Sunday, February 16, 2014

Downton Abbey, S4, E6: Edith's Choice

I was going to call this "Gone to the Pigs" or something of the like, but that was too silly.  Besides, while the pigs subplot was memorable, it was not the meat of the episode.  Pun intended.

Plot Synopsis

First, Downton Abbey is in a tizzy because Lord Grantham received a telegram from Cora's family in America, stating that they want him there right now.  For some reason, they think that having him testify before a Senate committee is a good idea, him being an upstanding English earl and all.  However, Bates does not want to leave Anna and begs for Thomas to take his place.  This simple request unleashes so much turmoil that one would think the nation had declared war again.  Before everything settles, Mary knows that Anna was violated, but not that Lord Gillingham's valet was responsible.  Anna refuses to disclose any more details to her.

Before Lord Grantham leaves, Violet comes to wish him off.  If it's not clear by the way she coughs every other word, she's feeling under the weather.  Isobel decides to visit her a few hours later and finds her in bed, sick as a dog.  Dr. Clarkson diagnoses her with bronchitis, which can turn into pneumonia if not treated.  Isobel therefore volunteers to be her nurse.  She somehow manages to nurse Violet exclusively for two days straight without collapsing.  Apart from Cora and Mary offering to help early on, no one in the big house seems very concerned about Granny.  It's a little disconcerting on the one hand, but on the other hand, I'm just so relieved that Violet's coughing wasn't the harbinger of an OMIGOD, GRANNY'S GONNA DIE! episode.  Of course Violet lives (like they'd kill her) and she is shocked to learn that her nemesis was the one nursing her the whole time.  They wind things up with a grand ol' game of cards.

While the Isobel-Violet plot line is rather sweet, despite being light on plot, the love quadrangle needs to DIE NOW.  I thought it was finally over last episode, but no, Alfred's father is sick, so he's coming to visit and will stop by Downton!  And instead of giving Daisy and Ivy a good talking-to about their rivalry, Carson decides to pretend that everyone has the flu and puts Alfred in a pub for the night.  But Alfred decides to come by anyway!  And Daisy snots at Ivy some more.  And Ivy says something nice to Alfred, who gets way too excited about it.  Please just make them all go away now.

Since Isobel was nursing Violet, she couldn't attend a political rally with Branson, who is trying to reclaim his mojo as the Brash Rebellious Socialist.  He finds a seat next to a young woman with bobbed hair and an independent air.  Though they don't talk for long, there is the sense that they'll meet again.

During this time, Edith has covertly booked an appointment in London.  She lies to her mother that it's to have her hair done, and figures that Cora believes it.  For some reason, Cora lets Rose tag along, even though Edith doesn't seem to like her all that well.  Something about Lord Grantham putting her in charge of "fun" -- I think he meant at Downton Abbey, dear.  But anyway, Rose and Edith both go to stay at Rosamund's.  Rose is only there, of course, to continue the plot line with Jack Ross, whom she goes to see on her first day out.  Even though Rose and Ross's dalliance has a basis in real life, I'm not sure how wise it is for them to be so public about it.  At one point Ross paddles Rose in a boat as they whisper sweet nothings into each other's ear, and no one around them seems even mildly shocked.  1923 meets the 21st Century.

Rosamund, meanwhile, discovers the true nature of Edith's visit: Edith intends to get an abortion.  Tearfully, Edith tells Rosamund that she wants a baby with Gregson, but society would conspire to make both her and the baby outcasts.  Rosamund opposes Edith's decision, then decides it's better to support Edith and go with her to the clinic.

Back at Downton, Mary and Cora are the only two Crawleys in residence, so they alone are forced -- in Mary's terms -- to entertain Blake, Evelyn Napier's egalitarian-minded boss.  Blake blithely ignores Mary's snide remarks about him, instead taking an interest in Downton's new delivery of pigs (Tamworths), for the purpose of diversifying.  He and Mary go to visit them after dinner, only to discover with horror that the pigs have kicked over their trough and are dying of dehydration.  Both Mary and Blake -- in fancy evening wear -- rush to collect buckets of water and give them to the pigs slowly throughout the night.  Things get muddy.  Mary slips and falls at least once.  By the end, both Mary and Blake are so covered with mud that they see no harm in flinging it at each other in fun.  But at least the pigs are saved!  For now.

