I watched this episode in the middle of a round of insomnia, sometime after midnight and before dawn, so my recollection of it might be mixed in with some thoughts I had while nodding off. If so, I apologize. One of my potentially imaginary impressions is that this episode was visually more interesting than most. It was less claustrophobic than they usually are; there seemed to be a lot more walking across the lawn and up and down stair cases and less sitting around on the couches. The scenes moved at a statelier pace, which was a welcome change from the usual leap from one mumbled conversation to another. Usually, I don’t even have time to get oriented visually before it’s off to another showdown between a couple of characters about what one of them overheard in the hallway.
In Downstairs News
Bates and Bates are thick as thieves once more. Thieves who are madly, frighteningly in love with one another. All the misunderstandings of the previous months have been forgotten, melted in the warmth of the mutual Bates-es gaze and now it’s just a series of conversations about their cozy future together. That is, when they’re not giving Baxter dirty looks at the lunch table. If only Bates and Bates would realize that Baxter said absolutely nothing of value to the police, then Bates and Bates and Baxter, and perhaps even Barrow, could be friends. But instead Bates and Bates are determined to narrow their eyes at Baxter and blame her for their latest round of troubles. They’re right about one thing though; for goodness sake, don’t go to the police talking about ticket stubs, Baxter. No doubt Scotland Yard will show up in a day or two, as is their wont. Plenty of time then to dredge up another circumstantial unverifiable bit of nonexistent evidence in this cockamamie plot line. (And I’d like to know what kind of genius ticket seller could remember whether or not he sold some random guy a one-way ticket or a round-trip ticket from Yorkshire to London a year or so ago.)
Among Hughes and the rest, there was a lot of talk of cottages and real estate ventures, none of which I followed. But it is encouraging to know that the servant class in the early 20th century managed to acquire property so easily, even without wages inflated by union representation. Maybe Miz Bunting was barking up the wrong tree with all her talk of oppression.
Sainted Baxter suffers on, though a day in the country at Daisy’s Farm did her some good. She rode in the back of a wagon with Molesley, where they were able to give each other meaningful looks, a confusing development in light of his growing interest in teaching Daisy Undercook her sums. Daisy Undercook’s surrogate father, Farmer Mason, is not only a wonderful man — warmhearted and generous — he also has the ability to summarize the power of education in a few short phrases. “You Can Do Anything When You Have an Education”, he tells Daisy. “Knowledge is Power”, he adds, “With An Education, the Whole World Opens Up to You.” Daisy Undercook and her friends nod in agreement. It is so true.
Spratt makes an appearance in this episode, quitting Granny’s household in front of company. Granny, a pro of many decades in the delicate art of handling the underclass, knows Spratt is all bluster, and Spratt, for his part, makes the most of their exchange, nearly exploding out of his starched bib with the indignity of it all. That guy deserves an award for stealing every scene he’s in. No sign of his nemesis, the Ancient Maid, but the anticipation is only building in her absence.
A couple of dinner parties happened, but not before Mama Cora made her presence known. It’s as though kicking Lord Toothy Brickman out of her bedroom has restored her to the Cora of many seasons ago when she was the type capable of dragging a dead body across the house just to save face. She is all backbone now, giving Granny and Lady Rosamund the what-for and trooping down to London to fetch Edith. And she came up with a plan for restoring Edith and her baby girl to the gothic nightmare known as Downton Abbey. However, while I hesitate to criticize this new, unmedicated version of Cora, it seems apparent to me that it might be best for everyone — from Poor Edith to Baby Marigold to Mrs. Pigman — if Edith just stayed in London, hired a nanny, and kept an eye on her newly-acquired child and Publishing House far away from Yorkshire. Why Edith would want to rush back to Downton is beyond me. Especially as her first item of business was to shove the baby back in Mr. Pigman’s arms after painfully extricating the baby just a few days before. I grew very worried when I didn’t lay eyes on Marigold for the rest of the episode after Mr. Pigman rode off with her in First Class. No one else seems concerned, so I’m not sure why I am, but given the Pigman family’s history with Poor Edith, it seems as though someone should be keeping an eye on the baby’s whereabouts.
The really strange thing about this turn of events is that Cora and Edith panicked and dumped Marigold on the Pigman because they saw Mary at the station. Because Mary is a person of perfect rectitude and anything unseemly must be kept from her at all costs. Even if it means never seeing the baby again. That’s just the price that must be paid.
