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The Entire Outlander Timeline Explained

If you're not familiar with Outlander, this historical drama — based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon — follows Claire (Caitriona Balfe), an English World War II nurse who finds herself tossed 200 years back in time and falls deeply in love with a saucy Scotsman named James Fraser (Sam Heughan).

A romance with a sci-fi heart, Outlander finds its characters crossing multiple timelines in their quests for love and family. From 18th century fights for Scottish freedom to the opulent palaces of Paris and 1960s hippies and peace protests, this addictively twisty series covers a lot of ground. The relationship between Claire and Jamie is the constant beating heart of the story, no matter what time period or country the characters find themselves in, but even with that star-crossed bond rooting the show, things can get confusing. Whether you're a new viewer or you're looking for a refresher before diving back in, here's a comprehensive look at the complete, complex Outlander timeline.

Spring 1945: Scottish time travel

When Outlander begins its first season, World War II has ended, and nurse Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies). They visit the Scottish town of Inverness to search the records of Frank's family and learn more about his ancestor Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, an English officer who had a reputation for torture. Randall was also responsible for squashing the Jacobite uprising of 1745, in which Scottish rebels tried to reinstate Charles Stuart to the English throne.

While in Scotland, Claire and Frank visit the ancient Druid stone circle of Craig Na Dun, where they observe a ritual being performed by women who seem to be able to harness the stones' magic, or at least believe they can. When Claire returns the next morning to investigate a plant for her botanical healing interests, she hears a humming sound and finds herself drawn to the stone circle. She stumbles through the stones, tumbling 200 years into the past. When Claire wakes up underneath the circle, she finds herself in the year 1743.

Summer 1743: Thrown into the past

The first person Claire encounters after her incredible arrival in 1743 is none other than Black Jack Randall, her husband's evil ancestor. Randall attempts to take her prisoner, but she's saved by a group of Scottish rebels, including the dashing Jamie. Claire uses her advanced medical knowledge to heal his dislocated shoulder and endears herself to the clan by using her experience with 20th century medicine. She's taken in by Clan McKenzie to live at Castle Leoch, where she befriends a mysterious woman named Geillis (Lotte Verbeek) and learns of the brewing Jacobite uprising.

In order to stay safe from Black Jack Randall and prevent being turned over to his custody as a missing English woman, Claire marries Jamie — much to the chagrin of Laoghaire (Nell Hudson), the young Scottish lass who is madly in love with him. Even though Claire and Jamie's love grows over time, as is made obvious by their intense sexual relationship, Claire stills longs to return to her own time. When Jamie is off on clan business, Claire runs away and returns to the stones at Craig Na Dun to try and travel back to the future. Before she can use the stones to return to her own time, she's captured by Black Jack Randall.

Winter 1743: Witchcraft and Wentworth

Jamie manages to rescue Claire from Randall's clutches, but their problems don't stop there. Laoghaire's jealousy intensifies and she joins in a mob accusing Claire and Geillis of witchcraft. Jamie manages to rescue Claire again, but Geillis is carried off, presumably to be burned at the stake.

After the ordeal, Claire finally confesses her true identity to Jamie: She's from 200 years in the future, has a husband named Frank, and traveled through time using the stones at Craig Na Dun. He takes the whole thing rather well, considering it sounds more than a little bit crazy, and he brings Claire back to the stone circle so she can travel back to her own time. Black Jack Randall finds them again — only this time Jamie is taken prisoner, tortured and raped by Black Jack at Wentworth Prison. Claire organizes an elaborate rescue with the help of other clan members, breaking into the prison and freeing Jamie from Randall's grasp. The ordeal, however, leaves Jamie irrevocably changed.

Meanwhile, back in 1945, a distraught Frank continues the search for his missing wife.

Winter 1744: Allons en France

At the start of Outlander's second season, Claire nurses Jamie back to health, rebuilding his confidence, healing his physical wounds and his mind after his extreme violation. Meanwhile, they have something to lean their hopes on when Claire informs Jamie that she's pregnant.

They then head to France, where the Scottish hero "Bonnie Prince Charlie" has taken up residence. Knowing the outcome of the Battle of Culloden, where Scottish rebels are massacred and the uprising crushed, Claire and Jamie work to subtly convince Prince Charles and his supporters that the rebellion might not be a good idea.

