This Outlander review contains spoilers.
Outlander Season 3 Episode 10
In any other show, jumping off a ship into the dark ocean would be the craziest thing one romantic lead has done for another. On Outlander, it’s like #15 on the list. Basically, it’s just another Thursday in the love story of Jamie and Claire.
“Heaven and Earth” told a story we’ve seen before — Claire proving her mettle as a doctor in a time that desperately needs her — but boy does Outlander tell this story well. After being more or less kidnapped at the end of last week’s episode, Claire sets herself about the task of containing the spread of typhoid fever on board a British naval vessel. After all, she may be kidnapped, but, as she told Jamie last week, she took an oath to help where she could when she first became a doctor. Besides, this ship is basically run by children, so it’s pretty hard not to feel sorry for them.
One of those children is Elias Pound, a 14-year-old naval officer tasked with helping Claire treat the sick and dying, and making sure she gets whatever she wants whilst aboard the ship. Elias is basically a little male feminist ally, calling out anyone who disrespects Claire or tries to challenge her authority. Perhaps even more importantly, Elias provides Claire with a confidante, a friend. It was only last episode that Claire was telling Jamie how much she misses Brianna. Elias gave her a chance to be a mother again, in some sense. When he lies dying, struck down by the fever, she pretends to be his own late mother, telling him to come home.
It’s a tragic moment for Claire, made even more tragic by the realization that Claire’s help aboard the ship will not grant her freedom. Rather, she is to be used as bait to catch Jamie by Thomas Leonard, the 19-year-old captain of the Porpoise.
Leonard is not an ungrateful, nor a vengeful man; he is simply one who believes in the letter of the law. While he has sympathy for Claire, he also feels it is his duty to catch a murderer, i.e. Jamie (the body of the dude Claire killed in self-defense has since been found in the creme de menthe). It’s easy to see where the young Captain Leonard is coming from. From where he’s standing and from what he knows, he is making the good decision. And, from what we see of him in this episode, he is a good man. The way he steps up to lead the Porpoise in a time of crisis after his superior officers die is admirable. In another story, he might be the hero.
But, here, our allegiances lie with Claire, as do the allegiances of ship milk lady Annekje, who, as far as I can tell, is a major Jamie/Claire shipper. After Claire “saves” her husband from alcohol poisoining, Annekje seemingly goes about making it her personal mission to make sure Claire can get off the ship to warn her husband. When her plan for Claire to sneak away while they are grazing her sheep doesn’t pay off, she ties two barrels together to make a raft and convinces Claire to jump overboard.
Like I said before, it’s not the craziest thing Claire has ever done to get back to Jamie — top of that list would be, you know, traveling through time — but it’s certainly up there. Hopefully, Claire is an OK swimmer? Or, I don’t know, the tide is kind to her? This is a big risk, and the kind of crazy narrative move this show is increasingly making. Will Outlander be able to sustain its groundedness amidst the change in setting (first, the open seas, and then Jamaica) or has this show finally lost the plot?
Meanwhile, back aboard the Artemis, Jamie has been thrown in the brig following his attempt to force the captain to go after Claire and the Porpoise. In a reminder of how Jamie can be when he is separated from Claire, he tries to manipulate Fergus into breaking him out and taking back the ship by telling him a) if he does, he will give Fergus and Marsali his blessing and b) that, if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t truly understand love.
Thankfully, Fergus has not only seen Jamie at his worst before, but also has a level head about him. While he seemingly considers stealing the keys and breaking Jamie out, he inevitably chooses, instead, to talk to the captain and convince him to let Jamie out on his word, instead. The mature decision pays off in a few ways, not the least of which is convincing Jamie that Fergus and Marsali are adult enough to be properly married once they reach Jamaica.
As entertaining as “Heaven and Earth” was, it felt like storytelling we’ve seen before on this show, and makes me worry that Outlander won’t be able to sustain its narrative ingenuity and freshness now that we’re properly out of Scotland. While the dual narrative of Claire and Jamie stuck centuries apart may have been trying at some points in the first half of the season, Claire’s storyline especially was grounded in characters and settings that felt real. We’ll see how Outlander fares as we head to the New World, both Jamaica and beyond.