Despite not being as plot heavy as last week, this episode surpasses last week with the strong character moments and dealing with the practical and emotional impacts of war.
The episode opens with Claire and Jamie taking their men forward to join the rebellion, only to discover men deserting on the way. Simon has left to urge the deserters to return, by promising them land after the rebellion. Claire and Jamie stop with other members of the rebellion, meeting up with Murtagh and Fergus, who joyfully hugs Claire when he sees they’ve returned. Angus and Rupert have returned, and in a needed bit of comic relief reveal the fate of Willie, and just as Claire and Jamie get worried about what’s happened to him we only discover that “The lad.. He went and got himself married” Angus and Rupert somberly note. It’s great to see these two again, and all that characters from last season reuniting and being together again.
That’s not the last reunion though, as Dougal makes his return, to a happy Jamie and a pensive Claire. “It wouldn’t be Scotland without you Dougal”, Claire tells him. Dougal, a proud Jacobite supporter, is thrilled to have Jamie supporting the cause, but Clan Mackenzie has only brought in three members for the rebellion.
Dougal seems more naive in his faith of the men they’ve brought, but Jamie knows what the Scottish are up against, so he chooses to stay and train the men before they join Prince Charlie’s army. Murtagh begins with teaching the men drills and how to march properly, his yelling providing some great lines, such as “What are you laughing at bastard!”.
As Claire observes all the training around her though she is caught off guard by flashbacks of her time in WWII, watching men train and die. Before we can look deeper into these flashbacks we get a training montage of the day, the men improving and practicing with weapons, and physical training, everyone there playing a part in preparations for war. It’s nice that they showed how everyone was affected by war, and everyone had their own roles and duties even outside of the actual fighting. After a successful day, Dougal is eager to join Prince Charlie but is rebuked by Jamie and Murtagh who know that the men still have a long way to go.
Another flashback from Claire after seeing Angus look in disgust at his food, shows her meeting two American soldiers, and commenting on the poor state of the food. Later on with her head in her hands, Jamie sees she’s not herself but Claire insists that she’s fine.
The next of training shows the men half heartedly doing the drills, lacking motivation. Jamie quickly steps in, acknowledging how silly something such as marching may seem to them in regards to the battle itself. “Then I went to France, became a soldier. Then I saw what a modern well trained army can do.” Jamie proceeds to highlight the harsh realities of battle against the British, finishing with “It takes more than courage to beat an army like that. It takes a soldier.” The men are finally motivated and cheer, but Jamie’s victory is soon cut short when Douglas, Angus and Rupert suddenly charge towards them, sword in hand, screaming and wild.
“That’s how you bring down redcoats” Dougal proudly exclaims, but Jamie isn’t happy and this contradiction of what he’s just tried to teach the men causes him to pull Dougal aside. Jamie reasserts his authority as a leader, but Dougal laughs, asking if Jamie seriously thinks he knows more about fighting than him, to which Jamie bluntly replies that he does. Dougal is taken aback, but accepts Jamie as his superior. This lasts for about 5 seconds, and Dougal goes into to see Claire and manipulate her into thinking Jamie needs help but is too proud to accept it. Dougal reminds her of her promise to marry him if Jamie died, but Claire sees right through this bullshit though. “You suffer from narcissism” Claire harshly declares, before delivering the best line of the episode “Fuck yourself”. Claire Fraser is my hero.
Another training montage follows, this time with more physical fighting training, Dougal and everyone teaching the men the skills they need for war. Jamie and Murtagh then lead them men in loading and shooting guns, both commenting on Claire’s lack of spirit. Later on at dinner, Claire gets furious at Angus for treating his feet badly, putting him at high risk of trench foot. We then see another flashback of Claire’s time in WWII, Claire giving a speech to soldiers, dealing with the same lack of interest and care in her warnings. Furious, Claire storms out. It’s something I hadn’t thought about a lot, the fact that Claire had lived through another war and had seen and endured horrible things, watching men die. It’s understandable that in the preparation for another one these memories would come back to haunt her, and I like that the writers chose to explore this part of Claire’s life, making t well directing and paralleled with her current situation.
