Spoilers aplenty here, friends, about the show and the book. Watch “Outlander” 3.9 before reading.
Welcome back (ahoy?) to our discussion of Outlander’s season three.
Before we start, I want to tip my hat to the writers that came up with the title “Doldrums,” which dictionary.com tells us can mean A: a state of inactivity, B: the wind pattern of the Atlantic Ocean trade route; and C: depression.
OMG, all three meanings apply here. What would we call that? A triple entendre? I love it.
So real quick, before we dive into the doldrums—see what I did there? I used all three meanings. I know, I’m so annoying–the past few episodes, since “A. Malcolm” (AKA Print Shop), I’ve noticed some mixed feelings in the comments threads. While some people have chimed in just to say how much they’re loving this season—and I agree, there’s a lot to love—others have also agreed with my fear that perhaps the super-sped-up pace of the last couple episodes have left Claire seeming a bit, shall we say, on edge?
The problem, I think, really comes down to the condensing of plot. In the book, the “Edinburgh” section is about 16% of the story, roughly 144 pages. Here, it was two episodes, and the first one was really just about Jamie and Claire having sexy time:
Totally. But that left us with one episode to establish a LOT of plot, most notably about Ian, Jr. being a runaway who helps Jamie, the side business of smuggling, the introduction of Reverend Campbell and his sister Margaret, and the burning down of the print shop. In between all that, the writers tried to give Claire a more active storyline by having her fight fiercely to save the life of the man who attacked her (something that doesn’t happen in the book).
While I understood the desire to give Claire more to do, some feared that her insistence on working so hard to save this would-be rapist, against Jamie’s wishes, made her seem unnecessarily cold towards Jamie. Had this happened in the book, where there’s a lot more breathing room in this section of the story, I think it might have worked. But in a TV show that only dedicates an hour to THIS MUCH PLOT, it seemed like Claire cared more for the rapist than for reconnecting with Jamie.
Then, last week in “First Wife,” the writers once again needed to take a lot of plot and condense it, choosing to have Claire remain at Broch Taurach and doctor to Jamie’s wounds, rather than have her run away and come back to find Jamie having already succumbed to an infection that should have killed him. Again, it makes Claire more active, which I always like. But it removed the opportunity for her DECISION to return to Jamie, and to ultimately save his life, which (in the book) is the moment she knows for sure that returning was not a mistake.
This brings us to today’s episode, nine out of thirteen, where we start things off still waiting for Claire to make that decision. (In my Voyager: “Mock Six”, which is the closest equivalent to this part of the book I have in my mock episodes, Claire had already made her decision to stay.)
I have to say, now that I’ve seen “Doldrums,” I think it was the right choice. Because man, oh, man, was this a great episode. Everything was here—tension between Claire and Jamie that finally begins to dissipate as they reconnect; Fergus and Marsali being “handfast”; Yi Tien Cho healing Jamie with acupuncture and then having his victorious moment of “creating” the wind that saves the ship’s fate (although not, in this incarnation, as they harpoon a shark); the man-o-war stuff.
We even get missionary sex in the supply closet, which will have to tide us over, I suppose, until we get to Turtle Soup in a little while. (Ladies, you know which scene I mean.)
Oh, and lest we forget, the new opening credit sequence! Seriously, I could just talk about that the whole time. But I think my favorite part of it was this:
What in the name off all that is holy? This is either the period from hell, or something’s about to go very wrong. Kudos, by the way, to production designer Jon Gary Steele for creating not one, but two 18th century sailing ships for this sucker!
Now I want to talk about the biggest change in this story, and that is Yi Tien Cho using his backstory to “create wind.”
Lots and lots of changes from the book here. At first, I was on the fence about it: Where is the shark? (Answer: probably too expensive to shoot, so we did the “Jonah” thing instead); Why would the men listen to this story now? (Answer: probably a welcome distraction from their fear over the loss of wind); and most importantly, Where the hell is this story going, Willoughby? And, oh, yeah, are we going to keep Ping An (the bird) in this version of events, or just skip it?
And then we got that fantastic answer:
Yi Tien Cho has “sacrificed” himself (his life story) to save the day.
This character isn’t nearly as much of a drunk or a clown here as he can be in the book, and has orchestrated this whole scene to make the men calm down, because he knows a storm is coming. I love the changes to his character here, even if he veers dangerously close to being “too perfect,” which can seem like its own cliche. (Ancient Chinese Secret, anyone?)
But for now, I’d like to acknowledge the simply lovely performance by actor Gary Young.
And all that happens before we get sex in the closet. (PS, I’d love to know where Claire gets the hair dye that just fades into a brilliant black with silver accents and doesn’t turn her hair orange while exposing incongruously grey roots. Anyone?)
And, oh, yeah, small plot point: the kidnapping by the man-o-war!
This whole section was quite beautifully shot, taken pretty much straight from the book. The part that really struck out to me was Claire simply taking in how young everybody on the British crew is. She doesn’t have to explain her thoughts. The look on her face says everything:
The episode left us with the fantastic cliffhanger of Jamie and Claire being stuck on opposing ships.
Guys, I have to say, this episode left me jazzed about this adaptation, probably more so than I have been this whole season. What did you guys think?
Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to tune in next week so we can see where all this crazy drama is headed!
And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link: Sassenach Jewelry