Season two of Sanditon forever!! The writers have just thrown everything from season one overboard, and I love it so very much. This episode was particularly satisfying because there was KISSING. There were LONG LINGERING LOOKS. When Alex Colbourne walks into the ball and he and Charlotte just stare at each other, I was like, “YEEEEESSSSSSSS, this is why I watch Jane Austen showsssss.” Austen adaptations are all about those slow builds that lead to characters’ hands briefly grazing, and it is amazing when they do. Because this is the lawless world of Sanditon, they go a little further here, and it is the absolute best.
This episode honestly deserves six out of five stars because it begins with Arthur saying, “good morrow, horsey.” That’s the opening. And it just gets better from there. Minus the Esther parts, but I am choosing to deftly compartmentalize those. The Event of the Week in Sanditon is a ball (a ball!!!). The initial drama is that the shopkeepers are refusing to supply it since the soldiers haven’t paid their debts. Tom says the ball must be canceled (no!!!). Arthur determines to fix things because Arthur is the best brother of all brothers.
Ugh, let’s get the Esther plotline out of the way quick because I hate it: Edward is replacing the medicine Esther is drinking with laudanum, so she is consistently out of it. He plans to make Lady Denham believe she is mad and have her committed. I hate it so much. She isn’t hearing from Babington because Edward is still hiding his letters. “But Babington will come!” I told my friend. “The actor who plays him left the show,” she replied. I was as plunged into despair as Miss Hankins not finding the yarn she needs to complete her woolens. But! Clara is clearly stricken by her conscience, so there is hope she will turn on Edward and save Esther, and then they will raise the baby together after Extremely Racist Lady Denham dies. They can be like the Ladies of Llangollen, but with a baby.
Since Alison has dumped Captain Carter, the field is clear for Fraser. However, Alison says she’s just going to leave and go back to the farm. Charlotte’s like, “I mean, I’m here,” which is hilarious, but Alison says she never sees Charlotte because of her governess job. Then she talks about how she knows Charlotte’s heart is basically healed because of Colonel Lennox. Booooo!!! In this episode, Charlotte’s friends show terrible judgment, except in their personal romantic choices. Alison and Georgiana are all in on Lennox when Alex is right there. Again, I know Jane Eyre hasn’t been written, but the parallels are so clear!! And he doesn’t even have a wife locked in his attic! That we know of! Anyway, Alison agrees to go the ball (the ball!!).
Speaking of Georgiana, she tricks Arthur into leaving her and Charles Lockhart chaperoneless for her portrait session. He paints her while they sit on a garden path (nice) with her hair down. She tells him this is the hair her mother gave her, and it’s how she wants to be seen (yay, Georgiana!). Charles tells her he is not painting her for money but for love. They kiss on the garden path!! Scandalous yet great!
Last we saw Alex, he told Charlotte she could not see Colonel Lennox, which was a real reach, sir. Then he stormed off. Therefore, when she walks to work and sees him coming, Charlotte hides behind a tree. I hope she tells him about this ten years into their marriage. Or six months — I just want to point out that they’re going to get married and it’s going to be for a long time, and also I love them.
Augusta is grumpy (again) because she thinks Alex’s behavior at the garden party means they cannot go to the ball. Ugh, I love this town/show. Charlotte talks to the housekeeper about how “Mr. Colbourne” hates fun, and the housekeeper chastises her for talking about things she doesn’t understand. Sure! Alex shows up while Charlotte is quizzing Leo on English monarchs, and when they’re alone, he tells her he regrets the way they parted, but he can’t apologize for what he did. He again tells her to stay away from “that man.” You’re being really Sidneyish right now, Alex.
After Charlotte talks to Augusta about why she wants to go to the ball (because of her now-passed parents), she goes back to talk to Alex. He now says he regrets how he spoke to her, but not the intention behind it. She asks if that’s an apology (lol) and when he says yes, she accepts it. This is a decent compromise!
Meanwhile, Alison and Captain Fraser walk together on a very British, windy, cold-looking beach. She’s still upset with him because she thinks he was laughing at her while being aware of Carter’s lies. When he talks about how in reality, he just couldn’t betray Carter’s confidence and that Carter’s stories weren’t outright lies, they were just borrowed, Alison realizes Fraser is a handsome soldier hero man. She forgives him.
It turns out that Lady Denham has whist gossip that the army runs up debts in every town they visit and then vanish overnight. And no one can get the law after them because they’re war heroes. This is the worst!! Colonel Lennox is the worst!! Edward is also the worst, which wouldn’t be relevant to this paragraph except he is also in the army!! Mary tells Tom, and when he admits he is in debt, she is understandably very frustrated. Mary finally tells him that Sidney and Charlotte were in love, and Sidney gave that up to save Tom and Sanditon. Tom feels overwhelmingly guilty.
