Argh! Delays… almost 2 days delay to have access to the episode, then 3 days to do my recap, plus further personal things which prevented me from proofing and posting. I thought it would never happen, but it’s ready now. But are you ready to read it? It may break your heart…
Thankfully the title song remains to anchor us in the Outlander we know and love. We see glimpses of battles, irons, a patch of tartan, Lallybroch, a nightdress being untied, a hand reaching out in comfort, Claire running through a forest, weapons raised aloft, men falling in the first onslaught of battle, charging Redcoats, the lone figure of Jamie overlooking the ocean. Then the appropriately somber title card “The Battle Joined” backed by a tattered Saltire then more flags being tossed into an open cart… the cart moves on revealing bodies…
We see piles of bodies, piles of the dead Highlanders having been slaughtered unmercifully in the unequal battle. Smoke wafts over the field, the very ground unseen because of the extent of the number of dead. The focus closes onto a single dead, bearded Highlander, targe beneath him, one arm stretched out in death. We fear this man is Murtagh. A character lifted from the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books and elevated from a dour but loyal man into a beloved fan favourite. A man who has Jamie’s best interests at heart always… not yet a minute in and we already have our hearts in our mouths…
There is silence, save for the moan of the wind over the moor… we moan along with it.
The camera pans higher, the sight of bodies is unrelenting. We see Redcoats walking through the smoke filled moor. They are seeking any Highlanders who may, through some unseen miracle, still be alive, to finish them off with a cruel jab of a fixed bayonet. Bodies are rifled for valuables, an unseemly sight, the Highlanders swords are also being collected.
The cart containing the booty of war, the banners and swords rattles past… this time revealing a pale faced Jamie, his clothing blood soaked, laying face up atop even more dead. A Redcoat lies face down on top of him, in the throes of a deadly embrace. Jamie’s eyes open slowly, his lips part – he is alive. We hear a half strangled gasp as Jamie’s lungs take a life affirming breath. He very slowly turns his head and takes in the ghastly scene though slitted eyes. He sees the indignity suffered by the corpses. Then Jamie locks eyes with another survivor. The young man shudders in pain, a big mistake – the Redcoat soldier notices him move – a bayonet is plunged into his body. He gasps in pain and continues to look in Jamie’s eyes until he shudders no more… Jamie turns his head away, lying still, his expression fathomless in unfocused eyes and at once anguished. We see and hear glimpses of the battle in flashback as Jamie continues to struggle for air. Prince Charles Edward Stuart appears, proudly telling anyone who will listen about the silver travel canteen he holds, a gift from his father on his 21st birthday. The man’s arrogance astounds.
We are again shown Jamie lying with the dead, a Redcoated figure laying over him. He looks towards the dead soldier, then we see more flashback of the deadly battle, explosions throw the very dirt of the field into the air as men rush towards their fate.
Night has fallen… light snowflakes drift in the breeze. The flakes which fall on Jamie’s face melt instantly, reassuring us that he is still warm, still alive. His parched tongue licks the droplets of water from his lips. His face reflecting his grief, his breathing is ragged and only rasping sounds escape. There are many men who lay dead and cold, no snowflakes melt on their faces… Redcoats continue their grim task among the dead and dying.
So many times in Diana Gabaldon’s books breathing, or the lack of it, has a place of special importance. The holding of breath conveying the stress suffered by the characters, until the essential literal breath of life inevitably returns.
In another flashback we see the stone circle at Craigh Na Dun… Jamie alone, reaching out to touch the stone, then bending down to gather up Claire’s shawl which he presses to his face smelling her fragrance in the fabric. He flinches at the sound of cannon fire looking desolate, knowing he has lost Claire and he is going to his death.
Then we are back to the snowy night among the dead and with another gasp we are back in time once more, Jamie riding his horse and dismounting into the chaos of the first blasts of the battle. Jamie implores BPC to give the order to charge while there is still a chance. A blast almost hits home, BPC protects his travel canteen, looking totally lost and inadequate. Glimpses of the horror of battle are interspersed with the view of Jamie’s face, his countenance so tragic. We see Jamie being attacked, he manages to gain the upper hand and kills the man with a clod of grass and earth, a piece of Scotland!
