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Date Posted: 18:02:30 05/28/16 Sat
Author: Shadow
Subject: Episode 208 -- The Fox's Lair

Written by Anne Kenney, Directed by Mike Barker

A disclaimer here. Anne Kenney is possibly my least favorite writer on the show so I didn’t come into this one with the most open of minds. There were some moments that were lovely and well done, but a lot of this episode felt choppy and incoherent.

The episode begins well enough. I liked the new opening theme very much and all the postcard views of Scotland.

Jamie and Claire have returned to Lallybroch. The potato harvest has begun. Unfortunately, little time is spent on their reunion with Jenny and Ian and happy settling in to a normal life. I suppose this is understandable. Happiness and peace don’t exactly advance the story or provide much opportunity for high drama, for all that it builds atmosphere and develops character. The months spent there are reduced to voiceover and the first real scene action is Ian distributing the most recent post which includes the letter to Jamie from Jared with Charles' announcement of intent and Jamie's name signed to it. To her credit, Anne Kenney did include some fan favorite scenes or bits of dialogue from the book in this opening. The scene with Jamie and the baby was sweet, complete with DG’s words.

In this telling, Jamie seems to now believe that since he failed to stop Charles in Paris, he can instead see that Charles wins. He first assembles his own tenants (no mention about restricting it by age or marital status) and sends them off with Murtagh. I thought the bit with Fergus on his pony was wonderful. I don’t even completely object to having Charles’ command that Jamie go to Lord Lovat rolled into that missive from Jared. It does save time and still gets us in to see the Old Fox.

Of course, then the story takes a wild swing onto unmarked roads that most fans of the original story will not welcome.

Practically the first person J & C run into at Beaufort Castle is Colum MacKenzie, who has come to coax Lord Lovat into signing a neutrality agreement and avoid the war. This seems to me to be an utterly ridiculous premise, but it’s true that the show hasn’t bothered to flesh out much of the history between the Frasers and MacKenzies, (or the rift between Brian and Old Simon) so I was willing to give it a chance. I rather enjoyed seeing Colum again, but it seems like the only reason he was in this episode was to give Laoghaire the opportunity to appear at Beaufort Castle. Colum has the girl with him as serving maid and laundress. Weirder still, the wench has apparently had a 'Come to Jesus' moment since the witch trial and has embarked on the equivalent of a modern 12-step program of apology and reparation to become a better person. Yeah. Right. (Claire wasn’t buying it either.)

Frankly, the idea of trying to redeem Leghair in this episode was terrible. Of course, they put themselves in a bind when they beefed up her role in season one by giving her an active and visible presence at the Cranesmuir trial, making her a dangerous adversary to Claire. In the book, she’s just a kid who made mischief that got away from her. In the show, she was deliberately malicious and nearly lethal. This is a real problem for season three because the Jamie we know and love would never have wed someone he knew was Claire’s proven enemy, no matter what provocation. This whole, “I’m so sorry I tried to murder you. Can we be friends now?” scene was awkward. It didn’t fit. It wasn’t even well-written. And Claire using her to prop up Young Simon was so…pedestrian. DG must have absolutely had a cow when she saw this script.

Old Simon, Lord Lovat, is not much like I pictured him. For one thing, this old coot is as healthy as the proverbial horse. He was pushy and belligerent, and though in the end he is revealed as properly twisty, he was not the elegantly vicious plotter DG presented to us. We never really saw the wicked intelligence in the man. (I confess I also had a problem with the casting because he reminded me very strongly of someone I used to know.)

Young Simon’s character was so changed I didn’t recognize him. I recall him from the book as an able soldier and a leader of men, even at this stage. While clearly a man under authority—he never forgot that Old Simon was laird—- he was an able lieutenant. Here he is a wimpy and callow boy who reminds me of Disney’s cartoon of Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow. He spends most of the episode making cow eyes at Logwart and spouting poetry like a bad regency romance. I’m trying to picture this guy surviving the war and retaining his property through the clearances. Nope. Not happening. And this was not the fault of the actor, but of the writing. Meh. Maybe they plan to have Jamie help him grow up. He did show a bit of spine now and then, but again, awkward and ungraceful scripting solely intended to put Leghair in a better odor with Jamie and Claire. I give it a thumbs down.

