Okay, I admit it. I am sports illiterate. I honestly thought the title to this episode had something to do with praying…you know saying Hail Mary’s and all that with the rosary. Nope. I was wrong. Apparently it has to do with a pass made famous by American football. It means any last ditch effort that will most likely end in utter failure. Yep. Makes more sense to me now.
Our beloved couple, along with their sidekick Murtagh, has tried for the good part of season 2, to thwart Prince Charlie’s plans of this doomed rebellion. In my opinion, at this point, they should have let Murtagh cut the man’s throat when he offered. We have seen their plotting and planning do absolutely nothing to curb doomsday from happening. The theory in Quantum Physics is that time is like a river and that you can throw in a rock, even a large one, and the river will always correct itself, you just make a ripple. It seems that theory is correct in this story and thanks to the very first episode of the season, we are reminded that Culloden will happen anyway.
The episode starts with Claire, Jamie and their men arriving to meet the Jacobite army just outside Inverness. It is supposed to be the Jacobite army, but Claire looks at them as they ride in and she sees men that are cold, wet, starving and exhausted from a 5 month retreat back into the Highlands of Scotland. Her voiceover tells us that she sees her nightmare coming true and she is “helpless in the face of it.”
Even the house (Culloden House?) is not much to look at. It was a grand house at one time, now it is shabby in appearance and lacks warmth or food, just like the army. Claire gathers Fergus and helps him into the house where he puts his head down and falls asleep. Claire sits, while her husband tells Dougal to go find the location of the British army and for Murtagh to go fetch Prince Charlie and his war council from Inverness. Murtagh remarks that the three of them knows what this means. Culloden Moor is only a few miles east and April 16th is only 3 days away. Once alone with Jamie and a sleeping Fergus, Claire remarks “All that work. All that plotting. How the hell did we end up here?” Jamie tells her it wasn’t for the lack of trying and tells her to not give up yet, he has one more thing up his sleeve. He plans to convince the Prince not to fight altogether. Claire is obviously not convinced that the plan will work, but makes herself busy by going into Inverness to replenish medical supplies.
Claire arrives at the apothecaries to find Mary Hawkins there. She is buying her 2nd bottle of laudanum that week. Claire greets Mary, but Mary gives her a snotty attitude and informs Claire that she is there with Alex Randall and they are to be married. On top of this, Alex told Mary of the conversation between him and Claire in Paris that made him leave Mary. Claire tries to explain that the situation was complicated (You need to have an evil SOB’s child so that my first hubby in the future can live) but Mary’s love is blinder than a bat in a sh*t storm and refuses to hear it. Claire asks about Alex’s health to which Mary says he will be fine. Claire puts out an offer of coming to check on Alex and amazingly, Mary agrees.
Back at the camp it is meeting time for Charles and his associates. Jamie arrives to find O’Sullivan the resident a**hole, telling them that in his expert opinion (oh, that is what we are calling it?) Culloden Moor is the best place for an attack. Jamie intercedes right away saying that it is the best place for the English because it is flat and open. Their cavalry and artillery would mow down the Jacobite army in no time. Amazingly, Lt. Gen. Murray agrees with Jamie.
Jamie turns to Charles and asks why they must fight at all. The French promised gold and why don’t they just break up into smaller factions and wait for it to arrive. That way they can rest and replenish the army. Kneeling by the Prince’s side, Jamie waits for a response from the man. Charles looks up and looks, not at Jamie first, but O’Sullivan who gives the Prince a small nod. (Oh God….) Charles strokes Jamie’s cheek and tells him he has always been his “most loyal companion and friend” and stands. That man is so whipped by O’Sullivan it isn’t even funny. Obviously O’Sullivan has been whispering in the Prince’s ear quite a bit because the next thing Charles says is very much something that Irish bastard would say. Charles tells Jamie that he knows he is trying to protect him, but he is his own man and a soldier (ummmm….doubt you could tell which end of a sword to poke with). Retreat might be an option, he goes on to say, but being Mr. Impatient and Impractical he is “weary” of it. He orders that the men will rest a little but that they will fight on Culloden Moor. Oh…wait for it….. “Gentlemen, God will provide for us. We do his bidding. May he have mercy on us all.” Jamie, whose head had been bowed in defeat, raises his head at this in both horror and disbelief. I am sure that the Devil is disguising himself as a God to Charles, because the real God would be telling them NO WAY.
