Downton Abbey, episode 8

Hello, my dearest readers. So sorry to have abandoned you last week, but I was overwhelmed with deadlines and unable to make our usual Downton Abbey appointment.

Here’s what we missed:

  • LG was called to America to help get Cora’s brother out of hot water.
  • Isobel nursed an ill Violet back to health, which deepened their friendship.
  • Mary flopped around in pig filth with Mr. Blake, which means that in some countries they’re married.
  • Tony “Lord” Gillingham came back to Downton with his evil rapist valet, whom Mrs. Hughes confronted about his evil raping ways. Of course he denies it, and Anna is deeply uncomfortable.
  • Aunt Rosamund smells a rat re: Edith, and says, “you seem so préoccupé lately.” (That’s French for “rich people’s affectation.”) Edith spills the beans, goes to get an abortion, but changes her mind.

Got it? Good. Let’s proceed with Part 8. This is a pretty juicy episode, being the season finale of sorts, so strap in. [Well, the “Christmas special” is technically the season finale, but that is typically a standalone episode.]


Turns out Cora’s brother has gotten embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal. Turns out Mr. Levinson owns one of the companies caught paying bribes to Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall to drill for oil on government land in Teapot Dome, Wyoming. Thanks, Downton Abbey, for this American history lesson! This, of course, leaves Cora to plan the church bazaar without LG’s help. Because I’m sure he’s always a huge help in every way.

Tony "Lord" Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Tony “Lord” Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Mr. Blake, with whom Mary is much more comfortable now that they’ve thrown pig shit into each other’s faces, has reached the end of his study time in Yorkshire and is headed home. And just so that we don’t forget that this is a soap opera to its very core, Mary tells Anna that Tony “Lord” Gillingham is returning to Downton to break his journey home. When Anna turns green around the gills, she’s forced to tell Mary that it was Mr. Green, the valet, who attacked her. Mary is understandably shocked and wants to tell the police, but Anna’s hell-bent for leather to keep it under wraps, and keep Bates away from Green because she knows he’ll figure it out, kill Green, then get himself hanged. Yes. We know this. You tell us this every episode since it happened. WE GET IT. (P.S. Bates can totally tell that something happened with Mr. Green, because Anna no longer jokes and laughs with him when he’s around.) (P.P.S. Tony tells Mary he plans to call off his engagement, but Mary tells him that she’s not on the market, for realsies.) Later on, Mary decides to tell Tony to dismiss his valet so that Green can’t terrorize Anna at Downton on future visits. Tony later arrives at the bazaar to report that Mr. Green is dead, having fallen into traffic in Piccadilly.

Related: Bates takes a mystery day off while Anna is in London with Mary.

Ivy receives a letter from Alfred reporting that his dad’s died and also inviting her to a.) marry him and b.) leave Downton and join him in London. She does not want. Despite sending him a letter to this effect, he plans to come to Downton anyway. Mrs. Patmore takes this opportunity to let Daisy take the day off to go see Mr. Mason, who advises Daisy to say goodbye to Alfred. “Leave nothing jagged, nothing harsh between you,” he says. Aw, he’s salt of the earth, that Mr. Mason. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, JULIAN FELLOWES. She brings back a basket of goodies for Alfred, and promises lifelong friendship to him. He leaves and dear god I’m glad to see the back of him and this tortured storyline.

On a trip into Thirsk, Branson spies Rose having tea with and stroking the face of Jack the Black American Jazz Singer. He reckons this situation will make some people unhappy. (The narrative also presents him with a potential love interest-philosophical sparring partner in Sarah Bunting, a local schoolteacher whom he met at a political meeting in the previous episode.) Anyhoo, he tells Mary what he saw; Mary confronts Rose about it and warns her not to lose control of her life. Rose fancies herself progressive and anti-imperialist in that she plans to marry Jack and have lots of progressive mixed-race babies in 1920s England and is going to tell Mummy of her plans straight away. Yep, totally in control of her life, that one. She later tells Mary that she’s engaged to Jack. Mary goes to visit Jack in London, where he tells her that he plans to break off the relationship because he is realistic about the world they live in.


Meanwhile, Edith reckons she can have her baby, then adopt it out to some tenant farmers at Downton who have been trying unsuccessfully to have a child (and who are also charged with the running of the new pig operation). Aunt Rosamund thinks this is reckless and reckons Edith should have the baby abroad and adopt it out there, but Edith wants to be a part of its growing up. This gives rise to a rather hilarious scene in which Rosamund says to Cora, “I have this plan. I’ve always wanted to … speak better … French than I do. [Ha! Because her daily speech isn’t affected enough!] So I thought I’d take a few months off and go to … Switzerland … and really learn it.” She’s totally making this up on the fly, a la Jan Brady and her boyfriend George Glass.

She wants to take Edith with her because it’s cleaner than France, is void of French people, and has good hospitals. You know, in case they get ill. Cora, such a sanguine lady, is all for it, exclaiming, “Golly! Life is full of surprises!” If she suspects anything, she masks it well. Violet compares Edith’s upcoming sabbatical to Lord Gillingham “thinking his way around the Highlands.” If only it were that simple for women. (P.S. Violet totally groks what’s up with Edith and calls her and Rosamund on it at lunch. Sharp old lady is sharp.)

Speaking of women, as Mr. Baxter, Evelyn Whatsis, and Tony “Lord” Gillingham all depart from Downton, the women (Mary, Rosamund, Edith, Cora, and Rose) are lined up outside to see them off. You see that the women’s color palette is shifting from purples and mauves to shades of blue, gray, and pewter accented with creams and browns. I’m not sure if the costume designers are making these choices a la Vince Gilligan and Breaking Bad, but it is noticeable and I’m hoping someone somewhere will write a think piece about it. Anyhoo, the ladies tease Mary about the carful of suitors driving away, calling it a “desire of suitors.” Har-dee-har-har, says Mary, plus whatever the genteel version of “go eff yourselves” is.

Isobel is invited by Violet to stand in for the family at luncheon with Lord Merton, who seems interested in her. He later sends her a magnificent bouquet of flowers, and the two old-lady friends have a bit of a giggle over it. (But is Violet a wee bit jealous? Surely not.)


LG returns from America just in time to enjoy the bazaar. BECAUSE OF COURSE. Mr. Baxter also comes to the bazaar, under the pretense of just having come from a conference nearby, in order to make his feelings for Mary known. He, too, vows to fight for Mary’s love, which means that season 5 will invariably feature a cage match between him and Tony “Lord” Gillingham. (My money’s on Tony, mostly because he way sexier than Blake.) Tony asks Blake for a ride home to London, Mary sees them off, and LG  says, “What sort of menage has that turned into since I’ve been away?” Everyone shrugs disingenuously and we’re done here.

See you next time for the “Christmas special,” which features the triumphant return of Shirley Maclaine with bonus Paul Giamatti! Yay!

Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who enters the room saying, “It’s only me.”: “I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self-worth.” To Edith, discussing the trip to Switzerland: “Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation, and one can learn to live without that.” Of Rosamund’s plan to act as Edith’s patron during her baby-having sojourn: “She’s done quite enough as it is. Take any more, and she’ll start exacting annual tribute.”

Downton Abbey: “Come to bed and dream of Ragtime”

Here it is, folks, the most boring episode of Downton Abbey that ever bored us. Onward through the slog, shall we?


Did someone say toast?

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. 


Nothing bad can come of this.

Cousin 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.”


Downton Abbey: The Holy and the Broken


Don’t worry, Anna. You’ll feel better before the hour is up.

You guys, I can’t even with this Anna’s Rape storyline, so let’s get it out of the way up front, shall we? Bates wants to know what’s gone wrong between them, and Anna continues to shut him out. He overhears Mrs. Hughes telling Anna that she needs to be honest with him, so he goes to Mrs. Hughes and offers her an ultimatum: tell me what’s up or I’m peacing out. Mrs. Hughes knows this would devastate Anna, so she spills the details, but pretends not to know the identity of Anna’s assailant. Once he finds out, he tells Anna that she’s found out. “But I’m spoiled for you now,” Anna weeps. Quite to the contrary, says Bates, “you are made higher to me and holier for the suffering you have been put through.” Oh, sweet fancy Moses, are you kidding me with this? What actor in his right mind can utter these lines without decking the dope who wrote them? Over on Salon, Daniel D’Addario argues that Downton Abbey is, at its heart, a deeply conservative show in its portrayal of “benevolent rich people caring for servants.” This particular storyline reinforces that idea for me, in that Julian Fellowes chooses to portray the servants as so noble, so pure in their suffering; the peerage would be downright monsters not to make sure these poor rubes are taken care of. Gah. 

