‘Outlander’ Stars Break Down the Desperate Deals of ‘The Hail Mary’

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 12, titled “The Hail Mary.” Refresh your memory with last week’s “Outlander” recap.

On the eve of the Battle of Culloden, we get a sense of just how dire the circumstances have become for Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan), who are ready to use any means necessary to avert the slaughter that awaits them on April 16, 1746 — even if it means making a deal with Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies).

“The inevitability of it is barreling down on them, it feels like a pressure cooker — no matter what they do, no matter what they try, fate is stronger than their will,” Balfe tells Variety. “Claire makes a very, very unusual alliance … It’s less about him, it’s more about Mary Hawkins and Alex, and the guilt she feels over having inserted herself into their relationship before and causing their split for a while. But the fact that she is in contact with Black Jack after everything he’s done and she has to make this alliance for information is so telling about how desperate they are. As an actor, every fiber of your being is screaming there’s no way she would stay in this room because she hates him so much for what he’s done, but Claire is pragmatic and I think she needs his help and she needs that information and she needs to also help Mary Hawkins and Alex. It’s a very tough situation that she’s put herself in, but it’s so indicative of how out of control everything is that even Jamie would allow it.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Jack feels it too; he’s willing to give up vital military information to Claire in exchange for her medical expertise, as we discover that his brother Alex is on death’s door, barely able to take a breath without choking on it.

“It’s a marriage of convenience, for sure, but they both, in different ways, need each other’s help,” Menzies agrees. “In that way, we see the depth of Jack’s feeling for his brother.”

The episode juxtaposes two very different sibling bonds: Jack must deal with his personal demons as he attempts to say goodbye to Alex, while Colum and Dougal MacKenzie struggle to move past their lingering animosity as the clan leader approaches his final hours. Alex chooses (perhaps naively) to believe that his brother’s love is enough to outweigh his darker impulses, entrusting his beloved Mary to Jack’s care, while Colum refuses to see the good in Dougal, passing control of Clan MacKenzie and guardianship of his heir over to his nephew, Jamie, instead of giving his brother a chance to redeem himself.

“The end of Colum’s reign is very sad, very emotional,” Heughan says in Variety’s video recap above, admitting that Colum’s choice to name Jamie as his successor “comes as a slight surprise to [Jamie] and certainly to Dougal. Dougal’s expecting to be given the leadership and the power, but Jamie’s the natural successor and doesn’t want it – he’s finally taken on board the responsibility and [he’s] becoming a new leader.”

That leads to a heartbreaking scene between the two MacKenzies as Dougal, in a stunning performance from Graham McTavish, pours out a lifetime of regret, resentment and an overwhelming desire for acceptance — only to discover that his brother has died without hearing a word of it.

Jack’s farewell to Alex is just as much of a showstopper, albeit for a very different reason. After Alex sees Mary married off to a reluctant Jack, thereby ensuring financial security for her and their unborn child, Alex dies peacefully — but after he’s gone, Jack’s violent nature rears its ugly head, and he viciously beats Alex’s dead body in a shocking and evocative departure from Diana Gabaldon’s novel.

“It was so intense and I think there was a lot of conversation about whether he would do it, whether he wouldn’t,” Balfe recalls of filming the dramatic scene. “There was a thought of ‘do we leave Black Jack with any redeeming qualities?’ I thought it was a really powerful way to show that this is how emotions are worn by this man; this is the perversion within him. This is a man that, when he feels or when he’s made to feel, he deals with that by inflicting pain upon other people. Because ultimately he’s a sadist, and ultimately it’s that perversion and that sickness that has made him do everything he’s done up to this point. It was hard as an actor in those scenes to be like ‘what would your character do at this point?’ because my instinct was to protect Mary, but you’re like, ‘is he going to come after us next?’ The fact that he just straightens his suit and walks out of the room, it’s so chilling. It’s so creepy, and Tobias just does such an amazing job with it.”

