It all starts with a very nice introduction, unexpected and full of a suspense a little easy, certainly, but from time to time, why not? Since the writers have the good taste not to abuse it.
Soon enough, the worry gives way to the laughter of the children as well as that of Claire. Since when had she not laughed? Maybe never, since its passage through the stones.
And it's up to us to laugh next, when Claire falls to the ground and Angus offers her an unapologetic view under his Kilt (which would give an answer to the eternal question about what the Scots wear!)
— Something caught your attention? he asks mischievously.
And then, now we understand that the game is only a pretext for the preparation of an escape. Then the smile fades.
No, Claire does not adapt. She didn't give up. What she wants is to go home. She takes care of herself, not waiting for any outside support, she does not ask anything of anyone. To whom? Because who would want to help a Sassenach?
It is strange this paradox that shows us Claire smiling, attentive to everything around her, while her voice-over explains the plan of her escape point by point.
However, it is undeniable that she is beginning to get used to the place. Is she not in awe of the simple and communicative joie de vivre of the inhabitants of Leoch as well as the guests who stay at the camp on the edge of the castle?
The scene is short, but it is beautifully evoked. Every detail is represented with rigor and talent. And the costumes are wonderful, as they are throughout this first season.
Always flanked by these guardians, Rupert and Angus, Claire tries to put on a good face. It must be said that she begins to know how to take these two. A little humor, a little severity and a lot of wit. Their penchant for alcohol and pretty girls make things easier.
Claire then heads to the stables to be assigned a horse, supposedly to participate in the wild boar hunt scheduled for the next day. Maybe she was hoping to find Jamie there! But it is the old Alec, always grumpy, who grants him Sulphureuse... Funny name! Even if she is said to be kind and full of endurance.
The scene is accompanied by "That lovely weekend" by Dorothy Carless and Geraldo (1941), an anachronism that we had already been confronted with in the first episode, when he met Geillis.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to propose a more attenuated soundtrack to accompany Claire's thoughts, rather than thundering like this. (A problem that will be repeated in episode 401 when Bonnet attacks the Frasers).
Claire is now heading to her infirmary. She walks decisively, which implies that she is now used to places in which she feels safe. However, the sequence shot is incredibly dark, as a reminder of her prisoner status.
Geillis is waiting for him on the spot. They know each other well now! Are they friends?
At each of his appearances, we note in Geillis an ambiguous attitude. Smiling, attentive, and yet on the lookout, like a beast.
Besides, Claire is not mistaken and always remains on her guard. From beginning to end, their relationship never parted with this space, filled with attraction and mistrust.
This long scene between the two women is exciting. It says a lot about their respective personalities!
After providing Claire with the bottle of port she asked for (we'll find out later what it's really for), Geillis assumes Claire is pregnant because she has a lot of food in reserve. His suspicious mind speeds to make sense of this unusual fact.
Claire, playing innocence, finds answers just as quickly. But Geillis insists. After all, Claire may be waiting for a bastard. That would explain absolutely everything!
Caught short, Claire makes her first mistake.
— I assure you Geillis that I have never cheated on my husband.
— It's not deceiving him if he's dead," Geillis retorts with a sparkling eye of mischief.
For Claire, it's a torment. She plunges back into her pain, thinks back to her beloved husband. She remains silent, too long! We will understand later that Claire does not know how to lie. What she thinks can be read on her face.
— Is he? Geillis insists
— He is not alive.
— So... He's dead?
— That's it, Claire finally replied, invaded by images of tenderness with Frank.
From a scriptwriting point of view, it is important that we are immersed again in the happy memories of Claire and Frank. We must forget her sympathy for Jamie, the laughter with the children in the introduction and above all, the fact that she begins to like Leoch. We must forget all this, so that this escape attempt makes sense and we understand how crucial it is for her, even risking her life.
— And you've never had a child? Maybe you're barren, Geillis continues.
Note that at that time, whether that of the 20th or that of the 18th, infertility was systematically the responsibility of the woman.
Finally, the discussion focuses on valerian root. How to prepare it... Why use it... Plants. That's what really brings them together.
Before leaving, Geillis informs Claire that it is not good for a woman to be alone in the Highlands.
— You'd better not forget it, she concluded, turning around.
It's hard to say whether that's a threat or friendly advice.
— I'll see you later at the ceremony, Claire retorts to close the subject.
— Are you sure?
It is obvious that Geillis suspects something. This woman is intelligent, but above all manipulative. She knows how to recognize when someone tries to manipulate her in turn.
