In a field not far from the Gleneagles golf course, Highlanders in full regalia train to fight. It’s a sunny day in central Scotland. A collection of tents, campfires and animals dot the open grasslands, and men dressed in clan tartans do a shoddy job of lining into formation. They’re a collection of farmers and common soldiers, not a trained military ready to face off against bayonets with much more than pitchforks and a Highland charge.
Nearby stands a woman who knows they are destined to fail.
After spending half of Season 2 in Paris (shot on location in Prague and in studio sound stages), Outlander — which was just renewed for both Season 3 and Season 4 by Starz — has returned to its Scottish roots. Claire and Jamie Fraser headed home to Lallybroch in last week’s “The Fox’s Lair” after an attempt to change the course of Charles Stuart’s Jacobite uprising that can only be described as “disastrous.”
Now the Frasers have joined with the Scotsmen who have volunteered to be a part of the Jacobite army that fights the British. Claire is cursed with the knowledge of how devastating the Jacobites’ defeat is on Scottish culture. Her instinct is for she and her husband to flee the impending war. Jamie, by contrast, wants to stand and fight to save his people.
Things are just beginning to ramp up.
The crew of Outlander has missed shooting on location in Scotland, but after a week of terrible rains that turned the massive farm they’re shooting on into a muddy mess, they welcome the sunlight and balmy weather. It’s the perfect weather for Sam Heughan’s Jamie Fraser to train these wannabe soldiers how to use the weapons they’ll be fighting the British with.
“It feels like things are just beginning to ramp up,” Heughan told me later in his trailer after he’d wrapped for the day, sipping a glass of Laphroaig, his favorite whisky. “The first half of the season there’s a lot of talk about this great battle, about Culloden, about how we know this whole people and culture are doomed. Ultimately Jamie realizes that he can’t [stop Charles Stuart from raising the army]. He has to join them and has to help.”
In person, Heughan is open and charming, as quick to joke and small talk as he is to earnestly discuss the show. But across a shaded field, surrounded by silent crew members observing him train Highlander soldiers how to battle the Redcoats’ muskets, he becomes Jamie Fraser. He takes on a stronger Scottish lilt than his usual tones, voice echoing through the valley as he barks commands. Moving through the motions of disarming the enemy, he becomes a Scottish hero of the people.
Jamie has had a difficult Season 2, but back on his home turf, it’s clear he’s regained his confidence. He and his wife Claire are fighting to change the future by aiming to defeat the British at the upcoming Battle on Culloden Moor, and Heughan plays Jamie fully confident that Charles Stuart’s army can win.
“I think that’s why he throws himself into training these people,” he explained. “Best thing to do, if they are going to have to fight, is to learn to be a modern army. That’s what he’s doing here. He’s training them to be more than just Highland warriors.”
Adding a wrinkle to Jamie’s plan to train the Scottish volunteers is that a familiar face has come to challenge him for command. I duck into a small barn to avoid appearing on camera as Jamie greets his uncle Dougal — the character’s first appearance in Season 2, and actor Graham McTavish’s big return to the series.
The first words out of Dougal’s mouth after he says “hello” to Jamie are an acknowledgment of his nephew’s rape at the hands of Black Jack Randall in Season 1. Dougal clearly believes his arrival means he’s in charge, and his disrespect of Jamie is intentional. He just doesn’t know how much James Fraser has changed since their last encounter.
“He’s not the person that they thought he was,” McTavish later told me. “Suddenly Dougal’s on the back foot, which is a very interesting place.”
That day of filming ends up being the first 10 or so minutes of Sunday’s episode, “Je Suis Prest.” Dougal reunites with the Frasers and Murtagh over and over as the camera shoots them from multiple angles. Duncan Lacroix trains the recruits for several takes, repeatedly yelling “what are you laughing at, bastard!” in one extra’s face. Heughan walks through training sequences with the volunteers as the stunt coordinator advises him between takes.
As the day wears on, some of the extras sit down in the Highlander camp out of the camera’s view. This day of filming is just setup for the big sequences yet to come: the battles at Prestonpans and, later, Culloden. During one break, I heard one extra turn to another and ask, “You looking forward to the battle stuff? The way I’m imagining it in my head, I hope it comes out.”
That enthusiasm for the fight sequences was a repeated refrain on set. Outlander is building up to a fictional recreation of two battles key to Scotland’s history. Heughan, who learned about Prestonpans and Culloden repeatedly during school, was excited to bring these key scenes to life. But he also was aware how important it is that Outlander get them right.
In Scotland, history’s always around you somewhere.
“Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace: these are all stories that you grew up being surrounded by. In Scotland, history’s always around you somewhere. The place names and the music and the people, but it’s mostly the landscape. You walk around and you go, ‘Oh, there’s the site,’” Heughan said. “We’re not far from Prestonpans. It’s all there. When we come through Stirling, there’s a great battlefield just there. It’s just like, it’s all there. It feels great to be given that gift of bringing it to the screen.”
