Episode 1: The Battle Joined
Episode 2: Surrender
Episode 3: All Debts Paid
Episode 4: Of Lost Things
Episode 5: Whisky & Freedom
Episode 6: A. Malcolm
Episode 7: Creme de Menthe
Episode 8: First Wife
Episode 9: The Doldrums
“When the Captain of the ’74 asks for a surgeon, you give him a surgeon.”
We open just before Claire’s kidnapping, with the two ships still in sight of one another. Jamie and Fergus are talking on the deck when Jamie realizes that the Porpoise, Claire’s ship, is moving away. Jamie rallies the crew quickly to go after her, but the Captain stops him – he knows what’s happening. The Captain of the Porpoise has promised to return Claire safely to them once they reach Jamaica, but for now they need her help.
Jamie loses his shit, and his men pull their knives and guns on the Captain. He tells Jamie to call them off, and he does, but the Captain’s sympathy for Jamie is nonexistent. Jamie requests to be kept within sight of the ship, and the Captain says they’ll sail at their own pace, thankyouverymuch, and has Jamie locked up below decks.
“Thankfully, Mr. Jones, most of this is vomit.”
Meanwhile, Claire has her hands full dealing with the typhoid outbreak aboard the Porpoise. She has all hands scrubbing decks and is clearly in her element barking orders to the men. Jones, one of the sailors, grumbles about a woman giving him orders. Elias Pound, a young boy who appears to be the Captain’s right hand man, rebukes him on Claire’s behalf. Good lad. The men don’t really understand Claire’s explanation of how disease spreads, but they humor her about the washing of everything.
“How many casks will you require?” “How many men would you like me to save?”
Elias thoughtfully brings Claire a hat and asks if an alcohol distiller might come in handy. Now we’re talking, boy! They have a couple of men on board who know how to build a still. It won’t be a popular decision – to make the alcohol, the men will have to go on half rations of grog.
Elias helps Claire minister to the sick men. He’s only 14. He’s been sailing since he was 7 years old. He seems to bloom under Claire’s praise. Elias points out a newly dead man – a friend of his. He reaches over and shuts the man’s eyes. He’s a quick study and a brave kid – Claire had only just gotten done explaining that the sick men can be touched if necessary, but only if he were careful to wash after. He doesn’t shy away from it in order to pay proper respects.
“Typhoid Howard” doesn’t have the same ring to it…
Claire pores over the ledgers with the young Captain to try to track down where the disease began. They find only one man from the crew in which it started still alive – Joe Howard – and (oh, great!), he’s been assigned to the kitchen where he has been spreading it everywhere. As expected, Claire has a hell of a time explaining the concept of a carrier of disease to the cook, Cosworth, who is proving to be difficult to deal with.
“Just because it’s beyond *our* comprehension, Cosworth, doesn’t make it less veracious.”
Cosworth refers to Claire as a “cursed woman” as he’s ripping apart her orders in front of the men. He appeals to the Captain, and Captain Leonard backs Claire and has Howard locked up for his own safety. “You’d best be right about this, Mistress Fraser,” he says, as Cosworth glowers.
“The crew are not yours. They will not follow you.”
Fergus visits Jamie in his cell below decks, and Jamie’s a bit worse for the wear. His seasickness, in the absence of Mr. Willoughby’s ministerings, is back with a vengeance, and he’s worried sick about Claire. Jamie tries to convince Fergus to pickpocket the keys and set him free so that he can take over the ship and rescue Claire. Fergus is skeptical – it’s about 7 crew members who will back Jamie vs. 20 who will back the Captain. “Convince more,” Jamie says simply. Well, sure, problem solved, then. Thanks, Jamie!
The two haggle back and forth about the plan, and Jamie’s ready to do anything to get Claire back, no matter how foolish. He tells Fergus that he was right to withhold his blessing from his marriage to Marsali – Fergus doesn’t know what love is. Fergus is hurt. “How can you say that?” He wonders. “Because if you did, you would move heaven and earth, you would risk arrest and death – even hell! You would do it as easily as the prick of a pin…[…]. Until you’ve risked all, ye canna speak of love.” Jamie ups the ante and offers his blessing on the marriage, if Fergus will do as he says. Fergus does not reply.
