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.
This episode starts with ARTHUR, so
Diana is having trouble with the heat, and, walking in the footsteps of all the hypochondriacs before them, she and Arthur are off to see Dr. Fuchs in the hope that he will cure what ails them.
Mail call! Georgiana has a letter, which must be from Secret Boyfriend because she actually looks happy for the first time. That alone moves him to the number 1 spot in the Sanditon Boyfriend Rankings; I just want Georgiana to be happy!
Chez Parker, Charlotte is getting a wee bit homesick, because apparently she's been here in Sanditon for a whole month? IDK, I guess time flies when you're "collecting seashells" i.e. glimpses of naked hotties. Mom Parker says it seems like Charlotte has become a part of the family (awww), but Tom is too distracted to weigh in, which comes across as a little hurtful. Step your game up, Tom! He does eventually agree, adding that Charlotte fits in because she doesn't completely hate Sidney, despite the fact that he's "an acquired taste" like anchovy paste — once you decide you like it, you can't get enough.
Back at Lady D's, she’s complaining that the Earl of Sussex is engaged. Clara, whom, frankly, terrifies me, asks if Lady D is planning to remarry. Is she being deliberately obtuse, or just dumb? Lady D lands on dumb:
Lady D: DUH no, this is for Esther and Ick-ward. They’re impossible to match-make, and your prospects are even worse.
Clara: I thought I'd just keep on warding on?
Lady D: Nothing lasts forever, and PS, you’ve gotten enough sympathy for the burn so stop milking it.
Charlotte stops by to visit the Stringbeans. Elder Stringbean is feeling well enough to get on Young Stringbean's case for not wanting to lay bricks forever. Apparently Young Bean has been designing a neat tower for the center of Sanditon, and Elder Bean is just not feeling it. Just for fun I sometimes like to imagine this show is set in the US, where Elder Bean would be mad at Young Bean for not being ambitious ENOUGH, and would be wearing a suit whilst he convalesces. Anywho, Charlotte is understandably sick of getting embroiled in other people's family drama (just wait, girl) and scoots out of there to visit Georgiana. Apparently painting something naughty had consequences, because Georgiana is cooped up per the instructions of her governess. Charlotte's solution? A picnic!
Governess: Um, absolutely not; picnicking is going to give you Naughty Thoughts.
Georgiana: Oh, did I forgot to tell you? The Parker parents are coming too!
That, readers, is obviously a lie. I know it, Charlotte knows it, but Governess doesn't know it, so a-picnicking we go.
Over at Folgers Manor, Folgers Brother is wearing a divine dressing gown AND a smugger-than-usual face, for Folgers Sister has yet another letter from Babs. Folgers Brother finds this hilarious, but Folgers Sister is annoyed, and uses this as an opportunity to get brother dear to come fix her corset.
Folgers Brother seems to think this whole Babs thing is hilarious, which Sister initially finds offensive. Does he think no one could possibly love her? The answer is, obviously, yes: me/anyone with a pulse. But no; he thinks it's funny to keep poor Babs on the hook since it's impossible that he'll win her over. At this, Folgers Sister says, I crap you not, "harder Edward" (they're not subtle) and then he makes out with her neck. We aren't the only people who have to witness THAT little performance : Clara is here to deliver a letter for Lady D, and walks in just in time to see everything. She scarpers, but Folgers Sister figures out they’ve been caught. All I can say is, Clara better run, before Folgers Sister pushes her out a window, Games of Thrones style.
On the way to the Picnic of Lies, Georgiana tells Charlotte that it’s totally fine to make stuff up, because Governess is a boring stick in the mud. Also, surprise — Secret Boyfriend is here!! Charlotte is annoyed that she’s been had because a) this is supposed to be a BFF outing, and b) she lied for this!
