07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Monday, April 25, 2016

Michelle Monkou's Recap of Starz Outlander, Season 2, Episode 3

Outlander Season Two, Episode Three – Useful Occupations and Deceptions
(See below for links to all recaps)

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

Attention to detail matters for a story like Outlander. This episode continues to paint a vivid picture of Paris and the key players in its politics. We're in the grand home where Claire now lives as the lady of the house. What a difference in their lifestyle and daily comforts to the rough and harsh life of the Scottish Highlands. Comfortable living, beautiful, soft clothing, and good food give way to moments of spoiled behavior. For example, Claire talking down to Murtagh and Jamie caught up with his undercover operation and getting huffy with Claire. 

During this time, Claire and Jamie have moved out the honeymoon phase of their relationship. They seem to be traveling down separate paths with the occasional meet up to learn what Prince Charles has planned. For a couple who were hands on with each other, their shared burden to stop the Jacobite rebellion takes a toll. I find myself looking forward to any chance of seeing them touch or share the loving, nonverbal cues between them. The subtle movements that they each did until they could be passionate.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
The pulling apart in their lives leads to the biggest secret that rolled over from episode 2--Jack Randall. And Claire follows her heart to keep that secret. When the opportunity presented itself and Murtagh pushed for her to disclose the information to Jamie, Claire took a definitive step within their relationship, as the guardian of what and when the secret should be revealed. I groaned at the enormity of what she'd done and how Jamie would take it when he found out. 

But we need not worry for now. Jamie has his hands full trying to keep up with Prince Charles's secrets. And as we see how involved the machinations are to hide the partners in this eventual war, the gang of three--Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh--need help. Correspondence must be stolen going and coming from the Prince. Influential players to King Louis are recruited. And the unlikely partner of Mother Superior is nurtured for her code breaking skills. 

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
With the case of the Mother Superior, Claire's stubbornness and deliberate defying of Jamie's wishes for her to work in a hospital gives glimpse of the culture clash of gender/society roles. But Claire is pining to do something that gives purpose to her day. In the man's world of Jamie, there is no place for her except to be portrayed as one of the nagging wives of the men who frequent the parlor. Her partnership with the nuns gives her the rare opportunity to share her knowledge and gain insight to nursing and medical conditions.

Now we look forward to learning the full extent of the Duke of Sandringham's duplicity. 

Share with me what you thought of Season 2, episode three. While you’re compiling your thoughts, I asked Tanya Michaels, six-time Romance Writers of America's RITA® finalist, to share her thoughts of Outlander and her latest release, Turning Up The Heat (Harlequin Blaze).

(Coming June, 2016; Harlequin Blaze) Phoebe Mars can't believe her chef boyfriend has unceremoniously dumped her. She's beautiful, successful, one of the city's hottest pastry chefs…and determined to show her ex she's worth fighting for. Notorious player Heath Jensen is just the tall stud of sexy hotness to help her win back her man! 

Of course, there are a few teeny complications. For one, he's Phoebe's friend. For another, he's her ex's business partner. And when Heath volunteers to help her discover her wild side, Phoebe knows she doesn't want her ex back. She falls for Heath's charms, but outside the bedroom, he seems happy to just stay friends. Can Phoebe go back…especially when her heart is on the line?

We're still getting the lay of land (Paris and the French Court) in these early episodes. Can a city or being a part of the inner circle change people like Claire with her position as "lady of the manor," Jamie with his nightly visits to the high-end brothel, like Murtagh who has turned into a jack-of-trades for both Claire and Jamie? So is it the city or their inner nature that brings out the best/worst in them, especially as we see conflicts arise between them?

Tanya: Our surroundings—and the people we surround ourselves with—can definitely shape us. It was an interesting contrast that in last week’s episode, a servant was complaining about not having enough to do; this week we see a valet helping Jamie dress and Claire annoyed that Suzette the lady’s maid hasn’t done the mending yet. There is a sense that the Frasers are being absorbed by the roles they’re forced to play in Paris…and they both hate it. The change in location this season is an apt metaphor for the change in their relationship. They are unable to enjoy the intimacy they once shared, and their frustration/isolation is echoed in their new daily routines.

