Friday, November 17, 2017

"Superstitions, Jonah's and a life story told" -a recap of season 3 episode 9, by your Aussie Blogging Lass!

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown 

From the moment the opening music begins, we know that the story is moving forward. Bear McCreary has added new Caribbean rhythms to the melody and there are new images in the credits. In the same way that France was left behind for Scotland mid season 2, so too Scotland is being left behind at this point in season 3. The new destination is the West Indies, where the rest of the drama will play out. Changes are ahead!

Claire is watching the preparations of a ship about to sail, as Jamie and Jared approach. Jamie is to act as supercargo on board the Artemis, but Jared notes the changing weather and comments that Jamie is lucky to have a physician at hand for when his seasickness takes hold. Jamie says that he will manage, as the main concern is for Young Ian. Jared says that the records show there is only one ship sailing under a Portuguese flag, the Bruja. 

With a home port of Jamaica and the fact that it was sailing low in the water, the men surmise that the ship is on its way home. Jared tries to reassure them, commenting that a healthy male will sell for 30 pounds in Jamaica, so as long as Young Ian hasn’t been making trouble, he will be unharmed. Thanking Jared for his help, Jamie and Claire bid him farewell. 

Jamie comments that it was ill luck having to pay Laoghaire and that perhaps he is being punished for wanting to be with Claire. 

Claire replies that she can’t believe any God would take away a man’s nephew simply because he wanted to be happy. Again, Jamie asks for reassurance: will they actually be happy? While he believes they are mated for life, he offers to return her to the stones if she truly wants to leave. But Claire deflects the question, saying that the most important thing right now is that they find Young Ian. 

Lesley and Hayes (aka the new Rupert and Angus) appear, arguing with each other about tides. It is clear that no one is really looking forward to the journey ahead, but the men are always willing to help Jamie, so are coming along. They tell Jamie that Willoughby and Fergus are already on board, together with some “baggage from Lallybroch”. (This is a set-up joke for a revelation that is to come in the next scene.) As they walk towards the ship, Claire and Jamie briefly discuss Jenny and Ian. Not enough time has passed for them to be worried yet, so Jamie has sent them a letter explaining everything. 

The voyage begins and the seas already look choppy, but Jamie hasn’t noticed his stomach yet, he tells Claire. He is sadly watching the Scottish landscape disappear, vowing that he won’t set foot on Scotland’s land again without Young Ian. The sailors begin their superstitious routine, touching a horseshoe and politely addressing Jamie. Yet no-one speaks to Claire and she begins to wonder if she is invisible. Jamie explains the superstition - both women and redheaded men are considered bad luck on a ship. To ward off misfortune, the sailors always speak to Jamie before he speaks to them; do not address Claire at all and everyone -Claire included- must touch the horseshoe. 

Fergus appears on deck, and is greeted warmly by Jamie, until it is revealed that Marsali is with him. They are married, the couple say, handfast that very morning, after a courtship that had begun the previous August. Since the two young lovers have not yet consummated the marriage, Jamie says that the handfasting is not binding and demands that Marsali return home, as the voyage is too dangerous.

But Marsali is every bit Laoghaire’s daughter. After calling Claire an English whore and rolling her eyes at Fergus’ admonishment that she must not address Milady in such a fashion, Marsali says that she has sent her mother a letter informing her of the handfasting and if Jamie forces her to return home, she will lie and say that Fergus has bedded her. She will, she adds, either been married or ruined. Painted into a corner, Jamie has no option but to agree, but demands that the two are not to share a cabin. He will share with Fergus and Marsali with Claire - a decision that results in unison cries of “What?!” from both women. Claire tries to change his mind, but it is no use. He must protect Marsali’s virtue, he tells a frustrated Claire. When she stalks inside, saying “Mine too, it would seem”, Jamie mutters under his breath that now he is going to be sick!

This certainly seems to be the case as the next scene begins. An obviously nauseous Jamie is being fed ginger tea by Claire. Trying to distract himself, he talks of Fergus and Marsali’s deception. Claire comments that she doesn’t think the two have thought through what a lifetime of commitment will mean, but neither had they when first married. She notices a chest in the corner and Jamie tells her it is some of their things from Lallybroch. 

Confused, Claire opens the chest, to find her gowns from Paris inside. Jamie had kept them, he says, as memories of her, but had also allowed Marsali to make use of them. He is becoming more seasick by the minute, prompting Claire to make him drink more tea. She muses that the sea may be calmer the next day, but Jamie says he will be dead by then and asks her to ensure that he is buried at Lallybroch. There is a knock on the door and Claire is called away, Lesley telling her that she is needed.

