Ex-Post Facto, Y’all. Outlander Recap 101, “Sassenach”

Here it is, set complete, promise kept. My sincere thanks to everyone complicit in this labor of love. See you all after April 4th!

 

We start with a view of stormy skies over dappled hills and a female voice over saying “People disappear all of the time…” As she talks about housewives and kids who are found (usually) and how most disappearances have explanations.

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And so we meet Claire, who contemplates that she never had reason to buy a vase, mostly because she has never been anywhere long enough to build the kind of stable decorative support system a young vase needs. I expect her to start talking about other ornamental pottery she never got to own, but no, just the vase. At least the voice over gives us a time. “It was a Tuesday, six months after the end of the war.” So 1946.

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Flashback to France, where Claire was a nurse in an army hospital. We see her clamping a vein like a boss, being bled on and kicking ass when a doctor takes over, and she wanders outside to find that the war is over and Champagne is being passed out like cookies, or VD.

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Back in present day, Claire muses that “the end of the bloodiest and most terrible war in human history” grows fainter, but damn if she doesn’t remember every detail “of the day [she] saw the life [she] wanted sitting in a window.” She wonders what would have happened had she made a home for the vase. “Would I have been happy? Who can say?” You guys, this is trippy because the voice over is Claire From The Future. She is all-knowing. Like Yoda. “I know now,” Cloda/Yaire says, “even after the pain, death and heartbreak that followed, I would still make the same choice.”

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand intro! Stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

Dancing nuns! Bambi’s dad! A whip, a pipe and some truly fantastic jawlines & silhouettes prance around the countryside riding horsey horses and metal horses and shooting things and stabbing things while running and walking. There is also some portion of anatomy that I will just say is the back of someone’s knee because I’m a recapper, Jim, not an anatomist!

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It ends with a couple on horseback riding like hell, and a stone circle. I played this back about 3x in a row but only pretended to be the dancing nuns twice. The third time I was the stag. Good times. Good credits. Gorgeous song.

Because I read the books, for me seeing the stones was like seeing The Beatles.

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Big-band music plays as we close in on Claire and her husband Frank Randall driving through the Scottish countryside on their second honeymoon. Turns out the war kept them apart for five years, and this is a way to reconnect.

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The town square is adorable and so are they, with their coats and hats and their inquiries about blood on doorways of superstitious Scots… PRECIOUS. They go register Mrs. Baird’s Inn, and the namesake tells them that the blood they see on the doors is from a black rooster, meant to honor St. Otteran on his feast day (Oct 27). This causes Frank to riff on Christianity squatting on pagan holidays, basically outing himself as a history nerd, and Claire confirms it when she says he’s due to start a professorship at Oxford in two weeks. As Frank nerds hard with Mrs. Baird, I remember who he reminds me of:

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Mrs. Baird comments that they picked a good time to visit, near Samhain,  and warns them to look out for carousing ghosts who ‘get a pass’ that day. They smile politely while obviously not believing a word she says, and head upstairs.

They walk into their room, and the voice over tells us that although Claire and Frank were once inseparable, they only spent 10 days together in the last five years, and things had not gone back to normal. You can tell by the way they act around each other, Claire determinedly cheerful and Frank a bit nervous.

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Frank sits down on the bed and comments on the very loud mattress, dryly noting that “Mrs. Baird will be kept appraised of any renewed attempts to start a family.” I take this as a sign of impending shenanigans, but he goes back to reading his notebook. Claire, obviously the fun one, calls him out as a “lazybones” who will never manage to grow that family tree unless he actually um, fertilizes the soil.

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She starts to jump on the bed and convinces him to join her, and they both laugh and bounce so hard that Mrs. Baird below glances up at her chandelier. They stop to catch their breath and Claire says that one of the things she would try and be unable to recall at night was the sound of her husband’s laughter. Frank, touched by this, reveals that he used to sketch the lines of the palm of her right hand, even once into a report. He kisses her palm very tenderly, and she kisses him.

