Friday, January 31, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E4: Stupid, Stupid People

That "some stuff happened" is all I can recall.  Various things happened to the different characters, but it's all a bit of a blur, with only a few distinct moments.  Alfred on Top Chef.  Bates threatening Mrs. Hughes.  The guy who brought Pamuk to Downton making a second appearance.  I would end the recap right there, but that wouldn't be fair, would it?

Plot Synopsis

Oh let's see... Edith may be pregnant, given that she claims that she is going to London to see to Gregson's affairs but instead goes to the doctor's office.  No one else in the family cares, and when Edith claims she knows how it feels to be an outcast in the house, Mary snarks at her.  Will those two ever have a real relationship?

Some boring shit happens with Violet and Isobel -- I don't remember.  Something about Violet's new gardener watering in Violet's house and a letter on her desk going missing.  Whatever was the problem, it appears that everything is a-okay in the end.

Meanwhile, Branson feels like such an outcast at Downton that he wants to move with little Sybil to the United States to get a fresh start.  The family is surprisingly sanguine about the idea, and Cora even states that the move would give little Sybil the best option in life.  No one suggests that under their roof, little Sybil would attend the best schools, learn to speak the "right" way, and would have many more advantages than if she and Branson slipped off to the States.  Maybe it's to their credit, but it almost seems out of character.

During this time, one of the Crawleys' long-term tenants dies, and his son comes to town for the funeral.  Since the father had not paid rent for quite some time, Mary wants to take over the lease and farm the land directly.  However, the son has other ideas: he wants to assume the tenancy, and appeals to Lord Grantham, reminding him that the family has farmed the estate for over 100 years.  Lord Grantham decides to help the son pay off the arrears by loaning him fifty pounds, and Mary gives up her takeover plan.

This is the type of thing I wish we saw more of from Lord Grantham.  Not the dolt who loses his wife's fortune by investing it all in shaky stocks, not the dullard who thinks it's a great idea to invest all of Matthew's money in a Ponzi scheme, but a well-meaning aristocrat who thinks that some of the old ways are worth keeping.  These old ways may not be the best financially, but they make people happy, and sometimes that's better.

Finally, Evelyn Napier comes to visit Downton while on other business.  He was the one who brought Pamuk to the house in Series One, and thus was indirectly responsible for the scandal that followed.  When Napier speaks to Mary, he refers to "that ghastly business," but it's hard to tell whether he's talking about Pamuk or Matthew's more recent death.  Regardless, Mary no longer thinks that Napier is boring.

Downstairs, Alfred receives a letter stating that he will take part in the upcoming Ritz examination in London.  He doesn't really go on Top Chef, of course, but clearly Fellowes was influenced by a few cooking shows when he wrote the follow-up scenes.  All of the chefs stand in front of their stations, wearing spotless white hats and smocks.  A snooty French chef grills them in cooking trivia before stating what he wants them to prepare: a four course dinner of fear.

Meanwhile, Carson decides that if Alfred will be leaving Downton to train at the Ritz, he will do Molesley a favor and offer him the open footman position.  However, Molesley is less than grateful for the offer, complaining what a fall from grace it would be for him to be a footman after being a butler and a valet.  Was it ever explained why Molesley had such trouble finding work in those positions?  I know that in the 1920s, fewer people had servants, but surely Isobel or Mary would have given him a good reference.  Surely if even Ethel could find a decent position after the war, sad-sack Molesley could.  Why is Thomas, who has lied, stolen, and sold goods on the black market, allowed to fail upward into the position of under-butler while Molesley, a former butler, is jobless?

Anyway, Molesley hems and haws over whether to accept.  Then the decision is made for him when Alfred narrowly fails the examination and remains at Downton.  Sorry, Molesley.  (Wuh-wuhhhh.)

Speaking of Thomas, instead of being grateful that he even has such a good position, he is looking to create yet more problems.  He installs his friend Baxter in the position of Cora's lady's maid, and though she seems even-keeled and likable at first, of course she's a schemer just like he is, saying whatever she thinks her superiors want to hear.  Maybe the twist will be that she's just playing Thomas and really likes her role.  I'm tired of people being brought on just to scheme.

Mrs. Patmore continues to fear everything modern, a pattern so ridiculous that even Cora calls her on it when she arranges for a new refrigerator to replace the icebox.

