Thursday, August 24, 2023

Behind the scenes.... the great battle of Saratoga.


“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp” : A recap of season 7 episode 8 by your Aussie Blogging Lass


Outlander Homepage Originals 

As all good episodes do, this one, the midseason finale, shows many characters at turning points in their lives. Jamie is torn between fighting and family; Ian between his attraction to Rachel and his promise to return to Scotland. Instead of her usual penchant for getting herself into trouble due to her own stubbornness, Claire finds herself as the giver of wisdom and advice, with most of the male characters turning to her this episode. William is now seeing the complexities of war, with the heaviness of loss overtaking his previous feelings of excitement and glory. Rachel is torn between her faith and a forbidden attraction, while Denny questions his choice of profession. And in the twentieth century, Roger and Brianna must risk danger and separation in their quest to save their child. Even as viewers we face our own turning point -  as we balance our love of the story with the knowledge that we must wait an uncertain amount of time before we learn the characters’ fates! 

The episode opens post battle, on an eerily quiet field littered with bodies. A woman and her son are looting, and the body they turn over happens to be one James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. The boy souvenirs Jamie’s hat, while the woman starts looking for other treasures. Finding William’s miniature first, she tosses it away, but helps herself to Jamie’s blade. Suddenly Jamie begins to cough, and they realise that he is still alive. The woman instructs her son to slit Jamie’s throat and the boy is about to do so, when out of nowhere Claire appears, holding her own blade to the boy’s throat. The woman and Claire begin to argue over Jamie, the woman mistaking her for a fellow looter and suggesting that Claire take one of the other  bodies instead. Not surprisingly, Claire is not about to do this. The boy manages to get away, but Claire picks up a sword from the ground which she brandishes in front of her, daring the woman to try her. The woman decides it is all too much trouble and after spitting on Jamie in disgust, mother and son move off. 

Claire immediately begins checking Jamie’s wounds and as he regains consciousness he tells her that she is ticking him. Most of the blood is coming from a deep wound on his hand, but as Jamie recalls what had happened to him, we discover that he had also been kicked in the head by a dragoon’s horse. He asks what has taken Claire so long and she replies that she has been out all night looking for him. The fear of losing Jamie has made her cross, and she berates him for his carelessness, accusing him of grandstanding, a comment to which he takes exception. But Claire isn’t finished. Retrieving both the miniature of William and the blade that the boy had taken, Claire takes him to task for his hero complex, telling him that she has better things to do than follow him around sticking bits of him back on. It is unnecessarily harsh and she realises this, apologising and admitting how scared she has been. He is still unsteady on his feet, so, putting his arm around her shoulders, she begins to help him from the battlefield. As they walk, he comments that while she might have a tongue like a venomous shrew, she is also a bonnie wee swordsman.

Back at the camp, Claire begins to tend to Jamie’s hand, which has indeed been slit open by a sword. It will need stitching, but Claire has patients that are worse off, so contents herself with cleaning the hand and dousing it with alcohol, an extremely painful procedure for Jamie if his facial expressions are anything to go by. As she bandages the hand, Jamie asks who had won the battle. Claire says that the British are claiming victory because they held the field, but in reality they had merely retreated back to their own camp when night fell. Reports are that their casualties could be double that of the Continental Army. Jamie is immediately concerned for William, but Claire points out that just because William was at Ticonderoga, there is no guarantee that he was in the most recent fighting. Promising that he will sleep if he can, Jamie sends Claire off to tend to her other patients. 

The number of casualties is also something that is concerning Denzel Hunter, who comes to find Claire as the next scene begins. In his entire career he has only lost four patients, he tells her, but in one battle that number has increased tenfold. Denny seeks advice from Claire: how does she go on? 

“By knowing that without me the number would be even greater,” she replies. 

But Denny is having a crisis of confidence. As a Quaker, he is finding all the violence particularly hard. He muses as to whether he should have chosen a more peaceable profession, all the while apologising to Claire for presuming that the situation is harder for him than for her. Claire gives him a weary smile, reminding him that the number of people he has helped has increased as well. Denny is emotional: he doesn’t doubt their cause, but is the number of deaths truly worth it? Claire admits that she has asked the same question many times, not always with confidence. 

“But yes,” she says, “I believe it will be.” 

Excusing herself, she returns to Jamie.

Claire has saved the last of the laudanum to operate on Jamie’s hand. Instructing him to sip it, she  promises to do her best to leave him with a working hand free of pain and infection. Jamie is not keen on taking the laudanum as it makes him feel sick and gives him terrible dreams. Claire comments that as long as he doesn’t twitch like Rollo dreaming of chasing rabbits, it will be ok. Ignoring the instruction to sip the liquid, Jamie tosses the laudanum back, making a face as he does so. While they wait for it to take effect, Jamie tells Claire of a visitor to their tent earlier, a Commander Michael Johnson. When Jamie and a few others of Morgan’s company had entered the fray during the battle, they had succeeded not only in scattering the British charge, but also in protecting Johnson’s company. 

“So you saved them,” Claire says.

Jamie minimises the achievement, saying that not all the members of the company would have been killed. He is reminded of a bible story where Abraham had bargained with God for the lives of just men.

“10 men would be worth a finger, Sassenach,” he says, “or five, or even one.” The laudanum finally takes effect and he loses consciousness. He has given permission for Claire to take a finger if she needs to and she looks at him tenderly for a moment before she begins to operate. 

“You bloody man,” she whispers, “I knew you’d make me cry.” 

She gets to work, deftly stitching the wound. When she is finished, she strokes the side of his face gently. 

“Sweet dreams my love,” she murmurs. “You can chase those rabbits now.” 

In the twentieth century, Brianna is waiting anxiously for news of Jemmy, Mandy asleep on the couch next to her. Finally, Roger and Buck return, with the news that she has been dreading. Rob Cameron has taken Jem through the stones. Roger searches for a reason as to why Rob would do this, but Brianna knows the answer. She has been through the box of letters and discovered that one is now missing- the letter that mentioned the gold. The musket ball too, has gone. 

“What do we do, Roger?” she asks. There is only one answer. Roger is already uncovering the crate that contains his 18th century clothes. He needs to travel back through the stones immediately, in order to catch Rob before he takes Jem to the Spaniard’s cave. 