Moving on, Miss Baxter, Cora’s new lady’s maid, is ingratiating herself nicely with the family, serving Cora orange juice for breakfast and reporting that the staff speak highly of Sybil. She’s also making friends downstairs, wowing the youngsters with her newfangled sewing machine and repairing Mrs. Patmore’s torn apron in advance of a visit from Cora. She and Thomas clearly have a history, and we see that he’s using her as his ambassador of goodwill in the house in order to consolidate his power for an inevitable coup d’etat in which he challenges LG to a duel, wins, declares himself Thomas the Lord of Yorkshire, banishes everyone but Tom and Baby Sybbie to Siberia and begins a slow march of domination across the English countryside. Or something. 

Mary is getting on with the business of running Downton with Tom and LG and receives notice that Tony “Lord” Gillingham has, as he said he would, gotten engaged to Mabel Fox, the heiress of the season. She seems unruffled, but we see when she turns away that she is stricken by the news.  Mr. Evelyn Napier, whom you might remember as Mary’s suitor from the first season (he’s the one who brought the doomed Mr. Pamuk to Downton), pops by for a visit while in Yorkshire working on a government project regarding the rural, postwar economy. Mary is quite glad indeed to see him, and Crawleys invite him to stay a while so that Mary can have a another melodramatic love plot. 

Aflred takes his cooking test at the Ritz, much to Daisy’s chagrin. While he’s away, Carson offers Poor Molesley Alfred’s job, should it come open. Poor Molesley, in a fit of hubris, gets a bit puffed up in a “don’t do me any favors, bro” kind of way. Naturally, Alfred doesn’t get in to the newly formed Escoffier school, setting the stage for an awkward encounter in which Molesley accepts a job that is no longer available. Yawn. 

Edith goes to the doctor in London, probably to get a mole checked out. Rose will help Cora throw LG a birthday party in a few weeks. Zzzzzzzz.  

I’ve lost track of the Dowager Countess Zinger Count, because every scene she had with Isobel this week was a series of parries and ripostes, meant to signify that Isobel is emerging from her own vale of shadows, post-Matthew.

Downton Abbey: Let’s talk about sex, darling

This week’s Downton Abbey is interested in the women, both upstairs and downstairs. There is soapy deliciousness and infuriating capitulation to tired tropes — something for everyone?


The angel in the house.

It’s the morning after the rape and tragic Anna goes up to the big house alone, freezing out Mr. Bates at every turn. Bates, who is not a dummy, knows that something is up, but can’t put his finger on it. Anna tells him she just needs space, that they’re in each other’s pockets, living and working together. To that end, Anna asks Mrs. Hughes if she can move up to the big house because she can’t even look at Bates — she thinks she’s soiled and damaged goods, and probably brought her rape upon herself (ugh). Mrs. Hughes asks what will happen if Anna winds up pregnant, and Anna says she’ll kill herself (double ugh). She refuses to consider telling the police because she knows Bates will surely murder Mr. Green and it’s better he have a broken heart than a broken neck (triple shot no-foam four pumps of give-me-a-break because way to believe in your husband, lady!). 

Meanwhile, Edna wants to make sure that Branson will marry her if she winds up in the family way after getting him drunk and seducing him. I don’t understand this approach. When I was in high school, there was a girl who faked a pregnancy in order to get her guy to marry him, which he was totally willing to do until he found out there was no baby. Then he hated her forever. And that’s the moral of the story: don’t fake pregnancies or even talk about maybe being pregnant if you want the object of your affections to reciprocate. I’m just not sure of Edna’s end game here, other than that she’s a garbage person who wants to elevate her station in life. Anyhoo, Mrs. Hughes, who is basically the hero of the dual-rape storylines, discovers Edna’s copy of Marie Stopes’ Married Love, which is an early birth-control text, in addition to a handbook for sexual pleasure within the marital context. (If you’re interested in how birth control changed the way women viewed their sexuality, you should totally read When Sex Changed.) Mrs. Hughes kicks Edna to the curb, and thank god we’re shot of this terrible, terrible character and story arc.

The juxtaposition of these two story lines is straight-up maddening. While I think it’s interesting that Julian Fellowes chose to portray the rape of a man alongside that of a woman, but the way he’s chosen to handle it is so cheap and one-dimensional. On the one hand, you have a woman who’s a victim of sexual assault but uses what limited agency she has as a way to intensify her own suffering and to make her husband suffer as well out of some misguided attempt to protect her him. On the other hand, you have a woman who perpetrates a sexual assault on a man and is totally brazen about it, using her agency in a wrongheaded attempt to elevate her social class. Because that’s what this is about — these are women of a certain class position who have limited access to the protective structures available to the women they loyally serve, and the difficult choices they have to make in their vulnerable positions. I thought that Fellowes explored the issue of women’s sexuality and socioeconomic class quite beautifully in the Ethel story line, but here he’s just gone for the tawdry, low-hanging fruit in the form of an angel and a viper. Like I said last week, this is straight-up laziness. 

Speaking of women and sex, Aunt Rosamund is not well pleased with Edith for her 6am walk of shame. Yep, she and Gregson did the deed — after he gave her power of attorney over his estate on the eve of his departure to Germany. So, at least she’ll have a safety net should she find herself knocked up. 

(Gee, I wonder which of these three women will find herself pregnant this season.)


Seriously, how could you turn this guy down?

And then, the bombshell: TonyLord” Gillingham cuts to the chase and proposes to Mary after just a few days of being reacquainted. I suppose that back then, going out to “a night club” and dancing to “jazz” is tantamount to swearing an oath of undying love. I’ll admit: I loved this so much. It’s so outrageous and ridiculous and precisely what a soap opera should be.  Anyhoo, she turns him down, explaining that she simply isn’t free of Matthew yet and doesn’t want to be.  and Michelle Dockery plays Mary’s shock and confusion and longing for Matthew so beautifully, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this storyline. I really hope these two crazy kids can make it work — they have really beautiful chemistry. 

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Daisy makes a choice out of jealousy that pushes Alfred to pursue studying at the newly formed Escoffier school in London. Mrs. Patmore reckons it’ll be for the best because, “you can spend too long on a one-sided love.” Thomas enjoys his fly-on-the-wall activities, watching smugly as Edna goes down in flames. Apparently, he’s got a candidate in mind for Edna’s replacement. I’m sure nothing but good things will come of that. Mrs. Hughes gives Carson a frame for his picture of Alice because … well, that’s just weird. I wish these two would kiss already. 

Dowager Countess Zinger Count: 10ish (the zingers were a little light on the ground this week). To Isobel, “If we only had moral thoughts, what would the poor churchmen find to do?”; To LG, who is dressed somewhat down for dinner (black tie instead of white): “Why are you in your rompers?”

Downton Abbey recap: Season 4, Episode 2

Welcome back to another episode of Downton Abbey, now with more DOG BUTT .

It’s a house party, y’all, which means all the storylines, old and new, converge on Downton along with a cadre of opera singers, card sharps, sexy young lords, and friendly rapists.

How the Granthams party.

How the Granthams party.

Mary: Antony Foyle, otherwise known as the young Lord Gillingham, has been invited. Despite the fact that he is engaged to “the greatest heiress of the season,” there is a palpable chemistry between them. He’s dark and dashing and is a giver of good advice to Mary regarding the tax bill, suggesting that she meet with the tax people and making the best deal she can in order to keep the estate intact. But then she gets a sad when she sees Matthew’s gramophone, which Rose has unearthed from the attic. Back up into her mourning cave she goes, if only for one night.

Edith: Promises that Michael Gregson will get to know LG better during the house party, but can only watch in dismay as LG gives Gregson the cold shoulder. It’s only when Gregson outsmarts Mr. Samson, a card sharp who has been gleefully separating the men of the party from their money, that LG warms to him. We get a whiff that Gregson is maybe not the most honorable man on the planet but, you know, he’s Edith’s boyfriend so I’m sure everything will work out just fine.

Poor Molesley: Jimmy hurts his wrist showing off for Ivy and is unable to serve at dinner, so Carson calls Poor Molesley, who has been working as a delivery boy for the grocer, to fill in as footman. “I’ve got me career backwards,” bemoans an aggrieved PM, while also acknowledging that he can’t be a choosy beggar.

Nothing good can come of this.

Nothing good can come of this.

Branson: Tom is also experiencing an intense identity crisis, from his discomfort with the white tie formal attire to committing a faux pas by accidentally addressing a duchess as “Your Grace” instead of “Duchess,” only to turn around and be scolded by Thomas for addressing him by his first name rather than as Barrow. He’s a fish out of water and feels like a fool. He’s low-hanging fruit indeed for Edna.

The Edna problem: Not only is she quite big for her britches, telling Mrs. Hughes she might not have time to tend to the maid-less Lady Raven, but she’s back to trying to get her claws into Branson. She does this primarily through preying on his impostor-syndrome anxieties and also through giant tumblers of whiskey that may or may not be roofied. It’s unclear exactly what’s going on when she enters an upstairs bedroom, whispering “are you still awake?” but it’s certainly nothing good, considering it’s Edna we’re talking about.

