Starz, Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, Claire Randall, Caitriona Balfe, Gellis Duncan, Lotte Verbeek,
Gellis and Claire in Outlander, “The Way Out” || Photo: © Starz

This weekend Outlander continued with its third episode, “The Way Out”, following Claire on her journey to understand her new life in Scotland’s 17th century. Under the watchful eye of the castle laird, Column MacKenzie, and his brother Dougal, Claire is clinging desperately to her memories of Frank and the world she left behind. Attempting to make the most of her position as Castle Leoch’s healer, however, she sets about to observe and treat some of the curious maladies that cross her path. Claire’s 20th century medical prowess is not only stunted by the lack of technology and development, but also by the severity of religious superstitious and its hold on the beliefs of the villagers. When a young boy is deemed possessed by a demon, Claire is determined to uncover the truth behind his illness, but contesting the spiritual beliefs of the people around her and exercising too much medicinal intellect could raise dangerous suspicions.

Outlander, Starz, Diana Gabaldon, Claire Randall, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Fraser, Sam Heughan, Nell Hudson, Laoghaire MacKenzie
Claire, Jamie, and Laoghaire in “The Way Out”
|| Photo: © Starz

In the way that episode two (“Castle Leoch”) played upon details of daily life in the Scottish highlands, episode three is abundant with insight into the history’s cultural nuances. The show is quickly setting something of an intellectual pace, giving viewers time to soak in every aspect of the Outlander world and making each episode a steadily immersive experience. One of my favorite things to enjoy here is the dialogue on women and healing in this era; can a woman’s knowledge be trusted over the male-dominated authority of religion? It’s exciting to see Claire work through that question with her spirited obstinacy, and equally intriguing to see the impact that question has on the world around her, specifically on Castle Leoch’s cook, Mrs. Fitz, who is on tenterhooks with the idea of trusting Claire completely. There’s also the mysterious village healer Gellis Duncan. Claire seems both intrigued and wary of Gellis, and in this episode we see that tension of the relationship heightened while also exploring a bit of how and why Gellis does what she does – and how much of her principles she may be willing to risk.

Outlander, Starz, Diana Gabaldon, Caitriona Balfe, Claire Randall, Frank Randall, Tobias Menzies
Claire and Frank in “The Way Out” || Photo: © Starz

Meanwhile, as Claire tries to kindle the aspiring flirtation between Jamie and Laoghaire, her feelings send her on a deeper emotional journey through memories of Frank; but more time – and a bit of conspiring – with Jamie gives us a glimpse at their natural chemistry and genuine spark. Claire continues to be an inspiring heroine in the way that she allows herself to be emotionally connected with her feelings for the people around her while also being steadfastly strong in her own will and independence. In all, I love the way Outlander is balancing the romance of the story with Gabaldon’s deeply-ingrained insight and her knack for drawing the marrow from the bones of history.

As ever, catch up on Outlander with the latest episodes available OnDemand or on the Starz Play app. Find more info about this episode and go behind the scenes at Starz.com.

Disclosure: Access to the programming was made available for the purpose of review.

YA lovers, there are so many new releases for you this week. Barbara Shoup’s Looking for Jack Kerouac, Jennifer Longo’s Six Feet Over It, new series additions from D.J. Redwine and Lenore Appelhans; I couldn’t include everything, so as ever check your favorite bookstore for a bit more of what’s newly available. In fiction, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist is available, plus work from Sarah Waters, Katy Simpson, Susan Vreeland, and more. In mystery Louise Penny has a new Inspector Armand Gamache mystery and Arnaldur Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series continues. In sci-fi and fantasy there’s John Scalzi’s Lock In and new work from Emily Gee and Brent Weeks, among others. Romance has new books from Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, and more. In new adult Penelope Douglas, Nichole Chase, and Jillian Dodd have new series additions. And in nonfiction, a look at the life of Edgar Allan Poe and more. New to paperback this week is work from Archer Mayor, Lisa Patton, and more. Enjoy!

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Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

As the world morns the loss of the extraordinary Robin Williams, much has been said on what we’ve gained from Robin’s art, the many lessons we’ve learned from him and his onscreen incarnations. In celebration of his life and legacy, I want to share a bit about what I’ve learned from one of my most beloved Robin Williams characters: John Keating of Dead Poet’s Society.

Dead Poet’s Society is the story of a group of young men at an elite, private college preparatory school whose futures are in the hands of teachers rooted in tradition, out of touch with the evolving world of the late 1950s. The students go about their work restlessly and without enthusiasm, until a new English teacher arrives and shakes up everything they thought they knew about the power of words and ideas. With his unorthodox approach, Keating engages his students and encourages them to open up their minds, find their unique voice, and live by the timeless motto of their predecessors: carpe diem. Seize the day. And as he guides his students to be witnesses to their own liberation, Keating shows them one thing that the students at Welton Academy have yet to align with the world of academia: passion.


