Outlander Season 2, Episode 12
“The Hail Mary”
Posted by Kim
After the breathless pace of “Prestonpans” and “Vengeance is Mine,” Outlander took a little time to breathe in season two’s penultimate episode. It’s the calm before the storm and a sense of dread looms over the entire episode. It’s three days before what Claire and Jamie KNOW to be D-Day, The Battle of Culloden. The Jacobite army is broken, exhausted and starving after 5 months of retreat. “All that work, all that plotting, how the bloody hell did we end up here?” Claire spits, hopelessly. SAME. In “The Fox’s Lair,” Claire mused about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. That’s what they’ve been doing ALL SEASON and Claire’s resources are exhausted and she can’t help her bitter disappointment. Jamie, bless his light, refuses to give up and makes a final Hail Mary pass to the Prince to try to stave off the inevitable. “The Hail Mary” offers us insight into two of the most complicated characters f the series: Dougal MacKenzie and Captain Jonathan Randall. It’s a character study of brotherly devotion and it also FINALLY resolves the fate of Mary Hawkins. (I LOVE the wordplay of this episode title and the multiple meanings. It’s so clever.) Let’s get to it, shall we?
As I said, it’s been 5 months since the events of “Vengeance is Mine” and the Jacobite army has arrived just outside of Inverness with their sails completely deflated. (Side note: So no one’s going to get in trouble for killing the Duke of Sandringham? Is he just a missing person that nobody missed at aaaaaaalllllll? GOOOOOOODBYEEEEEE EARL!) Jamie sends Dougal on a mission to scout out the location of the British Army while he prepares for a war council with the prince. “Dinna wave the white flag just yet,” Jamie urges his despondent wife. Jamie is convinced that there is still time…but what he fails to take into account is the fact that Charles is still putting all his stock in Divine Purpose and therefore he refuses to see reason. Sure enough, all of Charles’ other advisers are targeting Culloden Moor as the PERFECT place to wage a battle. “That is the perfect spot…for the British,” Jamie declares. The moor is completely flat, you see. There is literally no where for them to hide and the Jacobite army simply doesn’t have the resources to take on the Red Coats like that. Jamie urges that the Prince go out among his men, that he needs to see how tired and broken they are before ordering them out into a battle like this. There is also the matter of the aid from France. which has yet to materialize. If they can wait for the French gold, which will allow them funds to replenish weapons and food, the men will be strong enough to fight. It’s all SO REASONABLE yet NO ONE is like “That’s a brilliant idea, Jamie, there’s no way we can win right now.” Charles pats Jamie’s cheek as if to say “My dear Ginger friend, don’t you know the God will provide manna to feed the men and drop down a whole load of ammunition from the sky for us?” I mean…I think he GENUINELY believes that. He’s tired of retreating. (Um, wasn’t that your idea in the first place?) He’s ready to FIGHT, screw the state of his army. “Gentleman, God will provide for us. We do His bidding. May He have mercy on us all.” Like I said. Charles is expecting manna from heaven. And that’s NOT coming. Sorry.
Meanwhile, Claire has traveled into Inverness to restock her medical supplies. At the apothecary, she runs into a familiar face: Mary Hawkins. Claire is understandably shocked, considering they sent her home after the whole cutting her godfather’s head off debacle. Mary coldly informs her that once she got home, she was contacted by Alex Randall and that they are engaged to be married. Claire tries to mask her surprise by saying “That’s wonderful” but Mary sees right through it. “IS IT? You pretended to be my FRIEND.” Yep, Mary knows everything about how Claire convinced Alex to leave Mary in Paris and she’s FURIOUS. Claire stammers that she did it in Mary’s best interest (she can’t exactly tell the TRUTH about trying to save her husband in the future, can she?) but Mary only hears that she was denied time with the man she loved, even if that time was to be short. Alex’s health has declined and Mary is doing her best to care for him. Claire asks if she can call on Alex to apologize and Mary offers a cool “If you wish.” Her forgiveness is not going to be easily won, it seems.