Claire tends to a sailor who has been injured on deck. It is an unexpected injury and the captain has come below to see what has happened. The sailor, named Manzetti, is asked if he touched the horseshoe. He assures everyone that he has, but it is being taken as an ill omen nonetheless. Someone has not touched the horseshoe, it is mused, something which is extremely bad luck. Claire comments that accidents happen, but this logic is not well received. The Captain quotes Shakespeare in his explanation to her and invites Claire and Jamie to dine with him that evening. Claire accepts, but says that Jamie will probably not feel like food, a comment that brings a brief chuckle from the captain.

Meanwhile, Jamie is trying to talk sense to Fergus, telling the young man that he hardly knows his bride. Fergus counters that Claire and Jamie hadn’t known each other well when they married either. Jamie tries to say that he and Claire had been forced to marry, but Fergus isn’t buying this argument for a minute. 

If Jamie and Claire had been forced to marry, he says, then his own heart is forced to beat; he is forced to breathe. He knows the story and also knows that Jamie had wanted Claire from the moment he saw her. Jamie didn’t need time and neither does he. Fergus expresses disappointment that Jamie isn’t happy for him. Jamie asks why Fergus hadn’t told him beforehand. Fergus answers that it is for the same reason that Jamie had kept Laoghaire a secret from Claire: he was a coward. Jamie asks if Fergus has lied to Marsali too. No, Fergus says, he and Marsali have no secrets. She is aware of his birth in a brothel and his life as a pickpocket. He is forced however, to admit that he hasn’t told Marsali about his previous liaisons with women, but stresses that he has not yet bedded Marsali, nor any other woman since their courtship began. He has waited: a fact which must mean something. But Jamie says that it doesn’t mean anything if Fergus cannot be honest with his bride.

Captain Raines and Claire are dining in the captain’s quarters. Raine expresses his regret that Jamie’s seasickness has prevented him from joining them, but Claire comments that she believes that she is the one he had wanted to dine with anyway, as she had questioned his authority in front of the men in regards to the horseshoe. 

Raines replies that he merely wants to help: to gain the respect of the men she must put herself in their shoes. He reminds her that her mere presence on the ship is ill luck and that by rights, she and Marsali should be bare breasted, as it is believed that a woman’s bare breasts calm an angry sea. It is the reason why the ship’s figurehead is a bare breasted woman: to keep the ship safe from curses. The captain adds that a horseshoe is more difficult, as there is no substitute. Claire expresses disbelief that touching a piece of iron will bring better luck, but Raines tells her that every ship has its own superstitions. Anything that provides the crew with assurance is to be encouraged. Claire counters that the men can also lose faith just as easily, if the portends indicate disaster, but Raines says he would rather have them make their own luck than give up hope. His own beliefs about touching a piece of iron are immaterial: the men believe in it. Believing something doesn’t make it real, Claire tells him, but the captain disagrees. “On this ship, it does,” he replies, before quoting Shakespeare once again. “There is nothing good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The next scene begins with the extremely unpleasant sights and sounds of Jamie vomiting into a bucket. Interviews about this scene revealed that Sam Heughan actually had to “vomit” up a mixture of egg whites on cue - and it is a mystery how he wasn’t actually sick in the process! 

This is a very realistic - even nauseating - sight! Mr Willoughby enters, asking how long Jamie plans on continuing this farce, but Jamie says he must allow time for Claire’s ginger tea to work. Willoughby argues against waiting, telling Jamie that the retching he is experiencing can cause more damage, by tearing muscles and even twisting his testicles to the point of requiring removal. He tells Jamie that if Jamie truly wants to wait it is his choice - but it is obvious that he has another plan in mind. 

Meanwhile, Marsali and Claire are choosing beds. Marsali comments that Claire should take the bigger one, so that she won’t bump her head when she gets up. Claire misinterprets this as an attempt by Marsali to get into her good graces so that Claire will put in a good word with Jamie, and tells the younger woman that she doesn’t need to do this, as the situation with Marsali and Fergus is none of her business. 

In a retort worthy of both her mother and Jenny, Marsali responds with dripping sarcasm. Claire has dropped out of the clear blue sky, she says, sticking her nose in and ruining her family, but now she has suddenly decided to mind her own business. Jamie may think Claire a wise woman, but Marsali still thinks she’s a whore. Abruptly, Claire abandons any pretence at friendship and takes the bigger bed! This scene is fabulous comic relief by Caitriona Balfe and Lauren Lyle and it is hoped the two will share many more scenes in the future!

