Welcome back! This week, Jamie, Murtagh, and Dougal train their men to be effective soldiers, while Claire deals with PTSD from fighting her own war.
We open on Jamie, Claire, and company riding through the highlands. They’ve left Beaufort Castle and Lord Lovat a hundred men strong, and are heading towards Lallybroch to meet up with Murtagh and the Fraser men, and eventually Dougal and the MacKenzie men. Along the way, they’ve lost a few deserters who resented having been ordered by Lord Lovat to join the rebellion. They’ve sent goofy young Simon after them to persuade them, promising them land for their allegiance.
“He makes me darn his socks!”
Claire and Jamie arrive back at Lallybroch to a warm welcome from Fergus, who assures them that living with Murtagh in their absence is torture. Murtagh is astonished that Lovat provided them with any help at all. Jamie assures him that his grandfather is “still neutral.” Rupert and Angus greet Claire especially warmly. The two are as full of mischief as usual.
Dougal turns up with a contingent of men, and Jamie is glad to see him and welcomes him graciously. Grudge-holding Claire snarks, “It wouldn’t be Scotland without you, Dougal.” Dougal is over-the-top gushy in his delight that Jamie has joined the Jacobite cause, even telling Jamie that he’s like a son to him. Jamie side-eyes, but is magnanimous as usual as he gestures to Dougal’s men. “I welcome your heart, and your sword. All of you.”
Good Morning, Vietnam?
Jamie, Murtagh and Dougal talk, and Jamie notes that all of the men they’ve gathered need to be trained for battle, and he means to stay there and train them. The tattered Fraser battle flag hangs over their camp. Murtagh steps up to the plate training the men in marching and decorum, and he’s hysterically over-the-top. “Have ye got shite in yer ears?” Meanwhile, Claire is having PTSD flashbacks (flash-forwards?) of WW2. She’s tense, and snatches Fergus away from his battle-play with the men.
Dougal takes up the mantle as well and teaches swordsmanship. The ladies make weapons. The crew practices. Since the men are coming along nicely, Dougal wants to meet up with Bonnie Prince Charlie sooner rather than later. Murtagh scoffs, and Jamie says that’s not going to happen until they’re all fully trained and disciplined; otherwise, it’s a death sentence.
“I’ll keep you safe”
At home, Claire is quiet. She picks up Jamie’s brooch and fingers the lettering. “Je Suis Prest.” Jamie apologizes for bringing her there, where she has to stay in a war training camp. She won’t talk about her feelings, so he makes a stab at guessing what’s wrong. “No matter what happens, we’ll get through this. I’ll keep you safe.”
From farmers to fighters
The next day, we see Murtagh pulling his hair out trying to wrangle the men into some semblance of a militia. Jamie steps in and gives an inspirational speech. It was great here to see Jamie’s natural leadership skills and easy command of respect. He speaks of discipline, tells battle stories, and scares them a little. We’re reminded that while Dougal, Jamie, and Murtagh have some experience with war, most of the men under their command are simple highland farmers.
As Jamie concludes his speech, Dougal comes screaming in with several men, half-naked and covered in mud. It’s the Highland charge! There goes old Dougal, off the rails again. “That’s how ye scare the redcoats! Strike terror into their hearts! That was only five of us. Imagine a hundred!” Jamie dismisses the men and wants a word. Dougal, annoyed at being brushed off, crudely points out that he’s been battling since Jamie was breastfeeding, and figures he knows a lot more about war than Jamie does. Jamie proceeds to scold the shit out of him. “They’ll answer to me and no one else. I’ve been tolerant of you because I respect you.” Dougal manages to keep himself in check. “As you say.”
Don’t try blackmailing Claire
Dougal goes pouting to Claire about Jamie. He says that Jamie is struggling with teaching the men, but he’s too proud to ask for help. It isn’t true, of course, but Dougal desperately wants to lead the men. He guilt-trips Claire about the deal he made with her–if Jamie dies, she’s promised to Dougal. He threatens to tell Jamie about their deal. Claire points out that he already knows–she doesn’t have secrets from her husband. Well, except the reason for her PTSD.
Dougal: “He took no issue with it?”
Dougal: “He is a better man than I.”
Claire: “Truer words were never spoken.”
Dougal tries to strong-arm her into interceding with Jamie on his behalf. For the second time that day, someone scolds the shit out of him. Claire compares him to Narcissus, then tells him that he’s not doing any of this for Scotland, he’s doing it because he’s an egotistical prick. “Stop trying to convince people of your patriotism. It’s tedious. I’m not sure you’ll grasp the meaning of this, but FUCK YOURSELF.” Whoa, Claire, I love when you get nasty. By the way, he grasps her meaning. “All right then,” he says quietly. “Perhaps you’re right about me. I do love my own reflection. But make no mistake, lass. I love Scotland more.”
Never believe a woman who says she’s fine
The battle training is going well, but Jamie is worried about Claire and asks Murtagh what’s up with her. He doesn’t know. “She claims she’s fine,” Jamie says. Rookie mistake, Fraser. “It’s going to take a bit more than asking to pry it out of her,” Murtagh says. He’s right–Claire is slowly coming apart at the seams. She scolds Angus for not looking after his feet and warns about gangrene and amputation. She gets pretty intense about it, so he laughs it off with Rupert. For the second time this episode, she’s dropping F-bombs. “Did you hear what I fucking said?” Angus is shocked into sulking as Claire storms out. “I heard ye,” he mutters.