At the boarding house, Claire finds Alex and he’s basically Satine in the final act of Moulin Rouge. Mary’s trying to ease his breathing with arsenic, but Claire quickly shuns that treatment in favor of whipping up a poultice, which I am guessing is a 1700’s version of Vicks VapoRub. We hear footsteps and then Alex wheezes “Johnny. You remember Madame Fraser.” I know it’s horrible but I LIVE for all these interactions where Blackjack and Claire have to pretend to be casual acquaintances rather than sworn enemies. Their faces are AMAZING as they try to school their mutual enmity into casual dislike. But there is something OFF about Blackjack here. He looks…distressed. We’ve NEVER known to Blackjack Randall to care for anyone but yet we hear his brother call him Johnny with such ADORATION. We learn that Blackjack arranged a special leave with the army in order to see his brother and we learn that he’s been paying Alex and Mary’s bills since Alex has been too sick to work. It’s so incongruous with the man we’ve come to know and you can TELL that he hates that Claire is learning all of this. *sings* “But to cry in front of yoooooooou. That’s the worst thing I could do.”
Mary asks Claire when she thinks Alex will be able to go back to work. Oh, honey. It’s obvious that Alex will never go back to work, that every day he manages to still be breathing is miracle enough. Claire gently tells Mary that there’s nothing to be done, which sends Mary into a panic. She’s pregnant, you see. PLOT TWIST. And both of the Randall brothers KNOW she’s pregnant. OH. Suddenly things are clicking into place. Outside, Randall begs Claire to not let her hatred of him interfere with helping his brother. (How hard do you think it was for him to ask that?) He begs for Claire to cure him and when she says that she can’t, he asks for her to ease his pain. “I do not ask for myself. I ask for my brother and Mary and their unborn child.” Help, I’m starting to see Blackjack Randall as a human being.
Claire is not so easily swayed by Randall’s distress though. She offers to care for Alex in exchange for information on the location and plans of the British Army. It is a STONE COLD move and not quite one I expected from her. Claire is not overtly cruel, I have a feeling that had Mary been the one to ask, she would have agreed right away. But she KNOWS that Alex is Blackjack’s weak point so she chooses to exploit it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all. “You would barter over an innocent man’s suffering? You surprise me, Madame Fraser.” “I am not the woman I once was, Captain Randall.” No. No, she isn’t. (It feels like Blackjack was almost GRATEFUL for Claire’s blatant manipulations? Like it established their equilibrium or something? Discuss.)
Jamie’s “WILL WE NEVER BE FREE OF THIS MAN?” reaction is merited but Claire stresses that this could be a good thing for them. Randall told Claire that the Red Coats are camped at Nairn, a mere 12 miles away, and that two nights from now they will be holding a celebration for their general’s birthday. It’s a perfect distraction that could allow the Jacobites a sneak attack if Jamie can convince Charles. Claire says that she wants to tend to Alex, proving that she probably would have done it anyway. Jamie begrudgingly agrees once Claire says she’ll take Murtagh with her as protection. Before they can discuss it any further, they learn that Colum MacKenzie has arrived at the camp. EVERYONE IS COMING INTO TOWN FOR THE END OF THE SEASON.
Colum hasn’t come to join the army however. He’s come here to die, essentially. As Claire examines him, Colum says it’s no use. He’s been dying for years. (Claire knew this the moment she laid eyes on him in season one.) “It’s a wearisome process. I welcome its conclusion.” (Me, when it comes to Babygate.) Colum has business to attend to with Jamie and Dougal, but that has to be put on hold until Dougal returns from his scouting mission. In the meantime, he requests a private audience with Claire. Colum and Claire’s relationship has been tentatively amicable at its best and downright contentious at its worst, so this is mildly surprising. All along though, he’s held her in high esteem, even when he’s been threatened by her. He admits that he was wrong in protesting Jamie and Claire’s marriage (“That’s one of the pleasures of dying. I can finally admit my mistakes.”) and then asks her for a favor. His pain is unbearable. Rather than medicate it and wait for it to slowly kill him, he wants Claire to give him something more final. “What’s one more sin to a sinner,” he laughs when Claire points out that suicide is a sin. He leaves the means of how to do it in Claire’s hands and she finally offers him a vial of yellow jasmine, telling him that will just be like going to sleep. She may not say it outright, but choosing the jasmine is a sign of respect and compassion for him and he knows it. “For what it’s worth…you have my deepest gratitude.”
