Sunday, November 11, 2018

Episode 402: "Do No Harm" (SPOILERS)



Here are my reactions to Episode 402 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Do No Harm".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.


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The opening shot of a slave (Phaedre?) winding an ornate and beautiful grandfather clock is very appropriate.

As the episode begins, Jamie is in a somber mood, blaming himself for the incident on the river at the end of Episode 401 in which Stephen Bonnet and his gang attacked and robbed them, killing Lesley and stealing their gemstones and Claire's ring. I like the way the overcast skies seem to reflect Jamie's mood.

"Now that murderous bastard's free to prey upon others. That's my cross to bear." Good line, and of course he's right. (Serious foreshadowing, for anyone who's read the books!)

River Run looks grand and elegant, very much in the style of old Southern plantation houses. I like the look of it from the outside, but naturally the sight of such wealth and opulence just reminds Jamie of how much they've lost.

"Now we're penniless."
"It wouldn't be the first time. You hadn't a shilling to your name when we were first married."

I like this (complete with the Jamie and Claire theme playing in the background). It's not in the book, but it's true enough, after all. As is her reminder that Jocasta is family.

Watching Jamie take off his hat, bowing to Jocasta, I couldn't help wondering why on earth he didn't bother to comb his hair before meeting her? (It's not Jamie's fault. I blame the wig.)

I liked the scene where they meet Jocasta. Maria Doyle Kennedy is really wonderful as Jocasta, and it's fascinating to see how she greets them, relying on touch and sound in place of visual cues. The bit with Young Ian offering Jocasta a posy of flowers was a clever way to introduce, right from the start, the fact that Jocasta is blind. Ulysses isn't quite what I pictured, physically, but that doesn't matter at all. He acts exactly as described in the books, always at Jocasta's side, quietly informing her of things she can't see.

"I am now gifted with hearing that would be the envy of many a gossip, and the ability to scent truth from lies, if ye catch my meaning."

I didn't care for this line. Why would Jocasta's blindness give her an advantage in detecting falsehoods?

As they walk up the path toward the house, you can see the slave cabins off to the right.

I love the interiors of River Run. Production designer Jon Gary Steele did a wonderful job with all the details, everything from the porcelain teacups to the furnishings in Jocasta's parlor.

I don't find it believable that Jocasta was keeping a close eye on Jamie all these years. Maybe she did know about his being in the wine business in Paris all those years ago, but how on earth would she have found out about what he was doing in Edinburgh, considering that he was living there under an alias?

The scene with Ian, Rollo, and the story of the skunk adds a welcome bit of humor, and I'm glad they included it, but I can't understand why they didn't shoo the dog out of the house the moment they detected the stink. Instead, they let him loiter in the hall just outside the parlor, presumably spreading the stench over everything he touched. (I'll have to suspend disbelief on this point.)

As they follow Ulysses up the grand staircase to their room, Jamie remarks on the similarities between Jocasta and his mother, Ellen.

"I always wished ye'd kent my mother, but having ye meet my aunt is...just fine." I like that, and the way Jamie and Claire smile at each other when he says it.

I love the shocked look on Ulysses' face when Claire says, "Call me Claire." And she hastily amends that to "Mistress Claire."

And here's our first look at Phaedre, played by Natalie Simpson. She's beautiful, and I enjoyed watching her in this episode. She has a way of reacting with her body language more than with words, so you have a pretty good idea what she's thinking.

Claire turns to the window, watching the slaves working in the fields nearby, and there's no question what she's thinking, either. Jamie's attempt to cheer her up with, "One day, it will all be different," doesn't help.

I liked the next scene, with Young Ian and John Quincy Myers. Myers' physical appearance reminds me irresistibly of Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, but he sounds like Myers did in the book, and I enjoyed listening to him talk.

"I've been allowing my beard to grow," Ian says. (Oh, really? If he has, it's very hard to see.)
"You've a long wait on your hands," Myers replies, making me laugh.

Throughout their whole conversation about the Indians, I couldn't take my eyes off the young slave boy, filling the tub from a wooden bucket. Ian and Myers basically ignore him as though he's invisible.

"Indians dinna sound that much different from Highlanders." It's fitting that Ian should be the first to recognize that, though I'm looking forward to Jamie coming to that same realization himself, eventually.

