Can you believe we are down to the wire now? Two episodes left of Outlander and WTAF are we gonna do then? I have ideas for myself but I don’t know if I will follow through with any so I’m not saying. I don’t wanna look like a slacker.
Episode 10, Mercy Shall Follow Me, was another episode packed with subtext. This season has more layers than a fricken onion, which is largely positive. A bit of a pain in my ass since I decided pulling from those layers would be fun. On the most part, it has been. This episode, my focus was solid, possibly because my lens is in fishbowl mode right now.
Something we hear people saying in regards to going through dark times and coming out the other side is “I had no choice.” I want you to sit with that for a while.
The choices our characters made in this episode changed their fate, the fate of those they loved and in some cases, changed the fate of people they didn’t even know.
We open with the sunnuvaBonnet and his new bestie Gerald/Neil Forbes, (played with weasely brilliance by Billy Boyd) meeting in a brothel. Bonnet is acting like he is all posh ‘n shit. It doesn’t suit him but I’m not focusing on him because his choices, will always be the same, about him. Forbes on the other hand didn’t have such a horrible life. Being a lawyer, in those days, he was doing pretty good. You know, except having an uncanny resemblance to a weasel. That could have been overlooked if he were a decent human.
He allowed an act of pathetic revenge toward Brianna for having a mind of her own and not wanting to marry him, fuel him. That choice set Forbes on a path that ultimately lead to his death. He did not think that through.
Brianna did not deny Forbes because she didn’t want to marry him, personally. Bree was denying every one. She was waiting for Roger, who she was handfasted to. Standing back and taking a look at this situation can show us a few things. First, when we perceive things as personal slights – they may not always be. People, more often than not, do things for themselves rather than against us.
We have a tendency to add ourselves to circumstances that we feel we may have been a part of the decision making, when we were not even considered. Hurtful? Of course, it can be. It has to be up to us what we will do with that. Forbes took Brianna’s choice as a personal attack that required him to pay her back. He created a scenario of having had Brianna as a wife, owning River Run and having it all taken from him. This fairy tale was a creation of his own making and he felt he was owed.
We see others do this every day, we may even do it ourselves in bite size pieces. Assuming peoples motivation without having all the information we need. We have a tendency to place our own narrative, where needed, to fill in the blanks. It makes our point much easier or assists us with being justified in our opinions. When we look at it from the perspective of this being a choice we make, it boosts our objectivity. Naturally, a commitment to be objective has to be realized.
Forbe’s weakness of character and subsequent choices didn’t only affect him. They caused another man to make a choice that will follow him. Ulysses, being a slave, (I am going by the information we have in the show – I know book readers have other information but we are not sure where the show is going so – easy does it) when he puts his hands on a white person in violence (or for any reason, let’s be real) he will be killed because of it. I’m not going to make it flowery. No matter what Ulysses status was in Jocasta’s household in 1700s society, he was a black man and that means, he was seen as property. He knew this more than anyone.
We know how intelligent Ulysses is, he doesn’t do anything without thinking, a man in his position can not afford to. He knew he could just push Forbes off of Jocasta or he could kill him. Either of these actions would get him the same punishment. He chose to wrap his tree-trunk arms around Forbe’s pencil neck and snap it. He killed Forbes with calculation, that was a pointed choice, not one made out of desperation. The desperation we saw in Ulysses was certainly deep emotion but also hope Jocasta was alive. That would make his actions worth it in his eyes. Those choices, that have a payoff, they end up meaning something. Colin McFarlane really brought that scene home for us.
Claire makes subtle choices in this episode that lead to a breakthrough. Walking into Sylvie’s brothel, she addresses the women there as ‘ladies’. Others in the episode don’t treat them with the same respect. Claire, on the other hand, treats sex workers like any other professional. When she notices that Eppie is in pain and has a noticeable limp, she offers to help. Claire is aware that Eppie may have information regarding Bonnet but this is not the whole reason she reaches out. Claire understands that when she makes a choice to connect and humanize those who are rarely seen, they may respond in kind. Whether now or later. In this case, Eppie held all the cards, literally. Though Bonnet was a client, Claire showed kindness. A rare commodity for a woman of Eppie’s social status.
