“He expected the taste of victory to be sweeter”…a reflection on Outlander Episode 10 Prestonpans



Photo credits to OutlanderOnline.com


My husband said, “I could almost predict what was going to happen.”

Curious, I asked, “How, so?”

He explained, “It’s the way they’ve been portrayed.  You knew Claire was going to take charge and Jamie was going to fight to do what was best for everyone and that Dougal was going to throw himself into the battle.”

After speaking a bit more, I understood that he didn’t mean the plot was necessarily predictable, but that the characters had been so well drawn for him that he felt like he knew them. Personally, I think that is a good thing.  If you are able to feel you know a character that well then the actors have done their job.  They have made you feel something about the person they are portraying and we are able to suspend our disbelief and go with them into battle and care about what happens.

Ensemble:  a group of musicians, actors, or dancers who perform together.

Sam Heughan said this was his favorite episode because of the performances of the ensemble.  In truth, I felt Outlander’s actors were able to act off of each other in a way we haven’t really seen before. All of their character’s beliefs, experiences, values, and personalities arrived in Prestonpans and we were treated to seeing everything that has come before come to a type of fruition.  I understand what Sam was saying, this ensemble made the whole, the episode, better…because of its parts.  There were some truly wonderful performances. The actors emoted so much through a subtle swallow or a momentary grimace, glance or the blink of an eye.  Bear McCreary’s musical score, the realistic costumes, sets, makeup and special effects, and the filming (wow, just wow) all combined to make me feel like I’d fallen through the stones.  Our characters were going to war.  What would Murtaugh and Dougal do?  How would Claire react?  What was each of their places in this battle? My husband was right; I could practically predict how each character would react.

I love that this show has a depth that allows me to make connections with real life and its truths. My husband was definitely on my mind this morning as I reflected on this episode.  He is a school principal and as such, he is asked to make hundreds of decisions a day.  Most of those decisions have very little to do with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Most days, he finds himself navigating issues that are less about academics and more about impact on his students’ lives and well-being. I never worry that he will make the wrong decision because of what motivates him.  He bases every choice on what is best for his students. His integrity won’t allow him do anything else.  He makes his judgments based on his belief that his responsibility is to care what happens to his kids. As a result, despite how difficult or unpopular that decision might be, I know it will be the right one and that he can defend his choice and sleep with a sound conscience.

Here in lies the problem for the highlanders in our story.  Unlike my husband, who has a clear idea of what he is fighting for, they are making life-altering choices based on an idea and ideals that are not based in reality.  Murtaugh had it right when he said they needed a better reason to fight than just a more sympathetic ass sitting on the throne.


Of all the “stories” told in this episode, I felt Dougal’s was one of the most interesting.  You just knew his zeal and desire for glory wasn’t going to end well.  His hopes for Scotland and a Stewart restored to the throne were based on an idea that just didn’t match reality.  Prince Charles’ idea of what this battle is about does not match with Dougal’s idea of England as the enemy, but Dougal doesn’t know that.   The Prince is fighting for the restoration of a kingdom, a faith, and his father’s approval. Dougal fights for a free Scotland.  The enemy is easy for Dougal to identify, but the Prince doesn’t see it as Dougal presumes and the Princes repeated belief that the English are his father’s subjects and the highlander’s brothers confuses the issue for everyone. Dougal has a romanticized idea of the Prince, I felt sick to my stomach when I saw the look of awe and humble gratitude on Dougal’s face when the prince hugged him and for what this selfish young royal’s desires meant for this war and what that then in turn meant for the future of Dougal’s beloved Scotland.  In short, Clan McKenzie’s war chief has committed himself body and soul to something that doesn’t exist.  The result can only be decisions and actions that will be disastrous for himself and others.


I was so moved by the interaction between these two in this episode.  They truly are good and honorable people who are trying to make the best of a horrible situation.  Everything they do is colored by the knowledge that the “promise of history” is not in their favor and I could feel their desperation.  It is a desperate state of affairs.  Every touch, every look, every word was filled with poignancy.  I wanted to reach through the screen and hold them both as Claire held wee Fergus.  They have no choice, but to move forward and try to effect change and make decisions to save those they love despite their knowledge of the future.  They have no idea if the decision to turn right or left, do this or do that, will be a sound decision or one that will lead them closer to the abyss that is Culloden Moor.  Even Jamie’s incredulous joy that the battle was won so quickly with so little loss of life was tempered with the knowledge that it was written and might be the harbinger of the future.


