Outlander Recap: The Time-Traveler's Strife

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Q: What’s black and blue and plaid all over?

A: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, by the end of this week’s Outlander.

Yep, Big Red takes a beating both in flashback and the present, but it’s Claire who receives the hour’s biggest sucker punch – metaphorically speaking – when her only escape plan is curtailed at the last minute. Those wily Scots!

So sing me a song of a lass that is gone, and we’ll review the major developments of “Castle Leoch.”

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JAMIE’S BACK STORY | We rejoin Claire and the bedraggled band of travelers right where we left them, in the courtyard at Castle Leoch. Mrs. Fitzgibbons, the castle’s domestic goddess, is slightly scandalized by Claire’s lack of stays. And petticoat. And about 10 other items of clothing. But when Jamie mentions that Claire knows a little about medicine – “Ye’re a healer, then?” “Something like that.”– the older woman takes notice and basically strong-arms him into letting Claire examine his wounds again.

In a cozy room inside the castle, Jamie sits, shirtless, in front of the fireplace. Say it with me, all ye who’ve been waiting years to see this moment live and in the strapping flesh: Ahhhh. His back is an ugly mess of scars that Claire can’t help but notice. “Redcoats,” he says by way of explanation. “Flogged me twice in the space of a week.”

The basics: When British troops, headed by Black Jack Randall, came to the Fraser household and started causing trouble a few years back, Jamie threw some punches. That caused Randall to hold a gun to Jenny’s head, rip the bodice of her dress and then force Jamie to look at his humiliated, half-nude sister while Randall threatened to rape her. Good guy, eh? All of the fisticuffs led to Jamie getting flogged, arrested and taken to a nearby military fort.

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Jamie’s tale of woe distracts Claire for a moment, but then it starts to dawn on her how surreally, inexplicably, majorly screwed she is — particularly when Jamie asks if her husband is alive. (Technically, remember, he’s not.) The realization causes her to start crying.

Without hesitation, Jamie wraps his good arm around her and makes little noises to calm her. He kind of kneels to come closer to her; in the book, he pulls her onto his lap, leading to an American Pie-style moment I’m glad the series chose to skip; it always felt a bit Harlequin-y to me. (But if you disagree, I wanna hear it in the comments.)

Claire finishes crying and pulls herself together while Jamie promises her that she never needs to be afraid while he’s with her. But what about when she’s not with him? He counsels her never to forget that she’s a Brit in Scotland.

MEETING HIMSELF | It’s too bad Post-Its haven’t been invented yet, because – as the hour progresses – Claire could really use a handy, visual reminder of Jamie’s advice. After a long nap and some styling by Mrs. Fitz, Claire at least looks the part of an 18th-century Scottish lady. (Side note: As I watch Claire stripped and fitted with, in addition to other acoutrements, a bustle to broaden her hips, I wonder yet again: WHY did I not live during this time period? Mrs. Fitz would’ve sized me up, tossed the bustle to the side and been like, “Och, lassie? I think we’re good here.”)

Outlander Season 1 RecapSoon after, Claire is summoned to meet Dougal’s brother, Colum, the laird (aka boss) of the castle. He’s cordial, shrewd and – as Claire’s voice-over informs us – sporting the painfully bowed legs of someone suffering from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.

She explains that she’s a widow on her way to stay with family in France. Colum is just as wary of the Sassenach and her story as his brother is, but he’s a wee bit more polite about it. And while Claire’s in his study, she gets two key pieces of info: It’s 1743, and she can catch a ride on a transport to Inverness in five days.

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MAKING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE | But that’s a long way off, and there’s lots of trouble the outlander can get herself into before then. One night at dinner, for instance, she nearly causes a familial incident when she incorrectly infers that Colum’s son, Hamish, is actually Dougal’s offspring. And don’t forget: Pretty much everyone there thinks she’s a British covert agent. But Claire makes herself useful by tending to Jamie’s injury, walking out to the paddock where he works to bring him lunch and change the dressing on his shoulder.

Outlander Season 1 RecapIt’s during one of those visits that Claire finds out why Jamie’s been using a fake last name – MacTavish — and hiding out in the stables: He’s wanted for murder, because when some friends came to break him out of the fort, a soldier died. Jamie didn’t do it or anything, but the British forces don’t seem to care very much about precise details.

He confesses to Claire that there’s a price on his head, but that his uncles Dougal and Colum are allowing him to stay at the castle for now.

