- Outlander -The Key Difference Between Jamie & Tom Christie On 'Outlander,' According To Diana Gabaldon
Spoilers ahead for Outlander Season 6, Episode 3, "Temperance."
When Tom Christie agreed for Claire to perform surgery on his hand, readers of the Outlander book series knew they were going to be in for a treat. In an email to The Dipp, author Diana Gabaldon discussed Tom's surgery in Episode 3 and how these moments from "Temperance" highlight a key difference between Jamie and Tom Christie on Outlander.
Ahead of Season 6, Gabaldon had told Outlander Cast's Angela Hickey that Episode 603 was one of her favorite episodes of this season (the others being the 601, 607, and 608). And she had previously mentioned to me how impressed she was by the sequences featuring Mark Lewis Jones as Tom Christie getting his hand worked on by Caitríona Balfe's Claire with an assist from Sam Heughan's Jamie. So I wanted to see what she had to say about these scenes now that they've aired.
The author, who praises "Temperance" for its "very skillful weaving of multiple character arcs" (in particular, she calls out Lauren Lyle and César Domboy's "amazingly powerful" performances in the aftermath of Henri-Christian's birth), notes her favorite storyline was that of Tom's surgery, starting with him showing up at Claire's doorstep in the previous episode, "Allegiance."
In Episode 3, Claire performs the surgery, which Gabaldon says is "by turns funny and harrowing" as it "shows off deft teamwork between Claire and Jamie to accomplish it." After Tom refuses the ether and only takes a sip of whisky, it's up to Jamie to read Bible verses to stop Tom from moving under Claire's knife. Jamie's firm grip on Tom's shoulder may have been of some help, too.
Later that night, when Claire goes to check in on her patient, Tom opens up to her, sharing about his time with Jamie at Ardsmuir. Just like Tom in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, he can't fathom why all those years ago Jamie sacrificed himself for the prisoner who held the forbidden tartan, calling it "an act of extraordinary courage... incomprehensible."
"Tom's late-night conversation with Claire sheds more light on his attitude toward Jamie, a man who can do things that Tom can't even understand, let alone do himself," Gabaldon says. (As Claire thinks to herself in the book, Jamie does what he does "because he's an effing hero, that's why.")
Beyond Tom Christie himself, there's what his presence leads Jamie and Claire to discuss when Claire returns to bed. Although it's obvious that Jamie and Tom are very different people, Gabaldon says it's this "conversation in the depths of the night between Claire and Jamie" that points to one intrinsic difference — how Jamie values "the importance of touch."
While Tom shied away from Claire's healing hands, Jamie talks about how desperately he wanted to feel the touch of a hand in prison.
"This illustrates the crevasse between Jamie and Tom: Tom fears touch as sinful; Jamie craves it, as life," Gabaldon writes. "While Tom is a basically good and moral man, his fears constrain him and warp his relations with the world. Jamie reaches out, always seeking connection — and finds it."
Touch is also part of Jamie and Claire's bond... not just how they touch one another, but how they use it on others. "Contrast Claire's own take on touch," Gabaldon adds. "She touches in order to comfort, to heal — but doesn't hesitate to cause intense pain, when necessary."
"Jamie has a sword and dirk; she has a lancet — but both of them are steel, and they understand that about each other."
And as educated as Tom is and as much as he seemingly admires both Jamie and Claire (however resentfully), that's something that he will never understand.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.