Category Archives: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 4: season finale recap

debutante presentation

Well (spoiler alert!) at least nobody died in this year’s finale of Downton Abbey.  Set around 8 months after last week’s episode, the Crawley family head over to London to occupy Grantham House for Cousin Rose’s debutante presentation and celebratory ball.  Some threads of the season were tied up, while others were left dangling to no doubt be continued in season 5.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 8 (season finale) below!

Harold and Madeleine

Everyone’s coming to London for Lady Rose’s big day.  Even Cora’s mother and brother Harold (played by the fantastic Paul Giamatti) have crossed the great pond to make an appearance.  It was nice to see the culture clash play out between Cora’s family and the stuffy British society she’s assimilated into.  Harold and Mrs. Levinson even get courted while they’re in town, by the gold-digging Lord Aysgarth and his daughter, Madeleine Allsopp.

Edith and Rosamund

Edith has made her return from Switzerland, having left her baby daughter behind.  She has misgivings about this, especially after she learns a little more news about Michael Gregson.  Apparently he was in a fight with some brown shirted toughs who were saying awful things Gregson did not agree with.  Thinking he might be dead, and being his power of attorney (so I guess there really wasn’t anything underhanded about that document Gregson had her sign), she may be set to inherit Gregson’s money.  But Edith feels half that money belongs to his daughter.  Aunt Rosamund keeps bullying Edith into leaving thoughts of the baby behind.  But Edith is growing tired of being pushed around by her family’s expectations.  After a talk with Tom at Rose’s ball, in which Tom tells her that they must stick up for themselves, Edith informs her mother that she must go to the continent for a short time.  It was great to see Edith finally showing some gumption, and I loved the look she gave her aunt.  Edith immediately returns home, where she meets with Mr. Drewe (the loyal tenant/pig farmer).  He promises that he and his wife will take Edith’s baby in, and he will keep Edith’s secret.

Edith takes a stand (at last!)

Edith takes a stand (at last!)

Tom and Sarah Bunting

Tom’s remarks to Edith might have something to do with a certain interaction with Miss Bunting.  Before coming to London, Tom runs into her on the street and invites her to dinner.  Miss Bunting them promptly invites herself back to Downton to see the great house.  Tom is very uncomfortable bringing a single lady back to the house (as he should be, after all his run-ins with Edna Braithwaite!), and wouldn’t you know, as soon as they get upstairs to peer down at the great hall, who should appear from the shadows but Thomas!  Thomas, who suddenly has it out for Tom, since he’s suddenly decided to become jealous of Tom’s rise from chauffeur to family member (seriously, why is that happening now?  Thomas got bored with Baxter and landed on a new target?).  While Tom assures him that it was all completely innocent, that does not stop Thomas from informing Lord Grantham when they arrive in London.  This one was left hanging, so I assume Tom’s search for self-identity will continue next season.

Mary and Gillingham

Mary with Tony, finally ready to move on.

Meanwhile both Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham are in town, and spend their time vying for Mary’s affections.  Mary finally concedes to Tony that while a year ago she thought she’d never get over Matthew, she now feels there is a future for her.  To help level the playing field, Gillingham, being the honorable man that he is, tells Mary that Charles Blake is much wealthier than he lets on.  He stands to inherit from Sir Severus Blake, and will become even richer than Gillingham.  So Mary’s concerns that she and Charles would never see eye-to-eye on things is removed.  She basically gives both Gillingham and Blake permission to begin pursuing her.  Or, as she says at the end to Charles, “Let battle commence.”  Which I suppose we will see play out in season 5.  Now I really want to see a duel on the front lawn of Downton.  Make it happen, Fellowes!

Mary and Charles

Mary giving Charles permission to court her.

"Now, Cousin Robert, don't get angry, but I may have accidentally started a royal scandal."

“Now, Cousin Robert, don’t get angry, but I may have accidentally started a royal scandal.”

The central plot of this particular episode was Rose’s tipsy-ness almost causing the monarchy to crumble under the weight of scandal.  Seriously.  After making friends with the Prince of Wales’s mistress, Freda Dudley Ward, Rose lets it slip to card sharp Sampson (who makes a reappearance thanks to Aunt Rosamund) that Freda has a scandalous letter in her bag when they meet him at the Embassy club.  Then she promptly leaves said bags, asking Sampson to watch them.  Good call, Rose.  He promptly pockets the love letter from the Prince of Wales, and imminent royal scandal is upon us.  Rose confesses what happened to Robert, who comes up with a scheme to try to get the letter back that is way too convoluted to try to lay out here.  Let’s just say that through said scheme we learn an awful lot about Bates.  We already knew he was an excellent forger (remember him forging Molesley’s signature in ep. 1?), but now we can add crafty pick-pocket to that list, as Bates fishes the letter out of Sampson’s jacket as he slips it on him.  And perhaps most importantly, we learn that in Bates’s opinion, the safest place for something you don’t want to lose is to be on your person at all times.

Scandalous letter recovered!

Scandalous letter recovered!

This information is important due to the continuation of the “Did Bates kill Anna’s attacker?” plot.  When Anna gives Mrs. Hughes a jacket of Mr. Bates’s for charity, Mrs. Hughes discovers a ticket to London in the pocket, dated from the day Mr. Green conveniently stepped out into the street and was hit by a bus.  Mrs. Hughes confides in Mary about it, who initially thinks he may need to be turned into the police.  But once Bates shows his loyalty to the family by using his evil powers for good, Mary decides that she too, should be loyal to Bates and Anna.  And thus the ticket is thrown in the fire (never mind the fact that Bates probably should have done that to begin with).

ticket

Mary destroying the evidence.