It’s time for the ball!!! Lennox tells Fraser he will propose to Charlotte (what?? boooooo). At the ball, Georgiana and Charles make eyes at each other. Tom tells Charlotte he knows Sidney would want to see her dancing again. Aw, Tom is trying! I love everyone in this bar. Except for Lennox. And Edward. And maybe Carter, but I dunno, he just seems kind of dumb. He is literally chatting up four women when Alison walks up and delivers an A+ speech about how he should consider his behavior. Fraser looks delighted. Alison and Fraser dance after he tells her she is wearing the most beautiful gown at the ball and that she’s never looked lovelier. FRASER. You are a gem among this terrible bunch of soldiers.
Charles and Georgiana dance and then go outside to talk. They hold hands in the dark (gasp!). Charles tells her he’s leaving tomorrow after her portrait is finished. When she very rightly is like, were you going to tell me this? he says, “This is me telling you.” NOPE. Booooo. Get right outta here with that, Charles. He asks her to come with him, and she asks if he means as his concubine, and he says, “as my wife.” Look, I like them, but no. No, Charles! Are you kidding? First of all, you seem to control your own schedule, so you could wait longer. Second, she was just tricked by the man she was in love with, so maybe she needs a little more time to actually get to know you, Flighty Artist Man. You can’t be all “live and take a chance!” when you’re taking basically no chances yourself in that situation. Why don’t you push yourself by staying in one place for a bit and proving to Georgiana that she can trust you?
Lennox. Ugh, Lennox. He asks Charlotte for the first dance, and they have one of those Jane Austen dance conversations where you keep having to stop because you’re doing an intricate dance move that involves you stepping away to another partner. Only Charlotte’s not saying much because she doesn’t give a fig for Colonel Lennox. Charlotte loves deeply pained and complicated men, Lennox! You’re just an asshole. Doesn’t meet the mark. When he asks if she’s thought about her future, she excuses herself. Yessss.
Okay, so then Alex and Augusta walk in, and Charlotte and Alex do intense across-the-room eye contact. Like, the best that Jane Austen adaptations have to offer. Slow violin music plays. They smile softly at each other. I kid you not when I say that even writing this, I paused and watched it again. DANG. Augusta says the next dance is about to begin, and when Alex says he doesn’t dance, you know he and Charlotte will end up dancing. Only the writers do it cleverly by having it be a classic “switch partners” dance where he and Charlotte are facing each other. There is so much sustained eye contact, ten out of ten. Charlotte excuses herself due to the hotness of the situation. She and Alison talk, and when Charlotte tells Alison that while she was dancing, she felt alive in a way she hasn’t since [Sidney], Alison is all, “Colonel Lennox sure is great.” No, Alison! No!
Then Lennox walks up, and you know he’s going to propose, and he does, but it’s a Mr. Collins proposal. A MR. COLLINS PROPOSAL. She tells him she thought she had been clear that she doesn’t want to marry, and he thinks she’s playing games? When she says she doesn’t love him, he does that classic “I’m a terrible person,” love-will-grow response, AND THEN HE KISSES HER? I was watching this whole episode silently, but I gasped at this. When she pushes him away, he tells her to be sensible of his rank and to know her own. And that he was saving her from her squalid existence. This is that guy on a dating app just after he’s been rejected.
Alex sees Charlotte as she’s leaving and asks what Lennox said to her. They go elsewhere to talk, and he does an “I told you so” by saying he tried to warn her, and she very fairly says he didn’t warn her of anything. Charlotte demands he finally tell her what the hell is going on, and he gathers Augusta and says they’re leaving, along with Charlotte. He is finally going to tell her! But, scandalously, at his house (at night!).
Alex and Charlotte sit on a sofa and he tells her kiiiind of the same story as Mr. Rochester: He married his wife, whose name I forget (Lucy?); she wanted to stay in town while he hated it there; he didn’t hear from her for months; and when he went to find her, she was pregnant and abandoned by … COLONEL LENNOX (dun dun dun!). So Leo is Lucy and Lennox’s child. Leo is listening at the door to all of this, by the way, which will surely bear fruit in the season finale next week.
Charlotte is absolutely and completely in love with Alex at this point, so she says a lot of things about how he bears no blame and how he must forgive himself. She grabs his hand, and I die. She starts talking about the future and how it could be happy, and they lean toward each other, and I kept thinking, “Well, how is this going to get interrupted?” but it DOESN’T. They just full-on go for it! They kiss for twelve seconds, and then the episode ends, so for all we know, they could be kissing still.
This is the penultimate episode, and there is a lot to wrap up! We know there’s another season coming, so there will likely be dangling plot threads, which: noooo. But honestly, wow, has Sanditon ever redeemed itself this season. What a comeback.