Episode 203: Outlander Comes into Its Own

Written by: Denise Stewart

Bravo! Bravo! BRAVO!!  They did it!  

Finally for me watching episode 203 of Outlander, “Useful Occupations and Deceptions,” actually FELT like a real episode of TV.   You’re probably wondering what I am talking about.  Well, up until this episode, I felt I was constantly comparing the story set before me to the book and it’s contents--at least for the first time or two I would watch an episode. Now...I’m not sure if my change of heart was due to the fact that  the first time I watched it I was completely exhausted, or if it was due to the root of my exhaustion (I had just returned from Mickey’s Magical Kingdom, and I was believing all things were possible.)  I DO believe that it was due to the creativity and growth of the writers, directors, actors, and producers of this show that we have all come to know and love.

This show is totally coming into its own.

I must start off and tell you that I hadn’t even realized I was not comparing to the book in this episode until about thirty minutes or so of watching.  At that moment, Jamie is yelling for Claire as he enters the apartment after his meeting with The Bonnie Prince and Duverney.  When I heard him yell, “Claire,” it was as though I was snapped back into reality and noticed that I was being carried through the episode by the story and not my expectations of the book.  

A lot of this we can give credit to the writer of this episode: Anne Kenney.  Her adaptation of this story is epic. Anne Kenney has been a magnificent writer for this series. She penned three episodes last season including “The Wedding,”....and we all KNOW what a wonderful story that was.  “Useful Occupations and Deceptions” is her first this season. In my eyes it was exquisite, and I am so excited to see what else she might have in store for us later on.  

Although I have read the book twice and listened to it on audio two times as well (again, don’t judge), I remember a lot of the main themes, but many of the side stories and intricacies I do not always recall. That, I feel, is to my advantage in not always comparing and being able to “let it go” so to speak.  But that is not to say that I don’t compare quite often. Moving through this episode, I saw many things extracted exactly from the book. There are also times when things are condensed. Both methods work! They work so wonderfully that I just got lost in the storytelling and not the comparison! Marvelous!

The opening has Claire greeting a Jamie, who has obviously been out all night. They talk about the politics a bit, and he patronizes her by saying she should enjoy her tea with her ladies as he heads out the door for more socializing. She says they are not "her" ladies….so even though she is appearing to conform to this society, she still feels out of place.  And when Jamie realizes that Sawny is missing? I love the touch that is put on this scene. It reminds us that Jamie is still Jamie.

The discussion between Mary, Louise and Claire is from the book, but with the twist of Claire realizing in a flashback that Mary is Frank’s grandmother so many generations back, she is astounded. I like the use of the flashback here with Claire and Frank.  It fits. It isn’t clumsy. And with the addition of some voiceover they are able to move her from one place to another effortlessly.  

Claire and "her" ladies

As Claire arrives at the apartment, she is made aware that Suzette is not exactly performing her house duties, but maybe some others not in her contract.  

Good for Murtagh. Bad for Suzette.  

I, for one, am happy for Murtagh. He deserves a little fun.  So many have said that Claire seems to have taken to the life of being waited on and served. “She wasn’t like that in the book.” That seems to be true here especially as she snaps about  her scarf not being mended and Murtagh getting a little afternoon delight.  For me it shows just how much stress she is under.  Remember, we did not go through the healing process the same way in the series as we did in the books, so it HAS to be different.  Claire is stressed.  Her life with Jamie isn’t what it once was.  And she knows that Jack Randall is alive.  

Transition to Jamie at Versailles with Duverney…..

I saw that this scene outside of the Palace of Versailles was green screen!  After last weeks’ feeble CG/green screen attempts (sorry I just wasn’t a fan of the scene out of the window over the garden at the King’s Court), this was fantastic!  When we move inside to the men playing  chess, I was taken by the camera angles...close-ups, but with the camera at a lower vantage point, gave me the feeling that each of these men were feeling in power, in control.  The interaction between the two men and the overall feel of the scene gave us the plot building necessity,  but also character building.  And let me just add while I’m here, does Duverney not remind you of a Dustin Hoffman as Hook?  I just can’t get that image out of my head! In fact all of the camera and direction in this episode seem to transition so easily.  

Add on the impeccable timing of the most wonderful score created by Bear McCreary, and we have that extra emotional dimension that sends this to higher heights than we have see.

Again, Bear McCreary and his musical talent seem to effortlessly guide us through this episode.

