Mini-series in 6 parts.
Opening credits, with the “dum-da-da-da-da-da-dum” piano. Actor Crispin Bonham-Carter has a wonderful name. He’s distantly related to Anna Chancellor, who plays Miss Bingley. And Anna Chancellor is very distantly related to Jane Austen.
Countryside. Elizabeth is doing her walking thing. It must be fall, because the geese are flying south (though it’s possible they are fleeing the shotgun-related activities initiated by Darcy and Bingley).
Longbourn Dining. Mr Bennet announces that they will have a guest over for dinner. Mrs Bennet jumps to the conclusion that it will be Bingley, has a joyful conniption fit, and tells Lydia to ring the bell for Hill. Before Hill can appear and earn her salary for this episode, Mr Bennet shuts them down by informing them that the guest will be someone who Mr Bennet has never met! Oh, who could it be? “About a month ago, I received this letter,” says Mr Bennet, “and about a fortnight ago, I answered it, for I thought it was a case of some delicacy and requiring early attention.” Elizabeth smirks. Mr Bennet expositions that it’s from his cousin, Mr Collins, who in the absence of a Bennet male heir, will inherit the Longbourn estate. Mrs Bennet moans over the whole bloody business, but doesn’t actually add any important information, so I will. At the Jane Austen Information Page, it reads, “Mr. Collins is not the son of a deceased sister of Mr. Bennet. ... The reason that Mr. Collins has a different surname than Mr. Bennet, even though they are patrilineal relatives, is undoubtedly that someone in one or the other of their two lines (i.e. either Mr. Bennet, his father, or paternal grandfather, etc.; or Mr. Collins, his father, or paternal grandfather, etc.) changed his surname on receiving an inheritance from a non patrilineal relative. This was done relatively frequently among the "genteel" classes...” The estate being “entailed” away is not because, despite what Andrew Black’s dialogue and Sense and Sensibility want you to think, women could not inherit anything, it is rather because if Mr Bennet had managed to produce a son, the son’s inheritance rights would be considered more important than the entail on the estate. In other words, don’t feel too sorry for Mr Bennet, that a quirk of biology removed the possibility of his getting his hands on an estate he probably had to change his name to get in the first place. You may feel sorry for his girls, though. I mention this because there are plenty of people out there wondering how Regency England could be so sexist, or wondering why Jane Bennet cannot inherit any money when Miss Bingley, Georgiana Darcy, Lady Catherine de Burgh, and Anne de Burgh can.
Anyway! Mr Bennet pulls out the letter and begins to read. Mr Collins mentions that his father and Mr Bennet didn’t get along, “‘and since I have had the misfortune to lose him–’” Lydia snorts. We cut to a church, and Collins’s oily voice replaces Mr Bennet’s in voice-over, explaining that he wants to bury the hatchet– “for, having received my ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honorable Lady Catherine de Burgh.” Mr Collins, wearing his clerical collar, is greeting the worshipers leaving church. He sees his patroness coming, shoves aside some poor widow, who no doubt gave her last mite to the church that day, and makes obeisance to the Right Honorable Lady Catherine de Burgh. Mr Collins’s forehead practically scrapes the ground as he bows; as soon as Lady Catherine has walked away, he grins smugly. He voice-overs that he wants to do that peace-keeping thang, now that he has job security, and, over at his Humble Abode, distresses all his servants with micro-management and has to have his enormous ass hauled into his carriage. The driver takes off a little too abruptly. “Have a care, Dawkins,” Mr Collins snits. Hee. Hmm, they used two different locations, and hired an actress to play Lady Catherine. You don’t think they’ll return to them in a later episode, do you? No, surely not. This is just the BBC’s attention to detail.
We get way too many details about Collins’s travels–what sort of carriages and when they will leave– as the Collins’s carriage rattles up Longbourn Lane. The Bennets crowd around to greet their errant cousin. Elizabeth is intrigued by Mr Collins’s letter, but Mrs Bennet (reasonably) says that if Mr Collins wants to help, she’s not going to stop him. “Can he be a sensible man, sir?” Elizabeth asks. “Oh, I think not, my dear,” Mr Bennet replies. “Indeed, I have great hopes of finding him quite the reverse.” Mr Collins climbs out of the carriage, his massive backside filling the screen. Lizzy and Jane grin at each other.
