Working hard to get Outlander’s second season ready for a major armed conflict, “Je Suis Prest” operated as an intermediary between the events of Season One and Two. We saw some old friends who stayed behind in Scotland while Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh went to France. The battle tactics and pecking order of Jamie’s troops were challenged by one of those familiar faces. And, viewers were given a rare look at Claire’s time as a World War II combat nurse by way of a her reliving those events through PTSD flashbacks. Speaking of flashbacks, here’s a recap of “Je Suis Prest” …
“Je Suis Prest” – My Recap
The win that the Frasers experienced at the end of “The Fox’s Lair” wasn’t the win it seemed. “Je Suis Prest” starts with the revelation that several of the men that Lord Lovat unofficially pledged to the Jacobite cause have since deserted, bringing the Jacobite numbers down significantly. We learn that young Simon Fraser, Master Lovat, has been sent to try to re-recruit these deserters by offering them lands should the Jacobites succeed in their rebellion.
Claire and Jamie reunite with Murtagh and Fergus, both of whom seem very happy to see the couple. Fergus complains of abuses suffered at Murtagh’s hands. When questioned about this abuse, Fergus states that Murtagh has been having the young ward perform domestic tasks (mending socks and fetching meals). Murtagh also informs Jamie that the training of their troops is behind schedule, complaining of the quality of Lovat’s fighting men, but still impressed that Jamie was able to secure any men from the greedy lord.
Jamie and Claire are happy to see Rupert and Angus at the camp (Willie got married and moved to America). And, though they’ve had their differences, Jamie and Claire are somewhat relieved to also see Dougal. They hope their presence means that Colum has changed his mind and sent fighting men from the MacKenzie clan to help the Jacobite cause. Unfortunately, as Dougal explains, they are the only ones from clan MacKenzie who will join the cause.
Claire voices her apprehension at their low numbers but Dougal claims that each of the Highlanders is as good as ten Redcoats. Although Jamie probably wishes he could be so optimistic, he notes that the majority of his troops are under-trained and in no shape to mount an attack against the British.
Murtagh drills the motley crew of farmers-cum-soliders, yelling orders at them to form a double-line. It’s obvious that Dougal doesn’t think much of the training, snickering when it becomes obvious that the men aren’t familiar with Jamie’s modern battle tactics. Meanwhile, Claire isn’t having a very good time. Murtagh’s yelling triggers a flashback to a very similar memory of her World War II days. This flashback is followed by another: when she sees Fergus playing with some soldiers she relives a memory of some British officers playing baseball. In an uncharacteristically uptight move, Claire forcibly removes Fergus from the game while chewing him out for not having brought Jamie water.
Through the magic of montage, the troops slowly learn the fundamentals of 18th-century warfare. Dougal suggests that the troops are now prepared to fight alongside Charles Stuart but Jamie disagrees. He believes the men need more training (one montage isn’t enough, ye ken?!). The flashbacks keep on coming for Claire who relives a memory of talking to two American soldiers who were complaining about British food while en route back to their division. We hear one of the officers use Claire’s favourite expletive, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”
Jamie, having noticed that Claire seems a bit off, talks with her that night in their tent. Claire examines Jamie’s tartan pin and notices its inscription, “Je Suis Prest,” French for “I am ready.” She recalls the patches on the arms of the officers from the mess tent in her flashback. Jamie assures Claire that they’ll be OK but Claire insists she’s fine.
The next day, Jamie is busy giving his troops a pep-talk. He impresses upon each soldier the seriousness of the battle, implying that Scotland has no other choice but to win. And, just as Jamie’s patriotic talk is about to win the soldiers over to his cause, Dougal, Rupert, Angus, and two other men charge toward the group with their swords drawn and their shirts off. Dougal claims that this is the way to beat the Recoats, a classic Highland charge that will surprise and scare the British. Jamie dismisses the somewhat rattled troops and asks for a private conference with his upstart uncle.
