Sunday, November 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire Works to Stop the Spread of a Disease While Jamie Faces New Punishment in 'Heaven and Earth'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 3.10 "Heaven and Earth"

Claire races to discover the source of an epidemic aboard a disease-stricken ship before hundreds of sailors die. And as Jamie locks horns with Captain Raines, Fergus finds himself torn between loyalty and love.

Outlander was very quick to send Claire and Jamie off on a new adventure before really ensuring that they had properly dealt with all of the consequences of their actions back in Scotland. It hasn't really allowed the two of them to relax comfortably into any sense of a life since Claire has returned to the 18th century. It's just been one huge twist after another. They came together in a passionate and exciting way immediately. That was crucial to see. The spark is still there between them. There is still the desire to be together even though so much has changed. But they've barely had the time to truly process everything that has happened. Jamie lied about getting re-married. He really hasn't dealt with the consequences of that action. Claire has basically had to be quick to forgive him because there were more pressing matters. Young Ian was kidnapped while fetching the precious gems that Jamie was going to use to pay his alimony to Laoghaire. That quickly set Claire, Jamie and Fergus off on this journey to the Caribbean to find Young Ian so that they can reunite as a family. But their journey across the sea has been full of complications as well. The show has moved quite a bit through time. The ship sat idly on the ocean for awhile. And yet, very little has changed within the character dynamics. And now, Claire has been taken from Jamie once more. She felt it was her duty as a doctor to care for the sick crew on a fellow ship. But the need to find land quickly separated Claire from Jamie. The two remain separated throughout "Heaven and Earth." Plus, the show is setting up a twist that things will remain precarious for the two of them as soon as they reach Jamaica. It's a narrative full of coincidences and convenient storytelling decisions that the audience just needs to go along with. But this season needs to build up to some severe consequences shortly. It can't just keep delaying the inevitable by forcing the severity of the situation to keep increasing through new complications.

And so, Jamie is furious that the ship Claire is on is racing towards Jamaica and leaving them behind on the ocean. He believes his wife has been kidnapped and his captain is doing nothing to rectify the situation. It's a case where Jamie's blind love for Claire makes him do some really unfortunate things. He's talking about a full-on mutiny in the hopes of rescuing Claire. Claire really doesn't need rescuing as the audience is aware seeing her side of the story. That's perhaps more proof that Jamie really isn't thinking clearly at the moment. He's been very erratic with his behavior as of late. He's been keeping secrets and risking people's lives for his own benefit. He has the rationalization in saying that he's doing it all for his greatest love. He is willing to do anything in order to reunite with Claire. He won't let her disappear from him again. It was painful enough living without her for twenty years. But now, his actions carry consequences to them. He's blinded by his own devotion to Claire. He can't see things from other people's point of view. He challenges Captain Raines' authority and is quickly thrown into the brig. Then, he's trying to coerce Fergus into freeing him to start a mutiny. He's leveraging his blessing for Fergus and Marsali's marriage for this favor. That's manipulative without him truly seeing what the situation has become. It puts Fergus and Marsali in a really awkward position. And in the end, they are successful in freeing Jamie in their own way. But it does little to actually help Jamie. It just allows him to see that they are perhaps a good pairing after all.

Elsewhere, Claire has more pressing concerns than being separated from Jamie. She can't linger on that for too long. She has sick patients who need her attention. And yet, this new ship is just as precarious and perilous as the first. She is being targeted as the woman who is asking the crew to do ridiculous things. The men of the crew have doubts about her abilities and what she's asking of them. Meanwhile, the young members of the crew are more open to her ways which forges a bond that the show casually manipulates over the course of this hour. The captain is very accommodating to Claire. He gives her whatever she needs. She has his support when it comes to curing this ship of the illness that has swept through its ranks. He's desperate and she is the only surgeon he can find. But he's still a very ambitious man hoping to rise through the ranks because of his actions once surprising information falls onto his lap. It's very convenient that this ship had a run-in with the Portuguese ship that Young Ian was on and that one member of the crew happens to be the man who was burned in the fire at the print shop. That's all very convenient. It ensures that the consequences from England will follow Claire and Jamie to the New World. They can't escape them. The show just has a lot of explaining it needs to do to establish this new threat to their relationship. They were already on a perilous journey to find Young Ian. And now, it's an adventure that is once again marred by Jamie being a wanted man for treason and murder. That latter charge seems trumped up because Claire doesn't know the truth. But it wouldn't be surprising if it were true based on everything going on with Jamie lately.

