This Outlander episode showcases the landscape of Scotland better than any previous episode, clearly in an attempt to display what the men are fighting for.
OutlanderAirtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Duncan Lacroix, Grant O’Rourke
Subtitle: Outlander: Season 2, Episode 9 - "Je Suis Prest"
Air date: 2016-06-04
I am ready: "Je Suis Prest" guides us through Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) mission to turn his tiny army into the best it can be. Leaving little to chance, he guides his men to understanding the realities they'll be facing. Claire (Caitriona Balfe), though, opposes this notion throughout the episode; she's not ready.
Claire doesn't want to go to war again. Claire’s repressed memory from her time in the British Army during World War II parallels the episode’s main story. There's a strong and effective use of the editing and sounds to move smoothly between the Scottish and German battlefields. As Jamie trains his men, Claire becomes more and more introverted and suffers silently. Jamie and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) notice that Claire is distant, but they have to focus on their new army, so they take her initial response that she's fine at face value.
In contrast, Jamie feels at home in his first true moment of authority. He’s coming into his own, and Dougal (Graham McTavish) feels a particular pride for Jamie when he and Claire arrive with their recruits. Dougal's excited that Jamie has now joined his cause and he, too, is opposing Colum's (Gary Lewis) wishes of neutrality, although there is still conflict between them, as Dougal clearly feels that he should be the main player in training the men.
The power struggle between Dougal and Jamie comes to a climax at the episode’s midpoint, when Dougal rudely interrupts Jamie's training exercise. Dougal and his fellow MacKenzies run down a hill shirtless and covered in mud as camouflage toward Jamie’s men, as Murtagh’s teaching them the importance of formation.
There's a fundamental difference in focus between the two men. Jamie's focused on creating an army from a ragtag team of misfit farmers, all of whom are participating for love of country, but all also a little naïve about what they'll be facing. Dougal's convinced that the classic Highlander approach to battle will work, but Jamie -- seeing more of the big picture -- knows that they may not have enough time to create an effective surprise and get the jump on the waiting British army. This undermining of his authority forces Jamie to confront Dougal on who is the real leader.
Claire steps in to further take Dougal down a notch. Dealing with her PTSD symptoms and facing off with a stubborn person makes a frustrated Claire speak her mind to Dougal in a way she may not have in other circumstances. She feels strongly that Dougal’s a selfish man and does not support any cause if it doesn’t help him personally. She ends her rant against him with a strong "fuck you". Dougal’s offended that she'd think so little of him, but also that she'd think he thinks so little of the Jacobite cause and Scotland. Between Jamie and Claire, however, Dougal gets the picture, and stays in his place from then on.
Throughout, however, both Claire and Jamie don't have time to dwell on Dougal getting in their way. Claire spends the majority of the episode trying not to get lost in her memories as they rise to the surface. As the men begin training with guns, Claire falls deeper into her memories, and we're shown the tragic end of her relationship with two young American soldiers (Private Lucas [Tyler Collins] and Corporal Grant [Billy Griffin Jr]) she met on the battlefield. Claire Randall had offered the boys assistance to return to their unit.
Under the cover of darkness, she drives with them only to fall into a German trap. Their car flips and everyone gets thrown. Claire and Lucas hide in a trench on the far side of the road, but Grant's stuck on the opposite side, more exposed to the Germans. In an attempt to save his friend, Lucas leaves Claire, but he doesn't avoid the artillery fire and is killed, slowly and painfully. Claire hides, covering her ears as she listens to the soldier cry out for his mother throughout the night. While Claire's later found by an American unit, it's unclear how long she'd remained in the ditch.
Jamie finds Claire fallen behind a cart. She explains that she had "shut the door on that night"; it wasn't until she bore witness to war again did she remember and feel all the delayed traumatic effects of that incident. Hueghen excellently conveys, with a single look, how much Claire is Jamie's whole world. He offers her the opportunity to return to Lollybroch and not be a part of the forthcoming battles, but Claire insists on seeing it through rather than staying away; to return to Lallybroch would make her feel as powerless and helpless as she’d felt in the trench. Although she fought her war already, as Jamie puts it, she needs to be a part of this one.
In an early blow to the British army, Jamie and Claire trick information from a young spying British soldier who tries to attack Jamie. Claire pretends to be a young maiden taken by the Scots as their captive, and Jamie will hurt her if the boy doesn’t start talking. This moment is easily one of the funniest of the series, with Hueghen and Balfe playing it up for the clearly outmatched soldier. As the others arrive to help question, the boy they laugh at Claire's ridiculous display, but it's effective: they learn the location of a British camp.
Jamie and select few -- excluding Dougal -- go out to impair the camp by burning the unit's cannon wheels and taking the wheel pins as souvenir. While Dougal's disappointed not to partake in the rampage, Jamie insists on leaving him behind because Jamie knows Dougal's the only other man who could take over training and leadership if something were to happen. The successful rampage forces the group to move at a moment’s notice, and they head out to meet up with the Prince’s additional recruits and clans.
This episode showcases the landscape of Scotland better than any previous episode, clearly in an attempt to display what the men are fighting for. Not just a way of life, but an ownership over their land. Jamie allows Dougal to lead the men into the Prince's camp, and we can see how large the army has become. When we see Claire and Jamie astride a hill looking into a lush valley, it's not only to show who they're fighting with, but, more importantly, what they're fighting for.