Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown
To swear an oath means to make a solemn promise regarding one’s future actions. It is something that is not taken lightly, as an oath brings with it the obligation to act in a certain way, regardless of the consequences. To this point in the season, many characters have sworn oaths to different people and for different reasons. But it is in this episode where we finally see the consequences of these promises.
As the credits come to a close, we are briefly taken to modern times. A man is playing the guitar, and turns away to jot down the musical notation to a song called “The Ballad of Roger Mac.” This is an interesting sequence, hinting that whatever is to come is going to be memorable. In literary terms, ballads are narratives that tell a self-contained story, a story which can be tragic, historical, romantic or comic. Given that a ballad is traditionally passed down through generations, this brief scene hints that Roger’s time in Jamie’s shadow is over and that something momentous is about to occur.
The episode itself begins in Hillsborough. Claire’s voiceover tells us that they have come prepared for battle, although the outcome of that battle is uncertain. A good soldier, Claire says, is ready to fight and die if needs be. But what can’t be prepared for is the possibility of fighting family in the time of war. And that is precisely what Jamie faces, since Murtagh will be on the opposite side of this particular battle.
Roger is another reluctant fighter. When we first see the MacKenzies this episode, Roger is singing “My Darling Clementine” to Jemmy, who sits on the floor, mesmerised. Brianna stands nearby, smiling at the father and son moment. It is all too brief however, as Roger has to go. Picking Jemmy up, he promises that he will be back to sing the rest of the song.
The impending separation is weighing on them both. Roger wishes that Brianna had stayed at the Ridge, but she had wanted to be close to him for as long as she could. They will be safe here with friends, she assures him. Knowing that Jamie will be expecting him, Roger hands Jemmy to Lizzie, who has also travelled with them. Tactfully, Lizzie takes Jemmy to get breakfast, leaving Roger and Brianna alone.
Brianna comments on the differences between their lives in the 20th century and in the present time. In the future, Brianna says, they would be preparing lunches and sending each other off to work, whereas here she has to send him off to war instead.
Roger has something on his mind. He tells Brianna that he barely knew his own father before he had been killed in World War 2 and Jemmy is much younger than he had been. “If I don’t make it back,” he begins, but Brianna will not allow him to finish the sentence. Telling Roger that it is not going to happen, she promises that while he is away, she will tell Jemmy how brave his father is.
Roger offers one hopeful alternative: perhaps Tryon will come to his senses and reach an agreement with the Regulators. They smile sadly, both knowing that this won’t happen and share a farewell kiss. Not quite prepared to let the previous conversation drop, Roger takes a more lighthearted approach, checking that Brianna knows all the words to Clementine. She assures him that she does, but since that she is no singer, Roger must keep the promise he has made to Jemmy and return to sing it himself. Tenderly, she strokes his cheek.
“Goodbye, Roger Mac,” she says.
“Goodbye, Mrs Mac,” he replies, equally tenderly. Slowly, he walks to the door and looks back one last time before he goes.
This is a lovely scene, gently and emotionally acted by Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. The reluctance and resignation of each character is achingly apparent, as is the love the two have for each other. For book readers, the dialogue is clever too, as the scene contains a number of moments that, with the benefit of the knowledge of Diana Gabaldon’s novel, are particularly poignant.
In Tryon’s camp, Claire and Jamie are lying in their tent. Claire turns to face Jamie and sees him slowly opening and closing his fist. It is morning, but not just any morning. “Happy Birthday, Colonel,” Claire murmurs and they kiss. She asks whether he has been taking stock and Jamie admits that he has been doing something of the sort, adding that he was born in the evening, so he won’t have lived a full half century until supper time.
Teasing, Claire wonders whether he is planning on disintegrating much before the end of the day, offering to fetch him a cane or a hearing trumpet. Jamie joins in the banter, pretending not to hear her, before conceding that it is unlikely anything will fall off before nightfall. He asks how she knew what he was doing and Claire admits that it is something that she also does before every birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. She adds that she thinks it is a common practice for most people, a way of reassuring themselves that they are the same people that they were the day before.
Jamie asks Claire if she sees any marks or changes in him.
“No,” she whispers, before kissing him again. “You’re still you.”
