The first two seasons of Outlander will begin streaming on Netflix in the U.S. on May 26. Here’s some advice for new watchers on how life with Outlander will change.
I stumbled on Outlander entirely by accident sometime after the second season began. I had never heard of the show and only clicked on the episode because the description mentioned time travel, strong language and nudity (three of my favorite things) and I had a few minutes to spare. I devoured the episodes so quickly that I caught up with Season 2 and watched the finale live with the rest of the world. All that to say, I’ve been in your shoes, Outlander-newbie. In honor of you and all the other Netflix subscribers in the U.S. who will gain access to the show for the first time on May 26, I’m giving you the advice I wish I’d had prior to watching the show and a head’s up on some possible life changes that could result by becoming a fan.
Outlander episodes are 50-60 minutes long and, like that Lay’s potato chip commercial from the 80s, “you can’t eat just one.” Every episode of Outlander ends with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more. Since your digital player will be kind enough to automatically move you on to the next episode, just go with it. And when Netflix asks “are you still watching?” feel free to yell, “YES I’M STILL WATCHING!” as you scramble for the remote. And now, on to the advice.
I will freely admit that I’m the kind of girl who is always on the lookout for her next meal. At breakfast, I muse about lunch. At lunch, I make plans for dinner. At dinner, I occasionally think about breakfast the next morning. When I discovered Outlander, I stopped dreaming about food and worried more about when I was going to get my next fix…er…I mean be able to watch the next episode.
If you work full time and have a family to care for, this juggling act of mother (or father), spouse, employee and Outlander fan can be difficult. It’s why I highly recommend meal prep. One day each week, set aside some time to prepare meals for the next five days. You can find some great suggestions on Pinterest that involve gallon-sized storage bags, vegetables and slow cookers or you could just make sure that the package of ramen noodles is stored close to the pan. Don’t judge me. We all prep differently. Besides, you’ll be thanking me when you get to spend the hour you would have spent cooking on watching Outlander instead. You’re welcome.
Softball Practice and Business Trips Suddenly Won’t Seem So Terrible
I love my family. I also love Outlander, and when I was watching Seasons 1 and 2, I still loved the two humans with whom I share my life. I also hoped they would fall asleep early, have extended sports practices, attend sleepovers and birthday parties, and need to be away for work trips. I watched Outlander in the living room, the bedroom, on airplanes and more than once in my car while I waited for softball practice to end. I volunteered to be the one who did the softball practice run precisely so I could have 90 minutes of uninterrupted viewing time.
I’m not saying Outlander will ruin your family life (please keep reading for the entry on sex). I’m just saying that you might not be sad when family members have to go away for two hours, or overnight, or a 10-day business trip to Italy. The latter of which results in you being a single parent for that amount of time, which makes things hectic but also means that the television is yours, yours, all yours every night after the kid goes to bed and, on balance, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
You’ll Put Reading an 800-page Book on Your To-Do List (Eight Times)
I have never watched a TV show and then had a burning desire to read the books on which the show was based. Enter Outlander. Halfway through the first season, I decided I absolutely must find the book this show was based on. The opening credits told me it was written by a “Diana Gabaldon.” I searched the name and found that Outlander was not a single book, but an entire series.
Over the next two weeks, I paused my show watching as I raced through Outlander. The details, the conversations, the painting pictures with words that Diana Gabaldon does and the sex scenes (holy mother of God, those sex scenes) had me on pins and needles from beginning to end. I had never read anything like it and I found it difficult to put down the book. During some of the more intense scenes, my Fitbit logged a workout due to my elevated heart rate. I read until midnight when I usually fall asleep by 10:30. I woke up at 3:00 am because I was worried about Jamie and Claire and how they were going to extricate themselves from their latest predicament. I was clearly in trouble, but I’ve always been a glutton for punishment, so I ordered Dragonfly in Amber (the second book in the series) so that I would be sure to have it on hand immediately after finishing Outlander.
And just like the shampoo bottle recommends, I rinsed and repeated my way through Voyager, Drums of Autumn and the Fiery Cross. I hope you will too. My Outlander Cast colleague and friend Janet Reynolds wrote a blog post about why you should read (and reread the books) and I don’t disagree with a word she wrote. If you’re on the fence about reading the books, check out Janet’s recent blog post about why you should both read the books and watch the show.
You’ll Discover the Meaning of Yarn Porn (And Maybe Share a Moment With Your Ancestors)
As I watched season one, I fell in love with the Scottish countryside (more on that later) but I also fell hard for Claire’s knitted pieces. The Scottish Highlands looked cold, gray and damp but Claire looked so warm! I moved from Kentucky to Michigan 26 years ago and I’ve been cold ever since, so I was more than a little jealous of Claire’s, apparent, coziness.
This would be a good time to note that I have always loved historical fashion and have maligned the fact that crinolines and corsets make terrible office attire. If I could only find a knitter, I might finally be able to incorporate some historical fashion into my wardrobe. Whenever I’m in need of something made by human hands that are not mine, I go to Etsy and, as usual, this time it did not disappoint. There were shawls, fingerless gloves, capeletes and cowls just waiting to be purchased. That was three years ago and I now have an entire collection of these items I wear throughout the cold months (September through May).
While visiting with my grandmother earlier this year, she gave me a stack of old documents and pictures to peruse. I came across a photo of my four times great-grandmother Nancy McKenzie. She was wearing a great hooped skirt and wait for it…fingerless gloves! It was exciting to share this moment in apparel history with my 90-year old grandmother and a grandmother who has been dead since 1894.
