Why Outlander Changed A Key Book Detail For Season 4

outlander season 4 premiere jamie claire
(Image credit: Image courtesy of Starz)

Outlander may be based on an epic novel saga by Diana Gabaldon, but the show has not always been 100% faithful to the books. That's true of any adaptation from page to screen, as what is possible on one doesn't necessarily work on the other. Well, Outlander showrunner Ronald D. Moore came up against a key plot point from the Drums of Autumn novel that might not have translated well. In the book, Stephen Bonnet stole Claire's wedding ring from Frank. On the show, Bonnet stole the ring from Jaime.

Viewers who haven't read the books wouldn't have noticed anything particularly odd about Bonnet making off with Jamie's ring, although it still would have been tragic considering Jamie and Claire had just had a conversation about the ring. For folks who are familiar with Drums of Autumn and the role one of Claire's stolen rings plays in a pivotal arc, the ring switcheroo came as a surprise.

Book spoilers ahead. When Brianna travels back in time in the book, she spots Claire's ring from Frank on Stephen Bonnet. Understandably, Bree doesn't want to leave Bonnet with the ring that the man who raised her gave to her mom, so she tries to get it back. After the show switched the rings, viewers had to wonder if it was the first of multiple changes to Brianna's story in the past. Well, Ronald Moore recently revealed the very simple reason why Claire lost Jamie's ring to Bonnet:

Thinking ahead for those of you who know the books. Are we all friends here? Do we all know the books? The plain gold band wouldn't be noticeable as like, 'Oh that's clearly my mother's ring,' whereas the other one clearly would. So that's kind of why we made that change.

Honestly, the reason for the ring switcheroo is so straightforward that I'm almost disappointed! Ronald Moore's comments at the recent Savannah College of Art and Design Film Festival (via EW) reveal that Stephen Bonnet stole Jamie's ring because Jamie's ring stands out more than the plain gold band from Frank. Although the gold ring held great sentimental value to Claire despite how her marriage to Frank fell apart, it's not so remarkable that Brianna would see it and immediately connect it to the parents who raised her.

Jamie's ring was made out of the key to Lallybroch, and it certainly wasn't crafted by anybody or with any materials from the 20th century, so Brianna would have noticed it on her mom's finger. If she spies that distinctive ring on Stephen Bonnet, of course she's going to have questions for him and want it back!

Alas for Brianna, her discovery of Jamie's ring on Bonnet will lead her into the same awful circumstances that Frank's ring lead her to in Drums of Autumn. Ronald Moore confirmed earlier this year that the scene in which Bonnet rapes Bree when she comes for the ring will be included in the show. Given what happens to Bree after the rape, it wasn't really a twist that could be omitted from the show unless the show was to diverge from the books in a huge way.

While viewers may be especially sad that Claire was parted with Jamie's ring by the dastardly Stephen Bonnet (who could turn out to be the series' most terrifying villain), book readers can take heart that the twist was changed so that the ring discovery would be believable on the small screen. Other book changes with this arc may be minor.

Outlander's stars recently chatted about how Bonnet differs from the dastardly Black Jack Randall, and Sam Heughan shared his regrets about not wearing a kilt for Season 4. To see what's in store next for the Frasers in America and Brianna in the 20th century (so far), tune in to Starz on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).