Jamie sits up. He has realised that he has now lived longer than his father did, who had died at 49. Claire says that his father would have been happy to know that Jamie had lived, and now has children and grandchildren who love him. Jamie agrees. The world and every day in it is a gift, he says. Whatever the next day brings, he is grateful to see it. He finishes taking stock, stating that he has all his teeth and body parts, all of which are in good working order. With a smile, Claire sets about proving this, seductively singing Happy Birthday as the two begin to make love.
Later that morning, Tryon and the other redcoats are showing Jamie and his men the weapons that have been sent to them. There are some impressive pieces, and Tryon and his general are confident. If the insurgents want a fight, they say, then they will get one. Including Jamie’s company, the militia number over 1000 men, divided into infantry, artillery and cavalry. More men are expected, with extra gunpowder on the way as well.
Jamie points out that the Regulators are mainly farmers with no military training, who will not have access to the calibre of weapons that Tryon’s men do. It is a scene vaguely reminiscent of the hours before Culloden, where Jamie was trying to convince Bonnie Prince Charlie not to fight. Now, as then, his attempts fall on deaf ears. Tryon merely asks Jamie if his men are all in order and Jamie confirms that they are ready. After a brief inspection of the company, Tryon says simply, “Well done, Colonel.”
Roger arrives on horseback and comes over to Jamie, formally reporting for duty. Jamie greets him equally formally, addressing him as Captain MacKenzie and asking him to fall in. Roger does so, taking his place next to Myers. The two men exchange glances and it is obvious that things are serious now.
Jamie distributes yellow rosettes amongst the men, telling them to fix them to their coats or hats. It will be the only way to tell the difference between militia and regulator.
“I’ll have one of those,” says a voice.
It is Isaiah Morton, who has come to join the group, much to the disgust of the Browns, who want to know where Alicia is, commenting that her place should be at home, not living in sin with Morton. The tension is immediately high, but Claire reminds the men that Alicia had made her decision. Brown responds by telling Claire to stay out of it, with enough menace to make Jamie stride forward to Claire’s side. Morton is defiant, saying that he and Alicia are happy. Brown replies that he should have killed Morton when he had the chance and nailed his hide to the tavern door.
Jamie has had enough, and drags Morton away. He tells Morton that he shouldn’t have come, but Isaiah replies that Jamie had helped him once, so now he wants to return the favour. Loudly, Jamie tells the group that Morton is prepared to lay down his life and he won’t turn him away. If the Browns can’t fight alongside Morton, they can go. They respond that they are aren’t going to miss out on a battle, and agree that the unpleasantness should be forgotten. The words may have been said, but they don’t ring true. At any rate, Jamie hands Morton a rosette and gives him the same instructions as the others.
Meanwhile, the young Findlay brothers are excitedly discussing their preparations for fighting. Each have been practising by shooting deer and possum. Jamie overhears them talking and comments that war is not like hunting. The deer and possum haven’t been trying to kill them, he reminds the boys. They are confused: their mother has said that the point of hunting is to kill something and the point of going to war is to come back alive. Sitting down opposite them, Jamie shares his experience. War is killing, he tells them, and they can’t waver. If they think of anything else, or worry about their own skin, then they will be dead before nightfall.
But in another parallel with Culloden, something has gone wrong. Wagonloads of munitions have been destroyed and General Waddell’s troops have been forced to retreat, by none other than Murtagh and the rest of the regulators, who have been spotted across the creek.
“Prepare the men,” Tryon replies. “Engage the enemy here.”
Claire has been preparing the medical tent, when she sees Jamie coming towards her. She asks if there has been any sign of Murtagh. Jamie hasn’t seen him, but has seen his companions, Cranna and Withers. Their conversation is interrupted by one of the men, who tells Jamie that a minister has arrived with a petition for the Governor.
It is Reverend Caldwell, the same minister who married Roger and Brianna. Tryon greets him, lamenting the circumstances under which they are meeting this time. Caldwell agrees that a wedding is a far more enjoyable occasion but he comes in hopes that the matter can be settled without bloodshed. He presents Tryon with the petition, but Tryon merely shakes his head. He disagrees with the language the petition contains, he says, but nevertheless agrees to consider the regulators’ grievances. He will give his response the following day at noon and Caldwell thanks him for the concession.
