‘Outlander’ Stars Talk Claire’s Choice, Geillis’ Sacrifice in ‘The Devil’s Mark’

Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe

In the April 18 episode of “Outlander,” titled “The Devil’s Mark,” Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Geillis (Lotte Verbeek) found themselves accused of witchcraft, and it didn’t take long before the suspicions and superstitions of their eighteenth century captors led to the pair being declared guilty and sentenced to burn at the stake. It was a pivotal episode for Claire as a character, and for her relationship with Jamie (Sam Heughan), so Variety spoke to the two stars — along with executive producer Ron Moore — to learn more about filming the dramatic hour, and what the revelations of episode 111 mean for the couple.

For much of the hour, the focus was on Claire and her relationship with Geillis — a woman whose motivations have remained shrouded in mystery for much of the season so far. “It’s great to watch these two women. There’s so much tension and animosity between them in the beginning and then they slowly have to learn [to understand each other],” Balfe said of the pair’s tumultuous journey over the course of the episode. “Claire can be very judgmental and very ‘this is black and white,’ and I think she has to learn with Geillis that no, it’s not black and white. There are reasons behind her actions and there are reasons bigger than herself, and she really has to learn to empathize with her.”

Jamie arrived in time to interrupt Claire being beaten — but it was the quick thinking of Geillis that saved Claire’s life and cleared her name, with the enigmatic woman declaring that she was a witch and revealing “the devil’s mark” on her arm — which was actually a scar from the smallpox vaccine, proving to Claire that she was a fellow traveler who had also somehow ended up in 1743 from the future, hailing from the year 1968.

Executive producer Ron Moore admitted that the witch trial and Geillis’ unexpected reveal was one of the scenes he was most eager to adapt from Diana Gabaldon’s book. “You’re in this witch trial, which is all about superstition and madness and crowd dynamics and all this injustice, and you’re paying attention to that, so the time travel thing really is a great surprise. It’s a turn that you really don’t see coming if you don’t know the book, so I was always looking forward to getting to do that part of the tale.”

As a result, in one of the most chilling and evocative scenes in the series so far, Geillis was dragged out of the courthouse by a mob of villagers to be burned alive, while Claire and Jamie made a surreptitious exit.

“It was filmed in a real church. It’s a real location in Scotland. I spent several days in that location,” Moore recalled. “Mike Parker was the director. It took a lot of time and a lot of extras; [we were] working with the extras a lot because they have to sit in those pews for hour after hour in those costumes on hard benches. So that was tricky and it took a long time to get the tone right, and it was a challenging piece of business, but we knew the visuals were going to be so strong and that moment of her being carried away was going to be such a great end to it all that everyone got excited and there was really a great spirit on the set, because they knew this was going to be cool.”

Balfe admitted that she found Geillis’ sacrifice extremely affecting, noting that it served as a major turning point for Claire’s journey. “It’s heartbreaking, what Geillis does for her,” Balfe said. “That moment she’s being carried out, it’s so epic, and Lotte was so great… From there, everything changes. It’s like, ‘hold on a minute, so it is possible. You’re from there — are there more?’ So it opens up this whole other storyline that we will see progress a little bit in this season and then towards the next season, which I think is fantastic.”

Once they were a safe distance away from Castle Leoch and the angry horde, Jamie took the opportunity to ask Claire whether she was a witch, since he’d seen a similar “devil’s mark” on her arm too. “He’s forced into a situation where he has to address it and be like, ‘Well, are you a witch?'” Heughan said. “He doesn’t believe it, but he’s still superstitious. He knows that she’s got secrets, and he knows there’s something she’s hiding.”

But Claire’s response was far more shocking, as she revealed the whole truth about her trip through the Standing Stones and her origins in the future.

“We just wanted to get to a place where she breaks down because she’s a very strong character who doesn’t break down very much, but this felt like a moment of catharsis where she was going to let it all out,” Moore said.

