Tulach Ard!! We are finally up to the first battle of the Jacobite uprising, Prestonpans, in Outlander season two episode 10. All of the poisonous activity in France was meant to stop this day from arriving. Nevertheless it has arrived, and with it… anguish. War is never a happy affair, so saddle up for difficulties going forward. The opening title cards pretty much set the stage. The Highland Pipers and the British Drummers lead us into the episode where Claire (Caitriona Balfe) discovers a Highlander who was killed in the brush by the British. She has seen war before, and she muses over the many men that she had seen killed. She knows she will see many more before this war is done. She grabs his weapon, lying next to his rotting body, and rejoins Jamie outside the wood.
And to the war council meeting we go. Jamie (Sam Heughan), Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Andrew Gower), the Lord General Murray (Julian Wadham), the Quartermaster (Gerard Horan), and the rest of the clan leaders are ‘debating’ the need to rush into battle with the British, encamped just a few hundred yards away. One major snag to the Quartermaster’s push to engage emerges: there is a section of boggy ground between the two armies. The General and Jamie are the only two voices of reason in the room, pointing out that the army would be placed in a highly dangerous position if trying to cross that ground on foot or horse. Prince Charlie shows his delusional approach to this entire war at every turn. He suggests having a discussion with the opposing general, like he can talk his way to the British throne. WOW! The General eventually storms out of the gathering.
Jamie and the Prince talk outside the building, alone. The Prince asks Jamie if Claire is making plans to attend to the wounded once the battle does get started. Jamie confirms that she is doing exactly that. The Prince makes a request of Jamie, that is not in the book by the way, that Claire tend to the British before the Jacobite wounded. Jamie points out that Claire is not likely to follow such an order, and that his Jacobite soldiers would not appreciate such sentiment. Claire is a nurse, that means to triage the most urgent cases as priority; this approach does not lend to singling out British or Jacobite. I do have to say it though, another amazing costume for Prince Charles. He is wearing a tartan kilt set that is really gorgeous.
Jamie goes to look out across the bog and assess the situation. The men have to sit and wait, so they start aggravating each other. Angus (Stephen Walters) humors Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) by spitting ale on some of the Frazer troops sitting with Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). Jamie quiets the ruckus down when he comes across the scene and asks for Dougal’s (Graham McTavish) private council. They both go to stand looking across the bog. Jamie skillfully talks Dougal into attempting a recon mission to test the ground. It is very dangerous because he would have to come close enough to the British that he might be killed in the effort. The MacKenzie war-chief is not one to shrink from a challenge, and an opportunity to gain respect from the other soldiers, as well as the Prince, in the bargain.
Dougal sets off on his beautiful grey mare to test the ground. The men of both camps come to watch the spectacle. None of this was part of the book, but it is interesting the games men play with their lives in a war. It is not out of the realm of the story that Dougal would do such a thing, partly for the sake of gaining attention. They do need to know the strength of the ground though, so off he goes to test it. The British get a line of muskets aimed right at him and begin firing. Dougal gets dangerously close, so close that one musket ball knocks his hat off and leaves behind a scratch on his scalp. Dougal gets his horse and himself back safely…eventually. After the Prince gives him a very unmanly hug and congratulates him on the task, Dougal makes a crack about having to change his breeks. But the General’s point is made; there will be no way to charge across the bog between the armies.
Claire is with the women working to get things ready for a time when the battle’s managed to get started and wounded come in needing attention. She is instructing the women on their various duties, and Fergus (Romann Berrux) is messing about the room like a child of 10 would be doing. He is restless and fidgety. Fergus does not want to stay with the women tending to wounded, he wants to be in the battle. How little he knows of the horror of true military engagement. Claire is also having to explain some of her methods to the ladies, but everything Claire does has a purpose to keep the patient alive.
Fergus brings in a man who knows the area exceeding well. His name is Richard Anderson (Alex Hope) and he’s volunteered to scout and guide the army through a passable section of the wood. This would provide a sneak attack and afford the Jacobites a gift, the element of surprise. The Prince is talked into the plan, largely by Jamie, and agrees to the course of action.
Outside some of the men wait, so they start having conversations that men on the eve of battle would tend to have. Ross (Scott Kyle) and Kincaid (Gregor Firth) are promising to take care of the other man’s family and home in the event one of them dies. Angus overhears this exchange and tries to have a similar conversation with Rupert. Rupert is a bit more superstitious and does not want to have such conversations. Both men know how the other feels anyway; they have been close friends for a very long time and both are clan MacKenzie.
Jamie finds Murtagh and knows he is stewing over something. Murtagh, not one for long-winded emotional conversation in the books, does a fair more opining on issues in the show. Murtagh is a wise and comforting soul in both situations! He mentions to Jamie how he feels lesser given the wide number of troops when dealing with formal military battle. He knows that in a smaller raid between clans he had a specific part to play and thus had greater meaning in the fight. Jamie mentions that he has and does feel much the same way. He acknowledges that he almost lost his marriage in France trying to keep these events from happening, and failed in the doing of it. Murtagh reminds him that they failed together. It is comforting to know when your feelings are validated, even if they cannot be changed at the time.
