MY Outlander Review – The Doldrums

Drama on the high seas, love on a more even keel, a set of new star-crossed lovers and a new comedy duo.
Contains SPOLIERS.

The purpose of this week’s episode seems to be to set the story up for the rest of the series and our intrepid heroes’ move across the Atlantic: the change in direction flagged up by a set of new opening credits.

Hence, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) lose no time in tracking down the ship whose crew kidnapped their nephew Young Ian (John Bell) or in finding out where it’s headed. Who needs Google when you have handy relatives like Cousin Jared (Robert Cavanah) to help you out? Although, rather worryingly, the ship in question is called Bruja which means witch in English. That surely can’t be a good sign, can it?

In other news, Lesley (Keith Fleming) and Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk) come along for the ride and are evidently being rolled out as the new comedy double act aka Angus and Rupert. Also in tow are Mr Willoughby (Gary Young) and a new set of star-crossed lovers, Fergus (César Domboy) and his new wife who turns out to be none other than Laoghaire’s daughter, Marsali (Lauren Lyle).

Jamie isn’t too happy at the news. This is partly due to the instincts of an 18th century father, particularly one who has a pretty good idea of the busy, sexual history of the would-be suitor. Presumably, Jamie is also minded that as Fergus is his adopted son in everything but name it means that Fergus and Marsali are, in theory, related. Thirdly, there’s the thorny issue of Laoghaire being intertwined once more in their lives; and lastly, though the TV series has masked this somewhat by casting an older looking actor in the role of Marsali and a younger-looking Fergus, there is the massive age difference between the two lovers. Fergus must be in his thirties by now, Marsali a teenager. No wonder Jamie decides to protect Marsali’s virtue by making Fergus share a cabin with him and Marsali share one with Claire. No one – including Jamie for that matter – seems particularly happy about the arrangement.

Of course the funny thing about Jamie is that he may be a great leader of men but not when it comes to the women in his life, a situation exacerbated by the fact that he is destined to be surrounded by feisty women such as his sister Jenny, his wife Claire and now it seems his step-daughter Marsali. When he tries to lay down the law to her, Marsali gives as good as she gets. In a time when women were regarded merely as property and their supposed virtue or lack of it would severely impact on their life, Marsali’s threat to blacken her own reputation is no idle one, and shows just how determined she is to keep her man.

Jamie doesn’t stop there though and tries to persuade Fergus to abandon the match. Jamie informs Fergus that their relationship is meaningless if he can’t be honest with her and tell her about his previous dalliances. To be honest, this is a bit rich coming from the man who failed to mention to Claire that he was married to Laoghaire. But like most of us, it would seem Jamie is much better at giving advice than following it.

Jamie is still feeling insecure about Claire, offering to take her back to the stones if that’s what she really wants, even though he desperately wants her to stay. (Sigh! That’s our Jamie for you). Claire sidesteps the question, merely replying they should concentrate on getting Ian back. No wonder the poor guy has his doubts.

However, their relationship seems to be on a more even keel, with the tribulations of last week swept under the carpet and not really referred to, even by Claire.

Moreover, as any of us older viewers know (that’s probably most of us then), the sign of true closeness is meeting someone after years apart and getting into sync with them as if you’d last seen them the day before. And in this episode it’s clear this is what’s happened between Claire and Jamie. The awkwardness of being around each other seems to have evaporated, and they are back to being a married couple who know each other well and are easy in each other’s company.

Yes, it’s obvious in the beautifully-shot, romantic moonlit scene and in the sex scene but also in the more mundane scene where Claire is ministering ginger tea to the incapacitated Jamie or in Claire’s wry amusement when she discovers the real reason why Jamie has managed to finally overcome his seasickness.

Although the fact that he kept it secret from her hints at the underlying insecurity Jamie still has that she will leave him again. Finally, Claire seems to cotton onto how frightened Jamie is and gives him the reassurance he’s been looking for, pointing out “But it’s never been a question of whether I love you” when it comes to any misgivings she may have about her return.

