Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 309: “The Doldrums”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Claire and Jamie leave Scotland, sailing to the West Indies on an urgent quest. When the superstitious crew looks for someone to blame after a string of bad luck, rescue comes from an unlikely source.
Although we’re technically past the half-way mark of the season already, episode 9 is a real new beginning for the show and the season. And hey, we’ve got a new theme song to go with!
Major plot points:
- Cousin Jared helps trace the ship that took Young Ian — a Portugese ship called the Bruja, sailing for Jamaica.
- Jamie and Claire book passage on the Artemis. Jamie declares that he will not set foot in Scotland again without Young Ian.
- Fergus and Mr. Willoughby join them on the ship. Also, a stowaway — Fergus has brought Marsali with him.
- Fergus and Marsali claim to be married, having been handfast that morning. Jamie begs to differ.
- Ultimately, he allows Marsali to continue the voyage, but declares that she will bunk with Claire and Fergus will bunk with Jamie, in order to preserve Marsali’s virtue until she and Fergus can be properly wed.
- The ship’s crew are very superstitious, and when the ship becomes becalmed, they start looking for someone to blame — a “Jonah” to throw overboard.
- The wind finally returns, and the Artemis gets back underway, only to be stopped by a British man-of-war looking to “borrow” the ship’s surgeon.
- Claire goes to the other ship to advise on treatment for the typhoid fever ravaging the crew — and then the ship takes off with her aboard.
- Once again, Claire and Jamie are separated against their will.
If I could just see Claire and Jamie looking this happy and in love every day, I’d be good.
One of the biggest changes revealed in tonight’s episode is the amazing new version of the opening theme song, tweaked now to incorporate an island/Carribbean feel:
I just love it. It really captures the feel of the remainder of the season, with the emphasis on the sea voyage, the island culture, a hint of the mysterious and the danger awaiting — and with a nice connection from the torches in the new scenes to the lanterns of the dancers at Craigh na Dun, going full circle back to the beginning.
This episode felt like a breath of fresh air after the tension and strain of the last two. Claire and Jamie’s problems won’t evaporate immediately, and yet being alone together on a ship for months on end will hopefully give them the space to reconnect and regain their comfort with one another.
The filming for this episode was pretty glorious, taking full advantage of the beauty of being at sea to open up the horizons and give the characters more breathing space. The sunshine and open skies seems to portend an improvement in Jamie and Claire’s relationship — and even though they’re worried sick over Ian, there’s nothing they can do at this point but go on the voyage. I enjoyed seeing them living in the moment for the time being and taking time to be together.
Poor Jamie! He is not cut out for the life of a sailor. Mr. Willoughby to the rescue! Take note — if you ever find yourself in the middle of the ocean retching your guts out, make sure you have a skilled acupuncture practitioner along!
Jamie in paternal mode is a fairly funny Jamie. He’s very upset about Fergus and Marsali, who claim to have been courting for six months and to now be handfast (basically, declaring themselves wed in front of witnesses). In the books, Fergus is about 30 at this point and Marsali is 15, but it would appear that the show is fudging the age difference quite a bit to make the relationship more palatable. Jamie is so determined to keep Fergus from sleeping with Marsali that he declares that Marsali will share Claire’s cabin for the journey — only realizing a moment too late that this means that he and Claire won’t be sleeping together. Silly Jamie. (Fortunately, he and Claire do manage to steal some private time, and they seem very… um… satisfied by their time together).
The whole doldrums section — no wind, not enough water, the ship becalmed, the men becoming more and more superstitious — was a bit boring to me, to be honest, but luckily it went by pretty quickly. I do love when Claire gets righteous about the stupidity of superstitions (like touching the horseshoe or — gasp — having women on board).
No sooner do they get back underway that further bad news comes along in the form of the Porpoise, a British man-of-war with a decimated crew. Typhoid fever is spreading unchecked throughout the ship, with all senior officers already dead and a very young, inexperienced lieutenant now the acting captain. Claire has been immunized and knows she can’t catch the disease, and agrees to go see what advice she can offer. She explains to Jamie about her Hippocratic Oath, which is something Jamie can understand. Taking an oath in the 18th century is a binding, practically holy thing. This will matter throughout the course of the books, as Jamie treats Claire’s oath as something sacred, and this allows him to support her in pursuing whatever she needs to do to fulfill it, even if her actions are bewildering or defy society’s accepted roles for women.
In any case, apparently Claire’s advice to the Porpoise is a little too good, because they realize they need her and cast off, leaving the Artemis behind. Claire and Jamie are separated once again.
Poor Jamie — first sea-sickness, then getting stuck full of needles, and then his wife gets kidnapped at sea! Life with the Sassenach just isn’t easy.
Wow! I really, really loved this episode.
I suppose you could divide this season into thirds: First, there’s Claire and Jamie’s lives apart. Second, there’s the reunion and their time together in Scotland. And this episode marks the start of the final third, the voyage of Voyager‘s title, in which Jamie and Claire set sail for the new world, of course having no idea that they’ll not return for a very, very long time.
Once thing I really loved in this episode was Claire’s changing look. She’s been looking very starched and stiff since she returned to Jamie, buttoned up and in lots of formidable looking clothes with a scraped-back bun. As the journey progresses, she starts to shed her layers. The hair comes down, held back in a simple tie. The outer layers of coat and vest get discarded, and her skirt gets bunched up (sorry, I have no idea what the term is — not a fashion person, I!) so that it becomes more utilitarian, out of the way of her feet and enabling her to move about the ship with ease. I love too that her gray hair is back. In preparing for her return to Jamie, 20th century Claire dyed her hair. Now it’s back to being natural — and I actually feel that the grey streaks in her looser hair style and more relaxed clothing adds to an overall younger look for her.
Granted, the show has acknowledged that it’s not heavily aging the actors. Still, I love the idea that Claire is looking more youthful here simply because she’s finally starting to relax into her new life with Jamie. We can see them gaining a feel for their marriage again, exchanging small looks and gestures and intimacies. If not for the fact that their nephew’s life is in danger and they themselves are in the midst of a perilous sea voyage, this could almost be a 2nd honeymoon!
I’m really liking the actress playing Marsali. She’s got spunk and speaks her mind, and I like that she looks a bit like young Laoghaire too. Jamie insists that Fergus can’t possibly really know Marsali well enough to marry her since he presumably hasn’t told her about all the girls he’s slept with before — so he goes ahead and does that, and Marsali doesn’t seem to care. She’s headstrong and stubborn and knows what she wants. I had to laugh when she told Jamie that if he sent her home, she’d tell everyone that she’d slept with Fergus even though she hadn’t — so Jamie’s choice is to see her wed or see her ruined.
Wrapping it all up…
Heading into the final stretch of the season, I have a few trepidations. To be honest, I always found this section of the book kind of over-stuffed — but I’m hopeful that the limited amount of screen time will mean that the show whittles the often convoluted plot elements down to their essentials and leaves out some of the fluff.
The visuals in these sea-based scenes are stunning, and I can’t wait to see the action shift to Jamaica. Kudos to the production for taking advantage of the sets in South Africa. It must have been a delight to film there, and based on this first episode, it’s yielding beautiful results.
I’m sad that there are only four episodes left this season! How did that happen so quickly? The work of the cast and crew has been phenomenal in season 3, and the production overall seems to get better and better.
Sigh… I’m off to enjoy the scenes of Claire and Jamie’s Atlantic cruise once again.