TAKE ONE FOR THE TEEN | Claire also makes friends with Geillis Duncan, an odd bird of a woman who seems a little drama-club, even given the fact that every single person looks like they just stepped outta RenFaire. “They say I’m a witch,” she humblebrags. Still, she’s amiable and doesn’t outright accuse Claire of being a British spy, so… best friends 4eva! The two women attend a community meeting at the hall, aka listening to Colum rule (in Gaelic) about complaints brought before him (in Gaelic). Bottom line: There’s a lot of un-subtitled Gaelic.

The biggest stir comes when an angry dad brings in his young blonde teenage daughter and demands that Colum punish her for loose behavior. To save the girl – whom he barely knows — from public shame, Jamie volunteers as tribute steps up to take a beating in her stead. And what begins as a sweet gesture (Jamie later explains that he’ll bounce back from the physical blows much faster than she’d recover from the humiliation) gets ugly when Dougal has his minion, Rupert, beat Jamie to a pulp. A pretty pulp, but still. Think there’s a little in-family tension there?

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NOT SO FAST! | Claire rushes out to make sure her patient isn’t too badly bruised (he’s not), and the pair do some very subtle flirting before she informs him she’s leaving in the morning for Inverness. He’s clearly disappointed, but bids her farewell as the girl from hall – Laoghaire, Mrs. Fitz’s granddaughter – stares at him from the doorway as though she’d like to drizzle honey all over his bannock, if you know what I mean.

The next day, Claire’s exit is delayed when Colum wants an audience with her. (Side note: Please let this show make armwarmers a thing we all do. I love them.) She’s taken to the small room where she and Frank, in the 1940s, went at it in the pilot. Turns out, Castle Leoch had a healer who died of a fever, and the room was his surgery.

Claire’s all, “That’s great. Now which way is the hell outta here?”, but Colum has another idea: She’ll be the new castle medic. “But I’m leaving,” she protests. “No, you’re staying,” he replies, countering her assertion that his decree makes her a prisoner. “Only if you try to leave,” he says, leaving her there to sob, alone.

Now it’s your turn. Thoughts on the episode? Sound off in the comments!

 

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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55 Comments
  1. Kayline says:

    Much better ep, brings in politics, color and culture of the 18th century and expands the story. Well done

  2. christine says:

    Loved it! Great show!!!!

  3. Erin says:

    This review is glorious. Remember how Jamie in the books talks about marrying versus burning? IMMA BURNING OVER HERE FROM THEIR SEXUAL TENSION AND IT’S ONLY EP 2 HOLY HELL

  4. C G says:

    Verra well done episode and summary!

  5. JAO says:

    Great recap! I think I need to watch the episode again as I’ve missed most of Jamie’s explanation as I was too busy imagining myself sittin’ next to him in the hay. This story is so exquisitely unfolding. I love this show !

  6. Excellent recap. Now I’ll just go suffer through Big Red again to make sure you dinna miss anything. ;)

  7. B says:

    Did Jamie actually say his last name was Fraser? I thought he just confirmed that it wasn’t MacTavish. Guess I’ll have to watch again. Darn.

  8. Ian says:

    Your recaps are more fun to read than it is to watch the show, I’m finding. There’s something oddly absorbing when your watching it, but then afterward, you just feel like it was an ok way to kill an hour. There’s something missing, that special something that a show can either have or doesn’t.
    If they’d cast anyone other than Sam Heughan for Jamie, I’m thinking they’d have nothing.

  9. Sheila says:

    A friend of mine read that the reason the Gaelic isn’t subtitled is because they want us to feel the same as Claire, since she doesn’t understand it.

  10. Excellent episode – I am loving everything about this intelligent, riveting, thought-provoking show. Can’t wait for next Saturday’s episode!

  11. Loving this show. Its establishing an atmosphere for itself that is different than anything else on TV. Everything about this show is so beautiful to look at!!!

  12. Thank you for the great review!!!

  13. liz says:

    What happened to Jenny after Jaime was knocked out? I think he said she went with Randall, but then what happened to her?

    • Ruby says:

      It will be revealed later.

      • Zayne says:

        I would just like to say thank you for not giving spoilers. Reading this comments section is refreshing after having to skim on Game of Thrones comments sections and pray some a-hole doesn’t blow out a spoiler.

