**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 212: “The Hail Mary”
Written by Ira Steven Behr and Anne Kenney, Directed by Philip John
“What’s one more sin to a sinner?”
And then there was One. One more episode. One more episode to get Claire (Caitriona Balfe) back to where we first picked up in Episode 201, Through the Glass, Darkly. One more episode to change the future. One more episode until we meet Brianna.
After last week, I really thought it would be impossible to top Herself’s (Diana Gabaldon) episode. I’m not claiming Episode 212 The Hail Mary did so, but if nothing else, tonight was all about Gary Lewis (Colum) and Graham McTavish (Dougal).
Let’s get Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire out of the way, since their situation was secondary tonight. Earlier in the season, we saw them betray one another, hurt and forgive one another. I feel like the story arc of season two closes with them fully engaged, in sync and indestructible together. They trust each other now, in a way they didn’t before.
Regardless, Claire is starting to look the worse for wear: thin and malnourished. The war-torn life style is taking its toll on her and she is slowly but surely shifting into the Claire we found (will find?) at the standing stones in the opening of episode 201, when she arrives in 1948.
Sidenote: A wicked shout out to Outlander Costume Designer Terry Dresbach on the absolutely amazing strap on Claire’s cross-body medical bag. I’m looking forward to seeing this style appear in 2018 fashion trends.
And how about Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day) all grown up?! Her character’s development from child to woman was phenomenal. Well done, Rosie.
Now on to my wonderful Colum. Mark me, I loved absolutely every one of his scenes. From his transition to what I’m calling the Pantone “Gandalf-the Grey” color pallet, to his gentle interactions with Claire, followed by his direct words of truth to his brother. His close-ups are lovely, and his delivery is perfection. His scenes tonight rank among my absolute favorite against his full body of work. (By the by, where was Leticia (Colum’s wife), y’all?)
Although I adored that moment when Alex Randall (Laurence Dobiesz) informed his brother that he expects him to wed Mary, the look between Claire and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) was absolutely classic. And then one of the best lines in the show this season came (I think), when Alex called Black Jack (Tobias Menzies) out:
“Do you think I am unaware of the density of the dark walls you’ve built to protect your better self from the world?”
This intense moment was only softened by what followed next, Murtagh the Onion, with sweeter layers inside. My heart melted when he offered to wed Mary.
“But we could learn to get along. People do,” he says under that bushy beard and those earnest eyebrows. “I’ve never been a father but Jamie’s parents chose me to be his godfather and I’ve watched over him. He didn’t turn out too bad.”
I’ll marry you, Murtagh!
And so we move on to what my husband is calling the “Black Jack Randall Gambit,” that moment in the pub when Black Jack tests Claire with regard to Jamie. He attempts to persuade her into convincing Alex to drop the whole “Black Jack marries Mary” situation by challenging her:
“Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room? 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.”
I’m compelled to address this issue that carries over for me from one I had with the book: In spite of Black Jack, Claire cares for Alex. I get it. She’s a healer. But WTF?! Really?! I suppose Claire comes from stronger stock than I. Because if I were in her shoes in this instance specifically, and THEN learned Black Jack still lives?? Yeahhhhh nooooo… See ya, Alex. #SorryNotSorry
Finally, one hell of a bow and tip o’ the hat to the gracious and talented Graham McTavish. The work toward the end of this evening’s episode between The Brothers MacKenzie was immaculate. From his jealous rage, to anger and eventual heartbreak, McTavish was on point.
And on that note, Saturday, July 9, is going to suck so hard. #DroughtlanderBegins.
The episode opens on a battle map, with two sets of opposing forces inching ever closer to one another. Claire and Jamie come into frame on horseback. Claire looks tired. The Scottish flag is tattered. The men are tired too. Fergus is exhausted. They have made camp outside Inverness and can rest here safely. Fergus chides Murtagh “you look as if you need to sleep.” The soldier tents are set up on the green of a grand home. Claire narrates.
“Our worst nightmare was coming true, and I felt completely helpless in spite of it.”—Claire Fraser
Ross and Rupert have buddied up since losing their significant others besties, and Ross teases Rupert about his eye patch. Here we learn he lost the eye. Jamie instructs Dougal to set out on a scout mission to follow the British. Then he directs Murtagh to call a war council. Murtagh is skeptical; he’s concerned they’re too close to Culloden Moore. Claire is also concerned.
