Things Claire Randall wishes she had been able to do before time-traveling to the 18th-century: Pack disinfectant, brush up on her Scottish and English history, not wear white.
When Outlander, the new Starz series based on Diana Gabaldon’s hit book series of the same name, kicks off, World War II has just ended and our heroine Claire has finally reunited with her husband Frank after spending the war serving as a British Army nurse. The couple goes on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland, where Frank researches his family history.
Life’s a little awkward for the pair. “When the war ended, we both thought things would return to the way they once were. But they hadn’t,” Claire says in voiceover. Still, the chemistry between them is unmistakable. Things may not be the way they once were, but you get the sense that they could be, given more time. Unfortunately, time’s the last thing that Claire and Frank have.
While visiting standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun with her husband, Claire becomes fascinated by a blue flower. She returns the next morning, without Frank, intending to collect a sample … and ends up being transported through time to the 1740s.
At first, Claire thinks, or perhaps just wishes, she’s stumbled onto a movie set. “But there was no logical reason for actors to fire live ammunition,” she says. As she runs through the forest from the gunfire, she comes across a redcoat who looks just like Frank. His name is Captain Jack Randall – and he’s Frank’s ancestor.
Though Jack is played by the same actor, the difference between the two Randalls is marked. Where Frank is tender and loving, Jack is cold and cruel. He pins Claire to a rock and hikes up her skirt, but before he gets any further, he’s stopped by a Scotsman, who then takes Claire with him to meet up with his fellow Scots.
It’s there, in a small house on a grassy knoll, that we first lay eyes on Jamie Fraser. You don’t have to be a fan of the book series to know this hulking redheaded Scot is going to play a big role on this show. Claire, out of her element thus far, puts her nursing skills to use by setting Jamie’s arm. Their eyes meet over the firelight; but it’s not exactly love at first sight like we’ve come to expect from tales like Twilight. Rather, it’s a mutual appreciation.
The Scots depart their house to journey back to their castle, with Claire in tow. Along the way, Jamie’s shot and Claire tends to his wounds in the show’s first truly comic scene. Turns out, trying to explain “germs,” “iodine” and “methylate” to 18th-century Scotsmen is pretty tricky.
The pilot draws to a close as Claire and the Scots arrive at Castle Leoch. As Claire looks up at the battlements, thinking of the time she visited with Frank, she finally comes to terms with the fact that she’ll be stuck in 18th-century Scotland for a while. “So far I’d been assaulted, kidnapped and nearly raped,” she says once again in voiceover. “And somehow I knew that my journey had only just begun.”
Outlander airs Saturdays (9 p.m. ET) on Starz.