Sunday, June 5, 2016

Outlander 2x09 Review: “Je Suis Prest” (Preparing For War) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“Je Suis Prest”
Original Airdate: June 4, 2016

Claire and Jamie prepare for war mentally and physically in an episode that sets everything up for the end of the season.

Jamie has the men he asked for, but he certainly doesn’t have any soldiers. He and Murtagh put in place some training for the men his grandsire sent that includes learning how to march and shoot on command. Jamie knows that to defeat the British soldiers, the Highlanders will need to be as organized and disciplined. Or at least somewhat organized and disciplined – Jamie can only do so much.

The men Jamie has to work with are messy and inexperienced, and Jamie doesn’t have much help to get them into fighting form. Jamie does see the return of some family and friends, but the only help they bring are dirty feet and a bad attitude.

Everyone’s favorite sidekicks, Angus and Rupert, are back – along with Jamie’s uncle Dougal. No one is less pleased to see Dougal than Claire, but Jamie says he appreciates Dougal’s heart and commitment to the Jacobite cause. What Jamie doesn’t appreciate is the way Dougal ignores Jamie’s orders and acts like he knows better how to prepare an army to fight the British. Jamie has seen Redcoats in action, and Dougal hasn’t. Jamie is the laird of these men, and Dougal isn’t. But Dougal is obsessed with wanting to look good and continues to interrupt Jamie’s teachings with plans of his own.

Both Claire and Jamie shut Dougal down. Claire’s withering remarks of hello to Dougal (“It wouldn’t be Scotland without you, Dougal”) turn to words of pure disgust after Dougal threatens to tell Jamie about his proposal to Claire before Wentworth Prison. Dougal wants Claire to tell Jamie that Dougal would be an asset to the men, but Claire has no inclination to do him any favors and she definitely doesn’t believe he is an asset. After telling Dougal exactly how similar he is to the Greek God Narcissus, Claire tells him to eff off. (I’d like to think Claire is responsible for introducing all of Scotland to the F word.)

But this doesn’t stop Dougal from trying to take over any chance he gets. He interrupts Jamie’s speeches to show the men what a Highland Charge looks like, and he brings armed men into camp in the hopes that they will join the army. Jamie puts him in his place and tells his uncle that if he can’t follow Jamie’s orders, he can leave. Dougal does love himself, but he loves Scotland more, so he acquiesces.

Jamie is a good leader, but I find him a boring leading character. Jamie’s weaknesses are the kind you list in job interviews: He cares about people too much! This makes a great dream-hubby and general, but not the strongest leading role. He’s best when he’s with Claire, and Outlander is best when Claire’s inner life is the focus.

There was some focus on Claire, but not enough to turn the episode from just “solid” to “great.” Claire is suffering from PTSD from her time in World War II, and being this close to a battlefield is drudging up some of her worst memories. The flashbacks were nice to see more of Claire’s history, but it made me realize how much I’m missing flash forwards. What was the point of visiting Claire’s future in the premiere if the show hardly goes back there? I would love to see how the memories of training the Highland soldiers affects Claire in the 1940s.

The flashbacks were also a bit heavy-handed. When Claire is frustrated with Angus’s dirty feet, the show flashes back to her giving a speech on how to prevent trench foot during WWII. The flashback then cuts to Claire looking at Angus, only a young British soldier is sitting in his place. The audience should be able to make the connection between Claire and the soldier in her flashback without needing to see him literally take the place of Angus immediately after a flashback, so it seemed like an unnecessary trick. It would have been more powerful to have the solder show up separate from the flashback, to show that he’s in Claire’s subconscious even when she’s not thinking of him outright.

After hearing gunshots and collapsing on the field, Claire finally tells Jamie what she experienced and why she is struggling now. Jamie says she can go back to Lallybroch, but Claire says she never wants to be alone and helpless again. So she stays, as we knew she would. Claire would never be away from the action, even when the action brings her pain.

And it’s a good idea to keep Claire around. Not only can she use her skills for healing, but you never know when you need her quick thinking and acting skills. Just like last week’s display at Lord Lovat’s, Claire once again uses a performance to get what she needs. When a young soldier from the British camp tries to kill Jamie, Claire pretends to be a British woman taken hostage by the Highlanders. She pretends to plead for the boy and says she will give in to Jamie if he lets the boy go. Wanting to play the hero for an English waif, young William Gray tells Jamie everything about the British camp. When Jamie lets him go with his life, William says that he now owes Jamie his life. He also promises that once the debt is paid, he will kill him. I’m sure we will see William again.

This episode looked particularly Scottish, especially in the greens of the landscape and the characters’ clothing. The grass looks shockingly green against the blue skies and muted clothing, and the stunning landscape partly makes up for the lack of meaningful plot. I like seeing Jamie and Claire back in their Scottish clothing; they look much more comfortable and at home.

Aon rud eile:
  • The new heading for this section is “one more thing” in Gaelic. At least, I’m pretty sure it is. If you know Gaelic, hit me up in the comments.
  • Instead of war drums, the Highlanders have war bagpipes.


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