Why Vanity Fair’s Outlander Season 4 Photos Captured the Spirit of Drums of Autumn (and Entertainment Weekly Didn’t)

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly released its Outlander Season 4 cover images and a few additional images to go along with them. They were meant to provide succor to parched Droughtlander sufferers but my thirst was not slaked, not even a bit. The images felt boring and similar to the ones from previous years. And those Scots puns (Too Scot To Handle, Some Like It Scot) are beginning to feel like dad jokes; I giggled politely the first three seasons but now I only have an eye roll. These photos made me question whether or not I was ready for Season 4. Maybe I didn’t deserve these photos because I wasn’t desperate enough for the show to return? What if I no longer cared about what happens to Jamie and Claire as they Brave the New World? What if my Outlander obsession is gone? I pondered these questions until I saw what I didn’t even know I needed; the Starz photos released by Vanity Fair. After seeing those photos and then spending some time gazing lovingly at them each time they popped up on my Facebook feed, I realized that my Outlander love was intact. At that point I was left to question why the Vanity Fair photos connected with me in a way that that the Entertainment Weekly photos didn’t.

I don’t want to throw too much shade at Entertainment Weekly. I can’t even imagine the undertaking involved in these shoots and the collected creativity that it takes to get these covers on store shelves. These are just my thoughts on why the EW photos failed to evoke an emotional response from me and why the Vanity Fair photos made me feel like my favorite friends were coming home after a long trip to Scotland with a brief stop in Jamaica, and then washing up on shore after a hurricane.

Why is Jamie Trying to Eat Claire?
Why does Jamie look like he’s going to eat Claire and not in a Season 1 sort of way (you’re welcome)? I know they’ve been through some stuff but Claire has on that fancy dress and they appear to be in a fancy home so surely there is some food around. Right? This looks less sexy and more menacing to me. Also, why is Jamie so dirty?


At This Point I’m Questioning Jamie and Claire’s Money Management Skills
This is Claire’s third dress and Jamie is still wearing that shirt. I understand that money is tight for the Frasers and that Claire makes a “verra fine ornamental jewel box” but perhaps Claire could be a tad lass ornamental and they could use that freed up cash to buy Jamie another shirt, or two, or three. Also, why is Jamie still dirty? Claire has had time to make two wardrobe changes and Jamie couldn’t sneak down to the river and freshen up?


So Much to Unpack Here
I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this photo. It was impossible to focus on the hotness of Jamie…err…Sam (which is what I think I’m supposed to be doing) because of all the questions in my head. Why is his shirt open? What is his hand doing? Is he trying to show me his boobs? And Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ why on earth is he so freaking dirty? He’s leaning up against that wall with his dirty self and I can literally hear seven generations of my Southern grandmothers yelling for him to get out of their clean house with his filthy clothes.


Let’s move on to the Starz photos published by Vanity Fair.

This is My Mind’s Idea of Jamie and Claire
This photo represents everything that comes to my mind when I imagine Jamie and Claire in their new world. I didn’t fall in love with these two because they dined with the king’s men. I’ve got other books for that. I fell hard for Jamie and Claire because they are blood and guts, dirty fingernails, and kissing with morning breath. This photo is Jamie and Claire against the world. I think for most fans (myself included) we love this aspect of the characters because we either see it in our own relationships or we aspire to it. Struggling against nature, political forces, and warring human factions isn’t pretty and neither is Outlander. Faces steeled against the world around them and bodies clinging to each other for protection and support; this defines Jamie and Claire.


I Take Back All the Things I Said About That Shirt
Jamie has somehow managed to keep himself cleaner while chopping wood than he did while nuzzling up to fancy pants Claire but I digress. Seriously y’all this is sexy. A partner who provides for and protects their family is sexy; end of story. A man chopping wood to keep to keep the family warm through the winter is double sexy. Knowing that he could also take out any woodland beasts (perhaps a bear) that threaten the homestead is just an added bonus.


I Feel Like I Should Give Them a Moment But I Just Can’t Look Away
My favorite moments in the books and the series have always and forever will be these stolen moments of intimacy for Jamie and Claire. These two are at their best when they are alone and they can each lay down their weapons for awhile and lose themselves in each other. Remember that great campfire scene in the Devil’s Mark where Jamie said he wanted to “watch” Claire? What about the “the glade” scene before it was so rudely interrupted by the redcoat deserters? And who among us hasn’t used “bolt the door” when we need to keep the rest of the world at bay for just a few minutes? Ok, you’ve probably never used the line but you knew exactly what Claire was feeling in that moment. Right?

This photo sums up all of those past moments and prepares us for the intimate moments to come. This is the Jamie and Claire that I love and this photo is precisely why I’ll be tuning in to the first episode of Season 4 on November 4.


