Monday, February 25, 2013

THE LAST WORD ON THE OSCARS 2013


Still feeling the burn: Jane Fonda is a Hollywood marvel at 75! She looked as good, if not better, than many of the actresses half her age on the red carpet at last night's Oscars.


Another Oscar night has passed into entertainment history and this one was one for the books. With its highest ratings since 2007, viewers got plenty to tweet about from Seth MacFarlane's sometimes funny but often crass comedy to a historic group of nominees (both the oldest and youngest women ever in the Best Actress category). Daniel Day-Lewis made Oscar history as the first man to win three statuettes in the Best Actor category while 22 year-old Jennifer Lawrence lands the dubious honor of being the first Best Actress to fall on the stairs while getting her award. Thank goodness she recovered so brilliantly and gave a lovely acceptance speech. As for the fashion, there were more sinners than winners but one thing is for sure, no one came close to Jane Fonda for bringing the 'wow' factor to the red carpet.

Read my entire review for lookonline.com here:

http://www.lookonline.com/oscars2013.html


Image: JustJared

Sunday, February 24, 2013

IT'S OSCAR SUNDAY!

Will maverick nominee Jennifer Lawrence win the Best Actress prize? If so, she's sure to give one of the more interesting acceptance speeches of the night.

For the first time in many years, tonight's Academy Awards features several key races that have no clear front runner. Besides Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor, everything is up for grabs. The big questions: Will Argo send Ben Affleck to the podium even though he was snubbed for Best Director? Will Jennifer Lawrence beat out a slew of competitors even though she dissed them in a much talked about skit on Saturday Night Live? Will Sally Field find out the Academy still really, really likes her? Will Angelina Jolie's leg make an encore appearance?Who will win the fashion derby for Best Dressed? Read my minute-by-minute review of the show tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Images: JustJared.com

Monday, February 18, 2013

DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON THREE FINALE RECAP: HAS JULIAN FELLOWES KILLED OFF THE FANS WITH THE SHOCKING ENDING?

“We don’t always get our just desserts,” says Violet to her elated family as they gather in Downton’s library to celebrate all their good fortune in the final minutes of last night’s episode. The dark days are behind them – the estate is saved and Mary has just given birth to the heir Robert has long hoped for. All is right with the world.

But it’s not.

Matthew, who minutes before stood in his wife’s hospital room holding his newborn son exclaiming he felt as if he “swallowed a box of fireworks,” is dead on the side of the road having been thrown from his prized roadster in a car accident. He had been on his way back to Downton to collect the family and bring them back to see the baby.

Moments before the shocking final scene, Mary and Matthew cooed over their baby son in the hospital and seemingly tied all the loose ends of the entire series together. “We’ve done our duty – Downton is safe,” says Mary to Matthew, letting viewers collectively exhale a sigh of relief safe in knowing that this season, which gave us the harrowing and shocking death of Sybil, was going to end on a happy note.

And then this. What other show kills off two of its most popular characters and survives?

While Fellowes is hoping to replace Sybil’s niche as ‘the young, head strong one’ with Lady Rose next season and may succeed on some level, Matthew, the Crawley heir apparent seems at this moment, irreplaceable. His character, a symbol of Britain’s rising middle class in the 1920s, was the central figure in the series’ sprawling storylines. Will his death drive fans away in droves?

In order to keep the show alive, Fellowes will have to go off in entirely new directions shifting the emphasis to other characters which, if this episode is any indication, is going to be a bit of a struggle. At least at first to a large segment of Downton fans.

After this episode, which aired on Christmas Day of all days in the UK, viewers were outraged that their favorite television character met such an unexpected end while television critics there crowed the show had jumped the shark. Some even posed the question: Is it time for Downton to bow out gracefully?

My answer: absolutely not!

Some critics sniped about the way in which Matthew was killed off and accused Fellowes of ‘sloppy writing’ arguing that an old war wound or some other complication would have made for a more believable exit. I disagree. Life is random and so much of what happens in real life is unexplainable and out of the blue. That’s what happened to Matthew. A man who survived war, who wound up walking again after being told he would not beat the odds until fate stepped in. Isn’t that what happens to the people in our lives? Plus, I don’t know at what stage of his writing Fellowes learned Dan Stevens wasn’t coming back but there seemed to be an awful lot of foreshadowing with that car. It even played a central role in the gorgeous trailer for season three (Go back and watch it and you’ll see what I mean)

That’s what made it so devastatingly sad. The randomness coming on the heels of such a blissful moment was unbearably tragic – and felt truer to me than anything else would have.

Julian Fellowes has said he had “no option” but to kill off Matthew after Dan Stevens decided not to sign on for a fourth series. In an interview a few days after the show aired in Britain with The Telegraph, Fellowes explained that he tried his best to persuade Stevens to stay to no avail and if he’d wanted to return for a few episodes next season he would have arranged for the character to go off some ‘foreign post.’ But, reasoned Fellowes, “For Matthew and Mary to then separate and Matthew never set eyes on his son again would not be believable either. So we didn’t really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain in tact.”

Fellowes also told the paper there was no ill will between him and Stevens adding that he is often amused by the notion viewers have that shows’ writers determine the fate of characters pointing out that “In truth, they are taken entirely by the actors.”

So there you have it. Don’t blame Fellowes for the most shocking and unexpected season finale in years. Matthew Crawley wound up dead in a ditch beside his overturned car his eyes open staring blankly up at the sky, blood running down his face because Dan Stevens has heard the siren’s call of Hollywood.

It’s hard to imagine what will happen to Michelle Dockery’s Mary without Matthew to soften her protective shell. (Remember the ghastly Sir Richard Carlisle?) I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that Fellowes is going to mine the best obvious (to me at least) potential storyline and there’s going to be something of tortured attraction between Mary and Tom next season. I see the seeds of it already and both of them are going to need each other more than ever. And let’s face it, that’s one story that will pull in the viewers in droves. It will be, to borrow my favorite British enthusiasm, ‘Brilliant!’

Tom Branson/ Allen Leech will now have to fill the role vacated Matthew Crawley/Dan Stevens and -- don’t shoot the messenger Matthew/Dan enthusiasts – I think he is more than up to the job.

If you still want to find out what else happened in the finale, here’s my recap:

It’s one year later from the previous episode and the household, once again fully staffed, is busy getting ready for the family’s yearly trip to the Scottish highlands. Anna has packed the diamond stars and one diamond tiara (“I’d rather be safe than sorry”), Alfred and Jimmy are loading the luggage on to the wagonette. ‘Under butler’ Thomas (that’s Mr. Barrow to you) is doing his best Carson imitation as he hurries along the hall boys. The new maid Edna sneaks a look at Tom as he passes in the hallway.

