Dinner with Ron: Sharing our hopes, dreams and fears with Outlander's Ronald D. Moore


Written by:Janet Reynolds and Anne Gavin

We’ve all played this game: if you could invite three people to dinner, who would you invite? Usually people cite celebrities or historical figures such as Jesus, Michelangelo or Margaret Thatcher.  The list varies, depending on the kind of dinner party you would like to have.  But right now we’ve got one person we want to invite to dinner and one person only: Outlander showrunner Ronald D. Moore.

It’s not that dinner with those other folks wouldn’t be fascinating, but let’s get real  Outlander Season 3 is in the works and we have things to say!  Decisions are being made and, as avid TV-show fanatics and book readers (can we ever thank Diana Gabaldon enough?), we are obsessing over what may or may not be happening in Scotland as they film and adapt Voyager, the book that is our – and for many fans – the favorite (or maybe second behind the first book) in the Outlander book series. No pressure, Ron and crew. But, rather than wait around to see if Ron adds us to his dinner party list, we decided to invite Ron to dinner ourselves.  Yes, it’s a fantasy dinner, but get excited — we’re inviting you to listen in to our chat.  Our Uber just arrived and we are off to meet Ron…

First, a few ground rules. Named one of Hollywood’s 50 Most Influential Showrunners in 2016, Ron has had a storied career as executive producer of Battlestar Galactica and writer and producer for the Star Trek Next Generation series and subsequent iterations of the show.  He took the reins of Outlander in 2012, and has jettisoned it to the top of the fledgling Starz cable channel in just two seasons, and managed to get two more seasons already greenlit.  Many of us never even knew what a showrunner was before Ron entered our lives.  Our point is that the man deserves our respect.  Yes, we all have opinions about what should and shouldn’t happen in the show, because we care so very much about these characters and this story.  And, yes, the fans are the ones who’ve sustained Outlander as a best-selling phenomenon for 25 years since the first book was published in England. That’s longer than some marriages last, people, which means — as happens with all relationships — fans not only have opinions but they feel entitled to express them, sometimes less tactfully than others. They are vested in this TV show in a way that is probably unheralded in TV land.  We’re charting new waters here, which means there are bound to be some unseen shoals on both sides.
But — and it’s a big but — there are ways to offer constructive suggestions and share hopes and, yes, fears, and there are ways not to.  And we’re opting here, in this space, to do this positively.  After all, it’s Ron who has masterfully brought this epic story to life and also managed to get television executives at a major cable network enamored enough to greenlight the series for two more seasons and build a remarkable studio complex in Scotland.  None of us super fans could have done that.  So we’re hear to break bread and maybe break open a dialogue about what Outlander — the story — is and isn’t, all in the hopes that Ron will see another perspective on Season 3. A perspective given with respect and love, of course!

And so, we’ve arrived! Time to get eating, drinking and talking…

We’re meeting Ron at one of his favorite haunts  the Public House, one of the restaurants onsite at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, home of the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Major League Baseball World Champion San Francisco Giants. It might seem like an odd place for a dinner, but we know not to get between a man and his baseball team, and Ron is a total fanatic about his Giants.  The kind of fan who, yes, keeps stats during the game.  Yep, he’s THAT guy!

Because this is Outlander and must_have_whisky when discussing Outlander, we also know that Ron went through a few several bottles of Scapa on his episode podcasts, usually with Matt B. Roberts at his side.  So, no fools, we called ahead to make sure the Public House had a bottle of Scapa 16 on hand.  As we round the bar, we see him.  Baseball hat and longish silver, black hair jutting out the back.  Ron welcomes us warmly, notes that it’s a full moon over Giants stadium and that Matt Moore (no relation we confirm) is pitching tonight’s game — all of which means he’s in an especially good mood to visit with rabid Outlander fans.  At least that’s our hope… and since this is our fantasy dinner, we believe Ron is ready to talk… and listen! 

Spoiler alert—If you haven’t read Diana Gabaldon’s third book in the Outlander series, “Voyager,” stop here…and get reading.  You won’t be sorry!

We introduce ourselves, all the while trying desperately not to fangirl to the point of embarrassment. We give Ron a little background on how we came to obsess over love Outlander and the fact that we would write about Outlander for the Outlander Cast Blog all day every day if we didn’t need jobs that actually pay for our trips to fan events, travels to Scotland, and any and all occasions featuring the cast and crew!

