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Where’s the Sex? Outlander Season 2

        Like many avid Outlander fans, I have been watching the Second Season waiting and wondering when the show was going to soar, not just entertain, but lift us up to those high emotional ecstatic states we loved in Season 1. Though not every episode was equally intense in Season 1, there were enough dramatic and romantic “highs” to keep us wanting more. Unforgettable scenes we watched over and over include: Claire setting Jamie’s dislocated shoulder (1.1); Claire cleaning Jamie’s wounds by the fire (1.2); the Wedding vows and the unparalleled sex scenes (1.7); Claire’s choice to stay in Craigh na Dun (1.11); Jamie’s rehabilitation after his rescue from Wentworth (1.12). Along the way were many amusing and suspenseful scenes. Who can forget precious lines, like, Dougal’s “the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me“ (1.6), and Geillis’s dramatic confession at the witchcraft trial (1.11). Outlander Season 1 was an extraordinary show that made us see the visual and aural possibilities of adaptation. We didn’t just imagine but saw Claire’s nursing skills and Jamie’s fighting abilities in action. We were presented with an example of how a dramatic TV series could enrich and add to our favorite novel.

We have now watched 12 episodes of Season 2, and there have been a number of high moments, but were they as dramatic an experience? In Season 2, the best episodes seemed to cluster in the second half while a number of the early episodes in Paris and about politics felt rather flat.   The most dramatic moments were tinged with sadness in Season 2. They include: losing Faith and the graveyard scene (2.7); Murtagh’s revenge on Sandringham (2.11); Claire ministering to Alex Randall and his deathbed wish (2.12); Colum’s plea to die and his deathbed wish for his clan (2.12); the death of Angus after Prestonpans (2.10); Claire’s traumatic flashbacks to World War II in the training camp (2.9); the attempted rape of La Dame Blanche (2.4).

From my lists of favorites in each season thus far, there is a marked difference in tone and content between the First and Second Season, where romance, love, and passion of Claire and Jamie featured much more prominently in First Season. In the Second Season, the dramatic moments often included loss, grief, and the demise of secondary characters like Alex, Colum and Angus. Having read Gabaldon’s books and knowing the history of Culloden, the Second Season seems to have nowhere to go but downwards to its tragic conclusion.

Yet, in Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, there were some passionate, and many tender expressions of love that didn’t make it to the screen. One scene that broke my heart (and might yet be included in the finale) occurs in the kirkyard of St. Kilda (Chapter 5 My Beloved Wife). Because of the rearrangement of the opening of the book in the show, this scene might not have the impact it did on Claire or the reader if it is shown.

Kilda

There are also a few romantic scenes in the book that many readers have highlighted in Facebook groups or in Goodreads. One occurs when Claire compares her self to Jamie’s petite ex-girlfriend, Annalise.

 “Well, I’ll tell ye, Sassenach, ‘graceful’ is possibly not the first word that springs to mind at thought of you.” He slipped an arm behind me, one hand large and warm around my silk-clad shoulder.

“But I talk to you as I talk to my own soul,” he said, turning me to face him. He reached up and cupped my cheek, fingers light on my temple.

“And, Sassenach,” he whispered, “your face is my heart.”

It was the shifting of the wind, several minutes later, that parted us at last with a fine spray from the fountain. We broke apart and rose hastily, laughing at the sudden chill of the water.

Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 11 Useful Occupations

        Another scene between Claire and Jamie occurs when he still has nightmares about what Black Jack did to him and does not understand how love can be so closely linked to violence:

Jamie says, “Claire. To feel the small bones of your neck beneath my hands, and that fine, thin skin on your breasts and your arms…Lord, you are my wife, whom I cherish and I love wi’ all my life, and still I want to kiss ye hard enough to bruise your tender lips, and see the marks of my fingers on your skin.”

To which she replies:

“Do you think it’s different for me? Do you think I don’t feel the same?” I demanded. “That I don’t sometimes want to bite you hard enough to taste blood, or claw you ’til you cry out?”

