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Matt B. Roberts Talks 2x09 (Mild Future Book & Character Spoilers)


(just an excuse to post these GIFs tbh)


As Jamie and Murtagh put the men through training, they were joined by some familiar faces from Season 1 – Dougal MacKenzie, Rupert MacKenzie and Angus Mhor – who brought their own ideas about how to face the enemy in combat.

While Jamie worked to turn farmers into fighters and dealt with conflicting opinions and power plays from his Uncle Dougal, Claire found herself haunted by her World War II experiences as she watched the men train.

"It came up in the room," Roberts told Access Hollywood, when asked who came up with the idea to add in flashbacks for Claire into the episode. "We were trying to find a story for Claire that wasn’t just kind of preparing for battle. … It felt like not a great way to use Caitriona Balfe's talent. So being an avid book reader… one of the elements that I have always wanted to see is... I wanted to see the moment when she heard 'Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,' and I wanted to know what affected her in battle. I was an EMT here in Los Angeles before I started writing, my brother is a firefighter/paramedic for many years and the trauma of just seeing things has always affected me in a different way than it's affected him. So I wanted to kind of show that on screen, and when I pitched out the story, the other writers liked it, Ron [Moore, 'Outlander's' executive producer] liked it, so he kind of let me run with it and I thought it worked out really nicely."


Claire's conflicts in the episode weren't just internal. Roberts wrote a very charged scene between Claire and Dougal (Graham McTavish), where Dougal tried to blackmail her into talking to Jamie about giving him more power, by bringing up his marriage bargain with her from Season 1 (back then, the deal was she could have his men to try and help free Jamie from Wentworth if she agreed to marry him if Jamie didn't make it out alive).
"I never once thought that she would ever marry Dougal, I thought that she would escape through the stones and go back to her own time if in fact Jamie was dead. For her, it would have been a win-win. She gets the men, and she gets the men, either way. So, we wanted to do a call back to that," Roberts said. "It felt really odd that Dougal and Claire would be in the same place and never mention that. So, one of the ways I thought it was organic was to [have] him start to blackmail her into getting his own way. It also helped to show Dougal's scheming side, that he's always trying to get ahead, that he didn't like his position of being Jamie's subordinate anyway, so he was trying to work this to where if he could blackmail Claire into saying, 'Hey, maybe it would be good if Dougal was kind of equal with you in this.' Not that Claire obviously was ever going to do that, but it was nice to see him try.

"And the other thing I wanted to get out -- and I really wanted to be emphatic about it -- is Jamie and Claire do share everything," he continued. "We don't always get to see it on screen because we only have 50-odd minutes to do Diana's massive books, per episode, so we can't fit everything in. So the line I really thought was important in this little section, this little speech of hers was, 'My husband and I share everything.' And she just cuts him off right there. He has nothing to say after that. He really doesn't and then she takes over after that moment and kind of goes off on him. I thought it was an important scene, a nice scene for her in her arc of her story."

And just like his wife, Jamie too stood up to Dougal, who tried to push for his methods of surprise attack fighting throughout the episode, while Jamie worked to shape the men into a more traditional army, trained in combat techniques of the time. Dougal may have yielded to Jamie's leadership in the episode, but the conflict between the two men and their fighting styles isn't going away any time soon.

"These guys will never ultimately get along. They'll never see eye to eye," Roberts said. "I think Jamie sees the big picture and that's the difference. If you look at Jamie in this episode, he always keeps his eye on the ball. He always has the big picture in mind. 'Yes, I can take these guys and throw them in battle. We could do that, but we'll lose half of them, we'll lose two-thirds of them. And what's the point of that? Why train our army to lose?' And he says it in the episode — 'I don't want my men to fight and die for their King. I want my men to fight and live for their King.' And for me, that's the line that epitomizes Jamie Fraser. He looks at the bigger picture always. And Dougal's more of a zealot. He's a fanatic. He wants to free Scotland. His heart's in the right place, his head is not and that's a big difference, whereas Jamie's head and heart are both in the right spot."

In Saturday night's "Je Suis Prest" episode, Roberts got to write the show's introduction to a character Diana Gabaldon's book readers will know well – 16-year-old William Grey (Lord John Grey). He also got to write in William Grey calling Jamie, "Red Jamie," and the line where Claire says the words, "dragonfly in amber," which, of course, is the name of the Gabaldon book Season 2 is based on. When asked if one of those moments which was his favorite, Roberts answered by explaining how he approaches each episode he pens.

"One thing I try to do just coming from a person who's read the books long before I got hired on the show, I try to, in every script, put in the nuggets of the book that I like, I think fans will like, book readers. Some of them are much more subtle. I think the 'dragonfly in amber' line is very subtle. It's there, it was cut at one point and then we put it back, and thankfully so. The Lord John Grey scene -- I was really excited to write that. I did want to add the 'Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.' I think [not] just to hear about that moment, but to actually see the moment -- I thought it was kind of exciting to be able to figure out a way to make that organic and fit into the story," he said. "So, I would say for a book reader -- I said this I think in either another interview or post at some point -- is when I write my first draft, I always write it as a writer. [As] a writer of the show, it's my job, it's what I need to do and then, when I do my second pass, I always do that as a fan -- 'Do I want to watch this episode?' is how I take a pass on it. And I always, of course, am slightly biased -- I always want to watch my episodes for a lot of those little nuggets. Like Easter eggs, you kind of plant them in spots. They're not just going to jump out you and I don't like to hang lanterns on them. ... The next episode I wrote, I co-wrote with Toni Graphia, is the finale and both of us were very excited to add book elements and try to work it in, because [the opening of Season 2] is completely different from the opening of the book, so we knew we were going to do certain things and we were really excited about getting to do these things and hopefully the fans will be excited for it too."