Once Caldwell has gone, Tryon issues his orders: the men are to remain ready for battle. Jamie tries again: why doesn’t Tryon pursue a parlay as they ask? But Tryon, like Culloden’s Bonnie Prince, is immovable. He will not be trifled with, he says. Jamie suggests waiting for reinforcements, but Tryon is determined to make a bold stroke, stating that to hesitate would mean defeat. As Governor of the province, he will not allow a blatant disregard of the law to go unpunished. “Their course is set,” Tryon says, “so is mine.” He strides away, leaving Jamie looking serious. As it was so many years before, a battle is inevitable. But this time, Murtagh will not be by his side.
Back in Hillsborough, Brianna is thanking Mrs Sherston for their hospitality. Jemmy has gone to sleep, Lizzie says, and the women are relaxing, when Mr Sherston comes home with news. The militia are preparing for battle and the regulators are across from Alamance Creek. Something about the name rings a bell for Brianna and Mr Sherston shows her a map. Mrs Sherston talks of Alamance too, saying that it was named by the Indians and it means, “All Man’s Land.” Brianna is sure that something has happened there and finally we see the realisation dawn. Moments later she leaves on horseback, galloping towards the militia camp.
Jamie is at the creek, going through a pre battle ritual. He pours water over his head and cuts his hand with a knife. Then, reciting in Gaelic, he crosses himself with the blood. Claire has come up behind him and Jamie turns to see her standing there. She comes towards him. She has recognised one of the words and asks him if God has an answer to his question. Jamie hadn’t been calling on God, he says but on Dougal MacKenzie. This surprises Claire, but Jamie explains that Dougal was a war chief and had taught him everything he knows. He had made his peace with Dougal and knows that his uncle would have understood his actions before Culloden, in order to protect his men and to protect Claire. “And I’ll do it all again now,” he tells her.
Again, as they had done before Culloden, Jamie and Claire discuss the state of play. Tryon is determined to fight, Jamie tells her, adding that he has seen such a look in men’s eyes before, one that is beyond reason or compromise. Claire asks if Jamie thinks that Dougal will help.
“If he can,” Jamie replies. Blood is blood after all, and the two men had fought hand to hand and back to back in the past. But there is another with whom Jamie shares blood this time. Rather than fighting back to back in this battle, Jamie and Murtagh will be fighting face to face and no amount of prayer will help that.
Brianna reaches the camp and is greeted by a shocked Jamie, Claire and Roger. She has come to warn them, she says. Showing Jamie the map, Brianna points out where the fight will take place and tells him that the militia will win. She doesn’t know how many lives are lost, only that her history professor had told her that this battle was considered by some to be the start of the American Revolution.
Jamie asks Brianna if she is sure that Tryon wins, and when she confirms it, suggests that they get a message to Murtagh. If he can be told that the regulators will lose, perhaps Murtagh can convince the men to stand down and then lives will be spared on both sides. But Brianna offers another perspective. If the fight doesn’t happen, there is a chance that the Revolutionary war also won’t happen and then America won’t ever become the America that she, Claire and Roger know. Jamie muses that the spark for Revolution could come from somewhere else and they all agree that it could. In that case, Jamie says, what is important is the lives of the men in his charge and the life of Murtagh.
Roger agrees, and offers to take the message to Murtagh, but Jamie tells him that it is too dangerous. Roger doesn’t dispute this, but adds that he is the only one who can deliver it. Murtagh knows Roger to be from the future and is more likely to believe him. The others cannot argue with his logic and Jamie tells him to leave at nightfall. He is to hide his yellow rosette, wave a white flag of truce if he is threatened and wait for Jamie to come to his aid. The scene ends with Roger and Brianna looking sadly, but proudly, at each other.
Nightfall comes and Roger sets off. Claire and Brianna are in the medicine tent, checking supplies. Claire names all the herbs, then adds her “secret weapon”, holding up the syringe. She has brought penicillin and, making her own comparison to Culloden, comments on how many lives she could have saved if she had had the drug at Prestonpans.
“Maybe you’ll save some today,” Brianna says. She adds that she will stay and help, to keep her mind from worrying. Claire reminds her that Roger will be safe under the flag of truce, but Brianna is dubious. How much will the flag of truce help if Roger is still there when the shooting starts?
“If the shooting starts,” Claire corrects her, adding that they can only hope that Roger will be able to convince Murtagh.
Roger arrives at the Regulator camp, in time to hear Murtagh in full force. He is rallying the troops, reminding them that Tryon has left them with no choice. They can’t submit to tyranny, they are fighting injustice. Tryon will regret ignoring their demands, and his blood will soak the ground. Murtagh sends the men off to prepare for the next morning, and looks across the crowd into Roger’s face. Going over to the younger man, he asks Roger what he is doing there and Roger replies that the two men need to talk.
