I’ve not been on the Outlander bandwagon very long. I am often reluctant to admit to other long-time Outlander fans that my devotion is relatively new (yet no less fervored). And, why do I feel that way? Well, it’s because so many fans have taken this 20 year journey with Diana and have SO much to say about the STARZ series and its adaptation of the source material. And, they should. They know these books backwards and forwards. But, there seems little room for disagreement at times as we all experience the STARZ series together. But, I do believe that The Search was a lot better than most people think. Here’s why…
I haven’t sat with the novels as long as some. I recently finished Book 3 and intend to make my way through all eight books while eagerly anticipating Season 2 of the STARZ series. So, I too find myself making comparisons at times between the book and the television adaptation even though both are still so new to me. But, with that said, I think it can be argued that at no other time during the airing of Season 1 of Outlander has there been a more polarizing Episode than Episode 114 – “The Search.” It’s here where we find some of the most divergent opinions on both the story and narrative beat of the television series overall.
If you like to focus on the structure of the narrative – then you probably didn’t like this Episode much. The narrative weight of this Episode was light and rambling at times. But, it should be noted that at this stage in Book 1, there are some ramblings as well. The television show does attempt to provide some structure to the source material’s unconventional approach to “The Search” for Jamie Fraser. But, you can easily argue that the divergence into the silliness of Murtagh and Claire’s song and dance road show was a needless and pointless adaptation. You might even be right. But, moment by moment and scene by scene there is a LOT to love about Episode 114 that in my mind redeems the weak narrative and provides a decidedly unorthodox way of moving this story forward. I firmly believe that Episode 114 does a good job of balancing the suspense, the structure and the storytelling necessary to produce a compelling small screen adaptation of a gigantic narrative that must be crammed into a 16 episode television season. Here’s why.
“Love Forces a Person to Choose.”
The line was a poignant reminder from Jenny Fraser Murray that love can make a person do things they never imagined they could do before. A few examples of this from Episode 114 include love forcing a person to kill, to trust the untrustworthy, to sacrifice, to suspend one’s beliefs, to lie and to take on monumental tasks such as breaking someone out of a practically impenetrable fortress. This theme, in fact, builds on Claire’s overarching story – to choose an 18th
century life of hardship and violence over a modern life of convenience and consistency – for love
The Search in Episode 114 isn’t just about finding James Fraser, however. It’s about finding and exploring the depths of feelings, relationships and the motivation behind the extraordinary things these characters will do for love. For example, you can more fully see the love that both Claire and Murtagh have for Jamie in the cave scene on the beach because of what they have been through on the road prior. This scene works because for so long Claire had to suspend her belief (as did many viewers) that the song and dance routine was really a plan worth following. Multiple times in the episode Claire clearly shows her disdain for and disbelief that the silliness would prevail. Non-book readers, particularly, must have been asking themselves this throughout those seemingly endless singing and dancing montages. But, Claire chose love and she realized that Murtagh also chose love for his Laird and godson and out of respect for her, otherwise he would have ditched Claire and chased the gypsies himself! Claire and Murtagh both understood in that cave on the beach that whatever it took to find Jamie was a goal they shared, despite both feeling throughout weeks of searching (we only saw it compressed into 24 on screen minutes, thank God!) that the plan was shaky at best.
As an adaptation, the TV series decided that adding some fun, lighthearted moments to a tension filled episode was the right way to frame significant and serious sequences such as the Straight-Outta-Lallybroch, gender-bending rescue escapades of Jenny and Claire, Claire and Murtagh’s revelations on the beach and the dramatic reappearance of Dougal Mackenzie in the cave at Glen Rowan Cross. The middle section of Episode 114 allowed viewers to catch their breath, laugh a little, gasp in awe at the amazing Scottish landscapes and understand a little better what choosing love will force a person to do even if that includes some ridiculous vaudeville act. I believe the Boogie-Woogie was a helpful storytelling beat that provided both levity and a better comprehension of our characters’ motivations and the means to which they would go to find Jamie. It’s OK to love and/or hate the silliness because they both lead us to the same place – an understanding of the power of love and an expectation of what the power of love will wield in the dark episodes to follow. Question the episode structure? OK. But revel in and appreciate the moments and the motivation behind each and every scene and their relationship to the theme of choosing love no matter what. This is what I believe makes Episode 114 worthy of praise despite its shortcomings.
Was Episode 114 a throw-away? Or, do you think there is redemption for the Boogie-Woogie? Let us know!
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Why would Episode 14 be a throw away. It was a part of the story. Plus the fact I was in it. I was standing in front of Claire and Duncan in the gypsy camp.
Sorry meant Murtagh.
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I found this an interesting episode and enjoyed the shared love of Jamie of Jenny and Claire and with Claire and Murtagh. The building of this bond was important for me.
Wee_Ted — that is SO COOL that you were in this episode. Like, I am DYING! I will watch it again and look for you. Being that close to Duncan/Murtagh…SWOON!! Thanks for your comment.
Hey, Melissa — thanks for your comment. I did love the Jenny and Claire escapades a lot also. But, I get where you are coming from — that they took a lot of time in this episode that maybe could have been used in 15-16 for some iconic scenes. But, I still love The Search. It remains one of my favorites. Again, thanks for taking the time to comment!!!
leighcard — TOTALLY agree — seeing the development of the characters (Jenny and Murtagh in particular) was really what made this episode a stand-out for me. Glad you loved it, too, and thanks for your comment!
I didn't care for the Boogie Woogie part, it was silly and futile as far as finding Jamie but it bothered me that really good pieces of the story were omitted or cut short in lieu of adding pieces like that. I did like Jenny & Claire together although Laura Donnelly is such a strong presence I feared for Cait being lost following behind her. Wow. Laura is a powerhouse. Wish there had been more time allotted to Ep16 between Claire and Father Anselm and Jamie & Claire working thru the trauma (hot springs?).
RL — definitely understand your frustration. Adaptations are funny that way. Not all we want but hopefully something to chew on regardless. I love Jenny, too. Amazing character and can't wait to see her again. Thanks for your comment. Hope you'll continue to check the Blog out.
Yay, Anne! There has been so much derogatory, negative commenting about this episode I was beginning to feel guilty for liking it! I did enjoy the bonding and developing of relationships between Jenny and Claire, and Claire and Murtagh. But I adored the "Boogie Woogie" song-and-dance act also! I really needed that break, just before what I knew would be difficult and heartbreaking to watch and experience. Thanks for standing up for this episode!
Barbara — actually this is one of my very favorite episodes from Season 1, Part 2. I have watched it more than any other episode in Season 1, I think. Just love it and glad you do, too!! Boogie-Woogie Unite!
Whether you are a 20+ year fan (as I am) or a brand new fan, we all deserve our opinions. Your love for Outlander is no less than mine for its newness! Welcome to the madness and the love! <3