Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (virtual) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in British dramas. This month, we’re trying something new and rediscovering a beloved series that GBH recently brought back to GBH Passport: Sense & Sensibility. As with some of Andrew Davies’ other work (lookin’ at you, Sanditon) this adaptation brings the steamy romantic heat that many other Austen adaptations lack. I’m here to recap the mini-series for first-time viewers and superfans alike. So grab your bonnets, and let’s get started!

Look, I wasn’t kidding when I said this show was steamy. The first scene opens with the kind of firelit lovemaking that starts out hot, and then becomes a little more questionable when you realize from the dialog that these folks aren’t married; taking off our 2020 hats (whew, what a relief, huh?) we have to keep in mind that the gal in this scene might be having herself a little social ruin, as a treat. Because this is, after all, a period drama, we pre-smash smash cut to a fella riding hell for leather into the twilight, apparently having abandoned our wee heroine with a promise to return that I for one don’t believe he’ll keep.

Later, in the most dramatic situation possible, a carriage pelts through a thunderstorm. Why? Because Dad-shwood is on his deathbed! His son John (who is, distractingly to me and anyone else who’s seen Sherlock, played by Mark Gatiss/Mycroft Holmes) gets there just in time. I’m assuming, since you’re here, that you know a little bit about inheritance law in this era, but the show gives us a reminder just in case. Dad-shwood can’t divide his estate, and so unless John decides to be cool and share his cash, Mom Dashwood and the little Gal-shwoods will be, in the parlance of today, screwed. John promises his papà to take care of his sisters, but since that wouldn’t lead to much of a plot...

A woman says "I have doubts."

Alas, I’m mostly right. John’s mean wife, who’s taking her audition for the part of Lady MacBeth in the community theater’s production of The Scottish Play way too seriously, is super stoked to encourage her husband to be much crappier to the rest of Team Dashwood than he would be on his own. She’s not about to wait around to seize her new house/Team Dashwood’s current house, and arranges to call on them within a couple of days to eminent domain that shiz. Team Dashwood debriefs.

BabyDash: Well that’s bogus!
Sense: I guess if someone has to do the Angelica Schuyler explainer schtick it might as well be me, oldest sister and the Sensible one (lol, I see what you did there, Jane??). BabyDash, the world isn’t fair for ladies, and even though we’re all smart enough to know it’s garbage, we don’t have any power to fix it. Men inherit, we don’t, end of story. If you think WE have it bad, you should see what’s gonna happen to the Bennet sisters if they don’t find husbands!
Sensibility: How are you so chill about this? I’m all fired up about it, because I’m the sensitive one!
BabyDash: Ugh, are we gonna have to live with travellers?
Sensibility: TBH, that’s a better option than living with Lady MacBeth.
BabyDash: Real talk, if she moves in here I’m gonna pull a Hamlet and poison her.

A man tries and fails to stifle his laughter

Meanwhile, Doofus MacBeth talks to Lady MacBeth about the cash settlement he plans to give the Dashwood gals.

Lady MacBeth: LOL, so you want to give them 1,000 pounds? You’re gonna steal that money from your SON???
Doofus MacBeth: So, you think it’s too much then?
Me, incapable of NOT looking up how much that is: Ok, yes, $100,000 is indeed a chunk of change, but also this is their only income? Forever?? Come on, guys, BabyDash is like 8!

I think you all know where this is going. Lady MacBeth keeps talking Doofus MacBeth down, while he continues to insist that he wants to take care of his half sisters. He seems like he actually does want to help, but a) is woefully unprepared for his wife’s steamrolling, and b) mistakenly trusts that she isn’t just a greedy social climber and is actually giving him good advice. By the end of their carriage ride, he’s been convinced that his dad probably didn’t mean that he was supposed to support his sisters financially, just with his thoughts and prayers.

A woman rolls up her car window in disgust

Back at the house, MomDash moves out of her room, the nicest in the house, because it’s clear to her that the MacBeths will want that for themselves.

Sense: Come on, they can’t be this bad — Doofus MacBeth is pretty nice, he probably wouldn’t want you to have to switch rooms!
Me: Sense, pal, you’re not living up to your name right now. But I guess you’ll find out the hard way; they’re here now.
BabyDash: Well I’m not talking to these jerks.
Sense: Uh, yeah you will. We’re all gonna be super nice to them, because we just became the corporeal version of Nicole Kidman’s family in The Others and we have to play nice if we're gonna coexist.

