The penultimate episode is upon us and it brings… a regatta! And a couple of other things.
Total aside: I have to confess that the opening credits music is growing on me. I didn’t love it at first (well, I didn’t love it as music to accompany a Jane Austen adaptation) but now I think it’s rather fun. Fits the rawness of the town and all that.
Let’s start with the Denham story, because to be honest, I felt like this was the more interesting bit and that’s entirely down to Charlotte Spencer, the actress who plays Esther. Did I mention we’ve seen her before? On the Living and the Dead? She was great in that too!
The doctor declares that Lady D is very much on her way out, so Edward goes to say his last goodbyes. There’s some commentary on how long he’s taking in there, which seriously made me think he was smothering her to death, but no, I guess he was just napping or something.
Clara and Esther are waiting outside, and for some completely inexplicable reason, Clara tells Esther all about having sex with Edward in the drawing room after burning the will.
I mean, we all know this is going to backfire spectacularly, right? And also, her deal with Edward kind of hinged on her NOT telling Esther about the post-burn bang, so isn’t she nullifying that whole deal? Which she now says is a 50/50 split? What reason could he have to honour that now? She just spent her blackmail. And all just so she could get under Esther’s skin. Moron.
But she does get under Esther’s skin. Esther is clearly very upset to hear that Edward is cheating on her with someone she loathes. When she finally gets her chance with Lady D, she gives a very affecting speech about how everyone around Lady D kind of hates her, but loves her money and it’s made them do unspeakable things. She goes into great detail about what Clara and Edward did, thinking the old lady’s basically about to die. She’s definitely unconscious.
But not, apparently, deaf. Because Lady D makes a miraculous recovery and almost immediately tells both Clara and Edward to GTFO. Both of them are completely disowned, leaving only Esther (who’s not even a Denham by blood, but ok) as her only heir. Though, heir to what? Doesn’t she intend to leave the full fortune to the town and this donkey stud? Surely she’s just going to write up another will now, to that effect? Ok.
But she adds that she’ll be replacing the floor in her drawing room, which, heh.
We’ll leave it there for now.
Regatta! Sidney has arrived with Eliza Campion in tow, which gives Charlotte another sad.
Lots of sads to go around. Georgiana’s all heartbroken sad. Tom’s got a bit of a stress sad because the London crowds aren’t exactly flocking to see the children’s sandcastle tournament. And I have to say, I know they threw this thing together really fast and probably on a tight budget and this is the provinces and all, but even so, this regatta is…not really something that would bring the crowds all the way from London. Or necessarily make them want to come back. It’s fine, especially for a local event, but I feel like the rather jaded Society people would have been a bit ‘eh’ about the whole thing. In reality.
But this is not reality, is it? And we’re reminded of that when A Very Special Guest arrives, and ’tis none other than Susan! The lady Charlotte was word-vomiting to at the ball last week. And she’s apparently sleeping with the Prince of Wales (who was Prince Regent by this time). She’s come all the way from London to continue her conversation with Charlotte, and apparently she’s such a queen bee that where she goes, the ton follows. So now there’s quite the fashionable crowd for this regatta. Yay!
Sidney, meanwhile, is showing Eliza around, and she’s proving to be quite the mean girl. She’s clearly uncomfortable around kids (which is not a flaw in real life, kids most definitely aren’t for everyone, but a woman being shown as non-maternal when the main character is great with kids tends to signify that non-maternal lady is bad.) She tries to put Charlotte quite firmly in the “governess” category in Sidney’s mind. She’s also very condescending to Charlotte later on, basically telling her to go home and marry some guy from her “village”.
She’s doing this because she’s jealous and sees Charlotte as a threat, especially after spying Sidney giving Charlotte a rowing lesson (not a euphemism, I’m afraid). And to his credit, Sidney seems to realise what she’s doing, and I don’t think he likes it. But Charlotte is understandably upset and needs some bucking up from Lady Susan, who definitely has Eliza’s number. Careful, Eliza. I don’t think you want this enemy.
Charlotte’s head is so full of Sidney she completely fails to notice that Young Stringer (who finally gets a name! James!) is looking at her the way my dog looks at a roast. The two end up going for a walk together on Regatta day, which Stringer’s been looking forward to for days now. But during said walk, Charlotte friendzones him so hard I cringed. Yowch. Poor Young Stringer!
Meanwhile, Arthur notices that Georgiana is absent from the party, so he goes to fetch her. She drags herself out of bed and comes with him, but pulls a total petulant teen act. Arthur, however, will not be deterred by her crappy attitude. Aww, I rather like Arthur! He’s so sweet! And no, there doesn’t seem to be any ulterior motive here. I think he genuinely just wants her to have a good time and get out of her funk. Arthur’s so huggable!
Also attending this thing is Lord Babington, who insists to his drunken buddy that he’s totally over Esther. He insists so eagerly, in fact, that you know he totally isn’t over her at all. But then Edward comes swinging through, fresh from having been dumped by both his aunt and Esther, who basically told him to F right the hell off, and tells Babington that Esther can’t make up her mind and he’s welcome to her. Wow, that’s so big of you, Edward. Ass.
Babington’s baffled, but before he can get anywhere with this, there has to be a boat race. Young Stringer is captaining one team, which is all labourers from the building site. The Parker brothers have another boat, and Babington and that drunk friend are in another with someone else. Drunk friend drinks, which makes him a pretty crap coxswain and they wind up crashing. What’s drunk friend’s deal? Does he have some dark past or something? Because this man’s not just someone who enjoys his drink, he’s clearly a very unhappy person, and a total alcoholic. Is nobody else concerned?
It comes down to a close race between the Parkers and Stringer’s team, and I know this is fantasy and all, but no way would it even be close between those two teams. Maybe Sidney would be kind of fit, but Arthur definitely not, and Tom doesn’t look like he lifts anything heavier than a book. The men who haul blocks of stone all day would have left them in the dust long ago.
And in a moment of near realism, Stringer’s team wins! But it doesn’t look like he’s gonna get the girl, so now he has a sad too.
The regatta is a success! Lady Susan thanks Tom and departs with her friends. Tom promises Mary he’ll never keep her in the dark about anything ever again.
Babington goes to Edward and Esther’s place and finds her frantically packing. She’s not happy to see him, but he tells her he comes with no expectations, other than to say he thinks Edward doesn’t deserve her, that she’s been in his power for too long, and he thinks she should go ahead and free herself. With his help. Part of me wishes that he’d just stopped at ‘free yourself, girl! You go out there and be your awesome best self!’ but I realise that would just be another huge anachronism, so I’ll let it ride. Esther cries, because she knows this is all true. I group Babington with Arthur in the crew of Male Characters I’ve Become Unexpectedly Fond Of.
Charlotte, at some loose ends, wanders around Tom and Mary’s house. In comes Sidney, which surprises her, because she figured Sidney would have returned to London with Eliza. Eliza probably thought that too, especially after she made a whole anguished declaration of love to Sidney on the banks of the river. But it appears Sidney had other ideas. He sent Eliza on her way alone, and came back because, well, Charlotte basically completes him. He is, according to him, his best self around her.
And that’s where we leave it, for this week.
So next week’s the last episode, and I kind of find myself wondering what’s left to happen? The Denham thing seems fairly sewn up, unless Clara comes swooping back, and I hope she doesn’t. Sidney’s just laid his feelings on the table, so there’s not much more to do but for Charlotte to jump right on that. Will there be some conflict between Sidney and Young Stringer? Will Edward make a last-ditch play for Esther (Please, please not that!)? We’ll just have to see!