Friday, May 27, 2016

Out of Time: Remaking History on “Outlander” and “The Americans.”

*Blog editor's note:  This is a convergence of my dreams..The New Yorker,  Emily Nussbaum, and a review of two of the BEST shows on television, Outlander and The Americans

By: Emily Nussbam, The New Yorker

“Outlander” is a smart wartime drama that succeeds because it takes sex seriously.
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY BILL BRAGG

Spoiler: in two of the best dramas on television, something terrible is going to happen. Worse, it can’t be stopped. In “The Americans,” set in the nineteen-eighties, that event is the end of the Soviet Union, which will ruin the lives of the Russian spies who are the show’s unlikely protagonists. In “Outlander,” it’s the Jacobite rebellion, an eighteenth-century Scottish uprising that will end in a bloodbath, two soul mates in its path.

You likely already know about FX’s “The Americans,” a brilliant espionage thriller that’s really a dark poem about marriage and morality, which has won many deserved raves. “Outlander,” on Starz, gets less press, probably because it’s based on a series of historical romance novels and has a supernatural element. But beneath its guilty-pleasure surfaces (or maybe kilt-y ones), the show is surprisingly analogous to “The Americans”: it’s a smart wartime drama that’s gripping precisely because it takes sex so seriously, treating it as life’s deepest joy and its most terrifying risk, as dramatic as any act of violence.

When “Outlander” begins, just after the Second World War, a British nurse named Claire (the gorgeous Caitriona Balfe) is in the Scottish Highlands, trying to rekindle her frayed marriage to an intelligence officer. Instead, she’s thrown back, magically, to a period before modern medicine or parliamentary democracy. As a random English lady with a freakish knowledge of antibiotics, Claire is both physically vulnerable and under suspicion of being a witch. She’s headstrong and strategic; she’s also trapped and depressed. For protection, she winds up married to a virginal farm boy named Jamie (Sam Heughan), a situation that is, for viewers, a delicious fantasy, like a time-travel hall pass: Claire has no choice but to go to bed with this brawny innocent who knows how to shoe a horse, a nice break from her mansplaining husband. But the bond between Claire and Jamie—who has his own scars, literally and figuratively—slowly becomes far more complex, a rule-breaking love affair that the audience roots for on every level.

If you don’t watch shows that include sexual violence, please avoid “Outlander.” (Actually, you might rethink “The Americans,” too.) Like “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander” is set in a universe in which rape is a constant threat, and not just for women. There’s an incident of ultra-violence near the end of the first season, and I’m going to describe it, because it’s the fulcrum on which the show pivots; it’s also grotesque enough that fans of the books wondered how the show’s producers would handle it. They did so head on, with a dreamlike hyperfocus, for better or worse. Late in the first season, the sadistic Captain Jack Randall rapes Jamie, but in a way that is especially violating, since he drugs him and deliberately evokes memories of Claire, aiming to destroy not just Jamie’s body but his ability to feel safe with his wife.

Even for an organically kinky show, that’s a baroque scenario; to add to the intensity, the villain is played, beautifully, by Tobias Menzies, who also plays Claire’s modern-day husband. (He’s an ancestor.) We could argue all night about what it means to present near-pornographic suffering onscreen—it’s a fraught debate that hovers over much of contemporary television. But, admirably, once the show returns to its clever costume-drama intrigues, with Claire and Jamie shipping off to Paris, it doesn’t paper over the seriousness of what they’ve been through. This is not “24”: no one bounces back from torture. Attending Versailles-era costume balls, Jamie and Claire reinvent themselves as spies, hobnobbing with royalty and conspiring to prevent the Jacobite rebellion from occurring. There’s catty banter and ballgowns with plunging necklines; there’s a pet monkey and a brothel. There are graphic surgical scenes that make “The Knick” look prissy, and another time-travel twist.

But the risk of those episodes lies in what’s not happening: there are none of the sex scenes that viewers rely on and almost certainly watch the show for. However many tentative, well-meaning gestures Claire and Jamie make, the bridge between them keeps crumbling. Eventually, Jamie delivers a touching speech, in which he describes the wreckage of his private self, which has left him feeling tiny in a dizzying, jungle landscape. “That’s where I’ve been ever since, Claire,” he says. “Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass.” This may sound overwrought on the page, but on the screen it’s not. “Outlander” is, finally, as thoughtful about male vulnerability as it is about female desire, a rarity for television. It’s a quality that makes the show appealingly romantic in multiple senses.

Jamie is a soul brother to Philip Jennings, the tormented spy played with astonishing complexity by Matthew Rhys, the most underestimated actor on television. (Put him on all the magazines! Give him the Jon Hamm treatment. Seriously, he deserves it.) When “The Americans” began, it was a show about a marriage that was, like the one on “Outlander,” an arrangement: in their early twenties, Philip and Elizabeth were “set up” by their handlers. As undercover agents, they brought up two children, but only Philip “caught feelings,” as the kids say. Elizabeth was the family iceberg, full of secrets—but in the show’s pilot, when Philip found out that she’d been raped, at eighteen, by her spy trainer, it led the two, in a moving mutual leap, to become a real couple.

Spoiler: in two of the best dramas on television, something terrible is going to happen. Worse, it can’t be stopped. In “The Americans,” set in the nineteen-eighties, that event is the end of the Soviet Union, which will ruin the lives of the Russian spies who are the show’s unlikely protagonists. In “Outlander,” it’s the Jacobite rebellion, an eighteenth-century Scottish uprising that will end in a bloodbath, two soul mates in its path.

You likely already know about FX’s “The Americans,” a brilliant espionage thriller that’s really a dark poem about marriage and morality, which has won many deserved raves. “Outlander,” on Starz, gets less press, probably because it’s based on a series of historical romance novels and has a supernatural element. But beneath its guilty-pleasure surfaces (or maybe kilt-y ones), the show is surprisingly analogous to “The Americans”: it’s a smart wartime drama that’s gripping precisely because it takes sex so seriously, treating it as life’s deepest joy and its most terrifying risk, as dramatic as any act of violence.


When “Outlander” begins, just after the Second World War, a British nurse named Claire (the gorgeous Caitriona Balfe) is in the Scottish Highlands, trying to rekindle her frayed marriage to an intelligence officer. Instead, she’s thrown back, magically, to a period before modern medicine or parliamentary democracy. As a random English lady with a freakish knowledge of antibiotics, Claire is both physically vulnerable and under suspicion of being a witch. She’s headstrong and strategic; she’s also trapped and depressed. For protection, she winds up married to a virginal farm boy named Jamie (Sam Heughan), a situation that is, for viewers, a delicious fantasy, like a time-travel hall pass: Claire has no choice but to go to bed with this brawny innocent who knows how to shoe a horse, a nice break from her mansplaining husband. But the bond between Claire and Jamie—who has his own scars, literally and figuratively—slowly becomes far more complex, a rule-breaking love affair that the audience roots for on every level.

