Outlander review: New terrain and old regrets plague the Frasers in “Common Ground”


Claire questions her choices, Jamie tries to befriend the Cherokee and Brianna heads to Inverness in a wistful Outlander.

As Outlander season 4 has progressed, I’ve found myself coming to the same conclusion Claire arrives at in “Common Ground”: things will never be the way they were when our heroes first got together.

For Claire, her reunion with Jamie will always be a little bit tainted with regret over leaving Brianna. For us, the viewers, the post-Claire-and-Jamie’s-Separation Outlander will never feel quite as romantic or epic as it did in seasons 1 and 2 because the main couple’s love has overcome countless emotional and physical threats. Claire and Jamie are a package deal, come what may. That’s a lovely thought but it just doesn’t inspire the same goosebumps it did back when they first met in Scotland.

Sure, it’s a little pessimistic, but that might be the best mindset to take when watching Outlander now. Claire and Jamie will go on their new adventures, but a little part of them will always be back in the past, before Culloden, Bree, Jamie’s son and second marriage and before all the other complications. So will we.

And that’s okay! Once we’ve accepted that, we can enjoy Outlander for what it is now in season 4 — that’s my philosophy anyway.

So on to “Common Ground,” an episode that is as preoccupied with the Frasers’ latest escapades as it is with Claire’s choice to leave Brianna behind (ahead?) in the 20th century. As she and Jamie finally build their own home in North Carolina, Claire is — perhaps for the first time — grappling with the reality that she may never see her only child ever again.

In a pitch-perfect scene, an expecting Marsali (Lauren Lyle) confesses she’s been missing her mother. With her baby coming, she’s craving Laoghaire‘s advice and support more than ever. Claire is comforting, but the conversation makes her realize she won’t be there when Brianna has her own child. Jamie’s recommendation that Claire “cling” to her memories of Bree is well-meaning, but doesn’t do much to assuage Claire’s guilt. Death didn’t take her daughter away; she made the choice to leave.

Obviously, Bree has been missing her mother, too. After their fairly nasty breakup last week, she hears from Roger, who tells her that her parents did reunite and in fact settled in North Carolina. Later on Roger discovers Claire and Jamie died in a fire at Fraser’s Ridge at some point in the 1770s. He calls Bree to tell her, but her roommate reveals she’s gone to Scotland “to visit her mother.” Looks like Bree will be heading to Craigh na Dun to find her parents, and Roger will be close behind to warn them of their impending deaths. Should make for one memorable family reunion!

“Common Ground’s” other major plotline is the Frasers’ inevitable confrontation with the Cherokee tribe of Fraser’s Ridge and its surrounding land. Jamie has made a Faustian deal with the redcoats in exchange for 10,000 acres — which is sure to come back and bite him come the revolution. Of course, the indigenous peoples were not consulted about this transaction and are not pleased to see the hundreds of Fraser stakes marking up their land. A peaceful introduction from Jamie does nothing to dampen their ire.

Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie’s camp is also being ransacked by a bear. Scratch that: it’s a disgruntled Cherokee, who was banished as punishment for rape and lost his ever-loving mind, who dresses as a bear to seek his revenge. (Between this and “The False Bride’s” time-traveling ghost, Outlander is really testing my ability to suspend disbelief lately.) Anyway, the bear-man and Jamie get in a fight to the death and Jamie wins because of course he does.

This apparently is enough for the other Cherokee. The chief deems Jamie “Bear Killer” and both the tribe and the Frasers vow to live among each other peacefully. Claire makes friends with a couple Cherokee women, one of whom is also a healer. She predicts Claire will have an abundance of wisdom by the time her hair is “white like snow,” and that she will soon blame herself for a death she’s not responsible for. Perhaps Bree and Roger will manage to warn Claire and Jamie about the fire, but it will still claim someone else’s life.

Related Story. Outlander review: Brianna and Roger take center stage in ‘The False Bride’. light


  • In “Common Ground’s” post-mortem, Outlander writer-executive-producer Matthew B. Roberts reveals the staff consulted North Carolina’s Cherokee reservation while making the episode. Yet something in the portrayal of the Cherokee people and their customs still felt off somehow. It’s commendable the show did its homework while putting “Common Ground” together, but the Cherokee still felt more like stereotypes than actual characters. Hopefully, this will be improved upon throughout the rest of the season.
  • The symbolism of Jamie killing a Native American by impaling him with one of the stakes that marks his (stolen) land is completely bonkers.
  • Outlander continues to lampshade its own ridiculousness by having Claire and Jamie admire the obviously CGI’d landscape as almost too lovely to be real: “If this were a painting, people would say it wasn’t real, that the artist had imagined it.”
  • Sam Heughan’s accent somehow makes “jerked meat” sound enticing.
  • This season has been fairly light on the sex and romance, so it was a delight to see Claire and Jamie flirting over her church-like singing voice and his shooting capabilities, and him carrying her over the threshold.
  • It’s nice that Outlander does right by Fiona (Iona Claire) and makes her much more aware than she lets on. Turns out she knows all about Claire’s time traveling.
  • Let’s all take a moment and fantasize about how much better this show would be if Richard Madden had been cast as Roger…