Roger passes on the message, explaining that Brianna had remembered the battle and its result. The regulators will lose. He tells Murtagh that Jamie has said the best thing to do is to convince the men to disperse. But Murtagh knows that this will be impossible. “You saw the men,” he says. “Do you think they are yielding this fight?” Roger replies that they might, if Murtagh tells them to. Otherwise, he warns, they will be slaughtered.
Murtagh wants to know how many men Tryon has, commenting that they have twice that number when Roger gives him the total. But what they don’t have, Roger says, is a trained militia. The regulators are farmers with knives and pitchforks, whereas Tryon has canons. They might be brave as lions, but they can’t stand up to that. Moreover, the regulators have no officers, no artillery, no cavalry.
Roger is pleading for Murtagh to listen to him. History has been written: the Regulators will not win. But Murtagh wants to know how he can possibly ask the men to give up.
“They won’t be giving up,” Roger replies. “They’ll be living.” If they wait, he adds, in a few years everyone will be fighting on the same side.
“Do you know how long a few years is to men who have lost everything?” Murtagh asks. Roger has no answer to this. It is an impossible situation and both men know it.
Tryon is dictating his formal response to the Regulators’ petition and the next scene is split between this dictation and Murtagh’s recitation of the delivered letter. The tone is defiant: Tryon has been attentive to them, he says and laments the fatal necessity to which he has been forced. He insists on surrender and gives them an hour to prevent a war against King, country and laws. The Regulators are equally defiant, but it is obvious that Murtagh at least is now reconsidering his position.
Roger is waiting in a tent when Murtagh comes to join him. He has spoken with the men, he tells Roger, but they are not prepared to turn back, despite his efforts to convince them. The battle will happen. Murtagh tells Roger to return to his own camp, but Roger tries one last time. He begs Murtagh to leave and save himself, for the love that Jamie bears him. But Murtagh doesn’t answer.
This is a great scene, with both Richard Rankin and Duncan Lacroix perfectly demonstrating the helpless position that both men find themselves in. The two actors play easily off each other and we are left in no doubt of the situation: Roger is desperate to convince Murtagh to avoid the last battle; while Murtagh has an inner struggle to resolve: which will be more important - his oath to protect Jamie, or his obligation to the Regulator cause?
On his way out of the camp, Roger passes a woman pegging out washing on a makeshift line. It is Morag MacKenzie, from Bonnet’s ship. She recognises him too and they exchange pleasantries. Roger asks after her son, and is pleased to hear that they are both well. He tells Morag of his own son, also named Jeremiah, after his father, adding that he has thought of her too, now and then. Morag takes the opportunity to thank Roger again for helping keep them safe from Bonnet. She drops the shirt she is holding and they both go to retrieve it, cracking their heads together. Laughing, she assures Roger that she is fine and that she has a hard head. Roger laughs too: he also has a hard head, adding that it runs in the family. He asks Morag if her husband is one of the regulators and on hearing that he is, leans forward to warn her. He is with the militia, he says and the Governor is intent on a battle. Morag must convince her husband to leave before anything happens.
“Leave and go where?” Morag asks, revealing her pregnant belly. “We have no home to go back to.”
Roger has to leave, but tells Morag that if she needs help she should come to him and he will protect her and her family, who will all be welcome on Fraser’s Ridge. Overcome, he draws her in for a hug, pulling away when he hears a man’s voice say, “Get away from my wife.”
Jamie is calling for Roger, who should have returned to the militia camp by now. It is past dawn and Jamie asks Myers if anyone has seen Captain MacKenzie. No one has and Jamie is getting worried. Tryon calls out to him and beckons him over. Jamie does as Tryon asks, followed closely by Myers.
Tryon has a gift for Jamie. Holding out a red coat, he says that Jamie will cut a fine figure in it. As one of his best officers, he doesn’t want Jamie mistaken for an insurgent. Jamie tries to sidestep, commenting that it isn’t proper for him to wear such a garment. But Tryon brands him too humble. He holds out the coat and asks Jamie to do him the honour. The rest of the men look on and we see the conflict on Jamie’s face. He doesn’t want to put the coat on, but cannot refuse the governor. Stiffly, he removes his own coat and allows Tryon to help him into the redcoat uniform. Tryon brands him a striking figure and calls the company to order. Holding out his hand towards Myers, Jamie takes back his hat and, without a word, puts it on his head. He is trapped in a situation he doesn’t want to be part of, dressed in the uniform that represents the enemy of his past. The look on Jamie’s face is a mix of anger, despair and resignation - brilliant work by Sam Heughan!