Ron smiles wryly.  It’s not as if he hasn’t met a million other maniacal adoring fans. He easily could have run out the door at this point and straight for his Club Seats in the stadium, but thankfully, the waiter shows up with a menu and the bottle of Scapa 16.  Ron’s eyes widen a bit and we see a flash of his mischievous grin before he settles back in his chair.  So, we take collective deep breaths and tell him why we’re here. We’re here to talk about some of Season 3’s sacred coos.  We know it’s TV, we know he has only 13, 55-minute episodes to tell the story, and we know that change from the books is inevitable, indeed even required in certain instances because TV is a different medium.  But, we want him to listen to us. To hear us.  And, to, yes, question us about whether these sacred coos can and should remain as part of the production. So, we toast “Slainte Mhath!”, take a swallow of the Water of Life, and we begin.

The Print Shop

Our basic operating theory is go big or go home. We’ve got one shot to tell Ron our thoughts — who knows if he’ll even stay in the room after we start talking?  We are at a Giants game after all!  So we jump right in to discuss the elephant in the Season 3 Outlander fandom room: the Print Shop Reunion.   There isn’t a fan of this series and/or books who doesn’t have verra clear ideas of exactly how this critical scene should be done.  And there are some of us (okay, Janet) who are super concerned that it’s not going to be done the way it should because of certain hints we got in Season 2 about how Ron et. al.  think they should handle Jamie and Claire’s relationship.  We take gulps of our whisky and dive in:


Of the two scenes that already have me hyperventilating about Season 3, this one is at the very top. I’m on the record for having criticized Season 2’s lack of focus on Jamie and Claire as the central relationship driving this series; it was one of the main reasons I enjoyed Season 2 rather than irrationally, obsessively loved it as I did the first season and the book series.  Therefore, I am super anxious that the show must course-correct in Season 3 and get back to Jamie and Claire as the reason all the other adventures happen.  Their relationship is central, and, since I know you’ve read the book, Ron, you know this is how Gabaldon wrote it.  We didn’t have to read a ton about Claire and Frank’s time together — an overall snippet was plenty to get a general feel for how things went during their time together.

Now I am already steeling myself for the reality that is probably not how it’s going to go with Season 3 on TV; I’ve listened and read what you’ve said already, Ron — about the need to show what happens to both characters during their 20-year hiatus from each other.  I am going to trust that you know what you’re doing there.   But on the Print Shop Reunion scene I am begging you to follow Gabaldon’s lead. The woman did it right.  From Jamie’s fainting, to their getting reacquainted, to showing photos of Brianna, to eventually and ultimately their reunion sex (yes, Ron, we have got to see this reunion sex.  No fade to black.  We need to see it.)  My two cents on this scene would be this: Ask yourself WWDD (What Would Diana Do) and then read it, and just do it exactly the same.  This would be a very good time to cut and paste.

As Janet wraps up, Ron’s eyes are bulging just a bit.  I notice Janet has drained her whisky glass, so I reach over and pour her another, as I also reach for a small piece of paper I pull from my handbag. Ron eyes me skeptically as I begin to read from the paper.
“What was once just Claire’s story becomes Claire and Jamie’s story, especially as the series moves forward and the books move forward. It’s really that the two of them  that relationship  is at the foundation of everything that is Outlander.”
Janet and I nod and Ron looks on expectedly.  These are actually Ron’s words said as he described Episode 1.09, “The Reckoning”, in an “Inside the World of Outlander” video.  Yes, yes, Ron.  It IS Jamie and Claire’s story then, now and forever more.  You were right.  But, what happened in Season 2?  While I sympathize with the effort to serialize the portions of “Dragonfly in Amber” the novel, into something fit for television, it was almost as if we were watching two separate stories involving two separate characters.  Jamie and Claire — the entity — was missing for most of Season 2.
I have actually defended Season 2 to those who were disappointed.  Paris was necessary to the story. The politics and intrigue needed context and explanation.  But, too much of this was done at the expense of the central relationship in the story.  Season 3 must get back to that central relationship… and quickly.  I know Claire suffered for 20 years without Jamie.  Heck, I even know that Frank Randall suffered and maybe I even feel a little sorry for him (just a little).  But, it’s not necessary to spend one extra second of valuable air time belaboring this point.  So, get to the Print Shop quickly. Very quickly.

