May I Speak Frankly? Our Love-Hate Relationship with Outlander's Mr. October

Written by: Teddie Potter


Please do NOT leave this page; not just yet.

Yes, this piece is about the F word, so sit down and bear with me because I just had to run the gauntlet of the bored expressions of the first class passengers as I headed to my tiny space allotment in coach, measured in mere inches, to seat 32C.  I, too, hope to be bored someday.  Meanwhile, I pray that United doesn't yet again change the Frequent Flyer rules, spiraling the miles redemption process into a pattern of a Franz Kafka novel.

On this flight to the West coast, I am pondering Frank Randall.  Maybe it's because I just finished watching Money Monster on the big big screen on the economy seat back in front of me, and Caitriona Balfe's luminous face brought Outlander to mind.  Who am I kidding?  Outlander is ALWAYS to mind round here. TBH, I switched to the "classics" offerings after Money Monster, and chose Viva Las Vegas, which I would have stuck with, but my whoops of laughter were becoming uncontrollable, and people were sleeping.  And those were the serious scenes of that old Elvis film.

Should you be in possession of an itchy Amazon finger for all things Outlander, you likely own the official 2016 Outlander Starz Calendar and have already flipped the page to October.  Here, in splendorous 1940s garb, are Claire and Frank Randall.  Feast your eyes, friends of Frank!


So, it's Frank  Mr October, and all month long.  I await the comments on social media describing the precise dimension of sticky note required to adequately cover Frank's (and Tobias Menzies', by default) face on their calendar. This brandishing of Exacto knives is accompanied by lamentations of having to see Frank FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH.  For every single vision of Frank, we are deprived of an image of that, um, other guy.

The brilliant Tobias Menzies brings screen-Frank to life; a sophisticated, debonair, and supremely edgy Frank. Menzies' skill and smooth looks have garnered himself a number of Facebook pages, such as Tobias's Tribe, where fans celebrate the difference between the actor and the character, and never use sticky notes.


As I am currently listening to Voyager, the book with which I cheat on Outlander, and the massive roller coaster of a story that will be Season 3 of the Starz adaptation of the series, I am recalling Frank the "bloody bastard".  As I cheerfully tolerate all the scenes that comprise the buildup to you-know-what, to that which may be the mothership of all the great Outlander sacred moments; the moment we are worried sick about and praying to whatever fates may be that it please be done right! Non-bookies, this will all make sense, depending on how faithful Ron D. Moore is to Diana Gabaldon's story.

But what is it about Frank?  Claire is clearly in love with him as the Outlander story unfolds in the early days. Upon first read of the introductory chapters of Outlander, I had no doubts of that love. I still have no doubts of it.  But that was then. My problem is that I'm not quite so sure how faithful I want RDM to be with the Frank material as we move forward with the story, because Frank the character evokes feelings in most of us, and passionately so.

I've mentioned that Frank is necessary for the story, and so is EVERY character, because, you know, conflict. My fellow writer, Anne, pondered the same when she asked us whether Frank was a "bit player or significant to the story?"  Angel Frank sits on one shoulder, convincing me of his general niceties toward humanity and this overall narrative.  But then Devil Frank rears his Fedora-hatted head and threatens to prove otherwise.  What's an Outlander lover to do but ramble off the pros and cons of Frank to help settle my utterly conflicted mind.  Ergo, that list.

Frank Randall's Spoiler-Free Screen Scorecard!


Seen as a sympathetic figure, tragically cheated out of a marriage, or as a philandering, stepping-out kind of guy: take your pick  however you choose, we are passionate about Frank.  Truly, there is no Outlander without Mr. Frank Randall.

What do you feel are Frank's best and worst moments so far in the Starz adaptation?
How much, if any, do we need of Frank Randall?



29 comments

  1. I agree Claire obviously loves Frank, and that he is needed for tension and conflict. I worry about what RDM will do with his character in S3.

    We know RDM has a bromance going with Tobias. - and deservedly so. He is a superb actor. My problem is the blatant softening of Frank's character in the show. The most glaring example to me is when Claire offers to remove Jamies wedding ring and Frank ever so tenderly tells her no, she's not ready to give it up yet. I mean really? Did he read the same book I did?? But I digress.

