In the midseason premiere of “Outlander” Season 1, fans saw Jamie (Sam Heughan) violently punish Claire (Caitriona Balfe). She disobeyed his orders by going out of the woods in episode 8. She was captured, and when the Highlanders needed to save her, she put them all at risk. It was a mistake on her part and Jamie decided that he needed to punish her by spanking her with a belt. Claire thought the idea was absurd. She tried to run away from him and even put up a fight and kicked him in the face. However, Jamie seemed to take pleasure in Claire’s escape attempts and spanked her anyway.
Actress Caitriona Balfe said a lot of thought went into the controversial scene. In Diana Gabaldon’s book series, the spanking sequence is the source of much debate, so the show had to decide how to handle it. Balfe noted that while Claire is a modern woman, the show’s 18th century setting helped justify the scene. “The thing we always came back to is that we have to understand that, no matter how we as modern people perceive it, this has to be taken in the context of 1743, and this was a perfectly acceptable justice in that time,” she told Variety.
Executive producer Ron Moore also emphasized that Jamie spanked her because of tradition. “In Jamie's mind it's about justice. It's about righting the scales of justice, in that time and place,” Moore explained to Vulture. “If you were a man [who put other lives in jeopardy], you'd be punished, and if you were a woman, this is how you'd be punished.”
The Season 1 scene was the couple’s first major fight and Claire didn’t immediately forgive him. She kicked him out of bed and later grabbed his sword during sex and threatened to cut his heart out if he ever tried to beat her again. Claire eventually understood that he didn’t have a choice, and it was ultimately to protect her. If the Highlanders didn’t hear Jamie punishing Claire, they may have stopped trying to keep her safe from the English.
“He has to punish her, whether or not he believes in it. He says he doesn’t, but he has to because otherwise the Highlanders won’t protect her,” Heugan explained. “She’s in danger. There’s a moral code, and it’s the way he’s been brought up, and he’s now got responsibility, and he’s trying to do everything that’s right. He’s trying to play that role and be responsible, and she keeps bloody messing with it. And obviously, out of that, he learns a very valuable lesson, and she does, and their relationship is yet again developed and moved forward.”
Claire's reaction to the punishment forced Jamie to question some of the ideas he was brought up with. He realized that while spanking a wife may be how other husbands treat their wives, he and Claire aren’t like every other couple. “I think the thing they’re learning within the confines of their marriage is that you don’t always have to accept what the person does, but if you can understand where they’re coming from, then you can build a bridge to forgive and move forward,” Balfe said. “And he also realizes, ‘okay, I can’t treat you as everyone else treats everyone else in this time, and I’m willing to change, and to grow, and to meet you halfway.'”
“Outlander” Season 1 airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Starz. Did you think the spanking scene was necessary or do you wish the writers cut it? Sound off in the comments section below!