‘Outlander’ Star Richard Rankin on Why Roger Didn’t Kiss Morag

Every now and then, Outlander sneaks in surprises for the fans who’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s books. But after seeing the emotional battle episode, “The Ballad of Roger Mac,” many are wondering why the show left out Roger and Morag’s infamous kiss.  Actor Richard Rankin opened up about the episode and explained why this notable part was written out. 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Outlander season 5, episodes 7 and 8, as well as spoilers for The Fiery Cross.]

Richard Rankin
Richard Rankin | Michael Tran/Getty Images

Why do Morag and Roger kiss in the ‘Outlander’ books?

The events in “The Ballad of Roger Mac” are based on the timeline of Gabaldon’s fifth Outlander book, The Fiery Cross. In the novel, Roger’s encounter with Morag during the Battle of Alamance is slightly different than depicted on the show.

In The Fiery Cross, when Roger sees Morag, he runs over to her to speak to her. He talks to her about her life in the colonies and the coming battle. After thinking about her ancestral relationship to him and how he protected her on the Gloriana when they were sailing together from Scotland to Wilmington, Roger gives her a friendly kiss (he does this with other characters in the books as well).

But when Buck MacKenzie sees Roger kiss his wife, he gets angry and gets his men to beat Roger. Buck then hands Roger over to the Red Coats and tells them he’s a Regulator captive. After that, Roger is hanged. 

Why the scene was left out of the episode

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Richard Rankin talked about Roger’s trauma and recovery in episode 8. When asked about the omission of Morag (Elysia Welch) and Roger’s kiss, he said the choice was made for “adaptive” reasons.

“With everything’s so compressed in television, that would give Roger less time to be forgiven for things that have been said, things that have been done wrong in the eyes of the fans,” Rankin told the outlet.  “It’s all very well in the books where you have much more time, you have much more description. But in a TV show where you only get one episode of seeing Roger kiss another woman? That’s not going to go down well with anyone, really.”

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He noted that showing Roger kissing Morag without much of a backstory or followup would make it look like he was betraying Brianna. And he says a betrayal like that would be “detrimental to Roger’s character.” 

“We want people to feel for Roger,” Rankin added. “We want people to feel that kind of sympathy for him and kind of be rooting for him. That’s going to have much less impact if you’ve just seen him snog the face off of another woman.” 

‘Outlander’ book fans were relieved the kiss was omitted from the show

Fans who’ve read the Outlander books are usually quick to point out the show’s discrepancies. But when it came to Roger and Morag’s kiss, many were relieved it never made it to the screen. 

“I really like that Roger didn’t kiss Morag, that always bugged me in the books. Hugging still accomplished the same thing and got him to the next point of his story,” one Reddit fan wrote.  

“Loved the switch to an embrace with Morag rather than a kiss. Can’t imagine the latter would have gone over well with all the fans who s already dislike Roger,” another fan wrote on Reddit. 

“So glad Roger didn’t kiss Morag,” another Redditor wrote. “Always thought that was just so weird and unnecessary.”