Outlander recap: Is it the American Dream or nightmare?
Sassenachs! The moment you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived — the droughtlander is over, and we find ourselves on stranger shores, America in the 1760s to be precise.
But first, we open on a scene of Native Americans building fires and piles of rocks around a standing stone in North America in 2000 B.C. They dance a tribal dance similar to the one we saw at Samhain in Scotland and in Jamaica as Claire’s voice-over waxes poetic about circles. “For centuries, humans have held an endless fascination with circles, attributing meaning where they are found,” she says. “And I more than most know full well just how a circle can affect one’s life or death.”
From this metaphorical opening, we cut to the colony of North Carolina in 1767. Jamie, Claire, Young Ian, Fergus, Marsali, Lesley, and Hayes have been making their way up the coast from Georgia after washing ashore following the wreck of the Artemis in the season 3 finale. Somewhere along the way, they got into trouble as Hayes is now in prison for murder, moments away from being hanged. Jamie has made plans to create a diversion and free Hayes, but Gavin insists he wants to die for his sins and only requests a swig of whiskey (Jamie’s only got rum, sorry pal). He also asks that Jamie be the last face he looks upon when the hangman pulls the lever.
While visiting Hayes in prison, Jamie also encounters Stephen Bonnet, who asks for a sip of the rum. Jamie honors Gavin’s wishes, but when Gavin dies, Lesley, Jamie, and Gavin’s other associate from Ardsmuir run at the soldiers to try to save their friend. All hell breaks loose and in the confusion, many of the other prisoners waiting for their turn at the noose escape — including one Stephen Bonnet. We already very much don’t like this weaselly little man.
Claire and Jamie are planning to set sail for Scotland in three weeks, but they need to accomplish several things first, including selling one of the gemstones they recovered in the wreck. Lesley wants to grant Hayes a proper burial and send-off. They decide they will bury him in a consecrated graveyard that night under the cover of darkness — and Lesley launches into a Scots mourning song, which the rest of the tavern soon joins in on, revealing to Jamie just how many Scots have made a new home in America.
At night in the cemetery, Ian and Jamie dig a grave for Hayes. But Ian is overcome by the ghosts of his past, imagining Geillis Duncan bathing in blood. He and Jamie have a heart-to-heart about their shared trauma as Jamie urges him to speak about his rape and let the pain out, as Claire taught him to do. Before they can bury Gavin, a ghostly figure rises from the wagon — it’s just Stephen Bonnet stowed away. He requests to help bury his “friend” Hayes and that Jamie and Claire convey him to the river safely past the soldiers so he can make his escape.
“I won’t bother you again, you have my word,” he pledges (which is the most hilarious joke of the entire episode as we shall soon see). Jamie agrees to do it for Gavin’s memory and Claire says she’ll go with them to make things seem less suspicious. They are stopped by soldiers who insist on plunging their bayonets into the “corpse” in the wagon to ensure he’s truly dead. Bonnet doesn’t flinch -– largely because the soldiers miss and primarily stab the venison haunch.
Claire tends to Bonnet’s minor leg wound, and Bonnet marvels at the fact that she wears two wedding rings. He says he’s fascinated by the notion of an infinite circle (Bonnet have you been smoking some new American plants or what?). Bonnet opens up about his recurring nightmare that he’s drowning, the water closing over his head before he wakes up. Claire reveals she almost drowned at sea and shares a moment of connection with him. They deposit him safely at the river’s edge and he warns them to be aware of thieves in the woods. Speaking from experience, are we, Mr. Bonnet?
Claire and Jamie make camp in the woods, evaluating their own mortality after the day they’ve had. She fears she could lose Jamie again at any moment. Jamie makes a speech about how he died after she left him at Culloden, but he still went on loving her. “When my body dies, my soul will still be yours. Nothing is lost Sassenach, only changed.” SWOON. Claire points out that’s also the first law of thermodynamics, lol, and the two banish bad thoughts the way they know best — by getting it on for the first time on American soil (or at least the first time we’re aware of). It’s another moment of intense intimacy that is so unique to the series, foregrounding their mutual connection and pleasure over voyeurism.
