Every season, WGBH's 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.
I personally have never been verbally eviscerated by a hottie at a ball, but can't argue with Charlotte's coping strategy: a bracing swim in the sea followed by a walk through town. The only downside is that she runs into Sidney who is still wearing his leather pants and a scowl, and studiously avoids eye contact. Not gonna lie to you, readers, I'm cooling on him.
After that awkward encounter, I wouldn't blame Charlotte for finding some old-timey ice cream and hunkering down chez Parker, but instead she joins everyone for church, despite the fact that they have to walk there through gale force winds. Charlotte, being supportive as always, pretends that it's just a gentle breeze. (No wonder that the rest of the Parkers, and especially Tom, are #TeamCharlotte.) Folgers Brother tries to continue his campaign to make Charlotte like him, but she shuts him down hard.
Church gets… weird. This vicar is a far cry from the charming (hot) priests I've grown accustomed to on Grantchester and Fleabag. Instead, he gives a creepy sermon about how women should be pretty and chaste, using a horrible flower metaphor and adding in some thinly-veiled racism for good measure. Folgers Sister continues to amuse, delivering epic side eye throughout whilst the rest of the cast attempts to keep a straight face. Post-church, Charlotte's take is that she'd rather toil than blossom (same, girl), and Arthur Parker would rather the reverse. What can I say, he's making being lazy pretty cute!
Back at Folgers Manor, the sibs have a chat about how much the Folgers Brother screwed everything up. He admits that Clara did indeed join him for some woods sexcapades, implies that she was too good at it to be a first timer (ew), and says that Charlotte saw everything: basically what the kids would call an Epic Fail. To say that Folgers Sister is furious would be a massive understatement, but because she's clearly the brains of the operation she points out that Clara is just as invested in keeping this on DL as they are.
Across town, Clara picks up a package (wink) from the post office. It’s for Lady D, and it’s a pineapple! Clara, being from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, asks if the fruit is a bomb, which prompts Lady D to do this:
Per Lady D, and my cursory search of Google, Pineapples are a Big Deal during this time period, and this one is going to be the centerpiece of the party Lady D is throwing for Miss Lambe. Because this is a small town, Charlotte and the Parkers also score invites. Mom Parker, the sane one, immediately asks the million dollar question: what the heck is Lady D up to? Thankfully, we almost immediately find out: she’s trying to set Folgers Brother up with Miss Lambe. Quoth she: don’t mess this up or there will be CONSEQUENCES. Just put a ring on it and then you can go back to your tomcatting ways.
Charlotte comes upon Tom Parker in his study, which is a DISASTER. Now reader, I know you can't see my own desk, but rest assured that if I'm saying Tom's office is a disaster, it's a real disaster indeed. Thankfully for him, Charlotte loves to sort things and is preternaturally helpful. This is perfect timing because Tom happens to be looking for an assistant. Just to prove how great she is, Charlotte proceeds to geek out over Tom's model Sanditon village and the architect pattern book he's using to design the town like some bizarre paint-by-numbers. They even go on a field trip to check out the job site and the cute construction foreman Mr. Stringer. Charlotte impresses everyone with her insights and her knowledge of building materials. By the end of this encounter, Young Stringbean is at least a little in love with Charlotte, which is a big mood even though his reasoning seems to be 95% based on her knowledge of slate.
On the way home, the non-Arthur (i.e. less fun) Parker Bros get into it a bit: Tom wants Sidney to keep his friends in Sanditon spending money, and Sidney wants to go somewhere fun. Lucky for us, Tom wins the argument by pointing out that Sidney has that pesky responsibility to take care of his ward, Miss Lambe. Having won his battle, Tom hastens home, and Charlotte decides this might be a good time to mend fences. She apologizes and tells Sidney she hopes he doesn't think too badly of her. Sidney basically responds like this:
Sidney: LOL, I don’t think badly of you; I don’t think of you at all. Sorry if that bothers you!
My reaction is a tie between these two gifs:
Charlotte continues to not be a pushover, and says what we're all thinking, which is basically: if you don’t think of me, then why be such a JERK?
At Folgers Manor, the siblings see one of Sidney’s friends, Babbington, approaching. Folgers Sister knows she's got it going on, so she's not surprised that he's here. Their interaction basically goes like this:
Babs: Hey girl, you look smokin’ hot, particularly your hair!
Folgers Sister: Look brother, your efforts weren’t in vain.
Babs: Um what? Your brother does your hair?
Folgers Sister: Well, technically stepbrother. Anyway, I'm not into you, bye.
Technically, I guess this means we can downgrade the Ick Alert, but since they keep calling each other "Brother" and "Sister" I'm going to go ahead and continue to be disgusted.
Meanwhile at Miss Lambe’s house, Georgiana is emphatically not coming out of her room. Fair enough, everyone in this town is weird. As if to prove it, we smash cut to a tavern brawl/indoor boxing match starring Sidney. He wins, just in time to get called away to deal with Georgiana. She tells him (quite rightly) that she doesn’t want to go to the party to be gawked at. He says she’s rich and her dad wanted her to be in society, so she should suck it up.
Lady D’s lunch is very fancy, and everyone is trying to have fun despite the fact that Lady D very clearly only cares to talk to Georgiana, who isn't there yet. Arthur Parker, who knows how to make an entrance, bursts into the room with a cry of "WINE!" (Arthur Parker is all of us.) Everything gets REAL when Georgiana arrives, with Lady D literally saying "Edward, there’s your quarry — hunt her down." Georgiana is just as grossed out by that as I am. Across the room, Folgers Sister threatens Clara, only to have Clara suggest that they shouldn't be enemies.
Folgers sister: How can we not be enemies when we’re competing for the same thing?