The next scene, with Jamie and Jocasta on the porch discussing slavery, is well done. I like Claire's red dress.

"Over the years, I've found my slaves to be more productive when treated with benevolence. [....] Why, some of them are so dear to me, I consider them friends."

Notice Claire's body language throughout this whole speech. I'm impressed that she managed to keep her mouth shut as long as she did, and not at all surprised that she got the hell out of there as quickly as she could.

In the next scene, with Lt. Wolff, I didn't find it believable that Jamie (who's been in the Colonies only four months) would be offering advice on agriculture.

"The cultivation of wheat along the river will likely bring ye a bushel of regret." That's a nice turn of phrase.

"Rice, however, would thrive along the river." Since when is Jamie an expert on the cultivation of rice, a crop that certainly doesn't grow in the much colder climate of Scotland? By the way, if you're skeptical (as I was) about the idea of growing rice in North Carolina, check out this article on the history of rice cultivation in the Cape Fear region.

I liked Jocasta's observation that "a woman's unsolicited views are not always welcome." Obviously something she learned from experience!

The scene with Claire being fitted for a new gown is taken mostly from the book (Chapter 10, "The Return of John Quincy Myers"), with only minor changes.

"She's got bonny eyes of indigo, and a bosom lassies would dream of," says Phaedre. Of course she can't describe Claire as having golden eyes like a tiger's, when TV Claire does not. I was a little surprised to hear Phaedre speaking in a Scottish accent, but it's plausible, for the same reason that the slave Josh, in the book, spoke that way.

I like Jocasta's gown in this scene. That's a lovely color.

Jocasta, asking Claire what she thinks of River Run: "Many others have marvelled at its grandeur. But what is it that ye most admire?" Is she just fishing for compliments?

When Claire says, "I don't agree with keeping people as property," notice how Phaedre looks up -- staying quiet, so her mistress won't notice.

I like this whole discussion between Claire and Jocasta, two strong-willed, opinionated women with opposing views. It's a pleasure to watch. Very entertaining.

Claire is a very bad liar, but she's forced to think quickly in order to answer Jocasta's question about how she came to share Quakers' views on slavery. "I...um...healed some Quakers once." Good effort, though it didn't sound very convincing.

"[Jenny] made mention in her letters [...] that ye were...spirited, headstrong, that ye'd no blush to share your thoughts on any matter, versed in it or no."

Haha! This line is a keeper, and pretty much nails Claire's personality. <g> Considering that Laura Donnelly has announced that she won't be returning as Jenny in Season 4, it's good to hear from Jenny indirectly, so to speak.

I love the costumes at the party. Claire's hairstyle took me by surprise -- it's very unusual to see her with her hair down like that -- but I liked the look, once I got used to it. Good to see they remembered Jocasta's friend, Farquard Campbell. He's shorter and considerably younger than I pictured him from the books.

"The Indians were on these lands first," Young Ian says. That strikes me as a VERY modern, 21st-century, PC attitude, something I wouldn't have expected from him. I think they're trying too hard to portray Young Ian as sympathetic toward the Native Americans, considering he hasn't actually encountered any yet.

And again, we see Ulysses quietly assisting Jocasta when she appears in front of her guests.

Jocasta's announcement that she intends to make Jamie her heir was certainly unexpected, but Jamie doesn't show much reaction. I would have expected him to be more startled, even angry, that she'd made that decision without even consulting him. But I suppose he didn't want to make a scene in front of all those guests, so he put on the sort of expressionless mask that we've seen Book Jamie assume many times.

But even when he and Claire are alone, he doesn't show any reaction. He analyzes it rather dispassionately, calling the move "calculated, something Colum or Dougal might have done", giving no hint of his own feelings. I didn't like that.

Jamie's first impulse, when Claire insists vehemently that she can't own slaves, is to propose that maybe they could work to make the slaves' lives better -- "a spark that might light a fuse" -- and he seems completely oblivious to the look of misery on Claire's face. That seems totally out of character for Jamie, who is generally so attuned to what Claire wants and needs, and I didn't like it at all.

The next scene, where Jocasta and Farquard Campbell discuss the details of the proposed arrangement with Jamie, is just terrific, very well-written and well-acted. James Barriscale, who plays Farquard, is wonderful, with a very commanding on-screen presence.