Anna: Our affable downstairs heroine strikes up a passing friendship with Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green, which doesn’t sit well with Bates, who smells a rat, but maybe he’s just jealous because Mr. Green is quite flirtatious with Anna. But no, he’s pretty much a rat. While just about every still-living character from the show listens to Dame Nellie sing Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” — an ode to love — Anna repairs downstairs for some headache powder and encounters Mr. Green, who violently beats and rapes her. Afterwards, she hides in Mrs. Hughes’ room, explaining to the housekeeper that Bates mustn’t know because he’ll certainly murder the culprit. When it’s time to go home, she tells Bates she wants to walk alone. Oh, this doesn’t bode well for their fairytale relationship.

Quite frankly, Julian Fellowes’ use of this tired soap-opera trope is straight-up lazy. He’s proven he can elevate the genre, so why fall back on the same-old devices? Boo.

Odds and sods: We learn that the guest rooms in Downton have names like “the Portnoy,” “the Chinese,” “Princess Amelia,” and that despite his own rather low class status, Carson is as classist as his boss, tutting over the fact that Lady Raven has no maid and lives in an old house “north of the park.” He also gets in hot water with Cora and LG for arranging for Dame Nellie Melba (played by real-life world-famous opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa), the world-famous opera singer, to have dinner in her room as opposed to rightfully acknowledging her status as an honored guest and arranging for her to dine with the rest of the party. Meanwhile, Mrs Patmore, who apparently has never cooked for a large party during her long tenure at Downton Abbey, is freaking out and has an anxiety attack, allowing Alfred to step in and prepare the sauces for the meal. Alfred later confesses that cooking is what he wants to do, an interesting inversion of the gendered labor roles in this particular universe. Some of the fetishistic detail of upper-class life reappears, in the form of staff measuring the distance between the chairs and the dining-room table. More of this, please, and less rapey bullshit.

Dowager Countess Zinger Count: 8. To Branson: “If I were to search for logic, I should not search for it among the English upper class.” To Mary: “Don’t use me as an excuse. If you don’t want to dance, tell him.” “You can always rely on Puccini,” to Isobel, who replies that she prefers Bartók. “You would.”


Downton Abbey season premiere, part two

(Reblogged at the Austin Chronicle Screens blog)

The second half of Sunday’s Downton Abbey premiere was actually episode two for the season, but ties up and/or carries through many of the plot lines from the first episode. Picking up where the first half left off, seemingly the morning after Cora shit-canned Nanny West for abusing Sybbie. Cora praises Thomas in front of LG for alerting her to his concerns about the Nanny. (Which we all know was not coming from a place of good intentions because Thomas.) “I just had a hunch that she wasn’t quite all Sir Garnet,” he smirks smugly. We’ll come to realize that now that he’s got Cora’s ear, shenanigans will ensue.


Lady Mary is masterful in mauve

The bulk of the episode centers on Mary’s post-Matthew life. Clad in an elegant mauve dress, she arrives at the tenants’ luncheon, where Branson gives up his seat so that she may take her rightful place at the table, which becomes a through-line for this episode’s plot. A box arrives from Matthew’s office, including a letter he had written before their holiday trip to Scotland. The letter states that he intends Mary to be his sole heiress and that he will have a will drawn up before the baby is born.

Now the question is to whether the letter is legally binding. In the meantime, Mary expresses an interest in taking on a more involved role in managing the estate and LG very obnoxiously smacks her down — at dinner, no less — attempting to put the ignorant little lady in her place. Violet correctly assumes, and says as much, that LG hopes that the letter isn’t valid because heaven forfend he have to share control of the estate with a woman.

Violet suggests to Branson and Mary that the former instruct Mary in the daily running of the estate, necessarily behind curmudgeonly LG’s back. This turns out to be a good plan, as word comes back that Matthew’s letter is legally binding and Mary owns half the estate. Let’s all brace ourselves for a protracted power struggle between Mary and LG, especially over how to pay the death duties. As Branson astutely puts it, “You won’t keep her quiet, not now that the bit’s between her teeth.” Ah, the woman-as-horse metaphor. Gotta love it.

Edith: Clad in a hideous red and black dress (she seems committed to deviating from the purple color palette of Downton Abbey when she’s in London), Edith reckons Mr. Gregson needs to meet the family, the rationale being that he’s “nearly German and nearly divorced.” Before catching the 3:00 train, she invites Mr. Gregson to an upcoming house party, and also finds it increasingly difficult to decline his invitations to “stay a little longer,” if you know what I mean. (She later arrives late for dinner, which makes me wonder whether she actually did stay for a little afternoon delight with Mr. Gregson.)


Ugh. This lady.

The Edna Problem: Anna spies Edna and Thomas chatting in the hall and advises the former to keep her distance from Edna. Honey Badger Edna don’t give a dang. Edna ruins a blouse of Cora’s, and Thomas helps her out by cooking up a story that Anna was the culprit and was bullying Edna out of jealousy because she’d been hired into a more senior position. Ugh, why are they basically making Edna’s character into O’Brien 2.0? That’s not interesting.

The Charlies: Carson is still not interested in having anything to do with Charlie Grigg, who is still under Isobel’s care. Isobel manages to get Mr. Grigg a position as a stage door keeper at the opera house in Belfast. Turns out that Carson had been in love with a woman named Alice who broke his heart. Mrs. Hughes, who found out that Alice had left Carson for Mr. Grigg, reckons Carson should make his peace with Mr. Grigg so that he’s not walking around with an open wound. This must have hit home, because Carson arrives at the train station to see off Mr. Grigg, who informs Carson that Alice is five-years dead, but had professed her preference for Carson and had been a fool to leave him. The Charlies part as friends.

Poor Molesley: Anna spots Poor Molesley working as a blacktopper. He confesses that he owes money all over town, to the tune of 15 to 20 pounds. This upsets Anna deeply, and she says as much to Mr. Bates. Bates approaches Violet and asks her for money for Poor Molesley, then forges Poor Molesley’s signature onto a fake promissory note. At tea later that evening, Mr. Bates “repays” a befuddled Poor Molesley 30 pounds, which pleases Anna but also confuses her.


Bored Lady Rose is bored.

Cousin Oliver Lady Rose: Lady Rose wants to go to a thé dansant in York and asks Anna to accompany her. They go, Rose pretends to be a housemaid and attracts the attention of Sam, an under-gardener from a nearby estate. Ugh. Boring. We get it, Rose is a rulebreaker, y’all.

Dowager Countess Zinger Count: 3. To LG: “When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper!” To Bates, when he refers to Poor Molesley as Mr. Molesley the Younger: “You make him sound like a Greek philosopher.” To Mary and Branson, when she’s told that she still must refer to Branson as Tom: “I see I’m beaten, but oh how I sympathize with King Canute.”

Downton Abbey recap! Episode 1

(Programming note: If you want to see this with prettier pictures and having been edited a bit, please visit the Austin Chronicle‘s screens blog.)

When we left our beloved Downton, Matthew had just perished in a car accident, leaving behind Mary and newborn son George. As such, the opening moments of season 4 of Downton Abbey are cold, dark, and melancholy.


Someone’s packing, leaving notes on a mantelpiece. Meanwhile, a baby cries as a nanny bustles down the night-darkened hall. Mary lies in bed, awake. The dark figure exits the Abbey quickly, suitcases in hand.

The title card appears over a shot of a misty morning at Downton Abbey. Where is my beloved DOG BUTT? That is a damn shame. I hope the traditional title sequence isn’t gone for good.

Mary is sitting on the edge of her bed, not doing anything. Anna goes to an empty room in the servants’ quarters, switches on the lights, and discovers the two notes on the mantlepiece. It appears O’Brien has exited stage left. The household staff does the 1922 version of #obrienpeacedout, gossiping in the foyer and halls.

Lady Grantham is shocked, but Lord Grantham isn’t. “Sneaking out like a thief in the night. Fits O’Brien to a T,” he grumps. [I grew up a church kid and it always makes me giggle when people are described this way, because it’s the way the bible describes Jesus’ return. So, in my feeble brain, O’Brien = Jesus in this scenario. Which I’m sure she’d appreciate.] Cora is pissed because Lady Flintshire ganked her lady’s maid. Edith thinks it’s disgraceful, too. Boo-hoo. Your servant is now someone else’s servant.

Mary stares glumly out the window, as Anna offers her a purple shawl to wear on a potentially chilly walk. Mary wants the black one, as she’s committed to her widow’s weeds. Nanny brings in baby George and wants to know whether Mary would like to join them for a walk. Mary says no, kisses her son and says, “poor little orphan.” Nanny leaves and Anna says, “he’s not an orphan, he’s got his mother.” (Technically.) “He’s not poor either, come to that,” Mary replies. Sheesh, lady. Emotional vampire much?

