Here it is, folks, the most boring episode of Downton Abbey that ever bored us. Onward through the slog, shall we?
Daisy gives Alfred first crack at the hot toast. (Not a euphemism, but should be.) Why is Alfred getting special treatment? Because he’s staying, of course. Oh, Daisy. Don’t you know the rules of Chekhov’s rejection letter? Naturally, Alfred learns that he’s gotten a spot at the Escoffier school after all, blurts an expression of gratitude to the family that embarrasses everyone, and breaks poor Daisy’s heart. Later, as Ivy moans about Jimmy having tried to make it beyond first base after a night out, saying “I suppose he was sweet-talking me so that he could have his way. All this time I thought he was so nice.” Mrs. Patmore responds drily, “I wonder how many women have said that since the Norman Conquest.” Ha! Daisy tears Ivy a new one, accusing her of having driven Alfred away through her flirtation with Jimmy. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore reckon Ivy had that one coming.
Alfred’s departure creates a space for Mr. Molesley, who is brought on as footman despite Carson’s misgivings (he thinks Poor Molesley is ungrateful). No one knows his first name, though (duh, it’s “Poor”), make an educated guess that it’s “Joseph” (wrong), so he remains Molesley despite his reduced status. Ha-ha.
Downton as a business is expanding into agriculture in the form of raising pigs. LG is nervous. Mary is smug because Downton is doing so well, but we get some clues that maybe that’s not the case. She exchanges barbs with Mr. Blake, Evelyn Napier’s boss, so you know they’re totally going to do it.
Anna is better, but not 100%. She and Bates decide they need a mini-break to make some good new memories together and go out for dinner at a fancy place. The maitre-d is snooty and tells them that there’s no table available for them despite their having made a reservation. Cora enters from the dining room, her face arranged into a creepy rictus meant to be a warm smile of friendship; this association convinces the maitre’d to change his tune and finds the Bateses a table.
Violet keeps losing knick-knacks in her house. She thinks it’s the new gardener and sacks him, but they keep turning up in odd places. Either Violet is going a bit senile or someone is messing with her head (or both; I don’t trust her shifty-eyed butler, Spratt, who seems to have very conveniently found the netsuke figurine in the maid’s cleaning bucket). The previews for next week suggest that maybe she’s not well.
Edith is sad and worried because Michael has gone incommunicado. Making matters worse, she receives a letter from her doctor informing her that the mole she had checked out is actually pregnancy, which is why it’s a good thing I’m not a medical doctor. Escandalo! Look where your feminist fantasies of having it all have gotten you now, Edith!
Thomas pumps his spy, Miss Baxter, for dirt on the family. I’m not sure where this storyline is going.
Oliver Rose has secretly hired a band to play for LG’s birthday party. Surprise, it’s Jack Ross, the guy from the night club in London who is a — black American! This does lead to a funny scene wherein a scandalized Carson (first an Australian opera singer, now a black American jazz singer? What is this world coming to?) suggests that Jack visit Africa. “Why would I? I’m no more African than you are. Well not much more.” He goes on say that while his people came over from Africa in 1970, the circumstances of which are too ghastly to articulate, there’s really not more of a connection than that. Mrs. Hughes congratulates Jack on finding the one thing about the past that Carson doesn’t agree with (slavery). Har-har. Despite the initial shock of the band, LG loves his birthday surprise and offers to pay the bill for their performance. When Mary goes downstairs to pass along this information, she catches Rose and Mr. Ross smooching in the dark. Oy. Such a renegade, that Rose.
Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who suggests Violet is too focused on material possessions rather than on justice: “I wonder you don’t just set fire to the Abbey and dance around it, painted with woad and howling.”