Saturday, February 8, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E5: It's a Secret

Most of this episode was fairly quiet, like the last one.  However, this one had several good moments, and that's before the "secret" was revealed at the end.

Plot Synopsis

First, I'll get the never-ending love quadrangle out of the way.  Thankfully, this is the end and now Daisy can get a good plot line.  She begins this episode thrilled that Alfred is staying at Downton, only for her happiness to be dashed when Alfred receives a letter informing him that one of the accepted candidates dropped out, so he gets to fill the position.  When it's time for him to leave, he tells Daisy that he's sorry he hurt her, and that she will make a man very happy, just not him.  His honesty is refreshing, but couldn't he have said that a few months earlier?  How many months -- no, years -- has this plot line dragged on?  Daisy manages to wish him luck, and they end on a good note.

Later, Jimmy tries to take advantage of Ivy after they see a Valentino movie, and Ivy realizes that Jimmy only wanted her for "one thing."  She tells the other kitchen staff and Mrs. Hughes what happened, and waxes nostalgic for Alfred's gentlemanly ways.  Daisy's like: "Oh now you like Alfred?!"  She unloads that it's because Ivy ignored him that Alfred left to be a chef, causing Daisy grief in the process.  I'm not sure that's quite accurate.  Daisy runs off, and Ivy asks what that reaction was about.  Mrs. Hughes replies: "It's about the fact you had it coming."  That was a bit out of left field.  It never seemed like Mrs. Hughes paid much attention to the love quadrangle.  But then, when it's dragged on for at least two years, I guess it's hard to ignore.

Meanwhile, the Isobel-Violet subplot that I thought was over last week is still going on.  This time, more small items have gone missing from Violet's house.  Violet suspects the gardener and fires him, stirring Isobel's outrage.  Isobel engineers a scheme to get into Violet's house while she is away and search for one of the missing items, which she finds under a seat cushion on one of the chairs.  Isobel comes back again after Violet has returned, ready to rake her over the coals for firing someone due to her carelessness.  Instead, Violet triumphantly explains that she already rehired the gardener and asked his forgiveness.  Okay, and the point of that was...?  Perhaps it was all part of Violet's scheme to give Isobel back her mojo, for as she explains to Lord Grantham: "Some people run on greed, lust, even love.  She runs on indignation."

The plot line that is not over, nor will it be soon, is the one with Anna and Bates.  Despite being the one to suffer trauma, Anna is worried most about Bates's feelings.  She still feels impure and unworthy of him.  Bates thinks that their relationship will improve if he takes Anna to a fancy restaurant in a nearby hotel.  The highlight of the plot is the snooty maitre d', who refuses to seat such low people until Cora (there with a charity group) intervenes, at which point he bends over backwards.  Yet even that good laugh isn't enough to lighten things between Anna and Bates.  Anna tells Bates that he sees her as a victim, but she doesn't see herself as one.  Bates tells her that what upsets him most was that he couldn't protect her.

Cora -- unusually perceptive in this episode -- can tell that something is wrong, but does not disclose until she is up in her room with Mary and Baxter.  Cora tells Mary that it sounded as though Anna was hurt and Bates could not protect her, then swears everyone in the room to secrecy.  Baxter goes downstairs and tells Thomas, but to her credit, shows signs of being a good egg by stating that she doesn't feel right about it.  Cora has treated her kindly and Baxter believes that she does not deserve her deceit.  Thomas loses his temper, reminding her of the conditions of her coming to work at Downton.  Whatever -- all she needs to do is tell Cora about Thomas's threats and he would be fired.  Surely he knows this?  Or does he think Lord Grantham is that desperate for a good cricket player?

Yet the show never considers this.  Shit-stirrer Thomas is somehow preferable as under-butler to Molesley, who actually was a butler.  So instead of considering Molesley for Thomas's position and demoting Thomas, Carson fixates on whether to offer Molesley the vacated footman position.  Carson is miffed that Molesley wasn't more grateful when he offered it the first time, and does not want to do so again, even though Molesley has had a change of heart.  Finally he gives in after Molesley shows a willingness to do even the humblest servant job.  So does that make Molesley the first or second footman?  I thought footmen were supposed to be the "peacocks" of the house?

