Post by Contributing Author, Susan Jackson
Whew. I was relieved when Outlander episode 402 was over. I felt heavy-hearted, and had to sit quietly for a while after it was over. One thing I can say is that this show has never been one to keep the awful harshness of 18th century life stuff out of front and center, but that’s what I love about this series. So, let’s dive in to my recap as well as a few thoughts of Do No Harm.
Listening to Jamie and Claire discuss Bonnet and his crew’s robbery is bringing back the “old” Jamie for me–he wants to protect all who are in his care, as he was brought up to do. I had thought he’d be a bit more beat-up looking, but realized that most of his abuse was taking in those amazing rock-hard abs–oh, wait–I can’t get those My Peak Challenge work-out Instagram pics that Sam posts so often out of my mind sometimes–sorry for the digression! But even though Jamie is feeling like letting Bonnet go is his “cross to bear,” it helps us see that Jamie is still a laird in his heart and mind.
Watching the scene of the boat floating upriver and into view of River Run almost took my breath–it was a beautiful sight! It was almost as how I’d pictured it, minus the Spanish moss dripping from the trees, but I was amazed at how “Southern” the house and land looked! Living in North Carolina and near a historic plantation site, I was afraid that they wouldn’t get this right, but this was one location I approve of.
Jamie seemed a little boy as he greeted his aunt, and then had to remember he had a wife to introduce, which I thought was adorable. Jocasta, played by Maria Doyle Kennedy, was much warmer than I remember from the books, and let on early enough that her eyesight had failed over the years. TV Jocasta is very proud of her plantation, almost to the point of bragging, as we hear during the scene when she is overseeing Claire’s fitting.
This is where I get disheartened by the portrayal of Claire so far. I feel like the producers/writers/directors are really trying to make the audience aware that Claire is opposed to slavery, and she speaks out every chance she gets, but in a bossy, pushy way, even to Jocasta, who is their hostess. Yes, Claire is outspoken and a woman of her time, but she knows when to be that 20th century woman while living in the 18th, as well as when not to be. I feel like it’s being overdone. I just haven’t felt any of Claire’s warmth or sense of humor so far–and I know it’s only the second episode of the season, but still.
During the fitting scene, where Phaedre (Natalie Simpson) is making sure Jocasta’s dress fits Claire perfectly, I was thrown by Phaedre’s accent. Trivial, I know, but I was surprised she was speaking with a slight Scots accent. Someone later reminded me that Phaedre was born at River Run, and Jocasta took her in for a house slave (a matter to be discussed later, I’m sure), was reared in the house, and so, learned to speak like Jocasta and Hector. Ulysses’ lack of any accent at all surprised me as well, and again I was reminded that Ulysses was born free, but sold into slavery after the death of his mother. He was bought by a schoolmaster, who educated him, and at the age of twenty, was bought by Hector Cameron, and brought to River Run. Colin McFarlane makes an absolutely amazing Ulysses–I can’t wait to see more of him!
The big news at the dinner party was Jocasta’s decision to make Jamie her heir, and that she is making him her representative for all things River Run. We are soon introduced to Farquard Campbell, the local justice of the peace who schools Jamie on what would happen to freed slaves, if Jamie chose to do so as the new master of River Run, and how it has to be done lawfully. Jamie soon lets Claire know that he’s ready to ditch the plantation, take Governor Tryon up on his offer and head for the hills, where they can live as they please, without slaves. (Like Governor Tryon, Farquard Campbell was an actual figure in North Carolina’s history, and you can read a little about him here.
And then we come to the incident at Jocasta’s sawmill in the woods, where Jocasta’s slaves are working under the watchful eye of her overseer, Byrnes. Rufus had been hit with Byrnes’ lash, and Rufus retaliated by cutting off the overseer’s ear with an ax. By the time Jamie, Claire and Campbell arrive at the mill, Rufus is being hoisted in the air by a sawmill hook, as Byrnes decided to take the matter of the law in his own hands. It was enough of a shock to read this part of Drums of Autumn, and even more so to see it on screen. Jamie forces Byrnes at gunpoint to let Rufus down so Claire can see to his wounds. She, in her typical emotion-driven way, runs to Rufus’ aid almost immediately. Rufus is brought back to the main house, a place he’s never been, and Claire removes the hook, sutures the wound, and offers comfort to him by asking him about his family, (reminiscent of the boar-hunting scene with Geordie in season 1).
Claire receives a stern talking-to from Ulysses that she may not have done the right thing by saving Rufus, and may be risking the well-being all of the slaves at River Run. She definitely needed this jolt into the ways of Colonial laws and slave-owning culture, but she wasn’t convinced. Jamie’s action of handling the situation as he did angers other overseers and slave owners in the area, and the angry mob shows up at River Run, demanding Rufus be released to them so they may hang him, as is the law according to the law of bloodshed. Jocasta, in true blood-is-thicker-than-water fashion, blames Claire’s “foolish ways.” Jamie suggests that Claire ease Rufus’ suffering by giving him something before he has to be released to the mob. Jamie’s prayer by Rufus’ bedside was so moving–I have missed Jamie’s faith in the television series. In the books, it’s part of what makes Jamie Fraser Jamie Fraser to me. Hopefully they’ll pull more of that aspect of him into the show as time goes on.
Eventually, Jamie bravely carries a dead Rufus to the steps of the plantation house, a noose is placed around his neck, and the delirious mob drags him to the nearest tree, and hangs him there, for all of those at River Run to see.
In spite of the necessary plot changes, and what I can only describe as Claire’s haughtiness in this episode, I liked it–I can’t say that I “enjoyed” it. It was expertly acted–Jerome Holder, the actor who portrayed Rufus, was absolutely amazing, and moved me to tears as he spoke of fishing in the river at night, and dreaming of seeing his sister once more. The sets, the costumes–everything–is so well thought out, just like Diana Gabaldon’s research and writing. I am almost never not in awe of what I see on screen.
Thankfully, we have the comic relief in this episode of Rollo’s meeting with a skunk and meeting John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees)–hernia-free, apparently. 🙂 His character, in book and on the show, reminds me of Mr. Edwards in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder–a bit of a wild man, unmarried, and making a living in the frontier that is Colonial North Carolina. I hope we see a lot more of him–he makes me miss Angus and Rupert even more!
As darkly as the first two episodes have ended, I can only hope we will be able to see some happiness in episode three. The Frasers have been through so much already, and so have the viewers–I’m ready for some good times to come to them in North Carolina.Susan Jackson is a mother of four who lives in coastal North Carolina, and is an avid Outlander fan. Besides reading, she loves cooking and baking, and music. She is a thyroid cancer survivor and has worked in education most of her life. She hopes to one day blog about her thyroid cancer journey. She is a contributing author for Outlander North Carolina and, among other articles, has previously written about the infamous Stede Bonnet in Will The Real Stephen Bonnet Please Stand Up?