Thoughts on “Secret Sorrows”

Written by  on April 23, 2000 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

When the idea of a "K/7 argument" fanfic began floating around, I admit that I had some reservations about the concept—primarily because, for the argument to be an argument, it can’t be one-sided, and Harry is well known for being far more likely to stutter than to shout back at Seven. Daniel’s "Secret Sorrows," however, has helped show that not only can such stories be done right, they can even be done in a credible manner that can counter some of TPTB’s carelessness about character development.

The opening scene of "Secret Sorrows" quickly established what the story’s title meant—and set the stage for the K/7 argument at the core of the story. It is ironic that, despite Harry’s subsequent thoughts that Voyager was "…a close-knit society…where everyone knew everyone else’s snoring habits," he and Seven have successfully hidden their true natures from the rest of the ship. Both Harry and Seven have figuratively donned emotional masks to present a different face to the outside world, and thus conceal the hurt that they are feeling from everyone—including themselves.

Harry’s ice-skating holoprogram neatly summed up the front of ‘trustworthy, dependable, predictable Ensign Harry Kim’ that he shows to his shipmates. Even though ice-skating would bring to mind painful memories of Lyndsay Ballard, Harry uses it to bring joy and happiness to Naomi, Mezoti, and Marla Gilmore (and the last two are in particular need of friendship and understanding). It’s a mask that the crew of Voyager is only too happy to see him wear, for very understandable reasons.

Like Harry, Seven also relies on a social mask in order to conceal a considerable amount of internal anguish. However, Seven’s crude mask is nowhere near as invisible, sophisticated, or socially beneficial as Harry’s. She is only capable of hiding her hurt and bewilderment by inflicting it on others—which would bring about the turbolift face-off between Harry and Seven when Harry gently pointed out the existence of her mask.

Regarding "the argument"—the causes behind it were very credible. Given how reluctant Harry is to be confrontational with Seven, one of the few provocations that might (but not necessarily) cause him to respond aggressively would involve inaccurate verbal attacks about an extremely sensitive (and personal) subject, as we saw in "Secret Sorrows."

One common characteristic of all of Seven’s accusations (aside from their inaccuracy) was that they applied far better to herself than to Harry (as Harry would later point out with much justification). When Seven accused Harry of being "unemotional, cold, and detached," my first reaction was to think of the old saying about glass houses and stone throwing (a reaction that was to repeat itself after every one of her accusations). Seven is the last person on Voyager who has a right to accuse anyone else on the ship of being that way—indeed, several posters on have complained about how cold and detached (and obsessed with her own perfection) Seven has become this season. As for her charge that Harry was "Borg-like" due to his behavior following "Memorial" and "Ashes to Ashes," it brought to mind Seven’s own behavior following episodes such as "One," "Drone," "Dark Frontier," and "Tsunkatse."

Even so, the harmful nature of Seven’s social mask is perhaps best exemplified by the last part of her tirade against Harry. Even when it had become clear to her that she was utterly wrong, Seven’s response was not to apologize, or even stop, but to increase the intensity of her ranting and to go even further out of her way to try to offend Harry—her mask is so brittle that, to preserve it, she cannot admit to being wrong or less than "perfect." I have little doubt that, had Harry not shouted back, Seven would have made good on her threat to go straight to Sam Wildman and inform her of her "analysis" (it might not have had the threatened effect, though—if anything, Seven’s reasoning was a far better argument to have her removed from Naomi’s presence instead of Harry). As a result, both Harry and Seven immediately benefited from his interruption and subsequent tirade—not only did Harry get a chance to set Seven straight and let off nearly six years’ worth of steam, but Seven received a badly-needed motivation not to make a fool out of herself in front of Sam Wildman.

Speaking of Harry’s countertirade against Seven—bravo! Harry (and the crew of Voyager) has put up with a lot from Seven, and though Seven’s harsh judgmentalism was typical, Harry having the nerve to point out its sheer wrongness to Seven’s face was not. For over two years, Seven has been self-righteously passing judgment on the inhabitants of Voyager (exemplified by her laughably ridiculous "efficiency" assessment in "Good Shepherd"), and she is rarely subjected to the same scrutiny she enthusiastically gives others.

Harry’s side of the argument got off to a strong start by having Harry cut off Seven’s ranting (and not a moment too soon—by any chance, Daniel, did you watch "The Voyager Conspiracy" prior to writing this?)—and, just as importantly, Harry was able to shut up Seven throughout his counter-arguments (more by his openness and truthfulness than by his actual choice of words or the volume of his voice). As Lesa told me, Seven had never seen Harry truly angry before—and seeing him this outwardly furious could indeed shock her.

Harry’s emotional elaboration of his feelings did much to make sense of his poor characterization by TPTB—by his intent, he only appears to be unaffected by his experiences for the good of the crew (which is a lot more than can be said about the purely selfish reasons behind Seven’s emotional mask). In addition, everything that he accused Seven of was as accurate as Seven’s own accusations were off the mark—Seven’s fear of facing humanity would explain to no small extent her chaotically inconsistent "development" of her humanity (and is strongly symbolized by her persistent use of the identity of "Seven of Nine" instead of "Annika Hansen"). As for Harry’s ridiculing of Seven’s use of the word "irrelevant"—it was deadly accurate, not to mention something that’s long overdue on Voyager, especially how often (and carelessly) Seven has used the term.

Interestingly, even though Harry had far better reason to be angry at Seven than vice versa (it’s practically the only circumstance under which he would get into an argument with Seven in the first place), he was the one who was able to eventually tone down the harshness of his words. This, along with Seven’s acceptance that she was clearly in the wrong, played no small part in defusing the argument into something much more reasonable—and helped lead into Seven’s unusual scene-ender. Seven’s kiss was a novel way to end the scene with both participants in emotional turmoil without resorting to the dime-a-dozen means of doing so (one or both of them storming off enraged), and it indicated just how completely Seven had dropped her emotional defenses (especially given how spontaneous it was).