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He tries to interrupt her to say something, but she shushes him and pulls him down with her to kneel on the bed as she takes his jacket off. Downstairs, Mrs. Baird watches the chandelier shake gently, and smiles.

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Some time later, they are driving through the countryside. Frank points out Cocknammon Rock, where English soldiers would lie in ambush for Scottish brigands and rebels in the 17th and 18th centuries. Claire smiles indulgently, and remembers being raised by her Uncle Lamb, an archaeologist. She traipsed all over the world as a child, digging latrines and smoking cigars like all little girls dream about doing. This is no wilting flower.

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They arrive at some ruins, and Claire tells us that Frank had developed an interest in his personal genealogy while she was cataloging plants for their medicinal purposes. Frank announces that they are at “Castle Leoch, the ancestral home of the Laird of the Mackenzie clan until midway through the 19th Century.” They go inside to take a look in what he thinks was the kitchen, crumbling and overgrown with vines. Claire tells us that delving into his past allowed Frank to forget his recent work during the war: running covert operations and overseeing spies.

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He had sent dozens of men on secret missions, most of whom never returned. He didn’t talk about it often, but she knows it preyed on him. Frank tells Claire with a smile that there is no proof that his ancestor was ever there, but it was “within his operational sphere” so he may have walked those same halls.

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They walk down a dark hallway and push their way past a stuck door into a basement room littered with bottles. Claire jokes that it was where the castle trolls lived, and Frank dryly answers that trolls are solitary and don’t live in pairs, because Frank cannot let an opportunity to nerd hard pass him by. This scene then takes a hard left at Albuquerque. Claire sits on a table and coyly crosses her legs. “All this, and no one to share it with?”

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Frank, seeing the glint in her eye, says she’ll get dirty. “You can give me a bath,” she entices, hiking her skirt up. What follows makes me wish I could high-five every single woman reading this recap, and I don’t even have to tell y’all why. I think it’s enough to note that Frank remarks on Claire’s lack of underthings, and when he tries to kiss her, she pushes him downward. He doesn’t even take the camera off his shoulder, people. That’s love.

All Hallow’s Eve, about a week later, the Randalls visit the Rev. Wakefield, who is helping them look into Johnathan Wolverton Randall, Frank’s direct ancestor and a Captain in the Dragoons back in the 1740s.

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He was stationed in the area, harassing the locals for about 4 years. Claire remarks on the continuing ill will towards the English, saying that she heard someone in the pub refer to them as “Sassenachs”. Rev. Wakefield clarifies that it just means they are English or at worst, “outlanders.” The reverend’s housekeeper, Mrs. Graham, shows up with tea for the men, and asks Claire if she would like to take hers in the kitchen, which hell yes she does.

Claire remarks on the quality of the tea, and Mrs. Graham reveals that she reads tea leaves, offering to read hers.

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Claire laughingly asks if she will meet “a tall dark stranger and take a trip across the sea“? Mrs. Graham smiles, but then frowns at the cup. “Could be…or could not”. It turns out her tea leaves contradict each other. A leaf indicating a journey is crossed by one indicating staying put, and though she meets strangers, one of them is her husband. Mrs. Graham asks to see Claire’s hand, and tells her the pattern on it is one she has not seen before. Some things she can tell: Claire is strong-minded, with a will “not easily crossed,” and her husband “is not likely to stray” from her bed.

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Claire’ lifeline is “interrupted, in bits and pieces,” and while her marriage line indicates two marriages, it is not broken, but forked. Just as Claire starts to look worried, Frank and the reverend interrupt. They are discussing the possibility that Black Jack had a powerful protector in his time, and suspect the Duke of Sandringham, a suspected Jacobite who died under suspicious circumstances. Claire takes this opportunity to leave, and warns Frank to come home before the storm breaks.

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It is during her walk home that she sees the vase, and is bothered by “a certain sense of prophecy” in Mrs. Graham’s words. The war taught her to cherish the present, the voice over tells us, because tomorrow may never come, but she did not know that tomorrow would come to matter less than yesterday.