Buck is confused as to what is going on, so Roger and Brianna explain. Immediately, Buck announces that he is going too. It is his own time, he reasons, and he would have been sent back anyway. But there is one main difference now: they are kin. Perhaps in some way, Buck wishes to atone for his previous treatment of Roger in the 18th century. At any rate, it is obvious that Roger and Bree appreciate his help. Brianna goes to the drawer and returns with gemstones, in the form of a brooch that she had picked up at an antique store, never knowing when it might be needed. She is trying to be brave, but the emotions are building up. Another farewell is coming.

Two weeks have passed and Claire is examining Jamie’s rapidly improving hand. While not ready for “fisticuffs” yet, Jamie is free of pain. He excuses himself, leaving Claire and Ian to chat. Ian notices Claire’s serious expression and wonders if she isn’t as happy with Jamie’s progress as she had appeared to be. But far from being unhappy, it is the fact that Jamie’s hand is healing so well that is causing Claire’s worry. Jamie will soon be free to fight again, something that she had hoped he would be able to avoid. Another battle is coming, she tells Ian, one that has to be serious enough to draw the French into the war. But there are gaps in her knowledge, and she has no idea as to the time frame of such an event. Perhaps though, she muses, Jamie is meant to be there. She asks Ian if he has heard anything from the scouts. Ian knows that the Generals are waiting for aid, in an attempt to divide the Continental Army, but they can’t afford to wait forever. 

Rollo interrupts the conversation by helping himself to Claire’s medicinal supplies of goose grease, which she had been planning on giving to Denny to help treat a patient. Immediately Ian offers to get her some more, and Claire is quick to suggest that he could also deliver it to Denny, or to Rachel. Ian can barely contain his pleasure at the thought, a fact that is not lost on Claire. 

Ian wastes no time in delivering said grease, and Rachel tells him that Denny will be pleased. In a move all too familiar from romance novels, Ian drops the parcel and both of them bend to retrieve it, their hands touching in the process. Ian takes things a step further by pulling Rachel to him and kissing her, an action that initially works. But as quickly as she responds, Rachel pulls away, slapping his face. 

Ian is not angry. He tells Rachel that he is not concerned that she loves him, more that she might die because of it. Unaware of Arch Bug’s threat, Rachel finds this claim rather egotistical. The chemistry is palpable, with them not able to stop touching hands, moving closer again as if to embrace. But when Rachel says that they must not, Ian tells her she must move away. If she continues to touch him, he tells her without a hint of arrogance, then he will take her and it will be too late for them both. He walks from the tent, Rollo in pursuit, leaving Rachel looking after them. 

An officer is wandering through the Continental camp, looking for Claire. He has heard of her prowess as a healer and has come hoping for a trade of supplies, in order to treat a man suffering from malaria back at his own camp. He presents Claire with his portable chest of bottles, explaining that he used to run a shop with a lot of apothecary supplies and adding that he had wanted to give Claire a decent range to choose from, not knowing what she might need. Claire quickly finds what she wants: a bottle of laudanum. She asks if he has any extra supply and he assures her that he does. They begin a careful dance to check that neither of them is addicted to the substance. The man offers a bit of his story: he had been badly injured once and had used laudanum but has now weaned himself off it. Claire tells him that relief from pain is the one thing she can offer her patients, given that she is unable to heal many of them. Laudanum will allow her to do this. 

The man is impressed: most healers  he has come across have claimed to be able to heal everything. Claire comments that it helps to know one’s limits and this starts the pair on a philosophical debate: Does the admission of limits actually hinder one from accomplishing what is actually possible? They are still debating this when Jamie appears, bowing to the man and referring to him as Sir. Jamie is soon drawn into the debate and the man asks his opinion. In his answer, Jamie riskily quotes poetry by Browning, musing that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. It is a sentiment that appeals to the man, who asks where Jamie has heard this. Jamie and Claire quickly brush off the details and the trade is made. It is at this point that Claire realises that she doesn’t know the man’s name and the officer introduces himself: Major General Benedict Arnold. He walks away and Jamie acknowledges the risk of quoting a poem not yet written. But Claire is still staring after Arnold. Jamie comments that she looks as if she  might fall over. 

“I just might,” she responds. 

Meanwhile, Rachel and Denny are having a heart-to-heart. Rachel asks Denny if he will pray for her, as she fears she is in great danger. Denny knows why she is asking: he has seen Ian leave. He comments that he doubts that prayer will help over much. While he has endless faith in God, he is not as sure about Rachel. Rachel tells him of Ian’s matter-of-fact declaration that she is in love with him, and avoids directly answering Denny when he asks: “And is thee?”

Denny points out that if she wasn’t in love with Ian, he doubts that she would be asking him to pray for her. The situation is made almost impossible by their faith: were Rachel to wed someone like Ian, no Quaker meeting would accept her. He is happy, he says, to tell Ian to stay away, or to tell him that her feelings are only that of friendship. Rachel does not like either option, but knows the reality of her situation. 

Claire explains to Jamie what Benedict Arnold will do in the future: at some point he will become disillusioned with the American army and make overtures to the British, which will be seen as the ultimate act of betrayal. In fact, Arnold’s name will become synonymous with being a traitor. 

“200 years from now, if someone betrays you, you call them a Benedict Arnold,” Claire tells him. “It’s all he will ever be remembered for.” But while she knows that Arnold’s future actions will result in the Continental Army’s victory, she has no idea as to the time frame. 

Around the fire, Daniel Morgan is holding court, egging on the crowd with an anti-British speech. The British have renamed Sugar Loaf Hill as Mt Defiance, a poor choice of words, Morgan says, given that they weren’t able to defy the Continental army. A man named Colonel John Brown, while unable to retake Ticonderoga, has successfully apprehended some of the British officers and infantry, while also releasing some of their own men. 

“And why do we hate the British?” Morgan asks, dramatically.

Under his breath, Jamie mutters that he knows what is coming. Morgan removes his shirt and turns his back to reveal scarring like Jamie’s own: the result of 499 lashes given because he had fought back after being struck by a British officer. Morgan had counted each lash, he tells the crowd, choosing not to let the officer know that he had missed one, with 500 lashes being the original punishment. 

