As Jamie and Claire sail to the West Indies, they continue to reconnect with one another. However, surprises, superstitions, and sickness complicate their voyage. Full recap of “The Doldrums,” including new clips (first aired Sunday, November 12 at 8pm ET|PT on STARZ).
This week, Jamie and Claire leave Scotland and this is signified from the very beginning with a new version of the Skye Boat Song Intro. I love that they change it up every time Jamie and Claire travel, plus this time, Bear McCreary put some seasoning and spice on the Skye Boat Song, because the new beats are HOT!
“The Doldrums” begins with Jamie and Claire in France. They’ve made their way there for help from Jamie’s cousin Jared to find Wee Ian. Jared is able to find out that the ship that likely seized Ian (the Bruja) is on it’s way to the West Indies. He’s also able to get Jamie (along with Claire and some of his smuggling associates) permission to sail with the Artemis as the supercargo to manage the wine shipment as they sail to Jamaica. Jamie is quite nervous about the possibility of finding Wee Ian again, but Jared reassures him. As long as Ian doesn’t make trouble, they will likely keep him to sell in Jamaica (where a young man like that can fetch 30 pounds). Jamie and Claire get ready to board the Artemis, but he reflects on his bad luck. Perhaps he’s wanted too much and his decision to pay Laoghaire off so he could be with Claire goes too far. Claire shuts that down: “No god worth his salt would take your nephew away from you just because you wanted to be happy.”
Jamie declares his love for Claire, again, but tells her that he’ll take her back to Craigh na Dun if she wants to leave. However, Claire is focussed on getting Ian back.
Jamie’s associates, Lesley and Hayes come to tell them that Captain Raines is ready to leave. Yi Tien Cho and Fergus have also arrived, so they can be on their way. It’s clear that Lesley and Hayes maybe said too much about Fergus, but we chalk that up to their awkwardness. Jamie tells Claire that he’s sent a letter to Lallybroch notifying them of all that’s transpired, and then the Artemis is on it’s way!
As the crew sets about their work, Claire tries to help Jamie, who’s already feeling some bad seasickness. But for Jamie, it’s leaving Scotland that hurts him, but he vows not to return without Ian. As the crew pass by to touch the lucky horseshoe, they all ignore Claire and wish Jamie a good day. That’s odd. They leave the deck to get settled in, but Jamie calls Claire back to make sure she touches the horseshoe too, which she grudgingly does. You know Claire doesn’t put stock in all that. But Jamie tells her that women and redheads are considered bad luck on ships. It’s why the crewmen ignore Claire and talk to him first before he can address them, to avoid misfortune.
Their conversation is interrupted when Fergus shows up… with Marsali in tow. And they are married via handfasting that very morning. Apparently they’ve been courting for almost a year. Jamie is livid, but if it’s only a handfasting, they marriage can still be set aside if it isn’t consummated. Jamie wants to have Marsali dropped off at the next port, but she refuses to go. If Claire, the “English whore” that Jamie left her mother for, can make the trip, then Marsali believes she can too. Besides, she’ll just tell everyone that she and Fergus have already slept together. So either Marsali will be married or ruined. Plus, Marsali already sent a letter to her mother. Jamie agrees to let Marsali come to Jamaica, but then he will personally return her home afterwards. In the meantime, Jamie says that he will bunk with Fergus while Marsali bunks with Claire. This is where Claire speaks up! She’s been away from Jamie for 20 years and he wants to spend every night for the next six months separated?!
Later, the seasickness really hits Jamie and Claire prepares him ginger tea, which should help. Jamie reflects on Fergus courting Marsali in secret and feels betrayed. However, Claire isn’t so worried. Fergus and Marsali haven’t really considered what marriage for a lifetime means. Claire and Jamie didn’t either, she says. But Jamie argues that their circumstance was different because their marriage was arranged. Claire notices a chest box in the corner, which Jamie says are their things. When she opens the box, she sees all of her clothes from 20 years ago in Paris. Claire is confused as to why Jamie would keep these things. He could have at least sold them. Jamie responds: “Sell them? Memories of you. Never.” *SWOONS*
Claire is called above to provide medical attention to one of the crew who was hit in the dead by a deadeye when some of the ropes snapped. Claire believes the man (Manzetti) will be OK, but the rest of the crew take this to be a very bad omen. This means that someone didn’t touch the horseshoe. Claire challenges the Captain on this, saying that this is nothing more than an accident. Instead, Captain Raines invites Claire and Jamie to join him for dinner.
Fergus tries to talk to Jamie again about marrying Marsali. He believes that Milord should understand since he barely know Milady when they were first married. Again, Jamie says that was different because he and Claire were forced. Fergus interjects:
“Milord, you forget. I know your story. If you were forced to wed, then I am forced to breathe. My heart, it is forced to beat. You, yourself, have told me you wanted her more than life from the moment you saw her. You didn’t need time. Nor do I.”
