Claire’s plan to escape Castle Leoch was put into action this week but was ultimately unsuccessful. She used play/game of make believe with the children of the castle as a ruse to plan an escape route, using pieces of ribbon to mark her way. While I have generally been a fan of Claire’s background narration to add context and detail to scenes, it was used unnecessarily here. They could have had the children comment that she was losing her ribbon, had Claire’s handlers tell her that she needed to get back to the castle, showed Claire’s quick glances at her surroundings, and the audience would have gotten the message that Claire was canvassing the area to escape in a more subtle way.
Claire has been gathering large amounts of food in her surgery for her trip/escape. She has a conversation with Geilleis where Geilleis is suspicious of why Claire has so much food. Geilleis reveals that she only married her husband for his status and position of power, but she did so because she wanted to be free to do whatever she wants. Some may view Geilleis’ admission as a knock against her character that she would marry for money/power. I view it as empowering for a woman in the 18th century to freely admit that she did so, and that what seems to interest Geilleis is not being a wife, but instead is making and selling her herbs and medicinal concoctions.
Mrs. Fitz helps Claire change clothes for the oath taking ceremony, where the various clan members step up and pledge loyalty and fealty to Colum as Laird. Everyone is in more formal attire, and the costuming is really outstanding. Again not particularly colorful, or bright, but the patterns and textures of the costumes, the difference in formal versus informal hairstyles highlighted the formality of the occasion. Periodically throughout the episode, I also found it noteworthy that 1940’s big band music was used for scenes in 18th century Scotland.
Claire watches Dougal take his oath, and then excuses herself as all the oaths are the same and she wants to use most of the clansmen being at the ceremony to escape. Jamie is oddly not present at this time. As she is trying to get away, Claire is stopped and almost raped by some drunken clan members but Dougal of all people saves her. Dougal then seems to force himself on her until Claire smacks him over the head with a chair. Though I understand a woman being placed in a position where she may be raped was, sadly, likely common in the 18th century, this is the second or third time in 4 episodes that this has happened to Claire. I prefer Claire being able to save herself as in this case, but I would also prefer not to have to see Claire be nearly raped every other episode.
Claire comes to the stables to get the horse she was going to be using for the boar hunt the following day, but plans to use instead for her escape. Jamie finally makes an appearance as Claire trips over him. Claire comes clean to Jamie that she is planning on escaping. Jamie tells Claire that there are extra patrols and extra guards there for the Gathering and that she’s unlikely to succeed in escaping. He does not threaten to rat her out to Colum or Dougal, however.
We then see Jamie take his own modified version of the oath to Colum where he pledges loyalty, but in a different way such that it does not make Dougal think that he’s lining up to be Laird after Colum. If he did so, Dougal would want Jamie dead, but if he declined to take any oath, Colum would probably want Jamie killed. Being the diplomatic and smart man that he is, Jamie indicates that he’ll be loyal to Colum as long as he’s with the McKenzie clan, but that since his father was from another clan, he declined to take the full oath. It seems to be good enough and we all breathe a sigh of relief, as Jamie is still breathing.
While as a whole I though this episode was scattered and disjointed, one of my favorite scenes of the whole series so far came when Claire and Dougal comforted Geordie as he lay in the field dying after being gored by the wild boar the men were hunting. Rather than intimidating and menacing, we saw Dougal be comforting and caring to his friend. Claire is able to calm Geordie as he is dying and give him some peace. Both Graham McTavish and Caitriona Balfe gave simply outstanding performance in these scenes.
Dougal comes to Claire in her surgery and asks her whether she’s see men die before, as she was calm and knew what to say and what to do when Geordie was dying. She admits that she has, leaving the viewer to recall her time in WWII as a nurse. Dougal genuinely thanks Claire for the job she is doing as healer and what she did for Geordie especially, as her words and calming presence allowed him to die in a peaceful place.
Dougal informs Claire that he and some others are traveling to some of the other MacKenzie lands to collect taxes and that since she does well under pressure and it is unknown what type of challenges or risks they will face, that she will be coming along. Claire does not protest much, as she sees perhaps another way she can escape and get back to Inverness.