The metaphors of episode 603: Temperance
In a post on her facebook page, Diana confides in her readers
"I think the show-runners and writers did a wonderful job of adaptation in this season—and I especially liked their version of this scene, where they skillfully wove Jamie’s story of touch in prison into the storyline of Tom Christie and Claire’s surgery on his hand. In fact, the metaphor of touch runs all the way through this episode, from Roger’s snatching little Henri-Christian from the river, through Jamie’s lesson to the “wicked wee scoundrels” who put him in the river—to Tom Christie’s hand and Claire’s painful but healing touch (and what use of his newly restored grasp Tom chose to make).
So I thought I’d show y’all the original scene from the book; you can see how they adapted Jamie’s dialogue to include Claire’s perceptions—and then there’s the last bit, for which the substituted Claire’s speculations about Tom".
I put out a hand slowly, so he would not be shocked at the touch, and rested it on his leg. He hadn’t had nightmares for some months, but I recognized the signs.
“What is it?” I whispered.
He drew breath a little deeper than usual, and his body seemed momentarily to draw in upon itself. I didn’t move, but left my hand on his leg, feeling the muscle flex microscopically beneath my fingers, a tiny intimation of flight.
He didn’t flee, though. He moved his shoulders in a brief, violent twitch, then let out his breath and settled into the mattress. He didn’t speak for a bit, but his weight drew me closer, like a moon pulled near to its planet. I lay quiet, my hand on him, my hip against his—flesh of his flesh.
He stared upward, into the shadows between the beams. I could see the line of his profile, and the shine of his eyes as he blinked now and then.
“In the dark . . .” he whispered at last, “there at Ardsmuir, we lay in the dark. Sometimes there was a moon, or starlight, but even then, ye couldna see anything on the floor where we lay. It was naught but black—but ye could hear.”
Hear the breathing of the forty men in the cell, and the shuffles and shifts of their movement. Snores, coughing, the sounds of restless sleep—and the small furtive sounds from those who lay awake.
“It would be weeks, and we wouldna think of it.” His voice was coming easier now. “We were always starved, cold. Worn to the bone. Ye dinna think much, then; only of how to put one foot in front of another, lift another stone. . . . Ye dinna really want to think, ken? And it’s easy enough not to. For a time.” But every now and then, something would change. The fog of exhaustion would lift, suddenly, without warning.
“Sometimes ye kent what it was—a story someone told, maybe, or a letter that came from someone’s wife or sister. Sometimes it came out of nowhere; no one said a thing, but ye’d wake to it, in the night, like the smell of a woman lying next to ye.”
Memory, longing . . . need. They became men touched by fire—roused from dull acceptance by the sudden searing recollection of loss.
“Everyone would go a bit mad, for a time. There would be fights, all the time. And at night, in the dark . . .”
At night, you would hear the sounds of desperation, stifled sobs or stealthy rustlings. Some men would, in the end, reach out to another—sometimes to be rebuffed with shouts and blows. Sometimes not.
I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me, nor what it had to do with Thomas Christie. Or, perhaps, Lord John Grey. “Did any of them ever . . . touch you?” I asked tentatively.
“No. None of them would ever think to touch me,” he said very softly. “I was their chief. They loved me—but they wouldna think, ever, to touch me.” He took a deep, ragged breath.
“And did you want them to?” I whispered. I could feel my own pulse begin to throb in my fingertips, against his skin.
“I hungered for it,” he said so softly I could barely hear him, close as I was. “More than food. More than sleep—though I wished most desperately for sleep, and not only for the sake of tiredness. For when I slept, sometimes I saw ye.
“But it wasna the longing for a woman—though Christ knows, that was bad enough. It was only—I wanted the touch of a hand. Only that.”
His skin had ached with need, ’til he felt it must grow transparent, and the raw soreness of his heart be seen in his chest. He made a small rueful sound, not quite a laugh.
“Ye ken those pictures of the Sacred Heart—the same as we saw in Paris?”