I reached out slowly to touch him. The skin of his breast was damp and warm. Only the nail of my forefinger touched him, just below the nipple. Lightly, barely touching, I drew the nail upward, downward, circling round, watching the tiny nub rise hard amid the curling ruddy hairs.

The nail pressed slightly harder, sliding down, leaving a faint red streak on the fair skin of his chest. I was trembling all over by this time, but did not turn away.

“Sometimes I want to ride you like a wild horse, and bring you to the taming—did you know that? I can do it, you know I can. Drag you over the edge and drain you to a gasping husk. I can drive you to the edge of collapse and sometimes I delight in it, Jamie, I do! And yet so often I want”—my voice broke suddenly and I had to swallow hard before continuing—”I want…to hold your head against my breast and cradle you like a child and comfort you to sleep.”

My eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see his face clearly; couldn’t see if he wept as well. His arms went tight around me and the damp heat of him engulfed me like the breath of a monsoon.

“Claire, ye do kill me, knife or no,” he whispered, face buried in my hair. He bent and picked me up, carrying me to the bed. He sank to his knees, laying me amid the rumpled quilts.

“You’ll lie wi’ me now,” he said quietly. “And I shall use ye as I must. And if you’ll have your revenge for it, then take it and welcome, for my soul is yours, in all the black corners of it.”

The skin of his shoulders was warm with the heat of the bath, but he shivered as with cold as my hands traveled up to his neck, and I pulled him down to me.

Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 17 Possession

Love

It is not possible to show every scene from Gabaldon’s novels, but I highlight these passages to make a point. The lack of sex and romance scenes in Season 2 was a choice (or inadvertent slip with so many different writers?) that the producers made. I am still glad that Season 2 gave us lavish Parisian costumes, and made the mud, the starvation, the history of the Jacobite rebellion come alive. But I also wished that more time was devoted to what Gabaldon readers really enjoy, namely the interaction between Jamie and Claire, their domestic trials and their passions, and yes, the sexual “conversation” between them. We are grown-ups… we don’t need the cutaway shots and the fade to black!

 By: Eleanor Ty

 

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Sex, Spirituality, and Salvation in Outlander: To Ransom a Man’s Soul

Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.                                                                                                Job 33:24

 In the abbey where Jamie and she are taking refuge, Claire finds a bible, and searching for an answer to Jamie’s despair, she reads a number of passages about help and strength. Of the many quotations she highlights, she likes this one about the possibility of being blessed without condemnation (Outlander, Chapter 39 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”). In Job, God reassures us that to the justified, everything is adjusted because God has found a ransom in Christ and we are delivered out of the pit. Claire tells Jamie, “there’s nothing to forgive.” 116 Claire monk

There are a number of biblical echoes in Outlander, which Diana Gabaldon carefully adapts for her contemporary global readers. The richness of her prose comes from the way she is able to link the earthly with the intellectual, the mythic, the spiritual, and oftentimes, the scientific and historical. In Gabaldon’s books, love and passion are never just physical and sensual, they encompass a range of emotions that carry us from our mundane world to somewhere above the ordinary. Many of our favourite lines from Outlander are precisely this fertile mix of passion and spirituality:

Outlander 2014
Outlander 2014

“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,

I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.

I give ye my Spirit, ‘til our Life shall be Done.”              Marriage vows

Outlander 2014
Outlander 2014

“I am your master… and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”

What happens when both heroes and villains desire the kind of passion, fury, and glory that we yearn for? In Episode 1 x16 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” we have Jack Randall who seeks a fulfillment for which he has been waiting for over four years, at the same time as we have Claire who is seeking to find a way to ransom Jamie’s soul. Blogger Candida notes the “sinister and heartbreaking” cuts between Randall and Claire in the show (Candida’s Musings), as they both touch and desire Jamie.

