'Sanditon' Season 1 Episode 8 Recap: Great Balls of Fire
Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers 'round the conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in British dramas, often courtesy of our friends in MASTERPIECE. And let me tell you, 2020 is already off to a great start as far as we're concerned, because we get to enjoy their newest offering: Sanditon. The show is based on Jane Austen's unfinished final manuscript, and stars a whole host of truly charming and attractive actors. So, in the grand tradition of media writers, I'm here to recap the season as it happens just in case you, dear reader, miss an episode and haven't yet been able to catch up on WGBH Passport.
They tell me this is the final episode of the season. Am I ready to acknowledge that fact?
Charlotte takes to the beach to process Sidney's declaration from last episode - and maybe in hopes of "gathering some shells"? No judgments here! She gets back home in time to see an awkward-looking Sidney and Tom, who is positively thrilled that everything is finally going so well with Sanditon. Undeterred, Charlotte stops by to visit Georgiana and tries to convince her to reconsider her whole "I'm the founding member and president of the I Hate Sidney Parker Club" thing. Charlotte's evidence: he's nice, he bought out Otis' debts, and he's tender!
Stringbean meets up with his BFF to chat, because our Young Bean has gotten the proverbial Big Envelope from architecture college i.e. an offer of an apprenticeship in the city. Yay Stringbean! It's everything he's ever wanted - except that it will necessitate an unpleasant conversation with Elder Bean.
Over at Lady D's, she and Folgers Sister are playing cribbage. Folgers Sister isn't giving it her all, and when Lady D calls her out, Folgers Sister, who's still getting over her breakup with Ain't-S***-Ward, explains that she just can't get excited about cards.
Luckily, Folgers Sister is saved from Lady D's attempt to become a Stage Mom, because Babs is here to take her on a carriage ride. She says no, but we can see that she's SMILING. Lady D, who's got bigger fish to fry/asses to milch, sends Folgers Sister off to let a good jostle cheer her up.
Babs and Folgers Sister both pretend they're having a rotten time on the silent carriage ride, but I am not fooled!
They start grinning at each other, Folgers Sister makes fun of Babs' driving until he gives her the reigns, and they gallop off into the sunset.
At the Parker house, Tom's playing a sword game with the kids, which devolves into them riding him like a horse. I have to assume this is fairly painful given his recent foray into rowing, but thankfully Mom Parker is nearby to escort the wee beasties away so he can get back to work i.e. moaning in pain on the floor. Tom heads in to help out Charlotte, who's actually getting stuff done, and to gab about how great everything is going: everyone wants to come to Sanditon, just in time for the midsummer ball!
Charlotte: Yeah, that's great... when is your brother coming back?
Sidney: LOL good timing, I'm here! Here's that completely necessary paperwork, Tom. Also BTW, I'm going for a walk, want to come with, Charlotte?
Charlotte: Yeahhh I could maybe do that?
Tom Parker, oblivious: Oh neat, have fun!
Mom Parker, who just noticed what the heck is happening: DAMN OK.
If you thought Folgers Sister was just gonna waltz back into Lady D's house after her carriage date and not get the third degree, you were wrong.
The show then immediately cuts over to Charlotte and Sidney's walk, drawing a parallel which, frankly, is pretty rude.
Sidney: Nice weather huh, probably good for the party later!
Charlotte, unable to have a real convo because she's literally vibrating with unresolved sexual tension: I guess?
Sidney blathers on about the weather some more, and then asks if she's looking forward to the ball. They both are! For the dancing, and the dancing only! How's her family? Fine! This conversation might just have been included to remind us all of the heady awkwardness of a burgeoning relationship... sometimes one just needs an Austen adaptation to make one stay humble, I guess. Charlotte points out that they're walking the opposite direction of town, where they're technically supposed to be headed for her dress fitting, but they both agree that they like hanging out on the cliffs, because where else can they get some dang privacy? Sidney finally lays his cards on the table: he's been trying to get her alone because he can't stop thinking about their chat last night. This is a perfect opening for a windswept kiss, and Sidney isn't messing around because he goes for it. Making out by cliffs is a time-honored Masterpiece pastime and I'm ALL ABOUT IT.
