Black Sails: III

I’m late with this one! Apologies – it’s been a busy few weeks with workshops and writing. Before I get started, however, you may have read that the lost treasure of Captain Kidd has supposedly been found. I have thoughts and opinions on it, which I am keeping quiet about for now but hopefully not for too long (all in good time!). Until then, let me direct you to this great blog post about why the treasure is most likely a hoax.

The third episode of Black Sails is all about pirate politics. More threats of mutiny, more contention over captaincy, and even more betrayal.

[Side-note – I really wish the previous episode’s recap would stop showing the Urca de Lima’s schedule getting ripped out of the Captain’s Log. It hurts too much. I can’t even find a still online of that action.]

The episode starts the following morning with Captain Flint waking up at home and still bleeding once he starts moving. Miranda seems exasperated but she’s happy he’s found the Urca de Lima. Ooh, what does she know? Suddenly a cart pulls up bearing the unconscious [!] form of Richard Guthrie. So apparently he’s not dead! But he needs to be hidden.

Not dead!

Not dead!

Jack Rackham is approached by members of Charles Vane’s crew. They know he lost them five thousand pesos worth of pearls are they are NOT happy. Dear oh dear.

Later that morning, John Silver writing out the schedule for the Urca de Lima in Eleanor’s office. She along with Captain Flint, Quartermaster Gage, and Boatswain Billy all watch him with disgust. When Silver finishes, Captain Flint notices that the schedule is incomplete. Ugh, of course it is. Silver just grins and says that why should he write out the rest of it? There will be no reason to keep him alive after that! He proposes that they let him return to the crew and allow him his share in exchange for his life once they reach the Urca de Lima. They reluctantly agree but no one is happy about this arrangement. I don’t blame them. Slimy Silver.

In the meantime, to keep John Silver out of the way of preparations (and probably just because he’s John Silver), Billy takes him to Randall the cook, who is peeling potatoes. Billy tells a quick lie and says that Silver lost a wager on the ship and his punishment was to help peel potatoes all day. Randall points out that they’re not allowed to wager on board. That’s right, Randall! They certainly aren’t as gambling goes against one of the pirate codes. (I’d go on, but I’ve covered the topic of pirate codes here.) To pass the time, Silver casually asks Randall about what the men think of Singleton’s ‘thievery’ and feigns surprise when it appears that Randall and some others are not convinced of Singleton’s guilt. What mischief is Silver up to now?

Eleanor has agreed to finance the expedition to find the Urca de Lima but there’s one problem. She cannot actually afford to do so, especially as there are no guns left on the island. (Not the pistol-kind.) So she swallows her pride and approaches her father, who refuses to speak to her. I thought she believed him to be dead? Anyways. Before she leaves she points out that if he does not help her then they will be bankrupt within the month and he’ll be forced to return to Boston with the threat of death – or worse, boredom – hanging over his head.

Captain Flint knows that he cannot lead the expedition alone so he sends Quartermaster Gage on an errand to find an additional ship and crew. It turns out that the man he needs to speak with is none other that Captain Benjamin Hornigold, real-life pirate-turned-pirate-hunter who famously captured Stede Bonnet and Jack Rackham in 1719. I love it when real pirates make it onto this show. It gets me all giddy – like the celebrity cameos in Pitch Perfect. Hornigold is sitting pretty in what looks like an abandoned fort on a precious chair from one of his first prizes. Ah, to be a retired pirate.

Hornigold DGAF.

Hornigold DGAF.

Hornigold agrees to lend his ship, the Royal Lion, and his crew under the temporary captaincy of Quartermaster Gage. All is looking good for Gage until Jack Rackham approaches him and points out that his crew will be likely to mutiny once they reach the Urca de Lima and that they’ll be desperate for a captain who’s at least thirty years younger than him. I don’t like where this is going. Aaand sure enough, Gage finds Flint and brings about the shocking suggestion of making Charles Vane captain of the Royal Lion with his crew because they have more guns and then could be certain to remain second to Captain Flint. Flint is not amused by this suggestion, especially when he sees that Gage is serious. He is NOT willing to consider it! [Yeah, right.]

Surprise, surprise, Charles Vane isn’t happy about the idea either until Rackham points out that it might put him back in Eleanor’s favour. Because Vane’s blood doesn’t really flow to his head, this is all it takes to convince him. [At this point I made a note that the plot is dragging in this episode. Proof that pirates weren’t all swashbuckling and drinking. It was a lot of work and politics to be a pirate.] Since Rackham is the poshest pirate of the lot, he’s the natural choice to lead negotiations.

