Starz’s Outlander season five episode seven begins in Hillsborough in 1771. A voiceover by Claire (Caitriona Balfe) informs us the soldiers are ready to fight and die, if necessary. However, there’s nothing that can prepare them to take the life of a family member.
Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Jemmy have traveled with Roger (Richard Rankin) to Hillsborough as he steels himself for what’s to come. The couple think about what they’d be doing if they were in their own time. In this time period, Brianna’s seeing her loving hubby off to war. Nothing at Oxford could compare to or prepare them for what they’re about to experience.
Roger tries to deliver parting words in case he doesn’t make it back, but Brianna doesn’t want to hear it. They share a final embrace and say their goodbyes before Roger’s off to his uncertain fate.
Claire also traveled with the soldiers and she wakes up next to Jamie (Sam Heughan), wishing him a happy birthday. They make small talk and joke about aging, and they’re pleased his private parts are in working order. Gentle caresses and sweet kisses ensue.
Jamie realizes he’s now older than his father was at the time of his death. (His father died at 49.) “The world and each day in it is a gift,” says Jamie. “Whatever tomorrow brings, I’m grateful to see it.”
Claire climbs on top of Jamie and sings “Happy Birthday” while removing her clothes. (Someone’s in for a birthday treat!)
Later, the militia’s assembled and it numbers 1,068. The Brits are well armed and prepared to decimate the Regulators, who Jamie points out are simple farmers and not armed with cannons and other high-power weapons.
Jamie prepares his company of men by handing out ribbons to fasten to their clothing or hats. Because they’re not wearing uniforms, these will make it easier to identify who’s a Regulator and who’s part of the militia.
Isaiah (Jon Tarcy) shows up at camp and Alicia’s father’s not in the least bit happy to see him. Claire attempts to calm the situation by reminding Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) it was Alicia’s decision to be with Isaiah. It doesn’t work and finally Jamie pulls Isaiah away. Isaiah acknowledges Jamie had his back and now he’s determined to fight alongside Jamie’s company in this battle.
Word arrives from a general who hasn’t yet met up with the main army. Two wagons full of munitions have been destroyed by Murtagh’s Regulators. They’ve been forced to retreat.
Still, even without these reinforcements the time for battle is at hand. The Regulators are across the creek as the militia prepares for war.
Jamie provides Claire with an update, but he’s interrupted with news Reverend Caldwell has arrived in camp.
Reverend Caldwell meets with Governor Tryon, expressing hope they can settle this without bloodshed. He’s requesting the Governor listen to the grievances of the people. Although Tryon doesn’t agree that he’s been less than open to their complaints, he agrees to consider it and convey his answer by noon the following day.
After the Reverend leaves, the Governor orders the men to remain prepared. However, they won’t be fighting just yet. He’s going to draw up a surrender proclamation and although Jamie asks if he’s willing to parlay, the Governor reveals he’s not about to give in to the Regulators’ demands. He will not be trifled with.
Governor Tryon announces he will move forward with his plans for battle and won’t back down.
Back in Hillsborough, Brianna learns the Regulators are across the Alamance Creek and the militia is preparing for battle. Alamance rings a bell with Brianna and suddenly it dawns on her what happened at that location. She rides like the wind to the militia’s camp. (Visit northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/battle-of-alamance for details on the real Battle of Alamance.)
A shirtless Jamie’s in the creek washing off, mentally preparing himself for battle. He slices his palm and says a prayer, crossing himself and allowing drops of blood to mark his face and chest. Claire’s been quietly watching her husband and wonders if God answered him. He washes off the blood and reveals he wasn’t calling on God – he was calling on Dougal MacKenzie.
Claire’s shocked and asks why. Jamie explains Dougal taught him everything he knows about war; he’s made his peace with his uncle. Claire doesn’t need to remind him he shares blood with Murtagh, and Jamie concedes no amount of prayer will help during that face-to-face fight.
Brianna rides into camp and it’s impossible to tell who’s more shocked by her sudden appearance – Claire, Jamie, or Roger. She warns them about the fight which will take place at the creek. The militia will win, the Regulators will be slaughtered, and some historians consider this battle to be the spark that sets off the American Revolution.
