Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown
If circles were a theme in episode 1, then it can be argued that intention is the theme of episode 2. Many characters in this episode have intentions. Some are of doing good, some are of protection, some of vengeance and some of survival. But regardless of the individual, all the intentions are ultimately governed by the law and what is expected will be done.
When the episode begins, Jamie and Claire are dealing with the aftermath of Bonnet’s attack. Jamie laments Lesley’s shallow grave on the riverbank, saying that he deserved a decent burial. He is blaming himself for the events, taking no solace in Claire’s insistence that it is not his fault, as they had both trusted Bonnet, who had played on their sympathies. But Jamie is full of regret: he could not defeat Bonnet when it mattered most, he says, unable to protect Claire from the attack. Claire reminds him that he was outnumbered and that Bonnet and his men were armed to the teeth. Jamie takes no comfort in this fact, as Bonnet is now at large and free to prey on others, which is, he says, his cross to bear. But his self blame is interrupted at this point by the captain announcing the first sight of River Run.
As a palatial house appears, to an appropriately grand musical score, young Ian is marvelling at the sight before them. He asks why Jamie hadn’t informed them that his Great Aunt Jocasta lived in a home befitting a king. As Ian prepares for disembarking, Jamie and Claire stand looking at the house. Jamie laments again their present circumstances: with the coin and gemstones he was a man of means, but now they are penniless. Claire reminds him that it wouldn’t be the first time, as he had little more than a shilling to his name when they married. Besides, she continues, Jocasta is family and they are lucky to have relatives to turn to.
Leaving the captain to organise the unpacking of the boat, Jamie and Claire walk towards an older woman, who is approaching them with the assistance of a servant. Enter Jocasta Cameron. Both Jamie and his aunt are keeping their emotions in check, but it is quickly obvious that this is an important moment for each of them. “Welcome to River Run,” Jocasta says, and Jamie makes a formal bow. Jocasta holds out her hands to him and, his breath catching in his throat, Jamie walks forward into her embrace.
Jocasta is overcome too, her voice shaking a little as she declares him to have grown into a giant, courtesy of the Mackenzie blood flowing through him. Jamie looks tearfully down at his aunt, remarking that he was only a bairn when she last saw him. They reminisce about Ellen, Jamie’s mother and Jocasta’s sister, each saying how much they miss her. These are moments beautifully acted by both Sam Heughan and newcomer Maria Doyle Kennedy. We are reminded here that Jamie has been without a maternal figure for most of his life and that his relationship with Jocasta will be the closest thing he will have. In just a few lines and beautifully unguarded facial expressions, Sam Heughan shows us a Jamie who is eager for acceptance, and almost shy as he introduces Claire to his aunt.
The two women’s initial formality, with Jocasta curtseying and Claire referring to the older woman as “Mistress Cameron” are quickly abandoned. Jocasta insists that Claire call her “Aunty”, given that they are kin and they embrace.
Young Ian strides off the jetty, with a bunch of flowers and Rollo at his heels. Jamie introduces Jocasta to her great nephew and Ian steps forward smiling. He presents his flowers, which Jocasta makes no move to take. At this point, her servant clears his throat and tells Jocasta about the flowers, and we realise that Jocasta is blind. She explains that she still sees shapes and shadows, but it has been a long time since her sight left her. Ian expresses regret, but Jocasta won’t be pitied. She has, she tells him, hearing that would make any gossip envious, along with the ability to tell the truth from lies. Rollo makes his presence known with a hearty bark, and as Ian goes to fetch him, Jocasta takes hold of both Claire and Jamie’s hands, telling them that they will be treated to some River Run hospitality and asking her servant, Ulysses, to lead the way to the parlour.
Inside, Jamie tells Jocasta about Stephen Bonnet. Jocasta expresses outrage, saying that Bonnet should be hanged. When Jamie says that Bonnet would have done just that had it not been for him, Jocasta echoes Claire’s earlier sentiment that he is not to blame and that they should stay at River Run as long as they like. When Jamie says he doesn’t wish to be a burden, Jocasta ensures him that they would be far from that. They are kin, she tells him, and besides it would be good to have a strong man with a head for business at her disposal. Jocasta tells Jamie that she intends to hold a gathering in their honour, revealing that she has been keeping an eye on his accomplishments in both Paris and Edinburgh. She declares him capable of accomplishing anything he takes on and although he feigns discomfort at Jocasta’s flattery it is obvious that her determination to lavish her attention on Jamie pleases him.
