Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DOWNTON ABBEY RECAP: SECRETS AND LIES


"What's the matter with everyone this merry morn?"

After that very eventful house party, plenty.

While getting up at the crack of dawn to cater to every need of the Crawley family is hardly cause for celebration downstairs, Thomas correctly senses there's something going on the morning after at the breakfast table in the servants' hall. Anna is wordlessly sitting next to her rapist while he placidly sips his coffee. Bates is confused and hurt by his wife's sudden remoteness. When the terrified lady's maid bolts from the table to go to Lady Mary's room before the bells, Bates asks Mrs. Hughes (who is really the star of this episode but more on that later) if she knows why Anna is acting so strangely. The keeper of all of Downton's secrets lies to Bates telling him she has no idea what he's talking about while that serpent Green listens in from across the table.

Yes, Green is still slithering around.

Anna never told Mrs. Hughes the name of her attacker but you just know that she knows it's him after she overhears him tell Carson that he'll remember his visit to Downton "for a long time to come."

After watching Downton's mother superior attempt to help the hurt, confused and broken hearted in this episode I'm hoping Green is on the receiving end of her special brand of Scottish wrath when the time comes. And if he is, I suspect her attack on Braithwaite will feel like a love poem.

Upstairs, Branson is nursing a hangover tinged with a heaping helping of guilt after a drunken interlude with Braithwaite (off camera, thank God!). "If I made a mistake, I'm sorry," he tells her as he hurries off to pack for a trip to London with Mary. But Braithwaite, in a scene that evokes Glenn Close's 'I won't be ignored' scene in Fatal Attraction, follows him to his room and tells him, 'You can't treat a poor girl like this suppose I'm pregnant.' Poor Tom, positively green at the thought, stands there wordlessly while the future bunny boiler concocts the fantasy scenario of she and Tom living happily ever after until she spews, "Don't tell me I'm not good enough for you, if you were good enough for Lady Sybil Crawley, then I'm good enough for you!" Tom finally finds his voice and says: "Don't speak her name!" I think he and I both yelled that at the exact same time.

Thankfully, the rest of the episode wasn't all gloom and doom. Here are the highlights:

Lady Mary That Lord Gillingham moves fast doesn't he? I'm not sure if I love him with Mary; they almost seem like they could be siblings because of their similar coloring and to the manner born demeanors. But Julian Fellowes could hardly bring in another blue eyed blonde for the job of Mary's next suitor, could he? The one big difference between "Tony" and Mary is that while she tries to protect her heart at all costs, he unabashedly wears his on his sleeve. After saying goodbye the day before, he unexpectedly turns up at Rosemund's house in London to meet up with Mary, Tom and Rose (still annoying) who are staying there while in the city to meet the tax man. (Rose, of course, was just tagging along to get into some kind of trouble) While dancing with Mary at the Lotus Club (more on that later), Tony asks her if he can see her again and while the young widow admits she's enjoyed spending time with him at the house and outside of Downton ("You made me play truant and I liked it"), it's time to "go back to real life." Mary reminds him he's practically engaged (to the fabulously named Mabel Lane Fox) and, even if he weren't she explains, she's not ready for a relationship and won't be for some years.

Well, that won't do because there's only a handful of episodes left in Downton's all too short season, so, he follows Mary back home to Downton and pops the question.  Somehow, it's not all that absurd because as he explains it, they both know he has to marry because of "the system we're trapped in" and, as he so romantically puts it, "Matthew is dead and I'm alive." Somehow, both Michelle Dockery and Tom Cullen overcome that awkward exchange and exude genuine chemistry in a later scene when Mary explains she's still in love with Matthew, "It's no good .... I'm not free of him. I don't want to be without him ... not yet." Tony, ever the romantic proclaims: "I'll never love again as much as I love you in this moment" and asks her for a kiss as a parting gift. Mary complies and we're treated to one of the more beautiful shots of the episode (and there were several this week). Mary returns to the house to announce to her father and Tom that Lord Gillingham has just informed her he's getting engaged to Mabel Lane Fox. You know this is just the beginning for these two.  I wonder what unfortunate fate Ms. Fox will suffer in order to bring Tony back in the picture later in the season.

