Dive deeper into this episode with exclusive sketches, production designs, and fun facts delivered directly from the Outlander crew.
This scene is crucial as it’s the first time the audience is introduced to Lord John Grey in adult form. We wanted to ensure that he was given a proper introduction–especially since it’s unusual for us, as a show, to open on two characters who are neither Claire nor Jamie. We chose to shift the focus here precisely because of how important a character Lord John becomes going forward.
This particular scene is not taken from the book–it’s an original scene. We wanted to portray the idea that Claire and Frank have come to what is essentially a tacit agreement to live their lives happily and harmoniously in front of Brianna–putting on a performance for her. Notable here is the fact that the scene begins in a good place–a neutral place–as the couple discuss breakfast, but the ‘turn’ in the scene comes when Claire discovers that she has been so focused on medical school that, in a way, she has failed to realize that Frank has moved on. When Brianna enters, however, both Claire and Frank resume their respective performances as happily married, dutiful husband and wife for the sake of the child. It could be said that the Claire and Frank storyline in this episode was envisioned as a kind of two-person, three-act play–a play focussed upon the disintegration of a marriage. This is how I imagined it during the writing process. We witness the slow erosion of their relationship rather than one large explosion that brings it to a complete end, something that amounts to a few small beats in each scene. It is as though there are subtle chinks in their armour, an amour which they must eventually remove before blood is shed so to speak, as we will see much later.
This scene represents what is a major departure from the book because it’s here we reveal that Murtagh is still alive: not necessarily alive and well, but he is indeed alive, having survived Culloden and having been brought to Ardsmuir Prison. In terms of the overarching development of the story, we knew we wanted to keep Murtagh alive ever since the middle of the second season, but it was essential for us to find the right time and place to reveal this to the audience. Ultimately, this seemed to be the most appropriate time, coinciding very organically with the natural progression of the story.
We love Duncan Lacroix as an actor (and as a person too!) and wanted to ensure that Murtagh wasn’t simply an ‘accessory’ to the scene here, but an integral part of the storytelling process. This was the perfect place for him to reappear and for us to see Jamie taking care of his Godfather. We tried to carefully balance Murtagh’s time on screen with that of some of the other characters such as Lord John Grey.
It’s here that Jamie re-encounters Lord John Grey–their first meeting in both the episode and in this season. In writing this I had always imagined that it would not have taken Jamie very long to realize that this person, now a grown man, was in fact the young boy he met before the battle of Prestonpans, in Episode 209. The line “God knows what you did to be sent here” is particularly meaningful. It was originally in the mouth of another character but I chose to have Jamie speak it here because, although many years have gone by since their last encounter, it emphasizes the fact that Jamie has indeed recognized Lord John–and is therefore imbued with additional significance.
This may perhaps be controversial or then again, it may not–there are those who read the books and believe wholeheartedly that Frank commits adultery and there are those who state that there is no concrete evidence for this claim. In the Writers’ Room, we thought that there was reason to suggest that Frank did in fact cheat on Claire. We therefore chose to include Sandy Travers in this episode, the graduate student whom Frank has been seeing. Depicting this visually was important for us: to really be able to see Claire’s response to the woman standing before her on her own doorstep, and so an original scene was created to show this.
In the Writers’ Room, we spent a great deal of time in discussions, talking about why Claire, now a doctor, wouldn’t simply end her relationship with Frank and file for divorce. In the period, however, it was still relatively uncommon and very much looked down upon. We wanted to emphasize Claire’s strength and confidence by having her bring up the idea of divorce. Additionally, we wanted to show that, in many ways, Claire and Frank’s situation is very modern and quite unconventional for the time – with Frank being the one spending lots of time with Brianna and afraid to lose custody of her at a time when fathers were not given very much consideration in this regard. Also, here the dialogue touches upon the notion of Claire and Frank giving a performance once again, particular examples being Frank’s line “[…] you’re not as good an actress as you think you are, Claire”, when he later says “you’ve convinced no one with your indifferent performances” and, finally, when the scene ends with Frank stating, “there’s a reason we are so terribly bad at charades, my darling”. This final, rather cutting, line comes from me imagining the couple attending the kinds of dinner parties popular at the time and being utterly terrible at common party-games like charades. Many of us have been with or spent time with someone who’s simply not on the same wavelength, and here we can see that Claire and Frank no longer understand one another, they simply cannot connect with one another.
