**This is not a spoiler-free review of this episode. This is also a review from a non-reader and any comments revealing spoilers from the books will be deleted.**
Where Is the Rum, Though?
Episode 309: The Doldrums
Written by Shannon Goss, Directed by David Moore
Confession: My parents were both Lieutenant Colonels in the Air Force, but I am terrified of flying. Last week I boarded a plane for the first time by myself at 25 years of age. My mother had always accompanied me on previous flights, holding my hand as I trembled during the takeoff. Needless to say, I was downright terrified as I boarded for my first solo flight. There I was a grown woman crying like a frightened bairn!
Needless to say, after viewing this episode flying doesn’t seem half bad.
Cousin Jared (Robert Cavanah) helped Jamie (Sam Heughan) book passage on board the Artemis, bound towards Jamaica (Sadly, they didn’t have a ship booking rewards program.) Claire (Caitriona Balfe) continues to contemplate her life choices on the harbor. Jared attempts to soothe Jamie’s nerves about poor Young Ian by reassuring him that healthy males would most definitely be sold for at least thirty pounds in Jamaica.
Jamie wonders if this is God’s punishment for him leaving Laoghaire to be with Claire again.
“No God worth his salt would punish you for wanting to be happy,” Claire says soothingly.
I must say that I’m very happy to see Jamie in a tricorn hat again.
Not one simply content to be handsome but caring as well, Jamie offers to take Claire back to the stones himself if she doesn’t want to say.
I know there’s been some critique of the way Sam Heughan handled the scene where Claire showed him the photos of Brianna, but honestly? I love the way Heughan has evolved as an actor from the first season until now. I simply can’t imagine anyone else playing the role, and you can tell how much he’s matured in their time apart.
Claire and Jamie board the Artemis. Jamie insists that Claire touch a horseshoe that all the other crewmembers are touching for good luck. Their superstitious nature might seem ridiculous to the modern viewer, but wouldn’t you cling to anything that could ward you away from bad luck if you were to be at sea for months at a time?
Claire gets upset that the other crewmembers don’t acknowledge her. Jamie explains that woman and redheads are considered bad luck on ships.
Dang. So what if Brianna needs to take a ship? She’s going to go back in time eventually to see Claire again, right? I feel like this is subtle foreshadowing. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this.
Fergus (Cesar Domboy) has brought another dose of bad luck on board in the form of Jamie’s stepdaughter Marsali (Lauren Lyle). The couple has basically done the 18th-century version of a Las Vegas quickie wedding.
Upset, Pappa Jamie is literally like, “I will literally turn this boat around and drop you off missy so help me.”
Jamie quickly pulls Fergus aside and asks him if they completed step two of the handfasting ceremony.
Can I say Jamie is adorable as a doting father? I would love to see what he thinks of Roger. (There’s no way that’s not going to happen, right?)
Fergus assures milord that he did not consummate the handfasting. Yet.
Marsali is having none of Jamie’s overprotective doting dadness and threatens to tell everyone that Fergus did sleep with her. If Jamie won’t recognize their union, she would essentially be deemed a ruined woman, having “lost” her maidenhead before marriage.
The girl had Jamie’s concerns all planned out. When Jamie asks her if her mother knows, Marsali snaps back that she, “Already sent her a letter.”
I’m sure Momma Laoghaire is just thrilled that her eldest daughter ran off with Jamie’s adopted son.
I love how fiery Marsali is. I can understand why she doesn’t like Claire, but I can’t help but wince every time she calls Claire a whore with enough venom to pierce through a diamond.
Jamie broods angrily in his small cabin while Claire notices that Fergus has brought some of their things from Lallybroch. She’s like, “Dang I wore these clothes way back in season two, and you still kept them?” Claire wonders why Jamie didn’t sell the ornate gowns she wore in France for some extra money.
“They’re memories of you.”
Oh, James Fraser. You lost those romantic brownie points when you decided to have Marsali room with Claire so Fergus wouldn’t be tempted to finish what he started.
