This was the week when it seemed as if we were living in a farce where everyone left their drinks unattended. It was also the week little Sybbie stole the show with one word: Why? There’s a reason why there’s a showbiz adage that goes, ‘Never work with kids, dogs or Irish tenors.’ And Sybbie won’t be the only Downtonian asking why if Tom leaves for Boston. Let us begin…
Dumb Like a Fox: What’s the Story, Morning Glory:
And then there were none. Mary has been trying to rid herself of fiancé Tony but he just cannot take the hint. This is the problem with being with someone who loves you in a cold and unfeeling way; you never truly know when it’s over. Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier when the man you keep trying to dump keeps getting invited to stay for house party weekends at your manor to see the very large elephant on exhibit in the room. Lord Tiger cannot understand why others get married and married and married and he and potential serial killer Mabel Lane Fox never get carried away. She suggests that if only he’d stop howling at the moonlight, maybe they’d stand a chance. For his part, Lord Tiger does seem to have moved from anger to acceptance, but insists he cannot break it off with Mary, as much as he wants too, and he is too honorable to say why (hint, hint). Now that they’ve done the deed (oops, did he say that?), only Mary can end it (the fact that she already did seems to have escaped him) and he is not convinced she meant it anyway. Apparently “I don’t love you and I don’t want to marry you” was too oblique for him. She needs to send a clear message and only Blake can help her. Or is it Mabel who is helping her – or helping herself? Clearly they are in on this together, but to what end? And what else has he engineered? The Kiss at the theater was Mabel’s idea and it did the trick. If only Mary had just told him. Now Mary has a sad, in a way that only Mary can. She’s going to have to find a new boy to toy with, but it won’t be Blake. He laid out that disclaimer in advance, saying he’ll be off in Poland on business (oh that old excuse) and she’ll be married by the time he gets back. Either he hasn’t been paying attention or he is orchestrating something, but what? Is he just playing hard to get? Is this just another scene they have to play? But let’s look on the bright side: Tony is gone, and Mary seems to have reversed the curse. He got away without a scratch (though, who knows what happened after he left the theater and walked out into the street past Picadilly). Oh dear.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be:
With the Aldridges at Downton to dine, anti-Semitism is only alluded to in a genteel sort of way. We don’t actually get a taste of what they are up against until Lord Merton’s boys make an appearance the following evening. For now, there are merely hints about the county having to get used to them. It is 1924 and the world is a more segregated place so it is pretty certain the neighbors had issues when Jews moved into their midst – especially successful ones. In that same era, 1923, my grandparents left the city (Philly), to move to the suburbs. Their three bedroom house was hardly a grand estate. Yet some of their lovely, new neighbors started a petition in an attempt to force them out. In the land whose most celebrated playwright gave us Shylock, there is a long, bloody history of anti-Semitism as well. England was the first European country which required Jews to wear a marking badge. Additionally, the 350 year expulsion of all Jews from England, instituted by King Edward I, was preceded by blood libels, and riots where many Jews were murdered. Over a hundred Jews were massacred in a riot in the city of York. Many of those underlying attitudes persist (Most recently, they were on display this past summer when mobs descended on stores to remove all kosher items from the shelves.) and they were even more alive and kicking in 1924. For his part, Lord Sinderby grimaces at the idea of his son marrying out and quizzes Cora about her Jewish father and gentile mother. He doesn’t want Atticus and Rose to rush into anything and neither does Robert – but Cousin Oliver Rose wants to rush in like Billy-o. And what’s not to love about Atticus? He’s chivalrous and he loves cake. That’s enough for Rose! He kneels down and she says yes. Will they get down the aisle? Or will meeting Lady Flintshire make him run screaming into the night?
Random Factoid: The term ‘Billy-o’ comes from steam locomotive trials that ran between Liverpool and Manchester in the late 19th century that captured the public’s imagination. The train was nick-named Puffing Billy and gave rise to the expressions like, ‘rushing like Billy-o’.
Olly Olly Oxen Free: It’s Like Déjà vu All Over Again:
Thirty-year-old Edith has run away from home and the entire house is in upheaval in her wake – sort of. They don’t really seem to be trying too hard to find her. Where oh where can she be hiding? Let’s just fret about it while we have some tea and entertain. Thankfully Super Jew comes to the rescue. Atticus: “Shouldn’t someone telephone the office?” (Yes, Einstein!) Rose: “How clever you are. Now someone shall have to fetch her. Damn.” And across the sitting room the jig is up. Rosamund and Violet’s containment policy has blown up in their faces like so many ACME Farmer’s Wife Kits. Mrs. Drewe didn’t just spill the beans; she threw a plate of them against the wall. And now Cora will (rightly) never trust the two meddlers again. But Cora goes off to get her girl, with perennial third wheel Rosamund along for the ride (and the judgment). So how do you solve a problem like Marigold? Edith had thought about moving to America (but it can’t be as bad as all that), or inventing a dead husband (George Glass) but realized that neither would work. Thankfully Cora has her own ideas and they agree on this new plan, (except for Aunt Kanye who thinks Edith should give the baby to Beyoncé). And so Edith succumbs to the siren call and agrees to return to Downton. Edith! You were THISCLOSE to a clean getaway!!! Sigh. At the train station they have to play pass the parcel with Marigold and Mr. Drewe to avoid Mary on the train platform. You’d think they’d figure out that this is just a precursor to the years of musical chairs they are going to have to play, but no.