There were so many wonderful moments between these characters.  Jamie giving Dougal his opportunity to shine before Prince Charlie and then rescuing him from banishment and disgrace, Rupert and Angus’ touching attempts at intimacy, Claire and Jamie’s moving moments of goodbye before the battle, and… Murtaugh and Jamie.  I was struck by Murtaugh’s loyalty and his life of sacrifice.  He tells us that when you fight for your clan every man has a part to play and if you are forced to wound or kill or be killed yourself you would know your memory would live on in your clan and your death would have meaning.  He knows he goes to war without that close connection and purpose and he fears his death will go unnoticed and his sacrifice will mean nothing.  He knows the future too and he knows that because they failed to stop the rising they face almost certain defeat and maybe…a meaningless death. But, despite this knowledge he too fights on because of his own integrity and loyalty and for love of Jamie.

“Watch over Jamie” asks Claire.

“Always” assures Murtaugh.



The cost of war is always in lives, future and love lost. In the end, it is the equalizer.  In the end, we all value and fight for the same things and are destroyed by its loss whether you’re a Fraser or a McKenzie, a lieutenant or prince, a crofter or a war chieftain. The episode’s writer, Ira Behr reminded us from the opening scene that the wages of war are death with the image of a highlander lying dead and swollen alone in the woods and in the end, with Angus newly gone covered in his own blood and surrounded by the helpless ones who loved him.

In the end, I too could predict what would happen to the characters dreams and fears in this episode because of a universal truth the show so wonderfully and effectively allowed us to see, “war tastes bitter no matter the outcome”. The song to life sung by Rupert and the crofter was a song sung for all of us.  Love and live life well while you can because death comes for us all.



41 thoughts on ““He expected the taste of victory to be sweeter”…a reflection on Outlander Episode 10 Prestonpans

  1. Betty

    Beth – I always check my email right away the day after an episode – just love your blogs. Just like I can’t wait for each episode – I can’t wait to read what you say.

  2. Diana

    Another lovely meditation on the episode Beth.

    I’ll add one more who could only be who he was, Prince Charlie. He was being true to the ineffectual, deluded, self-agrandizing ponce he was. It was this episode that really showed me what an amazing job Andrew Gower has done with this character. He has drawn him so well and made him so real that at the same time I hate him, want to slap him and I feel just a bit sorry for him. My pity for him would go deeper if he wan’t about to grind all we love into a pointless hole.

    • Grace

      Oh BPC… exquisitely portrayed, indeed, and you summarize him perfectly, Diana! (Did you like his costume in this episode?)

      • Diana

        His Walker’s Shortbread biscuit wrapper? Absolutely!! Couldn’t have been a more appropriate representation of his character and his and tone deafness.

      • TES

        Diane, so funny you described his outfit as the Walker Shortbread wrapper, because I tweeted a few days ago that someone needed to give BPC a Walker shortbread and a piece of butterscotch and send him to Rome! LOL!

      • Diana

        Well, I can’t take much credit for it as Andrew Gower tweeted that before the Ep aired, but BPC or Shortbread as I’m going to call him for the rest of the season, does look like a pale, pasty, dense biscuit.

      • Grace

        “Walker’s Shortbread biscuit wrapper”?!!! looooooool Both yours and Tes’s comments are hilarious! 😀

  3. S. A. Young

    Once again, you speak for our hearts and reduce me to tears. You never fail to make (allow?) me feel every moment of the episode as I read your eloquent, insightful analysis.

  4. Spomenka

    Yes, Outlander show is a master in the way it brings it all together. The amount of work needed to bring acting, writing, syncing all the elements, is sheer magic. I can see why Sam loved this episode, with so much lost in a single day……and feeling helpless despite so called, victory.

  5. Beth Pittman

    Beautiful review as I knew it would be. Love reading your posts, Beth! You capture all the emotions we feel out here in Outlander World. Truly!

  6. I think the fact that this was Sam’s favorite episode speaks volumes about who he is as a person. This is the history of his country, a country he loves, and he is a man who truly appreciates and respects the work of those around him. It must truly have been a joy for all of them to have worked on such a great episode.

    Beth, I always enjoy and appreciate your blog. Keep writing.

  7. unamarron

    Your commentary was spot on as usual Beth. Like Sam, this is definitely my favourite episode so far. The script, acting , battle scene, and emotions were absolutely brilliant. I loved the dialogue between Angus and Rupert; the tender, touching raw emotion between Jamie and Claire, and the several “mark me” from Prince Charles which has to be the most memorable saying from the whole second series. Also, I was wavering back and fourth between loathing and admiring Doughal. Altogether, it was stupendous!!