Roger is backing away from Morag’s angry husband. He tries to explain, saying that he had met Morag on board the Gloriana, and had only thought to ask after the family’s welfare. Morag joins in, defending Roger and reminding her husband that it was Roger who had looked after her and her son, bringing them food and water.
But William “Buck” MacKenzie is not interested in these facts. He is consumed with the fact that Roger had been embracing his wife, and with the help of his friends, intends to settle the matter. Morag tries again, but Buck handles her roughly, hurting her arm. Roger responds by punching him, a move that results in him being captured by Buck’s cronies.
In the scuffle, Roger’s militia rosette drops to the ground and Buck picks it up. With his arms held by Buck’s friends, Roger says that he has no interest in Buck’s wife. He has his own wife, only wanting to warn a fellow MacKenzie about Tryon. Buck calls him a traitor and a wife stealer, while his friends advocate for slitting Roger’s throat. Making one last plea, Roger demands that Buck let him go and in return, he will not speak out against him, for his wife’s sake. For a second it looks as if Buck will accept this. He turns away, nodding and Roger takes a breath. But Buck, his back turned, picks up a rifle.
“No,” he says, “I don’t think you will. Speak against me, that is.” He swings back, hitting Roger in the face with the rifle and knocking him unconscious.
Since the airing of the episode, many fans have commented on the casting of Buck and what a stroke of genius it was to have Graham McTavish return to play him. This reviewer didn’t recognise him at first, but was ready to compliment the actor on his ability to sound so similar to Dougal MacKenzie! Kudos to the costume and make up departments for the transformation - and to Graham McTavish himself for his portrayal of another angry, aggressive man! Book readers will no doubt be anxious to see if future storylines involving Buck come to pass…
It is time for the battle to begin. The militia make their preparations as Jamie comes to farewell Claire. She stares at his appearance, muttering, “Jesus H Roosevelt Christ.” Briefly, he explains. Tryon insisted and he was in no position to refuse. She strokes his face and he kisses her hand: this is not their first battle farewell. There is still no sign of Roger and they have no idea whether he has succeeded in delivering the message to Murtagh. Jamie asks if she will wish him luck. Claire replies that she can’t let him go without saying something and that good luck will do. “I love you, soldier,” she says, kissing him.
“Good luck will do,” Jamie replies, “but I love you does so much better.” They smile, Claire tearful. Kissing her one last time, Jamie promises her that while there may come a day where the two of them must part again, it will not be this day.
Jamie gives last minute instructions to his men: to go in hard and protect themselves. They are not there to kill their brothers, he says, only to end the conflict. They need to put the fear of God into the Regulators to force their retreat. By taking prisoners, Jamie says, they can save souls. At the first sign of the Regulators across the field, he issues his final command: they must watch for MacKenzie.
The canons are fired and the first line of redcoats take their shots. The effect is immediate. The Regulators are not prepared for this. Jamie’s line is next and everyone hesitates. They do not want to shoot. Tryon screams at them to either fire on the regulators or fire on him. Given no choice, Jamie yells to fire, but most of the shots go wide.
The redcoats continue to advance and Jamie and the others charge across the field, not unlike the charge at Culloden. But while that charge led to certain death, this time they have the upper hand. The fighting is fierce, but they are not aiming to kill. “Fight as they do,” Jamie tells the men with him, as he and Myers set out on their own, swinging fists and rifle butts instead of shooting. Behind them, one of the first casualties to Jamie’s men is suffered by Isaiah Morton, who is shot in the back.
Claire and Brianna are hard at work, dealing with minor injuries. Brianna looks haunted, there is still no sign of Roger. Claire tries to reassure her, but Brianna doesn’t know which is worse: that Roger is missing, or that he has joined the fighting and is being shot at. Their conversation is interrupted by Morton being dragged into the tent.
Claire examines him quickly: he has been shot through the lungs from behind. As Morton gasps that he wants Alicia to know that he loves her, Claire assures him that he is not going to die and that he will be there to see his child born the following month. She prepares a shot of penicillin, watched by the Browns, who want to know what she is giving him and commenting that she shouldn’t be wasting medicine on “that coward”, claiming that Morton was running away.
