Outlander Recap: Episode 1.4 — "The Gathering"
Last week: Claire came to the aid of a "possessed" boy who was actually suffering from poison, securing her place as a healer and earning the enmity of the local priest. Also, she and Jamie played footsie under a table like weird horny teenagers.
Jamie Shirtless Watch 2014: First shirtless appearance at 34 minutes.
On to the recap:
Two Scottish soldiers train their rifles on a running woman — and it's Claire. But it soon becomes clear that Claire is running happily from a group of children. She tumbles down onto her back with a laugh, but the revelry is cut short when one of her guards stands over her prone body, giving her an up-kilt view. Claire's not impressed.
As Claire gets to her feet, Colum's young son notices that Claire's fichu and her hair ribbon are missing, but Claire brushes this off. The guards, Angus and Rupert, are grumbling about missing the festivities (i.e., drinking to excess) so she tells the children to hurry off and they'll play another day. As she merrily tells the guards they'd best head to the party inside Castle Leoch, Claire VOs that her adventures with the kids are actually excuses to reconnoiter the grounds and leave "bread crumbs" — the missing hair ribbon and fichu — to find her way to possible escape routes later. More Mata Hari than Mary Poppins, our Claire.
The Gathering, otherwise known as the Clan MacKenzie Hoedown of '43, appears to be a rustic affair as Claire passes through a series of camps set up outside. Proving that family parties are always more charming when it's not YOUR family, Claire feels a pang of sadness about her imminent escape when she sees the MacKenzies' pure, simple joy at seeing one another. Nonetheless, she's a woman on a mission.
With Angus and Rupert by her side, Claire ponders how best to distract these not-so-bright gentlemen. A solution presents itself quite conveniently in the form of a voluptuous lass eyeing up one (or both?) of the men. They have a brief argument about who's more deserving of sexing this lady. Apparently the ménage a trois had not made its way to Scotland by 1743, a bit of valuable trivia for us in case we ever fall through time.
Contributing to the outstanding chivalry of the age, Claire has the guards DRAW STRAWS to see who is going to sleep with the woman in question.
I understand the sexual revolution hasn't even occurred in Claire's time, but for someone as sexually confident as Claire has been, you'd think she'd not treat women like property to be traded ... but desperate times, I guess?
Angus, who is the smaller, sharper guard, whom I privately call NotJeremyDavies, draws the bigger straw and the right to try to have sex with a woman who may or may not want him. Congrats, dude. Rupert isn't pleased, but he agrees to accompany Claire to the stable so she can pick a horse for the hunt on the following day. Yeah, sure, Claire, you're going to the stable for the horses and not for the incredibly hot, perpetually injured Scottish hottie who works there.
But it doesn't matter, since Jamie isn't at the stables. Old Alec is, however, and he sharply warns Claire to stay away from Jamie during the Gathering. A direction I feel confident Claire will follow! Alec directs Claire to a horse named Brimstone, whom he claims is gentle, despite the name.
Back in Claire's surgery, possible frenemy Geillis surprises Claire, bearing a gift of port. Unsurprisingly, Geillis is acting shady as hell, coming right out and asking Claire if she's pregnant after noting that she's stockpiled a ton of food.
"Is that why you're so desperate to get to France? An illegitimate pregnancy?" Geillis, this is why you don't have friends. Aside from your gassy husband, obviously.
Claire assures Geillis that she'd never cheat on her husband, which leads Geillis to quietly ask if Claire's husband is still alive. We see a brief flash of Frank and I must say that Outlander is really killing it with making ME miss Frank, even though we all know Jamie is ~*The One*~.
"So he's dead then?" Geillis presses. "He's dead," Claire says, clearly wanting to drop the whole conversation. After a brief discussion in which Geillis remarks that Claire might be barren — best friends forever! — Geillis comments on the Valerian root Claire has mashed up in a bowl. After revealing that she often drugs her own husband's tea so she can get some sleep, Geillis cannily warns Claire that the amount Claire has mashed up "could put out an entire army."
This leads into a spooky exchange where Geillis tells Claire that she came to Cranesmuir with only her wits, a knowledge of the plants, and married a man in power, because she knew it was the smart thing to do. She doesn't admit that she's a time traveler, which is what I'm hoping for. Instead, she essentially counsels Claire to do what she did: "Sometimes ye find yourself on a path you never expected. Doesn't mean it can't lead you to a bonny place."
Claire promises Geillis she'll see her at the oath-taking, and Geillis warns her that "promise" is a serious thing in Scotland. Claire says it's a serious thing in England, too, and we can be sure she's thinking of Frank.
As soon as Geillis leaves, Claire hurriedly packs some food into cloth as she VOs that during the oath-taking at Castle Leoch, she'll be heading for the stables, which no one will be watching.
Grabbing a basket, Claire passes through the kitchens and notices Angus — who won the straw drawing — drinking alone in the kitchen. Through the open doorway, we see Rupert is getting cozy with the voluptuous lass. Claire looks back toward Angus, who merely shrugs in response.