At Chez Randall, Claire works to ease Alex’s airways by burning herbs and shotgunning the smoke to Alex through a funnel. Both Blackjack and Mary fight her on it at first but Claire knows what she is doing. After a few passes, Alex is able to catch his breath and speak without hacking up a lung. There’s really nothing else she can do for him and Alex knows it, even if his brother and his fiancée won’t accept it. Alex asks his brother for a favor and the way Blackjack immediately says “Anything” proves that he may be a monster, but he’s a monster who loves his brother. In fact, I would wager that there’s nothing else Blackjack loves in the world SAVE for his brother. He assures Alex that Mary and his child will want for nothing. He will take care of them. But Alex pushes forward…he doesn’t want Johnny to just take care of Mary. He wants him to marry her. OH. OHHHHHHHHHH. It seems this request may be too much, as Blackjack balks at the request. Mary can have the Randall name if ALEX marries her. He assures his brother (again) that Mary will be taken care of but Alex’s mind is made up. Marrying Jonathan Randall will afford Mary so many more opportunities than if she were to marry Alex Randall. “I commend the well-being of those most precious to me…to the one I have loved the longest. You think I am unaware of the density of the dark wall you have built to protect your better self from the world? But I have borne witness to your tenderness. I’ve been the beneficiary of your generous soul. That inner man is the one whom I entrust my love.. and my child.”
WOOOOOOOOW. That is some faith right there. While Alex may not know the exact atrocities his brother had committed (or does he???), he DOES know that his brother is a dark man. But he ALSO knows that he’s capable of love and goodness. He’s seen it and he’s been the beneficiary of it. He has so much TRUST that his brother will extend that goodness to Mary and his child. He believes that Johnny will raise his child as his own. The thing is…Jonathan doesn’t believe that about HIMSELF. He balks at the request, practically sprinting out of the room calling out his apologies.
As Claire and Murtagh pursue Randall, he expresses his displeasure with the whole situation. (Raise your hand if you seal clapped when Murtagh called Frank a mythical prick.) If Mary needs a husband so bad, Murtagh will marry her himself. Anything to keep her away from Blackjack. Yeah, it may not be a marriage that either of them would WANT but they could learn to be happy, couldn’t they? Jamie and Claire certainly did, after all. (Though come on, they wanted it from the moment they laid eyes on each other.) He’s SO EARNEST as he tells Claire that he’s never been a father but he HAS been Jamie’s godfather and he turned out pretty great, didn’t he? Murtagh’s offer comes from a completely pure place and he’s SO GOOD and he must be protected at all costs. Claire recognizes this too, you can tell that’s she’s touched that he’s saying this. She tells him that Mary would be lucky to have him (SHE WOULD) but the fact of the matter is they are at war. Murtagh could be dead tomorrow and Mary would wind up in the same position: alone. Blackjack could suffer the same fate, he counters. He COULD but Blackjack has a soldier’s pension and property that his widow would be entitled to. So yes…they are making a deal with the devil. But it’s a deal that could secure Mary’s future.
Lest you think that Claire is the only Fraser to deal with brotherly drama this week, Jamie has had his hands equally full with Colum and Dougal. Dougal returns from his scouting mission, confirming Blackjack’s intel, and is overjoyed at the thought of his brother FINALLY joining the cause. Colum scoffs at that (“I may be dying but I have not turned simple.”) saying here is merely there to settle clan matters while he still can. He wishes to name his young son Hamish as the next chief. He has someone available to teach the boy clan law, but he also wants to appoint a guardian, “a man whose task it will be to guide the boy into manhood…to see that he learns how to choose what’s best for the future of the clan and to thus demonstrate his worthiness to be chief.” Dougal puffs his chest out as Colum describes the importance of the guardian in the son’s life, clearly expecting the guardianship to go to him. Then Colum turns to Jamie and extends the offer to him. OUCH.
“You choose a Fraser over a MacKenzie to lead the clan? Over your own brother?” Dougal cries in disbelief. He has EVERY right to be upset. He’s basically been the face of the clan, thanks to his brother’s illness and inability to travel. I think he ALWAYS fancied that he would be the clan leader eventually, so this is a slap in the face. Colum adds insult to injury when Dougal protests the decision. “Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yerself to be, then there would be more men here today in this army of yours.” OUCH OUCH OUCH. Since we’re hitting below the belt, Dougal fires back insults of his own. “And I ken the real reason behind this loathsome decision of yours. It’s your last chance to punish me for fathering the son that you never could.” BROTHERS. They certainly know how to wound.