Dougal gets the first shot in by using the old “sucking your mother’s tit” saw, but Jamie, showing that age and experience aren’t everything, tells his uncle that he understands what his men will be facing but Dougal doesn’t. Jamie reminds Dougal that these are Jamie’s own clansmen, and that they will only follow him.
Having suffered a blow to the ego from his nephew, Dougal tries to square things away with Claire instead, hoping that she’ll bring Dougal’s concerns to her husband and convince Jamie of his uncle’s superior wisdom. Dougal obviously doesn’t remember who he’s dealing with. He makes reference to the pact he coerced Claire into when Jamie was taken by the British, that should Jamie die Claire would become Dougal’s wife. Claire claims, pretty rightly, that she and Jamie share everything, and that Jamie indeed knows about Dougal’s “offer.” She then goes on to compare Dougal to Narcissus, saying he’s in love with his own reflection, not Scotland or the Jacobite cause. After being given a brief history lesson on who Narcissus was and an instruction from Claire to f*ck himself, Dougal agrees that he is narcissistic but says he loves Scotland and the Jacobite cause more than he loves his own reflection.
In what appears to be a kind of locker room tent, Claire sees Angus picking at his dirty feet. She tells Angus to wash and dry his feet to avoid getting trench foot and then experiences another flashback to World War II in which she instructed the soldiers on the importance of keeping dry boots. Dealing more harshly with Angus than she did with the 20th-century soldier from her memory. Angus laughs at Claire’s admonition so Claire drops yet another f bomb when she asks Angus if he heard what she “f*cking said.” That’s one group that’s likely to dry out their f*cking socks!
That night, Dougal presents a force of ten new conscripts for the Jacobite cause. Jamie is less than thrilled. He can tell that Dougal recruited these men under duress. He relates the severity of their campaign and tells any man who doesn’t want to be there to leave. All ten men file out of Jamie’s tent. Jamie also dismisses Rupert, Angus, and Murtagh, again having a private chat with Dougal. The two have a philosophical debate about the will to fight and eventually Jamie puts his foot down. Jamie demands that Dougal stop conscripting fighters. Jamie orders Dougal and his men to take up sentry duty, evading an insinuation from his uncle that Jamie’s much-touted training program failed to stop ten armed men from entering the camp without raising any alarm. Kincaid and Ross, the men who were on sentry duty when Dougal and the conscripts walked into camp, are brought to Jamie. Jamie sentences them to six lashes each with Murtagh administering the blows. Jamie sure is a master of ironic punishments!
Later Claire experiences her most intense flashback yet. While walking behind a line of soldiers taking practice shots with muskets, she crumples to the ground. Claire is riding in a truck with the two American officers we met in one the mess tent in an earlier flashback. The truck they’re in comes under fire and crashes. Claire wakes up in a ditch next to one of the Americans. They can both hear the other American screaming for help. As a Nazi tank patrol rolls by, Claire suggests she run out to help the injured American because the Nazis are less likely to shoot a woman. The American in the ditch with her tells Claire that she wouldn’t make it, suggesting instead that he may be able to assist his injured comrade by doubling back a few yards to avoid being seen by the patrol. Almost as soon as he’s on his feet, the guns fire and the second American goes down. We hear him cry out for his mother while Claire clamps her hands to her ears and goes into the fetal position.
Claire is found in the same spot by a different American the next day, and as we return to Scotland in the 18th century, Jamie finds Claire in the same position again. Claire explains to Jamie what happened to her, and describes her flashback. She says she knows she would’ve been killed if she’d tried to save either officer, but that moment of inaction affected her. Jamie offers to send Claire back to Lallybroch but she refuses, saying that if she left she’d be powerless again like she was when she was hiding in the ditch, just like a “dragonfly in amber.” Jamie promises that Claire will never be alone again and the two embrace.
