Claire in Survival Mode, Comedy Gold from an Eccentric Priest and the Eye-Opening Side-Effects of Eating Turtle Soup.
This week’s episode showcases what a capable, tough cookie Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is while giving us an insight into Claire’s feelings for Jamie (Sam Heughan). By far the less demonstrative half of the couple, this episode makes clear that still waters run deep. Thus despite being washed up on an island in the middle of nowhere, Claire’s first thought is about how to save Jamie. And you suspect part of her steely persistence to survive is her determination to do precisely that.
And survive Claire does despite trekking through the jungle for two days without water, being feasted upon by creepy crawlies and used as an obstacle course by a snake while still looking stunning. Thus proving that if Celebrity Island had picked Claire instead of the supposed alpha-male Iwan Thomas then the celebrities would have had by far a much easier time of it all.
Fortunately Claire stumbles upon what passes as civilisation there (there turns out to be the Island of Saint Domingue) and is taken in by the rather eccentric Father Fogden (Nick Fletcher) and his mother-in-law Mamacita (Vivi Lepore) who would easily win the award for most scary scowl in the history of television. Even Claire looks frightened and this is someone who stood up to Black Jack Randall.
Outlander’s casting department has struck gold again with Nick Fletcher who manages to portray Father Fogden as truly eccentric (i.e. British and mad) though still keeping the character grounded in reality while at the same time providing for some laugh-out-loud comedy later on in the episode.
Not one to let the fact that she almost died stop her in her efforts to save Jamie, Claire is ready to set off again. Upon hearing this, Father Fogden talks it over with Coco the coconut and decides Claire should stay and rest. (I did say he was eccentric). Balfe’s face is a picture as she realises just what a nutter he is and to top it all, Mamacita pops in, calls her a cow, sniffs her then tells her she stinks. Her recent icy welcome at Lallybroch must now seem heavenly in comparison.
Worse is to follow when it seems Father Fogden is intent on keeping Claire there for a couple more weeks, the thought of which seems to anger Mamacita more than it does Claire. Mamacita makes her feelings clear by calling Claire a whore and telling her son-in-law in no uncertain terms that Claire needs to go.
It turns out Father Fogden and Mamacita are a warning example of how pernicious love and grief can be: both human wrecks following the death of Mamacita’s daughter Ermenagilda for whom Father Fogden left the priesthood and his parish in Cuba.
Remembering how much he still feels for Ermenagilda makes Father Fogden appreciate how much it must mean for Claire to find her husband and agrees to take her the next day to the nearest village, then backtracks by saying he’ll consult with Coco the coconut tomorrow to make sure the timing is right. Needless to say, Claire doesn’t seem best pleased by that particular caveat.
The next morning Claire, sporting the fastest disappearance of sunburn ever recorded, comes up with one of her numerous plans and pretends to talk to Coco the coconut in the hopes of persuading the Father that they should set off.
As it turns out, she needn’t have bothered. Mamacita soon arrives with news that one of their goats has been killed by a passing Chinese man who Claire assumes can only be Willoughby (Gary Young). That’s a bit of a leap given there must have been quite a few Chinese men in the world even back then and Willoughby wouldn’t have been the only Chinese man on the High Seas. Then again, Claire travelled back 200 years based on two names and a snippet of poetry. But before she makes the connection, there is some strange goat ritual and the mention of a cave that the mad Campbell woman who Claire treated in Edinburgh referred to. (I presume this will make sense at some point as they’ve gone to the effort of including it).
Of course as soon as Claire hears about the Chinese man she’s off into the jungle and making for the beach, armed with very vague directions from Mamacita, who simply tells her to turn right and then straight ahead. I’m not convinced you can go straight ahead in a jungle, and what’s more there doesn’t seem to be a path. So by rights, surely you’d get lost?
However, as soon as you see Jamie on the beach, you know Claire and Jamie will be back together again soon. Nevertheless, it was tense watching Claire head for Jamie like a heat-seeking missile through the seemingly never-ending jungle.
