Episode 301: "The Battle Joined" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 301 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Battle Joined". I thought this episode was really well done, and both Sam and Cait were terrific!


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









I like what they've done with the opening credit sequence. Subtle changes, but overall it's reassuringly familiar. I liked the way the hand tuning the radio knob in Seasons 1 and 2 has turned into young Brianna's hand on the control knob of a 1950's-era television set. The sight of the scrap of tartan made me shiver a bit. I'm intrigued by the scene where Claire evidently performs a trepanation (drilling a hole into a patient's skull), because the only reference in the books to that procedure is at the end of DRUMS OF AUTUMN. Maybe they'll have an injured sailor in need of treatment on the Artemis or Porpoise, later in the season?

Very sobering start to the episode, seeing so many dead Highlanders on the field at Culloden. The sight of the British soldiers bayonetting the wounded men as they lay helpless on the ground made me think of Dougal in Episode 210, doing the same thing after the battle of Prestonpans. It made me think that Jamie was very lucky not to suffer the same fate!

Charles Stuart mentions the canteen that he received from his father. This is the same "picnic set" mentioned in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, as Roger explains to Brianna:
"Well, that was how generals led, back then--from the rear. Especially Charlie; he ran off so fast at the end of the battle that he left behind his sterling silver picnic set.”

“A picnic set? He brought a picnic to the battle?”

“Oh, aye."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see it on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Look here for more information.

I liked the way Jamie remembered flashes of the battle, just bits and pieces, throughout this episode. That was portrayed very effectively. I thought they did a good job in conveying how cold, wet, and miserable the weather was that day.

Jamie at Craigh na Dun in the moments after Claire went back -- that's so sad!

The Highland charge, and the bloody slaughter that followed, was very well done. These scenes are very reminiscent of the 360-degree film of the battle at the Culloden Visitors' Centre (well worth a visit if you get the chance!)

I liked the way Murtagh shows up out of nowhere, saving Jamie from the Redcoat he's fighting, and surprising Jamie enough to make him smile. But it occurs to me that Murtagh telling him the Lallybroch men are safe might have given Jamie even more reason to "throw his life away" (as Claire put it in FIERY CROSS). All the loose ends are now tied up, all his responsibilities are taken care of, and now he can simply hurl himself across that field, to his death.

Watching Jamie fight his way through the line of enemy musket fire, Highlanders falling all around him, my thought was that it's a miracle he lived through that.

And then, finally, here's BJR, and the answer to a long-standing mystery:  BJR bayonetted Jamie in the leg, and Jamie managed to stab him in the belly, then they have a brief struggle, and Jamie ends up on the ground with BJR lying dead on top of him, his weight keeping Jamie from bleeding to death from the wound in his leg.  (Where is Murtagh while all of this is going on? We don't know.)

Jamie dreaming of Claire -- that's so sad!

Very fitting that it should be Rupert who finds Jamie on the field and carries him to safety. Notice the chunk of amber with a dragonfly in it lying on the ground as Jamie is being dragged off the field. We know from Episode 213 that Claire will see it in a museum display case in 1968.

I like the scene with Frank and Claire in the new house.  They're both trying very hard to make this work, and it's clear that Frank still loves her.

Clever idea, to have Claire deal with her frustration over the temperamental stove by deciding to cook over a fire in the hearth instead. And we really needed a little humor in this episode!

I like Millie, the neighbor lady. She seems a very appealing character, and it will be good for Claire to have someone to talk to, otherwise she'll be all alone in that big house with the baby while Frank is off at the university, and we won't have any idea what she's thinking.  I see Millie as a nicer, friendlier version of Mrs. Hinchcliffe from VOYAGER.

In the next scene, Dean Jackson reminds me a little of Young Jamie in DRUMS:
"It’s verra unseemly for a woman to be givin’ her opinions sae free, and her with menfolk to look after her,” he said stiffly.

“You don’t think women ought to have opinions?” Brianna asked sweetly.

“No, I don’t!"

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Bon Voyage". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scene in Leanach cottage is excellent, very much as I imagined from the book.  Sam Hoare, who plays Lord Melton (aka Lord John's brother Hal), is very good.