So, did Bates kill Green?  Given the silent, knowing looks he gave both Mrs. Hughes and Mary when they spoke vaguely about getting into trouble in London, I think we know the answer.  But it seems that all is well once again between Bates and Anna.  It’s almost as if the whole terrible thing never happened.  At the end of the episode we see them at the seaside, arm-in-arm, Anna buying Bates an ice cream cone to make up for giving Bates’s jacket to Mrs. Hughes without asking him first.

Anna and Bates

Elsewhere downstairs, Daisy is courted by Mr. Levinson’s valet, Ethan.  He tries to get her to come to America and cook for his boss so they can spend more time together, but in the end Daisy turns him down.  But Ivy, who’s been hovering nearby through the whole thing, jumps at the chance at a new start.  So maybe now that she’s out of the way, Alfred and Daisy might get together one of these days (Alfred, by the way, has been hired on at the Ritz, much to Daisy’s proud delight).  It was nice to see Daisy happy for once, as she tells Mrs. Patmore how wonderful it was to have a young man fancy her for a change.

Daisy

Daisy gets a suitor!  And the sun is in her eyes!

Molesley continues to fight in Baxter’s corner.  Somehow his bumbling ways seem to have given Baxter strength, and she decides that, rather than telling Thomas all the info she’s picked up over the course of the stay in London, she will endure whatever scandalous information he reveals about her and her past (which we still don’t know yet).  Looks like another “to be continued” until season 5.

And perhaps in one of the most surprising moments–Carson and Mrs. Hughes (along with the rest of the downstairs staff) go to the seashore, and hold hands as they wade into the water.  As Mrs. Hughes says, “We’re getting on Mr. Carson, you and I.  We can afford to live a little.”

Carson and Hughes

So that’s a wrap for another season of Downton Abbey.  Season 5 has already begun filming, so it’s definitely back for another season, in which some of these loose ends will hopefully be tied up.

Overall, I found the season entertaining, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the plots this year.  I think the season finale sums up the season as a whole: a whole lot of fluff without much substance.  I miss the Matthew/Mary back and forth.  I miss Sybil, for whom Rose will never be an adequate substitute.  I wish the main characters we’ve known since the beginning were given more substantial, meatier character arcs (I’m looking especially at poor Edith).  Mary seems to be the only one Fellowes is really writing for, and even her arc this season could have been so much stronger.  I would love to have seen just one scene where Mary sits with baby George and says something, anything, about his father.  Just one little scene.  I’m not asking Mary to go sobbing over Matthew’s grave, or to continue in her zombie-like trance.  And I know it’s a little out of character for Mary to show her emotions, but it’s not like her toddler son could go blabbing to everyone that Mum was being all soppy talking about Dad.  I think there’s more they could have done with her transformation, but Fellowes chose not to do it.  Instead, he introduced a parade of new characters to try and fill the void left by Matthew and Sybil.  And unfortunately for him, quantity does not equal quality in this case.

That being said: yes, I will watch season 5.  I just don’t think I’ll look forward to it with the same amount of excited anticipation as I have in past seasons.

What did you think of the season finale, and season 4 as a whole?

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Downton Abbey Season 4: ep. 7 recap

Mary and Tony

Last night’s episode was one of the better of the season as plot lines that have been building started to play out, leaving enough in question to make me eager to see next week’s conclusion.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead!

Everyone upstairs and down are preparing for the church bazaar, which will be held on the grounds of Downton Abbey.  With Lord Grantham still in the states sorting out his brother-in-law’s involvement in the Teapot Dome Scandal, the planning falls to Cora, who finally has a use this season.

Mary and Lord Gillingham

Mary and Lord Gillingham

After the pig incident, Charles Blake and Mary have warmed up to each other.  So much so that Lord Gillingham makes a trip to Downton to check up on the two of them, telling Mary quite frankly that he doesn’t want to leave them alone together.  He also informs her that, after some soul searching in the Highlands, he’s decided to call off his engagement with Mabel Lane Fox, and that he still holds a torch for Mary (for reasons I still do not understand).  Charles Blake also announces his intentions to Mary, telling her he won’t give up without a fight.  Mary tells both men she’s not free, even though she wishes she were.  I have a hard time believing her, given that no mention of Matthew has been made for quite some time now, and Mary seems to very much enjoy the attention of both suitors.  I’m sure Mary’s resistance will eventually give way, and then maybe we’ll get to see a duel at Downton!  And I hope Charles Blake wins.

Mary and Charles Blake

Mary and Charles Blake

Love is in the air for Rose as well.  Well, love, or an entirely selfish need to express her hatred for her mother through her choice of husband.  “I want to watch Mummy’s face crumble when I tell her the news” isn’t exactly the best reason to say yes to a marriage proposal.  But it seems to be Rose’s.  Mary finds out about her secret affair with Jack Ross through Tom, who sees them together having tea.  Mary tries to impart some wisdom on Rose, who wants none of it, and becomes engaged anyway.  This spurs Mary into action, and after a visit with Jack Ross, she convinces him that Rose may love him a little bit, but he was more likely being used as a point to be proven.  Ross agrees, and bows out of the engagement.  And hopefully this boring, hackneyed sub-plot is at an end.

Tom catches Rose with Jack Ross

Tom catches Rose with Jack Ross

Much more interesting is the developing relationship between Tom and the town school teacher, Sarah Bunting.  They seem perfect for each other, have good chemistry, and Tom finally seems to be in a place where he’s ready to move on.  He’s actually able to laugh when he talks about his dear late Sybil and what a character she was.  Sarah’s got spunk, and I hope we see more of her.

Branson and Sarah

“Car trouble? What a perfect opener for me to tell you my whole chauffeur back story!”

Lady Violet shows us that one good turn deserves another.  Or perhaps she just wants Isobel out of her hair.  Either way, could she potentially be playing matchmaker, setting up Isobel with Mary’s godfather, Lord Merton?  Certainly seems possible.

