Outlander Returns With Catastrophe and Plenty of Sparks (SPRING PREVIEW)

Ed Miller/© 2014 Sony Pictures Television

The very first sex scene that Outlander stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe filmed together will air when the series returns for the second half of Season 1–and it’s hot enough to melt the snow in the Scottish Highlands. Shot out of sequence, the steamy segment was the actors’ initiation into a series where much of the storytelling happens in the bedroom.

“Both Sam and I walked away with painful carpet burns from that scene,” Balfe says about shooting the intense encounter between time-traveling World War II battlefield nurse Claire Randall and her new husband, 18th-century Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser. “They have quite a catastrophic thing happen in their relationship. And it turns everything upside down, so the scene had to be aggressive. They’re literally fighting their way back to each other.”

That “catastrophic thing” is well known to fans of the best-selling Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon and involves a violent act by Jamie that shocks Claire. But it’s far from the worst thing she faces in a 1743 Scotland occupied by the British army.

The first half of Season 1 ended with the plucky Englishwoman held at knifepoint by Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), the cruel army captain who once flogged Jamie and allegedly raped Jamie’s sister, Jenny (Laura Donnelly).

Jamie rescues Claire in the premiere, but Black Jack doesn’t stop his pursuit of the couple. “The action moves toward a major confrontation with Black Jack,” executive producer Ronald D. Moore says. “His finally getting face-to-face with Jamie defines the end of the season.”

Before that come several storylines Moore had been itching to adapt since first reading Outlander. “Some things I loved most about the book are in the second half of the season,” Moore says. “The Jacobite Rebellion gets going, there’s a big witch trial, and we finally see [Jamie’s ancestral home] Lallybroch and meet his family.”

At Lallybroch, Jamie confides details of his painful past to Claire. “We find out more about what the scars on his back mean to him,” Heughan says. “They’re not just physical scars.”

For Heughan, the time-consuming application of the prosthetic wounds has an upside–the process helps him connect with his character. “It’s a tough part of the shoot,” Heughan says. “There are several pieces and it takes nearly three hours. And in the last two episodes, there are even more prosthetics; I’d be in the makeup chair for four hours. But it’s part of who Jamie is. It’s about what he has to bear for his love for Claire, and what he goes through to ultimately protect her.”

What Jamie has to do will become unbearably brutal in these final episodes. “The scenes Tobias and I have together are some of the hardest I’ve ever shot,” Heughan teases.

With Jamie in jeopardy, Claire and Jenny team up to help him. “It’s like a little female Western for a bit,” says Balfe, who adds that her happiest day of shooting was when she and Donnelly galloped on horseback across a wide-open field under rare sunny Scottish skies.

The nonstop action builds to a shocking cliffhanger. (But you’ll have to wait a while for the outcome; Season 2 starts filming this spring.) Moore promises “unexpected reversals of fortune, twists you didn’t see coming, and the characters ending up in a place you don’t expect.”

Outlander, Returns Saturday, April 4, 9/8c, Starz