As you can guess by the title of the episode, there is going to be something that goes against the Hippocratic Oath. Claire being a doctor has faced many a deadly scene, and saved many lives, including an excise man who clearly meant her harm in Season 3, Cream De Menthe. So it is with a title like this that we find that The Colonies are indeed becoming a very dark place indeed for the Frasers. And as always, don’t read on unless you’ve watched Season 4 “Do No Harm”.
I also have to warn you, if you are a big Diana Gabaldon and Drums of Autumn fan, there are story changes in this episode. Many of the changes portend even more to come. I enjoy many of the changes, and agree that not everything can make it to the screen. That said, a few things stay in, if not exactly in the book, then the spirit of the situation.
We begin with our travelers still on the river, heading to Aunt Jocasta’s plantation. Jamie, Claire and Ian show up worse for wear at the River Run dock. After their encounter with Stephen Bonnet, they arrive as paupers, which shames Jamie greatly. They are welcomed in and find that the vast property is heavily worked by slaves. While Jocasta explains away concerns, and that she tries to keep families of slaves together, it is still apparent that the practice of slavery runs deep in the colonies and Jamie and Claire are faced with a moral dilemma. Claire is very adamant about her views on slavery, and is identified as being a Quaker by Jocasta trying to make sense out of such ideas.
To help adjust to life in their new surroundings, Rollo has decided to have an encounter with a beast most foul. The rare bit of Outlander comedy ensues and we meet John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees), the bigger than life mountain man that will help guide the Frasers and Young Ian through their first adventures in the wilds of America. However, his first mission is to rescue all from a fate worse than death smell that Rollo manages to find, courtesy of a wee black and white beastie. We also have a change from book, a certain medical procedure seems to not come into play at River Run. However, true to Outlander writer’s form, a far more sinister one comes into play later.
Again the Frasers are cursed. We meet yet another odious character in the form of Lt. Wolff (Lee Boardman), and he is just as annoying if not more so than in the books. He is one of many suitors of Jocasta Cameron’s, one she has turned down before. She has huge acreage and wealth in the plantation and he considers it his right, and uses the Navy contracts to push his personal agenda. He is used to negotiating with Jocasta, and when Jamie begins to assist his aunt, is met with brusque resistance. To make matters worse and as a preemptive strike, Jocasta acknowledges Jamie Fraser as her heir in River Run, showing she is every bit Colum and Dougal MacKenzie’s sister. She seeks to have a way to keep her unwanted suitors at bay and has found the perfect way to do it through Jamie.
A matter of great distress occurs as Jamie is adjusting and discussing the new role of being named heir to River Run. He immediately sets on a path to find some way to do away with the slavery issue, to find some way to emancipate the slaves and pay them as servants. As is pointed out by Farquard Campbell (James Barriscale), a dear and long time friend of Aunt Jocasta’s and landowner, and the every encroaching Lt. Wolff, that the laws must be followed in order to free a slave. Slave must have saved a life, and there is a compensation of £100 per slave to buy their freedom. Unfortunately Jamie learns quickly that the laws are just as hard to work around in the Colonies as they are in Britain. His grand sweeping ideas will meet with great resistance. And this plays out in a terrible fashion.
News comes from the pine works that a slave has attacked an overseer and drawn blood. Jamie, as new Plantation Manager and Claire the healer, rush off to aid the man, and in so doing become embroiled in a scene of slave punishment and laws they do not understand. A young slave, named Rufus, is found hanging by a hook, Jamie rushes in with pistols and demands that Rufus be taken down. With Farquard Campbell trying to diffuse the situation, and explain the laws to Jamie and Claire, there are grave consequences if the punishment of the slave is not carried out. Claire has the young slave brought back to the house and she saves his life from the hook wound, only to have to make a terrible decision later.
Claire has been against slavery and being from the 20th century, finds it abhorrent in any form. In saving a life and following her oath as a doctor, she does not see all that is going on around her or the consequences. In comes Ulysses, to explain the reality of slave life to Claire and her headstrong convictions. The ever faithful Ulysses (Colin McFarlane) is always at Jocasta’s side and as book readers know, really is the one who has kept River Run running. He is well educated for a slave, and seeks to educate Claire on how the lives of the others slaves are affected if one slave does something that is against the law. All slaves on the plantation will be made to suffer if Rufus is not taken to justice by the overseers. Ulysses is a steady hand in the household of River Run, and will keep things running as smooth as possible, and seeks to educate Claire. However make no mistake, his loyalty is to Aunt Jocasta.
Again we see that the Frasers and Young Ian are still not finding a place to call home. The River Run plantation is a great beauty of a place, but it’s underlying current is one that reflects the other plantations in the colonies, that of an ugliness lurking below. It is operated on the backs of slaves and cannot run without them. The laws are unjust, as Claire and Jamie have already experienced in Wilmington, and even more constricting in a place like River Run. The offer of becoming settlers on land of their own that Governor Tryon offered to Jamie and sponsoring other settlers, is becoming more and more appealing to Jamie. Is this an escape and a way to make the rules their own, or will it be filled with just as much danger and injustice brought on by life in The Colonies?
Book or No Book
There is always the possibility that what was cut out of this episode, may turn up later. Gabaldon’s writings are so rich and much detail has been edited due to time and feasibility constraints. It could even involve a different character, one we all love and hope to see return. I could see a particular medical procedure being performed on this character, the actor is always up for an interesting challenge.