This week’s episode of Outlander tugs at our hearts, pushes a lot of buttons… which is all wonderful – great performances, interesting additions to the story line (since we never saw what happened on the Artemis in the book). But it really doesn’t take us anywhere, which is actually appropriate, since all of our characters are stuck where they are, making no progress back to each other.
Honestly, this episode didn’t really capture me – there was one major omission (haha, see what I did there), and there’s so much still to come that being stuck on that ship watching Claire take care of all those sick people for most of the episode, and watching Jamie take his frustration out on Fergus, didn’t keep my attention. But there were a couple of interesting moments, and one that I really loved. And that one is –
Moment #1: Mr. Pound
Like Season 1’s Lt. Foster and Taran McQuarrie, and Season 2’s Mary Hawkins and King Louis, Outlander is full of wonderfully drawn small characters. We fall in love with them, and then they’re gone. This season, the most recent of those small, lovely characters is Mr. Pound, the 14-year-old sailor assigned to assist Claire in her battle against typhoid. Eager, intelligent, capable, mature, and young, Mr. Pound defends Claire, watches over her, learns from her. I loved his beautiful smile when Claire tells him that he’s an “impressive young man,” probably one of the few times he’s been complimented in his short life, given the atmosphere he’s grown up in. The motherless child meets the childless mother – and each of them finds something they needed in the other. Claire has been missing Bree terribly, and here is a bit of a substitute, in the midst of an awful situation. Obviously, this isn’t a relationship that could have gone beyond the ship – he wouldn’t have become another Fergus, adopted into the Fraser household. But young Elias will go to extraordinary lengths to please Claire, for as long as they’re working together. For both of them, it fills a hole – however unexpected and unacknowledged.
But he’s in a very perilous place – being on the front line of caring for all of these men with an extremely contagious illness, without Claire’s vaccination protection. It doesn’t matter when he caught the disease, but it matters when the disease finally catches him. You can see the progression – which Claire takes for the extreme fatigue that she she herself is feeling. He drops quickly into a chair when she tells him that he can sit, as she asks him about Tompkins; and he’s looking very pale and tired when he brings Tompkins in to her. And of course, as the emergency turns a corner, and spirits lift, he’s the final casualty. You can see Claire’s heart break – this poor child! Even though he’s doing a grown man’s job, and would probably have objected to being called a child, that’s exactly what he is.
Emergencies bring people close, and he had earned her respect and affection – and he’s gone. His final word, “Mother,” tears her – and us – to pieces. Saying goodbye to Elias was so hard for Claire, and Caitriona did it beautifully. Carrying the “rabbit” theme through one more time, she returns his “lucky” rabbit’s foot to him, and performs the final duty of a friend of piercing his nose with the shroud needle. She can’t cry for the many sailors who have died – she has to “compartmentalize,” as she’s explained to Elias, but this death is personal, and she can allow herself to grieve.
Moment #2: Mutiny
Of course Jamie was quick to order the crew of the Artemis to immediately chase the Porpoise. His wife, lost to him for so long, had been taken from him again, after he thought he was just lending her. And of course Captain Raines ordered him locked up – he had just committed, by naval law, a criminal act with his orders, and by putting hands on the captain. All that that is definitely Jamie. And even telling Fergus to bust him out of the cell (and why couldn’t Willoughby come in and needle him up? did we need more puking?) and suggest taking the ship by force is all Jamie. He’s often impulsive, believing that his own actions are the right course. But beyond that, would our Jamie take this out on Fergus, questioning his understanding of love, berating him for not putting Jamie and the crew in danger, not to mention the possibility of abandoning Marsali?
This just didn’t work. The episode was written by a new writer, Luke Schelhaas, and he doesn’t understand our Jamie yet. It’s not that Jamie doesn’t make stupid, impulsive, not completely thought-out decisions – I can think of at least one scene in a future book where he allows his emotions to cause life-altering, if not life-threatening consequences, to another beloved character. Sure, he has logical concerns, despite assurances given, captain to captain, that they’ll make sure Claire is brought safely to Jamaica. But it’s entirely possible that Captain Leonard, Claire’s protector, will himself come down with the illness, and, as Jamie says, “there’s more than disease aboard that ship, lad – there’s 300 men.”
But why does Jamie think Fergus should put Jamie’s love for Claire ahead of his own love for his bride to be? Or ahead of his love for Jamie? This doesn’t ring true to Jamie’s character. “I love her too, Milord, but…” Fergus tries to protest. It just didn’t ring true that Jamie would say, “What good are you, you damn fool. Now I see I was right to withhold my blessing from ye. Proved ye dinna ken what love is. Because if you did, you would move heaven and earth, you would risk arrest and death, even hell. You would do it as easy as… the prick of a pin. You’d set me free from this cell, help me rescue the woman I love from her kidnappers. Til you’ve risked all, ye canna speak of love.”
Fergus has risked worse than death for Jamie, and Jamie knows it. Fergus understands very well what love is, and Jamie knows it. Jamie may not think much of Fergus’ sleeping with all the Highland lassies, since he saved himself for marriage, but he isn’t withholding his blessing because of concerns about Fergus – this is his son. He certainly doesn’t think that Fergus isn’t worthy of this young woman. And Jamie, no matter how worried, or stressed, is not cruel – this was thoughtless and cruel to one who has only shown him love and devotion. COMPLETELY not our Jamie.
So the mutiny actually belongs to Fergus – how much courage and backbone did it take for him to go against Milord’s wishes? How much has loving Marsali, and his own well-founded concerns for her well-being, matured him? He’s almost agreed to do it, eager to get Jamie’s blessing for the marriage, until he overhears the conversation in the Captain’s office – “The Frenchie is still free.” “He’s no trouble now.” “I wouldn’t mind a taste of his wee lassie!” “I bet she’s no virgin.” “Not by the time I’m done with her!” That scares him into thinking more about the situation – how can he risk the two people he loves most in the world on a poorly conceived, extremely risky, little chance of success, harebrained plan? “If I free you and we don’t succeed,” he tells Jamie, “they will kill us. And Marsali will be alone. I will not leave her alone. And I will not send you to your death.”
After the Moment
Did anyone else think Jamie was taking a huge risk pulling out the pictures of Bree to look through? Anyone could have walked up behind him and seen the photos. This didn’t make up for the abbreviated scene in A. Malcolm – it almost looked like something he did out of boredom. I’m sure that in the weeks since Claire walked back into his life, he’s pulled them out, examined them, asked Claire about details, treasured them – but this brief, risky flip through didn’t do much to tell me how he longs to know her.
Did you ALMOST feel sorry for Harry Tompkins? “Kill me. I’d thank ye for it. After the month I’ve had, I’d be glad to see the inside of a casket.” Almost sorry, not quite. Too bad, so sad.
Mistress Johannsen and her goats was another wonderful, but very small, character. With few words, other than “Mine goats needs grass,” she got across her willingness to stick out her neck only because another woman was concerned for the man she loves. And let’s hope that her final suggestion to Claire, that she jump off the ship and “try not to drown,” works!
Thank you to Outlander-Online.com for allowing me to use their excellent episode screencaps!
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