Hello, friends. Before we start, please watch Episode 209, Je Suis Prest, before reading this… or I will spoil the crap out of it for you!
So first off, real quick, I’m going to cut this question off at the pass: “Je suis prêt” means “I am ready,” and it is Jamie’s family motto. It is also—spoiler alert—the THEME OF THE EPISODE. (“Je ne suis pas prête” means “I am not ready,” because that’s how I feel about watching my favorite men go to war. Sorry. And “prest” is just the archaic spelling of “prêt.”) We good? Let’s move on.
So… “I am ready”—what does that mean? How do you get ready for a war like this? How does a ragtag group of Highlanders with no military training prepare to take on the infamous British Redcoats, who, as the Americans were about to find out, were some brutal SOBs?
Ronald Moore talks in the commentary about how we needed this episode to see Jamie take on the leadership role with his men that will be essential to this war, and that is exactly what we’re getting here. (I talk about this too in Outlander 2: Written in Diana’s Own Heart’s Blood, FYI.) But what we don’t yet know: how will Claire—who’s been to this particular rodeo before in her past life—be affected by diving into the depths of battle again?
Let’s find out.
Opening image: War. But not any war. This is a tank, with soldiers marching in formation in black thick boots—World War II. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that this episode is taking us into Claire’s PTSD from her own experiences as a WWII nurse. I have to say, in Dragonfly in Amber, we lost a bit of her perspective at this point. And it is her specific point of view as a time traveler, of course, that gives her such a personal and unique context for this Jacobite uprising.
More on this in a bit.
Now we’re meeting up with Murtagh and the other Frasers. But there have been many deserters, we learn. This is not surprising. Many of the Highlanders have been coerced into a war they don’t think they can win. Can you blame them for wanting to go home?
PS, costume alert. Just look at this:
(Seriously, just engrave the costume Emmy now, people.)
The “soldiers” aren’t much to look at. Lovat has kept his best man back for himself, naturally. But that’s okay. Let’s meet up with some other folks we haven’t seen for a while, like wee Fergus:
And some absolutely beautiful Gaelic singing floats through the air as we scan the campground by night. Gosh, this show is pretty. And good news—there’s a little hunting cottage for Claire and Jamie to stay in. How convenient. I’d hate to see what a tent would do to her hair.
Let’s catch up with Angus and Rupert. And alas, we get the sad news that Willie has gone to America with his new bride. (Just in time for our war, as it turns out. Dude can’t catch a break.)
Okay, so, the Fraser clan is back together… sort of. Dougal’s even here!
Yeah, it’s starting to look like this might not be enough men to get anything accomplished. How is this going to work? We’ll see.
“All right, we’ll make a fine group of Highland soldiers. No time to waste.”
So let’s take a look at the training process, shall we?
The bagpipes pick up—oh, I love this—and now we’ve got General Murtagh snapping into gear, barking orders at the men with the gusto of my kids’ ballet teacher!
Why am I getting the feeling Ron Moore is making me fall in love with these men just so he can break my heart later? Alas, we continue.
Let’s delve into Claire’s psyche for a bit, shall we?
We’ve got a little more “Let’s get ready for war” stuff with the Highlanders. I can practically hear the Rocky theme playing on bagpipes in the background. But Murtagh points out that our men aren’t anywhere near ready to fight.
This isn’t concerning Uncle Dougal, however, who’s ready to take the men to the prince.
Jamie, wisely, doesn’t want to move the troops until he feels they’re ready. He’s got “more pressing concerns than securing a seat at the prince’s table.”
Let’s cut back to Claire’s PTSD now.
Brilliant choice here to show us where Claire picked up that particular Americanism that has become her signature line. We meet Corporal Caleb Grant and Private Max Lucas—AKA redshirts. (Not Redcoats, mind you, but redshirts. You know, those guys in the red shirts on old Star Trek episodes who only showed up when they explored new planets and then immediately died. Sorry, not to give anything away too soon.)
And this lovely quote from Shaw:
Back on the Scottish battlefield, Claire drops the “Je suis prest” badge—or is it the “Airborne” insignia? Her lives blending together, her head spinning. “PTSD” was not yet an expression during WWII. They called it “shell shock.” But even then, I don’t think Claire fully realized that it was something she carried with her until this moment.
She watched men die in Europe. Will she have to watch it again?
Speaking of which, let’s check in with how the drills are going—mm, not great. The guys can’t even turn together. Where’s Henry V when you need him? Ah, here we go:
Jamie tells the men what war is really like. Just listen to this dialogue for a sec:
“The flash of metal in the sun. Together as one, an entire line of men raise their muskets, aim, and let loose. The musket balls come tearing across the field like a sheet of metal, rain, cutting down men left, right, w’out mercy. The sound of gunfire rolling thunder across the hills. By the time the last of it fades, the second volley is already on its way.”
The writing on this show gives me chills… and bitter pangs of jealousy. But mostly chills.
But of course, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Just as Jamie is about to whip the men into a lather of finely-tuned soldier instincts, along comes Uncle Braveheart.
Dougal has his own take on war. After all, as he tells Jamie, “I was teaching men to fight while you were still sucking your mother’s tit—God rest her.”
So Dougal goes to have a heart-to-heart with his old crush, Claire, trying to manipulate her into doing his bidding for him. Dougal assumes that Claire never told Jamie about her agreement to marry him if Jamie died, and therefore thinks he can hold that over her to make her do as he asks.
Seriously, has he ever met Claire?
I love how she calls Dougal out for being the Donald Trump of the Jacobite rebellion.
And then to take it one step further, just in case he wasn’t getting the hint, she adds: “Please stop trying to convince everyone of your patriotism. It’s tedious… Fuck yourself!” (Claire drops a couple of F-bombs in this episode. I think the stress is taking its toll.)
