Part 13: Claire’s going on holiday. Jamaica? Yeah, I kidnapped her
Wherein Jamie’s out to sea, even before he sets foot on a boat.
Sometimes mid-life crises hit husbands gently, with a force equivalent to a child throwing a Syrian dwarf hamster at your stomach. Maybe the husband will buy a second-hand leather jacket and start calling women ‘babe’, or join the gym only to a) go six times before giving it up, or b) die of a massive heart attack on the cross-trainer.
Sometimes mid-life crises hit a little harder – at approximately the force of a Labrador careening into your legs in a tight corridor because he thinks there’s a plate of sausages behind you. In cases like this the husband might splash out on a new sports car he can ill-afford, or start an affair with a woman from his office who will almost certainly be called Shelley.
And sometimes, just sometimes, mid-life crises hit with such prolific and destructive force that they make the Richter scale look like a tool for measuring farts. To help you gauge and visualise the impact, imagine a Shetland pony running into a nuclear reactor with fifty landmines strapped to its back.
Or forget the animals altogether and simply imagine Jamie Fraser: the man whose mid-life crisis downgrades most regular crises to the severity of a child stubbing their toe against a bouncy castle.
Jamie certainly knows how to make himself at home ‘over the hill’ by throwing caution to the wind: printing and slinging seditious pamphlets, living in a brothel, selling illicit booze, covering up murders. Still, Claire loves a bad boy, so most of that stuff, though borderline, is definitely excusable. What elevates Jamie’s mid-life crisis to the nuclear league and puts him on Claire’s shit-list quite possibly forever is his rather dubious decision not only to stick his love caber into the porridge pot of the woman who once tried to have the love of his life burned alive at the stake, but also to marry her. Marrying Captain Black Jack would’ve been less controversial.
Jamie proceeds to add insult to injury by falling back on a most unholy trilogy of flimsy justifications for marrying Laoghaire: “Oh, but I thought you were dead”; “Well, you’re the one who told me to be kind to the lass”; and “you left me”. Oh, Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. You’ve survived so much. Whippings, wars, duels, disease. Why would you choose to commit suicide now? Men have an awful habit of resorting to deflection, projection and scapegoatery when they should be retreating and scurrying with the urgency of Bonnie Prince Charlie excusing himself from a pub brawl.
Claire and Jamie’s argument over Laoghaire is raw, uncertain, vicious and illogical, which is to say that it’s absolutely pitch-perfect. Their fight contains a lot of shouting, panting, pulling, grabbing, hitting, pushing and kissing. It’s a battle that quickly transforms into a sex scene, something you don’t see that much of anymore in this #metoo age. Perhaps in recognition of the changed times in which we now live, Claire ends their little tussle in a dominant position, perched astride Jamie’s hips.
Just as they’re about to burn off all that rising tension with a well-timed angry fuck, they’re interrupted by Jenny, who enters stage left with a cold jug of water (it’s a case of jugus interruptus, you might say), the sort of treatment usually reserved for horny alley-cats wailing outside bed-room windows.
Most of Jamie and Claire’s stay at Lallybroch is awkward as hell. Jenny doesn’t trust anything that Claire says, or has ever said. It’s fair to say that Claire has an impossible task ahead of her if she wants to assauge Jenny’s feelings over her disappearance, absence and ‘resurrection’. How would you even start?
“Hi, Jenny. You know how you have no concept of conventional flight, the combustion engine, radio waves or even life outwith the confines of the land upon which you were born? Well I just wanted to tell you that I’m a time traveller, and we’ve got these things called televisions and space rockets and condoms, and I walked through some magical stones back to the future where I had your brother’s baby two hundred years after you were dead. See, I knew you would understand.”
‘You look well,’ Claire tells Jenny. Jenny’s response is frosty. Hell, my response was frosty, too. She looks well, Claire? WELL? She looks exactly the bloody same, Claire. At least they gave Jamie a pair of glasses to suggest the passage of time.
Jamie doesn’t have any smoother a time of it, ancestral home or no ancestral home. Both his sister and his brother-in-law blame him for leading young Ian astray, and are angry at him for lying to them about the lad’s whereabouts. I think it must be Jamie’s destiny forever to be thrown shade by a guy with a limp. Or maybe something else is going on here. Are deliberate parallels being drawn between Colum and Dougal, and Ian and Jamie? After all, Jamie is the heir apparent to Dougal’s fire, fury and passion, even if he’s never shared his vanity and moral flexibility.
The Lallybroch-centric episode is very, very funny, and Sam Heughan gets most of the best lines, which he delivers with impeccable comic timing. I’m thinking about the moment when Claire accuses Jamie of having fathered Laoghaire’s children, and he responds haughtily: “There are other redheaded men in Scotland, Claire.” Or when he’s being nursed by Claire after being peppered with buckshot by a vengeful Laoghaire, and he says to Claire, with understandable confusion: “Can you please explain how jabbing needles in my arse is going to help my arm?”
