[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Outlander episode "Of Lost Things." Read at your own risk!]
Sunday's episode of Outlander contained one of the scenes book fans have been anxious about (no, not The Print Shop scene, sorry). In it, Jamie (Sam Heughan) has settled into his new indentured servitude at Helwater estate and consequentially became intimately acquainted with Lady Geneva Dunsany (Hannah James), the eldest daughter of the estate.
In the Outlander novel, Voyager, on which this season is based, Geneva finds out that she is betrothed to a wealthy older man whom she despises. In retaliation, she blackmails Jamie into having sex with her so that her first time can be with a more attractive man she's actually fond of. Jamie goes through with it to protect his family from Geneva's meddling, but at one point Geneva asks him to stop and he doesn't. He later apologizes and she says she didn't really want him to stop — but the optics of the scene still created a tricky situation for the Outlander writers when adapting it for television.
On screen, the final cut of the episode kept Geneva's blackmail — but omitted her withdrawing consent in the middle of her and Jamie having sex.
"We didn't want to approach that part or include that part because, at the end of the day, we didn't feel like what that scene was about," executive producer Maril Davis explained to TV Guide. "That scene should be all about Jamie being forced into doing something, but still not trying to take advantage of [Gevena] — and wanting the experience, even though it's being forced on him, to be an okay one for her. It's all about Jamie as a gentleman."
Outlander has never been afraid to depict sexual violence, but in all of those situations there have been long lasting consequences on the character and the plot of the story. That wasn't the case for Jamie's actions in the book.
"Certain sexual violence is, not appropriate, but like the Jamie rape [in Season 1] — no one wants to see it, we're not glorifying it — but it's important to show it in its gory detail so that people understand why Black Jack has such a profound effect on Jamie and Claire moving forward," Davis said. "There are moments like the Geneva one where it's not an important part of the story, so we choose not to show that... We didn't want to bring that part in because it was unnecessary."
Removing any grey area from Jamie's actions in the scene does not negate the fact that Geneva coerced him into having sex with her. Just like in the book, she is the one committing the assault.
"We did re-shape [that scene] from the book. Geneva is manipulating him," executive producer and episode writer Toni Graphia said. "He's definitely doing this out of a coercion and she's coerced him by threatening his family. As we know, Claire is the only woman he has ever loved, and he doesn't want to do this."
Jamie had to have sex with her, though, because Geneva inevitably becomes pregnant with his child and subsequently dies in childbirth. Their son, Willie, keeps Jamie at Helwater for seven more years and gives him the spark he needs to survive. Geneva becoming the mother of Jamie's son made navigating her coercion that much more of a grey area. Outlander had to make her redeemable in some fashion, without making her behavior seem acceptable.
"She's a manipulative woman and an unhappy woman, but we wanted to humanize her because she is the mother of Jamie's son," Graphia explained. "She's been sold ... into a marriage by her father to someone she doesn't love. He's a man who is much older and who we see isn't a nice guy. She falls for Jamie [because] who doesn't? She goes about getting him in the wrong way, obviously."
Unfortunately, Geneva's choices come from being a woman with no agency in the 18th century. That doesn't make it right, but it does make it understandable.
"That's how women were treated back then and, for her, this was her escape from that," Graphia continued. "It's a very complicated subject and an episode. We didn't want the focus to be on wrong things. We wanted the focus to be on the character arc and the story and the emotion of the story and not the logistics of the story."
The logistics of the story ended with Jamie having to leave Helwater and a young Willie behind before anyone could discover the truth about their relationship. Now he must find some way to fill in the void left by the three children he's lost, while the love of his life is wallowing in her own loss, 200 years away.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.