Lady Edith I have loved watching Edith come into her own over the course of this show. Ever since she became the unsung heroine of the wounded staying at Downton during the war, I've gained an increasing amount of respect and affection for Downton's own Jan Brady. Seeing Edith become something of a feminist with her writing career, great wardrobe and 'London life' has been a lot of fun. What's not fun at all is trying to figure out what tragedy Julian Fellowes has in store for her when romance with Michael Gregson blows up. Come on, you know it will. We know she slept with Gregson since she got caught doing the walk of shame by Rosemund's maid. That alone opens the door to scandal. Summoned to the drawing room by her aunt the next morning, Edith is promptly reminded that all a woman really had during that era was her reputation. Said Rosemund: "A lot of things might be changing but some things will stay the same." Namely, Edith's inevitable unhappy ending.

This makes me extremely nervous. With all this talk of Anna and or Edna becoming pregnant, my money is on Edith. And I can only assume the worst when the former card shark (or sharp, as they say in Downtonian terms) asked her to sign some documents giving her "some authority" over his affairs (or maybe responsibility for bad debts -- God, she is her father's daughter!) Poor little rich girl Edith doesn't even ask about what she's signing before she puts pen to paper. All this and a move to Munich in 1922 with some murky explanation of how he'll fix it so he can marry Edith. Will Gregson turn out to be a lying, cheating scoundrel? I hate to say it, but I think we all know the answer to that one.

Mrs. Hughes  She tries to encourage Anna to go to the police and tell Bates about what happened. ("The poor man's heart is breaking from not knowing") But Anna is resolute ("Will you come with me to prison when my husband is hanged for killing him?") telling her that she wants to move back into the house because she can't bear her husband's touch. "I feel dirty ... I am soiled!," cries Anna who is now blaming herself for the attack. Mrs. Hughes then comes to Tom's rescue (again!) when he unloads his tale of woe. She promptly summons Edna to her room who plays the pregnancy card. But she is no match for our favorite character of this episode. While a shell shocked Tom stands there looking shocked at what he's hearing, Mrs. Hughes gives it to her with both barrels. "If you persist in this lie, I will summon the doctor to examine you." When Edna stands up to her, she threatens to lock her in the room and "tear the clothes from your body." Still unbowed, the lady's maid threatens to tell Cora but Mrs. Hughes calls her bluff telling her if she wants a reference or to work again "during your natural life" she'll keep quiet. When we last see Edna, she's scurrying down the road suitcase in hand. Ding, dong, the witch is gone. For good, I hope -- but who knows? Finally, Mrs. Hughes gets the low down from Carson on the woman that chose Charlie Grieg over him. She buys the once lovestruck butler a frame for his photograph of his long lost love and tells him the gesture will help remind him he "once had a heart" and "reassure the staff you belong to the human race. Mrs. Hughes for prime minister!

Isobel and Violet  Isobel admits to Violet that it is difficult to see Mary "coming back to life" but she feels guilty about it and considers her feelings "immoral." But Violet counsels her, "If we only had morals what would the poor churchmen find to do?" The dowager then tells her friend, "I hope you find a way to make friends with the world again." Later, when Isobel extends her hand to Lord Gillingham after a family dinner and tells him she hopes he visits Downton again soon, both Violet and Robert are full of admiration for the strength and graciousness she's shown under the circumstances. Penelope Wilton continues to do absolutely extraordinary work this season and her character is so heartbreakingly real I wish I could reach into the television screen and hug her.  And if you ask me, she may wind up being more than a nurse to Dr.Clarkson yet.

Lady Rose  Left in the middle of the dance floor at The Lotus Club by her drunken date, she's rescued by singer Jack Ross who gallantly twirls her around until Tom is asked to "fetch her" back to the table. Rosemund was NOT amused by her brief dalliance on the dance floor with the black balladeer. We don't need a house to fall on us to see where this is going. And is it just me or did he have a very odd voice? Didn't love it.

Ivy/Daisy/Jimmy/Alfred Please let this story end already! Bored Jimmy, looking for some fun, has now taken to stealing kisses from Ivy and is seen by Daisy going into the boot room. How romantic! Seizing her chance to finally wake Alfred from his unrequited crush on her fellow kitchen maid, Daisy tells him where to find Ivy when he wants to share news about a new apprenticeship for cooks being held at the Ritz in London. When Alfred discovers Ivy with Jimmy in a lip lock he decides he's had enough and is going to London if he can get into the program. Heartbroken Daisy now realizes her plan backfired -- she's pushed the young man she loves out the door and there is little chance of stopping him. "I've been so stupid," she tells Thomas, who for once wasn't behind any of the nefarious goings on at the house. Although we did love his catty call out of Edna's behavior on the back stairs and expect to find him back in fine form next week when he gets his own handpicked candidate into the house as Braithwaite's replacement.


Photo: Carnival films

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