The next morning they survey the landscape and Claire tells Jamie about what’s to come for America. That North Carolina will only be one of 50 states, and the country will be home to a diverse array of people all seeking the American Dream. It’s a dream she and Jamie share — the chance to live in a place where the only limitations are one’s own abilities and will to succeed. But, wait, stop, lest you think Claire is being lofty and starry-eyed, Jamie is here with a reality check, asking about the dark side of the American Dream and what will become of those who already called the Americas home, the natives. Claire admits it won’t be pretty, that their fate will be akin to what the English did to the Highlanders, driving them from their lands and killing them in great numbers. “A dream for some can be a nightmare others,” Jamie astutely notes, summing up the myth of the American Dream we still grapple with today.
Back in town, Jamie and Claire prepare for a fancy dinner at Mr. Lillington’s home, where Governor Tyron is a guest. They hope to find a buyer for their ruby, which Jamie has had set in a necklace for Claire so as to attract the attention of the wealthy Baron Penzler while they dine. It works, as the Baron practically buries his head in Claire’s chest to get a better look at the jewel. The dinner is also beset by complaints from other guests, including the governor and Phillip Wylie, about high taxes and the native population. It’s the early rumblings of what we know will build to the American Revolution.
The governor pulls Jamie aside after dinner to make him an offer. He wants to give Jamie a large settlement of land in the hopes that Jamie will draw other settlers to the land. He will waive the fee for the land grant if Jamie can attract and oversee more settlers, as well as swear allegiance to the King (which he has already done as a pardoned Jacobite).
Their plan works and the sale of the ruby earns them more than enough for passage back to Scotland, as well as extra funds to re-establish their careers as a printer and healer. But Jamie and Claire are also seriously considering the governor’s offer. Jamie knows there is an ulterior motive, primarily that the local government is having issues with regulators, men in the wilderness stirring up a spirit of resistance. Claire warns Jamie if they take the offer they might find themselves on the wrong side of history again; that is, Loyalists in the American Revolution. But Jamie can only think of Brianna — that they’re in the country where she was born and that he might be able to be a part of making it a good land for her 200 years in the future. Ah, Jamie, always such an idealist.
The next day they meet young Ian outside the tavern. He’s won a dog (who looks decidedly more wolf than dog) in a game of dice, thus dubbing him Rollo. I guess we should be grateful it’s not Dicey or worse, Craps! Claire and Jamie tell Ian, Fergus, Marsali, and Lesley they are going to stay in America — they’ll work out where they might settle while staying at Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s plantation known as River Run. Ian wants to stay with them, but Jamie insists they have to send him back to Jenny and his family in Scotland. Lesley asks to stay by Jamie’s side for a bit longer, while Fergus and Marsali have a happy announcement to make. Marsali is pregnant! So they’re staying too and will reside in Wilmington until after Marsali has the baby.
Claire, Jamie, Lesley, and Ian set off on a riverboat for River Run and Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta. Jamie tells Claire (and the audience — lord, this episode has a lot of exposition) a bit more about Jocasta, his mother’s sister. How she married three Cameron men in succession after their deaths and that she and her third husband fled Scotland after the rising. Claire gets high and mighty about the slave on their boat needing a rest, but the captain reveals the sailor is a free man — the captain purchased his freedom after the sailor saved his life. Given the whole riverboat setting, the situation feels a little bit too Huck Finn, i.e. look what this one good white savior did to fight slavery, but this show’s strong suit has never been its handling of race.
During the journey, Jamie gives Claire a present for their 24th wedding anniversary — it’s a doctor’s case, a wooden box full of surgical tools, herbal treatments, and a microscope. Claire is overcome with emotion and tells Jamie she gave Brianna his mother’s pearls because her ring is the only thing she ever needed from him. She touches it meaningfully, and the two have a tearful moment that suggests any hint of Claire’s regrets of returning to the past are left firmly in last season.