When I think about Outlander, I think of scarred hearts and scarred lives. I think of dirt and grime and blood and fruitless toil. I think of struggle and hardship. I also think of honor and devotion. I think of commitment to a cause greater than oneself and I think of commitment to love. I think of passion and desire and I think of love that lasts more than one lifetime. This is no more true than in Drums of Autumn where Jamie and Claire find themselves at odds with the world around them while trying desperately to leave it a better place for their daughter. I saw all of that captured in the Vanity Fair photos and it’s just one of many reasons that I can’t stop looking at them. Kudos to you Starz for turning all of those feelings into images and kudos to Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe for continuing to epitomize Jamie and Claire.


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  1. Janice hill says:

    I so agree with all you said…. Those EW photos were horrid…. As you say that did not evoke the characters we know and love….. The new Starz photos reflect much more.. Thank you for speaking what a lot of us thought

    1. sassynik says:

      Thank you so much Janice!

  2. Pam Allum says:

    Spot on! Well said, even with that touch of humour…

    1. sassynik says:

      Thanks Pam! Whatever I do I try to sprinkle it with a bit of humor. 🙂

  3. Suzi says:

    You have captured all of what I felt when I first saw both spreads. I loved the VF photo of them holding hands and walking through the woods. Claire has just a little smile on her face and I know it’s because Jamie’s hand is in hers. (Most likely Sam said something cheeky too). When I saw the EW photos I kept feeling like they were angry with each other and I was so afraid that their onscreen chemistry might be lacking this season based on that perception. Fortunately I now think it was a poorly done shoot. Thank you for helping me realize that!

    1. sassynik says:

      I love the idea that Cait is smiling because Sam had just said something cheeky. That sounds about right. 🙂

      It also highlights a big difference in the two shoots. Sam and Cait look incredibly relaxed in the VF photos (their own personalities shining through) and they just look stiff and/or bored in the EW photos.

  4. Kelleys6th says:

    You hit the nail right on the head with this review!
    It looks as if EW was selling sex, and VF was selling Outlander.

    1. sassynik says:

      That’s such a great comparison and I couldn’t agree more!


    The Vanity Fair photos are nice. I’m not turned off by the EW ones, though. Let’s face it, the readership of those two magazines is radically different. EW, a more generalized mag, sent a photographer to get theirs (because they want to sell additional copies of their magazines to people who want all the covers). Vanity Fair got Starz to release some of their production photos, although they probably had to pay for the exclusive photo rights to publish them. Why did I like the Vanity Fair ones more? Because there were more of them, and they weren’t all of Jamie and Claire.

    In the last paragraph of this piece, you say, “When I think about Outlander, I think of scarred hearts and scarred lives. I think of dirt and grime and blood and fruitless toil. I think of struggle and hardship.” Jamie looked a lot more like that in the EW photos than he did in the Vanity Fair ones. Just sayin’.

    1. sassynik says:


      Fair point about scarred hearts, dirt, and grime. If both Claire and Jamie had been dirty in the EW photos I would have been totally ok with it. However, we know that Jamie and Claire are partners and I can never imagine him being dirty and nasty while she waltzes around in her finery. If he was up to his elbows in pig poo, she would be too. 🙂

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I truly appreciate it.


  6. I have been having the same thoughts concerning the Entertainment Now photo shoot. I just thought they were so false looking and awkward. I have posted a few comments regarding these thoughts on Twitter several times. I actually thought Sam looked bored in most of them (can’t blame him) they are simply trying too hard to sell the sex symbol side here and none of those photos made me think Drums of Autumn or pioneers of the New World.
    To be honest I thought Sam looked like the spray tan had been overdone. Whatever, they used on him, it just looked so false. Cait looked too severe and some of the poses verged on the comical side. Vanity Fair had it spot on. You are right about their photo’s conveying more about the sexuality of Jamie & Claire. Showing the strength & togetherness in facing this enormous task of starting a new type of life in new land portrayed S4 so well.

    1. sassynik says:

      Thanks so much Yvonne!

  7. Azalee Salis says:

    Sam/Jamies eyes were what was off about those photos…he had no expression in his eyes due to the way they did his make up. Not that the photos would have been thrilling other than that, though. You are very correct in your assessment of their pictures and the Starz reflect more as Janice Hill said.

    1. sassynik says:

      I hadn’t considered Sam’s expression (or lack thereof) as being due to makeup but you could be right…perhaps a combination of makeup and photoshop? Either way, the magic just wasn’t there.

  8. Cindy says:

    I totally agree. I didn’t understand EW’s photo shoot chose to make Sam/Jamie look like he hadn’t bathed in quite some time. The VF photos are beautiful, and they evoke more emotion, for me anyway. Thank you for the article. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and you wrote exactly what I thought!