  8. Diane

    you wrapped that up so beautifully. You seem to be able to go a bit deeper than I can express in words myself and so appreciate your offerings so much.

  9. Candace Wishon

    Interestingly enough, people aren’t saying a lot, good or bad, about the episode. Whether they don’t know what to say, or are afraid to say what they think remains in question. I thought the battles scenes were excellent. I thought the excessive violence from Dougal, since this wasn’t really from the book, was a little over the top in an attempt to build a case for the non-book reader when Jamie kills him later. I thought the dialogue and performances a little forced and contrived, but I don’t care for Ira’s writing, I’m sure I’m in a minority. Really liked the Angus and Rupert angles. I shed not a tear this episode. Honestly my favorite episode was last week, maybe because Matt Roberts wrote it, and he is a huge book fan, and the lovely interview from him was, “What scenes do the fans want to see? Which dialogue do they want to hear? ” from a fan’s perspective himself, imagine that. The only thing good is that he is writing the 90 minute closer but he has to share it with Toni, and she’s not on my favorite list either. Honestly, for me it’s just a little too late, no matter how the rest of the season goes, to make up for the first 8 episodes. After the disaster and REWRITTEN story arc from 208, I’m just trying to finish the season. What I’m really waiting for them to do is rewrite the story AGAIN and when Jamie is sending Claire back through the stones, having her say to him “Promise me if you live you’ll marry Leoghaire.” That would be a perfect way to dig themselves out of the hole they made with Lheery. The sad thing is if they did that? No one would blink an eye. And all will still be crying over Droughtlander for another year. No matter what they give the fans. No matter how much fans hate what they have done to the story, Ron knows, and Starz knows, that people will buy it. That is why we have a season 3 and 4. If more people do what they said they would do, cancel Starz, we wouldn’t have renewals. My husband made me keep Starz until the season is over so that I can have some closure. There will be no season 3, or 4, for me. Wish I could love this adaptation.

    • Diana

      I’d be glad to speak up. I thought it was perhaps the best, most well rounded episode of both seasons. I thought, as was the topic of Beth’s reflection, that the characters were in their element and as a whole it worked so well together. Everyone had a moment that was personal and deep, I cried 3 or 4 times through the Ep. I cried reading Beth’s post about the things I cried about in the EP. There is an overall melancholy to the episode where even the victors are at a loss to enjoy it. The true cost of war is that you win and lose at the same time. I thought it was well written, well acted, directed and filmed. That’s me.

      I am a book reader, but I’ve finally been able to understand and separate the 2 mediums. What I think a lot of book readers struggle with (as I did) is that what is in the background in the books (all the actions and adventures) is in the foreground now. And that means what was in the foreground (Jamie and Claire’s love and quite a bit of sex) is now in the background and will for the most part remain there. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means it’s life, daily life and drama sits on top. Their love is not a lesser thing, it’s something that runs through everything they do, think, decide and act upon. If I’m being honest, I read through all of the adventure, some with more interest than others, to get me to the next sex scene (show of hands please!) and eventually began to enjoy their adventures and take comfort from the bond they’d formed as the sex scenes became more infrequent through the books.

      You’re in no way wrong about how you feel about the show and the way they are telling the story. Unfortunately the TV show will never be the books, and that will be an ongoing disappointment for some viewers. As you said, it is really a choice you have to make, separate the two and enjoy them or quit watching. Both could make you feel better.

    • I understand what you mean. You can separate the books from the series and see them as separate entities and still not enjoy some of the changes. I’m that way. I’ve loved some things and hated some things; I prefer some writers over others. Sometimes I feel like too many people are trying to do and say and be too many things and the story suffers, and sometimes it seems like everything has aligned perfectly. I’m torn.

      • Diana

        I agree with you there. Separating the two is one thing, but enjoying all the story telling is another thing. I’ll still voice my concerns on that. It would be great if they could find a way to not pack so much into every episode and allow them to live and breath a little more.

    • Nancy

      I’m not sure why you are watching the tv version – maybe just to find differences and changes that you don’t approve. I guess that’s ok – your opinion is entirely your own. As is mine. After getting over the image of Charles as a shortbread tin, I was surprisingly emotional with this episode. The coming-together of the soldiers – certainly the Scots – and the portrayal of the English as prisoners of war – was well done. Humanity in the worst of times. The love and worry and fear in their faces – that was evident. I don’t think one even has to read the Gabaldon books (or any account of Culloden, for that matter) to get the feeling of doom, the joy of winning, the pain of death that this episode gave us.