Later that day, everyone is getting ready for the ball. Tweedles Dee and Dum are back, and annoying Georgiana by asking for her opinion on their outfits (spoiler alert: she doesn't care). Charlotte is rocking a Cinderella-style number that makes Mom Parker go into full "my baby's all grown up, come take some pictures by the mantle so I can send them to your grandparents" mode. Folgers Sister tries to pretend that she isn't dressing up extra fancy for Babs, but Lady D isn't buying it, and neither am I. The various male leads are all already at the Ball, because even in the 1800s they have less to do to get ready for a night out. Crowe must be off getting drunk in a corner, because Babs turns to Sidney for a chat about his favorite topic, Folgers Sister, and how he intends to lock that down.
Also having a serious chat about serious relationships? Charlotte and Mom Parker, who tells her that Tom proposed at a ball just to get everyone's hopes up even more.
Charlotte: How did you know he was the one?
Mom Parker: Ohhhhhhh dang, it's serious! To answer your question: you just know!
Stringbean has cleaned up NICE, and so has his BFF! Per bestie, now might be Stringbean's chance to have a certain Important Conversation. NGL, I thought it was going to be about Charlotte, but Stringbean is more mature than I am and has moved on. THIS Important Conversation is the one where Stringbean tells Elder Bean about his career aspirations, and it does not go well. Elder Bean is being a workplace martyr, despite the fact that he could a) leave his tasks to younger workers and b) it's nighttime and everyone else in the entire town is going to the ball. Stringbean breaks the news about his apprenticeship, and instead of being proud, Elder Bean does one of these:
Elder Bean: This is about that girl, isn't it? You're dressed all fancy to go to the dance like you think you're fancy now. So go do it I guess!
Stringbean: I will! And when I'm in London I won't spare a thought for you, ya miserable old coot!
No time to worry about the wreck of a loving father/son relationship, because it's ball time! Everyone is dancing and having, well, a ball, including Tom, who's in FULL ringmaster mode. Once Charlotte arrives, Sidney makes a beeline for her, but of course, gets waylaid by Tom, who wants him to come meet some guy who just moved to town. Mary and Charlotte aren't going to wait around for THAT to get sorted, so they go off and dance. Meanwhile, Governess, Georgiana, and the Tweedles are greeted by Gross Priest, who for some reason is still clinging to his flower metaphor like he's Leo, it's a door, and Kate Winslet is sitting on it. Gross Priest asks Governess to dance, and the Ship none of us wanted sails off to sea, never to return. Georgiana uses this opportunity to corner Sidney and give him the scary dad speech, which he successfully deflects by using Arthur, and his request for a dance, as a human shield.
Sidney is really trying to get across the room to Charlotte, but Stringbean gets there first.
Stringbean lets Charlotte know about his awesome apprenticeship, and she congratulates him and lets him know that she's hoping she might have a reason to stay in Sanditon. A MALE reason. During this conversation we cut back to Elder Stringbean, still working in darkness when he shouldn't. Guys, I'm not into it - I feel like something real bad is about to happen to the Elder Bean! Back at the ball, Stringbean tells Charlotte he hopes she'll be happy.
OH NO I was right! Back in the workshop Elder Bean seems to be having a heart attack.
Back at the dance, Sidney gets all weird and broody while watching Charlotte dance with Stringbean. Babs, the voice of reason, asks Sidney what the heck he's waiting for, wishes him good luck, and then gets distracted by Lady D and Folgers Sister's grand entrance.
Meanwhile, Arthur is tearing it up on the dance floor, to everyone's delight. So much so that he almost knocks over a candelabra and has to take a second to recover. Diana, who's being kind of a pill, yells at Georgiana to stop encouraging Arthur. Georgiana, the only one who doesn't want to get involved in other people's drama, kisses Arthur's hand and goes back to dancing while Diana drags him away.
The dance ends, and Charlotte seizes her opportunity to find Sidney, who is, as always, on his lurking balcony. The music swells!
And then all hell breaks loose, because enemy of the state Folgers Brother waltzes in:
Folgers Brother: Clara tricked me, I made a mistake, tell me you love me as I still love you!
Folgers Sister, real embarrassed to be called out so publicly re: their former Lannister-ing: You don't know what love is!
Babs tries to drag Folgers Brother off as he keeps yelling that she loves him, and says he won't leave unless she tells him to. And she does!