    1. sassynik says:

      Thank you so much Cindy! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  9. I agree completely with you Andree. The Entertainment Now people seem to think that they only need to promote the sex in the show and I find this both demeaning to the cast and the viewers.
    Outlander is so much more than a sexy romp and the actors portray so many sides to their characters in a wide variety of situations brilliantly. None of those photos felt like they conveyed any of the essence of Drums of Autumn and the pioneering drama about to unfold.
    I thought Sam looked bored in some (who could blame him) and some of the poses verged on the comical side. As for Sam’s skin tone. Someone over- did the spray tan or weathering make-up.
    The whole shoot looked false and awkward. Cait’s clothes were wonderful but the clothes seen in the Vanity Fair photo’s brought the true Claire in focus much better. Vanity Fair got it right and every shot was more revealing of the characters and the show putting the emphasis on the strength of Jamie and Claire as a true partnership. The intimacy is there without the innuendo poses.

    1. sassynik says:

      Yvonne, I loved your observation that “the intimacy is there without the innuendo poses.” It’s so true!

  10. @Yr_Obt_Svt says:

    I’m posting the same comments here that I made in a regional Facebook group and on another page where I think you’ve already read them, sassynik!

    I enjoyed the VF photos. I thought the EW photos were awkward and too derivative of the same kinds of shots of the Season 3 photos done by the same photographer. Also, don’t hate me, but I thought Sam’s eyes looked flat, kinda lifeless, like he was tired and uninterested in what they were doing that day. That’s the reaction I had looking at the EW photos. Cait looked great and her eyes sparkled some and showed more energy, but overall, I thought the EW covers were a “FAIL”.

    Also, for me, it was a big disappointment to see Sam so disengaged. In 99% of photo shoots or personal appearances since we first “met” him at the January 2014 fan event, his kindness and intensity shine. His affect was just flat flat flat in the EW photos.

    1. sassynik says:

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I so appreciate it!

  11. Jackie garwood says:

    Well said. I also saw the ew pictures as those were posed by two models not actors who star in one great series known as Outlander.

  12. Amy says:

    Wouldn’t change a word! Exactly what I thought when seeing each set of photos! Great job!

  13. Beth says:

    You hit the photo nail on the head! EW’s photos Are tired and a bad redo. Thank you for saying this . Perhaps E W is reading!beth

  14. Federica Emma says:

    Agree ! The answer is very simple Vanity Fair is completely different from ET !!! Fashion & Style together with great photographer !!ET it’s just entertainment …

  15. Connie Evans says:

    The EW phots are gratuitously sexy; the VF photos are genuine and honest. I think the EW ones turn off people who would enjoy the series.

  16. Melanie says:

    Absolutely perfect article! I’ve been ranting and raving about that EW photo shoot for days! Jamie looks more like a “teen heart throb” than the man we have come to love! Yes, and why is Claire all gussied up and Jamie looks like her stable boy? I can’t wait to see the Jamie and Claire we all love in the wilderness, carving a home for themselves! Thank you for your article. It saved me having to write one of my own!

  17. Pamela says:

    I absolutely agree with you. EW’s photos (past and present) always looked like the covers of bad “romance novels” to me (with all due respect to Romance Novels. Give me the “character” shots showing commitment, determination, love, support and humor!!

  18. Shoshanna Lansberg says:

    This was exactly how I felt! Thank you for this post!

  19. Nancy Skellenger says:

    I agree with your assessment of the two photoshoots. While I appreciate EW’s continued support & promotion of Outlander, this season’s spread was a bit odd. You hit the nail on the head about it’s focus & freshness. The VF photos depict more accurately what DOA means to a lot of us. TY for expressing this.

  20. Judy11 says:

    I am laughing so much at your comments. For me, I think you hit the nail on the head with your observations between the 2 photo shoots. Both Jamie and Claire seem to have ‘dead eyes’ and deadpan expressions (and grubby Jamie shirt ) in the EW shoot. This is not the Jamie & Claire we love so dearly. VF seems to have grasped the idea better putting them in their element of outdoors, but connected. That is the Jamie & Claire I love.

  21. Laurie McWilliams says:

    Spot on analysis. Entertainment Weekly photos made me uncomfortable. They don’t need to titillate, that isn’t who Jamie and Claire are. Their relationship has the most naturally organic, two halves of the same whole as it were. Something we all work to have, aspire to, search for; an unspoken connection that exists at all levels. Thanks for putting it out there! If people come to Outlander because of the EW photos, they will be disappointed.

  22. Elizabeth Connell says:

    Thanks for your writing, I certainly agree. My beef is the wigs which have been getting faker. Claire’s wig hairline is now more obvious but Jamie’s frizzy fringe is unrealistic– who ever wears a fringe like that? And totally unbecoming. Where is the Jamie of series one?

  23. Joan Tinnin says:

    Applause. Applause ♥️?

  24. Linda V says:

    EW’s photos were cringeworthy, no wonder they cannot get more men to watch it. They portray Outlander as a bodice ripper…Your article was spot on. Thank You!

  25. Patricia Taggart says:

    I agree with all that has been said but the thing that I can’t get out of my head as we come out of a Southern Hemisphere winter and cutting much wood with my husband. All the wood that Jamie is supposedly cutting looks so precisely sawn by an electric saw.

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