Menzies says the scene originally called for Jack to break down in tears, and the final version evolved during filming. “It came out of pretty free conversations on the floor when we were shooting. There was a common feeling that we wanted something emotional from Jack, something that revealed how important his brother’s death was to him,” he says. “In the original writing he just broke down, he wept, but that felt like we’d all seen that scene before, and I suppose the one consistent thing about Jack is that he’s surprising in his responses, so I think there was a common feeling that we needed something odder and weirder in that moment. And in a way, we see that darker nature reclaim Jack. While we were shooting, through talking about it, we came up with the idea that he attacks the body, which feels very transgressive and definitely in the right territory for and consistent with his character. We’ll see how people respond to it.”

He admits that he was pleasantly surprised to see that the scene made the final cut: “It seemed like maybe it was going to be too dark, but I’m glad it made it,” he says. “We didn’t have that long to do it, and in a way it’s a purely physical thing. You don’t see the body at all, it’s mainly just my back, which I think is much more sinister – it’s through suggestion and it’s sold through Claire and Mary’s reaction.”

The episode ends on a particularly dark note in the aftermath of those deaths, with Jamie’s last-ditch effort to avert Culloden being stymied by the arrogance and ineptitude of Prince Charles and his followers. “Jamie has this idea of going on this surprise attack; he knows that they need to do it now, they cannot wait until the point in time that history has foretold that they’re going to lose this battle,” Heughan says. “Ultimately, the commanders and Bonny Prince Charlie have the upper hand, and it feels very desperate.”

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz. The extended Season 2 finale airs July 9 at 9 p.m.

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  1. Jessica says:

    I love this show. I missed the part where Colum is talking about how Gellis’s son is alive. How could that be?

  2. Marguarite says:

    Another great episode as usual i hate Black Jack Randall BUT Tobias Mendez is a great actor & happened to look quite handsome in his suit this week, {not as good looking as Jamie sorry} but not bad. different kind of look. Anyway such great acting by everyone involved all around. Love Murtagh such a nice guy he plays. OMG 1 more episode left what am I to do????? I think while they are on break I will start reading the books . Not the same but close enough. See you in two weeks my Highlanders <3

  3. AM Bauer says:

    I’ve read all the books (twice) and thoroughly enjoy every episode of the tv series. I am a big fan of historical re-creations. Especially enjoying how the storytelling has been adapted from original books to tv without changing the overall basic story and its underlying themes. Awards should be handed to all involved with the production ~ writing, filming, settings, costumes, acting, direction are all outstanding! The high quality of the work on this program should be congradulated for jobs well done on all levels. Looking forward to a long run for this series! Wish I could say that in gallic!

  4. Joanette McGeoch says:

    just can’t wait to see it!! I read the books but just love how the shows creators have set it out so beautifully and just love, love how the actors bring it all to amazing life. Just a wonderful, wonderful rendition of Diana’s most amazing books.

  5. Anon says:

    I didn’t watch this episode yet. But this show is one of the best shows ever! That’s all I wanted to say :)

  6. why isn’t there a Kleenex required message at the start of this show lately as tears and shock seemed to outweigh the violence and sex

  7. michele says:

    Love this show so much. Beautiful and sad all at once. I can’t get over how much murtaugh looks like a man I was engaged and in love with years ago. Uncanny, they could be twins. I hope in the season finale no one dies that I adore, don’t want to cry too much!!!

  8. Lulu says:

    I am glad I haven’t read the books yet which enables me to enjoy the show without any expectations. I don’t understand the book readers frustrations when Jamie and Claire’s love for each other is apparent. These books are about the historical events that take place which have an effect on their relationship. There are so many times we need to see these two make love. It’s more powerful to see what the entire and how their love foe one another stays strong. Maybe the producers could have added one more love scene after they returned back to Scotland. But the story was so powerful this season especially with Claire losing their child. I’ve enjoyed the season emensley. If you watch the story on face value without all of the book issues, it’s a powerful story and extremely well acted.