THAT Saffron Dress
 As Claire goes to Master Raymond, she exits the carriage with regal music playing. It’s a perfect fit for her entrance here. And can we just stop a minute and gawk over that saffron cloak and hand painted dress?  This is absolutely stunning and sets her apart from those on the street.

As Claire sees the Comte St. Germain exiting the apothecary she is in shock. What could HE possibly want with Master Raymond? I like that they show him again but don't spend loads of time on him.  Keeping him in the story loop, but not overpowering the story being told just now. We don’t have time for him just now, and he will be showing up more soon. So let’s move on!! Great call. Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t keen on Master Raymond in the last episode.  Sure I liked his appearance, and his clothes were magnificent. But I just wasn’t feeling him. This episode, he seems to shine so much more.  And the conversation between them about her skills and working at L’Hopital des Anges moves them conveniently to that exact location.

L'Hopital des Anges
In L’Hopital we are introduced to two more major characters for this story, Mother Hildegarde and Bouton.  But we are introduced in a very organic and not forced method. It flows with the story. I have seen some criticism about the omission of the first encounter Jamie has with Bouton.  Although that would have been a nice scene to view, it is not NECESSARY.  It would only be stopping the rhythm of the story to satisfy the book reader. Maybe they did film that scene and it will be in the extras. If not, you can always go back and read the book, it’s right there for you.  

But we have so little time to get through so much material!  We NEED them to move us forward!

Some may argue that the “live ass painting” --as  Ashley called it in her live blog of ep 203-- was unnecessary.  But it wasn’t there to take up time.  It was merely an introduction back to the brothel where we get to see Fergus in action for the first time.  Yet another smooth introduction to a character.  When Jamie realizes what is going on and chases down Fergus, it was a nice touch. It wasn’t just Lord Broch Tuarach meeting the servant of Madame Elise, Claudel.  It was Jamie interacting with the boy furthering the storyline. Might I just add here a minute that the Scottish music is revived in the bagpipes. And it gives you that sense of Jamie being Jamie...not some French wine merchant.  He even gets to introduce himself to Fergus as a “dirty Scottish bastard.” And reminds us just what we are doing here.  

We are here, in this story, for the Scottish rebellion...to stop it from going forward.

Getting to see Jamie in his kilt??  BONUS!!

In the end they discover that the Duke of Sandringham is behind so much more than what they thought. Claire knows that Black Jack Randall is alive, and Murtagh wants her to tell Jamie. She knows she must, but Claire just can’t ruin his one moment of happiness.  

…..Fade to closing credits.

This episode!! We move so seamlessly from scene to scene from the acting to the editing to the music.  This is the first episode this season where I feel like we are moving through the story.  Characters are being introduced--Mother Hildegard, Fergus, even Bouton--not just for the sake of introduction, but for the DEVELOPMENT of the structure of the story.  Other characters are being kept alive (both literally and figuratively), but not at the EXPENSE of the structure of the story.  It was one of the most cohesive storylines that I think this series has provided so far.  

I keep hearing and reading that a series shows its true self and sets its stage in the second season.  If this episode is the compass for this season, I say we are in for an awesome ride!

How are you feeling about this season so far? Do you think that the story is moving in a direction suitable for both TV watchers and book readers? What are some scenes you've missed?


  1. I enjoyed every minute of the show. I separate the show from the book realizing that Diana's story is being reduced in size for the purpose of television. There are things I miss and I have small personal criticisms but it doesn't stop me from loving it. I have waited a long time for this and I mean to enjoy it! :)

    1. Lisa, so good to hear. We obviously cannot see everything in the books, so we must go with whatever is chosen for us. All we can do is sit back and enjoy! Thanks for reading!

  2. I totally agree! I was not comparing with the book either, for a change. I did kind of miss Claire helping Jamie copy the letters (a nice way for them to work together) but with the fleshing out of Murtagh the scene works fine. I did miss Jamie's confrontation with Bouton but you are right it was not needed. Anne Kenney gets it and I loved the episode!

    1. Suzanne, so glad you liked it. Sometimes it is difficult to let our beloved story go and change. Sometimes it's just necessary. I do love her writing style! Thanks for reading!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Loved ep.3 watched it 3 times,although read all 8 boos twice I don't compare the books with the TV series,I realise they can't get everything in an hour!Lovely post thanks Denise!

  4. Thanks! I think more and more people are realizing what we already knew. Books do not equal screen. Thanks for reading!

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