    Frank definitely has a part to play in S3, but will it be the part that book readers recognize or will it be the RDM revised vision? And since they started down this road in S2, can the show turn itself upside down and show Frank much differently (i.e. book Frank) than how they have in S2?

    Of course you could say Frank did show his temper and struggle to control it with Claire on the show. Likewise you could say that we were only seeing Frank through Claire's eyes in the book. Both of which are true.

    However my response would be isn't this supposed to be an adaptation of Claire's experiences? If we soften Frank as a protagonist don't we umdermine Claire's viewpoint and experience? By making Frank totally sympathetic don't we cheapen her believability as the narrator? Finally, doesn't lifting Frank to the ever patient and sympathetic 1st husband have the unintended (or maybe not?) consequence of lowering the importance of Claire's longing for Jamie.

    As you might be able to tell, I was not pleased at all with how show Frank was portrayed in S2. The amount of time dedicated to him in S2 episode 1 could have been better spent in Paris on the 'real' story, instead of on a polished up version of Frank the perfect suffering saint.

    I will be interested to hear how others feel about this aspect of S3.

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    1. Thanks for responding! You know, in the books, we really don't get to "see" alot of Frank once Claire goes through the stones. But to ignore any backstory in the TV series, where backstory is perhaps s bit more multi dimensional in the visual medium perhaps would have been a missed opportunity for good story development. The contrasting of the relationships of J&C and F&C make for interesting film, at least for me. I honestly don't see a "softening of Frank" so far, just more of him than expected. As you so rightly mention, the handling of Frank in S3 is going to prove interesting for sure!

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    2. I love your comment, Just Visiting. Especially, "...Finally, doesn't lifting Frank to the ever patient and sympathetic 1st husband have the unintended (or maybe not?) consequence of lowering the importance of Claire's longing for Jamie." Unfortunately, I think that is the goal.

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  2. Worst moment, when Frank conspired to take Brianna away

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    1. hitherefriend, I must agree. That was dark and creepy Frank right there! Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Worst moment, when Frank conspired to take Brianna away

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  4. Frank is flawed. Won't give spoilers, but in future books we find out more about the time period when Brianna was growing up. I don't like him, period. Also afraid how Ron will portray him in SE 3.

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    1. Yes; flawed and human. If RDM follows the book, Frank will elicit some sympathy but also a whole lot of animosity! Either way, unless RDM REALLY changes the course of events, we should be finished with Frank relatively early in the series. There is so much story to tell in Voyager, I can't see the Frank story going on and on.

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  5. I agree with Just Visiting. I, for the most part am not a book purist, and have enjoyed most of the changes made in the show. However the changes with Frank, literally are changing the character he is in the book. Frank was not so kind about Jamie's ring in the book, trying to take it off Claire's hand. And without going into detail, he is a cheating slime-bag of a husband. And trying to take Brianna away from Claire....well, I have no decent, appropriate words to say about that. If Ron continues down the path of "poor, pitiful, sacrificing" husband...then I fear we will not get the true Frank. I agree that the audience will not see the loneliness and longing of Claire for Jamie if Frank is such a compassionate, understanding and loving husband. I think they border on blurring the lines. By Frank's own admission later in the books he treated Claire badly. Frank was an a@# and I for one completely dislike him.

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    1. Jody, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. For what we've seen so far in the show, has Frank's character really been softened? With more to come in Voyager/S3, we may very well see the darker side of Frank, in keeping with that story line. RDM's "bromance" has to come to an end soon, unless he has big plans to knock us out with a major plot change in S3. That would be a shocker, no?

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  6. Great article Teddie. My greatest hope is that RDM is setting us up as dramatic fools.

    Luring us in over the past two season to appreciate/redeem Frank, and then wham, an even more deplorable Frank will arise and show us that genetics overrules environment, that the centuries of difference between BJR and Frank are indeed insignificant.

    I can't wait for Season 3, "Voyager".

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    1. OH Holly!! I love that idea...but we shall see!

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    2. Holly, thank you. Now, that would be a shrewd way of running the Frank piece. Frank-Haters will be reveling in the streets!

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  7. Does it seem to anyone else that (*whispers behind DG's back) Diana changed her mind about Frank's story after she wrote Voyager? He really was a cur in the first books and now she seems to be hinting at Franks (very honorable) reasons for behaving that way. Given that Diana has given Ron the general story arc - even some info from Bees - he could have changed Frank's personality somewhat based on that.

