Episode 401

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Dive deeper into this episode with exclusive sketches, production designs, and fun facts delivered directly from the Outlander crew.

INSIDE THE SCRIPT:
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

See what the crew says about your favorite scenes.

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Long before we ever started on the script, we had the idea for a scene where we see the building of an ancient stone circle. We had seen Craigh Na Dun, of course, and thought it would be fun to imagine where one of the first, if not the first, stone circle ever came from. So, we decided to show one being built by primitive man and how that would look. We wanted to set the stone circle in America, since our season takes place in North Carolina, and we thought about what could be different from the one we saw in Craigh Na Dun. In doing research, we found that the Natives would often build circles with multi-stone cairns, as opposed to the giant monolith stones. However, we kept the center stone a monolith as an homage to Scotland when Claire first went through. We didn’t know what or where or how this scene would fit in with our season opener, and ultimately, we decided to use it as a cold-open as a cool and magical visual to kick-off the season, and a little glimpse for the audience for how these stone circles might have come about. To tie it to the episode, Claire’s voice over bridges the hanging we first see, and the stone circles; a nice metaphor linking the circle of stones to the hangman’s noose.

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We wanted to start the season with this tragedy of one of our beloved characters being sent to the gallows. Jamie knew Hayes at Ardsmuir, but in the new world, things are different, no matter how much Jamie cares for him. We wanted to make a statement that we were in a new land now, with new laws, new culture, and new officials to which Jamie had no pull or connections to try and get Hayes out. He wants here to plan a rescue, but Hayes will not allow it because he knows that he did commit the crime and doesn’t wish Jamie to lose his life in trying to save him. We thought it was more poignant that Hayes decides to take his punishment and asks Jamie for nothing but a sip of whisky, and to smile at him so that he can see the face of a friend as he dies.

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And here is where we first get a glimpse at this season’s villain, Stephen Bonnet, who asks for some whisky. Side note—our research showed whisky was difficult to procure and wasn’t common in the colonies at the time, however, rum was. So Jamie offers Hayes rum.

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We wanted to start this scene close to the drummer as an homage to the book’s title, “Drums of Autumn.”

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In this version, Jamie finds Young Ian after the hanging and learns that Ian’s been gambling with sailors to earn money for their passage home and has won a dog, Rollo. It was decided in editing that this scene would play better later in the script as opposed to on the heels of the hanging, which was such a sad and tragic scene. So, it was rewritten slightly and was reshot and placed just before the tavern scene where Jamie and Claire announce that they’re staying in America. It was one of the last things that was shot at the very end of the season after all the other episodes.

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Rollo then had to be digitally removed from this tavern scene and other subsequent scenes in which he appeared before the new scene where he is now introduced. The segment where the redcoats come searching for Bonnet was cut in editing after we decided to concentrate on the emotion of the Caithris, because we all loved the scene for Hayes so much. Keith Fleming has a lovely voice and did a great job in this scene. We always called this our Casablanca scene because of the power that comes from singing with everyone in the tavern. It helps Jamie and his group with their grieving.

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There was a lot of discussion over this scene and at certain points in the editing, it was cut for time. However, we felt strongly that it was a crucial scene for the episode. We wanted to do justice to the trauma Young Ian suffered at the hands of Geillis, a trauma which mirrored what his uncle Jamie suffered at the hands of Black Jack in Season 1. We felt it was very important to show a scene where uncle and nephew bond in an emotional conversation. Jamie lets Ian know that what happened wasn’t his fault, which is a large step in Ian’s healing. The flashbacks to Geillis were added later in editing to make the scene more visceral, as Ian suffers post-traumatic stress from his attack in remembering what Geillis put him through—not only the terror of sexual assault, but the fear of being killed.

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And here’s where the “ghost,” which turns out to be Stephen Bonnet, rises up out of the wagon. It was important to make him his most charming as he attempts to bond with Jamie in order to get a favor from the Frasers. We needed to walk a fine line here, because having Jamie and Claire be immediately suspicious would make them seem foolish to take him on, but he catches them in an emotional state. Bonnet pretends to be a friend of Hayes, even offering to help bury him. It’s because of their grief—and his manipulations—that Jamie and Claire don’t see through this charming psychopath in the moment.

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In the book version, the Sergeant has his soldier actually stab Bonnet in the leg. We felt that it wasn’t quite believable that Bonnet could be stabbed with a bayonet and not cry out. So we planted earlier that they are carrying provisions, including a leg of venison. The venison took the brunt of it, only grazing Bonnet in the process, which we thought made this sequence believable but still as tense as it needed to be.