Because, yes, you guessed it, of all the islands in all the seas Jamie turns up on precisely the one that Claire floated too thanks to the Artemis hitting stormy waters and the men having to go ashore to fix the foresail. But by the time Claire finally reaches the beach, having cut her arm rather nastily in the process, Jamie and the rest of the crew are back on board. Luckily for Claire, her kleptomaniac tendencies mean the mirror she has purloined from Father Fogden comes in handy and she is able to signal her presence on the beach to Jamie. In an instant, Jamie is back on the beach and our lovers reunite with Lesley (Keith Fleming) and Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk) noting (and with some justification) that “Mac Dubh’s wife turns up in the unlikely of places”.
Despite Claire’s warning about the warrants, Jamie is still determined to head for Jamaica and rescue young Ian. In the meantime he decides to bring some joy into everyone’s lives and arranges for the wedding of Fergus (César Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle). This also gives an opportunity for Claire and Marsali to bond as Marsali opens up about her worries about the more intimate side of being in a relationship.
The wedding scene itself is hilarious thanks to some great writing and the wonderful performance of Nick Fletcher as Father Fogden. First, the good Father tries to marry Marsali off to the unsuspecting sailor, Manzetti (Cameron Robertson), then seems to find it hard to believe Marsali would prefer to marry a man missing a hand, but then makes the salient point that it’s “not as though he’s lost his cock,’ and then thinking about it again asks Marsali if Fergus has, in fact, lost one. Marsali, who seems as spirited as Claire in some respects, points out that if he’d just hurry up and marry them maybe she could find out.
But the scene is also moving. When the priest asks Fergus for his full name, Fergus can’t give him one. The only name he has is that of Fergus. When the Father goes on to explain he can’t be married unless he has a surname, Jamie steps in and informs Father Fogden that Fergus is a Fraser, cementing the fact that Fergus is his son, and the look of pride on Fergus’s face is a joy to behold.
Back on board ship, it doesn’t take long for Claire and Jamie to have a smile on their faces too thanks to a bowl of turtle soup laced with copious amounts of sherry. It turns out that due to this particular culinary delight that despite a fever and an injured arm Claire is horny as hell. At first Jamie declines the offer, given Claire’s inebriated and fevered state, but it doesn’t take long for her to change his mind, primarily, it would seem, by grabbing his crotch. So while Jamie finally gets to do it “like horses” Willoughby arrives to ask if Claire would like more soup. To be honest, Claire and Jamie seem otherwise engaged.
This episode was a game of two halves really. The first twenty minutes or so was Claire in survival mode and then back to the story of Claire and Jamie with the emphasis predominately on Claire. Balfe, as always, shows what an accomplished actor she is and it was great to watch a woman being portrayed as someone more than capable of dealing with the elements.
Nick Fletcher is yet another example of the Outlander Casting Department casting some amazing actors in minor roles. This season alone we’ve had the joy of watching Lorn MacDonald (Geordie), Albie Marber (Elias Pound) and now Nick Fletcher as Father Fogden.
As for recurring characters, I love Domboy’s portrayal of Fergus who proves he’s Jamie’s son not just in name. Moreover, as a linguist myself, it’s incredibly impressive the clever way Domboy mixes his French accent with pronouncing certain words in a very Scottish way: exactly how a foreigner would who’s been living alongside Scots for most of his life.
As for Sam Heughan, he didn’t get to do much this week apart from take charge and look sexy: so not surprisingly that was a shoo in. But, then again, Heughan definitely earned his acting chops in the first half of the series, where his portrayal of Jamie as he went through the various stages of his grief over Claire was both outstanding and masterful.
So now our intrepid heroes are one step nearer to Jamaica and (hopefully) rescuing Young Ian while we poor viewers are just 2 episodes away from another Droughtlander. I may have to invest in some soup. Never has the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having,” seem more apt.
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!