I love this episode with my whole heart. Not only was the cinematography and the music spectacular, but the character-work delighted me. Jamie was so Jamie and Murtagh… well you know how I feel about Murtagh. And we got to meet a very young “William” Grey.
Claire, Jamie and the remaining Lovat men – a number of them having deserted en route – arrive at the training camp Murtagh has set up. I love this reunion; they’re all smiles.
We didn’t get to see it in the show, but it’s clear that the 9-or-so months spent at Lallybroch have deepened the relationship between the Fraser couple and Fergus and his joy is evident when he runs up to greet them. Claire hugs him with obvious affection. Fergus mockingly complains about being at Murtagh’s beck and call these past few weeks.
The next morning, when Jamie and Claire emerge from their lodgings, making plans for the day, they are greeted by two familiar faces, Rupert and Angus, come to join Jamie’s troops. Impertinent Angus immediately begs a kiss from Claire and she obliges with an enthusiastic buss on his cheek. A delighted Rupert lifts her off the ground when he hugs her. The mood changes abruptly when she asks about Willie and from the downcast faces we all expect the worst news. But no, the lad has merely gotten himself married and sailed off to Colonies. It is clear that Angus and Rupert consider this a gross betrayal.
Then Dougal appears. Jamie greets him with open arms, while Claire is polite, but not enthusiastic, in her greeting.
Dougal reveals that he is there without the consent of Colum, his laird and brother. He is raring to go and kill redcoats, but Jamie cautions that the men need discipline and training. It is clear from the outset that they have very different ideas about how this war should be conducted. Dougal, as war chief of the Clan MacKenzie, has only fought in clan skirmishes and has a wildly romantic notion of the superiority of the Scots. Jamie, however, was a soldier in France before he met Claire and knows what war entails. Also, this is Jamie’s command, and regardless of Dougal’s age or title, he is going to have to follow Jamie’s orders. Claire, Murtagh and Jamie exchange meaningful glances.
Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love Murtagh more, he starts training the men and it’s awesome! With Jamie and Dougal looking on, he tries to get them to line up and respond to bagpipe signals, but they’re more interested in getting their hands on real weapons instead of the farm implements with which they are presently armed. He tells them that first they will have to learn to stand, march and move in that order and only then will they get weapons.
Murtagh’s exhortations evoke memories of World War II for Claire. She shakes off the flashback to a British sergeant major drilling troops, but later, when she spots Fergus playing shinty with some of the men, she flashes back to American soldiers playing baseball. She is clearly rattled and angrily drags Fergus away.
Jamie and Dougal join Murtagh in training the men in close combat. Jamie is patient and deliberate, Murtagh loud, but also patient. Dougal is just this side of sane, stabbing a straw dummy with wild abandon. At the end of the day, he once again tries to convince Jamie and Murtagh to wrap this up and march off to battle. He is concerned about others getting there before them and finding favour with the prince. Jamie is resolute – he will not send his men off to fight until they are well-trained and disciplined. Dougal’s frustration is all too apparent.
Claire observes Angus spitting out his food and flashes back to WWII again, this time to two American Airborne soldiers complaining about the food. In the flashback she chats with the two Yanks, Corporal Caleb Grant and Private Max Lucas, who seem quite taken with Nurse Randall. We find out that it is here she picked up her trademark Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.
That night Jamie sees that Claire is struggling with something, but when he asks her what the matter is she tells him she’s fine. He doesn’t believe her, but lets it go for now.
The next day Jamie delivers a heartfelt speech to his troops. He acknowledges their reluctance to learn to fight and tells them about his own experiences as a soldier, how cocky and excited he was, but how the first volley of shots shattered his illusions. He tells them the brutal truth – courage is not enough; it takes discipline to beat a professional army.
His oratory is interrupted by Dougal and his men, bare-chested and covered in mud, enacting a traditional Highland charge. Jamie’s men scatter in the face of this fearsome sight, but Jamie calls them back. He is seething, but calmly explains that, yes, a Highland charge can be effective, but only when you have the element of surprise.
After dismissing the men, Jamie confronts Dougal, who goes right on the offensive. Jamie shuts him down. These are his men. This is his command. If Dougal wants to fight with them, he will respect Jamie’s authority. If not, he can take his men and go.
Dougal, not willing to accept this quite yet, changes tactics and approaches Claire, telling her that Jamie is clearly out of his depth and she needs to intervene on Dougal’s behalf. When she refuses, he tries to blackmail her with the agreement she made to marry him should Jamie die at Wentworth. She tells him, in no uncertain terms, that there are no secrets between her and Jamie – she’s told him everything Dougal grudgingly admits that Jamie is a better man than he, and Claire agrees wholeheartedly. She calls him a narcissist and tells him to go fuck himself. Dougal admits to loving himself, but declares that he loves Scotland more.
In the next training montage the men are much more confident and proficient.
Jamie sees Claire looking troubled again and asks Murtagh if he has noticed anything amiss. Murtagh agrees that she is not herself and says that Claire usually speaks her mind, so this must be serious.