If you don’t watch shows that include sexual violence, please avoid “Outlander.” (Actually, you might rethink “The Americans,” too.) Like “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander” is set in a universe in which rape is a constant threat, and not just for women. There’s an incident of ultra-violence near the end of the first season, and I’m going to describe it, because it’s the fulcrum on which the show pivots; it’s also grotesque enough that fans of the books wondered how the show’s producers would handle it. They did so head on, with a dreamlike hyperfocus, for better or worse. Late in the first season, the sadistic Captain Jack Randall rapes Jamie, but in a way that is especially violating, since he drugs him and deliberately evokes memories of Claire, aiming to destroy not just Jamie’s body but his ability to feel safe with his wife.

Even for an organically kinky show, that’s a baroque scenario; to add to the intensity, the villain is played, beautifully, by Tobias Menzies, who also plays Claire’s modern-day husband. (He’s an ancestor.) We could argue all night about what it means to present near-pornographic suffering onscreen—it’s a fraught debate that hovers over much of contemporary television. But, admirably, once the show returns to its clever costume-drama intrigues, with Claire and Jamie shipping off to Paris, it doesn’t paper over the seriousness of what they’ve been through. This is not “24”: no one bounces back from torture. Attending Versailles-era costume balls, Jamie and Claire reinvent themselves as spies, hobnobbing with royalty and conspiring to prevent the Jacobite rebellion from occurring. There’s catty banter and ballgowns with plunging necklines; there’s a pet monkey and a brothel. There are graphic surgical scenes that make “The Knick” look prissy, and another time-travel twist.

But the risk of those episodes lies in what’s not happening: there are none of the sex scenes that viewers rely on and almost certainly watch the show for. However many tentative, well-meaning gestures Claire and Jamie make, the bridge between them keeps crumbling. Eventually, Jamie delivers a touching speech, in which he describes the wreckage of his private self, which has left him feeling tiny in a dizzying, jungle landscape. “That’s where I’ve been ever since, Claire,” he says. “Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass.” This may sound overwrought on the page, but on the screen it’s not. “Outlander” is, finally, as thoughtful about male vulnerability as it is about female desire, a rarity for television. It’s a quality that makes the show appealingly romantic in multiple senses.

Jamie is a soul brother to Philip Jennings, the tormented spy played with astonishing complexity by Matthew Rhys, the most underestimated actor on television. (Put him on all the magazines! Give him the Jon Hamm treatment. Seriously, he deserves it.) When “The Americans” began, it was a show about a marriage that was, like the one on “Outlander,” an arrangement: in their early twenties, Philip and Elizabeth were “set up” by their handlers. As undercover agents, they brought up two children, but only Philip “caught feelings,” as the kids say. Elizabeth was the family iceberg, full of secrets—but in the show’s pilot, when Philip found out that she’d been raped, at eighteen, by her spy trainer, it led the two, in a moving mutual leap, to become a real couple.

In the course of the show, however, it’s become increasingly clear that Philip is just as much a survivor of abuse as his wife is. Last season, “The Americans” emphasized with disturbing clarity exactly how predatory the couple’s job is: when they lie to their “targets,” they remove any right to meaningful consent. Philip gets ever deeper into a second marriage with a duped innocent, Martha; in addition, for a while he was deputized to seduce a teen-age girl. The assignment troubled him, and in a flashback we saw why: it dredged up memories of his own adolescence, when Philip was essentially molested by the state, trained to “make real” the sex he has as part of his job. He talked about these disturbing memories with Elizabeth; eventually, he also revealed himself to Martha, pulling off his own disguise, in what may be the most terrifying scene in a frequently very tense show. A practiced fake, Philip now has a real wife who knows him and a real mistress who loves him. No wonder he’s been sneaking off to est meetings.

Although the show is about the power of deception, it won’t let us fool ourselves into luxuriating in antihero escapism, the way many dramas might. In one of last season’s best episodes, Elizabeth rationalizes her life to a motherly older woman (a fantastic Lois Smith) whom she’s about to kill: she’s committing bad acts for a greater cause, she says. Smith replies, in horror, “That’s what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things.” Eerily, a nearly identical exchange takes place in “Outlander,” as Claire and Jamie face the fact that they are harming people they’ve falsely befriended. “We’re doing a bad thing, but for a good reason,” Jamie argues. “Isn’t that what all bad people say?” Claire asks. On both shows, pulling off even the best-motivated con is corrosive, because, in the end, what even bad people crave isn’t power, it’s intimacy, to be known and accepted for who they really are.

The Jenningses have sins blacker than the loving soul mates of “Outlander” could even imagine, among them the endless lies they’ve told their children. This season, the bomb they planted in their home finally goes off, after the couple’s idealistic Christian daughter, Paige, spills her parents’ secret to her pastor. The plot moves fast, crimping in terrifying ways, letting us see the repercussions without the easy vamping that other TV thrillers engage in—and suggesting that the next teen-ager Philip corrupts might be Paige. She’s the same age that Philip was, after all, when he was first trained to manipulate and seduce. In spy terms, maybe we’re all our parents’ “assets.”

There are plenty of pleasures to be had in “The Americans,” from the crazily varied spy wigs to the revelatory performances, like that of Annet Mahendru as Nina Krilova, a double agent serving time in a Russian prison, whose bleak plotline has, buried deep within it, something almost hopeful to say about moral resilience. But I’m not going to lie and tell you that “The Americans” is a fun weekly watch. It’s heartbreaking, provoking literal nausea, with a psychic hangover unlike any other show. Believe it or not, that’s a recommendation. ♦

Outlander's Stanley Weber Explains What Went Into the Comte St. Germain's Big Scene

By Lauren Piester, E! News

Stanley Weber as Le Comte St. Germain

See ya, St. Germain.

Outlander's French baddie met his end in the Starz hit, and he could not have suffered a less dignified death. As part of her payment to the king for getting her husband out of the Bastille, Claire helped in a sort of trial to determine if two men accused of black magic—her friend, Master Raymond, and her enemy, the Comte St. Germain—deserved to be punished.

She tried to get them all out of there alive by having them both drink a potion she knew would make them visibly suffer but not die, but Master Raymond had other plans. After he drank it, he spiked the fake poison with real poison, and sent St. Germain sputtering and writhing to the floor.



After weeks of torturing Claire and Jamie as payback for what he viewed as Claire's meddling that got his ships (and therefore his livelihood) destroyed, St. Germain definitely deserved something, but did he deserve this? His portrayer, Stanley Weber, seems to think so.


