Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire Arrives on a New Island and Struggles to Survive in 'Uncharted'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 3.11 "Uncharted"

After making a leap of faith, Claire washes up on an island where survival is her only option. Navigating treacherous waters crippled the Artemis, so Jamie devises a joyful moment for his crew in the midst of setbacks.

"Uncharted" is well structured in that it knows that it has to stick with Claire for the majority of the hour. She is the one with the more traumatizing story at the moment. All of that tension and uncertainty would have been undercut if the story broke away to whatever was happening on the Artemis. Of course, the story makes it painfully clear that it's been a rough and traumatizing time for the ship and its crew as well. But none of that is as personal as watching Claire survive on this island. That's where this episode truly shines. When it has that intimate focus on Claire as she's fighting against the odds to survive, it's a captivating episode. And then, it has a twist that the audience just needs to accept for convenience. Yes, it's incredibly problematic how Claire and Jamie are able to reunite. The show is basically living in the area where they need to experience some joy and happiness in their lives following all of the trauma lately. That's how this episode ends. Those emotions are earned as well. It just feels like the second half of this episode is more defined by plot twists that need to happen for the sake of the overall narrative of the season. Again, this season is covering a lot of ground. It's putting Claire and Jamie through the emotional ringer once again. Sometimes, it's very grounded and emotional. Claire's journey on the island is that way. But other times, it feels like a bunch of plot complications that are meant to keep Claire and Jamie always guessing about what could possibly happen next in their lives. It can sometimes be a lot to see how much they've endured over the years - and will continue to face giving the precarious futures awaiting them in Jamaica.

And so, it's a grueling journey for Claire as she escapes the ship where she was treating over a hundred sick British soldiers. It was her duty to care for them as a doctor. She takes that oath very seriously. She formed friendships on that ship that were soon compromised and destroyed. But the narrative demands that the story keep moving quickly for her. Claire and Jamie haven't had a moment of peace in a long time. Claire felt the need to jump off of a ship because she needed to warn Jamie that he would be arrested as soon as he landed in Jamaica. The ambitious captain of the ship knows that Jamie is wanted for murder and treason. As such, it's his duty to put out a warrant for his arrest. Claire could be used as bait as long as she remained on the ship. So, it's very heroic and rewarding to see her get out of this precarious and manipulative situation. She is her own savior. It just came from being confident that she could survive a jump into the ocean. Fortunately, she does. She arrives with all of her supplies as well. She makes it to the shore of an island. Her body has felt the pressure of the ocean. She has to dry some of her clothes. But she survived the trip off the ship, into the ocean and onto the island. That's a massive victory for her. She had to take a leap of faith that it would all work out. She had to trust that this wasn't where her story was going to end. She just arrives on an island that she knows nothing about - including if there is even a village somewhere.

That means Claire is wandering around the forrest of this island for a long time. It's a captivating story because the narration explains just how precarious this journey is going to be for her. The audience knows that she needs water to survive. It's outlined pretty explicitly so the audience knows the condensed time frame to do so. The clock was already counting down to reunite with Jamie. She has no idea where in the ocean he currently is. That's why it's beneficial that the audience is in the dark as well. In order for Claire's story to be effective, we have to be cut off from the outside world just like she is. The same is also true for whatever is going on with Young Ian. That story has weight and tension to it because anything could be happening to him now that he's separated from his family. Claire has no reason to worry about Jamie and the Artemis until they dock in Jamaica. She needs to warn them before they get there. But the time frame of all of this is a complete mystery to her. She just doesn't know if she's arriving too soon or too late. That's the grand reveal of this hour. Claire goes on this traumatic journey. She is forced to fend for herself in the jungle of this island. She is attacked by the local wildlife where the ants are more destructive than the snakes. She finds no water. She is exhausted and disoriented. And yet, she still manages to survive and reunite with Jamie before anything happened to him.

