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Outlander: The Doldrums

"Dinna want to be caught with a banana on a French frigate."

Much of this episode made me laugh out loud. I think that's what they were going for, but I'm not completely sure.

The quest to rescue Young Ian began with a quick trip to France, the likely identification of the ship that took the boy, and a hastily arranged voyage to Jamaica on the Artemis, one of cousin Jared's ships. (Hello, cousin Jared! And goodbye cousin Jared, you convenient character, you!) I'm a bit sorry we didn't get more time in France, except that France didn't work out for Jamie and Claire back in season two, big time.

If fate brought Jamie and Claire back together, it's certainly screwing with them now. Superstitious Jamie theorized that Young Ian was kidnapped as divine punishment because Jamie was trying to pay off Laoghaire. If that's true, his punishment was just doubled when Fergus arrived with his brand new handfast bride, Laoghaire's daughter, Marsali.

(I am now picturing Jenny's face when Jamie's explanatory letter about Young Ian arrives. And Laoghaire's, when Marsali's letter about running off with Fergus arrives. "Apoplectic" might not be a strong enough word. "Homicidal," possibly.)

Women and redheads are bad luck on board ship, and so is not touching a stupid horseshoe nailed to a post. The superstitious bits seemed like comic relief at first, although it was obvious almost immediately that Jamie's unusual entourage would suffer for it. After weeks in the doldrums, a.k.a. dead calm as the fresh water ran out, the crew was ready to pick a Jonah and toss him overboard, and had narrowed it down to Hayes. I have no idea why they wound up going for the white non-redheaded guy when they had so many other juicy, unusual possibilities to choose from, but whatever.

Mr. Willoughby to the rescue. When he noticed a bird flying low and realized rain was coming, Mr. Willoughby saved Hayes from a watery grave by telling his life story to the fascinated crew. As it turned out, Yi Tien Cho was a brilliant poet who had to choose between fame as a eunuch or exile from his homeland. His choice led him to a foreign land where no one understands his poetry, and none of the women want him. He punctuated the end of his story by throwing the pages he had written artistically over the side, where they were picked up by the returning wind. The earlier bits with Mr. Willoughby's beautiful and vanishing water calligraphy were also particularly lovely.

(Mr. Willoughby was the answer to Jamie's seasickness, too: acupuncture. Certainly better than twisted testicles. Claire should have brought Dramamine as well as penicillin, but who knew? Did they have Dramamine in 1968?)

The more interesting bits of this episode were about how Jamie isn't a perfect man, after all. His prudish determination to keep Fergus and Marsali apart sabotaged his chance to have some alone time rebonding with Claire. Although, yes, I get it, and it wasn't just that Laoghaire would probably shoot him again. Oddly, Fergus and Marsali are both Jamie's stepchildren, and there's a real age and cultural difference going on there.

Although I had to laugh out loud when Jamie decreed that he would bunk with Fergus, leaving Claire with the openly hostile Marsali, and both women protested. At least Claire still wanted Jamie enough to be angry about the situation. I had to give Marsali credit, too. She knows what she wants and was ready to do anything to be with Fergus. Plotwise, I think Fergus and Marsali were intended to remind us how mismatched Jamie and Claire were when they first got married way back when.

At least Jamie and Claire managed a giggling quickie during the rain, and had a lovely scene on deck in the moonlight talking about Brianna, toy bunnies and Apollo missions before those damned redcoats showed up and pulled them apart again, in the form of His Majesty's Ship Porpoise, devastated by disease and desperate for a doctor.

At this point in the story, I think they should chain Claire and Jamie together. But how could she not go? And how could he risk catching the disease by going with her?


— New credits with drums, shipboard stuff, and bare feet ominously drenched in blood.

— Until now, Outlander has been filmed almost entirely in Scotland. For the final episodes of this season, they moved to South Africa and used the sets and ships from another Starz show, Black Sails, a Treasure Island prequel series about pirates.

— Marsali looked very sympathetic as Mr. Willoughby told his story. Maybe she's not so bad. Even though she does look exactly like Laoghaire. Have I mentioned how much I hate typing the name "Laoghaire"?

— Jamie kept Claire's clothes from Paris, and Marsali brought them with her. At least Claire will have something to wear other than the batsuit.

— I have no comment about the "lobster in the chamber pot" song. Sometimes I think Outlander does stuff like this specifically to shock us, or gross us out.


Claire: "Am I invisible?"
Jamie: "You know, women are bad luck on ships, Sassenach. Redheads, too."
Claire: "So you're bad luck?"
Jamie: "Aye. That's why they address me first before I speak to them. 'Tis the only way to avoid misfortune."
Claire: "How has Scotland survived all these centuries?"
Jamie: "It's not just the Scots, Sassenach. The English, Spanish, Dutch, all have seafaring superstitions. Dinna want to be caught with a banana on a French frigate."

Jamie: "Does your mother ken?"
Marsali: "I sent her a letter."
Jamie: "Then she'll have me killed."

Jamie: "I'm obliged to protect her virtue."
Claire: "Mine as well, it would seem."

Fergus: "You didn't know Milady long at all before you were married."
Jamie: "That was different. We were forced to marry."
Fergus: "Milord, you forget, I know your story. If you were forced to marry Milady, then I am forced to breathe. My heart, it is forced to beat."
Point, Fergus.

Marsali: "You drop out of the clear blue sky, sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, ruining my family, and now you're minding your own business? Well, Daddy may think you're a wise woman, but I still think you're a whore."
Claire: "Right. Well, the whore should have the bigger bed then, shouldn't she?"

Claire: "If you let them continue their infatuation, it might just fizzle out."
Jamie: "I don't know what a fizzle is, but I ken your meaning well enough. And 'fizzle out' is what I'm afraid of."
Bananas and fizzles.

Marsali: "What's a eunuch?"
Fergus: "I'll tell you later."

Jamie: "I like the gray. The way the light hits it, like a piece of silver moonlight."
Claire: "How could I not love a man who says such things? If you were to say that in the twentieth century, you would be the king of all men."

(Apparently, there is a continuing writers' room in-joke that Jamie is the "king of men" because he's nearly perfect in every way.)

I'm not quite sure how to rate this episode. It was wildly different from anything else they've ever done and it made me laugh, a lot. But then it separated Jamie and Claire again... what do you guys think?

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Have I mentioned how much I hate typing the name "Laoghaire"?

    I just copy and paste it from your reviews when I make comments.

    I liked this episode until I started to worry about Mr. Willoughby. He's safe! Hooray!

    I forget the exact phrasing, but something about how Mr. Willoughby told Jamie that the vomiting could cause his stomach to become twisted, and his testicles, "so we need to remove it" made me think he was offering to remove Jamie's testicles.


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