Later that night, then are alarmed to see men entering the camp, but it’s only Dougal with some new recruits. Jamie however, isn’t impressed. Then men on watch shouldn’t have let all the men through so easily, and Jamie orders them brought to him. Jamie’s angry at Dougal for not obeying orders, but Dougal persists “when did you order me not to recruit new men?” he asks. Jamie then sets Dougal and his men to guarding the camp for the rest of their time there. Jamie arrests the men who were originally guarding the camp, and gets them whipped.
Later, Claire walks by the men firing their guns and it soon overwhelms her as she falls to the ground, falling into another flashback. In this one Claire and the two American soldiers we’ve seen her chat to get fired at while driving, and Claire and one of the men are thrown over and hidden in a ditch. The other soldier however was still by the car, and is crying in pain. However much Claire wants to help, she knows it would only cause her death. The other soldier attempts to sneak across but promises to come back for Claire. Just as he runs over, he is sadly shot down. Claire now alone and having to her the other boy’s screams of pain curls into a ball and puts her hand over her ears. The next morning she’s still there, shocked and rigid in fear when a soldier discovers her.
Back in Scotland this is how we see Claire, with her hands on her ears on the ground as Jamie rushes over. After she explains, Jamie reassures her that’s there’s nothing she could have done, and Claire knows this and told herself this, but “Then I just closed the door on that night”. Now that another war is here “I’m not sure I’m ready to go war again”, she confesses. Jamie recommends sending her back, but Claire refuses, knowing that would be even worse. In the most honest and heartbreaking moment of the episode, Claire gives this speech
“If I go back, it will just be like lying in that ditch again helpless, and powerless to move like a dragon fly in amber. Except this time it will be worse. Because I’ll know that the people out there dying alone are people I know. People I love. I can’t do that Jamie. I won’t lie in that ditch again.I can’t be helpless and alone ever again.”
Later Jamie is suddenly attacked by an intruder in the camp, who is with the British. Jamie doesn’t want to kill him, but just as they are about to torture him to find out who he marches with, Claire steps in. “Scottish bastard!” she yells, and predents to a be a captive who resisted Jamie’s advances earlier, and says he can sleep with her if they let the intruder go. As they start to make a scene, the intruder yells at them to stop, and promises to tell them information if Jamie lets Claire go. It’s an incredibly fun scene to watch, the two acting their parts to perfection and the glances they give eachother and how they react to eachother reinforce how well they know eachother. (Murtagh’s reactions during this are everything) He introduces himself as William Grey and is travelling with a large group of men who are heavily armed. If the information he gives proves true, Jamie orders him to be tied to a tree where his men will find it. “I owe you my life” William admits before being taken away, “I must regard it as a debt of honour” “Once it is discharged, I will kill you” he says. I have a feeling we will see him again.
Dougal’s men were guarding the camp, but the unguarded fires by Jamie caused them to be noticed, so Jamie submits himself to being whipped. It’s horrible to watch him suffer this again, and the men are clearly horrified seeing Jamie’s already wounded back be whipped again. Jamie and his men then go and sneak into the British camp, sabotaging and taking the wheels of their supplies, preventing them from coming after them that quickly. Jamie returns and thanks Claire for saving lives with the information she got out of William.
The last scene with a beautiful score behind it, and well directed shows the men marching towards Prince Charlie’s camp and reaching the outskirts. Jamie lets Dougal ride ahead and announce their presence.
“No turning back now, Sassenach” Jamie notes
“I should say not”, Claire retorts.
And then with the last line, after all the suffering she’s relieved and gone through with Jamie, Claire utters the Fraser motto. “Je Suis Prest”.
Until next week,