Review and Screencaps: ‘Outlander’ Episode 1X01 ‘Sassenach’

Outlander fans, the wait is FINALLY over!

so-happy-fangirling

Just Call Me Sassenach

I can’t believe I’m actually sitting here writing about the first episode of Outlander. I’ve watched it several times, and still feel like I haven’t taken it all in. I’ve sat down to write this recap and review several times, and each time I became too overwhelmed with the emotion and sheer number of things swirling around in my head, all clamoring to be said at the same time. I finally had to sit down and watch the episode yet again (no complaints there…) in order to neatly organize and summarize my thoughts on the first episode. As a result, what follows is a play-by-play of the episode, the moments that I absolutely adored, and a few that I didn’t (don’t worry, there weren’t many of the latter).

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Braw Intro

I loved that the episode opened with the mini-introduction from the book, nearly word for word. Hearing the words spoken over the sweeping shots of the Scottish Highlands was spectacular, and the first of many moments that sent pleasant shivers down my spine. The opening scenes were the perfect introduction to Claire, from her contemplation of the vase and it’s significance, to her days spent as a nurse in the war. Her reaction to the announcement of the end of the war and victory was perfect. The look that crossed her face was one that bordered on disappointment, a look that said ‘Well, what am I supposed to do now?’. Rather than joining in the cheers and celebration, she sighed and took a gulp of champagne right out of the bottle. That is the Claire I know and love, and it was so exciting seeing her come to life on screen in that moment.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Swoonworthy Music

I have to take a moment to speak about the song and opening credits, which have received mixed reactions. Perhaps I’m just an overly sentimental type when it comes to music, and especially when it comes to music for Outlander. I’m admittedly biased when it comes to Bear McCreary, as well, having loved him before I’d ever heard of Outlander. That said, I think the opening music and imagery capture everything I love about Outlander in a way I could never put into words. I have watched them more times than I can count, and the effect it has on me has not lessened one iota. I’ve read criticisms that the opening is too melancholy. What?! This is the story of a woman who is torn from her husband and thrown back into the 18th century. She may be one of the strongest, most adaptable women you’ll ever read about it, but it IS sad in the beginning. If you wouldn’t be sad to be torn away from your husband and thrust 200 years into the past into a society where women don’t get to have a voice you need to 1.) seriously reconsider your marriage and 2.) do some research into what it means to be a woman living in the 18th century.

Aside from all that, you should also look up ‘The Skye Song’ and its history, because that may change your feelings on the Main Title. That said, here are the things I loved about the opening credits: The alternating 1740s with 1940s moments, the slow, quiet beginning, the way the music swelled towards the end as swords clashed (perfectly timed) and the way it captured perfectly a woman torn between two very different lives.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

I Am Now A “Friend Of Frank”

Claire and Frank’s relationship is given a lot of attention, and I really came to care about him, and understand what he meant to Claire. I sincerely appreciated the time that was spent on exploring their relationship, and found these scenes very sweet and endearing. Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies captured perfectly the awkwardness of a husband and wife who have been separated for so long that they have come back to one another as strangers, two people trying to recapture the intimacy that once lay between them. Claire is immediately established as someone who will adapt to circumstances when she gently shushes him and pulls him down onto the (very squeaky) bed. The scene where Claire and Frank visit Castle Leoch was another highlight of the episode, for…ahem…obvious reasons, not the least of these being Frank’s comment about Claire’s lack of undergarments.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Ghostbusters

Okay, I have to stop here and talk for a moment about the scene where Claire is brushing her hair and utters ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ’ for the first time. I really, REALLY wanted to like this scene. REALLY. It just seemed awkward, and the line seemed a bit forced. Perhaps it was the lack of lead in, maybe that scene just needed more. It seemed out of place. That said, I loved how Frank’s encounter with ghost Jamie was shot. The whooshing, musical crescendo as the “ghost” brushed past Frank, and the way his face could have almost been visible lent a creepy feel to the scene that was absolutely perfect.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

WTH Frank?