I liked the fact that Jamie refused the fat purse full of coins that Farquard handed him.

Farquard's reaction to Jamie's desire to free the slaves is very well done, and provides a welcome bit of overt conflict and drama in an episode that's so far been mostly talk. Listening to him methodically lay out all of the steps that would need to be taken in order to free the slaves, it rapidly becomes clear (to Jamie and to the viewers) how impossible this is.

"Ye canna put a price on freedom!"
"But the Assembly can, and does. One hundred pounds sterling a slave. That's over 15,000 pounds!"

Wow.

"You are newly come to North Carolina, and ye dinna comprehend the difficulties you will not only face, but also bring about, by entertaining such outlandish notions!"

Good line (I always smile whenever anyone uses that word "outlandish" <g>), and he's right. Jamie is an "outlander" here in many ways, unfamiliar with the local laws and customs, and somewhat out of his element.

In the next scene, where Jamie and Claire discuss Governor Tryon's offer of land, I don't understand why Claire is so set against the idea. "Accepting Tryon's offer will lead us to fighting in another war" -- why? At this stage, they still have plenty of time before the Revolution gets underway. But Jamie seems interested in the idea -- his eyes light up when he talks about recruiting settlers for the land.

Unlike in the book, no one utters a word of protest when Claire insists on accompanying them to the sawmill, despite the obvious danger. I rolled my eyes at the idea of Claire reattaching Byrnes' severed ear, and I'm glad they didn't pursue that idea.

The sight of the slave impaled on the hook is horrific, just as it's described in the book. I liked the way Jamie reacted, angrily ordering them to cut the man down and pointing his pistol in Byrnes' face. This is the Jamie we know from the books, and I'm glad to see it.

Farquard, to his credit, reacts appropriately to the situation, saying, "Your lawlessness will not be tolerated, no matter the provocation."

I was surprised by Claire's insistence on taking the injured slave back to the house for treatment, but I didn't really have a problem with it. It makes the whole situation in the rest of this episode much more dramatic and suspenseful. And it's consistent with her assessment in the book:
It was slowly dawning on me that the man I touched was possibly not fatally wounded, in spite of his horrible injury. From everything I could sense and feel, I thought that the curve of the hook had gone upward through the liver. Likely the right kidney was damaged, and the jejunum or gallbladder might be nicked--but none of those would kill him immediately.

It was shock that might do for him, if he was to die quickly. But I could see a pulse throbbing in the sweat-slick abdomen, just above the piercing steel. It was fast, but steady as a drumbeat; I could feel it echo in the tips of my fingers when I placed a hand on it. He had lost blood--the scent of it was thick, overpowering the smell of sweat and fear--but not so much as to doom him.

An unsettling thought came to me--I might be able to keep this man alive. Likely not; in the wake of the thought came a flood of all the things that could go wrong--hemorrhage when I removed the hook being only the most immediate. Internal bleeding, delayed shock, perforated intestine, peritonitis--and yet.

At Prestonpans, I had seen a man pierced through the body with a sword, the location of the wound very much like this. He had received no treatment beyond a bandage wrapped around his body--and yet he had recovered.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "The Law of Bloodshed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Of course it didn't happen that way in the book, but here we're going to see that scenario played out to its logical conclusion.

Back at Jocasta's house, I laughed a little when I realized that they were going to do a variation of the surgery-on-the-dining-table scene from the book. Claire's whole demeanor in this scene, making her preparations, reminded me vividly of William's description in ECHO of Claire as "the curly-wig giving orders like a sergeant-major." (AN ECHO IN THE BONE, chapter 56, "While Still Alive")

The medical box Jamie gave Claire in Episode 401 is really coming in handy in this scene! <g>

In the middle of this life-and-death situation, Jocasta walks in, unaware of what's going on. Naturally she's horrified, but at least she doesn't order Claire to stop what she's doing.

The contrast between the gory scene in the dining room and the very genteel, civilized atmosphere in Jocasta's parlor is very striking.

"Rufus is under my protection," Jamie says. That line isn't in the book, but I thought it was a good addition. Still, it's by no means enough to defuse the situation. I liked the way Jamie stepped away from Jocasta at the end of the scene, leaving her alone to make her decision.

