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!

The family Dashwood might be kickin’ it by the seaside in a relatively small town, but if you seriously thought an Austen adaptation would happen without including a ball scene so the characters can flirt/aggressively pine at each other, I don’t know what to tell you.

A man hiding in the back of a crowded room shouts "she doesn't even go here!"

And balls aren’t just for dancing and romance: you can also confront your romantic rival!

Colonel H&D: Look here, Dashing Stranger, we need to talk.
Dashing Stranger: Oho, if it isn’t Colonel H&D — didn’t know you could dance, bro! And yes, sure, player 2 has joined the chat.
Colonel H&D: You kids and your online lingo… anyway, look, what’s the deal with you and Sensibility?
Dashing Stranger: Look guy, you’re not her dad, even though you sure are old enough for it. What’s YOUR deal with Sensibility?
Colonel H&D: My deal is that I’m honorably hitting on her — it’s right there in my recap name!
Dashing Stranger: Well *I* am trying to lock it down with Sensibility, and guess what?

A woman says "But I can't help that I'm popular."

Two Mean Girls gifs in a row? Am I slipping? Either way, back at the Dash-Pad, Sensibility is still riding the post-party high, and driving Sense, who a) got dumped not that long ago, b) isn’t a huge fan of muddy-booted Dashing Stranger, and c) is just trying to go to sleep, completely spare.

Sensibility: Ugh, seriously, you want to slut shame me?
Sense: No, but there’s nothing wrong with, like, a modicum of discretion. You literally wound’t dance with anyone other than Dashing Stranger!
Sensibility: Hiding is lying. Also, real talk, I wish you had a boyfriend too so you’d be happy.

A woman says "I don't need a man. I don't need anybody to make me OK. I'm fine by myself."


A man says "you sit on a throne of lies."

Sense: Seriously, I’m ok, and I’m sure Ferrars-o Rocher has important stuff happening. I’m trying to move on here, Sensibility!
Sensibility: How are you so cool about this?
Sense: Because I don’t want to be super depressed or get my hopes up for something that might not happen!
Sensibility: Well, that’s kind of sad but I get it — I’m gonna hope for you anyway.

The next day, Sense takes to the cliffs for a spot of private pining. But she can’t get away with it for long, because Sensibility needs her to come take a look at the super nice present she just got from Dashing Stranger. Folks, it’s a literal horse. First of all, who in their right mind gives someone a pet as a gift, especially a notoriously expensive pet? Second of all, he describes it as “docile, good tempered, and exactly calculated to carry a woman,” which:

A man smiles and rolls his eyes

Anyway, he insists that Sensibility share her new HORSE with her sister (a little condescending), but that doesn’t stop Sense from shutting this nonsense down: a horse isn’t a practical gift for the DashFam, and it sure as hell isn’t appropriate for a man to give a young lady a horse. Sensibility is furious, but let’s be real: Sense may be boring, but she’s completely correct in this case. Sensibility tries to get MomDash on her side, which, annoyingly, works. I’m not a parent, but I think we all know it’s not fair to make your child be the responsible one all the time.

Sensibility: UGH, fine Sense, I begrudgingly admit that you’re right, but this is going to be so embarrassing.
Sense: Dashing Stranger will totally get it once he understands our financial situation. But also, you get why it’s not ok to take a horse present from Dashing Stranger, right? We barely know him!
Sensibility: I know him better than anyone other than you and mom; we have a real connection!

A woman says "we were made for each other."

MomDash: Oh sh*t, be cool, he’s here.
Dashing Stranger: Hi, sorry, I’m here to apologize — I put you in an awkward position.
Sense: Wow, thats —
Dashing Stranger: PSYCH. Sensibility, I’m still giving you the horse, but I’ll keep it at my house, so not only will it still be an inappropriate present, but you’ll have to come hang out with me to use it!

And if you thought THAT was a little much, while Sense is away, Sensibility and Dashing Stranger engage in the regency version of parking: her giving him a lock of hair. It seems low key, but BabyDash (who’s not getting enough screen time this week) is scandalized. Sensibility, on the other hand?

A man with flowing hair winks.

