Much of this week’s episode was spent at one of two sickbeds—or rather, deathbeds. Or I suppose one of three, if we count the damage that the Battle of Culloden Moor will do to the Highlanders’ way of life.
The Jacobite forces are worn out, April 16 approaches, and the generals are in the process of convincing Charles Stuart they should meet the British at Culloden. “All that work, all that plotting—how the bloody hell did we end up here?” Claire asks Jamie. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re up against the weight of history, after all. But there’s surely nothing worse than knowing exactly how badly the next few days are going to play out and knowing you’re pretty much out of options to prevent what’s coming.
Claire goes to refill her basket of medical magic tricks and bumps into Mary Hawkins, who is not pleased to see her friend. Or rather, former friend, because she’s run off with Alex Randall and she now knows that Claire talked him into dropping her like a hot brick. Claire apologizes unreservedly and admits that she shouldn’t have interfered; Mary gives her permission to stop by, and she arrives just in time to find Mary feeding her love a little restorative arsenic tea, because hat was the state of medicine in the 1740s.
She’s about to take the situation in hand when in walks big brother, Black Jack Randall himself, who has been paying Mary and Alex’s bills. Without him, they’d be destitute. Oh, and Mary’s pregnant. Great! Just great.
Randall demands that Claire cure Alex, and when she explains his illness is terminal, he comes as close as he ever will to begging her for palliative care. She demands the location of the British army in exchange. “You would barter over an innocent man’s suffering? Madame Fraser, you impress me,” he informs her. “The woman I am now is not the woman I once was, Captain Randall,” she replies. She probably would’ve done it anyway, as she owes Mary and Alex, but why not seize an opportunity when it’s right in front of you?
Meanwhile, Colum comes to visit. He wants two things from the Frasers. He tells Claire he’s tired and he’d like something to end it all when he chooses, and he tells Dougal and Jamie that, as he’s dying, he’d like Jamie to serve as his son’s guardian until he reaches adulthood. Dougal doesn’t take this well—especially considering Hamish is actually his biological son—and storms out. Colum is absolutely right, though, when he says that, if Dougal were as popular as he thought, more men would’ve followed him into the Jacobite cause.
Back at Alex Randall’s deathbed, Claire is trying to nurse while Black Jack Randall armchair quarterbacks, because apparently she hasn’t suffered enough. Alex rallies sufficiently to request that Black Jack marry Mary, providing their unborn child with not just financial support, but the Randall name and the position of being the elder brother’s wife. Black Jack refuses and storms out; Claire follows him and pleads Alex’s case.
Murtagh and Jamie are completely horrified at the idea of handing Mary Hawkins over to a monster like Black Jack—Murtagh offers to marry her himself—and Claire isn’t happy, either. But there’s no good option, here. It doesn’t look like Mary’s family will take her back as the pregnant, penniless widow of an impoverished younger son, and if she’s just his brother’s widow, once Black Jack dies any financial support will stop. From there, Mary’s future looks incredibly bleak. She has no skills. She has no capital. She and her child could very easily starve to death.
Besides, Claire has an ace in the hole. She’s pretty sure it’s curtains for Black Jack within mere days, anyway. “I encouraged her to become his widow,” she informs Jamie. And if he doesn’t die? To paraphrase, they’ll just kill his ass themselves. Jamie is charmed and perhaps a little turned on by this.
So Alex Randall dies, Mary Hawkins marries Jonathan Randall, and there you have Frank’s family tree. Colum drinks his poison and shuffles off this mortal coil as Dougal tries to unburden himself and frankly express his feelings for once in his life, with some more wonderful work from Graham McTavish, who does such a good job of making this character compelling instead of merely infuriating.
And Jamie’s plan for a surprise attack during the British commander’s birthday party—based on the information from Randall—falls apart due to Charles Stuart’s insistence on leading on group of forces with his favorite advisor. (They get lost in the woods, like a pair of dipshits.) And so the ambush is canceled, and they’ll meet the British on Culloden Moor.
Screengrabs via Starz.