For an episode entitled, “The Doldrums,” there’s certainly a lot going on. First off, there’s a brand-new intro sequence. While we’ve seen it change before to reflect major plot developments, this time there’s a new theme song to go with the new shots. Composer Bear McCreary’s haunting ballad now features a Jamaican beat underneath Raya Yarbrough’s soaring vocals. It makes it clear that we’re sailing into new territory here. (Fun fact- if the ships that we’re sailing in on look familiar, it’s because the rest of season 3 was filmed on the former Black Sails sets in South Africa.) Let’s explore all these new developments by breaking it down with our Skins vs Swords scale.
*Spoiler Warning! The following recap contains spoilers for episode 309, “The Doldrums.” Do not read further if you have not seen the episode and want to avoid spoilers. You’ve been warned.*
Skin Score: 8/10. Fergus takes the starring role in love this time. He and Marsali, Jamie’s step-daughter, show up on board The Artemis and announce that not only have they been secretly dating for months, but they are now handfast (the Scottish equivalent of visiting the justice of the peace). Jamie immediately leaps into Dad Mode and separates the two to prevent them from consummating the marriage. Claire is left to room with the girl who considers her a whore and a husband thief, much to their mutual horror, while Jamie must confront his adopted son in between bouts of seasickness.
Fergus is angry at the separation. He challenges Jamie, stating that his love for Marsali is the same as Jamie’s love for Claire. Jamie brings up all of Fergus’s past lovers and asks him if he’s been completely truthful with Marsali. When Fergus squirms, Jamie tells him that there is no love without true honesty. It’s a bold statement for a man who just spent two episodes hiding a wife and two step-daughters, but Fergus accepts the lesson. Jamie is clearly banking on Fergus not wanting to tell Marsali, but Fergus is nothing without his honor. He immediately goes to Marsali and tells her everything. Her feelings for Fergus are not changed, but Jamie refuses to yield his stance. He’s afraid that their infatuation will fizzle out and they’ll both be left ruined. With Claire on the young couple’s side, it’s a stand-off between Jamie’s stubbornness and the path of possible true love.
Sword Score: 7/10. Above decks, superstitions are flying faster than the wind. There are bad omens everywhere and the voyage seems ill-fated before land is even out of sight. First, there are two women on board, a double dose of bad luck that is supposedly counteracted by the female masthead. Next there’s Jamie and his red hair. The crew all take care to address Jamie first, to avoid the curse of his gingerness. Any other bits of bad luck can be counteracted by touching the iron horseshoe nailed to a post on the deck. The entire crew must touch it at the beginning of the voyage, Claire and Marsali included, to ward off any trouble.
Despite all the precautions, bad luck strikes, and it strikes hard. A sailor is injured by a broken line soon after departure. Then the winds vanish and the ship is left floating aimlessly for weeks in the middle of the sea. When the drinking water barrels are spoiled, the crew reach their breaking point and start calling for a Jonah. They identify a man who didn’t touch the horseshoe and threaten to throw him overboard. Mr. Willoughby saves the man and the day by distracting the crew long enough for the winds to return en force. All seems well until a British ship, The Porpoise, shows up riddled with Typhus. Claire goes over to assist and is pressed into service as ship’s surgeon. Both ships are headed for Jamaica, so it’s only a half-kidnapping, but it looks like Claire and Jamie are going to be spending the rest of the trip apart. Acting Captain Leonard better hope that they make it safely to land, as plague will be the least of his concerns if anything happens to Claire.
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Kade is often described as, “here just a minute ago” and can often be found just around the corner from where you’d expect. Approaching is not encouraged, unless you come with a strong wifi connection and a nice charcuterie board with gluten-free breads.