Burying the dead
On deck aboard the Porpoise, men are being sewn into canvas body bags and prepared to be laid to rest at sea (thrown overboard.) Elias is seen putting the final stitch into his friend’s shroud. “‘Tis always done by a friend,” he explains to Claire. Captain Leonard then conducts what looks to be the daily mass funeral service.
“The cook’s always been a disagreeable man.”
Cosworth menaces Claire that evening about the number of dead, scoffing at her methods. Elias scolds him and he leaves. Elias asks Claire if there’s a trick to remaining emotionally unaffected by so much death. She explains compartmentalizing to him, and he seems to understand. “This won’t be our last burial at sea on the Porpoise, but with any luck, we’ll get through it,” she says. “Begging your pardon, Madam, but after three days of watching you at your work, I don’t think much of it will come down to luck.” Just in case, however, he gives Claire his lucky rabbit’s foot; given to him by his dead mother.
Claire is not a gentlewoman
A sailor interrupts their chat with the information that Mr. Johansen has taken ill as well. He’s the husband of the ship’s goat-keeper. When Claire gets to him, she discovers that he has alcohol poisoning – has drunk himself half to death on the alcohol she needs to stop the typhoid. She lets loose with a tirade that would make even a sailor blush. Claire apologizes. “I have heard many such things,” Elias remarks with amusement. “But never from a gentlewoman.”
A timely observation
Claire spots a Portuguese flag and flashes back to Jared’s intelligence that there was only one record of a Portuguese ship. Seaman Jones, who appears to have warmed up to Claire – says that two weeks ago, they boarded a Portuguese ship in search of a surgeon. Claire quizzes him, thinking that they may have seen Young Ian. Jones can’t remember what the name of the ship was, so Claire goes to the Captain’s office to read the ledgers and see if she can discover it herself. Finding nobody there, she lets herself in.
The names of the ships don’t match, but Claire discovers something else – one of the passengers they picked up – a Harry Tompkins – knows that the other ship is carrying Jamie, a known traitor and smuggler, and now the Captain does, too. Claire’s discovery is interrupted by Cosworth, who makes no bones about the fact that he neither likes nor trusts Claire, and he threatens her again. Claire basically tells him to screw off and threatens him right back – the Captain trusts her. Does he, though, Claire?
“No one is keeping an eye on us!”
Fergus tells Marsali of Jamie’s bribe offer, and things get hot and heavy. Fergus stops her. “We must wait until we’re married,” he says. “I promised milord, and there’s true hope for us now.” Despite herself, Marsali is impressed. “You’re just like him, you know. Once you give your word, you never break it.”
The one-eyed man
Claire snows Elias a little about why she wants to see Harry Tompkins, and asks him to keep it quiet – she claims he may be a second carrier of the disease. Elias buys it and rounds the man up. Well, well, well! It’s none other than our one-eyed man who was in the print shop with Young Ian when it burned down – the one who knew Jamie was a traitor, smuggler, and worse. Claire sends the men away and quizzes Tompkins, large knife in hand. He knows exactly who she is.
Claire threatens Tompkins, but after several weeks on a plague ship, he’s ready to welcome death. Claire says maybe she’ll just kill him – they can’t arrest Jamie on just the Captain’s say-so. Tompkins spills that they found the body in the cask of creme de menthe – they’ve now got him on murder, too. You know, the body of the man Claire herself killed? She’s horrified. The Captain is prepared to write up a report the minute they land in Jamaica, to get Jamie dealt with. Claire means to talk him out of it. Tompkins scoffs. The Captain intends to man his own ship, and turning in a known criminal might just help that dream along – he’s an ambitious man. The authorities will be waiting for Jamie when he comes to get Claire in Kingston, and then Jamie will be hanged. Claire has the Captain lock Tompkins up with Typhoid Howard until she can figure out what’s what.
