A note on spoilers: Please be aware that while I work diligently to avoid extensive spoilers in my recaps, these entries will discuss each episode's plot and may include key details from the show's first season as well as the books on which both seasons are based.
As the threat of history looms ever closer to the Scottish men risking their lives for Charles Stuart’s cause, Claire and Jamie face their own personal battles in this week’s ninth episode of Outlander. Having met up with Murtagh and the Lallybroch men, the Frasers bring with them from Beauford a number far less than when they first left the devious Lord Lovat. With Young Simon off to convince deserters to rejoin their party, Claire and Jamie deliver what’s left of the Fraser clansmen to a feisty Murtagh, seemingly much improved of spirit now that he’s away from the confining structure of French society and into his natural element as a soldier. An exhausting journey for Claire and Jamie comes to an end with the sight of familiar faces as Dougal Mackenzie (Graham McTavish) defies his brother’s neutrality and arrives to fight for Clan Fraser, bringing with him the ever-delightful duo of Rupert (Grant O'Rourke) and Angus (Stephen Walters).
Tension reigns in this episode, Je Suis Prest, which was written for the screen by Matt Roberts and beautifully directed by Philip John With the return of the very complicated MacKenzie war chieftain, a favorite among last season’s viewers, there also comes the consequences of his actions, not least of which is Claire’s well-fed ire. In one intense scene, acted with quiet profundity by both stars, the unspoken tension is brought to a boiling point before Claire and Dougal finally make their opinions known to one another. But as Claire battles her anger toward Dougal, she also falls victim to her memories of the war she had just escaped before fate swallowed her up in the abyss of time and history. As all around her Scottish cotters and farmers are being bred into soldiers worthy of changing the future, Claire’s memories take her back to a day when Yanks and Brits were fighting Nazi forces and her role as a nurse led to one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.
"Perhaps ye are right about me. I do love my reflection. But make no mistake, lass: I love Scotland more." Dougal (Outlander, Je Suis Prest)
Jamie, meanwhile, finds himself spread between the tasks of helping Claire through her troubles and watching his clansmen attempt the impossible, as Dougal locks him into a power struggle that has both men standing firm in their beliefs of what it will take to win an unwinnable war, and the true cost of its worth. Graham McTavish once again captures all the complexity of Dougal MacKenzie, from his misguided notions of politics and power to his hard-headed tenacity as a veteran war leader. His pride in Jamie, now a “known” Jacobite, is met with his inability to submit to Jamie’s leadership. With the burden of history acting as a terrific weight on his shoulders, we once again see how Jamie continues to grow through his challenges, from an impulsive young Highland criminal to a sensitive and responsible leader of men. While Dougal finds himself to be unexpectedly well-matched in his young nephew, Jamie sets an example of wisdom and consideration over brute action in times of war.
"If we have the discipline to stand together, march together, and to fight together, then by God, I ken we will win together." Jamie (Outlander, Je Suis Prest)
A new character is briefly introduced as Jamie and the Fraser men are come upon by a sixteen year-old Brit who has infiltrated their camp. Fans of the books will have been delighted to see the appearance of young William Grey, who will grow up to become Lord John Grey of the spinoff book series Diana Gabaldon writes under the same title. Although Lord John will become a great friend to Jamie in another time, the two unknowingly butt heads here as Jamie bests Grey in a game of wits in order to determine where their British foes currently lie in wait. Enraged by the debt he owes Jamie for sparing his life, Grey promises to repay him before vowing to someday kill him; this a precursor to a future that not even Claire can foresee.
With all the tension, sacrifice, and tragedy of war well at hand, this episode also captures the ill-fated Highland future in a new light. As the brave and humble men of the Scottish wilds prepare to risk their lives for the land they love, audiences get a glimpse into the deepest layers of the heart of Highland life. The would-be soldiers stand as heroes attempting to protect and defend not only their families and each other, to whom they’ve pledged their loyalty, but to the very roots of the natural world around them, the grounds which seem so integral to their way of life as to be almost spiritual. As the ominous battle of Culloden remains to be fought, we see clearly what Jamie, Claire, and their company are standing to fight for.