Claire arrives at the boarding house where Mary and Alex are staying. It is apparent right away that Alex is not going to be fine like Mary had said. He is gravely ill and Mary is there trying to give him more arsenic tea. Claire tells her all that will do will give him some color and not help the cough. Alex greets her and she says she will make him a poultice. They are interrupted by Alex remarking “Johnny!” to a new arrival. “Johnny” can only mean one thing with Alex. Jonathan Randall has come to visit his ailing brother, much to Claire’s horror. Jack Randall is openly surprised to see Claire there as well. Jack is dressed in civilian clothes. Alex greets his brother in-between coughing fits and says that he did not mention another visit in the last letter. Jack briefly touches Mary’s arm as he heads to the bed and sits next to his brother. He has asked for leave to visit Alex and is in civilian clothes to be incognito in war time Scotland. Darn, because him in a bright red uniform, might have gotten him killed ahead of time. Jack is out of character when it comes to Alex. He is very affectionate and caring. Claire takes this opportunity to drop any sassy pants attitude and take her leave.
Mary stops Claire at the door and asks where she is going. Mary goes on to say that if it wasn’t for Jack, she and Alex would be totally destitute. Alex hasn’t been able to work for about a month now and Jack has been paying all their bills. Mary asks Claire when she thinks Alex might be able to return to work, but Claire has some bad news. Alex is not able to be cured. Mary should start to make arrangements. Mary is stunned and cries out “But he must be cured!” and her hands reflectively go to her abdomen, giving Claire a sign. Mary is pregnant and yes, both Randalls know.
When Claire leaves, Jack catches up with her on the street and forces her to turn and talk with him. In total BJR style, he is long winded, totally figurative and utterly formal, but demanding. He tells Claire his brother is looking like hell and for her to cure him. Claire tells him firmly that his brother is not able to be cured. Jack then demands that if she can’t cure him then to help ease his pain. Claire says she will help Alex for Alex’s sake and no other, but Jack must give her information first. She wishes to know where the British army is located. Jack is pleasantly stunned and quite possibly turned on by this. “You would barter over an innocent man’s suffering? Madame Fraser, you impress me.” Claire hits back with the fact she is not the same woman she was. Not sure I fully understand that last line, as it is totally Claire to barter, especially when she wanted to get back to the stones!
Claire returns back to the house and Jamie is totally stunned and pissed off of how this asswipe of a man keeps popping up in their lives. However, the information that Jack gave Claire is noteworthy and he will confirm it. Seems that Cumberland’s army is camped in Nairn, 12 miles away and on the other side of Culloden. In two days, they will be having a big drunken birthday celebration for Cumberland. Claire also tells Jamie she wishes to help Alex Randall because she owes it to him and Mary. Jamie points out that if Alex dies under her watch that “evil bastard of a brother of his” could very well kill her for it. Claire smartly advises that Murtagh accompany her. I mean, who wouldn’t want a certified axe murderer on your side?
That night, an unexpected visitor shows up. Colum Mackenzie, looking like the Grimm Reaper is breathing down his neck, has come to take care of some clan business. He only wants three things (actually 4 if you count in Claire): a bed to sleep in, his brother Dougal and his nephew Jamie. Claire is told while examining him that the healer at Leoch who took her place has been getting more and more depressed and Claire confirms it is for good reason. Colum figures he has been dying for years now and is weary of the whole process and wants it over and done with. Jamie, standing nearby, tells him that Dougal is not there only because he is on a scouting mission to find the location of the British troops. Colum laughs and says “Give my brother enough authority to keep him content, but not enough to allow him to grab for more.” Jamie smiles and tells his uncle he must be able to read his mind.
