Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in British dramas, often courtesy of our friends in MASTERPIECE. And let me tell you, 2020 is already off to a great start as far as we’re concerned, because we get to enjoy their newest offering: Sanditon. The show is based on Jane Austen’s unfinished final manuscript, and stars a whole host of truly charming and attractive actors. So, in the grand tradition of media writers, I’m here to recap the season as it happens just in case you, dear reader, miss an episode and haven’t yet been able to catch up on WGBH Passport.

The show opens with what I have to hope is the most uncomfortably jostle-y carriage ride ever recorded. The fancy couple inside the carriage isn’t having a good time, and it only gets worse when their ride tips over. Thankfully for them, a plucky young lady happens to be hunting rabbit with her siblings just across the road, in a scene so pastoral and charming it should almost be illegal. She hastens to the crash to assist, just in time for the gent inside to jump down and wreck his ankle. The bad news: there’s no doctor nearby. The good news: our Girl Friday lives nearby and, this being Austen, she can safely bring this stranger back with her without getting murdered.

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John Mulaney says what we're all thinking

Back at our plucky friend’s house we meet the rest of her family (the Heywoods, and there sure are a lot of them) and get some basic treatment for our injured rich guy, Tom Parker. Tom starts evangelizing about his seaside resort town Sanditon (hey, that’s the name of the show!) with the type of enthusiasm most people can only summon up for Girl Scout cookies. Would the Heywood family like to go to Sanditon? Certainly not; they’re stay-at-home types with the exception of young Charlotte (the aforementioned plucky heroine) who would like to go — possibly to avoid her approximately 1 million siblings. With that settled, Charlotte hops into the newly repaired carriage with the Parkers, but not before she gets a helpful/intense (but hopefully not premonitory) warning from her dad to trust no one.

Our crew arrives in Sanditon, and let me tell you, Mr. Parker is realllll big on the sea air. He’s straight up huffing it. Get hype, quoth he: there is a rich lady near (Lady Denham) who is also invested in making Sanditon the Hamptons of old timey England — a perfect place for the wealthy and aspirationally wealthy to relax, invest in wellness activities, and hopefully run into other fancy people. I’m sure she, like all other regal older women in Austen’s books, will be warm and pleasant and won’t try to wreck Charlotte’s love life at all!

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Exhibit A: Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh

The Parkers have a passel of little blonde children who are very excited to see their mom, dad, and new random young lady friend. As they tour the house, Charlotte almost immediately sees a portrait of a mystery hunk. Who could it be? Why, it’s Tom’s little brother Sidney, whose occupation seems to be a real mixed bag. A handsome rake? Sign me up. Charlotte, who is apparently more level-headed than your recapper, is mostly excited to have her own bedroom. Virginia Woolf would be proud! Buuuut it's probably safe money that she’ll soon get on my level when the hot younger brother actually arrives.

Remember that rich lady Tom Parker was hyping earlier? Well, she's here. Lady Denham arrives in the Parker's parlor, immediately on the offense: she wants Sanditon to be doing better, she doesn’t trust blondey-Parker, and she’s mad that they brought another woman to town who isn’t rich. Tom tries to assuage her fears with the promise that Brother Sidney will soon arrive with dudes to pad out the numbers for the ball they’re having, but Lady Denham isn’t impressed: balls are dumb, Sidney's a scrub, and your new friend is just here to make money. This is a shady thing to say, but at least she’s self-aware enough to note that this is how she herself got rich. Thankfully, Charlotte isn’t a pushover, and Lady Denham likes her snappy comeback. TBH, it’s reasonable for Denham to worry about social climbers; after all, everyone is after her money, possibly including her current house guest, the sweet, inoffensive-seeming poor relation, Clara.

As if summoned by all this talk of poor relations, Lady Denham's niece and nephew arrive on the scene. I think we’re supposed to think her nephew is hot, but he’s serving Wickham from Pride and Prejudice vibes, almost immediately starts aggressively hitting on Charlotte, and I, frankly, don’t trust a man with such a tall top hat. Denham's niece does not like that her brother is hitting on Charlotte. Maybe it’s because I’m a Game of Thrones fan, or maybe it’s because of the GQ oral history of that Folger’s ad (if you haven't seen it, GIF below), but I immediately decide there’s some Flowers in the Attic action afoot.

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This is not innocent sibling eye contact, Folgers.

Lady Denham, always down to stir the pot, talks weirdo nephew/Folgers Brother up to Charlotte, which pretty much goes like this:

Lady Denham: What do you think of him?

Charlotte: He’s… fine?

Lady Denham: In more ways than one. But he’s a DOG and needs to marry for money, ya feel?

We appreciate her honesty, and apparently so does Charlotte.

Charlotte and the gang run into two more of Tom Parker’s siblings, Arthur and Diana. These two are kind of goofy, but a lot of fun: Arthur seems to specifically love drinking and toast, and if that’s not the most relatable thing you’ve ever heard I don’t know what to tell you.

While Charlotte and the Parkers enjoy their toast, we're treated to a glimpse of of the Denham siblings scheming. Good news (I guess?): we can officially confirm that SOMETHING weird is happening with Lady D’s niece and nephew. As expected, Folgers Brother is trying to seduce Clara, presumably because the siblings think she’ll inherit Lady D’s money. Folgers Sister is NOT impressed with his failed seduction attempts and is also pretty jealous — even though he’s still available to sensually brush her hair.

