“The grave’s a fine and private place/ But none, I think, do there embrace.” – Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress,” as quoted by Diana Gabaldon in Dragonfly in Amber (the whole of which, PS, is pretty much a metaphor for the Outlander series. Check it out– but, you know, after you read this.)
“Hail Mary” definition: A Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, used when asking forgiveness for a sin; A last-ditch effort, a desperate final attempt to score late in the game
The opening image is the war map/chess board showing Redcoats and white (Scottish) troops meeting in the middle: Culloden Moor.
So we’re outside Inverness. Everyone is quite tired as they trod into the campground. Claire acknowledges that the five months of retreat without enough food since their victories at Prestonpans and Falkirk have left them emotionally and physically crushed.
Rupert and Ross realize it too—“What good is a rebellion that runs from a fight?”
“The men’s strength is dwindling on a bannock a day,” says Dougal, when Jamie sends him and his men out on a patrol and get some sense of where exactly the British army is.
Murtagh is sent to Inverness to get the prince for a war council. But Murtagh wants to cut to the chase. Culloden is coming, and the three of them know what will happen—the same thing that did last time.
And Claire says what we’re all thinking: “How in the bloody hell did we end up here?”
So what’s the plan? “Avoid the fight we canna win,” Jamie explains. But that will only happen if Jamie can convince Prince Charlie to give it up already– the Culloden is a fight doomed to fail.
And now Claire is off to Inverness to replenish her medical supplies, and we are introduced to the Haugh apothecary shop for the first time. And who should we find there? Why it’s M-M-Mary! (Okay, I promise not to do the stuttering thing the whole time. It’s just too fun.)
Why is Mary there? She’s buying (another) bottle of laudanum, AKA the OxyContin of the 18th century. Either Mary is headed to a rave, or she’s buying it for someone else. But for whom? Mary is a bit pissy about the Jacobite Army, and especially about Claire. She is quite proud to announce that she didn’t go home after the Duke fiasco because she’s going to marry Alex Randall.
Okay, the truth is coming out. Mary knows that Claire told Alex to dump her in France. Oh, Claire, This is what happens when you stick your nose into other people’s totally doomed love affairs! In any event, Claire is going to see Alex later to see if she can help him, you know, die less.
Back to the war room. Charlie is meeting with his advisers who are telling him to do what? Fight in Culloden Moor, of course. And now some infighting between the clans as it starts to become clear that the “united forces of Scotland” are devolving into every tribe for itself.
Jamie, spit it out, would you? “With all due respect, why fight at all?” Thank you, Jamie.
It’s time to acknowledge the truth: the men are too exhausted to fight a major battle. Abandon the idea of fighting in Colluden, Jamie suggests. And after all, “there’s still the matter of the French gold.” (Book readers: Aha!) So Jamie suggest waiting for this magical fairy money to “defeat our enemy once and for all.”
Charlie, looking like he’s on his commode, says this: “You are my most loyal companion and friend. But I am not some frightened hare to be run down by a pack of British hounds. I am a man… and I am a soldier.” (I love that he holds up the flimsy little sword he’s never actually used to illustrate this point.)
They’re going to Culloden where “God will provide for us.”
Anyone else wishing Sam Heughan would take his shirt off right about now, if only to take our minds off things? No such luck, I’m afraid.
So let’s go visit Alex Randall who’s totally “going to be fine,” according to Mary. Let’s see, what’s Alex doing? Oh crap, he’s dying.
Claire can only prepare a poultice to ease his muscles when… here’s Johnny! Out of uniform. Come to see his brother. Boy, they really do look alike.
Now this is the first time we’ve seen Jack since he became, shall we say, compromised. Interesting that it doesn’t come up here. But still, we know it, don’t we? And if Jack is no longer in possession of his man bits…
Wait, Claire, don’t go. The party’s just starting. But Claire is going to split, no desire to hang out with her husband’s rapist. Except Mary convinces her to stay.
Oh Mary. She wants to know when Alex is going to be able to work again… because she’s pregnant. And this is the part where– spoiler alert– it should probably become clear who exactly is the ancestor of Frank Randall, in case you’re still not sure. (PS- was anyone else waiting for that light bulb to go off over Claire’s head, only to find that it never does? Maybe next week, hmm?)
