Episode 404: "Common Ground" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 404 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Common Ground".
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
I liked the opening shot, showing a Cherokee warrior getting dressed. Notice he's wearing what looks like a British officer's gorget as part of his costume.
As the episode begins, Jamie is in Governor Tryon's office, about to sign the land grant giving him possession of 10,000 acres of land, including Fraser's Ridge. Tryon gives him a map showing where his land is located.
This discussion about the Regulators, corrupt sheriffs, and so on, is providing important historical background, but it's not really relevant to this episode. I have a feeling they'll use parts of Tryon's speech in flashbacks later in the season, though.
"It's said that the Highlander has much in common with the Indian savage. Do you think it's so?" How on earth is Jamie supposed to answer that before he's even seen one of them?
"Well, there is the law, and there is what is done," Jamie says, echoing Tryon's exact words to him in their last conversation, in Episode 401 ("America the Beautiful"). I liked this. In this context, it seems to me that Jamie is saying that he is the one who will be responsible for keeping order on his own land, far away from the reach of judges and magistrates -- very much in the tradition of the Highland clans in which he was raised.
Meanwhile, in Wilmington, Claire is making her final preparations before their departure for the mountains. She meets Marsali, who is pregnant and suffering from morning sickness. I liked this scene, especially the part where Marsali talks about missing her mother.
"Your mother did a fine job raising you." I agree with this, and it's good to hear Claire say it out loud. Whatever you think about Laoghaire, in the books or show, she was in fact a good mother to Marsali and Joan.
So Fergus will be the one who goes in search of settlers for the Ridge. This is a change from the book, but since Duncan Innes has yet to make an appearance (and we don't even know if he'll be in the show), Fergus is really the logical person to do this. He knows Jamie well enough to understand the type of man Jamie's looking for, and the fact that he knew Hayes and Lesley will help in convincing any other Ardsmuir men he finds to trust him.
"We'll have a fine cabin waiting for you."
"The three of you can join us."
So Ian and Jamie make it clear that this separation is only temporary, that Marsali and Fergus and their baby will come to live on the Ridge before too long.
The little scene between Jamie and Claire is very touching, a good addition. Jamie senses what Claire is thinking before she says it, which is something we haven't seen much of in the TV show.
"I won't be there for her. Or a grandchild." This is heartbreaking and ironic at the same time.
"When I was without you, I held onto thoughts of your face, your words, your heart. I clung to those memories when I didna want to stand, and I was thankful for them when I could." Good line.
As they ride away the next morning, the tall trees look very authentic to me. I have pine trees like that in my back yard in Raleigh, NC, some of them 90 feet tall or higher.
Back on Fraser's Ridge, the view is as spectacular as it was at the end of Episode 403.
"I'll never tire of this view," Claire says. "If this were a painting, people would say it wasn't real, that the artist had imagined it." Good line.
Claire, reciting "My Country 'Tis of Thee", made me cringe a little, hoping she wouldn't in fact start singing. Not that I mind her singing, but it's MUCH too soon after the "America the Beautiful" bit at the end of Episode 401.
I'd never heard of "witness trees" before, but the only references I could find online were to trees that survived various pivotal moments in the Civil War, so I don't really understand why they're called that here. They are certainly distinctive-looking, though.
Idle thought: Do you suppose the "F.R." on the tree would still be visible in the 20th century?
Claire telling Young Ian about bears made me wonder, are there no bears in the UK? Apparently not. According to this article, they went extinct many centuries ago.
Suddenly Rollo starts barking, announcing the arrival of five Indians, armed with muskets. They stand like statues, silent and menacing.
"Stay by the rifles," Jamie says. So his party is equipped with rifles, not muskets? That's a change from the book, or else he misspoke. In the books, rifles were newer technology, scarce and expensive, and it was mainly the sharpshooters in the army who had access to them.
Jamie walks forward and drops his knife to the ground, indicating his peaceful intent, and the Cherokee turn without a word and walk away. The drums in the background add considerably to the dramatic tension in this scene.
Abruptly the focus shifts to Oxford, 1971, and we see Roger, "distracted" and obviously still very much in love with Brianna. He takes the book she gave him out of his desk drawer and we see that he has the drawing of the two of them at the Highland Games.