Maisri, the seer, is a fairy-tale witch rather than the troubled young woman I remember from the book, almost a caricature. I thought the actress did well with the material she was given but I wish they had done better with that aspect of the story.

Having Claire do that vision scene to stop Jamie from signing was predictable and cliché.

Jamie. Hmmm. In only one episode that Anne Kenney has written did I like what she did with Jamie’s character and that was The Wedding. The things that really put me off this time were Jamie’s apparent decision to surrender Lallybroch and his careless mustering of cannon fodder. That is never the man I admired in the books. It bothers me even more than the episode where he was all, “I am the Laird of Lallybroch!”

All this season it has felt like some part of Jamie would rather have fought for a Stuart restoration rather than against it, as if he didn’t wholly believe Claire and was just following her orders. I never got that feeling in the book and I can’t point to any specific thing that gives me that impression in the show, but it’s almost always there. In this episode Jamie has decided not to believe Claire’s predictions are carved in stone, for all that she has lived through them. Instead of going in believing he will fail and that his best course now is simply to minimize the fallout to the people that look to him—family, tenants, etc., Jamie becomes a true Jacobite. This, frankly, offends me. Again, it’s too easy. Part of what makes the DIA so fascinating to me is the dichotomy of being a successful soldier while knowing you are doomed to failure and that the best you can achieve is to salvage something from the wreckage.

I did love the opening sequence at Lallybroch, That was beautifully done. But I was relieved to see the credits roll on this episode.

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Replies:

[> Yep. What she said^^^^. And I've been totally riding the "it's an adaptation, get over it" bus until this episode. Yikes. Herself must have kicked up a rare stramash over this wee plot twist. -- Merc, 20:16:53 05/28/16 Sat

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[> I don't recognize this Jamie at all, he's wishy washy with no sense of humor. I think the writers need to "share" more because in each episode it seems like they change, Claire is strong in one episode and just a bitch in another, Jamie is wishy washy......... makes me sad. Claire teaming up with Logwhore, it would just never happen. Jamie would never marry this idiot either. Bad form all around. Grrrr! -- M&M, 07:13:50 05/29/16 Sun

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[> ......and a big thank you Shads, I have been looking forward to this since Friday. You always write it so eloquently while hitting the nail on the head. Poet Carpenter. :) -- M&M, 07:15:16 05/29/16 Sun

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[> [> Awww, you make me blush...from my perch on the soapbox. I like this page for my reviews partly because it lets me write out something coherent but also because it seems to only get hits from the serious old-timers who know where I'm coming from. Also because you guys always have well-thought-out points when you disagree with my opinions, and that makes me think. -- Shads, 07:42:32 05/29/16 Sun

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[> [> I am amazed at how quickly and well thought out you post about the episodes and always come here first to read the review. I totally agree about this one. The only part I really enjoyed was the beginning at Lallybroch, which was too short. Everything about Leghair bugged me. I had started to feel sorry for her by MOBY but this episode brought the hate right back. Jamie thanking her and Claire convincing her to help "man up" young Simon - blecccchhh! Someone help me understand "writers?" Do they get to write all dialogue and block out the episode? Do they help the director with the direction they want in the show? If so, I'll blame this week in the writer - it really was a disappointment to me. Can't wait to see Diana's episode! -- Kathy in PA, 05:03:22 05/30/16 Mon

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[> [> [> I'm glad you guys like my rambling. I tend to watch the show before I go to bed when it becomes available OnDemand, sleep on it, then watch it again to confirm my initial impressions, catch stuff I missed, and maybe make a few notes. I have a background in theatre and film and that gives me a more critical eye than the average viewer, I think. It doesn't make me expert by any means, but maybe a little more observant. It can be hard to trace down why something works brilliantly and something else is merely okay or a failure, and different viewers and reviewers will almost always cite different reasons for their opinions. -- Shads, 06:43:24 05/30/16 Mon