And, while I won’t, as Janet urged, insist on it being word for word the way Diana wrote it, I would like that all the lost time together (from Season 2) be poured into some memorable scenes that truly reflect that our couple is back in grand fashion.  Give the dialogue to Sam and Catriona and there is no question they will play it exactly the way it should be played.  Because, they are THAT talented and they do understand the Jamie and Claire story.  Mark me, the Print Shop scene will become the scene everyone will be talking about for the entirety of the season.  It is the “Wedding” episode of Season 3.  It will be what everything else will flow from — the good, the bad and the ugly from “Voyager”.  It will make or break some fans’ interest in continuing to watch and support the series.  It’s THAT important.

So, while I have faith it will be treated with the respect it deserves, I also think you and the producers, Ron, need to know that dilly-dallying in the 20th century for longer than absolutely necessary will be ill-advised.  We love Tobias Menzies too, but when you go for the final cuts, maybe think of a little less Frank angst and a little more Jamie and Claire EPIC LOVE STORY.  Because after all, Ron, to quote a (very) wise man, “It’s the two of them that is at the foundation of everything that is Outlander.

Jamie and Laoghaire

With the exception of Black Jack Randall, Laoghaire is the Outlander character fans love to hate.  But while she was mostly an annoyance in the books, in the show she has morphed, due to changes in storyline, from being that annoying fly that won’t die to a sinister bat.  She refuses to fly out of our living room and we all have strong thoughts of offing her.   So it’s not surprising that we have strong feelings about what happens between her and Jamie in Season 3.



Well, Ron. You dug yourself a hole when it comes to Laoghaire.  First you add scenes between Jamie and Laoghaire in Season 1 that show Jamie completely out of character.  He never would have been “tempted” by his teenage stalker quite the way you portrayed that scene by the river in Episode 1.09, “The Reckoning.”  It would never occur to Jamie to act like that. Never.  He’s not perfect, but he is honorable and moral.  Second, he would have been truthful with Laoghaire about his love for Claire and not beat around the bush, like he did.  Again — Jamie is not perfect, but he is honest to a fault.

The show’s sins continued in Episode 2.08, “The Fox’s Lair”, when Laoghaire showed up acting penitent towards Claire, yet still exhibiting stalking tendencies towards Jamie.  As Laoghaire said to Jamie in the hallway at Leoch — “Whhhhy?”  Scenes from episodes 1.09 and 2.08 were completely unnecessary. We already know what Laoghaire did setting up Claire and that is, in fact, the important part when it comes to Laoghaire’s appearance in Voyager/Season 3.  Jamie’s sense of honor are what drive him to take the suggestion of his sister to marry Laoghaire and give both her and her children some security.  It is NOT because of any sort of tender regard for Laoghaire or actual affection.  It was duty and honor and we needed no foreshadowing of any kind of a Jamie and Laoghaire “relationship” in Season 1 or Season 2. Simply because, it did not exist.

The conflict, in fact, lies with Claire and Laoghaire, and this was already well established in Season 1 for book readers and show watchers alike. TV watchers are smart.  They don’t need everything explained to them and, for many things, they would not have had to read the books. So, let’s just call a spade a spade when it comes to Laoghaire. There need not be any dramatic scenes with her and Jamie in Season 3 and certainly no scenes showing them embracing or worse yet, in a marriage bed together.  No, no and no.  Potentially this could be one of the worst perversions of Diana’s tale if more is made of the Jamie and Laoghaire accidental marriage. There is a story to be told here, but the story is about Laoghaire and Claire and how Claire reacts to the news that her beloved has gone and married her betrayer.  From this, we get to Jamie and Claire and the consequences of this revelation. But, no more Laoghaire add-on scenes are necessary. She’s not important but for the conflict she provides.  Period.  End of story.

First, what she said.

I can see you’re wilting a bit, Ron, after Anne’s on-the-money analysis of how the whole Laoghaire/Jamie storyline should be handled, so I will just add a few points for emphasis so you don’t think Anne is the only fan who feels this way.  But first, let me pour you another glass.