Balfe agreed, “At this point, so much has happened, and I think it’s a quest for some solace. I think she needs comfort. Since the bliss of the wedding, there has been a lot [of trauma] and I think that’s almost her breaking point. I’m not sure that she’s thinking clearly, but she just needs to connect with him on a very, very real level.”

While Jamie seemed bewildered, he also chose to believe her, even if he didn’t fully understand everything she was telling him. “Does he wholeheartedly believe it? Yes, he believes her,” Heughan confirmed. “He says, ‘I believe your words, and I believe in you, in your truth.’ He starts to get his head round it, but it’s going to take a while. Again, it changes their relationship. It makes them closer, because she doesn’t have to hide anymore, and that’s a relief for her.”

“I liked thinking about why Jamie would believe her and how he would take that news,” Moore recalled. “What we talked about internally was the fact that Jamie, in episode three, said to Claire, ‘I’m an educated man, but I did grow up in the Scottish Highlands.’ And there were fairies and he was telling this story — so he comes from a world that actually is a little bit more accepting of this fantastical notion than we would be. They do still believe in witches, they do believe in strange mystical power. So the idea of traveling through the stones in another time is already like a myth to them. So it wasn’t as big a leap for him to take, and also, he just believed that she wouldn’t have lied about it. So it felt right that she could do it, and that he could believe, and that we could move the story.”

With the parameters of their relationship once again changed, the two set off to put as many miles between them and Castle Leoch as they could. After days of travel and a romantic last night together, Jamie revealed that he’d brought Claire back to Craigh na Dun to return to the future and her other husband. Luckily for viewers (otherwise “Outlander” would’ve been a very short series), Claire changed her mind and chose to remain with Jamie, forsaking her life in the future with Frank (Tobias Menzies) and all the comforts of the ’40s.

“It was quite difficult for me, coming to that scene, because I didn’t want to just be like, ‘well, she’s in love with Jamie so she’s got to stay,’ because that’s not Claire,” Balfe noted. “You had to think about an entire lifetime of a place and experience, versus a few months and a man. That’s a big battle. The knowledge of the ’40s and the ability for her as a woman to be surrounded by that kind of openness and possibility, versus this place where for saying too much or for mixing a few herbs together to heal people, you’re almost been thrown in the fire. So for me, it was difficult to come up with her rationale.”

Moore said that there wasn’t too much discussion about how Balfe would approach the scene or what Claire’s motivations were: “We let her get to that place on her own. We had some conversations, and I’m sure the director talked with her more than I did about that specific scene, but it felt like she had already had a chance to run for the stones previously and she had made that choice. But now is a quieter moment and she has time to reflect, and the relationship between her and Jamie has deepened… and it felt like she would make that choice.”

In the end, Balfe said, it came down to Claire not wanting to further hurt Frank or Jamie, as much as it was because Claire was following her heart. “I felt that part of it had to be that when she fell through the Stones the first time, it was an accident. So her death or disappearance had already happened and Frank, she has to imagine, must have suffered so much, but must be healing. And I think she felt like, how could she do that again to somebody, but this time choose it? It’s like causing a death. And of course, the pull of love is very strong and we will do almost anything for the people we love, but I don’t think it was as black and white for Claire as that.”

Naturally, her choice was Jamie’s dream come true — but it became even more poignant in the wake of Jamie choosing to let Claire go for the sake of her happiness, allowing them to start fresh on more equal ground when Claire decided to stay of her own free will. “It gives them the ability to go, ‘Okay, let’s go and create the life that we could have,'” Heughan noted. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t last very long…”

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.

What do you think is next for Jamie and Claire? Share your predictions in the comments.

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  1. Maureen Watson says:

    They should realise that this magnetic arch that is between them only comes once in a lifetime … let fantasy echo real life.

  2. DAN ASUNCION says:

    Hello, fellow everyone!

    I missed the 1968 reference, at first, too.

    “I’ll Never Find Another You” by THE SEEKERS: This is the song that I wish GEILLIS
    had quietly sung to CLAIRE, in order to comfort her, during their last night in that
    below ground jail pit. Maybe a distraught Claire would be resting her head on Geillis’
    lap. Geillis sitting, Claire lying on that dirt floor.

