Warning: This article contains spoilers for Men in Kilts, Episode 8, “Culloden: Scotland’s Most Infamous Battle.”
Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish’s epic road trip across Scotland came to a finish at the Battle of Culloden in the Men in Kilts season finale. Well not the actual battle, though they do re-enact it and run with swords. Outlander first showed how this infamous battle devastated Scotland and also Jamie and Claire Fraser (Caitríona Balfe). Broken hearts and dead bodies… ah, Outlander. “It’s all been leading to this moment,” Graham says to Sam as they head to the Culloden battlefield. They take us on one last trip, for now, to end the first season of Men in Kilts. And though they did sometimes wear pants, they helped us all vicariously travel with them and remember the tartans.
The show was a love letter to Scotland — and to whisky and almost offing Graham McTavish every single episode. Seems Sam wanted Graham’s run on this show to end the way his character Dougal’s did on Outlander. (Claire and Jamie killed him, like really killed him). Good thing there wasn’t a Claire in this episode. (But there was a Catriona and Caitríona Balfe plays Claire… uh oh). Run Graham.
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Battle of Culloden
As Sam and Graham head to the Culloden battlefield, they give us a quick history lesson about what went down in the spring of 1746. Sam and Graham’s Culloden journey started in 2013 when they got cast on Outlander. This history-changing battle pitted the Jacobites against the British Army and changed Scotland forever. It was depicted in Outlander and was the reason Claire and Jamie were separated for 20 years. (That and author Diana Gabaldon wrote it that way. Epic and gutting move). As they roll toward the battlefield in their swanky van, I can’t help but wonder (insert Carrie Bradshaw voice), who uses the stove at the back of the camper van? I’ve held this question in for 8 episodes — why is it there?
Their first stop is a meeting with historian Alistair Moffat, who breaks down everything that went down and very wrong at Culloden for Scotland. The battle took place on April 16, 1746 — almost 274 years ago to the date of this episode airing. In Outlander, it was also the day Blackjack Randall (Tobias Menzies) died, Jamie almost died, and Claire emotionally died — she headed back to the future through the stones, pregnant and widowed (or so she thought). Still sad. Even 200 plus years later. Knocked Up and Widowed: the Claire Fraser Story.
The death of Scottish culture
Alistair explains how the British swiftly beat the Jacobites, and ultimately it marked the death of Scotland in many ways. When the British won, Highland culture died. Speaking Gaelic and wearing tartans were outlawed, and Scotland was forever changed. Alistair delves into the Highland armies and says it was made up of families. And we get a series of Outlander flashbacks with Jamie giving a Ted talk to all of his soldiers prior to battle. “Hey guys, my wife from the future says we’re gonna die, but let’s try not to. Cool? Cool.” There was also something called a “fiadhaich,” the Gaelic word for “rage fit.” Graham’s character had a lot of those and they flashback to Dougal screaming topless at the soldiers to motivate them before the Prestonpans battle. That’s how I motivate people too. In Outlander, Graham’s character never made it to Culloden because Claire and Jamie got him first. Claire gave Jamie that extra push (literally) he needed to end his uncle. Before heading out to their next stop, Sam, Graham, and Alistair take a moment to reflect on the genocide of Highlanders that Culloden brought on. On Outlander, Jamie Fraser is one of the few to survive the battle and just barely.
Sam and Graham and a bunch of swords
“On to sharp objects,” Sam exclaims. Then they meet up with Outlander’s combat expert, Charles Allan. He, Finn Allan, and Graeme Carlyle are combat reenactment specialists. They show Sam and Graham how to use all the swords that were used at Culloden. They start off with training swords then quickly advance to ax-like weapons that probably were used for easy beheadings. Sam and Graham learn a sword routine that Sam enjoys more than anyone. Honestly, this could be a modern-day workout class — sword dancing. Looks like it would be fun, until you slipped, sliced your arm off and died. So maybe not fun.
Sam Heughan’s favorite scene from Outlander’s Culloden
Sam and Graham next meet up with the Outlander armorers Jim Elliot and Iain Bowden. They reminisce about when Jim gave them all their first swords on Outlander. Awww, this is like the Harry Potter sorting hat scene except with swords. They also got dirks, which are knives. In Season 1, Dougal and the Highlanders teach Claire how to use a dirk — which comes in pretty handy to save her and Jamie. Lucky for them, but not for Dougal. Murder She Wrote: The Claire and Dougal Story. Teach someone how to dirk, and you’ll get dirked, Dougal. Dougal got dirked. Dirked bad.