"I guess that's fair enough," Weber tells E! News. "It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? I had every good reason to be angry at them, and every good reason to seek revenge. So once I started to go on this rage and this journey of vengeance and really really bad things, I was asking myself, well, actually I think this guy is enjoying the challenge."

The challenge is made even more enjoyable by the people he's fighting against, who are just as clever as he is.

"I think he sees [Claire and Jamie] as good enemies, good people to be fighting against, so I think there is a sort of like almost unhealthy excitement about it, about fighting those two and trying to do some terrible things to them," Weber says. "So when it comes to that last scene and he gets stuck in this thing, I guess yeah, that's fair enough, and he looks at her and he's like, well played. You beat me, and I wouldn't think that anyone could beat me."  

If St. Germain looked like he was having a great time being a villain, that's because Weber really was—in part because of the character, and in part because of the environment on set.

"I was having so much fun with my cane, walking around, taking myself so seriously, being angry at everyone, that was the most enjoyable thing ever," he tells us. "I think acting's all about being deeply connected to your inner child. The child you were back then, he didn't have any boundaries. He was free for real, to do or to try anything. That's even easier when you're working on such an easy and comfortable set."

Weber says he didn't know what to expect, jumping into such a big, global phenomenon of a production, and it took him a while to find that "inner child."

"When you don't have all the layers on that you have in society, walking around on the street pretending to be this guy that you're not—like I was doing the first day on set, I was just smoking a cigarette outside trying to look cool, because this is what we do when we're French—when you get rid of all of this, and your mind is actually much more connected to your heart and your body, there are so many surprising things that can happen, and they're the beautiful things about acting."

Weber's biggest scene this season was arguably his death scene, which is a notoriously hard kind of scene for any actor to pull off. St. Germain's death in particular was extremely dramatic, accompanied by dramatic camera work, and clearly a lot of thought had to go into it.  


"I've seen people on death's bed, but I haven't seen anyone dying live, so it's a very hard thing to imagine," Weber says. "You don't really prepare for that. Yeah, you prepare mentally and you try to of course do some research about what sort of poison it is, what sort of pain it's going to cause. What is going to be the body feeling where the poison is going to get stuck and start to spread in your body? Then, you work in your body language and physically to have a sort of fire spreading in your body so you can actually feel your bones shaking. You don't want to make it impressive or sensational, you just want to make it believable. That's the most important thing, and for that, you just try to stay humble and truthful to the character and to the people around you."



Rape on TV: The Difference Between ‘Outlander’ and ‘Game of Thrones’

By: Jen Stayrook, theworkprint.com


Disclaimer: I don’t enjoy rape and sexual assault on television, in movies, books, or any media. Whenever it happens (and it seems like it’s often), I understand it’s hard to watch for most, as it should be, but I think it’s important that we do depict these barbarous acts, not for shock value, but for the sake of discussion. We need to critique not that the act is on screens, but how it’s being shown and then how it is later dealt with.

Outlander had another violent episode with “La Dame Blanche.” Book readers knew the attack was coming but it still didn’t prepare for the brutality of the scene and watching young Mary Hawkins raped in a dark alley with Claire helpless to save her.


If you’ve read the books, you’ll know that rape, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon in the world of Outlander. In fact, I can only think of one main character in the series who isn’t raped or nearly raped. In some ways, viewers might compare Mary’s rape to Sansa’s rape last year on Game of Thrones and they wouldn’t be off base. For starters, both characters were innocent, virgin girls raped horrifically by men exerting their power. Both scenes were difficult to withstand, making good use of screams and lighting to convey the horror of the moment. However, it’s how these shows handle the aftermath of rape that tells their difference.

It’s no coincidence that Jamie finally regains some sense of self the same episode Mary is raped. It’s through his eyes that we see the repercussions of this crime and see it as more than just a shocking act. I’ve already discussed before how I approve of Starz not holding back on the brutality of Jamie’s rape and showing his PTSD, but in “La Dame Blanche” we get to hear in his own words how the rape has affected him. Early in the episode, Claire tells Jamie that Black Jack Randall is alive and much to Claire’s surprise, Jamie is elated at the news because now he can kill Randall himself. He’s a renewed man, even gaining back his lust. When the couple argues over Jamie’s actions at a brothel, Claire begs Jamie to make her understand what’s going on his head after the harrowing moments with Black Jack Randall. He tells her:

"There’s this place inside me, a place I think everyone has, that they keep to themselves. A fortress where the most private part of you lives. It is your soul, the bit that makes you yourself and not anyone else. But after Wentworth, it was like my fortress had been blown apart. The thing that once lived there was suddenly exposed, out in the open, without shelter, without–That’s where I’ve been ever since, Claire. Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass."

And therein is the difference between how Outlander and Game of Thrones handle rape. Outlander understands it is a dark reality but never plays into it being solely for shock value. Jamie’s rape is very much a part of who he is now. We’ve watched four episodes of him trying to pull himself together and with a meeting with Black Jack looming on the horizon, it seems like it won’t be something we’re likely to forget very soon. Nor should we forget.

The same is true for Mary Hawkins. Had her rape been in Game of Thrones, it would have thrown in as an aside, much like the rapes we saw happen at Craster’s Keep in season four. What happened to Mary in Outlander was despicable, but we’re not likely to see it as a footnote in the history of Claire and Jamie. Claire cares very much for the safety of this girl, her mental and physical well-being. It is not a crime that any of these characters will brush off as “something that just happens in this world.” It is an act that rightfully enrages them, something that should be dealt with. They care for her reputation, knowing what it means in this world, but more importantly they care for the girl behind the reputation.

