Dude (it's Bingley, but you don't get a super-good look at him) goes trotting down the highway to visit the Bennets. The Bennet girls, all of them, crowd to the window to get a peak at him. Lydia sneers that he would only be somebody if he were an officer. Jane shoos them away. Only she and Bets can oogle the new-comer! Beauty before age!
They watch through an upper window as he gets off his horse and walks indoors. He's wearing a blue coat. "I like him. He appears intelligent and serious!" Jane says, managing to (a) use two words that I would never use to describe Bingley and (b) decide this from the way he gets off his horse. "Looks are not everything!" she babbles on. "Character is more. And accomplishment, of course." It sounds like she's trying to talk herself into marrying a plain, yet rich man. Did somebody switch Jane and Charlotte's brains?
Later, in the parlor! I'll have you know that when I showed this to my sister Lillian, she complained that Jane was "ugly" and "not like Jane at all." I replied, "Oh, just wait, she does the Jane thing later." At the opening of this scene, she's doing the Jane thing - I mean she's standing gently and angelically in a pure-white dress as Bets
Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet, though just moments before united on the subject of Lydia having too large boobs, begin their passive-aggressive cat fight! Lady Lucas laughs that her daughter, of course, also has a dress for the ball - but a new dress, not a hand-me-down. "Dear Charlotte," Mrs. Bennet bitches back. "Always looks best in a new dress. And, of course, never has the bother of tucking less!" Oh, snap! And people think she's slow!
Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet blather some more about Bingley. Lady Lucas says his appearance is "deceiving." Now, how could anything about Bingley be deceiving? I would expect that they had cast someone physically unsuitable for the role, with all the fuss they're making about it. We'll have to keep an eye out for an ugly Bingley, boys and girls.
Mrs. Bennet is worried that Bingley's ADHD will get the best of him and he won't show up for the ball. Two of the indistinguishable Bennet girls (it's Kitty and Lydia, though) report the gossip that Bingley is taking an enormous party from London with him. I forgot to mention earlier that Mr. Bennet said that Bingley had five sisters, but two were staying with him - so why IS Bingley going to London? To fetch Darcy? I mean, I think Darcy can travel from London to Hertfordshire without adult supervision. Mary, our heroine, interrupts my musings with a little madness: "Lydia, your lace has slipped."
Lydia: [glares and ignores her. Nothing about her dress seems different, but I would suppose from Mary's comment that Lydia's puppies would have escaped the kennel.]
Mary: [Highly distressed] Mama! Lydia's lace tuck has slipped!
Mrs. Bennet: [not even bothering to look at Lydia] Lydia looks very well, Mary. Lydia always looks very well. I wish I could say the same for you, you read too much! No wonder you're short-sighted!
And she snatched Mary's book from her and slams it on the table. Somewhere off-frame, Lydia's dress is no-doubt pooling around her ankles. No one is paying any attention, however, least of all the oldest girls. Bets, still in her worshipful position, tells Jane that Bingley will fall in love with her on first sight. As long as he doesn't look directly at her face. Jane laughs. "You are ridiculous, Eliza! But it's so true. I'm gorgeous. They should put me in a museum or something."
The Meryton ball takes place in the smallest ballroom I've ever seen. I think my parent's living room is larger. The dancing is the most realistic I think I've ever seen, by which I mean, it stinks. People are colliding and the sound of foodsteps is abnormally loud, as if they miked everyone's shoes so they could get that "shuffle shuffle shuffle" noise just perfect.
In walks Bingley. He looks entirely like Sean Austin, but a little taller. The Bennet girls sigh with relief that he only has two ladies with him, as he introduces himself to Lady Lucas, Sir William, and Charlotte, who is wearing a strangely infantilizing baby-blue gown. This will not be the only bizarre fashion choice for our fair Charlotte. And here is my honest-to-goodness reaction to the big man, the one we've all been waiting for:
ME: Hey, Bingley has a really prominent chin. I mean, it's not really apparent unless you can see his profile, but wow. That's a distinguishing characteristic right there. I wonder if I should call him the Jaw, because you know I need "witty" nicknames for my rec -- OH HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, JESUS CHRIST, AND ALL THE SAINTS!
Because then David Rintoul's enormous lower jaw inched its way onscreen, edging out several other people in the process. Sean Austin's jaw seemed to shrink to receding before my very eyes, such was the eye-melting badness of this Jaw. As I scrubbed my eyes incredulously and attempted to wake myself from this horrible nightmare, the dialog of the Bennet girls confirmed that this pointy apparition, this man-cleaving mandible, and the rest of the body attached to it, was none other than Darcy!
