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OUTLANDER Recap: It’s the Calm Before Culloden

OUTLANDER Recap: It’s the Calm Before Culloden

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

The second season of Outlander has been building towards the Battle of Culloden, and it’s only days away. Jamie and Claire tried to change the course of history but were defeated by the timeline and its inevitability. Their efforts were futile, and when the lives of thousands of men are at stake, that burden must weigh a million pounds. Their failure doesn’t deter Jamie. He tried to make one last plea to Prince Charles to do anything but fight on Culloden moor; Jamie wasn’t successful, but he did come across another opportunity courtesy of Black Jack Randall–hence the title of “Hail Mary.”

Jack Randall is the weasel that never really goes away when you close the box. He pops back up, resilient as a cockroach. His clock is up at Culloden though, and Claire knows it. This tidbit informs her actions and decisions when she encounters Jack while tending to his brother Alex. Claire ran into Mary in an Inverness herb shop, and while it seems unlikely for people who know each other would keep running into each other in Outlander, it’s not a stretch. Not really. Think of how often you have “it’s a small world” moments. You have those in a world where people can travel far and easily; in eighteenth century Scotland, the travel options were more limited, so people stayed in smaller areas. It’s why I never have difficulty believing the likelihood of all these paths crossing again and again.

Now, was it a bit of a coincidence for Jack to show up while Claire was visiting his brother and Mary for the first time? Maybe, but it made things interesting so I can forgive it. Caitriona Balfe is the master of the shocked and disgusted facial expression, and she put it on exceedingly well for Claire’s reaction to seeing Jack. The circumstances–Alex dying and his bride to be and mother of his unborn son Mary being Claire’s friend–sort of forced Claire to cooperate and treat Alex despite Jack’s presence. She wasn’t benevolent for the sake of being nice; she traded Alex’s comfort for information on the location of the British army.

When Jamie learned about Jack’s presence, he was understandably ticked–until he got the military intel. It gave him one more chance to stop the deaths of Culloden, and he pursued it full throttle. The thrust of the planning and decision-making happened off screen, and it wasn’t the approach I would have expected, but taking this episode to focus on the cycle of life despite events like a giant battle approaching added more drama. Spending more of the episode inside Charles’ war room would likely have been boring. By only touching base now and again, we understand what’s happening and some of the political machinations involved but we aren’t overwhelmed. By the by, I love the contrast of Jamie’s natural, wild hair to the prim and proper wigs of Charles’ other council members.

Back to Jack, because the conflict surrounding him was the most intriguing part of “Hail Mary.” This is the man who tortured Jamie in every terrible way imaginable at Wentworth at the end of season one. Earlier this season, Jack abused Fergus–sweet, little Fergus. So yeah, Jack’s a despicable specimen of a human being, but here we saw his compassion for his brother. The one thread of decency within Jack was on display any time he carefully and gently tended Alex. Jack’s inner darkness never faded away because Tobias Menzies manages to convey deep shadows of the past on his face, but for a millisecond, you could sympathize with a man who is losing his brother. Only a millisecond.

The grossness of Jack resurfaced when Alex asked him to marry Mary. I’m glad they had Claire explain to Murtagh why the marriage was advantageous because the knee jerk reaction is, “Why the EFF would you let anyone marry Jack Randall?” It all made sense in a depressing, realistic way. Plus, Claire knows Mary will soon be a well-taken-care-of widow and won’t have to suffer at the hands of Jack.

Claire was so on board with the plan she had to convince Jack to go through with it. She stayed true even when Jack reminded her about what he did to Jamie. Just think: We only know about a few of Jack’s horrific deeds. Can you imagine what else he’s done? Ugh. I don’t believe Claire would have gone to bat for Alex’s plan if she didn’t know the future.

We lost Alex Randall, and he wasn’t the only casualty. Colum made a trip to Inverness, looking more sickly than ever before. He came not to back the Jacobite army but to get clan affairs in order before he died. He upset Dougal with his decisions, but given how hot-headed and illogical Dougal is, Dougal’s reaction surprised exactly no one. Dougal tried to make amends–well, some sort of peace–but what Dougal intends and what Dougal communicates are rarely the same thing. However, Colum died before Dougal spoke his final thoughts to his brother. Colum was in so much pain that he had requested assistance from Claire to kill himself, and Claire acquiesced by giving him an herbal drug.

With the deaths of Alex and Colum and the failure of the last-minute plan to attack the British and stop the Battle of Culloden, I’m surprised I didn’t weep more throughout “Hail Mary.” The part that got me? Murtagh offering to wed Mary. He was afraid of her marrying Jack, and he wanted to do anything to prevent their union and Mary being hurt. It was sweet and pretty selfless. Murtagh has those moments now and again, and they always catch me off guard because of the earnest sincerity on his face.

What do you think about Claire’s decision to help Alex and Colum? Share your opinions on “Hail Mary” in the comments.

Images: Starz

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