Outlander, S1, Ep. 4-5 “Taking Oaths and Warmongering…”

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Episode 4 – The Gathering

I really do think that script writers for Outlander, have done an excellent job translating the original story with a new and original perspective.  The evidence of this expertly interwoven storytelling is demonstrated in Episodes Four, Five and Six. Although this post will deal exclusively with the events of Episode Four “The Gathering” and Episode Five “Rent”. Episode Six “The Garrison Commander” requires a post all on its own (once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand).

“The Gathering” is a very significant turning point for both Jamie and Claire as they both try in their own ways to avoid becoming more involved in the power and the politics of the Clan Mackenzie.  Of course, neither Jamie nor Claire can avoid the inevitable push and pull that is the Clan, but then again, it would be a much different story to tell if both characters escape plans had been successful.

The fourth episode opens with Claire playing with the children of the castle in the woods. To her guards and anyone else watching, it merely appears that Claire is having fun playing a version of “hide and seek” with Hamish Mackenzie, Colum’s son, and the rest of the castle’s offspring. However, Claire’s intentions for playing in the woods with the children are much more serious. What she is in fact doing is reconnaissance of the property surrounding the castle so that she can plan her escape. As she secretly leaves “breadcrumbs” to mark her escape path, to everyone else, she appears to be getting into the festivities of the Gathering.

All seems to be going as Claire has planned until she discovers Geilis Duncan in her surgery, who is openly snooping through Claire’s meager belongings as well as her stores of various herbs. Subtly malicious in her friendliness Geilis questions a clearly wary and uncomfortable Claire about her husband, she leaves her with a warning that the “highlands are no place for a woman on her own”.

In a significant departure from the original story-line, just as Claire’s getting ready to flee the castle, she is interrupted at her surgery door by Laoghaire. The young girl has come to seek Claire’s help with “moving Jamie’s heart forward” with a love potion. This is another one of those moments where Claire does not fully appreciate the superstitious nature of the highland folk. Claire thinks it is a sweet and innocent request from a young girl with a crush, and does not fully appreciate what this request might cost her in the future.

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The rest of the episode travels along following most of the original story-line, where Jamie inadvertently is forced into swearing an oath of sorts to Colum, thanks to Claire, despite what the political and personal consequences might be for him. There is a wild boar hunt where Claire and Dougal have a bonding moment as they help a fatally injured clansman pass on with dignity. At the end of the episode, Dougal declares that he will be taking a group to collect the rents from those living on the Mackenzie lands that couldn’t make it to the Gathering and that Claire will be going with him.

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Episode 5 – Rent

The tone of Episode Five is quite different from the way Claire is treated in the book. While travelling through the Mackenzie lads, Claire is treated as an outcast most of the time. The clansmen are far more antagonistic towards her and she is treated quite poorly by them. The only exceptions to this treatment seem to be Ned Gowan, the Clan’s lawyer/accountant and Jamie. But I felt at times that even Jamie was colder towards her in this episode than he ever was in the book at this point. The novel portrays Claire’s relationship with the clansmen as more jovial and light-hearted, and there’s a greater sense of camaraderie.

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While out collecting the rents, Claire finds her own amusement by helping a group of women working wool.  Enjoying her afternoon working with the village women, Claire takes the opportunity to ask some questions about Craigh na Dun, trying to figure out how far away she is from her escape. Claire’s day takes a turn for the worse when she gets into an argument with Angus about how she is spent her day. Emboldened by some whiskey shared with the other ladies,  she makes quite a scene, causing Dougal to step in. It is while Claire is in the midst of an argument with Dougal in front of the townsfolk that tensions become more heightened as an Englishman appears from one of the huts and tries to intervene. This gallantry on the part of the Englishman does not go over very will with the clansmen and when it looks like swords and blood might start flying, the lone Englishman backs down. After Dougal and his party leave, we see that he is actually a British officer.

This trip is not just to collect the Mackenzie rents. Unbeknownst to Claire, Dougal is also using the trip to collect funds for the Charles Stuart, the Catholic king and “rightful” heir to the Scottish throne. His tactics to help the return his king to the throne begin with using Jamie’s back as the proof that the British are not fit to rule. But when they come across the bodies of two highlanders strung up for all to see. Dougal’s retelling of finding the desecrated bodies left in the open for the crows to eat, helps to further his warmongering cause. Claire tries to warn Ned Gowan, strongly implying that the Scots won’t stand a chance against the British army, but it is to no avail.

There is a moment near the end of the episode that seems to help break the tension felt between Claire and the clansmen. Following inappropriate comments from others about the “Sassenach” the Mackenzie men start a room clearing brawl. In defending her honour the Mackenzie men find a way to coexist peacefully with Claire.

As the party moves on to the next town, Dougal and Claire have another conversation where he questions her about who she really is and why she is in Scotland, as he knows about her conversation with Ned Gowan about the fate of the Stuart cause. Claire tries to tell Dougal that she is just trying to save his life and that of his men when they are interrupted by the British officer that they encountered earlier in the episode. The episode comes to a close with Dougal clearly outnumbered, and the lieutenant questioning Claire if she is being held against her will. You’ll have to watch Episode Six, “The Garrison Commander” to find out what Claire’s response is…

The Garrison Commander (S1, Ep6) – PROMO

 

 

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