Anyway, Lydia, no doubt drawing on the wisdom of her 35 years, informs her family that the Jaw is very rich and lives in Derbyshire. "'Ow do you know?" Bets asks, with good reason. "Everyone knows! It's common knowledge!" Mary snaps. Mary, town gossip! Blinded by his supposed wealth, they say he is much handsomer than Sean Austin. "But he's very proud," Bets smugs. I think you're mistaking "robot-like lack of emotion" with "pride," Bets.
Oh, wait for this! The Jaw is going to commit an unforgiveable social sin! Sean Austin leads baby-blue Charlotte to another part of the room. Sir William starts to lead the Jaw that way as well, but after a step or two, the Jaw says something inaudible and heads off in a different direction. Mrs. Bennet gasps. "Did you see that!" she says. OMG I DID! HE WALKED IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT DIRECTION! "He is above his company and unworthy of his friend!" she yells. Considering the room is smaller than my present dorm room, I think that everyone can hear what she is saying. It's like in the Police Squad series when they'd have a gunfight and then the longshot would reveal that they're hiding about two feet from each other.
Mrs. Bennet, with Bets agreeing with her shifts in opinion, declares the Jaw to be a scamp, and Sir William evil for trying to get his fashion-unwise daughter married. Then she orders Bets to hide because she isn't dancing. I guess she's being Amish-shunned.
Sean Austin dances with Jane. The three youngest Bennet girls watch. Keeping the Bennet daughters apart is a fine skill, like wine-tasting, but I think I've mastered it. Lydia and Kitty agree that the Jaw's unpleasing disposition is totally "not worth considering." "Where's his uniform?" Kitty adds. Isn't she a little old for that nonsense? The book says that they were never without partners, so they get picked up by some red coats. Mary sits down besides a random woman. "The proudest, most disagreeable man in the world," she declares. That's a funny way of introducing yourself.
And Jane looks bored to tears on the dancefloor.
Bets is hiding by the drinks, being Amish-shunned for her inability to find a dance-partner. She is sitting outside the door of a room and there is a barrier preventing anyone in the room from seeing her presence, but no preventing her from hearing what is said. This'll be important in a moment. Sean Austin strolls past her to the drink room, where the Jaw is standing like a robot whose mingling program was de-activated. Sean Austin grabs a couple of drinks, but doesn't offer one to the Jaw. Robots don't need to drink. "Come, Daaaaacy, I must have you dance!" Sean Austin says. "I hate to see you standing about in a stupid manner."
"Dance, is such company as this assembly can afford, it would be insupportable," the Jaw replies. He needs to have his grammar-protocol adjusted from speaking in run-on sentences there. "Observing your sisters there is not a woman in the place with whom it would not be a punishment to stand up with," he continues. Or something like that. He speaks really fast. Bets boogle-eyes in response to this criticism. Sean Austin sticks up for the Merytonians who managed to squeeze themselves in the tiny ballroom, but the Jaw dismisses them all as inadequate, except for Jane Bennet. "But she has a sister!" Sean Austin replies. "She has all too many sisters," the Jaw replies. What's that supposed to mean? He doesn't have to dance with everybody at once. "Miss Elizabeth Bennet is charming!" Sean Austin spits. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Calm down, buddy! And don't forget, you actually have never spoken to or gotten appreciable close to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. "She is tolerable," the Jaw drones, "but not handsome enough to tempt me. And I cannot, after all, give consequences to young ladies who are slighted by other men." He has not been programed to do so. Angry Sean Austin sighs and stomps out past Bets.
So, you see, in the book Elizabeth was pretty close to Darcy and Bingley, because they made eye-contact during this scene. Darcy even turned around to look at her closer. There is some debate among scholars and fans as to whether Darcy knew that she was listening when he insulted her. I say not, because I don't think that's his character, but the ambiguity is fun. But in this scene, it would be impossible for the Jaw to know that Bets is just outside, but also it would be difficult for Angry Sean Austin not to notice how close she is. So whatever that means. Add that to your interpretation of their characters.
Bets calmly arises from her Amish-shunned position and walks across the tiny, tiny ballroom to tell her story to the person with whom she is closest and to whom she feels most comfortable telling stories that reveal her personal vulnerabilities. I mean her mother. Mrs Bennet drags her back across the dancing room to the drink room, where they just catch the Jaw picking up a glass in order to better assimilate with this collection of human individuals. "Lizzy, you lose nothing by not smiting that man's fancy!" And his fancy is grateful to you for not smiting it. "The most disagreeable, horrid man!" she continues. I think she dragged Bets across the room so she could insult the Jaw where he is certain to overhear her. Ha, ha! Like mere human insults could faze the Robotic Jaw.
The Bennet home. Mr. Bennet has passed out from booze and heroine, but Mrs. Bennet wakes him up to recap the dance. The only interesting thing about the scene is this: "Lydia's lace slipped." Now, why couldn't we have seen that!
On to Part III!