The Gathering opens to Claire running through the woods. We see a sentry take aim, then Claire bursts out of the woods being chased by children who are laughing and playing. Claire collapses onto the ground only to have Angus approach and give her and eyeful up his kilt much to her dismay. Hamish notices Claire is losing ribbons in the forest as they play though Claire tells him she doesn’t notices as she’s fleeing him. As Claire runs off to play the Boar and the Huntsman with the children, Rupert calls out and fairly whines at her about missing the festivities of the Gathering. She relents and goes with Angus and Rupert.
Apparently, Claire has been using the games with the children to scout out an escape route while paying attention to the sentries. She’s also been leaving those pesky ribbons behind to mark her path.
As Rupert, Angus and Claire walk back to the “festivities,” Claire takes in the joy of all the visitors and enjoys the happiness making her love being there. Still she wants to escape and needs to think up distractions for her guards. Claire points out a woman who is eyeing Rupert or Angus and when they start arguing over who gets a chance with her, Claire has them drawn straws. Rupert goes first and thinks he’s won only for Claire to give Angus his straw which is longer and makes him overjoyed. He runs off to introduce himself to the lass. Claire then tells Rupert she needs to go to the stables to pick a horse for the hunt the next day.
Claire tells us she learned to ride when Uncle Lamb and she were in Ireland but it was so long ago she’ll need a gentle horse. Old Alec tells Claire they have no need of a healer but Claire tells him Colum wishes her to go on the hunt (as a healer) and she needs a horse. She doesn’t want to bother Alec and asks for Jamie. Alec tells Claire he’s not there and it would be best to leave him to his own thoughts. Alec proceeds to tell her it is best if Jamie is left to himself during the Gathering and you get the impression there is a reason why. He then shows her a horse called Brimstone and says it is like called a tall man “wee.” Claire’s plan seems to be coming together.
Claire goes back to her surgery only to be surprised out of her wits by Geillis who proceeds to play 20 questions with Claire:
Are you with bairn, then? – So much food being stashed away!
Are you desperate to get to France because of illegitimate pregnancy?
Is your husband dead? – He’s not alive.
So he’s dead, then? – Yep. Don’t make her say it.
The two of you never conceived? – Called her barren rather rude.
You have trouble sleeping? – What are you doing with all this sedative?
Claire comes right out and says she’s never been unfaithful which is good to know though then Geillis proceeds to call her barren which is rather a forward thing to say to Claire. Geillis is up to her nosy tricks again. She points out the Valerian Root and comments on how Claire is preparing it and the fact Claire has enough to put an entire army (Clan) to sleep. Geillis is a know-it-all.
Geillis also proceeds to tell Claire when she came to Cransmuir she didn’t have much but she found Arthur who has position and power, money and respectability and she married him giving her a sort of freedom. Plus she drugs the man so she can sleep soundly at night. Claire tells Geillis she’s trying to prepare for the hunt but Geillis proceeds to tell Claire, “The Highlands are not place for a woman to be alone.” She totally knows what Claire is up to… you can feel it.
Claire gathers her things to escape and tells us while the men are at the Oath-taking no one will be watching the stables. She goes to the kitchen to get a knife but is discovered by Mrs. Fitz as being “not in her best” and Claire discovers Rupert ended up with the lass. Mrs. Fitz drags off Claire to change and then takes her up to the upper levels of the hall, passing by a smartly dress Ron Moor and a saucy Diana Gabaldon who seems to have issues with Mrs. Fitz. Claire ends up standing with Murtagh and Mrs. Fitz watching as Colum enters the Hall.
Up on the balcony, Murtagh takes pity on Claire and translates Colum’s greeting to the Clan. Dougal then steps forward and pledges him loyalty to Colum.
“I swear by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the holy iron that I hold, to give ye my fealty, to pledge ye my loyalty, to the name of Clan MacKenzie. If ever I shall raise my hand against ye in rebellion, I ask that this holy iron shall pierce my heart.”