Later that night, because we all needed more screen time with our favorite sassy child, BabyDash thinks she hears a noise in the dark and turns to Sense for comfort. Sense reassures her; yes, this house sure is different from where they used to live, but it’s pretty nice, and Colonel H&D even has a greenhouse with some off season fruits! NGL: as a non-Horse Girl who doesn't trust ANYONE who's that into Byron, this greenhouse has me even more invested in Colonel H&D as a love interest. But enough about me: BabyDash has visions of peaches dancing in her head, and she's ready to sleep.

The next day, everyone’s preparing to depart Cousin Bird Murderer’s house for a fun day trip/the worst group date ever, when a rider appears with an urgent missive for Colonel H&D. He’s got to leave on a mysterious errand. Immediately. Dame Awesome is bummed, because they’re weirdly besties, but Dashing Stranger is delighted to have an opportunity to talk a bunch of crap about Colonel H&D, specifically that he doesn’t like fun and probably planned his family emergency to avoid the party.

Sense: Well that’s rude, you really dislike him so much?
Dashing Stranger: Yeah, he's the worst — he promised us a fun day and backed out like a loser! Anyway, forget him, we can still have fun.
Cousin Bird Murderer: Wanna race?
Dashing Stranger: Hell yeah. Sensibility, you coming with me?

A man says "ride or die."

They leave, galloping away for a smidgen of privacy. Well, more than a smidgen, actually: Dashing Stranger wants to show Sensibility his family home, for “reasons,” and since his aunt is away they would be… unchaperoned.

A monkey puppet makes a shocked face.

Sensibility pretends to be totally fine with that, claiming that she hates these conventions, but she seems (understandably) a bit nervous. Regardless, they press on, with Dashing Stranger explaining that while the house is lovely, his aunt keeps much of it unused, and it would only take a small infusion of cash money to restore the house to glory. Sir, you’re barking up the wrong tree: Sensibility and Co. can’t even afford a horse! Sensibility, completely missing that attempt to find out if she’s got any money, follows Dashing Stranger further into the house, where the air is thick with dust and sexual tension, which only ramps up when Dashing Stranger kisses Sensibility.

A woman says "warning, warning."

Back at Cousin Bird Murderer’s place, everyone’s starting to get a little concerned that Dashing Stranger and Sensibility have been gone too long. Before anyone can do anything too drastic, the happy couple return. Cousin Bird Murderer, who loves drama AND romance, is pleased to announce that they look great, by which he means:

A woman says "I'll have what she's having."

I bet you can guess who’s NOT into this development: Sense, who just wants Sensibility to think of her reputation! Sensibility, who’s honestly kind of a baller and ahead of her time, doesn’t care what those other clowns think, just her sister, and of course, Sense still loves her, she just wants her to be careful! I hope Sense is ready to be on sentry duty, because Sensibility is living up to her name right about now.

An animated heart with heart eyes smiles at butterflies

Later, while Sensibility and Dashing Stranger read poetry to each other in the yard, which is just as nauseating as it sounds, the rest of the Family Dash gossips about them.

MomDash: They’re so obviously secretly engaged; this is killing me. Just tell us!
BabyDash, not about to sit on a piece of gossip THIS juicy: Oh, ma, they’re definitely engaged, and I saw it go down! He’s got some of her hair!
MomDash: Interesting. Go get your sister, I’m sick of watching those two make eyes at each other. Sense, I just don’t get it — surely your sister wouldn’t do something so intimate unless they were affianced!
Sense: Well maybe they can’t get hitched yet — you know we certainly don’t have enough money to finance it.
MomDash: Even if there’s something in the way he could at least publicly say they’re together!
Dashing Stranger, sensing (har har) an opening in the conversation: Uh, MomDash? I’m going to visit my Aunt tomorrow morning — is it ok if I come here after? To talk to Sensibility, and then to you, privately?
MomDash: AHA! Yes, for sure, please do that.
Sense and Mom Dash:

A man smiles and says "oooh!"

The next day, as promised, Dashing Stranger arrives while everyone but Sensibility has gone out for a stroll to give them some privacy. They return home expecting to pull out the good sherry, or whatever, but instead find a very distraught Sensibility. What’s wrong with her?

