Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 404: “Common Ground”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Having been led by providence to Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie, Claire and Young Ian begin to build a home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the 20th Century, Rober tries to reconnect with Brianna.
Major plot points:
- The Frasers say goodbye to Fergus and Marsali and depart for the mountains.
- They reach Fraser’s Ridge and start to build a home there.
- Their Cherokee neighbors aren’t thrilled to have them around.
- After killing a bear-monster (you’ll see), Jamie reaches an accord with the Cherokee and they agree to live in peace with one another.
- Meanwhile, in 1971, Roger finds evidence that Claire found Jamie and that they settled in North Carolina. He shares the news with Brianna.
- According to Brianna’s roommate, Brianna has gone to visit her mother. Uh oh…
Episode 404, “Common Ground”, is yet another slow-build episode — not that that’s a bad thing; it’s just tonally different than the hectic pace of episodes from previous seasons. In this episode, the emphasis is on Claire and Jamie’s journey to establish their new home. Yes, there’s some danger and excitement along the way, but your enjoyment of this episode might be directly proportional to how much you enjoy watching people chop down trees, smoke meat, and use a whetstone. (I liked it! Call me an armchair woodswoman, I guess.)
First off, there’s a tender good-bye. Marsali is now visibly pregnant, and she tearfully confesses to Claire that she misses her mother. It’s a sweet moment, as Marsali acknowledges the bad blood between Claire and Laoghaire, and Claire actually says something nice about (the evil witch) Laoghaire by reassuring Marsali that she was a good mother, and that Marsali will be too. It’s a shame that Claire won’t be present to care for Marsali during the birth. Meanwhile, Jamie needs more settlers for Fraser’s Ridge, and Fergus’s mission is to recruit people, preferably Scots, and preferably some of Jamie’s Ardsmuir men. So can we finally get Murtagh??? Please?? After the baby is born, Fergus and Marsali will move to the Ridge as well.
Off the Frasers go, with Young Ian and Rollo, to pursue the American dream. Jamie is super excited to stake out the new homestead and plan the cabin he’ll build, but the group is unsettled by a visit from some Cherokee, who glare at them menacingly and then depart. Are they threatening the Frasers? Will there be violence? One of the horses is injured by (what they assume to be) a bear, and some nights later, Jamie encounters the bear in the woods, only to realize that it’s a man dressed up as a bear with deadly claws. The man-bear tries to kill Jamie (he’d already severely wounded John Quincy Myers), but Jamie manages to kill the man-bear instead.
Jamie brings the man’s body to the Cherokee camp, and it turns out that one of their men speaks English. He explains that the dead man was exiled from the tribe and went mad. Jamie and the Cherokee declare their intentions to live in peace, and later, some members of the tribe come to visit at Fraser’s Ridge. An older woman describes a vision she’s had of Claire’s future, both of Claire’s growing power as a healer and a more ominous statement about something (unnamed) that will happen that won’t be Claire’s fault. Not that that’s creepy or anything.
And wait, there’s more! In 1971, Roger is back at Oxford, missing Brianna — he hasn’t seen her since their big fight at the festival in North Carolina. As he reads a book about Scottish settlement in colonial North Carolina, he comes across a picture of a place identified as Fraser’s Ridge. He reaches out to the book’s author, and receives documents back including a copy of the document signed by James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, a plan of their land, and a letter describing Fraser’s Ridge and a woman named Claire who was a healer. At last — proof that Claire survived her trip through the stones and reunited with Jamie! Not only that, but basically an address for where Claire and Jamie settled. Roger calls Brianna with the news, in a very awkward trans-Atlantic phone call. Brianna is thrilled, but there’s clearly a lot of unspoken emotion between Roger and Brianna.
By the end of the episode, Roger makes two more unexpected discoveries. First, Fiona gives him a copy of an obituary from a newspaper in the 1770s, relating the deaths of James and Claire Fraser. The year is illegible. Roger decides not to tell Brianna — why burden her with knowing that her parents only had a few years together before dying tragically? When he tries to call Brianna again, her roommate Gail answers. Didn’t Roger know? asks Gail — Brianna left a few weeks ago to go to Scotland to visit her mother. Uh oh! It seems that a certain red-head is on her way to Craigh na Dun!
I really liked the outdoorsy feel of the episode, seeing Jamie’s joy at building a home for his family, and Claire’s delight in working with Jamie to start something new and special. Ian was adorable as always… and Rollo! Well, Rollo is always amazing. Good dog, Rollo.
I love that Claire and Jamie are never far away from expressing their love, devotion, and attraction at any given moment. These two are just perfection.
The show is being very careful to be sensitive in its portrayal of the Cherokee. So far, so good. Let’s see how this progresses.
I was waiting for Jamie to wrassle a bear like he does in the book — but I suppose it would be pretty tricky to actual film something like that, and we wouldn’t want to add any real scars to all the prosthetic scars Sam Heughan already has to deal with. So the substitution of a crazy man who thinks he’s a bear is okay by me… although I do miss the book scene of Claire slapping the bear with a fish. What a great scene! (Go look it up if you haven’t read it!)
I’m liking Roger and Brianna’s story so far this season too. They’re getting enough screen time to start building up interest, but not enough at this point to frustrate viewers by taking away from Claire and Jamie time.
Claire finally broke out her britches! I was thinking early in the episode how annoying it must be to chop and build and haul things in the middle of the woods while wearing full skirts and petticoats… and by the end of the episodes, Claire’s in pants and looking SO much more comfortable.