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Outlander “Sassenach” 

Photo Credit: Starz
Photo Credit: Starz

Tina and Kara here. Every once in a while we like to share our thoughts on great moments from episodes we both watch. For Starz’s new series Outlander, we wanted to share our impressions on the entire episode. We’ll talk about how well the book has been adapted so far and give our takes on some favorite scenes and moments from the episode. So below, you’ll find our slightly unorthodox take on the very good series premiere.

Claire and Frank Randall have decided to take a second honeymoon – Frank’s words – in the Scottish Highlands. There’s something preventing them for resuming their pre-war lives together and they both hope this little getaway before Frank’s new job at Oxford begins will help them reconnect. They’ve chosen Inverness and the surrounding countryside because of Frank’s interest in his personal genealogy. They decide to experience a bit of local folklore as well when they travel to Craigh na Dun to see the Druids perform some sort of ritual. They don’t stay for long, but Claire decides to return on her own to collect a plant sample. One of the rocks, rumored to be transported there from Africa by Celtic giants, is emitting noise and when Claire touches it, it transports her back in time. As Claire struggles to understand what’s just happened to her, she encounters Black Jack Randall. She’s saved from his attempted rape of her by a Scotsman, who takes her to his leader, Dougal. Unable to keep her head down and her mouth shut, Claire interrupts some of the men trying to put one of their own’ shoulder back in its socket and thereby meets Jamie for the first time. They leave the area, trying to avoid the scouts Randall is sure to have sent in search of them. Knowing she won’t be able to get away, Claire travels with them to Castle Leoch, where she was just two days ago with Frank.

Photo Credit: Starz
Photo Credit: Starz

Tina’s General Thoughts

The producers/writers/crew/actors have the task of adapting this monstrous bestseller into a television series — Outlander is 800+ pages long. The book’s hardcore fans are going to scrutinize it big time. That’s a lot of pressure. Overall, I feel like the first episode did a great job setting up the series. I wasn’t sure if they were going to give us enough Claire and Frank interactions before sending her back in time. They did. I really like how director John Dahl pulled off the Druid ritual scene. Normally I’m not a fan of voiceover exposition but the way they executed it in the episode didn’t become intrusive. Same with the quick flashbacks/flash forwards. And they didn’t go over the top when Claire plucks the flower then places her hands on the rock that flings her to a different era.

As far as casting, I think Caitriona Balfe as Claire and Sam Heughan as Jamie are perfect choices. Their chemistry is instant. They’re not even trying and they have it. For me, I still want to see a little more of Tobias Menzies, who plays Frank Randall in the 1940s and his dastardly counterpart, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in the 1700s. I have a feeling I’m going to love to hate him but I want to reserve judgment a little bit longer.

Kara’s Take on Mrs. Graham Reading Claire’s Tea Leaves/Hand

I love this scene. We’ve been told, by Frank Randall no less, that the Scottish Highlands are a place of magic and superstition. So when Mrs. Graham offers to read her tea leaves, Claire’s intrigued. The problem? Everything Mrs. Graham sees in the leaves is contradictory. She sees that Claire will take a trip, but that she’s also stay put. She’ll meet strangers, but one of the strangers is her husband. Mrs. Graham asks to see Claire’s hand and is able to tell her more, but some of it is still confusing. Claire’s large thumb means she’s strong-minded and her will is not easily crossed. Her Mount of Venus means her husband won’t stray far from her bed. But her life line is interrupted and her love line is forked, meaning she’ll have two marriages. Claire’s spooked enough that when Reverend Wakefield and Frank interrupt them, she decides to take her leave.

Photo Credit: Starz
Photo Credit: Starz

Kara’s Take on Frank and Claire

It was really important to me that we spend some quality time with this couple. I’ve read the book, but it wasn’t recently. My impression of their marriage – from what I remember reading – was that they had been happy and in love before the war. Frank is someone who understands Claire and accepts her for who she was, smart mouth and all. So while I think it’s absolutely necessary for Claire to be transported back to the eighteenth century and to meet Jamie (and Jonathan Randall) quickly, I do like that Claire spends most of the episode with her current husband. Strangely enough, my favorite interaction between the two is when Frank tries to ask if she’s been unfaithful. He’s just seen a man spying on his wife from the street – Jamie, I presume – and he wonders if there would be anyone trying to “reconnect” with her. I like it even more than she doesn’t answer him directly. Her reaction is an answer of sorts, but she never gives him a yes or no, which is a pretty good set up for what’s to come.

Tina’s Take on Frank and Claire

As far as the unfaithful conversation, I think it’s a very interesting one as well. When I read the book (well, I actually listened to the audio book during my long commute to work), I also noticed how she never gave him a clear answer. But I also noticed that she never asked him if he had been faithful. And he never offered either. They only saw each other ten days out of five years. Anything could happen. I love their attempts to reconnect in “Sassenach.” The jumping on the squeaky bed, for instance, is fun. But in the end, there’s a disconnect that never really goes away between them no matter how hard they try to make it disappear. I felt it with the book. And I feel it here.

Tina’s Moment of Goodness: Jamie Prevents Claire from Escaping

After Claire alerts the Scots to a possible British ambush at Cocknammon Rock, she understandably tries to make her escape. But Jamie catches up to her in time and they have a brief conversation which sort of sets the tone for their relationship. It’s a real push and pull kind of thing. But the spark between them is already prevalent. When she says she won’t go with him he whips out his sword. But he tells her he won’t use it. He goes on to say that he’s willing to pick her up and put her over his shoulder and take her back with him. She realizes it’s a battle she’s going to lose so she goes with him. This series rests on whether or not Balfe and Heughan can drum up chemistry. This little scene proves to me they can. I can’t wait to see everything that comes next.

Kara’s Moment of Goodness: Jamie Calls Claire “Sassenach”

When Jamie falls off his horse, Claire knows it’s not his shoulder injury that’s caused his blackout. When Claire finds the bullet wound she tells the men she needs to disinfect it. They have no idea what she’s talking about, but they eventually get what she means when she asks for some alcohol. When she asks for a clean cloth, the men once again give her blank stares. Claire uses language they’ve never heard from a woman as she tears part of her own dress off. As they wonder how her husband deals with her, Claire tells them to mind their own business. And she admonishes Jamie for not telling her he was injured when he comes to. But he’s in pain now, so maybe that’ll teach him a lesson. After she gives him a hand up, he offers her his genuine thanks and calls her Sassenach. It’s that moment where you can see they’ve made a connection. Are they aware of their mutual attraction? Maybe. It can certainly happen that fast. But whatever it is, they definitely connect on some level and the look that passes between them makes me think they’re both aware of it. Maybe I’m projecting because I’ve read the book and I know what happens, but there’s definitely (a lot of) chemistry there.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.

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