Lady MacBeth breezes in like she owns the place, since she technically kind of does, and everyone sits down to a truly awkward family dinner.

Lady MacBeth: Soooo, how are your hobbies? I totally remember things about you!

A woman says "So, you guys, what is the 411? What has everybody been up to? What is the hot gossip?"

Sensibility: Joke's on you, lady, you mixed us up.
Lady MacBeth: The recapper gave you almost identical names because she's trying to be SMART, I'm not taking the blame for that. What about you, BabyDash?
BabyDash: I’m going to be a writer.
Lady MacBeth: Cool, cool — a 100 pack of Bics costs next to nothing, so that's a good hobby for you now that you're destitute. Anyway, this is some nice cutlery, it’s a shame you won’t take it with you when you move to a smaller place since it belongs to the house.
Sensibility: Yeah, and the house belongs to you even though you don’t need it, or like it, or deserve it. I’m storming off!

Later, in private, Sense tries to get her sister to chill out.

Sense: Dude, you can’t say that stuff to her, we are not coming from a position of power here!
Sensibility: Well the system stinks, and I was right! Also, Doofus MacBeth is totally going to ignore his promise to Dad-shwood!
Sense: You’re not wrong…
MomDash: Hey, check it out, we have some houses to look at!
Sense: Ma, these are nice but WAY over budget — who was your realtor, the My Lottery Dream Home guy?
MomDash: Yeah but they’re both smaller than here!
Sense: I’m so sorry, but we have to adjust our worldview. Think more cottage than house!

A man says "that hurt my feelings."

Sense: Look, I’m sorry, but we have to be reasonable.
Lady MacBeth: Hiiiiiii. SO sorry to interrupt but I just had to rub some more of my good news in your faces! My super fancy brother is coming to visit. He’s gonna be SO rich and probably get into government or something. Anyway, I’m gonna redecorate the whole house so he likes it. Byeeeeee!
BabyDash, always ready with a zinger: He’s probably just like her, i.e. THE WORST. This will be no fun at all.

Well, we’re about to find out! Sense notices that Lady MacBeth has insisted that the servants take the carpets outside to be redundantly cleaned. Since they have other stuff to do, she sends them back inside but can’t resist taking a whack herself, which is a pretty huge mood. Of course, this being a ~romance~ she gets caught doing this unladylike activity by none other than super fancy brother Edward Ferrars-o Rocher, played by none other than Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey. He seems like a pretty down to earth, DIY kind of guy, and even offers to help Sense with the carpet beating. Sense, bless her, does not know what to make of that, and instead of enjoying her meet-cute, she shuffles Ferrars-o Rocher into the house to hang out with his crappy sister.

Lady MacBeth: Oh my god, you’re a mess! Where’s your stuff!
Ferrars-o Rocher: I came on horseback so it's getting shipped.
Me: You know what else is getting shipped? You and Sense over there. By me.
BabyDash, much more skeptical than I: And how long are you going to be invading?
Ferrars-o Rocher: Oh, I don’t want to be a pain, it totally depends on what your mom says.
Lady MacBeth, hates THAT: Well, before you can bond with these losers, let me get you to your room. Also, ew, I can’t believe you’re dressed appropriately for the venue.
Ferrars-o Rocher:

A man says "Whatever, dude, whatever - peace out, god bless."

Later, in the library, BabyDash sneakily witnesses Lady MacBeth telling Ferrars-o Rocher about her terrible, no good, very bad redecorating plans. Before he can say the thoughts that are all over his face (disapproval and confusion), Sense enters through a secret bookcase door, sending me into a fit of covetous pique.

Ferrars-o Rocher, catching sight of Sense:

A woman mists herself with a spray bottle

Lady MacBeth: Anyway, let’s start tearing this place apart!
Ferrars-o Rocher: No way! Libraries are supposed to be like this.

A man says "This guy gets it."

Lady MacBeth: You’re just saying that to be annoying. I'm leaving.
Ferrars-o Rocher, to Sense: Sisters, am I right? This must be horrible for you to watch.
Sense: I mean, I’m going to be political and say that it’s her house and she can do what she wants.
Ferrars-o Rocher: Well, she’s on a roll. She’s trying to give me a makeover too, and not a good one; a “we need a ratings bump for this season of America’s Next Top Model so someone’s getting their eyebrows bleached” one. I just want to go into the church and live within my means, but my family is not into it.

A man says "This guy gets it."

Ferrars-o Rocher: Anyway, I know you’re really going through it right now — my dad also died when I was young. I’m here, if you need a listening ear.

