Episode 311 – Uncharted

Episode 311 Header

My Thanksgiving holiday weekend was very odd. I started feeling sick on Monday, and I host the dinner at my house, so by the time Wednesday rolled around and I was still prostrate on the couch, I decided to reschedule our family dinner. Due to work schedules, today was the lucky day that everyone could meet up and do Thanksgiving, take two. Since there were many preparations that needed to be made ahead of time, I was busy cooking and cleaning all day yesterday and I was too tired to stay up late and watch the episode at midnight. So this blog is very late! But it’s still Sunday where I am, so that’s something.

I love the title card, mostly because I adore sea turtles. They are so beautiful. The treatment of the Skye Boat Song under the shot of the turtle was also fun. It is a little sad to know the fate of the turtle, though.

Did it really take until morning for Claire to drift to this island? Something must have gone terribly wrong, or else it was much farther away than it looked.

Also, I still fail to see how this helps Jamie at all. Unless he somehow finds her on this island (which obviously is going to happen, but only by coincidence), the reasonable assumption is that he’s going to go to Jamaica and get caught in the trap there, whether or not Claire is actually in the trap. And considering how fast they were pushing the Porpoise to travel, I can’t see how Claire imagines that she’s going to get there first. It would make more sense for her to stay with the British and try to warn Jamie when the time comes (or get away from them in Jamaica).

To be fair, this is a logic problem from the book, and not the fault of the TV writers. But it goes to show that they are still, for the most part, keeping some of the most problematic and difficult sections of the books when they should be adapting instead, and then adapting in places that make no sense and only end up making things worse.

It’s not like I’m giving up on the show or anything, because when they get it right it is still wonderful. But when they get it wrong, it is starting to feel expected, and that’s not good.

And then, after some silent shaking-sand-out-of-clothes shots, we get a voice over. And I’m scared, because I think Claire is going to be alone for at least a while in this episode, and so she’s going to be talking to us a lot. And maybe they’ll be good voice overs, but I just got finished watching Cast Away with Tom Hanks and that movie is a tour de force for long periods of screen time with no dialogue. (Until Wilson, of course, but then you have to infer the other side of the conversation, and that still shows a huge amount of respect and trust in the audience that we will get it without needing to have things spelled out for us).

I mean, really. All we needed to have is Claire staggering toward the bromeliads and then slurping up the water and desperately looking for more to know that she’s dangerously dehydrated. And we can see that she’s moving inland, and the town thing isn’t really important. Obviously, she wants to find signs of civilization.

Um, Claire…why did you put your whole bum roll on the fire? You’re going to need that for the next time you want to start a fire. Also, I’m surprised she wasn’t covered with various tropical insect bites already, long before the ants.

OK, they’re actually being much more judicious with the voice over than I expected. But I still feel like they didn’t need any of it at all. (This statement goes for all of it throughout the episode, not just before her rescue).

Why did they subtitle the…Spanish? Portuguese? (I can’t remember from the book, I don’t speak either one, and I’m too tired to go look). Claire obviously doesn’t speak it. And they were so good about not subtitling the Gaelic in previous seasons that I’m not used to subtitles when our PoV character doesn’t know the other language.

Haha. Having just mentioned Cast Away, I am laughing at Coco’s resemblance to Wilson. Although I think Father Fogden is far madder than Chuck in Cast Away ever got.

I suppose the subtitling does let us know some things that Claire doesn’t know (and we’ve broken from her PoV this season, so one can argue that we’re getting an omniscient PoV at the moment). But then we get more voice over right after the argument at the dinner table, and it just feels weird to have the two juxtaposed. First, we’re far out of her PoV to get the subtitles, and then we’re deep in her PoV getting voice over. There’s some cognitive whiplash that happens in that scene.

The clean clothes voice over is just as unnecessary. We can clearly see and infer everything that she tells us, including why she might choose to talk to the coconut. I don’t think her pretend conversation would have worked, but fortunately for Claire deus ex machina saves her from herself.

Normally I dislike flashbacks, too, but the one to Margaret Campbell is actually good, because I’d forgotten that she spoke of Abandawe to Claire. And Claire’s going to be going there soon, so it’s good to be reminded of it now, a few episodes before the end of the season. And I like that they are being somewhat subtle about it—giving us just enough information to put together what we know of the stones in Scotland with whatever sort of place Abandawe is, but not enough to have a clear picture of what’s ahead.

The next few scenes are just layers of deus ex machina, but I’ll try to get over that. And wow, they just put a lampshade on it when they had the two new Scotsmen point out that Claire shows up in the oddest places. It’s like the writers are tongue-in-cheek asking us to just go with it. And I don’t like that at all—that works in screwball comedies that break the fourth wall, but not in Outlander.

Having Yi Tien Cho apologize for Arabella is an odd choice, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. I’m glad, on the one hand, that he is shown as adaptable and respectful—even to a mad priest. But on the other hand, all he did was catch a goat that, to him, seemed wild. Would they have made any crew member apologize? I’m not sure. Having Fogden share the pipe helps, though.

I love Marsali and Claire talking about sex and contraception, and I’m excited to see the beginnings of respect and affection that are shown in this scene—even if I have to forget that they were still not on good terms when Claire left the Artemis a few episodes ago. Maybe Marsali is just more disposed to be happy and accepting since she’s getting her way and marrying Fergus.

The wedding scene was good for a few chuckles, but I remember it being both funnier and more touching in the book. When Jamie claims Fergus as his son officially, it is an acknowledgment of everything between them for the past twenty-plus years, and almost made me cry when I read it. But the show rushed through—mostly because Fergus and Marsali are in such a rush. I’ve felt that most of the big emotional moments this season have either been rushed in the moment or not properly built up over the course of an episode/the season. With only two episodes left, I’m sad to say that this is easily the weakest season of Outlander so far.

I’ve said it before, but they could have saved themselves if they’d only done three episodes before reuniting Jamie and Claire. They didn’t have enough material to stretch to six episodes back then, and now they’re having to leave huge swathes of the story on the writer’s room floor. It makes no sense why they did what they did. I’m imagining some sort of mandate from Ron Moore that said the reunion has to happen midway through the season, regardless of what that does to the story. Sigh.

I’m happy to have Yi Tien Cho take over the Murphy/Stern role in the turtle soup incident, though. It seems fairly clear that they have Yi Tien Cho on a very different path in the show than in the books, and that is 100% for the best. I’m imagining him going with them into Abandawe, and how meaningful that will be.

What isn’t for the best is that I’m pretty sure there’s no John Grey in the rest of the season. If they were going to have him in the next two episodes, I think he would have been in the preview shots. And everything with Young Ian looks different…to the point that I’m wondering if we’re actually going to see Mrs. Abernathy. And yet…we had the bones back in Boston. How is that going to work out? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

What did you think of “Uncharted?” Are you as disappointed, in general, with the season as I am? Or do you see something I’m missing? Obviously the good things are still there—the performances are excellent, and I fall a little more in love with Cesar Domboy every time he’s on screen (but I have a weakness for lanky men with dark hair and blue eyes). But the negative aspects somehow seem to have snowballed this season. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.

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