Dashing Stranger: Well, she’s not thrilled, and neither am I.
MomDash: Wait, did she turn you down???
Dashing Stranger: Ugh, no: I have to leave town. Like Sense and Ferrars-o Rocher, our love is also doomed to be long distance. My aunt sent me to London on business and I’ll probably be gone for a while.
MomDash: Well, uh, that sucks. I guess only you know what’s up with your aunt.
Dashing Stranger: I’m gonna be as real with you as I can: I don’t think I’ll be back for the foreseeable future.
BabyDash: What the heck, dude, that’s not an answer! When are you coming back? Sensibility will want to know!
Dashing Stranger: I’m too broody and sad to answer you, tiny child. And now I ride for London! Au revoir!

Inside, MomDash has a theory: Rich Aunt must not approve of Sensibility, and has concocted this London Business to keep the kids appart. But why not just tell them that? Asks Sense, sensibly. They can’t figure it out — does he not want to talk badly about his aunt? Does he maybe not love Sensibility as much as we all assumed? Surely not. Sensibility rejoins the group to tell everyone that she’ll be ok: he’ll be back soon for sure, and also, she’s a regency era English lady — pining is one of her core skills. Just to prove it, we get a brief montage of her moping around the countryside like this:

A man stares out a window, full of melancholy

Some time later, MomDash and Sense bump into each other in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Sense is awake because BabyDash kicks in her sleep, but MomDash? She’s up to something.

MomDash: I’m writing a letter. To Ferrars-o Rocher.
Sense: What? NO! That’s embarrassing!
MomDash: He’s a shy guy, he might need a nudge! And it’s WEIRD that he hasn’t been to visit yet.
Sense: Well knock it off! I only want him to visit if he really wants to be here, I’m not desperate!

She certainly isn’t, unlike Sensibility, who’s out here in the woods making her sisters listen to the romantic poems she used to read with Dashing Stranger.

Sense, trying to change the subject to anything else: Please can we talk about anything else? Maybe just don’t think about him?
Sensibility: God, you’re weird. He’s ALL I think about!
Sense, dryly: Yes, I’m very boring and weird.
BabyDash: Oooh, someone’s coming!
Sensibility, already running home: Boyfriennnnnnnnnnnnd!
Sense: Well, crap. Come on, Baby Dash, let’s go see who it actually is.

OH DAMN, it’s not Dashing Stranger, it’s Ferrars-o Rocher, and we get to see Sense crack a genuine smile for the first time in a while. He can only stay briefly; he’s already been in Devonshire for a bit.

Sense, playing it cool: Oh, interesting!
Ferrars-o Rocher: Yeah, that’s one way to put it — I had to go visit some old friends in Plymouth, and it didn’t go great. Anyway, very happy to see you again.
Sense: Likewise!
Ferrars-o Rocher: Well, how are you liking it out here in the country? How’s hanging out with the family Bird Murderer?
Sensibility: They SUCK dude.
Sense: Don’t be crappy, they’re nice!
Sensibility: And weird.
BabyDash: Ugh, ignore her, she’s just bummed because Dashing Stranger left.
Ferrars-o Rocher, as if he knows more than he’s letting on: Ah.

At dinner, MomDash asks if Ferrars-o Rocher’s mom is still pushing him into politics.

Ferrars-o Rocher: Lol, no, she finally realised that was a lost cause.
Sensibility: So how are you gonna make a name for yourself?
Ferrars-o Rocher: Oh, I don't want to, I’m opting out.
Sensibility: Well you’re alright by us! And anyway, money and fanciness don’t matter.
Sense: Let’s be real, money is helpful. And that doesn’t make me a jerk, it just makes me practical!
Sensibility: Don’t be weird, we’re all so happy here and we’re poor! Agree with me, Ferrars-o Rocher!
Ferrars-o Rocher, weirdly depressed all of a sudden: Well, money does solve some problems, but it’s not everything.
MomDash: Are you ok, son?
Ferrars-o Rocher: I’m sorry, I get bummed out sometimes. Maybe I shouldn’t have come, but I did want to see you all!
BabyDash: Well, obviously, we’re awesome! We wanted to see you too.
MomDash: And speaking of awesome, LOVE the signet ring, bro! Is it new? I’m of course assuming it’s got your sister’s hair in it, even though the shade is wrong, because otherwise that would imply you’ve got some kind of romantic entanglement I don't know about, and you've been semi-dating the kid who doesn't casually hand out hunks of her hair behind my back.
Ferrars-o Rocher:

A man gestures as if to say "sure, fine."

