Episode 309 – The Doldrums

Episode 309 Header

Once again I am incredibly late with the blog. I had house guests that stayed over an extra night this weekend, so I’m just now sitting down to watch the episode for the third week in a row.

I LOVE the new intro!! I was typing the above paragraph while watching the “last time on Outlander” bit, and I had to stop and rewind when I realized it was different. So much love for the new shots and the new arrangement of the Skye Boat Song. One thing that never disappoints about Outlander is Bear McCreary’s score. If all else fails, I can close my eyes and listen to his music and it is always exactly what I need in that moment of the story.

But the visuals are great, too, and I snagged one of the shots for this week’s blog image.

Ah, back in “Le Havre” again. Jared doesn’t look like he’s aged at all. I recall him being much older in the book. Although…definitely not Le Havre, based on the way they’re talking, and the smuggling crew being brought on board. And now Jamie says that he’s sad to see Scotland disappearing. Oy. So what is Jared doing there, at whatever harbor we happen to be at?

So confused.

But I am happy to skip the Paris/France part of the book, with the slight exception of Jamie and Claire getting a chance to visit Faith’s grave.

I love, love, love that Fergus lets Marsali talk for herself. He only interferes once in her confrontation with Jamie, and otherwise just lets her say her piece and tries not to grin like a lovesick fool at Jamie. It’s so sweet, and this is a great way to establish their relationship for the show.

I think the “now I am going to be sick” line of Jamie’s was supposed to be funny, but it did not come off that way at all. I think he’s supposed to be referring to the fact that he just now realized that having separate cabins means not sleeping with his wife, but since the last time we saw them there was some question about whether they would stay together and Claire just put off talking about their relationship in favor of finding Ian, any reference to sex seems ill-timed. And because of the way the shots and scene were composed, it looks more like Jamie is referring to Claire walking away from him than that they’re going to have to sleep apart. So it ends up sounding like Jamie is overreacting to Claire’s stalking off instead of to any internal process of his own.

Him actually being sick in the next scene helps ameliorate things a little bit, but not entirely.

I don’t know if I like the bad luck theme that they’re starting to repeat. I’ll have to see where it’s going, but I doubt it’s anywhere good.

The Fergus and Jamie conversation is absolutely lovely. Cesar Domboy is doing very well as an older Fergus and he and Sam play off each other beautifully. The fact that Jamie has talked to Fergus about his feelings for Claire—that he was able to tell him those things, likely both before she left and afterward—speaks to how close their relationship is. Fergus truly is a son to Jamie and Claire, and nothing proves it more than scenes like these, where he shows just how well he knows them—and how well Jamie knows him.

Claire and the captain was just…weird. Why can’t Claire look at the superstitions as interesting local color and keep her nose out of it?

OK, I really, really did not need to see Jamie actually vomiting. And it super bothers me that Claire refers to Yi Tien Cho by his real name and Jamie still calls him Willoughby. But at least he lets him apply the acupuncture needles.

I wonder if Jamie is trying to test Fergus and Marsali’s resolution by refusing his consent? Claire comes from a slightly more permissive time, when trying on relationships and changing your mind before needing to make a permanent commitment is normal. Jamie doesn’t—and he obviously never approved of Fergus’s lassies before, either. But then Jamie didn’t have affairs before Claire and has only slept with a few women since. For him, there has only ever been Claire in his heart.

If they continue to go in this direction with Yi Tien Cho, I’ll be happy. I love the idea of not telling his story because then he’ll have to let it go, and the impermanence of a poem written in water that will evaporate into the air. Gorgeous imagery and symbolism that doesn’t need to be spoken to be felt.

But then, we get a f-ing voice over. Just give us a montage. It’s OK.

Sam with the acupuncture needles in his face is hilarious. And I like that Claire only has a moment of “what??” before she’s totally on board with it as a solution to Jamie’s seasickness. And it does bring them together more, too.

And now the shoe drops on the unlucky plot, with predictable results given the episode title. I’m still wary of Claire being blamed for the world’s problems, though, so I’m going to reserve judgment until I see that she (and Marsali) won’t be blamed for the becalming.

