Outlander: The Gathering

“The Highlands are no place for a woman to be alone. You’d do well to remember that.”

One of the aspects of this series I have most enjoyed is that the storytellers are not rushing their tale. They take their time, allowing us to adjust to the people we are meeting and getting to know. Not unlike Claire is doing. You know what they say, however, about too much of a good thing.

This episode was slow, too slow. The problem is that we knew the outcome of all the stories this week even without reading the book. Clearly, Claire is not going to escape back to Frank. Clearly, Jamie is not going to die bloody in front of his uncles. Clearly, the fact that Claire went on the hunt meant someone was going to be badly injured. Far too little dramatic tension for me.

What this episode did was throw into stark relief the role of women in 18th century Scotland. It is not pretty. Disturbingly, even Claire seems to have accepted the fact that a woman can be “won” by drawing straws. I understand that she was only trying to distract “her shadows,” but for someone as independent as Claire, that moment where she helped choose the winner felt off.

To make the point even more clear, we have to watch Claire be attacked again. After having been nearly raped by Black Jack in the pilot, Claire is nearly raped again by a drunk mob. She is rescued by Dougal who then tries to kiss her himself, telling her that she must pay the penalty for being where she shouldn’t.

Claire has been sexually assaulted three times in four episodes. It appears that, in this world, rape is expected, especially if one is a Sassenach and headstrong. Even Jamie doesn’t take Dougal’s actions too seriously, commenting only that Dougal will not mention the event again, not because he feels shame that he attacked this woman but he feels shame in that this woman got the better of him.

Dougal intrigues me as he is a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, he is cold and calculating. He clearly believes he should be laird and not his infirm brother. He doesn’t trust Claire in the slightest and makes sure that she is never alone. He plays a shinty match as though his life depended on it.

Yet, Dougal can cradle a dying man so tenderly that it brought tears to my eyes. He is intuitive and he is able to be gracious. His thanks to Claire for her help with Geordie was beautifully understated. There is part of him that is attracted to Claire, in spite of himself.

Geillis is a fascinating counterpart to everyone else we have met. She understands what her choices were and she made them with full knowledge of the consequences. She married Arthur because he has a house and some money put by. She drugs him so that she can sleep and she does all this so that she can be free, can do whatever she wants.

Geillis is a woman with secrets of her own, but exactly what they are is still a mystery. She is almost obsessive about her questioning of Claire, pushing and prodding until she forces Claire to lie about Frank being dead. This is the first time that Claire has outright lied. She spins the truth and tells half-truths, but she doesn’t lie. Yet another aspect of her personality I really admire.

Claire isn’t the only one being threatened. Jamie is put in the impossible position of having to decide whether or not to declare his loyalty to a clan not his own. Like Claire, we are getting to know Jamie slowly. Last week, we learned that he is highly educated. This week, we learned that he can think on his feet as well as defuse such a volatile situation. The words he chooses are brilliant in their simplicity.

The first episode I didn’t completely love, but I still enjoyed spending time in this place with these people. Three out of four cups of tea filled with sedative.

Bits and Pieces:

— I want to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the book. To discuss differences between the book and the show, foreshadowing, or anything else that might spoil the story, head over to my review of the novel.

— I liked how the episode went full circle beginning with the game of a boar hunt and ending with the seriousness of the real deal. It also began with Claire wanting to leave and ended with her riding away from the castle.

— It’s interesting to think about how perceptions of a woman’s beauty has changed over the centuries. In this time, a woman was prized for being a pie-eater and having a bit of meat on her bones.

— This episode, with a big party, was the perfect opportunity for cameos.

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the novel. Her exchange with Mrs. Fitz was hilarious:

Glenna: “I see you have the place looking bright as a new pin.”
Mrs. Fitz: “ Oh, that lovely dress again. Ye wore it so well at the last gathering.”

Ron Moore, on the left, is the executive producer.

— Fun allusion to The Wizard of Oz. “Tap your heels together three times and recite ‘there’s no place like love.’” Loved Claire using horse dung to concoct her love potion.

— Shinty is an exciting game to watch. Kind of like field hockey on steroids.


Geillis: “Sometimes you find yourself on a path you never expected. Doesn’t mean it can’t lead you to a bonny place.”

Claire: “Oh God, this is all my fault.”
Murtagh: “Aye. It is.”

Jamie: “Colum MacKenzie, I come to you as kinsman and as ally. But, I give you no vow. For, my oath is pledged to the name that I bear. I give you my obedience as kinsman and as laird. And, I hold myself bound to yer word so long as my feet rest on the lands of the Clan MacKenzie.”

Dougal: “Yield!”
Jamie: “What would you think of me if I did?”
Dougal: “Not much.”


The third in which Moore is joined by Dresbach, his costume designer and wife. The result is the weakest podcast to date.

I am interested in the details of a production; it's why I listen to these podcasts and every director's commentary I can. Three hours of listening to the trials of being a costume designer, however, is enough. I think these podcasts would be much stronger if Moore would invite other departments to join him from time to time.

During this hour, Moore and Dresbach talk a great deal about the learning curve in a running a series. For example, Moore talks about how he was unhappy with Colum's look in the first episodes and used the Gathering as a time to change it up. That is the kind of thing that keeps me listening. Let's have more of that and less whining about how those brilliant, time-consuming costumes are only used as clothes.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


lisa menaster said...

You can listen to the podcast here

milostanfield said...

Haven't read the books, so this post may be totally bogus, but I'm thinking Geillis knows about the stones and their power, and suspects that Claire is (another?) traveller from a distant land brought here by the stones. Which would make the song about the traveller more than just a metaphor.

ChrisB said...

Lisa -- thank you. I have updated the review.

milostanfield -- I think it's clear that Geillis suspects that Claire is not whom she says she is and she is trying very hard to figure out the secret. The production is doing a brilliant job at keeping us guessing just how much she may or may not know.

As Claire is now leaving the castle for this 18th century version of a road trip, my guess is that Geillis will not be part of the next episode. Shame, as she is one of the strongest supporting characters. I love the tension she brings to the story.