"I promise, Claire replied again.
"Be careful! A promise is serious in this country.
"In mine too.
The entirety of their meeting takes place in peace. None raise their voices. Most of the time, Geillis' face smiles and Claire's suffers. And yet, every word sounds like a threat, a lie, an inescapable destiny.
As soon as Geillis leaves the infirmary, Claire starts moving again. She regains her courage and determination. That's what keeps her upright.
In search of a weapon, she goes to the kitchen. She does not have time to grab the knife, as Miss Fitz offers her to put on a more sumptuous dress in anticipation of the evening to come.
Here it is at last, this great gathering!
Terry Dresbach – costume designer for the first three seasons – went above and beyond for this evening! It's worth taking the time to observe each outfit, whether feminine or masculine.
As for the two cameos, Diana Gabaldon, dressed and styled with art and Ronald D Moore proudly wearing a gold-embroidered jacket, I guess they will not have escaped any fan worthy of the name.
While the large room of the castle is full of people, here is the laird who comes forward.
The shot focuses on his crooked legs. For long seconds, we are helpless witnesses of his infirmity and the wobbly gait it gives him. Finally, as Colum descends the steps, the camera goes up to his finally shaved face and his hair tightly tied, which gives him a younger and less sovereign look.
One might think that this is a miscalculation on the part of a laird who is about to receive an oath of allegiance from all the men present! But it is obvious that Colum will never be able to worry by his presence. How could he be able to compete with the colossi that make up his army? Not to mention the imposing stature of his own brother who stands most of the time to his right?
No, Colum MacKenzie's authority is not based on fear, but on loyalty. It is not nourished by terror, but by trust. It is not born of strength, but of intelligence and knowledge.
Claire stands next to Murtagh in the upper gallery. Note that the latter is infinitely more present in the series than in Diana's stories. This avoids too many characters to memorize. In addition, we are starting to get used to the trio he forms with Claire Jamie and which will last several seasons.
The choice, too, not to caption Gaelic is a good idea, because we can sympathize with Claire's isolation. When the script requires it, the translation is done by a third party, as Murtagh is currently doing for the Laird speech.
Colum's words are commensurate with warlike courage, loyalty and promise. I take this opportunity to express my admiration for Gary Lewis' astonishing interpretation.
Between two statements, slips a sentence that seems particularly intended for Claire.
"He would be foolish, the one who dared to challenge the McKenzies, whether armed or not.
It sounds like a threat to what she's about to do. If she had underestimated it, she was no longer in a position to ignore it.
At the end of his speech, I am sure that no one thinks of the legs that support this all-powerful Laird so painfully.
Then begins the parade of each of the men present, Dougal in the lead, as it should be.
"I swear, on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the sacred iron I hold,
To be faithful and devoted to you, and to pledge to be loyal to the name of the Mackenzie clan.
If by chance I raised my hand on you in a spirit of rebellion,
I ask that this sacred iron pierce my heart."
After that, it's time for Claire to get going. But first, she has to get rid of Angus who takes his role as a guardian very seriously.
I really liked the turn of their conversation, which went from threatening to enamoring.
"Madam, could you at least stay until I find myself a beautiful girl for the evening?"
This is the first time he has addressed Claire in this way. We then perceive the complexity of this character hitherto shown in an inglorious light.
It's the right time for Claire to offer her the port in which she poured the famous valerian.
As often, when Angus (or Rupert) is around, the writers allow themselves a little lightness and it feels good, especially when we refer to the humor that inhabits Diana Gabaldon's writing!
— Um! This is not Rhine wine! Angus notes after a first sip.
— No, it's port, a very expensive wine.
— Porto? It is a very strong wine. It still goes up a little to the head.
— It's a sedative.
— Is that Spanish?"
While the oaths follow one another, to the sound of bagpipes, Claire can finally isolate herself and put the rest of her plan into action.
First, join his infirmary to retrieve his bundle and then head to the stables.
But now she comes face to face with Laoghaire who has come to ask her for a love potion.
I found this scene very touching, because it shows the distress in which this naïve young girl lives. That she hopes for help from the woman who steals the man of her life says a lot about her loneliness.
"Perhaps you could give me a remedy that helps a girl get a boy's attention!
We all know, including Claire, that it's Jamie.
— I don't feel like you needed help the last time I saw you both.
— No, not for that! What I would like is for him to fall in love.
It is very important to remember this particular desire and the despair that pierces Laoghaire's words, when, later, she comes to less naïve processes.