      No, you are right that this tv show is not the exact story that we have read in the books. But I disagree with you that it is a somehow shallow version – that the storyline is dumb-downed for viewers. Gosh, that sounds harsh. Sorry.

      As I said, this episode was emotional for me. I took in everyone’s involvement in this fight. From Claire and Jamie (their looks of fear and love) to Angus and Rupert (their strangely sweet bond and ultimate heartbreak) to Fergus (his sad little involvement in something bigger and more emotional than his life in the brothel and Claire’s total devotion to him) to Dougal’s amazing strength as he faced the English (as deluded as he is). This episode was able to capture all the emotions of impending doom and war in a very convincing way.

      So sorry that you didn’t see it that way. I am positive that Leery was in there for some reason we will know later. If she was there for some kind of vindication, I didn’t get that. If anything, she became more awful. Smelling Jamies’s shirt was kind of creepy.

      No, I don’t agree with your observation that Ron Moore can feed us anything and we will willingly go along with it. We are not that hungry that we will accept a total disregard to our beloved story. I believe in his vision. We may not agree with some his decisions, but we are willing to go where he goes and trust that he will continue to take us on the journey. With respect to you, Candace.

      • Grace

        First, one thing to say about ep. 210: i couldn’t believe it when the end credits rolled; the episode felt like it had only been 20 minutes and i felt ripped off!! D:

        At the risk of being the resident broken-record, i’m new to the Outlandersphere. i’ve been overtaken with the story, both as Ron et.al. tells it, and now (especially) as Diana tells it (just finishing up book #1).
        After seeing the first half of S1, my impression was that this was a labour of love in all aspects, and reading about each of the craftspeople (mainly Terry, Bear, & John; Caitriona, Sam, Tobias) describing their own parts in this rich tapestry of a production has confirmed that this is *love* – for their respective crafts, as well as homage to a fine story – and little more. But the show being only an adaptation of something greater, it left me hungering to know just exactly WHO the characters were and WHAT all of this stuff was about, so i’m compelled to read, and, well, i’m not at all being disappointed… Diana is a brilliant person.

        And so, adaptation… The Lord of the Rings was my favourite book series as a teenager – everyone longed one day to see it as a movie, but the consensus was that it was impossible. In hindsight, that might’ve been the better alternative because when the announcement was made that Some Guy was taking on the project, the resulting cyclone of speculation and hopes and worries and teeth gnashing and… all reached hysterics (and stupidity, imho). And then the breaking into camps of “Purists” and “Revisionists”. i ended up going with the revisionists because there’s more peace for them 😉 Still, when things i loved so much in the story were left out of the movies, it was ANGERING. Tweaks and additions to characters and such, ANNOYING… But ultimately, finding the ability to forgive and just accept – and TRUST – Peter Jackson’s work to be a legitimately honest effort has its payoff. My verdict: i will always have the books, and my loyalty is with Professor Tolkien. Xx (The lesson for me: stay away from hype and marketing!!!)

        It’s quite enjoyable to watch the exact same things happening with the Outlander readership. And i sympathise with all of you because it’s difficult to watch something so cherished being handled in ways one would never allow – or think of – if the power were theirs. i very much appreciate the people who can separate book and film projects; equally, i appreciate the efforts to portray something so beloved. i really don’t think the producers wish to cause harm.
        Some writers are indeed more skilled/invested/perceptive than others, and that leaves a fairly disjointed rhythm from episode to episode. But i would say that except for one ep which i felt had no redeeming qualities, there’s always something to take away from what the team has put into the production.

        Love your insights, Beth; really enjoying the responses from the book lovers! 🙂

  10. Deborah E. Hammond

    Spot on commentary. I love the way that the episode showed brilliantly all of the aspects of war; the fear, the excitement, the dread, the joy of victory, the agony of defeat, the sudden, expected death, the gore; all contained within that episode. I understand why it was Sam’s favorite as the ensemble has never been better. A brilliant show based on brilliant books. I love when I can say to my husband and Mother; that line was straight from the books and I love when the writers go in another direction to perhaps explain something more fully. Brilliant television; the best ever in my opinion. Thank you for your insight.

  11. Suzanne Thompson

    I love your insights, Beth, and look forward to them after each episode. Thank you.

    On Sun, Jun 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM, My Outlander Blog! wrote:

    > bethwesson posted: ” Photo credits to OutlanderOnline.com My husband > said, “I could almost predict what was going to happen.” Curious, I asked, > “How, so?” He explained, “It’s the way they’ve been portrayed. You knew > Claire was going to take charge and Jami” >

  12. Colleen Farrar

    Thank you,Beth. You always help me clarify my thoughts about the episode with your insight and skillful writing. The episode is wonderful. All envolved did an excellent job.

