The Bennets are expecting a visitor - Mr Bennet's clergyman cousin, who will inherit the estate in the absence of any direct male heirs. Mr Collins is coming to Longbourn with the intention of healing the rift between his branch of the family and the Bennets. Though Mrs Bennet cannot help thinking he has come to check over the place, he arrives with the best of intentions.
- Mr. Bennet's cousin, Mr. William Collins (David Bamber), comes to visit the family. The Bennet estate is entailed to Mr. Collins because the Bennets have no male heirs. When Mr. Bennet dies, Collins will inherit everything, and the Bennet family may be thrown out of the house. This fact is a source of great distress in the Bennet family, and is why finding a reasonably wealthy husband for one of the girls is important. In his letter to Mr. Bennet, Mr. Collins says that he is now an ordained minister, and that he has "received the patronage of the right honorable Lady Catherine de Bourge", who has favored him with a parsonage.
At dinner, Mr. Collins shows himself to be extremely pompous, patronizing, and conceited. He is attracted to influence and wealth, and engages in transparently foolish flattery. He just can't stop gushing about how fortunate he is to have the "condescension and patronage" of Lady de Bourge. Most of the family are able to avoid audible expressions of disdain for his carryings-on, though Lydia slips, and Lizzy has to cover her face with her napkin to avoid laughing out loud. Mr. Bennet happily eggs him on.
The next day, Mr. Collins tells Mrs. Bennet that he is interested in the girls, especially Jane, the oldest. Mrs. Bennet tells him that Jane is likely to be engaged soon, but all of the others are available. He then sets his sights on Elizabeth.
The five girls go for a walk into the local town of Meryton, mostly so that Kitty and Lydia can hang out with Carter (Roger Barclay) and Denny (David Bark-Jones), the military officers that they are infatuated with. Collins goes with them. In town, they find Denny, and another officer who is introduced to them--Mr. George Wickham (Adrian Lukis). Then Bingley and Darcy come by on horseback. Bingley stops and is very gracious to them, but Darcy and Wickham just exchange hostile glances, which Lizzy notices. Darcy rides off.
The whole family, with Collins and Wickham, go to a social gathering that evening at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Philips (Lynn Farleigh) (she is Mrs. Bennet's sister.) Some of the officers are present also. Mr. Collins carries on at great length about the splendor of Lady de Bourge's estate, Rosings. He mentions, for example, that the chimney piece of the second drawing room cost 800 pounds.
Wickham and Lizzy have a long conversation, in which Wickham explains the conflict with Darcy. Wickham's father had been Darcy's father's steward, and Wickham and Darcy had grown up together at the family estate, Pemberley. Darcy's father had been generous toward Wickham, and, when Wickham's father died, had promised Wickham a living as a minister, as soon as such became available. But, when a situation became available after Darcy's father's death, Darcy reneged on the promise, leaving Wickham in his present low-class state in the military. Lizzy believes this story of Darcy's treachery (it's a lie), and her opinion of Darcy goes even lower. She develops a liking for Wickham, and is impressed by his calm and easygoing manner in spite of what has happened.
Back at Longbourn, Wickham is visiting. The family has received an invitation to the dance ball at Netherfield that Mr. Bingley had promised. There is a conversation in which Collins can't help telling Wickham about Lady de Bourge's 800-pound chimney piece.
Then, in a conversation with Lizzy, Wickham makes some disparaging remarks about Darcy's sister Georgiana, concealing some extremely scandalous information, that will come out later, about his dealings with her. He also tells Lizzy about Lady de Bourge's sickly daughter Anne, and that she is "destined to be Darcy's bride."
The promised ball at Bingley's Netherfield estate comes to pass. While the Bennets are getting prepared, Lydia runs from Lizzy's room to her own in her underwear. (It's not indecent by modern standards.) Mr. Collins happens to see her this way, and is mortified, while Lydia finds the encounter hilarious. Collins shields his eyes as he turns to go downstairs. While going downstairs he hears loud and raucous laughter from the girls above him. The scene has no counterpart in the book.
The ball is a grand and well-attended event. Darcy, Bingley, and Bingley's sisters Caroline and Louisa are present. Wickham is not, presumably because of the animosity with Darcy. Darcy mostly keeps to himself, though he spends a lot of time staring at Lizzy. He finally gets the courage to ask Lizzy to dance with him. She accepts, even though she loathes him. They have a spectacularly tense conversation while dancing, with Lizzy saying that she knows about Darcy's treatment of Wickham.
Unfortunately, much of the Longbourn contingent make very bad impressions on the hosts. Collins makes a fool of himself in his usual way in front of Darcy and everyone else. Mrs. Bennet makes very loud remarks, which Lizzy, Bingley, and everyone else hear, about how wonderful it is that Mr. Collins is interested in Lizzy and that Bingley is interested in Jane, and that this will "throw the girls into the path of other rich men". Mary takes it upon herself to entertain the crowd with her extremely dubious singing and pianistic skills. Her father finally stops her, whereupon Louisa Bingley, an accomplished pianist, shows Mary up by giving an expert performance of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca. Lydia runs around holding a ceremonial sword that she has grabbed from one of the officers, and generally making a spectacle of herself. Darcy and the Bingleys are appalled at all the low-class behavior, and Lizzy and Jane are mortified.
The next morning Mr. Collins proposes to Lizzy in his usual pompous, inept, and utterly stupid way. Lizzy rejects him. Mrs. Bennet is horrified and upset, but Mr. Bennet sides with Lizzy. Mr. Collins leaves the house, and Charlotte Lucas takes him in.