Lady Denham's annual garden party serves as the highlight of this episode of Sanditon, an hour that has everything you could possibly want from a show like this: Multiple men bristling over their shared attraction to the seemingly only eligible women in town, a post-proposal near-drowning, a largely performative sugar boycott, and a dramatic archery competition that sets Charlotte's two handsome new love interests directly against one another.
And it's all certainly entertaining enough: Colonel Lennox turns out to be capable of a surprising amount of pettiness when the reclusive Mr. Colbourne deigns to attend the party with his niece Augusta, Georgiana's speech about the evils of the slave trade is true enough though I doubt it will keep the town's sweet tooth at bay for more than an afternoon's worth of preening about what good people they all are, and literally everyone tries to tell Allison that her new man hasn't been entirely honest with her, but she refuses to believe them until he practically lets her die in the pond. Everyone gets to wander around wearing beautiful spring dresses in gorgeous weather, and you'd never know that half the attendees are miserable and most of the town is broke.
Charlotte remains awkwardly stuck between the man everyone seems to think she should be with (Lennox) and the one she clearly wants (Colbourne). The show is doing its best to nudge us in its preferred direction---how else would Lennox suddenly become so deeply comfortable with essentially ripping off the entire town?---but, unfortunately, Colbourne is not doing a lot to help himself here, forbidding Charlotte from seeing Lennox again and being so generally offputting that it's no wonder he rarely leaves his estate. I'm not sure that Sanditon wanted to further convince people that Sidney Parker was always the best choice for its heroine, but whew even dead he often still comes off better than both these men.
Truly, though, I'm mildly furious that Sanditon felt it had to try and make Colbourne more appealing simply by trying to make Lennox look worse, if only because the nice soldier we met in the season's first couple of episodes turning out to be kind of a dirtbag is just so darn depressing and lazy as a narrative twist. The show is telegraphing Charlotte's future family with Colbourne and his girls in giant, flashing see-it-from-space letters so I'm really not sure why this was all necessary. Can't someone just be...I don't know, not right for someone else, rather than a bad person?
Elsewhere, Allison's busy living her best life convinced that her dreamy army captain is about to propose to her, a fact which only makes her look like more of a naive idiot every time some other person learns or figures out that Carter is lying to her about virtually every personal fact he's ever shared with her. There's something almost laughably tragic about Allison and the way she's so determined to believe in love and romance, particularly after witnessing everything her sister went through with Sidney. She obviously has a good heart, but the show so clearly needs her to be dumber than we have any reason to believe she should be in order for this subplot to work.
Sidebar: After Allison falls out of the boat, why doesn't Carter jump in after her? I initially thought it was because he couldn't swim himself, but wouldn't his being a soldier have required him to learn at some point? Is he just enough of a jerk that he wasn't willing to risk his life for some girl who was probably replaceable in his mind? In short: Boy, bye.
At least Allison's obvious endgame partner, Captain Fraser, gets the chance to sort of awkwardly share his feelings this week, though he pretends he's talking about some nameless stranger he knows from somewhere, a cute trope that probably would never have worked on anyone even the slightest bit more worldly than the younger Heywood sibling. His care for Allison certainly seems genuine enough, but I have to roll my eyes at his assertion that he knows the "real her" simply because they traded barbs at public functions a few times. Okay, my man. Sure. But, on the plus side, Allison is 100% more enjoyable to watch being relatively normal and herself around Fraser than she is simpering after Carter, so I'm looking forward to their inevitable reconciliation (after someone hits her over the head with the obviousness of his affection).
After four episodes we finally get something like an answer about why Sidney went to Antiqua. Apparently, an unnamed (white) relative of Georgiana's decided to impugn the status of her birth, claiming that because of her (Black) mother she is somehow unfit to receive her inheritance. (It's really a roundabout way of calling her illegitimate, and Georgiana is rightfully furious.) The lawsuit was blocked in the Antiguan courts, largely because of Sidney's efforts. (Yay, Sidney!) But the idea that her parentage is being called into question by (white) family members who would clearly like to claim her fortune is sadly realistic, and one has to hope that this is the storyline by which Georgiana might finally become a three-dimensional character in her own right at last.
This is of course obviously why this episode wastes most of her screentime on the truly bizarre relationship Sanditon seems to be setting up between Georgiana and the painter Charles Lockhart, who spends most of the afternoon trailing around after her and trying to draw her, because reasons. Again, this story would be more interesting if it were about Georgiana deciding that she's rich enough and comfortable enough with her own identity to do as she likes and if that means marrying a weirdo Bohemian artist and brazening out the accompanying social shame then fine, but it...doesn't entirely seem to be about much of anything.
Lockhart insists he sees Georgiana for who she is and appreciates the passion inside her, and there's something to be said for the fact that he's the only man in town who is deeply and openly uninterested in her fortune. (Or who at least says he isn't.) But nice as that may be, truly the only thing they seem to have in common is that they're both outsiders. Which, entire relationships have certainly been built on less, but...when did Georgiana decide she liked this man enough to be alone with him let alone kiss him? Shrug emoji I guess.
That said, even though Georgiana's storyline is...not what I would have wished for her this season, it's at least better than poor Esther's, who is forced to spend the hour watching a woman she hates be a willfully neglectful mother to the child she herself wants more than anything. And if that weren't bad enough, Clara is busy spitting in the face of Esther's kindness by teaming up with her dirtbag stepbrother to try and drive her mad (in the cruelest way possible) so that the pair of them can steal her inheritance, since Lady Denham surely wouldn't leave her fortune to a crazy relation. Truly, no one on this show deserves Esther, she deserves a better story than this, and I hate all of them, the end.
What did you all think of this episode of Sanditon? Let's discuss in the comments.