It’s hard to figure out what’s simmering beneath the surface of Dougal’s masked countenance. I thought it would be fun to explore the possibilities in “The Gathering.”
At the oath taking, Dougal is the first in line to swear his allegiance to Colum, but it looks more obligatory than anything else. He looks irritated and resentful of the fact that he has to kneel before his brother and kiss his hand. It’s required, but it’s not genuine or done with any measure of true affection. Instead, it appears to be a requirement of maintaining his status and position within the clan.
There appears to be an uneasy truce between the brothers; Colum knows his time as laird is compromised by his illness, and he seems to sense Dougal is poised and ready to pounce the second he is gone. Dougal isn’t happy about the delay or his present position, evidenced by the whisky he swigs after taking the oath.
Claire’s plan to escape Castle Leoch takes an unexpected turn when she encounters some drunken clansmen in a darkened hallway of the castle. It’s three against one until Dougal shows up and sends them on their way – a gallant move on his part. Then something changes. Sure, he’s drunk, but he lowers himself to the level of the men he just defended Claire against. She tells him, “I should go. I shouldn’t be here.”
Instead of letting her go or escorting her to safety, Dougal decides to take advantage of the situation. “Aye. Ye shouldna be here. But since ye are, there’s a penalty to pay for that,” he whispers as he kisses her and pulls at her skirts. After she slaps him, he says, “Get ye gone lass, before you pay a greater price.” Perhaps the slap brought a shred of respect and decency to the surface.
The hunt – going after that hairy pig. Claire openly scoffs at Rupert until she realizes the danger she’s in when a boar comes after her. Somehow, Dougal is in the right place at the right time and kills the boar (and most likely saving Claire’s life in the process). There’s no time for “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” as Geordie has been seriously wounded by a boar (I’m not sure if it’s the one Dougal killed or another one, but it really doesn’t matter). When faced by the impending death of his friend, Dougal shows great compassion and tenderness as he tries to ease Geordie’s pain and fear. We finally get a glimpse of vulnerability beneath that stoic exterior – rarely revealed emotions of pain, heartache, and loss.
Image credit: Three If By Space
Perhaps it’s heightened emotions over the loss of Geordie and seeing the men enjoying a game of shinty that sets Dougal off. He plows headlong into the game, attempting to reassert his dominance over it and the players, particularly Jamie.
The highlander’s game of shinty appears to be pretty much a free-for-all, and in the end it comes down to a battle of strength and wills between Jamie and Dougal. Jamie’s victory must have been a blow to Dougal’s pride, but perhaps he feels it’s wise not to press his luck over the stronger, younger lad. Not now, anyway.
In one, last look at Dougal, I can’t help but think he’s got an agenda for Claire. He comes to visit her in her surgery and thanks her for what she did for poor Geordie on the hunt. She downplays what efforts she made, wishing she could have done more. Then, for a brief moment, Dougal’s softer, emotional side emerges. “You took him to a peaceful place, and that’s all any of us can ask when we pass.”
His guard back up, the Dougal in charge re-emerges. He tells Claire he’s going on the road and is taking her with him. When Claire questions why, he tells her, “I think it would be wise to have a healer along, especially one who does well under strain. And there’s plenty of that on the road.”
I wondered about the motives behind Dougal’s decision. Did he take a healer along on past trips? Surely, it’s more work taking a woman along, even if she is a healer. Does he think he can find a way to get rid of her? My thought is she could be a valuable bargaining chip against the English if the need arises. There’s more to Dougal than meets the eye, so it’s wise to look closely.