Outlander Episode 203, “ Useful Occupations and Deceptions”
Whisky, Rhenish & Tea talk about the ‘Purpose vs. Reason’ for adaptation choices
TEA: I would like to add Claire’s dressing gown to my Mother’s Day wish list.
RHENISH: That makes two of us! And the gold cape and dress? I just wanted to reach through the screen and touch it to see if it feels as exquisite as it looks.
WHISKY: I envy the woman with morning sickness who can still pull off that color, let alone tromp throughout the Parisian cobblestone streets in heels, shade being thrown her way left and right.
T: Those sidelong glances she gets from the women she passes are funny. Speaking of shade, what about the opening scene where we find Claire in the shadows of morning, in bed alone. Very telling, right?
R: I am officially troubled with the portrayal of Jamie and Claire’s relationship at this point. We are missing a whole lot of the relationship between them — the way they spend a lot of quiet moments talking and comforting one another in the book, through the nightmares, insomnia, morning sickness, afternoon sickness, and so on. There’s a lot of weight on the disconnect between them in the show — Jamie’s post-Wentworth PTSD, his discomfort with mind-of-her-own Claire’s red dress, and now how she’s spending her free time at the hospital. I just wish we were getting some of the tenderness to balance it out. I really miss that.
W: It’s not just that aspect of Jamie’s on-screen character that’s changed, but this is a change that has me intrigued — he sure has taken to letting the servants take care of him, huh?
T: When Jamie comes blazing in — in just a vest, was it? — rapidly changes, drinks a bit and quickly leaves, I was sad that Claire couldn’t even kiss him. Was it really because he was too stinky?
R: The most “distracting” costume in this episode, for me, was that vest. Did you see how nicely it fit him when the servants were dressing him during his Indy 500-style pit stop? It just about makes up for the lack of kilts.
W: I think that his odor had only a small part to play in that, too. Jamie almost seemed caffeinated or coked up during that whole scene. So much on his mind at once, but not enough at the same time. He’s on autopilot, giving lip service to how bored Claire seems to be, but he’s not as present as I really want.
R: Whenever you have a beloved book, or, like this, a whole series, transformed to the screen, there will be comparisons. There is no way to fully transform every last detail in a book to the screen.
W: Don’t get me wrong — it feels authentic. He’s flawed, and the disconnect, while different from the book, raises the tension.
T: I cannot imagine Jamie keeping up that frantic pace without it affecting him. I was just happy that he told her to go back to bed because she and the bairn need their rest — while gently placing his hand on her baby bump. It was a sweet moment and gesture.
W: Jamie does give a nod to the fact that Claire’s teas with the ladies are tedious, and he also acknowledges the possible benefit her persistence may provide. Since Jamie is still in the throes of recovery, he is channeling his energy toward staying busy, keeping a routine, and fulfilling a mission. The balance of power has shifted to Jamie — that’s for sure. I hate to admit that that’s actually progress in a twisted way.
T: But then how he quickly reverted, almost to panic mode, when he realized that Sawny was missing from his sporran.
W: The Sawny bit made me want to punch something — again, in a good way. It was so exemplative of Jamie’s state of mind. What, he doesn’t remember that it was Claire who returned Sawny to him back at Lallybroch?
T: And then Claire attempts to calm him down by saying she is sure Sawny will be found.
W: He generally treats Claire like little more than a servant of his cause, now.
R: Dwelling on book vs. screen is just not a happy place to go, so instead I try to figure out the “why” behind the changes. It’s a positive diversion when I go into comparison mode. I haven’t been able to come up with any “whys” for not seeing the other side of Jamie and Claire’s relationship other than there is simply not enough time to show us more, which is really a bummer.
T: Earlier, Whisky, you mentioned something about Jamie being at ease with the servants now. It reminds me of how annoyed Claire became at Suzette for not mending the lace, prompting her to storm into Suzette’s quarters and thus disrupting Suzette and the godfather…
R: Now that is stuff that the writers have completely fabricated, but it completely rings true to the story. Murtagh has a bigger role on screen than in the book, and who isn’t loving that?
W: Murtagh getting his… good for him! And when he comes downstairs and Claire snaps at him, I really thought she was going to confess that she was envious and lonely. So we’re reminded that she has a lot on her mind, too. Jamie’s distance, feeling purposeless, and BJR on top of it all. She has to confide in someone.
T: She was extremely distraught over the news, not only about BJR being alive, but about realizing who Mary Hawkins is and the need to ensure that Frank’s future existence is secure. That bit of dialogue between Claire and our dear,love-him-more-each-time-he’s-on-the-screen Murtagh was truly sweet.
