'Outlander' EP on the Emotional Roller Coaster of "The Birds & the Bees"

"We very much wanted to try to keep it as close to the book as we possibly could," executive producer Maril Davis tells The Hollywood Reporter of a highly anticipated reunion.
Courtesy of Starz

[Warning: this story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Outlander, "The Birds & the Bees."]

It was the homecoming Outlander fans have been waiting years to see as Jamie (Sam Heughan) finally met his daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in a monumental episode.

"The Birds & The Bees" featured the long-awaited first meeting of father and daughter almost exactly how it happens in Diana Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn, the basis for season four of the Starz drama. But it was hardly the only major moment from the book that took place in this Sunday's episode. The hour began almost exactly where last week's left off, after Bree's horrific rape at the hands of Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), as she began to process her trauma. Her roller coaster of emotions took her to another high as rumors of Claire's (Caitriona Balfe) miraculous surgery from the night before traveled to Bree and her handmaid.

Bree knew the female surgeon at the center of the gossip couldn't be anyone other than her mother, so she followed the news until she ran into Jamie, who, not knowing he was about to meet his daughter for the first time, was peeing in an alley. Bree recognized Jamie's hair and face from her mother's descriptions and introduced herself to Jamie as his daughter, and the two tearfully embraced. 

"We very much wanted to try to keep it as close to the book as we possibly could," Outlander executive producer Maril Davis tells The Hollywood Reporter of Jamie and Bree's first meeting. "But obviously we can't do the exact replica every time. This one was important to us because we wanted to see it. For the book fans in the [writers'] room on staff, we wanted to see that moment, and we've been waiting for it. It was really exciting for us, and [writers] Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia did such a nice job with this scene because there is just so much emotion with how Sam and Sophie played it."

Because "the lead-up to it was enormous," the Outlander producers took extra care in making sure every emotional beat was hit and given its due.

"It's two people that have so many expectations for seeing each other," Davis says. "Certainly for Jamie, because ever since Claire came back, he found out she survived, and not only that, but their child survived and it's a girl! So we see his excitement but also the bittersweet moment of, 'Wow, how did she turn into this beautiful woman and I didn't get to see any of it?'

"For the actors there were so many complex emotions to play. For Brianna, she's thought about this moment all her life, but what is she supposed to be feeling? Sophie and Sam had a lot to work with, and we were so pleased with how that scene turned out."

The emotions didn't stop with Bree and Jamie's first conversation. Bree then reunited with her mother and traveled with her newfound family to Fraser's Ridge, but after learning about her mother's history with her attacker (although without Claire knowing what happened to Bree at the hands of Bonnet), she continued to deal with her PTSD on her own. When she finally did decide to tell Claire about how she had been raped because she realized she was pregnant, she didn't disclose her attacker's identity. She also revealed to her mother that she actually blamed herself for her assault for "not fighting him hard enough."

For the producers, showing Bree's continued struggle with blaming herself for Bonnet's attack was critical to include in the episode.

"For anyone who has had some sort of sexual assault, for many people there is a feeling of, Did I do something wrong? Was it my fault? How could I have stopped this?" Davis says. "It was important to show that and how she can't forgive herself. She does think she did something wrong. She does think she could have fought back harder."

Brianna's journey toward healing took a big step forward as she finally revealed the identity of her attacker to her mother after Claire found her wedding ring in Bree's things. While Bree made Claire promise not to tell Jamie for fear of what Jamie might do, Davis promises there is a big Bree and Jamie arc coming.

"There is a really lovely moment coming with Jamie of all people, who also has undergone his own assault at the hands of Black Jack [Tobias Menzies], who is the one to say, 'It really wasn't your fault. You couldn't have done anything,'" Davis says. "It's a really wonderful scene that is also in the book that Jamie is the one who has to physically put his hands on her and show her. We questioned whether or not we could show that scene on TV or not, like how would that come across?

"But it makes the moment, because he basically has to say to her, 'Do you see what I'm trying to tell you? I could tell you this until the cows come home, but until I show you that you could not possibly have done anything, this was completely out of your hands, you'll never learn that lesson.' It's a wonderful moment between father and daughter and between two people who have also been through the same thing."

However, every father-daughter bonding moment from here on out will be colored with sadness for viewers who have all the information: Bree's decision to keep her attacker's identity a secret from Jamie led to a horrible miscommunication, with Roger (Richard Rankin) misidentified as her rapist without her knowledge. After having been threatened to come back aboard Bonnet's ship to carry out the rest of his employment, unaware that his boss had just raped his betrothed, he finally made his way to Fraser's Ridge to make up with Bree after their fight. But Jamie thought Roger was her rapist, and so he attacked him brutally and had his body sent away without Bree even knowing what was happening. 

"Poor Roger! We're about to set Roger on an unfortunate trajectory," Davis says. "Roger, poor Roger. He has had the worst journey — and certainly so has Brianna. He was forced back onto Stephen Bonnet's ship and had the falling out with Brianna, and then he came to Fraser's Ridge only to not even get two words out before he's violently beaten by who he assumes could be Brianna's father. The repercussions of that are tragic."

While book readers may think (or hope) they know what's coming next for Roger, Davis promises "for Roger fans, they will not be disappointed."

"We're going to see so much wonderful stuff coming up not only for Jamie and Claire but particularly for Roger and Brianna," Davis adds. "Rankin's performance is wonderful as is hers. This is the real coming-out moment for Brianna and Roger."

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.