Thursday, November 29, 2018

“Finding Common Ground” - a recap of season 4 episode 4 by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown 

Circles, Intentions, Decisions and now Reactions. In this episode, Jamie and Claire react to the new challenges of owning land already owned by the Native Americans, as well as the dangers that exist in their new environment. The Cherokee react to them in turn, as the two groups try to find the common ground necessary to coexist. Both Claire and Marsali are also reacting to the absence of a significant woman in their lives - for Marsali, this is her mother; for Claire, it is her daughter. Lastly, back in the twentieth century, Brianna and Roger react to the news that Roger has discovered. Both are also still reacting to the damage caused by the events of the festival, searching for some common ground and a way back to their relationship. 

After a title sequence of Indian warriors donning traditional garb, the episode opens with Jamie’s signing of the deed of land that has been offered  to him by Governor Tryon. The Governor brands Jamie’s decision a commendable one, Jamie responding that it is one that he doesn’t take lightly. Jamie now has ten thousand acres at his disposal, and Tryon comments on the herculean task before him. The deed is handed over, along with another offer. The Governor offers accommodation for Claire while Jamie’s land is being settled. Jamie thanks him, but says that Claire will be going with him. When Tryon expresses surprise at this, Jamie replies that Claire is a healer with a great deal of fortitude, who has seen both war and plague. He couldn’t do it without her, he says. 

The Governor contents himself with a disbelieving look, before changing the subject and asking if Jamie has found others to settle on the land. Jamie replies that he has his best man making enquiries. Tryon encourages restraint, commenting that Jamie should take his time choosing settlers and warning against the regulators who are proving troublesome by pitching themselves against tax collectors. He is particularly scathing, branding them men of shallow understand who believe themselves sole arbiters of right and wrong. What is wrong, Tryon insists, is their refusal to pay their taxes. Jamie asks about the power of the sheriffs to take control, but Tryon comments that he finds some of them untrustworthy as well, as the taxes are not reaching the treasurers. 

Jamie expresses his sympathy, but Tryon is quick to remind him of the conditions of the deal he has just agreed to. “It is not your sympathy I want, Mr Fraser,” he says. In the exchange that follows, Tryon attempts to gain the upper hand. He asks Jamie if it is true that he has dined with both prince and pauper and when Jamie confirms this, Tryon then asks him to compare the similarity of the highlanders to the Indian savage. But Jamie is equal to the exchange, commenting that savagery can exist in many forms and he has witnessed it in both prince and pauper. He has won the point and Tryon knows it. Icily, Tryon cautions that those who live in defiance of the king are no better than barbarians and that often the law is not efficient in containing them. Jamie swiftly turns Tryon’s earlier words back on him commenting that there is the law and there is what is done. 

But Tryon merely says that he is glad the two men understand each other. The fact remains that should it come down to it, Jamie would need to support Tryon against any conflict with the regulators. Still, Tryon coats this reminder in a compliment. An agreement with a gentleman is worth its weight in gold, he says, especially one who knows both the world and its troubles. Jamie replies that he hopes the world will keep its troubles to itself. Tryon’s parting comment is to brand Jamie “just the type of settler that North Carolina needs.”

In the tavern, Claire is bringing down the last of their provisions for transport. Young Ian offers to take them out to the wagon, leaving Claire with a now visibly pregnant Marsali. Claire orders some food for the journey from the tavern owner, prompting Marsali to comment on her morning sickness. She cannot even think of supper, she says, without being queasy. Claire offers Marsali advice, telling her to chew peppermint and to eat small meals. Marsali is emotional, admitting to Claire that she misses her mother. She knows that there is bad blood between the two women, she tells Claire, but with the child coming, she wishes that Laoghaire was there with her. Claire understands immediately, saying that it’s not unusual for a pregnant woman to want her mother at such a time and offers her own help. Marsali thanks her, adding that if things were to go wrong, there is no other healer she would want by her side, but that delivering and raising a child are two different things. Claire replies that Laoghaire did a fine job raising Marsali and that she will do just as well. It is a touching scene, beautifully acted by Caitriona Balfe and Lauren Lyle.In the absence of Brianna, Claire is given the opportunity to be maternal towards Marsali and we can see the bond growing between them.