Across town, the hypochondriac half of the Parker family lays out their issues to Dr. Fuchs, who tells them their real problems are being lazy (Arthur) and hysteria (Diana). Fun fact! Hysteria used to be a catch-all term for "women be crazy" and there's a (potentially apocryphal) history of Victorian era doctors treating hysteria with orgasms. So when Dr. Fuchs suggests horseback riding as a solution to both of their illnesses, I, a medical history nerd, lost my mind. Arthur, a fictional character/normal person, is just excited to ride some ponies. Regardless, thanks for the Easter Egg, Sanditon writers!
Back at the Picnic of Lies/Mystery Date: canoodling is happening. Secret Boyfriend, whose actual name is Otis, tells Charlotte she can ignore all the fake stuff Georgiana told her about him. Not a problem, quoth she: Georgiana hasn't ever told me about you! BFF strike 2! Georgiana apologizes, and explains: she had to keep her relationship on the DL because she isn't allowed to see Secret Boyfriend (it's right there in the name, Charlotte!) This is a bummer, but not enough to get Charlotte to leave them in peace. To be fair to Charlotte, it's the early 1800s, she doesn't know Otis, and she told Sidney she'd keep an eye on Georgiana. Everyone is annoyed about this arrangement, especially Georgiana, who is understandably pissed that her BFF is spying on her just because she has a crush on Sidney.
Charlotte leans into her role as third wheel/purveyor of juicy relationship exposition. We find out that Georgiana and Otis met cute at a ball where he assumed she was a servant ( what is it with the love interests on this show and assuming everyone is a servant?! This isn't Poldark!) Despite the weird beginning, they are a very cute couple. Sidney, apparently immune to non-Charlotte adorableness, made them break-up. Charlotte assumes he must have a good reason, which prompts Otis to ominously suggest that she might not know Sid as well as she thinks she does.
Back at the job site, Tom Parker is cutting projects and breaking hearts, specifically, the heart of Young Stringbean, who was all excited to build that thing he designed earlier in the episode. Tom also hasn't brought any of those extra workers he promised, but still has the nerve to complain that the work isn't progressing as fast as he wants. Young Stringbean is pissed, and so am I: justice for Stringbean!
On the beach, the doctor-prescribed horseback riding lessons are hilarious. I don't know a ton about horses, but I do know they're going the equivalent pace of a tourist in the middle of the sidewalk when you're in a hurry, despite Diana's insistence that they're riding at a dangerous speed. The Parkers happen upon the Folgers sibs, who are enjoying a romantic walk on the beach on the way to visit Lady D. Folgers Brother is having a grand time: he thinks they’re about to run Clara off, which will allow them to live the life of luxury (and sex) that they both want. I kinda doubt it, but dream big buddy.
Back in town, Tom gets bewitched by a pretty (and expensive-looking) necklace, while Young Stringbean is bewitched by the concept of a supportive parent. I have a feeling the necklace thing is going to work out about as well as Stringbean's conversation with his dad, which is to say, not great. Elder Stringbean reminds Young Bean of his station (again) and tells him to always be nice to Tom Parker. Young Stringbean has self-esteem, however, and decides to bet on himself. Me, to Stringbean:
Charlotte is STILL third-wheeling the Picnic of Lies. For once VERY unable to read the room, she keeps talking about how fun Sanditon is. Otis and Georgiana, who have been to London before, are not buying it, and suggest an alternative activity: let's hop in that boat we saw on the way to the picnic! Charlotte, doubling down on being a goody-two-shoes, reminds them that stealing is wrong.
Otis: Um, who said steal? We’re gonna borrow it.
Georgiana: Yeah, Charlotte, don’t be lame! Anyway, Sidney is in London so we won’t get in trouble.
LOL guys: Sidney is most decidedly NOT in London. But enough about him, because I want to hang out the with the FUN Parker brother, who is really on a self improvement kick. Having had such a nice time riding horses earlier, Arthur has decided to go full California and take a day hike (presumably to be followed by a green juice and yoga). Mid-hill, he tries to say howdy to some fellow nature-lovers, but it doesn't go well, as he straight up swoons. Me:
While I'm worrying about Arthur, Sidney chats with Mom Parker, who is glad to see him, because Tom has been acting really weird lately. Sidney claims he's just here to help with the regatta, but jumps on the chance to ask about Charlotte as soon as he can. Oh, she's off with Georgiana? Maybe he'll go visit his ward, and only his ward!