The Crawleys go to visit Cousin Shrimpy, the unfortunately nicknamed lord of the manner, his wretchedly miserable wife, Susan, and – wait for it – daughter Lady Rose who live at Duneagle Castle which makes Downton look like a mcmansion. “It’s the high spot on his lordship’s calendar,” explains Bates to Ivy noting that the family didn’t go last year after Sybil’s death (there are plenty of mentions of Sybil indicating that no one has yet recovered from her death) or during the war – in other words, this trip has been entirely fabricated as a new storytelling device. The visit, which occupied much of the episode, was a jarring departure and for the most part made it seem as if the Downton cast had wandered on to the set of another picture (it was, I admit, very cinematic). I said this last week on the occasion of Matthew, Edith and Lady Rosamund’s visit to the Blue Dragon nightclub, the house itself is an important character in the show and when the principle players are removed from it, they are diminished and the show stalls. We are not amused, Mr. Fellowes. We don’t mind a trip to the village or London now and then but enough of this voyaging into other worlds.

“Darling this isn’t 1850 – no one expects me to hide indoors until the baby is born,” says Mary to Matthew when he expresses concern that his eight month pregnant wife is in too delicate a condition to make the journey. The family sets off for the journey with Bates, Anna, O’Brien and Moleseley in tow leaving Tom (who has been charged with looking after Isis) and baby Sybil home with the rest of the servants.

Carson and Mrs. Hughes disappoint the staff by telling them that the every piece of silver and every room is to be gone over while the family is away. Edna, the upstart maid, speculates on what Sybil could have seen in Tom and then flirts with him when she finds him alone in the dining room.

Upon arriving at Duneagle, Robert, Cora and the rest of the group find the upstairs and downstairs residents of the castle to be perfectly miserable. Shrimpy and his wife constantly bicker, Rose spends much of her time pitting both parents against each other and the dour faced servants in a kind of 'Bizzaro Downton' serve as a reminder to the Downton staff how lucky there are to work anywhere but there. And then there’s the 8 am wake-up call courtesy of the bagpipes.

Shrimpy confides to Robert that his marriage is irretrievably broken (“We don’t like each other”) and that he’s accepted a post in India because, unlike Robert, he failed to keep up with the changing times and all the money is gone. “Will you take Rose?” asks Violet later that night after dinner. Not likely, says Shrimpy. How convenient.

Edith gets a call from her editor that he’ll be in the neighborhood (how convenient yet again) and he’d like to stop by. He also just happened to have packed his white tie and tails and stalking clothes so he’ll fit right in with the Crawley men. Mary calls him out on it before his arrival but Cora shoots her down as sounding ‘snobbish’ which always makes me laugh. “I was simply questioning his motives for being in the highlands,” says Mary when Matthew walks in on the catfight. See Mary was right, Sybil’s death changed pretty much nothing between them. When Gregson arrives for dinner that night, Matthew observes to Mary: “What a disappointment. He looks perfectly normal.” It turns out that Gregson is lobbying for the Crawley’s approval. “I thought if they liked me, they’d find it easier to be on my side,” he tells Edith admitting that he is in love with her. “I just can’t see a happy ending,” she says. Nor I can.

Later that night, Matthew tells Mary he’s talking Edith’s editor out stalking and warns of her of judging him before she gets to know him. “That’s the hallmark of our parents’ generation and I forbid it.” Just be your nice self, he says. “I’ve seen you naked and held you in my arms. I know the real you,” says Matthew caressing Mary’s growing tummy.

Back at home, Tom gets it from all sides while holding down the fort at Downton. Isobel invites him to dinner and condescendingly commends him – in the nicest possible way -- for making the transition from revolutionary chauffeur to family member/estate manager “superbly” but warns him, “Don’t be too eager to please. You have a position and can speak to whoever you’d like …” Then maid-turned-stalker Edna follows him to the Grantham Arms where he’s gone to escape the uneasiness he feels having his former fellow servants cater to him. Edna baits him into joining the staff for dinner one night while the family is away. Back at the house Edna presses the case and ask him, “Are you ashamed of who you are or who you were? Is that why you won’t eat your dinner with us?” When he does venture downstairs for dinner Carson is not amused and Mrs. Hughes can tell it was Edna who put the idea in tom’s head in the first place.

To fill in the blanks on what’s been happening between Thomas, Jimmy and Alfred, there is a scene in the house with the two footmen where Alfred tells Jimmy to “Take it easy on Mr. Barrow .. I don’t mean crawl all over him ..” to which Jimmy replies, “Who rung the police in the first place?” Alfred then offers; “Funny thing about Mr. Barrow is that he won’t hear a bad word about you.” The ever clueless Jimmy says, “Why what have I done?”

The staff takes off to the town fair with Tom as their driver. Carson, who feigns displeasure, stays behind so that the servants can actually enjoy themselves. Edna uses the time to flirt with Tom. Mrs. Patmore flirts girlishly with a creepy salesman who is after her for her cooking. Ivy and Daisy, now pals, play games and Jimmy gets the gang to take on opponents for a game of tug of war. They win and when a member of the losing team finds Jimmy in a tunnel with his winnings and starts to rough him up, Thomas takes the punches for him. Jimmy runs and gets Isobel and Dr.Clarkson who happened to have been were on date at the fair (Clarkson, fortified by whiskey was in the midst of trying to propose when he’s interrupted by the frantic footman. Just asking but I thought Clarkson found Isobel's 'helpful' manner more annoying than alluring)

Back in the highlands, while out fishing Gregson, who I suddenly really dislike, reveals his situation about his institutionalized wife and his feelings for Edith to Matthew who is none to pleased in hearing that his unlucky in love sister in law has once again chosen a clunker. Matthew tells him that while he and even Robert would understand his desire to make a new life for himself, he can’t expect them to allow him to involve Edith in his messy situation. “Not when all you have to offer is a job as your mistress,” says Matthew. “I’m offering my love,” whines Gregson.

I loved Matthew’s reply: “You’ve been misled by our surroundings. We’re not in a novel by Walter Scott. I can’t imagine you’d think I’d allow Edith to slide into a life of scandal without lifting a finger to stop it.” He tells him to say his goodbyes to Edith tonight after the ball. “You owe her that.”