Divorced from his illegal income stream, and perhaps about to become divorced from Laoghaire, Jamie is in dire need of fresh income. He remembers the treasure box he discovered on Silkie Island when he was on the run from Ardsmuir prison, and takes Claire and young Ian with him to retrieve it. Almost as soon as poor, tragic, dutiful Ian swims out to the island he’s captured by pirates, or press-ganged by soldiers, bundled into a boat and whisked away.
If he though things were awkward at Lallybroch before, just wait until he has to explain to Ian’s mum and dad that he’s cast their son in a live-action adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’. Perhaps realising how awful this would be, Jamie decides instead to exploit his nautical connections to find out where Ian’s vessel is headed, and secure passage on a ship that’s going the same way.
Onboard their ship is a horseshoe that the sailors believe they all must touch at the start of their voyage to ensure good fortune. Jamie and Claire are living proof that some luck is so powerfully bad that no blessed artefact or amulet has the power to counteract it. I’m surprised it didn’t blow up when they rubbed it.
Because life doesn’t like to stop teasing and tormenting the cursed couple for more than a second, Fergus and his new wife-to-be, Marsali – daughter of the dreaded Laoghaire – have also insinuated themselves onboard.
Marsali definitely has her mother’s obdurate, obnoxious, semi-psychopathic, spiteful nature, which begs the question: what does the passionate, romance-soaked Fergus see in such a woman? I can only suppose that the fires of her fury, when channelled through her heart and, erm… various other organs, must make for an all-consuming and volcanic coupling that’s impossible to resist. I fear, though, that Fergus – cad though he is – may be the moth to Marsali’s flame (that was undoubtedly the genesis of Jamie’s attraction to Laoghaire, too).
In any case, it’s a mark of how good an actress Lauren Lyle is that she manages to conjure a plethora of bitchy facial expressions that would invite a five-knuckled caress from even the gentle fingers of a hunger-weakened Gandhi.
While Fergus may well be hurtling towards spiritual and sexual doom, it’s nevertheless nice that after all of the hardship he’s experienced or witnessed in his life – the loss, the separation, the rape, the battles, the fires – and despite his own sexually carnivorous nature, the thing that he clings to, the main lesson he’s learned from everything that’s happened to him and the people around him, is that love conquers all. Fergus cites Jamie and Claire’s love story as the inspiration for his own…
…I have absolutely no idea why.
The longer Jamie and Claire’s love saga goes on, the less inspirational and the more nightmarish it becomes. For every night of sweat-soaked passion they’ve shared, they’ve had to spend six weeks trying to break each other out of jail, and for every mini-break they’ve enjoyed they’ve had to spend twenty years apart raising children with other people. Still, filtered through the prism of youth, I suppose almost everything can start to seem romantic, even the song the rowdy sailors like to sing below decks about a woman leaping around with a lobster on her cunt, which is destined to become a top ten hit.
The sea is a cruel mistress. You could say that Jamie takes to it like a duck to water, but only if the duck you’re talking about is drunk, has no legs, only one wing and half a beak. Jamie spends most of his time chucking up his gruel, or complaining that he’s about to. Thank goodness good old Mr Willoughby is on hand to cure his sea-sickness by turning him into a human pin-cushion. An effective technique, but hardly a convenient or portable one.
It’s easy to see why life at sea might make Jamie feel a little delicate. A combination of the show’s noticeably bigger budget and the skill of its behind-the-scenes team really helps bring to life every creak, swell and sway of life on-board ship. You need your sea-legs just to watch it. The sea-bound segments are impressive and convincing, whether the ship’s being beaten by waves, or sitting dead in the water, a lonely boat perched on an unwavering sea of glass.
When the drinking water runs low and the wind ceases to blow, Willoughby’s called upon to treat a much greater malaise than Jamie’s occasional habit of hurling his breakfast overboard; a spiritual sickness; a supernatural sickness that’s spread across the entire ship, driving the men to attribute blame for their litany of misfortunes to Hayes, the poor wretch who may have forgotten to rub the lucky horseshoe at the start of the voyage. The men want to sacrifice him to the sea; drown their scapegoat deep within Davey Jones’ locker. It’s the sort of malevolent, ritualised behaviour that appears to be the default setting for powerless, baying mobs. I suppose when it seems like nothing can be done, killing someone sure seems like doing something.
Willoughby distracts the horde from their murderous intent by reading from his unfinished autobiography – a project he earlier revealed he’d started in order to make peace with his demons. Initially, his life’s work appears to comprise page upon page of prunus pornography, all apricot-tits and warm peach mounds, but Willoughby’s story quickly takes on a sad, dark shape that’s closer in tone to a suicide note than a love letter. Back in China as a younger man, Willoughby refused to give up his manhood and become a eunuch. For this cultural outrage he was banished, disgraced, and exiled. In a cruel twist of fate, he was made a eunuch after all by the palpable, almost solid disgust of his new host country’s native women.
Willoughby – or perhaps we should more accurately and respectfully call him Yi Tien Cho – thought that the best way to let go of his pain would be to write it all down, but it turns out that the best way to let it all go was to, well, let it all go. Literally. He drops the pages off the side of the boat, only for them to be picked up by the wind, signalling to the angry sailors that luck was back on their side.
