Alarmingly, the title card shows a map of Culloden Moor with representations of the forces for both sides being rearranged so they meet with only the moor standing between them.
We open on a scene of Jamie and Claire leading Dougal, Murtagh who is sharing his horse with Fergus, and the men towards an encampment. All look travel worn, Fergus calls out “Where are we?”, allowing Claire to fill us in about their location “Just outside Inverness”. Thanks Claire, for setting the location for us. Fergus has a slight dig at Murtagh about being tired, when in reality Fergus is almost collapsing from tiredness himself, leaning against Murtagh as they ride. In fact they all could do with a week at a really good spa.
Claire does a brief VO for us, surveying the men in the camp, telling us about five months without enough food and brutal weather leaving the men broken. Their worst nightmare is coming true and Claire says she feels completely helpless. Jamie looks like he’s just come through a rainstorm. Bring him a hairdryer someone, we don’t want him to get sick with the flu, or wait, I’ll just volunteer to towel him dry.
We get some recollections about Angus and Kincaid from Rupert and Ross. Jamie, Claire, Murtagh and a desperately tired Fergus enter a building, lit, strangely, by candles atop piles of tea chests. I suppose at least if the place burned down it would warm everyone up. Fergus promptly sits down, resting his head on the table, and falls asleep, with Murtagh kindly placing something warm over the boy’s shoulders. Jamie tells Dougal to “find the British army for us” sending him out once more into the cold and damp – without food. It’s true then, there is no rest for the wicked.
Murtagh is also tasked with a job, to ride into Inverness and fetch the Prince for a war council. Yes, I’m sure BPC is just waiting for Murtagh to tell him what to do. Murtagh fills us in on the geography, “Culloden Moor lies but a few miles east of here”, thanks Murtagh. Claire kindly lets us know that the 16th April is “but three days from now”. Thanks Claire. Murtagh leaves for his unenviable task. Claire bemoans that with all they have done, all they have plotted “How the bloody hell did we end up here”. Jamie though still displays hope about changing history, and being the man he is he sets about looking after the welfare of his men, except for Dougal of course.
Claire sets off alone for Inverness to do a bit of herb shopping, as luck would have it, Mary Hawkins is in the apothecary midway through her transaction buying up big on ginger, camomile and arsenic. Plus, not to be forgotten, a bottle of laudanum (the second bottle this week mind you). I think if there were apothecary reporting requirements, then Mary might have some explaining to do. Each is surprised to see the other, Claire having believed Mary was safely dispatched to her family after the nasty beheading incident. An annoyed and much more grown up Mary is bold and not to be denied her moment of angry defiance, announcing is a very self-satisfied manner that she is “with” Alex and they are to be married. Claire is happy for her, but is stung by Mary’s accusation of betrayal “you pretended to be my friend”. Claire goes down the “it’s complicated” route, and apologises for causing Mary or Alex any pain. Mary relents and tells Claire where she and Alex are staying.
Compared to the wet, bedraggled camp outside the interior of the room where the war council is being held looks warm and almost lush. Drinks are being served, perhaps a few too many, as the generals discuss the best place to face their enemy, agreeing Culloden Moor is it. Jamie interjects saying the moor is best for the British, not them, due to flat ground giving advantage to the enemy artillery. Bonnie Prince Charlie sits by the fire, warming his hands.
The representative of clan MacDonald pipes saying they could get the job done, the Cameron man agrees. Jamie implores BPC to walk the camp and see the shape the men are in. Someone accuses Jamie of “cowards talk”. No one calls Jamie a coward within my earshot! Jamie mentions the French gold, suggesting they delay, and breakup the Highland army into smaller groups which would be more difficult for the British to follow. With food and weapons obtained, the men better fed and rested and a better battleground chosen they could fight to defeat their enemy once and for all. Using his now warm hands, BPC reaches out and touches Jamie on the cheek, calling him “my most loyal companion and friend”, standing BPC starts toying with his little play sword declaring himself to be “a man and a soldier”.
