This week on Outlander it’s back into the wilds of colonial America for a Thanksgiving episode (well, not really, but it does involve white settlers invading Native American land and attempting to establish a hollow peace in a gross oversimplification of native customs, so basically yes).
Jamie has decided to sell his soul to the devil and goes to Governor Tryon to sign the land grant, bestowing 10,000 acres upon him, essentially making him the laird he was always meant to be. The governor has arranged a place for Claire to stay in Wilmington, but no, she’s going up the mountain with Jamie. Would we expect anything less? The governor warns Jamie to be careful with the men he selects as settlers on the land — he explains how regulators are stirring up trouble against tax collectors and refusing to pay, while the collectors themselves are often skimming money off the top. They also discuss the natives, those the governor refers to as Indian savages, as he frets about the similarities between them and the Highlanders. Jamie makes a show of being on the governor’s side, but his double talk about barbarism is clearly for the benefit of those watching at home.
Claire packs up her belongings in Wilmington to head back into the mountains, but first, she shares a moment with Marsali, who is missing her mother with the approach of her baby. Jamie advises Fergus to find as many Highlanders to settle as he can, particularly men from Ardsmuir. Marsali’s sadness makes Claire also miss Brianna and wonder if leaving her was the right choice because now she won’t be there for her when/if she has a child. It’s one of the hardest points to reconcile in Outlander — as a society, we’re used to prizing maternal devotion over personal romantic happiness, whether or not that’s fair, so it can sometimes be difficult to accept Claire’s choice to return to Jamie and leave Bree behind.
Claire, Jamie, and Ian begin to stake out the boundary line of Fraser’s Ridge. She teaches Jamie the words to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and they start to share a romantic moment, but are interrupted by Ian finding a perfect place for their cabin nestled between two trees. Jamie begins to carve the letters “F.R.” into a tree, while Ian marvels at the possible wildlife in the region and thoughts of lions and bears. They are interrupted by a menacing visit from the local Cherokee. Jamie makes a show of dropping his knife and trying to demonstrate he is there in peace. The natives turn to go.
We return to Bree and Roger’s timeline, now at Oxford in 1971. Roger is distracted by his thoughts of Bree and pulls out the book on Scottish settlers in colonial America she gifted him. The book opens to a random page and as fate would have it, it describes a settlement on Mount Helicon once known as Fraser’s Ridge. Dun, dun, dun…
Claire, Jamie, and Ian cut down trees, haul logs, and collect rocks (Ian briefly marvels at an arrowhead he finds). Jamie has begun to outline their future home, noting where the front door will be; a shed for smoking and storing meat; and a special room for Claire’s herbs and tools where she can tend to future patients. This moment of forward-looking bliss is again interrupted by a visit from the Cherokee who have removed Jamie’s boundary posts and angrily throw the stakes in the ground at Jamie’s feet.
Back at Oxford, Roger has reached out to the author of the history book, one Karen Bailey, for further information on Fraser’s Ridge. She has sent a map, a copy of Jamie’s signed land grant from the governor, and a letter from a settler mentioning Jamie’s wife Claire. Roger calls Bree to speak to her for the first time since his botched proposal. She’s excited to hear from him, and the phone call is a heartbreaking exchange of lovelorn looks and awkward pauses. He tells her what he’s discovered — evidence that Claire found Jamie and they are living in North Carolina in the same part of the country where he and Bree attended the Scottish festival.
Claire, Jamie, and Ian discuss their path in their makeshift shelter. Claire suggests they build somewhere else further from the Cherokee land, but Jamie knows in his bones this is the right place for them to settle. Besides, he believes the natives will come for them no matter where they choose if they truly wish them gone. Claire worries that the ghost who led them to Fraser’s Ridge was not guiding them to settle there, but instead warning them something bad will happen there. Jamie resolves to speak to John Quincy Myers for advice on making a gesture of goodwill. Later that same night, they are awakened by the sound of Rollo’s barking. They fear it’s the Cherokee, but the missing meat and the slashes on one of their horses convince Claire it’s actually a bear.
Jamie visits Myers, who tells him of the Cherokee word for the bear, Tskili Yona, suggesting it’s not a mere bear but some form of evil spirit. Myers also offers Jamie provisions and offers to bring tobacco to the Cherokee on Jamie’s behalf as a peace offering.