In Sansa’s case, there is no “dealing” with her rape, there is no help for her pain, no talk of her torture. Narratively, it lifts completely free from most everything else going on in Westeros, much like many of the gratuitous violent scenes. At one point she makes mention of Ramsay’s abuse to Theon and he responds with a look that says, “Well, yea, that’s what he does.” No one, not even Brienne tells Sansa how wrong it is to be raped, they simply offer sad looks and we’re left to accept that rape is inevitable for women in the world of Game of Thrones. Just because something is inevitable or god forbid, common, doesn’t mean it needs to be accepted as such by both the characters in that world, and viewers alike. Outlander understands this, Game of Thrones doesn’t.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

36 Hours Behind the Scenes of Outlander

By Sarah Doran, Radio Times

Sarah Doran goes on set with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe to discover the secrets of the beloved Scottish time travel drama

It’s 9am on a gloriously sunny Glasgow September morning, but just a few miles from the city in Cumbernauld there’s little time to enjoy the good weather. Time travel drama Outlander is well into production on its second series and there’s work to be done.
Just a hop skip and a jump from the white tent that’s been erected to keep us writers comfortable, extras and crew are milling around preparing to film another scene in new surroundings. Outlander has moved to Paris, and the joie de vivre on set is evident.
Duncan Lacroix, who plays Murtagh, is first up this morning, slinking into the press tent in costume to have a very quick chat.
“What’s the first thing on the agenda? Who are we sacking?” he chuckles, observing the gaggle of journalists gathered around the table, before breaking into a discussion about his character and his co-star Sam Heughan, a man who he says it’s “almost impossible not to get on with”.
The 45-year-old says he’s adjusting to a new series and a new world, as Jamie, Murtagh and Claire leave those beloved highlands and head over the high seas to France to try and stop the Jacobite Rebellion.
The show may have left its Scottish heartland, but that doesn't mean there's any less heart put in to creating the world of Outlander.
"The amount of detail they put into the sets in there, it's amazing," says Lacroix.
He isn't telling fibs...


After a lesson in Scottish Gaelic from dialect coach Carol Ann Crawford (we’d be foolish to venture into Outlander territory without learning Jamie’s native tongue) we stroll past those famous standing stones, through a set of bare wood doors and straight into the elegant courtyard of the Frasers’ Parisian love nest – which also doubles as a market square on occasion. 
“When it’s Jamie and Claire’s apartment it’s filled with floral things and plants,” explains Jon Gary Steele, the show’s production designer. “When it’s a market square we bring in a fountain,” he continues as we walk up a stunning spiral staircase.
This doubling up of sets is standard practice, he says. “You have to do that because everything is quite expensive. This will probably be turned into something for the last two episodes, but I don’t know what yet.” 
Thanks to some very clever set decoration by Gina Cromwell (who worked on Downton Abbey between 2010 and 2012) the average viewer probably wouldn’t even notice that the same set is serving as multiple locations.
Gina is responsible for making sure we never realise Jamie and Claire’s bedroom also serves as the dining room. 
“We pull the wall panels out and swap it to a different colour because it’s so expensive,” explains Steele.
“We have a pink velvet. We use fabric because it’s richer,” Cromwell adds as she guides us through the elaborately decorated room where the show’s leading lad and lass play host to the French aristocracy during an elaborate party scene. 
It’s also where the French king Louis XV sleeps. “Gina built this amazing King’s chamber bed,” Steele says, running through a list of alterations – including the addition of printed tapestries modelled on a series hanging in the Louvre – that are made to turn Claire and Jamie’s home into a palace fit for a king.


When we meet King Louis XV (actor Lionel Lingelser) it’s in a decidedly less palatial setting though. He’s relaxing in a trailer on set, finishing his lunch with the show's new villain, Le Comte St Germain (aka Stanley Weber), his royal attire hanging on the back of his chair. 
“I read that he was the most beautiful king,” Lingelser smiles playfully. “I read it.” The French actors are in a jovial mood, with their time on set drawing to a close – for now at least. They’ll be sad to go, though.
“On the first day I arrived, the first one I met was Cat. And she came straight over to me and introduced herself,” says Weber. 
“She was absolutely charming, smiling, laughing, and we had this scene going on for one day with her and Sam and we had so much fun on the first day. They introduced me to everyone, everyone was very nice, very lovely and therefore it’s been brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”
“My first day was in the garden in Drummond Castle,” Lingelser recalls. “I received a very warm welcome. I was filming with the main characters – Tobias, Sam and Caitriona – and I was very impressed. I had seen all the first season and loved it and it was like, ‘Welcome to Outlander’ on the first day.”
Both men speak highly of Heughan and Balfe, attributing much of the show’s success to the duo’s on-screen chemistry and the emotional nature of Diana Gabaldon’s story.





“Their chemistry is brilliant and touching”, says Weber. “I could tell from day one. It’s really enjoyable to see a couple on screen that is really down to earth and just normal, working hard to make it believable. It’s a chemistry you can almost touch. It’s not the easiest thing to do.” 
Casting those leads wasn’t the easiest thing to do either, as executive producer Meril Davis explains.
“When we first sat down to cast, [Ronald D Moore] and I said to each other, ‘Jamie is going to be so tough, we’ll never find him’. I said he’d be the UPS guy in Scotland, we’d never find him. And we thought Claire would be very easy, because there’s so many incredible actresses out there for this part. It turned out to be the opposite.
“Sam, we cast right off. We saw his audition and then for some reason, I don’t remember why, one of the writers and myself did a Skype call with him just to give him notes. It’s hard to tell in an audition sometimes but as soon as we talked to him on Skype he was so charming. In a weird way, he just became Jamie in that Skype call. We knew right then, and it was so easy. We just could not find Claire, then...” 
Enter Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, who sent in a tape via her agent. "One of our writers Tony found her and it was just amazing," says Davis. "We knew right there. We’ve always kidded about, we had one audition scene we all got really sick of, we just didn’t want to hear anybody else. And she kind of made the scene come alive after seeing it a thousand times.”
Finding Claire is as difficult for us as it was for Davis and co. The show’s leading lady is in demand, filming back-to-back scenes all day, but her leading man makes an appearance on his day off.


Clad in a leather jacket with his hair scraped back from his face, Sam Heughan couldn’t look further from the Highlands – even though they’re only a few miles away.
“There’s a LOT of excitement to get back to Scotland,” he smiles, “to the rain and the cold and the mud.” Heughan is proud of the success of the first series, though he seems quite humbled to hear it described as “a hit” by another journalist.
“When we go to America and everywhere else, people are very excited about it. I think it’s a great story, I think that Scotland really shines in the show.
"Every department has done fantastic work: the costumes and the lighting and the sets are all incredible. We’re lucky that it struck a chord with people. It’s been great.”
He’s got a real fondness for the Scottish crew, who he says were particularly good fun on location in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where some of the Versailles scenes were filmed.
They’re about to pack up in order to finish filming Parisian scenes in Prague, Heughan explains. “It feels sort of like a holiday,” he chuckles.
Before they can flee across the continent we finally track down the leading lady, who manages to squeeze both herself and several layers of sumptuous skirts into a chair at the head of the press table. 
“It’s a little heavy,” she laughs. “[French fashion] is obviously very beautiful but there are some restrictions. So it can get a little trying at times. But it’s fun.”


