Dougal freaking Mackenzie
Claire is sassy and clever as ever
Jamie is shirtless again this week
the episode ended
Claire skips the festivities only to wind up at the center of them
Outlander‘s fourth episode aired on Saturday with the intended premise of Claire Beauchamp (Caitriona Balfe) finally escaping Castle Leoch and returning through the stones to the 1940s. Throughout the episode we see how carefully Claire planned her escape route in hopes that the entire Mackenzie clan would be distracted by the Gathering that’s taking place at the castle. While Claire is gathering supplies and choosing her horse to escape with, the Mackenzie clan gathers at the castle for festivities and the much-awaited oath-taking, where the men of the clan pledge their allegiance to their laird, Colum. As Claire tries to lose her chaperones and sneak out the back, we see just how well she can fend for herself and how she reacts to a few surprises along the way out. Is it better that Claire makes it back to the stones or does she find reasons to stay with her plan foiled?
The Mackenzies sure can hold their liquor
Something about the structure of this episode was a bit backwards. To start with Claire’s attempt to escape during the Gathering’s oath-taking to run into drunk Highlanders and then backtrack into the hall again with Jamie, only to finish with the Hunt made the storyline rather scattered. The structure of this episode was more linear in the novels, still ending with the Hunt but involving the run-in with drunk Highlanders taking place at the end of the evening (after Jamie had taken his oath). To have Dougal be so drunk in the middle of the oath-taking, assault Claire, get knocked out, and then come back into the hall maybe 20 minutes later fine made very little sense. The episode would have worked better and had the same effect if it were told as it was originally.
“Are they all the same, the oaths? Oh well, if you’ve seen one, then…” ~ Claire
Alternatively, seeing Claire’s plan unfold as we see why she got port from Geillis and the valerian root to drug the Highlanders for her escape was absolutely brilliant. Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) exchange with Angus (Stephen Walters) sharing the flask of port was hilarious, because it not only showed us how much Claire had gotten to know her chaperones over the weeks, but also how clever she was in her planning. If only Claire got to use that drugged port on Dougal as well, and then she wouldn’t have had to deal with all the awkward exchanges she had with him since he kissed her. Claire seemed to have been attacked by a few too many clansmen in this episode, but it was good to see she managed to hold her own in knocking them out (with some help from Dougal and then Jamie).
War chieftain, indeed
People kept chatting over how great this episode would be because of Graham McTavish’s portrayal of Dougal, but man did this episode deliver. With such intense emotional scenes of both discomfort, violence, and grief, Graham McTavish managed to perform so powerfully in each moment as Dougal, that it was difficult not to feel the same as the characters were. After such rumblings of political unrest and tension between the brothers, Colum and Dougal Mackenzie, the tension seemed to finally snap for Dougal in this episode upon swearing oath to his brother. Presented with the prospect of Jamie swearing his oath and getting in line to be laird, we could see the competitive jealousy seared into Dougal’s eyes. We were so grateful when Dougal came to Claire’s rescue in the darkened hallway but almost immediately concerned and on edge upon him turning and leaning into her. These rapid changes in emotion from protective to threatening sent the audience on what can only be described emotional roller coaster following Dougal in the episode.
“You’ve seen men die before and by violence.” ~ Dougal
Once properly frightened over what Dougal was capable of, we see him in a different light on the day of the hunt for wild boar. Not only does he save Claire once again, shooting a boar just as it reaches Claire’s ankles, but we get to see them work together as well. A clansman is fatally injured in the woods, giving Dougal and Claire the only option of calming him as death arrives. It’s a difficult scene to watch for both the gore and because we see Dougal coming to terms with losing a man in his arms. Both the audience and Claire are surprised to see this side of Dougal as caring and emotional over one of his kinsman and our opinion of Dougal changes once again. Watching him slowly untie the tourniquet and meet Claire’s eye, because he knows there’s no hope for this man’s survival and they must ease him into death is a really telling moment about Dougal’s character. It shows us that both Claire and Dougal know the harsh realities of the battlefield that they’ve both experienced before. To see Dougal go from gently aiding this kinsman into death to playing a rather violent game of shinty with his nephew is an interesting change in his attitude. It might allude to Dougal wanting to live in the moment, having fun with his clansmen who are still alive than spend too much time mourning the death of one he just witnessed. He’s apologetic to Claire the next day and it’s good to see that Dougal is able to recognize the important things in his harsh world and he is a truly accurate representation of the many characters we’ve met so far in 18th century Scotland.