All seems well — romantic and idyllic really, as they make camp for the night along the river’s edge. But this is Outlander and Jamie and Claire can’t have peace for long. In the middle of the night, Rollo barks to alert them of intruders as Stephen Bonnet comes aboard with a passel of men. Bonnet’s men take Jamie out and beat him, stealing all the money he earned from selling the ruby. Lesley meets his bitter end before Claire’s eyes as Stephen slits his throat when Lesley tries to protect her. Bonnet wants Claire’s wedding rings — she sobs as she takes them from her fingers, but at the last second claps them to her mouth to swallow them. Bonnet pries her mouth apart and manages to pull one ring out. He leaves after exchanging a look with Jamie, and Claire coughs up the other ring in her mouth. It’s the gold band Frank gave her, not Jamie’s ring. She looks in horror at the ring in her hand and Lesley’s corpse on the ground.
All of this occurs while a bluesy rendition of “America the Beautiful” plays over the sequence. These horrific acts — murder and theft — committed against the soundtrack of a song that is a paean to America’s beauties. It’s the perfect entry point to this season — this notion that America is both beautiful and ugly, a land of opportunity and horrors, a place that giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.
Though what Jamie and Claire face here is terrible, it’s exciting as an audience member to see the introduction of another true villain in the series. While Geillis Duncan haunted portions of season 3, Stephen Bonnet is the natural successor to Black Jack Randall. His is a different brand of evil: a self-serving mercenary with a total lack of remorse, whereas Randall was sadistic and fueled by self-loathing. It’s made all the more delicious by the fact that Jamie and Claire assisted Bonnet, only for him to turn around and betray them for a pocketful of money, a handful of gemstones, and a plain gold band. Fans of the books know what role Bonnet still has to play; everyone else will have to wait to see what the pirate has in store.
Overall, this episode was often bogged down in exposition and catching fans up to speed on what’s happened since everyone washed ashore at the end of season 3 — and explaining who many of the new players are. But there were still several stand-out moments of connection between Jamie and Claire, and Sam Heughan continues to make Jamie Fraser the most compassionate, understanding, swoon-inducing man on television, whether he’s comforting his traumatized nephew or giving his wife a present.
In terms of where this diverges from Drums of Autumn the novel, this marked the end of Lesley, a character not in the book, but who seemed to be a stand-in for Duncan Innes, another Ardsmuir prisoner who plays a central role in this novel. What does Lesley’s death mean for Claire and Jamie? What will they do now that all their money has been stolen and they’ve been beset by a man they offered nothing but kindness too? Hit me in the comments below or @themaureenlee on twitter.
And, don’t forget to tune into EW radio on SiriusXM at 1 pm ET on Mondays for our live Outlander radio show.
Diana Gabaldon's genre-bending time travel novels come to life in the Starz series.
Outlander Series Premiere Recap: A Thoroughly Modern Woman
Season 1 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars ***
Photo: Ed Miller/Starz
Welcome to our weekly recap of Outlander. Like Game of Thrones, this Starz drama is based on a series of best-selling novels that many viewers have yet to read. We therefore ask that book fans refrain from posting comments that might spoil upcoming plotlines for anyone sampling this show without having checked out Diana Gabaldon’s books yet — and to be civil toward them as well. Thank you for understanding. And now, on to the recap.
You might think the new Starz series Outlander is about time travel and historical intrigue but you would be mostly wrong. Instead, this is a show deeply concerned with the question of whether or not a modern woman can have it all in two vastly different eras. Outlander is also a novel, well, the first of a series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. I haven’t read the books but I know four things: The books are very long; there is an intelligent, independent woman at the center of the story; there is time travel; and there is lots of hot sex. I am down with all of these things so my expectations, coming into the series pilot, may have been unreasonable, particularly with regards to that last point. I expected torrid, bosom-heaving sex during the opening credits and my hopes were instantly dashed. The opening credits involved gorgeous scenery of the Scottish plains. Everything about this show is, in fact, gorgeous — the actors and acting, the scenery, the costumes, the score.
Meanwhile, the Second World War has ended, a long, bloody affair. In a brief flashback, Claire is doing nurse work on the horrifically wounded leg of a solider — bones and blood and tendons, accompanied by some gruesome sound effects. War is hell. Life without modern medicine is something worse than hell. Then a doctor (a man, of course) strides in and sends Claire on her way because the doctor is here to save the day that has already been saved. Outside, there is celebration and cheering. A woman hands Claire a bottle of Champagne, declaring the war is finally over. Claire, drenched in a young man’s blood, her hair looking gorgeously scattered, takes a hearty swig from the bottle. Now we know, she is a badass — she can shove her hand inside a man’s bloody leg and she drinks straight from the bottle.