Violet approaches Poor Molesley’s father (who I believe is the groundskeeper) outside; they exposition that it’s been six months since Matthew’s death. Also, Poor Molesley, who was Matthew’s valet, has been unable to find new employment. Out front, Thomas greets Sybbie in her stroller, sparking a power struggle between himself and Nanny West, who doesn’t want him touching the children without her permission.

Branson and LG are walking the estate. Seems they owe taxes on Matthew’s death and LG wants to sell off land to pay it off. Because the way he ran the estate was going so well before Matthew took over. If nothing else, this episode reinforces what an arrogant boob LG is. Also, we are told through exposition that because Matthew died without a will, Mary has a one-sixth interest in the estate, while Baby George owns the rest of one half, making him majority co-owner with LG.

Carson tells Poor Molesley that the gravy train is up and he’s got to hit the bricks. Meanwhile, Edith is going up to London to see Michael Gregson, Cora is supportive and LG is not (shocker!). 

Lady Rose (Lady Flintshire’s daughter) wants to advertise in the town for a new lady’s maid for Cora because she has a guilty conscience. Edith visits Isobel, who is in the same fog of grief as Mary. “You see, when your only child dies, you’re not a mother anymore. You’re not anything, really. That’s what I’m trying to get used to.” Oy vey. Do you not have any books?

Carson gets a letter that makes him grumpy, which piques Mrs. Hughes’ curiosity. She plucks the letter out of the wastebasket after he leaves the room. (This storyline reinforces my notion that Mrs. Hughes loves Mr. Carson, but I’m too lazy to write any slash fiction about it.)

We see in the post office that Edna Braithwaite (the housemaid who tried to seduce a recently widowed Branson in the 2012 Christmas special) would like to respond to the advert for a lady’s maid (who needs to be good at doing hair, apparently). Nothing good will come of this.

It’s Valentine’s Day, which gives us an opportunity to revisit that ridiculous love rectangle of Jimmy-Ivy-Alfred-Daisy. Ivy and Daisy both receive anonymous cards — who sent one to whom?!? We may never know. (J/K we’ll totally know in a few minutes.)

Mary skulks down the stairs in black, as Edith ascends, reading her Valentine’s Day card (Edith’s card is like four times the size of the servants’ cards because rich people). The exchange between the two sisters is awkward, and Michelle Dockery’s version of playing grief is, basically, to be as wooden as possible and stare off into the middle distance always. No eye contact for widows, no sirree! She and Edward Cullen should hang out.

Mrs. Hughes visits a workhouse and finds Charlie Grigg (you’ll remember him from the first season as Carson’s former partner in the song-and-dance business who tried to shake Carson down for money). He’s in a bad way and has reached out to Carson, who is “very busy,” for help.

Edith arrives in London, where Michael tells her he can get a divorce in Germany. Does she want to come with? Because that’s a great idea, given Germany’s world reputation post-WWI.

Violet is visiting Isobel and they’re talking about Isobel’s lack of purpose in life. Poor Molesley arrives and asks for his old job back, but Isobel demurs, claiming that she doesn’t need a butler as, “these days, I’m just an old widow who eats off a tray.” “Just because you’re an old widow, I see no necessity to eat off a tray,” Violet retorts. (And there’s our Dowager Countess Zinger Count initiated: 1) Violet has now taken it as her project to help Poor Molesley out.

Mr. Carson is mad at Mrs. Hughes for reaching out to Mr. Griggs. An electric mixer has arrived in the kitchen downstairs. Daisy and Ivy are excited about it, but Mrs. Patmore worries that gadgets like these will soon make her redundant. More twittering about the Mystery of the Anonymous Valentines. NO ONE CARES, Y’ALL.

Another battle between Thomas and Nanny West. Exposition about interviewing Edna for the lady’s maid position — they’re interviewing her in Ripon because she can’t get away due to caring for an aunt. Branson wants Mary to take an interest in something, while LG thinks she should focus on feeling better. Yes, because marinating in your misery is just the ticket to recovery, you paternalistic boob.

Mrs. Hughes wants Isobel to take in Mr. Grigg. At first Isobel resists, saying that she’s not strong enough in her present state. Mrs. Hughes cuts her off, saying, “But you are. If you could just set aside your grief and use that strength for another’s good.” And that’s Isobel’s lightbulb moment.

Similarly, Branson approaches Carson to help bring Mary back into her life. Meanwhile, Daisy is making a mousse with the new mixer. Mrs. Patmore instructs her to make a soup to have on standby in case it doesn’t work out. More turf wars between Thomas and Nanny. Carson approaches Mary. Thomas, up to his old manipulative shenanigans, puts a bug in Cora’s ear about Nanny West, planting a seed of concern that she’s neglecting the children. Cut back to Mary’s room, Mary is going all ice queen on Carson, telling him he’s overstepped the mark in approaching her about working with Branson to run the estate.

At dinner, a discussion of whether Mary should attend the tenants’ luncheon becomes the linchpin for her to melt down over Matthew’s death and her reluctance to come out of her grief-cave. She leaves the table in a strop (and rightly so, really, because the family kind of did a group sticky-beak into her business, even if it was well-intentioned). Violet shuts down further conversation about private family matters in front of the servants by complimenting the mousse. “I suppose [Mrs. Patmore] hasn’t bought it in,” jokes Cora. Oh, irony! We haz it.

Poor Molesley is having an existential crisis. His dad gives him a pep talk. And because the upstairs folk are JUST LIKE the downstairs folk, Violet pops into Mary’s room to give her a pep talk. Mary worries that all the good that Matthew saw in her was only in his imagination. Violet says, “you have a straightforward choice in front of you. You must choose either death or life.” Violet thinks Mary should choose life, then gives her a gentry-style hug (which translates into an arm awkwardly draped across a shoulder).

Mrs. Hughes tells Mr. Carson that Isobel is taking in Mr. Grigg, because it’s the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it. Violet and LG talk in the foyer, LG crapping on paternalistically about how it is their job to keep her safe from the world. Violet disagrees, stating that it is their job to bring her back to the world. “While I will overlook Mary’s poor judgement, I find it hard to overlook yours. GOOD DAY SIR.”

Oh, and she wants Edith to come to luncheon on Friday to help make things a success. “We are selling Poor Molesley to Lady Shackleton,” she explains. “As a servant?” Cora asks [HERE’S THE SETUP, FOLKS!]. Violet pauses. “No … as a Chinese laundryman.” Zing! (Dowager Countess Zinger Count: 2)

Jimmy got Ivy drunk at the pub. Mr. Carson and Isobel talk about how she’s taking in Mr. Grigg — seems she’s a bit perkier to have gotten in touch with something beyond her grief. Lady’s got a purpose now! Hooray!

Cora interviews Edna, and offers her the job, particularly on the strength of a glowing recommendation from Mrs. Hughes from her days as a housemaid at Downton. “But what about your aunt?” Cora asks. “My aunt?” asks Edna, forgetting her lie. She didn’t want to do the interview at Downton because she knew Branson and Mrs. Hughes would kibosh the prospect. RED FLAG, CORA. Oh, never mind. Cora’s not the sharpest knife, is she?

Violet’s butler is threatened by Poor Molesley’s presence at luncheon, and is a hilariously genteel boor, menacing Poor Molesley through clenched teeth. He, of course, sabotages Molesley during the luncheon, providing some comic relief in an otherwise bleak episode.


Edith is back in London and meets Mr. Gregson at the Criterion wearing a dress that is decidedly va-va-va-voom (and therefore un-Edith-like). The strapless bodice is beaded to suggest a peacock, while the flowing green chiffon skirt has a slit up to the knee. Her hair is folded into soft finger curls — the stylists are deftly communicating Edith’s evolution into a modern woman with this look. Please also note that this is a break from the purple color palette worn by the upstairs women at Downton Abbey. To hit this point home, she says, “It feels so wild, being out with a man, drinking and dining in a smart London restaurant. Can you imagine being allowed to do anything of the sort five years ago, never mind ten?” Apparently, it wasn’t done for ladies of a certain status to eat in public in the fin-de-siecle. Interesting.

Gregson can get a divorce in Germany. “You’d join the most hated race in Germany for me?” says <strike>Jan</strike> Edith. Gregson reckons he’d become an Eskimo in order to marry Edith. This calls for a kiss! In public! SCANDAL!

Mrs. Hughes is shocked to learn that Edna has been hired on as lady’s maid, but can’t be forthright with Cora about why it’s not a good idea. Cora isn’t impressed. Daisy dithers about the Valentine’s Day card to Mrs. Patmore (seriously, how long has it been since Valentine’s at this point?). Mrs. P makes Alfred confess to Daisy that he sent Ivy a card, and Daisy is confused about who sent her her card. Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that she sent her the card because she didn’t want her to be left out. D’awwww. “I might not have a follower, but at least I’ve got a friend,” replies Daisy. D’AWWWWWWWW.