Bringing us into Claire’s world
The score in this episode made such a strong impact on how the audience felt in each scene, that it’s hard not to discuss Bear McCreary’s choices for this week. With all the clan in town, the use of bagpipe music in the Great Hall was fittingly festive during the fun drunken or dancing scenes or alternatively more serious and formal during the oath taking and Jamie’s hushed entrance. What was most noticeable, though, was the use of 1940s jazz music during moments of Claire’s attempts at alone time. The wailing horns while the camera followed Claire through the dark halls to her surgery or when she was silently planning out her escape in the outer grounds of the castle really brought the viewer into her head more and reminded us of the time she is trying to get back to. Did the music feel anachronistic? Yes, but it reminds us that Claire isn’t supposed to be in the 1740s either, that she is meant to be in the 1940s and this might be the type of music that she would listen to with Frank in the car. The music doesn’t fit because Claire doesn’t feel like she fits either, she feels like an outlander, which is exactly what this show is about, and this choice of music was perfect for helping the audience stay in Claire’s mind and perspective.
“Oh, of course, twenty men armed with spears and muskets seems about right to kill one hairy pig.” ~ Claire
This episode was as much inside Claire’s head as possible, and the cinematography aided in keeping the audience right in tune with Claire. The amount of point of view shots and the camera following Claire through the dark, winding halls of Leoch let us feel just what she was feeling and seeing. The way the castle is lit just as dark as it probably was in the 1740s, without electricity, only boosted our understanding of how difficult it must have been for Claire to plot her route out of the castle and how she marked her way with ribbons. The angles and lighting were realistic and stayed true to the time period, giving us Claire’s exact perspective while in the castle or on the grounds. It made the castle seem broad and dark, all the hallways looking the same and allowing for that creepy feeling that anyone could turn the corner and attack at any moment (which is exactly what has happened more than once). With the boar scene, showing it from the animal’s point of view advancing on Claire and with the heightening strings screeching rapidly in our ears, we could feel the terror and proximity to death she must have been feeling. This episode felt more alive and intense than the preview ones simply because of the incredible use of sound and cinematography.
On thing I can’t stop exclaiming about this episode is just how intense it all was, and I think that was the purpose. Tensions were high for both Jamie, Claire, and Dougal, and I felt it through the whole episode. The director, Brian Kelly, really hit his stride with this episode, bringing the world of Outlander to life and making the audience feel like they were actually part of the Gathering this year. Written by Matthew B. Roberts, this episode was jam packed with hilarious one-liners burning Diana Gabaldon’s (the author of the novel) cameo appearance as well as a choice reference to the Wizard of Oz from Claire to Laoghaire. He also provided wonderful scenes between Angus, Rupert, and Claire, only adding to our love of her Highlander chaperones and how she’s got them wrapped around her finger at this point. Adding scenes between Claire and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) let the friendship between the two blossom over mutual concern for Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) well-being. The combination of director, writer, and actors made this episode the best one of the season so far, providing high stakes for Claire and Jamie as well as give us insight to how Scotland in the 1740s worked. Letting supporting characters shine on screen, while still allowing for development for the main characters was a joy to see, especially with such an ensemble cast, it felt like everyone was at their peak performance this week.
Questions, Comments, Concerns…
- Is it next Saturday yet?!
- Jamie nearly breaking the fourth wall might’ve made everyone internally combust from that smolder
- Geillis is getting even creepier and prying than before
- I wonder how that love potion for Laoghaire + Jamie will work out — what do you guys think?
- DOUGAL THO I was not expecting all of that intensity
- Claire is the sass master
- Why does Angus have to stick his tongue out so much???
- (also where is Roger Wakefield)?
Next Episode of Outlander airs SAT, SEPT 6 at 9|8c on Starz
Season 1 Episode 5 | RentClaire is brought along on the MacKenzie rent-collecting trip; Jamie is used for the Jacobite cause.
Outlander 1×04 – The Gathering Review