We discussed the possibility of using what we call ‘chyrons’ here [graphics used to indicate the passage of time], but I wanted to achieve this effect in a way that was more inherent to the telling of the story itself, that is, marking time at various interstitial points without relying on chyrons. I chose to use significant life events such as Claire’s graduation from medical school, as well as Brianna’s sixteenth birthday party and subsequent graduation, each being special occasions which mark the passing of time very specifically, since this episode had to span a number of years.
We really wanted to show exactly how Jamie escapes from Ardsmuir. In the novel, his escape is not described in detail, but we wanted to show our viewers how Jamie does this and hiding underneath the heather was the method that we devised.
The beginning of this scene when Jamie interrupts John Grey “mid-stream”, was something I wanted to do from the very beginning. I had an idea to incorporate a ‘call-back’ to Episode 209, when John Grey attacks Jamie while he is relieving himself. I wanted to convey that Jamie was most likely waiting for this moment, perhaps even engineering it to happen in a way. Consequently, we have a real sense of where Jamie is coming from, both literally and figuratively, as well as a sense of his disappointment and disillusionment. We begin to see that, without Claire, his life doesn’t matter to him anymore and that this is reflected in his behaviour as he surrenders to John Grey. John Grey, being the man that he is, however, won’t grant Jamie his wish, thereby forcing him to live.
Unbeknownst to them both, this is the final act of Claire and Frank’s marriage–the moment when the illusion is finally shattered and their mutual disillusionment is crystal clear. I wanted to be true to the characters in the television show and capture the intensity of their emotion. For Brianna’s sake Claire and Frank are both excellent actors but friends and colleagues at the university and the hospital can see right through their performance. I decided to adjust a moment from the novel when Frank tells Claire that he thinks that she couldn’t see Brianna without thinking of Jamie. In the book, when Frank ask Claire, “would you have forgotten him, in time?”, Claire simply says “no”–leaving Frank, in my mind, with the sliver of hope, albeit the smallest sliver of hope, that someday, perhaps with a little more time, they might still have had a chance to make things right. I thought that Claire needed a moment in which she could remove Frank’s hope entirely, and let him know that even if they could just have stayed together longer they would not have been happy. In this version, then, Claire is very clear, and tells Frank that the amount of time she would need to forget Jamie does not exist–and as painful as this may be for Frank, in saying this she sets him free and spares him a lifetime of regret.
Here we see Murtagh and Jamie being separated from one another–we don’t know where either one is going but we wanted to show that you don’t always get to say goodbye to your loved ones and that you should take every opportunity to say what you mean. This is echoed in Claire’s story too.
Claire is deprived of the chance to be able to say goodbye properly to Frank before he dies–but she does it here in her own way. I think that the last scenes of the episode complement one another: Claire is tragically ‘freed’ from her marriage and Jamie is now free from Ardsmuir, though both remain essentially imprisoned in heart and soul by the very fact that they are not together.
“The location used to film Ardsmuir Prison is one of Scotland’s best preserved medieval castles. The castle is also known for its association with Mary Queen of Scots. During her stay here in 1566, a pact was made to dispose of her husband, Henry Stuart Lord Darnley.”
-Hugh Gourlay, Supervising Location Manager
Taken during a location scout for Episode 303.
This photo was taken during a location scout at Craigmillar Castle, while searching for the perfect place for Duncan Kerr to tell his story to Jamie.
“This is the exterior of Claire and Frank’s Boston apartment. In 303, we see Frank walking down these steps for the last time…”
–Matthew B. Roberts