Previously on Outlander: Claire defied the severely backwards local priest in order to cure a boy of a case of poisoning.
Claire has apparently decided to pass the time playing with some of the castle children. As they emerge from the woods, guards in lookout posts tense, but then realise what’s going on and relax. One of the kids notes that Claire keeps losing things like hair ribbons in the woods but she shrugs it off. Her guards try to direct her back to the castle, where the gathering of the clan is getting underway, but Claire is using the game with the kids as a method of getting the lay of the terrain around the castle. Her lost hair ribbon and fichu have been left as markers along possible escape routes. Her guards beg her to come back to the castle, since it’s been years since there was a Gathering, and Claire finally agrees.
Various members of the clan have set up an encampment around the castle and Claire revels in how happy everyone seems just to see each other. But she’s still got a plan, and she VOs about having to find distractions for her guards so she can escape. That distraction arrives in the form of a woman checking the two guards out. They immediately start bickering over who she wants, so Claire orders them to draw straws. That takes care of one of the lunkheads. Claire tells the other one that she has to go to the stables to get a horse for the hunt the next day, which she, in her healing capacity, has been asked to go along on.
She goes up to the stables and hears that most of the horses have been claimed. She asks if Jamie’s around to help her find a spare one, but the head stableman says that Jamie needs to make himself scarce when the Gathering is on. Price on his head and all. Guess that’s the sort of thing you can’t rely on family ties to overcome. The stableman gives her the ominously named Brimstone, assuring Claire this is a gentle horse. Claire pats her, VOing that she plans to ride off on her.
She returns to her workshop and is startled to find Geillis there. Geillis brought some port Claire asked for, and when she catches sight of the giant stockpile of food Claire’s amassed, she immediately asks if Claire’s eating for two. Claire reassures her that’s not the case, she just likes to have snacks around, and she’s never been unfaithful to her husband. Geillis is confused, since she thought Claire’s husband was dead. Claire confusingly tells her that he’s ‘not alive,’ and Geillis is like, ‘yeah, that’s basically the definition of dead, ye ken?’ She asks if Claire never had children and Claire confirms it. Geillis guesses, from the presence of valerian root in the workshop, that Claire’s having trouble sleeping and gives her some advice on how to prepare it. Claire asks how much she should take and Geillis says she should be careful, since she has enough of the stuff on hand to put out a whole army. She goes on to tell Claire that she arrived in the town with little more than her wits, found a man who’s not much to look at but is comfortable and lets her pretty much do what she likes. You never know what kind of life you can build for yourself. She continues that the Highlands are no place for a woman to be alone, and Claire should remember that.
After she leaves, Claire VOs that all the fighting men would gather that night to make their oaths to Colum, so nobody would watch the stables and she could make her escape and return to the stones. All she needs is a weapon, which she helps herself to in the kitchen: a knife lying around. Fitz happens upon her there and insists that Claire attend the oath taking that night. She bundles Claire away to find her something to wear.
Later, all dressed up, Claire and Fitz go to the upper gallery over the great hall to watch the show. Colum enters to the sound of pipes and takes his seat at the front of the room, Dougal standing beside him, his wife and son on his other side. His wife says something to him in Gaelic, her face glowing with pride, and Colum makes a speech to everyone in Gaelic, welcoming them all and telling them how awesome they are. It goes over well. Afterwards, Dougal gets things started by kneeling before his brother, presenting his sword, and swearing to give him his fealty and loyalty. He kisses Colum’s hands and Colum hands over a ceremonial bowl, which they both drink from. The other men get in line as Dougal moves off to the side and takes a massive swig of whisky. All the oaths are the same, so Claire excuses herself to go back to the surgery and prepare for the hunt. Her bodyguard asks if she can please stay until he at least pulls and Claire pretends to reluctantly agree, pulling out a flask and taking a drink from it. He says she knows how to party, and she hands the flask over. He drinks about half of it, and while he’s occupied, she spits her small mouthful out. He finishes up and says he can’t seem to keep his legs. She tells him he’s drinking port, which is quite a delicacy, and he should take it and share it with his friends. He does so, and she swirls out.
Claire returns to the surgery, grabs her things, and is about to leave when she runs into Laoghaire, who’s come to ask for a love potion. The girl’s so earnest that Claire can’t help but feel a bit sorry for her. She asks her to wait, goes back inside, and puts some dried horse dung into a jar. That’s pretty mean, Claire. She hands it over to Laoghaire, tells her to sprinkle this over the man’s threshold, tap her heels three times, and say ‘there’s no place like love.’ Heh. Laoghaire runs off, thanking Claire breathlessly.
Claire steals through the dark passageways of the castle and runs into three men who decide to try and rape her. What’s with all the rape in this story? These are some seriously rapey people. Fortunately, Dougal comes along, scares the guys off, and then drunkenly tries to rape Claire himself. She smacks him, and he stumbles back, telling her to get out of there. He then finds her bundle of food, but as he goes to check it out, she grabs a piece of wood nearby, knocks him unconscious, and runs.
She makes it through the courtyard and to the stables, where she accidentally trips over Jamie, sleeping in the straw. He sees the bundle and asks how far she expects to get on an unfamiliar horse, at night? He warns her that half the clan’ll be after her by morning. She doubts it, considering how drunk they all are. He tells her that there are extra guards in the woods, but Claire’s leaving anyway, because as Jamie has made plain, she’s an outsider here. He apologises sincerely for having offended her and she calms down, explaining that she really needs to get out of here, and having her hopes just shot to hell is a bit upsetting. He steps forward and gently offers to take her back up to the castle. She says that’s not a good idea, because she had an encounter with some drunken clansmen, and Dougal got involved and now things are messy. Jamie asks if he was drunk and Claire responds, ‘yes, very.’ Jamie laughs and says he won’t remember much then, and even if he does, he’s not going to make it known that he got bested by a lassie. He hopes she left some mark so he remembers what an ass he was, and he tells Claire she’s done good.