Jamie rests momentarily and a man lands beside him raising his sword until recognition sets in. It is Murtagh… Jamie makes a joke about where Murtagh has been “Where have you been? Enjoying a wee whisky?” Finally a smile from Jamie. We get some Murtagh eyebrow action as he fends off another attack by a Redcoat “You’re welcome” is his comment, before he imparts important information to Jamie – the men from Lallybroch are home safe. This also means the dead Highlander we saw earlier is not Murtagh, for this we are thankful.
Jamie stands and rushes headlong into battle, Murtagh likewise… they lose contact with each other as the battle proceeds, the British set fire to the heather… Then we are once more back with Jamie, in the dark, but for only a few moments before we again lurch into battle. The Highlanders fall like tenpins under a barrage of gunfire they cannot match with their swords. It is a shocking sight.
Back in the snowy darkness Jamie lies… his skin glistens with melted snow and a sheen of sweat as further recall brings us, finally, to see Jamie face Black Jack Randall. BJR is on his horse.
Jamie and BJR seem to separate from the melee, in a world of their own, facing off in terminal ferocity. A golden glow shines upon them as they face each other, they clash swords. Then we are back to the dark field of death… Jamie moves, the body laying on top of him slides sideways. It is BJR. We flick back to the brutal hand to hand fight between them. BJR slashes Jamie’s upper leg, there is blood. A lot of blood. Jamie staggers down on one knee. Jamie’s hand reaches to the wound, he looks at the blood on it, almost unbelieving. BJR stands above him ready to deliver a fatal blow, but Jamie springs back up, turns and stabs his attacker in the abdomen.
A surreal, dreamlike scene shows us Jamie and BJR the lone ones standing in a field of bodies, both wounded, in a dance like hand to hand fight. Randall looks Jamie in the eye, touches his chest (reminiscent of him putting a hand on Jamie’s chest in Season 2, episode 5, Untimely Resurrection) and they both collapse in an embrace which will bring death to one who ironically saves the other… Then back to night on that same field. We see an object glowing gold. It is the piece of amber, with the dragonfly embedded. The wedding gift from Hugh Munro to Claire. The piece Claire gave to Jamie before she went back though the stones.
In the dark the wind whistles over the dead, Jamie senses movement and slowly turns his head, he sees a rabbit, a flicker of life among the lost. Jamie’s grip on consciousness slips away, he appears to be taking his final breath as we hear Gaelic singing and see Claire, in white, walking slowly past the mounds of the fallen, the dead warriors. She approaches Jamie, bending she reaches out to touch his face, asking “Are you alive?”.
This vision is interrupted and morphs into reality. A living Highlander, Rupert, refuses to allow Jamie his wish to die in the mud of the field, ignoring his plea of “Leave me be!” BJR’s body is pushed aside, we see blood well on Jamie’s leg. Rupert and another assist Jamie to his feet, leading him away from the choice of death at the point of a bayonet or bleeding to death alone.
The amber glows in a magical way, it is left to lay in the mud. We are transported through time to Boston in 1948.
Claire surveys the home Frank appears to have chosen. It is empty and looks huge! Claire seems daunted by the hollowness of the space. They tour the empty rooms, Claire inspects the stove, saying she is out of practice in the kitchen. Frank is very pleasant and accommodating, willing to accept anything Claire cooks! The chasm between them is obvious, they do not kiss.
Next scene shows time has passed, Claire is appears to 4 or 5 months pregnant, and their home is now furnished. Claire battles the beast of a stove… it refuses to light. Frustrated, she leaves the kitchen before she hits something and goes to rest on a sofa facing an empty fireplace. After a pause we see Claire’s spark return as she makes a decision.
A car comes down the road and stops, the driver is Claire. She exits the vehicle, goes to the trunk and starts removing firewood. A woman stops to help her, at first Claire refuses, but the woman, a neighbor named Millie insists.
Later we see Claire kneeling, happily cooking over an open fire in the hearth. Her neighbor, still surprised that Claire intends to feed Frank food prepared in this manner, inadvertently lays down the rules of how to function as a 1940’s wife… cook, clean, raise the kids and look pretty when they meet the boss. Millie hits a sore point when she tells Claire she won’t find another man like Frank again. Well, Claire did have another man… she closes her eyes remembering Jamie.