Claire had stepped out momentarily, returns to find that Colum wishes to speak with her privately as well. Apparently he is in a great deal of pain and it has caused him to be exhausted as well and wishes it to be over. He asks for what Gellis Duncan gave her husband as that was a quick death. Actually, the woman was slowly poisoning her husband and then finally gave him a more lethal dose. Claire says that cyanide might be a quick death, but it is a very painful one as well. Colum tells Claire that he trusts her to be more gentle than “that b*tch” was to her husband. Claire sticks up for Gellis, and Colum offers a peace offering in the form of information. The child that Gellis was carrying lives and was placed with William and Sara Mackenzie, a childless couple.
FYI: Several seasons from now, we will see this child all grown up. His name is William Buccleigh Mackenzie and Roger first encounters him and his temper on a ship to America. Later, he is the reason Roger almost dies and then wants Roger out of the way so he can have Brianna. Basically, he is a royal pain in the ass. Too many of them in these books actually! Oh, and William has that special gene he inherited from his mother. Book readers will know what I am talking about! All done……
Claire asks if Dougal knows about the child, but Colum just says it is another mistake his brother must bear. Claire hands Colum a vial of Yellow Jessamine and tells him it will be like drifting off into a deep sleep. It has what we know today as strychnine. Colum genuinely smiles at Claire and thanks her.
Back at the boarding house, another is nearing his end. Alex Randall is losing his endurance race with his body. Claire has Mary help her make and hold a paper cone inhaler while she lights and blows smoke from a pipe with and herbal asthmatics. Jack protests, not trusting this weird thing at first, but Mary tells him to trust Claire. It helps calm his cough mostly, but he is left in a very weakened state. He still takes wheezing breaths and is obviously in pain. Claire says to give him laudanum if he needs help sleeping and goes to leave. Jack grabs her arm and growls at her to remember her promise, to which Claire says she only promised to help ease his suffering, not to cure him. Murtagh steps in and pushes Jack away and offers to help vent any frustration the man has.
Alex intercedes by calling his brother over to him. He has a favor to ask his brother. Mary obviously knows what is going to be asked and is already in tears. Jack assumes that Alex wants him to look after Mary and the baby, which he swears he will. However, Alex wants more. He asks Jack to marry Mary. He joins their hands together and tells Jack that he is “commending the well-being of those most precious to him to the one he’s loved the longest”. Jack doesn’t like this arrangement and rips his hand away. Alex says that he can give the baby the Randall name and the wealth and status that he, himself cannot. If she marries Alex and he dies, then Mary will have nothing, but with Jack, she will have his status and wealth. Jack just looks at his brother, says “I am sorry” and walks out.
Back at the camp, Dougal arrives back and it is verified that the British are camped at Nairn. Jamie tells Dougal about Jack Randall’s information to which Dougal warns not to believe anything that man says. Jamie agrees, but says that he has verified they are buying a lot of food and drink for the birthday celebration in 2 days. Dougal dreams of food, but Jamie tells him it will have to wait as Colum is there and wishes to see him.
Back in Inverness, Murtagh had followed BJR and is having a conversation outside of where he was located with Claire. He speaks for many a fan when he marvels at Claire, once again, allowing and encouraging suffering (in this case the marriage between BJR and Mary), to once again try to save “the mythical prick” Frank Randall. Claire sticks up for Frank saying he isn’t that at all. Murtagh offers to marry Mary. He thinks they would be able to get along, even though he knows she is not his type and he might be a “passable” father as he has watched over Jamie all these years and look how he turned out. Claire commends him on his role as godfather to Jamie and that “Mary and the baby would be lucky to have [him]”. However, Culloden is only a couple of days away and that Murtagh or Randall could die. If Mary were to die married to Captain Randall, she would be entitled to his pension and property and her family might even be inclined to forgive her (remember she is blamed for losing her virginity to a rape) if she was married to a Captain of the British army, versus an outlaw Highlander. Murtagh is inclined to agree with this logic and waits for Claire outside while she goes in to speak with Randall.