The moon scene is beautiful, and it made me cry when Claire started talking about Goodnight, Moon, since I read that to both of my kids and can now recite it from memory, too. (Side note—if you haven’t seen LeVar Burton reading it to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, you totally should).

Is it weird that this whole plotline and the Jonah bit feels cliché? I’ve seen it done at least twice (in Master and Commander and To the Ends of the Earth), and maybe three instances does not a cliché make, but I am starting to feel like every sailing story has to either have pirates or a Jonah. And this one has both. I mean, at least they didn’t call Claire the Jonah, but really…

I do like Yi Tien Cho telling his story to diffuse the tension, and his erotic poetry. They didn’t have to include the insults to European women, but otherwise I’m glad that he had his moment to rage against what happened to him and the pain of being an outsider and losing his country and his honor. And then Claire uses his name again—which shows him that at least someone sees him as himself.

I’m both giggling at and rolling my eyes at Claire actually calling Jamie the King of Men after sex.

And then we meet a porpoise.

This is still one of my favorite things in Outlander—Claire following her oath and her calling. Of course it goes wrong, as it always does, but I am glad for a plot point pushed forward because of character-driven action rather than the plot pushing the characters around. And that’s a good place to end the episode, too. Right at the beginning of a new problem, once the old one—as weak as it was—was resolved.

I really, really don’t like what I just saw of the preview for next week, though. That Jamie would bargain with his permission for Fergus to marry doesn’t feel right. Not that Jamie wouldn’t do anything in order to get Claire back, but that seems like a step too far away from his character. Maybe there’s context there that will help once we get to that episode.

One thing I missed from this episode was Marsali and Claire developing a friendship that will one day be as strong as mother and daughter. We got a tiny hint of it when Marsali was surprised and pleased at Claire arguing with Jamie on the young lovers’ behalves, but I really like how much they open up in the book by the time the Porpoise arrives. And I also like that Claire dispenses birth control information—or at least as much as was possible at the time. I hope they manage to get that in somewhere before the wedding.

This episode wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my favorite, either. In the talkback at the end, the writers acknowledged that this episode was all about being stuck and not going anywhere in terms of relationships, plot, and actual motion. So I understand their intentions. But it doesn’t make me like it any better, or feel any less weird about the Jonah plot. We could have just skipped this entire episode and moved the story forward, leaving more time for Jamaica.

What did you think of “The Doldrums?” Are you also looking forward to John and Claire having a late-night conversation on board the Porpoise? Or meeting Father Fogden? Let me know in the comments. I, for one, will just be glad that the plot is moving again.

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2 thoughts on “Episode 309 – The Doldrums

  1. Per usual, I agree with your overall assessments. I find that I am bothered by small things – Fergus didn’t have a French accent at all last week? – then it showed up very slightly this week. Yes, didn’t get where in the world the port was with what was said. I thought that I was confused on my geography!? And, I have to turn the volume way up and watch it a second time to get the very important “mutterings”. Obviously, they can’t yell them out, but it is hard with Jamie’s accent to understand what he is saying, which is usually very important and telling, thus reassuring in showing Claire he is still her (and our) Jamie. It was so much easier in the book.

    Again, I love your reviews. It helps me see things a little differently and relive the episodes that we crave!

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    • When we’re bothered by the small things, it’s because they’re not doing a good enough job with the big things. And this week was just…blah.

      I, too, wondered what was going on with Fergus’s accent. Maybe Cesar Domboy got conflicting notes from different directors. But I would think Fergus would have only traces of a French accent after 20 years in Scotland.

      I’ve gotten better at interpreting the Scots accent, but I also have that problem every once in a while. When my husband was watching with me, I had to keep the subtitles on or he couldn’t understand a thing. 🙂

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews! I feel the same way–I’m always looking for more Outlander content after watching the episode! And there are only four episodes left! But at least they’ve already started on season four, so we know there’s more to come.

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