Back on the ridge, Claire guts fish for dinner, while Ian mends their torn knits (because dinna fash, everyone from Lallybroch knows how to knit, even Jamie). Claire practices her shooting just in case the bear returns. Jamie does the same and in a bit of foreshadowing, talks about reloading a musket, demonstrating how to pack the powder, and the difficulty of doing so while an enemy charges at you.
Once again, the Fraser clan wakes up to the sound of Rollo whining. This is shown concurrently with the Cherokee readying their torches. They go out to face the bear and find Myers wounded near their shelter. He has been mauled, so Claire and Ian try to tend his wounds. Jamie heads into the woods with his torch and his gun to face down the bear. While the Cherokee gather around the fire, smoke from a pipe, and turn to a wise woman for guidance, Jamie takes aim at the bear with his rifle. As we learned in the previous scene, it’s hard to reload a musket swiftly when facing imminent danger and he struggles to do so.
Claire realizes that Myers has been attacked by a man, not a bear when she notices a bite mark on his neck. Just then, the “bear” leaps from the trees at Jamie — it’s a native fully kitted out in a bear hide complete with bear claws strapped to his hands. Jamie wrestles with the man who seems almost possessed, and eventually, Jamie wins out, spearing the man-bear with one of the boundary line posts.
The next morning, Jamie loads the man onto a makeshift stretcher and drags him into the Cherokee camp. They are impressed that Jamie killed the man, one they’ve deemed a monster. The Cherokee knew all along the bear was not a bear, but a man. He once belonged to their tribe, but he was exiled after laying with his woman against her will. He kept trying to return to the tribe, but they banished him deep into the woods where he lost his mind and took the form of a bear. The Cherokee could not kill what was already dead to them, but now Jamie has done it for them, ensuring there will be no more trouble from the man. The Cherokee, who, as it turns out, can speak English, tell Jamie that death follows the white man, but Jamie insists he only wants to live peacefully as a good neighbor. I know that because he’s Jamie Fraser, we’re meant to take him at his word, but I can only roll my eyes at how many times the Cherokee have probably been told something similar only to be betrayed.
Claire has managed to save Myers life and they invite him to remain with them on the Ridge until he is well. The Cherokee come to their makeshift settlement to approach Jamie and introduce Chief Nawohali, who bestows Jamie with the name of Bear Killer, a sign of peace and respect. Two women, the wise woman Adawehi and the chief’s wife Giduhwa, introduce themselves to Claire. Adawehi is the chief’s grandmother and a healer. She had a dream about Claire transforming into a white raven, swallowing the moon, and laying an egg with a shining stone inside. She explains that Claire will have wisdom beyond her time and incredible medicinal power when her hair is white like snow. But she also tells her ominously that death is sent by the Gods and it will not be her fault. Um, what?
Roger has returned to Inverness to pick up the last of his boxes, but Fiona has one last doozy to lay on him. She knows that Claire is a time traveler and went back through the stones to find Jamie Fraser. Fiona’s grandmother was a caller at the stones and knows the legend of their power. Roger admits to Fiona that he found proof Claire reunited with Jamie and had hoped it would mark a new beginning for him with Bree. But wait, there’s more — Fi has some of her grandmother’s old papers and one of them is an obituary outlining the death of one James Mackenzie Fraser and his wife in a conflagration at their home on Fraser’s Ridge. The date is smudged so Roger is uncertain when in the 1770s they met their fiery end. He resolves not to tell Brianna, fearing the news will just break her heart all over again.
In the past, Claire and Jamie remain ignorant of their future fate, continuing to prepare logs to build their new home (while Rollo adorably chills out in some fall foliage). Jamie lays the wood outline for their cabin and carries Claire over the threshold, pointing out where their pantry, hearth, and dining table will be (any other Grey’s Anatomy viewers get some major Mer-Der vibes here?!). She declares it perfect.
Roger decides to stop waiting for Bree to reach out to him and gives her another call. But her roommate Gayle answers and reveals that Brianna isn’t home — she’s gone to Scotland to visit her mother. She had assumed Roger and Bree would’ve met up by now. But Bree going to visit her mother can only mean one thing….
What do you think Sassenachs? Were you, like me, nearly moved to tears by Bree and Roger’s over-the-phone longing? Do you think the representation of the Cherokee was a little too stereotyped or was it more even-handed? For book readers — what did you think about the rather blatant change to the bear? Hit me up @themaureenlee or comment below.