The first night of Sanditon brought us two episodes, so after the premiere’s rollercoaster of exposition and scandalous sea-bathing, let’s dive right into the second.
The initial heady rush of Austen-without-rules has passed, making this episode a bit of a comedown from the premiere. We primarily learn that Lady Denham is racist AF, Georgiana Lambe hates being in Sanditon because it’s cold and gross and people are racist (see: Lady Denham), and Sidney Parker is trying to walk back his intense rudeness, which, can he?
Our protagonist Charlotte and assorted characters attend a church service where the minister says “a young lady is like a flower,” and refers to the English roses and “exotic blooms” present, referencing Georgiana. Charlotte gives him the same look we all would. He furthers this flower metaphor by saying women fulfill Jesus’s will simply by blossoming. Esther does a magnificent eye roll and I love her more, despite her ruffled blouse. Everyone stays on track with the churchy flower talk after, as Tom Parker’s brother Arthur, the self-proclaimed invalid who loves toast, says he wants to be a lily of the field. I SUPPORT YOUR JOURNEY, ARTHUR.
The action this episode revolves around Lady Denham’s pineapple party. If you’re wondering what’s up with that and hope to be indulged with a history of the pineapple in England — ALLOW ME TO GRANT YOUR HEART’S DESIRE. The pineapple is native to tropical and subtropical America. Genocidal explorer Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about seeing it in the West Indies, then the Portuguese, who were traveling everywhere in the 16th century, brought it to Africa, India, and other tropical regions. So how did Lady Denham get one in less-than-tropical England in 1817? Because hers was grown in a hothouse. Pineapple hothouses were all the rage in the 18th century, although clearly in this case, they did not deliver her a great result. As for the “Antigua black” that Georgiana references, it is the world’s sweetest pineapple and on Antigua’s coat of arms. Which is awesome. It’s apparently difficult to get them off the island without them spoiling, so the likelihood of Lady Denham being able to procure one is close to zero. Hence the non-Antigua pineapple.
Prior to discovering the state of the pineapple, though, she is extremely excited, and it’s the most I’ve liked her yet (swiftly followed by her being the absolute worst). She says it will be the centerpiece of her luncheon party. A luncheon party and pineapple tasting! Here’s the thing: This should be an inspiration for us all. Can’t anything become delightful if you make a big deal about it? Call anything a tasting and it’s cool. “A string cheese tasting at 4 o’clock on Thursday, the 21st of February. RSVP, regrets only.” “You are cordially invited to a tasting of grapes, recently brought in by a local merchant” (the merchant is Target).
By the way, if you’re confused about the men in the Sanditon tavern wearing tricornes, i.e., three-cornered hats, YOU SHOULD BE. It is jarring. According to the bastion of information Wikipedia, the tricorne was out of favor by the turn of the century. It’s 1817! It would be like if everyone was wearing wedge flip-flops and tube tops today. However, Sanditon did this knowingly, at least per The World of Sanditon, which tells us that despite the hats falling out of fashion, the working classes continued to wear them. I accept this.
Our uncomfortably close and villainous siblings use the Arrested Development escape clause — they’re not siblings! They’re step-siblings! Except they were raised together and that’s therefore stillllll gross, guys. This information is disclosed when Lord Babington shows up to briefly hit on Esther and then disappear. Lord Babington seems like a disgusting frat guy who dwells in frat culture, which makes me think he will either be Redeemed or Punished. Time will tell. (Side note: Esther’s hairstyle was shocking to me? Her hair is completely down, which I can only think is meant to indicate her moral profligacy. Loose Hair, Sailors Beware. She looks like a 1940s movie star, but Sanditon is a place where societal norms are flung into the sea, so let’s just go with it.)
There’s a brief scene where Charlotte volunteers to be Tom’s assistant and also demonstrates an eye for architecture. I think the only important bit here is she has Ambition and also that the foreman (?), Mr. Stringer, is clearly into her. As he has not loudly reprimanded her for answering a question he asked, I support Charlotte/Stringer.
But, ugh, we have to talk about the pineapple luncheon, surely the MOST racist pineapple luncheon ever to occur. Georgiana, the heiress from the West Indies and Sidney Parker’s ward, does not want to go. Of course she doesn’t want to go! It’s 1817 in England! Everyone is going to be terrible! Or at least one person. Don’t worry, it’s just the host, i.e. the person whose job it is to make you feel welcome. Lady Denham tells Sir Edward to lock it in, re: engagement to Georgiana. How she thinks this will be settled over a brief chat at a pineapple luncheon, I have no idea. It fails because Georgiana isn’t an idiot. Lady Denham says the pineapple is there as a mark of Georgiana’s heritage and then asks “do you understand that?” and I want to throw her out of her own house.
Writer Andrew Davies can’t resist “an heiress with a hundred thousand must be in want of a husband” here, and I support it. More Pride and Prejudice references! More!
But back to Lady Denham being the worst. When Lady Denham outright throws Sir Edward at Georgiana, she says she doesn’t care to be a man’s property. Lady Denham says, I should have thought someone like you would be quite used to being a man’s property, and I immediately shouted an expletive in my apartment. She continues to make jokes about Georgiana’s mother being enslaved and it’s 100 percent infuriating and I rescind all previous goodwill from her being-delighted-with-a-pineapple moment. She asks, “Am I not permitted to speak my own mind in my own house?” Yes. You can do that. And all your guests are also permitted to never visit you again, leaving you alone with your cavernous rooms and moldy pineapple. Except they aren’t, because everyone is poor except Lady Denham. And Georgiana, but she’s getting out of there as quickly as possible.
Georgiana straight-up tries to run away. Her father is the reason she’s there, and he made Sidney her guardian. Sidney thinks London is too dangerous for an heiress (fair), so they’re stuck in Sanditon. When she tries jumping on a coach, she is ridiculed for having no money on her and pushed around until she escapes. We end with at least a note of positivity for her, as Charlotte finds her standing on a cliff’s edge, talks her down, and becomes her friend. The moment of Georgiana standing on the cliff does an excellent job of showing her isolation and the unbearableness of her situation. She and Charlotte immediately become confidantes, as she asks Charlotte if she finds her spoiled and sulky, and Charlotte says, no! Look at what you had to go through at Lady Denham’s! It’s the most relatable friendship moment I’ve seen so far. “Am I terrible?” “NO, look at what you have had to DEAL with; you are a brave and noble warrior.”
We end with another naked man. This time it’s Sidney, who has been growing slightly less rude, but not less rude enough to not just… stand there naked in the sea. I know not everyone can be as wonderfully embarrassed and stammering as Mr. Darcy, and I guess I will deal with that. Anyway, next week! Hopefully someone will lock Lady Denham in a room with nothing but her rotten pineapple for company.