My favorite part of a story is when we first meet the main character. Every character comes with a backstory and the back story is interesting in and of it’s self. What I love about first meeting a character is that we (as the reader or viewer) know that this is where the REAL story begins but the character is completely unaware. In the Pilot episode of Outlander, we meet Claire Randall right as World War II ends. As a World War II nurse, she has, no doubt, already lived through enough to fill another 2 or 3 novels. And yet, we meet her here, in 1945, as she reunites with her husband, Frank Randall, after being separated for 5 years (aside from 10 days together total) because of the war.Claire probably feels as though she has lived through enough adventure, trauma and uncertainty to last a lifetime. What she doesn’t know is that the single most life changing experience of her existence has yet to happen. This is the very reason why season one episode one, the pilot episode of Outlander, will always be my favorite.
When I was scrolling through my TV Menu of popular television series back in 2015, I saw the poster of Woman in a blue dress, reaching behind her and a handsome man standing there in his kilt. I immediately clicked on the image and started the first episode. The thing is, I’d never heard of the show and I had definitely never heard of the books. The beauty of this is that I was experiencing everything Claire was in real time as she was in the show. I had absolutely no idea what was coming.
I liked her with Frank, Claire seemed at ease with him and he with her. They looked good together, I felt hopeful for them, maybe they’d start a family together soon. Maybe Claire would finally buy that vase. This was her chance at a new life with her husband.
You love Frank when he describes to Claire how he used to draw her hands and she looks at him and kisses him. You believe in their love.
During the tealeaf and palm reading with Mrs. Graham, over the kitchen table, I was just as confused as Claire. How could her marriage line be forked? She’s going on a journey but staying put? What does this even mean?
And then the narration of Claire’s voice over her walk back to the inn says, “What I didn’t know at the time was, tomorrow would prove less important than yesterday.” What? What does it all mean? When I say I had no inclination of what was to come, I mean I was utterly in the dark.
Then there is the ghost incident with Frank and I knew something was brewing. “Nothing you could ever do, could stop my loving you,” Frank says after Claire realizes he’s suggesting she may have been unfaithful during the war.
Had I have read the books prior to that scene I would have thought, yeah right buddy I have five words for you, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.
Then there are the Druids led by none other than Mrs. Graham, dancing the sunrise into existence and Claire’s narration of her being an “Unwelcomed voyeur” at the spectacle.
I always get chills during this scene. The music, the dancing the circumstance, it’s all very eerie but you can’t peel your eyes from the screen. When it cuts to the next scene you completely forget what you’ve just witnessed.
Claire is comfy cozy in a big winged back chair and she bids Frank goodbye in a casual way that any husband and wife who are secure, happy, and committed to each other would do under the circumstance.
The beauty of never having read the books before witnessing this scene is just like Claire, I did not cherish this moment because I did not know it would be the last goodbye before everything changed. I had the same remorse she did when she was separated from him; she didn’t get to say good-bye properly, or at all really. It is not how she would have liked to do things; the scene ends as Claire casually looks back at her book and smiles.
The scene at the standing stones is next, and you actually feel cold. The wind is blowing and Claire pulls her shawl tighter. Why is there a weird growling sound coming from the stones? I ask unknowingly.
Claire wonders the same thing, then she reaches out and touches the largest standing stone with both hands.
It cuts to her asleep in a car and she is narrating the feeling she’s just experienced as a result of touching the stone. However, as the viewer I still have no clue as to what has just happened. What is interesting about the cinematography at this point and perhaps my favorite aspect, is that they next scene they show Claire lying on the ground in the middle of the standing stones, and everything is brighter.
Everything seems more alive as if she has just woken up for the very first time and that everything else prior to this moment was really just a dream.
Claire gets up and gets away from the stones as quickly as possible, I think, take your shawl gosh darn it, its freezing! She walks back to where her car should be, and not only is the car gone, but so is the entire road she took to drive there in the first place. Claire begins to walk through the woods to get her bearings in the unfamiliar whereabouts.