The proceedings are interrupted by the smelly appearance of Ian and Rollo, who has just had his first encounter with a skunk. Both Jamie and Ian are unaware of the creature, but Claire and Jocasta assure them that a skunk is not venomous, only malodorous. Ian is sent in search of Jocasta’s friend John Quincy Myers, a man of the world, she says, who will be able to rid Rollo of the stench.
Meanwhile Claire and Jamie are shown to their quarters by Ulysses. Jamie remarks on the similarities between Jocasta and his mother: they have the same smile, same manner, and same voice. Indeed, adds Jamie, while he had long wanted Claire to meet his mother, having her meet his aunt is “just fine.” On entering the chamber, two maid servants are finishing cleaning and Claire invites them to call her by her first name. Ulysses baulks at this, as do they, so Claire amends her title to that of Mistress Claire. One of the women introduces herself as Phaedre and introduces her companion, Mary. It is obvious that they do not know how to react, uncomfortable by Claire’s attempts at familiarity.
Claire looks through the window at the slaves working in the fields. She has been noticeably quiet and Jamie knows why. One day, he says, it will all be different, but Claire does not look convinced.
Meanwhile, Ian is met by John Quincy Myers, out the front of the jetty. A bear of a man, Myers has a ready wit. He and Ian fall into banter quickly and easily, as they bathe Rollo in vinegar to banish the stench. This is a comic scene, well acted, and serves as a great introduction to Myers’ character. Myers is acquainted with the Indian lasses, he tells Ian, boasting that they prefer hairy men. This pleases Ian, who has been allowing his beard to grow. Ian is curious about the Indians, observing that they don’t sound much different to the Highlanders. Myers remarks that this is a fine way of looking at the world.
In the next scene, Jamie and Jocasta are discussing business, as Jamie becomes acquainted with the workings of River Run. They grow tobacco, indigo, cotton and pine, Jocasta says, yielding 20 barrels of turpentine monthly. The greatest source of revenue is the timber mill, which ships timber along the river as far along as Virginia. Jocasta mentions that she and her late husband Hector had been a team, Hector always consulting her before any decision was made. With a look at Claire, Jamie comments that this sounds very familiar. (It is perhaps a curious comment, given Clare’s penchant for often ignoring Jamie’s advice!)
Jamie then raises the topic that he knows is a sore point with Claire. How many slaves live on River Run, he asks. 152 is the answer. Jocasta proceeds to explain that she bought them in lots in order to keep them together, saying that they are more productive that way. Jamie expresses relief, adding that he has heard of those who treat their slaves as livestock. Jocasta expresses incredulity at this - in her opinion they are far more expensive that livestock. Besides, she says, her slaves have benefitted from her benevolence. They have a home and a purpose. In fact, she even considers some of them friends.
Claire can stay silent no longer, asking if the slaves would feel the same way. Jocasta insists that they are happy living with her, and declares Claire to have a “curious mind.” Jamie is quick to jump in and say that it is a quality in his wife which he greatly admires. But Claire needs to get away from this conversation. She takes her leave, saying that she is going to collect herbs with Phaedre.
Ulysses appears and announces the arrival of Lieutenant Wolff, a naval officer. Wolff has come, he says, because wheat is fetching a good price and suggests that a heavy profit could be made by cultivating some in the farrow lands across the river. It is obvious that Wolff considers himself an important player, intent on influencing Jocasta. But Jamie immediately shows the business sense Jocasta has mentioned, saying that the only bushel to be found along the river would be one of regret, as the land along the river is too damp for the grain to flourish. Jamie suggests rice as an alternative, and Jocasta immediately calculates not only the profit, but the ability to keep her slaves well fed. Wolff is not impressed to have his suggestions summarily dismissed and questions Jamie’s credentials. Jamie says he was raised on the land and that he “knows a bit about dirt, Lieutenant.” It is a thinly veiled insult and Wolff reacts accordingly, telling Jocasta that he will return to discuss matters with Jocasta when she is not engaged in hosting kin. After the lieutenant has departed in a huff, Jamie apologises for offending her guest. Jocasta replies that he was right to speak his mind, adding that it is a privilege she wishes she could enjoy. There is a delicacy to be applied in such matters she says, where a woman’s unsolicited views are not always welcome and Jamie begins to see how useful his presence is.