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In the book, Bonnet is somewhat intrigued by Jamie, but we thought it was interesting if he was intrigued by Claire, sensing she was different, and wanting to know more about that. And thus, we gave them a private moment where she is tending his wound. And on the theme of “circles” that we set-up earlier, we have him notice her two wedding bands and ask her about it. He is drawn to her, and while she has no interest in him, she is nevertheless taken in by his story when in a seemingly human moment, he confessed one of his deepest fears: drowning. We wanted Claire to feel a connection to Bonnet and find empathy with him. His fears of drowning touch upon her own harrowing experience at the end of last season, when she almost drowned in the ocean.

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This scene was very challenging for us, because we wanted to honor the iconic moment in the book when Jamie and Claire make love on slippery rocks in the stream. However, shooting in Scotland limited our options as it is much too cold to put our actors into freezing water. We crafted another version that we thought worked organically with the episode. When two people are affected by the death of someone they care about, it moves them to want to do something to fight off the darkness of their grief and feel alive. Thus, we had Jamie and Claire talk about how they must treasure the moments of life that they have together. As Jamie says here, they know better than most how fleeting life can be. We also realized that this was a good spot to have Jamie and Claire talk about the law of thermodynamics, which was one of our favorites and we always intended to use when the time was right.

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This is one of our favorite scenes. Sandwiched in between the horror that starts and ends the episode is a moment where—after the cleansing lovemaking of the night before—Claire and Jamie awaken to the morning light which gives them a glimmer of hope. Claire’s simple line, “What’s behind those trees?” is meant to show her marveling at being on the edge of what will someday become a great nation, where North Carolina will become one of 50 states. And as she describes the future to Jamie, he finds himself inspired and moved by her passion for America, and it captures his imagination. Jamie’s got a pioneering spirit and this new country is starting to draw him in, the possibilities appealing to him. Although, we wanted to balance the scales by pointing to the fact that a dream for some can be a nightmare for others, and what happens to the Indians causes them both to ponder the darker side of America the beautiful.

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We’ve played a lot of dinner parties in our four seasons, and it’s always a challenge to make them a bit different. But one thing always seems to stay consistent, that Claire will speak her mind and cause somewhat of a stir amongst the men who are not accustomed to a woman being so sharp and opinionated. We love these scenes where Jamie and Claire work as a team; Claire working to sell the ruby, and Jamie hobnobbing with the hostess of the party Mr. Lillington as well as the special guest, the Governor of North Carolina William Tryon, who was a real governor and public figure at the time.

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We call this scene the “deal with the devil scene,” and always conceived it as the governor making an offer to Jamie to give him land—though Jamie knows everything comes with a price. The key line in this scene is Tryon’s line, “There is the law and then there is what is done.” This is the motto Tryon lives by, which is his subtle way of letting Jamie know that he is willing to cut corners and operate in whatever shadowy way he must to accomplish his agenda. The governor offers to give him land, but clearly there is a price for this generous offer…

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After the party, as Jamie celebrates the sale of the ruby, he also downloads Claire about the governor’s offer. Jamie is savvy enough to know there are strings with this offer and points to the governor’s earlier worry about a group of rebels called the Regulators. The governor clearly wants to buy Jamie’s loyalty as he wants his help putting down the rebellion. Claire reminds Jamie that a revolution is coming and that they are “on the wrong side of history, again.” Unlike Culloden, the British will lose. She thinks the offer is very risky, so the two decide not to take it. However, we will learn in the next scene that they have made another decision this evening, and that is to stay in America. The key here being that Jamie is swept up in the idea that this will become Brianna’s country. We love that his want to live here is due in part to his desire to help shape a good country for the daughter he’s never met. This is another reason he is the king of men!

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You’ll notice in the filmed version that a new scene has been inserted before this scene, to replace the moved Rollo scene. In the opening chapters of the book, Jamie and Claire have already decided to stay in America; it is fait accompli. But it was important for us to show them coming to this decision and dramatize what drew them to this land and not return to Scotland. Of course, Young Ian wants to stay with them, but Jamie is determined to send him back to Jenny. There is a key line in this scene, where Jamie tells Young Ian, “that his life is not meant to be wasted,” that he wants him to someday be “a man of worth,” something that will figure in a big way later this season.

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We also learn that Marsali is with child, which is a surprise to us and to Claire as well, since last season Marsali solicited advice on how to not become pregnant ;)

This also is different from the book, as Marsali became pregnant in Jamaica, staying there while everyone else landed in America, and Fergus had to go back and get her. In the script version, Marsali is already with Fergus.