What John Keating Taught Me About Writing

 


Literature is an art, not a science.

“Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe; we’re talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? ‘I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can’t dance to it.’ Now, I want you to rip out that page. Go on, rip out the entire page. You heard me: rip it out. Rip it out! Go on. Rip it out. [...] Don’t just tear out that page, tear out the entire introduction. I want it gone – history – leave nothing of it.”

Poetry and prose are not expendable luxuries.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for.”

‐ ‐ ‐

Finding your voice will let you speak your creative freedom.

“When you read don’t just consider what the author thinks; consider what you think. Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

And that voice can make a difference.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

‐ ‐ ‐

When someone says you’re doing it wrong, keep going.

“Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think of them as unpopular, even though the herd may go, ‘that’s baaad’. Robert Frost said, ‘Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’”

‐ ‐ ‐

And, of course…seize the day.

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – - Carpe – - hear it? – - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Dead Poets Society radiates a lot of profound wisdom on the value of free thinking for young men at the cusp of adulthood whose lives have been directed by the opinions and expectations of others. But at its core, Dead Poets Society has a lot to say to both readers and writers, and that’s where it reaches down into my heart and stokes a familiar fire: when it reminds me of the power of prose and poetry, and not just of the importance of the literary arts but the importance of our ever-evolving, uniquely independent perception of them.


Caitriona Balfe as Claire and Sam Heughan as Jamie in Outlander || Photo: © Starz

“Castle Leoch”, the second episode in the new Starz original adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, takes us further into the rich history of Claire’s 17th century adventure. When we left her, Claire was travelling with the highlander men of Clan MacKenzie to their home village, away from Inverness and the stones at Craigh na Dun – away from the doorway back to the world she left behind. As she attempts to acclimatize herself to her settings, she soon senses something strange and possibly untrustworthy in Dougal MacKenzie and his Laird brother, the disfigured clan leader Colum MacKenzie. While Claire finds potential foes lingering in her shadows, she also finds new company in village healer Gellis Duncan and Castle Leoch’s cook, Mrs. Fitzgibbons. Meanwhile, from Jamie she begins to learn more about the charming Scot’s history and the notorious reputation of her attacker, Black Jack Randall.

Gellis Duncan, Lotte Verbeek, Outlander, Starz, Diana Gabaldon
Lotte Verbeek as Gellis Duncan
|| Photo: © Starz

If viewers of the premiere episode were delighted in the historical vibrancy of the drama, fans can expect to be enraptured as the series continues to Castle Leoch. The premiere’s rolling landscapes are replaced with the rustic grandeur of the citadel and a precise depiction of everyday life in a 17th century Scottish village. In one scene, Mrs. Fitzgibbons helps to outfit Claire in something more befitting her time and place, giving viewers a look at the process of women’s dress in the era. From the food in the kitchens to the settings of dinner in the great hall to the simplicity of the stables, Castle Leoch comes to life from the pages of the book in a beautiful show of authenticity and pride.

One of my (and I’m sure many readers’) favorite things about Claire in the novel is the way she calls up her knowledge of the time and place she finds herself thrust into. Incredibly smart and quick on her feet, Claire is armed with everything she needs to muster her way through history. The show remains true to the book in that way, with much of the episode focusing on Claire’s internal efforts and her external observations as she familiarizes herself with the past. It’s particularly exciting to see time given to her development as a strong-willed, independently-minded female character.

Caitriona Balfe, Claire Randall, Gary Lewis, Colum MacKenzie, Dougal MacKenzie, Graham McTavish, Outlander, Starz, Diana Gabaldon
Gary Lewis as Colum MacKenzie, Caitriona Balfe as Claire, and
Graham McTavish as Dougal || Photo: © Starz

Appearing for the first time in this episode are Lotte Verbeek as Gellis Duncan, Annette Badland as Mrs. Fitzgibbons, Gary Lewis as Colum MacKenzie, and (briefly) Nell Hudson as Laoghaire. The casting choices continue to impress, with each actor working diligently to bring the characters lovingly to life – and making it look rather effortless along the way. Lotte Verbeek is especially wonderful as Gellis, a mysterious woman who quickly draws Claire’s attention. As trusts and distrusts are revealed, episode two of Outlander takes viewers deeper into the reaches of an intriguing, beautifully-imagined story.

“Castle Leoch”, airred Saturday night on Starz at 9pm EST/PST; catch up OnDemand or on the Starz Play app, and find lots of behind-the-scenes extras at Starz.com.

Disclosure: Early access to the programming was made available for the purpose of review.