“All that work all that plotting, how the bloody hell did we end up here?!”—Claire Fraser
Jamie is hopeful in spite of her worry. He wants to convince Charles to see reason. He prepares to leave and see to the welfare of his men, while Claire heads into town to replenish supplies, they kiss. Fergus is wiped, napping with his head down on the table.
“Ginger, chamomile, arsenic and laudanum.” Claire hears the odd request as she enters the apothecary and is startled to learn Mary Hawkins is the one asking. Happy to see her, she asks what Mary is doing in town. Defiant, Mary informs her she is “with” Alex Randall. Claire is genuinely happy, but Mary is angry. She explains that she now knows of Claire’s interference in their relationship. Claire apologizes and asks to tend to Alex. Mary obliges. They’ve taken a room at McGilvreys boarding house.
Cut to soldiers on horseback riding up to the encampment house. The grass looks saturated in color. The prince sits in front of the fireplace dressed in ornate plaid. He does not look like a Scotsman despite his efforts. The heads of state discuss the best place to fight. Someone suggests Culloden Moore. Jamie interjects.
“It is a perfect spot, for the British! Culloden Moore is plain flat ground sir. Without sufficient cavalry and artillery, our lines will be smashed to pieces.” —Jamie Fraser
Other clans claim they’ll “get the job done.” Jamie says what’s the point. He implores the prince to walk the camp and observe the men. They are too exhausted. Then he mentions the French gold and inquires of its whereabouts. He makes the point that if they have access, they can replenish food stocks and weaponry. Then, with a well-rested army, they can choose better ground and defeat the enemy for once and for all.
Charles compliments Jamie, but claims he is not a frightened hare to be run down by some British hounds, and therefore uninterested in retreating.
“I am a man and I am a soldier and I shall comport myself of one.” —Prince Charles
That claim is funny because he then peers out the window at his starved army. His decision is made: the men will rest before riding to Culloden. Jamie looks like he’s going to puke.
Cut to Claire. Per her usual, she is determined and concerned as she walks the dreary streets of Inverness on her way to find Alex and Mary. She pushes her way into their room, hearing the pained coughs from within. Inside, she finds Mary feeding arsenic to a bed-ridden Alex Randall, Black Jack’s younger brother. Claire informs her the arsenic will make him look better physically but not fix his horrid cough. It’s hellacious to listen to. Claire gets to work, taking temperatures and feeling lymph nodes. Alex is sweaty, disheveled and clearly dying. He tries to talk. He is happy to see her. Mary tells him to save his breath.
“Johnny, you remember Madam Fraser.”—Alex Randall
Black Jack Randall appears in black garb. He is out of uniform, on leave to visit his brother. Claire is on edge, but fascinated by the interaction. (Wha?? He has a human element?) She learns that Black Jack or “John” as Alex and Mary call him, has been paying their bills. Mary asks for Claire’s professional diagnosis and inquires as to when he can go back to work. “Mary I think you need to start making reparations with your family,” Claire advises as she informs her he can’t be cured. Mary refuses to accept these words as she grabs her belly. Mary is pregnant and both Alex and John know.
Black Jack approaches them, “Mary, Alex is asking for you.” She runs to his aid. Claire scowls at Black Jack and leaves. He follows her and grabs her arm. She looks like she wants to kill him. He advises she not take out her aggressions at him on his brother. After learning she can not in fact, heal Alex, he requests she at least ease his pain. Claire agrees but for a price: “You’ll tell me where Cumberland’s army is.”
“I ask for my brother, Mary and their unborn child.”—Black Jack Randall
She returns to Jamie and informs him of her day and subsequent run-in. He is furious to the point of knocking over furniture (not at her, at Black Jack’s pop-up). But intrigued by her news of the British location, he wishes to confirm the information: In two days, Cumberland will have a birthday celebration. This softens the blow when she also tosses out that she plans on tending to Alex’s health full time. He points off that Black Jack is likely to kill her if/when he dies. “Fine, I’ll take Murtagh,” she counters.