Quietly Claire asks Jamie if Morgan knows of Jamie's own scars. Jamie replies that while Morgan sees him as a kindred spirit, the man is unaware that they are kindred of flesh as well. With a final look back at Morgan, the two of them leave the fireside.

This scene was reminiscent of Dougal MacKenzie in season 1, when Jamie and Claire were in the rent collecting party and Jamie’s scars were used in order to elicit bigger donations to the Jacobite cause. This time Jamie is not the one under the spotlight, but it is obvious that he stills finds the situation an uneasy one. 

A date comes up on the screen: October 7, 1777. It is the second battle of Saratoga. Whereas the first battle was seen largely through William’s eyes, this one is seen through Jamie’s. As before, the fighting is brief and fierce, with casualties falling on both sides. Major General Arnold is shouting directions, drawing attention to the fact that the enemy battle commander is within shooting range. Morgan agrees: while he admires General Fraser, the man must die. Jamie looks, only to see Simon Fraser in his sights. The command comes to shoot, but Jamie hesitates. He does not want to kill his cousin. Instead he creates a diversion, shooting the hat from another officer’s head. As the officer turns around, Jamie’s eyes widen: it is William. Shocked, Jamie ducks down out of sight, as another of the company does what he did not want to do and shoots Simon Fraser in the stomach. Chaos ensues: William tries to get Fraser to safety, the rest of the British try to fall back and Major General Arnold leads the Continental Army’s jubilant cries. Morgan and Jamie watch for a moment, before Morgan says: “Follow that goddamn fool. He will win us this battle, if he survives it.”

Jamie does so, and the next part of the battle is brief and bloody. The Continental Army defeat the  British, but it is not without a near miss. Distracted by seeing a man killed that he believes at first to be William, Jamie almost loses his own life, saved in the nick of time by Ian, in full warrior face paint. As the British flag is removed from the ramparts and Jamie looks across the battlefield, we see Major General Arnold has also been injured. It looks as if Morgan’s statement could be prophetic. 

Back at the Army camp, Claire has tended to Arnold’s broken leg. He will soon be taken by carriage to the hospital at Albany. It is the same leg that had been injured in the past and it is obvious that Arnold is in a lot of pain. He tells Claire that he wishes it had been his heart not his leg, then at least he would be remembered as a martyr. He waves away Claire’s offer of more laudanum, beginning a heartfelt speech. He tells Claire of his hatred of his superior, General Gates, who will be the one to tell the story of the battle, a retelling in which Arnold’s achievements will be left out. Arnold is used to Gates’ conscious omissions and the fact that he has been robbed of honour and of promotion, but he asks Claire is it wrong for him to feel hatred. Claire assures him that it isn’t wrong and also tells him that he will be remembered. Later she wonders if she has done the wrong thing, but Jamie assures her that she has only spoken the truth. Arnold is as good a leader as any that Jamie has seen. 

“I just hope it wasn’t a mistake,” Claire says.

Speaking of mistakes, Jamie shares his own: in trying to avoid shooting Simon Fraser, he had almost shot his own son. Jamie tells Claire that at least William was alive the last time he saw him. It is Claire’s turn to offer reassurance. The fighting is over now, she says, so William will be safe. It will take a few days for the terms around the British surrender to be drawn up and Jamie announces that he intends to sleep until them. But no sooner has he lain down than a voice is heard outside the tent, asking if he can come in. 

It is a soldier from the British camp under a flag of truce. Jamie’s presence has been requested in the British camp. Simon Fraser is dying and wants to see Jamie before it is too late. The messenger asks if Jamie will come and Jamie replies that both he and Claire will attend.

When they arrive at the camp, Claire can see that Simon does not have long. Jamie steps forward and Simon jokes that he must have eaten something that has disagreed with him. In the same way that Dougal and Claire gave Jordie a peaceful death in season 1, and Claire gave Walter a peaceful death in a recent episode, by leading the dying person to a memory that brings joy; so Jamie begins to reminisce with Simon, speaking both in Gaelic and English, recounting times when they were boys, carrying shinty sticks bigger than themselves. Jamie also expresses regret, that Simon’s death is coming without kin and far away from Scotland. But Simon corrects him: he has kin with him now and he is content. 

Claire leaves Jamie alone with Simon for his final moments and moves outside. As she stands quietly outside the tent, she is joined by William and they make polite small talk. Claire asks if William is going into the tent, but William has already said his goodbyes. He asks if Jamie is there to do the same and Claire confirms this, before adding that she is sorry for his loss. William thanks her, and it is obvious that the brigadier’s imminent death is weighing heavily on him. But then he has a thought - did Claire mean the battle loss? Claire replies gently that war is a terrible business, no matter who wins. William responds that he is beginning to understand this. It is a lovely exchange, with William appearing quite lost and Claire speaking to him in an almost maternal way. 

An officer approaches and delivers the news - Simon Fraser has died. Jamie emerges from the tent, pushing aside the tent flap and ritualistically tying it open, before making a formal bow towards his kinsman’s body. Claire approaches him to let him know that William is nearby. Jamie stands a little straighter before he turns, almost as if preparing himself for the conversation to come. Jamie and Claire overhear William being reprimanded for his lack of hat, the younger man explaining that a rebel whoreson had shot it off his head. Immediately, Jamie strides over to William and holds out his own hat.

“I believe I owe you a hat, Sir,” he says, allowing himself to meet William’s eyes briefly before walking away.

“Why did you do that?” Claire asks, as they leave. 

Jamie explains that this is the second time that he has come close to shooting his own son. The first was the night of his birth, the second during the recent battle. It has occurred to Jamie that the next time he might not miss, and he wanted the chance to speak to William at least once man to man, in case it should be his only chance. 

Behind them, William is instructed to put on the hat. But instead of being addressed as Lieutenant, the officer refers to William as Captain. It is the final gift from Simon Fraser, who had ordered William be promoted following the first battle at Saratoga. General Burgoyne has now signed the official order and William wants to know if Fraser was aware of this, smiling when he is told that he was. The two men walk back towards the tent and William begins to untie the tent flap. The officer stops him though, explaining that Jamie had instructed the tent be left open to allow the soul an exit. 

“Impressive gentleman, the Brigadier’s kinsman,” he observes.