And then, Claire is on a second honeymoon with her historian sort of spy husband, Frank, in Scotland. It is time to reconnect in the most boring way possible — a countryside vacation. From the get-go, Frank and Claire seem like the most boring couple in the world, not only because they don’t know how to take a proper vacation. Frank is stuck in the past and prone to offering unrequested explanations of the historical significance of this and that. Some of his nattering will prove useful to Claire later but it is quite a slog to get there. The couple settles into their room at an inn, say words around each other with a brief allusion to making babies. Claire lightens the mood by pulling Frank up and they jump on the bed and then they “jump” on the bed, only we don’t get to see any of the good stuff. The proprietor is, of course, downstairs, listening to the creaking of the bed. It’s like Trillville’s “Some Cut,” 1945 style, in a Scottish inn, without rap lyrics.
In another flashback, we learn Claire spent her formative years roughing it with her uncle on various archaeological digs. This is how thoroughly modern she is! She can pee in the outdoors! She can light a cigarette! She knows things!
While visiting Castle Leoch, a grand ruin, they stumble into a musty room that is the opposite of sexy and finally, there is hope. Claire sits on a table and spreads her legs. Frank offers a quick digital survey of the terrain, noting his wife is not wearing any underwear. Before long, she is pushing Frank to his knees and he shows her vagina the proper respect. Claire isn’t even naked! She is that modern. This show is damn near heretical. Women can receive pleasure without baring their bodies for the male gaze! We know Frank is good at going down because Claire arches back dramatically and the scene fades to black. That’s how it generally works in real life, too.
While Frank does some boring history thing with a priest, Claire enjoys a good cup of oolong tea in the kitchen with Mrs. Graham and has her tea leaves read. There is no subtlety in the foreshadowing on this show. Even the episode’s title, offers us a glimpse of what is to come — Sassenach means Englishman or outlander. Foreshadowing!
There’s going to be a journey but Claire is going to stay put. Mrs. Graham is mystified so she asks to see Claire’s hand where there is more mystery—a pattern she’s not seen before. “Strong minded and a will not easily crossed,” our Claire is. We also learn she has a healthy sex drive and these lines indicating two marriages on her hands are forked not broken. Get it, girl.
Later, Claire is in her bathroom brushing her unruly hair (that is merely Hollywood unruly) and cursing (MODERN WOMAN!). Frank, on the street below, sees a Scottish man in full kilt staring up at his wife, but when he tries to confront the man, it’s as if the Scotsman wasn’t there. Foreshadowing! In their room, there is an awkward conversation that has clearly been a long time coming. Frank basically tells Claire it’s okay if she nursed one of her soldiers back to health in more ways than one. I underestimated Frank. He is a thoroughly modern man. Claire is not pleased with this tender accusation so they resolve their disagreement like most of us do, with more sex, of which we see not nearly enough, but Claire is on top, her bosoms finally heave, and once again, we see her owning her sexuality as the modern woman she is. Frank may be boring, but he is a vigorous fellow.
In the wee hours of the morning, Frank and Claire sneak off to a Druid ruin and secretly observe a beautiful ritual involving women in flowing dresses, their hair hanging long as they dance with paper lanterns in and around the stones. Frank and Claire rudely watch, and then poke around the place but must skedaddle when one of the women returns for something she has forgotten. Later, Claire who has a deep interest in botany and the healing properties of plants because she is a medical professional, decides to return to the ruin to find the plant which, she suspects, is a forget-me-not. Foreshadowing! She touches one of the large stones in the ruin and then all hell breaks loose but in a really elegant and artful way.
When she awakes, it is 1743 but Claire doesn’t know that yet. Instead, she runs around the Scottish countryside, trying to find her car even though cars haven’t been invented yet and then she happens upon some British redcoats who are giving chase and firing muskets. To Claire’s credit, she handles the situation with remarkable aplomb and she also looks amazing. Time travel and danger become her. Before long, a dastardly British soldier who resembles her husband, Jonathan Randall, aka Black Jack Randall, esquire and Captain of Dragoons, tries to have his way with Claire because we cannot have a show about a strong woman without at least a glimmer of sexual peril. We must always remember she is a woman and therefore, she is in danger.
