As we know that tangible proof of a woman’s pregnancy tends to run in twenty-eight day cycles, it appears that we have been subtly told that roughly a month has passed since the previous episode. I am, therefore, placing this episode in May, 1922.
Over the past several weeks, we have had two instances of women who might become pregnant. We learn that Anna, thankfully, is not. But, is Edith? She goes bouncing down to London, telling her family she needs to visit Gregson’s office. Yet, we see her go into a doctor’s office. Oh no! Especially as Gregson seems to have stopped writing to her. Is it too early for a collective “I told you so?”
Mary was certainly nasty to Edith in this episode. Twice she made a cutting remark, both of which felt entirely out of character. If we are meant to see Mary as softening and coming into her own, she and Edith need to work out their issues. This sniping is so season one.
While Gregson is looking more like a cad all the time, Mary’s much nicer suitors continue to turn up at Downton. One thing we can say about Gillingham, he certainly doesn’t rest on his laurels. No sooner was he rejected by Mary, he proposes to Mabel. He did tell Mary that was his plan, but I expected him to be in the picture a while longer. I do hope that we are not in for another “I am in love with a man engaged to another” story.
We may not be as Evelyn Napier is back in the picture. You may remember him as the eligible young man who came calling on Mary way back in season one and who was quite smitten with her. You may also recall that it was he who brought Pamuk into the house.
Which quite begs the question of why Mary was so overjoyed to see him. Certainly, in the past we have never had any indication that Mary was especially fond of him. Yet, she now seems almost giddy to see him. Interestingly, the man has a job. He is assessing the viability of the large estates in Yorkshire, but assures the family that Downton is not on his hit list. I did like the fact that Mary wants to pick his brain. Here is a woman who is taking her new responsibilities quite seriously.
Tom is taking his responsibilities seriously as well, although he feels his duty is to his daughter. Tom has never felt at home at Downton and he does not want his daughter to feel the same way. I understand his impulse to leave, to start fresh thousands of miles away from the memories of the woman he loved so much. The Crawley reaction to his news was interesting. It’s almost as though they don’t believe he will go through with leaving. They shouldn’t underestimate him; Tom has proven many, many times that he does exactly as he sees fit.
As I thought about it, however, I think the whole story of the Drewe family may be foreshadowing. Tom talks about his socialism and how he likes the idea of the farmers working in partnership with the estate. This was also a good story to show us a kindler, gentler side of Robert -- something that has been sorely lacking for quite a while. Robert has a keen sense of the history of the estate and throwing a family off their farm was too much for him. I would like to see more of Robert and Tom working together to keep the families in their farms.
I said in my review of the previous episode that, while I really like the new found friendship between Isobel and Lady Violet, I missed their snarky exchanges. Well, we got quite a few this week. Isobel is back to doing good; Lady Violet is back to thwarting her as much as she can.
This plot, finally, made very little sense. We have seen Lady Violet try to help others on many occasions now and only last week she was telling Isobel that it was time to come back to life. To have her snark about it felt off. But, it did give us some of the best lines in the episode, so I’ll let it pass.
I must give credit where credit is due. Ever since Vera died, Juliette has often commented that she believes Bates did murder her. Because I am such a fan of his romance with Anna, I wanted to believe that he would never do such a thing. I have changed my mind. Here is a man clearly capable of doing anything, especially when something stands in the way of his being with Anna.
Until this point, Bates has always been the honorable one -- to a fault, I would argue. Yet, his manipulation of Mrs. Hughes was something to see. This is not he first time this man has resorted to such tactics, I am sure. He was too good at it. The entire time he was threatening Mrs. Hughes, I was shouting at her to call his bluff. Of course, the good woman is incapable of that and so she tells Bates the truth.
Anna takes this betrayal extremely well, probably because she wanted Bates to know the truth and didn’t want or know how to tell him herself. The scene between Bates and her was lovely and it should have warmed my heart. Instead, all I could think about was this new Bates that we had just seen. All of which was confirmed by his last comment to Mrs. Hughes. This is a man on a murderous mission. Anna may have been right to keep him in the dark.
Speaking of manipulation, Baxter, the new lady’s maid, and Thomas appear to have some sort of nefarious connection. He has put her in her new position to spy on the people upstairs and to report all to him. Through Baxter, we also see the latest invention -- the sewing machine. Exactly as we saw with the mixer, Mrs. Patmore wants nothing to do with it and Daisy wants to try it out.
Daisy was, finally, interesting to watch this episode. She did help Alfred prepare for his test, but couldn’t help but be pleased that he failed and that he is staying at Downton. Unfortunately, Ivy seems to have finally realized that Alfred is a much better man than Jimmy will ever be. This quadrangle doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.
Nor does Molesley’s continuing to shoot himself in the foot. While Carson was a bit pompous and a bit arrogant, the unemployed man’s reluctance to take work was irritating. Especially as we all know that he will, eventually, end up in the house.
I liked this episode. This season’s stories are moving along at a much better pace and I find myself much more invested in the characters than I have been in a while. Not to mention, I am very worried about Edith.
Bits and Bobs:
-- George III reigned from 1760 until 1820. In effect, the Drewe family have been farming on the estate for well over a century. This has nothing to do with Downton Abbey, but my favorite George III story is also a life lesson. Upon his death, his diaries were discovered and published. For the entry dated 4 July 1776, all he had written was ‘Nothing important happened today.”
-- Simon Legree was the slave owner in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His name has become synonymous with greed and cruelty.
-- Lord Byron was not only a wonderful poet, he led quite a scandalous life. Stories abound of his lovers, including perhaps his half-sister, and his adventures abroad. He died very young, in debt and in exile.
-- The origin story of vichyssoise is true. It’s an interesting choice as a test dish as it is extremely easy to make. Or, at least it is now with food processors.
Lady Violet: “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock.”
Robert: “If we don’t respect the past, we’ll find it harder to build our future.”
Lady Violet: “Where did you read that?”
Robert: “I made it up. I thought it was rather good.”
Lady Violet: “It’s too good. The one thing we don’t want is a poet in the family.”
Isobel: “Would it be so bad?”
Lady Violet: “The only poet-peer I am familiar with is Lord Byron, and I presume we all know how that ended.”
Thomas: “No, [Anna’s] not an enemy. But, she’s incorruptible, so we have nothing in common.”
Cora: “Mrs. Patmore, is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance?”
Mrs. Patmore: “Well, m’lady, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset.”
Isobel: “Say what you like, but I know you care about these things as much as I do.”
Lady Violet: “Oh! Nobody cares about anything as much as you do.”
Carson: “As it is, you’ve missed your chance.”
Molesley: “As I generally do.”
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.