The night of the Ghillies Ball finally arrives. Shrimpy and his wife (they deserve each other) have a blow out interrupted by Robert, who finds out that his cousin has lost all his money because he didn’t modernize the way Robert did. “What are we going to do about Rose?” Shrimpy asks Robert. I think I have an idea. Upstairs in the ballroom, Anna surprises Bates by reeling. “Isn’t she marvelous?” asks Mary. “Yes, she is marvelous.” Cue Anna and Bates’ love theme. Across the floor, Gregson, who after sharing his conversation with Matthew, tries to say goodbye to Edith and she tells him resolutely, “This is not our last evening.” Uh oh.

Mary, who had been warned not to dance at the ball but does anyway, goes into premature labor. She goes back to Downton with Anna and insists Matthew stay behind so as not to break up the party. Reluctantly, Matthew agrees. When the news reaches Downton Mrs. Hughes instructs Edna to make up her room. “Must I?” the impertinent maid (who managed to steal a kiss from Tom by bursting into his room to tell him the family is returning) asks and then tells Mrs. Hughes and Carson she has plans to meet “Tom Branson” for lunch. She has to go, says Carson. Yes, she must certainly does.

Susan goes to Cora and tells her that she knows that Shrimpy has asked Robert to take in Rose while the couple goes to India. Cora tells her she won’t do it unless Susan agrees. “I can’t bring her out from Bombay,” says Susan who concedes it’s probably for the best. The two mothers, who both now share the bond of losing daughters, promise to keep each other’s best interest in their heart.

In one of my favorite scenes from the episode, Mrs. Hughes, who has watched Tom be manipulated by Edna, can hold her tongue no longer and tell him that the maid has been sacked. “I didn’t encourage her,” says Tom. “Maybe,” says the housekeeper. “But if I may say, you didn’t discourage her either.” Then she asks Tom if she may speak “as I would have in the old days.” She tells him that he let Edna make him ashamed of his new life. “You’ve done well and Lady Sybil would be so proud,” she says as tears well in his eyes and in mine. “I can’t bear to be without her,” he says as he breaks down. “You must bear it,” she tells him. “One day I hope and so would she you’ll find someone to bear it with you. Until them be your own master and call your own journey.”

Mary gets off the train at Downton and asks to be driven straight to the hospital. “Get a message to Mr. Crawley straight away,” she says to Anna who is headed back to the house.

While the rest of the house prepares for the return of the family. Mrs. Hughes shows Edna the door. “What have I done? I’m as good as Mr. Branson,” she whines. “There are rules to this way of life, Edna,” says the wise and weary housekeeper. “And if you’re not prepared to live by them then it’s not the right life for you.” Buh-bye.

As Robert and Cora prepare to depart the haunted castle, Robert kisses his wife’s hand and tells her, “I can’t wait to get home.” After seeing the ghost of Christmas yet to come in his cousin, he admits that he now accepts that Downton is going to survive because of “Matthew’s vision.” He goes on: “You knew how lucky we were in Matthew and now I give thanks for him. Most of all, I give thanks for my wife.” As well you should, Lord G.

When the family is sayingg their goodbyes, Edith asks Matthew if he's told Mary about Gregson. He hasn't but adds he knows what has to happen next. Looking like the cat that ate the canary Edith answers, "Oh yes, we know what must happen next." I guess certain married men aren't repugnant after all.

Shrimpy, of all people, delivers the most memorable line of the episode when he tells Cora he wants Rose to go and live with them so she’ll know what it is to be pat of a loving family. “Love is like riding or speaking French, if you don’t learn it young it’s hard to get the trick of it later.”

Back at the house, Carson, frantic with worry over Mary, is reassured everything will be okay by Anna. She tells him to get Matthew’s car brought to the station so that can drive himself to the hospital when he gets back and then he can come drive back to Downton with the news when he’s ready.

Jimmy visits a badly beaten up Thomas and sees the results of his cowardice when he ran off to leave him in the hands of the fairground thugs. Rob James-Collier is fabulous in this scene showing his surprise delight at Jimmy’s concerns. “Were you following me?” asks Jimmy.

“I like to keep an eye out,” says Thomas with a shy smile. “I could see you’d had a bit to drink. Yes, I did follow you.” How did Thomas suddenly become so likable?

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Jimmy tells him, “I could never give you what you want.” I finally like this character when Ed Speleers shows how completely flummoxed the young footman is by this situation.

Thomas tells him, “I’d like it if we could be friends.”

“Right you are, Mr. Barrow. If that’s all, I think I could manage that.” It will be interesting to see where this goes. I don’t think it’s the end of it.

And finally, the denouement.
Matthew arrives at the hospital. “Can you this hot and dusty traveler come in?” he says from the doorway. Upon meeting his son for the first time, he is beside himself with happiness, “My dearest little chap, I wonder if he has any idea how much joy he brings with him.” The scene is everything fans have waited three seasons to see. When Matthew tells Mary, who is gazing at her son with wonderment, that she’s “such a wonderful woman” she tells him, “I hope I’m able to be your Mary Crawley for all eternity -- not Edith’s version or anyone else’s.” He tells her, “You’ll be my Mary always because mine is the true Mary.” I was crying before I even knew what was going to happen. Believe me, watch this episode a few times and you’ll cry more every time you watch this scene. I promise you.

Mary then tells her husband to remember how in love he is at this moment the next time she scratches the car. Mary tells him to go get the rest of the family but first, she says, “I think I’ve earned a decent kiss.”

And she gets one. A kiss before dying.

As Matthew lies dead on the road, the scene switches back to mother and child with Mary blissfully unaware that the happiest day of her life will forever be remembered as the saddest one, too.

And so we must wait a year to find out what happens next. The time frame for the next series will determine what the season is about. Will we see the family in the throes of grief and shock over Matthew’s death? That seems rather duplicative of this season. Will Tom have become Matthew 2.0? Will Edith be in the throes of a secret forbidden affair? How far into the future will they then go? The show has already spanned 11 years and no one looks a day older. As much gnashing of teeth there’s been over season three, I, for one, can not wait for season four. This one has been everything we could have wanted – and more, much more. Well played, Lord Fellowes. Well played, sir.