Finally, the downstairs plot line with the most weight.  Despite repeated assurances that she is fine, Anna is far from fine weeks after being raped by Green.  She continues to shy away from Bates and live in the Downton main house.  When she goes away on a short trip, Bates corners Mrs. Hughes and threatens to leave forever unless Mrs. Hughes tells him what happened.  Mrs. Hughes responds that his leaving would kill Anna, and swears to tell the truth on her dead mother's grave.  She lies that Anna was raped by an unknown intruder who broke into the house while everyone was upstairs watching Nellie Melba.  Bates isn't fooled, though he initially pretends to be.

He later tells Anna that he knows, and Anna is horrified that she is now "spoiled" for him.  Bates tells her that if anything, he views her as even purer for having endured such suffering for so long.  How very Victorian of him.  Soon after, he tells Mrs. Hughes that he knows Green was really responsible, and that this isn't over.

Again, why do people on this show think that silence solves anything?  Why didn't Mrs. Hughes or Anna tell Bates outright that yes, it was Green, and Anna didn't tell Bates because she didn't want him to hunt Green down and kill him?  Would it have been so difficult?  Is Bates such an animal that he couldn't honor his wife's wish to just leave it alone?  Apparently so.  Stupid, stupid people.    

Other Observations

Mother Mary.  I've been so hard on Mary for having no relationship with Isobel or her son that I would look like a hypocrite if I failed to mention that she held her son in this episode.  It was during a scene with Branson and little Sybil in the nursery, and might I add that it was quite adorable.

Maybe the Twenties Just Aren't That...  It would be very inaccurate to say that nothing happened during the 1920s.  Of course major social changes happened in the 1920s in Britain, the United States, and around the world.  The problem is that one, very few of those changes touch a family like the Crawleys directly, and two, very few can be dramatized well.  In Series One and Two, you had the ideal dramatic situation: it was the End of an Era.  A Sunset of the Empire.  The Eve of the War to End All Wars.  Few things can compete with the drama of a major war and its immediate before and after effects.  As a result, the Crawleys fretting about taxes and modernizing the estate seems a bit dull and underwhelming by comparison.  Even the next major event that affects them -- abolishing entail in 1926 -- has less impact now that Matthew is dead.  That may be part of why this Series has felt so stagnant.

Next Time: Jack Ross returns for Lord Grantham's birthday party. 

The above image is used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E3: Taxes and Toffs

I remember reading comments to this effect, and I'm inclined to agree: I'm just not feeling Series Four so far.  I'm sure if I poured through last year's reviews, I would come across similar comments.  Sybil's horrific death didn't happen until Episode 4, and the other excitement happened more toward the end of Series Three.  Yet even in Episode 3, we had Branson escaping Ireland by the skin of his teeth, leaving Sybil behind to face the "pigs."  Here we have... a polite black jazz singer dancing briefly with Rose.  And Mary getting another marriage proposal.  And Edith competing for the title of Unluckiest Woman in the Western Hemisphere.

Plot Synopsis

The house party lasts a day or two longer after That Scene, which means that Anna must share a dinner table with the repulsive Green, who smirks delightedly while Mrs. Hughes gives him a thousand-watt stare.  Unfortunately, because no one knows what Green did to Anna, that leaves the other housemaids vulnerable to being attacked.  Thankfully there are no other horror tales before Lord Gillingham's departure.

Anna remains noticeably altered by her experience, and begins to shrink from Bates's touch.  Naturally Bates is concerned, though Anna assures him he is blameless.  She finally asks Mrs. Hughes if she can move back into the main house because after being violated, she feels "unworthy" of Bates.  Mrs. Hugh obliges.

Meanwhile, Edna's sympathy whisky to Branson had the desired effect, and they slept together in his room that night (though what happened remains ambiguous).  Branson tells her that whatever happened was due to his intoxication, but Edna furiously responds that she expects him to marry her if she turns out to be pregnant.  Branson stews over the matter until Mary, wisely, tells him to go talk to someone he can trust.  That would be Mrs. Hughes, the wisest person at Downton aside from Violet.  I can only imagine what Violet would say if Branson chose her.  Anyway, Mrs. Hughes calls Edna's bluff, telling her bluntly that she is in no danger of becoming pregnant.  That is because Mrs. Hughes snooped around her room and found a copy of Married Love written by Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes, which (among other things) taught women how to avoid getting pregnant.  Chastened, Edna agrees to leave Downton Abbey at once.  After Branson asks Mrs. Hughes how she knew Edna was lying, Mrs. Hughes confesses that she didn't -- she just made a lucky guess.