The book is open to a photo of Mt. Helicon, aka Grandfather Mountain. I liked the way they showed a brief montage of Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian on the Ridge while Roger was reading from the book. Notice Young Ian finding what appears to be an Indian arrowhead buried in the leaves.
I like the next scene, with Jamie and Claire looking over the just-started cabin and outbuildings. The way Jamie rolls his R's when he says "a rrrrrack for drrrrying meat" made me smile. I love seeing Jamie and Claire so happy together!
The bit about the crooked pole comes from the book (chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing"), showing Jamie's perfectionist tendencies <g> -- another aspect of his personality that doesn't often come through in the TV show.
And suddenly the Cherokee are back, on horseback this time. I'm glad they didn't subtitle the dialogue. It's much more realistic this way, just as it was in Season 1 with the Gaelic. I caught only the single word "Tsalagi", or Cherokee -- and only because I'm used to hearing it from the audiobook of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
Again we hear the drums as the riders gallop away.
Back in Oxford in 1971, Roger receives a packet of documents from the author of the book about Scottish settlers in North Carolina. The cover letter says that she is sending a photocopy of a 19th-century map of the area, as well as an archaeological survey believed to show evidence of the first (white) settlers in the area of Fraser's Ridge.
What he has, of course, is a copy of the land grant with Jamie Fraser's signature at the bottom, and the map that Tryon gave Jamie. I love Roger's shocked reaction as he realizes what he's looking at.
The other document in the packet is a letter dated 21 February 1769. I'm not sure who wrote it, but I'm very confident that we'll find out later this season.
So Roger calls Bree, and they make awkward conversation at first, until he blurts out, "I have some news about your mother."
I had to smile at the mention of Grandfather Mountain. Yes, this is a real place (pictured above) and they really do have a very large Highland Games there every summer. (Diana Gabaldon has said that Fraser's Ridge is located in this area, in the general vicinity of Boone or Blowing Rock, NC.)
When Bree says, "...despite everything that happened," and Roger replies, "Of course," with a slight shrug, I thought of Jamie's reaction after the big argument by the roadside in Episode 109, "The Reckoning":
But the truth is, I'd forgiven everything she'd done and everything she could do long before that day. For me, that was no choice. That was falling in love.I think Roger feels the same way about Bree.
Meanwhile, back on the Ridge (and it gives me a little thrill just to write that -- I'm so happy the show has finally reached this point!), Claire worries that maybe they should settle somewhere else, where the (evidently hostile) Cherokee won't be so close by. Jamie correctly points out that if the Cherokee want to come after them, they will, no matter where they settle.
"I canna tell you what it is for me to feel the rightness of this place." They changed this line somewhat from the book. The part that follows is one of my favorite Jamie-quotes from DRUMS:
"How shall I tell ye what it is, to feel the need of a place?” he said softly. “The need of snow beneath my shoon. The breath of the mountains, breathing their own breath in my nostrils as God gave breath to Adam. The scrape of rock under my hand, climbing, and the sight of the lichens on it, enduring in the sun and the wind.”In the middle of the night, Rollo starts barking. Inexplicably, considering that they're alone in the middle of the wilderness, they don't react at once. What's the use of having a guard (wolf-)dog if you don't pay attention when he's trying to warn you of danger?
His breath was gone and he breathed again, taking mine. His hands were linked behind my head, holding me, face-to-face.
“If I am to live as a man, I must have a mountain,” he said simply.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Outside in the dark, they discover that the meat they'd hung up in a tree the night before is gone, and one of their horses is injured, with long bloody scratches on its side, obviously made by something with powerful claws.
The next day, Jamie goes to see John Quincy Myers. I like Myers' backwoodsman's costume very much. He tells Jamie that the Cherokee have warned about "an evil spirit in the form of a bear", and offers to take some tobacco to them as a sort of peace offering.
I like the next scene, with Claire and Young Ian. They've caught some fish, but torn the net used to catch them, so Young Ian sets about repairing it. "It's akin to knitting," he says, and is astounded when Claire admits she doesn't know how to knit.