I know we joke a lot, but I'm really, sincerely pleased by how Outlander neatly let this minor female character actually have some sexual agency. 1,000 points to Gryffindor!
Just as Claire is going over her escape plan in her head, Mrs. Fitz accosts her. Apparently, Claire's hope that a sassenach wouldn't be welcome at the ceremony was entirely incorrect; she's Colum's special guest. Mrs. Fitz finds her a proper dress and escorts her to the ceremony — which may work out, if having Mrs. Fitz around her makes Claire's watchdogs drop their guard.
As they enter the hall, Mrs. Fitz throws expert shade at a lady (played by none other than Diana Gabaldon): "Iona...that lovely dress again, you wore it so well to the last Gathering."
Music plays as Colum walks through the hall. He's shaved his beard! I normally prefer facial hair on men, but you're looking good, Colum.
Jamie's friend, a fellow Google tells me is named Murtagh, translates Colum's greeting to the MacKenzie clan for Claire. Essentially: "We definitely are not going to fight the English but if we do, WE WILL KICK ASS."
Dougal is the first to pledge his fealty to Colum, and it seems genuine, even if I expected Dougal to stab Colum with his sword mid-oath. Now every man in the hall is lining up to swear their loyalty to Colum and Claire's like:
Using boredom as her excuse, Claire attempts to leave the hall. But since Dougal's conscripted him to stay by her side, Angus begs her to stay in the hall...at least until he "bags a lass." Claire sighs, agrees and pulls a flask out, which pleases him to no end. She takes a swig and then hands it off to Angus and as he chugs it back, Claire discreetly turns away and spits out the alcohol.
Well, I guess we know what the Valerian root was for.
"Doesn't taste like rhenish," he says. "It's port," Claire informs him. "Port," he repeats in this charming faux posh voice. Ugh, Angus's very passing resemblance to Jeremy Davies is starting to get to me. As Angus comments that the port is strong, Claire encourages him to share it with all his friends. She also comes right out and calls it a "sedative" as I mentally warn her to shut up immediately.
With Angus sufficiently drugged, Claire rushes back to the surgery, but just as she's about to make her escape, she's stopped by Laoghaire. UGH, GOD, CAN'T ANYONE ESCAPE FROM THIS CASTLE IN PEACE?? Apparently not: Laoghaire wants a love potion to hold a certain injured stableboy's attention.
When Claire points out that Laoghaire didn't seem to have trouble holding Jamie's attention last she saw them, Laoghaire shares that she wants Jamie's heart, not just his body.
Are you sure? Do you need another look?
You can have his heart, Laoghaire, because I'm pretty sure the viewers of this show will make do with his body.
Claire takes pity on the girl and quickly makes up a harmless concoction of horse dung for Laoghaire to place on Jamie's threshold (which I'm guessing won't seem out of place for a guy who works at the stable) and gives her some Wizard of Oz-inspired "there's no place like love" proclamation to recite. Laoghaire walks off, totally delighted.
As she makes her way through the corridor, Claire is beset by drunken MacKenzies who waste no time trying to rape her. She knees one with impressive accuracy and then, for one shining moment, Dougal is a hero. He forces Claire's would-be attackers to scatter. But then Dougal — a man who just a few weeks ago said he didn't "hold with rape" — immediately tries to force himself on Claire as "payment" for protecting her from ... rape? She smacks him and he draws back, telling her to go. But as soon as Dougal catches sight of her satchel, Claire grabs a nearby stool and cracks him right over the head with it.
Claire doesn't even break a sweat as she continues her escape, making it outside the castle and into the stables. Headed toward Brimstone, Claire trips. "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" she cries out.
"No, sassenach, just me," Jamie tells her. I almost legit swooned. Reader, I hate myself.
Jamie immediately recognizes that Claire's trying to escape — and tells her it's hopeless. Colum's posted extra sentries in the woods and the best trackers in Clan MacKenzie are at Castle Leoch. They'll find Claire before long, and she won't be considered a "guest" then.
Claire's pretty upset that her dreams of escape have been dashed — Jamie closes the distance between them and offers to take Claire back to the castle. Claire reveals that she had a rough exchange with some of the drunken MacKenzies, and Jamie immediately turns protective, asking if they touched her.
Claire shakes her head, but is forced to admit that she knocked a very drunk Dougal over the head "with a chair or something" and rendered him unconscious. Jamie is adorably delighted by this and reassures Claire that Dougal probably won't remember any of it and, if he does, he won't want to admit that a lass got the better of him.
"I hope you left a good mark, so he'll remember his error in judgment," Jamie tells her, and it's at this moment that I begin writing a letter to the Emmy committee about how Sam Heughan should win the first Best Smolderer Award.
All Jamie's doing is reassuring Claire that things will be fine, but he's looking at her like she's the only real, important thing in the entire universe, and it's kind of making me hate every other non-Jamie man, real and fictional.
Before Jamie can safely escort Claire back to the castle, he and Claire are set upon by some clansmen who are trying to force Jamie to attend the oath-taking, for some reason. There's yet another rape threat, and Jamie lunges for his kinsman, but he's knocked out by Claire's guard, Rupert. (Presumably Angus is passed out somewhere.) So I guess everything's okay?
