I Dun Been Kilted. Notes on “Outlander”, Episode One.

I’m a writer, which means I’m a reader. When I’m not writing, I like mental vacations, and Outlander delivers.  I’ve looked forward to this program for several reasons. Let’s list them, in an apparently random order, with all nudity being held in reserve for later. Maybe.

1) I teach history, have an explosive temper, and a fondness for whiskey. Thus, the books called to the very essence of my soul.



2) My wife is Northern European, thus, I am encoded to find pale, mannerly women attractive. Therefore, as a man,  Claire appeals to me for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she a) has a pulse, b) takes falling through time with relative aplomb and c) is clearly willing to date a man with bad teeth.

Caitriona Balfe

3) It’s always touch and go when someone announces that bone chilling news, “We’re taking something you love and making it into a film/television/interpretive dance.” Let’s face it, many of the most beloved books have been rendered into steaming globs of sheep dung.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin.

 4) Budget and cinematography. This really goes to the quality of the creative team. “Gritty” does not mean “Fake torn pleather pants”.  For those of us acquainted with reality, let’s be honest: the good old days were a morass of suckitude. See again, things like dentistry and antibiotics, also such notions as diet, the Rule of Law, and just for good measure, indoor plumbing*. Outlander struck me as being filmed in an authentic manner. Also, there were the colors and vistas I associate with a world that is on the cusp of civilization. Life was hard, and the English made certain that it was harder. With that in mind, the brutality and callous nature of violence rang true for me. Kudos to the team for their commitment to a world free of the sanitary tendencies that ruin so much historical drama. 

5) Let’s give credit to the career Hari-kiri we witnessed in the transformation of Tobias Menzies. Yes, he was already known and reviled by every Game of Thrones viewer, but his transformation from mannerly husband rediscovering his bride into a sadistic, rump-loving British officer (there’s a unique role**) was more than just physical, it was complete. His narrowed gaze, perfected officer’s sneer and looming sense of violence made me hate him instantly. You’ve got to commend the actor who embraces a role that will cause him to be reviled by more women than the inventor of body waxing.

This Brazilian is for your own good, Claire!

 6) Let us not overlook the sauciness. First, on behalf of the 23% male viewers, kind thanks to whomever looked at the script and said, “Yeahhh….I’m gonna need to see some more of Catriona’s ass.” Secondly, we can infer with ease that there is a French member of the crew with some creative control, because the act of Frank– ahh, how to put this delicately– ‘pearl diving’– was the least British part of the entire episode.
7) Jamie. He’s legit. I like his early vulnerability. It prevents him from being cartoonish in any way, and lends a credible element to what we all know will be a complex, layered relationship. Plus, women–well, here’s Jamie:

“Has anyone spoken to you about seeing Jesus today?”

 And this is the general reaction:

Also, THANK THE HEAVENS that someone had the moral courage to select an actor who is the actual height of the character. I find it nearly impossible to buy in to a petite, coiffed actor strutting about like a bantam rooster while purporting to be a total badass. There’s a place for tiny creatures with an attitude– the Crockpot.

“I totally look 6′ 5″. . . at an IMAX.”

 8) Scotch Eggs. This isn’t necessarily related to Outlander, but it’s an important part of my life. Scotch Eggs are so good, I included them in a book. Why? Because I’m spreading the gospel of an egg that is rolled in sausage, then breadcrumbs, and then fried. I’m not saying you have to love them to be my friend; I’m just saying it wouldn’t hurt. 

I love ye. Right properly, Ah do.

Until next week, Sassenachs!

* I’m not Anti-Outhouse. I’m just pro-showers.
** Not all British officers are “whinging ponces”, to quote my Aussie friend. They just dress that way. 

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