By Emily Parker
Welcome back! This week, Jamie focuses all of his efforts on turning the Jacobite army away from the impending slaughter at Culloden, Colum turns up at camp, and Alex Randall has an indecent proposal.
We open on the group riding through a camp just outside of Inverness. Their plan is to rest – all are hungry and exhausted. They’ve been in retreat for five months now, in bad weather with little food. Morale is low.
“How in bloody hell did we end up here?”
Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh arrive at a small cottage and Fergus instantly falls asleep. Jamie wants Dougal to do an immediate patrol of the surrounding area, to see how close and where the British are. Dougal isn’t keen – he’s tired and hungry, and so are the horses – but he finally agrees. “See that there’s food when we return.” Jamie sends Murtagh into Inverness to fetch Bonnie Prince Charlie (BPC). Murtagh knows where this will lead – they’re three days and as many miles from Culloden Moor. Claire is despondent. “All that work. All that plotting.” Jamie comforts her. “There’s still time to avoid the fight we canna win, if I can make Charles see reason.”
“It was a complicated situation…”
Claire goes into Inverness to replenish her medical supplies. She runs into Mary at the apothecary, buying laudanum. Mary is none too happy to see Claire. Apparently, Alex Randall contacted her and scooped her up after the debacle at the Duke’s house, and filled Mary in on how Claire tried to convince him not to marry her. Alex has managed to find a job, but has been too sick to perform it lately. The two have renewed plans to marry, and Mary says she’s taking care of him. Claire apologizes for interfering. “He was in poor health.” Claire offers to stop by to see Alex and apologize to him as well. Mary tells her where she can find them.
“I am not some frightened hare, to be run down by a pack of British hounds.”
BPC and his men are holed up in Inverness, drinking and planning the battle at Culloden Moor. Jamie shits on that idea, then asks, “With all due respect, why fight at all?” He implores BPC to have a look at his beloved army: “The men are too exhausted to fight a major battle.” The general calls Jamie a coward and a minor argument ensues until the Prince reprimands everyone. Jamie says that they need food and weapons. He mentions a shipment of French gold they may be able to commandeer – with that money, they can secure what they need, split the army into smaller factions, and – once they’re rested, provisioned, and fed – resume fighting at that time; somewhere better than Culloden Moor, which will not be to their tactical advantage. BPC considers for a moment, then says he won’t retreat. Jamie is aghast. “The men will rest, and then we shall march to Culloden.” Gaaah.
Claire stops by to see Alex, who looks quite worse for the wear. She tends to him, and then surprise! Black Jack Randall (BJR) walks in, dressed in plainclothes. He and Claire are shocked to see one another. Alex affectionately calls his brother “Johnny”. Claire makes moves to leave, and Mary says she doesn’t know what they would have done without BJR – he’s been paying the bills while Alex has been sick. Mary wants to know when Alex will be able to work again. Claire explains that he’s dying, and Mary freaks. She’s pregnant, and Alex and BJR both know. Yikes. Claire leaves, and BJR chases her down and grabs her.
He basically begs her to care for Alex, regardless of how she feels about him. “Cure him.” Claire says she can’t; he’s dying. As she walks away, he calls “But you can ease his pain!” He asks on behalf of Alex, Mary, and their unborn baby. Claire agrees on the condition that BJR give her the location of Cumberland’s army. “You would barter over a man’s suffering? You impress me.” “The woman I am now is not the woman I once was, Captain Randall.”
Honey, guess who I saw today?
At home when Claire tells Jamie who she ran into, he literally flips tables. Fortunately, she learned from BJR that the British army is encamped at Nairn, 12 miles from where they are, and that in two days, they’ll be having a celebration for Cumberland’s 25th birthday. Jamie says that’s interesting, but let’s confirm it rather that take the word of a scumbag who wants something. Claire says she wants to care for Alex; that she owes Mary that much. Jamie hates the whole idea. Claire argues that if he’s so worried, Murtagh can go with her when she visits. Great.
Colum’s rickety sticks
That night, Colum arrives in the camp, to everyone’s shock. Rupert to Murtagh: “Would ye be so kind as to tell me what the MacKenzie is doing here?” “If I knew, I would!” Murtagh replies. Colum looks very ill and feeble. He says that he’s sorry to have heard about Angus, and that it’s good to see everyone, but wastes no time with his demands: “Bring me a bed to rest in, my brother and my nephew. I don’t know how long I can stand here on these rickety sticks of mine.”
“What’s one more sin, to a sinner?”
Claire attends Colum’s sickbed as Jamie explains that Dougal is MIA because he is leading a recon mission. “I always said you were a smart one. Give my brother enough authority to keep him content, but not enough to allow him to grab for more.” Jamie smiles. “It’s as if you read my mind.” Colum asks to speak privately with Claire. He says he was wrong about her, and has grown quite fond of her. He then asks for a favor – he wants for Claire to put him out of his misery. Claire nods, and tucks a vial into his hand. “When you’re ready.” He smiles kindly. “For what it’s worth, you have my deepest gratitude.”