I must admit, I wanted Claire to get just a BIT angrier when Frank accused her of impropriety. She was definitely upset, but I wanted her to be a little more upset. That said, it’s an adaptation, and I won’t dwell on such a small thing. I adored the moment Frank and Claire shared after this slight confrontation and the voiceover as Claire spoke about sex being their ‘bridge back to one another’ made me tear up. There were no moments between Frank and Claire in the book that caused me to react this way, and this is a compliment to the wonderful scripting of the show. Claire’s beautiful, pale pink 1940s nightgown (designed by the spectacularly talented Terry Dresbach) was gorgeous and very old Hollywood. Along with Caitriona Balfe’s performance and mannerisms, I really felt as though I was watching a scene from a 1940s movie.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Craigh na Dun or Bust

The ritual at Craigh na Dun is easily my favorite scene of the entire episode. The darkness backlit by the promise of soon-to-come sun, the wonderful use of luminaries, the way the ritual ends just as the sun rises and the way all the women walk off, chattering inanely, breaking the spell as if something extraordinarily surreal and beautiful hasn’t just taken place. It captured perfectly the vision I had of it while reading the book, and I’ve yet to watch it without tears welling up in my eyes.  The music added a surreal, other worldly effect to the scene. More chills.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Wait For It…Wait For It

Speaking of chills (and there were a lot, because, well…OUTLANDER), the last scene between Frank and Claire before her fateful trip back to the stones is so well done, and another moment that brought me to tears. I loved Claire saying ‘Shall I meet you for dinner later?’ (because we know she won’t), and the way she pulled Frank back in for one more kiss, everything slowing down as he pulled away, and the contented smile on her face as she watched him go. It felt like an intimate moment crafted for the fans, those of us in on the secret of this enormous thing that is about to happen.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

I could not be happier with the way Ron Moore chose to handle Claire falling through time. I loved that the music stopped, and the screen went black. I loved that he chose to use the car crash as the visualization, rather than trying to make it more spectacular. The scene was kept simple, and left the time travel as just a necessary element of the story, rather than trying to make it more fantastic or glamorous. I especially loved the wind and discordant music in this scene, and the way it edged into a screech as Claire touched the stones.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Gorgeous Cinematography

The shift from muted tones to rich, vibrant colors when Claire awakens beneath the stones is still one of my favorite elements of the episode. I also loved the way the camera became shaky, with leaves obscuring the view of the scene at many intervals. It gave a sense of confusion and disorientation, and it put me right there with Claire, struggling to get my bearings and grasp the surroundings.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Hit the Road Jack

Claire’s meeting Jonathan Randall (Black Jack Randall) for the first time was brilliant. This was another moment where the music just stopped, creating a foreboding air and sense of menace. Tobias Menzies portrayal is so spectacularly opposite of the sweet, loving character of Frank, the mark of a truly talented actor. In the way that he immediately made me love Frank, I immediately detested Jonathan Randall. Okay, I already detested Jonathan Randall. But Tobias Menzies really made me want to punch him in the face. Well done. Also, the drums leading up to this scene were amazing.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Meet the Highlanders

Let’s face it, the scene in the cabin is iconic. Any Outlander fan knows that this is the scene that started it all, the scene where Claire came to life and asserted herself as a modern woman who would refuse to behave. The misogynistic times she so suddenly finds herself amid are captured perfectly by the way the clansmen so casually discuss her status as either a lady or a whore, and the way Dougal states offhand that he doesna hold with rape…and, anyway, we havna the time for it.’ The latter of these evidently being the chief concern.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

King of Men

As expected, Jamie (Sam Heughan) quickly takes over the scene. When he and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) appear on screen together, everyone else nearly fades away. They speak volumes with their looks and eye contact, and these are the moments where you will be unable to look away, even for a moment. The chemistry between these two actors is incredible, they ARE Claire and Jamie. Jamie’s gaze and focus does not leave Claire for even a moment in this scene. Sam Heughan has clearly done his Outlander homework, and it really, REALLY shows.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