Jamie, meanwhile, is instructing Fergus on the settlers that he should be trying to find. Highlanders are the first choice, Jamie says, particularly the men from Ardsmuir prison, who should be around - and one can’t help but wonder if Murtagh might be due to make an appearance soon! Fergus promises to look for the men Jamie wants. It is Jamie’s turn to be paternal now, asking Fergus and Marsali if they have enough money. Fergus says that he has managed some work and that Marsali has been doing some sewing. They have enough. Young Ian announces that the wagon is loaded and farewells are said. Claire and Marsali hug warmly, the younger woman promising to write as soon as the baby arrives. Jamie makes his own promise to the couple: there will be a cabin waiting for the three of them when they are ready. 

As they head outside, Jamie comments on Claire’s faraway look. He has missed nothing. Marsali is glowing with her pregnancy and, given that she is about the same age as Brianna, it is natural that Claire will be thinking of their daughter. Claire admits that sometimes she worries that she shouldn’t have left Brianna. Claire missed her own mother when Brianna was born and she regrets that she won’t be there for Bree either. Jamie tells her that when they were parted, he held onto his memories of Claire. “Our daughter will do the same,”  he says. Claire is tearful, but the words are comforting. Waved off by Fergus and Marsali, they head off.

Stopping for a rest, Claire and Jamie admire the view while Ian minds the horses. It is a spectacular sight and they take a moment to bask in it, Jamie commenting that God should be complimented on His brush strokes and Claire adding that He “has a certain touch.”

In the next scene, they are hammering in boundary posts to mark their land, Claire consulting the map, as they marvel at the size of the grant. Claire quotes “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” It is a song, she tells Jamie, called ‘America’, with the same tune as ‘God Save Great George our King’. They joke about Americans stealing the song and making it their own, prompting Jamie to add that he applauds the gesture.  He asks Claire to sing the song, but she refuses. His voice husky, Jamie tells her that when she sings all prim and proper as if she were in church, it makes him want to do indecent things to her. It is a sexually charged moment and she is receptive, but they are interrupted by Ian, who has noticed two large trees, known as witness trees. Jamie says that they mark the furthest boundary of the land and  he carves the initials “FR” into the trunk of one, as a signal to all who pass that they are entering Fraser’s Ridge. He follows this significant moment by promptly stepping in a large pile of animal droppings and they start to muse as to what animal could have left it. Ian asks if it could be the raccoons that Myers has told him of, but Claire suggests it is a much larger, more dangerous creature. Wolves, mountain lions, bears are all possible candidates.

Rollo starts to bark and the tension heightens as Claire asks if there is something behind them. It is then we see the Cherokee warriors, standing with rifles, looking at them. Rollo growls, as Jamie instructs Claire to give him the knife and move behind him. Jamie and Ian discuss in low tones what the men might want. Ian remarks that the Cherokee whom Myers dealt with were friendly and says he will go with Jamie. But Jamie refuses, telling Ian and Claire to stay by the rifles as he walks towards the men. He holds his hands wide and drops the knife into the ground, while pointing to himself. “I am James Fraser” he says. The men say nothing, but begin to walk away. The leader stays a moment longer, fixing Jamie with a stare before turning and following the others. It is an unsettling moment for everyone.

The scene shifts back to 1971, as a colleague of Roger’s at Oxford University is bemoaning a student’s inability to hand in an essay. But Roger is not listening. He apologises for being busy and distracted, mumbling in a non committal way when invited to join the others for a drink and a smoke. Left alone in the office, he opens his desk drawer, taking out the book that Brianna had given him at the festival. He looks at the pencil sketch of the two and, as poignant music plays underneath, notices a picture of Mt Helicon, now known as Grandfather Mountain, settled in the 1770s by Highland Scots. As Roger’s voiceover continues, we see Jamie and Claire working the very land being described. It is a clever linking of past and present. blurring the time boundaries once again. Roger reads of a place known as Fraser’s Ridge, and we watch the beginnings of the cabins being made, as Jamie chops down trees. At the same time Ian finds a stone arrowhead in the dirt, a reminder that the land has other owners and occupants too.