Balfe’s star has skyrocketed since she was cast as Claire Randall Fraser, so what does she attribute the show’s success to?
“I think it tackles, in a very large scale, themes a lot of people can relate to. There’s the search for a home, both physical and emotional,” she explains.
“There’s the theme of love and trying to work through a marriage. From day one Jamie and Claire begin with a marriage. And I think displacement: Diana says a lot of her readers are people who are in the army and who have to experience these long distances, either their husband or wife going off."
“These are situations that affect a lot of people in today’s modern world," she continues. “People don’t stay in one little place all the time, but we still have that yearning for a home spot we feel rooted to and connected to. There’s definitely something in that that appeals to people.”
And when social media sites allow those fans to come together, in enormous numbers, does that make a difference? 
“It’s not even a question,’ says Davis. “I never had a Twitter account; I got one right before the show. I think it’s a completely new different landscape.
“I think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all these social media sites are ways to bring the shows into places that might not realise you exist. So for us it’s been great.”


The giant silver TV Champion trophy clinking around in the bag I’ve been carrying all day is testament to that. 16 episodes were enough to inspire fans to cast millions of votes to secure Heughan’s victory in the 2015 Radio Times TV Champion tournament. 
Who knows what Outlander will achieve after another 13 episodes air?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Outlander Star Tobias Menzies on Black Jack Randall's Sadistic Treatment of Jamie & More

By: Paulette Cohn, parade.com

Tobias Menzies as Captain Black Jack Randall(STARZ)

Both Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) received the shock of their life when Captain Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) sauntered back into their lives at Versailles in last week’s episode of Outlander.

His renewed presence threatened to tear apart their just-healed relationship with Jamie desirous of dueling Black Jack to the death, and Claire begging him to wait a year, because if Randall dies before he marries Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day) and gets her pregnant, Frank will not be born in the future. And Claire feels Frank has to exist.

Parade.com spoke to Menzies about the unexpected reunion of the three characters, which was played out before King Louis XV (Lionel Lingelser), so there was a lot of subtext, but the message came across.

“I think Jack feels a very unusual connection to both of them through what they went through in that cell,” Menzies tells Parade.com. “I was keen for him to be less confident in the second season, so we see the fallout from the injury he sustained, and the fact that he’s out of his comfort zone. He’s in another country; in a country that Britain is at war with. He’s not in control. So, yeah, he’s less robust, a less confident man in the second season.”

This week on the Best Laid Schemes episode of Outlander, Jamie and Claire use Claire’s medical knowledge to devise a scheme to stop a wine deal which could fill the Prince’s war chest. Then, when Claire learns Jamie has gone back on his word, the couple are met with dire consequences that will forever change their lives.

But before tuning in, read the rest of the interview with Menzies, in which he talks about filming the brutal scenes with Jamie in the prison, whether or not he thinks Black Jack is a sadist, his approach to his dual role, his favorite episode from Season 1, and more.

Let’s go back to the end of Season 1. Those scenes with Jamie and Black Jack in the prison were so brutal and so hard to watch.  What was it like for you to have to film something like that?  

Intense. You had to go there a bit, but I feel like we got to a really good place with the material. I was really happy with it in terms of its psychological aspect, that it was an investigation – one man investigating another man, sort of morally, spiritually, psychologically, rather than just physical and sexual violence, so I was keen to make it more epic in a way.

But they were intense days in the studio in that one room, and you could feel it accumulating with the crew; we’re all in there together. It’s sensitive stuff to do and to get the tone of it right. We were all keen to do it justice and get somewhere that felt genuinely brave in terms of it being uncomfortable to watch, but also having gritty coming from character and having a moral dimension, I suppose.


Do you see Jack as being a sadistic man? Or do you think it’s the times and he’s just doing what he does because he can?  

I definitely approached it as an investigation of sadism. I think that’s what he is. It all comes back to [the fact that] he’s a product of his experiences and a product of war. I think that’s true to both of the characters I play, actually. Frank is a product of the second World War and Jack is a product of the Jacobite Rebellion or Rechabite insurgency, really.

I was less interested in it being a story of his infatuation with Jamie. I think that’s in there somewhere, but it’s not in a conventional sense. I wasn’t interested in it being about homosexuality. Even though somehow he expresses himself in those ways, it wasn’t what it was about. It was about sadism and about being interested in people, in the extent of Jamie’s resistance, I suppose. His resilience.

You’re playing a dual role. Do you take a different approach for each character? 

Yes. I think broadly speaking, Frank is a lot closer to me, and Jack is more of a stretch. I didn’t overtly go for a different kind of physicality necessarily. I think the clothes that Jack has naturally makes him hold himself differently. Frank is obviously more modern, so there’s something more modern about that physicality, but I think the story does a lot for you — what they’ve been through and who they are is very different.

What was surprising was that Frank is a historian, but when Claire returns, he burns her clothes instead of sending them to his historian friend, who would kill to have them.  Why do you think that is?

I think it’s symbolic, isn’t it? He really needs Claire to leave the past behind. He sent it to the friend, the friend has investigated it. They have that information. I guess it’s Frank putting his life before his work.

Do you have a favorite moment from Season 1?

My favorite stuff in Season 1 is the Garrison stuff, where he interrogates Claire, and they have that long chamber piece, where it’s just the two of them. The variation let’s you see what an unusual person Jack is. I really like what comes up when he starts drawing her, and you’re, “Who the hell is this guy?”



Because of things Black Jack has done, when you meet Outlander fans, do they go, “Oh no!” or do they say, “We love Frank.”

There’s a bit of that. There’s some that like Jack and some that hate Jack, and with Frank too, really. I’m always surprised that people have such strong dislike for Frank sometimes, but I do buzz in and out of Twitter. That’s, obviously, the main forum for which you get that, but it’s all coming from a good place. It’s from passion for the show and the story.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Outlander’s Rosie Day on Suffocating Corsets, Time Travel, and Rape Culture

ByJennifer Vineyard, Vulture



So as it turns out, our time-traveling heroine Claire has encountered the other side of her 1945 husband's ancestry — the timid Mary Hawkins is supposed to be the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of Frank Randall, or something like that. Mary getting raped in the episode entitled La Dame Blanche could endanger that lineage, or it might ensure it — who's to say just yet? What could this mean for the former virgin Mary? Actress Rosie Day took a break from filming her scenes on set in Scotland to chat about rape culture, suffocating corsets, and what she would do if she could travel back in time.

You actually go way back with Sam Heughan.

We did a movie together two years ago in Norway called Heart of Lightness, based on a Henrik Ibsen play. He had just been cast in Outlander, and he was reading the second book, and he said to me, "There's a part you'd be great for." And I was like, "Oh? Okay, cool." So I kind of knew Outlander through Sam, and then, weirdly, this part came up, and it was the exact part that Sam had said, "You'd be great for ..." So it's kind of because of Sam that I'm here.

He kind of did that same thing to Laura Donnelly, who now plays Jamie's sister Jenny.

