This week’s episode, “The Watch” (Outlander Episode 113) is an excellent example of how to translate a book to the screen. While last week’s episode left many of us tearing out our hair due to writing that changed the very personality of our beloved Jamie Fraser—the writing this week allows his character to redeem himself from the petulant, self-aggrandizing bore we saw in “Lallybroch” (Episode 112).
The episode opens dramatically, with our hero once again with a gun to his head, this time wielded by Taron McQuarry, the commander of “The Watch,” an irregular band of Scottish protection racketeers. Sister Jenny has to rush in and diffuse the tense situation. Jamie is quick to play along with Jenny’s assertion that her ”cousin, Jamie McTavish,” is a guest, not a burglar, but his fury at Jenny and Ian for paying these “criminals” makes him seem insensible of current events. Though Jamie is a stubborn character, he is rarely one that flies off the handle—he is usually an expert at masking his emotions and reacts calmly and sensibly. But rational minds prevail after both Jenny and Ian talk some sense into him and Jamie is able to continue through the episode as the intelligent man we all know and love.
Though Jamie does “lose his shit” in the scene by the forge, one has to admit it is warranted. It was a pleasure to see “warrior Jamie” take down the thuggish trouble-making members of The Watch. Though he could have very likely made matters worse for Lallybroch and himself, there was no way Jamie could just turn the other cheek on such matters. There is only so much a man can take. And, fortunately Taron was written so that he knew the deficits of his men and able to assess the situation with an appreciation of Jamie’s skill in taking care of them so swiftly.
Toni Graphia, the writer for this episode, deserves accolades for re-framing the role of The Watch. Though The Watch was organized to enforce Red Coat interests, Lallybroch’s “protection” payments and the Murray’s hospitality and courteous treatment did afford them preferential treatment in addition to protection from the English. Jamie’s perception of The Watch as mercenaries and extortionists in the service of the crown is not off the mark, but he learns that there is some honor among them and there is a cordial balance in the relationship between their leader, Taran McQuarrie and the Murrays. We can also see how an ex-soldier without Jamie’s family connections may have seen joining The Watch as a valid alternative to starvation. We know that “book Jamie” is a born leader who needs men to lead; it would appear Taran needs men to lead as well. Jamie and McQuarrie are able to find their common ground and some mutual respect for one another. Of all people, Taran is a person that will have seen the worst that the Red Coats are capable of doing, and will not be one to deliver a man like Jamie Fraser into their hands.He is willing to turn a blind eye despite the price on Jamie’s head.
The return of Horrocks in the company of The Watch was a believable plot twist that worked well to add conflict and suspense to the story. Though I’d never believe for one moment that Jamie would give another red cent to that man, I suppose it was necessary to prompt Claire’s “confession” that she fears may be barren. The Horrocks story did a good job of demonstrating the relationship between Ian and Jamie and the depth of their friendship—they would literally kill for each other. I was glad to see the show of strength and protectiveness from Ian. He appeared a bit meek in last week’s episode. This episode allowed him to show that despite his lost leg, he is still more than up to the task of guarding Jamie’s weak side. Ian makes a worth hero–and Stephen Cree was allowed to shine as Ian this week, whereas last week his character took a definite back seat to his wife, Jenny.
It was disappointing that Jamie realized too late that they were the ones about to be ambushed and that Horrocks had double crossed them. I’m torn as to whether I thought Jamie would have accompanied The Watch on what amounts to a raid. I’m going to give that one a pass and say that he didn’t feel he had much choice in the matter and had to stay on the good side of The Watch for the sake of his family and his estate…and also because raiding was not an uncommon part of Highland life. But why was The Watch involved in raiding if they were being paid by the Chisolms for their protection? Perhaps they were in arears? Some pieces of the story didn’t quite add up for me, but they were inconsequential. After the thwarted ambush at Cocknamon Rock—we’d think that Jamie would have had that little lightbulb in his head go off a little bit sooner. But were were just grateful that the director did not feel the need to flashback to that moment! Thank God!
Another key development in this episode is the relationship between Claire and Jenny. There should have been some of that in the “Lallybroch” homecoming episode. I had been miffed that we did not have Jenny giving Claire her mother’s bores tusk bracelets for Quarter Day—it was a moment that would have demonstrated Jenny’s acceptance of Claire. Thankfully, we did have that gesture this week. Though the scene was misplaced, it was good to see that moment.
We got to see Jenny vulnerable and reliant on her new sister-in-law to help her through childbirth—a life-threatening event in those times. Jenny’s valid fears of dying in childbirth like her own mother had intersected nicely with Claire’s own fears that she might never be able to conceive. It was essential to see these two doing some bonding and being in a situation where the walls they had constructed had to come down to get through with the business at hand. It would be difficult for two people to come through the intimacy of childbirth without drawing closer together through the shared experience.
The deletion of the midwife in the birthing scenes was entirely acceptable; her presence was entirely unnecessary. The non-traditional depiction of labor, with Jenny literally crawling across the room as the pains of labor ripped her apart, worked really well here. It was a much more accurate portrayal of childbirth, both physically and emotionally. The view of Jenny, her hugely pregnant belly silhouetted beneath her transparent cotton shift, was beautifully captured by the cameraman. Major kudos to the lighting director for getting that scene just right–it showed the intimacy of her labor without being unecessarily graphic. Laura Donnelly did a fantastic job and director, Metin Hüseyin deserves recognition for developing this scene in a very realistic and organic way. Hüseyin is back again in direction of “The Search,” so we can remain optimistic that he will continue to mesh original material seamlessly with the expected book elements.
Small Spoiler related to Drums of Autumn:
Should we be fortunate enough to get to book 4, “Drums of Autumn,” I’d very much like to see Toni Graphia back framing any storyline involving Stephen Bonnet and the residents of Brownsville. I could see shades of Stephen Bonnet in Horrock’s character this week…and some of the Brownsville men in the disreputable members of The Watch.