This week reminds us that, no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse. Lord Grantham had a craving for ‘Shrimpy Cocktail,’ so the Crawleys took a trip to Scotland on the cutest little train you ever did see. It looked like it should have been circling a Christmas tree. But while Duneagle Castle is beautiful on the outside, on the inside, everyone who lives there is rather Les Miserables.
This holiday to Scotland was a lot of shoulda, woulda, couldas, teaching the family both upstairs and down to count their blessings. There are a lot of things that divide us in this life: Red states and blue; rich and poor; Yankees fans and Mets fans—but can we all come together and agree on just one thing?: Bagpipes should be a violation of the Geneva Convention! Please? Can someone make that happen? Bagpipes are the musical equivalent of rice cakes: I cannot tell if bag pipes are out of tune in the same way I cannot tell if rice cakes are stale. It’s rather disconcerting and life is stressful enough. Anyway, until this episode Shrimpy was merely the phantom character who arranged for William to be brought home to die, and was responsible for sending Cousin Oliver Rose in off the bench. While sadly, William had to make a quick exit, it seems like Cousin Oliver will be around for at least part of Season 4…
Take These Broken Wings, Please: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
It’s now been a year since Prince Thomas, no doubt inspired by Snow White, crept into JimmyJames’ room and not-so-charmingly tried to kiss him awake. I’m not sure what their relationship is a year on, but these uncomfortable silences sure do make them look like an old married couple. At the very least Thomas is Jimmy’s guardian angel. No one could ever accuse Thomas of being noble; During the war he took a bullet to save himself, but during the Fair he took a beating to save Jimmy. Even though there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be, why would Thomas do it if it wasn’t love (even if only unrequited)? Beyond that, why would those toughs lay in wait for drunken Jimmy over what was left of the £10 he won? In today’s money, that would have been about £350. For whatever reason he was following Jimmy, when he saw him threatened he stepped right into the fray and down goes Frazier! When Jimmy later goes to visit Thomas in his sick room, and says to him, ‘I can never give you what you want’, I still hope that will change in the future. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed optimist. But for now, at least there is détente. Even Alfred helped him after he was beaten up. Louie, this might be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Our Doppelgang Comedies: Double Your… Pleasure?
O’Brien meets her doppelganger, Alfalfa Wilkins. While Wilkins has been most everywhere, from Zanzibar to Barclay Square; O’Brien’s only seen the sights a girl can see from Downton Heights. What a crazy pair. Sadly, their young friendship, forged quickly as they darned their socks in the night when there was nobody there, hit a snag when Alfalfa’s Battleship Ladyship preferred Vidal O’Brien’s coiffeur handiwork. This causes Wilkins to make a rookie mistake: She tries to out-O’Brien O’Brien. But unfortunately for her, someone (likely that dull and sour Carson-wannabe) chopped off her curly bangs when she wasn’t looking and thus, zapped her of her powers, leaving her with nothing but the old spiked punch bit. Amateur. And who suffered because of it? Molesley. Molesley—the downstairs Edith. This episode also left with a couple of big O’Brien-based questions unanswered: Because the episode took place off the reservation, we don’t know what the Thomas-O’Brien relationship is in the aftermath of the way she set him up. We also don’t know if she had anymore conversations with Bates about the soap. I suppose those are more secrets waiting to be mined in Season 4.