She was in the film with us! He's just playing casting agent, isn't he? So yeah, when I got sent the script, I texted him and went, "Oh. My. God. This has come through!" I'm the biggest Doctor Who fan. I love the Doctor Who mode of time travel. I love the idea of a man coming to pick me up in a blue box and taking me away. That sounds really dodgy, doesn't it? Like he's kidnapping some girl. But I really love time-travel stories, and so this is amazing. Although we were joking the other day that there are maybe three scenes that we've shot so far where I actually smiled, because everything just keeps going wrong for Mary.

Let's talk about what this rape means for Mary, in this time and place.

She's a soiled woman. Soiled goods. You're just done, even though it's absolutely not the woman's fault in any way, shape, or form. Awful. I mean, still, in today's society, there are countries where they think that. In the Middle East, you actually get punished for being raped. One woman was sentenced to 400 lashes. How can you justify that?

And for Mary, this could jeopardize her arranged marriage. "If she's been violated, her reputation will be ruined," Jamie points out. "She'll be a spinster until the end of her days." Although even the fact that her marriage was arranged ...

It's terrible how that happened, and it's good that they're highlighting it and showing it. I don't think Claire can get her head around this at first, at how awful this is, and how young Mary is. I mean, she's like 15! This is the age where they were sold off and sentenced to the life of marriage and just having to have lots of children to provide an heir, which is awful when you think about it. Appalling. But historically accurate. A lot of people are ignorant of these things because you're not taught about women's history at school. They kind of rush over the hardships that women had to endure, so I think raising awareness and bringing it to the forefront of people's minds is quite important. I hope people will watch this and be outraged, at all of it. How did women survive?

We talk about it on set all the time. Even just how women were seen as being kind of hysterical, always fainting, when it's because they had to wear corsets and dresses so heavy that you can't breathe in them. It's really, really difficult, and we're doing it like they did it. They showed us a picture of what corsets do to your organs, crushing them, and I'm like, "Oh my God, not good." I'm not going to be doing any of that weird waist-training craze to try to make your waist so tiny. I don't know why women do that on their own. It's so barbaric.

What was it like shooting the rape scene? It was a two-night shoot in Prague?

It was awful to ... I mean, it was fine to shoot, but it was not fun. Just to imagine what it must be like in real life, and it was rape because rape is a weapon. Which is terrible! Our lovely director kept coming up to me and saying, "Are you all right?" And I was like, "Yeah." I can switch on and off. It was in the summer, so it wasn't too cold outside, but we were doing it all night, and we got to about 2 a.m. on both nights, so we were just kind of dead. And then we had to do it again and again. After doing it four or five times, you start thinking, "I'm being paid to simulate rape," which is a weird concept. It was also very physical, because it wasn't a bed rape. I'm thrown onto a horse cart, repeatedly, by some stunt guys. And then there's lots of screaming and shouting and crying. It was very intense. But it was handled so brilliantly, because it's not the easiest of things to do.


Afterwards, Mary gets a little confused ...

She believes Alex Randall is her attacker, and she thinks he's trying to rape her again, so, yeah, lots of screaming and running around the house in my nightie, but that one was good fun to do. Everyone else is dressed very posh, in their Parisian dresses, and there's me, running around in my nightie. I like any costume that doesn't restrict my oxygen levels. But still, very upsetting to watch. Not one for the parents or my local vicar. He's got Amazon just so he can watch Outlander, and my mom was like, "Maybe not this, because ... yeah."

Right now, it's too soon in the story to say, but it could appear as if Claire's meddling with the past has set a new series of events in motion, and certain people in the future might be erased. Or perhaps Claire's meddling makes them possible in the first place ...

Well, if Claire hadn't come along, Mary would have married the first count, and he's really old and fat and warty, so she would have had an awful life. She wouldn't have flourished. She wouldn't have felt true love. So that is all down to Claire. It's hard to get your head around everything because Frank is there in the 1940s, so if Claire hadn't gone back, he wouldn't be there? Time travel's weird. It would be really cool if Mary could go forward in time!

If you could go back in time, what would you do to change history?

I would be really bad, because I'm a massive feminist, so I wouldn't be able to abide by their rules. I'd want to be the one to do the suffragette movement of 1743, you know? You'd have to rally a group of women who weren't afraid, but lots of them did live in fear. So I'd need a partner like Claire. I'd need someone who had Claire's characteristics to help rally the troops and create a girl squad, because they might just call you crazy and lock you up in an asylum. I might not last long, but I'd try!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

10 Outlandish Statements Only Outlander Costume Designer Terry Dresbach Can Make

By: Justine Harman, elle.com

Photo Courtesy of Starz

By now you've likely gotten an eyeful of the famed "swan dress" (yep, that's it, above right),  the racy couture creation  first imagined in Diana Gabaldon's cult-loved Outlander books and worn by Madame Nesle de la Tourelle (Kimberly Smart) on the acclaimed Starz drama. The sophomore season of the breakout hit has brought to life many of the author's most beloved sartorial moments—Claire Fraser's (Caitriona Balfe) plunging scarlet gown and saffron petticoat and Claire Sermonne's (Louise de Rohan) seafoam nipple-baring corset, among them—thanks to celebrity-in-her-own-right costume designer Terry Dresbach. Here, the woman behind "the least patriarchal costumes on television" reveals ten things you never knew about recreating 18th century Parisian fashion, modern day red carpets, and what goes into making historically accurate nipple clamps that would make even a KarJenner blush:


1. Fashion, in general, used to be much more badass:

"People think that we are risqué now, but we have nothing on history in terms of risqué fashion. In the late 18th century, around the time of Napoleon, they made dresses that were made out of sheer gauze, that they would then wet. It would make a wet T-shirt contest look like you were wearing wool."

2. Kendall Jenner's nipple piercing is hardly scandalous: 

"There's no place where you can buy 18th century swan nipple jewelry. There's not a big market for that," Dresbach says with a laugh. "But I did type it into my Google search, like, 'swan nipple jewelry.' And, I didn't find any."

3. Just don't tell Dresbach's kids that: 

"You always have time constraints, you know? Are you going to hire a jeweler to make this? So it ended up being me sculpting those swans on my kitchen table, and my kids walking in the room and saying, 'What are you doing?' And I'm like, 'I'm making nipple jewelry, kids.' They're teenagers, and they just roll their eyes, like, 'Mom, can't you be normal?'"


Photo Courtesy of Starz

4. Every job has its...moments:

"Then, of course, you have to figure out how you're going to attach [the nipple clamps you just made]. You're standing there with an actress, trying to glue swans on her breast, and make sure the piercing goes–it's crazy. It's those moments where you just go, 'What am I doing for a living? What is this job?'"