“Perhaps I love too much…”
Fergus eavesdrops above deck and learns that he and Jamie are pretty much personae non grata, and decides – probably wisely – that maybe they’d better keep a low profile rather than try to organize a mutiny. When he comes back to Jamie, he admits that he did not even try to get the keys. Jamie is furious. Fergus tries to talk sense to him, to not much avail.
I don’t understand how goat cheese can help, but it certainly can’t hurt
Claire goes to visit Annekje Johansen, the goat-keeper, who gives Claire a hunk of goat cheese for helping her husband. Claire tries to explain her foul mood and spills that she needs to warn her husband about something. “I help!” Annekje exclaims. “My goats need grass!” Claire nods politely, not quite understanding.
A not-so-timely observation
They’re over the worst of the typhoid on the Porpoise, and things are finally calming down. In higher spirits, Claire seeks out Elias to return his lucky rabbit’s foot to him and finds him near death. For all of her efforts, she missed the signs of the disease in her friend. “Mother?” he asks, through his delirium. She strokes his forehead. “Yes, Elias. It’s mother. It’s time for you to come home, now.” Sob! As he is sewn into his body bag, Claire tucks his rabbit’s foot into his coat. Jones hands her the needle to put in the final stitch. “It should be done by a friend.”
That night, the Captain comes to see Claire. He’s pleased with her work, even though she can’t forgive herself for Elias. He leaves and the Johansens take his place – they’ve caught a whiff of land – they’ll be there by tomorrow! By “there,” they mean the small island of Grand Turk, not Jamaica, but Claire realizes all at once what Annekje meant by “help” – the goats will be let off of the ship to graze, and Claire can assist, perhaps affording her a tiny window during which to escape.
“I was just gathering herbs!”
Claire escapes at the first opportunity, but runs smack into Captain Leonard, who is patrolling the island. She makes an excuse that he doesn’t buy. He calls her out directly on her bullshit – he recognizes that he’s in her debt, but he can’t let her warn her husband. He knows what she saw in the log book. He says he doesn’t love the idea, but he has to report Jamie. It’s the law. She begs him to look the other way. He has the men escort Claire back to the ship by way of answer.
“Make him give his word.”
Jamie is looking at pictures of Claire and Brianna when the Captain interrupts. He needs all able-bodied men to help navigate the waters that are coming up, so he’s going to uncage Jamie. Marsali has persauded the Captain that Jamie won’t rebel. The Captain unlocks Jamie and leaves him alone for a moment with Fergus and Marsali. “You have my blessing,” he says. “You can be married in Jamaica.” The two are delighted.
Might as well jump
Annekje tells Claire at just the right time that if she jumps ship, the tide will take her into the nearest island. Claire is terrified. I’m not so sure this is a good idea either, in Claire’s defense. Annetke gives her a little raft and wraps up her clothes, and it’s decided. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Claire exclaims, as she makes the leap.
- Young boys like Elias were often taken onboard ships as servants, and to be groomed for the Navy. Most of the boys in question were tiny and malnourished, and had no father, or even no adult at all taking care of them. Perhaps their mothers were unable to feed them reliably, and this was a viable option – the ship guaranteed that they’d at least eat, and it was a “respectable job.” That, or the boys were the sons of men who were already sailors.
- As they are preparing the bodies for burial at sea, Elias explains to Claire that the last stitch of closing the body bag goes through the dead man’s nose, to make sure he’s dead. This is a real sea tradition – they know if that stitch didn’t wake the man up, he isn’t going to. Also knows as “the stitch to wake the dead.” This tradition carried on through at least the 1960’s with the merchant marines. The practice was also superstitious – it was thought to seal the dead man’s spirit into the shroud, so it would not follow the ship.
- What did Cosworth mean when he referred to Claire as “a cursed woman”? He knows something he’s not telling.
Join us next week for Episode 11: “Uncharted.”
Image Credits: Sweatpants & Coffee.