Revisiting ‘Sassenach’ – Outlander 101

(first posted at outlandercast in August 2019)
Looking back on Outlander Season 1 is always fun, no? Back to where it all began. From what I can gather, my experience is similar to very many other fans. We started Season 1 on the recommendation of a friend as Outlander innocents. But we were soon swept into a maelstrom of fan frenzy, and we were hooked. Like me, many of you delved straight into the books. I just plowed on relentlessly until I finished every one of them and then sat around waiting for Season 2 to appear.

I later learned this waiting game was called “Droughtlander” and, boy, did I feel it. I connected strongly with all platforms on social media and just drank it in. Sound familiar?

As we await Season 6 (the longest Droughtlander ever?), I thought it would be timely to take a fond look back at the very first episode, ‘Sassenach’, and to touch a little on Diana Gabaldon’s first book, simply titled Outlander –the story that started it all. Much is often made of the differences between the show and the books and, even those who complain loudly at times (I’ll put my hand up here as an occasional complainer!), must concede that the show is an adaptation and, by nature, must be a condensed interpretation of the books.

Having said that, there are so very many similarities, and many exact renditions of the book content in the show. For me, I love to revisit the audio books narrated by Davina Porter. I find her ability to perform the different voices for each character, and to maintain them throughout all the books, is simply amazing. The audio books are like old friends while driving or out walking, and there’s always something new to pick up. The life of the Frasers and their entourage is endlessly rich and fascinating. If you would like to learn more about Davina Porter, my colleague Janet Reynolds interviewed her a while back for this post, “A Talk with the Voice of Outlander.”

So, what were the most exciting and meaningful elements of  that first episode? In show-writing and production parlance they refer to ‘beats’  crucial elements of the story that have special prominence and meaning, and are surrounded by supporting action. How about first up, the innocence of Frank and Claire trying to regain their pre-war life. I actually remember feeling a little bit impatient the very first time I watched ‘Sassenach’. I knew it was a time travel story and I was keen for the action! On subsequent viewings, I was more patient and enjoyed the background to the story of Frank and Claire and their ‘second honeymoon’ in the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a deleted scene from Season 1 showing the tension between them, but also the commitment to each other, as well as pictures of them with contented expressions. Little did they know what was lurking just around the corner.

Claire meets Mrs. Graham early in the episode. Her fortune telling is ominous and does have an unsettling effect on Claire. Claire’s relationship with Mrs. Graham becomes important, especially when Claire realises that she is a ‘caller’ at the stone circle. In later seasons, Mrs. Graham provides solace to Claire in her darkest moments, as the only person who can understand and validate her traumatic experiences. And later still, Mrs. Graham’s granddaughter, Fiona, carries on the family tradition of helping the Randalls, Frasers and MacKenzies with the travails of time travel!

Frank meets the ghost of Jamie Fraser – Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! What an enigmatic and iconic scene, which subsequently leads to more anguish and tension between Claire and Frank. We are all waiting with baited breath for Diana Gabaldon to reveal to us the meaning of this scene. We could be waiting a while, but patience is a virtue, right?

When Claire goes through the stones, she first endures a torturing physical experience, followed by emotional torment and complete disorientation. We learn right from the start that Claire is feisty and resourceful, not prone to giving in to fear, able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, to think on her feet, and to not panic. Have you ever imagined what you would do in her shoes on that fateful day at Craigh Na Dun?

Here is a sample of the audio narration from Davina Porter, and one of the examples of where the show runs pretty much exactly parallel with the book.

Claire meets Black Jack Randall (BJR) for the first time, very soon after travelling back in time. Claire has a lot of ambivalence toward BJR as he reminds her so much of Frank physically, and she still has it in mind to get back to Frank. This is spelled out much more clearly in the book and is a source of confusion and distress to Claire that she sees so many echoes of her husband in this man. Two scenes here, first, the way the show handles their meeting, showing Claire’s confusion at meeting this Frank look-alike.

