Why I’m disappointed with the print shop episode in Outlander

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This post contains SPOILERS for Outlander Season 3, Episode 6, The Print Shop episode, and the book Voyager

Okay, here’s why I’m a little bit disappointed – and it isn’t because ‘it isn’t the same as in the book’, because having read the books twenty years ago, I had no memory of the details when I first watched the reunion episode.

When we see Claire and Jamie in Episode 6, they have been apart for twenty years. When they meet again in the print shop, you know what I want? I want tears. I want bawling. I want them to cry so much, they start a flood in Edinburgh streets. Inconsolable, wrenching grief is what I’m after. When I watched the hugely anticipated episode, though, I felt underwhelmed. The longing of the first five episodes and the unnecessary extra week of waiting didn’t help this feeling at all.

By the time this reunion happens, there’s a huge build up for Claire, who has been anticipating and fearing the reunion for a long time. Jamie, of course, is blissfully unaware of what’s about to happen and is toodling about town in his shawl, making sweet words with smugglers and trying not to kick Geordie, his goitered shop assistant, every time he opens his mouth. When Jamie sees Claire, he faints. During the episode, both in the print shop and later in the brothel, there is awkwardness, uncertainty, even a bit of anger and jealousy. But in the end, everything comes together (no pun intended) a little too easily. By the time they’re eating dinner, Claire is smiling and flirting, Jamie is sometimes preoccupied by other things. The intense relationship they had twenty years ago, the impossibly long separation, the fact that they have a child together and have lost another one – all this seems to resolve a little too easily for me. There are a lot of smiles, teasing, fingers twirled through hair from Claire. There’s a strange monologue about Willie from Jamie – while it makes sense that he brings him up and also that he feels pride when talking about him, I would think he would be only too aware of Claire’s feelings on hearing this revelation and because of this he would tone down the pride just a tad. Maybe don’t brag about the child you’ve fathered with another woman to a woman who seemingly has not had sex in about fifteen years…just a tip.

So, wanting to compare notes with the books, I turned to Voyager. I first read the books about twenty years ago, so when I watch the show it’s like I’m watching something I’ve already watched before, but whose details I’m only just getting reacquainted with (which just goes to show that the adaptation and the characters are usually spot on.) So, how did the print shop scene unfold in the book? To my surprise, in a flood of tears. Jamie and Claire are living half a life when they’re apart from each other. So when they come together, I expected their hearts to crack – and they do in the book.

In the book, here’s what happens when Jamie comes to from his faint and establishes that Claire is real. They speak – the dialogue in the show is true to the book (the you never touched me bit breaks your heart in the show and the book). Then this is what Claire narrates – I had meant to speak lightly, but my voice betrayed me. The tears spilled down my cheeks, only to soak into the rough cloth of his shirt as he pulled me hard against him. I shook so that it was some time before I realized that he was shaking, too, and for the same reason. I don’t know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each other’s arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces. Similarly, when Jamie sees pictures of Brianna, he buries his face in Claire’s shoulder and goes very quietly and thoroughly to pieces.

SIGH. GULP. Mop tears. Yup. This sounds just about right to me.

BUT, that said, in many ways when the show has gone off-book, they’ve made exactly the right choice. For example, what’s going on with Diana Gabaldon’s Yi Tien Cho/Mr Willoughby?!? In the show, he is a gentle and respectful Chinese man, though with a predilection for licking a whore’s elbow when finding one in licking distance (I’m not sure you can really blame him). In the book, he’s slightly different. Gabaldon has defended her writing of Yi Tien Cho by saying that we see him from Claire’s point of view, and she is a woman of the 1960s, and not of the 1990s when the books were written. But to me this doesn’t quite cover it. Claire calls him the little Chinese every time she refers to him- maybe that is from Claire’s point of view BUT the thing is, we don’t just see Yi Tien Cho from Claire’s point of view, we see him from Gabaldon’s. We see that he does three quick somersaults and jumps about like a flea when he meets Claire. It also turns out that he has a foot fetish and is almost constantly looking for a way to get Claire and other women to walk on him, allow him to wash their feet and do other unnamed things. Having met many people from China, I can safely say I haven’t met one that did somersaults as a greeting or tried to tickle my feet. So this is definitely cringey-cringe-cringe territory.

The show has made other good choices. There are scenes in the books where lovemaking walks a very thin line between consensual sex and rape. This happens in one scene in the first book between Jamie and Claire, and then again between Jamie and Geneva in the third book. So while most of the sex in the book is delicious, only made more so by the kind of things Jamie says to Claire (it was always forever for me, being the latest), there are some problem scenes and the show has shown impeccable instincts when dealing with these. 1990s Mills and Boon readers may have found the man-uses-aggression-thereby-making-woman-fall-in-love-with-him scenario enthralling, but the 2017 TV audience (with their tweeting fingers warmed up complaining about Game of Thrones sex scenes) just wouldn’t feel the same.

Still, all said and done, I am waiting breathlessly for the next episode…



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