Outlander – Season 3 Episode 10
“Heaven and Earth”
Outlander continues its voyage with Claire and Jamie newly split apart and problems aplenty cropping up on both vessels.
I mentioned last week that the cliffhanger ending lacked impact thanks to pointing out that the two ships were bound for the same place. Claire is essentially kidnapped and forcibly separated from Jamie but it’s more of a temporary inconvenience. To offset that this episode has to create further complications that are meaningful for the characters outside of the Typhoid outbreak on the Porpoise.
It seems that the storytelling of this season is almost entirely defined by coincidences. Most plot points could be explained by starting with “it just so happens…” as made clear here. It just so happens that the Captains Logbook on the Porpoise has information about Jamie thanks to a passenger named Harry Tompkins (Ian Reddington) who turns out to be the Edinburgh Excise Official’s one eyed henchman from back in “Crème de Menthe“. He is looking to implicate Jamie for the murder of the man that Claire accidentally killed and wants to see him hung for it in Jamaica.
This ups the personal stakes for Claire who now has information that Jamie needs but has no way of getting it to him. She knows that her husband could be hung for this in Jamaica so has to find a way of making sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a reasonable way of keeping prior stories relevant and showing that there are consequences for things that happen in this show even if they manifest in really bizarre ways requiring leaps of logic.
Claire has other problems on the Porpoise not entirely due to the outbreak of Typhoid. She isn’t in danger here as has been established and the people on the ship aren’t developed enough for their deaths to mean anything so the drama has to come from elsewhere. Claire struggles to deal with a ship full of people who doubt her abilities and consider her presence bad luck as per the superstition established last week. Essentially she has to find a way to help people who don’t want to be helped by her and this creates tension. At first it looks bleak because there is no reduction in loss or infection but by the episode Claire’s efforts prove to be useful as she wipes out Typhoid on the ship.
Her main opposition to her medical efforts is ship’s cook Bernard Cosworth (Lawrence Joffe). He epitomises everything she has to deal with as he takes exception to being bossed around by a woman and is no lover of hygiene which is really concerning for a cook. Not only does Cosworth actively get in Claire’s way but he is also contributing to the spread of the disease. He also links into Claire learning the information about Jamie when he threatens to tell the Captain about her snooping. Claire’s retort to that is threatening to tell the Captain that he violated her and she’s confident that she will be believed over him since she has the Captain’s trust.
It’s a very short game of cat and mouse but it’s a reasonably handled conflict and reinforces Claire’s ability to handle herself even when faced with the gender politics of the time. From a certain point of view Claire is currently more use to the Captain than Cosworth is therefore she has the upper hand though the underlying feeling in this episode is that she knows that won’t last forever and has to keep ahead of things before the situation tips away from her favour.
The depiction of the Typhoid spreading through the Porpoise isn’t as harrowing as it was last week but it was interesting nonetheless. It plays out almost like a medical procedural with the focus being on Claire trying to solve it. Such a plot could easily turn into something very mechanical but this is avoided by fixating on Claire forging relationships on the ship.
Her most prominent connection is with Elias Pound (Albie Marber); a 14 year old crewmember who hangs on Claire’s every work. He awakens a maternal instinct within Claire who takes him under her wing to teach him why she does the thing she does. It also offers an easy outlet for exposition as Claire imparts medical knowledge to the audience through Elias necessary to add detail to what she’s doing. It doesn’t feel unnecessary or out of place as Elias’ lack of knowledge is entirely believable. He also comes to her defence on several cases showing his importance in the overall story.
The pseudo mother/son bond that Claire has with Elias is really nicely handled and Elias is a good character who is very well acted by Albie Marber. He is noticeably naive and inexperienced yet has enough life experience to understand how things work to an extent. The episode has very little time to establish his importance but does a very good job with the time it has.
Sadly he catches the disease and dies which comes across as tragic since he is known to the audience. Caitriona Balfe absolutely nails her performance throughout but particularly once Claire realises that Elias is dead and performs the ritual stitching of the makeshift body bag previously established as something that should be done with a friend. Telling Elias that she’s his mother in his final moments is really touching as it offers him closure on his own loss established previously in the episode. The sense of regret and loss is evident in the way Caitriona Balfe plays the scene with very emotive body language and genuine tears. It’s a really powerful moment carried perfectly by the acting.
