Episode 212: "The Hail Mary" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 212 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Hail Mary".


There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









The opening shot, with the opposing armies advancing across the map toward Culloden Moor, is chilling, if you know what's about to happen.

Rupert does look a little piratical with that eye patch. But he also looks exhausted, as do they all.

"You look as if you need to sleep." As usual, Fergus is very perceptive, and his comment was a rare moment of humor in this episode.

I liked the way the camera panned over the army camp as they rode in. The amount of detail in this shot -- the costumes, the props -- is just amazing.

Five months of retreat? Are they saying that it has been five months since the last episode, when Jamie was arguing in favor of the push toward London? I can understand that they need to sync up the timeline of the story with the historical timeline, but this transition seemed awkward to me.

Watching Rupert and Ross, I can't help wondering what's going to happen to them. Will either of these men survive what's coming?

"The men's strength is dwindling on a bannock a day." Good line, and the fact that the Jacobite army was running out of food at this point is historically accurate, but I have to say that the soldiers we saw in the previous scene didn't look ill-fed.

I like the fact that Murtagh knows about Culloden, and he's aware that time is running out. Claire is justifiably depressed, but Jamie hasn't given up.

The scene with Claire and Mary Hawkins is very good. Mary seems to have aged about five years since we saw her at the end of last week's episode, and Rosie Day does a terrific job in this scene! (I like the little hat she's wearing.) She's no longer the terrified, stammering young girl we met in Paris, but a self-assured young woman who's not afraid to tell Claire exactly what she thinks.

Like many viewers, I thought Claire's attempt in Episode 205 ("Untimely Resurrection") to break up the relationship between Alex Randall and Mary Hawkins was wildly out of character, and a huge mistake. It's good to see it addressed here, as a reminder that her actions have consequences. Mary's hostility toward Claire is entirely justified under the circumstances. I was glad to see that Claire apologized.

In the next scene, with Charles Stuart and his advisers, notice that Charles sits in the background, drinking. I imagine even he can see at this point that the cause is all but lost, even if he doesn't want to admit it.

"Aye, that is a perfect spot. For the British....Without sufficient cavalry and artillery, our lines will be smashed to pieces before our troops can even engage the enemy."

Unfortunately, Jamie's quite right about that.

"There is still the matter of the French gold. A large shipment, you may recall, supposedly sailed from the Continent." Good to see the reference to the "Frenchman's gold" here! Book-readers will recall that this becomes an important plot point many years later, starting in THE FIERY CROSS.

As Jamie kneels down before the Prince, saying, "...and defeat our enemy once and for all," I was struck by how young he looks. Young and earnest and full of self-confidence, unwilling to give up despite the odds.

I liked Jamie's reaction as Charles says, "The men will rest, and then we shall march to Culloden." He bows his head for a moment, but the expression on his face as the scene ends indicates, at least to me, that he hasn't given up yet.

The reference to Alex being treated with arsenic is not in the book, but apparently people did use it that way in the 18th century. From Wikipedia:
In subtoxic doses, soluble arsenic compounds act as stimulants, and were once popular in small doses as medicine by people in the mid-18th to 19th centuries.
As we get our first glimpse of Black Jack Randall, I kept muttering, "Go away. Go away! Go AWAY!" under my breath. But I have to admit he looks good in those civilian clothes. <g>

"He can't be cured. I'm sorry."

In the book, it's clear that Alex is suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). I wonder why Claire didn't mention it here?

The scene in the street between BJR and Claire is well-acted, but it's changed significantly from the book!

"If I am to attend your brother, then I want something in exchange. You will tell me where Cumberland's army is."
"My. You would barter over an innocent man's suffering. Madame Fraser, you impress me."

They've turned this situation around completely from the way it is in the book, and I really didn't like that. In the book, Jack Randall comes to Claire and offers to give her information about British troop movements in return for her medical help for his brother.
"Why would you come to me?” I asked at last, turning from the plaque.

He looked faintly surprised

"Because of who you are.” His lips curved in a slight, self-mocking smile. "If one seeks to sell one’s soul, is it not proper to go to the powers of darkness?”