Jamie and Claire discuss the cabin, Jamie explaining what rooms will be in their new home. Jamie points out the imaginary shed for meat, as well as their temporary stores, that have been tied high up in the trees away from animals in the meantime. The grand tour continues. Jamie points out what will be Claire’s shed for healing. “You’ve thought of everything,” she says, but Jamie is distracted. He has noticed a crooked post and goes to fix it. The lighthearted moment comes to an abrupt end, with Ian’s frantic cries. He runs towards them, the Cherokee in pursuit. This time they do more than just stare. They have brought the boundary posts, which they throw at Jamie’s feet. The leader of the group speaks to them and the note of warning in his voice is clear. In a script released by the writers, these words are translated: “This is not your home. For a long time the Cherokee people live on this land. You all go away!” It is a highly charged moment and leaves the three breathless as the Cherokee ride away.

A package has arrived for Roger. It is from the author of the book and contains official documents of Fraser’s Ridge. “Oh my God,” says Roger, as he looks at a copy of the deed with Jamie’s signature and the map of the land. He has found them. 

A phone rings in Boston and Brianna answers. She is pleased to hear Roger’s voice, pleasure that is further highlighted by the pantomimed conversation with her roommate Gayle, who immediately makes herself scarce, so that Brianna can chat. It is an awkward beginning: each asking haltingly as to the other’s health. It is obvious that the events of the festival have taken their toll. Brianna admits to Roger that she has been thinking about him, but stops herself from saying anything else, choosing instead to ask if Roger has had a nice holiday. He corrects her, as it is the following week that he will be in Inverness and tells her that he is just getting the last of the boxes from Fiona. Roger moves onto the reason for his call, telling her that he has news about her mother. The shock of this is written on Brianna’s face immediately. Roger explains that he had seen the entry in the book and contacted the author for more information. “And?” says Brianna, urgently. 
“Claire found Jamie,” says Roger. “They were reunited and lived in North Carolina at a settlement called Fraser’s Ridge from about 1768, not far from Mt Helicon, which is now called Grandfather Mountain.” Brianna realises that this was the location of the festival, and that her parents had actually been early Americans. Roger then tells her that he has the land grant, along with a letter from a woman to her family who mentions both Jamie and Claire by name. It is proof positive and Brianna is overcome with emotion. “Roger, I can’t tell you what this means to me,” she says. She thanks him for looking, despite everything that had happened between them. 
“Of course,” says Roger. There is a pause. Both want to speak, but neither are able. Awkwardly, the conversation ends. Roger says he has essays to mark and they say their goodbyes. 

This scene is beautifully performed by both Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. The longing, regret and emotion shows large on both Roger and Brianna’s faces and we see how much they still care for each other. The hurt is still too raw, however, for them to reconcile.

It is night. As Ian sleeps, Claire and Jamie consider their options, in the wake of the Cherokee’s latest visit. Claire suggests that they could build somewhere else, given the size of the land grant they have been given. But Jamie dismisses the idea. “This is the place,” he says. They are close to the stream, the land is good and they are sheltered from the wind. Claire suggests they move further away from the shared border, but Jamie comments that a line of a map hasn’t stopped the Cherokee so far and if the Indians mean to be rid of them, they will find them wherever they settle. Claire reminds Jamie of the skull she had found. What if he hadn’t led them back to each other and to this place, she says, but was instead giving them a warning. “He’s someone like me,” she says. “What if he knows that something bad happens here?”

But Jamie is convinced of the “rightness” of the place. The mountain has spoken to him, but he can’t speak with the Cherokee in turn and assure them that he will respect the boundary lines. Claire suggests that perhaps they can make a gesture of good will. It is a good idea.

Later that night, Claire, Jamie and Ian are woken by Rollo’s barking outside. Grabbing the pistol, Jamie assumes the Cherokee have returned. Claire and Ian follow him, each gathering weapons. Jamie lights a torch to see more clearly. But it is not the Indians. The meat has gone and Ian’s horse staggers towards them, with ugly scratch marks on its flank. “This isn’t the Cherokee,” says Claire. “This is a bear.”

Enter John Quincy Myers. By daylight, he and Jamie are discussing the roaming bear that nearly cost Jamie a horse. Myers remarks that the Cherokee had told him of a “Tskili Yona”, which translates roughly to mean the evil spirit in the form of a bear. Myers offers Jamie some of the drying meat, given that they have lost their provisions. Jamie replies that he hasn’t come to see Myers for charity, but for counsel. Myers offers it in kind: without food in their bellies, he says, their minds will be empty too. Jamie then accepts the beef jerky, as Myers comments that they will come across more food soon enough, but that the threats of the Cherokee require more thought. The return of the boundary posts has sent a message. Jamie comments that he had hoped to make them an offer of some kind and Myers suggests tobacco. Fortunately, he has a ready supply from River Run and offers some to Jamie. They discuss the respectful way to greet the Cherokee, Jamie echoing Myers’ spoken phrase, “Siyo Ginali”. But Myers has another idea. The Cherokee are restless and he is known to them. Perhaps he can take the tobacco on Jamie’s behalf. Jamie is grateful for the offer. Myers offers one last piece of advice: to hold off on the building of the cabin until the matter is resolved. The next time, there might not be a warning.

