting. This does not mean acting again. It means, you don’t have a line, but someone else just did. ~Joey, Friends
The screenshots do a better job of demonstrating how absurd some of the scripted exchanges were this week.
The episode kicks off moments after Ian’s return and report of the ambush. His arm’s wrapped, but Claire hasn’t attended to his gangrenous-looking head wounds. THAT’s how eager she is to get on the road. When Ian protests that he should accompany her, she responds accordingly.
Jenny chimes in that his arm isn’t fit for riding, either. Neither will Duncan nor the tenants be riding out to confront the British, lest Lallybroch suffer the retribution. Never mind this wasn’t much considered when the Chisholm raid was undertaken just days before. “Fetch me a paper and ink. I’ll try my hand at a rough map of where we were set upon,” Ian responds. As if Jenny won’t know the way to Lochaber bridge. What’s that, you say? Claire hasn’t been told that Jenny’s going, too? It’d seem so from the conversation they have next, outside. Apparantly, Claire hasn’t noticed that Jenny has been moving about with equal urgency, spelling out orders to Mrs. Crook for care of the household.
Bags are packed and horses saddled, but yes, let’s take a moment for a bit of superfluous voiceover.
We’re off, and mothers everywhere wince with every beat of the horses’ canter across the countryside. If there was anyone left who hadn’t realized the full scope of Jenny’s baddassery, none remain now. Sacagawea would accomplish a similar feat forty years hence, but she’d have her baby in tow to relieve the inevitable engorgement, at least.
Really, Claire? I know that lactation wouldn’t have been covered in the primer for combat nurse’s training, but this archaeologist-raised lady of the land wasn’t familiar with basic anatomical function? Who among the current and former nursing women in the audience couldn’t feel Jenny’s relief and bliss while she expressed, though? I’m sure I made some sympathetic sounds of my own while I watched.
Moving on to the site of attack, and after stopping at the pair of crow-riddled corpses to offer brief prayers, Jenny discovers the direction of the cart tracks.
The pair siddle over to the cliffside to spy upon the ambushers and their ambushee prisoners.
After the pair of women play out an entertaining if clichéd good cop-bad cop routine, they get the information they need about Jamie’s escape. Claire goes to get her supplies for bandaging the courier’s foot.
After an exchange about Jenny feeling judged and Claire, entirely unconvincingly, pleading her willingness to have literally dispatched with the courier, dinner’s on. The menu, presumably non-bedeviled, includes Murtagh’s contribution of some sort of foul fowl to be cooked over Camper Claire’s super-clever firepit.
The next morning, the women part, but not before an exchange from the novel is all fouled up with a bit of unnecessary re-sequencing.
Why did Claire volunteer this information first? In the book, Jenny broaches the subject in a way that is understandably awkward, but in so doing demonstrates her understanding of the only sister she’s ever known. Jenny knows that Claire is an odd one, but she’s smart, means well, and apparently knows the future. Wouldn’t that prognostication ability have come in handy about a dozen times on this excursion alone? Whatever.
Taking the Show on the Road
I have to admit that I skimmed through this brief portion of the book. It was just about as absurd as believing Hoffman and Beatty to be Simon and Garfunkel of the desert. I get the strategy of drawing attention and drumming up talk amongst people even more isolated than those to which Claire had been exposed heretofore. I barely bought into the whole idea in the book version, what with fortune telling being rather similar to the witchcraft from which Claire only recently escaped suspicion. I easily accepted Murtagh’s singing, but his dancing (an ensuing embarrassment) stretched my suspended disbelief as well as my patience.
Love and Politics
I don’t know what part of the Gypsies portion of this episode was more disappointing, how drawn out it was, or how book-inaccurate it was. In the book, Claire and Murtagh banded together with the Gypsies for mutual benefit. Murtagh opened up with them in a way he didn’t with Claire. The Gypsies of the book played against type, as compatriots. The Gypsies of the show were stereotypically and one-dimensionally drawn.
I’m not pro-Gypsy or anti-Gypsy. I’m anti-unnecessary confusion. It wasn’t clear whether we were meant to see Ward & Company as adversarial or congenial, and I didn’t think it was worth investing the time to parse it out.
The scene in the cave afterward was slightly better. The two traveling bards were clearly exhausted, mentally and physically. The mean-spirited exchanged was believable, except that Claire knows how important Jamie is to Murtagh. She doesn’t know the backstory, but she knows he’s Jamie’s Godfather and loves him like a son. This seems like a lot of exposition just to get Claire to make the connection with the boar tusks.
The song finally works in a roundabout way, taking Murtagh and Claire to Glen Rowan Cross.
If there’s one scene that’s been adapted properly in this episode, it’s this one. Already condensed by virtue of having exposition from it brought out in earlier episodes (e.g. Hamish’s paternity, 1968), we can focus on how Dougal’s indecent proposal has less to do with his insatiable libido and more to do with land and power. Claire is stopped short of having to respond to Dougal’s offer in the novel, and she accepts it in the adaptation, which is wholly believable as part and parcel of the negotiations she’s making to storm Wentworth and rescue Jamie.
Equally accurate, consistent, and expeditious was the recruiting of the MacKenzie men.