Photo: ITV








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Thursday, February 14, 2013

DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON THREE EPISODE SIX RECAP: FORBIDDEN LOVE & A GAME OF CRICKET


To read my review of this week's installment of "Downton Abbey" please visit the Comcast site below (Those folks pay me to watch my favorite show -- how lucky am I?!) I usually also post the review here, but it's so long that I thought it best to direct you to the original site. Since I'm committed to offering my readers every last detail in my recaps, there was just too much to cram into this blog even if this is cyberspace. The two-hour episode was really two when first shown in the UK and should have been shown that way here as well. Both hours were stellar (the second was the actual season finale in Britain) but having shown them together the overall effect was a bit diluted. With so few episodes to a season, why rush it?

Don't miss the season finale airing Sunday. (Yes, I've already seen it). It's final moments will leave you breathless and be sure to check back here for my minute by minute recap and critique on Monday. For now, here's my take on this week's episode. Cheerio!

http://xfinity.comcast.net/blogs/tv/2013/02/11/downton-abbey-recap-revenge-is-sweet/

Photo: PBS Masterpiece

Thursday, February 7, 2013

EXCLUSIVE! NAOMI CAMPBELL & THE SUPERMODEL CAST OF 'THE FACE' TELL ALL


I got the exclusive sitdown with the entire cast of Oxygen's new fashion competition show, "The Face," for my weekly Lunch column for mediabistro.com. Executive producer and head judge Naomi Campbell told me why she finally got over her fear of doing television to helm this show. The handsome and very funny Nigel Barker gave me the scoop on the behind the scenes goings on to get the show off the ground and supermodels Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova revealed why they chose this show over the host of offers. I've been "Lunch"-ing at Michael's on Wednesday for many years and this group was one of my all time favorites for great dish and a lot of fun. And in case you were wondering, they really do eat. To read my interview, click on the link for mediabistro.com on the right side of this page

Monday, February 4, 2013

DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON THREE EPISODE FIVE RECAP: A HOUSE IN MOURNING



No, it wasn’t a bad dream. Sybil really did die on last week’s episode. I have to admit, I’m still not over it. As this week’s installment begins, Lord Grantham bids farewell to the last of the mourners as Carson, ever stoic, looks on. Inside the family forms a tableau of grief in the drawing room.

Matthew whispers to Tom, who is still reeling from shock, “I know we all sound like parrots, Tom, I’d really like to help if I can – and so would Mary.”

“My wife is dead. I’m passed help -- but thank you,” replies Tom. I know I’ve said it before, but I am so impressed with Allen Leech’s performance this season. Last week, he was truly outstanding and in this episode his subtly shaded performance is also excellent.

Lord Grantham invites the Dowager Countess and Isobel to stay for dinner, but his mother declines her voice quivering as she tells him, “I don’t think so, grief makes one so terribly tired.” Is there anyone better than Maggie Smith?

As Violet says her goodbyes, she leans over to kiss Cora goodbye and says, “Now that it’s over, try to get some rest.”

Elizabeth McGovern, who until this season, I really considered an incidental part of the ensemble, has been brilliant this season. Her performance over the course of this storyline has been stellar, Her portrayal of a grief-stricken Cora is somehow both raw and restrained striking just the right tone for a American whose life has been dictated by the social mores of the British upper class and who now sees just how much being part of the crumbling aristocracy has cost her. “Is it over?” she says. “When one loses a child is it ever really over?”

It most certainly is not as Cora’s anger at Robert over siding with Dr. Pompous over Dr. Clarkson, a decision she knows caused Sybil’s death, is growing by the minute. When he tries to rejoin Cora in their bed that night (he’s been banished to his dressing room since the night Sybil died), “I thought I might move back in here tonight,” Cora, who can’t even bring herself to look at him, tells him, “Not yet. I’d rather sleep alone for a while yet.”

I can’t quite muster much sympathy for Lord Grantham at this point even though he, too, is grieving for Sybil which I find a bit surprising since he has been, up until this season, one of my favorite characters on the show. Between his arrogance, snobbery and shocking bigotry (which rears its ugly head again on this episode), he has become increasingly out of touch with the changing world and his intransigence (despite what Violet told him about that last season) has gone from annoying to downright destructive.

He tries to make his case “You listened to Clarkson and so should I have done …” he begins. Yes, yes, you arrogant snob. Now your daughter is dead (That’s me yelling at the television). He even brings up that Dr. Pompous has a “reputation.” Still not able to look at her husband, Cora cuts him dead, her voice breaking, “You believed Tapsule because he’s knighted and fashionable and has a practice on Harley Street. You let all that nonsense sway you instead of saving our daughter’s life which is what I find so very hard to forgive.”

“Do you think I miss her any less than you?” he asks stepping right into it.

“I should think you miss her more since you blocked the last chance we had to prevent her death,” she says staring straight at him.

Lord G is getting it from all sides. The next morning at breakfast with his two sons-in-law and Lady Edith (“Spinsters get up for breakfast”), Tom says he’s going to be leaving Downton as soon as he can find a job. Matthew and Edith are horrified by the prospect but Robert, eager to put the whole ‘Branson’ episode behind him says, “Tom’s right. He’s got to start making a life for himself.” Tom, feeling more like a fish out of water than ever, looks slightly hurt but not surprised.

Edith attempts to steer the conversation in a different direction suggesting that now that the funeral is over, they should begin planning the christening. She offers to go see Mr. Travis to “fix the date” (I’m going to start using all these clever phrases – they’re so pithy!). Do you know what you’d like her to be called, she asks?

Tom’s tender reply: “I’d like to call her Sybil.”

“Of course,” says Matthew clearly touched.

But Lord G, once again a majority of one, is not amused. “You don’t think it might be a little painful?”

Undaunted, Tom says, “Very painful at first but I think it’s right. I want to remember her mother whenever I look at her.”

“Of course, you do,” says Edith. “And she would want to be remembered.”

Then Tom drops the real bombshell. The baby will be baptized Catholic. “My daughter is Irish and she’ll be Catholic like her father.” The news is enough to send Lord G storming out of the dining room.

Later than morning, he looks for an ally in Mary when he asks her “Did you hear about Tom’s announcement at breakfast? He wants the child to be a ‘left-footer.’” (I just had to look this one up. It’s a derogatory phrase originated in the nineteenth century which referred to Irish Catholic laborers who used their left foot when digging with a spade while the Protestants used their right. Crikey!)

There hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since the Reformation!” he sputters.

“She isn’t a Crawley, she’s a Branson,” says Mary.

“The only chance that child has of achieving anything in life is because of the blood of her mother.” Lovely sentiment, Lord G.

“Well I don’t agree,” says Mary, who I really loved in this episode.

