On the D/L – Outlander

Sep 5, 2014 | Posted by in TV

Season 1 Episode 4 – “The Gathering”

After weeks of planning and deliberation Claire is ready to attempt her escape after hearing a folk song describing a situation similar to hers provided her with hope last week. Her plan is quite genius when you look at it; she has used her position as a valued healer in the castle to recon the area in order to deduce guard patterns, build the trust of those who are ordered to accompany her and waiting until a night where everyone will be more distracted making them less likely to notice her escape quickly.

The night Claire has chosen is the night that the entirety of Clan MacKenzie meets for an oath-taking ceremony where new members swear their allegiance to Colum. I like that Claire has some doubts over leaving because she enjoys the familial atmosphere of a group of people who really love being together. In general the early parts of the episode are very light hearted with all the characters clearly having a good time that seems infectious. Everything seems to be going Claire’s way initially as nobody is really focused on her and the air of distraction is apparent from everyone she comes across, even her shadows seem to regret the fact that they have to follow her everywhere instead wishing they could be enjoying the celebration with everyone else. Claire takes full advantage of that distraction by having them compete for the affections of a woman who appears to be expressing interest in them. Knowing those around her and how to shift their attention to things other than her is a big part of Claire’s plan that she seems to have nailed down pretty well. She’s spent the past weeks getting to know those around her by being friendly and helpful to inspire trust that she will then use against them.


Colum arrives at the clan gathering

Not everyone seems equally fooled as Geillis notices the quantities of food in the surgery that Claire has been stocking up for supplies when she leaves the castle. Geillis makes the assumption that Claire is pregnant therefore needing more food, something that Claire really hasn’t prepared for but manages to compensate by eliciting sympathy. Claire and Geillis’ relationship is an interesting one as Geillis  seems to be the only person interested in Claire’s past which makes Claire nervous. There seems to be a mutual awareness that Claire isn’t being completely honest. There’s a manipulation in play on Geillis part as she gives away some information about her background and the reason she married Arthur in an attempt to make Claire give away information about her past. It’s a really tense scene filled with lots of subtext where each of these characters play to their strengths with their intelligence firmly on display in an adversarial context.

Structurally after the setup the episode begins to fall apart. It becomes apparent that there are three stories ongoing with very little connection between them. The Gathering as depicted is impressive enough but there’s not an awful lot of context around what it means and the true importance. It is established that Dougal wants to be the next Laird and if Jamie pledges his allegiance to Colum making him a MacKenzie then he will be next in line and Dougal will likely kill him. If he doesn’t pledge allegiance then Colum will have him killed so it seems that Jamie is screwed either way. There are two loopholes that Jamie seems to be able to exploit; apparently if he misses the ceremony then none of this will count which makes no sense. If that is accepted then the episode doesn’t tell us why and I wonder what excuses Jamie would give for missing the ceremony. The other loophole that he manages to exploit is by pledging to remain loyal as long as he’s on the grounds of Castle Leoch but doesn’t actually become a MacKenzie; this seems to be acceptable to all parties for some reason and Jamie is allowed to live another day. Again, there’s no explanation for why that works and seems to be a bit of a cop out to have stakes relating to Jamie’s survival as well as giving a reason for Claire to stick around.

After all this is over and done with there’s a boar hunt that is completely unrelated to everything else that’s going on in this episode. It seems to only exist to remind the viewer that it’s easy to wind up dead in this time period, we’ve spent the previous 3 episodes finding out how tough a time it is to live so don’t really need another reminder. I feel that this boar plot could have been cut entirely to focus more on Claire’s attempted escape and how that ties to The Gathering, the time could have been better used to connect these two stories in a very meaningful way.

Some really good moments peppered this episode like Gary Lewis’ commanding performance as Colum as he gave a proud Gaelic speech in front of his Clan, cementing with no doubt who was in charge. There was also a funny moment when Laoghaire asked for a love potion to woo Jamie beyond the physical which forces a fairly childish reaction from Claire that I found really amusing. It’s a love triangle that feels less forced than they usually do in TV shows. Dougal was quite well used in this episode as we see a terrifying side to him when he tries to force himself on Claire, a more fun side during the game of field hockey and a softer side as he mourns the loss of one of his men. The use of 1940s music on the soundtrack was a nice touch as well, giving further reinforcement of Claire’s status as an Outlander -or Sassenach-, her endgame and how much she wants to get home.



  • 6/10
    The Gathering - 6/10


This is probably the weakest episode so far with three stories ongoing that don’t connect to each other in any meaningful way. Claire’s escape plan was the most interesting part of the story but I feel like more could have been done to explore her methods as well as linking it into the clan gathering in a more meaningful way. Jamie’s dodge of a title that would make him a target was very confusing as I didn’t understand what he did that would be acceptable. There are lots of nice moments between the characters but it’s not enough to distract from the poor pacing and structural failings. It is a shame that lack of cohesive structure brings this episode down as the characters are still very interesting, the acting is great and there are moments of real greatness in here.