May I just say that it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME this show aired on our side of the pond?! It’s only SET HERE. And it’s still not airing on TV, so only those of us with Amazon Prime can access it. Get it together, programmers, you know you’ll get millions of viewers. What’s the holdup?
Ok, I’m done ranting. Let’s do this recap.
Claire VOs (ugh, the voiceover, one of my great narrative bugbears) that people disappear all the time: kids, desperate housewives, etc, and most are eventually found. Most.
Claire stops by a shop and looks in the window and talks about how she’s never lived in a place long enough to even own a vase, and now she really just wants a vase. Man, her needs are few. VO explains that it’s six months after the end of WWII.
Flash back to the war, where Claire was a highly competent battlefield nurse. She works on one guy who’s bleeding heavily from a terrible wound. A doctor comes along and takes over eventually. Clare walks away, wiping the blood off her hands, and wanders right into a celebration: people literally dancing and cheering in the streets. Another woman comes over, joyfully tells her the war is over, and hands her a bottle of champagne. Claire’s a bit stunned, but not too stunned to not take a serious swig from the bottle. Good girl.
Back at the shop. She stares at a vase and doesn’t bother to buy it, VOing that, maybe if she’d bought it, things might have been different. How do you figure? From what we see later, the vase doesn’t seem to figure into her fateful trip to the standing stones at all. She goes on to say that she would have made all the same choices. So, the purchase or non purchase of the vase is, even to you, completely meaningless. CVO, make up your mind.
Jaunty 40’s music takes us to Claire and her husband, Frank, motoring through the Highlands as she explains that they’re on a second honeymoon, getting to know each other all over again, after being apart for five years. Yeah, that’ll strain a marriage. They arrive in the small town where they’ll be staying and kind of side-eye all the doors decorated with a swipe of blood. Nothing says ‘welcome!’ like blood over the doorway, right? Frank, a historian, tells his wife that this is a pagan ritual, and that the area is steeped in beliefs about magic.
They go into the B&B where they’re staying, and the landlady, Mrs Baird, explains that the blood is a common ritual for the time of year (near Halloween) to honour a saint. Frank knows the saint, who was voluntarily buried alive. Wow, what were this person’s other options? Claire proudly announces that her husband will start work at Oxford in two weeks, and then we get some awkward explanations about Samhain and how Halloween was derived from it. I don’t feel like this is a show that really respects its audience’s ability to figure things out for themselves, because we’re getting a major info and exposition dump here. Mrs B warns them that ghosts will be wandering about freely these days and then shows them to their room.
Frank says the place is ‘not without its charms’. High praise. CVO says that things hadn’t returned to the way they were before the war, sounding a bit confused by that, but Jesus, Claire, you two have been through and seen a lot in the past five years and have seen each other a total of ten days in that time. Of course things will be different, you’re both different people and now virtual strangers. I would think a grown woman would understand that. Frank jokes about the squeaky bed and how Mrs B will definitely know what they might be up to. Claire clearly feels awkward for a second, but then takes the initiative and playfully gets him to start jumping on the bed with her. When they pause, Claire tells him that she used to try and remember the sound of his laugh, while they were apart, but she could never quite conjure it. He tells her he used to sketch her hands constantly. They kiss, and then get the bed squeaking for real. Downstairs, Mrs B hears it and smiles rather maternally. Slightly creepy.
Frank and Claire drive around and Frank points out areas of local interest, telling her where the British soldiers used to keep watch. CVO tells us about how she was raised by an archaeologist uncle who used to take her on various excavations around the world. Not the sort of thing a ‘gently bred’ girl would normally be doing, but Claire’s all badass and adaptable.
Claire and Frank go to visit a ruined castle—Castle Leoch, former home of the Clan Mackenzie. CVO unnecessarily explains that, while her husband’s into genealogy, she’s developed an interest in botany and medicinal plants. Well, that should come in handy later. They go inside the ruins to check the place out. Frank figures that one room is the kitchen, judging from what appears to be a hearth in one wall. CVO tells us he was in intelligence during the war, running spies, and that it had a definite effect on him. He talks about how cool it is to be in a place one of his ancestors may have visited. They wander down a hallway and manage to shoulder open a stuck door so they can explore the room behind. Claire looks around and breathes in a very deep breath. Frank wonders what this room was used for and she jokes that it may have been the home of the castle hermit or a troll or two. He jokes back about trolls being solitary creatures. She hops up on a table and he warns her that she’ll get dirty. She sexily invites him to give her a bath. He comes over and notes she seems to have forgotten to put on her undergarments. He starts to go down on her. Sexy and all, but anyone who’s been in the highlands in October will tell you that al fresco sex is less ‘hot’ and more ‘tit-shatteringly cold.’
