Outlander Season 2, Episode 9
“Je Suis Prest”
Posted by Kim
“There’s always another fucking war…”
When Claire spat that sentiment out in “Through a Glass, Darkly,” my initial reaction was that it was a response to her furor over the senseless losses of life during the Jacobite Rebellion. With the amount of time we’ve spent with Claire in 1700’s Scotland, it’s easy to forget that this woman has already lived through the horrors of WWII and witnessed them firsthand. Claire had already seen enough war to last her a lifetime before she even time-traveled to Scotland. It’s only to be expected that seeing Jamie train the men would trigger Claire’s memories from the War. It wasn’t diagnosable back then but Claire is obviously suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Outlander does a fantastic job in illustrating just how crippling it can be.
What is so debilitating about PTSD is that you never know what will trigger it. It’s not like Claire has forgotten her time in the war. The memories are always there, it’s just that most of the time her subconscious is able to protect her from them. But they still remain lurking beneath the surface, always waiting to knock her over. Claire is out of sorts from the moment the training begins in earnest. She looks at Fergus kicking a ball about with some of the men and suddenly sees all the young soldiers playing a bit of stickball at their encampment. The way she drags Fergus away from the game is both devastating and heart-warming at the same time because it’s as if Claire is screaming “NOT MY SON” to whatever higher power may be listening. She sees the men scarfing their dinner down and is transported back to the field hospital mess hall where she told two young and bright-eyed Americans what black pudding was and then educated them that English pudding is the same as American pudding. (“How do you say that?” “Table.” “Oh it’s the same.”) She sees the careless way in which Angus treats his feet and snaps at him and all the other men about how important it is to keep their feet dry lest they risk getting trench foot. It’s like her two worlds are colliding all the time and her poor soul can hardly keep up. Jamie knows that something is wrong but how can he help her when Claire hardly knows what’s happening to her herself? She insists that she is fine (which is the universal language for “I AM NOT AT ALL FINE BUT DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK FOR HELP.”), so all Jamie can do is remind her that he is here for her when she needs him and that she is safe and protected.
What finally makes Claire snap is hearing the men take target practice, their guns all going off in rapid succession. What this episode does SO WELL is that you see the panic start to rush over Claire as her memories are triggered. We almost feel Claire get swept away in her past. We see Claire and the two young Americans, Corporal Grant and Private Lucas, in a car. Grant and Lucas have hitched a ride in hopes that they can find their unit, as they have been separated from them since D-Day. Everyone is in good spirits, cracking jokes about the quality of the food at the hospital when all of a sudden their car is fired upon. Everyone scatters, with Claire and Grant finding themselves in a ditch on the side of the road. They are unharmed, but they are surrounded by the enemy, and they can both hear the wounded Private Lucas crying out for help on the other side of the road. Claire’s first instinct is to go get him because SURELY the Germans would spare a woman (and a nurse at that). Grant warns that she wouldn’t make it 5 yards (probably true). He tells Claire that he’s going to try to circle around the opposite direction that the Germans are coming from to see if he can get to Lucas. “Stay put. I’ll be back for you.” Well…we all know how this ends. Grant never comes back for Claire, as he’s fired on by the enemy as he attempts to cross the street. Claire huddles in the ditch, paralyzed by fear, as she listens to Private Lucas call out for his mother until he finally dies. Claire is found the next morning by Allied Soldiers. She is huddled in the fetal position, making herself as small and inconspicuous as possible. “What the hell are you doing down here all alone?”
Claire comes back to herself in Scotland, crumpled on the ground much like she was in the ditch. Jamie is embracing her, murmuring soothing words, as he tries not to let on just how scared he is. Claire finally opens up to Jamie about what she’s been going though and (GOD BLESS HIM) he is warm and understanding, never dismissing her feelings. There is nothing she could have done, he says. If she HAD tried to get to Private Lucas, she would have died too. Claire KNOWS this in her brain, but her heart? Survivor’s guilt is a very real thing. She’s never not going to question if she could have done anything to save that boy who just wanted to get home to his mama, even if she KNOWS in her heart of hearts that there was nothing else she could have done. What magnifies the situation for her NOW is these aren’t strangers (lovely as they were, they were still strangers) fighting this war. These are people she loves and cares about. What’s going to happen to them? “And I just…closed the door on that night, walked away…and I haven’t looked back ever since, until now,” she explains to Jamie. “Now I look at Ross and Kincaid and all the others being turned into soldiers, being trained, putting up a brave front. All I can hear is Max Lucas… crying out for his mother in the dead of night. And for two years… I’ve tried to stop this war from coming. Now that it’s here, I’m not sure I’m ready to go to war again.”
