Want to hear something weird? This year I asked Santa Claus to bring me a hunky man wearing tiny glasses while doing paperwork and he hath delivered! Early, too! “Common Ground” opens with Jamie Fraser, bearer of miniscule eyewear, signing Governor Tryon’s land grant making the 10,000 acres of Fraser’s Ridge his and it’s like, how do we even continue after this? Someone give the man some other documents to sign immediately! There’s just something about a buff guy who has to put on glasses in order to fill out important documents that gets me every time. I don’t understand it, but I certainly won’t apologize for it.
Alas, the tiny glasses eventually come off. Jamie and Tryon engage in some seemingly polite conversation loaded with tense subtext. The gist of the whole thing is that Tryon expects Jamie to be a good little settler and pay all of his taxes. And anyone he has come live on his land will also pay their taxes, no matter the price, right? Jamie attempts to clap back with his “Savagery can exist in many forms…I’ve witnessed it in both prince and pauper,” line but Tryon doesn’t care. To him, anyone who disrespects the King is a barbarian. So, that’s definitely something that’s going to cause problems later.
As if Jamie and Claire don’t have enough on their plates as it is. They now own 10,000 acres of land! I’m no land-owner, but that seems like a lot. They gather up supplies—both of the salted meats and the Young Ian variety—in Wilmington and bid farewell once again to Fergus and Marsali, who is like insanely pregnant now. Was Claire asleep in the forest with that skull for months? Regardless, Marsali is missing her (terrible) mom Laoghaire, which in turn makes Claire get upset thinking about how maybe it was wrong and selfish of her to ditch her own daughter. Sorry, Claire, you should have thought about that before you willingly chose to time travel 200 years before she was born. Talk about abandonment issues!
The Frasers continue on. Aw, you guys, don’t Jamie and Claire seem so happy? They’re chopping wood (not a euphemism)! They’re sawing logs (not a euphemism)! Jamie packs Claire’s gunpowder during shooting practice (still no, sorry)! Claire is even wearing pants as they build their little cabin. Glorious pants! They are practically glowing as Jamie carries his wife over the foundational threshold and he shows her where everything’s going to be—he’s even made her a little she-shed for all of her doctor stuff. We do not deserve this man! I mean, he made the bedroom face the east so they could see every sunrise. That’s a lot of sunrises and who wants to get up that early every damn day, but isn’t the sentiment so romantic?
But this is Outlander, you see, so nothing Jamie and Claire do comes without some complications. In this case, it’s some issues with the neighbors. The neighbors being the Cherokee whose land borders Jamie and Claire’s, which of course probably means it once belonged to them outright before the English massacred their people and stole it but who wants to get into that right now? Definitely not Outlander.
The Cherokees living nearby make it clear to the Frasers that they’re not happy to see them. Jamie, of course, wants to make nice—he wants to keep the peace! So he goes to resident Hunk of the Woods John Quincy Myers for advice on both how to make some sort of neighborly offering to the Cherokee and also to talk about a little bear problem they’re having. Oh, did I not mention the bear? There’s a bear that’s been stealing their food and mauling their horses, and even Myers knows of it—apparently, the Cherokee are terrified of it. Myers then really knows of it because later that night Jamie and Claire find him all mauled up—there’s a lot of blood!
Jamie’s had enough of this thing terrorizing his family, and the Cherokee, and his hunky woodsman acquaintance! Jamie goes looking for that bear to end this once and for all. BUT YOU GUYS: The bear is not a bear! It’s a man wearing a bearskin and claws! The two fight and it gets vicious, but ultimately Jamie shoves a spike right through that guy and saves the forest or whatever. Fans of the books will know that this is all very different than what goes down in Drums of Autumn. In the novel, Jamie fights an actual bear and wins! Come on TV version, we already know Jamie can fight men—let us see him fight bears! It’s only right.
Anyway, Jamie, looking hotter than ever covered in dirt and blood and his curly hair finally freed from the imprisonment of that tiny ponytail, drags that bear man through the woods and lays him at the feet of the Cherokee. Apparently, this bear man was kicked out of their tribe after assaulting his wife. He went crazy in the forest alone and was wreaking havoc on them, but since he was already dead to them, they could not kill him. They are grateful to Jamie, which means both that they can attempt to live in peace and also that Jamie’s new name is Bear Killer. It’s a very cool nickname as far as nicknames go, but also makes me wish he had actually fought a bear even more. GIVE US THE BEAR FIGHT, SHOW.
The other major item of note to come out of this is that Claire meets Adawehi (Tantoo Cardinal), the healer of the Cherokee. Their first meeting isn’t weird or ominous at all! Adawehi just tells Claire that she had a dream about her being a white raven and swallowing the moon and laying an egg in her hand and having magical powers and tells her that death is sent from the gods and it won’t be her fault. Cool, cool, cool. Nothing terrifying about that!
But still, thanks to Jamie’s offering, the backcountry of North Carolina becomes less tense and the Frasers continue to build their dream home and new life together. Well, for now, anyway.
Any hope for Jamie and Claire to find true peace in the New World is sure to be upended by what’s going on in the 1970s. Roger’s back teaching at Oxford and is very 1970s emo, moping around over what happened with Brianna, but, mind you, never once admitting that he is the one in the wrong. Ugh, THIS GUY.
Turtleneck over here decides to take a quick look through the “Scottish Settlers in North Carolina” book that Bree gave him during their disastrous road trip and surprise, surprise, he comes across a brief mention of a place called Fraser’s Ridge. After a little more detective work, he finds copies of the land grant Jamie signed and a letter that mentions James Fraser and his wife Claire. Finally! Proof that Claire was successful in her mission to find the love of her life. Despite everything, Roger calls Brianna up in Boston—HE STILL DOES NOT APOLOGIZE—and fills her in on the news. She’s grateful and beyond happy to hear that her mother found Jamie. They hang up and go about their business but you can see it on their faces—these two dummies are still so in love with each other. There is so much left unsaid!
Roger has a nice chat with Fiona back at the house in Inverness and it turns out that she’s known about all this time travel business for some time. She has some unfortunate news for Roger. She shows him an obituary her grandmother had found when she was helping Reverend Wakefield with his research. In 1770-something, the full date unreadable, a house fire in the backcountry of North Carolina claimed the lives of James and Claire Fraser.
But that’s not even the big news!
After some deliberation—her mom has technically been dead for 200 years, so this news would only “break her heart” he reasons—Roger decides he can’t keep this from Brianna. But when he calls her up, her roommate Gayle informs Roger that no, Bree isn’t home. She went to Scotland. To visit her mother.
I guess we’re time-travelling again, kids.