This scene serves to highlight the societal relationships that exist within the community of Cross Creek and the politics that must be navigated in order to live harmoniously.
In the next scene, while Phaedre alters one of Jocasta’s gowns, the women discuss Claire’s appearance. Phaedre’s appraisal is complimentary. Claire is “just fine,” she says, with skin as white as milk, indigo eyes and “a bosom lassies would dream of.” She mentions Claire’s height too, and Jocasta says that this was the picture she already had in her mind. Jocasta comments that some men do not like tall women, feeling dwarfed in their presence. Phaedre agrees, teasing Jocasta that Lieutenant Wolff is one such man. It is interesting to note that Phaedre is far more confident and comfortable in Jocasta’s presence than she is with Claire, despite the fact that Claire had wanted to be on a first name basis with her. Jocasta replies that any amorous attentions by Wolff towards her are only hearsay and gossip and not worth paying attention to. She asks Claire for her opinion of River Run, presuming that Claire must be relieved to have such fine accommodation.
Claire declares it to be overwhelming and Jocasta pushes further: what does she most admire? Here Claire falters, saying that she has never stayed anywhere quite like it. This is not the response that Jocasta is expecting. She has sensed disapproval, she says, in the cadence of Claire’s voice. Claire admits she does not agree with keeping people as property and Phaedre, who is sewing Claire’s hem, immediately looks uncomfortable. Jocasta asks if Claire is a Quaker, since she shares their view. Claire replies that although she is Catholic, she once healed some Quakers who expressed their opinions on slavery and found some truth in their beliefs.
Jocasta takes this in, remarking that Jenny was right - Claire is indeed a peculiar lass. Jenny’s letters had described Claire as spirited, headstrong, and willing to share thoughts on any matter whether she was versed in it or not. Claire retorts that the same could be said of Jenny, and Jocasta laughingly agrees. (It is interesting here that when sharing Jenny’s thoughts, Maria Doyle Kennedy’s voice takes on almost the exact cadence of Laura Donnelly’s!) She deems Claire to be a lively one with the fire of a Mackenzie in her and adds that it is no wonder that Jamie is drawn to her.
The Frasers soon find themselves attending another gathering, this one being held in their honour, with the cream of Cross Creek society in attendance. Claire finds herself discussing politics with Wolff and Jocasta’s friend and advisor Farquard Campbell and it doesn’t take long before her opinion raises eyebrows. While the men complain about the regulators and the Indians, Claire says that neither group can be blamed for wanting their voices heard. Young Ian is listening in and adds his opinion: the Indians were on the land first, he says. The men are immediately patronising, branding their comments “charmingly naive” and suggesting that “the savages” should in fact be grateful. This is too much for Claire, who icily excuses herself from the conversation and makes her way over to Jamie, closely followed by Ian.
Jocasta calls for silence. Vintage wine is passed around and the comment is made that there must be great news indeed. Jocasta agrees, announcing that she has decided on the heir to River Run. Wolff holds his breath as Jocasta reveals that she will leave the property to Jamie. Furthermore, she says, she wants him to act as master of the estate immediately. This is news to both Jamie and Claire, who share a brief look. Jocasta makes a toast to polite applause, Wolff looks incensed and Jamie is trapped.
Later than night, Jamie and Claire discuss the calculated nature of Jocasta’s announcement, made without talking to him about it first. Jamie declares it a true Mackenzie move, worthy of any scheme of Colum or Dougal’s. Claire meanwhile is distressed. She can’t own slaves, she tells him. Jamie agrees, although he wonders if he could help the slaves from his position of authority. Maybe, he says, they can make a small difference in their part of the world, and work to set the slaves free. They can light a spark that might light a fuse. But Claire stays silent. Jamie says that he can’t change River Run without her. He wants her support, but Claire can’t give it. Fuses often lead to explosions she cautions. But, says Jamie, when the dust settles, the devil being fought has gone. This is an interesting scene, in that Jamie and Claire seem to reverse roles, with Claire the one exercising caution and restraint.
