Recap: ‘Outlander’ – It wouldn’t be ‘The Gathering’ without family drama

At the end of the last episode, Claire”s plan to secure her freedom by being the best prisoner ever blew up in her face spectacularly. Turns out when you act like you want to hang out with your captors, they are less likely to let you leave. Funny that.

But undeterred, Claire hatched a plan. A plan based on a folk song. A folk song that she disregarded pertinent information from (I blame the Rhenish). So, yeah. This should go well. Can Claire escape “The Gathering”?


As the credits fade, scaffolding appears. No, not quite. It”s men with guns in tree stands. Out in the open. Where any snipers in the opposing tree line could pick them off like fish in a barrel. Good job, guys. These astounding strategists are guarding Clan MacKenzie from all sorts of enemies…like giggling children. Calm down Trigger Jim, unless you really fear a gaggle of unwashed children and a lone time-displaced woman. Actually, I”ve watched “The Walking Dead.” Fear them.

Claire”s giggling on the ground while swarmed by plucky bairns is interrupted by an unwanted look up STILL not Jamie”s kilt. When the offending guard asks Claire if something caught her eye, she is forced to resort to basically saying “gross” because these miscreants wouldn”t get any insult involving magnifying glasses and toothpicks. The 18th century can take a lot of things from a modern woman, but relinquishing scathing insults is just too much to bear. Yet Claire soldiers on.

Turns out playing with children serves an ulterior motive. Our heroine has been scouting the terrain. Over the past few days (weeks?) she”s learned the lay of the land, finding not one but TWO possible roads to freedom. Smart girl. But she”s also been leaving behind bright white strips of ribbon to lead her back to the mapped out escape routes. Oh honey, no. 

After torturing her guards by keeping them away from the beer (by the way, these two have got to be wondering who they pissed off to keep having to watch this persnickety woman who doesn”t seem to grasp the prisoner/guard dynamic), they finally pout hard enough that we are taken to the Annual Gathering of Scottish Santas. I am so excited!

OH GOD NO, IT”S JUST CAMPING. I”ve been tricked. No one said anything about camping! And there”s not even a bevy of flowing white face-tresses. UGH.

Speaking of being tricked, Claire has realized she”s basically being babysat by Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Hagrid, which means she could pretty much escape at will. But instead of just throwing something sparkly in one direction and running in the other, she”s opted for an elaborate plan. Involving getting her guards distracted by sexy camp ladies and/or getting them exceptionally drunk. Preferably both. This plan has approximately 100% chance of working.

Just an aside here, exactly how worried should I be about inbred babies? Aren”t all these people related? The family tree needs to branch, y”all!

Once the Tweedle Twins are sufficiently diverted, Claire is off to the stables. Apparently Uncle Lamb taught her how to ride when she was a girl and dammit that was a great place for a flashback but no. Instead we get a dumb old stable guy who ALSO isn”t Jamie. But wait, do you hear that? The music changed to 1940s bluesy jazz. 

I”m so distracted trying to figure out the lyrics and why they”d add such an anachronistic mood now I almost miss that Jamie isn”t in the stables because he”s hiding from his family. What is he, the moody teenager avoiding Aunt Edna”s lipstick kisses at the family reunion? Claire – and the audience – are disappointed but at least Claire has her getaway horse. The plan is coming together.

The strains of 1940s pop music follow us all the way back to Claire”s dungeon/office. To be honest, I”m half expecting a radioactive wastelander wearing a human flesh mask to jump out of the shadows. “Fallout” truly ruined this era of music for me. 

Which is why Gilly should be grateful she scares the ever living hell out of Claire and not me because she”d be halfway into the fireplace before the Pavlovian response wore off. And then where would the port she brought be? In the fire, wasted.

The background music finally stops as Gilly starts in with another round of “Questions I Know The Answers To Just Tell Me You”re From The Future And End This Charade Claire.” But while our red-headed witch is asking things like “are you knocked up with Jamie”s lovechild?” and “what”s with all this food that looks like it”s prepared for an ill-advised escape?” and “so is your husband dead or what?” we find out a few interesting bits about Gilly herself. She came to this part of Scotland with nothing (obviously because time-travel stones don”t let you check bags) and married Arthur for security and plays him like a fiddle so she can do as she pleases. Claire is suitably impressed and I have suspicion whiplash over whether Gilly is trustworthy or not.

Also, poor Frank is totally Schrödinger's husband. 

Gilly finally leaves after Claire promises to see her at the Oathtaking later. But joke”s on her; Claire had her fingers crossed behind her back. The plan is back in action. Armed with a sedative hidden in some port, the Tweedle Twins don”t stand a chance. But honestly woman, are you going to run away with food and no weapon? Why do they never take at least a knife!?

