Those tall ships were exquisite. The change of location has been really fun.
It was great to see Gary Young get to deliver that monologue and the way it was used was a nice departure from the novel.
The slow, plodding pace of the episode was really appropriate here. It really did a lot to contribute to the overall tone of the episode.
Lauren Lyle, keep on that side eye. We'd love more!
What was going on with Claire not understanding that sailors are superstitious? The woman is bright. She has a medical degree. Can we please let her be smart?
That was a LOT of superstitious subplot. THAT was what bored us. Yikes.
Lesley and Hayes are never going to be Angus and Rupert. Let them be their own thing!
That Claire wig. Yikes.
Outlander’s all at sea as the hunt for Young Ian is on
This week’s Outlander takes us to sea as Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) sign on board the crew of the Artemis on the hunt for the Portuguese ship Bruja to rescue Young Ian (John Bell). Accompanying them are new Rupert and Angus, Willoughby (Gary Young) and Fergus (Cesar Domboy). And Fergus has brought Marsali (Lauren Lyle) along too having unofficially married her without anyone’s permission and smuggling her aboard the ship. Bet Laoghaire’s going to love getting that letter.
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Life aboard ship progresses rather uneventfully as everyone settles in (Fergus and Marsali in separate cabins until their runaway marriage is sorted out). Even Willoughby manages to cure Jamie’s chronic seasickness through acupuncture. But sailors are notoriously superstitious. So when the ship is mysteriously becalmed for weeks and water goes bad, everyone starts looking for the “Jonah”: The man to blame and toss overboard to change their luck.
That turns out to be new Rupert (Hayes) who hadn’t touched the lucky horseshoe before the journey began. He gets drunk and is almost convinced to toss himself overboard before being talked down by Jamie. Before the crew tosses him anyway Willoughby notices a change in the air and uses the moment to tell his life story which is shocking enough to distract everyone until the wind picks up and rain replenishes the water supply. And just like that they’re on their way again.
Unfortunately they meet a British man o’ war upon which a hundred sailors are down with unspecified “plague” which has killed two captains, the ship’s doctor and his assistant. Since Claire feels the pressure of that doctor oath she agrees to go over to the other ship and assist them. She diagnoses the issue and offers to stay a while to help and they oblige her by simply kidnapping her and taking her with them.
Let’s really dig into this episode!
Down in the dumps… in the doldrums.
The word “doldrums” means a period of inactivity, stagnation or depression. When the ship Jamie and Claire ride is becalmed in the middle of the ocean they’re quite literally living in the doldrums. The ship goes nowhere for weeks. But “the doldrums” also represent something deeper going on. Last episode Claire and Jamie were going through a crisis a Claire discovered Jamie had married a woman who had tried to have her killed. Despite Jamie’s assurances, Claire wasn’t clear about their relationship moving forward. But this crisis in their marriage was suddenly supplanted by an even larger crisis when Young Ian is kidnapped. Relationship issues: Paused.
“We aren’t on the most stable ground are we, Sassenach? I didn’t want ye to see it as more proof you dinna belong here.” -Jamie
Claire and Jamie have focused their attention on Young Ian and generally stopped speaking about their issues caused by Claire’s return, tiptoeing around each other. Jamie is at first willing to wait to try Willoughby’s seasickness cure, and then hides its success from Claire when he fears she may be offended by the fact Willoughby’s works better than hers. Claire and Jamie have always been passionate but that’s never been their issue. They even speak about the fact that what it is between them doesn’t change. They’ve got to start communicating and work together as their issues outside their marriage become increasingly more complicated.
It isn’t just their own issues in stasis. Jamie manages to put another relationship into stagnation this episode. By denying his blessing to Fergus and Marsali he’s putting them into a holding pattern as well. He speaks to Fergus but Fergus is only one half of the couple. By not talking to Marsali he’s denying taking action on them as well. He sentences their relationship to the same inactivity.
In her first real outing as Marsali, we are definitely loving Lyle
Speaking of Marsali. Outlander’s casting department is spot on nine times out of ten. Last episode we met Lauren Lyle but she didn’t really have the opportunity to spread her wings. Thank god for this episode. Lyle makes a massive impression as Marsali and not just for the striking resemblance she bears to Nell Hudson. Her side eye is impressive. The aggressive and dismissive way she looks at Claire was quite a gleeful moment and pitch perfect for the character. Watching Fergus’ deference to Claire and his consternation about how Marsali initially treats her worked really well and we love it when characters come to life with right off the page.
“You left my mother for this English hoor making her a laughing stock and you say it’s no’ my concern? The hellish nerve you have telling me what I shall do!” -Jamie
Marsali is tough. On the one hand we love Fergus so we’re already rooting to see him happy. On the other hand we detest Laoghaire and Marsali is her daughter. And Marsali makes it abundantly clear she’s been listening to the stories Laoghaire has been telling about Claire. She’s pretty manipulative too, in a crude teenage way. When she thinks Claire can assist in her cause to stay married to Fergus she’s all smiles and charm. The dripping sarcasm that leaves her mouth afterwards was by far one of the best part of the episodes.
Sometimes we come down hard for not meeting the high bar we’ve set, or that they’ve sent for themselves. We’ve been tough on Outlander in particular. As fans we want the actors in these characters to be incredible. And we want the writing for them to make sense and develop them in ways that make sense and seem familiar to us. We want them to be engaging and full of personality. Happily Marsali and Lauren Lyle are all of these things. Watching Fergus and Marsali’s relationship moving forward will be a delight.