Claire’s virtue is saved by a Scottish rogue who takes her back to his lair where a bunch of other Scottish rogues are hanging out, all brogue and kilt and dirty swagger. He knocks her out to do this so he is clearly not to be trusted. Also, he smells terrible, and thank god Claire brings this up. Whenever I contemplate history, I shudder to imagine the odor of it. Claire quickly realizes she’s going to have to play along. One of the Scotsmen, Jamie, has a dislocated shoulder. His body is amazing, and I mean, AMAZING, and he is incredibly hot. Finally, the episode becomes deeply, deeply interesting.
Claire steps in just before the Highlanders do irreparable harm to beautiful Jamie’s finely muscled arm and thank goodness. A body like his should only be handled by professionals. I volunteer as tribute. “Don’t you dare! Stand aside at once,” Claire snaps and because she is a fierce, modern woman, the Highlanders indeed step aside. This is how love begins — with the setting of bones near an open fire.
Once Jamie’s arm is set and settled in a makeshift sling, Claire is forced to travel with her captors. She rides, of course, with the strapping young Jamie, who is a rogue and a gentleman because he covers her with his tartan to keep her warm. In an uncanny coincidence, they pass near Cocknammon Rock again and Claire remembers one of Frank’s boring history stories about how the redcoats used the rock for ambushes. She shares this information and the Highlanders believe her crazy story. Jamie shoves Claire off his horse and orders her to hide. There’s a skirmish and she tries to get away but Jamie returns, looking sexier than ever because he is covered in blood like a real man. Jamie and Claire exchange words. She doesn’t want to go with him. He insists and threatens to throw her over his shoulder if she doesn’t go willingly. This entire episode might be better summarized as “foreplay is overrated,” because clearly these two are already hot for each other but we have to like, endure some “plot” and so on before we can get there.
They continue riding and suddenly, Jamie falls from his horse. Turns out he was shot during the skirmish but, typical, he was being too manly to confess his suffering. Claire starts talking her fancy modern talk about disinfecting and iodine and such and the Highlanders gape at her. Finally, she snaps, “Alcohol,” and there is a knowing nod among the men. Eighteenth century or twentieth century, alcohol is what unites our clans.
Eventually Claire and the Highlanders make their way back to Castle Leoch where only two days earlier, Frank had fallen to his knees to pay his respects to Claire’s vagina. “So far, I had been assaulted, threatened, kidnapped and nearly raped and somehow, I knew that my journey had only just begun,” Claire reflects, nestled against the firm chest of a different, hotter, way more interesting man. Alas, Claire, such is the way of most modern women.
- Are the incessant voice-overs to help us understand Claire and her predicament going to continue?
- What is she going to do about her period and birth control?
- Why on earth would she want to return to 1945 (minus of course, electricity and cars and medicine)?
- How long do we have to wait before Claire and Jamie get down?
Roxane Gay is the author ofBad Feminist, a 2014 best-selling essay collection that Vulture calls “uncommonly entertaining.”
‘Outlander’ Season 1, Episode 1 Pilot Recap: Sassenach, Meet Highlander and Go Back in Time
Time travel, romance and kilts…
Based on time travel novels by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander was turned into a TV series that first aired August 2014. The story follows nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who is a married woman during the second world war. She stumbles upon time travel in 1946 and is transported all the way back to Scotland in 1743 where she meets Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). She becomes involved in the War of the British Succession, which was a series of rebellions and uprisings. Soaps.com has recapped the pilot episode for those who have perhaps heard about the show and need more information to decide if they want to watch. For those already entranced, read Outlander Season 5 Episode 7 recap on our sister site, SheKnows which is being touted as one of the best episodes this season.
War is over, series has begun
As the series opens, Claire and Frank are on a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands. They’ve been apart except for a handful of days for nearly five years, as she worked as a battlefield nurse and he worked in intelligence during WWII. She still has flashbacks to the challenges of trying to repair wounded men on the fly, and he’s looking forward to a posting teaching history at Oxford.
