**This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not yet seen the episode, read at your own risk.**
Episode 210: “Prestonpans”
Written by Ira Steven Behr, Directed by Philip John
Firstly, I wanted to say that, from what I can remember, this was the most violent and bloody episode we’ve seen yet on this show. The show has definitely taken on a different feel this season, focusing more on the terrible losses they have endured, and will endure, rather than what we had in season one, which was the formation of this bond between Jamie and Claire. This episode is showing us that even our main characters aren’t safe anymore, and we may lose some who we’ve become quite attached to.
Secondly, if we hadn’t seen this before now, it becomes clear in this episode that the balance of power has absolutely shifted between Jamie and Dougal. As expected, Dougal is not pleased about this. It is interesting to see how much can change in less than a year.
All in all, I really have no complaints about the episode. I think that the Outlander teams continues to deliver a wonderful performance each week and it is clear why they have already green lit them for a third and fourth season. I hope it continues for many beyond, as well.
The episode promises to be gruesome as we open on an axe and a rotting, maggot infested leg. The leg is attached to the dead body of a Scot she found in the woods by accident while trying to find a private spot to relieve herself. (My question: why doesn’t she tell Jamie so they can – I don’t know – bury the body in respect?!?)
Regardless, we quickly move inside where the leaders of this ragtag army are in heated debate about the proper course of action. Quartermaster O’Sullivan, and Irishman, is pushing for action, while the Lord General is adamant that they not risk losing their high ground advantage. Jamie jumps in to point out that there is a bog between them and the English army, which would leave their soldiers at a great disadvantage if they tried the Quartermaster’s plan. A jab at the Irish Quartermaster is slung, followed by a returning insult to the Scotts, and we can see that this is clearly an argument being taken personally. The Prince stands by, watching it all with detached interest.
And then he joins the debate, and we see how naive he truly is. He talks about their victories at Perth and Edinburgh as if this means they will easily conquer the English armies moving forward, but Jamie points out to him the differences between then and now, namely the fact that the English know the Prince’s army is there and are waiting for them. The Prince counters with a suggestion of offering terms of surrender to the English army, to avoid bloodshed. This quiets the leaders, but it is the Quartermaster who finally points out that the Prince has always had a kind heart, ever since childhood, but that the time for negotiations with the English is long past. Needless to say, no resolution is reached, and the leaders part ways in a stalemate.
Everyone comes out to watch Dougal as he rides out across the softer ground, the sun setting in the distance. The English also see what he is doing, and form up to fire on him. Dougal, undeterred, croons to the horse, its feet becoming stuck in the soft mud beneath them. Just as the English begin firing, the horse can no longer move through the mud, and Dougal is forced to dismount in order to get it unstuck. Bullets rain down all around them, but they remain unmarked, until one knocks the hat from Dougal’s head, leaving a bloody groove along the top. Not wasting anymore time, he mounts the horse and rides back up to the Jacobite army, and safety. The men cheer for him, and the Prince – dressed in one of his ridiculous outfits that looks half-French, half-Scottish with his plaid – is appreciative in his typical, yet creepy, physically affectionate way.
The Prince recognizes that they can’t charge through that mud, but also refuses to turn back to Edinburgh. He informs the General that if he doesn’t find a way to end the stalemate soon, that he will replace him. Dougal, pleased to have earned the Prince’s respect, retires to his tent, supposedly to change his pants after that close call in the bog.
Claire, meanwhile, is in her element, issuing orders to the other women as to their tasks once their medical treatments are needed, instructing as best she can on the ins and outs of the treatment they’ll be providing. Fergus, in the background, is grumbling about having to do women’s work, but agrees to assist her with keeping the fires going. Later that evening, Fergus brings a man to her, a Mr. Anderson, who claims to know a path through the bog that the army could use.
This information is passed on to the leaders. On the hot seat before them, he insists that the path is there and he knows it well enough to lead them through himself. Claire thanks him, but the Prince hesitates, wanting the Quartermaster there to help make this decision. Both the General and Jamie insist that this is not a decision that can wait, and so the Prince agrees to the new plan.
Meanwhile, the men are making provisions with one another for the care of their families. Angus sees the Irishmen agreeing to such negotiations, and in turn offers Rupert his favorite prostitute – which Rupert insists cannot be given and that he does not want anyways – as well as his sword. Rupert isn’t amused, not convinced that anything bad will happen to either of them tomorrow.
Jamie, after leaving the Prince, finds Murtagh brooding near a fire, obsessively sharpening his dirk. Murtagh is concerned that their deaths won’t mean as much in an army this size, and wants to know his death would have a purpose. They talk about their failure to stop this war from happening – Jamie almost losing his wife in the process – and how they now have to do what they can to ensure victory instead. Jamie acknowledges feeling the same about Murtagh’s concerns, reassuring him.
Fergus, ever the scoundrel, tries to convince Jamie to let him fight in the battle with him. Neither Jamie nor Claire will entertain his complaints, and insist he will stay back with the women. Angus and the others interrupt as they are coming to retrieve Jamie. Angus, using the ‘we might die tomorrow’ excuse to garner sympathy, convinces Claire to give him a good-bye kiss, which she plants delicately on his cheek. Rupert is still insistent that they will all be fine and wishes her a simple farewell. Claire asks Murtagh to look out for Jamie, encouraging him with the knowledge that history showed that they would win this battle. Claire and Jamie’s parting is more painful as they share a passionate kiss before she sends him on his way. Knowing they win the battle doesn’t mean there won’t be casualties. Claire sends the other women to rest, and then realizes that Fergus has slipped away.