“You really think that I’m a power of darkness, do you?” Plainly he did; he was more than capable of mockery, but there had been none in his original proposal.

“Aside from the stories about you in Paris, you told me so yourself,” he pointed out. “When I let you go from Wentworth."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "A Bargain With the Devil". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
So BJR's motivation in the book for for seeking Claire's help is a combination of love for his brother and an almost superstitious fear of Claire's powers as a witch. And the fact that he's willing to commit treason (revealing British troop movements to Claire, a known Jacobite) in order to get help for Alex reinforces the idea that BJR has some small bit of humanity inside him, that he's not 100% pure evil.

In the scene as portrayed here, Claire essentially blackmails BJR, not vice versa. I think that makes BJR look weaker, less intelligent, and less dangerous than he is in the book, and I didn't like it.

The brief scene showing Jamie's reaction to the news starts off very abruptly, as though something was cut from the beginning of it. I found that disconcerting. Before I could even begin to adjust to the change of scene, Jamie's brief outburst of rage was over.

"But perhaps this time his presence in our lives will be good for us." I didn't like this, at all. It's as though Claire is saying, never mind what happened at Wentworth, as long as he'll give us information that might help avert disaster at Culloden, suddenly his presence is a good thing? No. Just NO. A necessary evil, perhaps, but not by any means "good".

The reference to a celebration at Nairn for Cumberland's birthday (April 15, 1746) is historically accurate, by the way.

I love the way Jamie rolls his r's when he says, "...that evil bastard brrrrother of his." <g>

And speaking of brothers.... I had no idea who the mysterious visitor would be, until we saw Colum's misshapen legs descending from the carriage. Nice bit of camera work there! Colum is obviously in a very weakened condition, and watching his slow and painful progress into the house, I couldn't help thining that it's amazing he survived the journey from Leoch.

But Colum's mind is obviously as sharp as ever. I liked this exchange between Colum and Rupert:

"I always thought when that wee bastard [Angus] fell, that you would fall with him."
"So did I."

Same here!

Colum is just wonderful throughout this episode. Gary Lewis did a terrific job with the role and I'm going to miss him.

"Give my brother enough authority to keep him content, but not enough to allow him to grab for more." Good line.

And I also liked this: "I was wrong. That's one of the pleasures of dying. I can finally admit my mistakes."

The discussion between Claire and Colum about ways to end his life is based on a scene in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 37, "Holyrood".

"Geillis's bairn lives."

I like this very much! Colum's explanation to Claire actually clears up something that I have wondered about for a long time. There is a line in DRAGONFLY chapter 47, "Loose Ends", where Claire tells Roger, "Colum told me where they placed him." But we didn't get to see that conversation, in the book.

This is a rare example of a scene from the TV show that I wish had been included in the book, because I can easily believe that it happened just this way.

"Geillis wasn't burned until after the bairn was born." I like the alliteration there.

"The boy is but one more mistake my brother has to live with." Another good line, but book-readers know it won't be Dougal who has to deal with the consequences of William Buccleigh MacKenzie's birth!

I had never heard of yellow jasmine (or jessamine), scientific name Gelsemium sempervirens, before, but according to this site:
All parts of this plant contain the toxic strychnine-related alkaloids gelsemine and gelseminine, which is even fatal to honeybees when they make the mistake of gathering its nectar.
This plant is native to the southeastern US -- it's the state flower of South Carolina, in fact -- so it seems a little odd that Claire would have found some in Scotland in 1746, but I suppose it's possible.

And then we move from one dying brother's bedside to another. I liked the scene where Claire treats Alex Randall. You may recall the scene near the beginning of Episode 105 ("Rent") where she treated Ned Gowan for a cough by having him smoke a pipe filled with thornapple, similar to what she's giving Alex here.

Claire's actions here also remind me vividly of the way she dealt with Hal's severe asthma attack in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.

I liked the makeshift paper tube. Just as in the books, Claire uses whatever materials are handy, even if they're very low-tech. <g>

"Trust me. I know what I'm doing." I liked that very much!

