What is a little competition among frenemies?
As you can see in the above exclusive clip from the upcoming fourth episode of Outlander, "The Gathering," the all-important meeting where the able-bodied men of the realm make the pilgrimage to Castle Leoch to pledge their allegiance to the clan MacKenzie is upon us.
When the Laird loyalists are not busy taking the oath, they congregate in the encampment, break bread, drink a lot, hook up, hunt boar, and cross sticks for a friendly (or actually, by the looks of this match, a not-so-friendly) game of shinty, an old Scottish Highlands sport also known as camanachd in Gaelic, which was believed to have been brought to Scotland from Ireland some 2,000 years ago and is also rumored to be one of J.K. Rowling's inspirations for Quidditch.
On his way back from bagging some bacon in the woods, Dougal (Graham McTavish) happens upon Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and other castle dwellers playing a round, grabs a stick, charges onto the green, and instantly ups the stakes. As with every interaction between the second-in-castle command and the sexy stowaway stable boy, there is so much subtext and testosterone-filled tension.
Dougal reminds Jamie the Ginger that he taught him the pastime, while the student shows the master that he's learned a few tricks of his own. It goes from afternoon amusement to — dare we say? — a stick-measuring contest between alpha males in a flash. The aggressive interaction leaves onlooker Claire (Caitriona Balfe) wondering what exactly is fair in love and shinty.
The scene also represents a departure from the Diana Gabaldon novels that inspired the series. It is one of the literary leaps that executive producer Ronald D. Moore told Yahoo TV about during a visit to the Scotland set when they were filming "The Gathering" episode last February.
"I wanted to realize the book, not change the book. But it is not a democracy. It is a piece of art. We try our best to make the best version of this story for television. Sometimes that means adding scenes. Or cutting them or tweaking them, but we always ask the questions. 'Is this Outlander? Is this still in the spirit of the book? We might change something or vary [it, but] we always get back to where the book is."
Gabaldon assured Yahoo TV that she understood changes would be made and was OK with all of the ones she knew about. Moore added, "I wanted to get Diana to sign off. As long as she felt comfortable, that gave me comfort that people who already love the book would enjoy [the show] as well."
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.