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[> [> [> [> About the process-- The writers, producers, and director collaborate about what the episode should be, then one or two writers take on the task of putting the outline into scenes and dialogue that will hopefully fit into the time. Occasionally other writers will step in and rewrite a scene or offer alternative dialogue or fixes when a scene doesn't work. The primary writer takes the credit for the whole, even though the end is often a collaboration. Well, that is the case always--a collaboration among writers, director, editor, costumer, scene designer, light designer, performers. It's one of the fascinating things about the performing arts, how people work as a team when they each approach the tale from their unique perspectives and somehow arrive at a cohesive whole. -- Shads, 06:45:04 05/30/16 Mon

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[> Simply put, Ihad to rewatch several times to get the jist of it. Far too much was left out, I was really looking forward to a spicey exchange between Jamie and his Grandsire, it never really happened. One of my least favorite episodes so far this season. Very disappointed. -- LadyDuBois, 08:28:03 05/29/16 Sun

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[> Definite problems in the writing room on this one. Legwarts got screwed up at the beginning when they had Claire tell Jamie that she was the one. Now they have to do gymnastics to make it possibel for Jamie to marry her. Bad. The Old Fox was planty nasty. They got that right. I enjoyed seeing Colum again and was grateful that he was giving Jamie good advice. Too bad he didn't take it. 'Putting mens lives at risk for no reason' is exactly what Jamie is doing. I like seeing Jenny again, too. but the whole thing didnt hand together at all. Bits and pieces cobbled together. One quibble - - if you are going to ride a long distance on one horse, you do NOT gallop the whole way. Trot, maybe. Gallop, NO. Usually, I can settle for the changes in the plot, but Legwarts as an ally of Claire????? And Jamie apologizing to her, but he doesn't know why????? Give me a break. Costumes, sets, camera work. Our usual outstanding acting. but the flow, and the logic took a hit. -- swarl, 12:27:31 05/29/16 Sun

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[> I felt they cast Lord Lovat with the wrong physical type. I never expected him to be so tall since Jamie's height was from the MacKenzie side. Of course, as I said, I'm prejudiced against this actor because he reminded me a LOT of a guy I knew long ago. He'd been a coworker and friend, but ended up going to prison for kiddie porn! eek! I kept being creeped out every time I looked at him so it was hard to pay close attention to his performance. -- Shads, 13:28:01 05/29/16 Sun

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[> Only watched once so far ... On my phone ! Been traveling I am appalled at the way they hodgepodged events together and elements from the source all in apparent effort of just advancing the plot! You know I'm on the show train but if even Herself couldn't stop the train wreck this week I'm a bit worried how she brings it back together and don't think I'm as anxious for much more! They are trampling without much respect I think! -- BetsyG, 18:23:07 05/29/16 Sun

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[> I have read twice now (I think from the episode writer) and just read from Ron Moore how "they had to get Leery back into the picture in order for something in season 3 to work..." or words to that effect. I certainly don't understand that, because in Voyager, Jenny encourages Jamie to wed again and puts Leery forth as a likely candidate. As we know, it never works out (except to get the scheming Brat money when he returns with Claire...) but I just don't understand this. If in the series he's going to marry her, having this little episode of "I've met Jesus and am a changed girl" and the "help" with Young Lovat (which wasn't much IMHO), is that really enough to make Jamie agree to marry her, when he KNOWS she betrayed Claire, almost unto death? I sure hope they have some good reason cooked up for all of this. Don't get me wrong, I am loving the adaptation, and am okay with the deviations from the books, but this is a real head-scratcher to me... -- JudithONH, 14:40:34 05/30/16 Mon

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[> We watched 207 and 208 yesterday. 207 was beautiful and heartbreaking, but 208 felt choppy and confusing. Reading your comments validates how we felt about it. There are definitely continuity issues with the characterizations. -- DebraMc, 14:44:08 05/30/16 Mon

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[> Yep, couldn't agree more. Everything you said is what I've felt too. -- Katiscotch, 18:07:37 05/30/16 Mon

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[> Thanks for recapping Shads and agree with you all, where's our Jamie? I really missed seeing the potato party scene and the savouring the mail scene from the books. The charm of the everyday scenes from the BIG books is lost in the ramming in of all the plot lines. I had an experience recently that made me very happy. I'm not currently reading the BOOKS but I happened to read a scene, and my Jamie came back, not Sam. -- PD, 13:14:35 06/01/16 Wed

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