My take on Outlander’s E02, Do No Harm. The lies we tell ourselves.

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.

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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