“Indeed,” William replies, removing his newly acquired hat and looking at it thoughtfully. 

This is a cleverly written scene, with family very much at the heart of it. William has obviously seen Simon Fraser as some sort of father figure, unaware that his own father is right there in front of him. He has also shown vulnerability in front of Claire, receiving her advice without realising that he is actually talking to his stepmother.

Back at the camp, Jamie and Claire are discussing the terms of the British surrender. Burgoyne and his men have been forbidden to fight in the war again. Their conversation is interrupted yet again by an officer - this time it is General Gates, Benedict Arnold’s aforementioned nemesis. Gates wishes a private word with Jamie, so the two retire to Jamie’s tent. Gates explains that Burgoyne had made one last stipulation before agreeing to signing the surrender. General Fraser had once expressed the wish that, should he die abroad, his body should be returned to Scotland to lie in peace there. Burgoyne wants to honour that wish, stating that the General was much loved by his men and that by returning his body to his home country as he had wanted, the men would feel more resigned about leaving the war, as they would not be abandoning their leader. 

“You want me to take Simon’s body to Scotland?” Jamie asks. 

It is almost impossible to believe, but at last the moment has come. Jamie and Claire will be escorted on one of His Majesty’s ships. They are going home. As Jamie tells Claire, we see the relief on her face and hear her deep sigh. The fighting is over for them and everyone is safe.

The news that a trip to Scotland is imminent is bittersweet for Ian, however. Although he had promised to return and intends to honour this promise, the reality is that he now must leave both Rachel and Rollo behind. He asks Rachel to watch over Rollo for him, a request that Rachel is pleased to agree to, not only because she adores Rollo, but because it means that Ian will eventually return. She tells Ian that the army is marching south, and that he will be able to find her at Valley Forge.

In twentieth century Scotland, another farewell is imminent. Roger, Brianna, Mandy and Buck are approaching the stones at Craig na Dun. Mandy has her hands over her ears and the adults look apprehensive. Brianna hands Roger Jem’s scarf, complete with its Tufty club badge.

“He’ll be cold,” she says, stroking Roger’s face and professing her love.

Roger strokes her cheek too. He promises to find Jem and bring him back. They kiss, and while Roger then moves to hug Mandy, Buck and Brianna exchange a look. Buck gives her a slight wink of reassurance and Brianna nods in response. It is clear that she is taking comfort from the fact that Roger is not going alone. 

There is no point in delaying any longer. 

“Go,” Bree says, stealing herself for the departure. 

“Bye Daddy,” Mandy says, with a smile. 

Turning away from them, Roger and Buck link arms and walk towards the roaring stones. Seconds later, Brianna and Mandy are standing there alone. A slight frown crosses Mandy’s face, while Brianna fights back tears. 

Rachel is walking down a path, Rollo at her heels, when he suddenly barks and runs towards a man. As the camera pans up, we see that it is none other than Arch Bug. 

“You have a handsome hound,” he says.

Rachel smiles and thanks him, telling Arch that Rollo is not hers, but that his master has gone abroad and she is looking after him until he returns. Rollo is still sitting at Arch’s feet and Rachel comments that he must like Arch, as he doesn’t behave that way with everyone.

“Your friend must love you very much to entrust you with his dog,” Arch observes. 

The look on Rachel’s face confirms this, and we see Arch’s satisfaction. 

“I hope he returns to you soon,” he says, moving out of her way. 

Rachel smiles and keeps walking, completely unaware that she has just put herself in grave danger. Ian now has someone worth taking and Arch knows it.

Yet it is not Rachel who Ian mentions first when he knocks on Jamie and Claire’s cabin door on board the ship. 

“I miss my dog,” he says.

Claire comments that Rollo will be much happier on dry land with Rachel and Ian nods. Rollo is not the only one who would prefer dry land. Jamie is lying down, clearly seasick once more. He would sell his soul for dry land, he says, and Claire offers to use the acupuncture needles once more. 

But Jamie has his pride. They are on the ship as the dignity of the American cause, he says, and he won’t walk around looking like a porcupine.

“Was it the dignity of the American cause I saw earlier puking his hardtack into the Irish sea?” Claire asks.

“It was, aye,” Jamie confirms and Ian laughs.

Suddenly a bell begins to ring and they all look at each other. 

“Is that what I think it is?” Claire asks, as the cry of “Land ho” is heard from above. The three of them hurry onto the deck, to catch the first glimpse of rolling hills.

“Scotland,” Jamie says, his eyes bright with tears. Together they stand and watch as they draw closer. They are home.

And just like that, another Droughtlander begins, the length of which is unknown, due to the current writer’s strike. In the meantime, we will just have to try and ensure that our reach exceeds our grasp!

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She has thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this penultimate season and will try and employ some Quaker patience as she waits for the remaining episodes!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Nine Years of Outlander


“Don’t Panic” - the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Time Travel A recap of season 7 episode 7 by your Aussie Blogging Lass


Outlander Homepage Originals 

There are limits to the effectiveness of a guide book. The author can provide detailed explanations, give suggestions and warnings, and share relevant expertise, but there are no guarantees of success. Despite careful preparations, the success or failure of the endeavour often depends largely on circumstances and luck. And when the guide book in question concerns time travel, the outcome is even less certain. So begins the penultimate episode of the first half of season 7.

It is September 1777 and the Continental Army is in New York. Claire’s voiceover begins a letter to Brianna, explaining their position camped near Bemis Heights outside of Saratoga. Jamie has accepted a position with Morgan’s riflemen, and Claire describes her feelings of fragile optimism. While she knows the outcome of the Battle of Saratoga, she doesn’t know what will happen to them in particular. Claire tells Brianna of her meeting with William whilst she had been held captive at Ticonderoga, adding that while her heart had leapt at being able to see him, it had made her miss Brianna all the more. 

Brianna is sitting reading this letter when she hears Roger yelling for her. Hurriedly replacing the letter in the box, she runs in the direction of his voice and finds Roger leading “the Nucklavee” into the house. He promptly introduces the man as William Buccleigh Mackenzie.

“Your servant, Madam,” Buck replies, with a formal bow of his head.  