And then the book narration by Davina Porter which shows the detail with which Claire takes in the man and begins to understand who he really is, and to have her first inklings that her world has turned upside down.

Claire meets Murtagh – Claire’s first meeting with Murtagh is frightening and violent but, as we know, he becomes an important person in her life. Things are quite different in the books, where Murtagh is always there for Jamie, but does not become close with Claire. The show writers changed that situation dramatically from the moment Claire and Jamie decided to let Murtagh in on Claire’s ‘secret’. They also used the Murtagh character as a dramatic device for exposition. After all, its way more interesting for the audience to have the story unfold through action between characters than through endless voice-overs of the characters thoughts. That, coupled with the fact that the fans adored Duncan Lacroix and his portrayal of Murtagh, became the winning formula.

Side note: my Outlander Cast colleagues have written some interesting posts on the later development of Murtagh, which you might like to explore. To go full Murtagh, be sure to read Anne Gavin’s “Outlander’s Murtagh Lives. What’s next for this iconic character?”and Nikki Gastineau’s “Move Over Print Shop. Why Outlander’s Murtagh Reunion Wins.”

After being rescued by Murtagh, Claire is taken to meet Dougal, Rupert and Angus. This is one of those scenes where we can only admire Claire’s ability to keep a cool head. Faced with overwhelming events, she manages to stay calm and reasonably clear-headed. Even when it is suggested that they could ‘put her to the test’! Of course, Claire and Dougal go on to have a rich and multi-faceted relationship, one that is filled with tension, intrigue and hostility.

Claire meets Jamie – of course this is a HUGE plot point/beat, yet the first time I saw the series I had no idea that Jamie and Claire would come to mean the world to each other. I just saw the whole thing unfolding, but on second and subsequent (who’s counting? Maybe I lost count!) viewings, we can see the seeds of their attraction. The looks and little electric touches which start to portend the future.

There are four important elements of Claire’s first meeting with Jamie: she shows her skills and wins his respect and admiration; she warns him of danger and wins his trust; she tries to escape and lets him know she’s feisty and not to be pushed around; and finally, she relaxes – possibly out of exhaustion – begins to trust Jamie and becomes resigned to dealing with whatever will happen next.






Jamie immediately has respect and admiration for Claire’s healing skills

Claire earns Jamies trust when she warns him of a possible ambush at Cocknammon Rock


Claire lets Jamie know that she is not the meek and obedient type – right from the start!

Another iconic scene where Claire saves the day and treats Jamies gunshot wound. Her mastery, skill and no-nonsense approach both shocks and impresses everyone!

At the end of  ‘Sassenach’, we see Claire near exhaustion, with a level of trust in Jamie,  and resigning herself to meet the challenges of her journey. 

So, this is the episode of Outlander that hooked us all those years ago, and so it continues. If you are new to Outlander, enjoy the ride. If you’re a seasoned campaigner, hope you enjoyed looking back and reliving the magic of how it all began. I’d love to hear about your first time watching ‘Sassenach’, so please feel free to leave a comment below.

All video excerpts highlighted are courtesy of Starz.

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Outlander Season 5 Update #2 – Filming Begins

(first posted at outlandercast in June 2019)
Maybe you’re a newbie to the OutlanderFandom (welcome!) or you’ve been here a while (yep, we’re in it for the long haul). Fans seem to fall into two categories it comes to behind-the-scenes content: Those who want everything to be a surprise, fresh and new, when the show airs, so they avoid social media, and those who voraciously soak up all the details of production and want to find out everything they can to keep themselves happy and engaged during the long #Droughtlander.

If you’re (with me) in the latter group, this post is for you. It’s a wrap-up of what’s been out there on social media so far and a look at the ways you can keep in touch and up-to-the-minute with happenings in the Outlander world.

Instagram (IG) and Twitter are the best platforms to keep up to speed in the fan world. Those who’ve solely relied on Facebook for their social media updates might want to consider branching out. Those who are already engaged on Twitter and Instagram might be interested to learn of some new names/accounts to follow. I’ve got a handy list below.

The story behind the scenes so far ….