Longbourn Dining room. Mr Bennet, who’s got a glint in his eye like a little boy who has just been given a train set, asks about Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine is the brightest star in Mr Collins’s personal heaven. “I have been invited twice to dine at Rosings Park,” Collins says, in a hushed voice. Mrs Bennet, easily and without the shrillitude, asks where Lady C. lives. “The garden, in which stands my Humble Abode, is separated only by a lane”–he gestures–“from Rosings Park.” Everyone tries to look impressed, except for Mary, who is impressed. She really likes Collins. Apparently, Lady C. has a daughter, but she’s too sickly to have been presented at court. “And by that means, as I told Lady Catherine myself one day, she has defied the British court of its brightest ornament!” Collins smarms, with a little oily simper; then, turning to Mr Bennet, with a “just between us gents” air, he adds, “You may imagine, sir, how happy I am every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies.” Lydia makes a sound of disgust. Mr Bennet engages in the mockage of the Collins. Elizabeth hides her laughter behind her napkin. The Clock of Plot Development chimes as Mr Collins gives Jane an oily smile, which does not escape the hypersensitive man-seeking Mrs Bennet. Jane looks like she’s going to repeat her performance at Netherfield park.
Longbourn Garden. The girls, in all their glory, are playing outside. Mr Collins is sugaring up Mrs Bennet, and she seems completely at ease, no shrillness or desperation. What’s going on here? Doesn’t Mrs Bennet have a contractual obligation to be embarrassing? Mr Collins hints he’s set his sights on Jane. Mrs Bennet has no intention of driving Collins away, but doesn’t want to relinquish her iron hold on Bingley, so she redirects him to the younger girls, who have “no prior attachment at all.” Except for Lydia and Kitty’s parade of soldiers, and let’s not forget Mr Darcy, Prince of Darkness. Collins sizes his options up. Kitty and Lydia are playing horseshoes and giggling. Mary is reading a book. Outside? And Elizabeth breaks into peals of laughter. I must say, Jennifer Ehle has the prettiest smile. Not such a hard decision to make, is it, Mr Collins?
Lydia, whose curls, as always, are hanging down one side of her face, says she and Kitty are going to harass some soldiers in town. Mrs Bennet tells Collins to go. Collins tells Lizzy to go. Lizzy gives Jane a look, like, please, don’t leave me alone with him.
Bridge. All the Bennet girls are walking to town, even Mary. Mr Collins can hardly keep up with them, and won’t leave Elizabeth alone. Scene.
Meryton. Kitty is distracted by a bonnet in a store window. By the bye, Lydia strongly resembles the character Becky as portrayed in the Shirley Temple version of A Little Princess. Very strongly, right down to the hair. I can’t figure it out. I don’t think there’s any relation between the actresses. Anyway, Lydia sees Denny across the street, with someone new. Kitty thinks he’s cute, but Lydia foreshadows, “He might be if he were in regimentals. I think a man looks nothing without regimentals.” Lydia yells, “Denny!” across the street, embarrassing the older girls. Denny obligingly saunters over, and he is sort of good-looking. He needs to lose the sideburns (always a bad idea). Denny introduces the new guy as George Wickham, and we have another useless repetition of everybody’s names. Take note: there are now eight main characters on a street together. Wickham explains that he’s a member of Col. Forster’s regiment, and soon will be wearing the regimentals. Wickham is just okay-looking to me, and he too is competing for the Bridget Jones Award for Man Who Most Needs to Rethink the Length of His Sideburns. Lydia invites Wickham to come over to her Aunt Philips’s, but Wickham finagles his way into Elizabeth’s admiration by tactfully declining until he gets an invitation from the Philipses themselves.
Oh! There’s Bingley and Darcy on horseback! Now there are ten characters in the road, and all pretext of group character interaction is abandoned. Let me point out that six of the ten end up married to each other. Bingley chats up Jane, as Darcy and Elizabeth share a special moment (i.e., Darcy scowls at her). Wickham sees Darcy, and they too share a special moment. Gee, I wonder if Wickham knows Darcy? Do you think they parted in bad terms after a money-related spat involving Darcy’s piano-playing sister? The music is very Wotan-leaving-his-daughter-on-a-mountain
The Phillipses’s. Mary plays and Kitty and Lydia flirt with soldiers. We have misinterpretation-based comedy when Collins compares the Phillips’s drawing room to a small summer breakfast room at Rosings, and then subsequent discussion about how grand Rosings is. Mr Collins plays Whist with Aunt Philips. Badly.