True believers only
As the men commiserate by the fire that night, Dougal shows up with new recruits. Jamie questions his guards, who have just let in 10 new men without alerting him. Dougal says they’re volunteers. “Volunteers,” Jamie says. “Here of your own free will, are ye?” The men shuffle nervously. Jamie lectures them. “You’re not just risking your legs. If we lose, it’s treason.” Legs would be reason enough for me to bow out. He says if they want to go, they can go, and they all do. Dougal is embarrassed. Jamie dismisses his own men and he and Dougal have a few harsh words. Dougal thinks they can make men believe in their cause, they just need numbers. Jamie wants men who believe already. Dougal wants some action. Jamie says he’s still working on their training. Dougal scoffs at what a fat lot of good it’s doing– “I just led 10 armed men into your camp.” Jamie puts Dougal in charge of sentry duty, then has the previous two guards put under house arrest.
The next morning, Jamie lectures the entire camp about security and has the two guards, Ross and Kincaid, lashed six times each for being remiss in their duties. Murtagh beats them while the rest of the camp watches. Claire runs away at the sight. As the training continues, Claire gets less and less well, until she finally has a panic attack. Jamie holds her as she cries and tells him some war stories. She can’t bear all of these men being turned into soldiers. “I’m not sure I’m ready to go to war again,” she sobs. “You don’t have to,” Jamie says. “You’ve fought your war. We’ll fight this one without you.” He offers to have her seen home to Lallybroch to wait it all out. She won’t go. “I can’t be helpless and alone ever again.” He promises she won’t be, whatever happens. “I’m going to hold you to that, James Fraser.”
Later that night, Jamie gets attacked outside, and easily takes the guy out by breaking his arm. A spy? Nope, just a British kid. He says he was nearby. “I recognized you as Red Jamie, the unprincipled and traitorous rebel!” Uh-oh, Jamie’s got a reputation now, too. What a pair: Red Jamie and La Dame Blanche. Jamie twists the kid’s broken arm. “Who are you marching with?” The kid screams in agony but says he’s prepared to die. Jamie heats a sword in anticipation of threatening him with it. Claire looks on in horror. “Scottish barbarian!” She cries. She puts a stop to the whole affair. Jamie gets an idea and the two put on a good show. “Perhaps you have some concern for this English lady’s honor! I could ravish her before your eyes!” He manhandles his wife as Murtagh smirks, and the kid cracks and gives up the goods. It’s always fun to see Jamie and Claire play off of each other like that.
Just a casual beating. No big deal.
Now, to figure out who was on watch when the British kid snuck in. Oh, yeah, Dougal’s men! Jamie lectures the whole crew again. “We canna continue with this carelessness. Not from anyone. That includes me.” He points out that it was their open fires that drew the kid, to say nothing of Dougal’s “security detail.” Jamie orders Murtagh to beat him in front of his own men–18 lashes. Dougal is aghast and the men hang their heads in shame. Jamie is unperturbed. “After the beating, we’ll take care of those British troops.”
Trophies of war
Jamie and his men paint their faces in preparation to visit the British encampment. Jamie won’t let Dougal come along, and Dougal is super ticked off. Nope, continue with your sentry duties. Dougal can barely contain himself, but acquiesces and wishes them luck. I loved the politics at play here with Dougal. It’s Jamie’s uncle, and an authority figure, but Jamie is systematically breaking Dougal’s ego down such that the men are unified under him and not Dougal, nor anyone else. It’s brilliant. In this case, since he only means to sabotage the British camp, he’s leaving Dougal behind because he recognizes that his thirst for action makes him a liability that might get a bunch of the men killed.
After they sneak into the British camp and sabotage the wagons, stealing the cotterpins and burning the wheels, Jamie returns home to a fitfully sleeping Claire. He dumps the cotterpins on the bed. “Trophies of war,” he says. He praises her for the show she put on of “sacrificing herself,” because it saved lives. Because Jamie was forewarned, he was able to deal with the British nonviolently and spare his not-quite-ready-for-primetime army. He tells her to get dressed and prepare to decamp, because the British will be awake soon.
The whole crew marches towards Bonnie Prince Charlie’s camp, and there are great visuals here. Once their destination is in sight, Jamie throws Dougal a bone. “Do the honor. Ride ahead, and announce our presence to his royal highness.” Dougal is delighted. “No turning back now, Sassenach,” Jamie says to Claire. “Je Suis Prest,” Claire replies.
- The soundtrack and visuals for this episode were particularly beautiful and well done. I loved the Gaelic folk-style music underneath everything. It seems like a small thing, but it added so much.
- I’d say Murtagh was the real MVP as usual, but Caitriona Balfe’s performance of Claire this episode was excellent. Her portrayal of PTSD was well-done, I thought.
- Rupert and Angus pretending that Willie was dead when really he’d only gotten married was very Rupert and Angus. I enjoyed that exchange. Claire notes that it wouldn’t kill either of the two of them to get married, themselves.
- Note to the writers, and correct me if I’m wrong– “Shit on a shingle” is typically creamed chipped beef on toast, not K-rations.
- There’s some tittering amongst some of the fans that it’s unrealistic that Jamie is so good at everything he does. He’s a soldier! No, he’s a wine merchant! He speaks five languages! He’s gorgeous and charming! If I may offer my two cents, the fact that he is “good at everything” is part of his appeal as a character, and frankly, you’re complaining about an unrealistic character in a romantic drama about time travel? Come on.
- The British kid is William Grey, second son of Viscount Melton. I enjoyed his eloquent speech to Jamie in the vein of, “I owe you my life. I wish I didn’t, but there it is.” The kid says that he intends to discharge this debt of honor, and once he has, he intends to kill Jamie. Jamie lets him have his fantasy. “Then I hope we don’t meet again,” he smiles.
- Jamie’s family motto, “Je Suis Prest,” translates to “I am ready.”
Join me next week for Episode 10, “Prestonpans,” as Jamie and the crew arrive at Bonnie Prince Charlie’s camp.
Image Credits: Sweatpants & Coffee.