They arrive in the Scottish town of Inverness, where several doorways have been coated in blood; it turns out it’s a pagan celebration – and it gives Frank a chance to show off his knowledge of Scottish history and customs (he points out local Cocknammon Rock as a hiding place for British soldiers). After a quick round on the squeaky mattress in their B&B suite, the pair head out to the countryside. Claire is interested in botany as medicine, and Frank is keen to investigate his genealogy. They pull over near some ruins – Castle Leoch, home of the MacKenzie clan in the 19th Century – and canoodle, specifically for Claire’s pleasure – if you get what we mean. This show is on premium cable for a reason.
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The thing is, they’re both genuinely nice, kind people. Claire seems to have a bit of a restless spark in her, while Frank seems to be ready to head down a path of academic boredom, but at this exact moment they feel like a pair of intimate strangers. It’s just one of the charms and heartbreaks of this show: While there are truly bad characters and villains, Frank and Claire are not two of them. You could easily imagine them going on to be a long-married couple.
But fate has other things in store – and the next day we learn that Frank has an ancestor from 200 years before who became infamous as a captain of the British Dragoons, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. We also discover what the episode title, Sassenach means: It’s a Scottish phrase for “Englishman” or, sometimes, “outlander.”
The next day the couple rises early to watch druids (or witches) hold a ritual around the standing stones of Craigh na Dun. Afterward, Frank and Claire hang around to check out the area – and she finds a flower she’d like to pluck, but can’t seem to unearth it. The next day, she goes back on her own to retrieve the flower. The wind picks up. She leans against a standing stone for balance and – everything goes black.
Not in Kansas – or the 20th century – any more
When Claire wakes, she’s still at the stones, but her car is gone. Gunshots get and cries from Redcoats send her racing into the woods, where she runs into … Frank! But not Frank: This is his ancestor Black Jack (also played by Menzies), and he decides she’s a loose woman based on her clothing and the fact that she swears once. (Claire doesn’t know it yet, but she’s been sent back over 200 years). Black Jack then tries to violate Claire, but gets knocked out by a clansman before he can do the deed; the clansman brings Claire to his leader, Dougal (Graham McTavish). But before they decide what to do with Claire, they’ve got an injured clansman who needs help: Hello, Jamie! Claire uses her nursing skills to assist, and he gives her a ride on his horse back to Castle Leoch.
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Claire spots Cocknammon Rock on the way and, recalling Frank’s history lesson, warns the men of potential ambush. Jamie pushes her off the horse and charges into danger. Claire tries to escape in the melee that follows, but Jamie doesn’t let her get away that fast and they ride through the night until Jamie falls off the horse – he was shot in the ambush and needs Claire’s tender cares again. Finally, they arrive at Castle Leoch – no longer the ruin Claire and Frank fooled around in, but intact and populated.
“So far, I had been assaulted, threatened, kidnapped and nearly raped. And somehow I knew that my journey had only just begun,” she narrates as the episode comes to a close.
Claire has no idea how right she is!
Outlander can be found for binge-watching on Hulu, Netflix, and Starz, or the recaps can be found on SheKnows, each Sunday. Feel free to discuss the series in our Primetime TV message board.
Outlander series premiere recap: Sassenach
“Yo, sh–, Outlander! You ever read this? Lady travels back in time to Scotland… Hooks up with this big sexy outlaw type, and they be gettin’ it day in and day out. Yo, it’s hot!”
Obviously, there’s no topping Litchfield literary critic Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson’s synopsis of Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling book series–upon which Starz’s new drama is based–so I’m not even going to try. But, for the next 16 episodes, I have accepted the challenge of being your intrepid tour guide through the treacherous wilds of the 18th-century Scottish Highlands (kilts optional).
If you’ve somehow missed the hype surrounding Outlander (and, really, you’d need to be a 1700s-dwelling clansman to have done so), the Starz adaptation has plenty of big names behind it. It’s executive produced by Ronald D. Moore of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica fame and boasts a hauntingly beautiful score by his BSG collaborator Bear McCreary. The lush, painstaking craftsmanship shows.
