Spoiler Warning: The following discusses detailed plot points from the Season 3 episode “The Doldrums.” If you haven’t had a chance to watch the episode yet, go back through the stones and return once you have.
Welcome back, sassenachs! It me, your fearless Outlander recapper, ready to head once more into the breach to keep you well-informed on everything that’s been going on with our faves. (A friendly reminder to readers: I’m well-versed in the books, but won’t be referencing them in my recaps in case there are those who are only watching the show.) Last week, Claire experienced a bit of a shock when she learned that Jamie had remarried in her absence -- and to Laoghaire, no less. Of course, as if to reiterate Jamie’s poor decision-making even further, he wound up getting shot by Laoghaire AND Young Ian was kidnapped on his watch while trying to steal the Jacobite treasure from its hiding place on Selkie Island. It wasn’t a very good week for anyone.
This week: Claire and Jamie take to the high seas in pursuit of Young Ian, though the power of superstition and the loss of strong wind threaten to halt their progress. We learn a little more about Yi Tien Cho/Mr. Willoughby’s backstory in a pivotal moment, and Claire finds herself dealing with a ship full of sick men and a desperate captain.
There’s no time to waste now that Young Ian has been taken. Jamie’s managed to do a little digging with the help of his cousin Jared (who, you’ll recall, has that successful shipping business from Season 2, when we were in Paris). The only three-masted ship with a Portuguese flag that matches the description of the one that Claire and Jamie saw is bound for Jamaica, and Jamie makes a point of noting that the ship was definitely riding low in the water. No doubt she’s headed for port, so they’ve got to make haste and set sail as quickly as possible. Jared mentions that Young Ian should be fine as long as he doesn’t make trouble; the best thing that can happen to him at this stage is being sold as a slave. That doesn’t seem to reassure Jamie and Claire all that much.
Of course, there’s still the matter of whether these two are going to stay together -- and I have to laugh when Jamie says he’ll take Claire to the stones himself if she still wants to go home. These two are Made For Each Other -- Jamie knows it, the show clearly knows it, and it doesn’t make any sense for this manufactured drama to crop up when you know they’re going to kiss and make up anyway. Claire insists that finding Young Ian is more important than her leaving, but the conversation is soon interrupted by two of the ship’s crewmen -- who, if I’m hearing things right, are former comrades of Jamie’s lending their aid on this sea voyage. They’re waiting for Fergus to show up, and then they can get going.
The next scene we cut to is Claire and Jamie at sea, so clearly Fergus is around somewhere. Although Jamie’s notorious for having a weak stomach at sea, he hasn’t started projectile-vomiting yet. As if anticipating it, Claire tells him to look at the horizon, but Jamie admits it’s the sight of Scotland fading in the distance that makes him sadder than anything else. All the while, the crewmen pass by and touch a horseshoe that’s been nailed to a post -- for good luck, of course. Jamie explains that there are a number of superstitions at sea, and touching the horseshoe is one of them. Apparently this voyage is doubly cursed for having both a woman (Claire) and a redhead (Jamie) on board, which is why the men address him first to avoid misfortune. Claire doesn’t place any stock in silly superstition, but touches the horseshoe anyway to placate Jamie and everyone else within earshot.
Claire’s not the only woman on board, though; Fergus approaches them with Laoghaire’s eldest daughter Marsali in tow, and all I can think is that this ship must be huge if they were able to wait until setting sail to even get found out. In a new twist, Fergus and Marsali have been courting each other for several months and tell Jamie that they’re now married. Technically, they’re handfast -- meaning they basically clasped hands and declared themselves wed in front of witnesses -- but as of now haven’t consummated the situation. Jamie’s instantly relieved, since that means the marriage isn’t binding, and seeks out the captain to ask if they can dock real quick to let Marsali off the ship.