We also get to witness another sign of Jamie’s devotedness in that he’s kept all Claire’s clothes which for some reason have been sent aboard from Lallybroch. (Presumably they’ll be needed later on). Claire can’t believe Jamie never sold them. But given that this is a man who in the midst of war knew her menstrual cycle better than most women know their own, I’m not convinced she should be that taken aback. It seems Jamie couldn’t bring himself to sell them though he could hand them down to the daughter of Claire’s arch-enemy. There’s male logic for you.

At one point Claire asks Jamie: “Am I invisible?” As a woman in her late forties the truthful answer is: yes, you are, love, be amazed that your husband still notices you. However, it turns out that on board a ship there is another reason for her apparent transparency. As it happens, women – unless they are bare-breasted (safe to assume it’s a man who came up with that handy caveat) – along with red-headed men are considered bad luck on board a ship. One can only imagine the reaction of the crew to Jamie and Claire’s arrival.

And the suspicious nature of 18th century seamanship is continually underlined throughout the episode which can only mean one thing: something bad is going to happen. And sure enough just as Claire and Jamie’s love life hits a calm patch, so does the sea. Stuck at sea with no wind and dwindling rations, the sailors look for a possible Jonah to throw over board. Unfortunately for Hayes, they decide he’s the chosen one. Hayes decides to commit suicide in style by swigging whisky from atop the mast but is brought back to safety by Jamie in full Errol Flynn mode, much to the annoyance of the rest of the crew. And just as Jamie seems about to take them all on in defence of Hayes, Mr Willoughby steps into the fray and calms everyone down by relating his life story.

Considering Mr Willoughby has to contend with a group of desperate sailors bent on murder, it’s pretty impressive how he manages to control the crowd so quickly and so deftly with his storytelling technique. Who knew sailors were such gluttons for stories? But as it happens, Willoughby is playing for time, and just as you wonder if he’s going to throw himself off the ship to appease the sailors’ bloodlust, he throws instead his writings into the air and as they flutter in the wind, the crew realise they are saved.

This fresh wind also puts the wind in Claire and Jamie’s sex drive and they have a quick and passionate tumble together. But what’s always endearing about their sex scenes, no matter the passion, you never doubt the underlying love they feel for each other. And here the post-coital chat is really touching, particularly when Jamie tells Claire, “This, what it is between us, never changes”. Mind you when Claire points out that if Jamie said the gallant things he says to women in the 20th century he’d be the king of all men, you can’t help feeling that in the 21st century women would assume he was just being sarky.

This scene and the moonlit scene were lovely moments in the episode though I did wonder what Jamie was thinking when he asked Claire if she missed Brianna. What a question? What did he expect her to say? Who?? Mind you, at least Brianna rates a mention. Claire has still to ask what happened to poor Murtagh.

Then just as luck would have it their ship is stopped by a British man-o-war which for some reason seems to be run by a group of public schoolboys. I love the salute they give. I presume this is historically accurate but it looks hilarious. On first sighting the ship, Jamie is worried he might be pressganged into sailing on it. It turns out he needn’t have worried. The navy ship has been hit by an outbreak of plague and it’s Claire they need, so much so, not only do they not question the fact that the ship’s surgeon is a woman but they go as far as kidnapping her so she can tend to the men while they continue their journey to Jamaica.

I’m not sure if that is standard navy practice but it’s a pretty safe bet that Jamie won’t be happy about it. I can’t believe Claire and Jamie have been separated once more and so soon. It’s a joy to see Caitriona and Sam act together and my only hope is that they are quickly reunited but presumably not before there are more adventures on the High Seas. With any luck, we’ll get to see Jamie in Errol Flynn mode once more, Claire making light work of the plague, and a romantic reunion of our two heroes. As for The Doldrums, that will be a pretty apt description of my mood once this current season of Outlander is at an end.

Special thanks to @SarSketches for her illustration accompanying this post.

For further Outlander articles and posts, check out the following links or you can always listen to mine & Jen Brister’s podcasts on the subject!

Outlander’s Jamie Fraser: a new kind of romantic hero?

Outlanderish sex: Why going back in time makes for better nookie

Outlander Season Two – A Romance for Grown Ups

 

How to survive Droughtlander – Outlander vs Dragonfly in Amber

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