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OUTLANDER Recap: The Highlanders Prepare for Battle

It’s about to get all spoilery up in here, sassenachs. If you haven’t watched the newest episode of Outlander, “Je Suis Prest,” avert your eyes now and do not travel through the stones.

War is nigh. Stopping the Jacobite rebellion and preventing all out war has been the thrust of the story in season two–that’s no secret. But so far, it’s all been words and worried faces. “Je Suis Prest” (it translates to “I am ready”) took us to training ground and by doing so, reminded us of the real stakes ahead. We’re not even upon the actual battle, but like Jamie’s men, we’re now braced for the coming darkness. It’s not only because we watched young, sloppy Scots go through a training montage; we’re prepared because of seeing Claire’s horrific flashbacks (flash forwards?) to World War II.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about some happy reunions before we get to more serious subjects. We saw Jamie and Claire meet up with the Fraser fighting force and that meant seeing Angus and Rupert again! Who else has missed those dolts? They were so obnoxious when they were first introduced in season one of Outlander, and the best part is they haven’t really changed, but Claire has just learned to deal with their goofy behavior. I think she finds them endearing. Plus, they’re back with Murtagh and Fergus.

This is where I call out yet again how Romann Berrux is such a spot on choice for the role of Fergus. Casting in Outlander hits the mark time and time again, but Berrux is the Fergus I pictured when reading Diana Gabaldon’s books, and he makes me smile simply by being in a scene.

Anyway! Most of the reunions were positive, but it can’t all be sunshine and daisies–or heather or whatever sort of flowers grow in Scotland. Dougal was present as well. Claire’s reaction to seeing him made me admire her more. She didn’t put on a fake welcoming smile for the sake of appearances. She gave him a polite but strained nod. She’s genuine.

Besides being annoying because of his Dougal-ness, Jamie’s uncle caused pecking order problems–not a positive thing in a military situation when the line of command needs to be clear. Jamie has seen organized armies at work, but Dougal hasn’t. Still, Dougal believed he knew the best way to whip the Highlanders into fighting form. Jamie expressed his authority on the subject and his desire for Dougal to follow his orders, but Dougal ignored him.

He’s so stubborn. It’s a trait we see in Jamie, too, but Jamie can put his ego aside when the situation demands it for the greater good. Dougal’s too damn self-centered and thinks he knows best about what Scotland needs. But it’s fine. Claire got to calmly lecture Dougal about being a narcissist, and it was an intelligent and biting take down. She couldn’t have delivered her insults better.

The threat of the looming battle was emphasized partially by Jamie putting the Highlanders through their paces. We watched him deliver a stirring speech. If you had any doubt about Jamie’s leadership qualities, his “business is getting serious” talk with his men should put those concerns at ease. Sam Heughan often has a strong presence on screen, but he completely dominated that particular monologue. I’m ready to follow him into battle.

The stronger message about “hey, war is terrible” came from an unexpected source: Claire. Being around soldiers took her back to her life before she stepped through the stones–specifically to when she served as a nurse in World War II. She’d buried some of her war experiences deep down, but watching the preparations for battle uncovered everything. Even when Claire is angry, she often keeps herself together. She can shove emotion aside for the sake of the task of hand, but her memories were strong and crashed through her walls.

Watching Claire walk through her personal hell made my muscles tense. Caitriona Balfe did an extraordinary job communicating Claire’s psychological pain without verbalizing it. We saw her live through the terror of World War II and at the same time, she was processing how war was about to happen in front of her eyes again. The burden is a heavy one.

Claire’s trauma didn’t keep her down, because she’s Claire and nothing stops her spunk for long. An enemy soldier sneaked into the Highlander camp and tried to kill Jamie, and Claire turned actress in order to get the soldier to spill the beans about the company he traveled with. She had a hunch the young would-be assassin had a sense of honor, and so she pretended to be a helpless prisoner. Jamie played along and threatened her, and the boy, William, gave up the goods. It led to Jamie and his men making a small but important strike against the British.

What are your thoughts on “Je Suis Prest?” Were you pained by Claire’s flashbacks and stress? Talk to me in the comments.

Images: Starz

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