Outlander: Never My Love

"A mere woman of no consequence."

The theme of this episode was defining home as family, not as a specific place. I can relate.

There were warnings tweeted by Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan last night that revealed what this episode was about. It had been carefully set up from the start of the season – the vicious misogyny of Lionel Brown, the "Dr. Rawlings" article in the newspaper, Brown breaking his new wife's wrist. Not hard to believe that Lionel Brown could have hated women in general and Claire in particular so much that he decided to drag her to Brownsville in order to make her "confess." And it wasn't surprising that the kidnapping descended into abuse and rape, considering it was all about putting an uppity woman in her place.

But yes, I have to say again that I think Outlander overuses sexual assault as a plot device. The thing is, though, that this was the choice of book author Diana Gabaldon, not the series producers. Unlike most book-to-series adaptations, the Outlander producers have stuck relatively closely to the source material, and the kidnapping sequence was indeed dramatized from book six, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The producers took a "page" from their own series, though, doing most of it in flashback while focused on Claire's battered face as she lay tied and helpless on the ground. She even saw a live rabbit, a sign of rebirth, just as Jamie did on the battlefield at Culloden.

"Never My Love" could easily have become an episode that I'd never want to watch again if it hadn't been for – well, okay, the entire last half which was terrific, but mostly the sixties fantasy Claire was imagining to escape the brutality of her ordeal. It was so heartwarming and fascinating, so full of detail, that I wanted to look at every frame. With "my family is my home" as its center, it featured all of Claire's eighteenth century family – Jamie, Fergus and Marsali with their children, Jocasta and Murtagh, Young Ian – all together and in twentieth century clothes, home for Thanksgiving.



The house was a strange one, not the Ridge or the Randall house in Boston. It began more than once with Claire sitting on the couch staring at a blurred, somewhat abstract painting of the Big House. There were reminders of the pilot episode: the blue vase, Jamie covering her with his plaid, just as he covered her in the present when he rescued her. There was an orange sitting on a table, a call back to Claire trading sex with the King of France for Jamie's freedom from the Bastille. Claire was wearing a red dress. There was even a dragonfly toy in Germain's hand, suggesting that historical events still cannot be changed.

Interestingly, Brianna and Roger, who actually are refugees from the sixties, weren't in Claire's fantasy. The police came to the door and said they'd been in an accident and had been killed; Claire had removed them from her fantasy in a way that showed how devastating their departure had been for her. Again with the "my family is my home" theme, Bree and Roger were both thinking of home when they went through the stones in the previous episode, "Journeycake," and it brought them home – to 1772.

In stark contrast to Lionel's hatred of women, the men of the Ridge demonstrated their love for Claire. They rescued her, and fought her kidnappers. They didn't hesitate when Jamie ordered, "Kill them all."



I thought Ian came across as the most frightening; his time with the Mohawk has changed him. Roger has changed, too; he chose to participate. A lot of this season has been about Roger's unsuccessful adjustment to life in the eighteenth century, but now he's a son of Jamie's house in deed as well as word. Like the other men of the Ridge, Roger killed a man for Claire's sake.

And surprisingly, so did Marsali. This has been an amazing season for her. Consider that this is Laoghaire's daughter, that Marsali despised Claire when they first met. Now, Marsali is Claire's medical assistant and friend as well as the daughter of her heart. It was Marsali that injected hemlock into Lionel Brown. That was an omigod moment, and a perfect end to him – death at the hands of a pregnant woman that he devalued, right down to his last words.

From beginning to end, in fantasy and reality, Jamie was Claire's rock, her refuge. He was the only one in the fantasy scenes wearing his own clothes, as if the reality of Jamie never changes for Claire. Almost unspoken was the fact that Jamie has also been raped, that he knew what Claire was feeling. He was calm when he expressed his own anger and outrage, always keeping the focus where it belonged, on helping Claire.

The last minute of this episode, with Jamie and Claire lying quietly in bed nude and locked in each other's arms, was a visual representation of how they felt, how they will deal with this going forward – together, as they have dealt with every other bad thing that has ever happened to them. It was just beautiful. It stayed with me awhile, like the rest of this episode.

