'Outlander' Season 1 episode 2 book vs. show: The arrival at 'Castle Leoch'

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"Outlander" episode two, "Castle Leoch," aired on Saturday (Aug. 16) and if you didn't get a chance to see it, we have a full recap. But here, we're going to break down the text against the show as much as possible. We're getting all English major-y on you.

How did the second episode match up against the book? Pretty close, actually. But, as Diana Gabaldon writes, "now we entered perforce the realm of invention." Where episode 1 was almost verbatim, episode 2 starts setting up minor differences -- minor -- that may or may not pan out broadly in future episodes. We'll discuss a few of the larger differences, just in case they do turn into something bigger in future episodes.

Frank looks for Claire

One of the best ways the show is bringing the first-person narrative of Claire to life is through flashbacks, and the scene of Frank searching for Claire at the stone circle, while specifically not in the book, was perfect. We're able to see Frank's panic and fear over losing Claire, instead of just hearing her think about what he must be going through. Since we're not living in Claire's head in the show, and episode 1 has already established Frank as a more robust character, seeing him actively searching for his missing wife pulls on the heartstrings (Team ShowFrank! Not Team BookFrank!)

Colum and Dougal

Claire is much more restrained in her first meeting (sparring?) with Colum. The show writes in a traveling tinker, Mr. Petrie, with whom Claire may be able to hitch a ride with back to Inverness in five days. There's no such vehicle or plan made in the text, nor is there a scene between she and Dougal when Claire chews him out about being followed. But giving Claire an focal point to shoot for works without major disruption.

Hamish's mistaken identity

Claire seeing Hamish and Dougal playing in the courtyard, and then mistaking who Hamish's father is during dinner, to Colum and Dougal's faces, was incredibly embarrassing, and not necessary. It was a cringy moment that does not occur in the book. Such a faux pas right off would have been unforgivable, really. In the book, Claire's questioning of Hamish's parentage, and Colum's inability to have children altogether, takes place in her head, so while it realistically would not have been glossed over quite the way it was by Colum, it was nice the series chose to "show, not tell" by having it play out with the other characters, rather than in another voiceover (even if it was uncomfortable.)

I also liked the shifting forward of Colum's grilling of Claire over her last name and French destination because it just helps to feed into general feeling that the Laird and his brother are extremely distrustful of this Sassenach who has fallen into their laps. The book builds the tension up over the first half of the narrative. The show doesn't have that kind of time.

Rupert and Angus

The tag-team combination of Rupert and Angus is good comic relief, while also serving to underscore Colum's distrust of Claire by having them follow her around the castle. In the book, Rupert and Angus do not play as large a role as they do here early on, but this is actually a welcome addition to "Outlander's" vast cast of characters.

Hall, Geillis and Laoghaire

The introductions of Geillis and Laoghaire were, much like Mrs. Fitz, almost perfect, even if the timing was slightly different from the text. But I would have liked seeing Claire's introduction at Hall onscreen. She's petitioning for help and room and board -- even if it is against her will -- and becoming a member of the community, which plays out throughout the book later. It's her proper foray into this difficult situation and should have been onscreen.

Jamie's taking Laoghaire's beating for her set up some larger political wranglings between he and Dougal that work well, even if that is more subtextual in the book.

Claire's surgery as a prison

Dougal pulling Claire away from the tinker, and leading her to Davey Beaton's old surgery, with the flashbacks of the one very poignant scene from episode 1, made her time at Leoch feel much more like a prison sentence, touched with longing for Frank. Claire's persistence to leave Leoch as quickly as possible isn't as black and white in the book, but it has to be in the show, or the timing would be off. That said, there's much more of a push and pull between Claire and the MacKenzie brothers, giving her ample opportunity to show off her stubbornness and mouthiness as well.

Parting thoughts

  • I felt Caitriona Balfe was good as modern-day Claire, but she comes alive as 1740s Claire once her hair goes up and she puts the gown on. Sam Heughan sparked as Jamie for me in episode 1. Balfe does that for me as soon as she puts on the hip roll.
  • Another note about Annette Badland as Mrs. Fitz. Could she have been more perfect? While each of the characters have taken some time to gel for me, Mrs. Fitz stepped out of the book fully formed. The scene where she dresses Claire (and discovers what a "brassierie" is) was well played. 

What did you think of "Castle Leoch"? Did the magic continue for you? Be sure and join the Zap2it Sassenachs for our Google Hangout discussion of "Castle Leoch," Monday (Aug. 18) at 4pm ET/1pm PT.

"Outlander" airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Photo/Video credit: Starz