Diana Gabaldon on Episode 303 and the Endless Frank Debate (SPOILERS!)

Diana Gabaldon made some interesting comments on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community today, about what I've come to refer to as the Endless Frank Debate: did Frank have affairs, or didn't he? Was he sleeping with other women while married to Claire, or wasn't he?
The books never _do_ answer that question; assorted readers are obviously convinced that he did or he didn't--but they don't have any hard evidence to prove it one way or the other; the moral ambiguity abides, and they can argue it 'til they turn blue in the face, so far as I'm concerned. <g>

I imagine that many of you are saying indignantly, "Of COURSE he cheated on Claire! She certainly thinks he did." But it's not that simple. There's no proof, in the books. Just a lot of circumstantial evidence on both sides. And Claire is hardly an unbiased, impartial observer.

I've said before that I hope Diana Gabaldon never actually gives us a Definitive Answer to this question, in the books. I much prefer the ambiguity, because it generates so much discussion!

Diana also commented on the way the Frank/Claire storyline was handled in Episode 303.


There are SPOILERS for Episode 303 ("All Debts Paid") below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.









Obviously, the TV writers made a deliberate choice to come down on one side of the never-ending argument, practically hitting the audience over the head with a sledgehammer, IMHO, in order to make sure no one missed the point. As Diana says:
[The writers] do want us to go on liking Claire and that's so much easier if Frank is a skunk, because then we don't have to blame her for the ultimate failure of the marriage, for tuning out on him and treating him coldly, because obviously he deserved it, so yay, Claire! On with finding Jamie...

She concludes:
By and large, I thought it was very skillful and well done. It didn't happen, of course <cough>, but it was very well structured, written and acted, and serves its purpose in the arc of the story very cleanly.

As Diana is fond of saying, "the books are the books, and the show is the show". The TV show has given us a definitive answer to this longstanding question, but that doesn't mean that Book Frank cheated on Book Claire. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. And if we never find out for sure, that's fine with me.


Lorraine Black said...

I find it hard to believe that people can misconstrue Franks words, "I thought I was being discreet." when the Claire says, "The newest one putting pressure on you now? You actually thought I didn't know? God Frank you are the most oblivious man! I counted 6 in the last 10 yrs.And then Claire tells him many of the women asked her to give him up. He says,I shouldn't have thought you minded. You never made a move to stop me. If we can't believe that Frank and Claire didn't actually say these things, and that everything is from Claire's imperfect memory, then how can we believe anything that happens in these book? If we can't make the connection that Claire admitted to knowing Frank had affairs and Frank admitting he had the affairs by saying he thought he'd hid them well, and that he didn't think Claire minded but wanted her to anyway, then what in the h e double hockey sticks were they talking about? And why doesn't someone ask DG what the exact meaning of these lines are if we are not to take them at face value? She has written the answer. He did. To me it looks like she's forgotten those lines. If I accused my husband of having an affair and he said he thought he'd been discreet, I wouldn't think it was ambiguous. I would believe he'd had an affair.

Anonymous said...

I concur absolutely. Diana is muddying the waters on this issue. If indeed this conversation is ambiguous then I wonder what else I took as a given is also ambiguous.

Leann Nickerson said...


Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen books and tv series based on them are never the same , maybe the tv writers wanted to show how bad Claire & Franks marriage was in a way the book didn't , plus tv shows are always more dramatic than book , plus I think Frank saw that CLaire was still connected to Jamie in way he could never be so that's why he wanted a divorce , so he maybe would have re-married if he hadn't died in a car accident . will be watching more next Sunday . please post more soon. Happy Week. Sincerely.

Unknown said...

I completely agree with you. I even went back to read it over again.DG is just being difficult. Frank had affairs and Claire knew but said nothing because she knew in her heart she was with jaime.

Unknown said...

?? After reading the books...my impression was that Frank did cheat on Claire..seemed as though he couldn't forgive her and had many dalliances. She seemed the injured party. If the movie wanted us to feel sorry for Claire it missed the mark...as I watched I felt that Claire could not go back to Frank...he looked like he tried...but she just couldn't let go of Jamie. In the end Frank was the injured party...shut out by Claire...she couldn't love him. Her coldness led to his affaires.

♥Susanlynn said...