In the next scene, Jamie is talking with Jocasta and Farquard Campbell, whilst also looking at the list of slaves employed at River Run. Jamie states that he wished his aunt had told him about her decision first. Jocasta apologies, but says that her children have passed and she cares for Jamie as if he is her own. Besides, she adds, he is deserving of the honour. Campbell tells Jamie that Jocasta’s will and testament is being drawn up and drops a heavy bag of coin onto the table. Jamie comments on its weight, to which Campbell replies that Jamie will need ready money to conduct affairs as master of the estate.
But Jamie has one request. Campbell says that he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but Jocasta says it is only natural Jamie should have questions. She is not expecting what follows however: Jamie states that he wants to free the estate’s slaves. Jocasta sits silently initially, as Farquard expresses an incredulity which reaches its peak when Jamie says that he wants the slaves to earn a fair wage. Jocasta’s response is far more measured, saying that she will discuss it, but asks Campbell for his expertise on the matter. Campbell then outlays the procedure: freedom is only granted by the court and Jamie would need to prove that each slave had done a meritorious service, such as saving a life. If this can be done, Jamie would still need to post a bond and offer financial sureties for each freed slave. When Jamie counters that they can’t put a price on freedom, Campbell says that the assembly can and does: £100 sterling per slave, which amounts to over £15000. But Jamie is still determined, saying that he will find a way of increasing revenue.
Campbell changes tack, warning that Jamie will also be threatening the livelihoods of other land owners. This is North Carolina, Campbell reminds him, and if he entertains such outlandish notions, there will be serious consequences. Lives will be at risk, including Jamie’s himself. There is one final warning: anyone who had expressed similar views as Jamie in the past had simply disappeared, never to be heard of again. But Jamie doesn’t react well to this indirect threat, saying that the threat of harm will not sway his mind. He stalks out of the room, leaving a frustrated Jocasta behind.
Claire is outside, her medical box open before her. How can it be possible, she asks, to prove that every slave has saved a life? They realise that with the laws as they are, nothing can change. Jamie reminds her that there is another way to become a land owner. He can accept the offer made to him by Governor Tryon and then they wouldn’t have to own slaves, instead recruiting settlers and living on their own terms. But any peace will be temporary, Claire warns, as another war is inevitable.
Their conversation is interrupted by Ulysses and Jocasta. There has been a matter of bloodshed, Jocasta explains, and she needs Jamie to go along and act as her representative. It appears that her overseer, Byrnes and his assistant have been attacked by one of the negros, with Byrnes’ ear being cut off. Claire insists on going too, If they hurry, she says, she might be able to reattach it. Campbell asks if Jamie has a pistol and Jocasta immediately insists he take one.
On arrival, the introductions are brisk and Claire and Jamie are led to the injured man. Campbell asks what has happened and the other man, MacNeill, explains that a slave called Rufus struck Byrnes with an axe after Byrnes had struck him with a lash. As they walk, Campbell explains to McNeill that as Jocasta’s official representative, Jamie will be aiding him with Rufus’ execution. This is news to Claire and Jamie. Campbell explains that it is the law of bloodshed. If a negro spills the blood of any white man, woman or child, then he is put to death in the presence of the judge and a legal representative. The sound of a man in pain breaks the conversation and Claire is horrified to see a man impaled on a hook, being hauled up into the trees, as his companions watch tearfully below him.
Jamie and Claire rush forward to help. Jamie orders that the man be taken down, but Byrnes, bandaged and holding the side of his face, orders that they continue to raise the man up. It is a standoff that ends with Jamie brandishing pistols until Rufus is lowered to the ground. Claire rushes over to him, while Byrnes hisses that they have no right to interfere in his business. But Campbell initially agrees with Jamie. Byrnes has done wrong in taking matters into his own hands. While they argue the finer points of right and wrong, Claire and Jamie talk about Rufus. Claire is insistent that they take him to the house, where she can remove the hook safely. She asks Jamie if the men will allow this. Jamie responds that he won’t give them any choice in the matter.
