[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s Outlander, “Creme De Menthe.”]
Outlander‘s Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) aren’t living happily ever after.
Now that the star-crossed loves have reunited after 20 years of separation, they have to reconcile the fantasy of the person they’ve been missing for two decades with the older, changed person standing in front of each of them. After the romantic and idyllic print shop episode, real-life came crashing back down on the couple with “Creme De Menthe,” and amidst the action of Claire defending and killing her mysterious attacker and Jamie’s illegal smuggling business being brought to light, another secret was revealed that will shake their relationship to its core.
Both Ian (Steven Cree) and Fergus (Cesar Domboy) whispered to Jamie throughout the episode asking how he’ll handle Claire’s surprise return with his “other wife,” alerting the audience before Claire that Jamie has been hiding this secret marriage from his first wife. In Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager novel, Claire finds out much later, so it’s more of a betrayal for readers as well as the protagonist. In this massive departure from the source material, the Starz series has planted seeds of Jamie trying to figure out a way to break the news to Claire at the right time as well as having Fergus contact old lawyer friend Ned Gowan (Bill Paterson) at once, presumably to figure out a way to end his second marriage now that Claire is back.
Executive producer Matthew B. Roberts revealed that the change was born out of many debates in the Outlander writers room about how they could best “protect Jamie’s character.”
“Because we’re watching it in a different medium, when you read about it Claire is taking you through it, it’s easy to not delve into Jamie’s inner thoughts,” Roberts tells THR. “But when you visibly see Jamie on the screen, you have to play that something is bothering him, something he’s holding in. When you do that enough, you have to give the audience a little bread crumb to know what this is.”
Those breadcrumbs include the moment in “A. Malcolm” “when Fergus pulls Jamie aside and he immediately sends him to contact Ned Gowan which is another switch from the book,” according to Roberts.
“That’s us saying in a visual way that Jamie knows that he’s holding something but before he tells Claire about it, he wants to get all the information so he can unload with all the information and legal ramifications of the secret,” he continues. “Jamie wants to tell her but he holds back. It is only 24 hours [in the print shop] so we felt very comfortable with when you find someone again after 20 years, all your prayers have been answered, the first thing you’re not going to tell this massive secret that might send that person right out the door again and back to the stones. We felt it necessary to protect the character that way, and show that he knows and he’s trying to do something about it.”
Instead of having viewers find out when Jamie’s second wife shows up out of the blue to confront Claire, the team wanted to let everyone in on the secret as soon as possible so it’s not as much of a shock. In fact, the writers even considered having Jamie confess to Claire in the print shop episode but ultimately decided against it since it would have been too much of a change.
“That’s exactly what we debated round and round about why wouldn’t he tell her, why would he hold it back, so we gave visual cues of his worry about it and looking guilty,” Roberts says. “We did talk about revealing that right off the bat but the trickle down of doing that would have caused havoc with the storyline so we decided to not do that.”
Now that Outlander is finally on the other side of the big print shop reunion, the story starts to really pick up and give a new kind of momentum for the season.
“The structure of it actually becomes an epic; the pace picks up quite a bit,” Roberts says. “They are going on an epic adventure and over the next couple of episodes they find their footing being back together. Because the print shop really only focused on 24 hours and real-life hadn’t really settled in yet for them, the ramifications of that intruder hit in this episode and going forward, it’s really welcome to the 1700’s again for Claire and very quickly trying to find her footing. It almost immediately competes with her modern-day sensibilities.”
The ended with a massive set piece, as an intruder trying to bust Jamie for his illegal alcohol smuggling ended up setting fire to the print shop when Young Ian (John Bell) tried to stop him. Jamie rescued his nephew from the fire but was forced to watch along with Claire as his beloved shop burn to the ground.
“The print shop fire was one of our biggest undertakings as a show,” Roberts reveals. “The battles have become second nature to us in a way but this big fire [was the most challenging]. We built the print shop on the stage, then we went to Ediburgh and we found a building we could use and then we replicated that building exactly at our studio outside on the back lot. Over the course of two nights we progressively burned it and then we went inside to the interior set and we burned that.”
Roberts laughs as he recalls how the production named the different locations as “the main unit and what we were calling the burn unit.”
“We burned it all because we couldn’t do any burning at the real location,” he says. “It took about seven days to do the whole thing and since this is what the episode is about, we felt like we had to give it enough time to do it right.”
Another change in the story came during that fire scene after Jamie saved Young Ian, since in the book he ends up going back inside to save his printing press and any supplies he could get to before the building collapsed. In the episode, once he and Young Ian were safely outside, he never attempted to run back into the burning building. That subtle difference came about simply because of practicality.
“It was actually the presses themselves that changed that,” Roberts explains. “We had two practical presses built and they are pretty massive. They would have been, from our research, bolted to the ground or ceiling. Jamie, as strong and as superman like that he is, he couldn’t carry it out on his own.”
Roberts acknowledges that in the book, bystanders helped Jamie save his press, but he says the writers ruled out that idea.
“It wouldn’t even fit through the door,” he says. “Our print shop was on the second floor and the presses were on the bottom floor so he would have had to carry it up and then down stairs so practically it just would never have worked. So instead, the spirit of that is still there – when he is saving Young Ian, he pushes that press against the window and uses it as his way of escape.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.