And then there’s poor Edith.  Aunt Rosamund comes to Downton to help Edith make a decision on what to do next.  Edith’s idea is to have the baby and give it to one of the local farmers (Mr. Drew, from a previous episode), feeling he can be trusted with her secret (and she’ll still be able to see the baby).  But Aunt Rosamund isn’t so sure, and instead decides the best thing to do is to go abroad until Edith delivers the baby, and then adopt it out to “some childless couple.”  Cora is apparently so busy with the bazaar that she doesn’t see through the hastily constructed plan to visit Switzerland so Rosamund can learn French, but nothing gets by Lady Violet.  She’s been around the block a few times and knows why many unmarried young women go abroad at the spur of the moment.  Edith confesses all, and Lady Violet shows a bit of grandmotherly compassion, agreeing that this is the right decision for Edith, and even offers to pay her expenses, so Edith isn’t further in her aunt’s debt.  Whether Michael Gregson is still alive or has fallen off the face of the earth remains to be seen, but it looks like Edith will be booking passage to Switzerland pretty soon.

Edith and Violet

Downstairs the love square (which I guess we can call a triangle now that Jimmy’s out of the picture) finally, FINALLY came to an end.  Apparently Ivy’s warm greeting during his last visit was misinterpreted a touch, and Alfred writes her, asking her to marry him and move to London.  Ivy likes Alfred, but she’s young and isn’t sure what the world has to offer, so she declines.  Mrs. Patmore tries to keep the whole thing a secret from Daisy (can’t say I blame her given Daisy’s usual reaction regarding the Ivy/Alfred relationship), but she eventually finds out.  Daisy goes to visit Mr. Mason when Alfred comes to Downton in hopes of avoiding him.  But Mr. Mason, ever the wise man, tells her she should part with him as friends.  And in a very touching scene, Daisy does just that, making her the most mature person downstairs (for this episode, anyway).  Here’s hoping Daisy visits Mr. Mason more often.  Mrs. Patmore means well, but Mr. Mason seems a bit better at handling Daisy’s affairs.

Daisy visits Mr. Mason

Daisy visits Mr. Mason

An unexpected spark developed between Molesley and Baxter.  Somehow Molesley comes off much less pathetic when he’s around her, so this could be a good thing.  We still don’t know much about Baxter, though, only that perhaps she doesn’t come from the best family or the community she once lived in shunned her (based off her telling Molesley how lucky he is to live in a village where people respected him).  When Thomas returns from America, he asks Baxter if she has anything to tell, to which Baxter lies and says no.  She then walks off on Molesley’s arm.  But later we see her continuing to listen in on the conversations of the Crawley family (specifically in relation to the Anna & Bates issue).  I just hope the feelings she’s shown toward Molesley are genuine, because one “Edith” character is enough on this show!

Molesley and Baxter

And then there’s the Anna & Bates story line.  Anna finally reveals to Mary the name of her attacker when she learns that Lord Gillingham is staying at Downton.  Again.  Mary wants to go to the police but Anna tells her she mustn’t tell anyone.  Anna bears Green’s presence as best she can at dinner, during which Bates learns where Green will be staying in London.  When Bates finds out that Anna has to go to London (to accompany Mary while she sorts out the whole Ross/Rose debacle), he asks for the day off to visit York.  Why?  Oh, you know, “This and that.”  Sure, Bates.  Sure.  Maybe he just wanted to visit some old prison pals?

Mary can’t hold her promise to Anna for long, and informs her that she must tell Lord Gillingham to sack his valet, reassuring Anna that Bates won’t question why he shows up with a new valet next time he visits Downton.  Anna reluctantly agrees.  Mary meets Lord Gillingham for lunch while she’s in London and asks him to fire Green, though she can’t give a reason.  Since Lord Gillingham would stand on his head and quack like a duck if Mary asked him to, he agrees.  But then he arrives at the bazaar with the startling (well, to the characters, not really to us) news that Green is dead, pushed out into the street and run over by a bus.  Mary immediately goes to Anna about it, and while there were plenty of witnesses, and Bates has his York alibi (let’s hope he does, anyway), neither of them can help but notice that Bates looks happier than he has for weeks.

Bates and Anna

“No, really. I’m just smiling because I love a good bazaar.”

So, did Bates kill Green?  Or was it just a purely coincidental accident?  Anna tells Bates she hopes he hasn’t done anything foolish, anything that might jeopardize all they’ve built together. Bates’s answer:  “You know me.  When I do a thing, I like to have a very goo reason for doing it.”  Neither Anna nor the viewer seems to feel very relieved by this statement.

Next week’s finale features Rose’s coming out into society, and another visit from Cora’s mother, who looks like she’ll be bringing along Cora’s brother for us to meet for the first time.  Will Mary pick a suitor?  Will Edith ever find Michael?  And will we have yet another murder trial to attend (and if we do, how will we ever get through it without Matthew the solicitor there to explain it to us!)?

What were your thoughts on this week’s episode?

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Downton Abbey Season 4: ep. 6 recap

Mary

With only two episodes to go, last night’s Downton Abbey  had some fairly predictable plot developments, and one not-so predictable moment that made me wonder briefly if we had fallen into some sort of parallel Downton universe.

Warning: Spoilers below!

This episode opens with Robert leaving on the next boat to America.  Apparently Cora’s brother is in big trouble, and needs his aristocratic brother-in-law to add a bit of clout to his tarnished name.  While Robert expects Bates to travel with him, Mrs. Hughes intervenes and enlists the help of Mary to get him to take Thomas instead, thus allowing Bates to stay by Anna’s side.  Mary bullies Mrs. Hughes into telling her what’s going on with Anna, though she doesn’t tell anyone else.  Anna’s relieved Mary now knows and they can be honest with each other once more, though Anna says that in the same breath that she tells Mary they don’t know who the attacker was.