The very explosive breakfast scene between Frank and Claire is really well done, a good addition. Frank's aversion to teabags comes straight from the book:
Frank made a face; an Englishman to the bone, he would rather lap water out of the toilet than drink tea made from teabags.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Hastings and Magna Charta, Drake, Marlborough, the Tudors, Stuarts, Plantagenets...."  I laughed in recognition when I heard that, with the very strong echo of John Dickinson's speech in the movie "1776".  Apparently it's Ron Moore's homage to that wonderful musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. If you've never seen "1776", look here. Highly recommended!

Watching Frank try to touch Claire, while she shies away, I was reminded of the way Jamie acted in some of the Paris scenes in Season 2 -- avoiding her touch, hardly even talking to her, let alone having sex with her.  "Talk to me!" Frank says, just as Claire said to Jamie in Episode 204 ("La Dame Blanche"). The parallels are very striking.

Cait is just marvelous in this scene. "You asked me to leave behind everything that truly mattered to me!''  I loved it when she threw the ashtray at Frank. <g>

The whole scene in Leanach cottage is very close to the way I imagined it from the book. Riveting and emotionally intense. I liked Jamie and Rupert's last conversation, and Rupert's last words: "I mean to set a quick pace, so try to keep up." Very sad to see him go!

In the next scene with Frank lying on the couch, unable to sleep, you can't help noticing all the little sounds a 20th-century house makes: a dripping faucet, the hum of the refrigerator. I thought that was an interesting contrast with what must be going through his mind; thoughts of the 18th century, and whether there might possibly be any truth to Claire's story. So he gets up to write to the Rev. Wakefield, and Claire comes in to tell him she's in labor.

Back in the cottage at Culloden, I liked this exchange:

Wallace: "Are they to be shot lying down?"
Hal (looks at him, horrified): "Prop them up, certanly! Good Lord. No man in the King's custody shall be shot lying down on my watch. Not even traitors."

The rest of the scene is straight from the book, which I was glad to see.

Meanwhile, in the delivery room, I liked this bit between Frank and Claire:

"I'm glad I missed you with that ashtray."
"Your aim was spot on. It was my cat-like reflexes that saved me."

I disliked the doctor on sight, with his "do exactly as I tell you" manner and the way he spoke only to Frank, as though Claire wasn't even there. But I liked the bit where Claire reveals she had a miscarriage, much to Frank's surprise. To his credit, the news doesn't faze Frank at all; his attention is focused entirely on helping Claire get through this. I liked his "Claire. I love you," as she is wheeled away.

The delivery room scene, where Claire is sedated against her will, is disturbing. It hurts to see Claire so powerless. This isn't the way it happened in the books, but I think it works pretty well here.

Meanwhile, Jamie wakes in the wagon at Lallybroch, thinking he is dead. Jenny and Ian's reactions are just perfect. I can totally imagine Jenny stubbornly refusing to let her brother die.

When Claire wakes in the hospital room, her "Where's my baby?" hit me like a gut-punch, with the VERY strong echoes of Episode 207 ("Faith").

I loved the way Frank and Claire look at the baby, and each other. "She's perfect, Claire. Just like her mother," Frank says, and you start to see how this child might begin to heal their relationship at last. "This is all that truly matters now. It's going to be all right, I promise."

And then the nurse comes in and bursts their bubble of happiness with six words: "Where'd she get the red hair?" Talk about awkward questions!

I really enjoyed this episode, and I can't wait for the next one! Please come back next week to see my reactions to Episode 302 ("Surrender").

Look here for my recaps of the Season 1 and Season 2 episodes.


Unknown said...

I thought this ooening episode was perfect!