The rest is delicious. Claire looking for a product that could pass for a philtre, chooses dried horse dung. "Jamie wouldn't see the difference," referring to his role as groom.
She gives it to the teenager and adds.
— Sprinkle the contents of this bottle on its threshold, snap his heels three times and say aloud: There is nothing better than love.
The reference to the Wizard of Oz is obvious, when Dorothy realizes that she had the power to go home from the beginning, thanks to her red shoes and a magic formula: "There is no better place than home".
And it's back to the race against time.
Claire follows a meticulously prepared route to reach the stables: Pass in front of the reserve, avoid the kitchen, cross the east wing, head towards the north staircase ...
But now a new setback stops her in her progress.
She had not foreseen that the castle would be full of warriors invited to the oath. In a way, it was previously protected by Colum's invitation to stay within its walls, even if this invitation was tinged with a certain threat. But for the "foreigners", Claire is only an Englishwoman who only asks to be disturbed, the alcohol soaked for hours encouraging this bestiality.
That she is rescued by Dougal is a good find. Because from the beginning, relations have been tense between these two. Moreover, as avid as the others, he indulges in his bawdy nature. It was counting without Claire's ability to defend herself. It must be said that they are not used to these brutes of the 18th century having a woman resist them. A blow on the head and here she is again. 15 steps towards the well, walk northwest to avoid the south-facing sentinel.
She is finally at the stables. She faced all the difficulties and there were many!
Geillis and his distrust, Angus and his relentlessness, Laoghaire and his request, the Highlanders and their concupiscences and finally Dougal, too drunk to contain himself. But that's all behind her. It was worth it since it happened.
But one last obstacle arises, much greater than all the others. For she can hit Dougal, she can deceive Geillis, Angus and Laoghaire, but she is helpless in the face of Jamie's righteousness and kindness on whom she inadvertently walks.
— Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! It's not God possible!
— No Sassenach, it's just me.
The wonderful thing about Jamie's immediate attitude is that he is neither angry nor judgmental. He understood Claire's intentions and the reason for her presence here by looking at her bundle.
"How far do you plan to go like that, on a moonless night with a horse you don't know and with half the men of Clan McKenzie after you?"
To Jamie she can tell everything. This is not a whim! She has wanted to leave for weeks and she has prepared everything for it. Perhaps, there is even a little pride when she describes everything she has planned! But Jamie doesn't let himself be fooled, and kindly points out that Colum has placed twice as many guards around the castle because of the gathering.
— The best trackers in the clan will catch up with you. Colum won't call you "his guest" after that.
We do not know it yet at this point in history, but if anyone can understand how important it is to maintain a cordial understanding with the Mackenzies, it is him.
Then Claire loses her temper. For the first time, she raises her voice.
— I don't care! I must go at all costs. As you have made clear, I am only a foreigner, I am only a Sassenach.
The choice of words is important! She is not a Sassenach! It is just that.
— If I have offended you, I am sorry, Claire.
— I know it wasn't mean in your mouth.
But it's hard for her. All his hopes of escaping have just been dashed in a minute.
How to describe the scene that follows without falling into exacerbated romanticism?
He offers to take her back to the castle, but she tells him about meeting the clan members, and then Dougal.
— I may have hit him a little hard with a chair, or something like that... I think he is unconscious.
— Was he drunk?"
— Yes. Very.
Then, against all odds, Jamie starts laughing and the whole space is filled with this freshness that comes to remove all the weight of Claire's shoulders who finds the smile.
That's their relationship. That's how she was born, between confidence, humor and confidence.
— It's going to be okay, he said again just before walking her home.
And she believes it. It can be read in his eyes. Like when he had already promised her the day they arrived in Leoch. "As long as I'm by your side, you don't risk anything."
Although taking a circuitous route back to the castle, they are spotted by a few McKenzies, including Rupert who forces Jamie to swear allegiance to the Laird. We still don't know why Jamie wasn't there, but we suspect that the reason was compelling.
He put on a clean shirt, taking care to hide his zebra back from the men in the room, and refused the brooch handed to him by Rupert, bearing the McKenzies' motto: "I shine, but do not burn." (Luceo non uro)
Without us knowing yet which clan he belongs to, we learn that he is not a McKenzie, which probably explains his absence at the gathering.
His face lights up when he quotes his motto: "I am a priest."
That's an understatement!
Claire returns to the great room where time seems to have frozen.
A handful of men wait to take the oath. It is hard to believe that Claire has experienced so many adventures while the ceremony is in full swing. Those who have already passed by chatting in a corner, everything goes perfectly.
