Is this real life?! More than two years after it was announced that Outlander just might be headed for the small screen, the day we've been waiting no-so-patiently for is finally (finally!) here. Though Starz has hosted screenings and even released the pilot episode on demand last week, tonight is the officially official series premiere of Outlander, and to celebrate, we present Anna Bowling's recap in the hopes that this week—and every week the show airs—you will read and enjoy and join us to discuss every tiny delicious detail of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser's epic journey (and, okay, yes, we'll especially be obsessing over every single scene featuring her beloved Scot, one James “Jamie” Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser). And now, let's get this show on the road...
This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Outlander, including last night's Season 1, episode 2, “Castle Leoch.” Enjoy!
Now that Claire knows she’s not in the twentieth century anymore, what is she going to do about that? The journey she, Jamie and the others have taken ends at Castle Leoch, familiar to them, and to Claire, but for different reasons. Claire is a stranger to all that’s familiar to her companions, and of course she sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. She’s with Jamie, though, so it can’t be all bad, can it?
Into the courtyard races the enthusiastic Mrs. Fitzgibbons, who runs an appraising eye over Claire’s very modern attire. She determines to feed this newcomer and find her something to wear that’s, well, more. Not so fast there, Mrs. Fitz, as Claire insists on treating Jamie’s wound first. Mrs. Fitz agrees. Could it be that Claire has an ally already? Past and present swirl around Claire as she walks down the same halls she walked with Frank in another life.
They find Jamie, shirtless, seated in front of the fire. Claire takes down his plaid and sees the maze of scars that cover his back. Jamie explains those scars come courtesy of the Redcoats. As to how he could survive such beatings, they found no joy in flogging a dead man and so let him live. The air fairly crackles with tension here as Claire questions Jamie, who has an answer for everything. He was flogged the first time for escape, the second for theft. As to why he was escaping, he was being held prisoner, on charges of murder and obstruction.
Claire doesn’t know what obstruction is, but fear not, viewers, we have a flashback to clue us all in. A long train of Redcoats, their supply wagons and the dastardly Black Jack Randall make their way along the road to Jamie’s family home. His father, Jamie relates, was away at a funeral that day, and it’s Jamie who responds to the screams of his sister, Jenny, under assault by the marauding soldiers. Jamie intervenes, but Randall has Jenny at gunpoint. Not wanting to cause Jenny harm, Jamie stands down. Randall doesn’t release Jenny and rends her dress, baring her breasts. That, Jamie tells Claire in the present, is what happens to those who defy the English. Jamie is whipped while Jenny is forced to watch, and the fact that Jamie takes this with stoic resolve only makes Randall angrier.
Claire keeps things professional even while getting up close and personal with Jamie’s person. Jamie says her husband is a lucky man. This doesn’t cheer Claire, as she wonders what Frank must be going through right now. Does he think she’s been kidnapped, is she dead, or worst of all, did she leave him for another man? Jamie sees Claire’s concerned reaction and offers that at least her husband is alive, to which Claire replies that he’s not. Patched up for now, Jamie has places to be and leaves Claire to her own devices, offering that someone will want to speak to her before long. Claire, alone, finds this a bit much to take in.
The next morning, Mrs. Fitz wakes the house, Claire included. There’s hot porridge and water for washing, and it’s time for new clothes. Mrs. Fitz gawks at Claire’s bra, asking what sort of corset that might be. Claire explains it’s called a brassiere, and is from France. Claire strips to the skin and dresses eighteenth century style, in shift, corset, bum roll, and long plaid gown. Now, Mrs. Fitz declares, Claire is ready to be taken to himself.
Himself, of course, being Colum Mackenzie, laird of the clan. Claire knows that if she’s going to survive in her new environment, she’d best not only know where and when she isn’t, but where and when she is. By the clothes and weapons, she narrows it down to the eighteenth century. Colum arrives and wastes no time in taking Claire’s measure. His brother, Dougal, found Claire in apparent distress.
Claire takes umbrage to that. Apparent? She was captured and nearly raped by soldiers. She’s going to need transport back to Inverness as soon as possible. Remembering sage advice that the best lies stick as closely as possible to the truth, Claire spins her cover story. She’s a widowed lady from Oxfordshire, and blames Black Jack Randall for stripping her of her clothes. She has an answer for all of Colum’s questions, and at last, he agrees to let her travel with a tinker due to be passing through in five days’ time. Until then, she has the hospitality of the clan.
Claire’s head whirls. In five days, she can head back to Inverness and the standing stones, one in particular, and hopefully be on her way home. She does know a little about this time, from museums and books and art, but actually living in it is like stepping onto an alien planet she’d only seen through a telescope. She watches a young boy play with the usually gruff Dougal, and wonders if this time and her own are really that different after all.
At dinner, Claire takes her seat next to Dougal and his wife at the high board. Her glass and plate are both kept full, and Dougal peppers her with questions. Why is her name pronounced “Beecham?” Um, because that’s her name? Dougal seizes on that. Shouldn’t it be pronounced “Beauchamp?” It’s French. Claire spins a tale of some ancestor who Anglicized it, but when Dougal presses for specifics, it’s Frank’s words that come back to remind her she’s fallen for the oldest trick in the book; ply the prisoner with food and wine and continue the interrogation. She’s going to have to do better than that if she wants to survive the next five days.
The next day, she finds Jamie in the stable, leading a magnificent white horse through its paces, two beautiful beasts moving in concert. She changes his bandage and brings him lunch, their easy rapport cut short when Jamie is called back to work. Claire charges him not to get flogged or stabbed, but he can make no promises.
Mrs. Fitz puts Claire to work harvesting food for the kitchen, a task Claire loves. She encounters Geillis Duncan, who points out she’s harvesting poisionous mushrooms. Claire fires back with their medicinal use, and Geillis shows Claire an herb that can rid a woman of an unwanted child.
At the hall that night, Claire diagnoses Colum’s ailment as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome, and deduces he’s living on borrowed time…as is Laoghaire, a girl accused by her father of loose behavior. Geillis translates for Claire, who is stunned when Jamie volunteers to take the girl’s punishment on himself. The instrument will be fists, and Jamie takes yet another brutal beating, one that must go on until blood is spilt.
Claire insists on treating these new wounds, and demands to know why Jamie took the beating. Does he know Laoghaire? His only answer is that it’s easier for him to recover from the punishment than could that slip of a girl. Oh, Jamie, this is why we love you. Claire gives Jamie aftercare instructions, telling him she’ll be gone in a few days, but it’s not that easy. She’s all ready to depart with the tinker when Dougal escorts her back through the castle, into the very room where she and Frank once –er, will one day- break down the door. It’s not a kitchen, as they’d thought, but an apothecary. Colum waits for them there and informs Claire that they are in need of a healer, and Claire will take that role.
Is she a prisoner, Claire asks? Only, Column cautions, if she tries to leave.
Lines of the week:
Claire: Try not to get flogged or stabbed today
Jamie: No promises, Sassenach
Claire: Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master Mackenzie?
Next episode: “No Way Out”
The Outlander party never stops at H&H—visit our official collection for Diana Gabaldon's Outlander to read a Beginner's Guide, What to Read After Outlander, In Defense of Laoghaire, 5 Things the TV Series Shouldn't Change, all the latest news, and so much more.
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.