Take good care of my baby
Later at the inn, BJR is holding a sputtering Alex. Claire and Mary attend to him as Murtagh stands by. BJR bitches at Claire as she’s trying to shotgun medicinal smoke into Alex’s lungs. It briefly eases him, and Alex lies down to rest. BJR addresses Claire more calmly. “He’s in pain.” She says there isn’t really anything she can do about it. Give him laudanum, if he needs to sleep. BJR cruelly grabs her, hissing, “You said you would help him!” Murtagh grabs BJR, and Claire breaks it up. Alex calls for his brother.
BJR tells Alex not to worry – he won’t let Mary or the kid want for anything. Alex asks him to send for the minister. “For the last rites?” BJR asks. “For your wedding,” comes the reply. Alex wants BJR to marry Mary, which would give the kid the Randall name, and provide Mary with a pension if he dies. BJR is stunned, and tells Alex to marry her himself. Alex argues that BJR has a better position and more wealth. “I commend the well-being of the one who is most precious to me, to the one I have loved the longest.” BJR freezes. Alex gently explains that he knows that his brother is a dark, vile son of a bitch, but that he has a good side, too, and that it is his good side to which he is appealing. BJR refuses and storms out. Claire sends Murtagh after him as she tends to a distressed Alex’s renewed coughing fit.
We’ve got company
Dougal arrives back at camp with the news that BJR was telling the truth – the British are indeed camped at Nairn. Jamie tells Dougal that Colum has arrived, and Dougal is less than thrilled with that particular piece of news.
Frank, the mythical prick
As Claire and Murtagh walk through town to find BJR, Murtagh calls Claire out hard on trying to encourage the marriage. He accuses her of selling out a little girl to ensure Frank’s existence. Claire explains that Mary needs a husband – otherwise, she and her unborn child will be destitute when Alex dies. Murtagh offers to marry her himself. “She’s not the sort of woman I ever imagined for myself. Not that I spend much time doing that, mind ye. And I’m hardly the kind she fancies, if that soft lump Alex is any indication. But we could learn to get along.” He pauses for effect, then adds pointedly: “People do.” Claire is touched. But, as she points out, they’re at war – Murtagh could die tomorrow and then Mary would be screwed. Murtagh says BJR could die tomorrow, too. They’re not exactly in different boats. Claire explains that Randall has a position, a title, and a pension and that Murtagh, while sweet, has nothing of the kind to offer a woman. Ouch, Claire, but point taken. The arrive at the pub and Claire enters alone to confront BJR.
A curse remembered
BJR is quite drunk and Claire looms over him menacingly. He’s swaying in his chair and waxing introspective – what kind of a world is it where a bastard like me can thrive, and pure souls drown in their own blood? He wants Claire to convince Alex to give up this crazy notion and marry Mary himself, and that he’ll happily provide for her when Alex dies. “What happens to Mary when you’re not alive to do that?” He squints drunkenly, remembering when Claire told him the date of his death in Wentworth prison so many months ago. “Your curse…April 16, 1746.” The date is merely days away. Claire explains: “As your sister in law, Mary is entitled to nothing. But as your widow…” BJR wants to know what happens if she’s wrong about him dying in a few days, and Claire asks if he has ever harmed his brother. He says no, and she argues that perhaps that immunity from harm would extend to Mary. “Perhaps,” he says. “Is that good enough for you?” Claire looks pained. “Sometimes, that’s all we get.” BJR leans in. “Did he [Jamie] never tell you the things I did to him in that room?” Claire blanches and her eyes fill with tears. She confirms that he did. “I know the sound he makes at the last, when he has lost himself.” Claire bolts upright to leave and BJR grabs her, twisting the knife. “And I regret none of it. Pain. Fear. I revel in it. Do you really want Mary in my bed?” He makes one last plea for Claire’s help, but she won’t have it. She says that if he truly loves his brother, he’ll control himself.
He’s crazy, but at least he’s honest
Meanwhile, Dougal has finally turned up to Colum’s deathbed. He thinks that Colum has become a Jacobite, and is delighted. Colum scoffs at the very idea, and Jamie asks why he’s there, if not for a change of heart. He says because he’s dying, stupid, and there are clan matters to attend to before that happens. He’s naming his young son, Hamish, the next chief of Clan MacKenzie. Dougal wants to know who he’s appointing to guide the boy and to teach him how to lead. Colum makes a flowery speech that doesn’t lead up to his choice being Dougal – he’s choosing Jamie. Both men are aghast. “You choose a Fraser over a MacKenzie to lead the clan?!” Colum points out that as their sister’s son, Jamie shares their blood, and besides – he doesn’t think he can convince the clan to follow Dougal in any case. “If you were half as popular as you imagine yourself to be, your army would be bigger.” Dougal flips out, and reminds Colum that he’s not only fond of Hamish, he’s his natural father. Colum brushes him off. Dougal wants to know how Colum thinks Jamie will be any different than he, and Jamie says he’s honored, but that Dougal is right – they’re both fighting for the same cause. Colum says to Jamie, “I know you will not sacrifice your men needlessly. If the cause is lost, you will put the lives of your men above all else.” He then says that if Dougal can say the same with a straight face, the guardianship of Hamish is his. Dougal can’t, and leaves the room. Colum sighs. “My poor brother. I have lived my life crippled in body, and he has lived his crippled in mind.”