Jamie believes he needs to warn Murtagh the Regulators will fail. He hopes Murtagh can convince his men to retreat, but Brianna quickly realizes that would change the course of American history. The Revolutionary War might not happen and America won’t become America as we now know it.
Jamie wonders if the spark could light somewhere else and Claire agrees that’s possible. Roger volunteers to deliver the message to Murtagh but Jamie thinks it’s too dangerous. However, Roger points out Murtagh knows he’s from the future and will believe the message.
Jamie reluctantly agrees but warns Roger that if he’s threatened he should wave a white flag, call out for a truce, and ask them to fetch Jamie. And, above all, keep his mouth shut.
Claire and Brianna take stock of Claire’s medical supplies which now includes penicillin.
As night begins to fall, Roger sets out on his mission. He arrives and the darkness is only sporadically broken up by campfires. The Regulators are preparing for battle by listening to a rousing speech delivered by Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). Murtagh wraps up and sends his men off to rest up for the upcoming battle. He then spots Roger and the two meet in private.
Roger lays out what’s about to happen, explaining the Regulators will lose. Roger delivers the message that Jamie believes his best course of action is for Murtagh to disperse the Regulators and live to fight another day. Murtagh reminds him the men are aching for battle, but Roger assures him they’ll be slaughtered if they fight. The Regulators have more men, but Governor Tryon has better organized and trained soldiers, cannons, and better artillery.
Murtagh’s not sure how he would convince his men to stand down at this point, even if he decided to go that route. Roger assures him that in a few years they’ll all be fighting on the same side – if he can just get them to not engage in this particular battle.
A few years might be too long to wait for men who’ve lost everything, says Murtagh.
The following morning Murtagh reads Governor Tryon’s reply to Reverend Caldwell’s request. It’s as expected and Tryon doesn’t budge an inch, demanding the Regulators lay down their arms and surrender their leaders. Roger’s still with the Regulators and he listens to the words that basically declare war on the Regulators.
In private, Murtagh reveals he’s spoken to the men but they refuse to turn back. The Battle of Alamance will happen. He instructs Roger to leave now before it’s too late and Roger begs Murtagh to save himself, even if he can’t save the men. Roger asks him to live for the love of his godson.
Roger’s on his way back when he runs into Morag MacKenzie, the young woman he saved from Stephen Bonnet during their voyage to the colonies. He warns her about the Governor’s well-armed militia and says she has to tell her husband to leave. She’s pregnant again and confesses they have nowhere to go if they leave.
Roger begs her to come to him if anything happens, swearing he’ll take care of her family. As he gives her a hug, an angry voice demands he step away from his wife. Roger pleads his case and Morag also attempts to calm her enraged husband. Morag tries to explain Roger’s the man who saved them, but her husband hits her for speaking up. Roger answers that with a punch to the man’s face.
Roger swiftly’s made to pay for his bravery. Two Regulators hold him as he explains he’s also a MacKenzie. Unfortunately, during this scuffle he dropped his ribbon and they learn he’s from the militia. Roger’s knocked out by a brutal rifle butt blow to the face.
Jamie calls out for Captain MacKenzie in camp but there’s no sign of him. He’s sidetracked from the search by Governor Tryon who presents him with his own redcoat uniform. Jamie tries to refuse but the Governor won’t take no for an answer. He doesn’t want Jamie mistaken for a Regulator.
Jamie, very reluctantly, gives in and dons the dreaded uniform.
Claire responds with her trademark “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” exclamation at the sight of Jamie in a British uniform. She knows he couldn’t refuse the order and looks heartbroken over the impending battle and her husband’s impossible position.
The men begin their march toward the Regulators as Claire sends Jamie off, saying, “I can’t let you go without saying something. I suppose good luck. I love you, soldier.” They kiss and Claire looks devastated.
He swears he’ll return from this battle. They will not part today.
Jamie tells his men they should go in hard and protect themselves. He hopes by putting the fear of God in the Regulators, they’ll retreat. He doesn’t want to kill his brothers and doesn’t want this to be a massacre. He instructs his men to take prisoners, if possible.