As the opening credits end, Buck is telling his story to Roger and Brianna. After Alamance, he was ruined financially, he tells them. Heading to Inverness to become a clerk for one of his wife’s relatives, Buck had heard the sound of the stones, which he describes as sounding like a hive of bees. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation, and he feared he would lose his mind from it. 

“Twas at Craig na Dun,” Buck says, as Brianna and Roger reminisce about their own journeys. 

Leaving his wife, Morag, with the children, Buck had gone to investigate.

“And here I am,” he says, his face still full of disbelief. 

Buck continues his story. He had travelled along the road to the town, he tells them, avoiding the “great roaring carriages” that had passed him on the way. 

“But how did you come to be at Lallybroch?” Roger asks.

Buck explains that he had seen Roger entering a shop.

“You’re the only ones who knows what’s happened to me,” Buck says. 

But Brianna is not convinced.

“If you were looking for answers, what were you doing lurking about, scaring our children?” she asks. 

Buck points out that he could hardly walk up to their door and expect to escape their wrath. Roger did, after all, survive a hanging that Buck himself had instigated. He didn’t know who or what he might have been dealing with. It’s a fair point, and one that leaves Roger and Brianna momentarily speechless.

Previously, the role of Buck MacKenzie was played by Graham McTavish, but this season, Irish actor Diarmaid Murtagh has taken over. Murtagh wastes no time in making the role his own and succeeds beautifully in marrying Buck’s natural fierceness with his vulnerability. 

The British Army are camped near Stillwater in New York. William and his friend Sandy Hammond are listening as General Fraser, champagne in hand, is holding court.

“With every gain comes a loss,” Fraser says, as one of the other generals points out that what they win on the battlefield they lose in desertion. 

All the men, including William, are in agreement about the deserters, with words like “cowards” and “lily livered” being thrown about. It is not only Hessian soldiers who have deserted, but British too. But overall, no-one seems too concerned, as reinforcements will join them in Albany,  courtesy of General Hough’s men. 

Others in the party are more cautious. They still have to reach Albany and the Continental Army is in the way. Fraser says that they will meet them on open ground, and use the artillery at their disposal. It is a prospect that excites William and Sandy, who share barely contained grins. 

“This is the last push, gentlemen,” Fraser says. “And we will prevail!”

They toast the King, but the celebrations are interrupted with a message for General Burgoyne from the aforementioned General Hough. 

Dramatic music builds, as Burgoyne unfolds the small scroll and reads the message. But the news is not for everyone. 

“If you do not have a seat at this table, make your exit swift,” Burgoyne says. 

William and Sandy fall into this category, so they take their leave, skilfully helping themselves to alcohol and fruit from the table as they go. 

Outside, Sandy stores the purloined bottle in his saddlebag. William meanwhile, is showing off his skills at swordsmanship, by throwing the fruit up in the air and slicing it in half with a dramatic flourish. As William feeds one of the halves to his horse, Captain Clark hurries past, in search of a Mrs Lynde, the woman widely reputed to be the General’s mistress. Sandy comments that if a mistress is being sent for, the news must not be good. This is an accurate assessment, and William finds himself walking with Captain Richardson, who explains the situation. 

Hough is no longer meeting them in Albany, Richardson tells William. Instead, he plans to take Philadelphia. William comments that the American forces are already poised for battle, a fact that Richardson agrees with. General Fraser has charged him with urgent dispatches, in the form of an appeal to General Clinton to create diversions for their army as they approach Albany. The requests need to be sent out in duplicate, Richardson says, so William is to act as Richardson’s second. 

“Our victory cannot come too soon,” says Richardson, adding that General Burgoyne intends an attack in 3 days time. “You will miss it,” he tells William as he walks away. From his reaction, we see that this is the last thing that William wants.

Meanwhile, Buck is devouring peanut butter sandwiches as fast as Brianna can make them. He asks whether the children eat them too, adding that Jeremiah is also the name of his son, a coincidence that he finds strange. Since Jem and Mandy will soon be home, Roger tells Buck to hurry up with his story. 

Buck recalls Alamance, when his employer had joined the Regulators. Buck, Morag and the children had been in a small camp. 

“And the next fellow she meets is you,” Buck says to Roger. 

“Did she not tell you who I was?” Roger asks. “That I helped her on the ship?” 

But Buck is unrepentant. He had interpreted Roger’s presence as inappropriate, he explains, particularly when he was so close by.  Brianna explains that Roger had only been trying to help, but it is an explanation that Buck doesn’t accept. 

“Why would a militia man do that?” he says.

It is time to reveal the truth. 

“Morag is my 5 or maybe 6 times great grandmother,” Roger says. “That makes you my grand da. My son was named Jeremiah after my Da, who was named for his Grand da, who was named for your son. There may be one or two Jeremiahs missing along the way. We’re family.” 

Buck is stunned. 

“You wouldn’t have anything stronger than coffee, would you?” he asks. 


They do. In the next scene, Buck and Brianna are drinking whisky, and Buck asks Bree about her own heritage, observing that she isn’t Scottish.
“I am on my father’s side,” Brianna corrects him. “My father is… was… James Fraser of Broch Turoch.”

Meanwhile, Roger has found the printed copy of the MacKenzie family tree, with Buck and Morag’s names clearly visible. But amongst the details is the year of Buck’s death: 1778. We see Roger wrestling with what to do: should he tell Buck?

Brianna and Buck are still talking. Buck asks Brianna if she is able to travel like himself and Roger and she confirms that she can. Roger reappears, claiming not to be able to find the family tree,  and asks Buck what year he had come through the stones. Buck’s answer is not surprising, given the date we have just seen written on the family tree. The year is the same: 1778. 

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a car outside. Brianna expects it to be Fiona and the children, but instead it is Rob Cameron. With a groan, Roger remembers that he had agreed to Rob coming for dinner sometime. 

“I didn’t think he’d just show up!” he says in his own defence. 

Hastily, Buck is hidden in the priest’s hole, with another peanut butter sandwich. 

Roger strikes up an awkward conversation outside with Rob Cameron. He tells Rob that he and Brianna have been taking advantage of the children not being home to do some tidying up. He explains that they are renovating and that it is a madhouse inside. But Rob is not to be deterred. He has brought a nice bottle of red and happily enters the house.