In the book, of course, this scene is between Jamie and Claire, but I think it's a reasonable change to give Jamie's lines to Young Ian. He hasn't had a lot to do so far in this episode, and it's good to show him interacting with Claire.
"Uncle Jamie knitted me a fine pair of stockings for my baptism."
Young Ian says this very matter-of-factly, but I was struck by the mental image conjured up by his words. I'm picturing Jamie, alone in the cave a few days after Ian's birth -- shortly after the very frightening incident in Episode 302 ("Surrender") where the Redcoats invaded Lallybroch -- knitting a wee pair of baby stockings, and, inevitably, thinking about Claire, and the child he thinks he'll never see. The thought is just heartbreaking.
In the next scene, Claire is practicing her marksmanship. I hope they have enough powder and shot to justify spending it on target practice! (Side note: Has Jamie had a haircut partway through this episode or something? His hair suddenly is back to the style he wore all the way back in Season 1.)
Meanwhile, the Cherokee are on the move, marching through the woods at night.
Again Jamie, Claire, and Ian are awakened by Rollo, and this time they react much faster. Rollo discovers Myers lying nearby, badly injured by what appears to be a bear's claws.
As Claire tends to Myers, we see glimpses of some sort of Cherokee pipe ceremony, featuring Adawehi (the elderly female known as Nayawenne in the books). It's difficult to make out what they're doing in the very dim light.
Examining Myers' wound, Claire discovers bite-marks, evidently made by human teeth. And just as she says, "It wasn't a bear," Jamie finds himself locked in a life-and-death struggle with the creature.
Too bad it wasn't an actual bear -- I'm sure Sam would have been up for it <g> -- but I wasn't seriously expecting Sam to wrestle a real bear; the logistics of filming and the risk of serious injury obviously would make it impractical.
Eventually Jamie manages to overpower and kill it. He drags the creature on a travois all the way to the Cherokee village (how did he know where they were?) and literally dumps it at their feet. And at that point, he discovers that one of the Cherokee men speaks perfect English.
So this man was banished for having sex with his mate without her consent? I wonder if the Cherokee actually would banish a man for doing that, or if this is something the writers made up.
"But we could not kill what was already dead to us." I don't like this. So they were essentially helpless, until the "King of Men", Jamie Fraser, came along to save them. That "white savior" stereotype is centuries old, and I really didn't like seeing it play out here.
And then we see Myers, recovering from his injury, saying, "I'll do whatever you say, Mistress. I owe you my life." He's supposed to be an experienced mountain man, accustomed to the wilderness, and yet he, too, was essentially helpless until Claire came along and saved his life. Shades of #SuperClaire from Season 3, and I didn't like that either.
Suddenly the Cherokee are back. Their chief, Nawohali (aka Nacognaweto in the books), gives Jamie the name of "Bear-Killer".
The scene with Adawehi (aka Nayawenne in the books) is taken almost word-for-word from the book (DRUMS chapter 20, "The White Raven"). Tantoo Cardinal is wonderful as Adawehi, managing to convey kindness, intelligence, and wisdom through her facial expressions and body language alone. I hope we see more of her this season.
"When your hair is white like snow, you will have wisdom beyond time." Interesting way of putting it.
Back in 1971, Roger has returned to the manse in Inverness to collect the last of his things.
"You mean when she went back in time to find Jamie Fraser." That made me laugh out loud. Fiona is smarter than we've given her credit for!
So the Reverend had a copy of the newspaper clipping about the fire, and Mrs. Graham got hold of it and kept it all those years?
"The date's smudged. 21st of January, 1770-something." Roger doesn't know the exact date of the fire. Interesting.
Roger knows Bree will be devastated, and he decides not to tell her, for that reason.
Back on the Ridge, they're making progress in building the cabin. I liked the scene where Jamie carries Claire over the threshold. <g> "It's perfect," Claire says, and again I'm delighted to see them so happy at long last.
Roger, on the other hand, is definitely not happy. He's still struggling with the question of whether to tell Bree about the death notice or not. Finally he calls her apartment in Boston, only to find that Bree has gone to Scotland, "to visit her mother."
And as the episode ends, Roger is sitting there in a state of shock, feeling his whole world fall apart. Perfect way to end the episode!
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 405.
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