Outlander, Season 1, Episode 5: “Rent”
The official synopsis, courtesy of Starz:
Claire joins the MacKenzie rent-collecting trip. To her horror, Dougal uses Jamie’s scars to gain sympathy for the Jacobite cause. Claire recalls that a defining moment in Scottish history is fast approaching.
First things first — this is not what this episode is about:
This episode opens with a simply breathtaking shot:
The MacKenzies are on the road, traveling through MacKenzie land to collect rent from the tenants. Claire sees this trip as her best option for escape, but she’s watched constantly (and also has no real idea of where she is), so running off seems unlikely. The landscapes throughout this episode are stunning.
Claire recites a John Donne poem as she gazes across the loch, and is joined by a spry older man, the lawyer Ned Gowan. He seems like a kindred spirit, someone a bit apart from the Highlander hooligans, and they bond over poetry and Claire’s treatment for Ned’s allergies.
The group sleeps in tents and tells bawdy stories around campfires, using Gaelic to exclude Claire. Jamie treats Claire with kindness, reassuring her that no one hates her (except maybe Angus, who hates everyone), and urging her to just chill and not take offense.
When they reach a village, Ned sets up a table to tally the rent, which includes not only coins, but bags of wheat, goats, and pigs. Dougal is chummy with all the villagers, and Claire gets bored and wanders off. She meets a group of women engaged in waulking wool — using “hot piss” to set the dye. This is an amazing scene, showing the production’s efforts to include cultural moments from the history of the Highlands.
The women sing as they work, and Claire joins in. (I couldn’t help worrying about her pretty dress!) Check out the song from the Outlander soundtrack:
There’s trouble, though. Angus is “pissed” (ha!) that Claire wandered off and drags her back to the men, who are preparing to move on. Claire is angry at her treatment and acts out, trying to return a goat given as rent to a family who needs the milk for their baby. As a major confrontation with Dougal ensues, a young man with an English accent approaches, asking if Claire needs assistance. He’s outnumbered by the clansmen, who send him packing. Later, we see him don a red coat — he’s an English officer.
In a tavern that night, Claire witnesses what will become a repeated events during their travels. Dougal gives an impassioned speech to the gathered villagers (in Gaelic, of course, so Claire has no idea what he’s saying). The climax comes when Dougal rips the shirt off Jamie’s back, displaying his horrifying scars to one and all — which inspired the people present to hand over coins to Dougal and Ned. Jamie looks upset. He hates being used that way. Claire is disgusted. From what she can see, Dougal is using Jamie’s back as a way to scare the people into paying protection money. Basically, she believes he’s stealing money and hiding it from Colum. Her opinion of Dougal and the rest of the MacKenzie group plummets.
At the next camping site, Claire continues to sit apart from the men, filled with anger. She refuses the food she’s handed, accusing the men of thievery, causing a meltdown by Angus. Claire is hurt and upset, and Jamie tries to calm her down, cautioning her not to judge what she doesn’t understand.
As the rent party continues on the road, they encounter the Watch — a group of Scots who extort money from people in order to protect them from Redcoats. Anyone who doesn’t pay up gets punished, like by having their houses burned down. Jamie makes himself scarce. Murtagh explains to Claire that since Jamie has a price on his head, if the Watch sees him and realize that he’s wanted, they’d turn him over in a second in order to get the reward.
Later, there’s a harrowing sight — two Highlanders crucified along the roadside with the letter T, for traitor, carved into their chests. Clearly, they’ve been killed by redcoats and left there as a warning sign. The group cuts the men down and buries them. At the next stop, when Dougal again launches into his speech and collects payment, Claire finally recognizes the Gaelic phrase for “Long Live the Stuart” — and realizes that Dougal isn’t a thief… he’s a Jacobite. Dougal is collecting money for the uprising aiming to restore the Stuarts to the throne.
Flashback: Claire remembers visiting the Culloden battlefield memorial with Frank, as he explains the battle of Culloden in 1746, which was a devastating defeat that essentially spelled the end of the Highlander clans and culture. As Claire looks again at her traveling companions, she realizes that the battle at Culloden is coming in only three years, and that all of these men could be slaughtered. She tries to warn Ned, telling him that the Rising will fail — but he responds coldly, telling her that it’s just her opinion.
The group sleeps at the tavern, and Claire finally has a room to herself, a change from sleeping out of doors. She hears a noise, goes to investigate, and trips over Jamie, who is sleeping on the floor outside her room. (2nd episode in a row where she trips over Jamie. These two are adorable.) He explains that the men are drunk and rowdy, and that after Dougal’s performance, Sassenachs like her aren’t exactly popular. Basically, he’s there to protect Claire. Awwwww. She tells him to at least sleep in her room, rather than in the hallway, and he’s aghast at the idea of sleeping in the same room as her because it would damage her reputation. Claire seems amused, and practically twinkles at him.
