‘Outlander’ Recap: Sam Heughan Breaks Down the Victories and Losses of ‘Prestonpans’

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 10, titled “Prestonpans.” Catch up on our previous “Outlander” recaps and coverage here.

It’s not surprising that “Outlander” star Sam Heughan calls “Prestonpans” his favorite episode of Season 2; after half a season of watching Jamie struggling with the duplicity required to carry out his mission to change history, the Frasers’ return to Scotland has brought about a noticeable change in our hero. “I wanted the journey of Jamie to be, from the start of the season, that he’s a shadow of himself,” Heughan tells Variety. “He’s hiding behind this persona, but also he’s psychologically scarred, and physically as well.”

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Oddly, It was an encounter with his rapist, Black Jack Randall, that allowed Jamie to find peace and regain his confidence, “so by the time we get to Episode 10, Jamie has become the leader of men that he’s supposed to be,” Heughan says.

Jamie has the loyalty of his men and the trust of Bonnie Prince Charlie, but as the Jacobites hurtle closer towards the catastrophe that awaits them at Culloden, Heughan notes, their situation “gets more and more desperate.”

But all hope is not lost yet, he says: “There’s this finite point, which is Culloden… Jamie and Claire are trying to stop that battle from happening because at that point, they know that everything is lost. As we get closer to that, the stakes get higher. But they think they can change history,” even at this late stage.

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That leads us to the Battle of Prestonpans, which gives the Scots a vital and decisive victory against the English — but that success comes at a high cost. After winning Charles’ admiration for a daring act of defiance earlier in the episode, by the end of the hour, Dougal has fallen out of favor with the prince by demonstrating his disdain for the English soldiers who have oppressed the Scots for so long — killing their injured enemies on the battlefield instead of bringing them back to have their wounds tended (even one of the few noble members of the opposition, Lieutenant Foster). Dougal narrowly manages to avoid being expelled from Charles’ army, thanks to Jamie’s quick thinking, but still finds himself “exiled,” even as he’s promoted to lead a new force of Highland dragoons. Young Fergus, who has already been through his share of trauma after being assaulted by Black Jack, disobeys Jamie and Claire’s orders and goes out to fight, ending up stricken by the reality of taking a life; and the beloved double-act of Rupert and Angus is broken, with Angus dead and Rupert left in mourning for his best friend, casting a pall over the post-battle celebrations.

“Outlander” pulled off the atmospheric Battle of Prestonpans in a fairly unusual way; the scene was actually shot in a gigantic tent that production set up in the Highlands, Heughan reveals: “We had hundreds of extras in there, we had horses, there were cannons — they filled this thing with smoke. A lot of the scenes are the Highlanders running into battle and you couldn’t see the enemy, you couldn’t see the people you were fighting with.”

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It’s an impressively staged scene that perfectly encapsulates the chaos and carnage of battle, which also serves to emphasize the cost of war — something Claire knows all too well. After seeing our heroine struggling with PTSD in last week’s episode, following her harrowing experiences during WWII, it’s good to see her back on her feet this week, ably taking charge of triage and helping to save a number of lives in the wake of the battle — even if she’s ultimately unable to help Angus.

For Heughan, one of the most powerful moments in the episode comes after the fighting is done. “I love the moment when Jamie and Murtargh finally see Claire again back in the hospital; I wanted to show that they’d almost been in this daze — crazed fighting. It was a great victory for them and they were massacring people, and that’s when it hits them what they’ve achieved, but also what they’ve lost.”

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.

What did you think of “Prestonpans” and the loss of Angus? Weigh in below.

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  1. Mary Kidd says:

    Angus was a bit of a scene-stealer from the beginning, and I loved the character both in the books and the series. I was devastated at his death, but I would not second-guess the show runner. His instincts are spot-on as far as I can see. The stories in Outlander are packed with every emotion, and grief has to be included. No backing off!

  2. Carol Wallace says:

    I will miss Angus greatly. His comic relief with Rupert was exactly what was needed in “The Wedding” episode and “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”. You could really feel the kinship and friendship between these two men. Jaime’s face tells his tragedies and he still cannot get over his rape and degradation I long for some moments of peace for his character.

  3. Marguarite says:

    OMG my heart was broken last night at the loss of Angus. I loved that character so much. Rubert & Angus were such a comedy act. What a chemistry they had together. Hate movies with War hate War and this is why. They become like a family entering your living room & the way he died. He didn’t care about himself was just worried about Rubert meanwhile he was seriously hurt. So sad. As usual for this show so well written & acted. Every episode is excellent. Never say oh this week was boring. Just love this show so much. Kudos to all the actors & actresses, people behind the scenes, Directors etc & especially Diane Gabaldon without her thoughts put on paper this show would not exists. <3

  4. I have never Had Movie just captivate me like outlander has. I look forward to watch every series and will read every Book if by some reason the series cancells.