Eppie may never know how her decision to help Claire affected others. It would have been easy for her to take Claire’s advice and move on with her day. No matter the reason, that moment changed the trajectory of more than a few lives. She saved Brianna from being sold to that gnarly finger-in-mouth-puttin’ Captain whatshisface, which led to the capture and ultimate death of Bonnet. I like to think it may have fortified her faith in humanity. That little nugget being stored for Eppie as it gets stored in us. I appreciated Leah Shine’s performance as Eppie, it was unassuming and real. Enabling us to relate to her.
We can’t always be aware of how our actions affect others. Good or bad. Those ripples have the potential to be huge. What we can always be sure of is how those choices make us feel, this gives us a fair indication of how others take in what we have left behind. When we think of what we have done, do we have a feeling of peace, love, gratitude? Are we happy with our choice and have no feelings of regret? I would venture to say, the ripples we have left, there are others in our wake enjoying the sun and harmony we have given them. There will be new moments created from the foundation we built. On the flip side…do we feel ashamed or try to defend what we chose to do? Do we try to ignore or avoid talking about it? When those are our responses to our choices, we can be sure the kind of waves behind us are jagged and others may be drowning in them.
Obviously, the characters in Outlander do things to the extreme but we can put ourselves in their costumes fairly easily with a dash of critical thinking. In the days of physical distancing, we are all making choices that affect others that we will never meet. It is interesting to think of things in the abstract of ‘I’. Not just as one, a person, individual… but as connected to numerous networks, one making a difference to the next and on and on. Would we be more aware of our choices, knowing we had such a global impact?
My view is, we already do, and probably should.
Back to that initial statement I asked you to sit with. Every time someone who has made it through a dark time that says to me “I didn’t have a choice”, I always answer the same thing. “Yes, you did. You chose was best for you.”
We seem to point out our weaknesses easy enough, it’s about time we start giving ourselves credit for the choices we make. The choices we make when we fight through difficult circumstances. The ones we make to help others, even when it means we get hurt. We always have a choice.
I choose you!
There is no shortage of drama this season is there? The cool thing about having a blog in this fandom is I get to decide what I talk about. I have decided to challenge myself to NOT write about the obvious this season.
I want to look past the topic du jour and move to the things that made me go hmmm and maybe they will make you go hey…meh…or OH! Either way, I will have said it and hopefully, feel good about it when I am done. That’s the point of my watching Outlander in the first place. It makes me feel good. I like it. My Mom used to say “If it doesn’t feel good…don’t do it.” I live by that.
So…ghosts. I’m not talking about Casper, the bent neck lady or the very obvious Native gentleman caller from the episode we are talking about. I am referring to the ghosts in our life that either guide our decisions or keep us from moving forward out of fear of facing them. They were ever present in The False Bride, whether we noticed them or not.
Right at the very start, Roger sitting in the old empty manse and Fiona coming through the doors to take up residence reminded us of Reverend Wakefield and Mrs. Graham. Both now, just memories, shadows in the halls but very much a part of who Fiona and Roger are today. As we see later with Roger when he has his meltdown with Brianna. He was raised by a Reverand. It makes more than a little sense that ghost still sits in his mind and when that is the case, it affects his heart as well. Those are the ghosts that often speak the loudest.
Claire sees her fair share of ghosts in this episode. Both literally and figuratively. To start, there is no doubt she is thinking of the ghost of her friend, Joe Abernathy. Black, free, a doctor…her dear friend. Someone she may have been judged for being friends with but still “allowed” to be friends with. She watches as the slaves walk by and you can see it pains her because she has seen the other side of this story. She knows the truth of the people she sees being treated ‘less than’. The pure inhumanity of it bubbles to the surface.