But now, back to the episode:
Jack chases Claire out to the street to demand that Claire cure Alex. But even if she wanted to, she couldn’t. There was no cure for TB back then. (Wait, is there now? Does anybody still get TB? Sorry, moving on.)
Ooh! Smart Claire—”I’ll cure Alex if you tell me where your British soldier friends are,” she insists. After all…
You can say that again.
Jamie’s not too happy with the source of the information, but at least he now knows where to ambush the Brits… during a celebration for Cumberland’s birthday two days hence. First, however, they’ll have to confirm that it’s actually happening.
And now Claire wants to go back to tend to Alex, but Jamie doesn’t trust Jack in the same room with Claire if/when Alex dies. So Murtagh will have to go with her.
But wait! What’s that? A carriage pulls up to the house. And two withered legs descend from it. I smell a B story coming!
Rupert wants to know what the MacKenzie is doing there, but Murtagh doesn’t know.
And with a great and painful effort, Colum MacKenzie, who looks even worse than the last time we saw him, stumbles into the room. A little wink and a nod to the book readers here: “I always thought when that big bastard [Angus] fell, that you would fall with him.”
“So did I,” responds Rupert.
And then they all stare at each other.
Okay, well, this is a fun party. What can we do for you, Colum?
“Find me a bed to rest in. And bring me my brother… and my nephew.”
Claire tries to tend to Colum, but he knows his days are up. “I’ve been dying for years. It’s a weary process. I welcome its conclusion.” But for now, he came to see Dougal, who’s still out on patrol. And Colum is no idiot. He sees what Jamie’s doing by keeping Dougal distracted enough to not ask for more to do.
But did Colum really come to talk to Dougal, or was it someone else he needed to see? The answer becomes clear when he asks Jamie to leave so he can talk to Claire. He commends her on her marriage, admitting that “one of the pleasures of dying” is admitting when you were wrong. So why is he really here? To ask Claire for a favor.
He can’t stand the pain anymore. He doesn’t want laudanum. He wants something “more final.” PS: when did Claire become Dr. Kevorkian? She’s like the suicide queen in this episode.
Anyway, why come to Claire? Because Colum knows that Geillis Duncan killed her husband with cyanide poisoning, and he wants Claire to do the same.
“Memories– they’re a pain for all,” Colum says. “Even longer than wounds.”
But now Colum drops a bomb on me—I mean Claire—by telling her something that I didn’t think possible (see my article: Outlander Season 2: WTF Bree!). “Geillis’s bairn lives.” (Hold up, what are you talking about? Didn’t we see her burned at the stake while still pregnant last year??)
“Geillis wasn’t burned until after the bairn was born,” Colum tells us.
This is my mind right now:
So there’s a boy—Dougal and Geillis’s son—being raised by one of the MacKenzie families. Maybe the show isn’t as different from the books as I thought! (And for those keeping score at home: that’s two sons of Dougal’s currently being raised as someone else’s children.)
Oh, how convenient. Claire has some Yellow Jasmine on hand to help Colum “drift off into a deep sleep.” Poor Colum. It’s hard to imagine the kind of pain he’s in unless you’re—oh, look, it’s Alex.
Can Claire’s bong hit help him breathe? Um, yes! But this doesn’t look like it will help for long. Jack’s not pleased to learn that “helping him” doesn’t mean “curing him.”
Alex is going to interrupt this little fight to say something… and by something, I mean “death-bed wish.” Jack, misunderstanding what exactly Alex is asking for, assures his dying brother that he won’t let Mary or the child “want for anything.” And now Alex wants to send for the minister, but not for last rites—not yet—but for Jack and Mary’s wedding.
Their what now?, you ask. Hold on, there’s more.
It’s not enough for Alex to marry Mary and leave her a widow. That wouldn’t do her any good. But as Jack’s wife, she’ll have some position in the world. However, lest we forget, Jack’s tastes run… shall we say, darker than that? Alex still sees the good in Jack, and feels his older brother is his true love’s only hope. Is he right? It doesn’t seem so.