Marsali’s argument is that if Claire gets to tag along, so does she (and gets in a jab about Claire being an “English hoor” along the way). If Jamie sends her home, she’ll just tell everyone Fergus has already taken her virtue and deliberately sabotage any potential future marriage. Jamie, perhaps realizing the futility of the situation, relents for the moment -- but insists that Fergus and Marsali won’t be bunking together, which means she’ll have to sleep in Claire’s room. Both women look a little less than enthused at that prospect. Considering how mad she’s been at Jamie in previous weeks, I’m surprised Claire even brings up the fact that they won’t get to be intimate if they’re sleeping apart. Make up your mind, sassenach!
Jamie’s starting to feel a bit queasy below deck, so Claire brings him some ginger tea to try and settle his stomach and then starts looking through the trunk Fergus brought over from Lallybroch. It’s no surprise that Jamie is the sentimental type; he’s kept most of Claire’s old clothes from last season, apart from the occasional hand-me-down that was passed on to Marsali. It looks as if we’ll be seeing that yellow dress Claire wore in Paris repurposed for wear in Jamaica. Just then one of the ship’s crew comes in to fetch Claire; there’s been a minor accident and one of the men has been struck in the head by part of the rigging. It’s a minor injury, though Claire does earn some strange looks by talking about potential concussions. However, any kind of injury while they’re still within land is a bad omen according to ship superstition, and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the voyage. Claire remains skeptical considering it was a simple accident, and then the captain (whose name is Raines) starts seasplaining to her and even tries to stump her by dropping a little Shakespeare in there (which she promptly quotes back to him because most people know their Hamlet). Visibly impressed, Raines invites her and Jamie to dinner.
Jamie’s still puking his guts out by the time evening rolls around, so Claire’s got to dine with Raines solo. More seasplaining ensues, in which he tries to explain the ropes (no pun intended), as well as what constitutes superstition versus faith. If touching a piece of iron can give his crew hope, he’s not going to begrudge them that belief. Claire remains unconvinced -- but hey, it’s a free meal. Back in their quarters, Jamie gets a visitor -- Yi Tien Cho/Mr. Willoughby is along for the trip too, and pops in to see him. He matter-of-factly informs Jamie that all this retching is going to eventually wreak hell on his man parts and offers a solution that we don’t get a chance to see right away. When Claire runs into him at breakfast the next morning, Jamie’s got a healthy appetite and a better attitude besides, but doesn’t ‘fess up to any particular reason for his improvement.
Claire encounters Cho using water and a brush to write characters into the deck, which eventually evaporate in the air. He’s working on the story of his life in China, but isn’t quite ready to share it yet. Once he tells it to someone, he has to let it go for good -- and he’s probably going to have plenty of time to write things down, because this voyage to the West Indies is going to be a long one. In a voiceover, Claire explains that she manages to fill her days with making homemade remedies and tending to the occasional wounds sustained by the crewmen. After all this time, however, she still hasn’t figured out what’s helped Jamie beat his seasickness until she stumbles upon Cho sticking acupuncture needles into Jamie’s face. He confesses that he’d kept Cho’s remedy from Claire because it did a better job of helping him than her ginger tea. Claire can’t find it in her heart to be mad at Jamie when he looks like a pouty human porcupine, and they share a sweet smooch.
It’s in that moment that Jamie notices something’s up: the ship isn’t moving. When they make their way above, everyone’s dismayed to discover that they’re caught in the doldrums, which in this instance means that the winds have disappeared and the ship will be trapped at sea until they return. The superstitious crew is convinced that it’s a result of someone on board not having touched the horseshoe, and as days turn into weeks the men try to sniff out which of them is responsible for the ship being stranded. The situation grows even more dire; rats contaminate the water supply, and there hasn’t been any sign of rain. At dinner, Captain Raines reveals to Jamie and Claire that the men are calling for a “Jonah” -- someone to throw overboard to break the streak of bad luck and hopefully send them on their way again. Claire’s horrified at the thought, but Raines counters by saying he can't exactly punish the men for disobeying orders, since this isn't a Royal Navy ship. At the risk of mutiny, he’s going to let them carry out their own form of sea justice. Jamie firmly informs Raines that none of his men will be thrown overboard, thank you very much, but the crew is getting more and more restless by the day. One of them in particular, Hayes, finally gets marked as the Jonah and even begins to question whether he touched the horseshoe at all.