  5. Terri Facini says:

    I hated to have had to experience the death of Angus. I wished that he would not have had to die through this series. When Rupert gets us tp get retrieve Angus’s sword, I burst out crying and have still been crying into today.

  6. Dee Porritt says:

    I thought this was one of the best performances from the entire crew so far. I loved Jamie’s and Murtach’s reaction after the battle. Jamie’s facial expressions before the battle with Claire was superb. I also cried for Angus. He has been my favorite character.

  7. I found the episode thrilling. The way they staged the Prestopans battle was so well done that it tore at my heart. The cinematography was awesome. The violence that man is capable of in attempting to win their cause. I loved how Graham portrayed Dougal’s brutality. Angus’s death scene was memorable. But Sam & Caitriona’s Jamie & Claire scenes were spectacular. I love each and every one.

  8. Sherryl Sherman says:

    This wonderful series has captured my heart. I have wept reading “OUTLANDER” books and now see Jamie and Claire in Sam and Cait. Flawless performances, you ARE there and feel the emotions within your soul. Anything else on TV pales in comparison to Outlander. I am so grateful to see Gabaldon’s writing come to life. Thank you each one for your gifts to us all.

  9. MJ Quarti says:

    My darlin’ Angus. E’en when you were a too quick lover, I’ll always remember yer gud intentions. I shall miss ye. Scarlett, the part-time hoor.

  10. chicagoshari44 says:

    Absolutely loved this episode and so thankful to have the Jamie that I loved from Season1 back again. I am completely hooked on this show. Sam Heughan should win an Emmy for his performances all season. It isn’t possible to pick an episode that can show what he has accomplished. It was the progression throughout the entire season.

  11. Lisa says:

    Wonderful acting by all. I never expected Angus to die. I don’t remember if he did in the book, even though I recently finished the book.. Ms. Gabaldon what a story you wrote. It’s being done beautifully.

  12. June Martin says:

    Bravo to the entire cast and crew. Our Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon live. Emmy, Oscars don’t snub this talent.

  13. Jane N says:

    OMG read the books can’t say I remember the loss of Angus sad and gut wrenching the scene with Ross exchanging care of families and the Rupert not reciprocating with Angus will tear him apart later on. Very well written, acted and beautifully portrayed by our favorite OUTLANDERS! Forget Emmys give the gang OSCARS!!!!!!

  14. Karen says:

    I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Emmys to all who bring Diana’s story to us.

  15. cant believe how upset I was after watching this episode soon after “Faith” episode but surprise loss of Angus was a major kick in the guts!!! thank god this is only a TV show

  16. Angel Payne says:

    It was wonderful…every moment. I loved reading about how they filmed it in a big tent! Genius move. The writing was superb, adapting what was a huge (and incredible) part of the book. Nobody does it like Gabaldon, who seriously needs to be my spirit animal. Bravo to the entire cast, with Balfe and Heughan as an incredibly-meshed tip of the spear, for hitting the target spot-on with gorgeous performances. Flawless.

  17. Dave Allen says:

    This ep covered SO well one of the realities of war – the effect on soldiers of the sudden, violent death of people closer to them than their own siblings. Still wound up, I then watched “13 Hours:The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” and saw how the elite American spec-ops soldiers forced themself to continue fighting, despite the crushing emotional blows of similar deaths, and the hopelessness of their situation.

    Claire’s (who is NOT a spec-ops soldier) still functioning after the incidents in WW2 and Prestonpans demonstrates her INCREDIBLE strength of character (and Balfe’s talent by depicting this).

  18. james hill says:

    The episode was great hated the loss of Angus does this mean Ruppert will be spared.my hope is Murtaugh will be spared he’s one of my favorites he can take the place of Duncan Innis and go with Jamie and Claire to the new world.

    • Tori M says:

      I’ve thought about that too! I’m a book reader and would love to see a different screen adaptation to keep an extended role for Murtagh. He could go to the Colonies and replace the character of Duncan Innes. So, Duncan (LaCroix) instead of Duncan (Innes)!

    • Karen says:

      Oh, I love the idea of keeping Murtagh by assigning him the Duncan Innis role. What an inspired way to adapt future scripts to retain current talent.

  19. Linda Dan berry says:

    Talk about foreshadowing g, when Angus asks Claire for that last kiss we think it’s just Angus being Angus. But then it’s. ANGUS WHO DIES AND THEOOK ON Rupert’ s face says it all.
    Outlander

  20. georgie nicholson says:

    Another Bambi’s mother moment for me. Dear wee Angus.

  21. Wendy says:

    Each episode this season gets better and better. It’s the only show my husband and I CAN’T miss. Everything is perfect. The acting. The writing. The costumes, sets, and music. If Outlander doesn’t win all the awards, it will be a wonder.

    • Lila Kelaita says:

      Wendy: unfortunately so far all the “experts” have ignored this show and all the cast in their predictions !

  22. Sassenach says:

    Outlander is the best show on TV. Best writing, best acting, best directing, best music. Well done Ron Moore and Maril Davis.

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