Thankfully, Claire and Jamie are strong, resilient characters. Paris may have temporarily exacerbated their marital strain, but by the end of the episode we see them starting to bounce back. A change in circumstance or location only dictates who you are if you let it. Claire rolls up her sleeves and gets to work helping the sick, while Jamie finds Fergus and devises a new plan. I loved the cute “Sandringham!” moment at the end of the episode where they were so in sync…although Claire’s secret cut that short, another wedge between them.

Secrets can push a plot. Is Claire's big secret a reasonable one to keep given the dynamics at play?

As a writer, I appreciate the tension secrets can add, as long as they make sense for the characters/situation. At the end of S2Ep2 “Not in Scotland Anymore,” Claire was debating whether or not to tell Jamie that Jack Randall is still alive. I thought she was crazy to consider keeping it to herself—it was sheer luck Jamie hadn’t been standing there to hear it. How is she going to make sure no one ever detonates that conversational landmine? Better to control the damage in a private conversation at home before he finds out elsewhere. But, in Claire’s defense, at the end of episode two, she was in a state of shock. I was hoping she’d confide in him in the next episode, after time to process.

Instead she tells Murtagh…who insists they can’t tell Jamie. I love me some cranky Murtagh, but I wanted to smack him upside the head for that. Their attempts to protect Jamie aside, these are two intelligent characters. They have to know there’s serious potential for this secret to bite them in the ass, which it pretty much does by closing credits. (Seriously, they’re going to tell Jamie soon, right? The longer they stretch this out, the more it will seem like an illogical plot contrivance.)

In Turning Up The Heat, Phoebe is headstrong and launches her plan to get her ex back into her life. How do you see the similarities in the headstrong, sometimes even impulsive tendencies line up between Claire and Phoebe (and any differences)? 

Tanya: At the beginning of Turning Up the Heat, the only real similarity between the two women may be their professional passion and skill. Granted, Phoebe isn’t exactly saving lives as a pastry chef, but I’d argue that chocolate has a few healing properties :) Claire is incredibly headstrong and confident, occasionally verging on foolhardiness. My heroine Phoebe Mars, raised by a mother who resented her existence and recently dumped by her longtime boyfriend, is struggling with her self-image. But as she and her friend Heath embark on a plan to make her ex jealous, she begins to reclaim both her self-assurance and her sensuality. The Phoebe at the end of the book is not afraid to go after what she wants, and I think she and Claire would get along just fine.

Under the "friends with benefit" theme, Phoebe and Heath have a friendship before escalating their relationship. Does it make it harder to write the story with the heat level if they are friends (meaning did they always find each other attractive, but didn't act on it) versus the instant lust to love transition?

Tanya: There’s something to be said for a slow burn in shows and books. (The Outlander season one wedding episode was damn hot, IMO. Didn’t at least a little of that heat come from the sexual tension leading up to it?) But my books are way shorter than Diana Gabaldon’s. By making Phoebe and Heath friends, I got to cheat—it gives that sense of long-simmering attraction, especially on the hero’s part, even though it took place prior to the story. Obviously I’m biased, but I think the results are pretty steamy.

Now I just need for Claire and Jamie to rediscover the joy in their love life. (Kudos to the show for handling Jamie’s trauma believably. It would have been ridiculous to gloss over the excruciating events of last season. But it’s so heartbreaking!!!)

To stay updated with Tanya, visit her website

My Weekly Recaps
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3

Episode 4

Michelle Monkou writes for Harlequin Kimani, Evernight Publishing, and her indie pursuits with Stella Maris Publishing. Michelle’s website is michellemonkou.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook.


Diana McCollum said...

Thanks for the recap! It's interesting to me, even though I don't get the show on my t.v. I did read the books, so it is fun to be reminded what a magnificent series/saga the Outlander books are.

Sarah Raplee said...

When Claire decided to keep the secret, all I could think was, "NO! NO! NO!" Emotionally engaged, much?

Michelle Monkou said...

Sarah, I agree. I was thinking that you're just making things worse. Tell him! Yep. I'm emotionally invested. LOL

B. A. Binns said...

I have to admit I'd never even heard of Outlander until now. I see I've been missing something good.