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.

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