Outlander EP on Why There'll 'Never' Be a Claire/Jamie/Grey Triangle — Plus: Caitriona Balfe on a Key Script Change

Though Outlander isn’t afraid to drop a kilt or break a heart in the name of on-screen romance, executive producer Matthew B. Roberts says there’s one place the Starz drama definitely will not go.

“There’s never going to be a triangle” among Claire, Jamie and Lord John, the EP tells TVLine, adding that that certainty allows the yearning Redcoat to serve as a stand-in for the audience.

“You feel this heartbreak for John, because he loves Jamie — like so many people who read the books love Jamie — and can never have him,” Roberts says. “Why people love [John] so much is because he’s damned, in a way.” (For the record: There also is no Claire/Jamie/Grey triangle in Diana Gabaldon’s book series, though there is a complication that arises for the trio in Book 7, An Echo in the Bone. But we’re not going to spoil that for ye now.)

Grey’s despair was on display in Sunday’s episode, when the pining Brit became sick with measles while visiting Fraser’s Ridge. Jamie quickly whisked young William away on a tour of the backcountry to keep him safe from infection, while Claire (grudgingly) nursed her husband’s old friend through his illness.

Roberts credits episode director Denise Di Novi for distilling the visit, which unfolds over a longer time period in Diana Gabaldon’s novel Drums of Autumn, to its essence. “It’s almost like Jon is trapped, and Claire is his captor,” he says, chuckling. “He’s on the opposite end from where he usually is. He was a warden in a prison, and the measles kind of trapped him. It’s like [he and Claire] are bitter rivals, but they’re not.”

In that vein, star Caitriona Balfe recalls that the tone of Claire’s interaction with John originally was different than what made the final cut. “When we got the first script, it was maybe played a little bit heavier about this jealousy thing,” she says. But after conversations with Di Novi and the show’s writers, “we found this lovely balance,” she explains. “Claire’s not threatened like Lord John, but she is a little bit like, ‘What are your motivations? Why are you here? Are you here to stir up trouble?’”

As the hour unfolds, Balfe says, it becomes clear that Claire “has a lot of compassion for him, because she can see how painful this love that he has for Jamie has been for him, that he’s had to pay a real price… And she can relate to that, because she’s spent so many year away from the love of her life. She knows how heavy a burden that is to carry.”

Roberts adds, “What makes those scenes so dynamic is that a lot of people who read the books and loved Jamie are in that bed with John.” He laughs. “They’re talking to Claire and going, ‘I love him, too! I love him, too!’”

Balfe hastens to praise David Berry, who plays Grey and is “a very sensitive fellow,” for their scenes’ success. And much as Balfe did in a previous interview, her co-star Sam Heughan chooses this moment to weigh in.

“He would write me letters as Lord John Grey and send them to me, and I never replied,” Heughan muses.

“Well,” Balfe says, “it is unrequited love.”

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