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Even by the highly stressful standards of Outlander, the season 4 finale really put fans through the wringer. Jamie decides to trade himself to the Mohawk people to save Roger—and just as you’re beginning to process that, Young Ian jumps in and takes his place instead! Poor Brianna went into labor and gave birth before either of her parents could make it home. Oh, and Jamie has been tasked with assassinating Murtagh next season. Cool, cool, cool.

Below, Catriona Balfe breaks down the key moments from “Man of Worth,” hints at what’s to come in season 5, and explains whether Jamie and Claire have been having less sex of late.

Where does the season leave Claire emotionally?

I think her primary focus throughout the season is so much about her being a mother to Brianna in a very different way, because of what Brianna has gone though and also being a grandmother now. I think it’s definitely been a transition, this season, going from the search for Jamie and “Will this relationship work?” to them finding each other.

Now it’s like okay, we built this life, and what does it look like? With Brianna coming in, it becomes very different, because now Claire’s become the matriarch of this extended family unit. When she says to Brianna, “I want to take you away from here,” I think she needs to have her family around her, in a place where they create the society that they want. She can see how heartbroken Brianna is, and everything about River Run for Claire is just so tainted and it’s hard for her to relax there at all. I think she just wants to protect her daughter, get her home, and create a safe space for her.

When Jamie is going to trade himself for Roger, Claire accepts it fairly quickly. Why?

I think it’s telling that one of the next lines is when after Ian offers himself up, Jamie says “Escape at your first chance.” Given that we had so little time to use in that moment, where I had to go with it was, this is a temporary thing. He’s going to get out of here as quickly as he can. I think she felt that this is Jamie’s politically savvy decision to get Roger for this instant, but he’s not going to stay.

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On the Starz series Outlander, now in its fourth season, time-traveling 20th century doctor Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and her 18th century Highlander husband Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) are trying to make a home for themselves in colonial America. In a world on the cusp of the American Revolution, succeeding in the rough and dangerous backcountry of North Carolina presents its own set of challenges, and Claire and Jamie must learn to navigate through slavery, co-existing with Native Americans, and the current British ruling class.

At the Los Angeles press day to discuss the new season, Collider was invited to participate in a small roundtable interview (with a couple other media outlets) with co-stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who talked about the challenges specific to Season 4, navigating through a new and different world, the Fraser’s Ridge homestead, figuring out who Jamie and Claire are now at this point in their relationship, how Brianna (Sophie Skelton) will affect things for them, the introduction of Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), the lack of a kilt, and what you might see on the Season 4 blooper reel. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

Question: Obviously, there are huge challenges with every season of this show because it is so epic in scope, but what were the challenges that were specific to this season, that you hadn’t had to deal with before?

CAITRIONA BALFE: This season, more than any other, we’ve had a lot of blue screen. There’s been a lot more CGI then before. It’s interesting filming in Scotland which has so much rain and so much water. They don’t have the expansive rivers that you would have in North Carolina. So, a lot of the river journey that we took in Episode 1 was CGI, and that’s just a different thing. We’ve never really had that as much, in prior seasons.

SAM HEUGHAN: Also, this season, we’re in America and there are a lot of issues there, politically. The first couple of episodes explore things from slavery to the treatment of Native Americans, which are things that we’ve never really dealt with. We saw slavery last season, but we didn’t really deal with it. You just saw it. So, that’s something that’s different in Season 4.

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The Droughtlander ends tonight with the season four premiere of Outlander, which is the start of a whole new chapter in the lives of Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), based on Diana Gabaldon‘s novel Drums of Autumn.

After being shipwrecked in a storm, the two washed ashore in the New World and after contemplating whether to return to Scotland, where Jamie has strong ties, or stay and build a new life in the Colonies, they opt for the latter.

“For Claire, I think America is in her blood,” Balfe tells Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “She lived there for 20 years, she raised her daughter there, became a doctor there, and achieved so much there. She lived in America probably longer than she has lived in any other country, so I think there’s a real emotional tie and a real pull for her to that land.”

But being a woman from the 20th century, life in North Carolina in 1767 is a difficult one for her sensibilities. Claire first encountered the evils of slavery in Voyager, and risked a lot to save the life of a slave. But she finds it even more difficult to be in the south with the institution a part of everyday life, and Jamie supports her belief.

“I think this is what she loves so much about Jamie is that he has this emotional intelligence, and even though he is a man of his times, he is able to see the bigger picture and be much more compassionate than other people necessarily,” Balfe says.

As fans of the books know, season four doesn’t have a war or the Fraser’s crossing the ocean in search of Young Ian (John Bell), but it does finally have Claire and Jamie building a life together, and that is what Balfe is looking forward to fans seeing this season.

“Without saying too much, I think this season is this idea of home and family,” she says. “I think it’s going to be really exciting for fans to see the family.”

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Caitriona Balfe grew up in a tiny village in Ireland and took off for Paris at age 19 when she was signed to a modeling contract. That was years before she became known to TV fans as Claire Fraser, the time-traveling heroine of Outlander, the Starz show based on Diana Gabaldon’s popular series of books, which begins its fourth season on November 4.

The 39-year-old actress, who is newly engaged to Irish music producer Tony McGill and working on a new movie about car racing in the 1960s, Ford v. Ferrari, recently talked to Parade about avid fans and growing up a “ballsy” girl.

What were Sundays like growing up in Ireland?