Your Vocabulary Will Expand
There were moments in the first few Outlander episodes where I could barely follow the conversation. There is the Gaelic (which is always incomprehensible to me) and then there’s the English spoken with a Scottish accent (which is occasionally incomprehensible to me). Viewing note: some people watch the show with the subtitles on. In the beginning, I didn’t even think about using closed captioning. As it became clear I was hooked, I realized I would understand all the words by my fourth rewatch so I didn’t bother.
Once your ears adjust to the accents, you’ll begin to hear words you’ve heard before, mostly in historical dramas, that will suddenly feel new and perfectly suited for the first half of the 21st century. Words like “aye,” “ken” and “fash” will go into rotation with all the other words in your head and, occasionally, you’ll give your approval to a co-worker by saying “aye.” Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll move on to more complex phrases and you’ll soothe a loved one’s fears by saying “dinna fash.” You’ll scold your children for causing a “kebbie-lebbie” and you’ll wish your other half would, just once, whisper “mo nighean donn” as he pulls you close to him.
Your Sex Life Will Change
Let me be clear, Outlander is not a little blue pill. What it is, however, is a series of powerful messages about sex through the eyes of a married women who is not a damned bit ashamed to tell her man what she needs and how she needs it. She’s also quite ok with showing him how to do it if he’s not catching on quickly enough. We don’t get to see that very often on our television screens and, while it’s powerful, it’s also inspirational. Watching Claire reduce Jamie to nothing more than a puddle of sweat and curly red hair made me think about my own guy. A lot. That poor man. Let’s just say I think he was ok that (spoiler alert) season two had less sex than season one. Outlander should come with the same warning as that previously-mentioned blue pill. Before beginning Outlander, you should check with your doctor to make sure your heart is healthy enough for Outlander.
You’ll Dream of Going to Scotland
I knew very little about Scotland before watching Outlander. About two episodes into the first season, I still didn’t know a lot but I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it was calling to me. There was something about those views of the Highlands that spoke to my soul in ways few things ever have. Was I falling in love with a place? Was I falling in love with an idea? Was I losing my mind? I still don’t have definitive answers to those questions but I’d love to know if, after watching Outlander, you have Scotland dreams too.
You Might Actually Go to Scotland
Outlander has caused a tourism boom in Scotland because so many of us want (need) to see this place for ourselves. My Outlander Cast colleague and friend, Andrée Poppleton, was so moved by what she saw on the screen that she put her life in Tasmania on hold and had a “gap year” in Scotland. Andrée walked the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh and rambled through the Scottish Highlands with newfound friends. She served as a guide for Outlander-themed tours and she visited several filming locations. Andrée’s Scottish travels formed the basis for many of her Outlander Cast posts (click here to see a listing). My personal favorite was her Outlandish Day Out post I used last year during my own visit to Scotland (of course I went, too!).
You’ll Do a DNA Test (and Everything Will Begin to Make Sense)
All that pining for Scotland and being moved by scenery on television got me to thinking about my ancestors and wondering if there could be a common theme at play. I began to dig around in the Ancestry.com archive. As I traced my roots further into the past, I began uncovering Scottish ancestors. I wanted to see if my DNA matched up with what I was finding in my family tree, so I spit in the little cup and waited patiently for a few weeks while the lab did its work. My results are 41% Ireland and Scotland. I was positively thrilled to make this real-world connection to my own family history. I’m not saying the same thing will happen to you; just don’t be surprised if six months from now you find yourself spitting into a little plastic tube, too.
You’ll Make New Friends
I’m not one to seek out friends. I’m an introvert by nature and I like the little bubbles I’ve created for myself and I’m quite content to remain in them. But something happened when I stumbled on Outlander. I wanted to talk to other people about what I had just seen. I wanted to talk to someone about the thing I had just read. I needed to find other people.
Like any modern woman, when I want to find people, I turn to the internet. I googled Outlander and found lots of articles on filming and cast interviews. Then one day a Facebook friend posted a blog post from Outlander Cast. I read it and it said exactly what I had been feeling. I noticed this friend had also shared a second post so I read that one and I was hooked. These women, Anne Gavin and Denise Stewart, were writing my feelings and I needed more of that.
I joined Outlander Cast so that I could write my own feelings (and believe me, I’ve got a lot of them) but it didn’t end there. The Outlander Cast staff became friends and then they became family. We attended events together and made even more Outlander friends along the way. Through social media I’ve met people I interact with every day. Outlander got me out of my comfort zone and the love of it has literally taken me to places I never thought I would go. I hope it does the same for you. Also, if you happen to attend an event with Grant O’Rourke (Rupert MacKenzie), be sure to get a hug. He gives the best ones.
With all of that said, I think it’s important to note that actual viewer experiences will vary. Maybe you’ll watch the show and then resume your regularly-scheduled life. And that’s fine. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll watch and then wake up one morning to find that a little piece of your heart is missing and you’re pretty sure it’s waiting for you in the Scottish Highlands. If that happens then you’re in the right place, friend. We’ve got lots of Outlander content to keep what’s left of your heart occupied until your travel dream comes true.
Until next time, happy Outlander watching (and rewatching)!
If you’re new to Outlander we would love to hear from you. What are your first impressions of the show? If you’re a grizzled Outlander veteran what do you remember about your first time watching the show? Has Outlander changed your life or friendships in any way?
Nikki Gastineau joined Outlander Cast as a writer in 2016 when she realized that her friends would no longer tolerate her constant talk of Outlander and she needed an outlet for all the thoughts. Each time you read one of her blog posts, you are working to save those friendships. Both Nikki and her friends thank you. If you would like to read more of Nikki’s mostly nonsensical and occasionally heartwarming writings, you can visit her personal blog at sassynik.com. If you’d like to see photos of beer and wine, sunsets, and cozy things, you should follow Nikki’s Instagram account. You can find her at @nikkigastineau on both Instagram and Twitter.