Sidney’s possessions have finally arrived from Antigua, and just in time. Among them is a letter in Sidney’s handwriting to Tom, telling him to hold fast to his vision for Sanditon and keep taking risks. More importantly, it warns him to protect Georgiana from the man who tried to steal her inheritance by arguing that her descent from a slave, her mother, disqualified her. His name? Charles Lockhart.
Charles is just finishing his portrait of Georgiana, the sight of which stuns her. She steals a kiss from him before returning to her apartments to write letters to all her friends—she is going to accept Charles’ proposal to marry and travel through Europe together. But the Parkers reveal their news before she can run off.
She goes to the waiting Charles and tells him off. He explains that he has actually come to admire her, but she will not hear it. The Parkers tell him to leave, and Georgiana defends them and their “stuffy” ways: they have been kinder to her than he could ever understand.
A further kindness comes when Mary reveals to Georgiana that Sidney discovered that her mother was still alive as recently as five years ago, contrary to what Georgiana had been told. She left a cowrie necklace for Georgiana to remember her by, and may still be alive and willing to meet with her daughter.
Arthur apologizes to Georgiana for being charmed by Charles and convincing her to trust him. She says they were both blinded by his charisma, and she is happy to have friends like Arthur, Tom, and Mary. She will stay in Sanditon with them for a while.
Alison is beginning to fall for Captain Fraser and is eager to hear what he has to say when he visits before she leaves to return home. He gives her a gift that he asks her to wait to open until she is home, but is too afraid to confess his own love and simply calls her a friend. Captain Carter later chides him: for the first time, Fraser is being a coward.
A wedding is still in the offing, although not a happy one. Clara and Edward are about to be married, but Clara is having increasing doubts about Edward’s manipulation of Esther, especially when he mentions that she will be sent to an asylum and lets slip that he’s trying to protect “our” money, not their son George’s, by cheating Esther out of Lady Denham’s inheritance.
Esther is in a terrible state from the laudanum Edward is giving her, and Dr. Fuchs has recommended that she be committed to an asylum, to Lady Denham’s alarm. Edward asks Clara to ensure Esther’s wine is spiked with laudanum at a small luncheon before the wedding, but instead she dashes Esther’s glass to the ground and reveals everything that Edward and she have done.
Lady Denham is infuriated at both Edward and Clara, but Esther defends Clara. She is as much a victim of Edward as I am, she says. You cannot cast her out, for George’s sake as much as for hers.
Esther finally gets to read all of Babington’s letters, kept from her by Edward, and tells Clara again that she is a better person than she believes—just look at her love for George. Lady Denham has offered Clara a remote cottage in which to raise George, but Clara worries about the isolated life that would be for her son.
Later, Esther hears George crying and goes to comfort him. Clara is gone, and has left a letter for Esther telling her that George is hers now. Some people are meant to be mothers; others are not. He will have a better life with Esther. Esther happily sets off with her son to return to Lord Babington.
As for Edward, Lady Denham sentences him to a term of hard labor, religious instruction, and whatever daily humiliations she can concoct. If he reforms, she will consider giving him a small monthly allowance. “I would sooner die in battle,” he retorts.
But when he arrives back at the military camp, a furious Colonel Lennox rips off his epaulets. Lady Denham has written to the Colonel and informed him that he cannot pay his debts. Edward is a disgrace, and no longer an officer. He skulks back to Lady Denham and accepts her offer. It’s better than debtor’s prison.
Having vanquished Charles, Tom and Arthur set off to deal with another miscreant: Colonel Lennox. They confront him over the regiment’s unpaid debts, proposing a deal: Tom will repay his own debt in full now, or they can wager on a game. If Lennox wins, Tom will pay the shopkeepers’ debts. If Tom wins, Lennox must pay off all the debts, write off Tom’s debt, and leave, never to return. Lennox accepts the wager.
They play a card game that Tom always played with—but never won against—Sidney. Tom wins, to his and Arthur’s delight. We did Sidney proud, he says.
Disappointed by her goodbye with Fraser, Alison opens his present before leaving, urged on by Charlotte and Georgiana. It is a book of poetry, with a page marked by a flower: the same poem Carter sent Alison. She realizes Fraser was behind everything she loved about Carter, and rushes to see him. But the camp is being packed up, and the men are gone, posted to India.
Fraser, however, is waiting at the Parker house for Alison. He has resigned from the army. He proposes to Alison, she says yes, they kiss, and everyone that is listening behind the door bursts out to cheer.
Charlotte also seems on her way to a happy future. She tells Alexander that she has realized she must move past Sidney and might be ready to marry, and they kiss. But Leonora has gone missing. Augusta admits that Leonora overheard part of Charlotte and Alexander’s conversation the previous night and has set off to speak to Colonel Lennox.
She asks Lennox if he is her father, just as Charlotte and Alexander arrive at the camp. Lennox lies that he is not; Alexander is. Alexander explains to Leonora that he simply hasn’t been the father she deserves—that’s what the conversation meant. Leonora is glad.
Alexander sends Leonora home with Charlotte and turns back to thank Lennox for concealing the truth from Leonora. Lennox tells him to treat Leonora better than he did her mother: Lucy was desperate and abandoned when Lennox met her. He then plants a seed of doubt: can you trust yourself not to fail Charlotte as you did Lucy?
The next day, Charlotte arrives at Alexander’s estate and is amazed to find him breakfasting outdoors with Augusta and Leonora. He asks her to speak in private and coldly apologizes for taking advantage of his position as her employer to kiss her. He understands that she will wish to vacate her job; he will offer her six months’ pay.
Charlotte is confused and upset, telling him that this is his decision alone before leaving, crying. Alexander tells his housekeeper that it is better this way, for Charlotte’s sake. The housekeeper begs him not to shut himself up again.
Augusta sees Charlotte leave, devastated, and asks Alexander what he said to her. Go to her, for my and Leonora’s sake at the very least! (There’s a lot of asking people to do something for someone else’s sake in this episode.)
Alexander speaks to Charlotte at the Parker house, where she cuts him off as he nears an apology and marriage proposal. I’m leaving, she says. You were right, we let our emotions overtake us; I could never feel tenderness for someone who has shown me such little respect. He thanks her, and leaves.
Two months later, Colbourne closes up his house and takes Augusta and Leonora with him to live somewhere else. They need something new. Alison and Fraser happily marry. Charlotte has some news to share at the wedding. She is getting married to the farmer who was eagerly waiting to propose to her before she returned to Sanditon.
Her friends are shocked. She doesn’t look thrilled.