Back in town, Frank goes through some old books with a friend, Reverend Wakefield, and finally finds a mention of his ancestor, Jonathan Randall, captain of dragoons in the army. He was also ominously known as ‘Black Jack’ and was stationed in the area back in the 1740s. Wakefield says that the man spent his four years there harassing the countryside, not that he was the only one. There’s some chat about the Scots not being fans of the English and Claire mentions that someone in the pub the night before called them ‘sassenachs’. Wakefield says that just means ‘Englishman’ or ‘Outlander’. Wakefield’s wife or housekeeper brings in some tea and invites Claire to join her in the kitchen.
Claire goes with her and moans over a cup of oolong. Mrs W offers to read Claire’s tea leaves and Claire lets her, though she’s clearly sceptical. The woman seems confused and says everything’s contradictory. The leaves say that Claire will both take a journey and stay put, and meet strangers, though one is her husband. She asks to see Claire’s hand and that’s odd too. The lifeline’s interrupted and the marriage line divided, which means multiple marriages. But while most divided lines are broken, hers is forked.
The men burst in, talking about how Black Jack must have had some sort of powerful patron. They speculate that it may have been the Duke of Sandringham, a suspected Jacobite who eventually died under mysterious circumstances. Claire excuses herself to go back to the B&B for a bath. Wakefield invites her out to Samhain the next day and she teases him about engaging in pagan festivals. He affably replies that he likes a good ghost story as well as anyone.
Claire walks up the street, admitting that the woman’s prophecy kind of creeped her out.
Later, Frank walks back through the rain and sees a man in full ceremonial dress standing at a monument at the centre of town, looking up at the window of the B&B, where Claire can be seen, brushing her hair. Frank walks up to the man and asks if he can help with something, but the man turns and walks away, suddenly disappearing. And then the lights go out all over town and thunder rumbles.
He goes inside, thoroughly creeped out himself now and Claire observes that he looks like he’s seen a ghost. He sits down and tells her everything, including how he couldn’t feel the man as he brushed past him. He asks her if she had many Scots in her charge during the war and she says yes, and there was one in particular who hated getting shots. It’s implied that he didn’t have too much complaint if it was Claire doing the sticking. Frank says that he wondered if the man outside was one of the soldiers, looking to reconnect with her. He rather clumsily hints that he wouldn’t blame her if she’d been unfaithful, which upsets her. He says he just wanted her to know that, even if she had, he wouldn’t care, because nothing could stop him from loving her. He asks him to forgive him for even thinking it and she readily does. Then they have sex. They weren’t kidding about this second honeymoon thing, were they?
They cuddle afterwards and Frank tells her he wants to get up early the next day to ‘see the witches.’ He explains that there’s a local group who observe the ancient rituals at a circle of standing stones outside the town. Claire agrees to go with him.
Before dawn the next day, they make their way to the stone circle and Frank tells her that the legend says the stones were brought here from Africa. Because I guess there aren’t enough stones to choose from in Scotland. They can see the lights of Inverness in the distance. The ‘witches’, if you will, arrive and Claire and Frank hunker down behind some bushes to watch. The ladies are all dressed in flowy white gowns and carrying torches. The reverend’s housekeeper (not his wife) is among them. They dance and CVO tells us that the hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she felt she was in the presence of something ancient and powerful. We see them spin and dance and it’s actually rather lovely. The sun comes up as the housekeeper speaks in some other language. The ladies gather around the central stone, raising their torches to it, and then blow the candles out and disperse.
Afterwards, Frank and Claire wander through the circle, he taking notes, she looking at some plants. One of the women returns for something she dropped and Frank and Claire hide again. The girl finds whatever it is she left, then sits down on a large log to relax. Claire and Frank decide to leave.
In town, Claire tries to find the plant she was looking at in a book, but she can’t find it. Frank suggests she go back to the circle to get a sample while he goes to meet with the reverend to go through some old quartermaster reports.
Claire takes the car back to the circle and hikes back up the hill to the stones. She bends to retrieve one of the plants at the base of the central stone and hears a strange rumbling. The wind blows and she looks uneasy. She looks at the stone and then places both of her hands on it.
Flash back to Claire, in the back of a car that crashed years ago as she talks about the sickening sensation of falling at high speed, a sensation she’s experiencing now.
She wakes on the ground in the stone circle, gets up, and hurries back down the hill to where she left the car, but neither the car nor the road are there. Confused, she starts hiking through the woods, clearly unsure where she’s going. And then she hears gunshots and sees British soldiers hurrying by. CVO wonders if she’s wandered across some production company filming a costume drama. She runs, trips, and tumbles down a hill as some Scotsmen hurry past, pursued by soldiers. One of the soldiers sees Claire and, for some reason, fires at her. She runs, and somewhere along the way, loses the belt on her dress, as well as some of the darts in the bust. The soldiers now chase her. She reaches a riverbank and finds another British soldier who looks exactly like Frank. She asks him what the hell he’s doing and he slowly stands. She figures out that he’s not Frank and asks who he is. He’s Jonathan Randall, of course. She runs away from him and he chases her, drawing his sword and trapping her. She tells him her husband’s waiting for her and will come looking. He demands her husband’s name and she says it’s Frank Beauchamp. He holds the sword to her neck and demands to know why she’s there. She calls him a bastard and spits in his face, so he decides to rape her. Thankfully, a Scotsman jumps on him from above, hides Claire behind a tree, and then knocks her out.