Lady D has Sidney scoop Folgers Brother up and put him on the coach to London, but Folgers Bro gets a dig in on the way, telling Babs that Folgers Sister will turn on him. Folgers Sister is, obviously, not having a good time, and neither is Lady D, who clearly feels very bad for her, but is also kind of done with the histrionics at the ball. And speaking of histrionics, Diana is freaking out about Arthur's friendship with Georgiana.
Diana: Ugh, you're in love with Georgiana, and you're gonna marry her and leave me alone!
Arthur, laughing: No dude, we're friends! Love and marriage isn't my bag, I don't really know how ladies work, confirmed bachelor here!
But we don't have time to process the revelation that Arthur, having used the term "confirmed bachelor" might have just come out as gay, because there's a fire in the window where the Elder Bean was before! The Parker siblings raise the alarm, but this is a serious problem for this extremely wood-based town!
Back at the ball, Charlotte is with Folgers Sister in the "Dealing With Emotional Fallout" nook when Babs arrives. He lets Charlotte, and us, know that Sidney sends his apologies, but he's got to babysit Folgers Brother until the coach arrives to take him out of our lives forever. That news received, Charlotte reads the vibe and gets outta there: it's dramatic declaration of love time!
Folgers Sister: Well, now you know my horrible secret. Are you disgusted?
Babs: I don't care what anyone thinks, silly! I love you!
Folgers Sister: Yeah, but I don't love you!
Babs: I don't care? It's enough that you like and trust me.
Folgers Sister: I don't want to be your property.
Babs: Good, I don't want to own you.
Folgers Sister: Then why marry me?
Babs: I want to make you happy. I couldn't control you even if I wanted to - I just want to be together!
Folgers Sister: ...fine, I guess.
Folgers Sister: Don't make me change my mind.
And then she kisses him! AWWWWW! Meanwhile, big deal alert: the fire is spreading! Arthur is handling the makeshift fire brigade pretty well. Everyone is pitching in to help, including Sidney. Stringbean's BFF grabs Young Bean, who's obviously freaking out because he's deduced that his dad is probably still in there. As the fire burns, we fade out as everyone watches in a daze of unhappiness.
The next day, Charlotte calls on Stringbean to give him condolences; unfortunately, Elder Bean didn't make it - no one knew he was in there until it was too late. Stringbean is struggling with his grief and is frustrated by the stubbornness that kept his dad at the job site so late. Charlotte correctly tells him that Elder Bean's work ethic was part of his personality and one of the reasons Stringbean loved him. The real issue is clearly that the last Bean Family interaction was a horrible fight. Charlotte tries to comfort Stringbean, but this is obviously going to take some time to process.
Speaking of something that's going to take some time to get fixed, downtown Sanditon is in bad shape.
Sidney: We can rebuild, don't worry Tom.
Tom: Yeah, I'm sure we can find the money somewhere.
Sidney: What money? Won't the insurance cover that?
Tom: LOL I suppose it would...
Sidney/Me: TOM. Please tell me you had insurance.
Tom: It was really expensive and I couldn't afford it with all the other money I was spending. I know I messed up, no one regrets it more than me!
Arthur: Ok, let's not get down about this. I haven't really spent any of my inheritance and I'm not planning to, it's all yours.
Tom: Thanks Arthur, but all of our money together wouldn't be enough to repay my debts.
Sidney: Don't be ridiculous, how much could you possibly need?
Tom: 80 large, guys. We're screwed.
Diana: Don't be like that, we're Parkers and we'll figure it out!
And yes indeed they are; that's a sum the equivalent of approximately 7.25 million dollars today. Let's see what Lady D has to say about it!
Lady D seems to agree, because Sidney is running off to London to try and fix the issue. He tells Charlotte he hopes to be back ASAP, and that they'll finish that conversation from earlier when he returns. I'm going to just put this out there: when someone says "we'll talk about it when I get back" it NEVER ends well. If this were Game of Thrones, this would literally lead to Sidney's actual death. JUST TALK NOW!
The next scene is in a cemetery, and so much happened in the last 5 minutes that I briefly forgot about Elder Stringbean. Poor Stringbean, this plotline is the worst. After the funeral, Tom has an existential crisis in the church. He explains to Mom Parker that he felt like he HAD to make Sanditon, and himself, a big deal. He says he was vainglorious, and that he let everyone down and bankrupted the family. Mom Parker, a ridiculously nice and forgiving person, tells him to stop punishing himself. Obviously the situation is not ideal, but they'll figure out a way to get through it.