Wickham has escaped Lydia and Kitty’s clutches to talk with Elizabeth. He calls them “pleasant girls.” Okay, Wickham may not be very cute, but he has a nice voice. It’s too bad he never has a dialogue scene with Darcy. Maybe we should lock them in a room with the text of Hamlet, and let the best soliloquy win. Wickham feels Elizabeth out to see if she is a member of the virulent Mr Darcy Fan Club (President, Miss Bingley); Elizabeth is shocked at the existence of said club, and reports that Darcy’s reputation in Hertfordshire is unfavorably comparable to that of Saddam Hussein’s. “I’ve known him all my life; we played together as children,” Wickham explains. He, too, hates Darcy, because Darcy unleashed his evil mojo against him. Wickham is the son of Darcy’s dad’s steward, and Daddy Darcy was fond of him (Wickham). He wanted Wickham to take a certain living when Daddy Darcy died, but his son refused to give it to him, thus leaving Wickham impoverished and reduced to fighting for His Majesty. Elizabeth is shocked; though Darcy is always smoothing his hair over his forehead to hide the “666" imprinted there, she had no idea he would stoop so far as to disregard his father’s will! Elizabeth hopes that Wickham won’t leave town to avoid Darcy, but he assures her that Darcy will have to do the avoiding. Elizabeth encourages Wickham to tell the world what happened, but he says the ghost of his adoptive father still haunts him, and he cannot find it in his warm, human heart to disgrace the evil, evil man he grew up with. Wickham puts on a stiff upper lip: “My situation, you know, is not so bad! At present I have every cause for cheer.” He counts a few blessings, like being stuck in a dinky little town like Meryton and having to slum as an officer. “I absolutely forbid you to feel sorry for me!” he concludes. Lydia hears him, and asks why she should be sorry. “Because... because I have not had a dance these three months together!” Ha ha ha! Okay, I’m reading a little too much into that line. Lydia drags him onto the dance floor, and orders Mary to play a dance. “Do I look like I have ‘Panasonic’ stamped on my ass?” Mary snorts. Okay, no, she doesn’t.
Lizzy’s Boudoir. Jane has trouble believing the Wickham gossip. What about Mr Bingley? “I could more easily imagine Mr Bingley being imposed upon, than to think that Mr Wickham could invent such a history,” Elizabeth reasons. Jane realizes Elizabeth likes Wickham, and wonders if they can believe him. “If it isn’t so, let Mr Darcy contradict it,” Elizabeth foreshadows, adding, “besides, there was truth in all his looks!” Irony is working overtime today.
Longbourn Lounge. The Bennets have been invited to a Netherfield Ball of Snobbery. Wasn’t Lydia supposed to name the day of the ball? Mrs Bennet interprets the invitation as a compliment to Jane, though it’s possible that Elizabeth had something to do with it. “The invitation includes you, Mr Collins!” Elizabeth gravely asks if his bishop would approve. Mr Collins gravely replies that this ball would be considered acceptable. “And I am so far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shall hope to be honored with the hands of all my fair cousins during the course of the evening!” Mary looks overwhelmed. She’s probably never been asked before. Poor girl. “And I take this opportunity of soliticing yours–” Mary gapes– “Miss Elizabeth–” Mary deflates– “for the first two dances.”
The ... Longbourn Garden? Or possibly the Phillips Garden? Lydia and Kitty are swinging with some officers. Collins is boring Elizabeth and Wickham with details about the decor of Rosings Park, but Jane runs up and fabricates a story about Mary needing Collins’s doctrinal skills, leaving Wickham and Lizzy alone. Wickham tells Elizabeth that all the officers were invited to the Netherfield Ball of Snobbery, and therefore he likes Mr Bingley quite a bit. I’m surprised Darcy let Bingley invite Wickham to the ball. Elizabeth describes Bingley’s character, and wonders how he got to be friends with Darcy. I wonder that too. “Mr Darcy can please when he chooses, if he thinks it’s worth his while,” Wickham says. Elizabeth asks about Darcy’s sister. “As a child, she was affectionate, and pleasing, and extremely fond of me, and I devoted hours and hours to her amusement, but she has grown too much like her brother; very, very proud.” Elizabeth looks pensive. Wickham says that Miss Darcy is about Lydia’s age, sixteen, and Elizabeth corrects him that Lydia is fifteen. That’s actually important later. Continuing the Walk of Exposition, Wickham says that Lady Catherine de Burgh is Darcy’s aunt. Oh, what a coincidence! Darcy is betrothed to his rich-rich cousin, Anne de Burgh. “Poor Miss Bingley,” Elizabeth snarks.