But Jamie just can’t get past it. Fergus thinks he’s been honest with Marsali, but what about all the other women he’s been with before? Fergus pushed back on this–he hasn’t been with any other woman since he began courting Marsali and he hasn’t slept with her. Surely this demonstrates his regard. Yet, Jamie demands that honesty.
At dinner that night, it’s just the Captain and Claire (Jamie is too sick). She knows the Captain is unhappy about her putting down the crew’s superstitions. Captain Raines says he only wants to help her to gain the crew’s respect. For example, since women on a ship are bad luck, Claire and Marsali really should be walking around bare-breasted, like the female figurine on the prow of the ship. She bares her breasts to calm the seas, so Claire and Marsali don’t have to (I didn’t even realize this was the purpose of the naked lady figure on ships, but it makes sense!). The horseshoe doesn’t have a substitute though. Claire doesn’t think it makes sense to allow sailors to put their hopes into those superstitions. It can promote faith, sometimes, but what happens when the omens signify disaster and the men lose faith? But for Captain Raines, he’ll allow the men to hold onto whatever beliefs they have, so long as it prevents mutiny.
Meanwhile, Yi Tien Cho comes upon Jamie, who is so sick. He asks Jamie how long he plans to continue the farce that they ginger tea is helping him? Yi Tien Cho tells Jamie that if he continues his violent retching, it could have bad consequences, like tearing his muscles and leading to castration. This catches Jamie’s attention!
While Claire and Marsali get ready for bed, Marsali seems to make a kind gesture of allowing Claire to have the bigger bed. At first Claire thinks Marsali’s trying to get in her good graces so she will speak on her behalf to Jamie about marrying Fergus. But this isn’t the case:
“So, ye drop out of the clear blue sky, sticking yer nose where it doesn’t belong, ruining my family, and now ye’re minding yer own business? Well, Daddy may think ye’re a wisewoman, but I still think ye’re a whore.” SHADDDDDDDEE!!!
Anywho, Claire decides to take the bigger bed.
In the morning, Jamie is doing much better and is able to eat quite well. He gives the credit to Claire’s ginger tea. While they’re talking, Marsali and Fergus walk up. Apparently, Fergus has told Marsali about the other women he’s been with. Marsali says she’s not so naive to believe Fergus hasn’t been with other. She still wants to be with him. Will Jamie bless their union? Claire takes Jamie aside:
“If you let them continue their infatuation, it might just fizzle out.”
II don’t know what a ‘fizzle’ is, but I ken your meaning well enough. And ‘fizzle out’ is what I’m afraid of.”
Nope, Jamie still can’t allow Fergus and Marsali to be married.
Claire comes upon Yi Tien Cho on the deck as he’s using water and a brush to write out Chinese characters. He’s writing a poem, as well as the story of his life after leaving China: “A story told is a life lived.”
Claire asks if Yi Tien Cho will tell the story, but he says not yet. Once he tells the story, he has to let it go. He leaves and she stays behind to watch the strokes of the poem dry up in the sun.
As the journey continues, Claire spends her time tends to wounds and making medicines. But generally, she likes being on the Artemis. On one particular day, the crew is in high spirits, singing and drinking together. Claire goes to get Jamie to hear the song, but walks in on him with Yi Tien Cho, who is performing acupuncture. This is why Jamie hasn’t been sick! Jamie and Yi Tien Cho seem embarrassed. Apparently, Jamie wanted to keep it a secret because he didn’t want to hurt Claire’s feelings about the ginger tea being ineffective. What if Claire takes it as more proof that she doesn’t belong here? However, Claire wouldn’t want Jamie to suffer to preserve her pride. Yes, her return has been confusing and fraught, “but it’s never been a question of whether I love you.” *SWOONS*
But a problem arises when the wind disappears and the Artemis stops moving. This is another bad omen. Jamie and Claire go up on deck to learn what’s going on, but the crew’s attention is diverted by the acupuncture. Yi Tien Cho tries to explain that the treatment is healthy, but that doesn’t stop the sideeyes. One sailor even accuses Yi Tien Cho of being the cause of the bad luck. But another man quickly speaks up that he saw Yi Tien Cho touch the horseshoe. Claire tries to suggest that they all line up and touch the horseshoe now, but it’s too late. It has to happen at the outset of the voyage to be effective.
That night, Claire finds Jamie on deck watching the moon. They savor the alone time together, with the man in the moon. Claire reflects on how men had flown to the moon before she left the 1960s. She tells Jamie about the photos she saw of the craters–beautiful, but rocky, barren, without life. Then Claire recites “Goodnight Moon” one of Bree’s favorite books growing up. Claire becomes emotional thinking about her daughter. She misses Bree so much. Jamie holds Claire and they comfort one another.
