My blog post 2 Sides of the Same Coin from last December on the parallels in character and the relationship between Jamie Fraser and his uncle Dougal MacKenzie is my most read post EVER. So, I've known for a while that I would need to do a follow up now that I've seen some of the show. I originally thought that I would wait until the mid-season break, but then I saw Episode 104: The Gathering. First of all for a Dougal fan like me, this episode was a delicious meaty dish of subtext. The writers made it just as much about Dougal and Jamie as it was about Jamie and Claire. And Graham McTavish OWNED it. It's like the writers read my post or something.
Seriously there was so much Jamie/Dougal interplay in this episode that I half expected them to start arm wrestling at any moment. The key with this episode is that Dougal taught Jamie how to navigate clan politics just as much as he taught him to fight and play shinty. But now the student is surpassing the teacher and it is eating Dougal from the inside out. With the exception of Geordie's death and telling Claire that they were going on the road, there was nothing in this episode that Dougal did that Jamie didn't also do. I almost thought that game of shinty was going to end up with them lifting their kilts to compare their goods. Tough part for Uncle Dougal is that in all those things they both did, Jamie did them better.
- Save Claire from being accosted by drunken, lecherous faceless clansmen.
- Dougal: Saves Claire, but then proves himself dangerous by also accosting her.
- Jamie: Saves Claire and gets himself knocked on the head for it by Rupert. Sure he got knocked out, but wins chivalry points for not pawing at her when he has the chance.
- Manhandling Claire.
- Dougal: After rescuing Claire from the clansmen too drunk to find a privy, Dougal procedes to demonstrate that his interest in Claire isn't only because he thinks she's a spy. (Incidentally, Graham McTavish could pin me up against a wall any day. Hottest scene of the show.)
- Jamie: Tumbles Claire in the hay when she almost trips over him. Loses points to Dougal on this one for pulling a knife. Gains them back for that smile and the fact that he didn't take advantage of her when she was in that position. Lord knows Dougal would have. I'm calling this one a draw
- Thwarted Claire's attempt to leave.
- Dougal: Notices Claire's sack of provisions and nearly calls her out for it, but is too drunk and gets knocked on the head instead.
- Jamie: Logically convinces Claire that it would be futile to try, and tries to help her get back inside without trouble. Points to Jamie for treating Claire like the intelligent person that she is. (If you're keeping score that's Jamie 2, Dougal 0, and 1 draw)
- Lusting after Claire. (Well, who wouldn't?)
- Dougal: Dougal spends some time in the hallway drunkenly staring into Claire's eyes before groping and kissing her. He certainly gave Jamie a run for his money in the eye sex department, which is a pretty tall order after last week. Loses points though for being drunk. It's hard to tell when a guy is drunk if he's really into you or just having trouble focusing.
- Jamie: Just more of what we saw last week. Seriously, Sam Heughan could teach classes in smoldering looks.
- Swearing an oath
- Dougal: Goes first, does it with eloquence and gravity, as he should.
- Jamie: Manages to 'split the baby' by swearing an oath of obedience while on MacKenzie lands, but not out right allegiance. Very wise. Dougal of course looks on feeling a little thwarted by not being able to kill Jamie on the spot. Colum on the other hand seems impressed with Jamie's ability to navigate such a tricky situation. We're left wondering if Dougal would have been as wise had he been in Jamie's shoes.
- Drinking more than required with the oath
- Dougal: Early in the episode when Dougal gives his oath, he drinks from the quaich and then steps away and drinks considerably more. It's like the little bit of leadership (or oath taking whisky) that he shares with his brother isn't enough for Dougal. Of course, we all know it's not, but Dougal doesn't say it openly, he goes off to the side and swigs with gusto while Colum is hearing the oaths of others.
- Jamie: On the other hand, Jamie publicly and obviously drinks every drop in the quaich. In Jamie's case, he's not saying he wants more. He's saying he appreciates the MacKenzie hospitality and will honor it as long as he's there and he REALLY means it.
- Playing Shinty - This was great addition for the show. It really demonstrates the competitive and paternal relationship that these two have. Dougal clearly needing to blow off some steam after watching his friend die chooses Jamie as his punching bag because Jamie has been besting him left and right during The Gathering. Jamie accepts some of that out of respect. He clearly doesn't fight back as hard as he could. But when he's had enough, he flips Dougal over his shoulder. (Don't click Play yet.)
Still keeping score? That's Jamie 6, Dougal nil, 1 draw.
One of the benefits of making a show based on a book series is that you can in episode 4 foreshadow something that won't happen until nearly the end of the second season. Just look at the image above (providing you haven't clicked play yet. I did tell you not to). I know the script for this episode says, "I taught you this game." but I can't help looking at Dougal's face and hearing...
(You can click play now. I'll wait...)
Naturally, Dougal does manage to assert his power in the end by declaring that Claire will go with them. Sure, he says he needs a healer on the road, though that reasoning sounds flimsy. Those of us who have read the books know that he's also going to take her to Fort William to see if she's a spy. Still, after being shown up by Jamie at the oath taking and shinty, it seems a little more like Dougal is pointing out that he can take away Jamie's new friend and depending on what happens at Fort William it could be permanent. He's reminding Jamie and anyone else who might doubt it that he's still Colum's right hand man.
I should also say at this point that Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan are giving fantastic performances. Much has been made of the on screen chemistry between Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, but I think there is terrific chemistry between these two gents. I can easily believe that they are uncle/foster father and nephew/foster son. I can't wait to see them on the road in Episode 105.