• Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in 'Outlander'. (SBS)Source: SBS
How a production joke became a seriously important moment.
Jennifer Vineyard

21 Sep 2017 - 2:54 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2017 - 2:54 PM

Spoilers for season two episode four of Outlander.

When production designer Gary Steele and set decorator Gina Cromwell came up with the idea for a fabulous blue velvet-and-damask daybed in the parlour of Jamie and Claire’s Parisian apartment, they knew it would be a great place to have sex – they just didn’t know who would get to take advantage. “It was kind of a joke,” writer Toni Graphia said. “‘Well, now somebody’s got to have sex in there, because that’s an awesome set.’ We wanted somebody to be caught doing the deed in there, and we thought it should be Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) and the maid.”

So how did it become Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan)? Showrunner Ron D Moore, co-executive producer Maril Davis and Graphia were discussing how our couple could reconnect after all the trauma Jamie suffered at the hand of Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). “We didn’t want them to just reconnect,” Graphia said. “We wanted it to be special. It’s not just one night Jamie rolls over, and tonight’s the night, ‘We’re going to have sex. I’m over this trauma.’”

The trauma – which we glimpse whenever Jamie has tried to have sex with Claire, but ends up seeing his tormentor's face – is something the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s book series has tinkered with, since we get Jamie’s point of view more often and can see why Jamie’s been distant from Claire. “I just feel like as the TV show went forward,” Moore said, “you wanted to start broadening the perspective, and say it’s really Claire and Jamie’s story.”

With the switch in perspective, Outlander also switched up the plot – by the time the couple get to Paris in the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, “Jamie and Claire have a fairly normal sexual relationship,” Gabaldon said, “barring Jamie’s recurrent nightmares.” That’s because the heavy lifting healing happened during the close of the first book, where “Jamie’s soul and manhood were effectively redeemed,” Gabaldon said. Since the show went another route, “they needed to deal with that recovery in a different way.”

Although a certain amount of healing took place at the abbey before they departed for France last season, Jamie wasn’t ready to jump back into bed again. “He was rescued, but he was definitely still scarred by it,” Heughan said. “Physically, he was healing, but emotionally, it wasn’t something he dealt with. He put it to one side, and pretended it wasn’t there, and then he threw himself wholeheartedly into his mission of trying to stop history, change fate.”

Pushing it aside may have allowed Jamie to cope with daily tasks, but it didn’t make it go away. “I wanted to play Jamie so that you get the sense that he’s not sleeping,” Heughan said. “He’s half the man he was.” This starts to poison the couple’s relationship, until the news of Black Jack’s survival comes. “This news just gives him a new lease on life and sets him free,” Heughan explained. “He’s once again in control of his destiny and has the power to rid himself of this nightmare.”

But to be reinvigorated wasn’t enough – it’s one-sided. The writers debated how they could have Jamie and Claire “connect on a soul level.” “This was something Ron, Maril and I talked about up until the day we filmed it,” Graphia said, “how important it was to handle that moment.”

And so the daybed, which started out as a joke, became a sacred, soulful place. “The idea is that they’re doing it in complete darkness,” Graphia said. “When she closes the door and climbs in there with him, she’s saying, ‘Find me in the dark,’ because it’s not about hot sweaty sex, but closing your eyes, being in this small, dark space and these two people connecting who don’t even need to look at each other. The best way to get Jack Randall out of your mind is to not even look or picture anything.”

Whatever Jamie and Claire have, it’s been there all along – perhaps it was put aside for a moment the way Jamie put aside his trauma, but it wasn’t lost. “Claire is basically saying, ‘If we take out all the distractions, and it’s just you and me in this little space in the dark, we don’t even have to try,’” Graphia said. “Black Jack couldn’t destroy this.”


Outlander airs Thursdays at 10:30pm on SBS. Watch the previous at SBS On Demand:

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This article originally appeared on Vulture ©2017 All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.