Well, I am very confused. I watched season one when it came out and then read all the books in the series before season two started. I saw LAoghaire as a conniving teen trying to get Jamie any way she could and FRank as an unlucky guy who had lost his wife to an 18th century SCottish warrior. Okay. Frank did not seem like a saint, but according to what Claire told me on the pages of the books, FRank was a good guy but could not compete with her one true love. Claire believed Frank was having affairs , and I had no reason not to believe CLaire because...well, I believed her about traveling back in time 200 years and marrying a SCottish hunk. If I could buy that , why would I doubt that she was right about FRank? What else should I doubt that CLaire has confided to me?

Anonymous said...

Frank was the bigger better man, I listened to all books and really dislike Jamie the way he was so insensitive to Claire through out all the books,saying and doing things that a normal woman would had got rid of him early on, but she's what I call an "educated idiot" Frank put Claire first and did everything for her and was a far better father than Jamie could have ever been.If she wouldn't have been such a "bag" from the start, he probably wouldn't have strayed! I could write a book on "whats" of Jamie's rude/cruel actions toward Claire, both to mention the MANY lies.

ladybee46 said...

Yes, I just read this the other night in Voyager. She even confronted him with the fact she had received several letters from women wanting her to leave Frank so they could marry him.
He did have affairs. He went so far as to imply that Claire had been with Joe Abernathy.
All this in the first edition hardback copy of Voyager, around page 220.

April Steele said...

Regarding Frank's inferred infidelities in the book... I have long thought that his infidelity could have been in researching into Claire's 18th century life. I thought that Frank would've preferred that Claire think he was with a woman for sex rather than digging into her past. I thought that the infidelity was in not telling Claire that he had found proof of her time in the 1700s...and worse... found that she had dragged Brianna back into the past as well. This is not to say that some of his female research assistants couldn't have fallen for him and tried to inveigle Frank's interest. He could have told them that they'd need to convince his wife...and perhaps some thought he was serious. Frank could merely have been confirming what he wanted his wife to think all this time. Because knowing that he'd found Jamie survived Culloden...and knowing that eventually Claire and his beloved Bree also returned to him in the 1700s was probably more than he could bear. I believe he tried to do whatever he could to prevent Brianna from time traveling...but in the event that he was unsuccessful, he also made sure she had some basic skills that a woman of the 18th Century would need. He taught her to ride a horse and how to shoot...not things most city-born girls had access to in the 1960s. He knew if Bree had gone back in time, he was likely dead...so he really had nothing to lose by trying to take her to England, in his eyes, I am sure, to save her from this possible fate.

Now, all this being said... I would certainly think Frank more than justified to find love where he could, if he could. In the books, he never shunned her from his bed. They continued to have a sex life...sometimes angry vengeful challenging sex, yes...but they still had sex. When he'd come late from the office she would often demand sex to prove he'd not been with someone else (already depleted and uncapable) and he yet he always rose to the challenge when she demanded it. So for me there was always ambiguity regarding his possible infidelities. I think his unfaithfulness was in not letting her know Jamie had survived, and that she could go back to him.

Brianna was his Catch 22. He thinks that if not for Bree that perhaps Claire could've forgotten Jamie, without that constant reminder. But without Bree, I think Frank would've granted her a divorce years earlier. I guess we will never know. I do hope that someday Diana will give us more information on what Frank knew and how it affected his decisions and choices. For me his behaviors ring true to a person in his situation. He is neither angel or devil...he is achingly human. He is a good man that doesn't always make the right decisions, like all of us.

Karen Henry said...


Well said, and I agree completely!


Molly Moore said...

You are too right, and those lines are pretty hard to misconstrue.

Molly Moore said...

Agree, most of us thought those lines made it perfectly clear, and it concerns me the change midstream.

Anonymous said...

No idea why DG is now suggesting that Frank may not have had affairs. His own comments in Voyager are clear and unambiguous.

Elizabeth Reiner said...

Well, ambiguity doesn't always work all that well on TV, and I'm a bit sad to lose it in the show.


I feel like the writers had to make a choice one way or the other, especially as they've decided to tell the first half of this season in parallel.

Claire's life and Jamie's life, running in parallel.

Their isolation from the world, despite being surrounded by the people who love them.
Their sorrow at the disconnect between themselves and their worlds.
The loss of a sense of purpose and duty.
The daily internal battles that both of them fight.
The sense of living without their hearts.

It's a lot to try and do in 4 hours of television up to this point!!

Anonymous said...

It's not hard to understand at all. As DG herself says, if he was still involved in the intelligence field, he had to let her believe the lesser of two evils even at cost to himself. He absolutely couldn't endanger her by telling her the truth, so he let her believe what she obviously believed. This is how his short one-liner can absolutely be explained as something else.

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