Back at camp, Dougal returns with news of where the Brits are located, only to find out that Jamie already knows. Jamie assures him that scouts are going to confirm Black Jack Randall’s news of the Redcoats’ whereabouts.
And now we see that the only “food” the soldiers have is boiling water with some wilted vegetables in it. No wonder they seem too exhausted even to stand.
Walking through the streets, Murtagh is not happy with the plan to wed Mary to Black Jack, which he correctly assesses as “handing over the lamb to the wolf.” But Claire sees how things are—Mary needs a husband. Widows don’t have much going for them in 18th century Scotland.
Murtagh steps up to the plate. He’ll marry her.
“We can learn to get along. People do,” he says, reminding Claire that he’s been a pretty good godfather to Jamie through his life. But Claire has to remind him, in turn, that he might not live past Colluden. And even though Black Jack might not either, as Jack’s widow, Mary would get his pension and his name—something Murtagh could never give her (and something even Alex doesn’t really have).
Now we realize that Murtagh has been escorting Claire somewhere—but where? Why, to find Black Jack, of course. And convince him to marry M-M-Mary (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Jack sees the irony here: that a monster like himself lives while his lovely, pure brother must die. He still thinks Alex should marry the girl and he will take care of her as his brother’s widow.
But isn’t he forgetting something?
That’s right, folks. What is the date of Jack’s death, hinted at last year when Claire whispered it to him but not yet revealed? Why it’s coming right up. Jack will die at Culloden Moor.
And here’s where this show is downright genius—there are no black and white characters on Outlander, folks. Even monsters get to feel things… deep, dark, twisted, nasty things.
Why doesn’t Jack want to marry his brother’s sweet young pregnant girlfriend, other than the fact that he may very well die this week? Because he’s desperately afraid that he’ll hurt her if he doesn’t. He doesn’t know if he can control his own darkest impulses. The monster looking in the mirror.
Claire realizes they have no choice but to have some, um, faith.
Jack reminds her of what he did to Jamie. “The pain, the fear. I revel in it. Do you really want Mary in my bed? Help me. Persuade my brother to give this up.”
Claire still wants him to marry her. After all, lest we forget, Claire is convinced history will not change and Jack will be dead in a couple days.
Let’s see how the brothers Colum and Dougal are doing. Dougal thinks Colum has finally shown up to join the cause. But Colum is not here because he has turned the Jacobite. He is here to resolve some clan matters while he can (read: before he kills himself).
Hamish, Colum’s son—well, Dougal’s son, but that’s not important right now—shall take over leadership of the house. And who shall be the young boy’s guardian until he comes of age? Jamie, if Colum has anything to do with it.
Dougal is pissed; it should have been him. But Colum points out the obvious: “Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yourself to be, then there would be more men here today in this army of yours.”
Well, that sticks him where it hurts. And now the ugly truth comes out of Dougal’s mouth:
“It’s your last chance to punish me for fathering the son that you never could.” And that’s when we realize that Dougal being Hamish’s biological father IS important right now– he’s being spurned from his own son, whom he dearly loves.
Besides, Dougal implies that Jamie is just a small version of himself; that he will simply rally the other clan members to the Jacobite cause after Colum is dead… which should be coming—um, what time is it?
Colum points out what we all kind of know is true—the Jacobite cause isn’t doing so well. And by making them join the war, Jamie would be “putting the lives of your men over all else.”
So if Jamie’s not the answer, then he might as well give the guardianship to Dougal. But Dougal doesn’t want it now. Nobody likes to be plan B.
And now we get a THEME ALERT, people. Ready?
Sometimes the best thing about adaptation, especially when condensing such a long work into pertinent plot points, is that thematic parallels become much clearer. The link between the two brother stories is resounding here in a way that I actually didn’t really notice in Dragonfly. God, I love these writers.
Okay, let’s get married.
Jack and Mary are having their wedding! I don’t remember being quite as sad as Mary is at my wedding, but no matter. Alex’s wheezing is the soundtrack to their nuptials, with Claire and Murtagh acting as witnesses.
Let’s catch up with our old friend the Bonnie Prince.
He doesn’t think ambushing Cumberland’s birthday party sounds “very gentlemanly,” but there’s “nothing gentlemanly about waging war.”