Unchain My Heart: Baby You Can Drive My Car
Houston, we have another maid Jane situation. And she’s a pushy broad too, that Edna. In the unwanted advance of the week department, Edna Jane walks into shirtless Branson’s bed chamber (doesn’t anybody knock around here?) and as he clutches his pearls, she plants one on him before scuttling back from whence she came. This is why slutty maid costumes are a perennial favorite. But Edna’s antics don’t entice him – all they do here is cause Edna to get fired, and cause Tom to go into the ugly cry, revealing to Mrs. Hughes how much he still misses Sybil. And by the way, the fact that Branson wasn’t invited on this family holiday made me dislike Shrimpy before I met him. Or maybe it was his equally miserable wife, Her Battleship, who didn’t invite him. And speaking of pushy, Mrs. Patmore has a fancy man, though I’d call him more crude than fancy, (goo goo g’joob). It’s Sam the Butcher, and something in the way she cooks attracts him like no other lover. He stuck his fingers in the vichyssoise and plucked at her heartstrings in one fell swoop. Suddenly she’s all atwitter, shopping at Frederick’s of Ripon and planning her day trip to the fair before Mrs. Hughes has to whip her neck around and say, ‘oh no you don’t girlfriend!’ That trip to the Pablo Fanques Fair is being planned by everyone except house sitter Carson. A splendid time was guaranteed for all, though it doesn’t quite turn out that way. It was more like a drunken parallel universe. It was lucky for Daisy who won a Gold Sovereign – and I hope she hung onto it too because there were several different Gold Sovereigns minted in 1921, and depending on which one it was, it could sell at auction today for as much as £100K! Others at the Fair were not so lucky: Out of nowhere, drunken illogical marriage proposals came flying from every direction like meteors. It was like everyone had lost their minds or gone to Vegas. Isobel almost got hit, but she dove out of the way. Mrs. Hughes saved Mrs. Patmore from the clutches of Sam, who we came to find out sold goose as well as flannel. Another thing we learned at the Fair is why we never see children around the village: Sadly, all the children have to work as servants, delivering eggs on spoons. All the children except baby Sybil that is. While everyone else was at that crazy Fair watching newspaper taxis appear on the shore, Carson was at home walking the floor with Sybbie, helping us to finally understand why, several episodes back, Lady Mary said that Carson had raised her. And Carson with the baby was just too, too cute for words!
Another One Bites The Dust: Take a Sad Song and Make It Better
The little Edith that could: You can just hear the voices in her head repeating it, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…’ She is looking fabulous in her new modern girl wardrobe and Rhoda Morgenstern headscarves, but after a year of writing for The Sketch, Edith is still referring to Michael Gregson as ‘my editor’. Clearly he wants more, pulling an Isobel and pushing in on the Crawley family’s Scottish holiday with his, ‘I just happen to be in the neighborhood on a sketching holiday with my tailcoat myself so might I drop by?’ And he makes his presence known right from the jump. When Lord Eye Roller, in a typical move, puts Edith down as an ‘amateur’ (um, what kind of professional is Robert?) the chivalrous Editor Gregson quite deftly stands up for her. Check. The look on Edith’s face is priceless. Well played Editor Gregson. Well played. But why does she hesitate here, with the semi-available Gregson, when she made a play for the farmer while his perfectly healthy wife was just feet away? Come on Edith! You have found him, now go and get him! If there is anyone more in need of an Oprah-intervention I don’t know who it could be. Even though at the end, after Matthew’s Robert-like interference (we forget he is in training to be the next Lord Grantham), Edith wearily says, “Oh yes, I know what happens next,” I’d bet a gold sovereign this isn’t the end of this bad romance. I’d bet the Crawley sister who started out as the most prudish will travel the farthest and be the one who causes the biggest scandal. The only question is, will she be like Anna and still refer to Gregson as ‘my editor’ after they’ve…you know. At the end of sixth grade, one of my school mates wrote this poem in my autograph book (I think it was by Yeats), ‘When you’re married and live in a hut, send me a picture of your little nut.’ Wise words. I don’t know if Edith will ever get to send anyone a picture of her little nut, but whenever I see Bates & Anna now I think of that little ditty. These two are just too damn happy. It’s not that being happy is a bad thing. It’s that we all know The Laws of Soap: No one is allowed to be that happy for too long. The giggling, the glances, the romantic walks; It all makes me fear for them. Have they used up their lifetime supply of bad karma already, or does all this giddiness foreshadow more heartache for Season 4? Sigh. Oh dear, there I go borrowing trouble again. For right now everything is rosy, and as an added bonus, Cousin Oliver teaches Anna to do the Electric Slide and she wows them all at the ball, (and the way she looked was way beyond compare). Checkmate.
