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This week’s episode of Outlander, “The Doldrums,” took us to the high seas, where life on the ocean is definitely not a Carnival Cruise trip. In fact episode 309 should be accompanied by an FDA warning:
Side effects of “The Doldrums” include the following: actual sea sick induced nausea and vomiting; humming either Bob Marley, Bobby McFerrin, or UB40; and making Pirates of the Caribbean puns. See your doctor if problems persist four hours after viewing.
The Frasers said goodbye yet again to Scotland and hello to the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to find Young Ian, but it’s anything but smooth sailing (Sea pun #1 if you’re keeping track). There’s violent illness, an unexpected ship mate, a possible mutiny, a quickie in a storage room, and a kidnapping. On second thought, maybe this is a Carnival Cruise trip.
If there was any question if the show was going to Jamaica, the opening credits answered that loud and clear with a Calypso beat. Who knew that bagpipes went well with a steel drum? No one, because bagpipes are the worst and they stay in your head forever.
Just like last year where the opening credits and theme became a French lesson, these opening credits interspersed images of island life that either inspires you to visit the Caribbean for your next vacation or find the boy they call Piggy who possesses the conch.
Disclaimer: I know that taking a 1000+ page novel and condensing it into 13 episodes, an hour each, is a arduous task and certain moments will be victims to editing. But one of my problems is when those edits sacrifice timing and character interaction.
Take the opening scene where Claire and Jamie are on the docks with Jared Fraser, who apparently also never ages.
We, as the audience, have no idea where these characters are. Are they in France, since that’s where Jared lives? Did he move back to Scotland? Was this the day after Young Ian was kidnapped? It’s awkward time and setting jumps like these that at times make for questionable story telling.
We also first hear about a common thread that will connect moments in this episode: bad luck and superstitions. Jamie opens up to Claire about his guilt over Young Ian’s capture, that it’s “ill luck” trying to pay off Laoghaire for being with Claire, and he’s being punished by God for wanting her too much. He feels that their relationship is still on unstable foundation, and Jamie once again worries if Claire will be truly happy with him.
Quite frankly, hearing Jamie still worry about Claire wanting to be with him is starting to become tiresome. But I understand why he’s still concerned because Claire is still holding back from him. This is where I feel that the source material was sacrificed: Rather than Claire connecting with her husband and reminding him that she made the choice to leave Brianna to be with him, she fails to answer his concerns about their relationship and once again, we’re left without a strong Jamie and Claire moment.
We Noticed That Too: Just like in the book, Jamie sends a letter to Jenny and Ian about Young Ian’s kidnapping, which – let’s face it – is a pretty shitty way of letting them know what happened. Someone didn’t learn from Jenny’s verbal smackdown last week. Also, Jamie, you’re kinda the worst when it comes to Young Ian. You’re still hot, so that makes up for it.
This episode is quick to point out that sailors are superstitious. If they’re not touching a horse shoe for luck on the high sea, they’re ignoring Claire because everyone knows that having a woman on a ship is ill-fortune because a woman’s menstrual cycle throws the sea currents out of whack. Science.
But here there’s not just one woman to curse the boat – there’s two when Fergus shows up with Marsali. They’re holding hands – or in his case – hand, in love, and want to be forever together. Just your typical 30 year old man and 15 year old girl love story. Pretty sure there’s a Hallmark Christmas movie about that. *Shudders*
Marsali is your typical teenager – she’s stubborn, selfish, and rolls her eyes like it’s her job. She wants what she wants, and will get into your face when she doesn’t get it. Her nose to nose confrontation allows us to see another side to Da Jamie: he’s just as stubborn, protective, and frustrated by his pseudo daughter. The writers hit the nail on the head with this moment: Marsali is annoying and manipulative, and Jamie is your typical dad dealing with a teenager.
However, where they miss the mark is Fergus. While Marsali is getting in Jamie’s face and calling Claire a whore, what’s her husband doing? Just timidly standing behind her, watching it unfold. This is a man who loves and respects both Jamie and the newly returned Claire. He even lost a damn hand for Jamie. Fergus’s timidity makes an otherwise passionate and protective character nothing more than milquetoast, and Jamie’s reluctant acquiescence to letting Marsali stay on the ship isn’t because he feels that Fergus is an equal match for Marsali – it’s because she connives and manipulates the situation.
At the end of the scene, we’re left wondering two things: what the hell does Fergus see in this girl, and where is the ballsy Fergus?
Asking a woman to dine alone with you and telling her that she should be topless at all times so the men could feel better about having a female onboard? Okay moment that made me squirm in light of recent events.