---------

Congratulations on the recent multi-season renewal. Were you expecting that to happen or did you have any doubts about your renewal chances?
We get excited when we get just a back-nine pickup, so two seasons was unheard of. We're very excited. Just from inside information, yes, we knew we were going to do season three for sure. We haven't stopped working, and we just went straight over from season two to season three. We carried the writers room over and a few people in Scotland continued to prep for next season. Outlander is a beast of a show to produce, so if we took a normal break, a regular hiatus like a normal show, we would already be behind. Now the fans can have it sooner than what they think. The Droughtlander won't be as long as they expect.


In this week's episode, it was interesting to see how you integrated Claire's memories of World War II with the training of the Jacobite army, and how it brought up feelings of PTSD for her. What did you want to convey with those scenes?
In the book, this section for Claire is very internal. She's thinking a lot. And she had the backstory of being a WWII nurse which we saw in the very first episode of Outlander. As we were breaking this episode, we thought that it wouldn't be going off book so to speak if we were just to tell part of that story, when in fact we know this all happened. These lines of dialogue are in the books, just from different parts. I wanted to incorporate all these little exchanges and moments from all the different books into a script somehow, and so I did it with these flashbacks.

Will Claire continue to suffer from PTSD, or has Jamie helped her overcome that?
You won't see that this season. It may pop back up in future episodes of future seasons, but not this year. What I like to do is when our couple comes together, they solve problems with their connection. Bad things happen when they're apart and good things happen when they're together. But Jamie and Claire's issue is that physically, they can't stay together all the time. A lot of times they're dragged apart, which we've already seen a lot this season.

Lord John "William" Grey was introduced in this episode, and he certainly leaves a lasting impression by owing a life debt to Jamie after Jamie spares his life. Book readers know that Lord John has a big part to play in the future. Have there been any talks about a Lord John spinoff series to mirror the books?
Oddly enough, we always joke about spinoffs, whether it's Lord John or Black Jack [Tobias Menzies] or this person or that person, because there is just so much material. [Author] Diana [Gabaldon] gives us so much in the books that you can probably make 10 series and the fans would watch it all. We haven't really discussed it seriously if we could do that, but that would be something for Starz to order before we could start talking about it seriously. But we know there's a whole line of books that Diana wrote about just that one character, so it was great to have his introduction in my script. Just knowing what's coming up in Voyager, I really enjoyed the Lord John and Jamie dynamic in that book. It adds a lot to Outlander to have that odd friendship that they forge. To start that off was an honor. I wanted to stay as close to the books as possible, but there were some slight changes with that scene.

Like what?
It was all because of Claire's PTSD story. In the book, Jamie initiates ripping her bodice off. He uses her as the ploy to extract the information from John Grey. But when we were writing the episode, it felt wrong for Jamie to do that after the scene just prior when Claire is having this emotional catharsis. Plus, we also tested that out in prep and our bodices are so well made that none of us could rip the bodice. It wasn't going to happen in the way it was described in the book anyway. So Claire just gives Jamie that little nod to give him the okay to go down this road, and I wanted to keep the tone of the book where Jamie takes it just a step too far and it was reminiscent of the first season spanking scene. OP Note: Wait, what? I didn't get that at all.

At the end of the episode, Jamie's army finally joined up with the Prince Charles' (Andrew Gower) army. Where does next week's episode pick up?
Next episode is titled, "Prestonpans." The episode encompasses the Battle of Prestonpans. We're going to take Jamie and his troops and integrate them within the bigger Highland army. Prince Charlie returns and the first half is all these people trying to jockey for a position with him. Jamie is the one person who doesn’t have to since he already has the Prince's ear. And through knowledge of Claire, he knows they're going to win this battle, so he's a little more relaxed than you would normally see a person going into a battle. So what we need to show in "Prestonpans" is how they win this battle. We stay true to the actual battle, it was about eight minutes long total and we pretty much almost show it in real time.

This episode showed how Dougal (Graham McTavish) and Jamie disagree on how to best lead the army. How is their power struggle going to escalate moving forward?

Oddly enough, Dougal has to take a more subservient path in order to fight. It's only going to be later in the season when one of our characters passes that he'll be able to take full reign of the MacKenzies again. Over the next few episodes, Dougal has to really take an unfamiliar position because being subservient to Jamie is really new to him. He's always been half in charge, which was tough for him anyway with Colum. He's just a mere soldier now, and that's the thing that really eats at him.


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Tags: 2x09, interview, matt b. roberts, writer bae
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