Oh. Claire”s in the kitchen…getting a knife. Well played, Gabaldon. Well played. But wait. Claire”s unkempt appearance has triggered Mrs. Fitz”s spider-senses. Before our heroine can arm herself for the journey ahead, she is bundled into an off-screen makeover montage before the Oathtaking. Mrs. Fitz obviously never passes up a chance to pilfer Letitia”s clothes.

Besides, they clearly look better on Claire.

This unexpected wrench in the escape plan will not deter Claire. She”s blowing this popsicle stand even if she has to use Mrs. Fitz as a smokescreen of respectability. Oh wait, here it comes! Herself is on the screen. Gabaldon just got shaded by Mrs. Fitz and damn it was good shade. But girl, you are playing with fire (and that dress looks fantastic no matter how many Gatherings in a row it”s been worn to). Do not taunt the clothing choices of your creator lest rocks fall and everyone dies. 

P.S. You can see behind-the-scenes of Herself getting ready for her cameo over here!

Everyone who”s anyone has turned up for the MacKenzie Oathtaking. We”ve got Dougal and Leery* and Gilly and the Tweedle Twins and many other bearded men and so many extras packed into the hall I”m surprised pomander balls aren”t more prevalent. But it”s when our Colum arrives that I due a double take. Gone is his glorious Santa beard! Why? WHO COMMITTED THIS ATROCITY!? Now he just looks like a respectable Laird and not a lost wizard. Sigh.

*Last week commenters pointed out the book community calls her Leghair but let”s be real guys, that nickname could apply to ALL the ladies of Castle Leoch.

Colum welcomes his extended family to the reunion. Or at least I assume he does because we”re back to un-subtitled Gaelic. I still enjoy this plot device. Up on the balcony Claire watches with Mrs. Fitz and…um…that”s not one of her guards but it IS a bearded guy…crap these Scottmen need name tags. They all look alike. It”s as bad as dwarves. I”m gonna have to make an infographic to tell them apart. Anyway, the Interchangeable Scotsman translates for us, saying each dude member of the clan will swear fealty to Colum and then the DJ will come out and everyone will get KRUNK.

Dougal goes first because he is obviously the Girl Friday of this dynamic. He swears his loyalty until he dies and if he”s lying may his ceremonial sword pierce his heart. Normally this would just be empty words, but this is a fictional story, so RIP Dougal you just foreshadowed your own death.

Man, Dougal is so important he has a manservant just hanging out in the shadows with a waiting bottle of wine. Now that is real power.

After Scottish Santa starts it off, the line to swear allegiance to the coolest clubhouse in the neighborhood forms up. The dawning horror on Claire”s face mimics mine as in “Oh God, how many of these oaths are we going to have to sit through?” But bless her, she”s over it. If you”ve seen one Oath, you”ve seen them all she reasons like a reasonable person who doesn”t want to receive a boredom lobotomy. 

But Tweedle Dumb spots her on the way out. “Aw mom, I don”t want to leave yet! Billy hasn”t even opened his presents and rumor has it there”s gonna be cake AND ice cream!” he whines. Luckily Claire is prepared. Behold, the…drugged…port. After taking a swig (and covertly spitting it out) to prove it”s legit, Tweedle Dumb takes the bait. Claire can”t help but get her kicks where she can find them. “It”s a sedative” she says. Tweedle Dumb thinks “sedative” is Spanish. Bless his heart. He has also never had port in his life and well, that was easy enough. He meanders off into the crowd to infect the other men with drugged wine, like a good Patient Zero.

Wasting no time, Claire runs back to the dungeon/surgery to grab her supplies. Please let her remember she still needs to swing by the kitchen and acquire a weapon. Suddenly, a wild Leery appears! Leery uses Clan MacKenzie Ninja Skills. It”s super effective! Leery has come to ask Claire for a love potion to help hold Jamie”s attention…specifically his heart and not his manhood. Because some people are just never satisfied, I guess. But in order to speed this along, Claire puts dried horse dung in a vial – WHY she had dried horse dung in the surgery is a question best not answered – and tells Leery to sprinkle this “magic” concoction on Jamie”s doorstep to win his heart.

Well this is going to be a nightmare. For one, it”s not gonna work because logic. For another, even without reading the books, the writing is on the wall as to who will be winning the heart of fair Jamie and her name ain”t Leery. Which means in a fit of jealous future rage, this blonde bitch is gonna accuse Claire of witchcraft and use this exact exchange as her proof. 

But there”s no time to worry about future vindictiveness of spurned lovers. Claire is out of here. Except she took a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up in Sexual Assault town. Three men appear virtually out of nowhere (were the other two watching their buddy pee on a wall?). Claire forgot to pick up her knife but no matter. A swift kick to the crotch is just as effective. But before she can free herself, DOUGAL to the rescue. He chases off her would-be attackers, finally using his ninja powers for good. And immediately loses all those brownie points when he tries to finish what Claire”s attackers started. Our heroine says “NOPE” and beans him in his drunken Santa face with a chair and he goes down like a sack of holiday cheer.

