In our day, a lot can happen on a long road trip, and last night’s episode, The Rent, showed us that it wasn’t much different in the 1740s, except for the warm urine. Don’t fash yourself over that yet though, I’ll get to it.
Through the unbelievably scenic countryside of Scotland, Dougal leads his men, and Claire, to collect the rents from clansmen who could not attend the Gathering. Days on the road, going from village-to-village, accepting money, and grain, and foul, and some pigs, they ride. I’m not sure how long they are out in the Highlands, but it seems like at least a month. Long enough for Claire’s hair to grow. It’s definitely longer than when she first popped out of the stones into this time.
Claire is the only woman, and like today, being the lone woman in a group of men can be a challenge. She feels isolated, and lonely for her own time, for Frank, for something other than the drudgery of life on the road.
After all the rents are paid, the menfolk of the village and Dougal’s men meet in the village pub. He stirs them up with Sassenach talk, and though I don’t understand a word of Gaelic, and since Claire doesn’t either we aren’t given a translation, I can see that Dougal is impassioned about the subject and that it has to do with villager’s safety. Like a Southern Baptist preacher, he works the crowd into a frenzy that culminates with him ripping the shirt off Jamie’s back to show them his scars from being flogged by the English.
It was hard to watch this scene knowing how Jamie feels about his back. He sits there stoic, but seething with rage. The audience doesn’t know that he wants to pummel his Uncle Dougal. They think his emotion is for the cause. Claire is appalled as she watches the precious coins of the villagers being dropped into the coffers managed by Ned Gowen, clan attorney.
Ned is an interesting character. He’s an older gentlemen, and not inclined to sit by the fire and tell tall stories of the lasses and such. Claire and Ned become, if not friends, friendly over the long trek. At each stop, Claire watches as Ned keeps one record for the village rents and another for what is given at the pubs. Since she doesn’t understand the language, she assumes it’s for protection. Either way she’s thinking that Dougal is cheating his brother Colum. Why she says this to Ned, I do not know. You’d think she’d keep quiet, but no, not our Claire, she babbles to Ned that she knows, or thinks she knows, what’s going on.
On their way to another village, they pass two men, long dead, and hung on crosses with the letter T cut into their chests. Traitors. The Redcoats have done this. These men were whispered to be stirring up the masses with talk of Bonnie Prince Charlie returning to Scotland and besting the English King. There was no trial, no evidence that they were Jacobites, only rumors heard by the Redcoats. If you hadn’t already figured it out, these are dangerous times.
In yet another village, Claire hears women singing. You have to remember, she’s been on the road for a long time with no female companionship. She follows the voices and encounters a village woman carrying a bucket. A Sassenach, even if she is a guest of Dougal’s, can’t be too welcome. But the woman invites her to the gathering. I’m thinking she’s more curious to see what Claire will do when she finds out the activity than scared of her.
A large damp looking bundle sits atop a long table with women seated on either side. A woman pours the liquid from the bucket onto the bundle and they all started to stretch and pound it. Claire pulls back from the foul odor, warm urine. It seems this is the method of the time for dyeing wool. If you’re interested to learn more, I’ve linked to a site about this practice. I don’t know about you, but this would be the moment, I’d smile and say I had some urgent healing things to do. But Claire, made of tougher stuff than me, sits down and starts to pounding and singing.
A strong drink is served and Claire is clearly getting a wee bit tipsy as 1940s slang starts to slip through her lips. The bucket appears and is plopped on the floor. It would seem the refreshments have a purpose. Claire is encouraged to contribute to the buckets contents. Now, too inebriated to be self-conscious – and really with the skirts they wore no one would see anything – she centers herself over the bucket.
Before Claire can make her contribution, Angus stomps in cursing and red-faced and irritated as hell that she has alluded him. Claire, having just made buddies, is embarrassed to be dragged out and treated like a prisoner. She’s livid and demonstrative about not liking her treatment. Having heard from one of the mothers that they had to give their goat – the milk had been feeding the baby – for rent, Claire starts tugging at a tethered goat, determined to free it and give it to the mother. Dougal stomps up, irritated that she’s delayed their departure, and making a drunken show of herself.
