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Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s Outlander episode, “By the Pricking of My Thumbs,” stop reading now.
The hour was a big one for Dougal (Graham McTavish), whose pregnant lover Geillis (Lotte Verbeek) “summoned” Mother Nature to strike Dougal’s wife with a fatal fever and then poisoned her husband in the hopes that she and Dougal could be together.
“How did I get into the frame of mind to film a drunken brawl? Well, the obvious way is just to get completely drunk, which I didn’t do,” McTavish says of Dougal’s violent, grief-stricken outburst after learning of his wife’s death. “For me, the secret of doing a scene like that is to just to be very, very relaxed and then it unfolds around you. When you are in that state, you just go all over the place, physically and mentally. I allowed myself to find that little spot in my mind, dredged it out of my memories of what it was like to be that drunk. But the difference, I suppose, is that in this case he’s filled with remorse and self-loathing. So you draw on certainly your own experiences of regret, things that you would have liked to have done differently.”
It was an enjoyable scene to film, he says, adding that what didn’t make the final cut is the POV achieved by strapping a camera to his chest. “I really laid waste to quite a few candles. The candle-making industry has grown enormously because of Outlander,” he says with a laugh. “I remember the stunt men had to be on their toes when I was attacking them. But at the same time as making it look as though you’re out of control, you have to actually be very, very in control, because you can’t just suddenly attack somebody with a sword without giving them any warning in that situation. It’s a delicate balance.”
After the death of Geillis’s husband, Colum (Gary Lewis) informed Dougal he’d be exiled until he came to his senses. We last saw Dougal leaving with escort Jamie (Sam Heughan). “I think he’s genuinely sad. I think that rift that happens with his brother is something that he wouldn’t have sought out if he’d had his way,” McTavish says. “But he’s going on the road with his nephew. Now that will be an interesting journey. Imagine what the chat around the campfire is with them. I think it’s one of the most interesting relationships in the story: On the one hand, Dougal genuinely loves [Jamie] and holds him in great affection, but at the same time sees him as an obstacle to his ambition. That’s what makes Dougal such an interesting character to play. So certainly, when I go on the road with him, there’s some interesting stuff coming up. You haven’t seen the last of Dougal, that’s for sure.”
Does the situation prove that Dougal, too, is fallible when it comes to love? “I think one of Dougal’s weaknesses — his other one being that he can’t shut up sometimes — is that he falls for the ladies. And he falls for a very particular kind of lady, a very strong woman. Geillis is very strong, Claire is very strong, and I suspect his wife that we never meet was also very strong. So he’s a bit of a softie in some ways,” McTavish says. You’ve seen soft sides to him when his friend dies, and I’m sure we’ll see more of that. But he has a flinty side to his character that keeps him going, because he’s got his eye on the big prize, and that’s the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. So all the romance stuff is by the by for him, and that’s why him and Geillis are so good together: They’re almost like the Macbeths, you know. They have overarching ambition.”
With Geillis arrested for witchcraft at episode’s end — along with Claire — she may be paying the bigger price.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.