Season 4, episode 4: "Common Ground"
"It is said that the Highlander has much in common with the Indian savage. Do you think so?
The "Outlander" has several times brought parallels between the Scottish Highlanders, who fought against the English occupation of their lands, and the Native Americans, who fight against the occupation of the English and other newly arrived Americans. In this week's episode, he is drawn by the governor as he gives Jamie 10,000 acres of His Majesty's land, and warns him of the welcome he can expect.
Jamie's response, while looking at the governor: "Savagery can exist in many ways, Your Excellency." It's Jamie's best: a natural leader, very aware of injustice, and determined to tell the truth to power.
But his first days with Claire and Ian on the farm are marked by warning visits from the Cherokee. They are understandably dissatisfied with the fact that the Frasers moved to their ancestral lands. And the Jamie who refused to buy the governor's opinion of the "savages" is the same Jamie who refuses to move when Claire suggests they be built farther from the shared border.
"From what you've told me, there are Indians in all these lands," he says. "So no matter where we settle, we'll have the same problem." Like it or not, Jamie is accepting the English mentality. When they toured this land for the first time, Jamie nodded when he heard that it was a Cherokee territory, sympathetic to their struggle. Now it is their land, and they are a problem.
It is a conflict that the program can not control. The parallels between mountaineers and Native Americans do not hold as well when the mountaineers are shown as brave heroes and the Cherokees present themselves as a threat, even ominous music and drums. The episode seems to be aware of the friction between framing Jamie as his hero and the fact that he is settling in ancestral Cherokee land, but fleetingly: John Quincy Myers agrees with Jamie's good and peaceful intentions, but when he hears that Cherokee he threw the Frasers. The very limit sticks to the ground at his feet, he does not sympathize much with Jamie's frustration.
"The Cherokee gave you a warning," he explains, and then suggests that Jamie reconsider this whole homesteading concert: "Next time they might not be so polite."
There is simply no easy way out of the position they are in: eventually, the episode has to find another way to resolve the tension. So Jamie kills the violent "bear spirit" that runs through the forest, a marginalized Cherokee who has lost his mind, and earns the respect of the tribe.
This reconciliation is clearly intended to undermine the image of Native American characters as the "savages" the governor described. We see them here in the context of a community and not as mere antagonists of our heroes. But the result is that Jamie did what the Cherokee did not want or could not do. Apparently, that movement is heroic enough to end the territorial dispute with a blow. Jamie is honored by the name of Bear Killer. The Frasers welcome Cherokee visitors to their fire (an elderly Cherokee even tells Claire that she "has medicine" and gives her blessing) and everything, it seems, is fine.
It feels a bit too clean. But the Cherokee will be increasingly in danger as more settlers arrive, and Jamie and Claire will have many opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to the new friendship. The governor's warnings only suggest that Jamie and Claire can still fight with their privileges in this New World. After all, "There is a law and what you do is done" is good news only for the people in power.
And "Outlander" is clearly ready to leave behind its entanglements with race and colonialism for a time and settle in the lives of its settlers. We have a lot of Fraser in jungle domestic happiness. Claire, Jamie and Ian destroy trout, cut trees, set up nets and plan the settlement. (Jamie's surprise gift for the opening of Claire's house: a clinic). In particular, Claire and Ian have settled into a comfortable pace. He has become a useful surgical assistant, and Claire is clearly fond of her joy.
The only one missing in the family portrait is Brianna.
Saying goodbye to a pregnant Marsali in Wilmington sends Claire into a spiral of guilt over Brianna, who is much more separated from her mother than Marsali from his own. Finally, Claire admits to Jamie, as a terrible secret: "Sometimes I worry that it's wrong to leave her." Letting Brianna come back for Jamie is still one of the most important decisions Claire has made, and it's no wonder she's thinking about that now when she starts over one more time.
In 1970, the first step of Roger's redemption is the best gift of apology a man can give: Documentation that his mother definitely found her first husband after traveling 200 years back in time. His phone call to Brianna to give him the news is very well done, full of uncomfortable conversations and the strange intimacy of sharing a secret, even if they are not on good terms.
The second step of Roger's redemption is more loaded: he has to decide whether to tell Brianna that Jamie and Claire's happiness was short-lived because they died in a fire on the Fraser crest sometime in the 1770s. However, it turns out there's no time to worry about that: Roger's second call to Brianna ends with his own revelation.
Brianna has gone to visit her mother.
• Speaking of fabric, Claire's shawl really sells her comfort like a garment here. It echoes his older and more practical Scottish clothing, a deliberate visual relationship between his old world and his new world.
• I laughed out loud while Claire and Jamie watched a green screen talking about paintings. Sometimes breaking the fourth wall is fun!
• I am always delighted to see Tantoo Cardinal, who plays the old Cherokee, on a casting list. She is great, very happy to have her here.
• "You must not be worried. Death is sent by the gods. It will not be your fault. "Well, that's cheering!