  • Jamie did not, I repeat did not, love Laoghaire.  Do not even think about adding an emotion other than pity for her to this arrangement. Seriously.
  • Do not try to make this “marriage” a deal-breaker between Jamie and Claire. In the book, the biggest tension arose because Jamie did not tell Claire (big mistake, Mr. Fraser). That meant she discovered this marriage when one of Laoghaire’s daughters burst into their bedroom, which in turn, played to Claire’s worst fears about the years that they were separated — that Jamie would have moved on and found someone else. They have an epic fight and Claire storms out of the house — only to come back two days later after hearing Jamie is shot (Young Ian is terrific here). By the time she has ridden into Lallybroch’s courtyard, she has already forgiven Jamie and their second reunion — the one that really solidifies that they are soulmates and the only person for each other — is wonderful and immediate. Laoghaire as a problem between them dissipates in the wind; the only concern is how to get her out of their collective lives.
  • Oh, dear God, please don’t make us see them in bed.  Like seriously, Ron, please don’t do that… I will not be able to cope. (Oh and this: Laoghaire is overweight and haggard in the book; life has not been kind to her. It would be super awesome if she looks like hell on the show, too.)

Geneva Dunsany and Jamie

Absolutely nothing in “Voyager” got our goat more than Geneva’s self-serving attentions to Jamie at the Dusany’s Helwater Estate where Jamie came to work as a farm worker and groom at Lord John’s behest.  Selfish, spoiled, and headstrong — Geneva Dusany places an agonizing choice at Jamie’s feet: take her virginity before she is forced to marry the elder Earl of Ellesmere or she will turn over an intercepted letter that could provoke an inquest into the affairs of Lallybroch.  Opinions abound about the consequences and the act itself that Jamie was forced to take to preserve his family.  But, how should this act be portrayed in the show? 


Jamie and Geneva obviously need to have sex in order to create Jamie’s son, William — a critical figure as the series moves along.  Have we told you yet, Ron, that we’re really hoping you sign on to do all of the books?  I know this fandom can be annoying but this is such great material and there’s enough that changes in books 5-8 to keep you and Terry interested — hello, American colonial costumes!  Another war!  Intriguing storylines and adventures! Please, please, please stay until the very end!

Right.  Back to the topic at hand.  I had no problem with the way it happened in the book — Geneva basically blackmails Jamie into being her “first” before her arranged marriage to an older man she does not find attractive.  Jamie reluctantly agrees to protect his family.  Then in the passions of the moment, Geneva seems to change her mind (she says “no” at one point) but Jamie moves on with the task at hand.  The fandom regularly discusses whether or not this was rape.  I would actually like that bit of reluctance removed in the show, not because I thought it was so awful but rather because I don’t want to listen to a certain faction of the fandom go all PC about it and make a stink.  I’m sure Season 3 will offer plenty of moments when the fans will decry the TV choices that were made.  This one is easy to avoid, Ron.  Just don’t have Geneva ever say “no.”  Voila.  Scene done, controversy over.  Focus will then be diverted to what matters: the resulting child and the rest of Jamie’s time at Helwater and how he gets to that print shop… you know, the scene we all need to see before Season 3 is half over (see above).

Janet and I are pretty much in sync on how this should be portrayed on the small screen.  I frankly was surprised at the level of Jamie’s insistence as he was well into the “act” with Geneva.  However, I was equally irritated by this girl who had no real idea what she was asking, yet had the gall to manipulate with great intricacy how and when “Alex MacKenzie” (a.k.a. Jamie) would attend to her blackmail.  It was an impossible situation for Jamie and made me angry.  Really angry.  But, as I said earlier, at the time I was actually a bit shocked by Jamie’s response to Geneva’s protestations, which seemed to careen from tenderness to violence in a matter of seconds.  If we could do away with this scene altogether, I would be happy.

Still, as Janet mentioned, William needs to be conceived so it must happen.  The best way to deal with this on screen so as not to create an unnecessary distraction from Season 3 altogether, is to do away with Geneva’s dramatic protestations.  You can show some reluctance on her part once she realizes what she has actually gotten herself into, but loud screams of “No! No!” need not ever be uttered for the act to occur and culminate in one Viscount William Dunsany, Ninth Earl of Ellesmere.  There will be plenty of scenes to get people talking about Season 3.  This doesn’t need to be one of them.

At this point, I’ve realized that eating spicy chicken wings while drinking peaty whisky makes a fine combination.  I might think better of this later!  Ron, however, has politely listened up to this point and I haven’t noticed any glassy eyes, even as he sneaks a peek of the television monitor behind the bar from time to time to see how long until the first pitch.  We continue with some thoughts on the quirky Mr. Willoughby. Stay? Go?  Important to the story?  The fandom already has its collective knickers in a twist over this character.  Let’s just get to it: in or out?