Claire realized right after Dougal’s oath that all the oaths are the same and leaves the balcony. She congratulates Angus but tells him she wants to leave. Angus tries to reason with her and she begrudgingly gives in saying she’ll join in pulling Port from her pocket. She takes a drink and offers it to Angus who takes a chug while Claire spits hers out. Angus thinks the Port is strong and Claire tells him it is a sedative which he seem to think is Spanish. He walks off with his tainted Port.
Claire runs to the surgery to grab her “escape bundle” and proceeds to leave only to run into Laoghaire who is seeking a love potion to get Jamie’s heart (not just his amorous attentions). Claire humors Laoghaire by giving her horse dung to sprinkle over his doorstep and click her heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like love.”
Claire then feels but comes upon three clansmen in the corridors who are drunk and wish to rape her. Dougal comes to her rescue and pulls rank getting them to flee but then turns his attentions on Claire. He tells her she shouldn’t be there which seems to mean the Castle. He tries to have his way with her but she slaps him and then as he’s about to discover her bundle, she hits him over the head with a stool.
Claire makes her way outside avoiding the sentries and into the stables where she stumble over a Jamie in the hay. Jamie realizes she’s trying to flee and proceeds to tell her how problematic her plan is because she didn’t plan on all the extra sentries Colum posted because the Hall is full of the Clan’s best fighting men. She looks forlorn and tells Jamie she’s a Sassenach as he’s pointed out. Jamie becomes concerned he’s offended her but she knows he didn’t mean it like that. She then tells him she’s knocked out Dougal and Jamie thinks it is funny she got the better of Dougal.
Jamie takes her to a secret entrance/exit to the Castle but they are set upon by Clansmen who drag Jamie into the Castle to take his oath. In the kitchen, Jamie changes his shirt with his back to a wall so the other men don’t see it. Rupert gives him a broch with the Clan MacKenzie logo on it but he won’t wear it because he’s not a MacKenzie and he tells Claire is motto is Je Suis Prest.
Jamie comes into the hall and Murtagh is upset. He tells Claire that should he pledge fealty he is in line for succession which Dougal would take exception to and kill Jamie. Should Jamie not pledge fealty they’ll kill him also. Jamie’s oath instead:
“Colum MacKenzie, I come to you as kinsman and ally. But I give you no vow, for my oath is pledged to the name that I bear. I give you my obedience as kinsman and as Laird. And I hold myself bound to your word so long as my feet rest on the lands of Clan MacKenzie.”
Colum accepts this oath and the tension in the Hall subsides and the festivities proceed.
The next day the men are gathered for a boar hunt and Claire is clearly against hunting for sport (I don’t believe she’s against it for eating as she’s partaken). Rupert warns her a boar is a dangerous thing. Claire then ends up bandaging up one of the men who was wounded by the boar when they all hear a scream. Claire runs off to help, ordering Rupert to take the injured man to the Castle. She is then nearly attacked by the boar but Dougal shoots the boar, killing it.
Claire collects herself and then finds Dougal holding a man named Geordie who is bleeding profusely form the leg. She notes the artery isn’t severed and it is possible to save his leg but then realizes he has a fatal belly wound. She signals to Dougal the man is dying and Dougal tells Geordie he’ll stay with him. Dougal loosens the tourniquet on Geordie’s leg so he doesn’t linger. Dougal and Claire work to make Geordie’s passing easier by reminiscing about the past and getting Geordie to talk about his home. Claire and Dougal stay with Geordie until he passes.
We then see them coming somberly back to the Castle with Geordie’s body. The come across a game of Shinty and Dougal joins in to take his emotions out on the players and Jamie. In the end, Jamie gets the better of Dougal (with Murtagh’s assistance) and tells him he taught him well.
Claire is in her surgery pounding herbs and speculating on escaping when Dougal comes in and notes she’s seen men die violently before. He compliments her healing and thanks her for what she did for Geordie (taking him to a peaceful place). Dougal tells her he’s there to set her free. Dougal is going to gather rents from those who can’t come for the Gathering and he’s taking her with him. They are leaving at first light.
The Gathering ends with Dougal, Rupert, Angus, Murtagh, Jamie, Claire, and possibly more riding away from Castle Leoch and Claire telling us she must not fail to get back to the stones.