The cast began to give us a wee keek into the start of production back in April via their IG accounts and stories (for newbies, IG stories are found by tapping the red circle at the top left of a page, and, be quick, they only last 24 hours!).

Lauren Lyle’s slightly muzzy view of the first table read

César Domboy in Makeup

Sam Heughan’s rather low-key announcement that he is now a producer on the show

Sam locates his trailer

Caitriona Balfe showed us her first Season 5 script on Instagram

Sam reconnects with his makeup artist Wendy Kemp Forbes – see below for how to connect with a Wendy on social media

Sophie Skelton becoming a redhead again

Next, we started to see some views of traveling to the locations, the locations themselves, and some technical stuff from the camera operators who frequently post on social media. (More on accessing those accounts later.) Fan pics emerged with the first sighting of Jamie Fraser’s Outlander Season 5 look and garb. But will we see him in a kilt this season? Fingers crossed. Please!


From César’s IG STORY – a moment to relax under sunny skies in bonnie Scotland

First fan pics of Jamie Fraser’s look for Outlander Season 5

Then we got the official view of Jamie and Claire from Outlander STARZ

Local fans posted some BTS  pics of Fraser’s Ridge, River Run and also what might either be the regulators’ camp or the gathering. Time will tell on that one.

Frasers Ridge has a few additions perhaps?

River Run getting ready for action after the winter.

A campsite in the woods somewhere in Scotland. The Gathering? Or the regulators?

Amazing attention to detail, as usual

Outlandish Journeys was there when all the extras were going to and from the action. What about those gigantic hounds? I wonder how they would get on with Rollo? But of course Rollo is living far away with young Ian at their new home with the Mohawk. Million dollar question: Will they show us some of their life with the Mohawk in Season 5? Hope so.

… and then …. they spotted Murtagh …… (follow the link above to see more video from Outlandish Journeys.)

OutlanderSeason 5 casting announcements so far have been a bit thin on the ground, but a big thrill rippled through the fandom when we got our first glimpse of Adso! This is the kitten that Jamie finds and gives as a gift to Claire. Hearts melted at the sight of that British shorthair and the Outlandervet wrote a really cool post about the cat here. See more details on following her account below.

That wasn’t an an end to the animal antics. Sam showed us a rider’s eye view of his and Caitriona’s horses, and Richard gave us a look at his riding lessons.

And then we got a view of them all riding along as they gave a shout out to their favourite team, the Glasgow Warriors. From Sam Heughan’s IG:

Sam let us know how tired he was at the end of a long week, but somehow still had the energy (superhuman?) to look marvelously stylish and at ease when he met the Prince at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Actress and talk show host Aisha Tyler visited Sam and Caitriona at work one day.

The first of June is World Outlander Day. Who has ever heard of a book/TV series having its own international day?

Sam and Caitriona celebrated World Outlander Day at an airport on their way to the FYC Emmy event in LA

Emmy season is upon us, and the cast and production team attended a panel in LA. Imagine flying to LA for two days for an event, then back to Scotland and work the next day. No time for jet lag for this intrepid team. @jill_millander on Twitter was a fan on the spot that day and took this candid video of the cast between photos.

And Jill took this photo of “bendy Cait,” which we later saw from Sam’s eye view.

Now they are back at work, and apparently, it is rainy and muddy! So, what’s new?

And finally, a wrap on a series of night shoots and Caitriona Balfeclearly does not like the midges. Anyone who has spent time in Scotland will surely agree on that.

Do you want to keep up to speed with all things Outlander? Not sure where to start? Besides following Outlander Cast of course on Facebook, Twitter and IG, here is sampling of other names and accounts that are great to follow on IG and Twitter. Some people might not know that on IG you can also follow a #hashtag. In the search box enter, say #samheughan or #outlanderseason5 and you will see all the posts that have recently used that #hashtag. From that feed you may like to pick out accounts that interest you. There are SO many. Likewise on Twitter you can enter a #hashtag in the search box, say #samheughan, and you will get a list of all the recent posts. Again you can browse here to pick the accounts that interest you.