Meanwhile, Claire tends to Rufus, who is awake and asking questions.

"Why did you heal me, Mistress?"
"Well, why wouldn't I?"

Good answer. Short and succinct, and it's the truth, after all.

"From what I can tell, that Byrnes is a son of a bitch." LOL! Good line.

Rufus's story of being abducted with his sister and sold into slavery is tragic, of course, but it also helps to humanize him, making it easy to empathize with his situation. Young Ian is unusually subdued after that, obviously seeing the parallels between what happened to Rufus and his own experience of being kidnapped and forced onto a ship against his will.

In the hallway, Claire encounters Ulysses, "keeping an eye on things". He informs Claire that by saving Rufus's life, she may have condemned him to a much worse fate: "It would have been better for us all had he died on this hook." And the dramatic tension cranks up another notch: what are they going to do now?

I liked Claire's reaction to the news that Rufus is to be turned over to the authorities to be executed. She responds exactly as I hoped she would: "No! No, I can't do that." And this time, Jamie shows sensitivity to her feelings, whispering, "I wish there was another way."

The circumstances are somewhat different than in the book, but the end result is the same. This is a tragic, no-win situation, a moral dilemma with no easy answers, just as it was in the book.
"If I save him, will they let him live?” I asked him, under my breath.

His eyes flicked from one to another of the men behind me, weighing the possibilities.

“No,” he said softly. His eyes met mine, dark with understanding. His shoulders straightened slightly, and he laid the pistol across his thigh. I could not help him make his choice; he could not help with mine--but he would defend me, whichever choice I made.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "The Law of Bloodshed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And suddenly there's an angry mob gathered outside, demanding Rufus's blood. Jocasta goes out to talk to them, leaving Jamie alone with Claire.

"I ken ye swore an oath to do no harm, but perhaps ye could aid him the way you did Colum?"

He's referring to Claire giving Colum the dose of "yellow jasmine" in Episode 212 ("The Hail Mary") that was intended as a means for him to take his own life. So here, unlike in the book, it's Jamie who comes up with the idea to deliberately give Rufus a drug that would kill him.

"I'm going to make you a tea," she tells Rufus. We don't learn what's in it, but it apparently takes some time to take effect. Claire helps him to drink it, then sits with the dying man, holding his hand, talking soothingly to him -- just as she did in Episode 104 ("The Gathering"), with Geordie, the man who was fatally injured during the tynchal -- encouraging him to focus on memories of his sister, in happier times.

"I watch the moonlight on water, and I think, Abena might be somewhere, under the same moon. And I dream--I dream I might see my sister again one day." Awwww, that's sad.

When the clock struck midnight, I thought, judging from the sound, that it must have been a church bell or something like that. Maybe it was just my imagination, but the sound seemed much too loud, way out of proportion to what I would have expected from a grandfather clock.

As Claire settles the dead slave's hands across his chest, you can see that this is the bit they included in the opening credit sequence. It didn't mean anything to me before, but now, every time I see that bit in the opening credits, I'll think of this very poignant moment, with Jamie and Claire kneeling at the dead man's bedside, praying for his soul.

And as the mob drags Rufus away, fixes the noose around his neck and strings him up from a tree within sight of that grand mansion, I saw the expressions on Jamie and Claire's faces and thought, that's it, the decision is made and there's no going back now. There's just no possible way they can stay here, after what's happened.
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I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 403.

Looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER? Check out TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free.

11 comments:

catislander said...

Thanks Karen. I always enjoy your commentary. While the show overall has been stellar, I must admit the wig is getting on my nerves.

Vicki @ lifeinmyemptynest said...

Overall the episode was good, but for me, the change of location for the slave incident really bothered me. It just seemed disrespectful to Jocasta to take the slave to her house and not something book Jamie would have done. I guess we will see, but won't there now be tension with Jocasta after this incident? Will they still come back for visits like nothing happened?

Leanne said...