Father and daughter then spar over Tom’s decision to name the baby after her mother. “I think it’s ghoulish!” says Robert who is becoming increasingly agitated because no one is agreeing with him on anything. It’s a good thing he’s got Isis. “Well, I don’t,” says Mary who then calmly goes back to read her book.

Seeking solace pretty much the only place he has any hopes of finding it, Robert pays his mother a visit. She asks him, “What are your plans for the child?” Somehow Robert has not figured out that if he can’t forge some kind of relationship with Tom, he will have no influence over how the little girl will be raised. “I hadn’t thought about that,” he says. “Then I suggest you do,” says the Dowager who then tries to find out if her son and daughter-in-law have found their way back to each other yet. “What does Cora say?”

Robert tells her they are barely speaking and that Cora is not only grieving for her daughter but for her marriage as well.

Violet replies with a classic Dowager Countess line: “People like us are never unhappily married.”

She suggests that the couple spend some time apart -- perhaps Cora can visit ‘that woman’ (her blink-and-you-missed-her mother, Martha Levinson) in New York. When Robert admits that he has no idea how to get himself out of this hell (partly of his own making), his mother tenderly replies, “I do not much of the heart since it’s seldom helpful to do so, I know well enough the pain when it is broken.”

Isobel invites the Grantham women to ‘a lunch party’ (this allows for some charming scenes between Ethel, Downton’s own Hester Prynne, and Mrs. Patmore as the soft-hearted cook defies Carson’s orders to the staff to avoid any dealings with the woman of ill-repute while she helps the novice whip up a suitable menu -- “Anyone with use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse!”). Earlier in the episode Ethel asks Isobel about the funeral and when Isobel remarks how hard it is when “you bury someone young,” Ethel replies, “When you lose a child there’s nothing worse under the sun” reminding us that she is also suffering an unimaginable loss. Ethel’s storyline has also been a revelation. Last season, when I groused about Julian Fellowes giving this storyline too much play, I should have known it would wind up adding someone unexpected dimension to the overall story. Ethel’s downright noble decision to give up her son so that he would have a better life and the scenes in which that played out were just as heartbreaking as Sybil’s deathbed horror.

Determined to find someone within fifty miles that will side with him on anything (and outwardly thwart Tom’s plan to christen his daughter Catholic), Robert invites the reverend Mr. Travis for dinner. “Isn’t there something un-English about the Roman Catholic church?” he asks the table.

“Since I am an Irishman that is unlikely to bother me,” says Tom pointedly.

Mr. Travis, another highly irritating character to my Irish Catholic sensibilities, derides the church’s use of incense and ceremony as paganism which angers Tom and has Mary, Edith and Matthew coming to Tom’s defense.

“I simply do not think it would help the baby to be baptized into a different tribe than this one,” says Robert keeping his reputation in tact as the most clueless man at Downton.

“She will be baptized into my tribe,” replies Tom.

Then Robert really steps in it when he tries to invoke Sybil’s name saying would she really want a Catholic child. Yes, says Mary, and she told me so the day she died. Poor Tom is shocked and relieved, “Oh God did she really?”

“I’m flabbergasted,” says Robert.

“You’re always by the unconventional,” volleys Cora.

“But in a family like this one …” Robert reasons.

“Not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy DeBretts,” says his wife delivering a zinger worth of the Dowager. Fabulous.

That night, Mary and Matthew engage in some pillow talk about Sybil’s death (“You’d think we’d be used to young death after four years of war,’ he says) and his plans to try to get Robert to modernize Downton (“We have to work if we want to keep it”). We must not take anything for granted, says Mary, “Who knows what’s coming?” Uh-oh. I felt the chill of foreshadowing when she uttered those words while looking into her husband’s eyes.

Violet summons Dr. Clarkson to her home to ask him what really happened – and could have happened -- the night Sybil died. She tells him that Cora is convinced that he could have saved Sybil if you had been allowed to. She latches on to a small ray of hope when Clarkson tells her, “One cannot speak of these things with certainty.”

“What was the likelihood of Sybil’s survival?” she asks if Clarkson had been allowed to deliver the child by c-section in the hospital. “She might have lived. There are cases.”

“How many?”

“Not many. I’d need to do some research.”

Violet tells him she wants him to tell Lord and Lady Grantham “what you have almost admitted to me.”

“But there was a chance,” says Clarkson growing slightly uncomfortable.

“You’ve created a division between my son and his wife when the only way they can conceivably bear their grief is if they face it together.”

So you want me to lie? He asks. The answer to that question would be yes and as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Tom’s bromance continues apace as walk they grounds of some of rundown farm on the estate while trading friendly barbs about how little they know about farming. It turns out (oh so conveniently) that Tom’s uncle was a tenant sheep farm in Ireland so he knows a thing or two about working the land.

Matthew tells Tom, “You must hate it here.”

“No I don’t hate it but I don’t belong here, either.” He tells Matthew he might go to Liverpool to work and hire a woman or get a cousin to look after the baby. “Why don’t you leave her here,” offers Matthew?”

No, says Tom, “She’s all I have left of her mother.”

Later than day Robert has lunch with his two sons-in-law and Matthew tries pressing his case for meeting with Mr. Jarvis, the manager of the estate, about his ideas to help make Downton profitable. Must we talk about this now? Robert says. It’s boring for Tom, who is sitting silently watching this unfold.

Matthew, who is proving to be a bigger nuisance for Robert than Tom, takes offense at this and reminds him that Tom is the father of his only grandchild. If they needed any evidence that Robert still thinks of Tom as a servant from below stairs they got it. Perhaps they want the maids to weigh in on the future of Downton while we’re at it says Robert growing angrier by the minute. When Matthew tells his father-in-law they must act now if they want to stop any further damage caused by bad management, Robert explodes. “Bad management!” Tom and Matthew are rescued from any further outbursts when Carson asks for a word with his lordship.

Just asking, but I bet Robert is rethinking that whole we-must-get-rid-of-Strallan campaign. If he’d let the old chap join the family he might have been able to wage more of a well matched fight against the wave of change Matthew and Tom have sent through his life.

It’s the day of Isobel’s lunch and she is upset with Ethel for disobeying her request to keep it simple with some ham and a simple salad (“I smell cooking!”). Don’t worry Ethel reassures her, I’ve had help. The ladies are enjoying their delicious meal when Robert bursts in and announces, “We’re going.” It seems Carson, appalled that the Crawley women are being waited on by a former prostitute at Isobel’s house, has spilled the beans about it to Robert. “Do you know who has prepared this lunch for you?” he blasts.

