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Date Posted: 05:53:58 06/16/16 Thu
Author: Shadow
Subject: (Now that the boards are back) Episode 209 - Je Suis Prest

Written by Matthew B. Roberts, Directed by Philip John

This episode again took a huge turn from the source material. Continuing on from last weekís departure from Beauly, Jamie and Claire leads Lovatís men to rendezvous with Murtagh and the Lallybroch men. Upon reaching the Lallybroch contingent, Jamie sets up an impromptu boot camp to train his inexperienced would-be soldiers in the arts of war. Dougal, Angus, and Rupert also join the group as the sole muster of the MacKenzies. (Colum signed the Neutrality Pact, as you may recall.) Jamie finds himself dealing with Dougal Mackenzieís belief that Jamie doesnít know what he is doing. Claire finds herself dealing with unwanted reminders of her WWII war experience and PTSD flashbacks. In addition to all these new elements, some familiar plot points do appear in this episode; LJG tries to kill Jamie, spills the info about Copeís army to save Claireís honor, and Jamie and his hand-picked commandos disable the British artillery.

Despite the radical changes in the storyline, this episode works fabulously well and was a joy to watch. It didnít feel at all like it wasnít meant to be part of the tale we all know, but rather a series of scenes that were inadvertently left out of the original, here presented for our delectation. And they were indeed delicious.

The first thing that I found worthy of praise in this episode has to be the music. Bear McCreary outdid himself this time around. From the opening music that added martial drums and bagpipes to set us into a proper military mindset to the beautifully chosen and presented series of Gaelic songs, the music helped the scenes flow seamlessly one into another. I have been having internet connection issues, or I would have looked up the identity of the singer, but in my mindís eye I pictured Roger performing these at the Scottish festival he and Brianna attended. Each piece of music heightened the mood and gave atmosphere to the scenes without overpowering the performances.

Giving Claire PTSD and the WWII flashbacks was surprisingly effective in setting the tone for the episode. Catrionaís performance was utterly believable. Seeing the comparisons between 18th century and 20th century warfare made the coming war more personal and immediate. Yes, itís a departure from the book, but itís good drama. I felt it was an excellent addition to the story. I suspect it will also help draw in the non-book-reading viewers, since PTSD is a hot topic these days, something many people are currently dealing with personally or through friends and relatives. A special commendation to the production team on the choices of setting for the flashbacks. I felt they all worked really well, especially the mess hall and the shinty/baseball game, to show the congruity of the human condition in preparation for war. I especially loved the way that the director/writer, or whoever came up with it showed Claireís psyche fragmenting by having the flashback foot care lecture people flipping into the wrong context. It was smooth! It took me a second to realize that it was Rupert sitting beside the vacuous-expressioned kid before Angus winked back in.

I think this is the best-written episode so far this season for Sam Heughan. Here he is at last allowed to show Jamie as a decisive and authoritative leader, respecting others but bowing to no one. It still bothers me that the show insisted on presenting him back in season one as having little or no knowledge of how to be Laird of Lallybroch (although he was raised to it for most of his childhood), but I am pleased that his tenure as a mercenary soldier in France is respected by making him a competent captain. Jamieís speech to the discontented trainees was chilling and delivered masterfully, and the conclusion, with Dougalís Highland Charge, was a brilliant addition to point up the strengths (and weaknesses) of each manís attitude toward battle.

Just as an aside, I want to commend Terry Dresbach for Jamieís beautiful coat in the early part of the show. It was utterly yummy and added to his air of command. He looked very sharp!

It was fun watching Dougal squirm at seeing Claire after his behavior toward her at the end of season one. It was awesome the way she shut him down and analyzed his behavior. Even better was seeing him admit his own faults but passionately swear his devotion to the cause. That was a great scene.
I must admit that seeing Murtagh as a drill sergeant amused me. Not that he did a bad job at all, he was great, but the concept was a bit startling. I felt it added some delightful humor to the episode. Speaking of humor, it was wonderful to have Angus and Rupert back in the show. There was a moment when they were sitting by the fire and Rupert was telling stories where I was a afraid we were going to see a bit more of Rupert than I really wanted to, but his kilt stayed draped just enough. I confess I found it a bit distracting. Kudos to the make-up people for Angusí disgusting feet. That was one of the grossest things Iíve ever seen. FergusóIím really loving that young manís performance.

Lord William John Grey. I am delighted to see him at last, as he is one of my favorite characters from the books. I thought the scene where he attacked Jamie was excellent and I am glad of the change to make Claire a willing conspirator in the ruse to coerce information from the lad. I felt that scene was very well-written to both streamline the action and make the boy an interesting blend of idealistic child and highborn young man. Iíve always loved the way LJG talks, just as Bree does. His dignity and confession of his debt of honor was beautifully rendered. I presume the older Lord John will be a different actor, just as the adult Fergus will have to be, but I think I will miss this young man. He was excellent.

Oh, and one change I am very glad ofó-Iím thrilled that Willie got married and sailed off to America. While I was looking forward to seeing him in the next few episodes, it means he doesnít die at Culloden and we may see him again in season four.

In short, I liked everything about this episode. I feel it is one the best episodes this season and I will relish watching it again and again.

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