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‘Outlander’ Review: Claire and Jamie Deal With Superstition On the High Seas in Tempestuous Episode

In Season 3, Episode 9, “The Doldrums," Claire and Jamie realize a superstitious, seafaring life isn’t for them and Fergus comes into his own.

Outlander Season 3 2017

David Bloomer/Starz

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 3 Episode 9, “The Doldrums.”]

Unrequited, Requited Love

Blame Fergus and his new “wife,” blame seasickness, blame superstition or blame another twist of fate. Whatever the object of your blame, this week marked another episode of unrequited love — at least in the physical sense — for the show’s two leading characters. As Claire and Jamie headed out to sea in search of young Ian they were forced to sleep in separate quarters, with barely enough privacy for Jamie to puke in peace, let alone get it on with his wife.

Sure, all of that didn’t stop the pair from eventually having (a very literal) quickie during a celebrated rainstorm on deck, but since barely any clothes came off and there was no foreplay to speak of, it doesn’t exactly count. Not when stacked up to some of this season’s more epic love scenes, at any rate. Considering these two will now be separated for the foreseeable future thanks to some timely typhoid fever on a visiting British ship, a little lingering love would have gone a long way.

A Lover Scorned

Laoghaire’s existence continued to plague Claire and Jamie’s happiness, this time in the form of Laoghaire’s eldest daughter Marsali — a.k.a. Fergus’s surprise wife. Jamie’s protégé proved to be even more like his adoptive father than we previously thought when he snuck his new “handfast” bride onto the ship to take her on the big rescue mission, doubling down on the ship’s “bad luck” by bringing another female on board.

Outlander Season 3 2017

Naturally, Jamie had plenty of objections, given that he had raised the girl as his own, and made Marsali and Claire bunk together despite the former’s obvious disdain for the latter. Unfortunately, with so much else happening in the episode there was little time to showcase that awkward relationship in full, which is a shame considering how much character development and story could come from that forced co-existence.

Sailor’s Delight

The ongoing superstitious behavior from the Artemis’s crew made for some pretty comical moments at the outset of the episode when it was relegated to mounted horseshoes and tales of bared breasts to calm the sea, but when the winds died down and the men began looking for a scapegoat it grew quickly out of hand. With the captain willing to let the men sacrifice someone to the sea and suicidal thoughts beginning to take over, Mr. Willoughby (who has been sorely underused so far this season) stepped in to save the day with his poetic musings.

Willoughby’s tale of escaping China in order to avoid becoming a eunuch for the emperor’s wife was an unexpected showcase of showmanship to be sure, but it also proved that this is a man whose exile is beginning to catch up with him. In a season that has focused so much on themes of loss and missed opportunities, Willoughby is an example of how bitterness can set in when the tide doesn’t turn your way (or when you can’t travel through magical rocks for a redo with the love of your life).

Outlander Season 3 2017

Bodily Fluids

Between Jamie’s seasickness and the retching happening below-deck on the British ship that picked up Claire, the episode was enough to make anyone lose their lunch. It’s episodes like these that make us thankful that sensory viewing hasn’t evolved as far as olfactory viewing, because that ideal smell of fresh, salty sea air would have definitely been ruined for life in those other moments.

Calling Dorian Gray

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the return of Claire’s white locks, shall we? And also the fact that Jamie can even make his wife’s aging hair seem sexy. (Because of course he can.)

Separated Again

As the episode’s previews indicated, Claire and Jamie’s reunion was once again short-lived thanks to another “kidnapping” — a recurring theme for this series over its three seasons to date. This time it was Claire the Surgeon who was taken against her will, when the British ship was in dire need of her help to contain the typhoid fever ravaging it, making for an abrupt but not-so-unexpected separation from Jamie.

Outlander Season 3 2017

Thanks to her inoculations we know Claire won’t fall ill, but this latest twist certainly puts Ian’s rescue mission in jeopardy. On the bright side, these are characters that go through more development when they are separated, so if the next couple of episodes follow Claire on the ship, it will be a chance to meet new characters and allow Claire some time to reestablish herself with audiences after her lukewarm return to Jamie.

By the Book

At this point there are so many departures from Diana Gabaldon’s third novel in the series, “Voyager,” that it’s hard to keep track. Between the Artemis’s sour cook Murphy not making an appearance, Mr. Willoughby’s crane being relegated to a sign of the incoming wind, and the lack of bonding between Marsali and Claire, there were a few missed opportunities this week. While eliminating a minor character is fine and well, most of Mr. Willoughby’s eccentric tendencies have been lost in translation, transforming the character into a more distinguished gentleman than the disgraced drunk in the books.

Meanwhile, Marsali seeking sexual advice from Claire in the novel was a pivotal moment in the bonding between those characters, and one that could have allowed two female characters to have a real conversation about what goes on between the sheets. Despite how “sexy” many TV series have become as of late, it’s not often that we see frank conversations about sex from a female perspective unless it’s glorified through “Sex and the City”-inspired characters or played on for laughs.

Then again, that’s what happens when you cram nearly 900 pages of story into 13 short episodes.

Grade: B

Next week: Claire tries to stop the outbreak while Fergus is torn between loyalty and love. “Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz and on W Network in Canada.

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