What’s a guy to do when he’s maybe lying to his friends and miserable about it/life in general? Go outside in the rain in a blousy white shirt and split a bunch of logs!

Sense: Dude, what are you doing out here? I thought you were our servant!
Ferrars-o Rocher: Crossfit hasn’t been invented yet and I needed a way to vent my angst! Anyway, figured I’d help... you have, like, zero servants.
Sense: We’re doing just fine, don’t worry!
Ferrars-o Rocher: Yes, but it could be different if…

A man sings "oh well, whatever, nevermind."

Sense: Wanna maybe finish that sentence?
Ferrars-o Rocher: UGH YES, BUT I CAN’T! Anyway I shouldn’t have come. Bye.

He leaves, and everyone heads to bed so that Sense and Sensibility can go over everything that happened. They agree that the ring hair looked suspiciously like Sense’s, but also, she never gave him any hair, so it’s still a big ol’ mystery. Sensibility, who’s still struggling with the whole abandoned by her boyfriend thing, assumes that Ferrars-o Rocher must have talked to Sense about their deal, specifically, that he loves her, and wants to marry her. Why, after all, would he visit if not to propose?

A man shrugs, confused

Needless to say, everyone’s kind of glum chez Dash, so they’re not super thrilled when Cousin Bird Murderer and Dame Awesome show up uninvited with even more surprise guests, specifically, Dame Awesome’s other daughter Charlotte and her dour plank of a husband, Mr. Palmer. Charlotte, like her brother in law and mom, is entertaining and pleasant, and compliments their cottage, whilst Dour Plank husband tries to ignore everyone in favor of the paper. If TWO surprise strangers wasn’t enough, guess what: their nieces are also en route, and super excited to make friends with the Galshwoods, who therefore are required at dinner at the Bird Murderer estate OR ELSE. Sensibility:

A woman says "I want to burn this place down."

At dinner, we meet the sisters Steele, one of whom is kind of a doofus motormouth who only wants to talk about boys, and one of whom seems chill and retiring. Sensibility immediately gets out some rocks to throw around inside her glass house, but before she can get a word in edgewise, Cousin Bird Murderer cuts in to add that while he already told the Steeles all about Dashing Stranger, Sense also has a special friend who just visited!

Loudmouth Steele: Ooooooooh dish!
Cousin Bird Murderer: All we know is that his name starts with F but other than that it’s a secret!
Dame Awesome, stage whispering: LOL IT’S FERRARS.
Loudmouth Steele: What a coincidence, we also know a Ferrars very well!
Chill Steele: Don’t exaggerate, we’ve met him like once. Anyway, Sense, want to go for a walk and get away from my sister, I mean… out of here?

Outside, the plot thickens:

Chill Steele: You’re gonna think this is a weird question, but do you know the Ferrars Matriarch?
Me: Uh oh, this can’t end well.
Sense: We’ve never met! Also, I didn’t realize you know the family, so weird huh?
Chill Steele: You have no idea, new friend. Let’s just say, I might get to know the family VERY WELL, if you know what I mean.
Sense: Wow, so you're implying that you're marrying into the family! You must know the second oldest brother then?
Chill Steele: Hilarious. No. Never met him. But I’m engaged to his older brother, Edward. Or, as this weirdo recapper’s been calling him, Ferrars-o Rocher.

A wowan says "what the damn hell?!"

Chill Steele: Anyway, look, it’s a big secret and only my doofus sister knows, but if it gets back to his mom we are in… big trouble. See, I have no money and she’s not into that.
Sense: Sure sure, one question though, how long have you been engaged?
Chill Steele: Oh like four years. He’s got some of my hair and everything — maybe you saw it when you met?
Sense, trying to prevent her brain from exploding: Sure did!
Chill Steele: Anyway, can you please please keep this on the DL?
Sense, painted into a corner: I guess I don’t have any other choice, but yes, I won’t tell.

Later, Sensibility asks what was up with that long outdoors chat, both because she wants the dirt and, I imagine, because she got stuck inside with the Loudmouth Steele and is trying to erase the experience from her memory. Sense, like the good person she is, doesn’t spill the beans, and instead finds a convenient cave to hide inside for a good sulk. If she was hoping for more time for solitary weeping/rage (yet another reason every woman deserves a room of her own), she won’t get it, because Dame Awesome is heading to London and has invited both of the older Dashwoods to accompany her. This is a super big deal re: their ability to hopefully lock down husbands, and, let’s be real, a very nice offer, so there’s no good way for Sense to get out of it, even though she’s putting off these vibes.