    Although the BJR beating of his brother in the book did not take place, I thought it was a good choice. It showed the true darkness of his character. Great job showrunners.

    • Sharon says:

      I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you Lulu. I agree with your comment.

      • Emma says:

        there is no frustrations. Jamie’s character has been drastically impoverished in this episode. Quite sad as there was so much more to explore in the source material.

  9. Lana Wiggins says:

    Perfect juxtapositions of the death scenes between Colum and Dougal, and Alex and BJR! We know that BJR is a brutal man, and so is Dougal, and Dougal’s reaction was just as surprising as BJR’s and very heartwrenching. McTavish was BRILLIANT in that scene. I expected him to attempt to murder Colum…but instead he wept. And so did I. Then came the scene with Alex’s death, and I actually felt sympathy for the devil; BJR had a heart after all…then his evil nature returned in such shocking full force that it shook me to the core. I thought is was the PERFECT reaction from BJR. And Menzies performed it to perfection…that is a scene I will never forget. Brilliant episode last night! I don’t want to wait another year for Season 3…please don’t make us wait!!!

  10. MD says:

    Damn! – Tobias and Caitriona (Randall and Claire) both actors will go down in history for their parts, and the performances are becoming legendary…. This episode was awesome, and then to end it with BlackJack doing what BlackJack the mad one would do? – Wow! and I am happy to hear they can and have strayed from the book. I just want to also say, the performances of ALL the actors is just fantastic, and that also means the actresses when I say actors – one show I cannot wait for the following episode…

    • apfelgsmitten says:

      At first I was quite a bit “turned-off” by BJR’s brutal beating of his dead brother; because IT was SO unexpected and I thought he loved his brother but after reading several interpretations of that scene, I now know where and why the scene was shot as it was. And, you know what Lana, I couldn’t agree MORE on everything you said and your keen perceptionsl about the episode. “Like!”

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  12. joanapolis says:

    Enjoyed this emotional episode overall, except for I did not like the beating of Alex’s body by BJR after his death. It was too weird. Of the deepend. On the otherhand, I don’t miss Jamie’s scene in the book related to BJR so am ok with that change. It wasn’t right for where Jamie’s head is at in the show. Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis and Tobias Menzies were the rock stars of this episode, hands down.

  13. Meryl says:

    The show has made Claire selfish and almost despicable. Her deals with the devil to save future Frank are ridiculous considering that BJR’s litany of heinous acts include child rape and the rape of her present husband, you know, the one she CHOSE to stay with. Honestly, who even believes she’ll be that heartbroken to leave Jamie and return to Frank? In pursuit of the almighty male viewer, in Season 2 the show’s writers have taken what at its core an amazing love story and turned it into a below average political/historical drama.

    • ihatefanboys says:

      Did you even watch the show? She made that deal with Randall to stop the slaughter at Culloden ,not save Frank. Plus , again, I’d you were actually watching,we now know that Jack is not Frank’s direct ancestor and can now be murdered without consequence. But he’s gonna die soon anyways. The show is based on the books. If you don’t like the writing, blame the author. It was never a simple love story. If that was the case, why go back in time at all? Just to frolic in the highlands with a sexy redheaded man? Sorry the show isn’t what you want it to be, softcore porn.

    • gv says:

      Meryl, I strongly agree with you. I mourn the loss of season 1, and have found season 2 nowhere near as good. It’s a completely different show– and not in a good way.

    • LJ Pierce says:

      Sorry, Meryl- I cannot agree with you. Claire is complex and human and makes mistakes. I think episode 207 “Faith” explains Claire’s motivations and her realization of how she has gone off-track. Also, as actress Caitriona Balfe states in the interview above, Claire & Jamie are desperate to stop the slaughter at Culloden and will try anything to do that. Politics and history IS part of the love story because both those things help define Claire and Jamie’s characters. Plus it gives it depth and layered meaning to the relationship.

      • Emma says:

        I think that the fact they added these scenes between Claire and JBR (at the expenses of Jamie’s pages) inharmoniously modified the real-soul of the characters.