Swoooooon

My first favorite Jamie quote of the episode came when he attempted to get his plaid loose to cover Claire, responding to her protest that she isn’t cold he responds “You’re shaking so hard it’s making my teeth rattle.” Said with that wonderful Scottish burr and slightly crooked smile, this was the moment where I really started to swoon.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

The Perfect Claire

The scene at Cocknammon rock was another highlight for me, and using the flashback to Frank telling Claire about the English using it for ambushes was so clever. Claire demonstrated, once again, her ability to adapt and think on her feet in this scene. When confronted by Dougal as to where she’d heard the spot might be used for ambushes, she quickly responds “the village.” But not so quickly that you don’t see her wheels spinning as she grasps for an acceptable response. Another testament to Caitriona Balfe and her talent, yet another reason why she is the perfect Claire.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

I Volunteer as Tribute!

Okay, this is the spot where I get uber, super fangirly. The scene where Jamie catches Claire trying to escape is one I could watch a thousand times (I’ve probably come close to that, already…). Rather than write about how much I love this scene and why, I’m just gonna let this meme I made express it for me: Review and Screencaps: ‘Outlander’ Episode 1X01 ‘Sassenach’!

 “Thank you, Sassenach. Truly.” *Melts*

After this comes my second favorite Jamie/Sam scene, when Jamie falls off his horse and Claire discovers the gunshot wound he’s been concealing. After some hilarious banter in regards to disinfection, iodine and germs, as well as one of my favorite lines from the book about St. Paul minding his own bloody business, Claire and Jamie share a moment that is my favorite of the entire episode. This is another scene where Jamie’s inability to take his eyes off Claire is evident. Claire reaches out her hand to help him up, and Jamie says “Thank you, Sassenach. Truly.” I’ll admit it, I could listen to that line on repeat a thousand times, if not more. Beyond that, it’s a wonderful, touching moment in the scene where you can see these two people have placed a small amount of trust and confidence in one another in a world where trust and confidence are hard fought and sorely earned. It’s the first moment where you see that Jamie and Claire recognize something kindred in one another. I choked up when Claire reached out her hand to help Jamie up, every single time I watched it.

Photo Credit: Starz

Photo Credit: Starz

What’s a Girl To Do?

The episode ends with the arrival at Castle Leoch, as Claire contemplates being there with Frank and struggles to come to terms with remembering “something that hasn’t happened yet.”

My final complaint about this episode is that it’s over, and I have to wait to watch the next one. In the meantime, I will continue to watch the premiere over and over again.

What did you think of the first episode? How many times have you watched it so far? Be honest, this fangirl won’t judge you in the least!

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  • mhk272

    Absolutely loved the premiere!! Have loved these books so much and was afraid of how the screen adaptation would be. I felt like I could have watched the episode in mute and still would’ve know everything happening from what I remembered of the books!

  • amanda

    Ok not sure why they threw the Frank/Claire Castle Loche scene in, according to the book that was something that Jamie introduced Clair to on their wedding night, something unique to just their relationship.

    • Jean Harrison Gobel

      I was surprised by the Castle Leoch scene, too. It seems an odd place for such an encounter, and rather abrupt, too. I would have preferred the more usual type of encounter in that setting, with a little more …lead in?

  • Eeyorefan

    Thank you, Amanda, for making that comment. I felt exactly the same way! Let’s face it…”that” was kind of an uncommon act even in the 40’s (I read a recent article that suggests only 30-40% of ‘us’ do it even now) and it was discussed in the book as something Jamie was going to explore with Claire. It just struck me false too as it is an INCREDIBLY intimate act for two people finding there way back to each other as Claire and Frank are supposedly doing. She is clearly the more comfortable with her sexuality between the two of them anyway and I felt that Frank was kind of a stodgy academic who would be more ‘missionary position’ about things. (Not taking away from good Frank vs Black Jack here but I also wanted a clear contrast between Frank and Jamie.) With that said, I have already watched the first episode (okay…the second half of it!) at least 5 times and will probably do it a few more before episode two finally shows up. I LOVED it! FWIW, I am totally new to Outlander–only started reading it so the show would make some sense and am nearly done with only book 1 right now. I’m hooked, though. ;)

    • Ginger Clark

      While it did cross my mind that this is highlighted in the book as something Jamie introduces Claire to, the show is an adaptation, and there will be things that are different. I think this scene highlighted Claire’s strength. Between the two of them, she comes off as the stronger one in the relationship, which I thought was important. In the first scene with the squeaky bed, she also initiates things. So I think this had to do with setting up her character, and showing that she was comfortable with her sexuality.