W: But scheming among the inner circle begins. This scene harkens back to the “purpose versus reason” argument the three of them had during episode 201.
R: Often I come to the conclusion that the screenwriters are indeed pretty smart and probably spend more time thinking this through than we do.
W: So, after a badass chess scene, comparing the game to politics and hearing the minister tell Jamie, “I give you permission to respect me less,” we’re back to Master Raymond’s. I found it curious that the blue and gold of Claire’s and the Compte’s costumes coordinate so well… for what it’s worth.
T: Trip #2 to Master Raymond’s did not disappoint. Not only did Claire’s outfit coordinate with the Comte’s as they had their uncomfortable face off, but her gold cape also complimented Master Raymond’s exquisite jacket. When Master Raymond recommended that Claire may want to assist at the hospital, I felt myself get so excited.
R: Mother Hildegarde and Bouton were perfectly cast and played. The scenes in the hospital were exactly as I had imagined them.
T: I was beyond happy to see this place that had lived in my imagination for years come alive. When Claire proved that she knew what she was doing by correctly diagnosing the woman with the sugar sickness, it was as if something clicked and she was back to actually being Claire again. She felt it, we felt it.
T: I’m digging the way Claire’s aubergine suit at the hospital literally contrasts with the gold she’s been wearing up to this point. Miss Thing is back to business. I also love how masculine the outfit is, right down to the tricorn cap.
T: She was, sadly, blindsided to find out that Jamie didn’t feel the same. If only he hadn’t been so distraught by Prince Charlie’s news, he may have been more understanding.
W: The negotiations between Duvernay and Stewart at the brothel — another win. It’s exactly the right amount of accessibility for the viewer not up on history without having dulled the complexity.
R: For the most part, I love what Starz has done with the show. The show skips around a bit, combining this dinner party with that, snippets from several conversations and meetings into one, even the actions of some of the minor characters get rolled into one in order to give us as much as they can from the books.
T: The combining of things goes back to that frantic pace I touched upon earlier. No sleep, many secrets, much liquor and still not yet mentally right? Jamie was bound to snap. While it was heartbreaking to see our two heroes fight, it was totally understandable to me.
W: Jamie turning his back on Claire while he explains the mysterious English backers… It’s such a simple stage direction, almost too easy, yet it’s incredibly effective.
R: We have to talk about wee Fergus.
T: I have loved that little urchin for so long — 100% perfect! Fergus’ hiring moved us along to a critical development. Stealing and copying the letters led to Jamie needing Mother Hildegarde’s help and his visit to the hospital where he has to plainly say “I need help.”
R: In the interest of keeping the show a reasonable length and popular with the masses (readers and non-readers alike), the story must be pared down and kept moving along. Without giving too much away to the non-readers, there is a critical detail that’s missing from the way Jamie and Fergus meet…
W: I can’t even with this fundamental shift regarding the way Jamie and Fergus meet, which goes along with who (Jamie) knows what (alive) about whom (BJR) and when… so I’m just letting it go.
T: The pace of Jamie seeking Mother Hildegarde’s musical expertise is different from the book, too, but it clearly showed that Jamie and Claire, even though they’ve just argued, are still on the same side. And again we get that purpose vs. reason theme, with Claire’s quick reply, “If my husband is asking, I can assure you it’s for a good reason.” Strong writing. Plus, we learn that Mother Hildegarde is buds with Bach? And commenting that Bach’s music is not the kind to be endured? The best!
R: Despite these necessary changes, omissions, and often amusing departures from the book, this time in Paris is accurately portrayed as a frenetic race between tea and dinner parties, politics, making connections, gathering information, etc.
T: This hour went by so quickly! The final scene was heartbreaking. On one level, Jamie and Claire appear to have finally found their way back to one another. Progress is being made on “changing the future.”
W: How hard up are we that we get excited about Jamie and Claire realizing at the same time that the signature is Sandringham’s … and that we are totally fine with her delaying the news of BJR being alive?
T: But the way Jamie proposes a sweet toast to his wife and pulls her into a loving embrace — an embrace that shows a troubled Claire making eye contact with Murtagh as they both know that the proposed visit to Sandringham will likely mean major chaos in all their lives.
R: If any readers here haven’t read the books yet, I strongly encourage you to do so, so you can experience the full depth of Jamie and Claire’s love for each other. It’s not too late!
All images courtesy of Starz, via Outlander-Online