She comes to on horseback, riding towards a little hut with her rescuer. He takes her inside and everyone starts speaking Gaelic. I do commend the show for doing so many scenes in Gaelic and not subtitling them, so we can experience Claire’s confusion and distance from the others ourselves. There’s a young man sitting before the fire, cradling his arm, and he’s so hot you know he’s going to be important. Another man, sitting beside him, gets up and asks her, in English, what her name is. She introduces herself as Claire Beauchamp, using her maiden name because if she was to be ransomed, she didn’t want it to lead back to Frank. So…who would pay the ransom, then? Claire’s an orphan, so it wouldn’t be her family. The guy who rescued her tells the man in charge that she was being threatened by Randall, and there was some debate over whether or not she was a whore. One of the other guys jokingly suggests they put her to the test and man in charge flatly says they don’t do raping. Also, they’re on a schedule and just don’t have time for this. Also also, the guy in front of the fire, Jamie, needs to have his dislocated arm fixed. They get ready to fix his arm, but the nurse in Claire can’t stand by and watch them screw this up. She steps forward and tells them that, if they try to fix the arm the way they’re planning to, they’ll just break it. Man in charge, Dougal, allows her to take care of it. She tells two other men to hold Jamie steady and does her thing. The other guys wince. She orders one of the other guys to get her a belt to fashion a sling out of and he gives her a bit of attitude. Dougal orders him to hand over his belt and he shuts up and does. Claire wraps it around Jamie’s arm and gives him some instructions that will almost certainly be impossible for him to actually obey, like putting cold compresses on it daily. Dougal tosses him his coat and says they’re leaving. As they head out into the night, Claire sees that Inverness is invisible. There are no electric lights. She slowly realises she’s no longer in the 20th century. Dougal puts her up on a horse with Jamie and warns her not to try anything stupid. Jamie wraps his plaid around the both of them, noticing that she’s clearly freezing. I’m sure the rain’s not helping.
They ride through the night and well into the following day, passing by the rocky outcroppng that Frank had pointed out to her as a spot where the British used to patrol and use for ambushes. She tells Jaime she knows the place and that there might be some unpleasant surprises up there. He catches up to Dougal and they have a chat in Gaelic. Dougal demands to know how Claire knows there’s an ambush up ahead. She says she just heard in the village that the British used it. Dougal looks around warily, then tells everyone to hide themselves. Jamie tosses Claire off the horse as he and the other men canter off into the woods, right into a British patrol lying in wait. While they’re distracted, Claire takes the opportunity to run. Because she sucks at this, she runs right back into Jamie’s path. He’s obviously been fighting and is all bloodied, though he reassures her it’s not his blood. Not most of it, anyway. She tries to dodge past him, but he stops her and says that Dougal and the others will be waiting upstream and they should go. She refuses to go with him and he threatens to pick her up and throw her over his shoulder. She’s not ok with that, whether because it’s undignified or she doesn’t want him rehurting himself is unclear just now.
Back on the horse, she hears Jamie groaning in pain and sniffs that he’s probably gone and torn muscles now. They rejoin the others and one of them swigs from a flask and thanks her for tipping them off and giving them a bit of fun at the expense of the redcoats. He offers Jamie the flask and Jamie drinks and offers some to Claire, telling her it’ll make her forget she’s hungry. She takes a pull. Dougal eyes her beadily and they all set off again.
Night falls and still they ride. Jamie’s in bad shape and Claire calls for help just before he passes out and falls off the horse. She and the other men carry him off to the side and she finds a gunshot wound. It’s not serious, but he’s lost a lot of blood and needs to be disinfected. The others don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, nor do they know what iodine is. She asks for alcohol and immediately gets the flask. She pours it into the wound and Jamie comes to. She angrily tells him he’s lucky he’s not dead and demands a sterile bandage and clean cloths. Come on, Claire. Look around you. Do these people look like they have sterile bandages on them? Also, you’re married to a historian and know you’re not in the 20th century. Surely you should have at least a working knowledge of what might have been available to you? The others stare blankly at her, so she rips a strip from the bottom of her dress and uses that as a bandage, cursing as she does so. The others are shocked by her blue language and tell her that her husband should tan her hide. She tells them to shut up and mind their own business. Dougal says they’ll hang around long enough for the wound to be dressed, but then they have another 15 miles to go. Claire’s not happy with that, but Jamie says that Randall will have patrols out after them, so they really need to get moving again. He won’t risk her or anyone else falling into Randall’s clutches. She eases up and tells him he should have told her he was shot. He shrugs that it didn’t hurt much at the time. She asks if it hurts now. It does. ‘Good,’ she says, before helping him to his feet. He sincerely thanks her, calling her Sassenach, and they remount and ride off.
In the morning, reach their destination: Castle Leoch, no longer a ruin, but a busy , thriving place. Claire looks up at it and VOs that she knows her journey has only just begun.