The Droughtlander between the fifth and sixth seasons of Outlander is still going, and there is no end in sight until 2022 rolls around. That doesn’t mean that hiatus has to be a boring time for fans, however, and some have used the wait from the end of Season 5 back in May 2020 to come up with an intriguing theory for Season 6. It’s a theory about Claire and a new character who will debut in Season 6, and it would mark a major change from Diana Gabaldon’s book saga.
Warning: spoilers ahead for the sixth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novel series, called A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The idea about Season 6 comes from fans on Reddit, who noted that they didn’t even realize the subplot of Tom Christie (to be played in the show by Mark Lewis Jones) falling in love with Claire was happening until Jamie explicitly mentions Tom being in love with his wife in an inner monologue on page. That seemed to be the consensus, which raised the theory that the show is going to have to go harder on Tom’s side of the romance than the book did.
While Outlander does use narration to further the plot, the show isn’t heavy enough with it to qualify as a running inner monologue on equal scale to the novels, and Tom falling in love with Claire is really something that would be better shown than told when it comes to the television medium. The series can totally show Tom’s feelings for Claire while still hiding them from the other characters.
And after all, Tom’s feelings are going to be extremely relevant to what happens to Claire not only in Season 6, but probably Season 7 as well, depending on how closely the show sticks to the plot of the books. Outlander has certainly diverged from Diana Gabaldon’s source material in the past, but the first look at the Christie family proves that at least three book characters are on board Season 6 and will be impactful.
But could Outlander go even farther than making Tom’s feelings more obvious in adapting A Breath of Snow and Ashes into Season 6? Could Claire reciprocate Tom’s feelings to a certain degree, or at least have a moment of weakness to act on them? That would certainly be a departure from the books, and I have a hard time imagining it after what Claire went through at the end of Season 5, but as somebody who was convinced Murtagh was going to die several times before he actually died, I’ve been wrong before.
Plus, if the show follows A Breath of Snow and Ashes, another member of the Christie family will cause trouble on Fraser’s Ridge. In the book, Malva Christie becomes pregnant and claims that Jamie is the father. While it’s hard to even imagine Sam Heughan’s Jamie cheating on Claire, it’s very easy to understand why there could be some tension on the Ridge. What’s the coming American Revolution when things are so complicated on the home front?
In all seriousness, Outlander does tend to stick with the big beats of what happens in the books. Murtagh’s survival beyond Culloden is an exception to the rule, and the show did ultimately kill him off once it was time for the story to move on. The early description of the show’s version of Tom revealed that he was an Ardsmuir prisoner like Jamie (and Murtagh, for that matter), but a devout Protestant rather than Catholic like Jamie, and they weren’t the best of friends even under some of the worst circumstances.
So, will Outlander be heavier-handed with Tom’s feelings for Claire than A Breath of Snow and Ashes was? And could Claire react to learning about his feelings differently on screen than on the page? It’s hard to rule anything out at this point, but I’m on board with the theory of Outlander showing more overt clues that Tom is falling in love than how the plot developed in the books. The subtlety that can work in a novel that runs for hundreds of pages doesn’t necessarily work for a TV show with fewer episodes than originally planned.
For now, fans will just have to keep speculating until Outlander finally returns to Starz. There is no official premiere date just yet, but Season 6 is expected to premiere in early 2022. Plus, filming has wrapped on the sixth season, so we can always start hoping for some teaser footage sooner rather than later and look ahead to the fall TV season.