Claire survives because she stumbles onto the home of a priest and his mother-in-law. Those two are some pretty broad characters. The mother-in-law wants nothing to do with Claire. She treats her injuries. She knows how to get her strength back up. But she is convinced that this priest will replace her dead daughter with Claire. Claire and the priest both happen to be English. That's a connection that forms immediately. But the story quickly reveals that not all is alright with this priest. He is talking to a coconut. He consults it for guidance in making his life decisions. There's no big explanation for why he does that. It's just a peculiarity that he has. He also wants Claire to stay for as long as possible because her presence has had a good effect on the animals that he raises. He believes that Claire has spiritually brought him good luck. Claire wants to leave the next day in order to find a ship that can take her to Jamaica. The priest is more reluctant in saying that she should stay and rest for another couple weeks. This situation is probably the best case scenario Claire could have hoped for. These two note that these islands are riddled with pirates who would have abused her. Claire was lucky that she never found anyone else on the island. That's what makes it so significant when she hears the tale of a Chinese man stealing one of the goats from the farm. She's convinced that it is Mr. Willoughby and rushes to the beach for confirmation that the Artemis has come to shore. She's incredibly lucky that that is exactly what has happened.

The Artemis has weathered some troubled navigation and has lost a number of its crew - including the captain. Jamie is now the one in charge of the ship. That's a massive change since the last time Claire and the audience saw the ship. It's what Jamie wanted in the previous episode. He wanted to do whatever it took in order to reunite with Claire. And now, he is much more sensible in his actions. There is no cause for worry or alarm within him now. The crew has come to shore in order to fix the mast that has broken on the ship. As soon as they succeed with that, they'll sail away once more. Jamie is surprisingly level-headed about all of this. But it's also significant that he's the one who looks at the beach and sees the signal that Claire is flashing at him. It then becomes this grand, sweeping and romantic reunion between the two of them. They race towards each other and embrace once more. They have miraculously been reunited in the most strange and unusual of circumstances. It's a cause for celebration. That celebration is Fergus and Marsali's wedding. Jamie promised them that they could have a ceremony as soon as they landed in Jamaica. But now, that plan has changed. So, this is a nice opportunity to lift everyone's spirits so that they are reinvigorated before the perilous journey ahead. It's going to be rough. So, they needed this break with some good news. It's a happy occasion even though the priest has a strong opinion about everything that is going on. It's in seeing the personal relationships that give this story meaning. It's important for Claire and Marsali to talk beforehand about the fears of marriage, sex and children. It's important to return to the ship and seeing Jamie and Claire just bask in the happiness they have for one enough. It's not skirting the consequences that need to happen in that relationship. But it's also just a nice moment that showcases that they are still strong and loving despite their ever-changing circumstances. So, Jamie is on the run once more. But Claire is right at his side supporting him through all of it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Uncharted" was written by Karen Campbell & Shannon Goss and directed by Charlotte Brandstr√∂m.
  • It's so incredibly odd that Captain Raines dies offscreen. That character had the feeling of being more important than the brief role he's had in the previous few episodes. There needed to be a reason for Richard Dillane being listed as a series regular. But now, it seems like that was a mere contractual thing in order for Dillane to appear on the show at all - even in such a small part in the scope of this season's story.
  • Claire slept in the middle of the forest twice. Both times she was awoken by animals crawling on her. That didn't seem like it could be a trick the show could do twice. And yet, it was just as terrifying to see the hundreds of ants as it was to see the snake crawling on top of her. The snake felt like an escalation of tension in the story. But both were ultimately quite destructive to her health as well.
  • After a few episodes, I still don't know the names of Young Ian's friends who are also on the Artemis helping with the rescue mission. And yet, it's very appropriate that they mention that Claire and Jamie have a tendency of reuniting in the most strange and unexpected ways. That's basically been their entire relationship as those two have seen it so far.
  • The priest mentions a cave on Jamaica that Claire has heard about before. When she was treating the fortune teller back in Edinburgh, she told Claire her fate. It didn't make much sense then. But now, the same words are repeated here. That's an action the show deliberately brings attention to. So, that is something to be aware of moving forward as well.
  • It's so wonderfully moving to see Jamie step up and give Fergus his last name so that he can marry Marsali. Fergus has been a part of this family for a long time. But he has never taken on that last name. And now, Jamie has gifted it to him. He's an official part of this family now. That's a gesture that means just as much as Jamie's blessing for the marriage as well.