He is in for yet another shock when Isobel tells the women of Ethel’s former career and the Dowager says, “If course, these days servants are very hard to find.”

Standing at the doorway to the dining room seething with rage, Robert is dismissed like a servant by Cora who ignores his bluster and instead focuses his attention on Ethel’s dessert. “Is that a charlotte russe? How delicious!” Not even the Dowager is inclined to leave at Robert’s urging. “It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.”

That night Mary tries to get her father to join the family in the drawing room. No, he says, his presence will only set Cora’s “teeth on edge.” She’ll “come through it,” says Mary. “Which brings me to your performance today. Did that help?” Mary wisely surmises that Robert was not angry at Isobel or Ethel but rather raging at the world because “things aren’t going your way – not anymore.” Robert asks Mary if she is aware of her husband’s plans to throw out all of Robert’s ideas on running Downton and replace them with new ones. “A fool and his money are soon parted and I have been parted from mine so I suppose I am a fool.” Since there’s no argument there, Mary ignores her father’s comment and tells him he “won’t win” over the christening. “Not if you’re against me,” pouts Robert. “I’m never against you, but you’ve lost on this one,” says Mary. Still disbelieving over Sybil’s request that the child be Catholic he asks Mary about her wishes. Sybil wanted Tom to be happy, Mary says, she loved him very much and we all need to remember that.

Finally, a glimmer of the loving, soft-hearted Robert that told Mary to go to the “middle west and bring us back a cowboy” in season two returns when he tells her he keeps forgetting his youngest daughter is gone when he sees something in the paper that he thinks would make Sybil laugh or spots her favorite roses in bloom. Mary begs her father to tell her mother what he’s just said to her. She doesn’t want to hear it from me he says. Okay, so Robert’s isn’t the worst guy in the world after all. Mary and Matthew visit Tom and the baby (how gorgeous was that child!?) where, ironically enough, he tells them she’s “blooming.” Sob.

Robert and Cora receive a note from the Dowager asking them to pay her a visit. “I can stand anything but a lecture on marital harmony,” says Cora. “Do we have to go?” Yes, Robert says but we needn’t stay long. He’s rebuffed when he tells his wife, “You look very nice this morning.” “Don’t flirt with me,” she says. “Not now.”

When they arrive at the house they find Dr. Clarkson waiting for them. When Robert tries to apologize to him, the doctor stops him from continuing. He tells them that he feels he might have misled them about what he could have done Sybil. With the Dowager looking on, Clarkson says that there was only a “tiny” chance on “that awful night” the outcome would have been different had he been allowed to operate. Robert can’t help himself, so Tapsule was right? “Oh I cannot go that far,” says Clarkson who holds on to the one shred of truth that cannot be challenged. “He ignored all the evidence in a most unhelpful and dare I say arrogant manner.” Yup.

So Sybil was going to die? asks Robert. For what seems like an eternity, Clarkson looks around the room at the Violet and then Cora who is about to dissolve in tears. “When everything is weighed in the balance I believe that Lady Sybil was going to die,” he says measuredly. Moments after the doctor leaves, Robert and Cora, clinging to each other like life rafts, break down in each other’s arms as Violet turns the other way unable to look at the raw pain exposed once again but finally on its way to healing.

In other news …

Bates is coming back to Downton! The less said about the prison storyline the better.

The Daisy-Ivy-Alfred-Jimmy quadrangle continues to be annoying and from where I sit, unnecessary although I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong. “You’re all in love with the wrong people!” exclaims Mrs. Patmore sick of the all the mooning around. Please, let’s move on from this dribble.

The only time shrewish Daisy is interesting is when she visits Mr. Mason who tells her he wants her to come live with him on his farm so that he can teach her how to run it. It turns out he wants to leave her his land, livestock and his money. Daisy tells him she expected to live her life “in service.” Consider this, Mr. Mason tells her, “Do you think these great houses like Downton Abbey are going to go on for the next forty years?” (No, be we are hoping for at least a few more seasons!) I don’t.” “You’re a proper heiress,” says Mrs. Patmore when Daisy (who should split her good fortune with the woman who convinced her to be kind to the man who’d lost his last child) tells her the news.

Jimmy is increasingly freaked out by Thomas’s creepy stalking. When the first footman candidate plays the piano in the servant’s hall, Thomas caresses his neck only to be interrupted by O’Brien who can barely hid her glee over the coming implosion.

Edith is forging ahead with her plans to become a columnist much to Matthew’s delight and Robert’s disapproval.

Carson is appalled by Mrs. Hughes’ lack of outrage regarding Isobel’s hiring of Ethel and the Grantham women’s show of support towards her. “Perhaps the world is becoming a kinder place,” says Mrs. Hughes. “You say kinder, I say less disciplined.” When Mrs. Hughes tells him she’ll be visiting Ethel he tries to shame her to no avail by telling her, “You disappoint me. I never thought of you as a woman with no standards.” The look she shot him on the way out the door had me laughing out loud. Later, Ethel boldly shows up with flowers for Mrs. Patmore and Carson is unable to do a thing about it. The times, they are a changin



photo: ITV

DOWNTON ABBEY RECAP SEASON THREE, EPISODE FOUR: A SHOCKING DEATH, A NEW LIFE




Julian Fellowes, how could you? How could you break the collective hearts of Downton Abbey obsessives everywhere with a plot twist so heartbreaking and so shocking that, on the evening I watched this episode, I dreamt about it and woke up thinking about it the next day.

Thank goodness I watched it earlier in the week because honestly, I was so emotionally spent when I first saw it all I could do was sit on my sofa staring into space for an hour. Really.

Lady Sybil died.

I’m still reeling from the shock and I suspect I’m not the only one. Literally two minutes after the episode aired I checked my Facebook page where one friend posted: “I don’t think I’ll ever get over this.” Said another: “I know that it wasn’t real, but I don’t think I’ve cried like that since my mother died.”

It was devastating. The event itself was hugely affecting made even more so by the shock of it. Bravo to PBS and everyone involved for keeping Sybil’s death largely under wraps despite the flurry of Internet spoilers. The outstanding performances of the entire cast ---especially Allen Leech (Tom) and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora) who both do their best work in of the entire series here -- make this incredibly sad episode a standout. It seems very fitting that at the same time this episode was airing on PBS, the cast picked up the SAG Award for best ensemble in a drama series.