Weeks go by and the wind still doesn’t return. The Artemis is in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from any land. Things get even worse when the drinking water becomes infected. The crew are even more convinced that they have to figure out who the “Jonah” is that’s bringing the bad luck and toss him overboard. At dinner that night, the Captain asks Jamie and Claire who they should name as the Jonah. Claire doesn’t think the Captain should allow this, but to keep order and prevent mutiny, Raines doesn’t see another choice. Jamie speaks up to say that none of his men will be thrown overboard.
Some days later, the crew hone on on Hayes as the Jonah. Lesley tries to defend his friend, but Hayes confesses that he can’t remember whether or not he touched the horseshoe. Hayes gets so overwhelmed by the harassment that he decides he’d rather kill himself than have the crew throw him overboard. When Jamie and Claire arrive on deck, they see a very drunk Hayes sitting on top of the mast, while the crew below urge him to jump to his death. Jamie climbs up after Hayes to convince him to come down. Jamie promises to protect Hayes, just like at Ardsmuir. Claire tries to appeal to the Captain to stop this, but if Hayes has to go to prevent a mutiny then… *shrugs*
Hayes eventually takes Jamie’s hand, but slips. However, Jamie is able to swing him to the ropes and they can both climb down. But what about the rest of the sailors?
Yi Tien Cho notices a seagull flying by and decides to make a move. He rings the bell for everyone’s attention, as shares his story. In China, Yi Tien Cho was identified early as being skilled in writing and composition. The Emperor’s second wife, Wang-Mei came across his poetry and invited Yi Tien Cho to join her household in the Imperial City. However, to do so, Yi Tien Cho would have to become a eunuch. If he declined the offer, he would be killed. But Yi Tien Cho couldn’t do it. He had fallen in love with women, all women! “Their beauty blooming like lotus flowers, the taste of their breasts like apricots, the scent of a navel in the winter, the warmth of a mound that fills your hand like a ripe peach.”
And so Yi Tien Cho ran away from China and ended up in Scotland where his words are considered scratches and the women are without grace women, and not even the lowest whore will sleep with him: “By not surrendering my manhood, I have lost all else. Honor, livelihood, country. Sometimes I think ‘not worth it.’”
Yi Tien Cho climbs up on the railing and it looks like he’ll jump. But now that he’s told his story, he has to let it go. So he casts the pages out… to the wind! The wind is back! When Yi Tien Cho saw he seagull flying low, he knew it meant the air was heavy and rain was coming. He needed to distract the crew enough to buy time, which he’s done. Yi Tien Cho saves the day!
The crew gets back to work; rain comes, so now there’s drinking water; and Claire and Jamie steal away for a private moment 😉 🙂 😉
Afterwards, Jamie and Claire sit together. He notices that her hair is graying again, and he likes it:
“The way the light hits it. Like a piece of… silver moonlight”
“How could I not love a man who says such things? If you were to say that in the 20th Century, you would be the king of all men” THIS THIS THIS! Jamie Fraser, King of Men!
Their conversation continues with Claire saying how, when she first returned, she knew they would have to get used to each other again. Jamie replies:
“No matter what troubles happen around us, Sassenach.. This, what is between us, never changes.”
“It doesn’t.” 🙂
As the Artemis travels, a British man-of-war ship comes upon them and signals the Artemis to stop. What if they want to press the men on board into service? Jamie makes Claire promise that if they take him, she will continue to Jamaica for Ian.
The young British Captain Thomas Leonard of the Porpoise boards the Artemis, and it turns out he needs medical assistance. Out of 400 men on the Porpoise, 100 have become ill and an additional 80 have already died, including the former captain, senior lieutenants, and their own surgeon. Claire is incensed that Leonard would come on board and possibly spread disease to the Artemis. Leonard isn’t looking for more men, rather he wants Claire’s help. After he describes the symptoms, Claire deduces that it’s typhoid fever. She immediately agrees to help and tells Jamie that she’s already been inoculated. Claire takes her Hippocratic Oath seriously and must at least help to organize the Porpoise.
When Leonard and Claire return to the Porpoise, she gets to work evaluating the sick men below. There’s vomit and feces and many dead. Afterwards, Claire tells Leonard that she will stay for a little while to help them organize to contain the sickness, though many will still die. She starts working with Mr. Pound, a very young man. While Claire is in the galley trying to get the cook to boil water, the ship heaves forward. Why are they moving?!
Leonard has kidnapped Claire for her medical services until they reach land. He has sent a note to Captain Raines to meet them at Jamaica. YIKES!
For more of our thoughts on “The Doldrums”, including Jamie and Claire reconnecting, Marsali’s shadiness, and the elevation of Yi Tien Cho’s story, watch our video review below!
If you missed tonight’s episode, you can watch (or rewatch) “The Doldrums” on STARZ Play online HERE or via the STARZ Play app.
Sassenachs, “The Doldrums” was so good for many reasons! I love that Claire and Jamie are on the same page again. Also, Yi Tien Cho is my main man! I know that Marsali isn’t very friendly, but she actually made me laugh quite a bit. Also, you can tell Fergus is so in love. What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts and feels with us in comments!