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If JOEY says it, it must be true.

Later, back with people who we actually like, it’s beach day! Tom Parker couldn’t be more excited, and Charlotte is, as usual, very down to try new things, including the super weird (but historically accurate!) bathing machines. While the gals head into the machines to apparently dress in discarded costumes from The Handmaid’s Tale, the men get to swim naked. Reader, we see several Tall White Butts, as do Charlotte and Clara, who cop a peek from the safety of their side of the beach.

But even a refreshing swim in the magical waters of Sanditon isn’t enough to completely distract Tom Parker from an anxiety spiral — there’s no word from Sidney, and the ball is only a day away! Leaving him to fritter away his afternoon on panicking and pacing, Tom’s wife Mary takes Charlotte on a jaunt around town. We find that Mary is pretty chill — while she seems to be vaguely concerned, but mostly okay, with her husbands Sanditon obsession, she is much more interested in getting Charlotte some shoes for the ball. Not so chill? Folgers Sister, whom they run into while shopping. She calls Lady D a miser and complains that the siblings don’t have any money. She then “jokes” about poisoning Clara, and calls Tom Parker a dummy who’s about to bankrupt himself, Arthur Parker a buffoon, and Sidney Parker a problem. Her takeaway? You’re gonna regret coming to this boring-ass town. I know I’m not meant to, but I love her.

Once Charlotte returns from the clutches of Folgers sister, she finds out that Lady D is mad that she hasn’t come to visit yet. She and Mary Parker head out, and run into Sidney on the way. Bad news: he’s as hot as his portrait suggested, and he knows how to make an entrance. Your man is channeling Johnny Cash, if Johnny Cash wore leather pants. I don't know how, but the look works. Mary Parker reveals that Sidney is a) kind of a jerk but that b) we should get over it because he's had his heart broken.

Mid-walk, Charlotte peers into the woods to see some local wildlife and boy does she. I’m trying to keep this recap PG-13, so let’s just say Charlotte catches Clara red-handed (sorry) rounding second base with with that pesky Folgers Brother. Charlotte tries to hide but doesn’t duck fast enough, so she knows that they know that she knows their secret (say THAT five times fast). Mary Parker somehow misses the whole thing (lucky her).

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A BIG mood

After the most awkward forest interlude of all time, things can only get better at tea with Lady D, who is just as opinionated and weird as you want her to be. Clara reappears and makes up a fake excuse about what she’s been doing, and we find out that she lies to Lady D just about as successfully as she plays the pianoforte (tolerably well).

Finally (finally!), it’s time for the ball! Sidney rolls up with his posse, and Tom Parker practically flings them at the single gals. They guys actually seem pretty fun and entertaining, except Sidney who is trying out for the role of “Dour-est Boy of All.” It basically turns into picking teams on the playground, and Charlotte is left last, so Sidney has to dance with her. He’s NOT into it, apparently looking everywhere in the room but at our girl. He does say that he wants Sanditon to succeed because he loves Tom (awww, brothers!), and that opens a nice little dance chat — until one Miss Lambe is heralded into the room. This new lady and Sindey exchange some intense glares as she circulates and we learn more about her – she's from Antigua, very rich, and if the gossip is to be believed, has fled a bad romance in London. I don't know about you, but I’m already very excited to learn more about her.

Folgers Brother and Clara separately corner Charlotte to try and get her to not rat them out for their, um, extracurriculars in the woods. Clara’s side of the story is considerably darker: she tells Charlotte it wasn’t really consensual and not to trust Folgers Brother. Charlotte doesn’t know a lot about sex, so this convo ends up going in circles, but the gist is that Clara says that she was trying to avoid having sex with Folgers Brother. I didn’t think I could like him less, but now he’s firmly on top of the stack of worst characters ever.

Seeking respite from increasingly awkward conversations, Charlotte tries to hide out on a balcony, but Sidney is already there in a deep sulk. Being a well-brought up cad, Sidney asks Charlotte what she thinks of Sanditon so far, and from our perspective, she nails it: it's hard to make people out when they're all strangers to each other. He asks what she's observed of him, and his brothers, and she nails that, too: Sidney is reasonable, Arthur is kind of goofy, and Tom is over the top and obsessive. Sidney doesn’t like this at all, and proceeds to call Charlotte all sorts of names while trying to talk up Tom. It’s very intense, and when poor Charlotte tries to apologize, Sidney just doubles down and calls her naive. Was this whole exchange a misunderstanding? Yes. Did it give us major Darcy/Lizzie Bennet vibes? Also yes. I for one can’t wait to sit back, relax, and enjoy this enemies-to-lovers slow burn romance when we pick back up for Sanditon, episode 2!

Episode 1 Recap: The Hamptons of Old Timey England
Episode 2 Recap: This Pineapple's The Bomb
Episode 3 Recap: Y'all Need OSHA
Episode 4 Recap: (Third) Wheelin' and Dealin'
Episode 5 Recap: Baseball, But Make it Fraught with Sexual Tension
Episode 6 Recap: Ballin' on a Budget
Episode 7 Recap: Something's Regatta Give
Episode 8 Recap: Great Balls of Fire