Sundays always started with my mom bribing us [Balfe, her three brothers and three sisters] to get out of bed. She makes the most incredible homemade brown bread and scones. She’d bring us up tea or coffee and scones and then we would be dragged out of the house to go to Mass.

And afterward?

We’d have a big noisy lunch and then everyone retreats to their corners. There was always a lot of reading, or if TV was on, I’d watch Formula One racing with my dad. It was always quite a noisy, big family day because everyone was in the house.

In your house, the girls outnumbered the boys.

Yes, and in more than just numbers. My sisters are all quite strong. Ballsy is another word. I think the boys just did what they could to survive.

What’s a typical Sunday like for you now?

I’m a big brunch person, so I drag myself up, then find the best brunch place close by. I love to get the newspaper and sit around and read. If I can get a walk in, that’s always really nice. Sundays are supposed to be a guilt-free day where you can just relax, but usually there’s a little bit of homework to be done, especially if we’re filming Monday.

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The downside of adapting books for the screen is that some key moments inevitably get left out because of time (rather, the lack of it) or to suit the creative flow. For Caitriona Balfe, who plays time-traveling leading lady Claire in “Outlander,” the omitted moments aren’t any less significant than what we see on the screen in finding her character.

Taking a break from filming the fourth season of the epic drama, Balfe stopped by The Times’ video studio recently to reflect on the course-shifting third season that saw the show’s star-crossed couple coping with a life apart (for 20 years!) before eventually reuniting.

The first five episodes of the third season work to establish how Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) settled into a life unhappily ever after. Jamie, back in 18th century Scotland; Claire in 20th century America, raising their daughter with Frank (Tobias Menzies) while taking up medicine. The third novel from the Diana Gabaldon book series, “Voyager,” did a lot to set up the journey Claire experiences in those years. Balfe said she infused the detail from the book that the script left out into her performance.

“There’s some scenes I’m devastated we didn’t get to shoot,” she said. “There’s the scene where she’s working all day and Brianna gets hurt and she has to run home and she has all of that guilt. It’s so interesting to see a working mom in that late ’50s, early ’60s time — I was like, ‘What do you mean we’re not filming that? That’s so important to this character!’ We don’t have time to shoot everything. But I have that [knowledge] and you bring that into your performance throughout the rest of the scenes … having all of that stuff — especially when we got to Episode 3, 4 and 5 — you want to show the characters wearing all those experiences.”

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Poor Claire and Jamie—they’ve been through so much. Apart from the odd bit of time travel (obviously), Outlander’s central couple have dealt with a 20-year separation, assault, death, battles, amputation, cheating, political revolution, kidnapping, disease and 18th-century bathroom facilities. The last time we saw them, they’d just been shipwrecked at the American colonies, so it’s all been a bit tiring.

But, good news! In the forthcoming season 4, our favorite bodice-ripping couple will finally get to relax—sort of. ELLE.com got all the juice from the Outlander For Your Consideration pre-Emmy event in Los Angeles this weekend.

They get to experience settled married life—and it’s not always amazing.

“We finally actually get to see them in some sort of state of domestic bliss,” Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire, told ELLE.com on the red carpet. “Finally, they’re not being ripped from home or made to travel across oceans. They actually settle, and it’s a different dynamic, and it’s nice to explore that. Like, what is this relationship when it’s normal? Because we haven’t really had that.”

But domesticity might not exactly be Jamie’s strong suit, and that could lead to blow-ups. “He’s very practical,” Sam Heughan explained. “Like why does he need to put the toilet seat down? It’d probably drive him irate that she’d clean up around him, or make him put things in certain places. I’m sure their domestic arguments are pretty fiery.”

But there’s still going to be plenty of sexy time.

“It’s a very important part of their relationship,” Heughan said. But without the tension of constantly being separated, or imprisoned, or nearly dead, things might have slowed down a little in that department. “They’re slightly older,” he added, “so maybe it’s less energetic, who knows? But they are madly in love with each other. They’re older now, and it’s the first time we actually get to see them as this couple that actually can be together and not be in some sort of dire drama. Up until now, there’s always been something going on. It’s nice, for a brief moment, to see them be able to relax in each other’s company, though of course it’s Outlander, so it doesn’t last long.”

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Through a cloud of Gauloises smoke, four men silently watched me as I made my way through the empty cafe to a table by the window. The waitress threw down a menu and stood, one hip cocked, impatiently waiting for my order.

I nervously scanned the handwritten menu, looking for anything familiar.

“Jambon,” I stammered, my brain registering a flicker of recognition from a long-since-forgotten French class. “Jambon, s’il vous plait,” I ventured. The waitress sauntered off, and within minutes, served me what was to be my plat du jour, for every “jour” that week. A ham sandwich.

Oh, and did I mention, I hate ham?

It all began with a crumpled sheet of instructions and an invitation. I was 19 and going to live abroad for the first time — and not just anywhere, but in Paris. The city of love and culture, of Yves Saint Laurent, Gertrude Stein and the Louvre. It was about as far away from my tiny village in Ireland as I could imagine. I dreamed of strolling along the Seine, having intense conversations with moody young Frenchmen named Pierre. Of leaving red lipstick stains on wine glasses and casually extinguishing cigarette butts on coffee saucers while listening to lovers quarrel on cafe verandas. In short, I’d watched far too many French films. It was going to be exactly like that, right?

Pretty soon it was clear that my journey from sheltered Irish country girl to French temptress would have a long way to go. Step one was just to make it out of the airport.

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