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We thought it would be fun to have Claire give voice to the fact that in the 20th century she was on a path to citizenship but now that she’s back with Jamie, she’s part of the founding of her adopted nation. Although Claire saw slaves in Jamaica and was greatly disturbed by it, Eutroclus is the first “slave” she interacts with in the new world, but she soon learns that Eutroclus is not a slave but a free man. We wanted to highlight that he earned his freedom by saving the captain’s life, an idea that plants a seed in Jamie’s head that will affect a later storyline.

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The group observes a dead pirate chained to a stake in the river and the captain explains how criminals are put to death in this way. However, sadly this was never shot as there was not room in the schedule for it. But oftentimes we try to find another place for something that we like, and perhaps this will turn up in another episode, although there are no plans for it at this moment.

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Jamie does give Claire a medical kit in this scene. The art department, set decorators, and prop department did a fantastic job in building us our own river boat (as you don’t find any of these hanging around in Scotland) and the medical kit in particular, which was very authentic and very cool.

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From the very beginning of writing the script, we always knew we wanted “America the Beautiful” to play over the sequence of the river boat getting attacked by Stephen Bonnet and his gang. It was originally conceived as an instrumental version, however after watching the scene in editing, it was decided to use the amazing and soulful Ray Charles version. We love the irony of “America the Beautiful” and again, the darker side that Jamie and Claire are encountering in this brave new world.

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You’ll notice that we did write dialogue into this sequence, but it was never intended to be heard. We always knew it would play MOS, but we knew we needed guidelines for what the actors will say to make it easier to film.

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We also changed another important thing from the source material. In the book, it’s Frank’s ring that is taken by Bonnet. We thought it would be more emotional for Bonnet to take Jamie’s ring, as it would be more heartbreaking to both Claire and Jamie. Another heartbreak, of course, is the killing of their friend Lesley, who Bonnet brutally murders, causing them to lose both Hayes and Lesley in one episode. This scene underlines the fact that things won’t be easy for the couple in the new world and that there are as many, if not more, dangers for them here than the country they came from, and it sets up some of the challenges they will face this season as they try to make a new home for themselves in the land that will soon become America.

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CASTING:
ROLLO

Rollo is Young Ian’s faithful companion in Season 4. During the very first episode, we are introduced to the ‘wolf dog’ of Diana Gabaldon’s books—the dog which Young Ian has won gambling at dice. A Northern Inuit breed, the dog chosen for the role is so gentle in terms of his temperament that producers had to amend some of the more ferocious qualities attributed to him in the novel. John Bell (Young Ian) has spent a considerable amount of time with Rollo since he was a puppy and the two have bonded. He commented, “He is such a soft, lovable dog. I went to puppy training classes with him and we climbed our first mountain together in Loch Lomond Park. I am much more of a diva than Rollo on set, but it has to be admitted that he doesn’t always want to come to his mark!”

Executive Producer Maril Davis adds: “Rollo was very exciting to cast! We bought two puppy brothers and named them, Whisky and Mac Dubh (Dui for short). It turns out Dui is the better actor but he’s not the ferocious dog that he is in the books. He’s quite a sweet dog with a mellow personality.”

David Stewart, Rollo’s trainer comments on the dog’s early life: “There were 7 puppies in the litter, 4 girls and 3 boys, who were all named after “Munros” which are Scottish mountains over 3000ft. The two puppies for the Outlander production were Ben McDui and Ben Cruachan but they quickly became called Dui and Whisky, with the family name Rollo. Dui was bossy, Whisky adventurous. They had a lovely childhood playing in the woods, chewing whatever they could find including spectacles and shoes.”

PROPS:
THE MEDICAL BOX

“The gift of the beautiful medical box is one of the most touching things Jamie has ever done for Claire.”

The medical box is Jamie’s gift to Claire, which he purchases using one of the Frasers’ jewels. Ever thoughtful and considerate, it is Jamie’s way of recognizing one of his wife’s many talents—a gift that will truly keep on giving, allowing her to help those in need and perhaps a first step in helping her to continue fulfilling her passion and calling in life in this new environment.