Charlotte writes a note home to her sister to spill the tea. Specifically, that it's been a week, Sidney is still gone, and the rest of the Parkers are freaking out, especially Tom. She also sprinkles in the fun detail that her future might hang in the balance and that she might write soon with some Really Good News. She's about to finish the letter when there's a hubbub from below that can only indicate that the not-prodigal brother has returned, hopefully with some cash money. And yes, Sanditon is saved! But Sidney looks...
Everyone scampers off to tell Lady D the good news, except Sidney, who approaches Charlotte unhappily. She can tell something's up.
The show immediately cuts back to the church for a wedding, and I won't lie to you, reader: I just about threw my laptop across the room. I'm not about to watch Sidney marry Whatsherface! Thankfully, it's actually Folgers Sister and Babs who are tying the knot, and everyone is having a blast. Folgers Sister even makes out with Babs in a way that indicates that she might just love him after all. Like all elderly relatives at a wedding, Lady D corners Charlotte and asks her if she's still happy to be single or if she's just not into anyone in town. I can't tell if this is a low blow, or if she just missed all the stuff with Sidney, but either way, yikes! Lady D wanders off, leaving Sidney to awkwardly talk with Charlotte about wedding planning, an exhausting topic which interests neither of them, but gives Whatsherface a chance to swan in and gloat. I reiterate:
File this next part under "at least someone is having fun": smash cut to Folgers Sister and Babs in bed, both glowing and calling each other by their new married titles. Folgers Sister's hair, as always, looks friggin' amazing.
Across town, Arthur and Diana are leaving Sanditon, because it's better to have crumpets by the fire at home than by the dangerous seaside. Also there's a doctor they can visit who specializes in glandular stimulation, so they've got that going for them? I'm gonna miss these goobers.
Back in Sanditon, Stringbean's hanging out by himself at his dad's house which seems... unhealthy. Charlotte stops by to say goodbye.
Stringbean: Will you come back to Sanditon?
Charlotte: I hope so but not sure. When do you leave for London?
Stringbean: I'm not leaving. I decided I owe it to my dad to stay here, at least until the work is done. Oh btw, I heard Sidney got engaged?
Charlotte: Ugh, yes, I hope they're happy or whatever.
Stringbean: She sucks and you rule. If he can't see that he doesn't deserve you.
Charlotte: Well, thanks, that's very nice. Bye, I guess!
She hugs all the various Parker kids and everyone promises to write each other while crying, even Tom, who assures Charlotte that Sanditon will rise from the ashes.
And with that, Charlotte rides the coach away from Sanditon - only to get stopped by Sidney riding up on his horse. He's walks at her with such purpose that I was SURE they were about to kiss, but alas, he's here to talk.
THEY DON'T KISS, EVERYONE IS SAD, AND THAT'S THE END??
Instead of dwelling while we wait to find out if we'll get a season 2, let's all just pretend that this is what REALLY happened:
Babs realized he had more money than he thought, and donated it to Sanditon in a fit of post-coital bliss. Susan, the ultimate #Sidlotte shipper, also chips in. Sidney, now free of financial obligation, dumps Whatsherface, goes after Charlotte, and they head back to town to be married and happy forever. Georgiana goes on a world tour, and comes back to find a reformed Otis waiting for her. Stringbean finishes up construction, but not before Charlotte's sister visits town, they fall in love, and then they both move to London so he can become a big city architect. Arthur and Diana move back to Sanditon and open up a cafe that serves toast and cocoa. And they all live happily ever after!
And with that, we must leave Sanditon, but fear not: I'll be back recapping Call The Midwife Season 9 in March. Until then, keep calm and Sanditon.Episode 1 Recap: The Hamptons Of Old Timey England
Episode 2 Recap: This Pineapple's The Bomb
Episode 3 Recap: Y'all Need OSHA
Episode 4 Recap: (Third) Wheelin' and Dealin
Episode 5 Recap: Baseball, But Make It Fraught With Sexual Tension
Episode 6 Recap: Ballin' on a Budget
Episode 7 Recap: Something's Regatta Give
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