BJR holding Alex's head and smoothing his hair off his forehead reminds me all too clearly of the way he did the same to Jamie, in Wentworth. <shudder> There may be a small part of BJR that is capable of tenderness, but I can't look at him without seeing the 99.99999% of him that is unspeakably sadistic and cruel.

"You're OK," Mary says. Oops! Yet another instance of modern slang creeping into the show by accident.

I liked the way Murtagh stepped in between BJR and Claire. "If you need to vent your frustration, then I'll happily oblige ye." Good line!

"I commend the well-being of those most precious to me to the one I have loved the longest." And after Alex gives this impassioned speech, BJR says, "I'm sorry," and leaves without another word.

Wow.I really wasn't expecting that!

Meanwhile, back at the Jacobite army encampment, Dougal returns at last. I liked this exchange with Jamie:

"The British are camped at Nairn."
"So I've been told."
"Oh, have ye? I wish ye could have been told before I did all that hard riding."

And once again they make a point of emphasizing that the Jacobite army has very little food left.

"Hasn't enough suffering been had in the name of saving that mythical prick?"
"Frank is neither a myth nor a prick."

This is just priceless! Murtagh's line is easily the best one of the whole episode. I love it.

Murtagh's offer to marry Mary Hawkins himself took me completely by surprise, but if you think about it from his point of view, it's no more than any honorable man would do. And Murtagh, of course, is a very honorable man.

"I've never been a father, but Jamie's parents, they chose me to be his godfather. I've watched over him, and he didn't turn out too badly." Good line, and I certainly agree!

"You could end up dead tomorrow, or the next day." Serious foreshadowing here!

When Claire finds BJR, he's obviously been drinking for some time. When she came in the door, for an instant I saw Frank's face looking up at her, not BJR's. Purely a subjective impression, but it was creepy!

To be honest, I didn't care much for this scene. I don't have the patience to listen to BJR ramble on about God or indulge in Deep Thoughts, and this episode is slow-paced enough without spending precious minutes on a scene that's mostly talk (and a very leisurely conversation at that!)

I did like the part where they talked about Claire cursing him at Wentworth with the date of his death. And I appreciated the way Claire cut right through his verbal meanderings with a very direct question: "Have you ever harmed your brother?"

"Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room?" <shudder> This line comes from the book, but in this context it's not nearly as dramatic (or effective, IMHO) as it was in the original scene.

On the other hand, I think it's good to remind the audience exactly what it is that drives Jack Randall: inflicting pain and fear ("I revel in it") on another human being. He's right that it would be unspeakable to force Mary Hawkins to go through that, and it's an interesting moral dilemma, to be sure. But I still don't see why they're spending so much time on this. If Jack Randall truly believes Claire's "curse", he knows he'll die very soon. The solution seems obvious: all he has to do is marry the girl, then stay away from her for the couple of days he has left.

And now we go back to Colum's bedside, where Dougal has finally come to see his dying brother. Colum and Dougal are both excellent in this scene, it's well-written and well-acted, but I wish they hadn't chosen to put these two very slow-paced, talk-heavy scenes back to back. The pace of this episode has slowed down dramatically, to the point where I started to watch the clock (something I rarely do when watching this show), wishing the action would pick up again.

As for the MacKenzie succession: the idea of Jamie as Hamish's guardian might make sense (in theory), but to make Jamie de facto head of Clan MacKenzie doesn't make any more sense to me now than it did back in Episode 104 ("The Gathering"), when it was clear that making Jamie Colum's successor would cause all sorts of problems, not to mention endanger Jamie's life.

As Jamie said in OUTLANDER:
"Even if I felt myself entitled to it--which I don’t--it would split the clan, Dougal’s men against those that might follow me. I havena the taste for power at the cost of other men’s blood."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "One Fine Day". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

On the other hand, Colum is right to doubt Dougal's leadership skills. ("Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yourself to be, then there would be more men here today in this army of yours.")

It seems clear that Colum doesn't have any good options at this point, and in the end his decision is based on Jamie's compassion and concern for the welfare of his men.

"If the cause is lost, then you will put the lives of your men above all else." More foreshadowing!

