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Outlander: Monsters and Heroes

"Tis a good day for dyeing."

As the women of the Ridge dyed a lot of garments a gorgeous indigo blue, an encounter with a snake finally brought Jamie and Roger together.

Jamie's relationship with Roger has been, shall we say, difficult. It started with Jamie beating Roger to a pulp and selling him into slavery, followed by months of travel and effort to get him back, and more months of Roger trying unsuccessfully to fit in at the Ridge. Jamie has made his dissatisfaction with his son-in-law obvious. This episode even began with an uncomfortable fatherly grimace when Jamie inadvertently interrupted Roger and Brianna indulging in some early morning delight.

But when Jamie was brought down by a snake bite during a hunting trip, he was helpless and forced to depend on Roger. Jamie is not accustomed to being helpless; note how he wouldn't even admit out loud that he couldn't walk. Gravely ill from the venom, Jamie finally relented and treated Roger as a son, trusting him to carry out his last wishes. And they were big ones.

Like the reveal that Jamie and Lord John have made concrete plans to kill Stephen Bonnet. Jamie told Roger about Bonnet's outright diabolical plan to claim Jemmy as his son in order to gain control of River Run, to get the men who were in the tavern that night to testify against Brianna and say she had sex with Bonnet in exchange for a silver ring. Roger told Jamie honestly that he wasn't certain he could kill anyone in cold blood, even Bonnet. I liked the bit where Roger told Jamie he would have to live in order to teach Roger to fight.

Jamie's most important final wish was that Claire go back to her own time, and that if Jemmy can go through the stones, that Roger and Bree go with her. This was an important admission that Jamie knows his family has stayed in this century only because Jamie himself is there, and that they'd be safer in the twentieth.

Roger got Jamie to Claire the next morning, even though he had to drag Jamie on a travois, even though he couldn't yell for help when the men of the Ridge were searching for them. But while this stressful situation brought Jamie and Roger together, it could have broken Jamie and Claire apart. I think Jamie's decision to refuse amputation wasn't so much that he had a "horror of it," but that it feeds into how Jamie sees himself – that his only value is in what he could provide for his family and the Ridge. Jamie can't accept that he is loved for himself, that even if he couldn't be a provider and defender, he is still needed and wanted.

What a horrendous dilemma for Claire, and I'm not even talking about how incredibly difficult it would be to amputate the leg of someone you love. If Claire had decided to do it against Jamie's wishes, he might have never forgiven her, and it could have destroyed their marriage. It's hard to tell if Claire would have gone that far. It felt like that ultimate question was left unanswered.

Jamie knew he was dying because Claire wasn't scolding him, so he got Roger and Ian to carry him to his own bed. Under the circumstances, I thought Ian confronting Jamie about cowardice was particularly effective considering the example of Ian Senior, and might have hit Jamie where he lived. (Roger was uncomfortable but Ian demanded he stay, reminding me of "Dragonfly in Amber." Roger has been witness to way too many of their major family dramas.)

For me, the best part was Jamie's near death experience resulting in him telling Claire to touch him because he knew she would make him want to live. She pulled off her shift and covered him with her own body, stroking him, trying to heal him with her hands and the force of her will. Some fans and reviewers were seeing it as sexual, but I honestly didn't see it that way at all. It felt more to me like what Maître Raymond did to Claire in "Faith."



Sam Heughan is usually the glowing picture of health, but Jamie looked terrible throughout this episode. His leg looked even worse, especially with maggots squirming on it. I watch this show with a family member who hasn't read the books, and he was doing a lot of cringing during these scenes because, while relatively certain that the male lead of the series would live, he thought it was a real possibility that Jamie might indeed lose his leg.

Bree got a couple of critical bits. We were reminded during the dyeing scenes that Bree had been studying engineering so that her invention of the world's first snake-fang syringe would be believable. And the way she matador'd the buffalo in the yard away from baby Jemmy was almost comic relief, although the prey that the hunting party missed walking in the front gate to be conveniently slaughtered felt a bit like providence.

Marsali unexpectedly giving birth while out and about with Fergus and their two children felt a bit like comic relief, too. Although I did love Marsali basically telling Claire earlier that she loved her like a mom now. It was a lovely little parallel to Roger and Jamie finally burying the hatchet and becoming family.



Book versus series

All this was pretty much what happened in The Fiery Cross. Except Ian hadn't returned yet, but I thought his contribution to this episode made sense and worked well. Claire did kill the buffalo that wandered into the yard, but with the amputation saw; that might have been too bloody and difficult to film believably. Marsali delivering Félicité en famille in the woods was out of left field, though, pun intended.

Bits:

— The title card vignette was a closeup of a buffalo, probably the one that was foolish enough to walk into the Fraser yard. Convenient that Bree was wearing pants right before the buffalo wandered in. Otherwise, flying through the air could have been a lot more awkward.

— It is now autumn of 1771.

— Roger brought out the Bible verses twice in this episode, and prayed out loud for Jamie. Well, he was raised by a minister. Jamie made classical references and called Roger "professor" more than once, but this time in fondness instead of derision.

— Fergus said that he and Marsali focus on what they have, not on what they don't have. That's a good philosophy. Especially considering that Fergus had nothing until Jamie "adopted" him in Paris.

— Little Jemmy now looks exactly like Stephen Bonnet. Argh.

— This series often uses rabbits as rebirth symbolism. This time, Josiah found a dead rabbit with the maggots they needed. By the way, there was discussion in The Fiery Cross about the fact that some maggots are not helpful in these circumstances, and how to tell the difference using a microscope.

— Title musings: When Jamie was talking with Roger about taking down Bonnet, he said, "There's a fine line between a monster and a hero." But I saw "Monsters and Heroes" to be more about the dilemma Claire was faced with here.