The premiere opens on a grisly scene only alluded to in the book series—a flashback to our protagonist, English army nurse Claire Randall, furiously tending to a soldier’s mangled leg while a femoral artery spurts red droplets onto her pretty porcelain face. Tough as nails, she wipes the blood away, nonplussed, and as she leaves the quarters, is consumed by a cheering throng. The war is over. It’s VE-Day. She swigs a bottle of proffered champagne in somber celebration.
Back to the future: Claire has reunited with her husband Frank, a historian who served as an intelligence officer in the war, dispatching spies to the frontlines. With the business of suturing and surveillance behind them, they arrive in Inverness for a sort of second honeymoon, to reacquaint themselves with each other after five years apart. But they’re met with a rather inauspicious welcome: blood on the doorposts.
“I had no idea Inverness was such a hot bed of contemporary paganism,” Claire jokes good-naturedly.
“Oh, my dear, there’s no place on Earth with more magic and superstition mixed into its daily life than that of the Scottish Highlands,” Frank explains. (Also: foreshadowing!)
As it turns out, the couple have arrived on the eve of a Halloween-like holiday. So there’s that.
Claire and Frank shuffle into their room, apprehensive about how to behave with one another after such a long absence. Timidity melts into playfulness as Franks tests out the squeaky bedsprings. “So much for marital privacy,” he muses, before he and Claire noisily hop on the mattress together, warming even more. She confides that she tried to remember his laugh during the war but couldn’t. He confesses that he once doodled the lines of her hand into the margins of an important military document. Moments later we hear—though not see—their re-consummation.
The couple haven’t come to Scotland to simply stare at the ceiling of their B&B, though. Frank’s interest in history (specifically his genealogy) and Claire’s in botany lead them to a day touring the countryside. As they ramble through the Highlands they spy Cocknammon Rock, which Frank explains used to serve as a hiding spot for British soldiers ambushing the Scots in the 17th and 18th century. They finally pull their car over at a set of ruins: Castle Leoch, home of the MacKenzie clan through the middle of the 19th century.
NEXT: Let’s talk about sex, baby
If you’d forgotten that Outlander does indeed air on Starz—a network which my colleague Jeff Jensen so eloquently described in his review as one “with a reputation for gratuitous flesh and boning”—this scene serves as one hell of reminder. As the couple explore the castle and descend deeper into its depths, Claire positions herself atop one of the scattered tables and not-so-subtly hitches her skirt to reveal a garter. Frank approaches, and she guides his head between her legs.
Though hardly gratuitous (or lingering), this isn’t the kind of sex scene you see on most networks (or even in R-rated movies if the MPAA has anything to say about it). Reviews have heralded Outlander as the “anti-Game of Thrones“ and “the feminist answer to Game of Thrones,” and in so far as its handling of Claire’s sexuality, I’d tend to agree. The female gaze is strong with this one.
But what makes this moment even more intriguing is that it isn’t included in Gabaldon’s source material. In fact—and without getting too spoilery for non-book readers—the author reveals in a later chapter that Frank never performed that particular sex act on Claire. I can only speculate as to why Moore decided to add it here. Perhaps he wanted to be as explicit as possible about his heroine’s sexual agency to further contrast the cruel and misogynistic world she’s later thrown into. Or perhaps he wanted to establish a stronger bond between Claire and Frank than the one presented in the books—to up the stakes, as it were. (In just one episode, TV Series Frank already seems preferable to Book Series Frank, right?)
The next day, Frank visits Reverend Wakefield to research his ancestor Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, a captain of dragoons in the English army, who canvassed the Highlands during the Jacobean rising. He and Claire (and by extension, the audience) are also treated to an etymology lesson: The episode’s title “Sassenach” is Scottish for “Englishman” or “at worst, outlander,” the reverend explains. Claire excuses herself to drink a spot of oolong with housekeeper Mrs. Graham, who offers to read her tea leaves. She sees a journey. But also staying put. And strangers. But one of them is Frank. Confused, she asks to examine Claire’s hand, which also proves puzzling. Claire has two marriage lines. Except the lines aren’t broken–they fork.