Next morning, there’s a huge brawl in the tavern. Turns out that a neighboring table of men have been talking trash about Claire, and her gang isn’t having it. They look like they’re having a blast during the fight. Claire patches up the scrapes and bruises, and is touched to realize they’ve been defending her. Later, she jokes with the men and seems to finally be accepted by them. Jamie looks pleased as punch to see Claire and the men laughing together.
Finally, at the next stop, Claire goes off to wash in the stream and Dougal follows her, again demanding to know her secrets. Ned has told Dougal about Claire’s predictions about the failure of the Jacobite cause, and Dougal’s suspicions about Claire are fired up all over again. In the midst of their confrontation, the redcoat they’d encountered earlier shows up, this time in full uniform and with a bunch of other men, all fully armed and on horseback. Lt. Foster asks Claire once more if she needs assistance. Dougal and Claire are surrounded, and all Dougal can do is wait to see how Claire will answer.
“Tell me madam – are you here by own your own choice?”
Close-up on Claire’s face and… scene! We end on a cliffhanger moment — will Claire stick with the MacKenzies, or will she ask to be rescued, which would surely result in violence for the men? Stay tuned!
No actual steam in this episode, but there were sparks! Jamie seems to be taking on a protector role around Claire, keeping an eye out for her and reining her back in when she makes the men angry. He’s made it clear that he’ll keep her safe if it’s in his power to do so.
In the scene by Claire’s door, she hands him a blanket and their hands touch briefly — and yes, there was definitely some electricity in their connection at that moment.
Claire’s traveling coat is so lovely, and we also see her in this capelet (which has caused its own little fashion stir on Etsy and elsewhere):
Claire’s traveling clothes are simple yet beautiful, and her accessories include her fichu and more mitts (again, tons available on Etsy — this show has done wonders for crafters!):
We also get our first glimpse of Claire’s green pleated dress and the shawl she wears over it, which we’ll see a lot of in the next episode:
(For more on the amazing costumes of Outlander, I’d recommend checking out costume designer Terry Dresbach’s blog, http://www.terrydresbach.com).
Major facts that the episode gets on the table:
- The Jacobite cause is heating up. The redcoats are abusive toward the Highlanders, and the resentment is growing.
- The Watch is a dangerous group. Cross them at your own peril.
- Claire is disturbed by her knowledge of the future, and fears what will happen to the people she’s come to know.
- Jamie is upset by how Dougal uses his scars for his own purposes, but remains obedient to his uncle for now.
Dougal to Claire: “Stop your havering, woman.”
Jamie to Claire: “What’s got into you, woman?”
Dougal in the tavern (in Gaelic): “Long live the Stuart!”
Jamie to Claire in the inn:
“Sleep in your room? With you? I couldn’t do that. Your reputation would be ruined.”
Murtagh, after the brawl in the inn:
“You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you. But God help any other man that does!”
Once again, we see amazing character development for Dougal, who has quickly become one of the most fascinating characters on the show. Dougal is vulgar and funny with his men, telling bawdy tales around a fire. He’s warm toward the MacKenzie tenants, acknowledging each by name, with a personal comment for all. He’s a fierce orator, rousing group after group with tales of redcoat abuse, drumming up support for the Jacobite cause. He may be harsh and suspicious with Claire, but he has a tender side too, returning the wheat and other goods paid in rent by a village that had a bad year, making sure everyone can feed their families.
Claire doesn’t always come across in the best light in this episode. She’s allowing her prejudices and modern-day opinions to color her views of the men of the traveling party. They may be excluding her, but she’s also alienating them by being so judgmental and scornful. It’s Jamie who gives her the wake-up call she needs by cautioning her not to judge what she doesn’t understand. By the episode’s end, Claire seems more open toward viewing the good of these men, and in return, they begin to accept her as belonging to them.
This episode also introduces two fun characters, Ned Gowan and the young clansman, Willie. Both can be counted on to be entertaining whenever they pop up in future episodes.
This is the first episode that really brought the politics of the Jacobite rebellion to the foreground, and the first episode (I believe) in which Claire directly tries to warn someone to change a course of action because of her knowledge of future events. It’s ironic that by the episode’s end, she seems to have begun to gain the trust of the men who disliked her at the start, while she’s also alienated the one person, Ned Gowan, who started out as an ally.
This episode also shows a growing connection between Claire and Jamie. Claire seems to realize that Jamie will help her if he can, and Jamie follows through on his promise from the very first episode to protect her. The attraction between the two remains unacknowledged, but it’s certainly there.
Final takeaway: Scotland is gorgeous.