Meanwhile, Claire and Ian are preparing fish that they have caught. Ian has mended the net, which he says is akin to knitting and shares his knowledge of the craft with Claire, expressing surprise when she admits that she cannot knit. Everyone can “clickit” he tells her, even Jamie, who had knitted Young Ian a pair of stockings for his baptism. Ian goes to check on his horse, and he and Claire briefly discuss the possibility of the bear returning. Left alone, Claire is practising her marksmanship,  when Jamie appears. She is a reasonable shot, but Jamie is a better one, showing her how to load the rifle properly. 

The Cherokee are on the move, carrying burning torches. Rollo again alerts everyone to a strange presence. But as Jamie and the others move outside, it becomes clear that it is not the tribe who have disturbed their sleep. The campfire is burning and no one is about. Rollo whimpers now, and a human cry is heard. It is Myers, who is in a bad way. He has been mauled, and there is a horrible wound to his chest. “Tskili Yona,” he grunts, as Claire tries to stop the bleeding. 

Meanwhile, the name “Tskili Yona” is being chanted elsewhere. The Cherokee are having their own ritual, trying to banish the bear. Thanks again to a translated script, the words being chanted are:  “We pray to be rid of Tskili Yona. Let us pray for Tskili Yona to leave us and never return. Let us make it so.”

Claire and Ian are attempting to treat Myers, when noises are heard outside. The bear is still nearby. Jamie goes outside to deal with it, as simultaneously, the Cherokee continue their ritual. A Cherokee woman throws something into the fire, drums are beaten and people dance, as Jamie brandishes a torch in the darkness. The noises come again and Jamie picks up the rifle and shoots. He misses. The dancing ritual continues and Jamie reloads. Inside the cabin, Claire notices that Myers has been bitten. The bite is human... 

The “bear” lunges at Jamie and we see that it is a man in a bear’s skin. The dancing becomes frenzied as the fight intensifies. The rifle has been knocked aside and Jamie is fighting for his life. The Tskili Yona is stronger, raking at Jamie’s arm with real bear claws. He aims for Jamie’s throat, but Jamie manages to escape. He runs, the “bear” in pursuit. He grabs one of the remaining boundary posts and in a last desperate effort, turns and thrusts it at Tskili Yona, impaling him. Exhausted, Jamie collapses to the ground, breathing hard in relief.

It is daylight and Jamie drags the body of the Tskili Yona on a makeshift sled. He arrives at the Cherokee camp, dropping the body at their leader’s feet. It is a tense standoff, but Jamie remembers the greeting Myers had taught him: “Siyo Gnali” he says. But the Cherokee man speaks American accented English. “You killed him?” he asks. Rifles are still trained on Jamie and he raises his hands in surrender. “I did,” Jamie replies and the rifles are withdrawn at the leader’s command. 

Jamie shows them that Tskili Yona was a man, not a monster. “Often times, man is monster,” the man replies. Jamie stands and turns, with a look of understanding. He knows this better than most.  The Cherokee explain that Tskili Yona had been one of them, a great warrior, until he mistreated his woman. He was banished to live alone in the woods, a punishment he did not accept. He tried to return, but was ostracised. Eventually he lost his mind, taking on the form of a bear, and becoming Tskili Yona. “We could not kill what was already dead to us,” the Cherokee leader explains, adding that now there will be no more trouble from the bear. Jamie asks if there will still be trouble from the Cherokee. He explains that his family wish to live peacefully, giving his word with his hand over his heart. It is a wary start between the two groups.

In the next scene, Claire is advising a recovering Myers on the best ways of keeping his strength up. Myers is grateful, telling Claire that he owes her his life. “We all do,” Ian observes. Jamie tells Myers that he is welcome to remain with them while he recuperates. Suddenly, the Cherokee appear from the trees.  The man Jamie spoke to now acts as translator for the leader of the tribe. The leader, Nawohali, says “ We pray no more blood is spilled between us”, Jamie responding that this is their wish as well. It is then that Jamie is given his Cherokee name: Yona Dihi, which means Bear Killer. Young Ian is mightily impressed by his uncle’s new status amongst the Cherokee people. Jamie invites the group to join their fire and they do. It seems that they are beginning to find common ground. 