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen I too thought the opening credits were familiar and they opening scenes with the highlanders lying all dead very gut wrenching, seeing Jamie barely alive seeing the battle in a dream like way was very hauntingly done , , very sad bit with Jamie at the stones after Claire leaves , glad not to much was focused on this too much the battle scnes were just the way you'd imagined them to be , great way to see how Jamie was wounded , by BJR, also liked the battle between them very well done , very haunting scene of Claire walking through the battle field and finding him then Rupert rescuing Jamie from the battle field, 1948 love the apartment scene , it looks like the type an historian should have , love scene with Claire in kitchen and her decision to cook over the fireplace, like the neighbor , you get the feeling she 'll be a friend to Claire , and like the Harvard scenes in which the Joe Kennedy looking professor stuffed shirt is trying to tell Claire what she should do with her time , he has no clue who he is talking to , Highland Barn Scene very like the book and very intense scene with the highlanders who know they will die but don't know when . perfect actor to play Lord Milton, like Fight in kitchen Scene with Frank & Claire , in a sense it was very similar to Claire & Jamie's fight in season 2 when Claire was having Faith , felt they were trying to reach one another , but couldn't . exeution scenes very realistic, and very tense . very brave of Rupert to treat it like it was nothing also was a great comfort to Jamie when he knew he was dying , felt sorry for Frank on sofa , he starts to write the letter to the REv Wakefield that Roger later would find at the end of season2. like seeing how caring he is to Clare when she goes into labor. brilliant scene in which Jamie 's life is spared when he asked if he knows who John Grey is , beautiful scene in which Jamie is taken home to Lallybroch , love seeing Jenny and Ian there to greet and take care of him . the doctor was very condendersending to Claire acting like she isn't involved in the birth of her child , wonder how he will deal with her when she becomes a doctor herself, the birth of Brianna is a beautiful one , then seeing the red hair is another reminder and prepares you for what comes nest , have seeing the episode several times and its better every time you see it , season 3 is of to a great start, will be watching more next Sunday , please post more soon. Sincerely

Susanlynn said...

Karen, I always enjoy reading your take on the episodes.

Wow...It was worth the wait. This episode was wonderful and painfully moving. Kudos to everyone involved, but Sam's performance was amazing. It was mesmerizing to watch him convey his physical pain and mental anguish using only his eyes, face, and body. It was hard to watch. I wondered how many words he actually spoke and then read on CompuServe that Shae had counted 75. Those sad blueceyes . the look on his face as he thinks that Claire is coming to him. It hurt to watch .

Peigi said...

the ashtray-flinging reminded me of the 'chin battle' in The Reckoning and also when Jamie said to Claire: Remind me not to get on your bad side, Sassenach!

When Claire first sees the baby, I expected her to show more emotion when seeing Jamie reborn in their child. Being wrapped up in building anew with Frank can't possibly be as heart-wrenching as having a new little Fraser in her arms (RDM's doing methinks) Maybe it was all the drugs they gave her!!

Susanlynn said...

Jamie imagines Claire touching his face and asking if he is alive which then morphs into Rupert asking Sam that question as he touches his face . This heart wrenching scene reminded me of the scene last season of Claire recalling the American soldier asking if she is okay in the past and then hearing Jamie saying "no nighen don" and holding her in the present. I loved the way Rupert shoved BJR off of Jamie as he touched him and told him that he would not let him die in the mud .

Unknown said...

Love your take on the first episode! They really did a great job translating the book onto screen and can't wait for the next episode too! Thanks for sharing:)

Becky said...

Awesome first episode of what seems to be a very full season. I cried the big ugly cry when Frank brought Jamie's baby to Claire...so sad that Jamie was not part of either of his children's lives early on.

♥Susanlynn said...

Our first baby died of an undetected heart defect the day after he was born. When my daughter was born two years later, I was very worried about her. Claire's fear that her baby had died was understandable and realistic.

♥Susanlynn said...

Well, it looks as though a decision was made to give Jamie a wound at the side of his head instead of the broken , bloody nose he had in the book. #gratefulforthat The camera focusing so often on the bloody kilt from the leg wound was hard enough to look at.

I have been watching trailers for the next episode. I cannot wait, but it will be difficult to watch what happens on the page acted out on the screen. ...poor, griefstricken Jamie.

Victoria said...

Just listened to Rom Moore's podcast about 301. He says he put the rabbit on the battlefield as a symbol of innocence and life after all the death. Rabbits are integral to Celtic culture. Symbols of hope, renewal and redemption. Victoria

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