Lizzy’s Boudoir. Lizzy is having her hair done. Her mother scurries in. “Ah, you look very well, Lizzy!” she says sincerely. “You’ll never be as pretty as your sister Jane, but I will say you look very well indeed!” Elizabeth’s self-esteem crumbles to bits. Luckily she will have Mr Darcy to mock. Jennifer Ehle is not really less pretty than the actress who plays Jane. In fact, given Regency ideas about women’s looks, I’d say Elizabeth, who is plumper and darker haired, would be favored over the blonder and thinner Jane. But I do notice that Jane is generally dressed in more expensive clothing, so that may have something to do with it.
Mrs Bennet leaves Lizzy’s Boudoir, colliding with Lydia, dangerously close to spilling out of her shift. Lydia bursts into Elizabeth’s bedroom, holding up a dress and asking Elizabeth what she thinks. “I wonder that you ask me,” says Elizabeth, her self-esteem still not recovered. “You look very nice,” Lydia says sweetly. She tells Elizabeth to share Wickham, and Elizabeth groans that she has to dance with Mr Collins. “Lord, yes; he’s threatened to dance with us all,” Lydia says, and rushes out again. Elizabeth never told her what she thought of the dress!
In the hall, Lydia runs into Mr Collins. Lydia covers up with her gown, and giggles so hard she can’t breathe. Mr Collins is horrified, and covers his face with his hand as he flees. Lydia runs off to tell Kitty, and they burst out laughing. Mr Collins looks dignified and wounded. Put a cork in it, Mr Collins. You knew you were staying in a house full of girls. You knew they had girly parts. Stop looking so scandalized.
Graveled Driveway of Netherfield Sophistication. Jane is wearing a pink, over-sized cloak-and-hood, and looks like Little Red Riding Hood. Elizabeth sees Darcy in one of the windows. He wears a haughty non-expression and walks away.
Coat check. Elizabeth is wearing her nicest dress, gloves that go past the elbow, which add a sexy air, and her hair is all ringlets and flowers. I supposed she dressed for Wickham. Jane has a similarly complicated hairstyle, involving braids. Bingley, Bingley Female, and the Hursts are there greeting guests. How come Darcy isn’t with them? Why does he get to loiter near windows in hope of catching a glance of a pretty girl, instead of doing some hosting? Everybody is in character, so Kitty and Lydia run after some soldier. Miss Bingley is snobby. Collins, boring. Elizabeth looks around for Someone Special, but she can’t see him. Bingley offers his arm, and walks her and Jane to the parlor.
The Parlor (or possibly Ballroom) of Snobbery is packed, with Redcoats and gentleladies. Colonel Forster’s Child Bride is there, creeping me out. Darcy nipped downstairs for a little champagne, or maybe to brush his teeth (inside joke), and he gets a bead on Elizabeth and starts staring. Still no Wickham. Denny finally comes up, and delivers the news to Elizabeth that Wickham couldn’t come. Denny resembles my cousin Steven at this moment. Wickham had to take care of some business, though that business could have been postponed, “if he’d not wished to avoid a certain gentlemen,” Denny says, wagging his head in Darcy’s direction. Smooth, Denny. I bet Darcy totally didn’t see that. No, he did see, and looks extra-scowly. Lydia runs up to steal Denny. “Forgive the intrusion, ma’am,” says Kitty’s date to Elizabeth. “I would dance with both your sisters, at once, if I could–!” Ha! Okay, again I’m reading too much into these lines. This is Jane Austen, after all.