Back at the house, the shocked servants clear the dining table as Rufus is loaded onto it. Claire switches into surgeon mode and shouts orders. Mary is sent to find Ian to bring her medical kit, Phaedre is sent in search of clean linen, hot water, whisky and two bowls. Once this is done, everyone is given a job to do, but there is an air of unreality over what is happening that Claire doesn’t seem to notice. She is focused solely on removing the hook and saving Rufus’ life. Young Ian has somehow acquired the skills to be a first rate assistant, handing laudanum, scissors,scalpel and swabs on command.
The operation is bloody, but progressing successfully, when Jocasta and Ulysses appear. Ulysses tells Jocasta that Claire is attempting to heal Rufus and Jocasta is shocked. “Why would she do such a thing?” she asks. Jamie explains to his aunt that Byrnes and the others had acted wrongly, and while Jocasta admits that the treatment was regrettable and adding that they will have to answer for it, she firmly states that Rufus must still be hanged. Phaedre returns announcing more trouble: Wolff and Campbell have arrived and wish to speak with both Jocasta and Jamie. Taking a breath, Jocasta says that they will receive the men in the parlour. She is obviously worried. Jamie and Jocasta leave, and Ulysses closes the door on the operation still being performed. The shock and disapproval of everyone has been totally lost on Claire, who only has eyes for her patient.
In the parlour, a haughty Lieutenant Wolff is taking Jocasta to task as to the way Jamie has conducted himself. With Jamie standing frostily behind her, Jocasta describes it as an error of judgement that has been brought to her attention. Campbell takes over, saying that Jamie is meant to maintain order, but the opposite has happened. MacNeill and the other men are spreading tales about Jamie and Claire’s exploits. When Jamie responds that Rufus is under his protection, Wolff is scathing. Has Jamie no respect, he asks, for his aunt, her property or her neighbours? It is a grave error, he warns. If order is not maintained, who knows what riotous behaviour could ensue?
Jamie asks about the men who mutilated Rufus and what their punishment will be. Campbell replies that they have been jailed for taking the law into their own hands. It is a punishment, Wolff says, that could be shared by Jamie and Claire, should their intransigence persist. At this point, Jocasta intervenes. She states that Jamie is not yet familiar with the ways of Cross Creek and asks for an opportunity to put the matter right. There is a moment’s silence, before Wolff answers. What would Jocasta propose? The scene ends before we hear her response.
The operation over, a newly bandaged Rufus begins to stir. Claire urges him to take it slowly and gives him water. Rufus asks where he is and Ian tells him he is in the main house. Rufus says that he shouldn’t be there, but Claire reassures him. She and Jamie have brought him from the timber camp, she says, and she has tended to his injuries. Rufus wants to know why he has been healed.He knows he has broken the law. But Claire tells him that from what she could see, Byrnes was a son of a bitch and Rufus was justified in doing what he did. Rufus is shocked: he has never heard a lady speak like that. Ian smiles, saying that he has never met anyone like his Aunty Claire and that he has heard her say words that would make a sailor blush.
Claire asks Rufus if he would like to see anyone. But Rufus’ family is in Africa. He tells Claire and Ian how he and his sister were taken from the trees where they were playing and forced them onto ships. Claire shushes him, insisting he rests and Rufus soon passes out again. Claire sends Ian to bed too, but asks him to organise Rufus’ removal to her room so that he can be more comfortable. Claire is packing up, when she sees Ulysses standing outside the room. She comments on the lateness of the hour, but Ulysses explains that Jocasta has asked him to keep an eye on things. Ulysses asks how the patient is faring. When Claire says she intends to help him recover, Ulysses looks concerned. Claire notices and asks what is bothering him.
Ulysses apologises for his forthrightness, but tells Claire that if she persists on her path, Rufus’ fate will be far worse. Saving his soul is all that can be done, Ulysses warns. Once the overseers come, Rufus’ limbs will be torn from his body, with what remains being left as a warning for the other slaves if they disobey the law. With a look at the bloodied bandages in the bowl, Ulysses says it would have been better if Rufus had died on the hook. He bids a rattled Claire a good night.
Meanwhile, Jamie is expressing anger over Wolff and Campbell’s continued presence outside. Jocasta tells him not to be angry: his own actions have scarcely inspired trust. In fact, she says, they have shown charity to grant them an opportunity to rectify matters. Jamie asks if there is another way, but Jocasta is adamant. If they don’t do what has been agreed upon, then Wolff and Campbell will be the least of their concerns.