As they ride away from River Run, they leave the ghost of Rufus behind them. Their troubled time there. They also leave the people they couldn’t help. This is something that I am sure will continue to haunt Claire.
Claire confronts Franks ghost as well. He will be ever present when she speaks of Brianna. He was the only father her daughter had. He raised her and owns that space in her world. As she speaks of Bree to Jamie, you can see both of them feel Franks ghost pass through the moment. Claire as a reserved embrace, and Jamie with a grateful chill.
Then, we have Claire’s literal ghost. Good ole Claire takes off after Clarence the mule in a storm and ends up lost, alone and in the dark.
It’s ok though, she has company. She finds a little head, ok, it’s a skull. One that has been cracked down the middle and removed from the rest of its body. This particularly unlucky fellow decides to pay Claire a visit, in a jarring and pretty cool way. He makes his way toward her during lightning strikes. Then what does he do? Dude steals her shoes. He makes up for it by wearing them and leads her to Jamie and Jamie to her. Awwwwwwwwww.
This particular ghost is filled with more questions because his mouth is filled with silver fillings. Which clearly means he is a time traveller too.
Young Ian had a different group of ghosts he faced in this episode. The pirates not once, but twice. Geillis. The hurricane. That was a lot of trauma for a young kid. He grew up PDQ (pretty damn quick). Those experiences formed who he’s now become, a young man who knows his mind. Thankfully, the ghost of the child he was, will always be there for us. His smile and pure cheekiness each episode gives me hope anyway.
Jamie had his own ghosts, didn’t he? When speaking to his aunt Jocasta, the ghost of the laird he would have been in Scotland lingered there. He knew what she didn’t though. River Run could never be that for him, some things cannot be recreated.
The ghost of Jamie’s mother was real and alive when his aunt gifted him Ellen’s silver candlesticks. Something tangible, he could touch and take with him to his new place, where ever that may be.
While visiting the ghosts of Scotland in his memories, he was able to see his future. Looking out over the vista, Jamie fell in love with the land he saw before him because of the echoes of his past. The strawberries and the mountains all familiar to him yet, this new world made him feel hope.
I want to finish up with Brianna. The Scottish festival was the first shiver of her ghosts coming to the forefront. Bree seemed to want to deny she was thinking about her mother but Roger knew it had to be there, raw and real. The memory of her and the ramifications of her travelling through time to find Jamie. Those ghosts came to visit the festival that day, who could blame them? The music was bangin’.Bree is a young woman that knows what she doesn’t want. That is very much because of her ghosts. One ghost is the father she grew up with. She now knows he lived in a marriage of convenience with her mother. Another is the ghost of a father that she never knew, he was the recipient of her mother’s love and devotion. Given the choice she was faced with in the episode tonight, those ghosts would have sat upon each shoulder like the good choice and bad choice. Each in her ear.
We all have our ghosts. Whether we see them, hear them or feel them. They are there, influencing us and the choices we make. We should really trust our own voice rather than rely on the ghosts, but you know…to each their own.
Sometimes, those ghosts…they just make us run up the basement stairs really quick or check behind the shower curtain before peeing. Either way…do you.
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Founder of the ABOotlanders
There are many conversations that can and surely will be taking place about this powerful episode. I thought, and probably over thought the direction, I would go in my take away.
What I kept coming back to was the self-talk of the characters in our story. As in life, we tell ourselves lies in order to live with our actions, the situations we create and the circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes those lies are harmless small ones, intended to take the sting away and sometimes they are brutally large because facing the truth would be admitting how incredibly horrible we truly can be.
When people hear the word LIE, they think ‘bad’. They think ‘evil’. That isn’t quite what I mean here. Yes, a lie is an intended falsehood, however, when we are telling those lies to ourselves to help cope with something ~ that becomes the crux of the situation.