Elizabeth finally finds a friendly face–Charlotte is playing the wallflower in the back of the room. Elizabeth can’t wait to tell her the gossip, but Mr Collins interrupts, and Elizabeth introduces them. Collins oozes out some compliments, and Elizabeth gives Charlotte a look like, can you believe this idiot? The first dance begins before they can discuss said idiot. Elizabeth and Collins dance the first steps. Elizabeth has chosen a hairstyle that bounces when she dances, very cute. Mr Collins dances the wrong way and hits another dancer, and Elizabeth has to give him directions. Watching, with a sadistic little non-grin, is Darcy; Elizabeth sees him and glares. Darcy gives up his place of voyeurism, and there’s an oddly long tracking shot here, as Mr Darcy watches the other dancers. I don’t know what the point is, since we end back with Elizabeth. Darcy looks vaguely resentful at the other people having fun.
A bit later, Charlotte is reeling under the news Elizabeth told her. “Are you sure it’s true?” she asks. Elizabeth says passionately that she’s sure, and “Mr Darcy has boasted to me himself of his resentful, implacable–” But speak of the devil and he will appear! Mr Darcy has appeared in order to ask Elizabeth to dance. Elizabeth, flustered and unsure if Darcy overheard her, stutters and accepts. He skedaddles, and Elizabeth stomps her foot. “I promised myself I would never dance with him!” Charlotte reminds Elizabeth that Darcy owns practically all of Derbyshire, and she should just try to endure her dance with the very good looking, rich (though evil) eligible bachelor. Elizabeth shrugs, like, he can’t be any worse than Mr Collins, and decides to make the best of it.
Mr Beveridge’s Maggot plays. Jane nods her head in slow motion in the background of the shot. I heard that most of the dance footage they shot was ruined because of a hair in the gate, but aside from this shot, I can’t tell at all. Darcy and Elizabeth, unsmiling, dance. Darcy dancing. It’s all good. They dance a complete set or whatever you call it, without speaking. Elizabeth finally breaks the silence. “I believe we must have some conversation, Mr Darcy.” I don’t know what she’s worried about, as none of the other couples are talking. Elizabeth: “A very little will suffice!” Darcy says nothing. Elizabeth: “You should say something about the dance, perhaps.” Darcy: Nothing. “I might remark on the number of couples.” Darcy: Still nothing. Elizabeth sighs with her back to him, but he suddenly asks her if she always talks by rule. Elizabeth explains that it enables them to talk as little as possible.
Darcy: Do you consult your own feelings in this case, or seek to gratify mine?
Elizabeth: Both, I imagine. We each have an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak unless we will say something that will amaze the whole room.
Sorry, but it’s hard to recap any scene of Darcy and Elizabeth without recording every line. Darcy snarks that he sees her sarcasm. They dance for a while without talking, then Darcy decides that the ball is in his court, and asks if she often goes to Meryton. She says she does. Darcy smirks, proud that he’s chosen a neutral topic. “When you met us the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance,” Elizabeth adds. Phooey. Darcy scowls, and dances, and scowls, and finally says, “Mr Wickham has the happy manners that enable him to make friends, but if he is equally capable of keeping them is less certain.” They’re dancing besides Jane and Bingley as he says this. Elizabeth points out that Wickham lost Darcy’s friendship. They come to a little break in the dance, or else just stop dancing, because Sir William toddles up, thinking that this is a perfect time to interrupt. He blabs about Darcy dancing, his fair partner, blah blah, Bingley and Jane are going to get married, blah blah. Darcy looks at Bingley and Jane with the same non-expression he’s been wearing for a while. Sir William trots away with a little, “Capital, capital!” Elizabeth and Darcy go back to the dancing. Elizabeth recalls what he said about his temper, and asks if he’s careful about to whom he grows resentful. He claims he is. Maria Lucas gets to hold his hand for a moment in the dance. Go Maria! I bet that was lots of fun. “You never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?” Elizabeth continues. We have the title! Darcy asks what she’s getting at, and she replies she’s trying to make out his character, and he confuses her. The dance should go on for a few more sets, but the AD sees that they’re out of dialogue and frantically signals, “Stop dancing!” All the dancers line up and bow, Darcy takes Elizabeth’s hand, and they retreat. Aw, they’re holding hands! They let go pretty quickly, though. Darcy seriously tells Elizabeth not to try to analyze him at the moment, as the results wouldn’t reflect well on either of them. Elizabeth says they may never see each other again, and she’d lose her chance. “I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” Darcy says, inspiring the fantasies of thousands, and bows and walks off. I’ve got to mention his outfit, because it’s one of his best: black coat and trousers, white vest, shirt, ruffle, and jodhpurs (sorry if the names are inaccurate). Just a very simple black and white outfit, but ambiguous, like Darcy’s character. It could be a hero’s outfit, or a villain’s.
