Outlander – Sassenach

“Sassenach” is episode one of season one of Outlander.

The episode begins looking over a landscape with a voiceover, a woman saying that people disappear all the time, and there is an explanation for these disappearances. Usually. The voiceover continues with the woman looking into the window of a shop, six months after the end of World War II. It then goes back to the war where the woman, Claire, a nurse, is working on an injured soldier. After this she exits the place she was working to see people cheering, for the war is now over, VE Day. Claire talks about how memories are fading, and whether her life would have changed if she had bought the vase she was looking at in the shop’s window, and how she wouldn’t change a thing.

In 1945, Claire and her husband are in Scotland, celebrating the end of the war years, and getting to know each other once again after five years apart. They arrive at a village near Inverness to find several doors marked with blood; apparently a blood sacrifice of a black cockerel to honour Saint Oran. Claire’s husband is a historian who has just been accepted as a professor. The festival of Samhain, or Halloween, is happening soon. Her husband Frank has become interested in his own genealogy, which is why they are in Scotland as one of his ancestors served in the British Army in Scotland in the 18th century, and Claire has picked up an interest in the medicinal uses of plants (which is probably going to be very useful).

During the trip, Claire gets her tea leaves, and her hand, read. Which, according to the reader, gives an odd result. Travelling and staying in the same place, and interrupted life- and marriage lines. Not broken. Frank sees a figure staring at Claire that night through the window of their room, but when he accosts the figure, it turns and vanishes. The electricity goes out at the same time.

According to Frank, there is a circle of standing stones nearby where a group of druids still observe the old rituals. Local folklore says that the stones were carried to their present site from Africa by a race of Celtic giants. He and Claire arrive at the circle to watch the ritual being held in the early hours of the morning.

Later that day, Claire returns to the circle alone to get a plant she saw there. Whilst she is there, she hears a noise and touches one of the stones. She awakes in front of the stone and returns to her car, only to find it gone. As is the road. Whilst walking back through the woods she hears a gunshot, and sees men dressed in red coats running through the trees. The guns being used are primitive, and the men using them are firing live ammunition. She comes across one of the men, and he looks just like her husband. Only he’s not. He’s the ancestor that her husband came to Scotland looking for. The meeting does not go well, and Claire is rescued by one of the locals, before being knocked unconscious by him.

Claire has, as expected, travelled back to 18th century Scotland (not a good time to have an English accent in the Scottish Highlands) but she doesn’t know, or perhaps accept, this yet. Her nurse’s knowledge proves useful quite quickly, especially as it’s rather more advanced than any local’s. It’s only when night falls and there is no sign of electricity that Claire accepts she has travelled back in time.

Lots of Claire speaking over what’s happening, sentences spoken in what is presumably Scots Gaelic and only a fairly loose connection to science fiction.

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