We start with that, Jamie and Claire. He is beating himself up over helping Bonnet escape. Claire turns to him and explains he shouldn’t take the blame for the robbery and Lesley’s death, it’s not his fault, they both trusted the bastard. Truth is, had they given him up to the authorities, they would have made it safely to River Run, gemstones in hand and their friend alive. This is a way to help them cope with their loss. Of course, we don’t want them to blame themselves. In fact, if someone we loved were in a similar position, we would tell them the same in order to make them feel better. I ask myself sometimes – Do I want the truth or a comforting lie? Lots of the time…a comforting lie hits the spot quite nicely, thanks.
Now, those fools at the dinner party! Believing if it wasn’t for them coming to America and making it a ‘civilized’ world it would be nothing but a wasteland. This a perfect example of lies we tell ourselves to justify our uninvited and or all around crappy behaviours. Not bothering to see there could be another way, ignoring the logic around us. Even when it is clearly pointed out. Ian took a moment to do that and was met with a condescending reply. Those reactions are often the biggest clue that we know we are full of rocks and bananas.
Jocasta shared with Jamie and Claire how she saw some of her slaves as friends. This is a deeply seeded version of the example I just gave. Though there may be hints of truth in her statement, the reality is, the slaves are not her friends, she will not truly treat them as such because it would harm her place in society. She spoke of her struggle as a woman, not being able to speak her mind or run her business with men as an equal. If she was to open her mind, just a little further, including others being treated even worse than that, by her…that is where change can start, no? Simply with the acknowledgment.
Then, you know, Jocasta outright lies. In the sense that she would rather ask forgiveness than permission. She knew damn well that she was going to make Jamie heir of River Run. It was the main purpose for her party, “introducing you to society” was a ruse created to foist this grand plan upon him. It sure makes it hard to say “HELL NO!” In front of people congratulating you eh?
Now keep in mind, lying to oneself is also a means of self-preservation in difficult circumstances. This is Claire’s running commentary throughout the episode. There is not one moment that she relaxes. She is in obvious perma-clench mode. For good reason. She is having a visceral reaction to slavery and not only being surrounded by it, but by it being forced upon her. It certainly is easy, from the relative comfort of our living rooms to tell her to smarten the hell up because ultimately she IS making shit WAY more difficult. However, Claire…part of what makes her Claire is she feels before she thinks. In this case, it’s not only her “do no harm” oath, but it is also her hate of a system that she KNOWS is wrong on every level of wrongness that was ever created, and being a part of that in any way, makes her wrong too. So, she lies to herself. Tells herself, because of her interference, she can help Rufus. There will be something she can do to make sure he lives. When the real truth is…there is nothing. Deep down, she knows it…and that only infuriates her further.
We now have Rufus (played impeccably by Jerome Holder). Imagine, putting one foot in front of another, day after day having been taken from the life he knew and loved, forced into this, of all lives? You would most certainly have to lie to yourself. He was telling himself, one day…one day I might see those I love again. There has been nothing to show him this might happen, to give him this hope. Yet, he tells himself so he may have the strength to see another day. We have the power to convince ourselves because we have no other choice…we need to hold onto something in order to survive.
If we sat and examined the stories we tell ourselves on the daily, we would see the lies, the half-truths for what they are. Coping mechanisms…both good and bad. Human and inhumane. They often define our character. If we find ourselves angry when someone points them out to us, that may be an indication we need to take a self-appointed time out and do some critical thinking. It is most definitely not a painless process. That is how change happens.
It’s tough, but someone’s gotta do it!
Thanks for stopping by and if you like what you read, or even thought it was kinda o.k., please give it a share, leave a comment or send me cuddles (pickles and cheese knows I can use ’em after THAT episode!) We livetweet with the W Networks airing of Outlander in Canada, every Sunday, using the hashtag #OutlanderCAN. We look forward to all of our Outlander friends joining us!
For a more in-depth conversation about Do No Harm and the way the show handled the aspects of slavery and the continued effects it has on today’s society, I suggest you hop on over to our friends at Blacklanderz. Their twitter feed has a great deal of the discussions we need to be having.
Until next time,
Sher Founder of the ABOotlanders