'Outlander' postmortem: John Bell talks Ian's 'cool uncle' Jamie Fraser

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Creme de Menthe” episode of Outlander.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Like father, like son”? Well, when it comes to Outlander‘s dynamic printing (and smuggling) duo of Jamie Fraser and Ian Fraser Murray, it’s more like, “Like uncle, like nephew.” As the youngest son of Jenny and Ian Murray — Jamie’s beloved sister and brother-in-law — the 16-year-old Ian is still regarded as a child by his parents, hence his affectionate nickname, “Young Ian.”

But good ol’ Uncle Jamie (Sam Heughan) looks at the boy and sees the man inside yearning to break free. “Jamie knows that Ian is capable of being independent, and he’s loving the fact that he’s giving him this freedom,” the 20-year-old Scottish actor John Bell tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Young Ian’s story is almost young Jamie’s story. He’s also this young boy who grew up on a farm, and has a wide-eyed view of the world. I think Jamie sees a lot of himself in Ian, and Young Ian wants to be Jamie. He looks at him, and thinks, ‘Here’s a guy who has got it all together: he’s got his print shop, but he’s still a badass and doing things like smuggling and other treasonous activities. He’s more like the cool uncle rather than the dad!”

Uncle Jamie is so cool, he doesn’t even get angry when his nephew burns down their place of business: the A. Malcolm print shop where Jamie and Claire had their 20-years-in-the-making reunion. To be fair, Young Ian didn’t light the match that torched the place himself. He’s simply there minding his own business — and by “business” we mean a close encounter with a lovely tavern wench named Brighid (Zoe Barker) — when he hears an intruder rummaging around searching for the contraband liquor that Jamie is smuggling. In the ensuing struggle, said intruder fires a gunshot that shatters alcohol over an open flame, allowing the fire to spread and eventually consume Jamie’s beloved printing press, Bonnie. The perpetrator flees — though not before getting a faceful of acid thrown by Young Ian — while Ian himself is trapped in the blaze after trying to douse the flames.

Faster than you can sing, “Here I come to save the day,” Mighty Jamie plunges into the burning shop and hauls his nephew to safety. Naturally, the actors were never in any actual danger during that scene. Bell says that he and Heughan only saw the staircase being set ablaze — the rest of the burning interior was filmed without them present — and there was a fire crew standing by the entire time. “It was so much fun,” he says. “I love doing stunts and getting thrown about. Fire and throwing acid — it doesn’t get any better than that!”

For Jamie and Young Ian, of course, the fire is more devastating than fun. And it doesn’t matter that the elder Fraser absolves Young Ian of any wrongdoing: the teenager condemns himself to feeling guilty pretty much forever. “He’s riddled with guilt,” Bell says. “He’s absolutely ashamed of himself, and feels he’s the one to blame. It won’t sit well with Ian for a while; that’s his whole life that went up in flames, and he feels he needs to take responsibility for it.” Of course, Bell jokingly suggests that there’s another culprit Young Ian could blame the fire on: recently-returned Auntie Claire. “Jamie convinced Ian that everything’s going to be okay because he’s got Claire back in his life. But [the fire] happened after Claire turned up, so that was the problem,” he says. “She’s a trouble magnet — blame her!”

Rather than blame Claire, let’s maybe acknowledge that being a cool uncle doesn’t necessarily make you a great father figure. While Young Ian’s admiration for Jamie holds no bounds, Claire quite rightly questions some of her husband’s actions, like lying to Ian’s parents about his whereabouts or puritanically judging his own daughter, Brianna, for her taste in beachwear. Bell says that, off-camera, Heughan didn’t exactly adopt the manner of a father figure either. “He’s a big kid on set,” Bell says with a laugh. “I’ve got more sense on set than Sam does. But he works hard, and that’s something I love to do, too. He also says things like, ‘You’re doing good, son’ and things like that.”

As Bell recalls, Heughan didn’t offer any words of wisdom when it came time for Young Ian to engage in a time-honored Outlander pastime: a passionate sex scene. “He left me in the dark,” he mock-complains. “I was a total TV virgin. I hope I did all right!” It’s safe to say that viewers were likely satisfied with Young Ian’s sweetly romantic encounter with Brighid. After sweeping her off her feet at the tavern, the lovestruck teen brings her back to the print shop and asks her to be his guide. “Tell me how you like it; I’ll do whatever you want,” Young Ian says, showing more affection and care than most 18th century men likely would.

And that’s just another way that the boy takes after his uncle; just as Jamie is completely enamored with Claire, so too does Young Ian give his whole heart to the woman in his arms. “He’s definitely a bit of a romantic,” Bell confirms, adding that he and Barker felt more nervous than romantic the day their love scene was filmed. “That was the first time either of us had ever approached a thing like that! I’ll let you in on a secret: we did have a wee tipple of whisky beforehand. That really helped set the mood. Young Ian’s supposed to be a bit drunk anyway, so that helped create this moment of pure happiness, and finally feeling like he’s becoming a man.”

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.

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