At first, I couldn’t figure out what made it so different, but then it dawned on me. Outlander author Diana Gabaldon wrote this particular episode! The show always feels a little sharper whenever she writes for it; this is her baby, after all, and she knows it best.
“Journeycake” is a turning point for the show, as it features Roger, Brianna, and Jemmy leaving Fraser’s Ridge to travel through the stones back to their own time. Of course, things don’t go exactly as they planned, and it looks like they may have ended up somewhere they didn’t mean to go, but we’ll learn about that in the finale.
Speaking with Town and Country, Gabaldon reflected on writing “Journeycake,” starting with why hadn’t written an episode since “Vengeance Is Mine” way back in season 2 (throwback to the awful Duke of Sandringham):
It was more logistics than anything else. I was talking with [Outlander showrunner] Matt Roberts, and we were discussing whether I would like to write an episode for the season. And I said, “I’d love to write an episode—can we make it one of the later episodes of the season, though?” because I had hopes of actually finishing [Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, the upcoming ninth Outlander book] before we got to that point.
That’s why I took episode 11. It was the last one that was not the finale, which of course they wanted to write themselves.
It’s always interesting to hear from the creator why a certain moment from the book was brought into the series, or why it was written differently, or cut altogether, and so on. In Gabaldon’s case, she had three scenes she was excited to write…and if you’re like me, they were probably your favorite scenes.
There were three, actually. Two of them were iconic scenes from the books, so that wasn’t a matter of adaptation. It was more like how much of each scene can we use, because there is limited time. So I put in the whole scene [from the book], and they would trim pieces off of it.
The first scene that comes to mind is the scene with the microscope. They trimmed off the last bit of dialogue, and people probably miss that, but they’ll enjoy the scene, regardless.
And then there’s the window sill scene, of course, which I had a lot of fun with. That comes before the microscope scene, for obvious reasons…
But then, there was another scene that was original to the show. It’s one of my favorite scenes from this episode mostly because it was so well acted by Sam and Sophie. Jamie gives Brianna William’s picture, and she says, “Who’s this?” And he says, very bluntly, “It’s your brother.”
It’s a deeply, deeply emotional, but very low-key conversation that is so moving. I thought they just nailed it. I’ve gone back and watched that particular scene a dozen times, at least.
I was over the moon to learn that the scene between Jamie and Brianna was original. One might expect Brianna to react badly to learning only now that she has a half-brother out there, but instead the knowledge brings father and daughter closer together even as they prepare to part.
I have many questions heading into the season 5 finale, and it’s unclear whether I’ll get answers. The story has progressed beautifully this season, and when the next Droughtlander is over, I hope Gabaldon returns to write another episode.