The time ticks closer to midnight. Claire is holding Rufus’ hand when Jamie joins her. He tells her that the midnight deadline is approaching and they must turn Rufus over to be executed. Claire refuses, but Jamie stops her protest. He wishes there was another way, and asks if Claire can heal him. Claire says that he has survived the worst, but there is still a risk of infection. Jamie asks her to consider what will happen if he does survive. Claire starts grasping at straws: perhaps they can say he escaped. But Jamie says that will then condemn the slaves alongside him. It is the law, he says. If a guilty man doesn’t take his share of the blame, then fellow slaves are punished.
Nosies are heard outside. An angry mob, brandishing weapons and lit torches, are approaching the house. Claire and Jamie realise it is hopeless. There is a knock on the door. Jocasta and Ulysses are outside and Jocasta tells Jamie that it is nearly midnight. Jamie counters that it is not the law that is being served, only a mob. But Jocasta tells him that the mob will burn River Run to the ground if he does not do what has been agreed upon.
Outside, the mob is getting angrier. MacNeill, brandishing a rope, pounds on the door, demanding that the lawless negro be turned over to them. Inside, Phaedre and Mary cower in fear. A rock is thrown through the window and Jocasta gasps at the breaking glass. “Blessed Bride,” she says, “your wife’s foolishness will get us all killed.” She is scared, but determined to address her neighbours.
Worried, Jamie returns to Claire. He knows that she has sworn an oath to do no harm, he says, but perhaps all she can do is to save Rufus’ soul by aiding him to a peaceful death the same way she had aided Colum.
Jocasta stands before the mob, assuring them that Jamie is preparing to deliver Rufus to them. She promises that he will pay for his crimes and that lawlessness will not be tolerated.
Rufus regains consciousness and Claire moves to his side. Amidst increasing tension outside, Claire says she will make him a tea to help him sleep. Jamie bows his head. The decision has been made.
Jocasta is fighting a losing battle with the mob, begging to be allowed to speak. Her nephew is a man of his word, she tells them. The prisoner will be delivered to them at midnight, in terms agreed upon by Wolff and Campbell. Jocasta will, she says, deliver justice as the law demands.
Heartbroken, Claire mixes the tea and gives it to Rufus as a tearful Jamie looks on. In a conversation reminiscent of season 1, when Claire talked to a dying Geordie about his home, Claire asks Rufus to tell her about his sister and their childhood. Smiling, Rufus talks about fishing in the river. His breathing is getting laboured. He watches the moonlight, he tells Claire and thinks that his sister might be somewhere under the same moon. He dreams he might see his sister again one day. Tears fall down Claire’s cheeks as she tells him he will. With one final breath, Rufus is gone.
The clock strikes midnight and the clamouring begins again. Jamie crosses himself and kneels by Rufus and prays. “I am bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me,” he begins. As his voiceover continues, we watch as Jamie carries Rufus’ body outside. The mob take it from the steps and tighten the noose around Rufus’ neck. He is then dragged along the ground to the nearest tree, from which he is hung as the others watch, in both horror and sorrow. It is a grim ending to the episode.
Since its airing, there has been much commentary about this episode. It certainly provokes strong feeling and it can be argued that for some viewers, it is an hour that brings with it traumatising feelings about the abhorrent treatment of their race. Others have said that Claire’s character is too reckless throughout. In the book, Claire shows more awareness and perspective. Whilst still in the field, she asks Jamie if Rufus can be saved if she heals him, rather than insisting he be returned to the house, blatantly risking the lives of Jocasta and her entire household by performing a dramatic surgery and stubbornly refusing to comply with the law. Both “Book Claire” and “TV Claire” aid Rufus to a peaceful death, but on screen it is far more combative. It can of course be argued that this is a decision made purely with dramatic television in mind - and in this, it succeeds. It is an unsettling, tense episode. We also see yet again what happens when 20th century attitudes cross with the 18th century way of life and wonder how many more dramas lie ahead. Good intentions don’t always match up with reality, and indeed, sometimes in wishing to do no harm, it is possible to do precisely the opposite. Thought provoking stuff.
This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She needed to sit quietly and reflect for a while after this episode was over, but thinks all the new characters have been perfectly cast.
Thank you to FarFarAway.com for the photos