Things really take off in this episode. Get it? Take off! (I know, I’m awful!) We’ve got a hot air balloon ride that is almost a disaster. There was supposed to be an elephant, but when that attraction fell through we ended up with a military hot air balloon ride. Um, what? I haven’t found any evidence of the British military using hot air balloons in 1820, but there were balloons at this time and there is evidence of hot air balloons having been used by militaries in the 19th century. But it certainly wasn’t the product of “British ingenuity,” as Mr. Parker claims.
Whether or not it’s accurate matters little compared to what the hot air balloon ride shows us about Charlotte and Col. Lennox. Charlotte takes risks; she is adventurous. She’s the girl we want to be. Lennox can see that in her, and we can feel him getting ready to sweep her off her feet. Not that she is that into him….but after the balloon ride we get a glimpse of the Wickham in Lennox. He reveals he had a past encounter with Colbourne, and it feels very Wickham-Darcy rivalry in the making. We get a hint: it has something to do with Colbourne stealing Lucy (Colbourne’s deceased wife) from Lennox. At least that’s what he says.
This episode also shows us much about Charlotte’s adventures with Colbourne. Let us not forget her taming the spooked horse (spooked by the gun shots of the soldiers–symbolic, too, right?). Charlotte’s a natural with animals (and men) who need to be tamed. Remember her affect on Sidney? (Ooops. Too soon?) And the cornflowers scene is also super cute, and later her gazing upon them in her bedroom suggests that she has feelings for Colbourne. And why not? He’s kinda dreamy.
And then there are the scenes with Esther and Clara, who ends up going into labor! I see where they are going with this plot line, as Clara seems to show signs of postpartum depression and won’t take her son from Esther. Esther needs a baby. Clara doesn’t want a baby. Problem solved? Looking forward to seeing where this goes.
But the most interesting parts of this episode–for me at least–are the Georgiana scenes. If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m fascinated with how Georgiana is developing as a character. She is nothing like Austen’s Miss Lambe. Oh, no. She is like the 1808 Woman of Colour’s Olivia Fairfield. Like Olivia, she shows white English people how she has been viewed and how she wants to be seen.
In a conversation with Arthur, Georgiana says that when she was growing up in Antigua she was gazed at as a curiosity because of her biraciality: she was “never allowed to forget [she] was neither one thing nor the other.” When she came to England (her father’s country) she saw her “difference reflected in the eyes of every person [she] met.” Georgiana has a lot to teach Arthur and Sanditon‘s audience about what it feels like to be stared at constantly and to not fit into one racial category.
I appreciate that Arthur says in response that he “cannot speak to [her] experience,” and tries to connect with her in this moment, as he says he has always been overlooked. It’s a bit tricky, as it kind of feels like the writers let a white man take over this crucial moment. It might have been nice if he could have just stopped at I cannot speak to your experience, but the purpose of the scene is actually to praise the artist, Lockhart, who has seen Arthur and Miss Lambe for who they are and how they’d like to be seen. That said, the writers do a good job of bringing the dialogue back to what Arthur calls “views and prejudices.” We see a lot of evidence for these in the episode.
Georgiana’s scene with Charlotte also helps me see the connection between Olivia Fairfield and Sanditon‘s–not Austen’s–Miss Lambe. Georgiana reveals that her father’s plantation was sold when he died and that she received her inheritance, but nothing else. Her father was her only family; her mother died in childbirth. She knows nothing of her mother but what her father told her. According to him, “she was a woman of beauty and grace, and he loved her.” Was she enslaved? Was she a free woman of color? We don’t know. If we turn to Woman of Colour for a precedent, we might find that Georgiana’s mother was enslaved.
This episode includes more “boycott sugar” scenes: this time the old clergyman, his sister, and Georgiana have taken to the streets to hand out pamphlets. Of course, Lady D has to play the part of a “Karen” and call Georgiana out for her “misguided sugar boycott.” As Georgiana tells her that “the movement”–not “her” movement, but “the” movement–is taking off across England, Lady D tells her “it will change nothing” because “such decisions are made in Parliament, not by naive young women.” Damn! But as our wonderful critic, Georgiana explains that Parliament has failed, so the people must take matters into their own hands. While this doesn’t sound like seditious language, per se, Lady D’s response clear signifies that it is close as she claims that Georgiana “would support such a cause, given [her] origins.” *What a racist beeotch!*
This reference might be connected to the Haitian Revolution, not something about Antigua, but it doesn’t go unchallenged by Georgiana, who reminds Lady D that she, not Lady D, is “the wealthiest woman in Sanditon.” Ouch! Stick it where it hurts! But that hurt doesn’t sting for long, for Georgiana is reminded of her “origins” as Lady D retorts, “Where did that wealth come from? Are you not biting the hand that feeds you?” Crystal Clarke’s clenched jaw speaks for Georgiana’s rage, but the scene ends there without further words. The writers leave it there for the audience to consider. Where did Georgiana’s fortune come from? Yes, her father, but where did his fortune come from–clearly the production of sugar and enslavement.
Lady D has a point about how sugar production is tied up in white people’s enslavement of Antiguans and people transported, most often from Africa, to the island, but we are not supposed to agree with her that Georgiana is a part of this problem. No, Georgiana is a product (a victim) of the system (and systemic racism), and her protesting sugar consumption in England does not make her a hypocrite but an advocate for the eradication of slavery.
There is one more reference to enslavement in this episode, and that’s when at the fete Lockhart tells Georgiana that Mary Parker is her jailor, that she is tethered. While this is definitely balloon language, it hits differently after the previous scene with Lady D. In showing Georgiana breaking free from the tethers in a later scene, her visit to Lockhart’s studio reveals that she is taking control of her life and how she wants to be seen: he can paint her on her terms.
Finally, I’m wondering this: how many of you noticed the name of the bakery in the background about 36 minutes into the episode? It’s called “Chawston’s Bakery.” Nice way to slip in a Chawton easter egg. Even though there is a Chawston, England, I feel like this must be a Chawton reference. I wonder how many other easter eggs there are in Sanditon?