All creeper feelings aside, this scene serves as a reminder that 20th century knowledge of science and how the earth literally works is sometimes no match for 18th century idiocy and superstition. These sailors live by a rigid and nonsensical code, and Claire struggles to understand this code. When they’re first on the ship, Jamie reminds her to touch the horseshoe for luck, to which Claire laughs off as being silly. Jamie’s an educated man but even he acknowledges these nautical mores. Claire, on the other hand, casually dismisses these beliefs. She is a person of logic, science, and medicine; however, she is in a world of thistles under the bed for death, changelings and fairies, witch trials, and now touching iron for luck at sea, and Claire still struggles to understand the complexity of blind belief.
We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it: Willoughby is one of the best changes in this show.
Whether he’s tending to a retching Jamie or telling Claire that “a story told is a life lived,” show Willoughby is a hybrid of science and philosophy. The show continues to develop him as an intelligent and well-rounded human being rather than a cringeworthy stereotypical caricature that we all feared when they casted Gary Young.
We Noticed That Too: For a group of men who are highly superstitious about strangers, not one sailor flipped his shit when Willoughby was writing Chinese script in water on the deck?
When I first saw this scene, to be honest I was annoyed: Jamie hiding from Claire that he was getting acupuncture because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Claire left him as a nurse and returned to him as a doctor; clearly she would understand acupuncture.
However, as I watched the episode again, I understood why Jamie would keep this from her. Their relationship is on tenterhooks, and he is willing to do anything to restore his relationship with her, even if it’s something as trivial as making her believe that ginger tea is curing his seasickness. It also pushes Claire to remind Jamie that no matter how frustrated or confused she’s been since she’s returned, her love for him trumps over those feelings. FINALLY.
We Noticed That Too: Claire’s random voiceovers are back to remind us what she’s doing while she’s doing it. Thanks, Captain Obvious.
We Also Noticed That Too: Willoughby’s explanation of giving Jamie acupuncture is like a man explaining to his wife about his life on the down-low: “He didn’t want to but I insisted.”
Remember how earlier I lamented over the loss of Jamie and Claire moments? This one redeem some of those feelings to a point.
The quietness of the moment with just the two of them, watching the moon and Claire telling Jamie about the moon landing reminded me of the first season with Claire educating Jamie on air travel. But it was when Claire started to recite Goodnight, Moon and reminisce about a young Brianna that brought tears to my eyes.
It was a pure Jamie and Claire moment, and it was beautiful. By having show Claire visibly choke up while telling her husband about how their daughter loved a stuffed bunny and a children’s book, we’re reminded that Claire, too, feels guilt over leaving Brianna. My only wish was that there could have been a little more, especially with Jamie wondering about his daughter and her well-being. Couldn’t we have sacrificed Claire’s surgical montage and voiceover for a montage of the two of them talking about Brianna’s first steps or winning some school prize?
It is clear, however, that this moment belonged to Claire and her grief and not to Jamie discovering more about his daughter. Also, can we just give a slow clap to Caitriona Balfe, who with just a simple facial expression, conveys Claire’s pain over missing her daughter?
It’s day umpteenth without wind. The water supply is dwindling. Grown men begin tattling on each other for not touching the iron horseshoe. This is definitely what they don’t show you on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Although Claire considers superstitions to be illogical, it is what drives the men to remedy their situation: throw their own “Jonah” off the boat to appease the sea. In this case, Hayes and Jamie, who by rescuing Hayes is almost thrown overboard as well.
So who is the savior in this scene?
Willoughby and his story about his life and how awful western women are that not even “hoors” will sleep with him, which is something that most of the crew probably heard themselves.
To be honest, when he started talking about how women’s breasts are sweet like apricots and the smell their navels in the winter (Does it smell like pumpkin spice?), I had to keep myself from simultaneously rolling my eyes and gagging. However I did appreciate how he sacrificed his “life,” telling his story and throwing it out to the sea to distract the crew from killing two innocent people. The result? Wind and a sudden down pour, which is odd since there wasn’t even one cloud in the sky.
Way to go Willoughby, you meteorological wizard.
Clearly, now that Jamie and Claire are well hydrated, they celebrate by having a quickie in the storage closet. Who knows? Their thrusting probably helped move the ship farther along.
We Noticed That Too: When Jamie comments about how he loves Claire’s graying hair, she tells him that he would be considered in the 20th century, “The King of All Men.” Nice Easter Egg, writers.
The British are back, and with them comes vomiting (again) and my favorite phrase of the episode, “blazing shits.”
“Typhoid fever is such a graceful way to die,” said no one ever. Whoever was the sound engineer for this episode either needs to win an award for accurate puking and diarrhea noises or be punched in the throat for it being way too realistic.
Dr. Claire is doing what she knows best and is in her element, which unfortunately leads to the British fleet kidnapping her out of desperation for adequate healthcare. I would blame them, but c’mon, we all know that feeling.
But no worries: that ship is also going to Jamaica. What could possibly go wrong?
What did you think of this week’s episode? Better yet, what do you think your navel in the winter smells like? Don’t forget to join us for Monday’s live Hangoutlander at 7 pmPST/10pmEST!
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