BOOM! Gunshots fired! This is the part where I jumped out of my seat and uttered an expletive. Claire’s voice begins a narration of the how the rational mind will grope for an explanation, I’m thinking, yes that’s exactly what I am doing right this very moment. Yes, this must be a movie set, oh no it’s not, that is real ammunition. Oh no! They’re shooting at us! RUN! And she does. The bagpipes start roaring away and I think, we must have accidentally got dropped into an entirely different show.
Claire comes upon a stream and a look alike of her husband is stooping to get a drink. However he is dressed like an 18th century Redcoat, at first he looks rather silly. Why is Frank wearing that costume? He introduces himself as the Jonathan Randall, Captain of Dragoons. That is NOT Frank, and we do not like him, I think. Claire is like “Oh hell no” and starts to run. This can’t be, Black Jack Randall is a very deceased ancestor of Frank dating back 200 years. As I watch this scene unfold, I am trying just as hard as Claire is to make sense of what is happening. A sweaty Scotsman saves Claire from molestation by Not Frank, rendering him unconscious. Claire without much choice, so it seems, goes willingly with the Scotsman only to be hit over the head and come to while on horse back approaching a hovel in the woods.
Entering said hovel we meet the crew, a handful of dirty Scottish highlanders donning their full regalia, kilts, swords berets and all. They begin to discuss Claire’s presence in Gaelic. Claire meets the apparent leader of the plaid clad rat pack, Dougal, and sets the record straight that she is most certainly not a whore.
Claire decides not to keep her head down and mouth shut and stops the men from breaking the arm of the man in the corner in the almost attempt to fix his dislocated shoulder. Next is my very favorite part, the mother of all meet cutes, when the stars align and Jamie’s soul mate is brought before him. Not a hello, or hi how are you. There is an unspoken agreement of trust between them with a simple look and Claire sets his shoulder.
After reading all eight of Diana’s books in the Outlander series I realized that everything that Claire is and the essence of who she really is at her core would have led her to Jamie every time. Everything in her life up until the moment of their first meeting was a very clear path leading to Jamie.
The group of highlanders make way to leave the hovel. Dougal, very insistently warns Claire not to try and escape and she is assigned to ride on Jamie’s horse with him. “You mean we’ll be riding all night?” Claire asks after her and Jamie mount the horse.Jamie replies, “All night and the next one too I reckon.” Oh, how I do love a good foreboding sexual innuendo. Little does Claire know, that “riding all night with Jamie” will become a favorite pastime of her’s.
As the ride continues Claire recognises a land mark the English used
For ambushes. Claire tells Jamie this and he informs Dougal. Suddenly Jamie shoves Claire off the horse and into a brush and the highlanders race off to kick some English butt. Claire tries to make her escape but Jamie soon catches up.
This is when we get to see him in all his 6’4″ Scottish glory. He gracefully dismounts his horse with one manly swing of the leg. Holy mother please take me captive, I think.
“If you won’t walk, then I’ll pick you up and throw you over my shoulder. Do you want me to do that?” Claire says no bitterly as I scream YES at the TV screen. I fell (irrevocably) in love with the bloody dirty Jamie wrapped in his plaid offering Claire a drink of whiskey. He was so big and manly sitting behind Claire and you think Frank who?
Jamie falls to the ground during the night ride because he has passed out from a gunshot wound (that he failed to mention, tisk tisk tisk ). Claire starts to curse at him as she tends to his wound; Jamie steals a look at Claire, his blue eyes shinning in the moonlight.
That’s when he loved her, little did I know. “Thank you Sassenach, truly.” Jaime says while I swooned dramatically and fanned myself.
“Alright, well on your horse soldier,” Claire replies. It was then that I realized that this was just the beginning of my favorite story ever.
I’d love to hear about your very favorite episode or scene from the books and why! There are so many incredible moments in this series, too many to count. All in all the pilot episode will forever be my favorite because it is when I first met Jamie and my life was turned upside down, just like Claire.
Thanks for reading!