Adding authenticity to the depiction of these scenes is the fact that many of the extras are played by members of the Clanranald Trust, an educational organization that strives to bring awareness of Scottish culture through recreations of the past. The men from Clanranald would arrive at 4 a.m. each day of filming, sleep together in a big church they built and work together like a clan. That dynamic translated to the screen. Their real-life hierarchy appears in the show when the leader of Clanranald plays the man who helps Jamie train the recruits in several sequences.
“It is all good fun, and we’re having a great time doing it, but you have to remember that you’re respecting a group of people that were real and that this really happened,” McTavish said. “So, yes, it’s very alive for us particularly, because we’re doing this. You want to make sure, for [the Clanranald extras] as well, that you’re treating it with respect and you have a responsibility to the memory that those people went through.”
You have to remember that you’re respecting a group of people that were real.
In real life, the Battle of Culloden was disastrous for the Jacobites who fought in it. Not only was it a devastating defeat, but the uprising caused a crackdown on Highlander culture; those who rebelled were put on trial for high treason and many were killed, Britain made a point to absorb Scotland even more, and wearing Highland tartans was outlawed. This was a key turning point for the nation, the repercussions of which are still felt today.
Outlander is bringing fiction and magic into a hugely significant moment in Scotland’s history. Claire and Jamie are trying to change fate, but the Starz series has already made a point to let viewers know the Frasers are poised for failure: theopening scene of Season 2 shows Claire back in the 20th century learning that the British won at Culloden. But don’t expect the end of the season to be predictable just because the outcome seems to be unchangeable.
“Ultimately the show has always been about relationships. Not only is that the climax of history, but it’s also the climax of the relationships that are happening at the time. It’s all doomed, and we can’t stop history from happening,” Heughan said of the upcoming finale. “[Season 2] certainly has a climax. [Showrunner Ron Moore] has also got some surprises.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Terri Schwartz is Entertainment Editor at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at@Terri_Schwartz.
“Outlander is like nothing seen before on television. From its depiction of a truly powerful female lead character, to the devastating decimation of the Highlander way of life, to what is a rarely seen genuine and timeless love story, it is a show that not only transports the viewer, but inspires the passion and admiration of its fans,” Chris Albrecht, CEO of Starz, said in a statement. “On this 25th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the US, we are thrilled and honored to be able to continue the story that began with author Diana Gabaldon, and is brought to life by the incredibly talented Ronald D. Moore. There are no better storytellers for Outlander than this team, both in front and behind the camera.”
The second season premiere on April 9 was Starz’ highest-rated season premiere ever, with almost 1.5 million viewers. That’s more than double last year’s series premiere, and more viewers than any season one episode brought in.
Outlander airs Saturdays 9 p.m. on Starz.
In honor of WORLD OUTLANDER DAY,
let’s go back to where this love story really cemented itself in the hearts of Outlander fans, especially Jamie and Claire fans and book fans in particular. Since the first announcement of plans to adapt the book series to television, book fans had long anticipated the wedding episode. It has become the single most iconic scene of the TV series to date and one of the most beloved of Diana Gabaldon’s book series.
The magic in the story is usually subtle, but potent, and not the main focus, but the magic associated with the wedding vow deserves some attention. Blood is a powerful symbolism, and sometimes even has mystical powers. The blood oath makes use of this to make a commitment that cannot be broken.
Blood spilling is a potent force in the working of magic, and in some mythologies certain types of blood are deemed more powerful than others. Some consider the blood of royalty, the blood of a special line (Fraser, the Fraser Prophesy, which book readers will recall), the caster’s own blood (Jamie and Claire), and virgin’s blood (Jamie) to be most powerful.
In many ways their wedding ceremony represents the traditions of their time, but their blood vow may be described as something between a binding traditional handfasting and an initiation. It is a blood bond, a spiritual blending, a binding of their souls, not just to God but to one another, and not just for this lifetime, but forevermore. Not until death-do-us-part, but for all lifetimes to come. Jamie knew what he was doing and knew its significance, but Claire did not.
Would Claire have agreed to the marriage if she had known about the blood vow? Probably. Although she had just gone through the stones at Craig Na Dun and had been mysteriously transported back in time 200 years, she was hesitant to embrace the faery mythology generally accepted by the Highlanders at the time. Looking back, Claire confesses that she wouldn’t have changed a thing. That, my friends, is a commitment.
As Outlander fans, we agree with Claire. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Fans of Starz’s time-travel drama “Outlander” may be surprised that no one asked Sam Heughan to take his shirt off during the audition process.
That may sound reasonable, but as viewers know, Heughan spends much of his onscreen time flashing some serious skin—and as it turns out, the series lucked out with the Scot when it comes to physiques.
“I’ve been in many auditions thinking, God, do I have to take my shirt off? It’s quite a physical role…,” Heughan says while his co-star—and onscreen nemesis—Tobias Menzies chuckles across the table. “It’s quite exposing, actually. But no, they didn’t [ask]. And at the time, I was keeping quite fit. So it was all right!”