We hope you’ve all brought your lucky rabbit’s foot
The bulk of this episode was given over to what we liked to call the “superstition subplot”. And it wasn’t terrible, it was just a little silly. From the moment Claire and Jamie stepped foot on the ship we were reminded, “Sailors are superstitious!” They touched a horseshoe (ends pointed up, of course) before descending into the belly of the ship. They avoided the women who are notoriously bad luck at sea. They made sure they greeted Jamie before he greeted them. Every moment you saw a sailor who wasn’t a main character it seemed he was following some sort of superstition. The writers even dedicated an extended scene to the Captain explaining to Claire that sailors are superstitious and she should just go with it. And that’s where our problem began.
“You’re dead, Jonah.” -Almost every random sailor
Let that sink in. Claire, a woman who was almost burned as a witch two seasons ago by superstitious villagers, had to have someone explaining why people are so superstitious to her. Have the past twenty years where Claire’s been studying medicine leached her of memory? Has her common sense flown out the window? Why does it seem like Claire, who really ought to remember what the 18th century is like, just completely dismisses how superstitious sailors can be? There’s just one group more superstitious and that’s actors. And yet she needs to be told countless times what a volatile situation they’re in. Instead of dwelling so much on educating Claire about the superstitious sailors while she ridiculously dismissed them (again) it might’ve been more interesting had she spent the time trying to subtly combat their superstitions somehow.
Final Verdict: Outlander’s third season remains strong, balancing some intriguing thematic issues while letting the characters speak for themselves
There’s a technique in Renaissance music called “word painting”, where the sound of the music matches the text the singers are singing. This episode struck us as the perfect television equivalent of that phenomenon. The pacing of the episode plods along and really manages to evoke the title in various ways. This is a fake out as we’ve complained about the pacing of Outlander before. But rest assured In this instance we really liked the slow pacing as it just felt really representative of Jamie and Claire’s place in the story here.
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We didn’t get to see Jamie’s reaction to Claire being seized by the British Navy aboard the Porpoise. What will his reaction be? And will the smaller ship even have the slightest chance to catch them? Why didn’t Claire for a moment consider this might happen? And why didn’t the captain bother to ask her (or at least ask her husband) if she would consent to staying since their destinations were the same? We can’t wait to see Jamie’s fireworks reaction next episode.
Outlander loves to take what works and recycle it. Sometimes to the show’s detriment. Duos are always fun and the show has had success with them before with Angus and Rupert. Unfortunately Lesley and Hayes are no Angus and Rupert. The more the show tries to force these two down our throats as a comedic duo the less we’re inclined to like them. It’s certainly no fault of the actors who are game and try hard. The other characters never felt forced and had incredible chemistry. They were lightning in a bottle. Lesley and Hayes just make us want to pass.
Working well this episode are more Willoughby book adaptations. Writer Shannon Goss has given Willoughby the opportunity to be a hero not once but twice in this episode, first to Jamie and then to Hayes. That he does this for Hayes is even more noble since he’s not particularly kind to him. And Gary Young really delivers a nice performance. Yi Tien Cho is often diffident and self-effacing. But when he unloads to a ship full of rapt listeners, boy does he unload. It’s always great watching a character who has kept it all inside unleash a stream of bile. We loved it.
This was a good episode that hit a few sweet spots for us with a few of the minor characters. Lauren Lyle and Gary Young were a delight, as was Charlie Heitt as the beleaguered Captain Leonard. We could’ve done without so much emphasis on the superstitions. We know that Claire has a scientific mind but the woman has almost been killed by superstition before so you’d think she’d be a bit more wary. The pacing had a really lovely balance between the slow heavy plodding of the doldrums and ramping it up at the end to propel us to the next episode.
Will Jamie sacrifice finding his nephew as quickly in order to get his wife back? Are there greater stakes in having Claire back other than just making sure she’s with Jamie again? How will Fergus and Marsali convince Jamie to let them be together? We can’t wait to see next week!
Comments and Questions: Must we, with the sick sound effects?
- The drums in the new title sequence as well as the new imagery had us shouting. What a fantastic way to start the episode. Kudos to Bear McCreary, the ever changing orchestration of that title sequence is one of our favorite things.
- Was Gary Young drawing real characters on the deck? They didn’t really look like writing.
- Chuckles and eyerolls on the “king of all men” line.
- How is it possible they got an actress to play Marsali who looks so much like Nell Hudson and couldn’t find anyone bearing a passing resemblance to Sam Heughan?
- Please spare us from having to look at poor Caitriona in that ponytail wig. It’s not her best look.
- Marsali seems to have been making free with someone’s old Paris gowns. She’s got the most delightful summery wardrobe and Claire is still wearing that gown from weeks ago.
- The look on Fergus’ face when Marsali tells Jamie they were married was hilarious. So self-satisfied. Oh Fergus. So French.
- Why is it Claire is always telling Jamie to be quiet when they’re sleeping together but it’s really her that’s extra loud! Self awareness, Claire. Geez.
- Did there really have to be so many disgusting sound effects in the underbelly of the porpoise? We get it, they’re puking and have violent diarrhea. But god did it have to sound like they were all were doing both things simultaneously? And why wouldn’t Claire examine a dude closer to the exit? Gross.
Outlander returns Sunday, November 19th, 2017 at 8/7C on Starz.
We'll be back for Outlander next week!We’ll be back next week with another full review of Outlander fun, and check out our roundtables where fans like you get to sound off about your opinions about the episode! You can also live tweet with us every Sunday at 8.
Outlander Review 3×09 “The Doldrums”