Mr. Anderson leads the army through the bog, the sun rising on a fog heavy lowland as they reach the other side, where he takes his leave. The Prince, to his credit, desires to lead the men into battle himself, but none of the leaders will agree to this. Instead, Jamie convinces him to stay behind with the Quartermaster and General, and leads the charging army himself. As Claire is giving the women a pep talk, encouraging them in their preparations, the men throw off their cloaks and charge into the English camp. Their war cries are heard as far as the medical tent as the women prepare themselves.
It is not long before wounded men are brought to the women and they have more work than they can manage. One of the Irishmen seen previously is dead, and Claire reluctantly tells his friend that there is nothing she can do for him, which he takes pretty hard. The battle continues, and we see Fergus, clearly unprepared for the death and violence he is witnessing. Not far off, a young English soldier cowers on the ground among the dead as the battle ensues, and another contemplates the stump where his arm used to be. Even worse, we see Rupert, struck down by one of the English.
Just as the English are arriving for treatment, Angus rushes in with Rupert, screaming at Claire when she doesn’t immediately help him. There is a large gash across his abdomen, but Claire is able to stitch it up and clean it. Rupert, meanwhile, is crying about Angus being killed by a cannon, but he insists to Claire that he is fine. When she finishes treating Rupert, she checks Angus’ head and declares that, at worst, he probably has a mild concussion and shouldn’t fall asleep. He declares that an impossibility as he needs to keep an eye on Rupert to make sure he doesn’t stop breathing.
Jamie comes in then, declaring their victory over the English, with less than 50 of their own as casualties. The entire battle took less than 15 minutes. Claire asks after Fergus, and finds him outside, clearly in shock. He admits to having killed a man, and Claire does her best to comfort him, taking him inside for some food and a bed.
Dougal, meanwhile, is still on the battlefield, slaughtering the fallen English and making sure those on the ground are truly dead. He finds a young Englishman we know from the first season and sits down to talk with him a minute. He asks Dougal for help, but he refuses, saying he has too much work still to do here. The soldier insists that, though they have won this battle, the Jacobite army will still lose the war. Dougal, not wanting to hear this, stabs the soldier with his dirk, twisting it ruthlessly as he watches him die, saying that only the Lord knows the answer to that question.
Back in the hospital tent, Angus and the Irish are looking over their friends. The Irishman, seeing Angus looking at him, insists that they did not run. Angus nods in acknowledgment, but says nothing. Jamie and Murtagh join Angus by Rupert’s side, and they begin joking about how he’ll be okay since that layer of fat protected his insides, teasing about the third portion he had had at breakfast that morning. Claire sees a mark on Jamie’s shirt shaped like a horse hoof, and hands him a jar to pee in so she can check it for blood, since the horse had stepped on his kidney.
Jamie, being funny, gives the jar to one of the English soldiers and they begin to wager about how far he can stand from it and still make it in. The English sets the jar on the ground, and as Jamie is earning the money having been bet easily, the Prince enters the medical tent. He thanks Claire for her work and Jamie bows to him in respect. He greets Jamie in his creepy, touchy way, and then proceeds to deliver a speech about how he hates having to fight the Englsh.
Dougal, always with the bad timing, bursts in to the tent, becoming immediately enraged at the sight of the English soldiers. Jamie does his best to quiet Dougal, holding him back as he swings his dirk at the English, but not before he embarrasses himself before the Prince. The Prince grabs the chagrined Dougal’s face, reminding him that the English are also his father’s subjects and Dougal’s brothers, insisting he be removed from the muster roll immediately. Shamed, he starts to leave, but Jamie steps in. He asks that the Prince promote him instead, giving him 15 soldiers to form the Highland Dragoons, and tasking them with following the English armies and reporting back what they find, damaging their supply lines if possible. He points out that this would allow them to use Dougal’s abilities while still keeping him away from the Prince. The Prince compliments Jamie on his quick mind and tells Dougal not to make Jamie regret this.
Jamie moves to leave now, but Dougal stops him. He claims to understand what Jamie is doing, championing and exiling him both at once, equating this plan to one worthy of his brother, Collum. Jamie does not deny Dougal’s accusations. When Dougal move to check on Angus, though, the mood shifts, as they realize something is terribly wrong. He appears to have fallen asleep where he sat, and begins to gurgle when Dougal puts hands on him. Calling for Claire, they lower him to the ground and she can see by lifting his shirt that he has been bleeding internally. There is nothing she can do, and instead they can only hold him as he chokes on his own blood. Rupert, suddenly alert, comes to where his friend has just died, removes his sword, and then returns to his own cot, cradling it. They are all clearly stricken by this unexpected loss.
That night, the men are celebrating, drinking themselves to excess. Dougal, in contrast, is sitting quietly at a fire, lost in thought. Murtagh comments to Jamie and Claire about the victory not being as sweet as he’d expected, and Jamie agrees that it is always that way. He also points out that Claire was right about how this battle would go, but she points out that it means things still look badly for Culloden. The Irishman and Rupert come out from the medical tent, drunk and singing loudly about their dead friends. All watch them quietly until the end of the song, when they offer up a cheer. Jamie and Claire look on as Rupert, song over, clearly still grieves for his friend Angus. We are left with the sense that there is much more death and loss facing us as the season comes to a close.
Next Week, Saturday, June 18: Episode 211 “Vengeance is Mine”
Claire and the Highlanders are sent north after the Jacobite leaders decide to halt their march on London. A band of redcoats makes trouble for the Scots, leading to a most unexpected reunion for Claire.
Source (clips and photos): Starz, Vanity Fair