Claire Makes a Splash, Jamie Takes a Backseat, Tears are Shed and Fergus Proves He Really is His (Adopted) Father’s Son.
In this week’s episode Jamie (Sam Heughan) takes a backseat, the seat in question being below deck, imprisoned in yet another cell, unable to rescue his wife. And to put it mildly, Jamie’s not happy.
It would seem age has not made Jamie any less hot-headed, at least where Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is concerned. His first reaction on realising the Porpoise has set sail with his wife still on board is to try and take command of the ship and then explode in anger at Captain Raines (Richard Dillane) when he realises he’s complicit in Claire’s kidnap. That was never going to end well. Outgunned and out-knifed, even Jamie is forced to surrender.
Meanwhile Claire is in full matron mode, ensuring everything is shipshape to prevent the spread of the disease. Balfe has the authoritative tone of a matron who will brook no objections down to a tee, and it’s always fun to watch her order the men about who seem unable to act in any other way than obey. It’s particularly enjoyable whenever Claire speaks to Jamie like that. (The bedroom scene in the Lallybroch episode in Season 1 when she tells him to stop acting like an idiot is a prime example).
Fortunately for Claire, this time round she is ably supported by a very capable midshipman, Elias Pound (wonderfully portrayed by Albie Marber) despite being a mere 14 years old. Motherless, Elias has been at sea since he was seven and the relationship he strikes up with Claire is incredibly touching, a motherless child and a mother who has left her own child 200 years in the future, finding some solace in each other in the midst of what seems an implacable fight against the disease ravishing the ship.
However, it doesn’t take long for our heroine to hunt down the source of the disease and also stumble across the fact that Jamie’s past has caught up with him. Thanks to the eyewitness testimony of another seaman on board, Harry Tompkins (Ian Reddington), Jamie has been exposed as none other than a certain Alexander Malcolm, a wanted seditioner.
Meanwhile back on the Artemis, in between throwing up from seasickness, Jamie is seething at the thought of Claire being on board a ship with 300 men, and terrified that his worst fear is about to come true: losing Claire once more.
And in his fear, impotence and desperation, Jamie is willing to move heaven and earth to save Claire but he’s clearly not thinking straight. He demands Fergus steal the captain’s keys so he can take over the ship; yet each time Fergus points out another gaping hole in his plan, Jamie bats the objections aside, making grand assumptions and oblivious to any other obligations he may have.
Finally, when Fergus asks Jamie what his plan is should they eventually catch up with the Porpoise, Jamie can’t hide his anger when he admits he has no idea. Fergus, though utterly loyal to Jamie, sees the bigger picture and refuses to do as he’s bid.
In his anger and frustration, Jamie lashes out at Fergus, accusing him of not knowing what love is and that if he did he’d move heaven and earth to rescue the one he loved. Now we know Jamie would do anything for Claire. He’s proved it enough times, risking, as he says, even hell, presumably a reference to surrendering himself up to Black Jack Randall at Wentworth Prison in Season 1.
But here Jamie’s plan is sheer folly; its chance of success minimal and the most likely result being it would only endanger the safety of his adopted son and step-daughter. After all, Jamie can hardly cope with his seasickness without Willoughby (Gary Young) let alone take command of a ship; none of his men are sailors; and it’s highly unlikely the rest of the crew would follow him. The most likely scenario, as Fergus suspects, is the attempted escape would fail and merely lead to Jamie and Fergus being tossed overboard, and Marsali (Lauren Lyle) suffering the same fate though presumably being gang-raped first.
But when it comes to Claire, Jamie seems willing to do anything, even trying to bribe Fergus into helping him with the promise of giving his blessing to his marriage with Marsali even though he doesn’t approve of their union. It seems Jamie wasn’t kidding when he told Claire he would risk anything – including his own family – to be with her. And although the idea of someone willing to move heaven and earth to be with someone sounds incredibly romantic, we see in Jamie’s recklessness, desperation and manipulation that such a mind-set can also be pernicious.
Fergus is clearly hurt by Jamie’s reaction but Fergus also proves that although he may be adopted, he really is Jamie’s son. First and foremost, he’s a man of honour, refusing to sleep with Marsali despite her not so subtle advances and his own desires simply because he’s given his word to Jamie not to do so. Secondly, he refuses to be bribed by Jamie, preferring to lose the woman he loves and the good opinion of the man he loves than risk Jamie’s life or hers. And in such a noble gesture he epitomises the kind of actions we would expect from a son of Jamie.