The wedding scene is a very sad affair, just as in the book. Two major differences here:

1) Alex called for a minister, rather than performing the marriage ceremony himself, as he did in the book. I think this change makes sense, because there's been no reference in the TV series to Alex being a clergyman himself.

2) Jamie isn't there to witness the marriage, or to see BJR grieving for his brother and thus begin to feel the first stirrings of forgiveness, beginning to see him as "a man, not a monster". And because Jamie isn't there, we don't get that very explosive "Damn all Randalls!" scene afterward, between Jamie and Claire. (Too bad. I would have liked to see that.)

I know a lot of readers have a hard time with the scene in the book where Jamie just stands there beside BJR during the wedding without saying a word, and walks out with him afterward. I certainly did, when I first read DRAGONFLY. It took me a long time, and multiple re-reads, to be able to put aside my own feelings and see that scene from Jamie's point of view, and even now it's not an easy thing for me to do. So I think they made the right decision by not attempting to include that here. It would have caused a huge uproar among the viewers, and would probably have required a lot more explanation and discussion in the show than they had time for.

Meanwhile, Jamie has come up with the idea of leading the army on a 12-mile overnight march to Nairn to take Cumberland's troops by surprise. This is a real historical event, but in the book, it wasn't Jamie's idea; in fact, he and Claire didn't arrive until after it had already happened. Still, I like the way they did it here. It's dramatic (finally, the prospect of action, after All That Talk), and it shows that Jamie has still not given up trying to find a way to win, even now, when he knows time is running out.

"Mark me" -- again? <groan> This is really getting old.

And just when it seemed the pace of this episode might finally pick up a little, we get another scene with talking, talking, talking. <sigh>

"What about all the pain you've put me through in this bitch of a life we've shared?" That's an incredibly selfish thing to say to a brother on his deathbed, and I found it shocking. Can Dougal not muster any compassion or gentleness for Colum even when it's obvious he's going to die soon?

And talk about self-centered: Dougal gets so lost in his reminiscences of their youth that he doesn't even notice that Colum has died (!) I didn't feel much sympathy for him at the end, despite his show of grief.

Back to Alex's deathbed: BJR's assault on his brother's dead body was shocking, to say the least, but I think it's easier to understand if you keep in mind what a sociopath BJR is. He doesn't see most people as people, with their own needs and desires, but more as objects, or tools to be used (and discarded) as he sees fit. My take on it is this: While Alex was alive, BJR could see him as a fellow human being, and even love him. When Alex died, his body became just a lifeless sack of bones and flesh. It wasn't "Alex" anymore, and so BJR could take out his rage on it as though it was an inanimate object like a punching bag.

Frightening to watch, though, no question about it! And how hideously awful for Mary to be there, unable either to stop him or to protect Alex's body.

This bit from the scene between Jamie and Claire confused me at first:

"Then I am prepared to keep my promise that I made to you in Paris."
"To help me bleed him."

It took me a while to remember what they were referring to. It's the scene in Episode 205, "Untimely Resurrection", where Claire makes Jamie promise to spare BJR's life for one year: "After that I swear, I swear I will help you bleed him myself."

Watching Jamie waiting in the woods at night with the rest of his men, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. It's really happening. It's the night before the battle of Culloden, and Jamie is (by his own choice) miles away from Claire, making one last, futile attempt to change history. Jamie is so determined to fight to the end (and probably die trying) that he appears to have lost sight of the one thing that should be far more important to him than this one battle, or even the Jacobite cause itself: his duty to protect Claire and see her safe.

To say I don't like this is a vast understatement! The Jamie I know from the books would have put Claire's welfare first. I can only hope that Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia, the co-writers of the season finale, who are both big fans of the books, understand just how critically important the next part of the story is, and stay closer to the book for those final scenes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There will NOT be a new episode of OUTLANDER on Saturday, July 2, due to the Independence Day holiday in the US. STARZ will be showing a marathon of Season 2 episodes from 12 pm - midnight on July 2 instead. The season finale (Episode 213, titled "Dragonfly in Amber") will be 90 minutes long, and it will air on STARZ on Saturday, July 9.