5. Her couture creations—which she would value in the $20-$25K range each—could drive a sane craftsman mad:

"When you look at what goes into it, the kind of detail and the kind of painstaking handwork, there's a reason why it costs so much," Dresbach says. "I often walked around my department going, 'There's a reason why everyone's heads got cut off, and this is it. There's a reason why they decapitated all the monarchy and put them under the guillotine, because everyone was sick to death of doing this stuff and not getting paid for it!'"

6. Back in the 18th century, "high street" simply wasn't an option:


"It's not like today, where you can just go down to Macy's and buy a passable dress and wear it to the White House and no one's going to throw you out," Dresbach says. "Back then you had to have the right buttons and you had to have the right embroidery, and your wealth had to be visible in your clothing or they weren't letting you inside the door."


Photo Courtesy of Starz

7. Sometimes you simply have to Tim Gunn it (with respect to historical accuracy, of course):

"We didn't have enough people and time to embroider every costume. So then you turn around and you say, 'Okay, what are we going to do? Maybe let's hand paint things.'" We would have ideas, and be like, 'Okay, let's go do research and see if they actually did that. Oh look, they did, they did!' Great, now we're painting things.'"


8. Fashion was better before it became an "industry":

"Fashion has always been over-the-top. It's always been for the wealthy. The difference is how many people actually saw them. In 18th century Paris, they weren't wandering around the streets, there was no red carpet Fashion Police show. The average person would never know what somebody wore to whatever event that was. And now, it's all televised. So, red carpet becomes an industry, which it is now. It's an industry. Anybody is fair game with what they wear. And that's the real difference."

9. And fear and fashion simply do not mix (just ask Cate Blanchett):


"The whole thing becomes very totalitarian. It becomes very fear-based, because you look at Hollywood and the actresses who wear couture are really few and far between," Dresbach says. "You look at Cate Blanchett, and she takes risks all over the place, but the mainstream press and most people who are watching go, 'What the hell does she have on?'"


Photo Courtesy of Starz

10. Ultimately, it's about knowing what's worth it:

"I took my daughter shopping at her favorite store, and she's going to be 15 soon. She ended up going into a section and finding like '80s rock T-shirts that were like $160 each! And I was like, 'No. The price point's too high for what it is. And they've already put holes in it. No.' But she's not going to be ready to wear the thing that's $180 dollars that feels like it should cost that much. So we're not shopping at those clothes stores yet. When we get there, then we will, when she's ready. But you look at couture and you look at the work, and the labor, and the beauty, and the detail, and it's not the same as that thing you buy at Target. It's just not. We need to view fashion through a different eye, because some things should cost a lot of money, and some things just shouldn't cost as much as they do." 

St. Raymond, the Shaman, and His Association with Claire

By Stella Murillo, Guest Blogger, Porcelain Thunderbird

(OLC Blog Editors's Note:  This article contains references to events that occurred in Episode 207, "Faith" (for those who may not have seen it) and in future books in the Outlander series)  **Feel free to leave any questions you may have for Stella about this post in the comments, on our FB page or on Google+)



The Outlander series is a narrative in which elements of romance and the fantastic are blended with those of folklore and history.  Master Raymond’s healing and divination powers are some of these elements. According to the author, Raymond is an experienced time-traveler and healer, a shaman, Claire’s ancestor, and probably an ancient Celt: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/resources/faq/faq-about-the-characters/.  Furthermore, there are some parallels that both Raymond and Claire share.


Raymond’s interactions with Claire reveal some hints indicative of his time-travelling skills. While discussing the Hippocratic Oath, Raymond asks Claire whether she has sworn it. Her answer foreshadows what she will become once she is back in the twentieth century.
"Er, well, no. Not actually. I'm not a real physician. Not yet." I couldn't have said what made me add the last sentence (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 20)
Raymond asking that question is a hint that he suspects that Claire is from the future. Back in the eighteenth century, women were not allowed to receive a high level of education. Furthermore, he knows what Claire needs to go back to her time: a gemstone. The white crystal that Raymond gives Claire is first stone she receives from him.  
He mentions that it is for her protection twice. Of course, the stone’s main purpose is to protect Claire from poison. It is sensitive to the presence of harmful compounds. However, there is a subtext associated with time traveling. Raymond does not know that Claire accidentally fell through time. She is not aware that the crystal could be used to survive the passage through the stones. This second interpretation is further supported by the gifts that Raymond sends Claire once she is back at Lallybroch. Claire relates:
Master Raymond did not write, but every so often, a parcel would come addressed to me, unsigned and unmarked, but containing odd things: rare herbs and small, faceted crystals; a collection of stones, each the size of Jamie's thumbnail, smooth and disc-shaped. Each one had a tiny figure carved into one side, some with lettering above or on the reverse. And then there were the bones. . . (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 31)
These gemstones resemble Otter-Tooth's opal, which is also carved. Their use as a gift confirms that Raymond is aware that Claire is a time-traveller. Claire muses that these stones are prehistoric, probably pre-Roman, an indication of the time frame from which Raymond comes. The carvings may represent magic. Claire subsequently gives one of the gemstones as a charm to Mary MacNab to stop her from worrying much about her son's seizures (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 31)

Another characteristic that Raymond and Claire share is what the TV adaptation revealed as bone reading (Episode 204, “La Dame Blanche”). Of note are the differences between book 2 and this episode in regards to Raymond’s Ossuary. Raymond does not perform any divination in front of Claire. He just confirms that he is able to do it. He relates:
"Well, they are company, of a sort, while I pursue my work." . . .  "And while they may talk to me of many things, they are not so noisy as to attract the attention of the neighbors. . ." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)
The notion that inanimate objects, in this case, bones, talk is related to animism, a hint that Raymond is probably an ancient Celt. The bones have spirits that communicate with him. Of interest is the fact that Claire might evolve the ability to communicate with inanimate objects:
. . . "I feel a good deal more sympathy with our friend the elk." I patted the high jutting nose with some affection.
"Sympathy?" The soft black eyes regarded me curiously. "It is an unusual emotion to feel for a bone, madonna."
"Well . . . yes," I said, slightly embarrassed, "but they don't seem like just bones, you know. I mean, you can tell something about them, and get a feeling for what the animal was like, looking at these. They aren't just inanimate objects." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)

It seems that this trait of perceiving the soul of inanimate objects is inherited. I tend to suspect that this gift helps Claire to determine the manner of death while holding Geillis's skull in Voyager without the use of any scientific approach. 

