Outlander recap: 'The Gathering'

Jamie's faced with a no-win situation while Claire plots her escape from Castle Leoch.
Ep. 04 | Aired Aug 30, 2014

PARTY CRASHER Looks like Jamie forgot to RSVP.

Ed Miller/Starz

With Murtaugh merry and managed, Claire runs to the surgery to retrieve her Castle Leoch Escape Kit™ but finds Laoghaire on her doorstep, inquiring after a love potion for Jamie. "It's for moving his heart forward," she explains (i.e. he doesn't need any help with his loins). Befuddled, Claire makes use of that horse dung she has lying around and tells Laoghaire to sprinkle it on Jamie's doorstep and tap her heels together three times saying, "There's no place like love." (Undeniably the best anachronism gag so far—here's hoping for more of these subtle references.)

With Laoghaire dispatched, Claire makes her way through the castle's darkened corridors until she runs into several drunken revelers who try to attack her. Saved by Dougal, her relief is fleeting as he pins her against the wall and kisses her (and if I'm not mistaken, tries to put his hands up her skirt, too).

"Get ye gone, lass, before you pay a greater price," he growls. But then he spots the supplies Claire has dropped and reaches for them. She swiftly knocks him out with a stool.

As she emerges into the night air, it becomes clear Claire has strategized her escape with Jason Bourne-level precision. "Fifteen paces towards the well, keep to the northwest to avoid the sentry who usually faces south. Brimstone is on the right, fourth stall from the doorway." But she stumbles (quite literally) upon an unexpected obstacle in the stable: Jamie. When he tells her Colum has posted extra guards because of the Gathering and that she basically has no chance of escaping, she's crestfallen. He offers to take her back to the castle, but she's apprehensive since she just clocked the second in command.

"I hope you left a good mark so he remembers his error in judgment," Jamie says with a grin. "It's fine Sassenach."

But as they make their way back to the castle, everything isn't fine. They're set upon by said guards, who insist Jamie be escorted inside to take the oath. The entire hall noticeably tenses as Jamie walks in, and once again, Claire is at a loss as to what tradition dictates. One of Colum's men explains that, essentially, if Jamie takes the pledge, he would join the line of potential heirs to the position of Laird (a position which is ultimately chosen by clan vote). Dougal wants to be Laird, obviously, so if Jamie takes the oath, Dougal will likely kill him. But if he refuses to take the oath (a major faux pas) Dougal will also probably kill him. So, as you see, Jamie's best way to avoid the conundrum altogether was to stay hidden. (Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Claire!)

Being the clever man that he is, though, Jamie devises the perfect solution: He doesn't pledge an oath but does promise to obey Colum as long as he remains on the lands of Clan MacKenzie. And that's good enough for Colum.

With the formalities of the oath over, the last quarter of the episode was left to a boar hunt, which set up a nice counterpoint for Dougal. (He's not all bad!) For people keen to draw comparisons between Outlander and Game of Thrones, this one was handed to you on a golden spit—down to the tragic death. It's Dougal's friend Geordie who is impaled by the giant pig. It seems like he'll be okay, until his shirt is pulled back and we see GORE INNARDS AGGHGHGHGHGHGHGHHG (that's word for word how I typed it out in my notes). Claire and Dougal (who shows a tenderness we're not accustomed to) tend to him until his last gasp. When the hunting party glumly returns to the castle they find a rowdy field hockey (Highland Quidditch?) match underway. And just to remind us that life truly does go on, Dougal jumps into the fray, giving Jamie quite the thumping. His nephew repays the debt by flipping him over his shoulder. "You taught me well," he says.

Back in her surgery, Claire has resigned herself, at least for now, to her fate. She may never leave the castle. Wait—spoke too soon. Dougal enters, thanking her for her kind administrations to his dying friend and telling her that they're leaving the castle; he has to go collect taxes and Claire's coming with him as a healer. And thus begins the Jack Kerouac chapter of Outlander (which is literally called Part 3: On the Road in Gabaldon's book).

Before I conclude, I just wanted to point out a nice little touch from this episode that didn't make its way into my summary above. Namely, the use of mid-20th-century music in a few of the scenes in "The Gathering"—a subtle yet clever way to remind viewers of Claire's true home without having to rely too heavily on those flashbacks. Point pleasantly taken.

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