    Just the first verse. SLOW tempo; a little pause after each line. Of course, Claire
    would not recognize the song, but we would… :))

    P.S.
    This song was released… in 1968. :)

  3. Yourdoing a great job I love it I watch it repeatedly it’s a little romance that I would love to be in I don’t know how you got the actors but they’re fantastic exhilarating

  4. I’m disappointed that C. Balfe feels Claire’s choice to stay was as much not to hurt Frank again as it was that she was actually very much in love with Jamie. When reading the book, I felt that the deep passionate love Claire and Jamie shared was a very significant consideration in her decision to stay. It appeared to me that she and Frank never had that sort of passion; it always seemed that Claire was always the one who reached out to Frank rather than Frank taking the initiative to create their intimate moments.

    I think Claire had not realized how much she loved Jamie until she was faced with the thought of parting from him. I’m so glad she stayed.

  5. Bruce Adams says:

    I had mistakenly asked “how did Jamie knew Geillis was from 1968” I MEANT to say, how did CLAIRE know Geillis was from 1968 while she was still in the tribunal ? THANKS !

  6. Linda says:

    OMG-I’ve read all the books and nothing compares to seeing Sam Heughn play Jamie. Saw the latest episode too many times to count and cried every time. Just love them two as a couple. HOT, HOT HOT!

  7. Mar Tim says:

    Omg I’m so in love with this show and Claire & Jamie are perfect

  8. Bruce Adams says:

    Could someone please advise HOW DID JAMIE KNOW GEILLIS DUNCAN WAS A 1968 TRAVELLER? There had been smallpox vacinations since around 1800.. I never heard Gellis share the 1968 date.

  9. judy bagley says:

    I love this show…couldn’t wait til 4/4/15…glad Claire stayed with a man who loves her…always thought Geillis was a traveler…haven’t read the books either…

  10. Cecilia says:

    ?what year did geillis duncan arrive in scotland

    • Penny Scott says:

      First of all Geillis is from Scotland, she traveled through the stones in the year 1968, but because of how she did it, and I can’t tell you, you have to read the books or wait until they get there in the show. She traveled further back in time and arrives some years before Claire did. That’s all I can tell you without revealing to much.

    • Lizzie says:

      In the books, it says Geillis arrived five years before Claire.

  11. Pudgy david says:

    Omg I fall more and more in love with Jamie every week loved the books for years but was worried when it was on t v it might be ruined for me but so glad I get to watch Jamie and Claire’s story every week keep up the good work a very happy fan pudgy david

  12. Chelle says:

    I really loved that Jaime gives Claire the option. He knows for sure that she is with him out of love, not by force.

  13. Joan Bednarz says:

    OMG!! This episode was so emotional and heartbreaking. To watch Jamie’s reactions to Claire’s true story and be willing to take her back to the stones to Frank just proved how deeply his love is for her. AND when Claire returned back to him … their tearful, passionate embrace was the perfect ending. The acting was excellent! Loved it!!

  14. paula weber says:

    of course she chose Jamie. otherwise the 1st book would have been the final one. :)

  15. Derek StJohn says:

    I know this is suppose to be a “chick story” but I’m really enjoying it. Maybe it’s because Caitriona Balfe has spun her charm (witchcraft?) on me–and I’m deeply in love. Or, maybe it’s the Scottish countryside that’s so beautiful. Whatever the reason, Outlander is a show that I watch with my wife and we both enjoy the romance of Claire and Jamie.

    About this episode. The word “epic” is an understatement. This is the type of episode that is usually a season (or series) ender: it brings resolution to so much of what has gone before it, with Claire finally telling Jamie everything. And, him accepting it! Then Claire choosing to remain, and I love Ms. Balfe’s reasoning: Frank has already suffered Claire’s death & is presumedly recovering–so why choose to put Jamie through the same suffering. Also, there is the symbolism of Claire’s flogging in the court by the Scots, that “bounds” her with Jamie, who was so brutally flogged by the Brits, in a way that makes her choice “work” even more.