From Seven’s post-turbolift thoughts, it’s fairly clear why Seven had unexpectedly not elected to escalate the argument—as previously mentioned, she was already acutely aware that she was clearly in the wrong, and her concentration on the pain behind Harry’s harsh words was probably instrumental in her allowing Harry to de-escalate the exchange of verbal hostilities. Even so, she had not ignored what Harry had said—his words, harsh as they were, had succeeded in prompting her to reexamine who she really was, and why she had reacted in such an unworthy way to the kindness and generosity he had shown to her charges.

Seven would have a number of reasons to be resentful of how good a surrogate parent Harry was to the Borg children—and not just because her own biological parents fell short in comparison ("Dark Frontier" was not exactly a very flattering portrayal of Magnus and Erin Hansen). Though Harry is not an ex-Borg (or at least not to the extent that Seven and the children were), as Summer remarked in her comments about "Ashes to Ashes," Harry has shown himself to be a far superior surrogate parent to the Borg children than Seven had been, despite all of her Borg technology. Even more embarassing for Seven is that, as an ex-Borg attempting to recover a semblance of her former self, she suffers in comparison to her own charges. Not surprisingly, seeing the far more rapid (and complete) recovery of the Borg children in Harry’s presence would arouse no small amount of jealousy within Seven, who is still struggling to attain—and maintain—a small fraction of the progress that the children had attained so easily and quickly.

However, what Seven had failed to realize before, but now understands, is that an important reason why the Borg children recovered as well—and as quickly—as they did was because they did so with the assistance of someone as, well, human as Harry Kim. In contrast, Seven had mostly attempted to recover her humanity by herself or with the assistance of Tuvok and the EMH (two of the least suitable entities on Voyager for such an undertaking). While Seven’s approach had minimized her feelings of inadequate humanity in the short-term, it also limited her ability to recover her humanity in the long-term—as she had been painfully aware upon watching the Borg children become, in her words, "normal, healthy children" while interacting with Harry. To recover her own humanity, Seven now knows that she cannot attempt to do so alone, or with placebos such as the advice of Tuvok and/or the EMH—she needs the help of someone like Harry.

As for her logic behind why she had been so irrational towards Harry, one only has to look towards the old saying about what the opposite of love is—and isn’t.

In the aftermath of his argument with Seven, it’s natural that Harry would not be comfortable around her—after relying on his own emotional defenses in public for so long, his feelings of exposure are to be expected. Nonetheless, for the sake of Naomi and Mezoti, he is willing to don his emotional mask and grant their request to bring them ice skating again, even though this seemed certain to entail being around Seven without at least one other adult present to moderate their interaction. ‘Trustworthy, dependable, predictable Ensign Harry Kim’ was back in place for the outside world—though, as we would see, it would not be so for either Harry or Seven.

Previously, I compared and contrasted the social masks both Harry and Seven used to conceal their inner turmoil from themselves as well as the outside world. However, just as taking pain relievers for a toothache is no substitute for a visit to the dentist, relying on an emotional mask is hardly as beneficial in the long term as addressing the hurt behind it is—and in both cases, if left unaddressed, the true problem becomes much worse over time. As such, the long-term use of their emotional masks had ultimately prevented Harry and Seven from being able to truly deal with their problems—or with each other, as Harry realized after Seven confessed her love for him. It was only when they dropped their masks and saw each other for what they really were, that they were actually able to begin addressing the hurt behind their masks (as emphasized by the final scene).

Regarding Seven’s apology and explanation of her actions (not to mention her admission of error), it represented a vast improvement over what her behavior would have been had she elected to keep her emotional mask in place, and it required no small amount of courage on her part to be this open with Harry. As such, it demonstrated her commitment to having a truly open interaction with Harry (an essential part of a successful relationship), and it did much to remind Harry that Seven could indeed be worth caring about—something that he had practically (and understandably) forgotten about in his nearly three years of dealing with her (her quote about love, intelligence, and imagination could just as easily have applied to Harry’s feelings for her as her own feelings for Harry).

As for Seven telling Harry, "I love you" but Harry unable (yet hoping one day) to say those words back… that’s an interesting reversal of the K/7 presented in Michael Ben-Zvi’s fanfic masterpiece "The Hierarchy of Needs" (BTW Mike… how’s the THoN sequel coming?). Surprising (and rather unusual) in K/7, it nonetheless is true to Harry—as Lesa recently pointed out, if Harry could "…switch affections back and forth that easily…they really wouldn’t mean very much." At this point, Harry is still reeling from losing Lyndsay again. Even so, that he can be this affectionate towards Seven this soon (especially given her past treatment of him) is a very good sign that he will be able to make good on his hope in the near future.

"Secret Sorrows" has been the story that RiFers have been waiting for since "Ashes to Ashes" first aired several weeks ago. Not only did "Secret Sorrows" directly address Harry’s affections for the late Lyndsay Ballard, it even drew much of its emotional impact from it—and it still managed to credibly bring about a K/7 relationship in the process.

Memorable Quotes from "Secret Sorrows":

  • "Don’t you ever dare call me unemotional, cold, and detached. If anything, those words best describe you."
    —Harry to Seven
  • "Irrelevant this, irrelevant that, that’s all you say when you come up against something you are not familiar with. But in the end, it comes down to the fact that you are simply afraid."
    —Harry to Seven
  • ‘She wasn’t in love with Ensign Harry Kim that everyone knew, but with vulnerable, lonely Harry Kim that she saw a glimpse of the other day.’
    —Harry’s thoughts about Seven’s declaration of love for him

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