Sam flashes back to his personal favorite dirk scene from Outlander, where Jamie and Claire kill Dougal. The only thing better than Sam gleefully daydreaming about the scene is Graham looking at him with disdain while he does. What’s a little fake murder amongst friends?
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Jamie Fraser and the Battle of Culloden
Sam and Graham finally step on the Culloden battlefield and meet up with historian Catriona McIntosh. (Okay this is confusing, every episode now really includes a Claire or a Catriona). Catriona (not Balfe) explains to them that 1,500 men died in the battle. And by men, that included kids as young as 13. Outlander depicted this when they showed Claire and Jamie’s adopted young son Fergus (Romann Berrux) heading into the Prestonpans battle with Jamie. (Even though his parents specifically told him he couldn’t go. Kids).
Sam asks, “Did Jamie Fraser fight in this battle?” And Graham replies, “It’s a fictional character.” Oh no. Here we go again. Catriona confirms there were indeed 5 James Frasers but none of them were the notorious JAMMF — James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. The reenactment of Culloden begins and starts with the bagpipers. They flashback to an Outlander scene with Jamie and Bonny Prince “Mark Me” Charlie discussing what to do in the battle. (Not the best time for a chat, guys). Sam and Graham decide to do the Culloden run — the ill-fated 300-yard run with swords just like their ancestors did. And who won? Well, the British did, but also Sam as he reminded Graham in their IG live prior to the finale.
As they run in slow motion, it cuts to the Outlander Culloden battle scene. This is actually a pretty emotional and sad moment. Iain MacGillvray plays a song, “Lochbar No More,” on the bagpipes that was composed in the aftermath of Culloden. Just to tell you how sad Outlander is, watching its depiction of Culloden is even sadder than this.
The final scene is at a bar where Sam and Graham are sharing a dram of whisky and toasting the end of their first season. Sam finally gives Graham a bottle of Sassenach, but then promptly drinks it. Here’s to Scotland, Sam, Graham, and of course, Sassenach.
Men in Kilts season 2
So will there be a second season of Men in Kilts? In a recent interview, when asked whether they’d want to do more seasons, Sam talked about how Scottish culture had reached many places, including India. Hmmmm… Men in Saris. I can see it. Sam hinted that he has some news coming soon and that he was developing a television show. Perhaps a season 2 announcement, or a different project altogether? Their Outlander co-star Steven Cree warmly trolled their IG live. He wrote, “I’d love to see you guys out of kilts.” And what did Sam and Graham do upon seeing Steven in the comments? They ignored him and ended their live. Ahh, friendship. Maybe season 2 will have Steven join them for an episode.
What Outlander and Men in Kilts have done for Scotland
From the time they were cast in Outlander, Sam Heughan and Caitríona Balfe have used their platforms to raise up various charities and social causes, including World Child Cancer and My Peak Challenge. They’ve even inspired fans to start their own charity drives in their honor. Caitríona’s fans planted a forest of more than 50,000 trees for her birthday, and a group of fans recently started the Supernova scholarship fund at the school Sam studied at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to provide financial support for incoming students.
Droughtlander begins again and Outlander Season 6
And so another Droughtlander begins. But worry not, there are plenty of ways you can undrought yourself. First off, the best way to travel is to binge the whole season of Men in Kilts all over again. Eight episodes filled with Scotland, whisky, dancing, Outlander’s most iconic locations, and of course Sam trying to gently murder Graham.
If you feel like crying while enjoying Scotland, binge Outlander. There are five seasons’ worth to catch up on. If you just want the travel without the drama, then Men in Kilts is for you, which, by the way, you get a fun dose of Outlander flashbacks in every episode. So win-win. Need more? Diana Gabaldon has written eight Outlander books with thousands of pages of Jamie and Claire and love and misery. And she just finished the ninth book in the series. Sam and Graham’s book, Clandlands, is a great way to keep the road trip going, plus they recorded the audiobook so it will be like you’re in their little camper van with an inexplicable stove rolling across Scotland.
And finally, they just announced the official Outlander podcast, where executive producer Matthew B. Roberts will be chatting with fellow producers and cast as they film Season 6. See, they’re not going to leave you high and dry and droughty and pouty.
Men in Kilts was indeed a love letter to Scotland, and more so a delightful documentary on friendship and how to annoy someone in every single location possible. And we hope there will be more to come, these kilts can’t be done yet.
Before you go, check out the all-time best ‘Outlander’ episodes you need to watch