Morton disputes this, saying that he wasn’t running away, reminding the man who brought him in that he had seen what had happened. The penny drops for Claire, as she looks at Brown. The powder burns were on Morton’s back, meaning that he had been shot at close range. Without directly saying so, she is accusing Brown of shooting Morton deliberately, and he understands the implication. Commenting that no woman speaks to him like that, he knocks the glass syringe from her hand and deliberately stomps on it, breaking it into pieces.
Claire is horrified. “What have you done?” she cries. Not only has Brown deliberately destroyed the treatment for Morton, Claire’s 20th century defence of penicillin is now useless, as she has no way of injecting it. With his aggressive act, Brown has potentially cost many people their lives.
On the battlefield, the fighting is fierce. While there are casualties on both sides, the Regulators are in retreat and the redcoats are showing no mercy. Men are being tied to the backs of horses and dragged along the ground; others are being bludgeoned with rifles. A man takes a shot at Jamie, but misses. Jamie recognises him as Lee Withers, from the jail in Hillsborough. Jamie tells Withers that he means him no harm, but Withers doesn’t believe him, saying that if Jamie means him no harm, why is he wearing the coat of his enemies? Bryan Cranna is dead, Withers tells Jamie and draws his pistol. He aims it at Jamie, but is hit from behind before he can fire.
Jamie looks up at his rescuer: it is Murtagh. The two smile at each other and move closer, but another shot rings out and Murtagh stops, dropping his rifle. He has been shot. Jamie turns around. It is one of the Findlay boys, who calls proudly, “I did what you said, Colonel. I didn’t waver.” It is a horrible irony that Jamie’s words to the young boy, meant to keep him safe, have resulted in the shooting of the man dearest to him.
Murtagh staggers and falls, and Jamie catches him. He lowers his godfather to the ground, trying to stem the flow of blood. “I released you from your oath,” he says. “You should have done as I asked.” Murtagh is finding it hard to talk, but tells Jamie that he would never have betrayed Jamie’s mother, no matter who asked. He is dying before Jamie’s eyes and Jamie tries desperately to keep him talking, calling him “Godfather” in Gaelic. Murtagh looks at him and smiles, putting up a hand to stroke Jamie’s face. Then, using the words that Diana Gabaldon had written for the battle of Culloden, he says gently, “Dinna be afraid. It doesn’t hurt a bit to die.”
Jamie’s eyes widen in shock and he looks around, desperate. He starts to scream, “Help me!” Myers and another one of Jamie’s company are nearby and they race to his side. Myers can see that Murtagh has gone and begins to tell Jamie so, but Jamie screams again, “Help me now!” They do, carrying Murtagh between them. As they go, Jamie speaks to Murtagh, telling him not to worry. They are going to Claire, who will know what to do.
They reach the tent, Jamie calling to Claire to save Murtagh. They lay him on the table and Jamie, frenzied, starts moving around grabbing supplies, asking what she needs. “Heal him,” he says again. Claire and Brianna look at each other in shock: they know it is too late. Jamie is breathing hard, looking at Claire, his eyes wide. Tearfully, she shakes her head. “I’m sorry,” she says. “He’s gone.” Brianna draws the makeshift curtain around them as Jamie refuses to believe what she is saying. “He can’t be,” he says. “Do something!” he continues, his voice rising is desperation. “Save him!” Wordlessly, she looks back at him. There is absolutely nothing she can do.
Jamie turns to Murtagh, telling him that he takes it back. He doesn’t release Murtagh from his oath, he says. “You can’t leave me, Godfather,” he pleads, his voice softening. “You can’t leave me.” Finally, he understands. Murtagh is gone. Claire calls to him, but Jamie staggers out of the tent. Left alone, Claire strokes Murtagh’s face and her own tears come. “Murtagh,” she cries. “My friend.”
Outside, Jamie meets a triumphant Governor, who tells him that victory tastes sweet. The Regulators are finished, Tryon crows, and they must celebrate this glorious day. Jamie, his voice thick with grief, asks Tryon if the slaughter of innocent men is something to celebrate. Tryon replies that he realises that engaging his own countrymen must have been difficult for Jamie, but that what they have just achieved will be written about in history.