Meanwhile, Edith's world is starting to crumble.  First she receives word from Gregson's office that he has vanished in Germany, then a letter telling her what most of the audience suspected: her symptoms are consistent with someone in her first trimester.  Edith does not tell anyone about the letter.  However, her grief about Gregson's absence is so pronounced that even her parents notice.  Lord Grantham provokes the biggest laughs of the evening when he calls Edith "my most darling girl," then says that he loves his children equally.  Edith is not fooled.  But she does tell him that Gregson's office has been working with the German police to no avail.  Not knowing what happened to him is "killing her," and she can't plan in this "fog."  Lord Grantham doesn't do much more than hold her hand.  Couldn't he hire an investigator?

Lord Grantham's birthday is drawing near, and plans are in effect.  It was supposed to be a surprise, but a few people couldn't keep their mouths shut, so he knows all about it.  However, he doesn't know about the one big surprise that Rose has planned: to invite Jack Ross and his band to play after dinner.  When Jack Ross appears downstairs, the servants gawk at him, while he smiles awkwardly.  

Upstairs, one of the party guests is Charles Blake, Evelyn Napier's boss on their Yorkshire land surveying trip.  Blake quickly lets Mary know that he is not surveying estates in order to save them -- he just wants to see if the nation's food supply will be affected.  In fact, he doesn't really give a fig about entitled aristocrats who never worked for their money.  Mary quickly lets Blake know that she thinks he's a bigot and a snob.  Looks like love!

After the dinner, Rose intervenes before the genders can separate into different rooms.  She ushers the Crawleys and guests into the ball room, where Jack Ross and his band await.  Unexpectedly, no one has a problem with his color except for Edith, with even Violet telling her that they needed to be less provincial.  Clearly she was not around two episodes ago, when her own daughter and Branson acted as if Rose were courting scandal by dancing with Ross for two seconds.

Then again, having a black musician entertain them was one thing; having one for a lover is another.  After the party, Mary comes downstairs and catches Ross and Rose kissing.  She quickly backs up the stairs and pretends she saw nothing, calling out: "Is anyone still downstairs?"  Rose and Ross both emerge from the shadows pretending nothing happened, but all three know that Mary knows that something did.    

Other Observations

An Aww Moment.  I've been critical of the show for having no Isobel-Mary interaction, so I wanted to comment on one scene that was among the best of Series Four, if not the entire series.  Isobel comes into the nursery while Mary and Branson are waiting for the children to appear with their nanny.  She remarks that Lord Gillingham is engaged, and Mary responds with just faint regret.  Perhaps to assure Mary that a union with Lord Gillingham never would have worked, Isobel recalls that she was almost "sick" with love before she married her own husband.  That leads Branson and Mary to remember their dearly departed spouses.  Mary recalls Matthew's proposal at the end of Series Two: how she was cold in the snow, but she didn't care because all she could think was: "He's going to propose!  He's going to propose!"  Isobel then notes what lucky people they are.  Even though they've all lost someone, at least they got to feel what true love was, which not everyone does.

Aww.  Now I need to go watch my DVDs from Series Two.  

Where Is Jack Ross From?  The actor is British, but his accent sounds sort of American.  But he said that his "people" came over in the 1790s, so unless he meant another branch of his family (a la Colin Powell's), then he must be British... I guess?

American Pie.  Or tea, rather.  It sounds as though Cora's brother is embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal, where petroleum reserves were leased to private oil companies without competitive bidding.  The worst thing about this is that it gives Lord Grantham an opportunity to act superior.  Like you wouldn't have done the same thing in his place, bud.

Next Time:  I can't remember.  Let's all be surprised together!

The above image was used under the Fair Use Doctrine.   

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