The next morning, Claire comes across a much improved Jamie having breakfast and she is pleased to see him looking so much better. Marsali and Fergus appear and Marsali tells Jamie that Fergus has told her everything. 

She’s not naive, she says, she knows Fergus has been with lasses, but now they only want to be with each other. Fergus asks for Jamie to bless their union. Claire speaks up in support, which causes a brief look of disbelief to cross Marsali’s face. Claire takes Jamie aside, telling him that if he allows the infatuation to continue, it may well fizzle out. Jamie’s response to her is amusing, if for no other reason than it turns the word fizzle into a double entendre, but he will not change his mind, telling the young couple that he simply cannot allow it. 

Up on deck, Mr Willoughby is painting characters onto the boards with a brush and water. Claire, who has finally ditched her coat and has repurposed her outfit into a more casual “African Queenesque” ensemble complete with loosely tied ponytail, sees him and asks what the characters are. 

Willoughby replies that it is a poem and takes papers from his pocket. Claire assumes this to be more poetry, but Willoughby tells her that he has been scribing his life in China so that it will not be forgotten. The water characters start to fade as Willoughby says that a story told is a life lived. Claire asks if he will tell the story to her. But Willoughby refuses, saying “Not yet”. If he tells the story, he will have to let it go. He leaves her on deck and she watches the last of the characters disappear as she looks out to sea. 

Time passes. Claire immerses herself in her job as ship doctor, treating injuries and making medicines. She likes the life at sea, as it reminds her of a simpler time. 

A bawdy sea shanty is in full swing as she walks back to the cabin, where she discovers Mr Willoughby treating Jamie with acupuncture needles. It is his treatment, not her tea, that has cured his seasickness. Willoughby apologises, saying that Jamie hadn’t wanted the treatment but he himself had insisted. Jamie tells him it is all right and Willoughby leaves the cabin. Claire asks why Jamie hadn’t told her about the acupuncture and Jamie replies that he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, given that they haven’t been on the most stable ground recently. He didn’t want Claire to see the failed tea as more proof that she didn’t belong. And at last, there comes some affection and reconciliation between the two.

Claire tells him that while her return has been confusing and frustrating, there has never been any question that she loves him. Their arms go around each other and she teases him, saying that he looks like a pin cushion. He feels like one too, he tells her, but he hasn’t vomited in weeks. They kiss briefly, before Jamie looks quizzically above, commenting that they are not moving. 

It is true. The ship has stopped. The sailors are checking the instruments, but even though they are on course, they have lost the wind. Jamie comes up on desk and asks what is going on. 

The acupuncture needles are still in his face and Raines asks about them. Willoughby explains, saying that it is a Chinese treatment for sea sickness.  Jamie asks if it is usual to lose the wind in these latitudes and the rumblings about ill luck begin again, as well as some comments about who might be responsible. Claire tries to stop this, by suggesting that everyone line up and touch the horseshoe then and there, so that the ship’s rules are complied with. Hayes agrees that this is a good idea but the sailors dismiss it: it is too late to touch the horseshoe now - it must be done at the start of a voyage. Raines tells everyone not to worry: the wind will return and they must be ready when it does. 

It is night and Claire and Jamie share a moment alone on deck, marvelling at the fact it is just them at last. “And the man in the moon,” adds Jamie, kissing her. Wrapping herself in his arms, Claire tells Jamie that before she left Boston, men had just flown to the moon. Jamie wonders what it looks like and she tells him of the photographs she has seen. It is rocky and barren and lifeless, but beautiful. She tells him that the craters can be seen, pointing out the dark spots. 

Jamie refers to them as the Man in the Moon’s face and says that the moon looks close enough to speak to. Claire begins to quote from “Goodnight, Moon”, explaining emotionally to Jamie that she used to read the book to Brianna and that Brianna could recite it to her toy bunny before she could even read. ”You miss her,” says Jamie. “Terribly,” she whispers in response and he pulls her closer to him. This is a beautifully tender scene, acted spectacularly as always by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. 

