“The Battle Joined”
September 10, 2017
So, what’s this show about?
The longer version: In 1946, British Army nurse Claire Randall falls through a crack in time while on holiday in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. She lands in 1743, falls in with a group of Scots sworn to the MacKenzie clan, and runs afoul of Frank’s look-a-like ancestor (and rape enthusiast) Captain “Black Jack” Randall. After trying to get back to her own time, Claire decides to stay in the past with Jamie Fraser, because reasons.
Season 2 took the couple to France where they plotted – unsuccessfully – to prevent the Jacobite Rebellion. With the Battle of Culloden imminent, Jamie sends a pregnant Claire back through the stones to 1948, and takes to the field where she believes he died. Sexily.
Also what this show is about? Knitwear. So much chunky, cozy knitwear.
The Battle of Culloden has been fought and lost. Jamie Fraser and Black Jack Randall lie together atop a pile of bodies. Randall is dead – yay! Jamie drifts in and out of consciousness, slowly bleeding to death and going septic. Redcoats patrol the field, rifling pockets for valuables, collecting their own, and bayonetting any Scots found still breathing.
Night falls. It begins to snow. Claire comes to Jamie in a hallucination. She asks if he’s still alive.
Jamie is rescued by his kinsman Rupert and taken to an abandoned house with other survivors to wait for what comes next. They’re soon discovered by a detachment of Redcoats under the command of Lord Melton. He informs them that the Duke of Cumberland has ordered them all executed.
Melton says they’ll be shot like soldiers, not hanged like criminals. He gives them an hour to prepare themselves and offers writing materials to any that wants them. Lord Melton is a man of honor and FORESHADOWING!
When the men who can still walk have all been shot, Lord Melton orders stretchers to carry the rest. He’s appalled – APPALLED! – at the suggestion that they be shot lying down. He orders them to be propped up to die on their feet like soldiers, because honor. Jamie volunteers to go first.
Using what little strength he has left, Jamie rouses himself to declare his full name for the record: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza.
Lord Melton is like, hold up, what was that first part again? Fraser?
Melton crouches down next to Jamie and asks if the name John Grey means anything to him. Jamie remembers the young English soldier whose life he spared in Season 2 before the Battle of Prestonpans. He also remembers the promise the boy made. A promise to kill Jamie. Melton reveals that John Grey is his younger brother. Jamie says he doesn’t mind if Melton makes good that promise on his brother’s behalf.
To Melton’s great vexation that is something he cannot do. John Grey owes Jamie a debt of – ding ding – honor. Melton will not discredit his brother’s sworn word by shooting Jamie or turning him over to the Duke of Cumberland – despite Jamie’s assurance that he won’t tell if Melton won’t.
Instead, Melton instructs his leftenant to find a discretely bribable cart man who can transport Jamie back home to Lallybroch. He doubts Jamie will survive the journey, but at least then his death won’t be on Melton’s head or his family’s honor.
Bye, Jamie! Bye!
The months go by and Claire settles into an uneasy, knitwear-free existence of balky gas stoves, punchably sexist Harvard faculty gatherings, and overly familiar neighbors. The move to America was meant to be a fresh start, but the veneer of this new life is paper thin and easily cracked.
Over breakfast Claire tells Frank she’s thinking of applying for US citizenship. In her mind it’s a way of making sure their child has a real home. Frank pings on the plural possessive. Theirs. Our. It knocks the breath out of him. He reaches out to touch Claire’s belly. She cringes away from him.
Surrendering her English citizenship suddenly becomes the worst idea ever. A betrayal of their very heritage! Anyway, Frank’s employment guarantees them both residency, so. Claire flatly says that isn’t what it’s about. Frank is like, OH YOU THINK? He takes her hand. She snatches it away.
Frank pleads with her to stop shutting him out. Claire lashes out at him, angry that she’s not allowed to talk about her sexy past with a hot Scot, while he can reminisce all day long about how much better the tea was in England.
And then Frank spits back that at least he wasn’t fucking around while she was gone and Claire chucks an ashtray at his head.
The anger drains out of Frank. Claire looks like she’s just getting warmed up. Frank reminds her that he didn’t force this arrangement on her. He didn’t force her to come to Boston, and he’s not forcing her to stay. His voice is weary and tinged with sadness. He gently challenges her to decide what she wants. “Go or stay. But please, do it because it’s what you really want to do.”
Claire breaks down sobbing as Frank leaves for work. What she wants died on a moor in Scotland 200 years earlier.
Frank spends that night on the couch. Unable to sleep, he goes to his desk and starts a letter. He asks his friend and confident in Scotland, Reverend Wakefield, to look into Jamie’s history. Claire comes into the study to tell him her water has broken.
At the hospital the doctor directs all of his questions to Frank, ignoring Claire except to tell her to do what he says and not panic. Claire is like, yeah … not panicking, but good looking out. To the question of whether this is her first pregnancy, Claire actuallys that it’s her second. She had a late term miscarriage a year earlier. She doesn’t mention that it nearly killed her.
The doctor tells Frank to kiss the missus goodbye and go join the other fathers in the waiting room. “Just follow the smell of cigarettes and flop sweat.” Frank asks Claire to try not to throw an ashtray at the doctor. It gets a smile and a laugh out of her, but she makes no promises.
Y’all, I know we’re supposed to be rooting for Claire and Jamie, but it’s hard not to be Team Frank, too.
In the delivery room, the doctor reassures Claire that she won’t feel a thing. When she wakes up, she’ll be a mother! Claire tells him she doesn’t want to be put under during delivery, and he’s like LOL!agency. He instructs a nurse to sedate her and it’s off to a forced twilight sleep for Claire.
Outlander, never one to miss an opportunity to depict an assault on a woman’s body.
Claire comes to and becomes frantic as she feels at her belly. She asks over and over to the empty room, “Where’s my baby?” She bluntly asks the nurse who comes in if it’s dead. It’s a heartbreaking call back to the stillbirth in Season 2’s episode, “Faith.”
Cue Frank walking in with a blanket-wrapped bundle to Claire’s overwhelming joy and relief. They both cry and coo over their beautiful little girl and promise that this, no really this, is their fresh start and new beginning.
And then another nurse walks in and asks where their little angel got her red hair.
COOL, COOL, BUT WHAT IS CLAIRE WEARING?
Not nearly enough cozy knits, I can tell you that. It’s nothing but tent-like smocks with Peter Pan collars as far as the eye can see. Although her sleepwear game of flowy gowns and bed jackets is on point, serving Carlo’s side piece just called the house and Connie broke all the wedding china realness.