So thankfully the Edna storyline is over and done with, and only Cora is upset by her departure.  Anna is doing her hair in the meantime, but Cora doesn't think to promote her because... she's so indispensable to Mary?  Because the daughter of the house deserves a steadier lady's maid than the Countess?  At least this won't be one of those ridiculous stories that drags on and on, like Bates in prison.

Mrs. Hughes continues to spread her magic by having a touching heart-to-heart with Carson about his lost love, Alice.  She tells him that it matters that Alice loved him in return, even if they never got to act on it.  And to remind Carson that a real heart pumps his blood, she gets his picture of Alice framed for his desk.  Aww.

Finally, the tedious downstairs love quadrangle remains tedious, though there are hints that it is finally ending.  Alfred wants to join a cooking program at the Ritz, with the possibility of a chef job at the end.  He wants Ivy to join him, overlooking the fact that Daisy is a better cook.  Ivy is more interested in flirting and smooching with Jimmy.  Finally, a jealous Daisy tricks Alfred into catching Ivy and Jimmy in mid-lip lock, and Alfred flees in distress.  Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that maybe it's better for Alfred to leave, that it can be toxic to spend too long in a "one-sided" love.  It certainly would be nice for Daisy to get a new storyline.  What happened with Mr. Mason?

Meanwhile, upstairs, Mary and Branson arrange to go to London to visit with the tax man about Downton's tax problem.  Rose joins them, for some reason, as they all stay at Mary's aunt Rosamund's house.  Then surprise!  It turns out that Rosamund invited Lord Gillingham over, a sign that she and Mary's parents approve of the potential match.  Lord Gillingham's friend proposes that they go to a night club, sparking a subplot that finally gives Rose something to do.  Speaking of not feeling Series Four, I'm still not feeling Rose, who seems more like wallpaper at times than like the breath of fresh air she was supposed to be.

Mary, Branson, Lord Gillingham, Rosamund, Rose, and... let's just call him "friend"... head to the night club, which is being headlined by a black singer, Jack Ross.  Mary and Lord Gillingham dance, and Mary seems quite content, telling Lord Gillingham that it's good to be away from Downton, where she is so weighed down.  Lord Gillingham is likewise weighed down, engaged to a woman that he doesn't love.  Nonetheless, Mary tells him that she is still far from over Matthew, and is not yet ready to move on.

Elsewhere, Rose and the friend are dancing, but the friend's drunken romping is quickly wearing on Rose's nerves, as is his flight to the bathroom to hurl.  Luckily, Jack Ross saves Rose from having to walk ten feet back to her table by leaving the stage to check on her.  They have a little dance, but the racist alarm bells go off among the rest of the group, and Branson goes to retrieve her.  

Lord Gillingham later follows Mary back to Downton Abbey.  Anna fears that Green will be with him, but fortunately that is not the case.  He has dinner with the Crawleys and Isobel, who finds the strength to be happy for Mary and to hope that Lord Gillingham will return.  I just thought of something: wouldn't it be great for Mary and Isobel to talk about their complicated feelings about the transition?  Well don't hold your breath waiting.  Despite Isobel telling Violet that she's fond of -- no, loves -- Mary, the two have still not exchanged one word of dialogue.

Then a bomb drops: Lord Gillingham proposes.  Mary is stunned, and reminds him of what she told him just yesterday.  Lord Gillingham tells her that Matthew is dead, but he is alive, and Mary fills his mind.  They wouldn't have to get married right away -- they could wait a few years -- but he wants to know if he has Mary's consent.  Mary needs time to think it over.

Around this time, Edith is in London, staying with Rosamund and visiting Gregson before he departs for Germany.  Gregson has her sign some papers that put her in charge of his affairs should anything happen to him.  I have no reason to think that Edith isn't capable of understanding the documents she signs, so I'm going to assume there was nothing suspicious about them, even though some have speculated that Gregson is up to no good.  Then Edith stays at Gregson's that night... and I mean all night.  She returns very early in the morning, much to Rosamund's fury.