Claire finds Randall sitting at a table looking a little disheveled and maybe a little drunk. He is pondering a world where “monsters thrive” and “beauty and purity” are cursed with poverty and death. Hmmmm…perhaps talking about himself and Alex? Jack asks Claire to help him convince Alex that he will look after Mary and the baby without marriage. Claire does not agree and reminds Randall that she prophesied his date of death which is only a couple of days away. She goes on to and tells him that a widow of an officer is entitled to certain things that a sister-in-law is not. Jack replies that his real worry is that he won’t die and Mary might come to harm by his hand. Jack feels it necessary for some sadistic reason to taunt Claire with what he did to Jamie. He asks her if Jamie ever told her what he did to him. Claire says Jamie did tell her. He says he knows the sound Jamie makes “at the last, when he has lost himself”. “I regret none of it. The pain, the fear…I revel in it. Do you really want Mary in my bed?” Claire could have said that Mary doesn’t need to sleep in the same bed, to just make it look good, but no. She instead says that if Jack really loved Alex, then he would step up and grant his dying brother his last request. Suddenly, desperation breaks through for Jack Randall and he says “Help me. Persuade my brother to give this up”. Claire simply tells him that Alex may not listen and that he, Jack Randall, would be sending his brother to his grave “with a broken heart”.
Back at the camp, Colum is meeting with Dougal and Jamie. Dougal is hopeful at first that his brother has changed his mind and will join their cause. Colum denies it and says that he is not for joining a lost cause. Instead he is there to deal with a clan matter. He has declared that his son Hamish be the next Laird of Leoch. Dougal is surprised as he is just a young boy. Colum goes on to say that he is appointing the never dying Ned Gowan to teach the boy clan law and that a guardian has been chosen that the clan will be sure to follow and be able to teach Hamish as well until he comes of age. The guardian is Jamie, and the only one in the room not surprised by this is Dougal. Dougal is understandably upset, but Colum reminds him that Jamie is their sister’s son and that if Dougal was named guardian, Colum wasn’t sure if the clan would follow him. Dougal isn’t convinced that the clan would not follow him, but Colum simply points out that if he were so popular he would have a great deal more men here for the cause following him. Dougal claims Colum is just punishing him again for bearing a son he could not, but Colum holds fast saying it is for the good of the clan he makes these decisions. Dougal makes one last comment before stomping out of the room. Jamie would make no different decisions that he would. As soon as Colum closes his eyes for good, the Mackenzies will take up arms and fight for Charlie. Jamie thanks his uncle for the compliment, but tells him that Dougal is right, he would use any weapon to change the war. Colum replies to Jamie that he knows that Jamie would choose to save his men if he knew the cause was lost versus Dougal who would sacrifice them all. Colum ends the conversation with that he knows where he is crippled in body, Dougal shares the same fate within his mind.
Back at the boarding house, the most depressing wedding ever begins. Even Jamie’s and Claire’s was more upbeat than this! Jack answers angrily (no omen here), Mary is sobbing uncontrollably and Murtagh and Claire are there as witnesses. Let the merriment begin!
Back at the house, Jamie with the help of Murray, try to convince Charles of a daring plan - a sneak attack on the English as they celebrate Cumberland’s birthday. Jamie will take one half to one side and Murray will lead the rest to the other side to trap the English in between them. Charles says it is most ungentlemanly, but the others like the plan. Of course, O’Sullivan has to get his two cents in. Prince Charlie had called Jamie his most trusted companion and friend, but he doesn’t look to him anymore. Instead he turns to O’Sullivan, who says yes, but that Murray and Jamie will ride together and he and the Prince will lead the others. Jamie tries to protest, but Murray accepts for them both.
In another part of the house, Dougal comes back to visit Colum. He is drunk, carrying a bottle of wine and states that it is a good thing that the drink is almost gone, because his brother might think he is trying to kill him early. Colum, who obviously took the vial prior to this, sleepily says that he “is beyond any injury” Dougal could cause him. Dougal has selective hearing and the weight of his brother’s words slips right past him. Instead, Dougal reminisces of the day Colum fell off the stallion and broke his back. “You betrayed me. Instead of mending you got worse.” Dougal says to him. He goes on saying that watching Colum’s legs shrivel up and his health worsen made his love turn to hate and that he cried the most he has ever cried. “The world was never the same again. You destroyed it.” Colum doesn’t respond, he will never respond or correct his brother again. Dougal sees his brother has died and thinks of himself as usual. All the things he had wished to say to his older brother will now forever be trapped inside his head. Oh, Dougal and kudos to a scene well done by Graham McTavish!