Dining Room of Snobbery. Elizabeth is attacked by Miss Bingley, who has apparently been listening to Darcy complain about Elizabeth and Wickham. The Jane Austen women tend to project their values into their peers. Because Elizabeth wants to marry for love, she can’t imagine her friend Charlotte would do otherwise. And because Miss Bingley is a supercilious gold-digger, she thinks Elizabeth is one as well, so she takes this opportunity to inform Elizabeth that George Wickham is just the scion of the stewards of Pemberley, and doesn’t have any money or connections. She giggles at Elizabeth’s mistake, then adds with simpering sincerity, “Eliza, as a friend, let me recommend to you not to give credit to all his assertions. Wickham treated Darcy in an infamous manner!” Elizabeth: “Lay it on me!” Miss Bingley admits she doesn’t actually know any details, and Elizabeth blows her off.
Elizabeth stomps over to the punchbowl. Jane tries to placate her, but she’s ready to rip out Miss Bingley and Darcy’s spleens. Jane asked Bingley about the affair, and he took Darcy’s side, though, like his sister, he doesn’t actually know Wickham. Elizabeth points out that Bingley naturally will believe his friend, but it’s not going to change her mind. Darcy needs to stop sending Elizabeth messages through his best friend’s girlfriends and sisters, and try actually talking to Elizabeth himself. He won’t, though.
Ah, the Parade of Humiliation begins. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sit through the rest of the scene. At my house, half the audience would run out of the room now. That’s how we are about embarrassing scenes. Bingley starts us off by asking for his sister to play some music, but Mary preempts him by jumping for the piano. She sings. It’s bad. Anna Chancellor makes a hilariously panicked face. The actress who plays Mary is so good at being so bad and so clueless, it almost doesn’t seem like an act. I’m beginning to think Mary has a mild developmental disorder.
Jane panics–but what could be worse than Mary singing, Jane? Mr Collins introducing himself to Darcy! Elizabeth and Jane try to figure out how to stop him, but I don’t see why they’re worried. The worst thing that could happen would be for Darcy to rip Collins’s obsequious head off his torso, and chew on it like a giant praying mantis; yes, the carpet would be ruined, and Lady Catherine would have to find a new toady, but we could bear it, could we not? Mr Collins puts his greasy forehead down by the seated Darcy’s, and oily informs him that his aunt is well. Darcy stares at him, like, “We’ve discovered a life-form on this planet, Cap’n! Obviously not intelligent.” Darcy thanks him, and stands up, towering about nine feet over Mr Collins. He looks like he’s about to challenge Mr Collins to a duel, perhaps over the honor of Elizabeth. Or–well, they are standing close enough to kiss. Darcy just asks Collins his name, and then walks away while Collins is answering. He marches to the corner and hides behind the Bingley sisters.
Outside the House of Snobbery, a couple of bloodhounds comment on Mary’s musical performance. They think her fingering technique could be better, her breath support is atrocious, and the range of the piece isn’t flattering to her voice at all.
Mary finishes. Polite applause. She starts another. Elizabeth throws her dad a desperate look, and catching it, he marches over to the piano. “You do extremely well, child, you’ve delighted us long enough.” Leaning forward and lowering his voice, he snaps, “Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.” Mary is crushed, and Elizabeth horrified. His voice carrying in the mostly silent room, Mr Collins starts babbling about singing. Nooo! This is worst of all! Miss Bingley shares my sentiments, and dispatches Mrs Hurst, who begins to furiously play “Rondeau A La Turca,” by Mozart. It’s not a piece you can sing along with. Her mouth full of food, Mrs Bennet begins babbling about Mr Collins marrying Elizabeth, and starts in on Bingley and Jane, in full earshot of Darcy and Bingley. Elizabeth looks like she wants to cry, but the Parade of Humiliation isn’t over yet! Lydia runs into the Dining Room of Snobbery playing keep-away with some soldier’s saber, and nearly spills punch on Elizabeth’s pretty dress. The officer wrestles his sword away, and Lydia sprawls on a chair, saying, “Lord, Denny, fetch me a glass of wine, I can scarce draw breath, I’m so fagged.” Elizabeth Bennet, your humiliation is complete. You may now die of shame.