Dougal grabs her and is about to drag her off to her mount when a man – an Englishman – asks if she needs assistance. The look on Claire’s face says everything. Yes, please, can you transport me the hell out of here. Or just keep talking, because I’ve missed the sound of an Englishman’s voice. This Englishman seems like a nice enough sort who is disturbed by the rough treatment of an Englishwoman. He persists in his questioning. Dougal’s men encircle her and Dougal tells him to piss off – couldn’t resist – in so many words. The Englishman sees he’s outnumbered and retreats. We follow him back to a tent where he slips on a English soldier’s coat, a Redcoat.
Another day of riding, another village visited and rents given, and a pub full of men being stirred up by Dougal’s words. At this point Claire doesn’t listen but sulks in the shadows, but this time is different, she hears a reference she’s heard before while Frank was searching for his ancestors. It’s to do with the Jacobite Rebellion. So, Dougal hasn’t been running a scam. He’s been raising money to bring Charles Stuart back to the throne of Scotland. They aren’t thieves but freedom fighters.
She knows their cause is doomed. That at the Battle of Culloden, the clans will be destroyed by the superior weapons of the English. Not only will thousands of Scotsmen be killed, but the British will take the laird’s lands and their whole way of life will come to an end.
Tucked in bed above the tavern below, Claire hears a noise outside her door, Armed with a candle holder, she opens the door and trips over Jamie. He’s curled up outside her door to protect her from any drunkards who might want a little tickle and giggle action. She snorts that’s not likely given she’s a Sassenach. I’m thinking it’s likely they would just because of that. She invites him to sleep inside the room with her where it is warm. Jamie’s surprised by her forwardness declines saying he wouldn’t want to ruin her reputation. She brings him a blanket and goes back to her bed.
Claire might not like being captive, but she doesn’t want to see these men killed. She tries to tell the attorney, Ned, that they will not win. He says that’s a matter of opinion, and looks at her a bit differently. It hasn’t seemed before that he thought she was a spy, but now, with her telling him that the brave Scot’s will lose to Englishmen, he walks away.
Claire has seen the cost of war. She knows firsthand what it smells like, the look of despair, the refugees created, the disease and starvation that follows in its wake. Not knowing what to do, or how to convince them this is a plan destined to fail, Claire goes off to wash. Dougal tells Angus he doesn’t need to follow her. She’s at a stream washing her arms when Dougal marches down the hill to confront her, wanting to know why she’s saying such things.
I love the scenes with Dougal and Claire, they’re both such strong characters – and good actors – and you can almost see the sparks shooting off of them as they spar with each other. Before Claire can explain the Englishman appears, in uniform, with other English soldier’s to surround them. He’s here to ask again if she needs help.
I thought this episode trudged along a bit, but in the end I understood why it was needed. They want to show us the Scottish way of life before Culloden. How the system worked. How vast the land was that Colum ruled over. How much the people of Scotland wanted freedom from English rule. How mistreated they were by the English.
Though the scene was brief, I liked the interaction between Claire and Jamie. He’s showing her with actions that he cares for her. Like Claire, he’s educated, having been tutored in France. That though he’s obviously attracted to Claire, he will not tarnish her reputation, even if she wants him to.
And then there is Dougal who’s one part intrigued by Claire and one part mistrustful of her. There was really no need for her to come with them other than he wanted it so. Perhaps he wanted to get her out in the open and see what she’d do. To keep her footing off in hopes she’d break and tell him why she’s here. Or maybe, just because he likes to look at her, and subject her to his will. He’s an interesting combination of loyalty and ambition. He knows Colum’s time as Laird can’t last much longer. He wants to take over the position. Claire’s usefulness to the clan and him is evident. Does he want to take her for his own?
This is the first episode with no 1940s music playing in Claire’s head. Does this mean the future is slipping away from her? That she’s starting to believe she’ll never escape back to her time?
Interesting that on September 18th the Scottish will soon vote on whether or not to become an country.
The first season of Outlander is split into two halves. The first eight episodes air until September 27th. The second half to air in 2015. I have heard the exact date they will start yet.
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Outlander Podcast with Mary and Blake
I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, The Garrison.