Jamie takes her back by way of a hidden tunnel he’s known about since she was a kid. She thanks him for seeing her back safely and he says he really owes her, for healing all his scratches. As they prepare to enter the tunnel, they’re discovered by two clansmen who recognise Jamie and say he’d better hurry up and take his turn at the oath taking. Jamie tries to get out of this by saying he needs to change, but they’re not that stupid.
Inside, he’s given clothes and a pin with the MacKenzie motto on it: ‘I shine, not burn’. Claire apologises for getting him into this and he tells her not to worry about it. He can’t wear the pin, though, because he’s not a MacKenzie. He tells her that his motto is: Je suis prêt—I am ready. He tells Claire to go find a place in the hall and she does, telling one of the men that Jamie’s there. As he steps into the room, the whole place tenses. Claire asks what the deal is and the guy explains that there’s a chance Jamie could inherit when Colum dies, if he has enough support from the other clansmen, which has obviously caused a bit of tension between himself and Dougal. Apparently taking the oath is basically a public declaration of his membership in the clan, which is likely to end with Dougal just getting rid of the competition. And Jamie can’t just refuse to take it, so he’s pretty stuck. Basically, he’s dead no matter what he does. Claire wonders why he sticks around the castle, if it’s so dangerous for him there and the guy reminds her that Jamie’s got a price on his head. He’s just screwed from every angle. Claire realises that this is all her fault, because if Jamie hadn’t left the stables to escort her back, this wouldn’t have happened. To be fair to her, though, Jamie did insist.
Jamie approaches his uncle, kneels briefly before him, and declares himself an ally, but refuses to give any vow, as his oath is pledged to his own clan. Men start reaching for their swords, but Jamie continues that he gives Colum his loyalty, as a kinsman and as laird. There’s a long pause while Colum considers this, and then he accepts it and he and Jamie drink. Everyone cheers and the party really gets started. Dougal and Colum exchange a meaningful look as Jamie joins the crowd and makes his way towards Claire. He and the guy she was talking to head out.
The next day, Claire and her shitty attitude come out to join the hunt, pouring scorn on the show of force just to kill ‘one hairy pig.’ She clearly doesn’t know anything about boar at all. They’re not just ‘hairy pigs,’ they’re incredibly aggressive, dangerous creatures. And it’s crappy of you to be mocking anyone’s traditions anyway, Claire, so how’s about you keep your mouth shut?
The men head out, accompanied by Claire. Some are on foot, armed with spears. Others have bows and arrows, others have guns. A herd of boar is found and driven towards the hunters; one animal runs at a horse, which rears, throwing its rider. Claire tends to him, sniping at the men that this serves them right, for hunting a poor animal. Oh, have you been going vegetarian since you ended up in the 18th century, lass? How do you think your food wound up on your plate? She continues bitching at the men for forgetting the boars’ tusks can be lethal. I thought they were just hairy pigs. She orders the man brought back to the castle, he’ll need stitches. Someone screams in agony in the distance and Claire runs towards the sound, startled along the way by the sounds of boar running through the woods around her. One rushes her and is felled by Dougal. That’s the second time he’s saved her in 24 hours.
The injured man is not in a good way. His leg is gushing blood from an enormous wound. Dougal’s with him, reassuring him that he’ll be fine, though it’s clear he knows otherwise. Claire ties a tourniquet on the leg, but there’s another gaping wound in the man’s abdomen. She and Dougal exchange a look and she shakes her head just a little. He speaks to the injured man in Gaelic, then undoes the tourniquet, to speed his passing. As he dies, the man starts talking about the time they raided another clan and asks if Dougal slept with his sister. Dougal says he did. The guy seems fine with that. The man realises he can’t feel his leg or his hands and knows he’s dying. He begins to panic, so Claire, ever the battlefield nurse, steps up and asks him to tell her about his home. He starts to describe it, and slowly dies. Dougal tenderly rubs his forehead and eases him along.
The body, wrapped in a plaid, is taken back to the castle, slung over a horse. As they arrive, Dougal sees some of the young men playing field hockey, Jamie amongst them. He takes off his jacket and joins the game, rather viciously taking people out right and left with the stick, which is apparently how they do these things in clan MacKenzie. He makes it to Jamie and the two battle it out for a bit to a song that also appears on the Braveheart soundtrack. This game is seriously brutal. Sticks to balls and stomachs, fists flying and all. At one point, Jamie manages to throw Dougal, then offers him a hand to help him up, commenting that Dougal taught him well. ‘Too well,’ Dougal growls, making his way back to the castle. I guess as methods of working out your aggression and frustration go, this isn’t too bad.
Later, Dougal finds Claire at work in her workshop and states that she’s seen men die violently before. She confirms it. He wanders around and comments that she’s done a fine job as healer and that Mrs Fitz thinks the world of her. He then thanks her personally for what she did for poor, dead Geordie, taking him to a peaceful place and all. She accepts his thanks, then asks him to excuse her, because she has a lot of work to do in her dungeon. He tells her that’s the other thing he came to say: he’s leaving the following day, travelling through MacKenzie lands, collecting rents and seeing to business, and he wants her to come along, since it’s always good to have a healer on hand. It’s an order, not a request.
The next day, bright and early (well, dark and early) the party sets off. Claire VOs that she took her first full breath in weeks and hoped this trip woudl take her closer to the standing stones.