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    1. cvalley, thanks for your comment. Was Frank really a cur in the first book? I'm thinking no. DG has been a long-time Friend of Frank, so it's not just for the show. Let's see how this all pans out!

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    2. Not the first book, no. What I wrote was "first books." He was horrible in Voyager, but it seems that with her "Defense of Frank," DG is retconning his character. So for that reason, if Frank's character is changing in the TV series, that's due to DG, not Ron.

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  8. The nicer Frank is, the more he looks like Claire's victim. Book Frank was not really a victim in my mind, but a scoundrel getting even with Claire for loving a ghost (and an good looking one, at that!). TV Frank kind of seems like a victim as of right now. They have to make a connection between BJR dark side and Frank's dark-but-less-dark-than-BJR's dark side, or it would be a missed opportunity on the show. (plus Tobias plays the dark side so well.) It will be interesting to see what happens with Frank in S3. I view Books and TV show as separate entities, but i watched and read at the same time, so sometimes I have a hard time remembering what happened where.

    Thought provoking blog post and discussion! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Jo R for reading and commenting. Yes; Tobias does BJR/Frank so very well. Frank got more (or less!) than he bargained for by accepting a pregnant and grieving Claire back. A scoundrel getting even, or a frustrated and sad man? Looking forward to S3 Frank!

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  9. Great post. I think Frank is very important to the story. I don't see Frank as a victim at all though. It wasn't Claire's fault that she ended up in 1743 and it wasn't Franks. If the Battle of Culloden hadn't happened she would have never come back. However, I do think that Frank held that against Claire. In her own admission she didn't mean to fall in love. This is just me, but I think Frank had been unfaithful to Claire during the war and wanted her to as well so it would make him feel less guilty. Why bring it up in the first place then? It would explain his behaviour later on. I also think that he does try to redeem himself by searching for Jamie himself. I think he wants Brianna and Claire to know what happened to him, just not while he himself is still alive. BTW, I think Tobias does a wonderful job as Frank and BJR. It'/ not always easy playing the disliked character.

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    1. NavyGal, thanks for bringing up such interesting points, especially the one about a potentially unfaithful Frank during his war years. Perhaps he was trying to rationalize his own jealousy about the "highlander" he encountered looking up at Claire's window. I agree that Frank did his best with Brianna, and simply HAD to try to confirm Claire's story.

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  10. Great post! I think he's integral to the story. I think RDM did a FANTASTIC job SHOWING us WHY Claire wanted to get back so desperately, and WHY she struggled so falling in love with J. Frank is/was a GOOD man...yet, he's HUMAN so, he has his foibles.

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    1. Unknown, thank you for reading and commenting. Agree with each of your points. We are so fortunate to see this story on screen!