But Jamie arrives in turn.
Heads turn, silence is gradually made.
The tension is perceptible and we still struggle to understand why.
Murtagh explains to Claire (and therefore to us) that if Jamie swears allegiance to his uncle Colum, he can claim to succeed him, especially since a good part of the men would vote for him. But this is not to the liking of Dougal who wishes to take the head of the clan at the death of his brother.
— If Jamie took the oath, Dougal wouldn't let him breathe the McKenzies' air for very long.
— Then why does he bear allegiance? Claire asks, a little confused.
— Because as a healthy warrior and nephew of the Laird, he has no choice. If he refuses to do so, it will be considered an affront and he will pay with his life.
— Which means that whatever he does he will have to die! So why is Leoch staying?
— Because his head is being priced.
This is Jamie's drama, what he has been trying to tell Claire since the beginning of their meeting. Black Jack Randall did more than ravage his back with a whip! He also made him a man without a home, without family, without a name.
That's why he remained hidden in the stables until the big meeting ended. For both, it was the best solution. But to help Claire, he came out. That's what it's like to fall in love... Which he will confess to her many months later.
Despite this impasse in which Jamie seems to be embarked, he finds a suitable way out. For this, he relies on the intelligence and humanity of Colum.
— I swear no allegiance to you, but I grant you my obedience as long as my feet tread the lands of Clan McKenzie.
This scene is beautiful and worth watching several times in order to savor the silent acting of the actors. The looks, the body language, the subtle changes of expression of Colum, which little by little, reveals his contentment, his relief and then his happiness. It is with a complicit smile that he hands his nephew, the cup filled with whisky that will seal their agreement.
Life then resumes, as if someone had flipped a switch. The crowd applauds, laughter erupts and music drags the dancers onto the dance floor. A tragedy has been avoided and the party can continue.
For his part, Jamie, discreetly leaves the room, passing by Claire with a charming air.
Murtagh follows him, moaning.
— I'm starting to get too old for all that.
The sun rises on Leoch, and Claire is still there. Finally, she must indeed go to the wild boar hunt to ensure the possible care.
Again, "That lovely weekend" accompanies the stage with its anachronistic sounds. Claire regains her rebellious character and screams at Angus and Rupert, underlining that she is here against her will. She must turn the page after this crazy hope of fleeing. A hunt for the "hairy pig" is a solution like any other.
— Apparently you've never seen one! Rupert replies, who no longer knows how to approach him.
In fact, a tout, is injured in the leg. A beautiful notch that she takes care of with the means of the edge by moaning as she does so well.
A scene reminiscent of the one during which she bandaged the shoulder of Jamie who had just fallen from a horse, in the first episode. She heals, but she rants, because she is tired of worrying about men who go to war or hunt.
Heading towards another victim, Claire comes face to face with a boar, and he is much more than hairy, on that, there is no longer any doubt. Fortunately, at the last moment, Dougal shoots him dead. Hasn't he just redeemed himself with Claire by saving her life?
The next scene is also very important.
Claire arrives with Geordie, a friend of Dougal's. He won't survive, Claire and Dougal know it. So rather than let him agonize for hours, Dougal loosens the tourniquet around his leg.
In voice-over, Claire takes a passage from Diana's book that I had already found very beautiful when reading.
"A more peaceful death, no doubt that was what Dougal was giving him. It was going to die out cleanly, under the sky. The blood of his heart staining the same leaves as that of the beast that had killed him. »
We discover another part of Dougal during this passage. Sensitive, and lucid. To his friend, he gives his time and his benevolent listening. All the men are there too, silently watching over one of their own.
When Geordie loses his footing as the big departure approaches, Claire encourages him to talk about his home and his area, so that his last thoughts are happy.
She doesn't know it yet, but that's when everything will change for her.
She is no longer just an Englishwoman potentially spying in Dougal's eyes! She is also an effective and enduring healer. Exactly what he needs for the upcoming expedition.
But before that, the whole team must return, the remains of the slaughtered boar and that of Geordie, both of them, brought back on the back of a horse. This is the cost of hunting, which Claire hadn't really realized.
On the outskirts of the castle, a shinty game (the equivalent of field hockey) takes place in which Dougal joins to vent his rage and sadness.
Life, death, play and war. This is what constitutes the daily life of these proud Highlanders. The world in which Claire has failed and in which it seems that she is bound to stay.
The next morning, she leaves Leoch with Dougal's troupe, for the first time since her arrival.