I think I’ve figured out the issue here: It’s not that the Crawleys have no sympathy for Lady Edith – it’s just that they are easily distracted by shiny objects. In the middle of the discussion to determine Edith and Marigold’s fate, Robert enters with a swaddled Isis and announces her impending demise. The dog instantly gets more sympathy. You can see Edith thinking, “uh, hello? What about me and my daughter? And, um, my two-legged fiancé brutally murdered by Nazis?” She might as well be howling at the moonlight. But in the end it is agreed that Marigold will join the nursery gang. Forget about discovery though, how risky was it to hand Marigold back to Mrs. Drewe? Once she has got Marigold back, will she hand her over a second time? And ‘second’ is the keyword here because will Marigold be a second class citizen in the Downton nursery? Can’t you just see that at some point there will be a showdown between Edith and queeny Mary over her snooty treatment of this tiny interloper? With Tom and Sybbie there, it shouldn’t be much of an issue, because he will even things out. But if he goes to America, it will be just George and Marigold, with no one to hold Mary in check. And how long will this secret last anyway? What’s going to happen when people ask Mrs. Drewe why she handed over her baby to Lady Edith? Will Anna assume Mary knows and say something to her? And then there’s Pokerface Hughes who, we know, does not hold up well under torture. A simple, “How do you do?” should bring the whole story tumbling out. But if the secret does stick, and Marigold remains the secret Crawley, will she grow up resentful at not being able to take her rightful place in the scheme of things? Last year, in one of my blog posts after Season 3, I wrote that I hoped that Edith would have a child out of wedlock with Editor Charming; a child who would grow up on the estate with Mary’s and Sybil’s children, and have a chip on his/her shoulder to rival Edith’s. I was hoping that after Downton Abbey’s run was over, Julian Fellowes would take a rest and then pick up the story in the run up to WWII when this new generation would be coming of age. When Lord Fellowes was here last year I had a chat with him and mentioned this, and he looked at me the same way Violet looked at Sprat when he handed in his notice. Who knew that at least a part of this (the out of wedlock baby) was already in the works?
Flower Power: The Little Engine That Could:
Political prognosticator, Daisy, wants to give up her studies because the universe is expanding. She is disillusioned with the new Labour Government and feels it will soon break apart so she thinks, what’s the use? Of course, Mrs. Patmore wonders why is that her business since they are in Downton and Downton is not expanding, so she sends her to see Dr. Flicker (or maybe Mr. Mason). Everyone downstairs is playing zone defense to help Daisy run downfield carrying their dreams with her. They all want Daisy to do what they couldn’t, to get away from service, and they think she can. They think she can. Even Thomas, who seems to be on the road to transformation thanks to the kindness Baxter showed him last week (even after he shopped her to the Old Bill), puts his plotting capabilities to positive use. He suggests bringing Mr. Mason in off the bench, causing Molesley to question the space and time continuum. And weren’t we all questioning where Mr. Mason has been this year? At the farm, Mr. Mason gives Daisy her annual mid-season pep talk and tells her education is power, and besides, the universe won’t be expanding for millions of years and in the meantime, the Lord Merton’s fortune may just be up for grabs and Daisy could be in the running for it. All this good coming from bad seems to be giving Baxter and Molesley hope as well. There is something there, right? Might Molesley start to dream a new, Baxter-centric dream? We think he can, we think he can.
I Had a Dream: Heartbreak Hotel: The Theme From Jaws:
Last week, a reader commented that my choice of titles to head these sections (usually song titles) is spot on (which I’m happy to hear!) This week, even though it has no lyrics, I can think of no better song to go with those happy little lovebugs, Anna and Bates, than John Williams’ musical warning of impending doom. They talk of dreams past, and dare to plan their future? Are they nuts? One cannot help but think that there is something lurking in the background, quietly menacing their peaceful quiet as they sit together at the end of the day: If it isn’t a Great White, it is the clink, clink, clink sound of a roller coaster car being pulled up the rail, about to go careening around the bend. And they clearly learned nothing from the first Bates murder investigation. They think the police have moved on from them, so they flatly tell helpful Baxter she doesn’t need to tell the cops that tidbit about seeing the infamous ticket whole in Mrs. Hughes’ hand. Will the opportunity to swear to that have an expiration date? On the plus side, Bates has accepted that The Thing is Mary’s, not Anna’s, but now wonders if there’s anything wrong with them. I can tell you what’s wrong with you: Pondering the question; what would I do without you? Say that out loud and we start to worry that somewhere a Ouija board is listening and getting ready to send an answer he (and we) won’t like!