Mary2

Mary’s list of suitors grows as apparently she’s unable to turn off the charm, even when covered in mud and pig filth.  In the course of a few months Mary’s gotten three men to fall in love with her (well, I suppose Evelyn Napier’s carried a torch for her for a while now, but still).  Charles Blake goes from finding her uppity and aloof to irresistible thanks to some bonding over pigs.  Yes, the much-talked about pigs arrive at Downton at last, only to knock over their water troughs and start to perish from dehydration.  Charles and Mary take a stroll out to visit them after dinner (as one does), and Charles immediately jumps into action and grabs some buckets, and to his surprise, so does Mary.  Afterwards they bond over a good old fashioned mud fight and then Mary shocks us all further by gasp! scrambling an egg for herself and Mr. Blake.  So, let me get this straight.  Mary’s youngest sister, the rebel who married the chauffeur, didn’t know how to boil water, but Mary somehow picked up how to cook an egg?  It doesn’t really matter though, because this sequence with Mary and Charles was by far one of my favorite Downton scenes ever, and the chemistry between the two actors has me excited to see where things go from here.

Mary and Charles

Evelyn informs Mary that he now has more competition thanks to the pig incident, to which Mary, when alone, releases a sigh.  Not a swoony sigh, but a “can’t you guys see I’m still not ready to move on?” sigh.  And then there’s that delightfully awkward moment when Lord Gillingham arrives, doing nothing to hide his continued feelings for Mary, and all three love interests are in the room at the same time.  Turns out Lord Gillingham and Mr. Blake served together during the war.  Sounds like they’re about to fight another battle, and this time they won’t be on the same side.

Branson

Also surprising was an interesting turn in Branson’s love life.  Isobel convinces him to get back into politics and buys tickets to hear a political speaker.  But when Violet falls ill and Isobel volunteers to nurse her (in some pretty hysterical scenes between Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton), Branson must go solo to the meeting.  There he sits next to an as-of-yet unnamed woman, and they seem to hit it off pretty well.  Here’s hoping we’ll see more of her.

Rose and Ross

The rest of the episode’s plots were fairly predictable.  Rose tags along with Edith to London, where she meets up with Jack Ross for a rowboat ride.  Jack has reservations about their romance, but Rose reminds him they should live in the now.  And thus Rose continues to get on my nerves.  Not to mention the hissy fit she throws when they have to leave London early, thus spoiling her plans (even if she didn’t know the reason why, still annoying).

Edith and Rosamund

Edith is in London for a much more sobering reason.  With Gregson still missing, and not wanting to be cast out for having a child out of wedlock, she feels the only way out is to have an abortion.  She finally confesses what’s happened to Aunt Rosamund, who is surprisingly supportive through the whole thing.  Edith is heartbroken, as she loves Gregson and knows she would love their baby, but believes there is no alternative.  However, when they arrive at the doctor’s “office” and Edith hears a woman crying, she rethinks her decision.  Now that she’s not going to terminate her pregnancy, we’re left to wonder if she plans to keep the baby once it’s born, and if Edith will step up her search for the father.  And what her family will say (I can already sense a good eyebrow arching from Mary now).

Ivy and Daisy

Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes, and Mr. Carson go out of their way to prevent Alfred from visiting the house and stirring up more trouble between Ivy and Daisy.  I don’t blame them, and only wish they had succeeded.  Instead we got to see Alfred show up, causing Ivy to light up with happiness and Daisy to scowl at Ivy’s new-found appreciation for the man she loves.  Daisy, I know you can’t hear me through the TV when I’m yelling at you (even if I do keep trying), but please, please move on.  Remember how William loved you and you loved him too, but not in that way?  This is the same thing, just in reverse.  For the sanity of Mrs. Patmore, move on.

In a darker (though no less predictable) turn, when Lord Gillingham arrives, so does his valet.  He jokes and carries on with the staff, but no one can mistake the troubled look on Anna’s face when she sees him.  Mrs. Hughes corners him in the boot room and tells him he better “stick to the shadows” for his life’s sake.  But for whatever reason (contrived plot purposes, I suppose), Mr. Green can’t do that, and says in front of the entire staff how he couldn’t stand Lady Melba’s singing and had escaped downstairs during her performance.  Baxter, who has been skulking around the entire episode gathering information for Thomas while he’s away, immediately picks up on this.  But so does Bates, and the scene cuts away with him giving Green an icy stare, his fork shaking in his hand.

Bates

There’s just two episodes left in season 4.  Any predictions of what might be around the corner?  And what did you think of last night’s episode?

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Downton Abbey Season 4: ep. 5 recap

Great hall

This week’s Downton Abbey centered around Robert’s “surprise” birthday party, and the arrival of yet another new character this season, Charles Blake.  The love polygon downstairs took an interesting turn, and Isobel and Violet quarreled over missing knick-knacks.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 5 ahead!

Upstairs, the family is abuzz over the impending arrival of pigs, something I never thought we’d hear on Downton.  But Robert’s decided to get on board with Tom and Mary’s idea to work the land, and Tamworth pigs seem to be their latest idea.

Mary & Blake

Mary is also excited by the news that Evelyn Napier has accepted her invitation to stay at Downton, along with his friend Charles Blake.  Her hope that they will advise them on how to best manage Downton soon fades when, upon their arrival, Charles Blake explains that they aren’t there to help the landowners, but rather to figure out how best to use the land that is being sold off.  The two take an immediate disliking to each other, as Blake feels Mary is an entitled snob, and Mary feels Blake is an enemy who doesn’t care about families like hers.  I liked the dynamic between the two of them, and hope we get to see some fun sparring, which to me is when Mary is at her best.

Rose

“What’s everyone looking like that for?”