A group of soldiers ride at night. A carriage halts and we see Colum’s bowed legs emerge. “Would you be so kind as to tell me what the McKenzie’s doing here?” says Rupert asks Murtagh. Colum, white-haired and robed, is carried in. Like Claire, he too looks fatigued.
“I’m sorry to hear of Angus’ death. I always thought when that bastard fell that you would fall with him.”—Colum Mackenzie
Claire tends to him, checking his joints and heart. “You’re wasting your time with all this prodding and poking. Apparently the healer who took Claire’s place has been looking concerned. She’s not surprised.
“I’ve been dying for years.”—Colum Mackenzie
Colum wishes to speak with Dougal but Jamie tells him of Dougal’s mission to follow the British. Colum approves of Jamie’s tactics, “give my brother enough authority to keep him content but not enough to grant for more.” Jamie jokingly agrees. Claire joins his side. Colum wishes to speak with Claire alone. Jamie obliges but will be close by.
She offers him a drink. He refuses but goes on to compliment her and Jamie as a match. She recalls a time when he found their union less agreeable.
“I was wrong. That’s one of the pleasures of dying. I can finally admit my mistakes. It also makes it easier to ask for favors.”—Colum Mackenzie
His close-ups are beautiful. And his pain grows by the day. She offers laudanum. He says it only dulls the senses and would prefer something more “final.” She understands, but questions the mortal sin of suicide.
“What’s one more sin to a sinner?” he says and then pays tribute to the “quick death” Geillis Duncan gave her husband. He welcomes the same. She explains that death by cyanide is painful. Regardless, he leaves the details to her. Additionally, he has news. Geillis’ baby lives. Apparently, they only burned her at the stake after she bore the babe; a boy who is currently in the care of William and Sarah Mackenzie, a barren couple. Dougal does not know. “The boy is but one more mistake my bro has to live with.” She slips a blue bottle into his hand, yellow jasmine. “It will be like drifting off into a deep sleep. For when you are ready,” Claire tells him as she tucks him in.
“For what its worth, you have my deepest gratitude.”—Colum Mackenzie
Back in Alex and Mary’s room, he is coughing up a lung. Black Jack cradles his head gingerly. Claire orders Mary as a nurse to assist her as she loads a pipe with a similar concoction to what she gave Ned Gowen for his asthma in Season One. Murtagh looks disturbed. Black Jack, untrusting her motives, argues with Claire about treating Alex’s lung situation with pipe smoke, understandably. Mary begs for his trust. They put a paper tube around the patient’s mouth and nose and Claire blows the thorn apple smoke down the tube and into his airways. Slowly, the coughing subsides. Now he only wheezes.
Black Jack walks to the fireplace and asks for Madam Fraser’s attention. She professionally informs him “there’s nothing more I can do,” but Black Jack is pissed. She says she can’t cure him, only ease his pain. Again, he aggressively grabs her arm, but Murtagh intervenes. Alex calls “Johnny” over and informs him he’s asked for the minister. Not for last rites but rather “for your wedding.” As in the wedding of Mary to Black Jack. Claire and Murtagh swap a look that is priceless.
Mary is sad but this is hardly her worst betrothal thus far, that she’s aware of. Alex wants the babe to have the Randall name and all the pomp and circumstance associated with it. And Claire ultimately wants the birth of Frank. Black Jack storms out. Claire sends Murtagh after him while she tends to Alex.
“I commend the wellbeing of those most precious to me to the one I have loved the longest.”—Alex Randall
Meanwhile Jamie meets up with Dougal upon his return. He confirms the Brits are in Nairn, and preparing for birthday celebrations. Jamie, thanks to Claire, is already aware, but tells Dougal Colum’s arrival.
“Colum has arrived.”—Jamie Fraser
Back at the inn, Murtagh doesn’t understand why Claire is encouraging Mary to wed Black Jack. To save the girl, he oh so gallantly suggests his own hand to Mary. Claire delicately explains the situation to him and how after Black Jack dies, in two days, Mary will be entitled to his pension, his name and his station. Murtagh drops her off at the tavern where Black Jack is attempting to drink his situation away. She enters to find him hammered. He requests her help to convince Alex to give up the marriage idea. She brings up the “curse” of Black Jack’s death. They exchange words. Finally, he pulls his “Hail Mary” by reminding her of his damage to Jamie.
“Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room? (Yes) 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.”—Black Jack “Johnny” Randall
But Claire throws her own spanner in the works and guilts him into the union, “you are sending your brother to his grave with a broken heart.”
Back at the house, Jamie and Dougal enter Colum’s room. The brothers are snide and sarcastic with one another. Dougal brags about restoring the king to his throne. Colum informs him he is not there to join the cause, but rather to disclose his will and the future of the Mackenzie Clan. Hamish will be his heir apparent, with a guardian to raise him along with Ned Gowan. He asks Jamie to do the work, someone the clan will follow until Hamish comes of age. Dougal is pissed, to say the list. He makes the play that he should be his guardian, as he is Hamish’s kin. Colum points out that the clan will not support Dougal. Jamie sits this one out.
“Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yourself to be, there would be more men here today in this army of yours.”—Colum Mackenzie
Jamie is honored but admits he’ll use every option in his power including raising the Mackenzie banner to beat the British. Colum continues to differentiate Jamie from Dougal, citing Jamie’s instinct to place his men before himself or any cause. He continues to differentiate Dougal from himself.
“My poor brother. I have lived my life crippled in body but he has lived his crippled in mind,”—Colum Mackenzie
And back to Alex’s room where a creepy wedding proceeds between Mary and Black Jack. Claire and Murtagh begrudgingly act as witnesses. (It’s so weird.)
Meanwhile, Jamie suggests to Charles a surprise attack during Cumberland’s birthday festivities. But in order to pull it off, their already tired, hungry and exhausted men will need to march 12 miles by moonlight. Prince Charlie will lead one group, and Jamie and the General will lead the next. The prince then vows to bring a bottle of his finest wine as a gift to Cumberland, which he will present after the officer’s capture.
In Colum’s room, Dougal arrives drunk. He unloads some pent up aggression stemming from their childhood. Colum says he no longer has the strength to fight. What commences is Graham McTavish’s finest hour. “I’m drunk enough to muddle a stallion, and yet I remain as sober as a bairne.”
“I am beyond any injury you could do me.”—Colum Mackenzie.
Colum speaks softly now. Dougal gets in his face as he recounts the day Colum was thrown from a horse, and how he never recovered. This was the first time young Dougal’s heart was broken. He asks his brother to respond. Colum does not. He is gone, empty bottle in hand. Dougal breaks down.
“So you turn your back on me one final time and you leave me alone in the dark. The darkness of the world. And all I hoped to say to you, it remains trapped in here. Right here. Unsaid. Forever.”—Dougal Mackenzie
Alex wheezes, while Black Jack stands guard to the left of bed, and Mary on the right. He stops. It’s done. Mary cries. Claire consoles her. Black Jack coughs away the tears then proceeds to beat Alex. He is mad, but also trying to scare Mary and Claire. He composes himself, slicks back his hair, glares at Claire and storms out into the darkness (from whence he dwells).
Jamie is shocked Claire she encouraged Mary to wed Black Jack. She informs him of Black Jack’s impending death to occur the following day at Culloden. Jamie remains hopeful they may avoid Culloden. She promises to help Jamie dispatch of Black Jack in the event they avoid the battle. Jamie grins. They smooch.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side Sassenach.”—Jamie Fraser
A horse and rider gallop in the darkness. Scottish soldiers appear exhausted. Murtagh approaches. He tells Jamie that the prince and his aid got lost, and now the men in their party are scattered. Jamie attempts to convince his partner, the General, to attack the British birthday party anyway with only half the men planned. The General says no, insisting they march back. Culloden Moor is happening.
“Tomorrow, the prince will have his battle. And Culloden Moor.”–Murtagh
Next week, season two concludes with a 90-minute episode, “Dragonfly in Amber.”
“Flashing forward to 1968, Claire revisits the past and reveals to her daughter, Brianna, the truth about her parentage. Back in the 18th century, the day of the Battle of Culloden has arrived, and Jamie must do everything he can to save the ones he loves.”
Clips and Photos courtesy of Starz.