Perhaps I should have seen Sybil’s death coming. After all, death is no stranger to Downton. I knew poor William was a goner from the moment he enlisted. Someone from the great house would have to be sacrificed in order for Downton’s inhabitants to feel a sense of personal loss in a time of war. I was less sure how Lavinia would be cast aside in the end so that Matthew would reunite with Mary, but as soon as Dr Clarkson said she was among those who’d gotten Spanish flu, I had my answer.

Sybil’s death was absolutely shocking to me because thankfully I’d carefully avoided seeing any Internet spoilers and warned my Facebook friends under no circumstances to reveal anything about future episodes when posting about the series or its cast. Up until this point in the season, there was no foreshadowing of her death in the show. In fact, it would seem Fellowes was working towards some turn of events that would keep the couple at Downton rather have them return to Ireland if, for no one reason, both Jessica Brown Findlay and Allen Leech (Tom Branson) are so good in their roles. This season, when the plot centers on them and they’re allowed to shine, the show is at its best. The idea of the couple living at Downton with their Irish -- and inevitably Catholic child -- who just happened to be the embodiment of Lord Grantham ugly bigotry was pregnant with possibilities.

But alas, that is not to be.

An opening shot of Downton in the middle of the night usually means trouble (as it did when the news of Matthew and William’s disappearance in season two awoke the house). Dr. Clarkson arrives to examine Sybil who is experiencing labor pains. She is in bed and surrounded by her worried sisters and mother. After good doctor reassures Tom that his wife is fine, Lord Grantham dismisses all the fuss as a “false alarm.” Not exactly, says Clarkson, who starts to explain her body is preparing to deliver her child when he is stopped by Cora from sharing any further detail with Robert when say she says, “I’m afraid Lord Grantham doesn’t enjoy medical detail.” A point that turns out to be critical in how the events over the next twenty-four hours unfold. Robert informs Dr. Clarkson that he’s called in his own specialist, Dr. Phillip Tapsule, to care for Sybil. Clarkson reacts with one of his patented pained expressions and mutters, “If you think that’s advisable,” as he exits for the evening.

We all know Dr. Clarkson’s spotty track record. He tried to prevent Isobel from treating that tenant farmer with adrenaline that wound up saving his life in season one. Last season, he told Matthew he’d never walk again and when Matthew jumped out of his wheelchair to save Lavinia from falling over with a tray of hot tea, later admitted there was a slight chance of recovery but he’d kept it to himself so as to not get the patient’s hopes up for no reason.

This is where Fellowes is so brilliant. He’s set the stage for this long ago. Robert reminds Cora of Clarkson’s misdiagnosis of Matthew while Cora is convinced that the family doctor should treat Sybil because he’s known her since she was a child.

The next morning, Mary goes to Sybil’s room where she finds her sister extremely uncomfortable. So much so that she tells Mary, “I cannot recommend this to anyone.” Undaunted Mary tells her, “I’m dying to start” which surprises Sybil because she thinks Mary has been holding off getting pregnant. Then, a very prescient Sybil tells Mary that she wants the baby to be baptized Catholic. Mary, who thinks Sybil has been talked into this by Tom tells her, “You don’t have to do this, it’s your baby, too.” But sweet Sybil explains her reasoning simply by saying, “I love Tom very, very much.” Touched by her sister’s desire to please her husband, Mary tells her, “I’ll fight your quarrel with (Reverend) Travis.” Uh-oh.

Once Sir Phillip, a knighted gynecologist, arrives later that day and regales the Crawleys with tales of his own importance at dinner it’s clear from the get-go that he’s a pompous snob whose arrogance will prove costly. At Cora’s invitation, Clarkson comes to the house.

The next evening at dinner the family anxiously awaits the birth. “There’s nothing more tiring than waiting for something to happen,” says Cora when suddenly a nurse wordlessly arrives in the dining room. It’s time!

Clarkson, who has come to the house at Cora’s invitation to assist with the birth much to the chagrin of Dr. Pompous, tells the Crawleys that he is concerned about Sybil who is slipping into delirium. She’s not quite there” and a bit “muddled,” he explains. Of course she is, dismisses Sir Phillip, “She’s having a baby!”

While the doctors argue over the proper course of action for Sybil, Robert tells Cora, Violet and his daughters, “I don’t want to hurt Sir Phillip’s feelings” by listening to Clarkson. Cora and Matthew insist the doctor’s observations be considered and the Dowager Countess rebuffs her son telling him that’s the least of her concerns.

It was frightening to see Sybil endure a difficult labor. A terrified Tom tries to take his wife’s mind off her pain and tells to his wife telling her he’s thinking of taking a job “working with cars” in Liverpool. She strong enough to come out of it by telling him: “We are not going backwards, you must promise me that.” But then says, “We can lie back and look at the stars.”

Clarkson tries to make the case as to why Sybil should be moved to a hospital where she can deliver the baby by cesarean section. Sir Phillip, of course, is horrified by the notion of an aristocrat delivery a baby in a public hospital where she would be exposed to god knows what.

Lord Grantham has already made up his mind. Sybil will remain at the house and they will follow Sir Phillip’s course of action. “Tom has not hired Sir Phillip. He is not master here,” he bellows. And just like that I really started to hate one of my all time favorite Downton characters.

The always level headed Cora says, “You’re being ridiculous. Obviously we have to talk to Tom.” Looking for a tie-breaker, Robert looks to his mother but the Dowager Countess agrees with his wife, “The decision is with the chauffeur.”

The whole thing comes to a head when Sir Phillip grandly shouts, “Moving her now is tantamount to murder.” Clarkson, who is worried that Sybil could develop a fatal case of eclampsia if she does not get proper treatment, counters with “Time is running out.” Poor Tom, looking for reassurance begs Clarkson, “Do you swear you can save her?” No, says the doctor but he warns, “If I’m right about her condition she will die.” Just as Tom is convinced Sybil needs to go to a hospital (“I would have taken her an hour ago” says Cora) Sybil’s screams are heard from down the hall. “God help us,” he says as they run to her room.

Just when I thought it was going to end badly, things turn sunny again. Mary comes down from Sybil’s room to the library where the men are waiting and announces, “It’s a girl.” Tom rushes to Sybil’s side and tells her, “Oh my darling, I do love you so much.” Everyone beams over the baby and Sybil tells her family she wants to sleep. But before she lets her mother go to bed, Sybil tells her; “Tom is thinking of being a mechanic. He needs to move forward. Will you help me do battle for Tom and the baby if the time comes.” That’s when I know, things are going to end badly. Very, very badly.

