Outlander‘s fourth episode, “The Gathering,” was the first one written by Matt Roberts who also serves as a producer on the show. Matt gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter about his episode (spoiler warning). Below are excerpts, but please go to THR for the full interview.
This was a special episode in that you had Diana Gabaldon and showrunner Ron Moore making cameos. How did that all come about?
Ron on his own decided this would be a good episode to make the mysterious cameo. We knew that we were having The Gathering, a massive event within the Great Hall. There were going to be so many extras that we knew we could put Ron in there and have him disguised but also stand out in a nice way. As for Diana, the idea was going to be the same thing, to make her one of the Gathering guests, but I thought, since we have her, it might be a nice idea to give her a character and maybe a few lines. So I emailed and asked if she was comfortable with that and she said absolutely. I came up with a character and I asked her if she would like to pick the name, so she picked her own name.
I wanted to put her up against Annette Badland, who plays Mrs. Fitzgibbons. I thought they would make a good match, and create backstory for their characters. We don’t actually say what happens, but you can tell that they have a rivalry that we could tell at another time if we wanted to. There’s a sassiness to Diana and I wanted to give that to her character, and I knew she could easily play that — and she did. She did a wonderful job; we gave her a little more to do with the scene of her shushing Murtagh during the speech just to bring her into it a little more.
What was the most difficult scene for you to write knowing how many plot points you had to reach?
I wouldn’t use the word difficult, but in in the sense of challenging, it was the Geordie death scene. It’s in the book in a way that you know that Geordie dies and you know they have a moment, but what they say to each other isn’t. I wanted to make sure that all the sentiment that the book had portrayed made you feel that that was where Claire and Dougal bonded.
That scene was crucial for Claire and Dougal’s relationship. How many different versions of the dialogue did you go through before landing on the one that made it to screen?
I’d read these books a long time ago, and I’d always envisioned that scene in my head many times. My first draft to what they ended up shooting is pretty close. I’d always imagined that the scene isn’t about Dougal and Geordie, it’s really about Dougal and Claire, and her seeing him let his guard down and Dougal seeing that she’s hiding the fact that she’s seen much more death than she’s let on. They have a moment when Dougal realizes Claire is doing a good thing for Geordie in putting his mind at peace. They bond over it, but only briefly, because he turns the tables on her in the last scene.
This was also the first time we saw Claire really loosening up and finding her place in this new world. Was there a particular freedom in writing her with less rigidity?
That’s a good observation. We needed to show time passing without time passing in the standard way. From episode three to four, we wanted to show that maybe three weeks or a month have passed. To do that, we had to show that she was comfortable in her surroundings, that the people there were more comfortable with her — in the opening scene when she’s playing with the children and they talk about how they played the day before and the day before, and where Angus and Rupert are much more easygoing with her, where they’re asking her if they can go somewhere rather than ordering her. Hopefully other people will see that too.
Dougal telling Claire that she’s going to be joining them on the road for a prolonged period of time sets her plan to leave Castle Leoch back a significant amount. Where does this road trip put Claire?
After Jamie gives his oath, we find out that he’s leaving the protection of Colum. The fans that don’t know the book could believe anything could happen on the road. What’s Dougal going to do out there? It does tee up the tension of what happens in episode five where Dougal ends up using Jamie’s back to raise money for the Jacobites, and we don’t know how far he’s going to take that. We don’t know if he’s going to end up killing Jamie on the road. That’s what the end of the episode here leaves off. The show resets in a weird way because we’re on the road for four episodes before we get back to Leoch.