Poor lamb BPC is “weary of retreat” declaring “the men will rest and then we will march to Culloden”, Jamie still kneeling in front of the chair BPC once occupied looks distraught.
Claire is seen walking down the street towards a building designated as the boarding house where Alex and Mary are residing. She enters and, simply by listening to the coughing, finds Alex in bed desperately ill, being tended to by Mary. As Claire enters, Mary says “I’ve dissolved some more arsenic in his tea.” Frankly I’ve no idea who she was talking to, as it certainly wasn’t Claire. But shall we let that slide past? Okay, done. Nurse Claire appears planning to prepare a poultice intended to ease the muscles in Alex’s chest and back. For one, I can relate to poor Alex here, once I had pneumonia and my chest and back hurt so much I thought I’d broken a rib.
Claire heads to the fireplace to warm water and the instant her back is turned we hear footsteps. Alex manages to utter a strangled word, and it’s chilling, “Johnny”. Claire looks towards him horrified and BJR stares back. BJR is out of uniform having been granted leave to see his brother. Claire looks on from as far away as she can manage while “John” goes to Alex’s bedside. She tries to do a runner, but is called back by Mary, who pleads for her not to leave. Mary confides that John has been their saviour, paying their bills and preventing she and Alex from becoming destitute as Alex has been unable to work for weeks. Dear innocent Mary asks Claire when Alex will be able to go back to work again. Claire looks Mary in the eye and as gently as possible suggests Mary make “reparations” with her family so she has somewhere to go when the inevitable happens. Mary is still unbelieving, stating “but he must be cured” as she folds her hands over her lower abdomen. Claire quickly picks up on Mary’s body language, and asks if Mary is pregnant. Mary tearfully nods a yes, and Claire asks is Alex knows. Mary nods again, and further tells us that John knows too. BJR crosses the room to tell Mary that Alex is asking for her. Claire and BJR face off briefly and she leaves. Claire’s expression leaves us in no doubt of her feelings, let’s just hope that horrid thing she stepped in will wash off.
BJR pursues Claire out onto the street, first calling her Madame Fraser, then Claire, as he grabs hold of her arm and swings her around to face him. She glares at him, as you would (should). BJR tries to guilt Claire into curing Alex, she tells him Alex can’t be cured and turns to walk away. BJR pleads (well as pleading as he can manage) with Claire to help ease Alex’s pain, not for himself, but for his brother, Mary and their unborn child. Claire decides this is the time to take advantage of BJR, asking for Intel on the British army in exchange for her help.
Upon her return to Jamie, who she has obviously apprised of the events of her day. I’m sure the conversation about “And how was your day dear”, to which we are not privy, must have been very interesting. Jamie is, shall we say, not happy. Jamie doing the best he can to remain calm and concentrate on the location of Cumberland’s army, being camped at Nairn with a birthday bash planned for Cumberland in 2 days. Claire tells Jamie she wants to tend Alex. Jamie fears retribution by BJR if Alex dies whilst in her care. The answer, as always, is Murtagh.
At night we see a carriage draw up and a bow-legged man emerge from it. Slowly and painfully. Assisted by two men, the figure makes his way to the door. Inside Rupert, Ross and Murtagh look uncomfortable as Colum MacKenzie enters. Colum looks haggard and old, but is comforted by seeing some familiar faces. He speaks to Rupert, expressing his sorrow at Angus’s death. The trio, not being the best at hospitality, are reminded by Colum that he needs a bed to rest on, and his brother and his nephew.