      • Eeyorefan

        I totally agree that’s what they were going for but I felt that they had already demonstrated Claire’s comfort with her sexuality by having her instigate things with Frank at the B&B. I think, like Amanda, I liked the idea of ‘saving’ that for Claire and Jamie. It would never have occurred to me to notice if it wasn’t in the book but, since it was, it tells me that at least at one point, Diana seems to have felt that way also. It really didn’t ruin anything about the episode for me but I think I’m always watching for ‘modern sensibilities’ to slip into historical dramas so I did notice it and it temporarily pulled me out of the story. However, I also understand that adaptations are just that–everything won’t be exactly the same as the books. I loved how authentic everything else was and that authenticity is what will make this series so special. :)

        • Ginger Clark

          I don’t know, I tend to think there were plenty of couples not adverse to doing that in the 1940s. It may not have been talked about, but no way it wasn’t happening. And I would never give up that scene because I just love Frank’s line so much.

  • Jessica

    I too had a bit of an issue with show Claire/Cait said Jesus H Roosevelt Christ. I think she said it two or three times and each time it just felt forced to me. Maybe with time it will start to be more natural.

    • Ginger Clark

      Hopefully it will seem less forced over time. I forgive it, though, since Cait is the perfect Claire in every way that matters. :)

  • Jennifer Kveton

    Great review of the first episode! I loved how it’s like Sam did his homework and knows that Jamie falls for Claire immediately. You can see it every time he looks at her. I love it.

    I also felt the hair-brushing scene was a little forced. It’s not quite how I pictured Claire saying it, and not sure Cait figured it out yet. The “ghost” part of that scene though was great. I always felt that flashbacks are sort of how Claire remembers things in the books, and I think they captured that well at the Cocknammon Rock.

    That being said, I loved the first episode and plan to watch it many more times. I am looking forward to watching other episodes with friends so that we can “review” it in real time.

    • Ginger Clark

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • tafkah

    I felt that the episode was done very well. The druid dancing scene gave me chills. The Highlanders were so fun to watch when they were cringing as Claire set Jaime’s shoulder. And I think my favorite Clarie moment in the show was when the Highlanders were commenting on her cursing and she rolls her eyes right before she tells them (and St. Paul) to mind their own business. I also thought that when Jaime says “Thank you, Sassenach” it threw me out of the scene a little bit. The first time he calls her Sassenach as a nickname in the book is (I think) when they help the little boy who was being punished for stealing. He says, “Good e’en Mistress Sassenach”. That’s one of my favorite lines of the book. If, in the show, he had just said Thank you, or Thank you Claire it probably wouldn’t have struck me so strangely. I don’t know – it just seemed a little too familiar too soon. I wasn’t a fan of Frank in the book. I always thought he was hiding more than he was telling. I have to give a shout out to Tobias Menzies. He made me like Frank and then when he was BJR it was almost like he was a completely different actor. Incredible. Sam Heughan is killing (kilting?) it as Jaime. He definitely did his Outlander homework but he’s just got that natural charm and charisma. The scene where he recaptures Claire is Jaime Fraser to the life. I can’t wait for the next episode. August 16th seems a lifetime away.

  • Shellyg8r

    Nail on the head, Ginger! Your slight complaints were exactly mine. I LOVED the episode and have watched it three times. :) My only other issue was that I missed Jamie’s “take the wee lassie off my chest” comment after she dressed his wounds. It was a line in the book that always made me giggle out loud. But, no biggie!

  • Christina Lael

    These reviews are great and so funny! Thanks for writing them!