Another day dawns and still the ship is not moving. A clock is heard ticking in the background, as Claire’s voiceover announces that the days have turned into weeks. Sailors are trying to keep busy with various tasks, but the tension is building. The ship is becalmed in the middle of a vast ocean and even the most experienced sailors are starting to fear the worst. And indeed, it appears as if the worst has happened: the drinking water on board has started to go bad, spoiled by the bilge water. Raines instructs the men to save what they can, and to boil the rest. On top of that, they must go to half rations. He tells them all to pray for rain and leaves. 

But the sailors have another suggestion: to find the Jonah who has brought them ill luck and throw the man overboard. A close up on Hayes’ worried face indicates the possible identity of the “Jonah” as the scene ends.

Raines, Claire and Jamie discuss the situation. There are only five unspoiled barrels left, which will not be enough. They could normally wait for the wind to return, but not without water or ale. Raines asks who they should blame. Claire says that the bilge water spoiled the barrels, but Raines says that is not what he asked. A scapegoat is needed and Raines is going to allow one to be chosen. Indeed, Raines says he may not be able to stop the sailors. They must believe that he is doing everything he can on their behalf or there will be a mutiny. Jamies states that none of his men will be thrown overboard.

Meanwhile the sailors are going through a list of people they have seen touch the horseshoe. All of Jamie’s party have done so, except for one: Hayes. They start to openly call him Jonah and Lesley leaps to his friend’s defence, but when the two are left alone in the cabin, Hayes admits that he doesn’t think he touched it.

The threats and uncertainty have gotten to Hayes: drunk now, he has climbed to the top of the mast and the others are encouraging him to jump. Lesley explains to Jamie what has happened: the sailors have accused Hayes of not touching the horseshoe and he can’t remember if he did so or not. The men had planned to throw him overboard, so he had climbed up high to escape them, but is now thinking they might be right. And so Jamie, ever MacDubh to his men, promptly climbs the rigging to reach Hayes and talk him down. 

Jamie reminds him of Ardsmuir, encouraging Hayes to listen to him and not the others. “It was us versus them and it’s the same now.” If the men are going to throw Hayes overboard, Jamie says, they will have to throw him, Lesley, Fergus and Willoughby (who has just noticed a sea bird flying low over the water) overboard first. Jamie tries another approach: if Hayes jumps, he will be forced to go in after him and Claire will kill them both! He promises Hayes that he won’t let any harm come to him and holds out his hand. Hayes takes it finally, but loses his balance and a few anxious moments pass until he manages to catch hold of the rigging. The two men climb down and face an angry mob below who chant “Jonah”, as knives are drawn and threats are made. 

But it is Willoughby who saves the day. Ringing the bell for silence, he begins to tell his own life story. Willoughby tells them how, in his own country, he was a poet. His poetry came to the attention of the Emperor’s second wife, and she asked him to join her household. This was a great honour, but with the condition that as a member of the household of the Emperor’s wife, he must be a eunuch. It was dishonourable to refuse; a death sentence, in fact. But, an emotional Willoughby explains, he had fallen in love with women; the taste of their breasts, the scent of their navels, the feeling of their warm mounds like peaches. He is winning over the crowd with his erotic descriptions, and Claire and Jamie share an amused smile! Willoughby fled on the Night of the Lanterns, he says. He left his house and came to a place where the golden words of his poems are taken for the clucking of hens and his calligraphy for bird scratchings. The women now call him Yellow Worm and even the lowest of whores will not lie with him. By not surrendering his manhood, he has lost everything else: honour, livelihood and country. 

Sometimes, he says, he thinks it is not worth it. Dramatically he stands on the edge of the ship and throws the papers of his life story overboard. But instead of sinking, they float into the air: the wind has returned!  The sailors spring into action, preparing the boat to set sail once again. Hayes approaches Willoughby and makes a guarded apology, by way of saying that he has heard worse stories. Claire asks Willoughby how he knew the wind was about to return and he draws her attention to the low flying bird. When birds fly high, he says, the air is dry, but when they fly low, the air is heavy and rain is coming. Calling Willoughby by his true name, Claire makes a heartfelt thank you. Overcome, the man turns away. Rain patters onto the deck, erasing the last of Willoughby’s letters. 

The mood is jubilant as the rain falls. Barrels are filled, men stand with their mouths open, drinking in the rainwater. Below deck, Jamie and Claire giggle as the rolling of the ship knocks them into each other. Aroused, they rush into a storeroom and make love as quickly and as quietly as they can. Claire tells Jamie that others will hear them, to which Jamie responds “Let them!” Afterwards, Claire lies with her head on Jamie’s chest, as he strokes her hair, telling her that he likes the grey that is returning. The way the light hits it, it is like a piece of silver moonlight. Claire comments that it is impossible not to love a man who says such things. 