Branson, Mrs. Hughes, and Branson discuss The Edna Problem. They determine that there’s nothing they can do but keep an eye on her. Sure. We’ll go with that. Also, O’Brien’s departure has left Thomas without a foil, which deprives the plot of its soap opera machinations.

Cora takes the opportunity to lurk in the hall and watch Nanny West, observing her fawning over Baby George, who is fussing. “There, there, my precious boy. Don’t let that chauffeur’s daughter disturb you any more.” Then, hissing at Sybbie, who is cowering in her corner crib, “Go back to sleep, you wicked little cross-breed.” GAME OVER. Cora storms the castle, ringing for Mrs. Hughes, dropping some ice-cold real talk on Nanny West: “I want you to pack tonight and leave first thing in the morning. Please put Master George back in his crib. You are not to touch the children again.” Mrs. Hughes arrives, confused. Cora, the portrait of chilly patrician rage, explains that Nanny West is leaving in the morning and could you please find her a maid to sleep with the children and a bed for Nanny West? “Your values have no place in a civilized home,” she seethes to the nanny. Mrs. Hughes, god love her, is utterly gobsmacked.

Mary and LG talk a bit about Edith’s relationship with Mr. Gregson. “Is it serious?” LG asks. “He’s not bad looking, and he’s still alive, which puts him two points ahead of most men of our generation,” replies Mary. She asks if she’s wanted at the tenants’ luncheon, but LG doesn’t think it’s necessary, because he wants to manage things in his own way. Here’s where you can see a little crocus poking through the frost of Mary’s soul. She starts to head up to bed, but instead goes to see Carson and apologizes for shutting him down when he was trying to help. Mary says she’s spent too long in the land of the dead, then collapses in tears and has a good cry in Carson’s arms. Finally some real acting from Michelle Dockery. Carson says that Mary is strong enough to the task of what’s ahead, but Mary reckons LG doesn’t think so. Carson says Mary owes it to Matthew to see his vision through, and that he believes in her.

Mrs. Hughes hears a great crash from the kitchen. Mrs. Patmore is attempting to use the mixer, but has broken it in the process and is fretting mightily that her inability to use it means she’s stuck in the past. Mrs. Hughes dons an apron and helps her friend clean up the mess. “Who needs sleep?” We pan out on them gossiping about Nanny West, confessing that they never really liked her, and so on.

Okay, that’s it for episode one! Stay tuned for episode two!

Downton Abbey recap! Season 3, episode 5.

Previously on Downton Abbey: Isobel hired a hooker (to work as her maid/cook). Bates and Anna grokked Vera’s Evil Suicide Pie plan. Sybil had a baby girl. Sybil died. Violet sobbed raggedly. Cora blamed LG for Sybil’s death.

Dog butt.

Black-clad people depart from Downton Abbey. Matthew tells Tom that he and Mary want to help in any way they can. Tom, looking glazed and robotic (and, frankly, this is the first time I’ve noticed that he’s a Rather Handsome Man [TM]), says, “My wife is dead. I’m past help.” Weep weep weep. LG enters and tells Cora that some of their guests had been looking for her to say goodbye. Cora responds in a perfect blend of sweet curtness, “I was here,” then looks away. Isobel takes this as her cue to GTFO, as does Violet. LG offers that they stay for dinner, but Violet declines, saying, “Grief makes one so terribly tired.” (TRUTH. When my mom died, I slept forever. About a week after her funeral, I remember waking up one day long after Matt went to work, realizing it was noon and thinking, ah, fuck it and slept for another three hours.)

Violet advises Cora to try to get some rest, “now that it’s over.” “Is it over? When one loses a child, is it ever really over?” says Cora.

This calls for some Jeff Buckley.

Downstairs, Alfred mentions that grief seems to have given the upstairs folks a hearty appetite. “Tee hee,” titter some New Maids. “Ex-squeeze me?” says Carson, outraged at their cheek. Anna, ever the kind soul, explains to the New Maids that even the downstairs folk loved Sybil, so even though they’re the help, they’re sad too. Carson barks, “if you want to do well here, you should understand that without being told.” These kids today and their unwillingness to feel blind obeisance to their masters!

Actually, the conversation between Hughesy and Carson here is interesting. Carson: In the old days, their mothers would train them in the basics before they came to the Big House. Hughesy: Maybe their mothers don’t want them to go into service anymore. Carson: What are they supposed to become, bankers and lawyers? Hughesy: Why not? THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’. I think it’s cute that Hughesy thinks that the class system in Britain can be transcended; this moment is mostly meant to demonstrate that Carson remains an old fuddy duddy, while Hughes is optimistic and willing to change her attitudes with the times.

Thomas haz a sad. Jimmy says that Thomas’ sadness speaks well of him. Thomas gets touchy feely in response.


Isobel tells Ethel, who identifies with Cora in her loss of a child, that she wants to have Cora and “the girls” over for a luncheon to help them with their grief. Ethel says she can cook something special, giving Isobel a start. “Well, we don’t have to decide that just now,” she says, panicked.

Mary and Anna talk about Bates and I don’t care.

Cora reads in bed. LG comes in and asks to move back in. Nope, says Cora. LG defends his choice to listen to Tapsell, who has a reputation as an expert. Cora counters with the fact that Dr. Clarkson knew Sybil’s history and, as such, was an expert on Sybil. “You believed Tapsell because he is knighted and fashionable. … You let all that nonsense weigh against saving our daughter’s life, which is what I find so very hard to forgive.” Cora makes it clear in no uncertain terms that the blame for Sybil’s death lies solely on LG. LG peaces out.

At breakfast, Edith asks after Cora. LG has no reply. Tom enters, Carson hands him a plate, rather than making him fetch it himself. Mighty big of you, Carson. Tom envies the baby because she has no idea what’s going on. Tom says he’s not staying, he’ll look for a job. Edith and Matthew wonder what’s the rush, LG says that Tom needs to think of making a life for himself. Edith says it’s time to think of a christening and asks what Tom would like to call the baby. “Sybil,” is his response. NOT MAUDLIN AT ALL, DUDE. (Side note: isn’t Edith being so sweet and lovely?) Tom also announces that because the baby is Irish, she will be Catholic. LG throws up in his mouth a little [I’m sorry; I know that phrase is so tired, but I think it applies here] and peaces out.

Ethel runs into Mrs. P on the street and asks for help with the menu for the lunch party. Mrs. P explains that Carson has forbidden folks from the Big House to consort with her. Ethel says surely Mrs. P doesn’t think she will be corrupted. “Of course not!” declares Mrs. P. “Then why not show a little kindness?” says Ethel. Side note: it was made clear to me this week that calling Ethel an unnecessary plot device is not fair or accurate. Rather, she is a depiction of the invisible casualties of war in the early 20th century, women whose lives were ruined by dalliances with itinerant soldiers. So, I now sort of like this storyline, which maybe recuperates some of these women’s fates and gives their communities a chance to redeem themselves, too.

Bates walks in circles and I don’t care.

Mary tells LG that he needs to unclench on the Catholic thing; also, she disagrees that it’s ghoulish to call the baby Sybil.

Isobel tells Ethel to just get some ham in town and make a light salad for the ladies’ luncheon. Ethel wants to make an effort to show their sympathies; Isobel wants to play it safe.

Violet wants to know what LG’s plan is for baby Sybil, and also what’s up with Cora and warns him that “people like us are never unhappily married.” Then what, wonders LG. “In such a circumstances, the couple is unable to see each other as much as they’d like,” says Violet. “Or she could go to New York and visit That Woman.” LG can’t make sense of any of it. Violet puts on her mom hat: “My dearest boy, I seldom speak of the heart because it is rarely useful to do so, but I know well enough how painful it is when it is broken.”

Alfred and Ivy and Daisy enact their little love triangle. Mrs P busts up the party. Jimmy says that Ivy isn’t his type. O’Brien will probably use this statement to her advantage in trying to convince Thomas to make a real move on him; if Thomas makes a pass and Jimmy calls the cops, O’Brien is shot of Thomas AND has her revenge for starting the rumor that she was leaving Downton.

Mrs. P brings some recipes for Ethel and a shopping list. Ethel is dubious about making salmon mousse. “Anyone who has use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse,” says Mrs. P haughtily. God, I love her. Mrs. P, c’est moi.


Isobel invites Cora and “the girls” for luncheon. “Do I count as one of the girls,” asks Violet, previously unseen. Cora doesn’t want to come, fearing she’d bring her troubles with her. Mary and Matthew enter and Mary accepts the invitation.

Downstairs, we learn that Daisy is going to go visit Mr. Mason at the farm.

Upstairs, the youngsters grill Mr. Travis, who reckons there’s something “un-English about the Roman Church.” Tom’s response, being Irish: “and that’s a problem because …?” Travis has a problem with bells ‘n smells, and reckons it displeases God. Tom: So he’s displeased with the population of France and Italy? [And, uh, parts of England?] Edit: South America, Portugal? Mary: The Russians? The Spanish? Matthew: The non-Christians? The entire Indian subcontinent? Isobel: How about the British empire? [Some really fascinating troubling of British-Anglican national identity here, y’all.]

