Michelle is off this week, so here is Outlander superfan Brittany to recap this episode, The Gathering, with some book background.
Here we are again, watching the "Claire Tries to Escape" show. Voiceover Claire shares her elaborate plan to run away, but she also says she's beginning to like living at Castle Leoch. Of course you are, girl! One word: Jamie. He's her literal roadblock back to Frank, as she trips over Jamie while trying to get away. I laughed when she yelled out "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" and Jamie replies "No, Sassenach, just me." Oh, these two.
But there's a lot more to talk about: Geillis is enchanting as ever; Diana Gabaldon makes a cameo; family tension rises at the Gathering; a boar hunt ends with some blood and guts, and tears; and there's an awesome sporting scene complete with slow-motion kilts and bagpipes!
Most notably, though, there's compelling insight into the character of Dougal MacKenzie. He's pretty intimidating, and the Gathering scenes show just how scary he is, and what he's capable of.
But just what happened at the Gathering? All male MacKenzies need to declare official allegiance to the Clan and Colum MacKenzie, Laird of Castle Leoch, at The Gathering. In this era, loyalty means everything. When Jamie makes an appearance, we and Claire are not sure why it's so tense. Jamie is Colum's nephew, so he could become Laird, ahead of Dougal (the MacKenzie war chief, second to his brother Colum). Jamie doesn't want to piss off Dougal, who'd probably kill Jamie if he became Laird instead of him, so Jamie declares a different kind of allegiance. He takes an oath to his own name, but gives his obedience to the Clan MacKenzie, and does not want to be Laird. Phew!
Before the Gathering scene with Jamie, as Claire tries to escape, she encounters some drunk men who try to rape her. But it's Dougal to the rescue! He convinces them to leave, but, oh wait, he's pretty drunk, and wants her for himself. Graham McTavish is absolutely terrifying here. As much as we might joke about why Claire shouldn't want to leave, this scene is a great example of just what kind of danger she's in all the time.
We also see a softer side of the war chief when he and Claire comfort a dying man during the boar hunt. Book Claire narrates this scene: "Dougal the fierce, Dougal the ruthless, was speaking to the man in a low voice, repeating words of comfort, hugging the man hard against him, stroking the tumbled hair.” It was a great moment between two characters who have yet to really understand each other. And even though I didn't know anything about the man who died, I was still tearing up.
Dougal's rape attempt isn't in the book, so it'll be interesting to see how TV Claire navigates her relationship with him going forward. Even though she recognized a softness in Dougal during the hunt, she'll always have the thought of that night.
To lighten up the episode, we're treated to Jamie and other men in kilts playing a game where you get to beat other men with sticks and throw them up in the air. The bagpipe accompaniment was perfect. I loved Jamie's smirk after he and Dougal duke it out. Jamie: "You taught me well." Dougal: "Aye, too well."
And now the clan of plaid is off on a journey throughout Scotland and Claire is going along. So of course, she's already plotting a way to get to Craigh na Dun.