Back in the castle, Jamie's getting properly attired for the oath-taking, which means — you guessed it — SHIRTLESS JAMIE. Yowza. As he's dressing (boo), he says he can't wear the MacKenzie pin, since he's from a different clan. While the MacKenzie motto is "I shine, not burn," Jamie's clan's motto is "Je suis prest," which means, "I am ready."
"Ready for what?" Claire wonders to herself.
Back in the hall, Claire has met back up with Murtagh, whom I've decided to call Mr. Exposition (or Maighstir Exposition, if you prefer the Scottish style). After everyone in the hall tenses up at Jamie's arrival, Mr. Exposition tells us that Jamie pledging an oath to Colum will make him an official part of Clan MacKenzie, which would put him in line to be laird. Unlike the English, the Scots aren't wed to lines of succession so if the clansmen vote for a man — like Jamie — to be laird, he'd succeed over Colum's young son, Hamish — and Dougal.
This last bit makes it especially dangerous for Jamie to take the oath — Dougal wants to be laird and if Jamie's in line for it, Dougal won't hesitate to take him out. But Jamie can't refuse to take the oath, either, since he's a healthy man of MacKenzie blood living at Castle Leoch. In other words:
Basically, Jamie's best bet would've been to stay hidden until after the Gathering was over. But Claire made that impossible. Hey, Old Alec, maybe next time tell her to bother Jamie relentlessly so she'll disregard THAT advice.
Anyway, it all turns out okay because Jamie is possibly literally made of magic. He doesn't pledge a vow to Colum, but he tells Colum that he comes to Colum as kinsman and that he'll abide by his word as long as he's on MacKenzie land and that he accepts Colum as laird, and it's lovely and perfect. After a tense moment, Colum gives a slow smile and all is well.
Dougal looks annoyed that Jamie has somehow escaped this trap. Claire does not look annoyed, very much the opposite. And Mrs. Fitz lets out a "woo!"
As Jamie walks back, Mr. Exposition lives up to the name of Murtagh by saying "I'm getting too old for this." Very cute, Outlander writers. I see you. They leave the hall together.
It's the morning of the hunt, and Claire runs into Rupert; she's peeved that she's still around and that she has to accompany a bunch of hungover Scotsmen as twenty of them hunt one wild boar.
As she's tending to — and scolding — one of the boys who's been knocked off his horse by a boar, Claire hears another scream in the distance. Leaving her guard to bring the boy back to the castle, Claire runs off to find her next patient. Wandering through the woods, Claire is nearly gored by a boar — but Dougal shoots it, just inches from where Claire was standing.
When Claire finally makes it to the screaming man, who's named Geordie, Dougal is being uncharacteristically tender, cradling Geordie's head and speaking softly in Gaelic. Geordie's leg injury isn't serious, but the wound to his abdomen is fatal. Claire locks eyes with Dougal, and shakes her head. What follows is the most touching scene in Outlander to date. Dougal unties the tourniquet from around Geordie's leg, allowing him to bleed out faster, giving him a better, quicker death. There's a strangely sweet moment when Geordie asks if Dougal bedded Geordie's sister, to which Dougal says, "Aye, but she was a bonny lass." Geordie isn't angry; instead he chuckles a bit and says Dougal always could charm the lasses. As Geordie nears death, Claire asks him about his village and as he dies, Geordie tells Claire and Dougal about how beautiful his home is.
It's incredibly rare for a show to introduce and kill a character in a single scene and still evoke emotion from the audience, but Outlander pulled it off beautifully. I couldn't even recap this scene without tearing up.
When Geordie finally passes, Claire and Dougal glance at one another, seeming to reach rapprochement.
Dougal's grief translates into some good old-fashioned family shenanigans — MacKenzie style. Charging into a shinty game (basically field hockey) that's already in progress, Dougal just starts laying the smack down. It's almost more like a rugby match as Dougal's approach seems to involve less scoring and more hitting people — mostly Jamie — with his shinty stick. It's by turns tense and fun and weird because Jamie and Dougal have this fraught relationship. ... MEN, am I right, lassies?
After the game, Dougal comes to the surgery to thank Claire for taking Geordie "to a peaceful place" as he was dying. Dougal's also there to tell her he's springing her from the surgery — but don't get too excited. He wants Claire to come with him on the road as he collects taxes on the MacKenzie land. She's a healer and she does well under "strain." Claire can't really object but she does do her signature Chin Tilt of Defiance.
On the road, we see Claire riding with the men, right behind Jamie, in fact. Well, that's one good thing. She decides that, out on the road, she's going to take any opportunity to get to Craigh na Dun. And she must not fail. To see Jamie shirtless again. Okay, I added that last part.
Next week: The MacKenzies hit the road to collect taxes, get into skirmishes with the British and feel ever more suspicious of Claire's strange knowledge of the future. Let's hope Jamie manages to stay uninjured for 54-58 minutes. In the meantime, you can find all of my Outlander recaps here.