Catch up on what has happened in the sprawling world of Emma. Watch a short video recap for episode 1 or read the full synopsis below.
Rich, independent and kind spirited, Emma Woodhouse has no interest in marriage herself, but is inspired by matchmaking for those around her. Once she has married off her close companions, she settles on the pretty Harriet Smith to fashion into her new playmate and ally. She persuades Harriet that she is too good for her suitor, the farmer Robert Martin, and encourages her to set her sights higher. But close family friend Mr. Knightley warns Emma that her meddling will cause great pain. Undaunted, Emma continues her efforts on Harriet's behalf.
Meanwhile, Emma is intrigued by the mysterious and elusive Frank Churchill, whom she hopes to meet at a party. Frank does not arrive, but instead Emma becomes the subject of unwanted attention from the vicar, Mr. Elton.
A few weeks later, village gossip focuses on the arrival of young Jane Fairfax and a large piano that she has been sent by a mystery admirer. Emma refuses to believe that Mr. Knightley could be the secret admirer.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
When Emma Woodhouse was a toddler, her mother died, leaving Emma at home with her governess Anne Taylor and her fretful father. Two of her contemporaries were not so fortunate: Frank Churchill (the son of Mr. Weston) and Jane Fairfax were both sent away from Highbury after their mothers passed away. Jane writes regularly to her aunt and grandmother, Miss and Mrs. Bates, about life with the rich Campbells, but Frank has remained an enigma since leaving, taking care of his sick aunt.
Rich, independent and kind spirited, Emma Woodhouse has no interest in marriage for herself, but is inspired by matchmaking for others. Despite the skepticism of old family friend Mr. Knightley, she takes credit for the marriage of her sister Isabella to his brother John, and also that of Mr. Weston to Anne.
Matchmaking has unexpected consequences, as Emma finds herself alone with her ailing father. Harriet Smith soon fills the gap. Harriet is an illegitimate child, and Emma takes Harriet under her wing. Emma is shocked when they meet farmer Robert Martin, and she discovers that Harriet has romantic feelings for him. Emma decides that Harriet should set her sights on more appropriate suitors, such as the vicar, Mr. Elton.
Emma watches proudly as she seemingly fuels Elton's interest in Harriet. When Harriet receives a proposal from Robert Martin, Emma protests that the decision must be Harriet's — but inevitably steers her towards rejecting Robert.
Robert Martin is a tenant farmer on Mr. Knightley's estate, and had sought Knightley's advice on proposing to Harriet. Knightley thinks the match a good one, and is shocked when Emma explains Harriet has declined, and furious when he learns Emma is behind the refusal. Knightley exits abruptly, leaving Emma to contemplate her actions.
Emma and Mr. Knightley reconcile their differences, but Emma is undaunted in her matchmaking pursuits. After Mr. Elton delivers a romantic riddle, Emma confidently tells Harriet she will be married to Elton by the spring.
It is nearly Christmas, and John Knightley, Isabella and family come to stay. Emma and Harriet are looking forward to the Westons' Christmas party — Frank Churchill may even make an appearance. However, Harriet falls ill, and Emma is dismayed that Elton seems disinterested in Harriet's condition.
At the party, it is clear that Frank has not made it home for Christmas. Emma eagerly tries to hear about Frank, but is interrupted by Mr. Elton. Snow starts to fall, causing panic, and Emma is forced to ride home alone with Elton. He seizes the opportunity to propose to Emma, professing his interest in her and her alone. Elton is left humiliated by Emma's rejection, and Emma is distraught — how is she going to break this news to Harriet? She tentatively visits her friend, who is terribly upset.
Desperate for some distraction, Emma takes the lovesick Harriet to visit Miss Bates, and finds that Jane has returned home despite having been invited to stay with the Campbells in Ireland, together with Miss Campbell's fiancé, Mr. Dixon. Miss Bates tells Emma that while they were in Weymouth, Mr. Dixon saved Jane's life. Yet Jane seems awkward, and reserved — why would she leave Ireland to live with her poverty-stricken aunt? Emma wonders whether there was a romantic involvement with Mr. Dixon, Miss Campbell's fiancé.
Frank finally arrives to stay with his father. Frank tells Emma that he already knows Jane Fairfax, having met her in Weymouth. Emma inquires about the incident with Mr. Dixon, and he confirms that Mr. Dixon saved Jane's life. Frank's natural charm and energy live up to Emma's expectations. Mr. Knightley is less enthusiastic about him.
Everyone is invited to a party at the Coles' house. As Emma arrives, Mrs. Cole is gossiping about a piano that Jane has mysteriously received as a gift. Frank and Emma mischievously speculate that Mr. Dixon sent it. The guests gather to listen to the Coles' own piano, and Emma and Frank then perform a duet, much to the admiration of everyone. Jane then plays herself; she is a far superior pianist and singer.
Anne suggests that Mr. Knightley could be the mysterious present giver. He has always admired Jane, and perhaps his mind is finally turning towards marriage. Emma fervently denies this, but cannot help watching Knightley, who is himself watching Jane's playing with obvious admiration.