Carson and Mrs. Hughes have retired for the night, but left a key in the lock for Mary to turn when they come in.  Because they're not worried about burglars, despite someone allegedly breaking into Downton to rape Anna mere weeks ago.  But anyway, Mary and Blake return in the wee hours of the morning, and Mary shows off her limited cooking prowess by whipping up some scrambled eggs and wine.  Did she also build the fire to enable cooking?  Or were cook stoves gas or electric by then?  And when would Mary have been in the kitchen long enough to learn how to make eggs, when --?

Just don't question it, Wild Blogger.

The point is that Blake is smitten with Mary and no longer believes she is a useless, lazy aristocrat like the rest.  Then Ivy comes in to start the day, and Mary leaves all of their dirty dishes for her to clean up.  Thanks, Mary.  Though at least she gives Ivy some good gossip to talk about, a nice change of pace from who likes Alfred better.

The next day, Edith and Rosamund go to the clinic, which really doesn't look all that bad, though Rosamund inquires suspiciously whether an actual doctor will be doing the procedure.  Edith tries to look brave, but at the first scream, she changes her mind.  She will have the baby -- she just doesn't know how or where.  Rosamund asserts that she will continue to support Edith.  It's nice that Edith has someone with brains in her corner.  Normally I hate the last-minute "I changed my mind" abortion stories where the woman decides to have the baby because "I may have no money and absolutely no desire to be a mother, but it will all work out somehow!"  But in this case, it's different because (1) Edith really does want to have a baby with Gregson and (2) abortion clinics were almost certainly much more dangerous back then.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this storyline.

Just as Blake has become smitten with Mary, joining Napier, Lord frickin' Gillingham reenters the picture.  He's just there for the night, because he's in town or whatever, and probably because he wants to take one last shot at winning Mary.  More significantly, he has brought Green with him, who oils his way downstairs as if nothing ever happened.  However, Mrs. Hughes tells him that she knows everything, and Green -- in a fit of stupidity or smugness -- reveals during dinner that he went downstairs during Nellie Melba's performance.  Bates gives him a menacing glare.  Nice knowing you, Green.


Other Observations

The Real Life Jack Ross.  As my link above showed, Jack Ross is based on Leslie Hutchinson, a cabaret singer who was the toast of upper-class London in the 1920s and into the 1930s, until an affair with Edwina Mountbatten made him a persona non grata.  Looking at Hutchinson performing, it's clear that with one look, he has gallons more charisma than the fellow playing Ross.  Though in the actor's defense, while plenty of people have mocked his singing voice, it still sounds better to my modern ears than Hutchinson's.  In this YouTube short, Hutchinson's voice has an odd accent and an extremely fast vibrato.  It may have been the style at the time, but bleh.  That said, Hutchinson's story seems tailor-made for a feature film, yet the last film made about him was in the 1940s.  Overdue for a new spin?

More on Ross.  Someone more clever than I realized that when Ross talked about his family coming over in the 1790s, he was referring to the United States... as slaves.  Since Carson made a comment about Britain banning the slave trade in the 1760s, it all makes sense now.

Oh and...  Jack and Rose.  Coincidence, or did Fellowes intend to channel the *cough* timeless romance in Titanic?

Lord Grantham's Vital Importance.  Since Martha Levinson didn't do anything to help the Crawleys with their financial situation last year, I'm surprised she would be so insistent about Lord Grantham coming to her son's rescue.  Leaving her daughter behind.  Does even Martha think that Cora is useless?

Next Time:  It's the last episode of Series Four proper, with just the Christmas Special left before we say goodbye to Series Four.

The above image was used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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