Brianna has quickly stepped into the role of hostess and is clearing the table, but not before Rob comments on the bottle of whisky. Roger explains it by saying that renovating requires some of the “water of life”, adding that Brianna is the cook for the evening. 

“Just pretend you like it, that’s what I do,” he jokes, nervously. 

“Oh really?” Brianna banters back. 

They toast and clink glasses. It is an uncomfortable exchange. 

Rob asks if he can look at the Reverend’s old hymnals, commenting that he didn’t get the opportunity during Roger’s class. So Roger shows him towards the study, where the two look at one of the books. Rob is fascinated, asking if he can copy some of the hymns down. 

“Be my guest,” Roger replies. Leaving Rob engrossed in the hymnal, he goes back to Brianna. 

But just as they are preparing to take advantage of Rob’s temporary absence to remove Buck from the priest’s hole, the children return from school. Jem proudly shows a badge on his scarf that says “the Tufty Club.” 

“I was a member of the Tufty Club when I was your age,” Roger says. 

This is a small detail, but one that links cleverly with previous seasons and episodes.

Dinner has been going for quite some time. Roger keeps stealing glances at the priest’s hole, as Rob, Brianna and Jem continue to talk. Jem is fascinated with talk of turbines, cranes and the tunnels, which he asks Brianna to show him. 

“Tunnels are not best suited to children,” Brianna tells her son.

“Some people might say the same thing about women,” Rob comments, “and they’d be wrong.” 

Brianna smiles briefly, before telling the children it is time for bed. 

“Can we watch some tele first?” Jem asks.

“Just for a wee while,” Roger answers. “Take your sister out to the caravan.” 

Brianna and Rob begin to talk shop as Roger clears the table, all the while glancing at the priest’s hole door. He reenters the room in time to hear Rob elect himself and two of the other men as Brianna’s three musketeers. With a look to Brianna, the two of them try to bring the evening to a close, but Rob is the epitome of the guest who overstays his welcome. Just as they think he is finally about to leave, he asks for another dram of whisky. 

Chris Fulton is doing a great job portraying Rob Cameron. Although seemingly charming and earnest, there is something about Rob that doesn’t sit comfortably. The exchanges between Roger and Rob in particular have an underlying tension that has been brilliantly crafted by Richard Rankin and Chris Fulton. 

The Continental Army’s camp is full of hustle and bustle. Jamie, now wearing the fringed shirt of one of Morgan’s riflemen, comes towards Claire, who is sitting at a writing desk. He announces that he has brought her a present, revealing a book, which he has found on the edge of a creek. Claire is pleased and starts looking at the pages. But she is squinting, and Jamie comments that he hadn’t noticed before, but she needs spectacles. 

“Nonsense,” Claire replies. “I see perfectly well.” 

“Hmm,”Jamie says. He opens the book to a random page and asks her to read.

“How am I supposed to read that?” Claire retorts. “It’s terribly small type.”

Jamie counters that it is 12 point Caslon. Other parts of the binding are not up to his exacting standard, but it is perfectly legible.

“You need spectacles,” he says again, and this time she doesn’t disagree.

“We’ll be blind as bats before this war is over,” she says, asking Jamie to reassure her that he can see enough to shoot straight. 

“Dinna fash, Sassenach,” he replies, taking her hand and kissing it. “I can shoot straight with my eyes closed.” 

This is a good thing, he continues, telling Claire that they are being mustered for a battle in 3 days time. But before the conversation can turn too serious, Jamie promises that when they get back to Scotland, he will buy her a tortoise shell pair of glasses for every day and a pair with gold rims for Sundays. 

Claire moves to sit on his lap, asking if he will expect her to start reading the bible with them. 

“No,” he answers, but adds that a prayer for him that night couldn’t hurt. 

“You’ll come back to me,” Claire says, tenderly. “You always do. And if you don’t, I’ll come looking for you.”

“I ken you will, Sassenach,” Jamie replies, and they kiss. 

This was a lovely scene, with the comic byplay over the spectacles a welcome light relief to the building tensions in both centuries. We are used to Jamie and Claire dominating the storylines, but there is little of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in this episode. As a result, they make the most of every moment, delivering the dialogue with the ease that comes with having inhabited their characters for close to a decade now. 

William and Sandy are lamenting the meal in front of them, Sandy commenting that he would love a meal at the Beef Steak Club. General Fraser approaches and the two men stand to attention. But Fraser has not come for any particular reason and he invites them to sit and eat. Sandy comments that their meal doesn’t resemble what General Burgoyne is eating, adding that they are missing a good claret and some music. 

Fraser tells them that they need to find a way to keep spirits up.

“I find that my spirits are lifted here around the fire with my men,” Fraser says. “And so it shall be on the battlefield, standing side by side with my fellow soldiers. Spirits up! Glory is afoot!”

Sandy tells William that this is his opportunity, so William follows the General, seeking a private word. William wants to be standing side by side with the men too, he says. He will be of more use on the battlefield than carrying dispatches.

“You told General Burgoyne that we were at a crucial point in this war,” William says. “I am no errand boy. I am a true soldier. With your permission, General, I would like to remain here with the army.”  

Fraser tells William that he can’t fault the younger man’s courage, foolhardy as it may be. In fact, it will be needed if he wishes to stay and fight. If it is what William really wants, Fraser says, he will instruct Captain Richardson to find another messenger.

Finally, Rob is leaving. He comments that it has been so nice to sit at a table with a proper family.

“Don’t you have suppers with your sister and wee Bobby?” Roger asks.

“Oh, aye,” Rob replies, “they’re great.” 

With that, Rob launches into yet another story. He was married once, he tells them, to a French woman, who had divorced him a couple of years earlier and taken their son with her back to France. Her family has money and he doesn’t. 

“It turns out the more expensive lawyer wins in these things,” he says. 

Brianna is sympathetic, commenting that it is tough to be separated from family. 

Thanking them for everything, Rob walks to the door, but turns one final time with an invitation. He is taking Bobby to the pictures the following evening and wonders if Jem would like to come along and spend the night at Bobby’s afterwards.  

“Yeah,” Brianna agrees. “He’d love that.” 

Having farewelled Rob at last, Brianna and Roger go straight to the priest’s hole to let Buck out. But the room is empty. 

“Didn’t you lock it?” Brianna asks.

“I didn’t think I’d have to,” Roger replies.