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That night, Claire brushes her hair by a window and takes the Lord’s (and Roosevelt’s) name in vain. Frank, walking home in the rain, is stopped cold by the sight of a man silhouetted in the dark, looking up at his wife through her window. He is in traditional Scots garb, and seen only from the back.

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When Frank approaches him saying “Excuse me, can I help you with something?”, the figure turns to the left and vanishes.

Arriving upstairs in the hotel room, Frank rushes to the window to look outside. Claire, lighting candles since the lights went out, tries to get his attention. She tells him he looks like he’s seen a ghost, and he says that he can’t say he hasn’t. A little later he tells Claire that the man was close enough that he should have brushed past him, but he didn’t feel anything, and he vanished instantly.

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He then carefully asks Claire if she had any Scots in her care as a nurse. She remembers one of many in particular, a piper who didn’t like needles. She smiles at the memory, but at the sudden closed look on Frank’s face, Claire wants to know what exactly he is asking.

It turns out Frank thought the man was someone Claire met during the war who “wanted to reconnect,” telling her it would not be unusual that she would have sought comfort. Claire is upset that he thinks she would have cheated on him, but she never actually says she didn’t.

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Still, Frank tells her that even if she had it would not matter to him. He loves her, an nothing would stop him loving her. He asks for her forgiveness, she gives it, and they make repentant geek love with their watches on. Claire’s voice over wants to make sure we know that the Randalls never lost their sex-mojo, it being the one way they could find their way back to one another.

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Later in bed, Frank tells Claire that he wants to set an alarm to “see the witches”. It turns out there is a circle of standing stones called Craigh Na Dun outside town where druids gather before daybreak, and he wants to see their Samhain celebration.

Early the next morning, they hide and watch the ceremony. Figures in white come out with paper lanterns and begin a stately dance. Among them is Mrs. Graham, the reverend’s housekeeper.

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Claire thinks that they should have been ridiculous, but instead there is a voice in her head that tells her she is witnessing something “ancient and powerful,” and that she shouldn’t be there. The dance ends with the rising sun, and the participants disperse slowly.

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Frank and Claire walk to the stones afterwards to look around, but sneak off when they see one of the girls coming back. Later that day, Claire wonders about the purple flowers she saw at the base of one of the stones, and Frank recommends she go back and have a look, since he will be at the Reverend’s house all day doing research. They kiss goodbye.

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Claire arrives at the stones in her car, and walks up the hill. There is no one there when she picks her flowers, after which a strong wind begins to blow. She stands and walks to one of the stones as if compelled, placing both hands upon it, and the screen goes black.

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Via voice over (man, there is a lot of it) Claire tells the story of falling asleep in a car once that fell off a bridge, and how that is the closest she can come to describing how she felt -“but even that fell woefully short.”

 

She wakes up on the ground next to the stones (which now have trees growing among them) and runs to find her car, except her car isn’t there…and neither is the road.

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She keeps wandering around the much denser woods when suddenly, the sound of gunfire startles her and she sees men in the distance. “When confronted with the impossible, the rational mind will grasp for the logical,” says V.O. Claire. She wonders if she has stumbled onto the set of a costume drama (hint: she has), but does not think it makes sense that they are firing live ammunition. An officer shoots at her and she runs away, losing her belt in the process, and right to a creek, where we see a familiar face filling a canteen.

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Claire thinks it’s Frank as well, and upon seeing his expression, realizes that it is SO NOT. When she asks him who he is, he introduces himself as “Johnathan Randall, Esquire, Captain of his majesty’s 8th Dragoons, at your service.” When Claire, spooked, runs like a pony, he gives chase and backs her up against a wall with a sword at her throat, asking who she is.

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Claire tells him that her husband, Frank Beauchamp, will be looking for her, but he doesn’t believe her. Claire, exasperated, snaps at him to get off her, calls him a bastard and spits in his face, to which he responds that she has the speech of a lady, but the manners of a whore. “I choose the whore,” he says, turning her around and ripping at her underthings. Suddenly, a highlander falls from the sky like a hairy dirty angel and knocks him out, gesturing to Claire to come with him.

