'Outlander' Writer on Introducing Jamie's Sister and "Intense" Black Jack Scene

"You need to know what happened to [Jenny] and it gives you another picture of Black Jack," writer Anne Kenney tells THR.
Courtesy of Starz

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the April 25 episode of Outlander, "Lallybroch"]

After the emotional turbulence of last week’s episode of Outlander, it was time for more information on the clan Fraser and Jamie’s past.

Returning to his homestead after four years away dredged up a lot of turmoil for Jamie (Sam Heughan), who tried to navigate the waters of being the laird and deal with his own guilt over the death of his father, all while trying to assimilate his new life with his old. With the introduction of his sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly), Jamie came face-to-face with the emotional toll Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) has had on his family.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with writer Anne Kenney to break down Jenny’s strength, what it says about Jamie, and those shockingly revealing details about Black Jack Randall.

This episode answered a lot of questions the audience had regarding Jamie leaving Lallybroch and staying away. It's a nice complement to Claires (Caitriona Balfe) own honesty last week.

It’s interesting because we started out thinking there'd be a lot more about Jamie and his father in the episode. In the first draft there was a whole thing in the beginning with a flashback to Jamie and Ian as boys with his father. But it became something different even though his father is in it. It evolved and evolved.

 

 

What was it like to introduce Jenny Fraser to the story?

As always, we start with the book and Jenny gets a great introduction there — in fact that's very much how we played it. We thought of this as the family episode where you get a look at a different side of Jamie: Where he came from and, throughout the course of the story, how he's going to fit back in there. I love the character of Jenny. She's really fun to write. She's such a strong character.

You see that when Jenny reveals what happened between her and Black Jack. Its intense but also subversive in a lot of ways.

A lot of the stuff that's so creepy with Tobias, where he was touching her mouth and all that stuff, wasn't scripted. They just did that on the day. It's very intense, but you need to know what happened to her and it gives you another picture of Black Jack. But we were a little concerned about that scene because we wanted to make sure at the end that you believed he had not done anything, that he did not rape her but left her alone. A lot of that happened on the set in the moment, and it is a really intense scene. I'm curious by what you mean by subversive though. In what way do you think it's subversive?

A lot of times you see women in these situations where it's immediately victimizing. But here Jenny laughs and — to a certain extent — it empowers her.

I agree completely. Because that is the kind of person that Jenny is and I love that she said, “I don't know why I did it, I just did.”

 

 

The power of both of the women in Jamie's life says a lot about him.

With Claire, you attribute that to her being from the 1940s; although we always have to remind ourselves that she's not from 2015 — she's from 1945, so they weren't exactly the most feminist of people, either. But we wanted to portray almost all of our women characters with a lot of muscle. They're not trying to make a statement. This is who they are. And it makes sense. Imagine Jenny having to live that life and keep that place together. How could you not be strong?

So Black Jacks sexual propositioning of Jamie really colors your understanding of who Black Jack is in a way you didn't expect but makes a lot of sense.

Yes and that plays out as we go forward, so the audience needed to get a sense of that relationship. I like the way we used that to impart how he felt both about that and feeling guilty about his father, which then pays off in the scene with Jenny at the graveyard at the end, which is my favorite in the episode. She’s having the same feeling, that she's responsible for their father's death, and they both have to come to a place where they realize that no, the person responsible for all of their problems is Jack Randall.

 

 

It's a very human moment.

In the book, Jamie and Jenny are fairly congenial — they have the fight at the beginning and there's friction between them, but we laid in this notion of there being this underlying tension between them. I was struggling [though] with why she was being so bitchy to him. But when something really bad happens, we all look for someone to blame. So the fact that when her father died and she says that the dark little part of our heart blamed Jamie, that made it work for me. That’s when I was like, “Oh I get it, I understand why she's acting the way she is.” But after she sees his scars and realizes that it wasn't him shooting his mouth off, that this was some horrible thing that happened, she feels terrible about it. Which is why I love that moment in the graveyard — and that was something we came up with.

It's heartbreaking to see Jenny in that moment at the mill where she sees his scars and has that realization.

It’s the first time she's really seeing what's happened to her brother and it's horrifying.

Overall, theres not a heck of a lot of Claire in this episode.

When you're reading the books you see it all from Claire's point of view, so even when the story isn't her story, she is involved. When you try to dramatize it, though, [you realize] she’s mostly an observer. Sometimes Claire feels so active, but she's really just actively telling you something rather than having a story of her own. The arc between he and Claire — where she's trying to fit in and is frustrated about who he's trying to be — is something that we put in there that's not from the books.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.

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