THE DOWNTON ABBEY DISH – Downton Abbey Season 4 Recap: Episode 6 (aired 02/09/2014)

For me, it was 50 years ago tonight that I first spent a Sunday night with a British import. I have to say that it feels absolutely bizarre to be reminiscing about anything first-hand that happened 50 years ago (because usually, when I even think about my age at all, I think of myself as about 25), but here we are. Ed Sullivan was past my bedtime when I was in kindergarten, but my parents got me out of bed to come downstairs and watch The Beatles. While they were laughing hysterically at the reaction shots of the girls in the audience, I sat a few feet in front of the telly, transfixed. Good thing I didn’t sleep through it because the next day, that’s all anyone was talking about at school and everywhere else – I would have been an outcast. Many, many fabulous Brits have invaded our shores since then, and between all the music, literature and television they have always made the United Kingdom seem like a magical place to me. I sometimes think of all they send us as Bundles for Britain in reverse – and that seems apropos tonight because tonight was about friendship of all sorts…

Western Union Man: Call on the Lord:
Uh-oh, flashback: Does that telegraph ever bring good news? The first flash of that telegraph brought word of the Titanic and the loss of Patrick Crawley (the first, not the mummy), and now it brings news that Lord Grantham’s presence is required in the Colonies as Cora’s brother, Wildcat Harold, is brought before Congress in the Teapot Dome investigation (required by Mrs. Levinson, that is, not the Senate committee). While this sudden trip is a problem for Robert and Cora, it is an even bigger problem for Bates and Anna; one requiring an intervention from Mrs. Quite The Plotter Hughes who, as usual, knows just how to work it. Naturally Mary is brought on-side once she finds out why (think of it as an act of real love), and while Robert protests the thought of losing Bates and having to dress himself like a big boy, he is powerless in the face of Mary on a Mission. Apparently Americans have a correct uniform for every activity known to man. We do? OK, yes, we do. The correct uniform for curling up in front of the telly for a Sunday night of Downton Abbey? Fuzzy fleece night shirt and big socks. (Madge, please have them pressed and ready.) So Bates is benched, and excited Thomas wins a free round trip (working) vacation to the land of steak and ketchup. Thomas’ first task is to keep his eyes off the handsome stewards strutting down the decks of the Good Ship Cameronia long enough to make sure the ship captain turns left at Greenland.

You’re Gonna Need an Ocean of Calamine Lotion: Funny, You Don’t Look Flu-ish:

The law firm of Patmore, Carson and Hughes play three card monty with vacationing Alfred so as not to detonate a Daisy bomb, but somehow Alfred wanders onto the set and Poison Ivy, who has changed her tune, gives him something to think about. Of course that something should be, in the words of Maya Angelou, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ But I’m thinking he won’t, and it will all end in tears for both he and Daisy (as per usual) as Ivy goes rolling merrily along. And speaking of Daisy; still no sighting of William’s Dad. Should we get Lord Grantham’s detective on this? Maybe Gregson is with him. 

Green Eggs and Ham: My Tea Cakes Bring All the Boys to the Yard: 
Mary is the very definition of a smug married: been there, knows everything. But as it turns out, she is also a camper, our Mary. And who knew? Seriously. Who would have thunk it? When Edith declared Blake to be not under aloof Mary’s spell, she may have jinxed him because now he’s getting sleepy…verrry sleeeepy. And all it took was this little piggy. When one of Downton’s new fleet of pigs goes down, there’s no time to run for Mr. Pignati; Blake jumps into action to save them all, and not to be out done, Mary jumps in alongside of him ferrying water to the thirsty porkers like a regular Gunga Din, all culminating in some celebratory mudslinging between the two. But while Mary can say with authority, ‘I’ve been married; I know everything’, I can say with authority, I’ve been in the circus; I know where that barnyard mud has been! Get a tetanus booster! And when all is said and done, it turns out Lady Mary can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, scrambling up some eggs to get the manure taste out of their mouths (just as Martha Stewart suggests). It’s a rather sexy dance and one has the feeling this was something she did with Matthew. Consider the ice broken with Blake, and right on cue, here comes Lord Gillingham (who will be upset to learn that his old Army buddy has stolen his background music). Now Mary is flinging off suitors left and right. Cora has her triple-booked. Her stroll around the grounds with Evelyn looked like a Ralph Lauren commercial in sensible shoes, but that ended as soon as awkward Evelyn attempted to declare his feelings for her. How does Mary get him to realize there is no competition where he is concerned? That he is not in the running? Must she bonk yet another of his friends to death, say…Blake, to show him? And what of Blake? When Tony greets her she plays down their porcine prelude. Why? And odd that one of the first things Tony asks Blake is about the chances Downton has to survive. Why the interest in the health of the estate? Is he hedging his bets? But forget about the boys for now; Mary’s most enduring and intimate relationship is with Anna, and she was shaken by news of the attack. Now that she knows what has happened to her, Mary wants to help. Too bad Edith doesn’t have the same sisterly relationship with Mary. She could use it now. But while PollyAnna is grateful and glad, she can’t talk about it, still, even to Mary. Will she change her mind? One word and Mary could easily use her relationship with Lord Gillingham to dispose of Green. Will Anna let her?