The Regulators emerge from the woods by the creek. A cannon’s fired and fells a tree. Shots ring out and the Governor kills the first man. Jamie’s company raise their weapons but don’t fire. Governor Tryon screams, “Fire on them or fire on me!”
Jamie gives the order and his men commence firing.
The militia progresses across the field as the Regulators retreat. Some of the Regulators have hidden in the woods waiting for the first group of soldiers to enter. They take down some of the militia and then fall back further into the woods. Jamie’s group is doing less shooting than the other men, and he takes one of his men to engage in hand-to-hand fighting.
While he’s gone, Isaiah is shot and falls into the bushes. Men drag him back to the surgery tent and he gasps to Claire, “Tell Ali I love her. The baby comes next month.” Claire tries to comfort him and insists she’ll save his life.
Mr. Brown calls Isaiah a coward, claiming he was running from the battle. Claire realizes Isaiah was shot at close range and accuses Mr. Brown of firing the bullet. He knocks the syringe of penicillin from her hand and crushes it as he storms out.
Initially the Regulators appear to be holding their own. That changes when the Brits fire more cannonballs and more men enter the woods to chase down the Regulators.
Some Regulators surrender and are tied up and then dragged behind horses.
Jamie’s on his own when he encounters a Regulator he knows well. Jamie doesn’t want to shoot him but the young man now views Jamie as an enemy and whips out his gun. Fortunately, Murtagh knocks the young man’s gun away and sends his body rolling down the hill before gunfire can be exchanged.
As Murtagh and Jamie approach each other a shot rings out. One of the militia has shot Murtagh who falls into Jamie’s arms. If he hadn’t been protecting Jamie, Murtagh wouldn’t have been shot. He remained true to his oath to the bitter end.
Murtagh reveals it doesn’t hurt a bit to die and then slips into unconsciousness. Jamie whispers his name as he realizes the extent of what he’s lost. He calls out for help and two of his men assist him in carrying Murtagh back to camp and Claire.
(Grab the tissues, if they’re not already close by.)
Jamie demands she do what she must to heal him, but Murtagh was dead before they brought him into camp. Jamie bends over Murtagh and says, “Take it back! I do not release you from your oath! You can’t leave me. You cannot leave me!”
Not even Claire can comfort Jamie. He leaves the tent as Claire strokes Murtagh’s hair. She cries as she gently touches his face.
Governor Tryon catches up with Jamie and wants to celebrate their glorious victory. All pretense is gone as Jamie replies, “Is the slaughter of innocent men cause to celebrate?” When Tryon questions his meaning, Jamie – who looks ready to rip off Tryon’s head with his bare hands – assures him he meant exactly what he said.
Governor Tryon believes what happened today will be written about in history. (He’s right.)
Jamie isn’t done standing up to Tryon. “It will be written in history, sir, that you killed and maimed and paid no heed to the destruction you left. That you brought cannon upon your own citizens.”
Jamie then concedes it will be written in history that Governor Tryon punished rebellion and restored order. But both men will know what really took place during the Battle of Alamance. Jamie believes Governor Tryon’s kindled a war just for his own glory.
The Governor decides to overlook Jamie’s insolence since he did his duty during battle. Jamie declares he’s paid his debt and is done fighting for the Crown. He tosses his coat on the ground and walks a few paces before falling to his knees and breaking down. He struggles to pull himself together so the men don’t see him crying.
Claire tends to Murtagh’s body while Brianna stands outside looking toward the creek for any sign of Roger. He hasn’t returned.
Jamie, a few of his men, Claire, and Brianna search through the prisoners and the men left wounded in the field. They call out for Roger and aren’t having any luck. They come across a tree with men strung up and are told the Governor ordered these Regulator prisoners killed.
Still, there’s no sign of Roger.
Finally, Jamie’s attention is drawn to one man hanging from a tree with a hood over his head. Jamie, Claire, and Brianna believe it’s Roger, based on his clothing.
The body is lowered but the hood remains in place just as the episode’s credits roll.
Can it be? Did we lose Murtagh and Roger in the same episode? If you’ve read the books you know the answer to that question. If you haven’t, please don’t look for the answer online. It’s best to let season five episode eight’s events unfold without spoilers.
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