  13. TES

    I loved your review and this episode! However, it was a difficult one for me. As the family historian/genealogist, I learned several years ago, that I had ancestors who fought in several of the battles connected to the rising. This episode brought all of their struggles very much to light. One of the scenes that struck me hard was the Prince asking Jamie to instruct Claire to care for the British soldiers first, before administering care to the wounded Jacobites. The fact that the Prince would suggest, almost demand this of Jamie, was disrespectful and deplorable! That request proved that the Prince did not value these men. It showed us what little respect he had for a loyal group of men who were risking themselves, their families and everything they had, to see the King returned to the throne. These men were just pawns in the big picture of things. It’s hard to think that the Prince actually believed he could win a war against the British with very little cavalry, weapons, and men. The Prince’s total disregard for the reality of the situation, and what appears to be his need to be accepted and loved by his father, destroyed many lives and an entire way of living for the Scots. After watching this episode, and certainly after reading the history of these battles, I now have a better understanding of why some of my ancestors after Culloden, fled their beloved country, sailed to America, and settled in the Carolina’s, to begin anew.

    On a lighter note…..I really enjoyed the interaction between Jamie and Claire in this episode. I loved the lingering kiss…and his bow to her, (with a slight smile) before his exit to go to battle…a tear-jerking moment…so touching… just so many great scenes in this episode and superb acting!

  14. Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you. Each week you ‘invite’ us along to read your thought processes, and each week we are Wowed. Comments from “I thought the very same thing” all the way to “there’ll be no Season 3 for me”. That is a pretty broad spectrum, and we all survived as well. One Lady here commented that she watched this episode as a whole, not picking out any specific Characters. I bet you a Snickers Bar that that was what Sam meant in his comment and what Ron and Co did their utmost to meld for us ! I was so excited for Ron and Co when we found out there was going to be a S3 & S4, that I made a Card ( my Hobby) I stamped a Highland Cow on the front with a butterfly ( remember Ferdinand the Bull ?)
    I wrote a note telling him my joy, and to PLEASE tell that to the Entire Cast , Crew and Actors for a wonderful ride, I found a LA address fro “Tall Ships Productions” on line , it was easy to find. I have NEVER done anything like that before in my life, and other first for my Fan Lunacy !

    • TES

      You are not alone LOL! We are all a little ‘looney” for Outlander…and Beth’s reviews but in a good way…I just love it! I have NEVER watched or cared this much about a TV production… and never in my life read a blog or commented but Beth draws us in with her on-point critiques and gives us a safe place for discussion…..

  15. Giselle

    Excellent commentary on this episode. I have read the entire series including Lord John books multiple times. Diana is one of my favorite authors because of her ability to create such incredible characterizations and her masterful storytelling. We feel we know these characters intimately and feel vested in their future. That being said, I love what has been created at Starz. I feel that Ron Moore has treated the material respectfully. He has taken a story and characters we all love and created a wonderful interpretation (not a literal translation). I am able to enjoy Ron’s depiction for what it is – the telling of a great story!

  16. Laurel

    Beth – Thank you for your beautifully written and insightful commentary. I have never been this obsessed (and I use that word deliberately and with some embarrassment) with either a book series or a television program. While reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series I was confronted with one of the problems of a book nerd: no one I knew was reading the books, so I had no one with whom to discuss the incredible journey! And now I am confronted with the same dilemma while watching the television series.
    I am new to on-line forums, so it was with a sense of relief that I found your blog, complete with a community of like-minded enthusiasts – there is refuge in the company of kindred spirits: we don’t need to explain ourselves. In Outlander (both the books and the series) we share an appreciation for well-told stories that fully engage the imagination (and can ignite an obsession). But, it also takes well-drawn characters and a narrative that transports to make a story real.
    From the beginning, I decided to watch the TV series without constant comparison to the books. Notwithstanding necessary deviations, the many finely nuanced scenes on-screen weave the best of the books with the TV adaptions and the most essential parts of character and story remain. (For that the show’s actors, writers, and producers are to be commended.) .
    As an example, from this week’s Prestonpans episode: before the battle, Jamie gives Claire a small bow in parting. That gesture was so real and so truly Jamie it brought a lump to my throat; it spoke volumes about the relationship between Claire and Jamie. (Well done, Sam Heughan.) I can only imagine there will be more of these understated and poignant moments to look forward to in the coming episodes.

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