For the legions of fans who have turned Heughan and Menzies into the thinking woman’s sex symbols, it turned out to be a bit more than all right. Fiercely protective fans of Diana Gabaldon’s series of novels detailing the time-traveling adventures of World War II–era nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), her 1940s husband, Frank (Menzies), the dashing 18th-century Highlander hunk she ends up marrying, Jamie (Heughan), and Frank’s sadistic ancestor Capt. Jack Randall (Menzies again), almost immediately relaxed when the series premiered in the summer of 2014. Here were Jamie and Black Jack and Claire brought to life in ways that very few adaptations manage. And though the show quickly made a name for itself for its vivid sex scenes—the website Vulture recently heralded the show as “the best sex on television”—what is less frequently discussed is the high-wire act its actors must perform to ground the material.
“It’s some of the hardest stuff to sell, I think, in acting,” Menzies says. “The time traveler element of the story is the most esoteric aspect. And if you wink, you’re kind of done. The air will deflate out of it.”
Both Menzies and Heughan are serious about their performances on “Outlander,” down to questioning dialogue or storylines.
“There were some quite overt direct speeches in the novel, which can be quite bumpy,” Menzies says. “An example is Claire’s ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.’ Which obviously all the fans are obsessed with. But I know Cat spent a lot of time going, ‘I don’t know how to make this work for me.’ She really wrestled with it. And that’s part of the adaptation process.”
Heughan agrees, saying that an open-door policy on the part of the writers has been “really fruitful, I think. You are the one person who is looking only at that journey, that one character. The writers are looking at the structure and different characters and how they all kind of interact. So it’s always an interesting thing to stand up for.”
And Heughan and Balfe were both concerned about Jamie and Claire’s relationship at the beginning of Season 2. The last episodes of Season 1 found them struggling to reconnect after Jamie’s rape at the hands of Capt. Jack, and the finale saw the pair sailing to Paris. But when Heughan and Balfe read the first scripts for the new season, they went to the writers.
“It felt like [Jamie and Claire] got over what happened in Season 1 and there wasn’t enough of a hangover,” Heughan recalls. “And we went back to them and actually, they completely reworked it. It was great to see [showrunner] Ron [Moore] going, ‘OK, we can delay that and move this forward here.’ It’s great fun to be able to have that influence on the script!”
The first few episodes of Season 2 were difficult for both men: Menzies returns for the first time as Frank after spending most of the previous season in Capt. Jack’s shoes, and Jamie moves from the outdoors to the lavish world of Paris and all the foppery and frills that entails.
Growing up one of the things I looked forward to the most was visiting with my Grannie and Grandpa. My Grannie was English, born and raised. My Grandpa was Scot! Over the years Grannie Guinnes (McInnes) adapted her way of cooking to accommodate my stubborn, but joyful Grandpa. She made what always seemed to me to be traditional Scottish recipes. One that I loved the most was her scones. She would show me how and eventually I convinced her to write down the recipe for me.
The funny (and probably very common) thing about her recipe was that these were not standard measurements. Her “cup” was an old tea cup with a broken handle. She measured it according to where the ingredient came on the pattern. Her teaspoon was an actual spoon used for tea. When she said dessert spoon, well that was a little bigger. But not as big as the soup spoons.
Now, when I make this recipe it makes me smile because it is never ever as good as hers. Here I am ready with all the ingredients ready to go. I will end up having to add more buttermilk or more flour at some point. My cup isn’t the same as hers
Handling the dough as little as possible, I mixed it together, pat it flat, and shaped it somewhat into a rectangle. That was then cut into smaller rectangles and finally triangles. And now they are ready to be cooked.
As a child, and well into adulthood, THIS is all that I knew scones to be. I had never bought a scone, never had any idea that flaky triangles sold at Starbucks even existed. My Grannie’s scones were cooked on a dry griddle. Don’t they look amazing?
Here is the best part. When you are done cooking them, you get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour (ok, it really is a very simply and quick recipe, but no one needs to know that). Grannie and I always sat down to have them with butter and homemade jam. She would pour me a little tea with A LOT of milk and sugar. Today I am having it with coffee. But honestly, I miss the tea. A LOT. I miss my Grannie too. Here’s to you Ethel McInnes. Thank you for sharing your joy with me.
2 cups of flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 dessert spoon (table spoon maybe) butter
1 dessert spoon lard (or shortening)
enough buttermilk to make a soft dough (probably around 1/2 – 3/4 cup)
Cut butter and lard into dry ingredients and then add the buttermilk, stirring as little as possible.
Turn onto floured surface. Pat into a rectangle approximately 1.2 inch think. Cut into shapes.
Cook on a dry griddle set to 300-350 until dark brown, flip and repeat.
You can watch Caitriona in the web series H+
“…begin piecing together the events of an apocalyptic future where technology has begun to spiral out of control… a future where much of the world’s population has embraced a stunning new device by Hplus Nano Teoranta that connects the human mind directly to the Internet.”
Outlander has some of the most arresting title cards I have ever seen on tv. Each episode’s title card tells a story. Their job is to immediately engage the viewer, and boy! do they ever!
Take a look at all the title cards from Season One. My favourite is probably The Search. I love that the marionette show was Claire’s story (the Highland version).
Pop into the comments and let us know what your favourite title card from Season One was.