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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s Outlander, “Freedom & Whisky.”]
It was the reunion 20 years in the making, and Outlander finally brought Voyager‘s most iconic moment to life.
It took five episodes of Starz’s romance drama for Claire (Caitriona Balfe) to travel back through the stones to find Jamie (Sam Heughan), and it was well worth the wait. The final moments of “Freedom & Whisky” took viewers right to the beginning of the print shop scene where Jamie fainted upon seeing Claire for the first time since she left him for the future before the Battle of Culloden, and it was a moment ripped straight from the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s novel. But so much else happened in the hour before that long-awaited reunion.
The episode took place mostly in Claire’s time, after she and Brianna (Sophie Skelton) returned to Boston after giving up hope of finding Jamie again. Bree struggled with going back to business as usual, and after failing in school she decided to drop out of Harvard and move out from Claire’s home, resulting in a horrible argument between her and Claire.
Roger (Richard Rankin) chose that awkward moment to surprise the Randall women in America, as he finally found evidence of where Jamie ended up after Ardsmuir prison closed. A printed poem written by a Alexander Malcolm contained phrases from a famous poet that shouldn’t have been written yet, and since Alexander Malcolm are Jamie’s two middle names, it was the evidence Claire needed to finally go back through the stones and reunite with her husband.
Claire wasn’t thrilled at Roger’s findings at first. But after an intense confrontation with Frank’s (Tobias Menzies) secret girlfriend — the one he was going to leave Claire for — and Bree finding out more about her parents’ marital issues, the two Randall women shared an emotional bonding moment where Bree told her mother to go to Jamie, that he needed her more than Bree did. Claire tied up her life in Boston, said goodbye and thanks to her friend Joe Abernathy (Wil Johnson) and gathered supplies (like medicine and old coins to use for money) and appropriate clothing so she would be prepared, unlike her last journey through time. She shared a heartbreakingly beautiful goodbye with Bree, gave her the pearls that belonged to Jamie’s mother and left, knowing that Bree would be well taken care of by Roger, who stayed with her.
And Claire set out on her journey, traveling to the stones, arriving in Edinburgh and walking through the door of A. Malcolm’s print shop, finding Jamie, 20 years older but still the same man she married … as he promptly fainted. Executive producer Ron Moore reveals to The Hollywood Reporter that the next episode (airing in two weeks on Oct. 22) will actually take viewers back in time again to “change up the perspective of that door opening,” showing that moment from Jamie’s point-of-view.
“It was something I liked as we were breaking the story. I thought that it’s a great ‘out’ on the faint,” Moore says. “You’re not going to get a better out than that. Where do you pick up the next episode? We didn’t want to just repeat the joke. We didn’t want to just pick up in real time so it wouldn’t have any momentum in it anymore. So it felt like we should reset a little bit.”
Moore “wanted to know what Jamie was going through in his day,” so the story will rewind a bit to show that. “I like how we know a little bit ahead of the character, he doesn’t know what’s coming and we all do,” says the EP. “He’s living in Edinburgh and has this other life, who are all these people in that life? It’s a whole different atmosphere. I wanted to really relish and enjoy the tension of that waiting for the door bell to ring and to see what happened from his perspective. It was a fun way to set it up.”
Executive producer Maril Davis knew that the initial moment of Jamie and Claire seeing each other again for the first time in 20 years was the most important moment to get right.
“I’m most excited that we chose to do something that most people wouldn’t do, which is to spend about 40 minutes in one set with two characters and see them reconnecting,” Davis says of the next episode. “Most people would do like 10 minutes and then get out. It’s so long to sit with them in there, but to me, it’s a luxury and a journey. It’s a love letter to the fans to be, like, ‘Let’s see Jamie and Claire reunite and let’s have this bubble fantasy episode before all this stuff comes crashing down on them.’ They have to go back to the real world, so it’s a real luxurious time to spend with them, and I think the fans will really enjoy it.”
Moore and all the Outlander producers knew that the print shop scene is “an iconic scene in the book,” so they took their time in bringing it to life the right way.
“Gary Steele, our production designer, spent a lot of time designing the print shop. It was a big set on stage,” Moore says. “We just knew it was important so we made sure to give it the time and space and energy. We didn’t slavishly follow exactly the moment-by-moment of the book, but it basically did tell the same thread with a lot of the same dialogue and delivered what people wanted to see from that moment.”
Davis calls episode six, titled “A. Malcolm,” the “print shop episode.” Balfe praises writer Matt B. Roberts for his execution.
“It could have been the moment where the violins are playing and angels are singing and the sun comes out and she walks in and he sweeps her up in his arms,” Balfe says. “But it’s messy and complicated and parts of it are funny. It’s almost like they’re two teenagers who are kind of not quite sure what to do with their bodies or with their words. I loved that. It shouldn’t be perfect.”
Because the moment is so one-sided with the surprise — “Claire had the opportunity for the journey to Scotland and the journey from the stones to Edinburgh to think about that moment, like maybe this will happen, or maybe that will happen. To play out every possible scenario,” Balfe says — getting to see that shock in full force from Jamie makes the moment authentic.
“Life is always completely different than what you imagine it to be,” Balfe continues. “I loved that. It was so nice. Sam and I had already been working together [since Outlander does not film episodes in order], but it was amazing to get through that moment. It’s such a big fan moment, but for us as actors, you don’t want to put too much pressure on those moments before you do them. You want to go in there and let it be as organic as possible. It was nice to get that behind you and move forward.”
But with Claire and Jamie’s reunion comes the moment viewers have to say goodbye to Bree and Roger (at least, until next season). Filming Claire and Bree’s goodbye was just as emotional for the actors as it was for viewers to watch.
“For Bree, she just lost Frank and everyone that she’s known and loved in her life has left,” Skelton says. “In Brianna’s head, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her mother again. It’s a really sad moment for Bree because there have been these 20 years of tension between mother and daughter, and Bree has finally gotten her answer as to why that is. They’ve finally started to patch up these wounds between them, they’ve become to get quite close and become friends actually, and then suddenly they’re torn apart.”
Skelton then laughs at the “beautiful irony” that the one thing that brings them together is also what tears them apart.
“They bond over this wonderful man being Brianna’s father and that’s brought them together, but at the same time he’s the reason Claire goes back,” Skelton says. “There’s just so much confusion for Bree in this episode. She doesn’t know who she is, she’s struggling with her own identity and now she’s losing Claire. This is why she’s turning to Roger, and it’s really nice to see Bree put on her brave face, not for herself but for someone else, her mother. Now Claire can leave without feeling guilty.”
Skelton loves how Bree’s selfless act of letting Claire go “shows how much Bree is maturing,” and calls it “a nice parallel to Jamie’s selfless deed” of sending Claire through the stones to safety to raise Bree all those years ago. And now, Bree and Roger are left alone to truly see where their relationship can go from here.
“All the circumstances leading up to this point, all of a sudden this veil has been dropped,” Rankin says, as Skelton adds with a laugh, “Now back to the mundane things in our lives!”
“Who knows where they go from here. We haven’t seen past that point yet [on the show],” Rankin says about where Roger and Bree’s journey will pick up next season. “We’ve forged such a deep connection that I don’t think anything is really going to break that. That’s going to be something that continues for Roger and Brianna. They’re quite stubborn souls and they like to be right. We have a very interesting, fighting, temperamental relationship.”
Both Skelton and Rankin are eager to see how Roger and Bree’s relationship grows in season four.
“It’s such a unique scenario that they’ve gone through,” Skelton says. “And the fact that they’ve gone through it together, they’re the one person in each other’s lives who genuinely understands each other and genuinely knows each other.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
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