Episode 4: The Gathering or…
What This Party Really Needs Are Clan MacKenzie Reunion T-Shirts
(Just a reminder that my point of view for my recaps will be one of a newbie.)
Greetings Outlanders. We’ve just seen episode 4, halfway through the first 8 episodes. Can you believe it? Four more weeks then a respite (sniff, sniff) until the end of the season. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it. Will you? Perhaps we can develop our own Highland Games to pass the time. If not, there’s so much goodness in this episode that if we all made GIFs from this episode during the time between the first and second halves of S1 it should pass quickly.
Anyway, on with the show!!
The episode opens with men standing as sentries on wooden pedestals. Claire is running through the woods, winded breathing carrying her along. My initial thought was ‘Oh! She’s finally found a way to escape and she’s doing it!’ Alas I was wrong. She was playing a Highland hunting game with the children and having a great time, much to the chagrin of Abbott and Costello, aka Angus and Rupert. (The real question is: which one is which??) They are, honestly, the funniest duo in the entire show. And Claire knows how to play them. Watching her manipulate them was a delight, and a treat, for me.
After giving her a view up the kilt (his isn’t the kilt I want to look up), Angus admonishes her to stop playing, reminding her that she wasn’t at the Castle to play. (Such Debbie Downers, for all their comedic ways).
In reality the game wasn’t the pleasant diversion she led the Hardy Boys to believe. She used it as reconnaissance, marking the possible escape routes and studying the sentries’ habits. What a clever girl you are Claire.
One of my many favorite scenes of this episode is the ‘matchmaking’ of Claire, making Abbot and Costello pull sticks for the attention of a girl making eyes at the men. Just goes to show you: it doesn’t matter what century you’re living in, men are the same.
This manipulation allowed Claire to continue with her preparations for her jailbreak. It’s a very thorough, very hopeful plan and I’m rooting for her.
It’s at this part in the series that we get juxtaposition (shout out to my friend Lexi for that one) of the past and future. Bear McCreary cleverly added some music from the 40s, and it continues at various moments throughout the episode. I think it works because Claire’s so preoccupied with her mission to get home that the sounds of her time have become her current theme song. It follows her wherever she goes. It gives her strength, fortitude, and resolve. While it can be a bit disconcerting for the viewer, this mashup of the past and future, it’s a great use of non-verbal, non-visual cues. When she encounters Geillis it suddenly stops, like when you pull the arm across a vinyl on the turntable. That doesn’t surprise me; Geillis has always been a bit of a buzz kill.
The Spanish Inquisition Has Nothing on This Woman
Geillis is anything but subtle in her curiosity of Claire. I swear, that woman doesn’t let up. And she can have all the tact of a, well, something that isn’t tactful.
Using a basket full of food to begin a line of questioning, Geillis gets Claire to admit that not only is she possibly barren but that her husband’s dead. I don’t really blame Claire for saying that Frank’s dead; Geillis wouldn’t let it go and… what do you expect Claire to say, really? She’s got this massive secret that must stay a secret and she doesn’t trust anybody, especially Geillis. But it’s a dilemma that Claire is currently facing: is Frank alive or dead? Dead implies he once lived but in 1743 he had never been alive. Sigh. What’s a girl to do?
What surprises me the most, though, is how tactful she is about Claire running away. Geillis knows this and is warning her not to. Perhaps she does care for the Sassenach? After all I have a feeling there’s a bit of the ‘other worldly’ about the ginger healer as well.
The Oath Taking. It’s a festive time, where the men of the Clan MacKenzie get drunk and swear allegiance to the Laird (is it really a good idea to mix alcohol and oaths?). It is a serious time so perhaps drink is needed to get the job done. Anyway, not only is it a big night for the Clan but for Claire as well. It’s time to break out of jail and she’s a right prepared lass. She’s even thoroughly planned a way to dodge the Dynamic Duo. Only one kink in the armor: Mrs. Fitz. That woman! I swear, she insists that Claire, as a guest, attend. But she can’t do that! Claire’s trying to leave, all secret-like!! After making Claire all beautiful (though not much is needed; Caitriona Balfe could wear a feed sack and be painted brown with pink spots and still look glamorous) she attends the party with a couple of familiar faces…
(In case you folks don’t know, the gentleman in the picture, facing us, on the left, is Ronald Moore, writer and producer of the amazing series we are watching, and the woman in the beautiful dress is Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander book series. They both look fabulous and Diana’s Iona MacTavish is a wee sassy thing. She’s got a great exchange with Mrs. Fitz.)
As Claire watches the proceedings with Murtagh and Mrs. Fitz, Dougal (such a serious lad) is the first to pledge his oath to the Laird. Claire quickly sees that it will be much the same so she steals away, only to be intercepted, once again, by Abbott (ok, I’ve decided to call Angus Abbott because, well, can you see Rupert as Abbott??), who won’t let her go alone. You have to give him credit; Abbott is quite loyal to his Laird. Claire, being the clever and prepared girl that she is, pulls out some port, eliciting an excited shout of glee and a bounce from the man who likes his drink. Of course he can’t resist and Claire knows exactly what happens next.
(Yeah, Angus is creeping up on my just completely awesome list.)
And now it’s time to make for the border. With her knapsack and her cape, Claire is getting ready to leave… except…
Uh-oh. It’s The Girl Whose Got It Bad (I swear that girl has the worst timing…).And she’s come for a love potion to make the ginger boy love her. (My dear lassie, what did I tell you last episode? He’s Just Not That Into You. Thank you, Ny, for that.) Wait, no, NOT a love potion; it’s for ‘movin’ his heart forward’. Poor, poor lassie. To think I was ever that young and stupid makes me glad I’m older and a bit wiser. All she needs to do is:
“Sprinkle the contents of this on his threshold, stand at the door, tap your heels together three times, and recite: There’s No Place Like Love, There’s No Place Like Love.”