The next day, Mary refuses Lord Gillingham, stating that although she likes him, she is not over Matthew.  While Mary might fill Lord Gillingham's mind, Matthew still fills Mary's mind.  Aww, Mary, stop saying things to make me like you!  Lord Gillingham tells Mary that he will go ahead and marry the other woman out of obligation.  Mary wonders if she will end up regretting her decision.

Other Observations

About That Book...  It's too bad Married Love got such a bad rap on the show, because it really was groundbreaking when it was published in 1918.  It was the first book to discuss women's sexual desire (at least in a realistic fashion) and to state that men and women should be equal in their relationship.  The United States Customs Service banned it as an indecent book until 1931.

Why Doesn't Lord Grantham Help Gregson?  It's really odd how isolated the Edith-Gregson plot line is.  Do Edith's parents even know about Gregson's plans for German citizenship?  Do Edith's parents know or care why she can't marry Gregson in the first place?  You would think once Lord Grantham knew the situation, he would offer to look for a solution.  Not that it would be a good solution, but it couldn't be worse than going to Germany for citizenship.

Of course, helping Gregson would require the Crawleys to take an actual interest in Edith, which is a lot to expect, I know.  Still, it's not impossible that Lord Grantham would make a move to protect Edith's reputation, if for no other reason.

Where Is the Chauffeur?  Thinking about Branson's old role, I suddenly wondered where the new chauffeur was hiding.  Don't tell me the Crawleys took a cue from Matthew and decided to drive themselves around.  

Next Time:  Isobel smiles strangely at a boy with a funny looking haircut.

The above image is used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E2: Oh Dear... It's This Episode

No sooner has Series Four gotten started than it gives us its first darkly disturbing episode.  As if Sybil's torturous, horrible death wasn't enough to make us shiver, now this?  I had read about this episode and storyline on Internet message boards, so I knew it was pretty hot and controversial.

Yet unlike the Sybil episode, which seemed to deliver a thunderclap of doom from its opening moments, this one is actually fairly lighthearted until That Scene, where everything changes.  

Plot Synopsis

The Crawleys are throwing a house party for 16 people and several notables are invited, including Lord Gillingham, an attractive young viscount whom Cora invited to tempt Mary out of her seclusion.  He arrives with his valet, the flirtatious Mr. Green.  Another guest to the party is Edith's beau, Michael Gregson, who tries to ingratiate himself with Lord Grantham, only to get the cold shoulder.  

There to entertain the guests will be Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba, who was a real person, although older than the singer who plays her here.  Even though she is world famous and honored by King George V, Carson doesn't think she's fit to sit at the dinner table with the aristocratic company, and intends to have her eat with the servants.  Lord Grantham, while slightly distracted, agrees with him.  Fortunately, Cora wakes up from whatever coma she is in ninety percent of the time and tells Lord Grantham in no uncertain terms that Nellie Melba belongs at the table and will sit right next to him.   

The other plot lines are pretty light hearted up until That Scene.  The most serious involve Mary and Isobel, with Mary deciding whether to let Lord Gillingham woo her and Isobel deciding whether to come out of her own isolation.  Violet comes to see her and invite her to dinner, and Isobel at first declines, believing that if she is happy, it means that she is forgetting about Matthew.  Why is Violet the one reaching out to Isobel instead of Mary?  More on that below.  However, Isobel later changes her mind and decides to come and watch Nellie Melba sing.

At dinner, Isobel spies Mary chatting not-at-all reluctantly with Lord Gillingham and doesn't like it.  Indeed, at six or seven months, it does seem a bit soon for her to already be considering a new beau.  Fifty years earlier, her mourning period would have lasted two years.  Mary herself has reservations -- though she seems to enjoy horseback riding through the countryside with Lord Gillingham, discussing how to deal with the death tax, she later flees to her room when she realizes that they are listening to music on Matthew's gramophone.  She tells Anna that she mourns the person she was with Matthew, the person who is now gone.  Anna assures her that the person is still there.  Maybe it would help if instead of Mary lamenting and lamenting about it, she actually did something to show that she was that person.  Like, I don't know, hold her son, or have a conversation with her mother-in-law.