Meanwhile, Rose plans the big surprise for Robert’s birthday–and no surprise to us, it’s Jack Ross and his band.  We all knew Rose would find a way to see the charming crooner again.  Ross’s arrival sends shock waves rippling through both upstairs and down.  Not only is their a jazz player in their midst, but a black jazz player.  Mary receives the biggest surprise of the night, finding her cousin Rose doing some serious making out with Ross downstairs in a dark room.  Lest we forget, one of our first encounters with Rose last season was when she went to visit a married “friend” in London, where she stayed in his home for a few hours before heading out to a jazz club.  Looks like Downton hasn’t tamed her as much as her mother had hoped.

Mary, Rose, & Ross

Tom still contemplates the idea of going to America.  While he admits to Isobel that he’s come to love the Crawleys, he doubts another aristocrat is going to fall in love with him, and he’s not so sure the Crawleys would welcome a middle class Irish woman into the family.  As they dance to jazz in the Great Hall, Isobel points out that Downton Abbey, and the Crawleys, have the ability to change with the times, and perhaps he shouldn’t buy that ticket to America just yet.  I’ve enjoyed watching the developing relationship between those two, and it feels like Isobel has taken Tom in as a sort of surrogate son.

Uh oh, Edith

Uh oh, Edith

Elsewhere, Aunt Rosamund’s prediction for Edith looks like it’s coming true.  With Michael Gregson still nowhere to be found, Edith receives a note from the doctor informing her that her symptoms do indeed match those of a first trimester of pregnancy.  And there goes the possibility for an exciting storyline in which Edith becomes a career woman.  Instead we just get little snippets of Edith becoming increasingly worried about the whereabouts of Gregson–now with very good reason since she’s carrying his child.  She’s yet to confide in anyone about the latter, though both her parents finally seem concerned enough to talk to her about what’s going on (I laughed out loud when Cora told Edith her “mother’s instinct” led her to believe something was wrong.  It’s not like Edith was putting on a brave face and hiding her anguish!).

Edith

Downstairs, Alfred receives the exciting news that he has been offered a place in the cooking course at the Ritz after another student dropped out.  Daisy’s heart immediately crumbles, and as expected, she blames Ivy.  Ivy’s got issues of her own, though, since apparently trips to the pub and the movies equal hanky panky privileges to Jimmy.  When he tells her she owes it to him, Ivy realizes what a stand-up guy Alfred was, further angering Daisy.  After she cuts into her, a clueless Ivy asks Mrs. Hughes what that was about, to which Mrs. Hughes responds “Oh, I’d say it’s about the fact you had it coming.”  Mrs. Hughes has seriously gotten some of the best lines this season.

Anna & Bates

Then there’s Anna and Bates, who are still struggling to move on from Anna’s assault.  But “everything is shadowed” for the couple because of it, and while they decide going out to dinner and trying not to think about it for one night might do the trick, they still end up talking about it anyway.  Bates feels like he should have protected her, Anna wants him to stop looking at her as a victim.  And then who should show up to interrupt them but Lady Cora!  She just happens to be at the same “frightful hotel” for an orphanage committee meeting dinner.  But it’s a good thing she is, since the uppity maitre d’ had no wish to seat Mr. and Mrs. Bates at first, until he found out they were acquaintances of Lady Grantham.  At the end of the meal, she butts into their conversation and offers them a ride home (complete with the same creepy smile she had plastered on her face every time she spoke to them).  By butting into said conversation, she overhears that Anna’s been hurt somehow and Bates feels he should have protected her.  She relays the information to Lady Mary, while Baxter is in the room.

Baxter

And Baxter, who is being puppeteered by Thomas for still-unexplained reasons, reports the news, though she’s reluctant to do so.  She likes Lady Cora, but Thomas tells her she needs to decide where her loyalties are: with him, or with her ladyship.

Next week it looks like the rumblings about Uncle Harold and some oil scandal is going to blow up and become a bigger issue.  If he’s looking to Robert for financial advice, he must really be in it deep.

Now it’s your turn!  What did you think of this week’s episode?  And which “Mary suitor” do you like better, Lord Gillingham or Charles Blake?  Is it just me, or does it seem like Fellowes has essentially taken Matthew’s personality (from season 1) and split it in half, giving Lord Gillingham the kind-hearted, sympathetic-to-Mary part, and Charles Blake the “I don’t like rich people and their ways” part?

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Downton Abbey Season 4, ep. 4 recap

Anna

Well, they might as well have called last night’s episode “The Anna & Bates Show” since that plot line garnered most of the attention.  I’m on the fence about the developments made there, but more on that later.  First, the recap!

Warning: Major spoilers below!

The focus of this episode was with the downstairs staff, so upstairs, things were pretty tame.  Mary learns of Tony Gillingham’s engagement to Mabel Lane Fox.  She puts on a brave face in front of the family, but it’s clear she’s upset she missed the boat (did anyone else notice her wiping under her eyes while she was writing to congratulate him?).  Perhaps the arrival of Evelyn Napier (remember him from season 1?  He’s the fellow who brought the infamous Mr. Pamuk into the house) will cheer her up.  It certainly seems to, given Mary’s warm greeting.  Is it just me, or does Mary seem a lot more smiley this season?  Napier’s working for the government, conducting a study on the large estates and whether or not they are viable in the post-war economy.  Mary spear-heads a campaign to get him, as well as his yet-unmet boss, to stay at Downton while they’re in the area.

Mary with Evelyn Napier

Mary with Evelyn Napier

Elsewhere, Robert helps a tenant (Mr. Drew) keep his land on the estate (which has been farmed by the Drew family since the Napoleonic wars) by loaning him money to pay off his late father’s debts.  Robert does this behind Mary and Tom’s back, and I thought surely this would backfire somehow, given Robert’s history with money.  But instead it reminds Mary of what a kind-hearted softie her Papa can be.  And it reminds Tom of his socialist roots, as he supports the idea that the farmer should not be thrown off his land.  Tom continues on his quest to figure out where he belongs, and mentions the idea of taking Sybbie to America for a fresh start, since he feels like he’s in limbo at Downton.  One of my favorite upstairs scenes was seeing Mary and Tom with their children in the nursery (and to be reminded that they do indeed have kids!), and just seeing their friendship in general.  Mary’s come to depend on Tom, and she’s the one that speaks up when he mentions the idea of leaving, saying she doesn’t want to lose him.

