Though titled “The Hail Mary” — a reference to both Jamie’s final attempt to thwart the Battle of Culloden and Mary Hawkins’ return — this week’s Outlander episode was all about two men at the end of their lives and how their deathbed decisions would affect generations.
We open just outside Inverness, as Jamie, Claire, and the rest reunite with Prince Charles’ encampment. And the men — once vigorous and vital at Prestonpans — are broken and demoralized following five months of retreat.
And it’s hardly coincidence that Culloden Moor is just a few miles away and that April 16 — the historic date of the Battle of Culloden — is just three days away.
“Our worst nightmare was coming true, and I felt completely helpless,” Claire muses. “How the bloody hell did we end up here?”
“It wasn’t from lack of trying,” Jamie says to offer some solace, adding there’s still time to avoid a deadly fate.
Once settled, Claire sets out to find the local apothecary so she can stock up on medical supplies for whatever awaits the clan, but she stumbles into an unexpected reunion with Mary Hawkins, instead, who’s buying laudanum for Alex. (The couple reunited in Inverness after Alex took a new position there and are engaged to be married.) Claire — understanding that Alex must be in even worse health than when she saw him last and dissuaded him from pursuing Mary — asks if she can stop by to offer her services. Now that Mary knows the truth about Claire’s scheming to keep the two apart, she’s cross with her but can hardly turn down the favor.
Meanwhile, Jamie is busy trying to dissuade the Prince from engaging with the British troops at Culloden. After all, the location gives the Red Coats the upper hand. Jamie instead suggests they wait for the promised French funds and use them to invest in food and weapons (not to mention buy the weary men some time to rest and recuperate). Once they’re in better health and stocked up, they can then choose the better place for battle. But, in yet another act of hubris, Bonnie Prince Charlie wants to show he’s both a man and a soldier, so he orders the men to rest and then march to Culloden.
When Claire finally arrives at Mary and Alex’s boarding house, she finds a much-diminished man, bedridden and racked by bloody coughing fits. She’s in the midst of concocting a poultice to ease his discomfort when “Johnnie” walks in. As in, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall! (I will say that one of my favorite small details from the source material Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon is Alex’s nickname for his big brother. It speaks to the nugget of humanity that can still be found inside the sadistic soldier.) Mary also bears witness to Black Jack’s small kindnesses after Alex was no longer able to work: “I don’t know what would have become of us without John,” she says.
Still the young naif, Mary doesn’t realize Alex isn’t going to get better. “But he must be cured!” she exclaims, as the camera pans to her burgeoning midsection. Yes, Mary is pregnant.
Claire’s had enough and runs out of the boarding house with Black Jack close on her heels. He tries commanding her to heal his brother (a fool’s errand if ever there was one), but Claire does strike up a bargain. She’ll help ease Alex’s pain in exchange for intel as to where Cumberland and the British Army are encamped. He feigns disgust at her proposition, but ultimately accepts, divulging that the troops are 12 miles away and will soon be otherwise preoccupied celebrating Cumberland’s birthday.
NEXT: A Wedding and Two Funerals