Clara, out loud: Money?????
Clara, implied: Your weird brother???
The party gets off to a rocky start as Lady Denham doubles down on microaggressions directed at Georgiana, and Georgiana code switches to the general confusion of all the white people in the room. She plays everything off a joke, but clearly is, understandably, mad as hell. Because Lady D loves drama and meddling, Sidney is seated next to Charlotte, and Folgers Brother is next to Georgiana. He tries to chat her up, but she immediately sees through him and realizes he’s after her money. It goes a little something like this:
Folgers Brother: Do you like Sanditon?
Georgiana: Bad pickup line, bro.
Folgers Brother, attempting to pivot: Do you, uh, like poetry?
Georgiana nopes outta there to talk to her other neighbor. Sidney tries to ask Charlotte what she thinks of the people at the party, but she's not about to step into that trap again. Lady D, apparently seeing that her setup isn't working, asks every older relative's favorite question: who's looking for a husband? Georgiana replies that she's not into being a man's property, and Lady D doubles down on being crappy by asking if Georgiana isn't used to that, given that her mom was enslaved. With way more poise and much less violence than I would have managed, Georgiana replies that being used to something and disliking it are not mutually exclusive. Not satisfied yet, Lady D drags Charlotte into the mix, insisting that C is in Sanditon to catch a man. Charlotte says she values her independence, and that a bad marriage is a form of slavery (yikes), to which Lady D counters "or a way to escape it, look at Georgiana's mom" (YIKES). She then proceeds to tell Georgiana she should marry someone poor with a title like Folgers Brother, which gets a well-earned:
Arthur, who has apparently just been enjoying the wine and ignoring the racism, gives Georgiana props for shutting Folgers Brother down, and hastens to carve the pineapple despite Lady D's horrified and furious objections. Bad news: the pineapple is rotten on the inside and riddled with maggots.
After the party, Lady D pulls Tom Parker aside to berate him.
Lady D: WTF is up with these oPiNiOnAtEd women? And your brother touched my pineapple!!!
She’s mad as hell and thinking about withdrawing her cash money from Sanditon. Yoinks! I apparently didn't give Tom enough credit because when he tells Mary and Charlotte about this convo, he's surprisingly circumspect about how bonkers Lady D can be. Tom shares that she was mostly annoyed about Arthur stealing her pineapple-y glory, but notes that he will need to get her to chill, or Operation: Sanditon is in trouble. Charlotte, who's starting to feel a little bad about having a backbone, volunteers to fall on that particular sword and go apologize. The Parkers:
And the next morning, go she does. Despite herself, Lady D is warming to Charlotte's refusal to be steamrolled, even when Charlotte calls her out for being mean to Georgiana. Lady D seems to think it's ok to be a jerk because Georgiana is rich, and therefor presumably has no feelings? Charlotte obviously calls her out on that, and does it with enough charm to get Lady D to agree to not withdraw her support for Sanditon. Charlotte: 1, Lady D: 0.
Georgiana decides she's had enough of everyone's crap and tries to hop on the midday carriage to London. Unfortunately, she doesn't carry any cash on her, which is a real #MillennialMood, and gives the carriage driver and all the passersby a chance to lean into their confirmation bias. Georgiana does what any reasonable person would do while surrounded by a crowd of horrible racists and legs it.
Sidney and his friends are having some fun in Sanditon's one bar. The bros clearly all have a thing for ladies with attitude, name dropping Folgers Sister and Charlotte, but Sidney only tells them to knock it off when they start speculating that Georgiana would be fun in bed. Do they have a shared history? No, per Sidney: he just has to take care of her, and it’s a pain in the ass. Then, as if he's TRYING to jinx himself, Sidney says he's confident that nothing bad will happen to Georgiana here in Sanditon. Even his doofus bros know that's not strictly true, but Sidney ignores them in order to keep drinking and gambling.
On her way back from Lady D’s house, Charlotte finds Georgiana pulling a George Warleggan on the cliffs. Charlotte drags her back from the precipice and they hug it out. Charlotte proves that she has enough empathy to understand what Georgiana is dealing with, and convinces her that there are a few cool people around. They also agree that while Sidney kind of sucks, Lady D is THE WORST.
Just in case we forgot about the Folgers Siblings, the show checks back in with them so we can be reminded that a) they're still weirdly flirting with each other all the time, and b) Folgers Sister has impeccable taste, at least when it comes to clothing.
Tom interrupts the bro fest at the one bar in Sanditon to have a chat with Sidney. Tom reminds his brother that he needs to pull his weight and not just drink, and Sidney, about to invent being a Mad Men-style account executive, tells Tom that he's doing his part by entertaining his doofus friends. Tom gives him every parent's favorite "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed" face, and heads home. Sidney, thus shamed, shambles off to clear his head with a refreshing swim.
Since becoming best friends, Charlotte and Georgiana have decided to avail their lil' toesies of a dip in the ocean. They're having an adorable moment splashing around when they get caught by Georgiana’s governess, prompting Georgiana to throw her hat in the ring for the “best side-eye” award (watch out, Folgers Sister). Charlotte tries to take the blame for the ankle-baring, but governess is being a real pill about it. Someone could have seen! Their! Legs! Governess makes Georgiana leave, but not before Georgiana puckishly chucks the governess's umbrella on the ground and waves goodbye to Charlotte, further cementing my new favorite friendship on TV.
Since Charlotte doesn't have a boring governess, she stays on the beach to look at shells, and, by accident, Sidney's ENTIRE NAKED BODY. To his credit, he plays it very cool, and even apologizes for his rude behavior earlier. Sweet innocent Charlotte essentially short-circuits, then sprints outta there. Whose butt will we see in Episode 3? Find out next Sunday!
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