by: Crystal Fann
This week I’m talking mostly about the men of Outlander – since, save the presence of Claire and Marsali, it is those bastions of masculinity that dominated the screen in this week’s episode.
First off, while never on the screen, the first man I must mention has a presence as large as any of the actors. Bear McCreary’s masterful blending of Celtic and Calypso music had our hearts beating in tune with the feverish tempo so that we, like Jamie and Claire look eagerly toward the horizon for the adventure to come. Matt Roberts opening sequence promises action, peril, intrigue and the gentle touch of romance. These two men give us the first glimpse of each week’s show snagging our attention with a blaze of sight and sound. Bravo boys!
Now on to the show….
Jared Fraser is back and seriously…what is it with the Fraser genes that everyone ages so well? Jared must be 70 if he’s a day and yet he looks as dashing as when we left him in Paris 20 years ago. It is through Jared that we gain some hope – well if you can call it that – about the perils to come. Young Ian is healthy and strong so he can fetch up to 30 pounds being sold as a slave in Jamaica. That gives our erstwhile couple some hope for the boy – but no hope for themselves as they ponder telling Jenny and Ian what has happened. Perhaps the Caribbean isn’t far enough to travel to escape that looming wrath, yet I couldn’t help the tear in my eye as I saw Jamie watch the shores of his homeland fade away, perhaps forever.
The Artemis sets sail to a parade of sailors touching a horseshoe and greeting Jamie with a wary eye. Redheads are ill luck on a ship ye ken – so are bananas on a French frigate – who knew? As we see Fergus approach, any mother worth her salt knows something is afoot with his sheepish expression of half elation, half dread. Seems like the goods and things Fergus brought from Lallybroch contain one Marsali McKimmie. The two are hand-fast and while Fergus seems to have bedded every other young lass in Scotland, Marsali remains pure. This is a point of contention for Jamie who’s trying to escape certain death at the hands of an ex-wife. Unfortunately, Marsali has a little bit too much of her mother in her and bullies Jamie into staying on ship – much to Claire’s chagrin. “We’ve been apart for twenty years and you want me to share a cabin with her?” I feel ya, Claire!
Marsali is none too keen on the idea either – thanks to her mother, no doubt, she feels Claire is an English whore and makes no bones about it. Thankfully the rules are that the whore gets the biggest bed and Claire owns the moniker proudly as she slides into the berth. I did love Marsali’s stand against Jamie’s decision on her nuptials, showing that even in the 18th century, there are pouty, petulant teens. As a book reader, I have an idea of what’s to come with this young woman and I’m excited to see it!
Captain Raines is the quintessential stalwart commander of the vessel. A mix of sea-weathered discipline and superstitious belief his suggestion that Claire should be bare-breasted accompanied with Shakespearean quotes make him a conundrum – just as he should be. His conversation with Claire isn’t condescending as most men treat women in that time. I get the impression he has a grudging respect for our heroine – although he would probably rather die than admit it.
Now we come to my favorite part of the show…barfing Jamie. While I can certainly commiserate with his seasickness – the passages of Jamie suffering the same affliction on the page and screen reduced me to giggles. Perhaps it was thanks to the attention of Mr. Willoughby who deftly explained the perils of long-term retching to one’s testicles, complete with a scissoring motion for effect We get the feeling that there’s something afoot between the two men – but what?
It doesn’t take us long to find out what Jamie and Mr. Willoughby have been hiding – thanks to an untimely visit by Claire. Mr. Willoughby looks hangdog, Claire looks tickled and Jamie – well Jamie looks like a porcupine. A moment played for laughs on the surface has a poignant undertone. Fearing the unstable ground on which they still stand, Jamie has suffered the machinations of two cups of ginger tea a day for three weeks so that he won’t hurt Claire’s feelings and give her, what he feels, is yet another reason not to stay. Claire maneuvers herself through the pincushion of his face to give him a kiss and declare her love – she’s here to stay.
And stay they do mainly because the wind has ceased to blow. Then the bilge water contaminates the drinking water and the ale. More bangs and bumps and bruises convince the crew that they have a Jonah on board who didn’t touch the horseshoe cursing them all and to the whales, he must go. One of Jamie’s two Ardsmuir men (raise your hand if you saw the ghosts of Rupert and Angus in those Ardsmuir buddies) can’t remember whether he touched it or not and appoints himself as the ships sacrificial lamb. Jamie gets to play Tarzan and appears to save the day but the real hero of this skelloch is Yi Tien Cho.
In a proud voice, Yi Tien Cho recites the story of his life and tribulations – lapsing into a poetic yet rather X-rated poem of the glories of womanhood that has the sailors blushing, Marsali confused and Claire and Jamie scheming for some alone time. When the parchment of his life sails away in the wind, the sailors bow to the power of Willoughby. While Jamie knows Willoughby’s, magic is simply the observation of pelicans in flight (shout out to Ping Ang here!) Claire knows the cost of this narration to Yi Tien Cho and expresses her gratitude for the sacrifice.
We have an introduction to Capt. Leonard and a rather disgusting foray into what awaits Claire in the next episode. When Claire puts her scarf over her mouth, it was so well played that I thought for a second my TV had smellivison. Clare is under an oath to help and the young seaman sees some hope in a woebegone situation. Capt. Leonard isn’t a bad guy, he’s just in far over his head and so desperate for help that he’s willing to kidnap the wife of the King of Men.
And speaking of Jamie…swoon, sigh, and all other words that indicate melting into a puddle of romantic goo. This is the Jamie Fraser I’ve been missing, strong, loyal, passionate and an absolute teddy bear with those he loves.
His scenes with Fergus show us the father figure he has become to the young man who uses “Milord” in lieu of “Father”. Jamie’s words on honestly as we get the list of the lasses that Fergus has bedded speak to the lessons Jamie himself has learned. With Willoughby, we see the trust and bond of a long-term friendship. With the Rupert and Angus clones, we see a leader, both wise, protective and generous.
It is will Claire, however, that we see the Jamie we love best. A trunk of clothing so precious in memory Jamie could not bear parting from it. “Memories of you….never” The gentle words as they talk about a moon both scientific and mystical. The tightening of arms – strong and comforting – to assuage the longing for a daughter out of reach. The desire that spins from a simple bump in a passageway into a passionate romp among the sails. The uttered phrases that speak of a love that can withstand the ages – Jamie doesn’t try to be romantic – he’s simply honest, but truthful words spoken from the heart are the most romantic of all.
This is the kind of episode Outlander excels at – the perfect mix of drama, comedy but most of all the intimate moments and connection of a couple whose loyalty and love can withstand the tests of time and man. With four episodes to go in Season 3, you can bet this is one I’m going to savor again and again.
Let’s hear it for the boys!