She makes another friend in the form of Mistress Annekje Johansen (Chanelle de Jager) who warms to Claire after she saves her husband from alcohol poisoning. Her role on the ship is to tend to the Goats which proves instrumental to the survival of the crew thanks to the abundance of Goats Milk.
The Goats requiring food almost becomes a source of salvation for Claire who is encouraged to make a run for it when the Porpoise makes a stop to replenish supplies including grass for the Goats to eat. She’s caught by Captain Leonard who confronts her about the information he knows that she has. It’s a good enough conversation showing that Captain Leonard is torn between a temptation to look the other way in return for all Claire has done for his crew and his duty as an officer. Ultimately he goes with his duty which might seem like a valid decision if there was any real weight behind it. The lack of development for Captain Leonard lets this down somewhat though does add tension to the conversation as it isn’t clear what his intentions are or what his answer will be. It’s a scene that sits somewhere in the middle execution wise.
Claire taking some supplies thanks to help from Mistress Johansen and jumping overboard while still close enough to shore to swim seems like a really stupid idea. I understand why Claire feels it’s necessary but I’m also unclear on what good she thinks it will do. Is she gambling that the Artemis will somehow find her and she can warn Jamie? It does remove her from the rapidly deteriorating situation on the Porpoise but it also seems very ill thought out as an escape attempt.
Back on the Artemis Jamie is locked up for trying to incite mutiny to pursue the Porpoise. There isn’t an awful lot to this plot other than Jamie sitting in a cell behaving in a manner I would consider to be very out of character for him. Fair enough he’s annoyed that Claire has been taken against her will but he has always been a man to balance his emotions with what is practical. Inciting mutiny isn’t at all practical. Catching up to the Porpoise wouldn’t do anyone any good as there’s a high chance of the crew catching Typhoid. It would be a victory that could very quickly prove very costly if the crew of the Artemis find themselves afflicted.
The impractical nature of that aside, Jamie’s attempt to manipulate Fergus into helping him plan this mutiny also feels out of character. He tries to tempt Fergus by dangling the notion of blessing for the marriage in front of him which doesn’t work as Fergus sees through it. Some of this can be explained away by Jamie being desperate but he must have known that his attempt to convince Fergus would not have been taken seriously given how vocal he was about his lack of approval of the marriage. Of course he changes his mind on this and the implication is that this is due to Fergus’ defiantly refusing to accept Jamie’s offer. The refusal suggests that his feelings for Marsali are as genuine as he says they are. Jamie eventually offers his blessing provided that a priest is involved which resolves this arc in an all too underwhelming fashion.
Fergus’ scene with Marsali where she makes it clear that she really wants to consummate their union reinforces how genuine Fergus’ feelings are if only for the audience. He turns her down because he wants Jamie’s blessing and says that he promised the Lord as well so he is fully committed to doing right by her.
From a production point of view this episode was absolutely stunning. Visually everything onboard the two ships looked really authentic. The cramped conditions and surly attitudes created a really unsettling atmosphere and the attention to detail on the mourning rituals as well as other things really added something special. It’s clear that a lot of hard work went into making this episode and the previous one as realistic as possible and it enriches the experience.
An enjoyable outing that explores Claire’s various conflicts on the Porpoise really well. The Typhoid story plays out like a medical procedural with strong focus on Claire and the issues she has to deal with. Her main antagonist is Mr. Cosworth though that transitions to Captain Leonard by the end. It all fits together well and her relationship with Elias is as well developed as something can be for the purposes of a singe episode. His death is given extra heft thanks to Caitriona Balfe’s excellent performance. The show is still bogged down in coincidence based plotting somewhat considering the convenience of the information that becomes known to Claire.
On the Artemis things are less well handled. Jamie behaves out of character as he fails to consider the actual consequences of inciting mutiny among the crew. Catching up to the Porpoise would likely result in the Artemis crew catching Typhoid which helps no-one. Appealing to Fergus to help him in exchange for his marital blessing doesn’t work either as it comes across as being too desperate. The implication that he sees Fergus’ refusal as proof that his intentions are genuine feels ill developed too though is backed up in the scene between Fergus and Marsali. The production values on this episode and attention to detail are absolutely stunning and enrich the whole experience.
- stunning production values
- Caitriona Balfe’s performance
- sophisticated plotting in Claire’s story
- Jamie’s desperation coming across as out of character
- more coincidence driven plotting
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