Two Cherokee women approach Claire. The younger woman introduces herself as Giduhwa and the older woman as her husband’s grandmother, Adawehi. Claire introduces herself in return and Giduhwa explains that the older woman had dreamt about Claire. Adawehi begins to speak and Giduhwa translates. 

“The moon was in the water,” Adawehi says. “You became a white raven. You flew over the water and swallowed the moon. The white raven flew back and laid an egg in the palm of my hand. When it opened, there was a shining stone inside. This was great magic. The stone could heal sickness.”

Claire realises that the older woman must also be a healer, a fact confirmed by Giduhwa. Adawehi has a prophecy for Claire. While Claire has medicine now, she will have more when her hair is white like snow, with wisdom beyond time. But Giduhwa translates one final troubling message. Death is sent from the Gods, she says. Claire must not be troubled, as it will not be her fault. Claire doesn’t understand what she is being told, but no further explanation is given. Claire leads them over to the fire.

Back in Inverness, Roger has gathered the final box and thanks Fiona for storing them. Fiona is making her own stamp on the house. She is hanging curtains and asks Roger what he thinks. He hesitates over his reply and Fiona asks Roger if he has spoken to Brianna. “For all of five minutes, a week ago,” he replies. 

Fiona is sympathetic, telling him that it’s a start. It has been the first time they have spoken since his proposal. Roger comments that he doesn’t know whether Brianna was happy because he had called her, or because of the news he had shared. He skirts around the details, but he needn’t have bothered. Fiona has known the story all along, telling a stunned Roger that the walls of the house are not as thick as he had thought. She had overheard Claire, Brianna and himself speaking of Jamie. Besides, Mrs Graham had been the caller at the stones: Fiona knows all the stories of people disappearing. She comments that losing Claire must have taken its toll on Brianna and Roger agrees. He says that he had kept looking until he could give Brianna the reassurance that Claire had indeed found Jamie. He had hoped it would be a new  beginning, but he hasn’t heard from her since.

Fiona has other news. She had found her own evidence of Jamie and Claire, courtesy of research that Mrs Graham had helped the Reverend compile. It is an obituary, announcing the death of Jamie and Claire by fire on Fraser’s Ridge. The date is smudged, but their death is sometime within the following decade. Roger knows that Brianna will be devastated and says that he can’t tell her. Fiona argues that she should know the truth, that her mother is dead. But Roger reminds her that Claire is dead anyway - it is two hundred years later. This news, he says, would break Brianna’s heart all over again. Fiona reluctantly agrees and returns the papers to the drawer.

Back in the 1700s, the cabin starts to take shape. Jamie, Claire and Ian split wood and slowly the foundations are built, log by log. Finally, Jamie carries Claire over the threshold, and the grand tour resumes. Jamie indicates the pantry and the hearth, which he will bless. They plan the bookshelves, and talk of candles and tables and the bed that will face east to watch the sunrise. It is a beautiful picture. They kiss tenderly and look out at the possibility of their future.

Gazing into his own fire, Roger makes a difficult decision. He dials the number and the phone is answered in Boston. But it is not Brianna. Gayle asks if she is speaking to “the” Roger, expressing her surprise that Roger doesn’t know that Brianna has gone to Scotland to visit her mother. Roger is stunned: he knows what this must mean. The episode ends with his reaction, as we reach the same conclusion along with him. Brianna has travelled to the past. 

Yet again, the airing of this episode had mixed reviews. While many were thrilled with the hour’s action, others lamented the changes. In the book, Jamie fought a real bear not a man; the native Americans were Tuscarora, not Cherokee; Myers was killed by the bear, others scenes had been invented. And so on. It is perhaps ironic that this episode was titled Common Ground. It could be argued that perhaps it is time for some book fans to finally find their own “common ground” with the adaptation to the screen!

This episode recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She thought the introduction of the “Tskili Yona” was a fabulous idea and that all the actors in this episode did a wonderful job portraying the tensions and tenuous beginnings of the relationship between all the inhabitants on Fraser’s Ridge. 

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