Another connection between Claire and Raymond is the Cabbalistic symbols painted on his cabinet. Claire recognizes them because her uncle Lamb used to study them. It seems that the interest for the esoteric appears to run in the family/blood. Raymond reveals that the painted symbols are there to keep people away from the cabinet, especially those who believe in them. The reader also knows that he sells his clients bitter cascara instead of poison. Therefore, Raymond's occult practices seem to be more like a cover to stop certain people looking for him. His reputation as a practitioner of magic and his involvement in dark circles are just a façade. In fact, he does not believe in magic but in logic. He has a thorough knowledge of chemistry:
 “Sulfur. Grind it with a few other small things, touch it with a match, and it will explode. Gunpowder. Is that magic? Or is it only the nature of sulfur?” (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)
Reverend Walter Laurent, of Geneva, regards Raymond highly, even though he was associated with du Carrefours, a sorcerer or witch with a terrible reputation who ended up burned.
". . . No one knows where Master Raymond came from; he speaks several tongues, all without noticeable accent. A very mysterious man, Master Raymond, but - I would swear by the name of God -  a good one." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 26)
Since Claire first appeared in the eighteenth, her provenance is a mystery to other characters. In fact, this enigma puts her in danger in Outlander. Black Jack wanted to know more about her. Raymond summarizes best how other characters perceive Claire:
“You have been seen in my shop,” he pointed out. “Your background is a mystery. And as your husband noted, my own reputation is somewhat suspect. I do move in . . . circles, shall we say?” – the lipless mouth broadened in a grin – “where a speculation as to your true identity may be taken with undue seriousness. . . (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 20)
Therefore, both characters’ provenance is questionable.

In regards to Raymond’s moral virtues, Claire agrees with Reverend Walter Laurent’s assessment. At this stage, Raymond had already saved her from the infection she acquired due to the miscarriage. How Raymond healed Claire is of interest. The Cherokee shamanistic system will be used to understand the process (Mooney, 342). 


Cardinal                         PointColor                            Meaning
East                                       Red                                        Success; triumph
North                                    Blue                                       Defeat; trouble
West                                      Black                                     Death
South                                    White                                    Peace; happiness

This system resembles Celtic practices according to a conversation between Jamie and Peter Bewlie. It is similar to the notion of the “four airts” (The Fiery Cross, ch. 81). A particular entity or spirit is associated with each color and cardinal point. Mooney states that a shaman "invokes the Red Man to the assistance of his client and consigns his enemy to the fatal influences of the Black Man" (342) (. . .) Both the Red Man and the Blue Man are not only invoked to be successful in a battle. They are also called when somebody needs to be cured of illness. In his ethnological research, Mooney explains the formula the Cherokee used to treat rheumatism.
. . .The white or red spirits are generally invoked for peace, health, and other blessings, the red alone for the success of an undertaking, the blue spirits to defeat the schemes of an enemy or bring down troubles upon him, and the black to compress his death. The white and red spirits are regarded as the most powerful, and one of these two is generally called upon to accomplish the final result (347).
During the healing process, Master Raymond saves Claire by touching various parts of the body, including her breasts and womb. Master Raymond asks Claire to call the red man. This process resembles how Amerindian shamans invoke different spirits for healing purposes: 
 "Now," he said softly. Call him. Call the red man. Call him" (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25). In this particular case, the red man is Jamie. Therefore, Jamie has the spirit of the warrior, of victory in him. The passage also emphasizes that both Claire (white) and Jamie (red) are powerful together.


Of interest is Mother Hildegarde's comment before Master Raymond's appearance when Claire was about to die. 
"I was invoking the aid of St. Raymond Nonnatus," Mother Hildegarde explained, wringing out a cloth in cold water. "He is an aid most invaluable in the assistance of expectant mothers." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25)

Master Raymond has characteristics of some Roman Catholic saints, such as healing the sick miraculously. When Raymond reveals to Claire that he can see auras, he makes a reference to Virgin Mary:
"Everyone has a color about them," he said simply. "All around them, like a cloud. Yours is blue, madonna. Like the Virgin's cloak. Like my own" (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25).
 Because the Virgin’s cloak is blue, the aura present in both Claire and Raymond elevates them to a status of sainthood, especially when it comes to healing. This passage also includes a reference to them being related by blood.

Finally, I would like to discuss a romantic element associated with Raymond’s healing process. In Dragonfly in Amber, one of the reasons that Claire uses to prevent Jamie from killing Black Jack and ensuring Frank’s existence is that her husband owes her a life (ch. 21). Of course, it is a weak argument since Jamie saved her from Jonathan Randall at Fort William and also from getting burned at Cranesmuir. Eventually, Claire is hurt because of Jamie breaking the trust between them and challenging Black Jack to a duel. After recovering from the miscarriage, Claire says that she does not care about Jamie anymore, which is not the case. Upon hearing about Jamie's incarceration, she starts working for his release. Of course, Claire has the choice to leave him at the Bastille but opts to free him instead. She does care, and what Jamie experienced at Wentworth is in her head all the time.  Another reason is the she needed him to thwart Prince Charles's business enterprise with St. Germain (in the books’ storyline only). In retrospective, Claire recognizes that Jamie is the one who brought her back to life. Therefore, she owes Jamie her life. She muses:
But I had come back from the dead. Only Jamie's hold on my body had been strong enough to pull me back from that final barrier, and Master Raymond had known it. I knew that only Jamie himself could pull me back the rest of the way, into the land of the living. That was why I had run from him, done all I could to keep him away, to make sure he would never come near me again. I had no wish to come back, no desire to feel again. I didn't want to know love, only to have it ripped away once more (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 28).
There are other cases in which Jamie brings Claire back to life throughout the series. In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, there is the scene in which Claire almost dies after being poisoned by Malva. She is feverish and having out-of-body experiences, hallucinations caused by a dying mind. She decides to fight back for her life after seeing Jamie with Malva. The last few sentences of the passage are indicative of the relationship between Claire and Frank. Claire acknowledges that she stopped loving Frank the moment she fell in love with Jamie. She could not give Frank the love he probably wanted, even though she believed Jamie dead for many years. After loving Jamie, she does not want to risk loving somebody else due to the suffering it will bring due to separation or death.

Sources
Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. New York: Bantam Dell, 1993. Print.

- - -. The Fiery Cross. 2001. New York: Bantam Dell. 2005. Print.

Mooney, James. Cherokee History, Myths and Sacred Formulas. Cherokee: Cherokee Publications. 2006. Print.


About the Author
Stella Murillo is a blogger of several topics that include fashion, wellness and Outlander. She is a contributor to Adoring Outlander: Essays on Fandom, Genre and the Female Audience. She is fluent in both English and Spanish. She earned her B.A. at the University of Toronto in 2001 in Spanish and Anthropology.