Mr. Willoughby

In the context of the books and the time periods, the blatant racism surrounding Mr. Willoughby is well chronicled by history itself. We humans are just stupid sometimes in how we treat those who are perceived to be different.  It happened and Diana put it in the books.  Outlander is, after all, historical fiction of a sort. So I don’t have an issue with the fact that this idea is potentially portrayed.  And Mr. Willoughby does play a pivotal role in some story lines in the book — the creepy minister who murders in his free time, for instance. Who would jump in to fill in that part of the plot or would that just be eliminated altogether?  He also saves Jamie’s life, basically, with acupuncture. I suppose some other random character could provide that for the many hours of sea journeys we’ll see in this season. Overall I vote to include him — minus the foot fetish. I think that would put some parts of the fandom completely over the edge.  Do we really need the fandom drama there?  I vote no.

Outlander has been good at many, many things when it comes to adding, subtracting or expounding on characters from the books.  Case in point, we have the loveable Rupert and Angus comedy act, sweet and loyal Willie and, of course, the magnificent expansion of Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. And, in Season 2, we were gifted with the fated Lallybroch Highlanders, Ross and Kinkaid.  All brilliant adaptations.

While the racial stereotype doesn’t bother me that much, Diana was writing historical fiction and it was very likely accurate to the times.  That said, to avoid the PC police, Willoughby could easily be portrayed by one or multiple other minor characters and we probably wouldn’t miss him.  It could easily be Claire that came up with the acupuncture remedy given she has been around the proverbial block a few times.  I would miss Ping-An the Pelican, though, as Diana writes animals so well.  But, I am sure production could just as well do without having to deal with a trained pelican on set.   I say “no” on Willoughby.  Let’s save some time and use that for more relevant scenes in the story.

Ron is getting antsy. Giants’ pitcher Matt Moore is warmed up and about to take the mound.  Ron has been more than gracious and we realize we shouldn’t press our luck.  But we still have a couple of things we would really LIKE to see in Season 3.  We proceed — after refilling all our glasses again. That’s the end of the Scapa, by the way.
Claire-Geillis a.k.a. Mrs. Abernathy  in the Cave

It’s an epic moment when Claire rushes to try and stop Geillis from returning to the 20th century, possibly to do harm to the Lovat heir — Brianna Randall Fraser. My heart nearly beat out of my chest reading this passage.  Poor Young Ian.  Bound, gagged and lying amongst Geillis’ pentagram of gemstones on the floor of the cave ready for sacrifice.  Geillis with her pistol at ready fires away at Jamie, wounding him and Claire grabs an axe and steps towards Geillis. “Blood in firelight is black not red, ” says Claire as the deed is done.  Think of the drama here!  It will make Murtagh’s offing of the Duke look like child’s play.   In Season 2, the scene I looked most forward to was the duel between Jamie and Black Jack.  The Geillis-Claire confrontation is one of those scenes for me.  An epic battle between good and evil and MADE for television.  What’s not to love?  In your hands, Ron, it will be masterfully done.  I have no doubt!
I am absolutely on the page with Anne on this one. Geillis as Mrs. Abernathy was just creepy as hell, a real page-turner section in the book.  Put it in, Ron, just put it in. (Remember WWDD?)  Also on my wish list is the skull scene with Joe Abernathy and Claire when she’s a doctor and she’s asked to identify/analyze some bones that were found in a cave in the Caribbean.  She says at the time that they belong to a woman who was surprised by her killer.  Fast forward to the storm and the ship about to be wrecked and Claire having a flash of insight that those bones belonged to Geillis and that she was the surprise killer!  Come on!  That was so amazing in the book. Just picture Claire’s face before she and Jamie fall overboard.  It will be epic!

I may have been gesticulating wildly and perhaps a little louder than I needed to be while describing that last bit.  Ron smiles and oh-so-casually glances at the TV screen behind him.  The teams are finishing their warm-ups.  Definitely time to go.  He rises, thanks us for the whisky and food.  We thank him for listening.  He’s been more than generous with his time.  As he walks off, we look at each other. So? Any hope?  Did we make any progress on what needs to happen in Season 3?

Only time will tell.

What scenes are on your must-include list for Season 3?  Do you agree with our picks?  Would you do any of them differently?  Share your thoughts and maybe we’ll all breathe a little easier during #Droughtlander.

Source: OCB

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