    • Ryan says:

      I’m a non-book reader, so this is pure speculation from me, but when he said “she went with him” I pretty much took that to mean Randall raped her.

      • Kathy Green says:

        So we are made to assume. I have read the books and all I will say is I hope they stick with the book… they have varied quite a bit already.

        • TopHat says:

          Not with the story they haven’t.

          • 17201artlady says:

            A few things they have, one in particular that bothered me was what happened between Claire and Frank in what turns out to be Claire’s surgery later on.I don’t want to say too much because I know there are non-book readers on here but something is said later on between Jamie and Claire that lets you know specifically that that hadn’t happened between them!

          • Kathy Green says:

            There have been lots of differences from the books. I have read them 8 times so I am confident when I say this.

          • 17201artlady says:

            Also, in the book, Colum never told Claire she could leave with the tinker or whatever, he just said she was a “welcome guest at Leoch.” (at least until he could find out who she really is). That’s why in the book the surgery is kind of a welcome distraction for her! Rather than in the show where it seems an unfair turn of events. (Dont get me wrong…I’m loving the show! And I don’t expect everything to be exactly the same, as long as the basic storyline is followed. It’s just that, when you’ve read the books so many times over…it’s had NOT to notice the discrepancies!) :)

  14. GhostWolf says:

    Kim, Kim. Your recaps are always so enjoyable (thinking back to Sleepy Hollow) and this is one isn’t any different.

  15. Stanislava says:

    I’m already halfway through the second book after watching the first episode last week :) This episode was even better – thoroughly enjoy the show!

  16. taratama says:

    I love how they’re adapting it and really showing how dangerous it is for both claire and jamie. I also love the recap and that’s from a reader of the books. BUT did anyone else notice that mrs fitz calling claire a witch?! but mrs fitz loved claire in the books… i hope it’s a dream or something….

    • K says:

      I too noticed Mrs. Fitz’s apprehensive reaction to Claire but she did seem to be warming up to her near the end of the episode. I just chalked it up to the normal superstition of the era, especially given the state in which Claire arrived and the fact that she’s English. I was a bit more surprised that they didn’t show more of Mrs. Fitz’s own medical skills. If I remember correctly from the book, it’s she who kind of takes the lead in patching Jamie up after he takes the beating for Laoghaire. I also remember listening to an interview with the actor’s and they mentioned the scene where Claire and Mrs. Fitz are applying leeches to Jamie’s bruised face. Apparently they were using black liquorice in place of leeches and it kept falling off of Sam’s face, I’m hoping that scene will be in next week’s episode!

    • Alichat says:

      I saw that in the promo for next week’s ep. I was wondering if that happened in the books or if it’s a moment where Claire is envisioning the reaction if she told Mrs Fitz the truth. If it really happened, I’m curious to see how she gets out of that situation….having been slapped and called a witch by someone so beloved in the castle.

      • K says:

        I just saw the promo too and to answer your question, no that scene with Mrs. Fitz did not happen in the book. I suspect and am hoping, that it is just what you suggested where Claire is imagining the reaction she would receive if she were to tell anyone the truth about herself. The locals suspicion of Claire’s medical knowledge does continue to play an important role though.

      • Tawnya says:

        That “clip” is what brought me to this site! I have read the books multiple times and could not remember ANYWHERE that Mrs. Fitz called Claire a witch! Thought I was losin’ my mind!!! I hope too that it turns out she’s just “tempted” to tell someone and she’s imagining the reaction!

        • miracle says:

          DG said we shouldn’t worry too much about some scenes. They sometimes only show what Claire’s thinking or dreaming.

      • Ray says:

        I hope there are real witches on this show! That Geilis sure fits the part.
        At the very least I hope to see some kind of Druid magick.

        I tuned in due to all the buzz around this show but having witches? That would be a killer hook!

    • Wo says:

      K, you must not have been paying attention. That was Claire wanting to confide to Mrs. Fitz, but then imagining what would happen if she did. We were seeing what was going thru Claire’s head causing her to decide not to say anything.

  17. Waiting a week for the next episode is killing me. I’m so enjoying this series.

  18. Ruby says:

    The only problem with the casting of Sam Heughan is that I’m so busy staring at him, mouth agape at how beautiful he is, that I miss half of the actual plot. Where did they find this guy? He is extraordinarily sexy.