Back at the funeral of a wedding, Alex’s breathing can be heard loud and clear. It rattles on as he watches his beloved marry his brother. With the marriage final, everyone turns and looks at Alex, waiting for him to pass. He finally succumbs and all is silent. Mary turns to Jack and for a split second we see grief, but a few seconds more that changes to the anger we all know. He walks to his brother and proceeds to punch him over and over and over again. Mary buries her head in Claire’s shoulder, as Claire watches in horror as Black Jack Randall’s rage comes out to the point of beating the sh*t out of his recently dead brother. You can even hear some cracking of bones. Nice. This may have been hard to see, but knowing what we do about Jonathan Wolverton Randall, this is how he deals with everything, from love and sex to grief, so it is totally in character. When he is finished, he straightens his hair and looks at Claire and Mary and walks out of the room. Claire’s face says it all…..WTF was that?
Back at the house, Claire tells Jamie all about her day. Jamie is flabbergasted that Claire would support such an idea of having poor Mary marry that man. Ummmm….yeah, she would….she’s Claire. Claire points out that Culloden is happening soon and that Jack Randall dies there. Jamie points out that if the plan works tonight, then Culloden may not happen at all, so Randall might not die and then what? Claire looks at Jamie and claims she will keep her promise she made to him in Paris, to help bleed the bastard out. Jamie grins and strokes Claire’s cheek and tells her to remind him to never get on her bad side. The conversation ends with a kiss and Claire telling Jamie to be careful.
Jamie and Murray along with the men they just marched 12 miles are waiting in the dark. Murray angrily exclaims that “that idiot Charles” should have been there hours ago. Jamie has faith and suggests that they strike now and hope that the Prince and his men show up in the meantime. In my honest opinion, that is probably one of Jamie’s worst ideas. However, Murtagh saves them the trouble by showing up and saying that the idiot Prince and O’Sullivan went and got themselves and the men lost and have turned back. Jamie is beyond desperate to avoid Culloden and asks Murray for permission to attack, but Murray declines, saying it would be pure madness to do so with only half the men and dawn quickly robbing them of the element of surprise. Jamie calls after a retreating Murray, but his words fall on deaf ears. Murtagh comes to Jamie to tell him the truth that he (nor anyone else who knows the future) wants to hear. “Tomorrow the Prince will have his battle on Culloden moor” to which Jamie’s face twists in agony.
I can’t imagine knowing that you are going to fight a battle that is going to be a losing one for you and your men and a bloodbath to boot. On top of that, Jamie has to be thinking of what to do with Claire to get her safe. My question is, they have a nice little sex scene there, the last time for 20 years….I hope to God they get to do it and we get to see it. It makes me cry every time I read that scene in the book.
This is a tough episode, because we know what is going to happen. Claire is going back. She won’t see Jamie for 20 years. That isn’t really a spoiler, because without Jamie with Claire, you really don’t have a show, right? This episode had 2 deaths but each with a different meaning. Each man lost a brother, but Dougal’s mind becomes childlike when trying to deal with the hatred he came to have when his older brother, his hero, because disabled and ill and watching him get worse and not be the man Dougal thought he should be. Jack Randall lost his brother, the only person probably on Earth who knew he had an ounce of good in him. Alex Randall saw good in his brother and loved him unconditionally. With him gone, there was nothing or anyone left. There is going to be another loss, a greater one that we have yet to see. It is layered. Scotland loses a war and England doesn’t stop there, as we know from history. Bloodshed and starvation get thrown across the country. Jamie has lost his spot as the right hand man to Prince Charlie, therefore losing any influence to stop this highway to hell. Jamie and Claire will lose each other, neither knowing if the other lives for almost 20 years. In conjunction with that, Jamie loses years of fatherhood to Brianna. The greatest of anything is the great loss of life in this last and final battle, simply called Culloden.