Next, Claire sees Angus examining his truly gross feet and lectures him on proper foot care in order to avoid trench foot. Angus, being Angus, mocks her concern and this sets Claire off again – she has another WWII flashback where she lectures soldiers on foot care and a cocky young soldier blows her off. She loses it with Angus, letting loose another F-bomb. Claire is definitely unraveling.
It is night time and the men are sitting around a fire, telling improbable tales of their sexual prowess, as men do. Dougal appears with a group of new recruits, who he claims are volunteers. It takes Jamie no time at all to find out that they’ve been press-ganged and he gives them the opportunity to go home, as this is treason and the consequences, should the Rising fail, will be death by hanging. They all leave and Jamie gives Dougal another talking to, telling him that he and his men will take over the sentry duty. He orders the current sentries, Ross and Kincaid, to be lashed for allowing the party of men to enter the camp unchallenged. This job falls to Murtagh. Claire watches, but walks away when the lashing starts.
Claire is deteriorating. She jerks with every shot as she walks past the men practicing with rifles. Eventually she drops her basket and stumbles to a nearby cart, where she has an extended flashback. She is traveling by night in a Jeep with the two Yanks when they hit a landmine. She and Grant are thrown from the vehicle and land in a ditch, from where they can hear Lucas screaming in pain. The Germans arrive and she volunteers to get Lucas, but Grant tells her to stay put. He goes himself, and is shot. Claire curls up in the fetal position with her hands over her ears, trying to block out the sound of the wounded soldier crying for his mother. She is found muttering “Shut up, shut up” in that same position by Allied soldiers in the morning.
This is also how Jamie finds her now. She tells him the story and agrees with him that she couldn’t have saved the two men. Jamie’s troops remind her of them. Jamie tells her that he is sorry that he brought her along and that he will send her to Lallybroch, where she can wait out the war. Claire doesn’t want to do that – she knows that she will feel powerless, like she was back in that ditch again. And this time it will be worse, as the people dying will be her loved ones. Jamie promises her that she will never be alone again. He kisses her and holds her. It’s a beautiful moment amid so much fear and sadness.
It’s night time again and Jamie relieves himself against a wall. Suddenly he is attacked from behind. He successfully wards off the attack and breaks the assailant’s arm in the process. It’s a very young man, only 16 and in possession of a letter addressed to a British officer. Murtagh declares him a spy, but he hotly denies it. He was drawn by the fire and recognized “Red Jamie”, the traitorous and unprincipled rebel. Jamie tries to extract information from him by twisting his broken arm, but the boy, while clearly frightened, refuses to talk, saying only that he is prepared to die. Jamie is reluctant to torture and kill a child, but needs information regarding the strength and location of the British camp. He heats his blade in the fire and approaches the boy, as if he’s going to burn his face with the hot blade. Claire arrives and, thinking on her feet, intervenes. She calls Jamie a Scottish barbarian and a sadist. Even though she resisted his advances earlier, she will surrender to him if he allows the boy to go free.
Jamie is quick on the uptake and tells the lad that, even if he has no concern for himself, maybe he will consider the honor of an English lady? He roughly grabs Claire and kisses her, while she pretends to resist. Murtagh finds this enormously funny. Jamie gets a bit too in to it, and Claire retaliates with a well-placed knee at one point. I loved this exchange!
The boy, of course, relents and Jamie hands Claire off to be restrained by some of the men. The boy identifies himself as William Grey, second son of Viscount Melton. He tells Jamie everything he needs to know and Jamie orders his men to take him back and tie him to a tree a mile from his camp. If his information proves to be false, they should kill him.
Jamie tells Grey that he gives him his life and to use it well. Grey replies that he owes Jamie a debt of honor, although he wishes that he doesn’t. He hopes to discharge the debt one day, after which he will kill Jamie. Jamie says that in that case, they must hope to never meet again and bows to him. The young man earnestly replies that a Grey does not forget an obligation and is then taken away.
This time Jamie sentences himself to be whipped, for while Dougal’s men were on sentry duty, it was his own reputation and unshielded fire which provoked the attack. Murtagh once again wields the strap and everyone flinches as Jamie receives 18 lashes on his already scarred back. He, of course, bears it stoically.
Afterwards the men prepare to raid the English camp. Dougal is eager to go, but Jamie orders him to stay behind and resume sentry duty. This doesn’t sit well with him and Jamie reminds him that he is a soldier and has to obey his commander. The raid goes off without incident – the wheels are removed from the gun carriages and burned in a big bonfire back at their own camp.
Jamie wakes Claire, his face still covered in the soot they used for camouflage. He tells her that they went on a commando raid, a term he obviously learned from her. Despite his dirty face, Claire is more than ready for a different kind of action, but has to contend herself with a few passionate kisses. They have to get out of there before the British show up.
They march off to Perth to join the Bonnie Ponce. It’s beautiful. When they arrive, Jamie graciously allows Dougal to ride ahead and announce their arrival. They are ready.
Written by Matthew B. Roberts and directed by Philip John.