Claire is called to treat one of the men on board. True to her honest character, she speaks incredulously of the horseshoe ritual. Captain Raines (Richard Dillane) challenges her incredulity and invites her and Jamie to dine with him that night. Poor Jamie has been violently seasick this entire episode, but Claire accepts the offer.
While Claire is making dinner plans with ship captains, Fergus and Jamie are having a MANLY talk about Fergus’s life choices. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love Cesar Domboy’s portrayal of Fergus. He’s done a great job of getting some of Romann Berrux’s character inflections down all while adding his own maturity to the role. I can see why Marsali fell for him.
Jamie asks Fergus if he told Marsali about all the other women he’s slept with (I was so amused when he ran down the list of names.) Fergus explains that he’s been honest with his beloved about everything, except his past “black book” so to speak. He explains that he knew what he had with Marsali was special because he wanted to wait to sleep with her.
Claire dines with the Captain and tells him straight up that she knows he wanted to call her out for challenging his authority. Warren is no fool and agrees with Claire that superstitious rituals really have no effect, but he will always let his men believe what they want.
“I’d rather have them create their own luck than give up all hope.”
He also mentions how if the crew had their way Claire and Marsali would be bare-breasted. For good luck of course.
Yi Tien Cho (Gary Young) comes across poor seasick Jamie and offers to help alleviate Jamie’s chronic puking. Desperate, Jamie agrees. Claire’s tea just isn’t doing it for him.
Meanwhile, Marsali is trying hard not to puke while getting settled in her cabin with Claire. Again, I can sympathize with Marsali and poor Claire, who was naturally upset with Jamie for putting her in such an awkward situation.
Marsali proudly tells Claire that she still thinks she’s a whore. Claire has the best comeback.
“Well, the whore should have the bigger bed then shouldn’t she?”
The next morning Claire comes across a much friendlier face. Yi Tien Cho is writing with water in Chinese on the ship’s deck. I love the melodic theme that underscores this scene.
Cho explains to Claire that he’s writing down the story of his life.
“A story told is a life lived.”
Claire is like, You know, I bet the story of my life would make a great bestselling series.
Fergus and Marsali ask for Jamie’s blessing of their marriage. Claire pulls him aside and encourages him to give them his blessing. She thinks perhaps it’s a temporary infatuation and it’ll fizzle out.
Add the word “fizzle” to the list of words Jamie dinna ken.
He refuses to bestow his approval, which makes Claire look more like a witch in Marsali’s eyes.
Later in the day, Claire walks into Jamie’s cabin smack dab in the middle of his acupuncture session. He had seemed to be doing remarkably better, but Claire was under the impression it was because of her ginger tea.
Embarrassed, Jamie apologizes for not telling her. (With needles still in his face mind you.) You can tell Claire is trying hard not to burst out laughing. He didn’t want to wound her pride, but all she cares about is that he’s feeling better.
“You look like a pincushion.” She tells him, laughing. It’s a nice indicator of the two growing closer. They aren’t the same people they were in the past, but they’re making new connections in the present.
Their blissful moment of normality is disrupted by a disturbing change in circumstance. The ship has stopped moving.
Naturally, the crew takes this as a terrible omen. In a rather humorous moment amidst the serious situation, Jamie has neglected to realize he’s standing out among the crew because of the needles still in his face.
Instead of laughing, the crew starts looking to remove the cause of the bad luck.
In another beautifully quiet moment, Jamie and Claire cuddle above deck and stare at the moon. Claire tells him how men had successfully gone to space in her time.
She starts reciting the words from “Goodnight Moon” and Jamie keys in immediately that she must miss their Brianna. He pulls her closer as the ship remains as still as the moon in the sky.
Poor Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk) isn’t allowed the luxury of such peace. Below decks, the men start questioning who didn’t touch the horseshoe and start zoning in on poor Hayes. Jamie’s friend and employee allow himself to be intimidated by the crew and claims he can’t remember if he touched it or not.
“You’re not long for this world, Jonah.”
Apparently, crewmen aren’t subtle about their threats.