I literally cannot get a read on half the characters on this show and I love it.

Unlike her captors, Claire is actually a master strategist. Girlfriend knows how many paces to each marker on her mental map of the castle. She knows where the guards are and what direction they”ll be facing when. She knows how many stalls into the stables her horse is. The only thing she doesn”t know is that Jamie is sleeping in the hay like the world”s sexiest speed bump.

Jamie seems really perplexed as to why Claire would be absconding in the middle of the night. It”s almost as if he doesn”t realize they”ve literally been holding her prisoner and – as far as they know – letting her family think she”s dead or worse. Jamie also pokes a hole in her plan by pointing out there”s extra guards on duty tonight to compensate for most of the important men being three sheets to the wind and drunk dancing to bagpipes. Shockingly Claire listens to reason and agrees to to be escorted back to the castle. She has the self-preservation skills of a saint. A lesser woman would”ve tried her luck anyway.

Instead of just heading back inside like sane people, Jamie decides to impress the object of his affection by taking her through some wicked cool secret tunnels. But unfortunately they are infested with more MacKenzie ninjas, who capture them both because Aunt Edna wants her kisses…I mean Colum want that oath of fealty. Seriously, do these people ever make noise??

More Interchangeable Scotsmen explain that Jamie is nephew to both Colum and Scottish Santa. And Dougal has been angling to be the Laird of MacKenzie Clan (to the shock of no one) but he”s got a different last name so if Jamie declares fealty to Colum, he jumps to the head of the class for succession. They explain why Colum”s kid Hamish isn”t top of the list, but I didn”t quite understand it, so I”m just going to assume it”s because Letitia”s is a bitch and no one wants her to be regent.

So if Jamie swears the Oath to Colum, Dougal will kill him. And if he doesn”t, Dougal will kill him for disrespecting the head of the House. This is some Catch-22 bullshit.

Also. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie stop looking at the camera. Don”t break the fourth wall while speaking french, are you trying to kill me!?

The entire room is in suspense. Which way will Jamie choose to die? By Dougal”s hand or by Dougal”s hand. Neither. Jamie walks the tightrope of deadly politics and family drama. He pledges obedience to clan MacKenzie while under their roof. Colum is satisfied. They both drink from the communal wine bowl. The bagpipes break out and everyone parties down.

The next morning the bagpipes are once more replaced with 40s music. I swear, I will figure out what the trigger for this soundtrack change means. Everyone is suited up to hunt boars. Claire is unimpressed. The tracking party forms a line and clang their way into the foggy forest. Someone is getting gored…the camera keeps cutting back to Tweedle Hagrid and I am in mortal fear for his life.

Awwwww look at the little piggies! They”re so cute! And deadly! Run away!

Claire was brought along for when the men inevitably got seriously injured and it doesn”t take long before the worst happens. Geordie is down. We miss exactly what happened but are front and center for the gruesome aftermath. He”s bleeding out from the leg and his lower intestines are now on the outside.

I”ve got nothing funny to say about this scene. This was legitimately hard to watch. To see a man on the edge of life and staying with him until the end. Television and movies have a tendency to gloss over death, to speed it up and get back to the action. But not “Outlander.” Instead it devotes nearly 5 minutes to how agonizing it is to watch the life slowly drain out of a friend, knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it. It humanizes Dougal and shows Claire at her war nurse best as they ease Geordie away from fear in his last moments. It was a difficult but brave thing “Outlander” did here. As George RR Martin says, death should matter.

The hunt over, the party returns to Castle Leoch where Jamie and some others are playing a ball game. It looks like a cross between golf and street hockey and is a jarring contrast to the tragedy we just left. Dougal agrees. Stripping down, he joins in but it quickly goes from friendly game to barely repressed grage (grief and rage combined…it should totally be a word). Claire and Tweedle Hagrid watch from the sidelines – looking 800% over it – as Dougal and Jamie basically beat the snot out of each other with sticks and fists in a bizarre dominance play. Jamie wins and good thing too. Another 10 seconds and everyone in the tri-county area would”ve drowned in testosterone.

Sometime later, Dougal visits Claire in her dungeon/office, interrupting her internal monologue about trying again to escape. Turns out game recognizes game, even in the 18th century. Dougal is grateful for Claire”s help in the woods and is shocked to have discovered she”s had plenty of experience seeing men die violent deaths. As a begrudging show of respect, Dougal wants her tag along to collect the rents from tenants. It might not sound like a dangerous job, but I”ve got feeling we”ll be coming up close and personal with Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall and his goons very soon.

We end with the tax party heading out at first light, Claire looking fabulous is in what is obviously Letitia”s fanciest white fur coat. 

What did you guy”s think? Do the clansmen need name tags or am I just awful with faces? Should we trust Dougal? Or Gilly? How long until Claire”s beautiful white fur coat has bloodstains on it?