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She doesn’t understand him but goes along, all the while asking who he is and where they are. The highlander, trying to hide from the redcoats, takes the expedient route to quiet her, knocking her out.

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Claire wakes up on his horse, which is arriving at a small cottage. She was wishing it was a dream, but dreams don’t come with smell-o-vision. What they DO come with, however, is a lot of men in kilts. She is shoved inside while the men quite obviously discuss her, but there is no way of knowing because it is not translated for us.

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A large man by the fire stands up and walks over, the living personification of a bald eagle, speaking gently to her in English, asking her to come closer to the fire to have a look at her, and for her name. Claire decides to use the surname Beauchamp, in case they intended to ransom her so as to keep her trail from leading to Frank. It’s sweet that she wants to protect him, but if the Captain is any indication, only bastards claim the Randall surname.

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The highlander, Murtagh, tells who he found her with (”a certain Captain of Dragoons”) and that there seemed to be a question of whether or not she was a “whuuuure.” The man asks for Claire’s position on the debate and she testily snaps out “I. Am. Not.” Murtagh agrees, saying he would stake his life on it, and uses his name: Dougal. One of the other men jokes about testing her, and Dougal silences him, saying he does not hold with rape.

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He is clearly the leader, as the men fall into line immediately. He adds that they will sort it later, and walks back to the fireplace, saying they have to “do something about Jamie first.”

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Claire contemplates escape, but has no idea where she is and feels that doing so in the evening “would be a fool’s errand.” She watches the men discuss what to do with Jamie, who has what seems to be a dislocated shoulder and cannot get back on a horse. One of the men wants to “force the joint back” and although Claire knows it would have been wiser to stay silent, she cannot help but rush forward, shouting “Don’t you dare!” when the man gives Jamie a drink to ease the pain, and then takes the arm up to begin.

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She tells them to step aside, or they will break his arm. She speaks to Dougal, saying that the arm must be in the correct position before it is slipped back into the joint. He steps aside and lets her examine the injured man, Jamie, who is noticeably less hairy and younger than the other men. YES PLEASE.

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She gently bends his arm and then with a brief heads-up, pops it back in. He is astounded, saying that it no longer hurts. She warns him it will, for about a week, and looks up, asking the nearest man to “fetch her a long piece of cloth, or a belt” for a sling. He mocks her, but Dougal snaps at him to giver her his belt. The injured man, Jamie, wryly comments that she must have done this before. She tells him she is a nurse, and his eyes immediately go to her bosom. “Not a wet nurse!” she snaps, and OMG you two, just kiss. He meekly submits as she gives him his instructions for care, at the end of which a much grumpier Dougal makes sure he can ride, and tells the group they are leaving.

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When they step outside, Claire worries that she cannot see Inverness, but Jamie tells her she is looking straight at it. She notices the lack of electric lighting and finally accepts that she is no longer in the 20th century. Dougal comes out and tells her that she is ride with them and if she wanders, he will slit her throat. I guess when she was helpless he was a gentleman, but now that he knows she’s a thinker he gets to treat her like dirt. Man, time travel is looking less romantic all the time.

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Dougal hoists Claire up into the saddle in front of Jamie, who struggles to cover them both with his plaid to keep them warm and dry through the night, as they will be riding through the next two nights. Even though Claire at first rejects him, she is nothing if not practical.

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Lots of gorgeous scenery shots. What an advertisement for the country.

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The party is going down a wide path in daylight when Claire looks up, recognizing the rock formation that Frank showed her at the beginning of the episode. She mentions to Jamie that she knows the place, and that the English use it for ambushes. Jamie looks around, noticing that it is a good place for one, and rushes ahead to tell Dougal. Dougal is immediately suspicious of Claire’s information and where she got it from (”the village”), but apparently trusts it enough to give it merit.

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As he gestures for them to turn around, however, redcoats burst out at them and Jamie quickly yanks his arm out of the sling and dumps Claire off his horse, telling her to hide herself as the men rush into battle.