Jamie stands by while Claire checks Colum over. She looks unhappy. Colum confesses the healer who took over from Claire has looked more dour in the past few weeks, Claire says there is good reason, and Colum simply states he has been dying for years, and he’s tired of it and he “welcomes its conclusion”. Colum comments that Dougal is keeping him waiting. Jamie explains that Dougal isn’t in camp and Colum praises him for keeping Dougal busy. Colum wishes to speak to Claire privately. Claire offers Colum a drink which he refuses. He praises Claire on her admirable marriage and admits he was wrong initially in his opinion of her marriage to Jamie. His face has a sheen of sweat despite the obvious chill. He asks Claire for relief from his pain, not a dulling temporary fix, but something permanent. He looks up at Claire with glazed eyes, while she sadly takes in his request. He asks for a quick death like Geillis’s husband and Claire explains it may have been quick but it was agonising. Claire defends her former friend from Colum’s insult. Colum delivers some stunning news, Geillis’s baby is alive, a boy, who has been given to a childless couple, William and Sarah MacKenzie to raise. Claire gives Colum a small bottle of yellow jasmine, which she says it will be like drifting off to sleep. Colum is deeply grateful.
Back at McGilvreys Boarding House things are not good. Poor Alex is coughing his lungs out, literally, and Claire seeks to ease his coughing by smoking a mixture of coltsfoot and thorn apple in a pipe and blowing it through a paper tube so Alex can breathe it in. Black Jack Randall is present and does not understand how smoke can help Alex.
The situation is dire and Claire asks for trust, she is backed up by Mary. Alex looks terrible but his coughing is eased as he lays back against his brother. Mary sits beside Alex and takes over from Johnny who goes to speak to Claire, more respectfully this time, he calls her Madame Fraser. “Johnny” tells Claire his brother is in pain, she acknowledges this and then Mary suggests more arsenic, Claire says no, only laudanum if he needs to sleep, there is nothing more she can do. Black Jack reacts to this flaring up at Claire by saying “we had an agreement”. She responds by saying she can only help ease Alex’s pain, but she cannot cure him. Black Jack grabs Claire’s arm and Murtagh steps in to stop him. Alex calls “Johnny” over to his bed and in a halting, wheezing speech asks for “Johnny’s” help. Black Jack Randall says “anything”. Alex says he has called for the minister, but not for last rites, but for Black Jack Randall’s wedding to Mary, so Mary and their unborn child can have some position in the world. Randall is taken aback speechless, while Alex obviously knowing something of Black Jack’s more extreme habits says he has also borne witness to his generosity and tenderness of soul. Alex is entrusting Mary and her unborn baby to the inner man. Black Jack storms out saying he is sorry. This causes Alex to have another coughing fit.
Next we see Jamie greeting Dougal upon his return from his mission. Jamie apprises Dougal of the Intel obtained from Black Jack Randall. Dougal is sceptical, but Jamie says the scouts have confirmed purchases of wine and sweetmeats, obviously for a party, while Dougal looks down into a cooking pot with only a few bits of green floating on top. Jamie says he can’t even partake in the meagre offering, as Colum has arrived. That’s right Dougal you can’t even eat the green bits.
Murtagh and Claire are seen leaving the boarding house, Murtagh, obviously frustrated with the “must save Frank” story says he “can’t believe you’re encouraging this madness” to save a mythical prick. Claire defends Frank, saying he is neither mythical nor a prick.
Murtagh feels having Mary marry Black Jack Randall is like sending a lamb to slaughter. Claire explains Mary needs a husband to save her from destitution. Murtagh (he is THE MAN) offers to marry her himself, saying people can learn to get along “people do” – note very pointed look at Claire. We have some ominous foreshadowing when Claire says “we’re at war. You could be dead tomorrow or the next day.” Murtagh wishes the same fate on Black Jack Randall. Claire points out Mary would be a widow entitled to Black Jack Randall’s property and his officer’s pension. Arriving outside an Inn, Murtagh announces “this is the place”. Claire enters alone, finding Black Jack Randall sitting alone drinking. He is obviously drunk. He looks up at Claire lamenting a God who creates a world where monsters thrive and beauty and purity are rewarded with death. Claire says the same God also offers an opportunity for redemption. He still insists Mary should marry Alex, and he will look after them, but Claire asks what will happen when he is not there to do so. Black Jack squints and sits back, remembering Claire’s curse – the date of his death – merely days away. Black Jack Randall’s true nature is not far beneath the surface as he asks Claire, “Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room?” Tears well in Claire’s eyes as she steels herself to say yes. Randall continues, “I know the sound he makes at the last, when he has lost himself and I regret none of it. 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 stands to leave, imploring Black Jack not to break his brother’s heart, and if he loves his brother to stay his impulses with Mary.