  19. LABete says:

    Lol! Big Red! I keep imagining that phrase spoken in a deep baritone, like in on of those cheesy folk songs from the 60’s ! Anyway, thanks for that and for the entertaining recap. I still love the show. I loved seeing the castle life and especially loved the scene when Claire is obviously afraid to go with Dougal down into what she thinks is the “Troll’s Dungeon” and that readers know will be her apothecary. Of course I loved all the Jamie scenes. I can’t wait to get to see him when he is not taking a beating of some kind, though.

  20. pam says:

    Great episode. I’m a huge fan of the books and ron moore has so far done an excellent job of adapting the story to film. This review is the best I’ve read so far. Other reviews keep making mistakes and are truly uninformed of what is what. Keep up the good works tv line!

  21. Jenny says:

    Great review!
    I love the arm warmers too! Lol

  22. Kathy Green says:

    As an avid Outlander fan, (I have read the books about 8 times) I really, really want to like this show. I am just not feeling it :( I expected episode 1 to lull since the first couple chapters do drag, but episode 2 could have followed closer to the books and been better. I hope the momentum picks up soon and they stick to the books rather than grab and run with the poetic license that I have seen so far.

    • TopHat says:

      Specifics? Where is “the grab and run”?

    • K says:

      As a fellow book reader I can completely understand where you’re coming from but I think the thing all of us familiar with the story must keep in mind is the practical difficulties involved in adapting a story to the screen. It is obviously essential that certain scenes be cut as they add little to the overall plot and would only serve to slow the story down. What I’ve been impressed with so far is the showrunners commitment to preserving the essential scenes from the book and even fleshing them out a bit via flashbacks. I think a common complaint that viewers will likely have over the next couple of episodes is the somewhat slow pace particularly in regards to the development of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. While frustrating to some degree, as we all want to see that spark finally be lit, I think it’s essential for people to realize that they really started out as friends and kindred spirits. Also if Claire were to just jump into bed with Jamie after a couple episodes I think viewers would lose some respect for her and her seeming lack of commitment to Frank. It’s critical to the story that we all learn the dangerous stakes involved and how that comes to intensify the emotional connection between Jamie and Claire. Finally, as this is episodic television there is a need to have a sense of completion at the end of each hour. Hence the addition of the story thread in the last episode of Claire possibly leaving Castle Leoch in five days. The reveal that it was just an empty pacifying promise from Column helped wrap up the episode but also left us with the question of “what now?” For anyone who wasn’t yet aware, Ron Moore is recording podcasts to be played as a sort of commentary with each episode and I highly recommend giving them a listen. Not only are they full of tons of interesting behind the scenes details, they also offer insight into the decision to cut scenes from the book or make alterations.

  23. Jamie says:

    Yessss to the arm warmers too!!!!!

  24. http://is.gd says:

    Excellent blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my owwn blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
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  25. miracle says:

    Thanks for this great review. Since I’m not a native speaker it isn’t easy to understand the scottish dialect (as I’ve been told not even for some native speakers) and I’m thankful for your “translation” of some key scenes. I read the book and know what happens, but I’m also interested in what they say on-screen. ;) It’s a VERY good reason (besides others, obviously ;) ) to watch it again and again.

  26. Pat says:

    The song in the credits sounds so lovely, but I don’t understand the words. Where do I go to see the words to this song?

    • cegluna says:

      It’s based on a Robert Louis Stevenson poem – but it’s been altered to reflect a female point of view.

      http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/sing-me-a-song-of-a-lad-that-is-gone/

    • miracle says:

      Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
      Say, could that lass be I?
      Merry of soul she sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

      Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
      Mountains of rain and sun,
      All that was good, all that was fair,
      All that was me is gone.

      Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
      Say, could that lass be I?
      Merry of soul she sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

      Give me again all that was there
      Give me the sun that shone!
      Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
      Give me the lass that’s gone!

      Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
      Say, could that lass be I?
      Merry of soul she sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

    • Ray says:

      Can’t stand the theme song. Surely I’m not the only guy who hates it?

  27. Willis says:

    Been waiting since the mid ’90’s for someone to settle the debate… how DO you pronounce Laoghaire. In the episode, it’s pronounced ‘Leer’, like the French ‘lire’, to read.

    Long time reader, enjoying the screen adaptation, and relieved that it is (reasonably) true to the books. The characters come off the page.

  28. Carol Claussen says:

    Good line about Jamie volunteering as a tribute.

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