“Trap the British between us,” suggests Jamie. And John agrees to it. Hey, this plan might just work! If they ambush the British troops tonight, there will be no Culloden Moor tomorrow, and that would be awesome because– wait, what’s that?
“Let’s switch up the teams!” says the general. Why? I don’t know. I’m with Jamie– this sounds like a disastrous idea.
But everybody’s chuckling. Charles is planning on bringing a nice bottle of Merlot to toast the Brits, and what could possibly go wrong?
Speaking of wine– Dougal comes into his brother’s sick room to try to share a drink. But “there is none left to share.” O, metaphor, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways using something that symbolizes death.
“I am beyond any injury you could do me,” declares Colum.
“All the pain you’ve put me through in this bitch of a life we’ve shared,” Dougal counters. And it seems the long gestating tension between these brothers will either have to rear its ugly head now… or forever hold its tongue.
Dougal, tell us a story, will you? 10-year-old Colum is riding a wild stallion. He falls, injured. “You’re my big brother. Nothing hurts you. Or so I believed,” Dougal admits. But then… “I watched you shrink… and I hated you for it.” Interesting that Dougal felt Colum’s illness was a personal insult— ie: How dare you take my big strong brother from me? Don’t forget, Dougal is our resident narcissist.
“The world was never the same again. You destroyed it,” Dougal says.
Disillusionment. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is our theme in this episode. What do we fight for… when what we believed in is dead? Remember, what is Dragonfly about? Futility… and faith. If we no longer believe, if there’s nothing to believe in… from whence will we draw our faith?
Colum will never give Dougal an answer as to why he betrayed him by becoming sick. He has taken Claire’s poison. His life is over.
And now we see that poor Alex isn’t faring much better. With his last wheezing breaths, he looks to Mary.
We’ve seen how Dougal took his brother’s death. How will Jack? With violence, of course. The only self-defense he knows. But his fists can’t do anything now. Alex is gone.
For Black Jack, Alex represented the only pure thing left in the world. And for Dougal, Colum was a symbol of strength, robbed from him bit by bit by the horror of his disease. Without these two men to guide them, what will become of Dougal and Black Jack? Does it even matter, now that the shadow of Culloden threatens to send them both to the same cold grave?
Okay. Let’s go talk to Jamie. (PS: any other book readers glad Jamie wasn’t in the Alex scenes? It never sat right with me in the book that Jack and Jamie would be in the same room without killing each other.)
Jamie now finds out what Claire’s plan was when she decided to have Black Jack and Mary wed. Either Jack will die in Culloden, as history would have it, or—better yet—there is no Culloden; the Scots succeed in their ambush of the Redcoats at Cumberland’s party; and Claire and Jamie “bleed him” together, leaving Mary a wealthy widow. Win/Win!
So on to the triumphant ambush of the Redcoats! Here we go! Any minute now! As soon as Charlie gets here…
Uh-oh. Charlie is hours late arriving at the meeting spot for the Cumberland ambush. Why? Murtagh lets us know—Charlie and his men got lost in the woods and they’re scattered everywhere.
The general calls off the attack. It doesn’t work without the second flank. There is nothing Jamie can do. Culloden is tomorrow. He has failed.
And the drum beats of war march on through the closing credits. It seems all Claire and Jamie’s efforts have been, in fact, futile. What will the future bring?
We will find out in the 90-minute finale next week, people! (But just judging from the “next week on Outlander” clips, um, we’re going to cry a lot. Like, a lot.)
In the commentary, Anne Kenney explains to us that there’s a third meaning to “Hail Mary”—it’s Mary Hawkins’ last chance, of course. And Ira Behr examines how Black Jack and Dougal’s reactions to their brothers’ deaths reveal their true character.
It was an interesting dilemma, Anne points out, that if Jamie and Claire are successful in stopping Culloden, Black Jack will live. So how to solve this problem? By having them realize the time may have come to kill Jack themselves.
I’m giving this episode a 9 out of 10, folks (the highest rating possible in an Outlander without a sex scene). Pretty extraordinary work by all involved! Can’t wait for next week.
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