Outlander: The Gathering (1×04)
Synopsis: People come from all over the land to attend the Gathering held at Castle Leoch, as clansmen pledge fealty to Colum MacKenzie while Claire plots her escape from Leoch.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆So The Gathering has come. The time when clansmen from across the land come to pledge their fealty to Colum MacKenzie and his clan. Not really sure how often this happens, but clearly once every 30ish years? So I feel like this is the kind of thing where you have to re-pledge your fealty after a while? Since I’m sure Colum has been laird for a while? Anyways, this episode is focused less on the Gathering and more on Claire’s plan to escape Castle Leoch.
After last week’s revelation in the form of a folk song, Claire has been more adamant then ever to return to Craigh na Dun. The episode opens with her cleverly finding a route to her escape while playing with the young children of Castle Leoch. While walking back to the castle with her guards, she comes upon the camp of the visiting clansmen and the camaraderie of the reunion. It’s nice to see her acclimating to the people around her, even her guards seem to enjoy her presence more, especially since we know as the audience that she won’t escape, and even if she doesn’t it won’t be for long.
Despite actively searching for an escape route, no one seems to have noticed Claire except Geillis Duncan. From the first time we meet her, Geillis proves herself to be not only clever, but too clever it seems. She seems to deduce from her conversation with Claire that Frank might not be dead and that she is planning on taking a trip. Geillis seems not only to be a trickster figure but quickly becoming someone Claire would do well to keep an eye on and her guard up while around.Unable to get out of going to the Gathering, Mrs. Fitz dolls her up and we get to witness not only the beginning of the Gathering but also Diana Gabaldon’s cameo on set! So slightly unrelated, but Claire was looking so adorable in her dress with that ribbon around her neck, it made me sad that Jamie wasn’t around to flirt with her for too long. But anyways, Gabaldon makes a brief appearance having a tit-for-tat with Mrs. Fitz. (If you didn’t get to see it closely, check it out again below!)
As the Gathering begins I have to give a hand to the showrunners of Outlander for sticking to the Gaelic as much as they can without subtitles. It not only puts us firmly in the shoes of Claire, but also makes us as viewers into sassenachs. We are forced to interpret from interactions and body language what is said. Thankfully Colum’s opening speech is translated, and we watch as Dougal pledges his fealty to Colum and then the other men. Got to hand it to Colum, it can not have been comfortable standing there the entire time. I have no ailments with my legs, and even I get sore from standing for too long.
Finally able to sneak away during the Gathering, Claire is met with Laoghaire at her door. The young girl seems harmless, if not a little needy, but this scene will prove to be important in the coming season. All that mention of exorcisms and Geillis’ talk of being a witch suggests the possibility of Claire being accused as witch herself. After all Laoghaire didn’t ask for medicine. She asked for a potion to win a lad’s heart. Last time I checked unless you’re looking for some crushed up Viagra, that would be a love potion. And while Claire thought nothing of giving her some horse dung and teaching her a meaningless saying, I’m pretty sure this is going to come back and bite her in the ass.
Laoghaire doesn’t seem to notice Claire holding a massive go-bag of sorts and happily skips off with her horse dung. Thinking she’s in the clear, Claire makes her way through the castle before coming on some drunk clansmen who seem ready to rape her until Dougal steps in. Though not long after the drunk clansmen are beaten away by Dougal does he come on to Claire as well. I have to admit, despite this interaction with Claire, I am still on the fence with Dougal. His character, much like many of the other characters on this show, are too complex to simply write off as good or bad. He’s also pretty drunk, and Claire knocks him out with a chair before making her way to the stables.Thinking she’s in the clear, she runs into her final obstacle. Jamie. We’ve missed out on him all episode, so it’s about time this ginger appears on screen. Aside from the earlier interaction Claire had with the horse master about Jamie, the episode has not mentioned him at all. He himself doesn’t mention why he’s in the stables while everyone else is enjoying what seems to be the party of a generation. Seeing Claire’s bag, he quickly deduces that she’s planning to run off. Although he doesn’t get angry like Colum or Dougal would at the sight of it, he’s quick to dash her hopes by telling her there are more guards on patrol now than ever.
Unable to make her escape, Jamie offers to walk her back into the castle. But with Dougal probably passed out in the hallway, they decide to take an underground passage way and are promptly stopped by clansmen. Dragged into the castle, Jamie is forced to change for the Gathering and everyone seems to be on edge. Not really sure why everyone’s clan motto is in French, but I guess since it’s the international language? But Jamie tells Claire’s his and there is definitely an ominous feeling in the air as he says “Je suis prêt” and walks off into the Gathering.We learn that quickly that Jamie is basically in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation at the Gathering. Forced to either pledge his fealty and be killed by Dougal or refuse and be killed by Colum and the clansmen, he instead pledges his alliance and loyalty to Colum, stating that he is a laird to his own house and he is unable to pledge fealty. It’s pretty anticlimactic considering Jamie was pretty much standing on death’s door, but as we know, he’s a smart lad, he wasn’t about to die any time soon
So in the final part of this episode is where I feel we get the most… substance. Joining the morning boar hunt as the medic, Claire witnesses a clansman named Geordie die after being gored by a boar. She and Dougal comfort the man in his last moments of death being unable to heal his massive abdomen wound. Despite Dougal’s prickly and sometimes even menacing attitude, he clearly cares for his clansmen. Not only that but his clan. It’s made obvious by his interaction with Jamie in the game of Shinty that he sees the boy as a threat despite Jamie’s reluctance to take any kind of leading role in Clan Mackenzie.Dougal’s interaction with Claire with Geordie leads him to correctly deduce that she’s seen violence and she’s seen men die under that violence. It seems to earn her some respect in his eyes and ultimately puts her firmly on another path to a possible escape as he takes her on his trip to collect taxes from the lands that the clan holds.
So ultimately it was another slower episode. I really liked last week’s episode, but this one seemed to move exceedingly slow to me. However this seems to be an every other episode thing, as I am excited to see the group moving once again throughout the lands, giving us an opportunity not only for more Jamie and Claire scenes but also for some interactions with the infamously evil Black Jack Randall.