Jamie tells Claire she doesn’t HAVE to fight. “You fought your war,” he says gently. “We’ll fight this one without you.” AND HERE’S WHERE CLAIRE FRASER IS A DAMN HERO: She refuses to go home. To her, leaving the battlefield (leaving Jamie) is the equivalent of being paralyzed in that ditch. She doesn’t want to go back to Lallybroch, where she will be waiting on pins and needles for any news from the battlefront. That’s not how she operates. They are going to war. They don’t have a choice in that matter, that ship has sailed. It’s happening. But THIS TIME Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser is going to have some damn agency and be an active participant. “If I go back, then it will just be like lying in that ditch again, helpless and powerless to move, like a dragonfly in amber…except this time it will be worse, because I’ll know that the people out there dying alone are people I know…People I love. I can’t do that, Jamie. I won’t lie in that ditch again. I can’t be helpless and alone ever again.” She may not be on the physical battlefield, but she’ll be right there at the base camp, tending to the wounded and taking care of the men. She refuses to let her fear or her past traumas have any sort of power over her. It’s beautiful.
Jamie, of course, knows better than to stand in Claire’s way when she’s made up her mind. I think he also recognizes Claire’s need for closure when it comes to her past. It’s why he was so driven to duel Blackjack Randall, after all. So he doesn’t put up a fight when she insists that she will stay by his side, to the bitter end. And as long as he is breathing, he’s never going to let Claire feel like she felt in that ditch ever again. “I promise…whatever happens, you’ll never be alone again,” he swears. “I’m going to hold you to that, James Fraser.” Now go think about Claire’s anguished screams in “Through a Glass Darkly” and cry forever. I’ll be right here waiting for you when you’re done.
As the troops arrive at the Prince’s camp, Jamie turns to Claire and gives her one last chance to go back to Lallybroch. She doesn’t take it. “No turning back now, Sassenach.” “I would say not,” she replies. “Je suis prest.”
I am ready.
(I ON THE OTHER HAND AM ABSOLUTELY NOT LET’S STOP HERE BYE.)
Swoon Worthy Jamie Fraser Moment of the Week
COULD YOU NOT, SIR?
Did Ye Ken That?
- The majority of the episode felt like one long training montage as Jamie and Murtagh tried to whip their ragtag group of men into proper soliders. It felt very much like watching the men and boys of Rohan trying to prepare themselves for the Battle of Helm’s deep, with their ill-fitting armor and mismatched array of weapons.
- This week saw the return of Dougal MacKenzie (FINALLY), whose presence on the show has been greatly missed. There was a bit of a power struggle between Dougal and Jamie in regards to how to train the men. It continued the theme of the old generation’s way of doing things vs. the new gerneration, as Jamie stressed that the men should LEARN from the way France and Britain organize their troops while Dougal was just like “Let’s be wild Scotsmen and so whatever the fuck we want as long as we surprise them.” “Listen, lad, I ken ye’re trying to do what ye think is best, but I was teaching men to fight while you were still sucking your mother’s tit, God rest her,” Dougal insists. “So I think I know a wee bit more about this than you do.” Jamie stands firm though, insisting that his way is the best way and if he doesn’t like it, he can get the fuck out. “I’ve been tolerant with ye before now because I respect you…because you’re my uncle. But if you choose to fight with Clan Fraser, then you’ll respect my orders without objection. If you can’t abide to these terms, take yer men and be on yer way.” Properly admonished, Dougal relents and falls into line. This is the difference between Dougal and Colum MacKenzie. While Colum only looks out for himself, Dougal is always aware of the bigger picture. He may be a right bastard, but he also knows when is the right time to give in.
- Jamie’s speech about soldiers and discipline and how if they find that together then by God they can win was VERY Aragorn/William Wallace/Every Epic Adventure with a speech right before the final battle.
- There was also a subplot where a young British spy was captured and Jamie and his men. When Claire observed that they were getting nowhere in their interrogation, she uses her Britishness to her advantage and pretends to be a woman who Jamie has taken hostage. She calls him a Scottish Bastard and a Sadist (Jamie: “Are we really roleplaying now, honey? Remember your safe word.”) and Jamie manhandles her until the young man cries out that he’ll tell them whatever they want, just spare her. The kiss and the little grin that Jamie gives her once they have gotten what they wanted is everything. And Claire’s face says “I was THIS CLOSE to using my safe word, boo.” Jamie’s face says “We’ll pick this up later, Sassenach.”
- Thanks to the information they get from the spy, Jamie and his men are able to do a commando raid (“Is that the right word?”) on the British camp, where they steal axle-rods on all their wagons and cannons. How very Sound of Music of them.
- Lest you think that we didn’t get any salty Claire this week, her scene with Dougal was glorious. I am 100% here for her no longer taking any shit from anyone.
- Have I mentioned that scene was amazing? I love how once again Dougal showed his true colors, even after Claire told him to go fuck himself. “I do love my reflection. But make no mistake, lass. I love Scotland more. And I would give everything, everything I have or ever will have, including my life, to see a Stuart back on the throne.”
- I am 100% here for all the happy reunions in this episode. JUST STAY HERE FRIENDS, WHO NEEDS TO GO TO THAT SILLY OLD WAR?
- Claire said “Dragonfly in Amber” aka the name of Book 2 in the Outlander series. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE SHOW. Meta Meta Meta.
- One more for the road…
What did you think of “Je Suis Prest”? Are you ready to go to war for Scotland? Let us know in the comments.