Longbourne Lounge. Kitty is recapping the ball for Elizabeth. Mrs Bennet calls for Elizabeth, and emerges with Mr Collins, looking happy. Elizabeth, realizing that her mother’s happiness is a sign of very bad things to come, tells Kitty to not leave under her breath, but Kitty doesn’t take the hint. Mrs Bennet tells Kitty to come upstairs, because Mr Collins wants to speak with Lizzy. Elizabeth begs them not to leave, tactfully though. Alison Steadman seriously cracks me up with her delivery when she says, “Lizzy, I insist that you stay where you are and hear Mr Collins,” accompanied with the Look of Death. Mrs Bennet leaves the “love-birds” to themselves. Elizabeth becomes very interested in a vase of flowers, as Mr Collins praises her “feminine delicacy” and says she can hardly doubt what he is about to say, “for as–almost–as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of my future life.” Jennifer Ehle plays this scene beautifully, looking a little flattered, but mostly dreading what’s to come. She tries to stop him, but he holds up a hand, so she sits down. You might want to fix yourself a warm drink, too, Elizabeth, because it’s going to take him a while. Mr Collins’s first reason for marrying is to set a good example for his parish. His second is that he thinks it will make him happy. “Thirdly–which, perhaps I should have mentioned first–” Elizabeth smiles and shakes her head– “that it is the particular recommendation of my noble patroness, Lady Catherine de Burgh.” Elizabeth sighs. Mr Collins quotes Lady Catherine the way one might quote the Bible, and finally alters his standard proposal for Elizabeth, mentioning her “wit and vivacity.” As far as proposals go, this one ranks somewhere with Don Diego proposing by showing her his house in the pueblo, and mentioning his great wealth, and promising to purchase a new carriage for her. Show her your heart! Mention your love! Promise to be the perfect husband!
Mr Collins admits what Mrs Bennet suspected–that, since Mr Collins will inherit Longbourn, he decided to marry one of the Bennet daughters to keep the inheritance in the family. And it is a pretty disinterested motive, I must admit. Dropping to his knees, Mr Collins finishes with, “Nothing remains, but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affections.” Elizabeth tries to stop him, again, but he plows on, forgiving her for only having a thousand pounds fortune. Reminding him that she hasn’t made her answer yet, Elizabeth says, “I thank you for your compliments, I am very sensible of the honor of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to accept them.”
Mr Collins isn’t discouraged. Getting to his feet, he dismisses Elizabeth’s rejection as a ploy. Elizabeth assures him she was deadly serious, and adds, “You could not make me happy, and I am convinced I am the last woman in the world who could make you so.” Mr Collins refuses to believe that she is turning him down, and after a few repetitions, she stomps out of the room.
Reading Room of Refuge. Mrs Bennet invades her husband’s solitude, vexed to the extreme about Elizabeth. “Lizzy declares she will not have Mr Collins, and Mr Collins begins to say he will not have Lizzy!” “Seems hopeless business,” Mr Bennet replies. Mrs Bennet insists that her husband intervene in the matter, and Mr Bennet lets her call Elizabeth in.
Mr Bennet tenderly addresses Elizabeth, who crosses her arms like a stubborn teenager. Mr Bennet confirms that Elizabeth has refused to marry Mr Collins, and that Mrs. Bennet will never speak to her again if she doesn’t. “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day, you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do.” Ha! Mrs Bennet is devastated.
Longbourn Lane. Kitty and Lydia are displaying their intelligence by going for a little walk. They run into Charlotte, and tell her that Elizabeth refused Mr. Collins. “Then I am very sorry for him,” Charlotte replies, tellingly. Mrs. Bennet’s voice carries from the house ....
... where she is berating Elizabeth. But the shrieking seems to push Collins off the fence, and he decides he won’t have Elizabeth after all. Mrs Bennet is desperate and shrill ...
... and audible in the next county, probably. Charlotte suggests that she invite Collins over to her house. Lydia tells her to “take him away and feed him!” Which isn’t that bad an idea, actually. It works for dogs when they’re in a bad mood.
Longbourn Lounge. The film is particularly grainy here, quite obviously a second-generation print, and therefore telegraphs that it’s the last shot of the episode. Mr Collins is determined to go, says good-bye with wounded dignity. Mrs Bennet cries. Freeze-frame! Credits! So long, Episode 2!
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