Goody, Goody: Goodnight Nurse:
When that first little cough was heard, and Violet spoke of keeling over, I could feel Downtonians all across the land, all clenching in unison, all with the very same thought, ‘Damn you Fellowes!!! If you f@#%&*g kill off The Dowager Countess of Grantham, I will not be held accountable for my actions!!!!’ Thankfully Violet recovered, thus a million pitch forks and torches can be put back into mothballs for another day. And…exhale. It was only bronchitis. I’ve had bronchitis but it never made me delirious (at least not that I know of), which makes me wonder what Dr. Cheech prescribed for that inhaler. Lucky for Violet, nurse Isobel stayed by her bedside every minute. Violet has got an unshakable friend, whether she wants her or not. And Isobel also continues to be a BFF to fellow outsider Branson as well, encouraging him to pick up his political baton once again with tickets to a rally. Of course, they had to have that conversation as they were driving along in that convertible so instead of hearing the dialogue, all I kept thinking was, ‘keep your eyes on the road! Don’t turn your head to talk to her! KEEPYOUREYESONTHEROAD!!!’ Am I the only one who thought something was coming there? Yes, we Downtonians are a traumatized lot, aren’t we? Or maybe I’m just too high strung for cliff hangers. It’s a good thing PBS doesn’t have commercials; I couldn’t take the pressure. But thankfully Tom and Isobel survived the drive, though Tom had to go off to the rally without her, where he meets a cute, bold young woman – just his type. Tom’s reawakening political interest is clearly a metaphor for his reawakening from grief. Will we see that bold, young woman again? 

Be My Baby: On My Own:
Things go from bad to worse for Lady Edith. From what detectives can piece together, it seems that Editor Charming checked into his Munich hotel, went out for the evening and never came back. Why check into a hotel and then disappear? If he wanted to disappear, why check into the hotel at all? Did he want to leave a mystery behind? Or was he disappeared against his will? Either way, pregnant Edith can only wait so long to find out and make plans, so she goes to London and checks into Hotel Rosamund to see a back street abortionist (the only kind there were in 1923). Given her history, when Edith says to her mother, ‘sometimes I have bad feelings’, one could easily assume those bad feelings fall along the lines of, ‘I want to murder my too-perfect sister’. But after Edith breaks down and Rosamund gets (some of) the story out her and she likens Rosamund’s lecture to a speech from The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, there is the dawning realization that those bad feelings might just be about herself. The Second Mrs. Tanqueray was a popular play from the 1890’s that ends with the suicide of the title character who had been ‘ruined’ by a man in her past and who never gets to hear that speech of redemption because she kills herself first. Is Edith thinking about suicide? When Rosamund warns her of the danger and asks what she’ll say to Edith’s parents if it goes wrong, her weary response, ‘you’ll think of something’ carries not the slightest bit of concern for herself. Maybe she isn’t thinking about killing herself really; maybe she’s only thinking she doesn’t care if she lives or dies at the moment; that there are worse things. As she sits in the waiting room, her heartbreaking monologue about not wanting to be an outcast, a funny woman, lays out her naked despair. Edith is so desperate for love and belonging that she believes the line of any man who shows her the slightest bit of attention – and that makes her an easy mark, for a farmer, a mummy – or a charming bastard. On the plus side, Lady Edith rocks that Marcel Wave better than anyone! A small consolation. But what I want to know is, why didn’t she confide in Isobel? It seems like she would be the perfect confidant for such a thing (or anything). Isobel would have done anything to help her. Why, instead, go to the very judgmental Aunt Rosamund when she had Isobel right in her own back yard? And now it seems that she gave up on the idea of an abortion; will she find a way to see over the top of this and try to keep her wanted baby? Can she? Will she name it Zoe and have Cora and Robert raise it as her sister? Will we ever see Editor Charming again?

