Monday, January 27, 2014

DOWNTON ABBEY RECAP: ANNA AND BATES REUNITE; EDITH WORRIES ABOUT THE FUTURE

What will happen when Bates learns the whole truth about Anna's attack? We're very,very nervous. 

Who cares that Madonna came to the Grammys looking like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West? This week's episode of Downton was the most intriguing installment of the season with two pivotal events: the arrival of new lady's maid who made Cora swoon by serving her good old American orange juice, and, not a moment too soon, the moment of (half) truth for Bates and Anna. There's lots to talk about, but this week, after this episode pretty much all fans are talking about is the big (almost) reveal and what will happen when Bates finds out (and he will, trust me,) who raped Anna.

More brittle than ever and looking even worse than she did last week, Anna has all but stopped speaking to Bates who even managed to elicit a sympathetic gaze from Thomas when she bolts from the servants' hall rather than talk to her husband.

Mrs. Hughes, who is bursting at the seams to tell Bates what happened to put him out of his misery (at least the not-knowing type of misery he's endured since the attack), follows Anna (who, thank goodness, is not pregnant) out into the hallway to once again plead with her to tell him the truth and "lift the veil of shadows" she's been under. Anna is adamant (and, I'm sure, prescient) when she tells the housekeeper she can't tell him because "I know him. I know what he'd do." Once again, Mrs. Hughes tells her, It's your secret not mine." We'll see about that.

After inadvertently helping to send Bates to the gallows when she was forced to testify at his trial about the heated exchange with his now dead ex-wife she overheard while standing in this very hallway, you'd think she's be more careful. But then we wouldn't have that soapy shot of Bates listening to the women's conversation from behind an alcove.

Bates tries one more time to coax the truth out of Anna with the heartbreaking words, "I love you and I want to find out why you don't love me anymore." Even though it's only been two episodes, I don't think any of us can take much more of this so it's a relief to know where this is going. While Anna is off in Ripon on an errand for Mary, Bates goes to Mrs. Hughes and threatens to resign his post if she does not reveal what Anna has been keeping from him. Horrified by the prospect of having to tell Anna that her husband has left Downton,("I think the pain of coming home to find you gone would finish her), she gives in and tells him about the attack -- but she leaves out the most important detail and doesn't name Green as Anna's rapist.

It turns out she and Anna have concocted a story about a stranger breaking in an lying in wait for her while the rest of the house was at the concert. Bates doesn't buy it for a minute ("I know who it really was") pressing an increasingly distressed Mrs. Hughes to swear on everything but Mrs. Patmore new mixer that it wasn't Green. She is resolute Anna's attacker was a stranger. Bates leaves and breaks down in the hallway overcome with the thought of what his beloved Anna has had to endure.

Later, he finds Anna in the boot room and there's a shot of footwear that I found quite literal -- waiting for the other shoe to drop? Clever, you are Mr. Fellowes. He puts his hand over hers as she's shining Mary's shoes and tells her he knows.

The scene between these two long suffering, emotionally battered people made me sob.
Anna tells her husband she is spoiled for him now and its his response that did me in. "You are made higher to me and holier because of the suffering you have been put through." Agnes Nixon would be proud.

Finally, Anna tells a relieved Mrs. Hughes she's moving back into the cottage to resume her life with Bates telling her, "We're going to try to put the whole thing behind us."

Not so fast. In a chilling last scene complete with ominous music, Bates disabuses Mrs. Hughes of the notion that everything is going to be fine now. "Be aware. Nothing is over and nothing is done with."

I don't know how he's going to manage it, but I'm all but certain that Bates will discover it was Green who defiled his precious wife. My prediction is when he does, Green will make the mistake of taunting him and that will be that. Bates will use "the things he learned in prison" and quietly kill the snake. He won't get caught though, but will instead have a deep dark secret to drag behind him for the rest of the series.

In other news ....

Who is Baxter? Cora's new lady' maid is the anti-O'Brien. Phyllis Baxter is helpful to all and known to no one except Thomas who helpfully told Lord Grantham he had a candidate for the job he wanted to "put forward who was a little older" than dreadful Braitwaite (who, we pray, we never see again). Between charming the kitchen staff (except "luddite" Mrs. Patmore) with her sewing machine and sending Cora into a reverie about growing up in America by serving her fresh squeezed orange juice, Baxter had some mysterious conversations with Thomas about her real role at Downton. When Thomas inquires how Baxter is getting on with Cora and she tells him things are going swimmingly, he answers: "She'll be eating out of your hand" thanks to her successful attempts to make a good impression which include saying glowing things about Sybil obviously at Thomas' suggestion. See, every time you think Thomas is starting to turn into a better person, he proves you wrong.

It turns out Thomas has installed Baxter upstairs so she can tell him everything that goes on because he knows massive change is afoot. If this guy is so smart why hasn't he tried his fortune elsewhere? Is his planning some kind of coup? This seems rather silly to me. He instructs her to share "any detail, no matter how small." So, given her marching orders to make everyone trust her and "No enemies downstairs either," we now know Baxter isn't who she seems, but we don't know much else about her. Yet. "I'm grateful for this job, Thomas and we both know why," Baxter tells him. But we don't. Who is she to him? A pal of mine offered that she thinks Baxter is his mother, I think she's his sister.