The surprise encounter with Wendigo Donner, another 1968 time traveler, was also an omigod moment – less satisfying than Marsali's moment, although he did get to say one of my favorite lines from the books. He must have decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and left before the massacre. But it pisses me off that he didn't help Claire, that he actually retied her hands and stuffed the gag back in her mouth. Come on, man. Otter Tooth helped Claire, and he was actually a ghost at the time. Instead, Donner told Claire that she should remember her place and keep her mouth shut. Bastard.

Book versus series

The book plot was pretty much what we saw, with what I've already mentioned above. I wish it had been made clearer that Brown's guys burned out that Dutch family and had victimized many others. In the book, it wasn't Marsali that killed Lionel Brown. But I thought Marsali doing it fit well with the minor changes they've made with her character, all of which I have loved.

The fantasy sequence came from the series, not the book. Good on them, because I loved it.

Bits:

— The credits aired at the end with a new acapella version of "The Skye Boat Song," overlaid with ominous thunder. The "previously on" was silent.

— During the rape scene and the subsequent massacre, the camera was on Claire's face. Good choice. I also noticed that the men of the Ridge were mostly seen in silhouette and at an angle during the fight in the woods, as Claire would have seen them from the ground.

— Wendigo Donner came through the stones with Otter Tooth, whose real name was Robert Springer. They wanted to save their people. Shades of Geillis Duncan.

— "Never My Love" is a 1967 song perfectly descriptive of Jamie and Claire. There are worse songs to have earworming through your head all day.



— There were echoes of the white witch, La Dame Blanche. Tebbe, one of Brown's guys, called Claire a "conjure woman" and she picked up on that cue. It didn't save her this time, though.

— In Claire's fantasy, Lionel Brown was one of the police officers that came to the door. He kept appearing in windows of the house, too.

— Even though he accepted that Lionel had brought about his own destruction, Richard Brown said that he was still Jamie's enemy.

— Gold acting stars for Caitriona Balfe, of course. She absolutely went for it. Also for Sam Heughan, who visibly kept Jamie's emotions tamped down so that he could do what had to be done for Claire. And Lauren Lyle (Marsali) was terrific.

— And I have to say again that John Bell was wonderful as Ian. Applying war paint, incredible in the fight. In Claire's fantasy he was also a warrior, dressed as a marine with a jarhead haircut.

— No cliffhanger this time. Thank you.

— Droughtlander is always too long. Unfortunately, it's going to be even longer this time because of the pandemic. They were supposed to be shooting season six by now, and of course, they can't. Sigh.

Quotes:

Claire: "You touch me again, you'll all be dead by dawn."
They were, too.

Wendigo: "Does the name 'Ringo Starr' mean anything to you?"

Jamie: "You are alive. You are whole, mo nighean donn."

Jamie: "She's bound by an oath. She may not kill, for her own life. It is myself that kills for her."

Brianna: "You have my hand, Mama, and my ear, if you need it."
This was what Lizzie told Brianna in season four.

Claire: "I have lived through a fucking world war, and I have lost our child. I've lost two husbands. I've been starved with an army, and I've been beaten, and I've been betrayed, and I've... I've been imprisoned, and I will not... I survived. And this. I am supposed to be shattered by this? Well, I won't be."

Marsali: "She took an oath to do no harm. I have taken no such oath."
Like Jamie. It is myself that kills for her.

Marsali: "He thought me no better than the dirt under his boot. A mere woman of no consequence."
Jamie: "What's done is done."
Marsali: "Will this... will he... will he haunt me? Am I going to Hell?"
Jamie: "Nothing to fear, lass."

"A mere woman of no consequence." One consistent theme in Outlander that I like tremendously is how it portrays the value of women in a time that did not value them.

Claire: "I love you."
Jamie: "When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not 'I love you,' ye ken it's because I didna have time."
Another of my favorite lines from the books.

This fifth season has been terrific, and this finale was powerful. Four out of four jars of hemlock,

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

6 comments:

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

This was such a well-put-together episode. I feel the same way about most of your comments above, regarding the acting and the alternate 1960s dream world. (So cute that Murtagh and Jocasta got to be together there!)