I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes.


luvinva said...

Karen, I agree with your overall assessment. I liked the same lines.
Taking the episode on its own merits (not thinking book comparisons), I think it did well to set the stage for the finale.
I don't want to do a line for line comparison of our thoughts, but I do want to jump to your final comments. For book readers, there is no question the Jamie & Claire of the tv show are a bit out of character from their book versions. In some cases, I've adjusted and gone with the flow. But, throughout the season there have been a couple of jarring incidents that take me from the show and make me think - Jamie would never have done that, or Claire would never have done that. In this episode, Jamie leaving Claire on the eve of Culloden felt very out of character. But, I know he is giving it one last ditch effort to change the course of history - something he's devoted to achieve. So, I'll move on with the hope and prayer that the finale includes the important scenes prior to Jamie and Claire being separated for 20 years. For instance, I'll be incredibly depressed if their last night of love making, memorizing the look, feel and taste of each other, is not included in some way. I'm a bit nervous it won't be covered, since there has been only one love making scene in the entire season (Network TV has shown more sex than has been in S2). I've got every finger and toe crossed that the finale will satisfy the book fan in me!

Kathleen V. said...

I completely agree with your assessment of this episode. I never clock-watch during Outlander, but found myself peeking several times. Why did they have Jamie leading a troop to Nairn on the night before a battle he likely wouldn't survive? And hadn't he already killed Dougal by this time? Of course, they couldn't kill off Dougal because they needed him for Column's death scene. In this case and others, they should have more closely follow the book. I have high hopes for the final season episode since, so far, they've completely ignored Claire's trip to Inverses with Brianna, meeting Roger, trying to stop Gilian, etc.

Heather said...

First of all, Karen, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this episode. It was tedious to watch. The whole time I was watching it, I kept wondering why they spent an entire episode getting Lord Lovat's men to join the cause (an episode that I didn't care for At ALL!) and then trying to cram Colum's and Alex's deaths together in a matter of minutes. I think the time frame could have been worked better. (That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed last week's episode. That is what I was hoping for throughout this whole show.)
The second thing I want to share is that I love show-Murtagh more than book-Mustang. He has more depth in the show, and I thing his character is the only one that is benefiting from the show, when comparing to the books. Don't get me wrong, book-Murtagh is enjoyable, but in a Scottish noise kind of way. Show-Murtagh is captivating. I look forward to his screen time.

Unknown said...

I also agree with most of your impressions. The juggling of time(s) and place(s) disturbed me. I thought if they had cut some of the slow, unnecessary scenes (especially in this episode!), they would have had time to give the Edinburgh scenes the time they deserved instead of cramming them into Inverness.

The fast switch to Jamie being upset about BJR was jarring and it took me a while to get my mind back to the show. And the scene with BJR beating his dead brother was really disturbing.

Like you, I found myself watching the clock in spots, and playing a jigsaw puzzle game, when I don't usually think about games, or anything else, during the show.

Finally ... I really, really wish the management team would understand that we are not idiots, whether we've read the books or not. We do not need to have everything spoon fed to us and explained to death.

Susanlynn♥ said...

thank you, Karen, for another excellent and detailed analysis. I agree with most of your comments. I did not like the change in the meeting between Claire and BJR. I cannot understand why the writers thought it was necessary to change things. I love MUrtagh , and I got a giggle from his "mythical pr*ck'' line in reference to good old FRank. I liked his greater presence in the tv show , and I will miss him.I agree with the many comments that I have read concerning the lack of intimacy between JAmie and Claire this season compared to the books and season one . I have a theory that CAit is reluctant to do them. I watched an interview in which she talked about learning to speak up for herself. I noticed that
she was nude in only one scene this season when she goes to Jamie in the little chamber after their fight over those love bites. In all the other scenes of them in bed , she has her nightgown on . In Jamie's dream\nightmare when they are making love and she morphs into BJR, she is completely covered by Sam . LIkewisw, in the honeypot scene she is wearing her nighty and under the covers. I also saw an interview after last season in which she seemed a little shaken up by the love scenes she had to do in season one, so I think that CAit is not very comfortable with the sex scenes and now has enough awards to have some say in what she will and will not do. Itcwill be interesting to see if we get the steamy , sad goodbye scene in the finale.

leaves on the Raney Tree said...