Claire and Jamie become a part of Prince Charles' social circle and even befriend King Louis XV. They take in a young boy named Fergus and Claire stops a case of smallpox from spreading through Paris. All the while, Claire earns a reputation as "La Dame Blache," and more witchcraft rumors begin to swirl. But their attempts to quiet the rebellion plans seem all for naught, as Prince Charlie and his supporters only grow more determined to take back the English throne.

Spring 1744: The past returns

The Frasers learn that Black Jack Randall didn't die during their raid at Wentworth Prison — in fact, he's in Paris. When they hear that Black Jack has attacked Fergus, Jamie challenges him to a duel. Claire begs Jamie not to kill him in order to keep the timeline in place and assure that Randall has children, and in turn, that Frank is eventually born. Jamie reluctantly agrees, but the duel still takes place, and Claire faints from a ruptured placenta just as Jamie approaches Randall with his sword.

Jamie is thrown in prison for dueling and Claire gives birth to a stillborn baby daughter that the nuns at the hospital name Faith. After her recovery, Claire appeals to King Louis for Jamie's release and has to endure a bizarre ritual followed by the King's sexual demands. Claire and Jamie return to Scotland, knowing that they've failed to stop the Jacobites from advancing their plots, and unsure what to do next.

Fall 1945: The Jacobite Uprising

Jamie and Claire have settled back into life in Scotland, residing at Lallybroch, Jamie's family home. They welcome new nieces and nephews and feel content in their life. But then a letter arrives informing them that Prince Charles has declared himself the rightful king and plans to come to Scotland to stage his takeover of the British crown. At first, the Jacobites make advances, taking various towns and cities for their cause. But the Battle of Culloden looms, and Claire knows the outcome isn't going to be good.

Rather than have Claire stay and try to survive the bloodbath, Jamie takes her back to the stone circle at Craig Na Dun. This time, their visit is successful — she walks through and finds herself in 1948. With three years having passed in 18th century Scotland, three years have passed in her time as well. Frank arrives back in Scotland to discover that his wife who was missing is now pregnant with another man's child, and although her story is unbelievable, he agrees to take her back and raise the baby as his own. They move to Boston, where Frank has gotten a teaching position at Harvard.

Meanwhile, Jamie fights in the Battle of Culloden and survives, finally killing Black Jack Randall.

Jamie's Timeline: 18th century Scotland

The third season of Outlander finds Jamie and Claire separated for 20 years, though their separation is thankfully limited to a few episodes. In Scotland, Jamie lays low, living in hiding near Lallybroch after the Battle of Culloden. When British troops start interrogating his sister Jenny, Jamie has her turn him in and is sent to Ardsmuir Prison. There, Jamie is reunited with Lord John Grey, who runs the prison and whose life he saved when Grey was just 16. They form a friendship that is somewhat complicated by Grey's enduring love for Jamie, but their bond is no less devoted for it.

When the prison closes, Grey has Jamie complete his sentence as a servant at the estate of Lord Ellesmere. Here's where Jamie's storyline gets a bit soapy. He's blackmailed into sleeping with Ellesmere's young fiancée Geneva and impregnates her. She dies in childbirth, and when Ellesmere tries to kill the baby, Jamie kills him instead. Grey then helps them cover up the whole affair, and the baby is raised by Geneva's sister Isobel. Grey then marries Isobel and raises Jamie's son as his stepson.

Once Jamie's parole is up in 1764, he sets off on his own and ends up marrying Laoghaire, now a mother of two, out of pity. But the two are absolutely miserable and eventually, Jamie leaves her to open a printing shop in Edinburgh.

Claire's Timeline: 20th century Boston

Claire and Frank live in Boston, raising daughter Brianna and attempting to rekindle their past love. But Claire's once-intense affections for Frank are tainted by her experiences with Black Jack Randall, and she can't stop thinking about or loving Jamie. Claire goes to medical school and becomes a doctor. She soon discovers that Frank is having an affair, but they stay married for Brianna's sake and come to an agreement that Frank is allowed to pursue his other relationship.

As Brianna grows into an adult, she figures out the truth about Claire's visit to the past. When Frank dies in a car accident, mother and daughter decide that Claire should attempt to find some closure by traveling to Scotland to see what they can learn about Jamie. Thinking that he may have died in the Battle of Culloden, they utilize the help of historian Roger MacKenzie to look into Jamie's story. When they discover that he survived the Battle of Culloden and would be living in Edinburgh, Claire decides to travel back in time through the stones once again to reunite with Jamie. They also learn that Geillis, Claire's friend from the past, was actually from the 1960s and had just used the stones to travel to the time when she and Claire first met — and that Geillis is an ancestor of Roger's, despite the fact that they both lived in the same time.