But reader, before Sense can take him up on it, BabyDash makes her entrance. She’s peeved because their round ginger cousin Henry, who thus far has had no lines, is riding her pony without permission. Now look, this family seems nice, and I enjoy BabyDash’s chaotic energy. But also, kid has a literal pony, so I’m having a hard time feeling sympathetic about their hard time right now! Sense, as usual, tries to keep BabyDash from wilding out too much, but Ferrars-o Rocher has an even better solution: he’ll talk to his sister about her crummy kid, AND take BabyDash for a ride on his actual horse. If you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of this family, buddy, you nailed it. We get a wee montage to show just how well everyone’s getting along (swimmingly) and how Lady MacBeth feels about the situation (not great!). But just to be extra clear, it’s time for Sibling Real Talk Hour.

Sensibility: Sooooooo…. You’re into Ferrars-o Rocher, huh? Is it loooove?
Sense, panicking: I, uh, really like him, how about that?
Sensibility: He’s kind of boring though, no? A real Blandy McBlanderson.
Sense: Don’t hate on bland! Sometimes you want dry toast, ya know?
Sensibility: Yeah, when you're recovering from a stomach bug. Anyway, if you’re gonna marry him I’ll get on board but until them you’re out of luck.
Sense: Marry him!? Oh that’s not gonna happen, he’s got responsibilities and things. And we haven’t talked about it at all!
Sensibility: Yeah but to paraphrase Our Lady Beyonce, if he likes it, he should put a ring on it.
Sense: Wow, look: I think we like each other, but don’t put the cart before the horse.
Sensibility: Oh damn, I’m sorry, I was sure you guys were secretly engaged. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’s gonna propose soon.
BabyDash, hiding in a tree: Me too!
Me, has consumed my fair share of Austen:

A man says "I'm sorry, I have some bad news."

Later, Lady MacBeth schemes at MomDash. The short version? Ferrars-o Rocher is going to be expected to marry someone either super titled, super loaded, or both, and, lol, the Dashwoods are neither. And he won’t inherit his considerable fortune unless he follows that order.


A man sarcastically says "thank you SO much. Thank you."

Good news: we don’t have to deal with Lady MacBeth for much longer! One of MomDash’s cousins has offered them a cottage on his estate, AND he seems like a nice guy. Sense approves — the rent is not, for once, too damn high! That’s enough for MomDash, who intends to accept the offer without even seeing the cottage. She wants to get out of there before the week is out. The only downside is that the budding situationship between Ferrars-o Rocher and Sense is about to get deadheaded in the process. Prepare yourselves for a breakup convo, folks.

Ferrars-o Rocher: Soooo, will you be sad to leave?
Sense: Well DUH, but given the whole thing with your sister…
Ferrars-o Rocher: Yeah, that tracks. Anyway, I’ve been really happy the last few weeks.
Sense: Same.
Ferrars-o Rocher: Like, uniquely happy. I’m really glad I could support you and also I value your friendship. Here’s a present, bye.

A man furiously yells "seriously?"

And with all that going unsaid, Team Dashwood departs with a sarcastic “thanks bro” to Doofus MacBeth and a genuine “come visit any time” to Ferrars-o Rocher. We’re sad, but let’s be real, is it even an Austen adaptation if someone doesn’t ride away from their love interest in a carriage, heartbroken? Mid-roadtrip, while everyone sleeps, Sense opens her present. It’s a book about flowers, which he’s signed “your affectionate friend” which I have to assume is the 1800s equivalent of “let’s get coffee” based on her reaction.

Their new place is very Romantic in the artistic, capital R sense of the word: nature, in all of it’s stormy seaside glory, looms large. Obviously, Sensibility is all about it, but MomDash is a bit freaked out. Who’s going to light the fires, etcetera? Let’s be real, we already know the answer to that. It’s Sense, who’s got the makings of a great Girl Scout troop leader. Before MomDash can descend into a full panic, her cousin (who also plays Arthur Weasley and Father Brown) appears at the door with a recently killed waterfowl present. He’s a lot, you guys. Just imagine a regency dude with this energy:

A man yells "I NEVER get tired."

MomDash: Wow, thank you so much! For the dead bird, and for letting us stay.
Cousin Bird Murder, super intense: NO. Don’t thank me, I'm SUPER excited that you’re here! I saw you drive by earlier — just pop in next time! Anyway, introduce me to the kids!
MomDash: Kids, meet my super intense cousin.
Cousin Bird Murder, foot firmly on the accelerator: Wow, you’re all adorable! Don’t worry, we’ll get you married off before the year is out!
Team Dashwood:

A woman asks "whaaat?"