Later, Jamie’s life is threatened while taking a leak. Using his seemingly superhuman reflexes, Jamie is able to disarm his attacker, a very young man intent upon slashing Jamie’s throat. Murtagh searches the lad and finds a letter addressed to a British officer, but when accused of being a spy he says that he had seen one of their fires, and when he investigated he saw “Red Jamie” whom he calls a “traitorous rebel.” Jamie demands to know who the young man is marching with but the young Brit says he’s prepared to die before giving up information. Jamie is about to put this to the test by way of intimidation and potentially torture when Claire comes in, and, using her British accent to full effect, pretends to be Jamie’s prisoner. Knowing the boy is too much of a gentleman to sit idly by while a countrywoman is raped by a Scot, Claire calls Jamie a barbarian and says that she will yield herself to his advances only if he releases the boy.
Catching on quickly, Jamie gropes at Claire and hitches up her dress. Before long, it’s too much for the lad to bear and he gives up his name (Lord Grey), his camp’s whereabouts, the type and number of armaments they’re traveling with, and his commander’s name (Lord Melton). Jamie orders his men to take Lord Grey to the outskirts of the camp, if it exists, and tie him to a tree. Jamie says that if the camp doesn’t exist, his men should kill the young lord. Just before he’s escorted out, Lord Grey turns back and tells Jamie, “A Grey does not forget an obligation.” Foreshadow much?
Next, it’s time for Jamie to take some lumps. Although Dougal and his men failed to stop Lord Grey from entering the camp, Jamie claims responsibility for the security breach, saying that his lack of leadership, specifically the unshielded fires he allowed, led Grey to them. So, Jamie takes sixteen lashes to his already brutalized back. When the whipping has ended, though, Jamie takes some men to raid the British camp. Jamie orders Dougal to stay behind and, though Dougal resists at first, he acquiesces to his nephew’s order.
The charcoal-blackened face of Jamie appears in his and Claire’s tent. The raid was a massive success: there were no casualties and the Scots were able to steal the wheels and cotter pins from Lord Melton’s heavy artillery. Jamie tells Claire that the raid went so well because of her creative intervention with Lord Grey. But, though both Frasers are interested in engaging in some post-raid copulation, there’s no time. The British camp taken care of for now, Jamie gives orders to start the march to Perth to meet Stuart’s men. Jamie is intent upon them leaving before the British camp awakes. The Scots make quite a spectacle as they arrive in Perth and Jamie sends a relatively obedient Dougal to announce their presence to Charles Stuart.
“Je Suis Prest” – My Critique
“Je Suis Prest” was a necessary step between the Frasers’ exploits in Scotland and the imminent Battle of Culloden. “Je Suis Prest” revived a few of the old tensions that existed between characters in Season One, especially between Dougal and Claire, while also showing viewers that these tensions aren’t the sole driving force behind every move these characters make. Like Claire, viewers may have suspected Dougal of only acting in his self-interest. His heartfelt reply in the negative shows the viewer that though Dougal is no gentleman he is also no traitor nor mutineer. Dougal’s true love is Scotland, although his own reflection is likely a close second.
Claire’s PTSD was a good component of “Je Suis Prest.” Although, Claire having PTSD is apparently not made reference to in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, this was a great addition to the plot of “Je Suis Prest.” It makes sense that a woman who has lived through a World War, traveled in time, been threatened with rape and execution, given birth to a stillborn baby, and listened to her adopted son describe being raped by the same man who raped her husband would suffer from PTSD. Claire’s flashbacks in “Je Suis Prest” also worked to underscore the futility and inevitability of war, which is something that took a backseat while the Frasers were in France.
I liked seeing Jamie throw his command weight around in “Je Suis Prest” as well. The ongoing back and forth between Jamie and Dougal was done in a way that allowed Jamie to prove to viewers that he’s a competent commander while still giving the audience a sense of Dougal’s loyalty under pressure.
In terms of this Saturday’s episode of Outlander, with fewer episodes ahead than behind it seems as if we must be approaching the fateful Battle of Culloden. Je suis prest.