All that talk of fruit must have made Claire and Jamie horny, because they went off to fuck on some guy ropes. Shortly afterwards, Claire gets kidnapped. See what I mean?? Still, Outlander has obviously learned the lessons of Moonlighting, Friends and Frasier: unite your star-crossed lovers at your peril. Finding ways to drive them apart is the key to a more satisfying and dynamic narrative, the only trouble being that if you separate your leads once too often it all begins to feel a little preposterous. Outlander may be on the cusp of this, but, for now, it works.
The second on-the-ocean instalment of this unofficial sea-faring trilogy is called Heaven and Earth, something that the characters all try to move in their efforts to rescue each other. Naturally, Jamie is furious at the captain of his ship for agreeing to Claire’s ‘transfer’ (slash kidnapping) to the Navy vessel. She may be there to help contain a typhoid outbreak, but she’s still there against her will. Jamie tries to overpower the captain with the sheer force of his fury, spearheading a shooty-knifey stand-off above decks. He fails, and ends up being slung below decks in a jail cell. Both heaven and earth remain in place.
Jamie, of course, is no stranger to confinement, and won’t let a little thing like being trapped in a tiny, grated box surrounded by wet rats and his own hideous vomit stop him from hatching a plan to take over the ship, Bruce Willis-style. It’s then up to Fergus to move heaven and earth to save Jamie from himself, teaching his mentor a long-overdue lesson in patience and humility in the process – not to mention saving his life.
Claire is trying to move heaven and earth to save a ship-load of sailors who’ve been struck down with typhoid. What a distressing sight. Hundreds of Englishmen huddled together on a boat, projectile vomiting, the whole place smelling of shit and rum. These are scenes not destined to be repeated until the advent of 18-30 booze cruises many hundreds of years hence. Curiously enough, those future cruises will almost certainly have on their passenger manifesto a Dutchman with a fondness for drinking pure alcohol until the point of death, and an English teenager styling himself as Mr Pound.
Claire’s modern approach to medicine is mumbo jumbo to this new gaggle of no-nonsense sailors of the 18th century. Not for the first time Outlander makes us snort and tut at the ignorance of our ancestors, only for a little voice at the back of our minds to go, ‘Pssssst, have you looked on-line recently? Have you spoken with your friends and kinsfolk? We’re pretty mental ourselves.’
The first time it happened was during Claire and Geillis’ witch-trial in season one, when our derision was tempered by the realisation that flat-earthers, creationists, and climate-change deniers all exist in the twenty-first century. This time, no sooner have we cast judgement upon the sailors for their ignorance of – and in some cases violent opposition to – Claire’s efforts to cure the crew, than we remember that the WHO has called the very modern anti-vax movement one of the most serious threats to global health in 2019. If Claire’s parents had been anti-vaxxers, she would’ve been dead ten minutes in to episode ten. Or else she would never have boarded the Navy ship, and all of the people on-board would’ve perished. Even the goats.
Claire also vows to move heaven and earth to save Jamie from the hangman’s noose she discovers is waiting for him in Jamaica. Tompkins – he of the mangled eye – was press-ganged into service aboard the ship, and once he recognised Jamie duly reported him to the captain of the Navy ship as a man wanted for murder and sedition. The captain is largely indifferent to Jamie’s crimes and is especially grateful to Claire for her help, but nonetheless stands to snag a juicy promotion if he turns Jamie in to the authorities.
If it looks too late for Jamie, it’s already too late for poor Mr Pound. What a pleasant, decorous young chap. I was sad to see him go as a character, and really enjoyed the dynamic he shared with Claire. Their scenes together were sweet and touching. I knew his fate was sealed the moment he made Claire his surrogate mother and taught her the fine art of posthumous nose-stitching.
It doesn’t bode well that when Claire plunged overboard the director made a visual connection with the be-shrouded Mr Pound’s final dip into the sea. Let’s hope Claire’s on-going voyage isn’t destined to be quite as vertical as Pound’s. Still, in a trio of episodes where scapegoats feature heavily, it’s nice to see actual goats indirectly helping one of our heroes to escape.
The moral of the story here: always be nice to drunk Dutchmen.
A few final, disjointed thoughts
Instead of belting Ian for his disobedience at Lallybroch, Jamie suggests a different punishment. What exactly are they making Ian do with that manure? Is he making patty-cakes? Cow-pat pancakes? It looks like the most disgusting cookery programme ever made. Gordon Ramsay’s McKitchen Shitemares.
How the hell have I learned how to spell Laoghaire, but still can’t spell diarheoa (sic) without consulting the spell-checker?
Let the English cunt stand up for herself.” It’s nice to see that Laoghaire’s still as charming as ever.
Kebbie-lebbie – I like that phrase. I’m going to use it as often as I can. Plus, ‘A Kebbie-Lebbie with Laoghaire’ sounds like it should be a TV show.
My partner agreed with me that Elias Pound looked like all three Hansen Brothers at the same time. But when Pound was dropped into the ocean, she didn’t agree that it was funny for me to start singing ‘Mmmm Plop.’
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