    Plus, Geillis’ reveal as a time traveler (I haven’t read the books) knocked me off the sofa! I totally was NOT expecting that! And, it opens up so many possibilities for the future story arcs. Again, since I haven’t read the books: I’m almost cried when the mob took Geillis off to the stake to be burned…and am hoping that her “1968” remark is a hint that Claire can somehow save Geillis by traveling to the 1968 future, and saving her. And, by doing so, also prevent Geillis from becoming the murderer in Scotland; a murderer that justified her burning at the stake. Excellent plotting! I can hardly wait, to see how much of my thinking comes true.

    Bottom line: people talk about their “Guilty Pleasure” TV shows, and (as a guy) Outlander is definitely mine. Well, done, by everyone involved.

  16. Susan Kent says:

    I can’t believe there is so much chemistry between the two leads. . .it’s just amazing. The fact is I’m crazy about all the characters and so glad that the writing, acting and atmosphere is so engaging. I’ve loved the Outlander books for many years but to see it come alive is just fascinating. Thank you and thank you again for such a wonderful production. Thanks to all involved!

    • Penny Scott says:

      Sorry, I meant to give you this answer, It might not be the last time that you see Geillis, you didn’t actually see her burned, did you?

    • Penny Scott says:

      It might not be the end of Geillis, you didn’t actually see her burn, did you?

      • Lizzie says:

        As they are dragging Geillis out, one of the Judges screams “Wait, she’s with child…” (I had to watch it a couple times to catch it.) They can’t execute a pregnant woman until after she has given birth.

  17. Linda Bouley says:

    Not sure about Caitriona’s comments. In the book Claire makes a more definitive statement re: why she didn’t go back thru the stones. She tells him she realized shhe couldn’t live without him.Though she loves Frank, she has already had deeper passion and intimacy with Jamie than with Frank.

  18. mj says:

    It’s difficult because we hardly know Frank. He seems like a good man but you have Jack Randall coloring the mix. And within the context of a real timeline of a few months, her choice seems odd. BUT, the way Jaimie is written, it would seem some pretty crazy folly to leave him. They’ve done a good job with him. The ick factor you often get in these things isn’t there. He doesn’t play like a woman in man-clothes and yet if you think about his actions you have to wonder how he could ever be the way he is raised in the time in which he was raised. So that is a bit of an oddity.

    I’m still struggling with the Geillis stuff. Her little commentary on wanting Charlie on the throne hardly seems sufficient for her to throw herself on the fire to save Claire. It a stretch to imagine a Scottish woman from 1968 being so… rabid.

    And they need to slow down with the romance cliches or they are going to run out before they get to the end of the first season.

    • Railie Douglas says:

      Exactly! She says “because I can’t bloody live without you Jamie Fraser” . The level of trust and belief in her is something she didn’t have with Frank. Read the Spinoff. She stayed for the “rumpy pumpy” he reckons. Very funny.

  19. AliceFlower says:

    I loved this episode. GREAT acting! The chemistry between Jamie and Claire is soo hot that even the sex scene with them wearing all their clothes was a great sex scene!! Best series ever!!

  20. wilson picket says:

    I’ve read the books (more then once) and knew she chose Jamie and loved watching it happen instead of just reading about it.. But, for those who have not read the books, did you really think, even for a minute, that she was going to go back? That would have ended the whole store right then and there and all know that’s not going to happen. There are 8 books, after all, with #9 being written by Diana.

    • trilby says:

      Well, of course we knew Claire wasn’t going back to the 20th century, but we didn’t know who/what she would choose. She might have tried to go back to Frank, but discovered that the magic wouldn’t co-operate.

  21. Tasha says:

    SAM HEUGAN IS SO EFFFING HOTTTT OMGGGGGGGGG!! If you ever need a body double for Katarina… Starz… I would’v never thought I’d be willing to do something like this, but I’d be willing to be available :):)

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