Frank sets their alarm clock extra early so he and Claire can watch witches (really, druids) perform a ritual in the wee morning hours around the standing stones of Craigh na Dun. And it is entrancing. A dozen or so women draped in billowing white robes and holding torches aloft chant and dance around the outcropping until the sun peaks through the trees. When Frank and Claire linger to investigate their surroundings, Claire spots an interesting flower, perhaps a forget-me-not. But she’s unable to pluck a specimen before they depart, so she returns alone the next day to retrieve it. As she does so, the wind suddenly picks up. She braces against one of the majestic stones and the screen goes black. Through voiceover and accompanying flashback, Claire likens the sensation to that of being in a car accident (an interesting visual to eschew the typical swirling time-travel vortex), and she awakens at the stones.
Her car is nowhere to be found.
NEXT: I would walk 500 miles…
The silence is broken by gun shots and Red Coat cries. Flustered and scared, Claire bolts through the woods until she comes face to face with Frank. Except it’s not Frank. It’s his nearly identical ancestor Black Jack, at her service. She gives him her maiden name, Beauchamp, to avoid suspicion, but when she lets an expletive fly, he takes her for a whore and tries to rape her. (We’re not in the 20th century anymore, Sassenach.) Thankfully, a marauding clansman knocks Randall out before he gets too far, fleeing with Claire in tow. He takes her to his leader, Dougal, who decides to sort things out back at Castle Leoch. They can’t depart, however, until injured clansman Jamie is tended to—his shoulder is painfully dislocated. As the men are about to inelegantly muscle it back into place, Claire sternly intervenes, using her capable hands to skillfully right his shoulder. He thanks her, and in gratitude, as they mount his horse together, he offers to share his plaid with her. “You’re shaking so hard it’s making my teeth rattle,” he says with a sly grin. Chivalry isn’t an entirely foreign concept to this ragtag group, at least. (Perhaps Jamie can give my most recent date some pointers…)
As they pick their way through the woods, Claire recognizes a familiar site: Cocknammon Rock. She warns the men of a potential ambush, prompting Jamie to push her off his horse and charge headlong into danger. Claire uses the raucous to escape, but her patient quickly finds her, warning, “If you don’t walk, I shall pick you up and throw you over my shoulder.” Is that a promise or a threat?
They continue to ride into the night until Jamie himself unceremoniously falls off of his horse. He was shot during the scuffle and didn’t bother mentioning it. Claire once again tends to him (this will continue to be a recurring theme, so get used to it). “Thank you, Sassenach—truly,” he says before they’re off again in the hopes of evading Randall and his army. As they arrive at the castle—the same now-ruined outpost Claire and Frank visited just two days before—Claire realizes just how far from home she truly is.
“So far I had been assaulted, threatened, kidnapped, and nearly raped, and somehow, I knew that my journey had only just begun.”
Bad news for Claire, good news for us.
Diana Gabaldon's genre-bending time travel novels come to life in the Starz series.
Ep 1 outlander
List of Outlander episodes
Wikipedia list article
Outlander is a television drama series based on the Outlander series of historical time travel novels by Diana Gabaldon. Developed by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz, the show premiered on August 9, 2014. It stars Caitríona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married former World War II nurse, later surgeon, who in 1946 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743 where she meets and falls in love with the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings.
As of May 10, 2020,[update] 67 episodes of Outlander have aired, concluding the fifth season. Starz has renewed the series for a sixth and seventh season. In June 2021, Starz announced the sixth season is scheduled to premiere in early 2022 with a shortened eight-episode season while the seventh season consists of 16 episodes.
Season 1 (2014–15)
Season 2 (2016)
Season 3 (2017)
Season 4 (2018–19)
Season 5 (2020)
- ^The episode was first made available on February 14, 2020, exclusively to Starz subscribers only on the Starz app and Starz On Demand.
The sixth episode of the season is titled "The World Turned Upside Down" and was written by Toni Graphia.
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As luck would have it, there was a group of men to her right. She had already cursed herself for wearing such an open swimsuit, why these sequined thongs - ridiculous, she felt stupid. Untied her loincloth, Lera. Freed herself from the pareo and went to the water.
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I really want you to come. Take a taxi, go to the corner of Artyom and Shevchenko, I will meet you at the crossroads in 20 minutes. For the money, don't worry, Oleg gives you a taxi. In general, we are waiting for you, everyone.