Cousin Bird Murder: Wait, what did I say wrong?
Sense: Bruh, BabyDash is an actual child.
Cousin Bird Murder: Oh, lol, you’re right. I don’t know anything about ladies! But my mother-in-law is super knowledgeable about this, probably definitely not in a way that you’ll find overbearing and annoying! Anyway, you can find out tonight, you gotta come over for dinner every day until you’re settled in, I insist! Carriage will arrive at 4. BYE!

Well, can’t say no to that invitation, if only because MomDash couldn’t get a word in edgewise! Off to dinner we go! Cousin Bird Murderer’s family? Pretty cute! Wife Bird Murderer is sweet but kinda quiet, which doesn’t make a ton of sense because her mom is a real pistol. I love her already because a) she’s got banter capabilities, so BabyDash won’t suffer these fools alone anymore and b) she’s played by Linda Bassett, who I just LOVE on Call The Midwife.

Cousin Bird Murderer: Anyway, we gotta help these young ladies and pretty much our only option for that is matchmaking. What do you think, Mother-in-Law/Bestie?
Dame Awesome: Well, slow your roll: how do you know they don’t already have boyfriends?
BabyDash: Oh-ho! You’re spot on, Dame Awesome: my sister Sense has someone on the hook.

A man coyly says "maybe."

Dame Awesome: Well, don’t stay tied down, I have a super eligible friend coming to stay.
Cousin Bird Murderer: Oooh, right, Colonel Honor and Duty! Yeah he’s a war hero with a tragic romantic past; he never got over his first love!
Sensibility: Oh damn, he never got over his first love? Faithful to a fault?

A cat with the caption (heavy breathing)

Cousin Bird Murderer: Awesome, this is gonna be fun as heck! Oh, speak of the devil, look who just walked in! Hey Colonel Honor and Duty!
Colonel Honor and Duty: Wow this doesn’t feel like an ambush at all!
Dame Awesome: Well that’s what you get for going away for so long. Anyway, meet this family of hot ladies!
Colonel Honor and Duty, seeing Sensibility:

A woman lowers her glasses

Dame Awesome, as if Colonel H&D isn’t right there: See, he’d be perfect for any of your kids, MomDash!

Colonel H&D seems to agree, because he enters an actual honest to god fugue state after dinner while listening to Sensibility playing the piano. Time for a scouting mission with Sense.

Colonel H&D: So your sister is super talented — she’s got a lot of emotional range for her age.
Sense: That’s really nice, I bet she’d like to hear that compliment directly, and not, ya know, through me.
Colonel H&D: She reminds me of somebody that I used to know, but better.
Me: Wow, remember when that song was huge? I wonder what that guy is up to now…
Sense: Anyway, she’s coming over, don’t throw away your shot or whatever.
Colonel H&D: Sensibility, your playing is remarkable.
Sensibility: Huh, hard to tell if you liked it or not based on that.
Colonel H&D, missing the point: Yeah well you played the last movement with a different dynamic than what was written so…
Sensibility: Again, not actually feedback?
Colonel H&D: It was original.
Sensibility: What the hell, guy, can you just be clear about whether you thought I was good?
Sense: HA wow for once I’m not the emotional failure of the group, this is fun!

Later, Colonel H&D, hopefully having had a nice long think about what could have gone better with that conversation, drops by for a visit, prompting everyone to do a dorm inspection clean (hide everything in closets and under beds). He claims he had to go check on his house, and figured he’d stop on the way to bring them some flowers (an unlikely story, but cute) and some sheet music for Sensibility (A+, good work).

Sensibility: This is so thoughtful, but I think this might be beyond my skill level.
Colonel H&D: Oh, definitely not! You have a piano, right?
Sensibility: Uh. Kind of?
Colonel H&D: I have a really nice one, and it doesn’t get used enough, you should come over and play any time!
Sensibility: Oh, wow, thanks?
Everyone else:

A man gasps excitedly

Colonel H&D: Anyway, I better get to stepping! Bye!

Lest you thought we’d seen the last of them, it’s time for another montage, where we get to see Colonel H&D doing some hunting and Sensibility practicing her new music at Cousin Bird Murderer’s place.