But anyway, Mary's not the only depressed widowed person at the party: Branson feels out of his depth among so many aristocrats.  He dances with one duchess -- and in turn teaches the viewers a valuable lesson about the right time to use "Your Grace" and "Dutchess" as forms of address* -- and must dodge questions about whether he knows her Irish aristocrat friends.  Later, as he is brooding downstairs, he meets Edna and tells her miserably that he doesn't belong.  Edna gives him a large glass of whisky with her sympathy.  Later still, she sneaks into his bedroom.  Gee, that sure was a great idea to not tell Cora why Edna was sent away from Downton!  SILENCE IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER!

In lighter hearted plots, the home and visiting servants smoke and gossip and get into a rousing game of cards in between their duties.  Green flirts quite a bit with Anna, and Anna doesn't seem to mind, much to Bates's disapproval.  Mrs. Patmore is so frenzied with preparing the elaborate meals that she gives herself an anxiety attack.  Alfred, who aspires to become a chef, steps in and does a surprisingly good job with the dishes.  Meanwhile, Lord Grantham and most of the male guests have been losing hoards of money to one card shark at the party.  Fortunately Gregson knows a thing or two about cheating at cards from his younger years and wins the money back for them.  Lord Grantham, who has been cold shouldering him the entire visit, has a change of heart.  Yay?

Then everyone goes to watch Nellie Melba perform -- even the servants have been invited.  She sings beautifully, but unfortunately having everyone upstairs makes That Scene possible.

For you see, Anna decides to go downstairs for a headache remedy and is met by Green.  Like every nightmare strangler in a dark alley, Green grabs her, knocks her around, and rapes her as she screams for help.  Of course no one hears her because of the concert.  And though she is absent for a long time, strangely no one thinks to look for her.  Only much later does Mrs. Hughes find Anna huddled in the corner of a room, bleeding, sobbing, her dress torn.  Anna tells her about Green, and of course Mrs. Hughes wants to go tell someone what happened, but Anna begs her to stay silent.  She is afraid that if Bates finds out, he will try to kill Green and he can't possibly escape a harsh sentence after his last felony conviction (even though that was overturned).

Anna's fears are justified, but there are about 10 other ways she could get help without triggering the Bates Beast.  This includes telling Mary, who might be able to work the quiet aristocratic channels to have Green brought to justice without Bates knowing until Green was in custody.  Instead, Anna just wants to pretend the rape never happened.  Because silence is the solution to everything on this show.

Even though Anna seems hurt and like she needs a doctor, Mrs. Hughes reluctantly agrees to respect her wishes.  She gets Anna a change of clothes, and Anna later greets Bates shakily and lies that she fainted and hit her head.  As they are leaving to go home, Green has the gall to casually call out goodnight to them from the other end of the hall.  As if raping vulnerable women were something he was so used to doing, it scarcely affected him.  A tortured Anna must call back as if nothing had happened.  And given that Mary and Lord Gillingham are getting better acquainted, this is unlikely to be the last time Anna and Green meet.    

Other Observations

What Relationship?  Not Isobel and Mary's, that's for sure.  Last season, I noted that Matthew did not interact much with his mother, and this season, I don't think Isobel and Mary have exchanged one word of dialogue.  They are two very different people, and yes, Mary is a self-absorbed ice queen, but Isobel is her mother-in-law.  Why hasn't she reached out to her in a shared moment of grief?  Okay it's Mary -- enough said.  Then why hasn't Isobel tried to talk to Mary?  In the dinner party scene, one would think that there would be a confrontation of some sort, but no, Isobel expresses her displeasure to Branson instead.  It just seems so odd that the two women have no interaction whatsoever.

It Seems So Long Ago...  Since can I remember Lord Grantham being something other than a stand in for the buffoonish, out-of-touch aristocrat.  As if we haven't already seen he's bad with money, of course he gets suckered by a card shark and loses a huge sum.  He's afraid to tell Cora, but the one he should really be worried about is Mary, since that was Matthew's money invested in the estate.  Hugh Bonneville is a good actor and deserves better.

* Violet tells Branson that only servants use "Your Grace" while fellow aristocrats typically say "Dutchess."  But I could have sworn that in the first episode of the series, Lord Grantham addressed the Duke as "Your Grace."  Either that rule applies only to women, or Fellowes slipped up.

Next Time: Rose continues with her ambitious efforts to yank the Crawleys into the 20th Century by reminding them that black people exist. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E1: Downton Is Back... in Black

Last time on Downton: Matthew died horribly in a car crash in the last seconds of an otherwise dull Christmas Special because Dan Stevens did not want to make a cameo in Series Four.  Fans roared and swore that they were through with the show.  And then they gave Series Four, Episode One the largest audience Downton Abbey has received yet -- at least in the United States.