Speaking of Iron Mary and and her indelicate morals, she is still trying to get rid of her former flame Tony Foyle, Lord Gillingham, but can’t manage it, quite, as losing Tony as an admirer means that she would lose an admirer, and the thought is unbearable. Then Charles Blake finally arrives at just the thing, gallantly sacrificing some of his soul by attaching his warm, human face to her cold, inhuman one (in what appeared to be some sort of kiss) at the Moving Picture Show. He did so at the precise time Tony and Mabel were walking past. At this sight, Tony finally understands: Mary’ll kiss anybody and there’s no need for him to do the honorable thing after all. So it’s off to a celebratory post-break up dinner with Lady Mabel, who smiles knowingly. She and Charles high five each other and then Charles announces that he leaves for Poland the next day and will be gone for months, maybe a year, maybe forever. Lady Mary lazily shows a slight bit of interest, which is hard to do, because the topic of conversation is not her person, but rather another country, which is so dull, really.
Dinner Parties Galore
The first Dinner Party goes off swimmingly, in spite of Lord Sibley being irritated by having to be grateful that these Anglo-Saxons are willing to welcome his son into the fold without considering whether or not he wants to welcome Rose into his. Don’t worry Lord Sibley: Rose will convert, no problem. That’s the benefit of being a silly person; there are so few obstacles to love, wherever you find it lying around. This time, though, Rose seems to have struck gold, both literally and figuratively, as Atticus seems to be rich and nice. Though who really knows, since this is Downton Abbey? It will probably turn out to be the case that is was Atticus what killed Mr. Green.
At the second Dinner Party, all does not go so well. As usual, everyone dispenses with the niceties right away and heads straight towards the topics of race, class and religion. As dinner guests at Downton tend to do, Lord Merton’s sons, Larry and Gary, behave abominably. Larry manages to insult everyone in sight with a shockingly rude, if insightful, speech about the unusual way the family has of muddying their bloodlines. It culminates in Larry calling Tom, a man of the people, a chauffeur, and it’s the last straw for Tom. He has spent the last few years dedicating his life to learning which fork to use at these things and won’t stand for such insults. Tom leaps up and accuses Larry of being born under less-than-respectable circumstances, and what do you know, Old Donk backs Tom up. Just when a good old-fashioned, napkin-toss is in the works , Larry is made to go sit in the car for the rest of the meal, while his brother Gary sulks next to Isobel, whose crestfallen demeanor was enough to make even Iron Mary feel terrible. Lord Merton understands that his hopes and dreams of rescuing prostitutes and taking tea with Russian refugees alongside Isobel is now in jeopardy and responds to Isobel’s utter humiliation by rushing out to the car right after dinner to tell Larry and Gary how they have ruined his happiness, just like their mother used to do.
On the upside, Rose and Atticus are very happy and on the road to matrimony, though look for Rose’s mum to show up and cause a ruckus. Hopefully ol’ Squishy can take a break from looking high and low in Hong Kong for the missing Princess and come to Yorkshire in support of Rose’s choice of a mate. Another upside is that Igor Ivanovitch was nowhere to be found in this episode, and Granny was freed up from inane conversations with him for old times’ sake and could make us cry with her profession of affection for Isobel. Truly those two save Downton from being a total waste of time.
Sighting of the Dependents
Sadly, Isis continues to fail, and, as she is (understandably) their favorite child, spends her final hours in the company of Lord and Lady G. Sybbie was given an extended and charming scene at a bridge with her pa Comrade Tom, in which he considers her rights, as a toddler and a future worker, to weigh in on whether or not they should move to America. George showed up just long enough to reassure viewers that he is still alive.
Don’t miss next week’s episode, when Edith remembers that Marigold is at the Pigmans and heads over there to rip Marigold out of Mrs. Pigman’s arms again, Carson, Hughes, Bates, Bates, Baxter & Barrow buy a cottage and open a law firm together, Mrs. Patmore — since no one else will do it — chisels the name of her nephew in the War Memorial herself, Lord & Lady Grantham make a solemn vow to never, ever throw another dinner party, and Larry and Gary Merton toilet paper Isobel’s house, just to make things clear.