We have reached the “let’s have an adventure together and then fall in love!” portion of the story. Just FYI.
Let’s get the B plot out of the way first. Lady Denham is dying and announces to Clara and the Denham siblings that her will is hidden and only her lawyer knows where it is. Cue Edward ripping the house apart in an effort to find it. Esther, to her credit, seems really grossed out by this but kind of steps aside because she wants Edward to get what he wants. And, I guess, she wants a piece of this pie as well (although, since she isn’t blood related to Lady D, is she likely to inherit anything?)
Edward eventually sends her home, and she goes, which seems like an odd choice because you’d think everyone who stands to gain here would want to be conspicuously by the old lady’s side. But then, if the will’s already written, I guess it doesn’t matter.
Once she’s gone, Clara appears brandishing the will. She and Edward read it together and discover that Lady D has left her whole fortune to the development of Sanditon and to establish a donkey stud in her name. For some reason, that last one totally cracked me up.
The pair are horrified and decide the best thing to do is to burn this will. Clara will only allow Edward to do so if he promises her 20% of the estate. He finally agrees, and they throw it on the fire. As they watch the paper burn, Clara comments that Edward’s super rich now.
And then they shag on the cold marble floor. Which is inlaid with an enormous red snake design. Is that symbolism? It’s so subtle, I can’t tell.
Edward goes home and tells Esther he doesn’t think the will exists. He insists Lady D made it up in her addled brain. But if she dies intestate, they inherit, so he wins! He does not tell her that Clara has used their tryst as leverage to get him to agree to 25% of the estate.
K, back to the others. Charlotte arrives in London late at night and is dropped in what appears to be a rather rough neighbourhood. She clearly realises she’s out of her depth and has no idea how to fend for herself; nevertheless, she persists. She finds the address where Otis’s letters have been sent, but it appears he doesn’t live there, he just collects his mail there. Odd. I know that wasn’t hugely uncommon back then, but I thought it was mostly for people who travelled around a lot. Does Otis not have a fixed address, then?
Charlotte turns down a nearby alleyway and meets up with a very sketchy character. She tries to turn back, but he grabs her and starts dragging her away as she screams. But then! Who should appear but Sidney! He has somehow magically happened to have come across Charlotte’s path in her very hour of need! I mean, yes, they’re looking for the same person, but this still feels unlikely. How did he know to look for Otis here? He hasn’t been seeing those letters; it would have taken him at least a little time to find out where Georgiana was writing to.
Sidney is NOT happy to see Charlotte there, because now he figures he’ll have to take care of her on top of everything else. She insists she’s just fine, but, you know, all evidence to the contrary, as he points out. He bundles her into a carriage and they argue a bit while trying to decide what to do next. Her assumption that he supports slavery comes up again and he forcefully tells her that’s not the case at all. He finds slavery abhorrent, of course, because he’s our romantic hero and they can’t be too complicated or controversial. He got out of the sugar trade once he found out how bad it was. Now, Sidney was in Antigua long enough to make quite a fortune, so either he was massively clueless about how the whole thing worked (unlikely), or he turned a blind eye at least for a while. Just saying.
Charlotte remembers that Otis works with the Sons of Liberty, so they go to look for him there. How do they know where “there” even is? One second Sidney doesn’t know what the heck the Sons of Liberty is, the next they’re busting in on a meeting where Otis is giving a speech. Lots of strange leaps here.
They confront Otis, who seems really confused when they ask where Georgiana is. He doesn’t know anything about an arranged meet-up and he certainly doesn’t know where she is now. They all figure his letters were intercepted, and Sidney asks him who might do that. Otis shamefacedly admits that he owes some money to a man who owns a gambling house.
So, off they go to this gambling house, where we find out that Otis owes this man a LOT of money. More than £1000, which was a pretty huge sum in those days. That’s worth over £80,000 today. Yikes, Otis!
The owner of the gambling house (which I should say looks like a pretty high-end place) goes on to say that Otis bragged about Miss Lambe a lot, and claimed he’d have her fortune soon. Otis indignantly insists that’s not at all true but Sidney’s not listening to him anymore. Sidney offers to settle the debt if he can just have Miss Lambe back. But it seems the debt has already been settled.
Basically, this man just sold Georgiana to settle this debt. Which I’m fairly sure was highly illegal, and here he is just admitting to it. And admitting to kidnapping, which Sidney later points out (to someone else) is a hanging offence. And yet, apparently there are no repercussions for this asshole. Ok.
Georgiana’s been sold to this horrible, gross man who’s going to take her to Gretna Green and marry her so he can get his hands on her money.