“The medical box was researched extensively. We found references to a type of eighteenth-century, portable chest—a surgeon’s chest. We had three versions made bespoke for the show by a specialist antique company, Wetton and Grosch. It is one hundred percent period accurate. The first version is the ‘master,’ all bells and whistles, but it is prohibitively heavy to work with as a movable prop, either for Caitriona, or even for a horse to carry, so we had two lighter versions built too. Within the wooden chest are lots of little drawers and compartments for all the tinctures and tools and instruments required, from the microscope to cutting instruments, a little mortar and pestle and notebook of medical notes from its previous owner which the Outlander Art Department created page by page. For the pirate attack we replicated the little glass bottles with sugar-glass so they could be thrown around safely.”

CASTING:
INTRODUCING STEPHEN BONNET

Executive Producer Maril Davis on the casting of Ed Speleers as Stephen Bonnet: “We were aware of Ed—both from Downton Abbey and also because he had read for another part. Bonnet plays a pivotal role in Season 4; after the death of Jack Randall, Bonnet is our next major villain. He is both wicked and charming and will be a character that fans will love to hate. It wasn’t easy to find someone who can bring all of these characteristics together in one character. Ed is exactly what we wanted. He brought an amazing mix of charm, mischievousness, violence, aggression—the psychopathic characteristics that we wanted—to the character. It takes a great actor to play that.”

Describing Bonnet’s look, Costume Designer Nina Ayres comments: “Bonnet is a pirate and thief. We put lots of rings on his fingers to illustrate that he takes what he wants from life when he wants it. When he was trying to steal the rings from Claire’s hands, the props team made lots of jelly-flavored rings for Caitriona Balfe to have, to swallow. Bonnet’s many rings hint at past crimes committed against others—he is a dastardly thief.”

LOCATION:
BUILDING WILMINGTON

For the Art Department, creating a new world in Scotland was, logistically, one of the biggest challenges faced yet, since, in terms of architecture, nothing existed in Scotland as an appropriate match. The studio took on a huge backlot space where they’ve built a ‘clapper board’ colonial town. This season, it took the form of a two-street town which will made even bigger for Seasons 5 and 6. There is a tavern, furniture stores, a forgery, a lawyer’s office, an apothecary and a grocery store, all built from timber and brick. The exterior frontage is on the backlot, complete with a dirt road, which really got muddy at the start of production filming in a very wet and rainy Scotland. The interior sets for the tavern bar, tavern hotel rooms, the prison, and more are on stages with huge translight replicas of the town. The fun of creating a world from scratch for Production Designer Jon Gary Steele and Set Decorator Stuart Bryce meant they could include anything of their choosing. As Jon Gary Steele observes: “The street lights in Wilmington are a personal win for me. I saw this design in a painting when I was doing research for the first season and have never been able to fit them in before. The four fire lights were just not right for Scotland but they look incredible in Wilmington and provide such a dramatic light.”

WARDROBE:
COSTUMES IN AMERICA

Co-Costume Designer Terry Dresbach on creating the new costumes for colonial life: “It was very exciting to design American colonial life. I grew up with various versions and visuals of this time as an American child from my fourth-grade history books, but those versions were very pretty and sanitary. I wanted to design what it really would have looked like; the beginning of the American melting pot, a world made up of the native culture that had been there for thousands of years, and a flood of immigrants from Western Europe, most of whom came with the clothes on their back and not much more. Once I started digging further, all sorts of fascinating information started pouring forth about the trade restrictions placed on America by Britain and how that affected clothing. Americans had to buy fabrics from Britain and export all of the materials for fabric production to Britain. That helped create a fair amount of tension, and the slave states were particularly incensed at having to import wool to clothe the slaves, rather than making cheaper fabric from the cotton they were producing. All of this created yet more small, fascinating puzzle pieces leading to the Revolution of 1776. On the streets of Wilmington there were Native People, the French, Germans, Swedes, the Welsh, Scots, and the Irish. People were poor and had to adapt and assimilate, so the clothing of any one group might be passed to another. There were very few who had the luxury of fine clothing. Much of it was heavy wool and worn linen. People didn’t have multiple changes of clothing, they had one, maybe two. It wasn’t very “pretty”. Clothes were repaired and patched over the course of a lifetime. Garments were expected to last and we worked very hard to show that in America.”

CLOSER LOOK:
FILMING THE RIVERBOAT ATTACK

EXPLORE
  • INTRO
    AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
  • INSIDE
    THE SCRIPT
  • CASTING:
    ROLLO
  • PROPS:
    THE MEDICAL BOX
  • CASTING:
    INTRODUCING STEPHEN BONNET
  • LOCATION:
    BUILDING WILMINGTON
  • WARDROBE:
    COSTUMES IN AMERICA
  • CLOSER LOOK:
    FILMING THE RIVERBOAT ATTACK