We are also taken back to Jamie, he opens his eyes, in 1746… He lays severely wounded, close to death, unwilling to live. Rupert offers Jamie water, he drinks and coughs. We see a group of Highlanders, mostly wounded, sheltering in a building where Rupert has taken Jamie. Unseen men murmur and sob. Rupert refuses to leave, he will stay on despite the fact he is not hurt. The camera focuses on Jamie’s melancholy face and blends into Claire’s unhappy visage, back in Boston.
We hear Frank announce they are to leave in 20 minutes… Claire looks at her reflection and recites Millie’s words under her breath. “Gotta look pretty when you meet the boss” as she does her makeup.
Harvard’s imposing stone exterior is seen… then an interior room where a faculty tea is in progress. Tea is being served as people sit and talk. We are drawn to talk of politics by a man, a figure of authority, the Dean, holding the attention of a group of people, Frank and Claire included.
Claire has the temerity to speak of a news article she has read, the man dismisses her, speaking directly to Frank about her reading habits! Despite the snub, Claire presses on… speaking of Harvard Medical admitting women three years ago. The Dean denigrates the women medical students. Frank steps up proudly stating Claire was a combat nurse during the war… There is no pleasing this arrogant man, who again disses Claire. She fights to maintain a smile on her face, her voice rises and she restrains herself, giving a civil response. The Dean walks off, discussing work matters with Frank as Claire sits seething.
Later they leave, walking through the stone arches of the stately building. The closeness they showed in the faculty tea is gone. Claire is very quiet, Frank enquires if she is okay, of course she says she’s fine, and we all know what that means! She looks thoughtful – I believe the dismissive Dean has forced Claire into a decision…
Day breaks over the cottage on Culloden Moor. Inside we hear Jamie asking what happened to Murtagh. Rupert replies he doesn’t know. The door of the cottage squeaks open and a Redcoat officer and his men enter. He introduces himself as Lord Melton, in response Rupert states his own name and says the others are late of the forces ofHis Majesty, King James. Melton states his sorry task, to execute any man found to have engaged in the treasonous rebellion. He asks if anyone pleads innocence. The camera pans around showing the faces of the men, Rupert proudly stand his ground stating “No, my Lord, Traitors all.” The men are to be shot. They are given one hour to prepare themselves, two young men look at each other. Lord Melton offers writing materials to the men, for their last message to family.
Back to Boston… the beast of a stove has gone out (I really need to come up with a nickname for the stove) and a heavily pregnant Claire relights it awkwardly. She gets a bottle of milk from the fridge and pours some into a glass jug. She sniffs the bottle and decides to pour in down the sink, some things are decidedly sour on this morning.
We hear a bird tweeting, it gets Claire’s attention and she goes to the window to look at it as we hear haunting music – I don’t know exactly what this bird means yet, but I’m sure it does have meaning, maybe a wee throwback to living in the nature of Scotland. We hear Frank’s disembodied voice… he is delighting in the smell of bacon and eggs. He is cheerful and friendly. Claire is now smiling and chatty. Frank has a small jibe at American tea bags, Claire says she’s embracing the new… in fact, she wants to apply for US citizenship. Frank is surprised and asks why she is prepared to set aside her loyalty to England, the history he fought a war about. Twice he has tried to touch her, twice she flinched away from him. He say he has a wife who won’t let him touch her, using the pregnancy to avoid him. He wants to talk, Claire does not. Frank won’t let her talk about the past, yet he brings up himself. Claire is almost at breaking point. They argue, fiercely. Claire throws a glass ashtray at Frank, he ducks. They are both shocked. Frank gives Claire an ultimatum… go or stay… True, it is her choice but I don’t think it’s a fair thing to say to a woman who is nine months pregnant. He leaves, Claire breaks down crying. I’m still not sure if Frank had the sour milk in his tea, I hope he did!
Cut to the Highlanders in the cottage. Rupert stands inside. Through a door we see a kilted man tied to a post, we hear and see gunfire and the man slumps against his restraint. Rupert crosses himself. Outside we see the Redcoats drag the body away. Two young lads stand before Lord Melton, as Rupert tries to reason with him to save them. Lord Melton relays the Duke of Cumberland’s instructions which state that no exceptions are to made on account of age. Accordingly young Giles McMartin and Frederick MacBean are led away to be shot, together.