I don’t think the people writing this really understand what the deal was with Gretna Green. They seem to think it’s some sort of marriage free-for-all zone, where anyone can just show up and get married to someone else at the drop of a hat whether the other person wants it or not. Not the case, folks! Gretna was a popular wedding destination for young couples because it was just over the border from England and English laws forbidding those under 21 to marry without parental permission didn’t apply there. So, youngsters who wanted to get married but couldn’t get mum and dad to go along with it would hop over to Gretna and tie the knot. But if one of those people had refused to go along with the whole thing, they couldn’t be forced into the union just because they were in Scotland. That’s nuts.
But this is the nutso logic this show is operating on. Gross-o gets Georgiana into a carriage and they head off. Sidney arrives at the brothel where they’d been hiding not long after their departure and manages to get the information he needs out of the madam (who knows him by name, so make of that what you will). Charlotte, told to stay in the carriage, naturally can’t help herself and comes in all, ‘What sort of place is this?’ She’s getting quite the education on this trip.
Off they dash! There is a carriage chase which results in Sidney having to actually jump onto Gross-o’s carriage and knock out the driver to get them to stop. Georgiana is rescued. All good now, right?
They return to Sanditon, kind of worn out, and head to Tom and Mary’s place. Only Tom seems to be around (where did Mary go? Is she just locked up in her room or did she take the kids somewhere?) The ladies head upstairs to get some rest while Tom and Sidney sit down for some brother-talk. Tom admits he’s in a really bad way on pretty much every front. Sidney offers to lend him the £3,000 Tom needs to pay the workers (yeesh! That’s about £250K! How much money did he make in Antigua?!) and also suggests they get Babington to start talking up the regatta, but admits he can’t do much to help with Tom’s love life, because he seems pretty hopeless there.
Eh, not as hopeless as he thinks. During their time together, Charlotte kind of lashed out at him for working so hard to keep Otis and Georgiana apart, although considering what a degenerate gambler Otis turned out to be, it seems Sidney was right, there. Nevertheless, he thoughtfully has Otis come to the house so he and Georgiana can have a last goodbye (not as tender as it sounds: Georgiana is really done with this guy, even though Otis insists he never bragged about her fortune. Suuuure you didn’t, Otis. And how did this guy know that it would be worth kidnapping her, then? Though I guess it’s possible the rich Miss Lambe was well enough known in London that the guy could have found out about her money through other channels.) Charlotte is touched by this gesture on Sidney’s part, and even more touched when she finds out he paid Otis’s debts, so the man won’t face prison, on top of everything else.
Also, it’s important to note that Sidney is a man with a broken heart. Of course. He loved a woman named Eliza once, but she chose to marry an older, richer man. In his despair, Sidney fell into all sorts of dissolute pastimes (which perhaps explains why the madam at the brothel knew him). The family bailed him out financially, and he went to Antigua to straighten out and make his fortune. The end. Or is it?
Babington comes through remarkably quickly and arrives in Sanditon with an invitation to a society ball in London. It seems to be a pretty open invitation, because it includes Tom, Sidney, and Charlotte. Charlotte claims to be too tired to go, but Sidney asks her nicely, and she agrees.
She gets a pretty dress, and Sidney gets that look on his face that all guys do at this point in these things, when they see the girl coming down the stairs all dressed up for the big party. I’m less interested in her dress than I am in Tom’s suit, which is fairly unusual amongst the men. It’s maroon taffeta, matching jacket and trousers. The trousers especially seem quite unusual for evening formal wear for the time. Certainly Sidney, Babington, and all the other men in the ballroom scene wear breeches and stockings. I’m not sure if it means that Tom’s rather ahead of the fashions, or somewhat out of them (not really having proper formal evening wear, though that seems unlikely for a man of his class and age.) Huh. Just something I found interesting.
The ball! There’s a ball! With dancing! That guy who’s always drunk is there, drunk, of course. Tom tries gamely to talk up the regatta to bored rich people who couldn’t care less. Charlotte just wanders about, mostly. She eventually finds her way out of the ballroom and stumbles across a woman just sitting, reading. The woman is kind and starts to chat, but also (bless her!) calls Charlotte out on her tendency to ramble and jump all over the place. I wish she’d call her out on her overblown face acting as well, because that’s becoming quite distracting. The woman’s name is Susan, in case that becomes important later. And she figures out well before Charlotte does that Charlotte’s in love with Sidney now.
Speak of the devil: he appears to borrow Charlotte for a dance. They have the obligatory dance loaded with Chemistry and Meaning. (Credit where it’s due, it is kind of hot. Way hotter than that strange sex scene earlier.)
Tom claims the next dance, and as he and Charlotte are dancing away, Tom merrily indicates that his brother has found someone to make him happy. But it’s not Charlotte, apparently: it’s Eliza, who’s also a guest at the ball. Newly widowed, conveniently, and now chatting away with Sidney like they’re old friends. Which they are, I guess.
Well, we do have two more episodes to go, so they couldn’t make it too easy on us, right?