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  12. Frank is essential to the story and no doubt would have had a happier life had Claire never returned from the 18th century. He might have moved on, found someone else and eventually been able to cherish the memory of his missing wife. Frank does not possess the strength of character that Jamie has but he isn’t a bad man, he is flawed. He’s served his country and I believe he truly wants to make his wife happy so far as he is able. But Frank is mentally less flexible than Jamie and I think is secretly intimidated by Claire. He loves her but in a limited sort of way which coincides with his narrower viewpoint of the world. One could argue he loves the idea of her more than the actual confident, self-evolved woman who has returned from the war. Does it compare to the love Jamie has for Claire? No. Frank sees Claire as an extension of him-self much as men of that era did. But Claire and Frank have been together for many years and have a history. So when she finally returns almost three years later and he realizes she no longer loves him, he is astounded by her reversal of feelings. She was completely devoted to him and now she isn’t and his heart is broken.
    And so it’s honorable that he steps up and accepts the responsibility of raising a child not his own, believing he can also win back the love of his wife. And he is a very good father to Brianna.
    But as the years unfold he is competing for Claire's affections with a ghost. And even though it isn’t Claire’s fault she traveled through time and fell in love with Jamie, Frank is not able to forgive her. I think Frank makes a distinction between love and sex and justifies his own marital dalliances as strictly sex. This distinction makes him unable to forgive Claire because he recognizes that her love for Jamie has replaced the love she once felt for him, and he views this as the ultimate betrayal. And so he punishes her by continuing his liaisons. It couldn’t have been easy to live with the fact that his wife loved another, let alone a ghost. I mean, how do you fight a ghost? And although his affairs hurt Claire, and she resents his consistent betrayal, she begrudgingly accepts it because regardless of what he has done to her, she has also betrayed her own vows to Frank and cannot let go of Jamie's memory.
    Eventually the bitterness and regret disintegrate the tenuous strands that hold them together as a family.
    I think we need to see enough of this world to understand how much it has cost our characters to live this way for twenty years, because it informs everyone’s point of view. What was it like for Claire to live in a shell of a marriage with an unfaithful husband whom she no longer loved in the same way? What was it like for Brianna to grow up in a family with that kind of marital tension and with a mother who had shut down a part of herself? What did it do to Jamie to have kept Claire from Frank to begin with, and send her back to him, pregnant with his child?
    It’s a tragedy, really. When Claire fell through the stones, Frank didn’t have a hope of getting her back. And when he does, she is never really his again. It’s heart wrenching for all of them. Because in the end Frank, Claire and Jamie all sacrifice to make sure Brianna is taken care of. Jamie sends his wife and child away to keep them safe and goes to battle intending to die. Claire loses her soul mate but keeps a part of him through Brianna and Franks lives with a woman who cannot reciprocate his love, to gain a daughter.
    What makes the story so complex and beautifully poignant, is the struggle and sacrifice they all go through for the ones they love.

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    1. BGR, thank you so much for reading and sharing your insights into the story of Outlander. When I first Dragonfly, I really wished Frank WOULD go away from pregnant Claire,but he didn't because he is essentially a decent man. DG has denied that Frank has had actual liaisons, but after reading Voyager, that's hard to grasp, at least for me. Your comparisons of the sacrifices made by both Jamie and Frank really hit home.

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  13. I have just started rewatching Season 1. Mrs. Graham's fortune telling has stuck in my mind. You recall she tells Claire about her Mount of Venus- "to be polite about it; your husband isn't likely to stray from your bed". I think she probably means BOTH husbands. So, I followed Diana's blogs for a long time (well before Starz), and she reminds us that we only see Frank (especially book Frank) through Claire's eyes. Frank's non-denial of affairs is an easy excuse for him to do uninterrupted research re: Jamie, Claire and Bree. I could go either way on Frank... but I don't think we will see the real Frank revealed to us until the end of the series and even then, maybe not until Diana writes HIS story!

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  14. That is one story I'd love to read! There's a huge depth to Frank and I'm waiting to have it laid out on the page. Thanks, Threadbender, for reading and thanks for your comments.

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  15. I have mixed feelings about Frank. Bottom line is that Frank is a flawed human. I agree that they softened up Frank as a character for the show, but no one has mentioned the hardening up of Claire by contrast. Since she is our main character and "heroine", I had an issue with that. The show is not only showing us Claire's POV exclusively, so I can understand why we see F and C's characters in a slightly different light than the books. But I was a book Outlander fan first. I prefer that version a bit more. Maybe it's just me...

    As for Frank, he is essential to the story, and the "bad guy", though in DG's world, few wear black or white hats. Most are shades of gray (except BJR. Lol) As soon as Frank tells Claire he would forgive her if she had an affair with a patient during WWII, I became slightly suspicious. I agree with NavyGal that he was attempting to assuage his own guilt about his own behavior.

    However, my opinion about Frank is affirmed in Voyager. Though I see his futile attempts at competing with a ghost. Claire has a glass face, and every time she looks at Bree she sees Jamie. And Frank's sees that. Claire​ can't help it. Frank may have sought comfort, sex, attention or adoration from these other women, or a combination of them. He may have done it to provoke a reaction from Claire, but she didn't respond. When he gives up and finally realizes Claire is indifferent to him and his attentions, he waits until he feels Bree is older. I feel his frustration. It still doesn't justify his actions. But if he divorced Claire while Bree was younger, Claire would've almost automatically had full custody of Bree, and Frank was too selfish to do that.

    Remember there is a significant age difference between Frank and Claire. I got the feeling Frank is partly father figure to Claire when they marry, while she feels Jamie is more of an equal and a partner in life.

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