We see Jamie, pale face drawn and empty, a man asks Jamie is he can write a letter for him… to his family. He asks after Claire, Jamie, through laboured breaths, says she is gone. Lord Melton asks who is to be next. The man, Killick, says “aye” he will be next. Killick kisses Jamie’s hand in farewell, and limps to the clerk, firmly stating his name. Jamie coughs, he appears near death. Rupert comes over to see Jamie, He is pleased to find him awake. They make a small joke about Angus’s snoring. Rupert and Jamie make amends about Jamie killing Dougal (remembering that this is the very same day), and with a farewell to Jamie, Rupert says he will be next.
Rupert Thomas Alexander MacKenzie proudly states his full name to the clerk, admonishing the Redcoats to try to keep up as he means to set a quick pace, as he strides outside. We see Jamie whisper in Gaelic: Slàn leat, a Ràibeirt… (Farewell, Rupert…) Jamie’s face is pale, frowning and pinched.
We get a spooky transition to Frank’s face, as he tries to settle into sleep on the couch. Annoying, repetitive, modern, domestic sounds are keeping him awake. It is 3.30am. Sleep eludes him and he gives up in frustration. Going to go to his desk he begins to write, a letter to Reverend Wakefield. No sooner has he started than Claire, coat already on, enters the room saying her waters have broken. Frank goes to warm up the car… the letter is abandoned.
Transition back to 1746… the only remaining men are those who cannot stand. The British lieutenant asks Lord Melton if these men are to be shot lying down, not on his watch the Lord responds. The men are to be taken out, propped up and shot. Once more he asks who is to be next. Jamie say “Aye, get this over with”. Jamie struggles to prop himself up on a elbow at the same time stating his full name James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Lord Melton, about to exit the building, hears Jamie’s name. Melton reacts to the name, turning back inside, stopping the clerk from writing the name and approaching Jamie, asking him “Are you the Jacobite known as Red Jamie?” Jamie says he has been called that by his enemies. Melton calls for another to go next. He kneels near Jamie. Jamie pleads for him to either shoot him or to go away. Speaking quietly Melton asks about an incident involving John William Grey, at Corrieyairack… Jamie recalls it. Now a debt of family honour is at stake and Lord Melton must fulfil his part.
Jamie is exhausted by the exchange, a sheen of sweat on his face, he sags back down groaning in pain.
Lord Melton arranges for Jamie to be transported in a hay filled wagon. Melton does not expect Jamie to survive the journey… but he has done his duty. Darkness has fallen once more as we see Jamie unconscious in the hay, as the wagon moves through the countryside. The wagon rocks, he wakes, moaning.
Switch back to Boston, and more moaning, now from Claire in labour with Frank anxiously attending to her. Claire says is is glad she missed him with the ashtray, he smiles, thanking his cat-like reflexes for saving him. A doctor enters… not the usual one. He has a condescending attitude. Asking Frank about her contractions, he says first child? Frank and Claire speak at the same time, he says yes, she says no. Claire says she had a miscarriage about a year ago. Frank is surprised, but he covers it well. He is directed to the waiting room. He tells Claire that he loves her. Claire’s wishes about how to give birth are totally ignored, she is sedated against her will, when she wakes she will be a mother.
Cut to a scene showing a hand, Jamie’s hand, covered in blood, turning as he looks at it. Jenny and Ian lean over the side of the wagon joyful to see him. Wheezing, he asks if he is dead… Jenny tells him he has come home to Lallybroch… The camera sweeps up to reveal, Lallybroch, Jamie is definitely home.
Claire awakes in the Boston hospital, she is alone and cries out for her baby, asking if it is dead… we are transported back to the memory of Claire crying out for Faith…
Thankfully Frank enters carrying a fussing baby. He gives the baby to her, a girl… Frank is affectionate, Claire apologises… Frank says to forget the past, everything is going to be alright – a new beginning. A nurse enters bringing water… the mood changes when the nurse asks “Where did she get the red hair?”