LG doesn’t think baby Sybil should be baptized into the wrong tribe. Mary reveals that Sybil wanted the baby to be Catholic. LG is flabbergasted. Cora says, “Not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett’s [a lifestyle guide for the peerage].” ZING!!!!

Downstairs, the staff discuss religion. Anna doesn’t want to talk about it.

Upstairs, Mary and Matthew discuss facing death and not taking things for granted. Matthew wants LG to see that he shouldn’t take Downton for granted. Mary says, “we should never take us for granted. Who knows what’s coming?” A giant anvil falls through the ceiling and lands at the foot of their bed. Matthew: “One thing I will take for granted, that I will love you until the last breath leaves my body.” Another anvil lands on top of the first one. Mary: “OMG, me too, darling. Totes.”

Boring stuff about Bates.

Ivy Alfred Jimmy love triangle + foxtrot.

Daisy arrives at Chez Mason. Mr. Mason wants to bequeath the farm to Daisy, who is dubious because she’s a cook and a woman and always thought she’d spend her life in service. Jaysus, Daisy, can you think outside the box for once? Do you want no good things to happen to you? Financial independence? Sheesh, I just want to shake her.

Violet tries to convince Clarkson to communicate to LG and Cora that there really was nothing to be done for Sybil, in the interest of their marriage.

Matthew consults with Tom about how best to make Downton more efficient, because “there’s a country boy inside the revolutionary.” These two are the future of Downton, I reckon, and it hinges on convincing Tom to stay there with the baby.

Ethel is grateful to Mrs. P for helping her with the luncheon. Carson sees Mrs. P leaving Crawley House.

Bates is boring.

Luncheon. Isobel is stressed because Ethel made real food, not ham and salad.


Carson confronts Mrs. P about her helping Ethel, against his strict instructions to give the place a wide berth. Hughesy takes up Mrs. P’s case. Carson is outraged and speechless that Mrs. P would allow a woman of the streets to wait on members of our family! Hughesy reckons he won’t be speechless for long.

Matthew: bad management! LG: fiddle dee dee, we’ll think about that tomorrow. Carson: LG, we need to talk, now.

At the luncheon, the ladies are pleasantly surprised by how tasty the food is. Edith reckons she should learn to cook, which brings up the topic of the column, which gives Cora the opportunity to state her position that LG makes decisions based on archaic values. Mary says that she and Matthew support Edith in her writing career. LG bursts in and, underscoring Cora’s point, insists that the ladies leave, because Ethel is a filthy whore and they are being exposed to scandal. Just then, Ethel brings in dessert and Cora says, “Oh, is that a Charlotte Russe? How delicious.” Ethel explains that Mrs. P helped her with it. “I’m glad to know that Mrs. Patmore has a good heart and does not judge,” says Cora, glaring at LG. LG really must insist that they leave at once, but Cora resists, and Violet wants some of that Charlotte Russe.


LG peaces out.

Bates walks in circles, boringly, then yanks his former cellmate out of the circle walking, holds a shiv to his neck and says, “don’t interfere in them finding me innocent or I’ll murderize ya, see?” Then he gets back in the circle and walks, boringly.

Carson and Hughesy discuss the luncheon scandal; Carson is miffed that none of the women left, while Hughesy sees it as a sign that the world is becoming a kinder place. Carson reckons it’s weakness and a lack of discipline. “Well, if the Dowager and Her Ladyship can visit Crawley House, I reckon you won’t mind if I do,” says Hughesy. Carson won’t forbid it, but he won’t like it. “But you disappoint me,” he says. “I didn’t think of you as a woman with no standards.” She shoots him a “ninja, please” look and departs.

Mary visits LG and asks how productive it was for him to throw a tantrum about Ethel at Crawley House; she reckons he’s just pissed because the world isn’t going his way. He’s also pissed that Matthew is taking over Downton, and also the christening. “I’m never against you, but you’ve lost on this one,” Mary says. She reminds LG that Sybil loved Tom very much and that they should honor her wishes as far as the baby goes. “I keep forgetting she’s gone,” says LG. “I’ll read something in the paper that would make her laugh. I come inside to tell her that her favorite rose is in bloom, and then suddenly…” Mary implores him to tell Cora that, but he doesn’t think she wants to hear it from him.

Mary and Matthew visit Tom and the baby in a totally stilted and awkward scene.


Poor Molesley is shocked that the ladies stayed at Crawley House after they learned that Ethel had cooked their lunch. “Even Jesus ate with Mary Magdalene,” Hughesy reminds him gently. “We’re not sure of that, but we know she washed his feet,” replies Poor Molesley. “Well, we’ll have to tell Ethel she’s in for a treat, then,” Hughesy shoots back.

Jimmy plays piano, Ivy gets busted for wearing rouge (Mrs. P calls her “Miss Hussy”!), Thomas gropes Jimmy some more. “He’s always touching me,” Jimmy complains to O’Brien. “I’m going to tell Carson. I’d tell the police if it got him to stop.” O’Brien excuses herself to fetch some linen … and to scheme. Daisy tells Jimmy that the music is nice, but it makes her sad because it makes her think of William.

O’Brien runs into Thomas in the hall and tells him that she thinks Jimmy has a crush on him. “Well, he’s got good taste,” says Thomas.

Alfred asks Daisy to teach him the foxtrot. Oh, Daisy. Don’t give your heart – or dance lessons – away.

Anna runs across the grounds to Mary and Edith (really?) to let them know that Mr. Bates will be released and will be home in a couple of weeks. Mary encourages Anna to let LG know to raise his spirits.

Cora brings a note from Violet inviting them over, but she hopes that it’s not a lecture on marital harmony. LG chuckles, then realizes that she wasn’t kidding. They’ll go, but not stay long. “You look lovely today,” says LG feebly. “Don’t try and flirt with me, dude,” says Cora. Awkward. Exeunt Cora. Anna bursts in with Mary and Edith to report that Bates is coming home. LG practically squees.

Jimmy interrupts Daisy and Alfred’s dance lesson and calls out Alfred on only trying to learn foxtrot to impress Ivy. He then takes Daisy in his arms to show him how it’s done. (Does Jimmy like Daisy?) Of course, Carson walks in and tears Jimmy a new one.


Cora and LG arrive at the Dowager’s house to find Dr. Clarkson waiting for them. Clarkson tells them that the chance of Sybil’s survival was “infinitesimal,” that eclampsia is almost always fatal, and that even if they’d done a C-section, she would have died and in great pain. LG and Cora embrace and cry, while Violet looks away discreetly. Poor Dr. Clarkson. Poor Cora.

The end.

Everyone’s Crying Forever: Downton Abbey recap (S. 3, Ep. 4)

Welcome to the saddest episode of Downton Abbey ever.


Sad dog butt.

Dr. Clarkson is checking on Sybil while Cora, Mary, and Ethel look on. He gives her the all clear, all are relieved. Dr. Clarkson explains to the menfolk, all standing in the hall with rumpled hair and clad in shiny robes, that the pains were simply “the womb preparing itself for birth.” LG, because he is apparently not a GROWN ASS MAN, turns a little greenish, prompting Cora to interject: “Dr. Clarkson, Lord Grantham doesn’t enjoy medical detail. Can we go back to bed?” Yes, all can go back to bed. LG informs Dr. C that Sir Philip Tapsell will be around in the morning. (My memory for details like this is not so great; Dr. C looks irritated by this information, which leads me to believe that there is a tension there. Anyone?)

Tom needs reassurance that nothing is wrong with Sybil. He narrowly misses being struck by the anvil that falls out of the sky and lands on the floor behind him. “Pshaw, Paddy,” says Dr. C. “She’s perfectly healthy and everything is PERFECTLY NORMAL I MEAN IT.”

Downstairs, baby talk. Or, rather, don’t talk about having babies at the dinner table. Oh That Thomas smirks lasciviously at The Mentalist Jimmy, while O’Brien looks on. Carson declares that Sybil is in a delicate condition, so everyone use your inside voices on the gallery. Meanwhile, Daisy is being a total bitch to Ivy, the new kitchen maid. U mad, Daisy?

Matthew kvetches about when to talk to LG about the mismanagement of the estate, and tells Mary that in order for them to enjoy Downton and for their kids to enjoy it, they have to be good stewards of it, which is not currently happening. Mary takes breakfast in bed; cut to Cora receiving breakfast in bed. Someone explain this breakfast in bed thing to me. Once you are a married woman, your legs stop working and you don’t have to shift your arse out of bed to lift some tea and toast to your exalted lips? Sitting in bed like a passive lump, waiting for a jangly tray filled with hot liquids and sticky things just waiting for me to spill them all over my skin and my sheets, just does not sound all that awesome. I mean, they didn’t even have Morning Joe back then, so what would they do? Just sit there alone and eat? How about a crossword puzzle? Words With Friends? You have to eat breakfast in isolation in your nightie while everyone else gets to go downstairs and have adult conversation? YO NO LO COMPRENDO.