Two Shades of Grey: Stoned Love:
It is difficult to say which was the most heartbreaking this week, the look on Isobel’s face as her hopes were dashed, or Violet responding to Mary’s lecture with, “Is that what you think of me?” This is what we all thought of her at the beginning of this story line. Its comic effects were so deftly played, it seemed a slapstick attempt atmisguided un-matchmaking. But there have also been little clues along the way that it might have been something else, and now we know. Violet is mourning the loss of her ready companion; her partner in crime, Isobel. It is rare for us to see such vulnerability in the formidable Dowager, but when we do it is a precious gem. Could it be that the return of Prince Badenov to her life has brought long buried parts of herself closer to the surface? Will we see more? After what we saw tonight, it seems like maybe what Violet was protecting Isobel from was just this: Isobel and Dickie Merton announced their engagement to smiles and toasts all around, but the jolly doesn’t last long. The happy couple cannot avoid the shady Greys any longer. It’s time to invite Roofie Larry and his (as yet unnamed) younger brother to dinner to meet the Fockers. Hey, hey, hey, what could go wrong? For starters, it seems the Grey boys cancelled a double date with the Mitford sisters to be there. The younger Grey, seems like he might be harmless enough if he wasn’t under the sway of his evil incarnate elder brother. One suspects that he regularly spends time in front of his mirror, wearing his mummy’s tiara, assuring himself that he is the prettiest. But big brother Larry is the poster child for everything that is wrong with inherited wealth and privilege. It is pretty certain that Larry, who gives smarmy a bad name, did not come to praise Isobel, but to bury her with a bigoted monologue about class and background that would have made Lady Catherine de Bourg proud. Thankfully Branson was there to speak up, but sadly not punch up. All this has left Isobel is visibly shaken and it seems like there will be no chapel of love for these crazy kids. I hope she perks up. But even if the wedding is off, there is one thing to look forward too: The episode where Lord Merton cuts his obnoxious mongrels out of his will and leaves it all to the Isis Crawley Memorial Home for Wayward Doggie Bums. One hopes that is coming next week. Regardless of the language you endorse, I’m sure that’s how we all feel, amiright?
In other news, long suffering Sprat, tired of being the dachshund whisperer, tells Violet she can take his job and shove it – and her response is to look at him like he’s a petulant four-year-old threatening to run away from home. Dear, dear Sprat; think of Lady Edith, and don’t expect anyone to come looking for you.
Terms of Endearment: Puppy Love:
And speaking of plain sailing … Robert and Cora are back to loving each other and speaking in hieroglyphic valentines, with nary a word about the whole Bricker Incident. Lord Labrador attributes it to the old girl not having been herself for a few weeks, but now she’s perked up and it’s forgotten about. The only remnant is a ban on orange marmalade at breakfast. It would have been interesting to see a follow-up to that dressing room scene, where we see Cora and Robert have a talk that peels back the layers of their relationship, do you agree? **Right here I have to add a disclaimer that, to be able to write my recaps, I am watching the show one week in advance via the press screener – and these press screeners are always missing snippets, sometimes entire scenes. So if there was a scene like that tonight, I stand corrected. But if there wasn’t, maybe the whole point is that they don’t peel back those layers at all. Ever. Their life is so much about appearances that they paper over the cracks, hold their feelings under a strict containment policy, and soldier on for the look of the thing. One supposes that if Cora and Robert would have had that onion-peeling scene, this would have been EastEnders, not Downton Abbey. But who can think about all that at a time like this, when Isis is in peril? Poor old Isis has been taken up by the planking craze and it’s gotten serious. More serious than any of Edith’s problems, certainly. What’s going to happen if Isis goes to that great gamekeeper’s shack in the sky? Who’s going to wag their tail to start the show? We know that servants who leave Downton are no longer replaced: Will Molesley have to do it now?
The Dowager Countessdown (Violet’s Best Zingers):
5. On the contrary, it’s the most honest thing she’s ever said to me.
4. You’ve made me regret my confidence.
3. Typical Sprat. He’s as touchy as a beauty losing her looks.
2. He’s a man. Men don’t have rights.
1. My dear, a lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears.
This doesn’t qualify as a zinger but, “And for your information, I don’t think Isobel has ever looked up to me,” should be right up there. It is hard to come up with yet more ways to wax poetic about the wondrousness that is Maggie Smith’s creation of the Dowager Countess of Grantham. She can make you laugh out loud in one breath, then break your heart in the next. I’d say Lord Merton’s words to Isobel express it best, “How lucky I am in you. I know it every time you speak.” Yes, how lucky we are in her!