Get me to the church – or don’t
Next, we cut to the wedding between Mary and BJR at the foot of Alex’s deathbed. Claire and Murtagh are acting as the witnesses. It’s super uncomfortable and Mary cries the whole time, but they go through with it.
A birthday, and a burial
Jamie makes a last ditch effort at organizing a surprise attack on Cumberland’s birthday party. The generals are agreeable. BPC doesn’t think it’s very gentlemanly, and questions the men’s strength. Yes, the same men that he thinks can win the battle at Culloden Moor the next morning; the hypocrite. Jamie points out that the men haven’t let them down yet. They’ll lead two factions and trap the British between them in a night attack. The generals agree to it and convince BPC, but one wants to ride with Jamie leading one faction, and the other wants to ride with BPC and lead the other. It’s a horribly stupid idea, and Jamie says as much. Alas, it’s agreed upon, and the creepy, dumb Prince is actually hopeful about the plan.
“You’re my big brother…”
Dougal comes in to speak with Colum privately. He’s more sober than he has any right to be, considering how much he has drunk. “Ah’ve drunk enough to muddle a stallion, and yet I remain as sober as a bairn.” Colum says to leave him alone. The two spar a bit, and Dougal sits at his brother’s side. “What about all the pain you’ve put me through in this bitch of a life we’ve shared?” Colum isn’t about picking at old wounds, so Dougal switches to reminiscing. He’s sad to see his brother dying. He goes on and on, until finally it’s Colum’s turn to speak. “No response? Damn your soul, answer me!” Perhaps in a final “fuck you” to his brother, Colum has finally drunk Claire’s poison. “So, you’ve turned your back on me one final time, and you leave me alone in the dark. In the darkness of the world. And all I meant to say to you remains trapped in here. Unsaid, forever.” Dougal weeps bitterly and clutches Colum’s body.
Meanwhile at Alex’s deathbed, everyone is gathered around as his breathing slows and finally stops. BJR and Mary break down crying, and BJR goes mad and pummels Alex’s body with his fists as Claire and Mary look on in horror.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side, Sassenach.”
Back at home, Jamie calls Claire out. “I can’t believe you encouraged that wee slip of a girl to become his wife,” he spits the word ‘wife’. “I encouraged her to become his widow,” Claire explains. BJR will be dead tomorrow. “If we succeed tonight, there will be no battle,” Jamie retorts. Claire says that maybe he’ll die some other way. “What if he doesn’t?” Jamie asks. “Then I’ll keep the promise I made to you in Paris.” Jamie smiles wickedly. “To help me…bleed him?” Claire nods, and Jamie is satisfied. They kiss.
That night in the dark woods. Jamie and his men are in place. The General is worried. “Where in God’s name is that imbecile Charles? He was supposed to be here hours ago!” Jamie says that they can attack now and hope that the Prince and his men show up in time. As if on cue, Murtagh arrives. “The prince and his men have turned back. They lost their way in the darkness.” His tone is mocking. The general says that they’d better call the whole thing off, then – not enough men. Jamie is furious, and Murtagh says ominously, “Tomorrow, the Prince will have his battle — on Culloden Moor.”
- It is mentioned that the men are living on “a bannock a day.” A bannock is a small, flat, round unleavened loaf of bread. For a recipe from Outlander Kitchen, see here.
- The scene between Claire and Randall in the pub was hair-raising. Tobias Menzies is really a tremendous villain.
- Both sides lose a brother, eh? Rest in peace, Alex, we hardly knew ye. I will miss Colum.
- If I were Jamie, I might have just killed Randall myself the moment I heard he’d married Mary Hawkins. After all, we know that Frank’s existence is safe, now. Why give him the satisfaction of dying on a battlefield?
- Colum mentions to Claire that Geillis’ baby with Dougal – the one she was pregnant with last season during the witch trial – is alive and being raised by MacKenzies. Ergo, Geillis might still be alive, somehow? Time will tell.
Next week, the show is on a break allowing for a catch-up of the first twelve episodes, but join me the following week for Episode 13, “Dragonfly in Amber,” our 90-minute season two finale.
Image Credits: Sweatpants & Coffee.