So what has been happening with our clan since we last saw them?  I'll confess that I didn't wait for PBS to start airing the episodes before I filled myself up with spoilers, but I'll be kind enough to keep them to myself.  The PBS first episode was two hours, containing the first two episodes that aired in the UK.  The first half was better than the second half, though both were decent.

Plot Synopsis

Six months after Matthew's untimely demise, it is clear that Julian Fellowes still does not know how to write prominent characters off of the show.  For it opens with the news that O'Brien, the devious lady's maid, has made off in the middle of the night to join Rose's mother as her new maid while Rose's parents are in India.  Cora is furious, though not as much as she would be if she knew that O'Brien was responsible for killing the Crawley heir.  Poor Rose is left in an awkward position, having to explain that she didn't know, but sort of did know.  Really, after her parents begged the Crawleys to take her in, does this seem remotely plausible?  Couldn't Rose's mother and O'Brien have spoken rationally with Cora, so that when we opened the season, all we heard was Cora saying: "I was sorry to let her go, but I know what a wonderful opportunity it is.  And what with everything here being so sad..."

Because yes, Downton is a sad, dark place to be right now.  And no one is sadder and darker than Mary now that Matthew is gone.  She listlessly refers to her son George as an "orphan," even though Anna reminds her that he still has one parent.  Not as far as Mary's concerned -- she is one bit of nerve away from committing suicide.  Lord Grantham is predictably unhelpful, letting her indulge in her depression while he runs the estate.  As he pointedly reminds Branson, since Matthew left no will, by law, Mary receives just one third of his portion of the estate and one third of his personal possessions -- leaving five-sixth of the estate in the hands of Lord Grantham and her son.

Lord Grantham is like a pig in poop as he anticipates reversing all of Matthew's reforms.  However, Branson wants Mary to be involved and knows that it is not good to wallow in depression.  The rest of the family backs him, including Edith, who is becoming the unsung rock that everyone relies upon.  Edith goes to visit Isobel, who believes that she has no place, no purpose anymore now that her only son is dead.  Edith assures her that she does has a place, and will be a wonderful grandmother to George.

Meanwhile, things are not going so well for Edith.  She is in a relationship with Michael Gregson,  the London publisher, but they are still barred by law from getting married.  Gregson tells her that he has been doing research into countries that will allow divorce on the grounds of lunacy, and has finally landed on Germany.  Problem is that he will need to live there and become a German citizen.  Edith points out that this would not exactly go over well with their fellow countrymen, who hate Germans like the plague after the war.

Indeed, it seems odd.  What would happen when Gregson returned to England, or did he and Edith plan to live in Germany permanently?  Is the United States such a dismal place that living there is never a solution?  Hell, in half of the states in 1922 they could probably claim to be husband and wife and no one would think to verify.  But since the show needs conflict, Gregson decides that Germany is the only place he can go.  Germany at this time was experiencing hyperinflation under the Weimar Republic and Adolf Hitler was beginning his rise in the Nazi party.  Hmm, you think maybe Gregson will find himself at one of his speeches?    

The fact that Matthew, a former solicitor whose JOB it was to draft contracts and wills, left no will of his own was pretty damn odd.  Fortunately the show realizes this, so in the second half, a letter from Matthew is found, which leaves everything to Mary.  Lord Grantham huffs that a handwritten letter might not constitute a valid will, but haha yes it does.  So Mary now takes Matthew's place as the one fighting for reform, and I suspect she'll be a much more aggressive fighter.  One big issue appears to be the "death tax," which will be applied due to Matthew's death and which Lord Grantham seems to regard as a terrible burden.

As an aside, I'm confused as to how Matthew could will Mary his half of the estate... or divide the estate period.  Wasn't the point of the entail to prevent the estate from being divided up?  If a simple will could pass part of an estate to a woman, why didn't Lord Grantham think of-- why didn't someone else in the family think of that?