Jamie asks Tryon whether it will be written that the Governor’s men killed and maimed and paid no heed to the destruction they left, bringing canon against their own citizens. Of course, Jamie says, that won’t be what is written. Instead, history will say that Tryon’s men put down rebellion, preserved order and punished wickedness, while doing justice in the King’s name.
Tryon is no longer smiling as Jamie hisses that both men know the truth of what has happened at Alamance. Again he quotes Tryon’s earlier words: “There is the law and there is what is done” saying that what the Governor has really done is to kindle a war for his own glory.
Tryon has had enough. He had no personal stake in the battle, he tells Jamie and had no need to glorify his own exploits. Jamie reminds him of the Governorship of New York, but Tryon still defends his actions, reminding Jamie of his desire not to leave North Carolina in a state of disorder and rebellion. Hissing in turn, he says that he has done what he has done as a matter of duty. Since he knows Jamie to have done the same, he will overlook Jamie’s insolence.
Jamie agrees that he has paid his debt. He has finished, he says, with his obligation to both Tryon and the Crown. As Myers and some of the others watch, Jamie rips the red coat from his back, and flings it at the Governor’s feet, before staggering away, his legs barely able to hold him up. After a few steps, he stops, dropping to his knees. He begins to weep, running his hands through his hair.
Inside the tent, Claire is weeping too. She has taken the brooch from Murtagh’s coat and puts it in he pocket. Then, she gently raises the sheet up to Murtagh’s chin, and after a moment’s hesitation, pulls it up over his face.
Jamie walks over to where Brianna is standing. They look at each other for a moment, before he asks a one word question of her: “Roger?”
Brianna shakes her head. She too, is suffering.
In the aftermath of the battle, as prisoners are taken, and wounded men are being helped by the women of the village, Jamie, Claire, Brianna and some of Jamie’s company are all out searching. “Have you seen Captain MacKenzie?” we hear Claire asking. As they walk, they come across a gruesome sight: three hooded men have been executed, their bodies hanging motionless from a large tree. Jamie stops one of Tryon’s men, asking the fellow Colonel what has happened.
The man explains that the three were regulator prisoners, who have been executed at Tryon’s command. Jamie asks the Colonel if he has seen Captain MacKenzie and he replies that he has not. The party continue to ask everyone they see, until Jamie notices a white piece of material protruding from the pocket of one of the hanged men.
“Roger?” he says, disbelieving.
Brianna runs over, her breath catching in her throat. Claire holds onto her, saying her name, but Bree is unable to tear her eyes away. Jamie orders his men to lower the body to the ground, as the episode ends on Brianna’s horrified face.
This was a phenomenal hour of drama. Every single actor gave their all in this episode, but arguably the stand out performance came from Sam Heughan, whose grief at the loss of Murtagh was so believable that it was truly heartbreaking to watch. Famously, there are 7 stages of grieving and Heughan ably demonstrated the first three - shock, denial and anger - to perfection. While book Murtagh’s fate was sealed on a different battlefield and Jamie had to cope with the loss of both his godfather and Claire, the stakes are somewhat different here. Still numb from the shock of Murtagh’s death, Jamie must now be father to Brianna, who has just witnessed horrors herself. Claire too, needs to look after them all, with the knowledge that her main weapon, penicillin, is now essentially useless. Everyone ends this episode floundering.
With an extra week before the eighth episode (why?!) we are left with much to ponder. Virtually all the horrors in this episode have occurred because of obligations, with people making oaths to either another person or to a cause. For Murtagh, it was his oath to Ellen and Jamie, plus his obligation to lead the Regulators; for Roger, it was his oath to Jamie and his obligation to warn both Murtagh and Morag MacKenzie. For Morton, his oath to Jamie’s militia brought him back to fight and into the path of the Browns once again. For Tryon, his obligation to leave North Carolina free of chaos, or perhaps, his oath to himself and his own ego, led him to pursue the slaughter of the Regulators. Finally, Brianna’s obligation to share her knowledge of the Alamance battle led her into the centre of the action and to the sight of her husband hanging from a tree. And so we wonder: what price an oath? When should obligation be abandoned? Can loyalty cause more harm than good? Is our fate in our hands, or does destiny play a part? Whatever the answers, one thing is certain: grief now surrounds everyone at Fraser’s Ridge.
This recap was written by Susie Brown, an author and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She is in awe of everyone who helped create this episode - including her friends Gemma and Aaron, who appeared in the crew credits for the first time this season!