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Outlander boards a ship to put Claire and Jamie’s relationship problems on pause

Illustration for article titled iOutlander/i boards a ship to put Claire and Jamie’s relationship problems on pause
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Jamie and Claire’s rescue mission to save Young Ian from his Jamaica-bound kidnappers injects Outlander with some much needed adventure. The show has been dragging along since Claire’s return, and their voyage promises some high-stakes drama on the high seas. But it also acts as an excuse for the writers to just sort of ignore the major bomb Claire dropped at the end of last episode in saying that she’s no longer sure she and Jamie belong together.

Claire herself says that she and Jamie can discuss their issues later. For now, they must focus on getting Young Ian back. The effects of her confession do play out a little bit in “The Doldrums.” Jamie hides the fact that Yi Tien Cho has been performing acupuncture on him as a way to ease his seasickness from Claire, worried that she’ll be hurt that it isn’t her ginger tea that’s helping him. I have a bit of a hard time believing that Jamie really sees Claire as that petty. But at least the episode doesn’t let their conversation from last week go completely ignored. Outside of that little lie though, “The Doldrums” presses pause on the show’s emotional narrative to focus more on the adventure, but Outlander is at its best when the two work hand-in-hand.


Jamie and Claire have, as of late, been resolving all of their relationship issues quickly and by way of redundant dialogue. Claire keeps wondering if they belong together, and then Jamie answers by just simply declaring that they do. If this is going to be the conclusion every time, why introduce the doubt in the first place? It comes off as forced conflict rather than genuine, complex relationship drama. Claire talking about how much she misses Brianna suggests that her doubts about coming back don’t all hinge on her relationship with Jamie, but the episode briskly moves past that, too. It’s one of the better written scenes in an otherwise achingly heavy-handed script.

Predictably, the journey gets off to a rocky start. When bad luck befalls the ship, the men blame the fact that someone neglected to touch the horseshoe at the start of the trip, and Claire rolls her eyes at their silly beliefs. She sure is skeptical of the ship crew’s superstitions for a woman who literally time-traveled after touching a bunch of magical rocks. “Believing something doesn’t make it real,” Claire says. That’s a bold statement coming from someone who left her entire life behind to be with a man from a different century who she hadn’t seen in 20 years. You would think she could stretch her imagination to buy into the crew’s superstitions or at least understand what the captain means when he says he lets them believe what they want to believe if it gives them peace of mind.

Fergus and Jamie’s eldest daughter also board the ship and announce that they are married, something Jamie immediately disapproves of for no real reason. Well, the reason he gives is that they hardly know each other and that Fergus is lying to her by not disclosing his sexually promiscuous past. Fergus at least points out how hypocritical he’s being. He fell in love with Claire at first sight. It’s tough to swallow Jamie judging Fergus for not being totally honest when he himself isn’t always honest with Claire. This season has had an off-putting Jamie-knows-best philosophy. Jamie is certainly a refreshing break from all the profoundly flawed men who dominate television dramas, but sometimes the show is overly forgiving of his mistakes. He can do no wrong, and he can also do just about anything. He doles out advice that seems to contradict his own actions.

The misfortune onboard culminates in the men calling for the person who failed to touch the horseshoe to be thrown overboard. The drama is mildly enticing, unfolding rather predictably and giving Jamie, of course, the chance to be the hero. It has been a long time since Outlander took any real risks with its storytelling.


The episode takes a weird turn in the show’s sloppy attempts to give Yi Tien Cho backstory. His speech acts as the episode’s climax, and it is so overwritten and grand that it comes off as goofy. On the one hand, I’m happy to see the writers at least attempt to develop Yi Tien Cho. But rather than organically weaving that backstory into the show’s narrative, the script just shouts “here’s some backstory!” Despite including some specifics, his speech is broad. He left his life behind because of his love for women? All women? His speech is framed as movie but comes off as simplistic, vague, and comically overwrought.

Somehow, we end up learning very little about Yi Tien Cho from all this. Just because he has been given backstory does not mean that he is a well written character. He touches on his experiences of racism, and those parts of his story are certainly compelling. But the show itself has treated the character as exotic, leaning into stereotypes. The music that plays over all of the character’s scenes implicitly others him. He feels very much like a prop in the narrative, and centering him with this confounding speech is a complete misfire.


Stray observations

  • “Fizzle” is the latest thing Claire says that confuses Jamie.
  • Jamie is such a seasick baby.
  • Jamie’s step-daughter’s sassiness is funny but she feels about as well developed of a character as her mother.
  • Well, Jamie and Claire are separated again. The universe keeps trying to keep them apart.
  • Claire’s ship look is very good.
  • Jamie literally got his nephew kidnapped and then just sends his sister and brother-in-law a letter about it? Seriously, he needs to start facing some real consequences for his actions.

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