A great thing about being a time traveler is you can pull out common movie lines and dispense them as philosophy. Or change them to fit the situation. Of course a downside to time traveling is pulling out common movie lines and nobody gets it because nobody knows what a movie is. In this case it worked like a dream because it served its purpose: Laoghaire bought it, hook, line and bottle of dried horse dung, and Claire was on the road out of Dodge. Claire’s getting closer and closer to her goal until…
POP UP EYE CANDY MOMENT!!
(And I’m taking a wee moment for a Pop Up Eye Candy Moment. Don’t be caught unawares; a Pop Up Eye Candy Moment can, and will, happen when you least expect it. Most of the time it will probably be of Jamie but you never know; Angus might strike a fancy.)
It wouldn’t be a party without men urinating on the walls, singing in drunk Gaelic and lookin’ for a good time. Darn Claire’s luck, she comes across a few of them on her way to the stables. Just when you think something naughty’s gonna happen, out pops the seemingly most unlikely of Claire heroes: Dougal. After dispatching them with knuckles and mean (sounding) Gaelic, he takes his compensation by way of a kiss… and she thanks him with a slap on the face. When he discovers her traveling pack (As Dougal studied her she looked down at it. Claire, that’s like the NUMBER #1 thing you DON’T do when you don’t want somebody to find something. Haven’t you read Agatha Christie?) she clobbers him with a stool over the head. That’s our girl.
Closer and closer to freedom. In true Mission:Impossible fashion, Claire works her way around the sentries, counting her paces and remembering where she needs to go. She’s now at the stables. She’s so close… until…
Well crap. She was so close. Her plan was sound. And she’s determined to go. But he’s determined she should stay. You can see Jamie working so hard to keep her around. For Claire’s safety or for himself? At this point, whether either of them know it or not, the two seem to be hand in hand. He’s a young man who wants the Sassenach (and we see exactly where Jamie realizes that the nickname, once used in derision and to point out differences, had become something so much more precious to him.), but he wants her to be safe as well. But she doesn’t want to stay; she wants to go. And she finally breaks down, right in front of him. To be honest I’m surprised it hadn’t happened sooner; if anybody deserves to break down its Claire.
But what a lovely exchange. Oh that ginger boy. He communicates so much without speaking many words. His care for her continues, even when she tries to escape. He can’t have her go by herself; he cares too much for her. As he walks her home (aww…..) they encounter the guards and Jamie’s really not given a choice about attending the Oath Taking.
Jamie’s loyalty is admirable but could put him into danger. He’s a threat and he knows it. If he pledged fealty to Colum it puts him in line for the Lairdship, threatening Dougal’s claim to the Lairdship once Colum is out of the way. It’s not expected for Jamie to show up for the oath taking because of this threat; if Jamie had stayed hidden the issue would’ve been moot. For that Claire feels guilty.
But wee Jamie’s trapped between a rock and a hard place: he can’t refuse to pledge but he can’t pledge the incorrectly either. It seems he’ll be dead no matter what he does. As Murtagh says, because he’s got a price on his head, the only safe place for Jamie, in all of Scotland, is Castle Leoch. Seemingly a miracle, or a very clever answer, will save himself from his kinsmen.
It would seem that Jamie is extremely clever. What happens is such a bloodless, unexpected coup that he earns the respect of his elders. By pledging his oath to his name, his obedience as Colum’s kinsman and Colum’s position as Laird, and by holding himself bound to the Laird’s word, Jamie told them he didn’t want anything to do with the hierarchy of the clan but pledged to obey and respect the man while he was with them and walking MacKenzie lands.
It was unprecedented and earned a huge smile from his Uncle.
Whew. The intensity of the moment made me breathe a sigh of relief.
It’s All Fun and Games Until You Piss Off the Aspiring Laird
(Well, Claire is still resolute; her 40s music is playing again. She will try again.)
The next morning is the Boar Hunt, or simply an excuse to give inebriated men guns to shoot off their aggression.
We see Claire following behind, with her medicines, just waiting for somebody to do something stupid and get hurt. She’s certainly not in favor of the hunt; really, boars don’t run into the woods when pissed off. They charge. They have big tusks. And they are ugly as sin. And this is sport??
(On the bright side, the Boar Hunt explains some of the images from the opening credits.)
The Boar Hunt did serve a huge purpose: despite the kiss and slap between Dougal and Claire, they develop a tenuous, if grudgingly respectful, bond over the death of Geordie. Geordie’s death was painful to watch; watching helplessly as somebody dies in front of you is something not to be taken lightly of. Claire’s reaction to the grotesqueness of Geordie’s death puzzles Dougal even more. It also pisses off Dougal (rightfully so) and he needs an
outlet. What better way to release your aggression than attempting to beat the ever loving crap out of your nephew in a brutal game of shinty (which, really, is just uber violent field hockey). Of course, it was also a punishment for his pledge from the night before. Dougal certainly doesn’t like to be taken unawares.
Claire’s behavior earns not only an apology from Dougal (*GASP* I had no idea he even knew how to do that!), it earns her a place in the caravan out of the castle.
ROAD TRIP. Awesome. I’m bringing the Pringles and a rousing game of I Spy …
Yet another great episode. Now that they are leaving I can’t wait to see how the road trip progresses. Will she get the chance to escape? Until next week folks.