The men are about to set off in the effort to get the battle started just before first light across on the other side of the bog. Murtagh, Rupert, and Angus come in to get Jamie. Angus is trying to beg Claire for a kiss, and Rupert says goodbye with more respect. He says they shall celebrate on his return. Murtagh promises to watch over Jamie for her. Murtagh has heard Claire say that they do win the day, but that does not mean they don’t die in the doing of it. Claire knows that some Jacobites die in this battle, so she is still afraid for them, Jamie most of all. She and Jamie share an embrace. When Jamie hesitates to go right away Claire says, “On your way, Soldier.” This elicits a smirk from Jamie because it is a similar tone to the one she used in the first episode of the first season when she told him to get back on his horse. He gave her a gallant bow, like the one he bestowed on her for their wedding day. This brings a smile to her face, and he takes his leave of the room. I doubt many would have dry eyes after all that – I know I sure don’t. Sending your man off to war; how painful and gut wrenching it would be at any time and for any reason.
The men are escorted by Richard Anderson across the path he mentioned. As will happen in Scotland, a fog rolled in, which also lends to the support of the surprise attack. The Prince and other commanders are held back, but Jamie leads the men into the battle. The battle in the show took exactly the same time as the actual battle of Prestonpans: 15 minutes. As Claire is trying to steady the woman to concentrate on their tasks, Jamie is getting the troops ready for the charge. All eyes are on him as they receive the silent motion to move forward. The men head off through the fog and catch the British camp completely by surprise. The women can hear the charge once the men start their battle cry. The swords, dirks, and even rifle butts are flying. Blood is going everywhere. Men are dying right and left.
Back at the hospital, Ross takes his friend Kincaid in because he’s wounded. Claire has to inform him that Kincaid is dead and that she can do nothing to bring him back. The scene shifts to Fergus standing in the middle of the battle. The little trickster snuck his way into the battle, but has no idea what to do. It is amazing he was not killed. Then we see one British soldier, without a scratch on him, laying on the ground playing dead and shivering. The next we see a different British soldier hold a bleeding stump that was his left arm. The Jacobites route the British and win the day. You see one of the British on horse slice a sword across Rupert’s gut. In the book this wound was one Jamie sustained, but was a good twist in the show. Angus brings him to the hospital for Claire to treat him. It is a large gash that she has to sew closed, but Rupert starts shouting about Angus and a cannon ball that landed behind him just as Rupert was about to hit the ground.
The British soldiers come in looking for help for their wounded. After Claire gets as many settled in the chaos as possible, Jamie and Murtagh enter with shouts of victory. They lament the fact that they were not able to pursue the British to end the war that very day, but they have no cavalry to do that job. Claire is overjoyed, but asks where Fergus is. Jamie says Fergus is waiting outside. He’s in a bit of a state of shock. He relays the story that he thinks he killed a British soldier. Claire is naturally upset on several levels; he scared the daylights out of her by going, and now she is concerned for him after having done battle at his age. She holds him close for a minute trying to calm him and her both. Then she takes him away to get him food and rest.
Dougal is still over in the British camp slaughtering the wounded who are littered about the battle field. Dougal continues to live up to how we feel about him. One minute he does something good, the next he does something terrible. How does one get close enough to hear a man’s last breath leave him and enjoy it!?
Back in the hospital, Jamie, Angus, and Murtagh joke over Rupert being saved by his wide gut and that no vital organs were injured. Angus is looking rather peaked so he sits down. Claire walks up and sees a horse’s hoof print on Jamie’s back, right over his kidney. She makes Jamie fill a jar with urine so she can see if he has internal injuries after being stepped on by a massive horse. He sees that many of the men around are downcast, so Jamie makes a joke and game of it. He gives the cup to a British soldier and tells him to hold it while Jamie takes aim. In the book (loved it in the show, too) this scene is hilarious. They didn’t do this in the show, but Jamie plays it up a bit more of a show for the men by acting like he can’t find the equipment to do the job. In the show and book, while Jamie is relieving himself the Prince walks in to look over the injured.
The Prince is giving a bit of a speech when Dougal bursts into the hospital. He intends to attack the British who are in the room once he notices them there. The Prince decides he should be expelled from the army entirely. Jamie has an idea to use Dougal instead. This is not something that was part of the book either, but since Dougal wasn’t involved with the battle in a similar way to the book it does make complete sense to have it in the show. Dougal is to be the new commander of the Jacobite Cavalry; he is to harass British supply lines and bring scouting news of British movements. The Prince agrees to the scheme, but Dougal is not so happy about it. He knows that Jamie both saved him and exiled him all at once.
As all of this is going on, Angus is sitting on the edge of a cot and about to fall over. Dougal tries to ask him a question and Angus not only does not answer but starts convulsing. Claire gets him laid down but all Angus can do is continue to bleed internally until he drowns in his own blood. The cannon blast did damage after all, but no one knew it until it was too late. Everyone stands there completely in shock and helplessness as Angus dies. Then the next sound everyone hears is Rupert getting up off his cot to gather up his friend’s sword and carry it back to his bed with him.
Later that night, some are celebrating, others are lamenting friends lost. Jamie points out that Claire was right about the win of Prestonpans. Claire points out that it might also mean she’s right about the disaster awaiting them all at Culloden Moor. Just then Rupert and Ross come out of the hospital, drinking heavily and singing a song in honor of their friends who both died that day. Everyone knows there is more death to come; for their kin certainly, and possibly for themselves.
Outlander Season Two Recaps:
- ‘Outlander’ Season 4 Episode 13 Recap: “Man of Worth” - January 27, 2019
- ‘Outlander’ Season 4 Episode 12 Recap: “Providence” - January 20, 2019
- ‘Outlander’ Season 4 Episode 11 Recap: “If Not For Hope” - January 13, 2019