On Starz’ Outlander season four episode two, “Do No Harm” refers to Claire’s Hippocratic Oath as you might expect, but there is another meaning that will become evident by the close of the episode. So, let’s get started…
We pick right back up where we left off, in the aftermath of the robbery of the Frasers. Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have lost all their money, jewels, and other valuables, save Claire’s ring from Frank. Jamie lost a valuable and longtime loyal friend in Lesley when Stephen Bonnet slit his throat.
As Jamie always does, he blames himself for not being able to stop the group of thieves, even though he was tremendously outnumbered in the situation. As Claire’s trying to console him, they come upon the River Run plantation. Ian’s (John Bell) eyes about pop out of his head at the sight of it. Homes of River Run’s size in England or Scotland would be owned by nobles or royals.
In the book there was a bit more time between the theft and the arrival at River Run. They visited a town where some of the events that took place in last week’s episode occurred in the show. Between the two episodes they span a great deal of pages in the book and are rather jumbled, so I won’t dwell on the comparison.
As they approach the dock Jamie laments the fact he’s coming to his Aunt Jocasta as a beggar instead of in a position of financial independence. Aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and her servant Ulysses (Colin McFarlane) welcome them as they come up the dock from the boat. She warmly greets each of them as they arrive.
In the show, Jocasta announced bluntly she’s blind. In the book you must infer that over time, and Claire figured it out eventually. Jocasta hid it more effectively in the book. A wealthy woman of the time still didn’t have as much right to an opinion among most men, much less one in a vulnerable spot of being without her sight.
Ian (John Bell) darts after Rollo, but the rest of the party go inside. Jamie informs Jocasta of the misfortune that befell them on the journey to River Run. Jocasta’s appalled by the attack and gracious in her welcome for them to stay as long as they are of a mind.
The book took much longer to get to the point of Jocasta quietly manipulating Jamie into the assistance of being the male head of the house. He got to know the fields and the sawmill very well before visitors appeared in the usual course of business that required Jocasta to have him speak to the other men on her behalf. In the show, Jocasta gets right to the point. MacKenzies are a bit sneakier in the book, but sneaky they remain even in the show. The show must demonstrate the quality in a different way.
As Jocasta’s explaining she’s been keeping up with Jamie’s actions in Paris and Edinburgh – all the legal aspects of course from Jenny’s point of view in her letters – an atrocious odor precedes the poor beast Rollo. Ian arrives at the front door and the smell dumbfounds he and Jamie. (Welcome to the New World and new creatures.) Rollo, being a local animal, should know better than to tangle with a skunk. Jocasta explains what a skunk is and informs Ian she has a friend that could rid Rollo of the smell. Claire orders Ian to take the beast outside and wait for the friend.
Jamie and Claire are taken to a room upstairs that Mary (Mercy Ojelade) and Phaedre (Natalie Simpson) are preparing for them. Claire stuns them when she asks them to call her Claire. Seeing their uneasiness at the request, Claire amends it to be Mistress Claire.
Ulysses and the servants leave quickly, and Jamie immediately points out how quiet Claire has been. He knows her feelings about the slaves on the plantation. In the book, Jamie didn’t like the slave situation either but was more able to see it for what it was than Claire. She knew the future was very different, but being faced with the actual reality of slavery hit her harder than it did Jamie. Jamie didn’t like it, of course, and he knew what it was to be forced into doing something you don’t want to do due to his time at Hellwater after the rising. However, he hadn’t yet been faced with the reality of slavery in the colonies. Claire knew the historic abuse and atrocities, so her disdain for the practice ran much deeper. Jamie was fully aware of how the British did him, and especially Black Jack Randall in forcing him to do things. The American slavery situation was similar but on a grander more terrible scale at times, depending on the owner or overseer.
Outside, Ian and his new helper, John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees), are working to rid Rollo of his stench in a tub of vinegar. Myers was the character I had hoped would encounter Claire in the show the same as in the books. No filters or personal modesty was possessed by Myers. But, read the books to find out how Claire and he first met. It was hilarious, or was to me anyway. In the show, Myers helps Ian and explains a bit about the Indians. Myers also has no shame in comparing his butt hair to a buffalo. As Myers draws attention to how the Indians behaved, Ian sees similarities to Highlanders clans and Indian tribes.