Hayes gets drunk and climbs the rigging to escape the rest of the crew, who have formed something of a mob below. At this point, he faces a higher risk of falling and breaking his neck than anything else, and so Jamie begins to climb up after him. After some wobbling, Jamie manages to secure Hayes enough to bring him down -- but the crew is still calling for someone’s head, and they start setting their sights on Jamie. That’s when Cho distracts everyone by finally telling his story -- about growing up in China, about his life there and the recognition he received as a well-known poet. Eventually, his words got the attention of the emperor’s second wife, and she extended an invitation to Cho to become a part of her household -- but all servants of the royal family were required to be eunuchs. By then, Cho confessed that he had fallen in love with womankind and couldn’t comprehend the thought of becoming a eunuch, though he couldn’t refuse the request of the emperor’s wife at the risk of dishonoring himself. Instead, he fled. He refused to surrender his manhood, but at the cost of his home and country. At this, he throws the pages of his story into the wind -- which has now returned, much to everyone’s relief. In an aside to Jamie and Claire, Cho admits he’d seen a bird flying low across the water and recognized it as a sign of wind and oncoming rain.
And not only does it rain, it pours. The men eagerly collect the fresh water as Jamie and Claire sneak below deck together to steal a quickie, giggling and trying to shush each other so the rest of the ship’s passengers don’t hear them. Looks like more than one dry spell is over, but this show doesn’t like these two to stay happy for very long. Shortly thereafter, the ship is hailed by another -- a British man-of-war, and from the looks of things she’s short-handed. When the young captain Leonard makes his way aboard we quickly learn the reason for it: A case of typhoid has struck, leading to the deaths of the original captain and several officers, as well as the ship’s surgeon. Since Claire’s been inoculated against certain illnesses, she’s the only one who can board without contracting what the sick men have. Jamie knows there’s no talking her out of going, but as soon as Claire boards Captain Leonard orders the crew to set sail. Claire’s appropriately furious at basically being kidnapped, but Leonard points out that this is an act of desperation on his part. Besides, both ships are headed to Jamaica, so she’ll be reunited with Jamie soon enough. Based on the fact that Claire’s now stuck on the Typhoid Mary of ships, however, something tells me they may be separated for longer than expected.
- How about that new credits sequence and version of the theme song? Seeing those shots of Jamaica interspersed with Claire and Jamie’s high-seas voyage is getting me hyped for the last third of the season.
- After weeks at sea, Claire’s dye job is finally starting to fade, and I can’t say I mind it. Her hair displaying signs of gray is a believable means to age her up if the show isn’t going to recast the actors (and we’d never expect them to). And is it just me, or does Jamie’s hair look a little lighter too?
- When it comes to Fergus and Marsali, I’m on Jamie’s side. Last time we saw Fergus even discussing anything related to the subject of women it was in regard to his sexual exploits, but apparently he and Marsali have been exclusive since last year? It’s a bit of a shoehorn in terms of plot, but I’m curious to see what happens with this new couple.
- As for Jenny and Dad Ian, Jamie says he’s sent them a letter explaining everything that happened -- but I’m pretty sure we can expect an earful next time they find themselves in Lallybroch again. I can already picture Jenny’s face, and it’s not happy.
That’s it for now, Outlander fans! Feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite moments this episode, as well as your predictions for the rest of Season 3, or tweet at us over at @Syfyfangrrls. How will Claire fare on that ship o' sickness? And what will happen to Jamie and the others in her absence? We’ll find out next week!