    • GE says:

      Randall is to die in another day. Not much more evil he could do. And Frank is the innocent in this.

  14. Emma says:

    The episode was good and acting was great all over. Nonetheless, I did not like the fact that Jamie’s character was reduced to crumbs in favour of Murtagh, and JBR. In this episode all you see is Jamie dealing with Bonnie Prince Charlie and his uncles. The amazing scenes where he’s Alex&Mary’s wedding witness, where he damns all the Randalls have been – in my opinion- wrongly omitted. Jamie looks he’s only interested in the war. His deep emotional part was totally forgotten. Production preferred to give JBR a bigger role (not in the book) diminishing Jamie’s character complexity. Sam Heughan could have had stellar moments (dear to the books fans) proving his amazing acting capabilities but he was denied. Shame.

  15. Linda Capen says:

    Such a good show. Two very different brothers facing death with two completely different reactions. The reactions really fit the characters. Many people have complained about losing the sex scenes for the past few episodes but I find that they just don’t fit considering the enormity of what the characters are facing. I think it would minimize the reality of what they are coming up against and after all aren’t we all enthralled with this show for its seeming reality of what marriage and life might have been like at that time? I find that each and every scene is played for its value and not rushed through. While taking pieces from the book to keep it true to its author it is also pieced together on film to give us everything in the book without actually seeing it and expands on what is important to see to better understand the characters. Bravo!

    • apfelgsmitten says:

      Thank-you, so much, Emma for voicing disapproval (I do!!!) over DIMINISHING Jamie’s character in the show. I loved S1 but began to feel resentment on how Ron D. Moore (who I think is a bit “smitten” w/Tobias Menzies-the actor)kept expanding the roles of Frank and Black Jack and leaving out too many of Jaimie’s character and personality traits describing him in the book that made fans fall “in love” w/him a n d dub him “THE KING OF MEN”.,like Emma said: …diminishing Jaimie’s character complexity for viewers who HAVEN’T read the book.Understanding the necessities for changes in adaptation from book to screen I have “truly” loved the greater part of what the production team and all involved have done to bring this phenomenal book to the screen. BRAVO!

    • LJ Pierce says:

      Well said, Linda. I agree. I’ve also enjoyed the changes and surprises that the TV series has explored outside of Diana Gabaldon’s canon. It has puzzled me when rabid book fans have complained of changes. I may be committing heresy here, but sometimes the TV writers get it better than DG did. I liked it that Jamie wasn’t at Mary & Black Jack’s wedding reconciling with BJR: that always bothered me in the book. If a fan wants the TV series exactly the same as the books– re-read the books! I just did, and I appreciate that they are two separate mediums and I can enjoy them both.

      • Linda Capen says:

        I also enjoy the twists and turns. DG herself has also expressed that she enjoys what they do with the show realizing that some things from the book just do not translate well to the screen. I also enjoy the small additions, they lend so much to the characters appeal. I love Jamies portrayal but there are other elements to the story that need exploration. I am sure he will come back blazing for the finale. The BJR scene of him beating his brother just solidified my hate and disgust for this character. Loved it! Tobias did a phenomenal job. He brings out enough Frank and then tosses him away. Same with Dougal. The turmoil of his life with his brother showed spectacular.

  16. Akash Singh says:

    This was a really good episode. For being one of the calm installments, there really was a lot of emotional heft in it and that’s even before the carnage at Culloden, which is quite something. I find that people often don’t realize the complexities and nuances of death in part because it isn’t something people want to think about at all. I understand that. I also remember quite vividly Charlotte Brontë noting how she had received a cold reception for Mrs. Reed not feeling any remorse at the onset of her death and how people were aghast at that. But sometimes people don’t. Sometimes people never get over their feelings and even if they try, the old bitterness comes back. Colum had a rare moment of introspection with that in mind, but Dougal couldn’t really bury all of those moments of hatred in grief. Same for Alex and Jack. Great writing, honestly.

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