All season I’ve been talking about the obvious generational gap between Jamie’s way of thinking and the elder statesmen. He even butted heads with Colum over whether or not they would even fight in this war, if you recall. Colum’s choice of Jamie is a passing of the torch. Dougal is the present of the clan. He could be named guardian and things would continue on as they always would. But Jaime. Jamie is the future and Colum is finally willing to acknowledge that. Yes, Jamie may be a part of this war and will raise his banners next to Dougal, but there is a major difference between them. “I know that you will not sacrifice your men needlessly. If the cause is lost, then you will put the lives of yer men above all else.” He turns to Dougal and asks if he could guarantee that he would do the same thing. If he can look Colum in the eye and promise that he wouldn’t sacrifice the men needlessly, the guardianship is his. He can’t and Colum knows it. Dougal has said it himself many times. His greatest priority is getting the Stuarts back on the throne and he’s willing to die for it. That’s not the kind of leader Clan MacKenzie needs. I think deep down Dougal knows it too…but that doesn’t get rid of the fact that it’s just another slight in a long list of them between him and his big brother.
Later that night, Dougal pays a drunken visit to his brother under the guise of sharing a drink with him. Really, it’s just so they can have a heart to heart. I’ll never claim to understand the relationship between brothers. I only have sisters, after all, so it will never be something I can fully grasp. What it comes down to is the fact that Dougal has always resented the fact that he’s always been stronger than his big brother, yet he’s always been in the second position. I think the resentment goes the same way for Colum. He’s the big brother after all, he should be the stronger one. They’ve dealt with this power imbalance their whole lives and it’s poisoned their relationship.
Dougal: I still remember the day. You know, the…the day they brought ye back after you’d been thrown by that horse. Was a stallion, I think. Too wild for a ten-year-old to ride. You were sorely injured, but… I knew you’d recover. You’re my big brother. Nothing hurts you. Or so I believed. But you betrayed me, hmm? Instead of mending, ye got worse. And I watched ye every day, yer limbs getting more and more twisted. I watched you shrink. And I hated ye for it. And with that hate, I wept. I wept more than I ever have before or since. The world was never the same again. You destroyed it.
It’s clear that young Dougal WORSHIPPED his big brother and there’s nothing worse than when your hero lets you down. It’s also clear that this is the first time he’s SHARED that hurt with his brother, give by the way he reacts when Colum doesn’t say anything when he’s done. He chose to be vulnerable probably for the first time in his life and it’s just another hurt in a long list of them when he perceives that Colum has nothing to say to that. He turns to his brother and discovers the reason for his silence. Sometime during his whole monologue (or maybe before he even came into the room? How long does it take for yellow jasmine to work?) he drank the vial that Claire gave him, ending his life. “So ye turn yer back on me one final time, eh? And ye leave me alone in the dark…the darkness of the world,” Dougal says, biting back tears. “And all I hoped to say to you…It remains trapped in here. Right here. Unsaid. Forever.” UGH. Say the things you want to say to the people you love, guys. Always say them. (Also Dougal’s reaction to his brother’s death is SUCH a lovely contrast to Blackjack’s.)
Of course, Bonny Prince Charlie can never be counted on. Jamie gets his men into position but Charles’ men are nowhere to be seen. His men are exhausted but Jamie still thinks they have a better chance here than on the moor. Murtagh arrives with the news that Charles and his men “got lost” and have turned back. Jamie is alone. He urges the General that they could still attack, but he refuses, saying that they have no chance with only a small portion of the troops. He has no choice but to call off the attack. The Prince will have his battle tomorrow on Culloden Moor.
To quote Lost, Destiny is a fickle bitch.
Swoon Worthy Jamie Fraser Moment of the Week
Forever a sucker for the forehead kiss, guys.
Did Ye Ken That?
- I loved the shout out to Gellis Duncan. “Do not speak ill of my friend Gellis.” Remember how she’s Mrs. Jarvis?
- FACE. LET ME LIVE SAM.
So this is it. Only the 90 minute finale to go. I’m not ready. Are you?