Naturally, they all signed up to have him thrown overboard. Instead of just being tossed over unceremoniously, Hayes has climbed up the ship’s mast. Drunk, he declares that if he must die, he’ll do it by his own hand.
Valiant Jamie climbs up and attempts to ease Hayes back down. “Remember Ardsmuir? It was us against them.” He jokes that Claire will kill them both if Hayes jumps because Jamie swears he’ll jump with him.
Hayes agrees to go back down with Jamie even though the crew is still determined to have him tossed into the ocean like yesterday’s leftovers. Mutinous, the crew, cries out for “Jonah” to jump. The marvelous Yi Tien Cho saves the day. How?
By going on an epic rant about how much he adores women.
I don’t want to discount the serious parts of Yi Tien Cho’s life. He speaks about how he was born with a talent for composition, which eventually got him noticed by the second wife of the Chinese emperor.
He tells the crew how there’s one condition of all the servants of the emperor’s wives. They must become eunuchs.
“What’s a eunuch?” Marsali asks. This entire scene is a beautiful mixture of a sad backstory with the right dose of humor.
Yi Tien Cho confesses to the entire ship and the ocean itself that he fell in love.
“With the emperor’s wife?” Claire asks. “No! All women!” Yi Tien Cho replies.
He waxes poetic about how he admires the female form (I confess to blushing at what he compared a ripe peach too!) Cho fled on the night of the lanterns, not wanting to face death for his secret passion.
“I came to a place where my golden poems were taken as the clucking of hens and my brushstrokes for their scratchings.”
Yi Tien Cho escaped to a land where “Even the lowest of whores would not lie with him.”
“I’m not surrendering my manhood. I have lost everything else. Honor, livelihood, country. Sometimes I think not worth it.”
He releases his poetry to the ocean, and the winds of change propel the ship forward once more.
What the men don’t realize is that Yi Tien Cho was buying time. He had noticed that the seagulls were flying low and knew that meant it was about to rain.
Dammit. Now I want a Yi Tien Cho spinoff too. That’s what, four now?
The ship’s woes are washed away with the rains of change and motion.
Claire and Jamie use the distraction as a chance to have HOT BOAT SEX. Literally. Claire asks Jamie to take her quickly because it’s so hot.
Claire tells Jamie that he’d be the “King of all men” if he complimented her on her gray hair in the 20th century. Girl, I have a strong feeling that that same nickname would apply to Jamie in the 21st century as well.
Of course, just when they’re finally able to relax and be happy for once, the ship is intercepted by a British Man o’ War. Jamie explains to Claire that by law they can press any British subject into service. He makes Claire promise that she’ll continue to Jamaica if he’s pressed into serving.
It turns out it was Claire they had to worry about. A young Captain Thomas Leonard (Charlie Hiett) explains to them that most of his ship has been infected with the plague. Claire volunteers to examine the crew, explaining to Jamie that the crew has been plagued with typhoid fever.
Many of the men are already deep down in the throes of the illness, while countless others have perished. Claire explains to Captain Leonard how the outbreak of typhoid fever can be contained. She volunteers to stay for a short while to help the healthy crew members prepare to care for the sick.
Of course, the desperate Captain Leonard kidnaps her. With no chance of escape, Claire looks helplessly as the ship sails away from the Artemis and Jamie.
Suddenly planes don’t seem so bad. And vaccinations.
I am enjoying the tonal shift in the series so far. What makes Outlander so excellent is that it thrives on change. From Scotland to France to the ocean to the New World, the story keeps moving forward with Jamie and Claire at its emotional center. I like that the focus is shifting more towards Claire’s journey again. While I’m dead curious about how the HELL they’re going to find each other in Jamaica, I’m excited to see how Claire deals with this conundrum on her own.
NEXT WEEK, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH AT 8 PM ET: EPISODE 310: “HEAVEN & EARTH”
“Claire races to discover the source of an epidemic aboard a disease-stricken ship before hundreds of sailors die. And as Jamie locks horns with Captain Raines, Fergus finds himself torn between loyalty and love.”
Clips and Photos courtesy of Starz.