Back with sickly Colum, Dougal arrives full of bluster as always, with fake words of condolence on seeing his brother so ill. Dougal assumes Colum has come to join the MacKenzies of Leoch with the Jacobite cause. Colum promptly set him straight, he has no intention of doing so. Even Jamie asks, why then has he come? Colum explains there are clan matters to discuss while he still draws breath. Colum states he has declared his wish for his son Hamish to be next Chief of Clan Mackenzie with Ned Gowan to instruct him in clan law and he has selected a guardian until the boy comes of age. That man is James Fraser, not Dougal Mackenzie. Jamie looks surprised and Dougal, being Dougal is highly annoyed. Colum says “Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yerself to be then there would be more men here today in this army of yours.” Jamie looks like he’d rather crawl behind the furniture than participate in this discussion. Hamish’s paternity gets a mention, being the spawn of Dougal (as Dougal is fond of reminding Colum). Jamie stands, honoured by Colum’s choice, but stating that he too would join the MacKenzie Clan in fighting the British. Dougal can hardly believe Jamie agrees with him. Colum recognises differences in the men who stand before him, Jamie putting his men first and challenging whether Dougal would do the same. Dougal remains silent and backs out of the room.
Flash over to the boarding house where we see the minister delivering the wedding vows for BJR and Mary Hawkins, at the foot of Alex’s bed, with Claire and Murtagh as witnesses. Mary can barely hold it together, as we hear Alex wheezing terribly. Turning to Alex looking miserable she says “I will”, the witnesses say their parts, with Murtagh exclaiming “Get on with it!” Then we were interrupted by the worst ad placement EVER!
Back to the Bonny Prince and Jamie discussing marching to Cumberland’s camp at night, interrupting his birthday celebrations with a sneak attack. There is some jockeying about who will lead the two columns of men, and it it agreed. We get a mark me and a childish grin from the Bonny Prince regarding a bottle of wine as a gift for Cumberland when he is his prisoner. A complete lack of the Bonny Princes comprehension of reality is obvious.
Cross to Dougal entering Colum’s room, closing the door behind him. Dougal has been drinking. Colum says “I am beyond any injury you could do to me.” Dougal leans in close complaining of the pain Colum has put him through. Colum looks desperately tired. Dougal complains Colum betrayed him by being ill. Dougal hated him for it. Dougal complains when Colum does not respond, then he realises Colum is dead. He looks down at the small bottle clasped in Colum’s hand and hugs his dead brother. Dougal laments there are words unsaid forever, as he hits his fist against his forehead. Dougal sheds a tear.
Back in the boarding house Alex’s breathing is worse as Black Jack, Mary and Claire stand by his bedside. He gasps quietly and dies. Black Jack is choked up, fighting tears and Claire comforts Mary. Both are shocked when Black Jack turns on Alex with a fury, smashing his fists into his dead brothers chest. Black Jack stands back, smooths his hair and leaves.
Next we see Jamie in disbelief that Claire has encouraged a marriage between Mary and Black Jack, Claire says she has made Mary his widow not his wife. Jamie says if they succeed tonight Culloden will not occur and Randall may live. Claire says his death may happen some other way, but if not then she is prepared to keep the promise she made in Paris, to help Jamie bleed him. Claire tells Jamie to be careful during the night raid and we see men trudging through the woods at night. Murtagh arrives with news the Prince and his men have become lost. The raid is called off, Culloden Moor becomes inevitable.
Flash to preview of the season finale, I’m crying already.