Quotes:

Lizzie: "Tis a good day for dyeing."
Claire: "I hope you mean the cloth, Lizzie."

Jamie: (eating the snake that bit him) "Fair is fair."

Jamie: "What is this, the bed of Procrustes?"
Roger: "Well, it could be worse. Could be Charon's boat."
Jamie: "Well, if I go to Hell, I'm glad you're coming with me."
Roger: "Thankfully, you have not lost your sense of humor."

Jamie: "If I die, Claire must leave. Send her, make her go. You should all go, if the bairn can pass through the stones. It's not safe for you here without me. Tell Bree I'm glad of her. Give my sword to the bairn. And tell Claire I meant it."

Jamie: "Dinna tell me you don't have snakes in your time."
Claire: "Yes, but you wouldn't usually call a surgeon about a snakebite. The closest thing I've come to is when a man got bitten by a king cobra, my friend invited me to watch the autopsy."

(Claire, have you ever actually heard of tact?)

Claire: "You look like you've been roasted over a spit."
Jamie: "You should work on your bedside manner, Sassenach."

Claire: "Only one of us gets to be frightened at any time. Right now it's my turn."

Marsali: (holding a bowl full of maggots) "Josiah found these in a dead... never mind. We have some! That's all that matters."

Fergus: "In one stroke, he is going to be a man of leisure."

Claire: "How do you feel?"
Jamie: "Like a pile of moldy tripe. With maggots."
Claire: "You'd laugh on your deathbed, wouldn't you?"

Claire: "You tried to die on me, didn't you?"

Three out of four... should it be maggots, snakes, buffalo, or bricks of indigo dye?

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

3 comments:

Juliette said...

Definitely three out of four maggots I think! I thought Jamie might really lose his leg as well (I've started reading the books now but it's going to be a while before I even finish the first one never mind the rest!)

ChrisB said...

Although this one dragged a bit for me, there were some wonderful moments that elevated it from the truly dire. As always, the main romance is what keeps me coming back and this was no exception. I missed the whole sexual aspect of the one scene completely until I went out into cyberworld and read about it. It's fascinating how divided the fans are about what Claire did or did not do to bring Jamie back from the brink. As I re-watched it, I think she does, but who cares. It is her touch -- whatever that means-- that brings him back.

On a lighter note, the scene where Jamie interrupts Roger and Bree had me laughing out loud. Walking in on anyone is awkward enough, but your kids? Ouch!

I was also struck by the use of color this episode. The fall colors and the blue fabric were both gorgeous. But, I want a bedroom like Claire and Jamie's. The green walls contrasting the dark wood of that gorgeous colonial furniture all set off by candlelight. And, that quilt is a thing of beauty.

Billie Doux said...

Here are my notes on the podcast for "Monsters and Heroes," episode 5x9. Commentary was by showrunner Matt Roberts.

They knew this would be a big episode, a turning point in the Jamie/Roger relationship, which has been uncomfortable because of what happened in season four. There was quite a page count for Sam and Richard for that night scene, and filming took a couple of nights. Roberts describes in detail how important it is to give important scenes more time to film so you can let them breathe. Roberts also said it was fun watching Richard dragging Sam around on the sled, and that of course they test all of these things beforehand to make sure they'll work.

Roberts said that Claire's dilemma was massive. Is she a wife here, or a doctor? Yes, she promised not to amputate but if he hadn't changed his mind, Roberts thinks she probably would have done it without Jamie's permission. About the healing scene -- you just have to give this sort of scene over to the actors, the directors have to let those performances come out.

Fans have asked Roberts why the Frasers can't just have a nice day sometimes. He said they don't have the luxury of time like the books, and they do try to find the nice moments that balance out the heavier scenes. There's so much humor in the books; Diana Gabaldon is a very humorous person and writes all of the characters with wit. Roberts really liked Sam's expression when Jamie walked in on Bree and Roger.

Roberts has discovered while working on Outlander that what everyone takes from it tends to be individual and personal, and that's what makes the show special. He understands why people get upset when the show doesn't give them something they loved in the books.

When Roberts told Guy and Michael (?) that they would need a herd of buffalo this season, the expressions on their faces was priceless and they thought he was joking. They found a good-sized buffalo ranch in England and went there to figure out the logistics. A lot of it is visual effects. The scene in the yard, they had a crew member put on a buffalo cape and walk through it, and then they built it out with special effects and props. They watched a video of a girl getting thrown by a buffalo in Yellowstone Park over and over to replicate it.

The snake was a visual effect combined with a prop snake and of course, Jamie's leg was a prosthetic. Roberts kept the snake head; it's mounted in his office in Scotland with other props he curated; he promised to do a video tour of them some day.

Some months have passed. Marsali's pregnancy is a bit like a clock.

The props department made the buffalo patty. They're good with vomit and things like that.

Jamie and Claire's bedroom is in the parlor; earlier in the season, it was in the kitchen. Roberts wanted to emphasize that they're still working on the house and the upstairs still isn't done.

The snake Jamie eats is salmon wrapped in snakeskin. Sam seemed to enjoy it.

The entire cast practices horseback riding because it's important that the actors look comfortable on horses. In early season one, a lot of the actors weren't comfortable riding horses and there were funny outtakes. Most of the actors have made friends with their horses.

Any shot of Adso is a good shot is now their motto at Outlander. Rollo is pretty good, too, but they get more 'aahhhs' from Adso shots. Roberts wasn't saying who is the better actor.

The "Outlander Untold" scene on the blu-ray -- Roberts said it was a teaser for what might be coming in season six. It's Lizzie talking to Kezzie about her feelings for Josiah, until she realizes she's talking to Josiah.