Mary and Tom

There’s some hushed talk about doing something for Robert’s birthday, and Mary is the one who proposes a party (a small one, mind you).  Well, look who has fully re-entered the land of the living.  Rose gets excited about this and goes into party-planning mode.  And that’s basically all we see of her this episode (which I’m perfectly okay with).

Edith is also barely seen this episode, except to give a few worried looks toward the camera, and to make a trip to London and sort some things out at Gregson’s office, which actually turns out to be a visit to a doctor.  Hmm, wonder what that might be about?  Oh, Edith.  And oh, Julian Fellowes.  If this is going where I think it is, you are sending a fantastic message: Want to fight against the current and make your own path separate from your aristocratic family?  Yeah, you’ll pay for that.

Edith

Downstairs, there’s a new member of staff to get to know.  Lady Cora’s lady’s maid, Baxter, who is weaseling her way into her ladyship’s good graces thanks to coaching from Thomas.  His purposes are entirely self-serving, as he wants to know what’s going on upstairs at all times, and needs a new ally now that O’Brien is gone.  I like this Baxter character, and the whole Thomas/Baxter partnership thing, and I only wish they could have brought her in from the start, rather than irritating Edna.

Baxter winning over Cora's affections with orange juice.

Baxter winning over Cora’s affection with orange juice.

Meanwhile, Daisy helps Alfred prepare for his Ritz hotel cooking test.  She’s a jumble of emotions, happy to spend time with Alfred, but sad that the work they’re doing means he might be leaving.  Fortunately for Daisy, and not so fortunately for Alfred, he does not pass the test, which means he’ll stick around Downton, for now at least.

Daisy and Alfred

Mrs. Patmore continues to wage war against the modern mechanization of her kitchen.  Lady Cora wants a refrigerator installed to replace the old ice box, which sends Mrs. Patmore into a tizzy.  When Lady Cora asks her if there isn’t some aspect of the present day she would accept without resistance, Mrs. Patmore does admit she wouldn’t mind getting rid of her corset.

But of course the main storyline downstairs this week was the drama between Anna and Bates.  After Anna keeps avoiding Bates and refuses to tell him what happened, he goes into Bates-stealth-mode.  He eaves drops on a conversation between Anna and Mrs. Hughes, in which it’s revealed that Anna’s not pregnant (huge sigh of relief), but she’s still unwilling to tell Bates what happened for fear of his own safety.  Bates then meets with Mrs. Hughes, telling her he’ll resign if she doesn’t tell him what happened.  This seemed border-line bullying to me, but it did the trick, and Mrs. Hughes spills the beans, but does not name the attacker.  Bates is no fool, and guesses right away that it must have been Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green.  For Anna’s sake, Mrs. Hughes swears on her mother’s grave that it was not.  Bates then goes and finds his wife in the boot room, and tells her he knows, and that he suspects it was Green.  And if it was him, “he’s a dead man.”  Anna assures him it was not, and that the person who attacked her is untraceable.  Anna sobs with relief as Bates tells her how he loves her even more and has in fact put her on an even higher pedestal after what she’s been through.  All seems rosy in the Bates’s garden once more, with Anna telling Mrs. Hughes she plans to move back in to the cottage with her husband.

Bates and Anna

Mrs. Hughes approaches Bates and tells him how glad she is that the whole horrible nightmare can be put behind them.  Bates keeps a pleasant smile on his face as he informs her that nothing is over and done with, despite what Anna says.  And a revenge-fueled Bates limps off down the hallway as the screen fades to black.

Bates

I’m not sure how I feel about this turn of events.  Did I see it coming?  Of course.  But it bothers me that the horrible assault on Anna did not turn into a strengthening of her character from within, but rather an opportunity for Bates to show his inner-dark side once again.  But, at the same time, that last scene sent a little chill up my spine and had me wondering how this was going to play out.

What did you think of the turn of events in this episode?

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Downton Abbey Season 4, ep. 3 recap

Anna

After last week’s shocking episode, we Downtonites spent this week wondering what would become of Anna, and what would become of the show as a whole.  Fortunately, this week’s Downton Abbey seemed to be back on track, in that the “What the what?” moments were more in keeping with the usual tone of the show.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 3 ahead!

This episode picks up the morning after Anna’s horrible attack.  She’s unwilling to let Bates touch her, the reason for which we later learn from her conversation with Mrs. Hughes.  Anna feels she is “soiled” and is somehow to blame for what happened to her.  As a result, she asks Mrs. Hughes if she can have a room upstairs again, leaving a bewildered Mr. Bates wondering what he did wrong to make Anna go from doting wife to icy stranger in the course of one night.  Oh, Anna.  We know you don’t want Mr. Bates to hang, but perhaps you really should take Mrs. Hughes’s advice and honor the “honesty is the best policy” rule.  I still feel confident that Bates is going to find out eventually.  Why make him suffer in the meantime?  I don’t know if I like where this storyline is going, and while I can understand some of Anna’s motivations, it seems like the focus should be more on the fact that she’s been horribly violated (and thus have issues with telling her husband), rather than her being worried Bates’s temper will get out of control and he’ll end up in jail.