Peel Me a Grape: Life is but a Dream:
But will that dream turn into a nightmare when this affair is discovered? And you know, now they’re just messing with us. Yes, of course, put Rose and Jack in a boat. Cousin Oliver Rose takes her new cabinet appointment as Secretary of Fun very seriously and uses it to sway Cora into letting her accompany Edith to London under the guise of cheering her up. She didn’t. Didn’t even try. Just went merrily on her errands. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, cut to Mr. Ross row, row, rowing their boat gently down the Thames as reclining Rose is fanned with palm fronds and snacking on the aforementioned peeled grapes and speaking French: ‘Viva la difference’ – which is Oliverese for, ‘I want to get in your pants. Now!’ But uh-oh, after a weak resistance on his part she convinces him to take her to Club Sheldrake, and we know what happens when Cousin Oliver Rose goes to a club! Little known fact: It was the experience of dealing with Rose that prepared Londoners to handle The Blitz in their stride. But I have to say, I’ve started to like Cousin Oliver in spite of myself. 

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls: It’s Not Easy Being Green:
Or at least it shouldn’t be, and won’t be for much longer, I don’t think. If looks could kill, I’d say his hourglass is almost empty. Lord Gillingham returns, schlepping arrogant sociopath Green along with him, to a hero’s welcome from some and what sounded like a death threat from Mrs. Hughes. ‘If you value your life you’ll stop playing the joker and stick to the shadows’; that’s a threat that would make Tony Soprano proud – confused by its poetry probably, but proud all the same. Green, however, pays her no mind. He fancies himself a raconteur, and now the last bit of the whodunit puzzle falls into place as he unwittingly undoes the alibi that Mrs. Hughes gave him, oblivious (maybe) as Mr. Bates glares daggers. I was half expecting Bates to leap up, dive across the table and stab Green in the neck with his trembling fork – but then the music interrupted. Damn that orchestra! Now we have to wait until next week and, forget about Green, this tension is killing me! It seems obvious that someone is going to take revenge on Green in some way, but whom? And what will they do? Will Bates do something violent? It seems like that would be too obvious, doesn’t it? Maybe someone else beats him to the punch; someone unexpected (maybe Mary?). Baxter’s face does light up as she observes all this tension at the table. She couldn’t know the full story of what’s been going on (or why), but whatever parts of it she does see, she will report to Thomas, who will then have part of the story and part of the story can be a much more dangerous thing that the whole Magilla. All of which might be further complicated by Molesley having inadvertently rumbled her Agent 99 routine. He seems to have an eye for her. Did he accept her cryptic ‘everything and nothing’ answer? Does he even understand what it meant? Might Molesley end up holding the key to the whole shebang? 

Dowager Countessdown (Madam Dowager’s best zingers from each episode):

5. “That is the very last thing I would want.”

4. “I want another nurse, I insist. This one talks too much; she’s like a drunken Vicar.”

3. “Compared to what?”

2. “That has a ring of truth.”

1. “Try not to let those Yankees drive you mad.”

No doubt, someone gave that same last bit of advice to John, Paul, George and Ringo before they boarded their first plane to New York!

As (I think) I have mentioned before, I do not watch ahead of the episode I am writing about so I don’t accidentally give away any spoilers to the audience, and also so I can have the fun of speculating about what might be coming up without actually knowing anything. That is part of the fun, isn’t it? But that policy of denial was REALLY HARD this week! When tonight’s episode ended, with That Glare and trembling fork from Mr. Bates, I wanted watch the next one RIGHT AWAY!! But I didn’t. I was a good girl. Sigh. I only wish I had such willpower where carbs are concerned! Now, it’s viva la episode 7!

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