1766: A voyage across the sea

Jamie and Claire reunite in Edinburgh at Jamie's print shop. Though the two have aged 20 years, their love rekindles quite easily; Jamie is married to Laoghaire, but that marriage is quickly annulled considering Claire is "still alive" after Culloden. Jamie had been portraying himself as a widower, but Claire's return leads to an elaborate story that she was lost for 20 years. Laoghaire accepts the annulment but demands money from Jamie in return. He and his nephew Young Ian venture to a remote island so Jamie can procure some valuable gems stashed away after the Jacobite Uprising, but Young Ian is taken by pirates and put on a ship to the New World — Jamaica, to be exact. Jamie and Claire follow in another ship.

The rest of season 3 takes place in Jamaica, where Lord John Grey has become a governor and Claire discovers that her friend Geillis is still alive, not burned at the stake after all. She has become a type of local priestess who wishes to travel through time again, this time using Ian as a sacrifice. Claire tells her that she knows Geillis is actually from the 20th century, Grey helps them rescue Ian, and Claire and Jamie sail for Scotland, only to be shipwrecked. After surviving their ordeal, they wake up on the American mainland in Georgia.

1767: Claire and Jamie in the New World

Season 4 starts out with many characters divided as Claire and Jamie make their way up the coast of America to North Carolina. Along the way, they encounter Native Americans, redcoats, and hints of the budding American Revolution. But the most nefarious encounter they experience is with an Irish criminal pirate named Stephen Bonnet, who takes advantage of the Frasers' kindness and robs them.

They eventually arrive in North Carolina at Jamie's aunt Jocasta's plantation Riverrun, where they recover. Aunt Jocasta wants to make Jamie her heir, but he declines, saying that he could never own slaves. Though the two had their hearts set on returning to Scotland, Jamie is offered land and incentives that make staying in America more attractive. Jamie and Claire settle on some land, a beautiful hill that they name Fraser's Ridge, and begin to build the cabin that would become their family home.

1971: Brianna and Roger

Brianna and Roger grow close while in Scotland. He takes her to a Sottish festival and proposes marriage. Brianna rejects him, saying that she's not ready to get married just yet, even though she does want to have a sexual relationship with him. Roger, being a traditionalist, doesn't want to sleep with Brianna unless they're married.

Brianna learns through Roger's documents that her parents, Claire and Jamie, are killed in a fire at their home on Fraser's Ridge sometime in the 1770s. Brianna decides to head back in time to save her parents and travels through the stones to 18th century Scotland; Roger, realizing what she has done, follows behind her. The two are completely out of their element 200 years in the past, and Brianna continues her journey to America by ship with Roger just missing her every step of the way. He boards a separate ship, and the two land in Wilmington, North Carolina. Roger and Brianna are reunited in Wilmington. They decide to put their differences behind them and promise themselves to one another in a Scottish handfasting ceremony. But once Brianna learns that Roger knew about the fire and didn't tell her, she storms off, continuing her hunt for her parents. In her journey, Brianna, unfortunately, comes into contact with the pirate Stephen Bonnet, who violently rapes her. 

1770: The Fraser family

Brianna eventually finds Claire and Jamie, and they bring her to live at Fraser's Ridge. When Brianna learns she's pregnant, she tells Claire that it might be Stephen Bonnet's baby. Jamie learns about Brianna's attack, but Claire withholds the information that Brianna's rapist was Stephen Bonnet. As an unfortunate result, when Roger arrives at Fraser's Ridge looking for Brianna, Jamie assumes he's her attacker and beats him to within an inch of his life and hands him off to the Mohawk tribe. Jamie and Young Ian then set out on a rescue mission to find Roger and bring him back to Riverrun. Young Ian stays with the Mohawks in exchange for Roger's release, deciding to take on a new life with the Native Americans. Brianna gives birth at Riverrun and Jamie returns with Roger, who then promises to raise the child as his own.

Season 4 ends with British soldiers arriving at Riverrun and requesting that Jamie, who had promised himself to the English crown in exchange for his land, start a militia in order to quelch the growing American resentment against the English that would lead to the American Revolution. With rebellion looming, the Fraser family has to decide how much they want to stay in the past.