Love & War: Inside ‘Outlander’s ‘Emotional’ Fifth Season With the Cast
On the Scotland set of the Starz romance Outlander, Caitriona Balfe, as smart, outspoken surgeon Claire Fraser, sits on the bed in an 18th-century cabin, lovingly tracing her finger across sketches of her family. When her strapping husband, Jamie (Sam Heughan), enters the room, she tries to hide a sentimental tear. He gently touches her hair and whispers, “Sassenach,” his nickname for the Englishwoman, a former World War II nurse who fell through time to the Scottish Highlands and into his arms in the series’ 2014 premiere.
They embrace and…sorry, fans, you will have to wait until Episode 9 of the new season for this tender scene — and what happens next. The good news for those missing that famous Fraser sexual chemistry: Exactly 10 minutes and eight seconds into the drama’s February 16 return, they kiss.
“They might be the grandparents of the show now, but Claire and Jamie are still the sexiest couple — not Bree and Roger,” Heughan says with a laugh. The younger pair, Claire and Jamie’s daughter (Sophie Skelton) and her husband (Richard Rankin) — a 20th-century engineer and academic, respectively — traveled back in time separately last season: she to warn her parents that an archived obituary reports their impending death in a fire; he to find his love.
That friendly offscreen rivalry aside, the 12-episode fifth season, which picks up five months after we last saw everyone reunited in the colony of North Carolina, is all about family togetherness. Drawing from The Fiery Cross, the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling series of Outlander novels, it’s set mostly in the early 1770s against the simmering American Revolution. (As a treat for print fans, previously undramatized scenes from earlier books will be peppered in, returning us to the land of tartan and to 1960s Boston.)
“We’ve tried to get back to the basics: emotional stories [that bring] great highs and gut-wrenching lows,” teases executive producer Matthew B. Roberts. “[Fans will have] both good cries and bad cries.”
The good cries begin straightaway, with Brianna and Roger’s magical wedding at Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie’s 10,000-acre land grant in the backcountry courtesy of England’s King George III. Amid trees draped with Spanish moss and surrounded by the settlers who have joined them on the Ridge, the proud parents remember taking their own vows as the youngsters recite theirs.
For the cast and crew, the cold three-day shoot, sometimes stretching till 4am, wasn’t always as blissful as it looks. “We must have said the vows about a hundred times,” Skelton recalls. “By the end, I was like, ‘Richard, I don’t want to marry Roger anymore. The romance is so gone!'”
As the party continues, we see how all the show’s major couples spend the wedding night. Bree has a flash of PTSD remembering Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), the psychopathic criminal who terrorized the family, raped her and may be the father of her infant. (Presumed dead after a jail explosion in Season 4, he actually survived.)
“She’s trying to get through that trauma, be there for her baby and not let her past define her,” Skelton says. Roger, who has decided to raise the child as his own no matter what, comforts her — and their passion ignites.
Claire and Jamie, meanwhile, jump into bed too, although babysitting their grandson causes some interruptions. Jamie’s wealthy aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) sneaks off for a roll in the hay with his godfather, Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), a fugitive because of his involvement with early revolutionaries the Regulators, who oppose Britain’s exorbitant taxes. And Jamie’s grown stepdaughter Marsali (Lauren Lyle) gives her husband, onetime Fraser ward Fergus (César Domboy), the news that she’s pregnant again.
The clan’s revelry is short-lived. Governor Tryon (Tim Downie) is still intent on catching Murtagh — and reminds Jamie that it’s his task to hunt and kill the wanted man. Tryon tells Jamie he must gather a militia and get the job done or risk losing the land he’s been granted by the crown. Mindful of both his loyalty to Murtagh and his responsibility to his tenants, Jamie is soon on the “search” with his men.
“For me, it’s the most fun and interesting storyline to see Jamie pitched against his godfather,” Heughan says. “Inside, Jamie is still the Highland warrior — you see flashes of that — but he’s a military man now, so it’s a new style of fighting. There’s a cannon and muskets and pistols.”
By Jamie’s side is son-in-law Roger, undeniably out of his element as the action ramps up to combat the Regulators’ guerrilla warfare. “Roger is a captain of Jamie’s militia, a huge role, one he’s honored by but knows is beyond him,” explains Rankin, adding that Roger will receive marksmanship lessons from Bree. “He goes on an incredible journey, and in later episodes, he can handle himself.”
This being the 18th century, the women remain at home — at least initially.
This is an abbreviated version of TV Guide Magazine’s latest cover story. For more, pick up the issue, on newsstands Thursday, January 2.
Outlander, Season 5 Premiere, Sunday, February 16, 8/7c, Starz