Searching #hashtags on Instagram and Twitter

Some interesting Instagram accounts

First of course, the stars and supporting actors, some are obvious account names, others slightly different from the person’s name — eg Lauren Lyle is laurenlyle7, John Bell is johnhunterbell and Richard Rankin is  rikrankin.

Here are some other great accounts to follow, especially if you’re interested in Outlandernews and  looking behind the scenes.

Matthew Robertsmatt_b_roberts executive producer and photographer extraordinaire. He posts mesmerising pictures of Outlander locations and interacts freely with fans, sometimes playing little games on his page

Gary Steelejongarysteele Gary is the amazing production designer for Outlander. His IG account reflects his interest in design and architecture and he posts beautiful images of interiors and exteriors around the world. He also shares details of his set and location designs.

Wendy Kemp Forbes: wendybirdmua Wendy is Sam Heughan’s makeup artist (yes, she created those scars!) and he describes her as a close friend and his “rock.” Wendy posts personal stuff as well as occasional BTS gems and insighst into the world of the makeup artist.

David A Stewart: daviehollywood Davie is Sam Heughan’s driver and, as well as his personal posts and great location photographs, his account has fun stuff about him and Sam traveling to and from work in all weathers and at all times of day. Coffee and chewing gum feature heavily!

Mary Barranco: barranco.mary Mary is a fan who keeps up to the minute with all things Outlander, relating to production, the actors, fan pics, etc.

Michael Carstensen: steadimike  Mike is a steadicam operator on Outlander. His account is a mix of personal stuff and interesting BTS pics and videos, some of it with a technical bent, and sometimes he puts really good BTS videos in his IG stories.

Barry Waldo: barrywaldo Barry is Gary Steele’s partner and his account is a fun mix of personal stuff, everything from travel adventures and cooking escapades to occasional gems of fun times with the cast and production/set design pics. Barry and Gary hosted some Outlanderpeeps for fun times at Easter.

The Rank and File: richardrankinfans If you’re crazy about Richard Rankin, this one’s for you!

outlander_forever : a fan account for all things Outlander

outlander_america: a newsy account with a wide focus on the show and the actors

Aimee Spinks: aimeespinksphotography Aimee is the award-winning photographer who takes all the official stills for Outlander.

Jon McCormick: jolly_boy_barnet Jon often posts technical camera stuff and cool BTS vids on his IG stories. You have to be quick!

Buzz Critchell:  buzzcr You can find more camera stuff mixed with personal stuff and some good BTS vids on his stories sometimes.

@newglasgowgirls:  Full discloser, I am one of the newglasgowgirls and our IG is a fan account with newsy Outlanderstuff and a focus on the actors, their careers and other projects.

So, on to Twitter– that place of fun, games and unlimited angst! You can pick and choose the accounts to follow to minimise the downside. Here are some of my suggestions:

The stars and cast, of course. You can find them all by searching their names in the search box – see pic above. Remember for celebrities and well known folks the blue tick next to their name signifies that this is their own verified account. No blue tick, and it’s not them.

And here are some others that you might find interesting/worthwhile

@Outlander_starz– the mothership

@Writer_DG– Diana Gabaldon, the actual mother of all things Outlander

@w_network– this great Canadian network that puts up really cool Outlandervideos

@OutlanderHQ– great fan site with lots of Outlanderstuff

@laughoutlander– a maker of superior and often hilarious outlandish memes

@Outcandour– our resident Outlandish vet and feisty feminist who wrote that cool post about Adso

@OutLandAnatomy– our resident Outlandish medico who sees the world of Outlander through an anatomical lens

@InverOutlanders– the Inverness Outlanders, a group on the spot in Scotland who give lots to the fandom including maps and self-directed outlandish tours

So, I hope newbies may now have an insight into ways they can follow all things Outlander and for those longterm fans, that you found something new here. Can anyone add to my list of great names/accounts to follow on IG and Twitter? If so, please leave them in the comments below.







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