Back up at the main house, Jamie and Claire are on the front porch with Aunt Jocasta. Jamie gets the list of the plantation’s crops and revenue as Claire gazes uneasily at the fields and the slaves working the soil. Jamie asks how many slaves are on the plantation, and Jocasta explains there are 152 in total. She also explains she always bought them in lots, so family units could stay together. She treats them well and considers some to be friends. You knew Claire would pipe in to ask if Jocasta thought the feeling was mutual on the side of the slaves. Jocasta handles her slaves far better than most owners, but Claire can’t abide the practice in any fashion.
Claire leaves to go and replenish her herbs, and Ulysses announces that Lieutenant Wolff (Lee Boardman) is waiting to see Jocasta. Jocasta introduces Lieutenant Wolff to Jamie and he sets right to his purpose of getting Jocasta to consider planting wheat as her fellow local plantations are doing. Jamie chimes in to inform the Lieutenant that rice, not wheat, would do better along the river lands. Wheat required dryer soil. The Lieutenant doesn’t take well to the rebuke, but of course he wouldn’t take well to anything Jamie has to say. The Lieutenant has an eye on the plantation, given Jocasta’s status as a wealthy widow. Jamie’s arrival puts a kink in his plans, potentially.
In preparation for the gathering Jocasta set in honor of her nephew’s arrival, she and Phaedra oversee alterations on a dress for Claire to wear. Since Jocasta cannot see Claire, she starts inquiring after her appearance, hair color and such. The look on Claire’s face is priceless as Jocasta and Phaedra start a back and forth about her appearance as if she isn’t in the room.
Jocasta asks Claire for her opinion about River Run, and Claire’s guarded reply doesn’t go unnoticed by Jocasta. She knew there was an element of disapproval in Claire’s voice. She asks Claire straight out about what it could be she doesn’t approve of about the plantation. Our always opinionated and forthright Claire gets right to the root of the matter in the slavery element. Since the opinion that Claire holds is rare in that time, Jocasta asks if she’s a Quaker. Claire must make up a story that some Quakers she healed once informed her opinion on slavery. That was not how it was handled in the book, but again you have a great many pages in a book to covertly handle such delicate matters. Jocasta muses that she does like Claire’s fiery spirit and likens her to a true MacKenzie.
That evening at the gathering that introduces Jamie to Cross Creek society, much of the conversation turns to political views ranging from taxes to Indians. Claire remains steadfast in her beliefs that people should not be property and the Indians owned the land first before the English arrived in the New World. These views don’t go over well with the local gentry and other leaders of the community.
Jocasta calls for a toast to announce she intends to leave her wealthy plantation to Jamie as her kin and heir. In the book she didn’t outright announce that intent; she discussed it with Jamie in private. As I mentioned, the MacKenzie way must be sped up in the show verses how the book rolls out the events. In the book he had time to consider the offer and what all of it would mean for he and Claire. In the show the news took Jamie by surprise, as was Jocasta’s intention so he would be hard-pressed not to accept such an offer.
The news is not very welcome to Lieutenant Wolff or Farquard Campbell (James Barriscale).
Later that evening, Jamie and Claire discuss the offer in private. Claire declares, in rather panicked tones, that she unequivocally cannot own slaves. Jamie agrees and thinks that he might be able to set them free eventually. In the book, he doesn’t even propose it because he already knows it’s not possible. The laws of the times do not make it easy to free one slave, much less a plantation of 152.
The next day, Farquard Campbell who has been assisting Jocasta when male assistance in business had been needed, discusses Jocasta’s Will with Jamie and Jocasta in private. Jamie raises the idea of eventual freedom for the slaves and it becomes Campbell’s turn to restrain himself from panic. He lists the extensive process and cost it would take to free Jocasta’s slaves, and the possible cost to Jamie and Claire’s life in the bargain. Campbell clearly infers that others with similar ideals had disappeared in the past. Jamie outright says a threat to his life is of no concern to him.
Jamie discusses the unwelcome process to free the slaves with Claire to dash any ideas either of them had of being Lord and Lady of River Run. Jamie raises the idea of the land the Governor of North Caroline offered, but Claire is against that idea too. That would put Jamie in indenture to the British Governor for the sizable land grant given, putting them on the wrong side of history yet again.
As Jamie and Claire are discussing the quandary, Jocasta and Ulysses come outside in a hurry. Jocasta asks Jamie to represent her in a matter of the slaves. One slave, Rufus (Jerome Holder), chopped off the overseer, Byrnes’ (Cameron Jack) ear.