It turns out that Buck hasn’t gone far. He is sitting in the caravan with Jem and Mandy, watching tv. As Jem explains the show and Mandy plays with Buck’s beard, the older man is translating words. Astronaut, he muses, must mean star traveller.

“Is that what we’re called?” he asks, and Jem nods.

Roger and Brianna come in and stare at the three of them, not quite knowing what to do. 

“We found the Nucklavee, Da!” Jem says. “And you’re related!”

“Aye, cousins,” Buck says quickly. “And I apologised.” 

“He’s not really that scary, Mummy,” Mandy says. 

At a loss as to what to do next, Roger and Brianna go outside to talk. Brianna wonders how it is that Buck has already gotten the children to be on his side. 

“He must be missing his own children,” Roger says, commenting that Buck has had a rough go of it and suggesting that they allow him to sleep in the house. This Buck is not the enemy he met at Alamance, but “cousin Buck.” The difference of course, is that Buck is now aware of their connection.

A little reluctantly, Brianna agrees, saying that they can make up the couch in the dining room. But she has one stipulation: she doesn’t want Buck hanging around the house when they are not home.  So they come up with a plan: Brianna will take Buck to work with her, and on Saturday Roger will take him back to the stones.

“So you’ve already forgiven him?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Roger confirms. “Right after I beat him into the ground.”

“I thought that was because he scared the kids?” Brianna says. 

“A few of those punches were for me too,” Roger replies. “Either way, it felt good.”

The scene ends with their arms around each other, looking back at the caravan, which is bathed in soft light. It is a peaceful image.

Buck accompanies Brianna to work and the two of them discuss how unsettling it must be for Buck to see things so changed. Buck comments that while some things have changed, others have stayed the same. The hardest thing is realising that his wife, who was pregnant at the time he travelled, is now dead, along with all of his children. Brianna asks Buck why he didn’t immediately go back through the stones once he had realised what had happened. Buck replies that he hadn’t really known what had happened at first, only that it was something terrible and connected to the stones. Brianna wonders why he didn’t try to go back for the sake of his family and asks what he had been thinking of when he had come through.

Buck begins to get agitated by the questions, asking Brianna why she has brought him with her. He understands that she wants to keep an eye on him when she is away from home, but wants to know if something is still bothering her. 

“Yeah, I want to know why you’re here,” Brianna replies. She assumes that he wants to go back to Morag and Jeremiah and he asks whether she can help him with that. 

Buck has been fiddling with a gold ring on his finger, one with a missing gemstone. Brianna explains that the gem has gone because of his journey through the stones. If they can find him another gem, she says, then he can go back again, and that if he thinks of his family, that will help to steer him towards them. 

Rob Cameron appears and Brianna dutifully introduces Buck as Roger’s cousin. Rob puts out his hand to shake, but Buck refuses it, looking on disapprovingly as Rob touches Bree’s arm while making arrangements to collect Jem that evening. After Rob has gone, Buck comments that Rob smiles too much in Brianna’s direction. She dismisses his concerns, saying that smiling is nothing more than kindness, but Buck is not convinced. 

Roger is preparing for his next class at the school. He adjusts Jeremiah’s box on the table, not noticing what we do: that a piece of paper is now protruding from it that wasn’t there before. Roger is looking for Buck and eventually finds him in the caravan, holding a model of a plane. Buck asks Roger whether he has actually flown in one and Roger confirms that he has, adding that they flew home from America in one after their journey through the stones. Buck says that his Jeremiah would love the model, and Roger suggests that he could take it back with him, assuming that Jem is prepared to part with it. 

After a moment’s pause, Buck tells Roger that Rob Cameron is trouble. 

‘He’s got a hot eye for your wife,” he says.

Roger retorts that Buck thinks everyone has a hot eye. It is the reason he himself ended up with a noose around his neck, he says. 

Buck defends himself, saying that any man in his time would have thought the same. 

“A man is born knowing when someone is preying on their woman,” he says.

“Well, you were wrong,” Roger answers. “And this isn’t your time.” 

“I only thought I should tell you,” Buck replies.

Roger has something of his own to tell Buck. Admitting that he had in fact found the MacKenzie family tree, Roger reveals that he has seen the year of Buck’s death. He asks the older man if he wants to know. 

“No,” Buck replies, “but I’d like you to tell me anyway.”

Roger reveals that according to the family tree, Buck died in 1778, the same year that he travelled through the stones. This offers two possibilities: firstly, that Buck does not return to his own time and his family presumes him dead; or that he does make it back and dies shortly afterwards. Either is a sobering prospect.

Brianna and Roger discuss the situation as they make the bed. Brianna mentions that she wasn’t sure at the dam whether Buck had actually wanted to return. Roger says that he didn’t advise Buck either way, but had felt that the man had the right to know. He shares Buck’s opinion of Rob Cameron and his supposed attraction to Brianna. 

“Well that’s ridiculous,” Brianna replies. “We’ve had dinner with him. You know what he’s like.”

“Aye,” Roger replies. “A wee bit flirty.”

The atmosphere has changed and Brianna begins to unbutton her blouse, her eyes locked with Roger’s. 

“He’s just a lonely divorcee,” she continues, as Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight” plays in the background, and things heat up further. 

“All the more reason to be pining after you,” Roger comments.

“I’m his boss,” Brianna replies. 

“I think he takes too much pleasure in calling you Guv,” Roger says, moving closer and sliding his hands under her shirt. 

Brianna asks him if he is feeling a bit territorial.

“What if I am?” he asks. “I know the modern man isn’t supposed to be possessive, but what if tonight I’m feeling a little more primal?”

The music swells and the two make love, in another scene artfully choreographed by the show’s intimacy coordinator. There has been a real change in the lovemaking scenes since the coordinator has been employed. We see less flesh, with hands and bedding carefully positioned to allow for more privacy. The focus is on faces and lighting and if anything, the scenes are more intimate than they were before.

Back in the 1700s, a British deserter is wandering through the woods, when he is discovered by Ian - now in full war paint - and his friends. Ian stops the man in his tracks, by firing an arrow into the nearby tree.

“Who are you, then?” he asks, his voice quiet and menacing.