Mary gets her heartbroken. Sort of. Serial proposer Lord Gillingham is a man of his word. He must marry -- and so he is. Mary learns of his engagement to Mabel Lane Fox when Lord Grantham shows her the announcement in the newspaper. She puts on a good face in front of Tom and her father, but looks positively crestfallen when she turns and leaves the room. Later, when Cora and Edith find her back in the library writing a note of congratulations, she secretly wipes a tear from her eye having finished her note congratulating him. A perplexed Edith seems surprised telling her sister, "I thought he was very keen on you." Mary snipes back, "That's not the first time you've been at the wrong end of the stick." Meow.

In other Mary news, Bachelor #2 arrives on the scene. Evelyn Napier, who we first met in season one when he brought the ill-fated Mr. Pamuk to Downton, makes a return visit. (Come to think of it, we never did find out what, if anything, Sir Richard Carlisle did with the scandalous tale of the Turkish diplomat's dying in Mary's bed, in retaliation for being dumped for Matthew). Napier, like Lord Gillingham before him, isn't exactly Shakespeare when trying to chat up Mary. "You've been in my thoughts since the whole ghastly business," he tells her referring to Matthew's death. Right. Napier has come to Yorkshire to conduct some kind of government study to assess the condition of the estates in the post-war world with his boss, Charles Blake. Who, I assume we will meet next week and will promptly assume the third chair to complete this season's edition of The Dating Game: English Edition.

Lord Grantham is NOT Simon LeGree (But he did bear a passing resemblance to him in his top hot and morning suit) When a longtime tenant farmer dies, Tom and an increasingly business savvy Mary want to foreclose on the farm and take over the land. Not surprisingly, Lord Grantham is of a different mind especially after Tim Drewe, the tenant's son, evokes his lordship's love of tradition reminding him the Drewe family has farmed here since the Napoleonic wars and has been in partnership with the Crawleys "for more than a century." Music to Robert's ears. "Surely that's got to mean something." Indeed it means so much to Lord Grantham that he secretly loans Tim the money to repay the rent in arrears.

Over dinner, he defends his choice to help Drewe telling the family: "If we don't respect the past, we'll find it harder to build our future." This clever turn of a phrase prompts Violet to ask, "Where did you read that?" to which Robert replies, "I made it up. I thought it was rather good." (I loved Hugh Bonneville in this episode as Robert in fine form and back in charge of something). Violet volleys back: "It's too good -- one thing we don't want is a poet in the family."

Isobel to the rescue. Again. Speaking of too good, when Isobel asks Violet at Dr. Clarkson's urging to find work for Mrs. Pegg's young son John, as a gardiner the Dowager asks of her, "I wonder your halo doesn't grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock." Of her persistence in finding Pegg a job, Violet observes, "Wars have been waged with less fervor." When Isobel says that Violet cares as much about many of the same things Violet utters yet another bon mot: "Nobody cares about anything as much as you do." There's a big to do when a paper knife goes missing but I don't expect much of a scandal to develop here. I thought the words between Isobel and Dr. Clarkson sounded suspiciously like a lover's quarrel. I'd love to see these two wonderful characters get together and get more screen time. Wouldn't you?

Is Edith in trouble? With her lover now living in Munich, Edith is reduced to waiting for letters that don't come and sneaking off to see a doctor in London. Let's hope the new so far unseen nanny for Sybbie and George won't mind having another charge in her care. I know an unhappy ending was inevitable here, but I really don't want to see Edith fall victim to an unwed mother scandal  (Ethel's story broke our heart and we're still hoping to see more of her) and hope Fellowes has something less predictable and a lot less sudsy in mind for her.
Tom remembers he's a socialist. In discussing the fate of the son of the late tenant farmer, Tom tells Mary he's on the farmer's side because "I haven't abandoned my socialism." Robert relishes the irony saying: "This is the one and only instance I'm glad to hear it." What he isn't happy to hear is that his son in law is still smarting from that damn house party that reminded him that he doesn't belong at Downton and, in fact, is "a man without a home." Still shaky from his drunken dalliance with Edna, Tom acknowledges he can't go back to Ireland because the family has changed him too much, but is considering a move to America where he has relatives that are doing well. There, he tells the family, little Sybbie will get a fresh start with a father who would not be considered "an uppity chauffeur." The person most upset by the prospect of Tom's leaving is Robert who, I think, has grown closer to him than he ever was to Matthew. I happen to really love this storyline and think the chemistry between the characters -- and actors -- is fabulous. All I have to say is Allen Leech better not be going anywhere.
Downstairs drama Mrs. Patmore continues to wage her one-woman fight against the future by trying to talk Cora out of buying the house a refrigerator. "Is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance," asks Cora. The cook confides she wouldn't mind tossing her corset. After getting all kinds of help from the kitchen staff and words of encouragement from the family, Alfred goes to London in hopes of scoring a spot at the Ritz's cooking school. While he is away, Carson, certain hardworking Alfred will pass the test, asks Molesley if he'd like to replace him as footman. The down on his luck butler/valet bristles at the notion of the demotion much to Carson's annoyance. By the time he has decided that he could, in fact, "contain my skills and guide them into a more modest chanel without a loss of dignity," Alfred has gotten word he's fallen just short of a spot in the school and won't be leaving Downton after all.  Oh well, maybe Molesley can get a job as Manny to Lady Edith's love child next season.


Photo: CarnivalFilms/Masterpiece



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