Hello, sassenachs! The following interview contains spoilers for Outlander‘s second season. You’ve been warned!
What do you do when your worst nightmare shows up in the flesh for a quick and dirty hello? Stop in your tracks and wait anxiously. It was a moment that—at least for this particular non-Outlander book reader (sorry, Diana!)—we did NOT see coming. In Saturday’s fifth episode, the unthinkable happened: Black Jack Randall turned up in France and ran into Jamie and Claire in the garden of King Louis the XIV. It was a tension-filled moment to watch, and one we haven’t been able to stop thinking about since it happened.
Luckily, in this line of work, you’re afforded opportunities to talk this stuff down with the people who were there when it happened. So we sat down with stars Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, and Tobias Menzies to hear their thoughts on the moment and where such a revelation will lead them next.
“Randall turning up really is the catalyst to the whole season, in a way,” Heughan explained to us. “It has a ripple effect and consequences that really affect Jamie and Claire’s relationship—some really dire consequences.”
Arguably, it was Claire’s revelation in the episode prior to Jamie that Black Jack was alive that really set the ball rolling. And don’t worry, they were just as surprised as you (at first) at Jamie’s reaction.
“It was really weird because we were like, ‘Really? Jamie doesn’t want to kill him immediately?'” explained Balfe. But when the two come face-to-face—in the garden of King Louis XIV with the king watching on—no one’s immediate reactions are able to truly be expressed. “Everyone is paralyzed because they’re in front of the king; the protocol that you have to adhere to is sacrosanct—you could end up in prison or dead if you do anything to upset [him].”
But it didn’t always start out that way, Menzies explained to us: “Initially, that encounter didn’t actually happen with the king there, but through conversation with the writers that changed, and it ended up really rich and unexpected. To have to filter all that stuff through French courtly etiquette is fascinating.”
Added Balfe, “It’s so pregnant with all this tension and Claire’s fear about Jamie; What is Black Jack going to do? She’s just sort of on tenterhooks.”
For Heughan, it was the culmination of so much of what he was—or wasn’t—dealing with in the previous four episodes. “[In] the first few episodes, Jamie’s not really Jamie: He’s lost that sparkle, he’s half the man he was, he’s having to be someone else and pretend to be something else and not deal with what’s playing in his mind. He’s a shadow of who he was.”
“The moment that releases him is the very thing that he’s been obsessing over—the fact that Black Jack Randall is alive releases him and gives him power,” noted Heughan. “Now he can put to bed, so to speak, this nightmare.”
And the scene that we saw was, indeed, a nightmare, thanks to its pregnant pauses and tension-filled looked. But apparently, that wasn’t always the case! “It was a huge day and a huge scene and it got cut a lot, unfortunately.” But to be in “that moment, when Jamie saw Black Jack in his red coat in the gardens was so powerful. To [see] Randall kinda powerless and made to kneel down was really emotional for Jamie—but none of them could show it because the king is there and he’s a very dangerous man; [It’s] a very dangerous situation.”
But it wasn’t one without a power struggle at play: namely, the role reversal that’s taken place thanks to Claire and Jamie’s familiarity with the king. “You see that he’s out of his own comfort zone and away from his power,” explained Balfe. “And in that he’s a different man. It was nice to see him get a little bit of his comeuppance.”
“The king clearly knows them and seeing Jack process that,” added Menzies,”I’ve always thought, arguably, there’s a part of Jack that wonders if they could just throw him to the dogs. What if they made a plea to the king? Anything could happen in that moment.”
“To see them try to deal with that, in front of the king, is fantastic.”
So where do Jamie, Claire, and Black Jack go from here? Nowhere good, as far as history is concerned. Now that Jamie has challenged Jack to a duel, his presence will yet again get in the way of Claire and Jamie’s happiness since we all know Black Jack has to, ultimately, marry Mary Hawkins. And Jamie has one thing on his mind, according to Heughan: “He knows what he needs to do, which is to fight that man and end this torture.”
As to how that’ll play out? We’ll let the show do the talking there, but don’t expect to see the Black Jack we once knew moving forward, if Menzies’ thoughts have any insight into the matter (which, duh—of course they do): “I was keen to meet a Black Jack that was perhaps less confident than he was in season one. The physical injuries he endures, and also being out of his element in a foreign country England is at war with, all of that leaves him without control and I think that’s thematic for him this season. He’s constantly in positions where he’s not in his normal milieu: his brother is dying and he needs Claire’s help for that, so I was glad to switch it up from the very confident person we meet in season one.”
And click to watch my Q&A with the Comte St. Germain himself, Stanley Weber:
What did you think of the big confrontation? Are you excited to see where Black Jack’s arrival takes us? Let us know in the comments below!