Dame Awesome: You guys saw that montage too, right? They’re totally vibing. Sure, he’s kinda old but he’s loaded and really sweet.
MomDash: Yeah but she’s just 17, that’s pretty young.
Dame Awesome: Whatever, it’s the 1800s, I got married at 16 and I turned out awesome — it’s literally in my name!
Sense: Has Colonel H&D actually told you he’s into my sister?
Dame Awesome: No, but come on, he obviously is!

Later, we get another Sibling Real Talk Hour, and Sensibility? She’s mad as hell.

Sensibility: I’m sorry, what?? Ew!
Sense: You like him though, right?
Sensibility: Only because he’s the only person you can have a normal conversation with in this town. He’s way too old!
MomDash: He’s only twice your age! And more importantly, he’s younger than me, are you calling your dear mamà old??
Sensibility: Don’t be weird, you’re still a snack, ma! But yeah, I can’t talk to him anymore, I’m not into it.

And guess what, she proves it the next time he comes to visit, running out the back on the thin excuse that BabyDash needs a walk. BabyDash, who is not a dog, is less than pleased. Also less than pleased? Sense and MomDash, who get stuck back at the house silently drinking tea with Colonel H&D. Sensibility, however, is having a grand time, and insists on staying outside even after it starts raining despite a) living in a genre where getting stuck outside in the elements can kill you and b) her very thin white dress. Back at the house, Colonel H&D finishes his tea, and, probably sensing a losing battle, heads out.

MomDash, lying through her teeth: Oh, well Sensibility will be very sorry she missed you!
Sense: My dude, at least wait for the rain to let up.
Colonel H&D: And sit in an even more prolonged awkward silence? No thanks!

Out in the rain, the reverse conversation is happening.

BabyDash: Can we please stop being ridiculous and go back to the house now? I’m miserable and you’re being a coward.
Sensibility: No way, this is the best!

She then promptly slips and falls over the side of a cliff, scaring the pants off of BabyDash. Sensibility is ok, but she’s definitely rattled, and can’t move. Lucky for us, a dashing stranger is here to help. He quickly diagnoses that she’s sprained her ankle, and won’t be able to walk, so he’ll have to carry her home.

A man lifts a woman above his head

MomDash and the gang, reacting to the VIBE when Dashing Stranger carries Sensibility in:

A woman closes a door, shocked but into what she's seeing

Sensibility, at Dashing Stranger:

A man says "I love you." and draws a heart with his fingers

MomDash: Would you like to stay for dinner or something?
Dashing Stranger: Oh, I gotta run, but I’d love to come back and check on, uh, your daughter who’s name I still don’t know, if that’s ok?
MomDash: It’s Sensibility, and hell yeah.
Dashing Stranger: Excellent, see you then!
Sensibility: He’s so cute, right?
MomDash and BabyDash:

Two women emphatically say "YES!!"

Sense: Well, he's whatever, he got mud all over the floors.

Not to be deterred, the rest of the crew chatters away about how cute he is, and how strong he is, and how nice his eyes are (all, by the way, things you might also say about the Big Bad Wolf, I mention here for no particular reason). They’re even more excited when he comes back the next day, giving Sensibility time to primp and look cute. She’s pretty excited about the wild strawberries he brought her, but Sense is more interested in talking about the old timey background check she ran on him (i.e., asking Cousin Bird Murderer what he thinks). Apparently the only notable thing is that Dashing Stranger loves to dance, and will prove it once Sensibility’s ankle is back online. He also loves poetry, specifically overblown romantic nonsense. Obviously, he and Sensibility get on like a house on fire, whilst Sense sits in the corner disapprovingly.

Sense, internally: Gimme a break, now he’s quoting Byron? Bet that doesn’t foreshadow anything shady about his ability to commit!

Two people make a sarcastic "Yeah, ok" gesture

But what’s that? A knock at the door? Why it’s Colonel H&D, of course! He’s here because he heard Sensibility was hurt and wanted to check on her, which is very sweet. MomDash tries to cut the “oops, two dudes are here to visit my daughter at once” tension by introducing the men, but unfortunately for her, they already know each other, and clearly, do not get along, so it only gets worse.

Dashing Stranger:

A woman gives someone an unimpressed look

Colonel H&D:

A woman glares at someone

Well, looks like Sensibility is on the mend. I’d better be going.
MomDash: So that was weird.
Dashing Stranger: Yeah, he’s weird. And that's all I'll say on the subject!

Is Colonel H&D being needlessly shady? Is Dashing Stranger on the up and up? Will this turn into the buddy comedy starring BabyDash and Dame Awesome that I so wish it to be? Only one way to find out, and that’s to stream episode 2!