With a clever nod to the fandom’s name for Jamie, she tells him that were he to say that in the 20th century, he would be the King of All Men. Seriously now, she tells him that she had always known, when she decided to return, that they would have to get used to each other again. “No matter what troubles happen around us, Sassenach,” Jamie says, “This, what it is between us, never changes.” They kiss tenderly - and the fans rejoice to see them happy again. 

And so, of course, this must mean that the happiness is destined not to last. The ship is being pursued by a British Man o War, which is signalling that they want the Artemis to heave to. Raines says that the pursuing ship may be short handed and will need men. There is no choice but to heave to. Hastily Claire and Jamie discuss what may happen. Jamie tells Claire that by law, they can press any British subject into service, which amounts to over half the crew, Jamie included. 

Jamie tells Claire that if he is taken, she must continue on to Jamaica to find Young Ian. She agrees. But when the very young acting captain of the Porpoise comes aboard, it is not men that he wants, but a surgeon. The ship has suffered an outbreak of infectious plague, Captain Leonard explains. Claire tells him that she is the surgeon, but that he shouldn’t have come on board, nor should he touch anyone while there. Leonard says that he had no choice: the captain and 2 lieutenants are dead, as well as the surgeon and the surgeon’s mate. He himself is not experiencing symptoms, but hundreds of others are. He is not there to press men, as he doesn’t want more mouths to feed. What he does want is medical assistance. Claire asks what symptoms the men are experiencing and is told griping pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and a rash on their stomachs.  Claire says she knows what it might be, but she will need to examine the men first. Leonard asks if she will come aboard, and Claire agrees at precisely the same time as Jamie refuses. The two retire to discuss the situation. Jamie tells Claire she can’t set foot on a plague ship, but Claire says that she cannot catch what is on board. It is not plague but typhoid fever, which she has been inoculated against.

She can show the men what to do, she says and she has an obligation to help, due to the oath she swore to become a doctor. Jamie understands oaths. He rubs his finger over her wedding band, remarking that he has taken an oath or two himself and none of them lightly. Jamie remarks that he knows there is no talking her out of it, to which Claire replies that they must both be older and wiser. Jamie says he will not take his eyes off the ship until she returns and they kiss. 

Jamie watches as Claire is rowed over to the Porpoise. She is greeted formally on her arrival by the healthy men who remain. She is taken below to where the sick men are and the sights and sounds are horrific (to the viewer as well!) Covering her mouth and nose, Claire takes stock. The conditions are deplorable. Examining the stomach of one man, she sees the tell tale red rash. 

In the captain’s quarters, Claire tells Leonard that the disease is called typhoid. The methods of containing it are different to other diseases and she knows how to do this. She relays the instructions, but warns Leonard that most of the sick men will still die. What is important is containing the spread, but it will get a lot worse before it gets better.  Claire offers to stay for a while to help them organise themselves and Leonard responds that he will be grateful for any assistance. Claire says she will need a dozen healthy crewmen and is promptly introduced to the first of them: a very young man, known as Mr Pound. Claire says that she will work fast, as Jamie and Captain Raines will be anxious to get underway. Leonard tells her that she will inform the ship that she will be a little while longer.

But while Claire is below in the galley fighting with the cook for boiled water, a sudden surge indicates that they are underway.  

Claire goes to confront Captain Leonard. He has no choice, he says, as they are desperate. Since both ships are travelling to Jamaica, he has sent word that accommodation will be provided until Claire is able to rejoin the Artemis. Mr Pound reappears to tell Claire that they are ready to move the men. With one last despairing look at the Artemis, she turns to begin her work. There is nothing else she can do.

This episode focuses a lot on the concept of respect. First and foremost, superstitions on ships must be respected and are ignored at peril. Character wise, Willoughby earns the respect not only of Jamie and Claire for his skill with acupuncture, poetry and calligraphy, but also from the men at large for seemingly returning the wind and breaking the curse. Claire and Marsali are yet to earn each other’s respect and in turn, Marsali and Fergus are waiting for Jamie to respect and approve their wish to be married. The captains of both ships respect Claire’s skill, but this is not enough to prevent yet another separation for Jamie and Claire. Now viewers and readers are left to respect the storytelling of the episodes to come - and trust that the Frasers will soon be reunited! 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She hated the realism of the vomiting scenes, and although she doesn’t suffer from seasickness, started to turn green along with Jamie! 

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