Another shot of Downton at night and some overly ominous music swells as the camera pans to a light in the hallway in the darkened house. Mary bursts into her parents’ room. “It’s Sybil!” The scene in Sybil’s room is terrifying and heartbreaking (I know I’ve used the word before but honestly, it’s true) to watch.

Sybil begins to have convulsions while Tom tries to cradle his wife in his arms. Clarkson ruefully tells Robert, “This is eclampsia.” How can this be? “Human life is unpredictable,” says Sir Phillip realizing the horror of his mistake.

All the actors are fantastic here. Matthew’s (Dan Stevens) face falls into a look of defeat as he leans against the bedpost when he realizes all is lost. A terrified Edith (Laura Carmichael’s) silently watches her sister slip away with wide eyes brimming with tears.

“Help her! Help her!” Tom desperately cries over his shoulder while he tries to will his wife to live, “Just breathe, just breathe love.” Leech is fantastic and incredibly believable in this scene. McGovern as Cora give a gut wrenching performance as a mother desperate to hold on to her daughter. Together, they wring every last tear out of this scene. In the end, Tom and Cora are huddled together at Sybil’s bedside propelled by their own unspeakable grief what they are witnessing can’t let go. “Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me,” pleads Tom. Finally, Mary recoils in horror after she’s seen her sister take her last breath. A Disbelieving Robert speaks for everyone in room when he says, “But this can’t be. She’s 24 years old.” Suddenly, they hear the baby crying in the distance.

I have never sobbed as loudly as I did watching anything on television as I did watching this scene.

Downstairs, upon hearing the news of Sybil’s death the servants are stunned into silence. “What should be do now, Mr. Carson?” asks Daisy. “Carry on, Daisy as we all must.” The young girl dissolves into tears and is comforted by Mrs. Hughes. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) breaks down telling Anna (Joanne Froggatt) that Sybil was one of the few people that ever showed him any kindness.

As Cora keeps vigil over her daughter’s body Mary tries to get her mother to go to bed. She calmly tells Mary she wants to stay because this is her last chance to say goodbye to her baby and to please tell her father to sleep in his dressing room. Her silent fury at Robert is all pent up emotion because she feels he’s to blame for Sybil’s death having dismissed Clarkson’s advice about taking their daughter to a hospital. When she’s alone again she looks over at Sybil’s lifeless body on the bed and tells her youngest daughter: “We’ll look after them both” and then, “You are my baby, you always will be. Always my beauty, my baby.

The next day Mary and Edith say their final goodbyes when the men from Grasby’s arrive. Dressed in black and paler than usual, they look like ghostly apparitions as they stand over her sister’s body. “She was the only living person who always thought you and I were nice people,” says Mary. Edith asks Mary if they might get along better in the future now that Sybil is gone. I doubt it says Mary speaking more truthfully than spitefully but then she softens the blow. “Since this is the last time we three will be together in this life let’s love each other now as sisters should.” I have now used up every last tissue in my house.

Maggie Smith also has one of her most affecting scenes in this episode. After speaking to Carson when she arrives at the house (“Oh Carson, we’ve seen a lot of troubles but nothing like this”), she slowly makes her way to the drawing room. We see her shot from the back and I’m struck that for the first time she looks like a very old woman. She stops long enough to hold back tears and push her veil back from her face. Carry on, indeed.

By the time the Dowager Countess joins the rest of the family Cora’s quietly controlled rage at her husband has bubbled up to the surface. She gets up and announces she must write to Dr Clarkson so her letter can be delivered before dinner. There’s no need for that, says Robert. Oh yes there is – she wants to apologize for their behavior: “If we’d listened to him, Sybil might be alive, but Sir Philip and your father knew better and now she’s dead.”

Robert knows there is some truth in his wife’s words and tries to explain that to Violet when she asks what Cora could possibly mean. “No one is to blame,” she says. “Our darling Sybil has died during childbirth. All we can do now is cherish her memory and her child.”

Cut to the final shot of Tom holding his motherless daughter while standing at one of Downton’s hundreds of windows viewed from the outside. Cue another river of tears.

Hard as it is to believe a lot of other things happened in this episode:

Matthew is moving full steam ahead with plans to modernize Downton and keep it out of financial ruin. Unfortunately his timing stinks. When Mr. Murray comes to call on Anna to talk about Bates’ appeal the day after Sybil has died, he makes a terrible blunder and engages the solicitor in a conversation about what they must do to change things. Mary walks in on them and is furious that Matthew would talk of such matters. “Forgive me darling, I wasn’t thinking,” says Matthew as his wife seethes with anger.

Isobel has hired Ethel (who has given up being a prostitute because she no longer has Charlie to support) which doesn’t sit well with Mrs. Bird. The only moment of levity in the episode came when Mrs. Bird indignantly tells her employer that she can’t work with Ethel because it would sully her reputation. What if people thought I was a prostitute? she huffs. No chance of that, says Isobel and sends her on her way with a month’s wages.

Jimmy is freaked out by Thomas’ touchy-feeling behavior. The scene where Thomas guides Jimmy’s hand when setting the clock did feel awfully uncomfortable. It does seem that Thomas is being rather reckless in his dealings with the new footman. Of course O’Brien’s fingerprints are all over this one as she encourages Jimmy to accept Thomas’s attention for the benefit of his standing in the house. But when Jimmy tells her Thomas has become too familiar, she plants the seed when she asks “Nothing unseemly I hope” and at the same time, drops hints to Thomas that Jimmy feels the same way about him as he does towards Jimmy. It won’t be long now.

The very boring love quadrangle between Daisy, Ivy Alfred and Jimmy continues to be annoying. Daisy has a crush on Alfred who like Ivy who is pining away for Jimmy. I don’t care about this story at all. I’ve said many times that too much screen time is devoted to Daisy but at least the story with William’s father is interesting.

Anna and Bates think they’ve seen light at the end of the tunnel because when Anna went to see that nasty Mrs. Bartlett she said that Vera had pastry dough under her nails the day she died which means she cooked the poisonous pastry and ate it as her suicide to frame Bates. What a bitch! “I hope she burns in hell,” Anna tells the ever stoic Bates who gently warns her “not to go down that road.” Huh? Why the hell not? But prison gates may not swing open for Bates just yet since they have to convince Mrs. Bartlett to recount her story to the authorities and that nasty guard and Bates’ charming cellmate (what’s his problem really?) are planning to sabotage things and have already gotten to her. Crikey!

Edith gets an invitation to write a newspaper column and while Lord Grantham is predictably dismissively of it, Matthew is full of encouragement. God knows she has plenty to write about.