Anna and Mrs. Hughes

Anna and Bates aren’t the only ones dealing with the aftermath of episode 2.  Edna confronts Tom and tells him that he’d better marry her if she winds up pregnant.  Poor Tom!  He spends the majority of the episode preoccupied with the fact that one terrible mistake could ruin the rest of  his life.  Fortunately, he takes Mary’s advice and speaks to Mrs. Hughes about it, who quickly figures out Edna’s game.  She finds a copy of Marie Stopes’s Married Love among Edna’s things, and knows that Edna is aware of how to prevent pregnancy.  So if she couldn’t get Tom to agree, she would have been in the clear.  But if he did, she could find a way to get herself pregnant and then force Tom to marry her, thus raising her social standing.  Thanks to Mrs. Hughes’s excellent detective work, Edna is sent on her way, and I truly hope it’s the last we see of her.

Hughes, Tom, Edna

Elsewhere downstairs, the love polygon took an interesting turn (which didn’t take much, given how boring it had become).  Alfred finds Ivy and Jimmy canoodling in the boot room (thanks to Daisy advising him to search for Ivy there).  After it dawns on him that he will never have a chance with Ivy, Alfred decides to enter a competition for a chance to study cooking at the Ritz.  Daisy’s upset because her meddling means that Alfred might be leaving.  Personally, I’d like to see Daisy enter that competition herself.  Let her and Alfred go head to head in a cook off!  See, much more interesting than Alfred giving sad puppy dog eyes to Ivy, Ivy giving longing glances at Jimmy, and Daisy shooting daggers from her eyes at Ivy while she mixes something to a pulp.

Alfred and Daisy

Alfred studying for the competition after seeing Ivy and Jimmy together

Things were slightly more cheery upstairs (with the exception of Tom).  Lord Gillingham (aka “Tony”) has fallen for Lady Mary.  Hard.  He shows up at Aunt Rosamund’s for dinner while Mary is in London, then goes out dancing with her at the Lotus Club.  Mary didn’t seem to have any qualms about dancing this time around, though she tells Tony that she won’t be ready to marry for years.  Her body language betrays the words coming out of her mouth, however, as it’s obvious she’s happy when she’s around Tony.  Tony follows Mary and company back to Downton the next day (by slumming it in third class so the rest of the party doesn’t know he’s on board), and promptly asks Mary to marry him (my main “what the what?” moment of the night).  As Mary aptly points out, they’ve only known each other as adults for a few days.  How could he know that he’s sure?  Tony replies by telling Mary she fills his brain (which sounded very odd), to which Mary appears clearly flattered.  However, in the end she rejects his proposal, and Tony accepts that he must move forward with his plan to marry Mabel Lane Fox, but not before he kisses Mary (another “what the what?” moment), who minutes before had said that Matthew still “filled her brain” and she wanted to keep it that way for now.  One has to hand it to Tony, he is quite persistent (almost borderline stalker-ish).  He leaves an even more confused Mary, who wonders if she hasn’t perhaps made a mistake in turning him down.

Mary and Tony

The other Crawley sister is having relationship issues of her own.  Edith visits Michael Gregson, who is only one week away from his departure to Germany.  He asks her to sign some sort of “authority” contract before he goes, which Edith signs WITHOUT READING.  Oh, Edith–you just learned that your boyfriend (who is still married, by the way) is a bit of a card sharp, who knows what else he might have up his sleeve?  She then proceeds to give in to temptation, and stays the night with Gregson, returning to Aunt Rosamund’s early the next morning, shoes in hand as she tiptoes up the staircase.  But a maid sees her and informs Rosamund, who admonishes her niece for engaging in such reckless behavior.  Edith says she’s not a bit sorry, and besides, Gregson’s going to marry her.  Rosamund reminds her how well that whole marriage thing worked out before (ouch), and says that while she may not be sorry now, she may feel quite differently later on.  I’m just waiting to find out what that document was Edith signed, and how it will impact her in future episodes.

Edith, neglecting to read the fine print.

Edith, neglecting to read the fine print.

And then there’s Rose.  Rose, who still can’t work her way into my caring much about her.  But then, I had the same issue with Ethel in season 2, and in season 3 she won me over.  Anyway.  Rose suggests she and the rest of Aunt Rosamund’s dinner party attend the Lotus Club for a little fun.  While dancing with the (very drunk) young suitor she met at the house party, she is left adrift on the dance floor when her dance partner can’t hold his liquor.  She’s “rescued” by another new character, the black American band leader Jack Ross.  Rose sees it as rescued, at least–the rest of the family can’t wipe the shocked expressions off their face.  As Rosamund later explains, times may be changing, but they haven’t changed that much.  This likely won’t keep Rose away, however, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of Jack Ross.

Rose and Ross

Love and relationships seemed to be the overarching theme of this week’s episode.  It was nice to see one of those Mrs. Hughes & Carson chats, and we learn just how much courtship has changed, as Carson looks at the framed photo of his dear Alice and reflects on the changing times.  “You were lucky to walk her to the end of the street in those days.”  If Carson had seen Edith sneaking upstairs early in the morning, Mary passionately kissing a man she’s only known a few days (in her adult life), and Rose dancing with an African American band leader, I can only imagine what he’d have to say.

Looks like the episode set up a lot of plot points that will be carried out through the rest of the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go.  What did you think of this week’s episode?

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Downton Abbey Season 4, ep. 2 recap

Mary & Anthony

At the end of last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to approach today’s recap.  Episode 2 depicted a brutal act of violence on one of the most beloved characters, making all other plot lines seem insignificant and petty by comparison.  It was a jarring note that was sharply out of tune with what Downton Abbey fans expect from the show each week.  Yes, we were dealt some emotional blows last season with the loss of two major characters, but there was something about this plot twist that seemed so terribly out of place with the rest of the series.

That being said, I will still recap the episode, leaving my personal thoughts on “that BIG thing that happened” for the end.

Warning: Huge, major spoilers ahead!