I knew them—Renaissance paintings, and the vividness of stained glass glowing in the aisles of Notre Dame. The Man of Sorrows, his heart exposed and pierced, radiant with love.
“I remembered that. And I thought to myself that whoever saw that vision of Our Lord was likely a verra lonely man himself, to have understood so well.”
I lifted my hand and laid it on the small hollow in the center of his chest, very lightly. The sheet was thrown back, and his skin was cool.
He closed his eyes, sighing, and clasped my hand, hard.
“The thought of that would come to me sometimes, and I would think I kent what Jesus must feel like there—so wanting, and no one to touch Him.”
By Caitlin Gallagher March 21, 2022 for The Dipp.com
Spoilers ahead for Outlander Season 6, Episode 3, "Temperance."
When Tom Christie agreed for Claire to perform surgery on his hand, readers of the Outlander book series knew they were going to be in for a treat. In an email to The Dipp, author Diana Gabaldon discussed Tom's surgery in Episode 3 and how these moments from "Temperance" highlight a key difference between Jamie and Tom Christie on Outlander.
Ahead of Season 6, Gabaldon had told Outlander Cast's Angela Hickey that Episode 603 was one of her favorite episodes of this season (the others being the 601, 607, and 608). And she had previously mentioned to me how impressed she was by the sequences featuring Mark Lewis Jones as Tom Christie getting his hand worked on by Caitríona Balfe's Claire with an assist from Sam Heughan's Jamie. So I wanted to see what she had to say about these scenes now that they've aired.
The author, who praises "Temperance" for its "very skillful weaving of multiple character arcs" (in particular, she calls out Lauren Lyle and César Domboy's "amazingly powerful" performances in the aftermath of Henri-Christian's birth), notes her favorite storyline was that of Tom's surgery, starting with him showing up at Claire's doorstep in the previous episode, "Allegiance."
In Episode 3, Claire performs the surgery, which Gabaldon says is "by turns funny and harrowing" as it "shows off deft teamwork between Claire and Jamie to accomplish it." After Tom refuses the ether and only takes a sip of whisky, it's up to Jamie to read Bible verses to stop Tom from moving under Claire's knife. Jamie's firm grip on Tom's shoulder may have been of some help, too.
Later that night, when Claire goes to check in on her patient, Tom opens up to her, sharing about his time with Jamie at Ardsmuir. Just like Tom in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, he can't fathom why all those years ago Jamie sacrificed himself for the prisoner who held the forbidden tartan, calling it "an act of extraordinary courage... incomprehensible."
"Tom's late-night conversation with Claire sheds more light on his attitude toward Jamie, a man who can do things that Tom can't even understand, let alone do himself," Gabaldon says. (As Claire thinks to herself in the book, Jamie does what he does "because he's an effing hero, that's why.")
Beyond Tom Christie himself, there's what his presence leads Jamie and Claire to discuss when Claire returns to bed. Although it's obvious that Jamie and Tom are very different people, Gabaldon says it's this "conversation in the depths of the night between Claire and Jamie" that points to one intrinsic difference — how Jamie values "the importance of touch."
While Tom shied away from Claire's healing hands, Jamie talks about how desperately he wanted to feel the touch of a hand in prison.
"This illustrates the crevasse between Jamie and Tom: Tom fears touch as sinful; Jamie craves it, as life," Gabaldon writes. "While Tom is a basically good and moral man, his fears constrain him and warp his relations with the world. Jamie reaches out, always seeking connection — and finds it."
Touch is also part of Jamie and Claire's bond... not just how they touch one another, but how they use it on others. "Contrast Claire's own take on touch," Gabaldon adds. "She touches in order to comfort, to heal — but doesn't hesitate to cause intense pain, when necessary."
"Jamie has a sword and dirk; she has a lancet — but both of them are steel, and they understand that about each other."
And as educated as Tom is and as much as he seemingly admires both Jamie and Claire (however resentfully), that's something that he will never understand.