Anyhoo. LG wants Sir Philip because he has doctored His ‘n Her Highnesses; Cora worries that Dr. C will be offended, and not to discount his expertise just because he misdiagnosed Matthew’s war injury. Oh, and he also totally missed the warning signs that Lavinia’s flu would take a turn for the deathy. Whatevs. The dead can’t sue for malpractice, and Matthew’s weiner works again, so everyone wins! (Well, except Lavinia, of course.)

The Mentalist has been asked by Carson to wind the clocks, which O’ Brien says is a good sign that he will ascend to first footman rapidly. The Mentalist doesn’t know the first thing about clocks (really? Nothing? Don’t they just have a key that you turn until it gets really hard to turn and then makes this really horrific clicking noise and then you walk away really fast?). O’Brien, ever the schemer, suggests that The Mentalist enlist the help of Oh That Thomas, because he used to wind the clocks. In fact, The Mentalist would do well to keep in with OTT, since he has LG’s ear. I see what you did there, O’Brien.

Upstairs, Sybil explains to Mary that her back hurts, her ankles are swelling, and her head aches. “Honestly, I can’t recommend this to anyone,” she says. Mary’s all, “Whatevs! I can’t wait to get knocked up, myself! I know I will just KILL being pregnant!” Sybil goes on to tell Mary that she wants Baby Branson to be christened a Catholic per Tom’s wishes, since she doesn’t really believe in God but she super loves Tom and wants what he wants.

Oh That Thomas gives The Mentalist an incredibly creepy lesson in clock winding. Meanwhile, in prison, Anna and Bates FINALLY suss out (two episodes after the rest of us have) that Vera deliberately poisoned herself in order to set up Bates. At Crawley House, Ethel explains to Isobel that she’s had a hard time finding a jeorb because of her history as a prostitute. Isobel offers her a job helping out Mrs. Bird. Back at prison, Bad Guard and Evil Ex-Cellmate scheme against Bates some more, because that worked out so well for them before.

Mary and Matthew stroll the estate, Matthew explaining beep boop boop boop there’s been no investment blergh. Matthew reckons LG doesn’t give a good gosh-darn about the way Downton is being managed because it’s so very middle class. But because Matthew is middle class, he will SAVE DOWNTON. Starting with setting up a Kickstarter and a Cafepress t-shirt shop.

At dinner, Sir Philip turns out to be a total blowhard who thinks that it’s not necessary to have the local doctor present at the birth of Baby Branson, as he is an Expert at Birthin’ Babies. I WONDER HOW THIS WILL TURN OUT. After dinner, Matthew pulls Sir Blowhard aside and asks whether he may have any residual fertility issues from his war injury (a bruised spine); he is concerned because he and Mary have been knockin’ da boots for a few months and nothing seems to stick. Sir Philip says that if they would just relax already they would get pregnant. ORLY? says every infertile couple everywhere.

Anna tells LG that they’ve figured out Vera’s plot; I assume that he’ll pull whatever strings the gentry pull in order to free their valets from prison. Edith gets a letter offering her a column, LG says hell to the no, Matthew says unclench already, LG says “when you’re a father, you’ll understand the urge to protect your children from making a fool of you themselves.”

So, as an aside, I think the major theme of this episode is parenting.

Mrs. Bird is quitting because she feels that working with a prostitute is beneath her, and that she may be thought of as also being a prostitute. Lie down with dogs, fleas, etc. “No one could look at you and think that,” says Isobel. Snerk. Isobel tells Mrs. B that she’ll get a month’s wages in lieu of notice (bounced!); Mrs. B says she’ll go to Manchester to be near her sister, and that there is plenty of work for a plain cook there. “And they will find one in you,” says Isobel. OH DAMN!!!!!


Meanwhile, Alfred and The Mentalist flirt with Ivy. Love triangle, y’all! Daisy comes in, bitches at Ivy, and leaves again. During dinner prep, Alfred – who has grokked that Ivy fancies The Mentalist instead of him — deliberately curdles the hollandaise sauce in order to give Ivy the chance to look good in front of Daisy and Mrs. P (who gently advises Daisy that Alfred won’t like her more for bullying Ivy).

Upstairs, the family is unimpressed with Edith’s new career prospects. (Damn those women and their typewriters! I blame Mina Harker.) “When should we expect her debut on the London stage?” snarks Violet. Poor Edith. And, true to form, one of the other sisters takes precedence as we learn that Sybil is Officially In Labor.

Dr. Clarkson is concerned because Sybil’s ankles are swollen and she seems … muddled. Sir Philip asks Dr. Clarkson to step out into the hall. The Granthams talk about the tension between the doctors. LG is in Sir Blowhard’s corner, while everyone else wants to be respectful of Dr. Clarkson. Meanwhile, Sir Blowhard and Dr. C have a medical pissing contest in the hall. Sir Philip tells Dr. C to bakdefukup.

Sybil is in labor, going back and forth between lucidity and hallucinations. Everyone in the room is deeply concerned, apart from Sir Blowhard. Naturally. Dr. Clarkson, suspecting a problem, wants to test Sybil’s urine. He reports to LG that there are too many warning signs: the swelling, the small size of the baby, the confusion, and a high amount of protein in her urine. He wants to transfer her to hospital and deliver the baby by C-section. Sir Blowhard says that this is all malarkey, that pre/eclampsia is very rare, yadda yadda. Mary’s all, “Shouldn’t the decision be up to Tom?” Word.

When presented with the options, Tom – who is an idiot, at the end of it all – is frozen with indecision. He wants to keep Sybil safe and is confused by the conflicting reports from the doctors. Sybil cries out, and they all rush to her. It’s too late – baby’s coming.

Waiting, talking, Mary announces that the men and Violet can come up, that the baby is a girl. Sybil is sweaty, the baby gurgles, Tom loves them, Sybil is tired. Cora is glowing. Sir Blowhard declares that everyone should go to bed. Downstairs, Carson declares that everyone can go to bed. Oh That Thomas is chuffed, which surprises The Mentalist. Thomas explains that he and Sybil worked together in the hospital and that she is a lovely person. He then manhandles TM in a creepy way, then leaves. TM tells O’Brien that Thomas is awfully familiar. She says that it’s a good thing, but she hopes he’s not suggesting something unseemly is going on. The Mentalist, knowing what’s good for him, and also knowing that he is now between a rock and a hard place (tee hee), says, nope, G’nite!

Later that night, Mary bursts into Cora and LG’s room and says something’s wrong with Sybil. She is in distress, hallucinating and crying out in agony with pains in her head. Dr. Clarkson explains that this is eclampsia. Sybil starts seizing. Sir Blowhard tries to save face. Dr. Clarkson says nothing can be done. Tom and Cora are begging Sybil to breathe. This part kills me, they’re both so desperate. Sybil goes still. Everyone else just stands there, stricken. Dr. Clarkson checks Sybil’s pulse; when he turns away, we can’t see his face, but Edith can, and that tells us everything we need to know. The baby cries in another room.

The people downstairs are heartbroken. Thomas in particular is gutted. Nice of the writers to endow him with some humanity. “The sweetest spirit under this roof is gone,” says Mrs. Hughes. Weep.


Cora sits alone with her youngest daughter, promising her that they will take care of Tom and the baby. To me, this is the purest expression of the bond between mother and daughter, and I don’t even care that they ripped it off from Steel Magnolias. Mary pops in and tells Cora that she should go to bed. Without taking her eyes from Sybil, Cora tells Mary that she’s not done saying goodbye and also that LG should sleep in the dressing room.

LG’s lawyer (?) arrives to talk to Anna about the Bates situation. Matthew wants to talk to him later. Totally appropriate.

Mary and Edith say goodbye to Sybil before the funeral home people take her away. I have to admit that the “let’s love each other now, as sisters should” exchange between M & E clunks a little here, but I get the idea behind it. Sybil was who made those two beasts human, and now she’s gone. Tom says goodbye to Sybil, too heartbreaking to even dwell upon. Ugh, I can’t.

Mary walks in on Matthew discussing the issue of the management of the estate with the lawyer and flame broils him for it, rightly so.

Mrs. Hughes reports to Carson and Mrs. P that a woman in the village will nurse the baby, and the Mrs. P will feed the baby according to the percentage method. Everyone is so desperately sad. Especially when Violet arrives. “Carson, we’ve seen some troubles in our time,” she says. “But nothing could be worse than this.” “Nothing could be worse, m’lady,” he replies. And then Maggie Smith gets her big Acting Moment: she walks slowly, black-clad, across the foyer (and because I am Southern, I want to spell that the way it sounds in my head, “foy-yay”), stopping to brace herself on the wall while she sobs, her cane tapping softly on the rug. She lifts her black veil before entering the sitting room.