Just a reminder that Rackham is the only pirate who feels the need to wear sunglasses.

Just a reminder that Rackham is the only pirate who feels the need to wear sunglasses.

Rackham wants a share per man. Gage suggests a portion of a share per man with the bonus that Vane’s crew can have first pick of the ‘interesting’ loot. Rackham agrees…if Richard Guthrie is made guarantor instead of Eleanor to keep it ‘impartial.’ Flint and Eleanor are less than thrilled but Vane agrees to this suggestion.

John Silver’s side-plot continues when he shows Boatswain Billy the men who are on the brink of mutiny because of their suspicions about Singleton’s innocence. Even though Billy knows the truth, the truth is not to anyone’s advantage right now. It turns out one of the biggest opponents within the crew is a man known as Turk. Turk insists that Singleton was not a thief but his loyalty wavers a bit too quickly when Billy lies and says he saw Singleton steal the page out of the Captain’s Log (stop it!). It turns out Turk is afraid that he and the rest of the crew will be disposable to Captain Flint because no one knows about Mrs Barlow, aka Miranda, who I thought was Flint’s wife but now I know nothing!

So who is Mrs Barlow? She’s clearly keeping house for Flint and she has good social standing because the local pastor stops by as he does every Wednesday to ask her opinion about his sermon. However, he’s not too pleased when she disagrees with him about how love is not a sin and he casually mentions how rumours of a nearby naval ship have reached the parishioners. It appears that colonial rule may reassert itself and that righteousness will prevail. When he not-so-subtlety hints that he knows of her relationship with Flint, she dismisses him.

Mrs Barlow.

Mrs Barlow.

Speaking of complicated relationships, Jack Rackham tells Charles Vane that he needs to clean up last night’s work. What work is that? They go inside a barn where we find Max naked and curled up in a foetal position with cuts and bruises all over her face. It appears that Anne Bonny lurked a bit too well at the end of the last episode and had Max caught before she could escape Nassau. Vane tells Rackham to have her in a boat that evening. As the afternoon passes, Eleanor goes to Vane’s tent and seduces him…why? Because he kept a cool head during negotiations? I can usually sniff out hate-arousal pretty quickly in television and films but this took me surprisingly off-guard. But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprise since Vane grossly alluded to their sexy past in the last episode. This will not end well.

Time to go on a historical tangent. It’s refreshing that sexuality isn’t a thing in this show. It just is and makes perfect sense given the rough lives of those who lived in the early modern West Indies. Local governors and businesses supported pirates, as we’ve seen Eleanor do, to get goods and money from outside the West Indies. Many men who worked as sailors were pirates and thus led unpredictable lives. If they had relationships and families, their return and continued presence on the islands were limited at best. Many women who were not slaves and lived outside of plantations or did not work with the church had few ways to support themselves. If they were lucky, they could help run local taverns. If not, prostitution. Life in the West Indies, particularly in Jamaica, was so difficult that it was often referred to as the ‘Sodom of the Sea’ until the Royal Navy stepped in an re-established British rule.

Anyways, that night Rackham leads Max out of the barn but unfortunately Vane has given his crew permission to ‘have’ her. It turns out this means a gang-rape, which is stopped by a furious Eleanor. Eleanor accuses Vane of allowing this to happen. To get her revenge, she tells his men that they have a choice: choose a new captain or leave Vane’s command and join Flint’s or else she won’t ever finance any of them ever again, leaving them beggars. It works – the crew walks over to Flint (except Anne Bonny, getting her lurk on again, who is threatened with death by Vane if she leaves him). Bringing down Charles Vane’s command does not matter to Max. She tells Eleanor that this wouldn’t have happened if she had let her leave Nassau when she wanted to.

Lesbian relationships are not allowed to be happy.

Lesbian relationships are not allowed to be happy.

And cue the end-of-episode montage of Richard Guthrie and Mrs Barlow reading Marcus Aurelias aloud together while Max and Eleanor stare off hatefully into the distance as John Silver watches Billy convince Turk to keep his loyalty to Flint.

Next time! The men must sail within two days or they’ll never catch up to the Urca de Lima! Will Anne Bonny do more than lurk? Will she have a line that isn’t ‘I want to fuck’? Stay tuned!

About Dr. Rebecca Simon

Los Angeles-based historian who's expert in all things pirates and public executions. PhD, King's College London, 2017.
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