I'm really torn about Briana and Roger staying. For one thing, it made no sense for them to leave anyway - their family is here. I'm very glad they didn't leave the cliffhanger of where they ended up for next season.

On the other hand, this show has turned into a frontier drama. Not really what I signed up for. I'm missing Scotland, France, and time travel shenanigans. I was kind of looking forward to Bri, Roger, and Jemmie being stranded somewhere else in time for a few episodes before making their way back to either their own time or to Frasier's Ridge. All we got is a glimpse of another time traveler who seems to be neither friend nor foe, with the same backstory as Otter Tooth. Kinda boring. As well as the men from Brownsville as villains - there's no nuance, they're just bullies (though Richard may bring a slightly different side).

Hopefully the onset of the American Revolution will bring in more interesting plotlines and villains, as well as interesting cameos by historical figures. It's one of my favorite periods of history (I actually wrote a novel set during 1776 in NYC) and I have a lot of faith that they will do it justice.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all your points, Billie. I was REALLY dreading this and of course wished they didn't do it, but I also understand that it is part of Claire's journey (as Caitriona Balfe said in an interview) as it's already written in the books. There was obviously a lot that got to me in this episode, but one thing that hasn't gotten a lot of mention (that I've seen) is the first look that Marsali gives Claire when she comes out of the house. To me, it's a look of understanding, of shared trauma and of relief that they're both now together again and in (relatively) one piece. So much was in that tiny exchange. I thought it was amazingly well done between them. And that scene of Jaime and Claire in bed, afterwards. For those who've read the books, it perfectly allows us to fill in the blanks, while not showing a scene that wouldn't have translated well on screen. And the dialogue they did use, I thought was perfect and said it all.

Billie Doux said...

Katie, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I actually don't think anything about this series is boring, but I know I'm obsessed. I'm not a fan of the Colonial period, but there's a lot of interesting stuff coming up in the books that you might enjoy.

Anonymous, you took the words out of my... keyboard. :) I was dreading it too, for the same reason. And ditto about that final scene in bed. Sometimes the series makes the right choice when it comes to stuff like this.

Josie Kafka said...

I was extremely apprehensive about this episode, given that what little I knew added up to a lot of online rage.

That made the episode itself actually quite lovely, as I was prepared for the worst and got a thoughtful, if heart-wrenching, exploration of trauma and recovery.

My favorite parts were the daydreams of Claire's family at Thanksgiving. It was such a delight to see them all in modern clothes, and it speaks to Claire's love for her wonderful expanded family. She rarely tells them--at least on screen--how much she loves them, but this episode made that very clear.

Ditto on everything about Marsali, too. She is perfect.

"Ringo Starr" is such a great way to discern someone's original time! If you asked Claire if she knew "Paul McCartney," she'd probably wonder if that was the Mr. McCartney who worked at the general store, or something.

Billie, thank you for your gentle nudges towards watching this show. I'm really glad I did.

And even if the pandemic may mean we don't get Season Six for a while, perhaps they can do an animated spinoff about the Adventures of Adso?

Billie Doux said...

Josie, thank you so much for responding to those nudges. I've noticed that it's really difficult to describe Outlander accurately to people. It's just not like anything else.

I thought the same thing about the Ringo Starr thing. It was a practically perfect way to ask someone if they were from the 1960s.

Doc20002001 said...

Outstanding episode, Claire's escape from reality scene with The Association's- Never My Love has to be one of the most emotional scenes I've experienced in my almost 54 years as as crazy as it sounds that song has been one of those songs that comes to mind when I've been in bummer periods of my life. Probably because my mom used to play the hell outta that album when I was 1ish yrs old in 67' and i guess my brain always brings me back to those memories of our 1st house and playing or laying next to the giant stereo console we had in wheeling Illinois. I have to say this episode really puts Outlander in my top 3 shows ever, the acting and writing is top notch and the way Caitriona and Sam perform you would think they were husband and wife in real life. There is something very special with the two of them and their acting that is more than just being great actors. To the cast, crew and writers thank you for a great season and bringing me back to 1967 for a little bit. Until next season!