After a couple of humdrum episodes, Outlander returned to fighting form this week with “Prestonpans,” a bloody, emotional hour that found Jamie and his clansmen mourning one of their own.
But before the Jacobites charge in to battle, they must agree on a strategy, which, thus far, has been elusive. Sure, they took Perth and Edinburgh without firing a single shot, but they had the element of surprise working to their benefit. With the British Army within spitting distance of the Jacobite’s Prestonpans encampment, however, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his commanders don’t have that advantage.
As the men strategize, Claire works with several other women to set up a triage center to care for the future fallen. She’s clearly in her element and seems to be managing her PTSD.
Not so contented? Jamie’s clansmen, who are sitting around the fire just waiting for something to do. (Something other than, say, spitting ale at one another.) Thankfully, Jamie returns with a mission for Dougal. Well, not an explicit mission for Dougal, but Jamie uses a bit of subterfuge and flattery to get Dougal to agree to the task. Basically, Jamie needs someone to test the marshland separating the Jacobites and the Redcoats. Is it crossable?
Jamie tells Dougal to keep back at least 125 yards from the British encampment (so, you know, he won’t get shot). Dougal being Dougal thinks he can get within 105 yards. (He really wants to prove his mettle to the Prince — though what will it matter if he gets a bullet to the brain?)
So, as Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites watch, Dougal mounts his horse and sets off for the marsh. In broad daylight. Why couldn’t he have done this test under the cover of darkness? Wouldn’t it have been safer if the Redcoats weren’t able to see him? I scratched my head a bit at this. But, no matter. The British Army does indeed spot the advancing Dougal and takes up arms. And just as his horse gets caught in the mire of the marsh, Dougal starts taking fire. In fact, his cap is even blown off by a bullet! After weathering several shots, Dougal (finally!) prudently retreats, receiving a hero’s welcome from both the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
“If I had a hundred men like you this war would be over tomorrow,” Charles says, embracing Dougal before he heads off to change the pants he’s “shat” in.
But that still leaves the Jacobites unable to charge the Redcoats. That is, until an unexpected visitor arrives at camp. His name is Richard Anderson, and he grew up on that land. He knows about a small hidden trail that will lead the Jacobites straight to the British — unaware.
The Prince, for one, is ecstatic about this news: “We shall not return unless we bring victory with us!” he promises.
NEXT: Courage under fire[pagebreak]
Oddly, the impending battle inspires a bit of an existential crisis for Murtagh. He worries aloud to Jamie that his death will have no meaning, and it weighs on him. The moment is a bit of a departure for the normally stoic Scot, and one I’m not sure I entirely buy. But facing one’s mortality affects everyone differently, and I do appreciate the stakes building in this scene. Others appear much less shaken.
“It’s time to send the British Army to hell,” Angus announces, before receiving a good luck kiss from Claire. (Rupert won’t except a smooch since he’ll be coming back.)
“Watch over Jamie,” Claire whispers to Murtagh.
“Always,” he responds.
Claire tells Jamie they will win this day, and the two share a passionate kiss. “On your way, soldier,” she finally says. He bows on his way out.
Jamie and the Jacobites follow Richard Anderson through the foggy path to within a few feet of the British encampment. Jamie insists Bonnie Price Charlie stay behind while he leads the men into battle. The Prince doesn’t easily step down, but Jamie appeals to his vanity (the rebellion would die without you!), and eventually gets him to agree to take the backseat on this one. Jamie gives the command, and they’re off, attacking the sleeping British. And it’s a bloodbath. After only a few minutes, the Redcoats begin retreating. But there are still casualties: Rupert gets a sword in the gut; Angus, who himself got thrown by a canon blast, carries Angus back to Claire’s makeshift hospital. Rupert’s prognosis isn’t great, but Claire stitches him up and hopes for the best. She tries to attend to Angus, who likely has a concussion, but he shoos her off. He’ll be fine.
Murtagh and Jamie return, while Dougal stays behind stabbing the corpses to make sure they’re really dead. There, he runs into Lieutenant Foster, who had escorted him and Claire to the Garrison last season. He’s injured, but instead of helping him to the hospital, Dougal drives a dirk into his side.
Back at the barracks, Claire is concerned about Jamie’s well-being after she learns he was trampled by a horse. She instructs him to pee into a jar to make sure his kidneys weren’t damaged. One of the injured British soldiers in the hospital makes a bet with Jamie that he can’t hit the jar from a distance. Jamie’s in the middle of proving the Redcoat wrong when Bonnie Prince Charlie walks in. The monarch begins to deliver a speech about the victory when Dougal clamors in, interrupting the moment, and making a fool of himself by sneering at the assembled British soldiers. Charles orders Dougal be removed. Jamie intercedes, and suggests that Dougal spearhead the Highlander Dragoons, so that his Royal Highness will never have to lay eyes on him again. The Prince agrees.
“You champion me and you exile me at the same time,” Dougal remarks to Jamie, calling it a plan worthy of his brother Colum.
As the crowd disperses, a gasp arises: Angus is in distress. The canon blast was more significant than anyone thought, and Angus has been bleeding internally. Rupert gets off his bed to be by his friend’s side. But it’s too late. He’s dead — and will surely be just one of many casualties to come.
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Weigh in below, and be sure to tune in to Outlander Live on SiriusXM 105 for a deep dive into “Prestonpans” with Lynette Rice and me.