A crying woman brandishes a wine glass and says "I just wanted to listen to Taylor Swift alone."

And so we head off to London! Dame Awesome is intent upon pulling a Daddy Warbucks, telling the girls that they are to be treated like royalty, do whatever they like, and enjoy the comfort of her daughter’s room. Sensibility doesn’t waste a second and immediately sends the footman off with a letter to Dashing Stranger, and then sits by the window waiting for him to appear. Late in the day, they all hear a knock on the door. Sensibility, finding out that it’s Colonel H&D, not the hoped for Dashing Stranger:

Han Solo sarcastically says "Oh. Great."

Sensibility doesn’t cover up her disappointment super well, and runs off, leaving Dame Awesome and Sense to pick up the pieces. Dame Awesome, is, of course, thrilled to see Colonel H&D, since he’s been MIA since the thwarted picnic, a topic which brings down the mood considerably. Surprise: Colonel H&D would like to chat with Sense solo. Dame Awesome, who just loves love, seems to think this is going in a romantic direction, but TBH I’m hoping they both can just make a friend to eye roll with over everyone else’s antics at family gatherings.

Colonel H&D: So, I need you to confirm something. Are congratulations in order?
Sense: Huh?
Colonel H&D: Everyone is saying that your sister and Dashing Stranger are engaged.
Sense: Wait, who’s saying that?
Colonel H&D: What part of everyone don’t you understand?? Ugh, I heard it at the Palmers — you know, Dame Awesome's dour plank of a son in law's family.
Sense: Well, I can’t tell you for sure, because Sensibility has never told me they’re engaged. But don’t get your hopes up: she’s besotted with him, and I have no reason to think he doesn’t feel the same way. I’m kind of assuming now that we’re here in London, they’ll announce their engagement imminently.
Colonel H&D: Welp. Thanks for the intel. I hope she’ll be super happy and that he’ll... do his best to deserve her. Bye!

Later that night, Sense tries to guilt Sensibility for ignoring Colonel H&D earlier, but Sensibility isn’t having it. Yes, Colonel H&D is swell, but he’s no Dashing Stranger! Yeah, she's right, because Dashing Stranger is a JERK, and proves it over the next few days by completely failing to respond to Sensibility’s note. Given that, it’s probably no surprise that neither Dashwood sister is that jazzed to find out that the Steele sisters have arrived in town with the rest of the crew, and that they’ve all been invited to a party.

Sensibility changes her tune when she finds out that Dashing Stranger will be at the party, but Sense is destined to have much less fun. Why? Because not only does she get cornered by Chill Steele, who’s excited to see her FIANCE, but she also has to put up with crappy sister in law Fanny/Lady MacBeth, and the other Ferrars brother, who snootily says Ferrars-o Rocher described Sense as a hottie, making her AND Chill Steele very uncomfortable. Sense introduces Snooty Ferrars to Chill Steele, whom he immediately ogles whilst calling his brother, everyone’s favorite love interest, very boring. No time for more of this super awkward conversation, because Dashing Stranger is also here. Unfortunately, he doesn’t come say hi to Sensibility, and instead practically runs in the opposite direction. Sense tries to talk her sister down, but fails utterly, and they both end up cornering Dashing Stranger for the in person equivalent of getting dumped via text message.

Sensibility: Dude, why are you being so weird? And didn’t you get my letters?
Dashing Stranger: Small talk!
Sensibility: Did you just say "small talk" to me?
Dashing Stranger: Anyway, nice to talk to you, near stranger! Bye!

And then, he walks back to the group he was chatting with, which includes at least one very rich and proper young lady. This is all too much for Sensibility, who swoons, and is caught by the ever present steadying force of Colonel H&D. Look, we all saw Dashing Stranger’s nonsense coming a mile away, but I have to confess I didn’t expect everyone’s favorite love interest and luxury snack Ferrars-o Rocher to also be a two-timing jerk. What’s going on with these men? Only one way to find out, and that’s to stream episode 3!

Episode 1 Recap: Our Devonian Cousin