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The mixture of the sexual and the spiritual comes out in Ron D. Moore’s show to a certain extent. At one point in Episode 1 x 16, Jack Randall, unable to get much of a response from Jamie, says, “what, you are going to lie there like Christ with his bleeding hands?” Jack is only able to elicit the kind of sexual and spiritual response he wants by inflicting great pain followed by tenderness. The fact that he does, and succeeds in getting Jamie to momentarily forget himself, is what is disturbing.

116 BJ arms

In Western art, there is a long tradition of expressing intense feeling through a mixture of the religious and the sexual. In 1647, Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted the Ecstacy of St. Teresa which dramatized St. Teresa of Avila’s relationship with god. As the angel stabs St. Therese’s heart with his arrow, she felt the love of God as extreme spiritual pain, and also intense sweetness (akward42). bernini_st_teresa_avila

Violence seems to be part of the intensity of great love. This is the reason why the monks of the abbey could not on their own rescue Jamie. They are well-versed in the spiritual, but didn’t have the love and powerful desire that motivated Claire. We need both aspects of love–the physical and the spiritual, to be whole. In the novel, Claire uses her knowledge of drugs, spirituality, and psychology to pierce through the veil of Jamie’s trauma. Braving Jamie’s confusion and brutal reaction, she struggles with him until she brings him back from the pit. In the TV show, she takes on the role of the abandoned woman in order to appeal to Jamie. She tells him that own her life would not make sense if he dies, which succeeds in rousing his masculinity and protective spirit. He does reach out to her finally, which leads to his spiritual healing.

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healing

For Claire, the spiritual healing comes partly from her confession to Brother Anselm who absolves her of both bigamy and murder. He reassures her, “Everyone’s actions affect the future” (Chapter 40 Absolution) which absolves Claire and also empowers her for what lies ahead. What we did not see enough of in the final episode, which many readers of the book have commented on, is the sensuality and spirituality between Claire and Jamie. We saw a lot of the sensuality of Black Jack and Jamie, but it seems like Ron Moore and Ira Steven Behr became enamored of the villain, as John Milton did with Satan in Paradise Lost, so that the episode became about him rather than about Jamie and Claire.

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Blogger Erin Conrad notes, “the viewer hasn’t seen enough of [Claire and Jaime’s] growing love to completely buy into their soul connection” (Review Ep 16, TIBS). It is a pity that we could not have a version of the hot springs ending in place of “The Watch” or the “The Search,” which were fillers (Conrad). Not only was the hot springs scene the second-best erotic scene in the novel (next to the wedding night), it was the way to link back to Claire’s decision at the standing stones. For Claire had said then about her difficult choice: “You don’t know how close it was. The hot baths nearly won” (Chapter 25, “Thou Shalt not Suffer a Witch”). In Chapter 41 “From the Womb of the Earth” we have Jamie presenting Claire with his own “hot bath” deep underground, a fitting symbol of rebirth by water, but also the way life is different in 18th century Scotland but still filled with beauty.

Iceland Grjotagja

In the TV show, the episode ends with Claire and Jamie sailing away romantically on the tall ship bound for France. In place of the caves, we have a different kind of water and the journey motif, which signals a path to rescue and redemption. The open sea is a fitting image of the challenges and wide horizon in front of them: “And the world was all around us, new with possibility.” Just don’t expect Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to be played on this boat…

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                                                                By: Eleanor Ty

  Works Cited

Akward 42. “Bernini’s The Ecstacy of St. Teresa.” 24 February 2015. https://akward42.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/berninis-the-ecstasy-of-st-teresa/

Candida’s Musings.” A True Fan’s Review of #Outlander Episode 116: To Ransom a Man’s Soul.” Candida’s Musings. 2 June 2015. Web. https://candidan.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/a-true-fans-review-of-outlander-episode-116-to-ransom-a-mans-soul/

Conrad, Erin. “Outlander Ep. 16 Review – Too Much, and Not Enough.” TIBS: ThreeifBySpace.net 31 May 2015. http://www.threeifbyspace.net/2015/05/outlander-ep-16-review-too-much-and-not-enough/