Claire discovers Jamie sharpening a knife and asks what is going on. Jamie tells her of the British deserter. 1500 men are being mustered to test the strength of their left wing, he says, and Morgan is leading the charge. They know what this means: Jamie will be joining the fight.

“Will you kiss me, Claire?” Jamie asks her.

“Always,” she replies, tenderly, and does so. 

Stepping back from her, Jamie turns and walks away. Worryingly for viewers who have been watching Outlander since the beginning, the slow motion effect is deployed. We know from past experience that this rarely means anything good! Claire’s face certainly supports this suspicion - she is obviously emotional and worried. 

It is September 19th 1777, the date of the First Battle of Saratoga. William gives the instruction for the company of soldiers to fix bayonets, an order which they dutifully follow. Sandy is standing next to William and together they watch their enemy approach. 

Sandy attempts to lighten the mood, asking William who has the better bosom: Mrs Lynde or the Baroness. William gives a nervous chuckle, saying that he prefers not to comment on such a vulgar topic. 

“Oh I see,” Sandy replies. “Evading the question.” 

Sandy asks if William has an eye for someone and William replies that it is unlikely he will ever see her again.

“Then it won’t matter if you tell me her name,” Sandy retorts and William does so: Rachel. 

But suddenly there comes the sound of a bullet whistling and to William’s horror, he watches it embed itself into Sandy’s forehead. Sandy falls, lifeless, as the battle begins. William keeps trying to rouse his friend, entreating the dead man to get up. Finally, he realises it is pointless. Men are dying around him and General Fraser is on horseback barking orders. One of these orders breaks through his shock: “Lieutenant Ellesmere! To your men!” 


Drawing his sword, and with a battle cry worthy of any Highlander, William charges into the fight. As he runs, we catch glimpses of the shirts of Morgan’s riflemen and we wonder: will Jamie actually meet his son over the field of battle after all? 

The fighting is fierce and bloody and William is caught up in it, slashing wildly with his sword as blood splatters across his face. Again, we see a parallel with previous seasons and episodes: Culloden comes to mind here. 

Something has woken Roger. Unable to sleep, he goes to his study and switches on the lamp. As he looks at the box, he finally sees what we saw earlier: a piece of paper is poking out. But before he can investigate further, a piercing scream breaks the silence. 

Roger returns to the caravan and finds Brianna comforting a distraught Mandy. 

“Jemmy! He’s gone, he’s gone!” Mandy cries. 

Roger tries to reassure his daughter, telling Mandy that Jem has only gone to stay with his friend, Bobby.

“No,” she repeats. “He’s not here.”

When Roger asks what she means, Mandy’s answer is chilling. 

“He’s not here with me,” she says, putting her hand to her head. The connection that they have always had has been broken.

Roger asks again what had woken her. Has she had a bad dream?

“There were stones and they screamed at me,” Mandy replies. 

“Did you go close to the stones?” Roger asks, as he and Brianna exchange a worried look.

“Not me, Jemmy,” Mandy replies. “That bad man took him.”

This galvanises Roger and Brianna into action. Brianna goes to phone Bobby’s mother, while Roger goes back into the house. Buck has woken and asks what all the racket is about. Roger asks if he has seen Jem.

“He’s with Cameron, is he no?” Buck replies.

Brianna soon appears with the bad news. She has spoken to Bobby’s mother, she says, and there was no movie or sleepover that evening. Rob Cameron lives across the road, so Brianna had asked Bobby’s mother to go and check. Rob is not at home: his car has gone. With a groan, Roger puts the pieces together. The box had been disturbed because Cameron has read the letters inside it.  

Roger and Buck are driving to the stones. Roger tells Buck about his guide to time travel and how Rob had read it by accident. 

“He pretended to think that it was something I’d made up for fun, but he knew,” Roger says. 

Buck asks if Cameron is like them: can he time travel? Roger answers that he doesn’t know, but confirms to Buck that there are other time travellers out there, including Claire, Otter Tooth and Geillis Duncan. 

The mention of Geillis’ name makes Roger realise something: he had recorded Geillis’ theory that a blood sacrifice was needed for travel - what if Rob is planning on using Jem in this way? 

The two men have arrived at the stones and Roger hands Buck a torch. They yell into the darkness, screaming both for Rob and for Jem, the buzzing of the stones surrounding them. Suddenly Buck notices something at the foot of one of the stones: it is Jem’s scarf with the Tufty Club brooch still attached. 

Post battle, William is still looking at Sandy’s face, while soldiers around him dig a trench for graves. The soldiers are complaining that they have dug deep enough, but William isn’t satisfied. Behind them are a number of bodies all wrapped in shrouds and William won’t risk them being dug up again by hungry animals.

“These men died bravely,” he says. “and we did not retrieve their bodies from the battlefield only to see them pulled out of shallow graves and devoured in the night.” Removing his coat and dropping his sword, William picks up a shovel. “We dig deeper,” he says. 

Meanwhile, other soldiers are celebrating a victory. William doesn’t understand this: They had merely held ground. General Fraser explains: if Burgoyne can convince the masses that they have been victorious, then they have prevailed. 

William tells Fraser of Sandy’s death and the older man raises a glass. 

“An honourable death,” he says. 

“Yet I live to tell the tale,” William adds. 

“They send forth men to battle,” Fraser quotes, “but no such men return. So says Aeschylus.” He leans towards William and observes, “You’re a different man now.” 

He walks away, as a sombre William completes Aeschylus’ words: “They send forth men to battle, but no such men return. And home, to claim their welcome, come ashes in an urn.” Fraser is right: the battle eager William has gone and a different man stands in his place. 

The camera pans across the now quiet battlefield, littered with bodies. Proving once more the ominous power of the slow motion walk, we recognise one of them. The camera zooms closer. A man lies, eyes closed, blood caked around a wound on his head. It is Jamie.

The stage is set for the mid season finale - but can we say Je Suis Prest? 

A lot was packed into this episode, but each revelation was skilfully written and expertly performed. The many parallels and nods to past seasons and episodes was effortlessly done and really highlights the many connections between past, present and future. Book readers know what is ahead, but really there is nothing to be done but to follow the instructions from the Hitchhiker’s Guide: don’t panic!

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She loves every episode, but always enjoys the ones that stay close to Diana Gabaldon’s writing and setting a little bit more!