 

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Claire briefly lays low and observes the fight, but then takes off running through the woods in an effort to escape. I have no idea why. You would have to pry me from that man’s thighs with a crowbar. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for us, Jamie intercepts her, asking sarcastically if she lost her way.

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Claire must feel that misdirection is the better part of valor, because she immediately notices that he is hurt, and points it out to him.

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He assures her that it is not his blood (”Not much of it, anyway”) and that they must return as Dougal and the others are waiting for them upstream.

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Claire picks this point to dig in her heels and say she isn’t going with him, but he points his sword at her and tells her she is.

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She asks him if he will cut her throat if she doesn’t, but he doesn’t rise to the bait. Instead, he uses her earlier concern over his wound to tell her that if she will not come, he will pick her up and throw her over his shoulder.

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“D’ye want me to do that?“, he asks, and Claire tearfully spits out a no. “Well then,” says Jamie, “Suppose that means yer comin’ with me.” IF ONLY.

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Further up the road, the highlanders toast Claire and Jamie offers her a drink as Dougal glares at her. At first she refuses, but later accepts when he tells her it won’t fill her belly but at least she’ll forget she is hungry. That’s some homeless logic, right there.

 

That night, they are riding single file when Jamie tumbles over off his horse like a big ol’ handsome oak.

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Claire alerts the others and climbs down to examine him. She pulls on his neckline and discovers a bullet wound, promptly berating him for not saying anything while asking the men for disinfectant to avoid germs. What follows is a round of blank stares and repetition of terms which are obviously unknown in this century:

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Finally Claire hits upon  timeless terminology everyone understands: alcohol. She pours it into the wound, waking Jamie up and causing him to assure everyone that he is all right. What follows is a glorious dressing-down of a grown man by an alpha-female in high dudgeon, and it’s worth recording.

You’re not all right. Couldn’t you tell how badly you were bleeding? You’re lucky you’re not dead, falling and fighting and throwing yourself off horses! All, right, I need a sterile bandage and some clean cloth. [More blank stares.] Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! [rips her shift and holds her hand out for the alcohol]

As she bandages Jamie, wrestling with the bit of shift, she lets out a “Come ON, you GODDAMNED BLOODY BASTARD,” which manages to shock even Dougal, who comments that he has never heard a woman use that sort of language in his life.

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One of the highlanders comments that her husband ought to tan her hide, and another chimes in that St. Paul says ‘Let a woman be silent-’ but he doesn’t finish, because Claire interrupts him, addressing him first, and then Jamie.

You can mind your own bloody business and so can Saint Paul. [To Jamie] And if you move so much as a single muscle while I am tying this bandage, I’ll bloody throttle you!

And the entire time, Jamie stares at her like she just invented ice cream.

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At the end of this, Dougal quietly tells her that they have five to seven hours yet to ride, and they will stay only as long as it takes to stem his bleeding and dress his wound. Claire complains that Jamie needs rest, but Dougal ignores her. It is Jamie himself that explains to her that Randall commands the local militia and will have sent out search parties, so it is not safe to stay put for long. Jamie says he knows him, and would not leave her or any other man to risk becoming his prisoner.

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He tells her if he is not well enough to ride that they should leave him behind with a loaded pistol. Claire tells him that he should have mentioned being shot. “It didna hurt much at the time,” he says with a grin, and Claire asks if it hurts now. At his affirmative, she smiles and says “Good.”

She offers him a hand up, telling him that it is all she can do for him and the rest is up to her. He says, “Thank ye, Sassenach, truly,” and it is auditory chocolate cake to hear that word said out loud.

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She tells him, “Get back on your horse, soldier,” and I am glad she has a super-good looking ally in these crazy, smelly times.

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The next day the party rides towards what is unmistakably Castle Leoch, and hallucinates herself, remembering being there two days ago.

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“Or is that in the future?”, she wonders, asking herself how she could remember something that technically hasn’t happened yet.

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As they enter the grounds, Claire lists the things that have happened to her so far: “assaulted, threatened, kidnapped and nearly raped,” and knows that her journey has only begun.

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Want to keep reading? Here’s a master post of all my Outlander stuff.

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