Hi Karen
As a devotee of all things Outlander I continue to enjoy the series but must admit I'm a little underwhelmed. There just doesn't seem to be the grandeur and excitement of the book yet. I would've liked to see John Q. A. have his operation!
And I'm still coming to grips with the wrong ring being saved! I don't understand that change.
Of course I'll stil be glued to the screen next week!
Love reading your recaps too.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your blog! I have not really liked the episodes so far but hopefully it will improve. I also wondered about the tension with Jocasta now and how that would be handled in future seasons. Claire traveled from 1968 and not 2018 so I am hoping they keep that in mind and not try to make her extremely modern. She will have life experience from the 1940s, 50s and 60s

Jana Warren said...

Hello Karen -

thanks for your blog on E402. You make alot of good points about our Outlander couple!

What struck me was the fact that Jamie's love and loyalty to Claire put him in a particularly rough spot. And, given the fact that the pirate Bonnet had emasculated him in the robbery, he is really struggling to be the protector/soldier, that he has always envisioned himself to be. In this episode, however, I think that his inner strength comes shining through!
His reason and love allowed both of the women he cares to be true to who they are (physcian/Claire, plantation owner/Jocasta). While it must have been hard for Jamie, this demeanor expressed his inner strength and love. The TV series allowed the blind Jocasta to be brave in front of the 'neighbors' / mob. the TV series allowed color blinded Claire to go to 'base' training of WWII nursing instincts and 20th century surgical training. The series has the wherewithall to pursue and show our country's colonial 'barbarianism'. /Jana Warren

Tricia said...

I assumed Jocasta knew about Jamie's life in Edinburgh from Jenny's letters. which are mentioned later. Jenny would have known what Jamie was up to, even though he was using an alias.

Dancing Nancy said...

Love your recaps, Karen. They always add to my understanding of the episode. Your knowledge of the books is a great help! A couple of comments: I thought they aged Claire very well when she and Jamie were on the boat, both this week and last week. Also, it was very realistic for me that Jamie's hair should be matted down and sweaty when he removed his hat greeting Jocasta. He was quick to put it back on again. I felt Jocasta's line to Jamie about men not appreciating her views was really directed at Claire. Jamie being Jamie, he could have schooled himself in colonial agriculture in his four months in the south, imho. However granted, you would know much better being from down there yourself. Again, thanks for taking the time to write these recaps. I look forward to them!!

Linda said...

It mildly annoys me that Clare doesn’t keep her thoughts on slavery between her and Jamie. She seems to forget at times that she chose to return to the 18th century where she well knows that there is still slavery. She also well knows that soon there will be a civil war and slavey will be abolished. She should know full well there is nothing to be done about it for the time being. Why can’t she just keep a low profile for Jamie’s sake if not her own.

Susan said...

Hi Karen,
I personally thought this was a very powerful, emotional and important episode for this season. I agree with Tricia about Jocasta, through Jenny, keeping informed on what Jaime has been doing. If she keeps up with Jenny it stands to reason she would stay informed about Jaime, they being her only adult niece and nephew. Totally in character for Claire to have Rufus taken to the dining room table, just as she did with Jaime in episode 3o8, First Wife. That was a much more compelling scene than expanding on John Quincy Myers' hernia scene from the book.
I feel all the new characters were beautifully portrayed, a very strong episode that sets up the need for Jaime and Claire to forge their own path.
Thanks so much for your detailed analysis of each episode, always so well done!

Susan said...

Karen,
I would like to leave one last comment. I know there was a lot of controversy over the song choice at the end of episode 1 and people feeling disappointed in some way by episode 2 and questioning whether they will continue to watch.
Diana Gabaldon didn't shy away from anything uncomfortable in her books and we shouldn't expect less from the tv writers and producers. These first two episodes were heart wrenching, each in their own ways. Good television makes you think, touches you in some way, makes you feel, stays with you long after you've watched it. Outlander has done that, exceptionally! Let's enjoy the books AND the tv series for the fantastic but different beasts they are!

Anonymous said...

Hello Karen,
It was puzzling to me that in the first two episodes of this season, Jamie’s hair was so tangled and unkempt. Personally, I think it looks terrible. Sam (Jamie) is such a handsome man! Of course in the day/age the series takes place and the fact that Jamie isn’t a plantation gentleman but rather a frontiersman...he’s not going to have every hair in place!!!! Now you are saying he’s wearing a wig. I haven’t been up on reading about Sam’s own hair but has it thinned out in the front that much that the producers have him in a wig? I’d hope that they find a wig he can wear that is more complementary and a little less a mess!!