In the end, Jamie and Marsali arrange for Jamie’s freedom in a far more sensible way and thanks to a rather heavy hint by Marsali, Jamie finally realises that Fergus had his best intentions in mind all along. The first indication of Jamie realising he was in the wrong is when he gives his blessing to their union – this time for the right reasons – and then refers to Fergus as mon fils.
But it’s not only Jamie whom love seems to make desperate. When face to face with Tompkins, her husband’s betrayer, there’s a moment or two when you think Claire may be contemplating killing him with a surgeon’s saw. That should prove a difficult one to explain, let alone the small technicality of her presumably contravening one of the main principles of the Hippocratic Oath.
Having had molten lead splashed in his face and been pressganged onto a disease-ridden ship, Tompkins seems to regard possible death by a saw as an indication that his life is on the up. However, he also informs Claire that Jamie is wanted not only for treason but murder; the body of the excise man she herself killed having finally been discovered. Even worse, Claire discovers there is already a warrant out for Jamie’s arrest and that Captain Leonard (Charlie Hiett) is planning on informing the authorities once they arrive in Jamaica. Claire realises she is now the bait to bring her husband to Kingston where he’ll no doubt be arrested and hanged.
Exhausted by fighting the disease, and distracted by thoughts of Jamie’s impending doom and her own inability to warn him, Claire fails to notice that not all is well with Elias who, just as the disease seems beaten, succumbs to typhoid and dies. His death scene is rightly moving as he calls out for his mother with Claire pretending that it is she. And yes, I shed a tear or two. In this scene, Elias, who in life had to act much older than his years, is revealed as the young boy he really was and the scene is all the more touching for it. Outlander is particularly good at finding great actors to inhabit the smaller roles and Albie Marber is another outstanding example.
Then as luck would have it, Claire having befriended the only other woman on board, gets unexpected help in her escape plans from Anneke Johansen (Chantelle de Jager), who despite her minimal English makes it clear she’s more than happy to assist Claire in her escape. Claire’s first attempt proves a dismal failure and she’s soon taken back on board the Porpoise under guard. But not before Captain Leonard tells her he knows she knows about Jamie being informed upon and that he has no choice but to have him arrested in Kingston. All in all, it seems rather ungrateful of him considering all she’s done for him and his crew.
Back on board, Anneke comes up with yet another plan, which after some trepidation Claire agrees to, thereby proving that when it comes to reckless disregard for one’s own safety to save the love of your life Claire can give Jamie a run for his money.
As a born Londoner who would flinch at the idea of dating someone if I had to change the tube more than once to get to theirs, I have to say the idea of jumping off a ship into the ocean in the middle of the night is impressive if in my opinion rather foolhardy. Despite what Anneke says, land didn’t look that close, the raft looked rather suspect and I’m not sure I’d listen to the sea-faring experience on tides of a woman whose main job experience is tending to goats. In the end none of this seems to concern our intrepid heroine of course, and the episode ends with Claire jumping into the sea.
As usual, Outlander flouted my expectations. I expected Jamie to be in Errol Flynn mode, busy rescuing Claire. Instead, Jamie was hardly seen in this episode and Claire rescued herself. (I’m guessing she does or it will be a rather odd end to the series).
As a big Jamie fan, I always miss him when his story is side-lined but it was good to see Claire kick arse on the Porpoise while also getting to see her more sensitive side in the scenes with Elias. Particularly as in the first few episodes of this season the writers seemed to be going out of their way to make her really unlikeable and a bit of a cold fish.
Now it seems it is Jamie’s turn to get that treatment. I appreciate that in this episode he’s desperate, fearful and feels powerless but he’s also an experienced army commander, a former outlaw and incredibly cunning. It’s hard to quite get your mind round the fact that he would be so reckless when it comes to trying to save Claire and that he wouldn’t think it through and find a much better way to get what he wants, not to forget that his treatment and manipulation of Fergus is simply cruel.
On the plus side I loved the little bits of historical detail. I’m presuming the bit about a friend having to sew through the nose of the dead is true, and I also enjoyed the portrayal of minor characters from the likes of Albie Marber and Charlie Hiett.
This episode also makes you wonder whether you can love someone too much (possibly not something I need to worry about) and that someone like Fergus, whose love of all the main protagonists is not in doubt, has a far more reasoned approach. However, this episode serves its prime function in that I’m looking forward to next week’s episode. My only hope is that Jamie and Claire reunite or goodness knows what Jamie will end up doing next.
Special thanks to @SarSketches for her illustration accompanying this post.
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