From Here to Maternity: Let It Be
He’s not dead. He’s just resting. Like many of you, I heard about the ending of this episode before tonight. It aired in the UK on Christmas Day and was such a huge controversy that Lord Fellowes had to address it publicly. People were screaming blue murder about their Christmas being ruined (those Brits take their Christmas Day telly viewing beyond seriously). Lord Fellowes was called to the Tower to account for himself, and it was all over the media in big headlines, and so there was no way to not hear about it. I don’t know about you Downtonians, but rather than spoil things, knowing what was coming made everything that preceded it much more poignant. Don’t you agree? It made the joy Matthew expressed at meeting his baby son so much more sweet and lovely and profound. Though at the end, as the minutes ticked by, I felt like Dorothy looking at the witch’s hourglass, knowing how much longer he had to be alive. Then again, he sure looked dead after he was hit during the war. Might this be another wild goose chase? An elaborate ruse from Lord Fellowes? Might we see him come limping and bandaged into the dining room singing ‘If You Were The Only Girl In The World’? Do I sound like a delusional Pollyanna? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. But back in 1921, at Duneagle, as Shrimpy confessed that everything was going to the pawn shop in the morning, Robert sees the ghost of Christmas past, and realizes what a fool he’s been. As always, he’s the last to know. Matthew saved Downton, but sadly this newfound appreciation for him comes too late. Poor Matthew won’t get to hear it because… he’s too damn happy, and not watching the road! He blew his mind out in a car – This is what comes from being too damn happy! Mary looked radiant this entire episode – as they say pregnant women are supposed to look. I don’t know how an actress ‘plays’ radiant, but somehow she did. And after all the newlywed bickering earlier in the season, it was heartbreaking that just as they truly appreciated each other it was all, unbeknownst to them, coming to an end – as other things began anew. They’ve done their duty (like salmon swimming upstream) and Downton is safe. And now, it all belongs to that little baby – talk about pressure! Matthew brought out the soft side of the haughty Lady Mary, and it was lovely to see those scenes where we get to see the side of her she doesn’t let anyone else see. Will we ever see that again? Will she now have to toughen back up to fight for her son’s interests? All these lives that seemed so ordered when we first met them have spun out in so many directions. So whether Matthew has ceased to be, or his total lack of movement was due to just being shagged out following a prolonged squawk, there will be some big changes at Downton, some forever, not for better, but I suppose we’ll love them all (or most). And we have to wait 10 LONG MONTHS to find out what happens next!!! ARGH!!!
5. ‘Well, I know he’s housebroken, more or less, but I don’t want freedom to go to his head.’
4. ‘Oh dear, you flatter me, which is just as it should be.’
3. ‘Edith, stop fascinating that young man!’
2. ‘That is the thing about nature: There is so much of it.’
1. ‘In my day I wore the crinoline, the bustle and the leg of mutton sleeve. I’m in no strong position to criticize.’
Bonus: The other day I was reminded of the words of Sir Yogi Berra who said, ‘Downton ain’t over til the Dowager zings’, and so it was fitting that whatever the plot twist, the season should end with Violet’s, ‘But then, we don’t always get our just desserts.’ Chilling in retrospect.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, Downtonians! Even though we have to wait ‘til next January to find out what happens next to all of our friends at Downton, just like last year during the off-season, I’ll be filing reports here about once or twice a month called Dispatch From the Downton Abbey Diaspora. There is, of course, A LOT more British programming on THIRTEEN – starting with the great buzz about Masterpiece Classic‘s upcoming ‘Mr. Selfridge’ (and don’t forget EastEnders on WLIW21!) Forty nine years after Ed Sullivan brought the British invasion to our shores, PBS keeps it going! And we’ll also have time to ponder all the questions this season left us hanging with: Will Anna and Bates start a family? Will Thomas find love (and will it be with Jimmy)? Will Cousin Oliver stay around long? Whatever happened to Mr. Mason? Against all odds, did Matthew survive? Yeah, OK, I know, but to quote Thomas, ‘it’s not against the law to hope.’ Anyway, that’s just for starters. Are there any questions you’re left with? Chat about them here. Until pitchers and catchers report in December, there will be lots to discuss, and both Downton Abbey reruns and new British programs to watch here. Keep checking back. It’s been fun, Downtonians!
Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.
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