Then there's the "comic relief" portion of the episode, which involves Rose pretending to be a servant and convincing Anna to come with her to a local dance hall.  There, she meets a guy who is so smitten that he later comes to Downton's back door and asks to see her.  Rose then has to dress up in a maid outfit and break his heart gently, telling him that she has an "intended" who is a farmer's son.  It's actually kind of a cute plot line, but I'm still not very invested in Rose, and have trouble understanding why the Crawleys would let her stay with them during such a difficult time -- especially when Rose's mother absconded with Cora's lady's maid!

The rest of the plot lines I will dispense with in quick succession:

Isobel finds purpose again by helping an old friend of Carson's, whom Mrs. Hughes learned about by going through Carson's waste basket.  Carson won't give his friend the time of day because he resents him for stealing his one true love, but the friend tells him that the marriage quickly soured and she told him that she really loved Carson.  Too bad she never bothered to find and tell him.

Molesley has been out of work since Matthew died and is reduced to paving the road for a living.  He cries pitifully to Anna about how he owes about 30 pounds, and so Bates goes to the Dowager Countess and out of the goodness of her heart, she gives him the money to give to Molesley and pretend it's repaying a loan.  She's getting soft.

The downstairs love quadrangle continues between Alfred, Ivy, Jimmy, and Daisy.  Yawn.  Jimmy gets Ivy drunk at a pub, and Daisy receives a Valentines Day card that she thinks is from one of the fellas, but is really from Mrs. Patmore, who feared that she would be hurt if Ivy received one and she (Daisy) did not.  Daisy, why aren't you living on the tenant farm with Mr. Mason?

Mrs. Patmore sees a future where even rich people will do their own cooking in the form of an electric mixer.  Yet she learns to love it because it whips up a great moose.

Despite being an under-butler with many duties, Thomas continues to act bored and lazy.  He finds time to be a snot to the nanny taking care of little George and Sibyl, refusing to get anything she asks for.  At first it's baffling -- she seems like a nice woman, not unlike the woman from Supernanny who would sweep in and reform households.  Could some of this have to do with the natural tensions between nurses/governesses/tutors and other household servants, as illustrated in Manor House?  No -- it turns out that the nanny is cruel to little Sibyl, calling her a "half-breed" because her father is Irish.  Cora overhears her and demands that she leave immediately.  She praises Thomas for informing her, although personally, I think getting rid of the evil nanny was just a side perk of being his usual nasty self.

Finally, time for the most ridiculous plot line of the evening.  Cora absolutely must have another lady's maid!  The thought of promoting Anna never occurs to her.  Why?  Because she must have someone she can call by her last name, and she can't just call Anna "Bates" when they're alone and there's no chance that Anna could be confused for her husband?  Anyway, Cora puts out a bunch of advertisements, but ends up hiring the first person she interviews.  That person worked at Downton for only a short time as a lower servant, then worked for her next mistress for only a few months, and has very little experience as a lady's maid.  Sold!

That person is also Edna, the maid who tried to get into Branson's pants, for whom Mrs. Hughes wrote a good letter of recommendation to get her out of the way as quickly as possible.  Although Cora asks Mrs. Hughes her opinion (after she has already hired Edna), Mrs. Hughes for some reason does not tell her that Edna acted inappropriately.  Instead, she, Carson, and Branson agree to conceal what happened because learning that Branson was "unfaithful" to Sybil's memory would kill Cora.  That makes sense, but it would have been much better if the normally sensible Mrs. Hughes had let Cora know that, at least, she disapproved of Edna.

But then, Cora should have asked Mrs. Hughes her opinion first.  But she didn't because she is as stupid and useless as her husband.  How do Mary and Edith have more than two brain cells to rub together?

Now Thomas is trying to turn Edna into his new O'Brien.  Oh the wicked antics sure to come!

Other Observations

Not too many this time -- it feels like this recap has gone long enough.  I'll just hope that there is some character evolution, especially among the lower servants, though I won't be holding my breath.  I won't expect Cora or Lord Grantham to suddenly get interesting, either.  One thing I do find funny, though, is how everyone calls Lord Grantham a petulant baby for wanting to run the estate his way and not listen to Mary, even Cora and Violet.  As for Mary, Matthew's death provides an unexpected benefit: for the first time, she has something to do besides be unpleasant.

Oh Okay, One More.  At one point, Mary exclaims: "After all he went through in the war, he gets killed in a stupid car crash!"  That about sums up the audience's view.

Next Time:  Boys, boys, boys at the house!  Which will Mary choose? 

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