Even Charlotte's nerdery hasn't prevented the Picnic of Lies from relocating to the "borrowed" boat. Otis, committed to pretending Charlotte isn't right there, asks Georgiana to marry him, and tells her he's going to jump out of the boat if she says no. Charlotte has a very relatable wish to be literally anywhere else, especially when Georgiana turns Otis down (and apparently not for the first time). She's not allowed to say yes, you see, because of Sidney, but she would if she could! True to his word, Otis jumps into the lake and freaks us all out by showing off his lung capacity and hanging out underwater. TBH the whole thing is more cute and charming than it should be.
Thankfully, someone has summoned Dr. Fuchs to come check on my boy Arthur. Diana, who apparently knows that characters sometimes die in absolutely absurd ways in period dramas, seems to think Arthur is going to shuffle off this mortal coil. In reality, Arthur is just channeling all of us when we return to the gym the first week in January. Dr. Fuchs very sensibly suggests that Arthur not overdo it next time, but Diana, who is bonkers, is having none of it and forbids Arthur to ever exercise again. Arthur, a sweetheart, agrees, and the doctor, horrified, takes a shot of his own medicine.
Back at Georgiana's place, Tweedles Dee and Dum are reciting poetry, badly. They get dragged by Governess just in time for Sidney to show up looking for Georgiana, which exposes the Picnic of Lies.
At Lady D’s, our Denim Matriarch gives the Folgers sibs an ultimatum: they’ve been hanging out in their coffee-scented manor for too long, and now it’s time for them to pay the piper (i.e. get hitched to someone with money). There’s no honor among step-siblings, because the minute suitors for Folgers Sister get brought up, Brother Dearest throws her under the bus by bringing up Babs. Lady D doesn’t get why Folgers Sister isn’t into him, but Clara hilariously shows off her newfound peepin’ knowledge — maybe, quoth she, no man can ever measure up to Folgers Brother. Folgers Sister would probably marry him if she were allowed! Lady D thinks its just a joke, but everyone else knows exactly what's going on.
Meanwhile, on the Picnic that Will Never End, Charlotte is weirdly shocked that Otis used to be enslaved. We find out that he's a staunch abolitionist (very cool). Charlotte gets a wake-up call in the form of a lesson on what exactly is happening with colonialism/the North Atlantic slave trade, including the fact that they're all complicit, but especially Sidney. And speaking of the suddenly-much-less-handsome-devil, Sidney is wandering over hill and dale looking for Georgiana, and getting increasingly freaked that he can’t find her.
Despite my name for it, the Picnic That Will Never End is winding down, with Otis promising he'll be back to visit again soon and that nothing will keep them apart. I hate to be a downer but I feel like something is indeed going to keep them apart, and that something is Sidney. Charlotte keeps third-wheeling, but now she’s decided to be helpful: she knows a back way to walk Otis to his carriage where no one will see them! During the walk she and Otis cement their friendship, despite Charlotte's continued naivete.
Charlotte: I don't get it, why won’t Sidney let you two get married? Otis is great!
Georgianna: Duh, Charlotte: he's being racist.
Back at Lady D’s, Clara gets Folgers Sister to come turn pages for her at the pianoforte so they can fight in private. Clara talks a BUNCH of crap using music words like a huge dork until Folgers Sister leaves, due to the extreme nerdery, the extreme shade, or both. My takeaway is that Clara is a worthy opponent for my one true love Folgers Sister, and I look forward to their continued rivalry.