Mmmm. I really enjoyed this episode. I was so glad Jamie wasn't at the wedding. I always had trouble with that scene in my two readings of it. And I liked Colum's and Dougal's last meeting -such fine actors. Dougal is a prideful man and he shows it again here. Randall is unpredictable, and that is shown again. As I said last week, I enjoy not knowing exactly what twists and turns these episodes are taking. Good review, Karen.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen , felt this episode was very slow and seemed to drag at some point , Mary Hawkins had every right to be cold to Claire at the shop , with the scenes between Jamie & Prince Charles , felt the Prince was being a real prick with his generals , plus treated Jamie like hos lap Dog , plus how may times must we watch Jamie kneel to this ass , seeing BJR was okm, but I had a problem with Claire black mailing him into telling her about the movements of the British , felt this was cold and very different from the book , felt Jamie's reacting to hearing this was right , was also glad to not see hi have to watch of be involved with that farce of a marriage between BJR and Mary Hawkins, couldn't wait for this episode to be over, Will be watching the Final for sure and seeing Roger & Brianna on screen for the first time , Please post more soon, Sincerely Yours . Mary Tormey

Melinda Stanton (Auntie Ems said...

Show Claire blackmailing BJR, Show Clair coming up with the hostage idea to get information out of Lord John, etc.. There have been several instances of things especially that began with Book Jamie but Show Claire did. It's driving me crazy. Diana did a masterful job of creating a marriage of equals but the show is definitely Claire and her supporting minions.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen , felt this episode was a big built up for the Big Finall will be watching the Final on July 9th , can't wait to see Roger & Brianna on screen for the first time , I think the casting of them is perfect , please post more soon. Happy Week, Sincerely Yours. Mary Tormey.

barb s. said...

I think everyone is protesting too much. Ron is trying to broaden the appeal of this show. We know they are soulmates but this is war.We all know that a married Jamie and Claire are not the same nubile couple from the first season. You all know that the last episode is going to be a crusher. So let's see what happens. These episodes are an historical representation too. So love the work all these wonderful actors and crew have done. Quite amazing really for an hour show. So sad for all you bored people...really! So is it the sex scenes that make you watch? I'm more of a fan than that. Diana has created a wonderful world, historically as well as emotionally. This is a "love" story of over fifty years. Can't wait to see what they do with my favorite book "Voyager".

Connie said...

I believe the first reference to the Frenchman's Gold is in Voyager when Jamie is in prison and has a conversation with John Grey

Anonymous said...


I thoroughly enjoy your analysis of every Outlander episode. That being said, this week it seemed like much more of a negative critique regarding all the ways the show let you down as compared to the books. As difficult as it is, you have to come to the realization that the show is based on the book, and is, in and of itself, a separate entity. I think you will find much more enjoyment in the show doing so.

Susanlynn♥ said...

I have been thinking about the finale, and with all the changes the writers have made, I am wondering if Claire , not Jamie, is going to kill Dougal. I also wonder if the last scene is going to be the opening scene of Voyager and we will see a bloody faced "dead" Jamie lying on the battlefield suddenly open his eyes. NOw that would bring nonbook readers back for Season three.

Anonymous said...

Again, so many deviations from the book; some worked, some did not. I was disappointed that Jamie was not included in the wedding scene, that seemed a very important detail to me. BJR beating the hell out of his dead brother seemed so bizarre, even for him. As Karen said in her review, i could really see shades of Frank in him when he first appeared in civilian clothes and it was disconcerting. No wonder Claire has so much difficulty re-connecting with Frank when she goes back to 1968 (quite apart from loving Jamie with all her heart and soul!).

I also agree with the poster who said that TV Murtagh is even better than book Murtagh - a much more rounded, deeper character, I think.

Not nearly enough Jamie and Claire in that episode for me, seeing as we are now on the brink of Culloden. I also wanted to see more of Fergus - he is just adorable.

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