Stuff about the baby nurse, stuff about Tom, who “wants his wife back, which is the one thing he can’t have.” Mild-mannered Cora is on the warpath, mild-manneredly. She gets up to go write a letter of apology to Dr. Clarkson, because if they had listened to him, Sybil might still be alive, but Sir Blowhard and LG knew better and as a result, Sybil is dead. LG is almost suitably chastened. Violet tells him not to blame himself (HE SHOULD TOTALLY BLAME HIS PATRIARCHAL SELF), that Sybil has died in childbirth like too many women before her and all they can do is cherish her memory and her child.

Shot of Tom in the window, holding the baby, looking out the window mournfully.

That is all. I am throatsore and tear-drenched. But maybe you might be interested in reading this. See you next week. Weep, weep, weep.





Downton Abbey recap: Week 2!

Previously on Downton: Matt and Mary got married. Anna is contacting everyone in Vera’s address book to see whether she was suicidal, in hopes of exonerating Mr. Bates. Matt is Reggie Swire’s heir, but doesn’t want to profit from Lavinia’s death. Shirley Maclaine popped in and out, was American. Edith gave the Crypt Keeper his life back.


The house staff are preparing Downton for Edith’s wedding. Flowers are being arranged, floors are being scrubbed, a carpet is being rolled up. Edith twirls around the house, smugly observing the goings on. “Something happening in this house is finally about me!” (Marsha Marsha Marsha! etc.)

Mrs. Hughes is worried, Carson overhears her talking with Mrs P about how she hasn’t heard anything from the doctor. Carson haz a concerned.

Thomas suggests to Poor Molesley that O’Brien will soon be vacating her job as Lady Grantham’s maid, in retribution for O’Brien’s dress shirt shenanigans. I want there to be a Downton spinoff, a sitcom called, “Oh, that Thomas!” imagesThe opening credits would be jaunty, with cuts of him looking cheeky and mischevous, sneaking out of cupboards and whatnot interspersed with O’Brien looking annoyed and/or cunning and Carson looking vexed. The end of the opening song would end with a female chorus chiming, “Thom-as!”

The upstairs folk talk in the library about putting Downton on the market and taking over a smaller adjacent property in the village. “Let’s take a picnic to Downton Place!” chirps Cora. Poor Molesley wants to put forward a candidate for O’Brien’s spot; of course, none of the staff will have jobs soon! *sad British trombone*

Tension between Matt and mary about the Swire fortune. *yawn*

Lord Grantham and Cora talk about Edith’s upcoming marriage to the Crypt Keeper. Cora sees the bright side, natch, and LG gripes that she’s giving up her life to nurse a one-armed corpse old man.

Downstairs, Daisy is on a fishing expedition about Alfred’s attitude toward progressive, modern women. “That Eyebrows sure was forward, eh?” “Sure,” sez Alfred. “I liked that so modern. She said what she thought even though she was a woman.” “Maybe I should be more like Eyebrows,” says Daisy. In a conceit I am blatantly ripping off from my friend Pete, I give this scene 1 out of 5 Gloria Steinems. Image

Meanwhile, Carson pumps Mrs P for information on Mrs Hughes by suggesting that they lessen her workload. “Don’t say anything,” says Mrs P. I WONDER IF CARSON WILL SAY ANYTHING.

LG intimates to the Crypt Keeper that he ain’t so thrilled about the upcoming nuptials. The subsequent exchange between CK and Edith underscores their age difference. Edith exlains that she loves CK because of his disability, and that she intends to make caring for him her life’s work. I give this exchange half a Gloria Steinem.

The disgraced maid comes to Mrs Crawley’s Shoppe of Fallen Laydeez. Boring, for now. This storyline will obviously develop further, later, but forr now, whatevs.

Picnic time! But first Mary must shame Matt some more about the money, honey boo boo child. Carson hips Cora to the fact that Mrs Hughes is ill. UGH. This is like an unfunny Three’s Company episode.

Bates-gate continues apace. Anna pays off some fishwife who knew Vera. (For a split second I thought the fishwife was Judi Dench, but no such luck.) In the prison yard, a prisoner tips Bates that he’s due for a cell check and he needs to stay a step ahead of the guards because he’s being set up. The fishwife tells Anna that Vera was acting frightened and strange aheard of Bates’ final visit, that she was about to post a letter, and had just made a pastry (arsenic pie!) and was scrubbing her hands vigorously. Dun dun DUN! Fishwife heard the next day that Vera was dead, so she was sure it was Bates what dunnit.

At the Downton Place picnic, the family discusses how the new, smaller (but still palatial) home will only require eight servants and will be more economical. Violet reckons she’ll open a shop and trade in good manners and lively conversation. “You’ll do a roaring trade in minutes,” says Mrs Crawley, whose hat I LURHVE.

Back at DP, Carson confronts O’Brien about her imminent departure. Thomas escapes, having successfully sown discord betwee O’Brien and Poor Molesley. “You’re in the soup,” says Daisy somberly to Poor Molesley. “I wouldn’t be in her bad books for a gold clock.” Poor Molesley is gobsmacked. Oh, that Thomas!

ImageEdith gloats about her upcoming honeymoon to Italy. Violet advises her to go to bed so she won’t look tired and slutty on her wedding day. “I won’t sleep a wink,” says Edith. “Tonight or tomorrow,” Sybil says slyly, slurping tea. “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit,” chide Violet. “You started it,” smirks Sybil. I give this scene two Gloria Steinems.

Meanwhile, Mary took it upon herself to read the letter from Reggie Swire that Matthew got from his lawyer. Turns out, Lavinia had written a letter to her father from her deathbed, letting him know that Matthew had been willing to marry her even though he didn’t love her. Regardless of that fact, Reggie wanted Matthew to be his heir because deus ex machina. Matthew refuses to believe that Lavinia wrote any such letter, and Mary refuses to believe that her husband is such a drama mama. As such, she goes downstairs to see if any of the help had mailed Lavinia’s letter for her (recall that Lavinia died at Downton). No one knows anything, but WAIT! Daisy comes in and is all, oh, “I mailed that letter. Me and Lavinia were tight.”

People are heading out for the wedding, and Carson is being particularly, obviously solicitous of Mrs. Hughes. “I wish people wait to find out if I’m dying before boxing me up!” she cranks.

Edith looks very pretty in her wedding dress. “All of us married, all of us happy, and the first baby on the way,” she coos. “I know, let’s preserve this AUSPICIOUS DAY via the Imagephotographer!!! WE’RE ALL SO EFFING HAPPY, RIGHT?? RIGHT?!?!!?” Meanwhile, the Crypt Keeper is at the altar looking like, well, he’s “waiting for a beating from the headmaster,” says Violet. Edith walks down the aisle and adorably greets the Crypt Keeper with a breathy, “good afternoon!” “Good afternoon, my sweet one,” creak the Crypt Keeper’s jawbones.

We all know where this is going. The Crypt Keeper peaces out, knowing that marrying Edith is, as we say in our house, a “bad choice.” Edith leaves, weeping, and later, when Cora, Mary, and Sibyl enter her room to console her, we see that marrying the Crypt Keeper wasn’t really about loving him, but about having internalized the marriage plot, so to speak. “Look at them,” she sobs through her tears, her hair askew. “With their husbands! Sibyl pregnant, Mary probably pregnant! Go! Get out!” I give this scene negative one million Gloria Steinems.

I’ll just leave this here.


LG goes for a walk while the house staff unroll the carpet and replace the furniture. Matthew catches up with him and lets him know that he’s going to save Downton with the Swire fortune because of course. Bro hugs!

At dinner, Matthew wonders how to help Edith. “You can help her by giving her something to do,” says his mother. Cue thoughtful looks.

Downstairs, Daisy and Anna are having a talk about women’s role in society. Daisy wonders whether women should be able to speak their minds about romance and stuff. Anna reckons that the times, they are a’ changin’, and the vote won’t be long now, so they might as well get used to the wimmins and their infernal mouths, but Anna, we learn, is a bona fide Rules girl and warns Daisy that boys don’t like to be courted. (Cue Alfred popping in and snitching something crunchy and delicious.) (He really is adorable. What’s not to love about a too-tall ginger?)

Upstairs, Edith has decided to embrace her role as a spinster, and spinsters get up for breakfast. So, I think what I’m picking up here is that, in some ways, feminism and equality is more of a reality for the downstairs women because they aren’t quite as

Imagebeholden to the rigid social structures imposed upon the upstairs women? Am I understanding that right? I think I will award myself a Gloria Steinem in a bunny suit.

Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. P go to the village to learn the test results. A grim-looking nurse escorts Mrs. Hughes in to meet her doom, who prefers to go in without her buddy.

O’Brien swears to Thomas that she will have her revenge, one way or the other.

Mrs. Hughes doesn’t have cancer. Carson is happy and sings. The end.