Third Wheel Charlotte walks her friends back to the coach, and, emboldened by her fun day of only slightly ruining a date, pulls out a hilarious and very good Sidney impression. Obviously, he’s standing right behind her and catches the entire thing. Rather than open THAT can of worms, Sidney goes off about the Otis situation: Secret Boyfriend is never invited back, and if he shows up, it is implied, he’s gonna get his ass kicked. Otis leaves, and Georgiana doesn't even get a proper goodbye before she gets taken away by Governess, leaving Sidney and Charlotte to their two-person Thunderdome. Sidney calls Charlotte out for not looking after Georgiana, and for being naive and untrustworthy. Charlotte fires back by calling him a racist AND mentions that his money comes from slavery, which causes Sidney to SNAP. Young Stringbean, who happened to be passing by and didn't get out of the splash zone quite fast enough, is called upon to walk Charlotte home so Sidney can make a proper exit and storm off.
Across town, Clara follows Folgers Sister outside so they can finish fighting one-on-one.
Clara: Just FYI technically I wasn't trespassing because your servants left the door open or something. Anyway, so nice of Folgers Brother to lace you up, does he undress you too?
Folgers Sister: The extremely sexual thing you saw was just normal sibling stuff, nothing to see here!
Clara then reveals that she knows about gross family stuff because she was attacked by a relative, which clarifies Clara's whole thing and is also, to put it mildly, a huge bummer. Folgers Sister absorbs that info, and then gets back to deflecting: nothing weird happened between her and Folgers Brother, and anyway, they're not technically related so it's FINE.
Clara: Oh NO you’re in love with him?! Sorry, that sucks, because Folgers Brother is a dumpster fire of a person. Listen to Lady D and get outta here, you’re not getting a happy ending if you stay with him.
Usually I try to avoid siding with Clara, but when you're right, you're right. Hopefully someone nice comes along to replace Folgers Brother soon.
Because no self-respecting show is complete without TWO love triangles, we bop down to the beach to see Young Stringbean escorting Charlotte on a walk. She's apologizing for being bad company, but Stringbean, who also had a crappy day, tells her it's NBD.
Stringbean: I’m sure you had a good reason to be fighting in the street.
Charlotte: Uh, YEAH BUDDY. Sidney sucks.
Stringbean: You really are forthright. Also:
Charlotte has never seen Bridget Jones' Diary (or Pride and Prejudice, for that matter) so this goes right over her head as she continues to fixate on "how annoying" Sidney is.
Back at Folgers Manor, Folgers Sister is still bummed out after her chat with Clara. Folgers Brother is willing to just keep waiting around in the vague hope that Lady D will eventually cave and give them money, but Folgers Sister has a different idea: what if they just run away together? Who cares if they're poor, she just needs him! Unfortunately, Folgers Brother cares if they're poor.
Folgers Bro: I mean, I love you too but we have to be practical and marry other people.
Folgers Sister, heartbroken: Oh. You’re right. Sorry.
To quote my personal lord and savior Lizzo, he don't love you anymore!
Back with the siblings who don't have a weirdly sexual relationship, Sidney is at the Parker house to break some bad news to Tom: he talked to a bunch of banks, and none of them are going to give Tom any more money for Sanditon. Then, getting up on a rather high horse for someone with the emotional problem solving skills of a jar of mayonnaise, Sidney tells Tom to be more like Sidney and admit his problems so he can fix them. Charlotte walks in just in time to have an icy encounter with Sidney as he’s leaving, while Mom Parker checks in on Tom. She wants to know how everything is going, and he straight up lies to her, saying that everything is a-ok and giving her the fancy necklace from earlier. Tom really needs to discover the world of money management blogs, but since the internet won't be around for another couple of centuries, I don't have high hopes for his financial situation.
And speaking of impulsive, Charlotte sneaks out to visit Georgiana. Street Fighter Charlotte is singing a very different tune than Third Wheel Charlotte, to wit: Georgiana was right, Sidney is a massive jerk, and if he's going to try and keep the couple apart, Charlotte is going to help them get together. A man of her word, Charlotte brings a letter to the post office for Otis. Will the BFFs successfully keep the secret relationship a secret? Find out next week!
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