But it gives Dougal a fantastic reason to say this:
Jamie is beginning to realize that Claire is going through something, but he can’t figure out how to reach her. This has become another deciding moment for them—will her PTSD bring them closer together or tear the apart? Can he ever understand what she went through in a war that is, in every way, foreign to him?
Speaking of that war:
Claire is giving a familiar speech. She’s been here before. Some of the men listen. Some don’t.
The sounds of a distant war swirl through her mind—helicopters, machine-gun fire. It’s too much. The memories too alive for her. She watched men die. Will she have to do it again?
Meanwhile, Dougal returns to camp with ten new recruits. But did they volunteer, or did he grab them? And more importantly, how did ten armed men get past the sentries? (This is an important precursor for a scene that’s coming up in a bit, and very smart of the writers to put it here, adding more weight to what’s to come.)
Jamie lets the men go if they choose. He has no use for soldiers who “aren’t prepared to bleed.” Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all of them.
And now we’re getting to the crux of the problem: These men aren’t conscripted into an army. They’re fighting from passion. But if they’re not passionate, then… well… how will this work?
The sentries who let the men pass are given six lashes, and Dougal and his men are placed in charge of sentry duty. This will be significant in a just a sec. First…
Corporal “Redshirt” and Private “Never Gonna See Idaho Again” are with Claire in a jeep that takes enemy fire.
The ringing in the ears as the explosion dissipates. The private screaming for help. He’s stranded. Claire, helpless to save him. Lucas’s pleas go unanswered.
Grant promises he’ll be back for her. He goes to save Lucas.
But he won’t be back. The Germans will get him. Claire will have to lie there, listening to the men scream, Lucas calling out for his mother. There is nothing she can do. Again, the theme—“I am ready.” Can anything prepare us for war?
She is huddled in a ball in the ditch when the American soldier comes. And now, years later (well, 200 years prior, if we’re being literal), here she is again, helpless on the ground.
Claire finally confides in Jamie what she’s feeling:
“I know that, because I told myself the same thing right after it happened. Then I just closed the door on that night, walked away. I haven’t looked back ever since, until now. Now I look at Ross and Kincaid and all the others—being turned into soldiers, being trained. Putting on a brave front. All I can hear is Max Lucas calling out for his mother in the dead of night.”
But Claire will not go back to Lallybroch to simply wait. As she says, “If I go back, then it will just be like lying in that ditch again—helpless and powerless to move like a dragonfly 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.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why this show is genius. “Like a dragonfly in amber.” For reals.
Jamie promises her she’ll never be alone again (gulp) and she swears to hold him to it.
Okay, so now we can get to the real reason for the “gosh, I wish these sentries would do their job” bit—young William Grey has sneaked away from the British troops into the campground and now tries to slit Jamie’s throat. And I’m not going to weigh anyone down too much with book stuff, I promise, but suffice it to say that we should remember his name.
For now, let’s just say he doesn’t like Jamie.
And here’s where Ron Moore and Co do something that I absolutely love. In the book, Jamie grabs Claire and pretends to assault her in front of the young boy, knowing it will affront his British sensibilities and make him talk. Here, it’s Claire’s idea. And thank goodness for that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—protagonists need to be active! Claire is our protagonist, and this scene, in my opinion, works so much better when she is the instigator of this plan.
So la dee dah, Claire plays British captive, even going so far as to knee Jamie in the groin—
What? You gotta make it believable.
And the plan works, just as in the book. They get all the information they need from young William in order to sabotage the nearby British troops.
But first, Jamie gives the order to leave young William tied to a tree a mile from his encampment, where his fellow soldiers will find him in the morning.
And William: “I owe you my life… I regard it as a debt of honor. Once it is discharged, I will kill you. A Grey does not forget an obligation, sir.” Okay, everybody make a mental note of that for later. Like, way later. (Especially now that we know there’s a season three and four* of this show!)
“Who was on watch?” Jamie asks. And Dougal admits it was his men who let William through. So let’s all take responsibility for being, like, the worst sentries ever and—aw, man! Jamie volunteers to be whipped first for allowing the uncovered fires which attracted the boy in the first place.
Seriously, I love to watch Sam Heughan take his shirt off as much as the next gal, but can we just put the kibosh on him being whipped for a hot minute?
Now Jamie and his buddies, in full Braveheart gear, sneak off to take care of the British carriages while Dougal is forced to stay behind and essentially babysit the camp.
Jamie comes back from his “commando” mission and brings Claire her prize—the cotter pins for the wagon wheels (which they also burned just in case). It’s pretty hot, but there’s no time for sex. (Aw, man!) It’s time to march.
And where are we marching to? Prince Charles’ camp, of course.
More of that beautiful Gaelic singing as Jamie asks Dougal Mackenzie to ride ahead and do the honor of announcing their presence. Are the men trained enough? Is Jamie ready to lead them? Will Dougal follow orders, or go rogue? And will anything be different than it originally was by the time we get to Culloden? We will find out next week. In the meantime, though…
The question is, are we?
*That’s right, folks. It’s time to start reading Voyager and Drums of Autumn, AKA: books three and four! I’m going to start writing analysis of Voyager in about a month, just to give us all time to catch up 🙂
Interested in reading more about Outlander? Check out all the articles under the “Outlander” tag on our home page: Novel2Screen.net
Follow Rebecca Phelps on Twitter @DownWorldNovel or “like” us on Facebook at Novel2Screen for more on your favorite novel-to-screen adaptations. Tune in tomorrow for our review of JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You!
Or just follow this blog. 🙂
And for those who expressed interest in the “Outlander”-themed jewelry, here is that link: Sassenach Jewelry