Claire immediately grabs her traveling medicine kit to see to the injury alongside Jamie as he tends to the other aspect on Jocasta’s behalf. When the pair arrive at the scene, Campbell’s explaining the law in the situation. Once Jamie and Claire see that Rufus is being hoisted on a metal hook through his side up into a tree, Jamie demands he be taken down. Naturally, the barbarism and excessiveness of the punishment isn’t allowed either, but Byrnes is determined to see it through. At least that is until Jamie thrusts a pistol in what’s left of his face that’s not covered in blood from his separated ear.
In Claire’s usual fashion, they bring Rufus back to the main house so she can operate on him to remove the hook. Little did Claire understand at that point that all she was doing was prolonging the lawful execution. Always the physician first, Claire’s only concerned with taking that hook out.
They get Rufus to the dining room table and she performs her usual skillful surgical duty to remove the hook and get Rufus quietly resting. The rest of the plantation’s exploding into chaos around them.
Wolff and Campbell come to the main house to speak with Jamie and Jocasta. Campbell knows Rufus must be turned over to receive his punishment of hanging. Jamie boisterously rejects that idea, but calmer heads prevail – namely Jocasta’s. Campbell and Wolff warn of the neighbors rioting at her front door if the lawful punishment’s not delivered. She requests the men allow her to work out a compromise of delivery of Rufus by midnight.
Jamie knows that while Claire’s working on Rufus there’s no wrenching him away from her.
Rufus wakes after his ordeal to see Claire and Ian standing over him. He asks why she healed him given his fate is to die for his crime. Claire says that she thought he had good reason for doing what he did, but she doesn’t understand that reason had nothing to do with the outcome. As Claire’s trying to get Rufus to rest, he speaks of his family far away and before he was taken across the sea to be a slave. Rufus drifts off to sleep talking of his sister, and Claire sends Ian to bed as well.
As she’s putting the dirty rags and metal hook in another room, Ulysses stands in one corner observing on Jocasta’s behalf. Ulysses informs Claire it would have been better if Rufus had died already. Ulysses is blunt and clear about what horror truly awaits Rufus.
Jamie enters the room as Claire’s sitting alone with the sleeping Rufus. He informs her that they must turn Rufus over at midnight. Claire doesn’t take kindly to that news, as we knew our Sassenach wouldn’t.
Jamie lays out the consequences of punishment to the others if Rufus doesn’t suffer his fated execution. As they’re talking, a mob of overseers storm the front of the house. Jocasta tells Jamie they’re out of time and Rufus must be delivered to the men for judgment. She heads to the front of the house to address the mob before they set her house up in flames.
Jamie returns to Claire to propose an idea that might ease the situation. He suggests Claire give Rufus the same way out that Jamie’s uncle took with the poison. Claire’s oath is to do no harm, but in that situation poison was the kindest way out. Rufus nor Claire can prevent the Reaper all together. It’s down to a matter of how painful his death is to be.
As Jocasta’s outside trying to bring the mob to calm, Claire’s inside making a cup of tea spiked with poison for Rufus. Claire asks about his sister and keeps him talking until he drifts away to his everlasting sleep. Even through her tears Claire tries to fulfill her oath to do no harm. A peaceful death is all she can provide.
Jamie takes Rufus’ body out to the mob as instructed, but not before saying a prayer over the man for all their souls: Rufus, Jamie, and Claire. As Jamie places the body on the porch, the mob places a rope around his neck and drags Rufus to a nearby tree. All they can do is stand and watch the monstrous display. Claire had robbed them of their prize. The mob wouldn’t hear Rufus scream in pain as he’s pulled by the neck across the ground and hoisted into a tree. His soul had long departed in peace.
Throughout the episode, the concept of Do No Harm kept coming to mind as I’m sure was the intent because everything in Jamie and Claire went against the way things had to be at River Run. Jamie was born to run such a place, but not run it with slaves. If those slaves were removed and paid for their activities, as is what happens 100 years later, it would set off other plantations into chaos. One plantation could not upset the order of things without upsetting the order of all. Do No Harm. Leave things as they are…for now. Decency and morality have their day in the end…always!
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- Outlander Season 4 Episode 3 “The False Bride” Recap
- Outlander Season 4 Episode 4 “Common Ground” Recap
- Outlander Season 4 Episode 5 “Savages” Recap
- Outlander Season 4 Episode 6 “Blood of My Blood” Recap
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- Outlander Season 4 Episode 10 “The Deep Heart’s Core” Recap
- Outlander Season 4 Episode 11 “If Not For Hope” Recap
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