[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Outlander, “Surrender.”]
When it comes to love, Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have given up on finding it again on Outlander. Now that they are separated by space (Jamie in hiding home at Lallybroch, Claire in Boston) and time (more than 200 years!), the former couple has resigned all hope that they will ever see one another again.
Sunday’s episode of the Starz time-travel romance drama picked up six years after Jamie said goodbye to Claire at Culloden, and while he still longed for her, he became a much different man. Still a fugitive from the war, he was forced to live in a cave. But he soon began to see the strain that put on his sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly) — particularly after she gave birth to another baby boy — and the consequences others were paying for keeping him in hiding — like Fergus (Romann Berrux) getting his hand chopped off by soldiers while delivering provisions to the cave. So he decided to turn himself in, despite Jenny’s pleading to reconsider.
But in true James Fraser fashion, he did so selflessly: he forced his sister to “betray” him and tip off the British soldiers with information on when he would come back to Lallybroch. He was immediately arrested (as planned), and after putting on quite a show of looking hurt at his sister’s “betrayal,” she was rewarded with much-needed money to keep her growing family fed.
As for Claire, she tried to give marriage to Frank (Tobias Menzies) the old college try. She started sleeping with him again, but he could tell that she was imagining that she was with Jamie the whole time. The episode ended on a bait-and-switch: Frank and Claire were getting into bed, cheerfully and comfortably wishing the other a good night … but then the camera panned back to reveal they now sleep in separate twin beds. They may still be married and raising their daughter together, but their romantic relationship is officially over.
That allows Claire to focus on being a part of something bigger — namely going to medical school. There, she meets a new friend, Joe Abernathy (Wil Johnson), and they quickly bond over their shared outcast status, as he is African-American and she is a woman in a white and male-dominated field.
The Hollywood Reporter sat down with Outlander stars Balfe and Menzies, along with showrunner Ron Moore, to break down Claire and Frank’s dissolving marriage, Claire’s new purpose in becoming a doctor and more.
Now that Claire and Frank are sleeping in separate beds, how does Frank truly feel about their marriage at this point? Does he hold out hope that they can still fix things?
Menzies: Essentially they’ve settled into something quite companionable. There’s a lot of affection and they work well as a team. They’re doing a great job raising Brianna. But no, a lot of that has burned away and he’s seeing other people. And you’ll see that explored further on the show. It’s a strange compromised marriage, quite modern in a way, but Frank is a realist. He isn’t delusional. He’d rather that, have Claire in his life and have Brianna. There’s a lot to be grateful for, but he’s not with a woman who loves him. Ultimately, when he does meet someone who can give him that, he goes for it.
What did you think about that twin beds twist when you read the script for this episode?
Balfe: I loved that. That’s a big departure from the book, which initially I was like, “What?! No!” Because there’s a scene in the book that I had loved so much, which is the night before Frank and Claire have the fight, they’re still in bed together. I always thought that was such an interesting scene. But I think in terms of the TV show, to explain how far apart they are, you needed a scene like that. And it was actually Tobias’ last scene that he filmed.
Did that make it more emotional for you?
Balfe: Honestly, it was such a funny day because they needed to get that shot of him looking over to me and I roll over, and I had to face plant. I got the worst case of the giggles. I was just crying I was laughing so much. And then [producer] Matt B. Roberts and myself decided we would do one take where I would turn and say “goodbye” after he says “good night,” and then I had real tears. So that scene is very dear to me.
Claire finally took hold of her future in this episode by going to med school and becoming a surgeon. What spurred her to take action now?
Balfe: Claire realizes that she would never have been happy just being a stay-at-home mom. As much as she loves her daughter, it is just not enough for her. And then also because she has shut the door on this side of herself, her sexual passion and all of that, she needed a channel for all that energy that she has. I believe that the moment when the Dean puts her down in episode 1, that was the moment where she decided that she was going to go to medical school. And in this episode we see the manifestation of that decision and I love it. That’s such an important part of Claire’s personality. It’s so much of her identity, in her desire to heal and care for people. It’s also very telling of the time where her and Joe are both outcasts in the class. It’s nice to do those social commentaries without being preachy about them. We try and show it without commenting too much.
Like in the premiere with Claire’s birth?
Balfe: Exactly. I could go on about that for hours.
When the season three trailer first debuted, I was shocked at what seemed to be a reveal that there would be a huge deviation from the book when Jamie gets arrested. In the book, he arranged for Jenny to give his location to the soldiers and they apprehend him on the road, but in the trailer it looked like Jenny really did betray him when he gets ambushed at Lallybroch. Of course, in the episode it was revealed to still be organized by Jamie so Lallybroch could get the reward money, but how beholden are you to the books in those moments?
Moore: We’re pretty much allowed to do what we want. We always try to do the book version first. We make changes because it doesn’t work for some reason, or maybe we changed a character that means you have to follow a different path – like our Murtagh [Duncan Lacroix] is alive, and clearly that’s a change from the storyline.
Moore: And our Frank learns certain things in season one that book Frank did not so you have to follow that forward regardless of if the book did it or not. We always feel like we’re doing an adaptation. We’re not doing something freeform. You always start with what are the book scenes and what are the order of events and you put it up on the board. Then you see what doesn’t quite work, shift things around, and you always try to work with what you have. We never say, “Oh let’s just throw that out and do something else.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.