This week’s episode begins with a house party at Downton, one that makes old-fashioned Robert remember the good ol’ days before the war.  The purpose of the party is to help cheer Mary up and continue to bring her back around into society.  Anthony “Tony” Foyle (Lord Gillingham), an old family friend, seems to have been invited solely for that purpose.  Even though he’s nearly engaged to a wealthy heiress, he doesn’t do much to hide his new-found fancy for Mary.

Mary & Anthony 2

This causes Mary to go into self-reflection mode, as she tells Anthony that Matthew changed her, and she wonders if she wouldn’t be stronger now if she had been the person she was before Matthew.  But later (after she sees Matthew’s old gramophone while dancing with Anthony), she tells Anna she doesn’t know if she is more in mourning for Matthew or for the person she was when she was with him.  Hopefully Mary will soon find her footing in her Matthew-less world.

Edith & Gregson

Michael Gregson is dragged out to Downton by Edith, who wants her father to get to know him better.  Gregson tries to catch Robert, but as we all know, he’s pretty good at the whole avoidance thing.  Robert is also in his usual “let’s throw money down the drain!” form and loses a tidy little sum to another house guest, Terence Sampson.  Gregson at last endears himself to Edith’s Papa when he uses some old tricks to outsmart Sampson the card sharp, and wins back all of Robert’s money.  So now that Robert likes Gregson, we can anticipate that Fellowes will likely place a new obstacle in Edith and Gregson’s way (besides the whole divorce thing).  Because happy endings just aren’t what he’s about these days.

The other house guest, Sir John Bullock, sets his cap at Rose, and we see them interact a bit, but to me it was mostly background noise as I was trying to keep up with everything else that was going on. (Plus Rose still isn’t my favorite….why the heck didn’t she ask Mary if it was okay to use Matthew’s old gramophone?  Typical teenager.)

Rose

Amidst all this, Tom is feeling like a white-tie-clad fish out of water.  The Dowager tries to help him fit in, but he’s bad at the small talk, he doesn’t know the proper way to address people, and frankly, he has nothing in common with them.  If Matthew had been around, I’m sure he would have kept Tom company and helped ease him into these sorts of situations (since they were once new to Matthew as well), but without him there, Tom’s adrift.  So, cue Edna!  What is this woman’s end game, exactly?  Does she actually like Tom?  Or does she just enjoy messing with his head?  I’m going with the latter.  At the end of the episode, she brings him a huge tumbler of whiskey, suggests he take it to bed with him, and then decides to join them.  Without asking.  Given the scene that took place right before this one, I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of horrible theme Fellowes was trying to inject into the episode.

The big upstairs event of the house party was the performance of opera singer Nellie Melba (portrayed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), who Lord Robert and Carson could not figure out where to place (given what happened at the end of the episode, doesn’t this seem so immaterial?).  She’s above a servant, but below a house guest.  Oh, what to do?  In the end Cora solves the problem for them by becoming furious at Robert and inviting Dame Melba down to dinner, where she and Robert bond over a shared love of claret.  Crisis averted.

Robert & Dame Melba

While Mary seems to be coming out of her mourning, Isobel is still mired with grief.  Penelope Wilton’s portrayal of the grieving mother was in top form this episode.  The dinner scene in which she sees Mary laughing was wonderfully done.  She knows it’s not fair to think Mary might grieve for her son forever, but at the same time Isobel is having trouble moving on.

Isobel

While everyone’s having a grand time remembering the good ol’ days upstairs, it’s frantic chaos downstairs to make sure the house party is pulled off successfully.  There are visiting valets and maids, though not as many as Carson would like to see (apparently he has yet to accept the newsflash that many aristocrats are feeling the post-war financial crunch), so that means some of the downstairs staff have to attend to the guests.  But no one is feeling the strain more than Mrs. Patmore, who has a panic attack  while preparing the big dinner and Alfred jumps in to make the sauces (yay, Alfred! For once your character had something else to do besides pining over Ivy!).

Mrs Patmore

But even with all the craziness happening downstairs (Jimmy sprains his wrist while twisting a jar to impress Ivy!  Oh, when will the hi-jinks end?), Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green, still finds time to strike up some friendly card games with the downstairs staff, and takes an instant interest in Anna, something Bates is none too happy about.  But Anna, being the kind, trusting creature that she is, thinks it’s completely harmless.  It turns out to be anything but.  While the entire Downton staff are upstairs attending the performance of Dame Melba, Anna goes downstairs for some headache powder.  There she is cornered by Green and subsequently beaten and raped.  No one is downstairs to hear her screams.  Mrs. Hughes later finds her, huddled shaking in a corner.  Anna begs Mrs. Hughes to keep what she’s seen a secret.  Anna fears that Bates will go after Green and land himself in jail once more.  She makes up a flimsy excuse to Bates, saying the bruises were a result of fainting and smacking her head against the sink as she went down.  She refuses to walk home with him, and goes out into the darkness, crying quietly.

I have no idea where this storyline is going, but Bates is bound to put two and two together and figure out what happened.  I will just be interested to see if he finds out from Anna, or if he figures it out himself.  But whatever happens, I have no doubt this event will put a great strain on Bates and Anna’s relationship.

For my part, Downton Abbey has always been a wonderful escape, and while I’m not saying rape is a subject that shouldn’t be discussed or to pretend it never happened in the past, the violent act just felt so out of character for the show.  Depending on how they move forward with this, I am concerned about Fellowes’s motives for doing this.  Was it just for shock value, or will it have a major, long-lasting (and seemingly devastating) effect on the character?  And will that effect be realistic and true to the period?  Of one thing I’m certain, Downton has taken a seriously dark turn, and there’s no going back now.

I had some other thoughts about last night’s episode, and I think that Edwardian Promenade covered them very well.  Here’s the link to the recap: http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/downton-abbey/downton-abbey-season-4-episode-2-recap-downtonpbs/

What did you think about the episode and the shocking turn of events?

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