This is information that Claire discovers. It creates more urgency in her actions to reunite with Jamie. And yet, it can't distract her from her work either. She still needs to tend to her patients. There are doubts amongst the crew regarding her skills. The dead keep piling up. Every day brings with it new men with symptoms of the disease. It doesn't seem like her strange techniques are working. She has to explain the benefits of alcohol in sterilizing one's self from the disease. She has very little patience for people questioning her as well as to the man who drinks himself to the brink of death. And yet, all of this has purpose. That is mostly seen through Claire's relationship with a young member of the crew named Elias. He is just 14 years old. And yet, he's a very wise member of this crew who has experienced life and death. He is able to provide Claire with all that she needs on the ship. He quickly becomes a friend and ally. She trusts him and values the assistance that he offers. However, it seemed inevitable the moment he explained the way they dealt with dead bodies to her that this story was building to its own tragic conclusion. Elias dies from this disease because he never stopped working. He was putting the entire crew at risk by still working and interacting with everyone. But he didn't want to stop. He saw Claire's work as too important. As such, it's tragic when she stumbles upon him during the big celebration. She had seemingly cured this ship of illness only for her one friend to succumb to it. Again, it's only as devastating as the death of a character introduced in this episode could be. The show does enough to endear him to Claire to make his death have personal significance for her. It's clearly important in the moment. But the show is quickly moving beyond that as well.

Claire needs to find a way off of this ship to warn Jamie about the fate that's awaiting him in Jamaica. She seemingly finds another ally in the woman tending to the goats whose husband was the man suffering from alcohol poisoning. She provides Claire with an escape route once the ship finds land to replenish its supplies. But that quickly fails because the captain simply cannot let Claire go. Ensuring Jamie's capture upon landing in Jamaica is the action that will lead to him getting his own command in the British Navy. That's the ambition he is chasing at the moment. It's unobtainable based on what happened on his voyage. But handing over a traitor and killer would be enough to sway his superior officers that he deserves such a promotion. As such, Claire is a prisoner to her own circumstances once more. It's a position she has been in many times over the course of the series. She has freedom but it is limited. She's trapped from doing what she wants to do. She is still doing good work by using her medical knowledge to the benefit of numerous sailors. But right now, she needs to be reunited with Jamie. She knows how important it is to warn him about what's coming for him. And so, it's particularly thrilling to watch as Claire has to literally jump from the ship and escape to a nearby island in the middle of the night. It's thrilling because it seems so crazy. She could easily die trying to warn Jamie. It would all be for naught. And yet, this is the only option she has at the moment. It keeps the narrative intense heading into the next episode. But it also ensures that whatever consequences may come will be more complicated than anyone could have expected.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Heaven and Earth" was written by Luke Schelhaas and directed by David Moore.
  • According to the captain's logs, Young Ian is still alive and trying not to cause too much trouble. But he's also assumed an alias. It's a familiar name that quickly causes trouble for him as well because of all the convenient connections between the various ships at sea at the moment. People are recognizing Jamie and that's bound to only increase the danger of this mission.
  • Is it necessary for Fergus to overhear the other members of the crew talking about raping Marsali? It helps sway him to the side of caution when it comes to talk of mutiny. He betrays Jamie because of his love for Marsali. He can't abandon her right now even though it will disappoint Jamie. But again, this is an argument he was already having with himself long before he overheard that conversation.
  • Fergus is also holding true to his promise not to have sex with Marsali until they are married. That proves to the audience that he really is serious about this relationship. His past sexual history has mostly just been told to us. It's not a significant change to how he is acting now. But it's still important to see him in love and willing to do anything for her.
  • Jamie is only set free from the brig because Captain Raines needs every able-bodied man to help steer the ship through the islands. It's enough freedom to ensure that Jamie sees whatever message Claire has planned for him in the following episode. However, will Captain Raines change anything after knowing what's coming for Jamie? Or will he be quick to get rid of these annoying passengers of his?
  • Claire is caught in the captain's quarters as well. That's how the captain becomes aware that she knows what's going on with Jamie. Sure, nothing ultimately comes from the threat to kill the man who could identify Jamie as the man behind these crimes. That's a thread that may continue to be important in the future. Right now, it's just important to heighten the severity of the situation as Claire is forced to make a number of key decisions.