Downton Abbey: Season Four, Episode Seven

“To be young is to have your heart broken.”

A bit of time has passed since the last episode, but not much. It is still light well after dinner, so I am placing this episode solidly in June, 1922.

The opening scene of this episode reminded me so much of the very first scene of this entire series. A telegraph machine is tapping out a message and there is much scurrying below stairs as the staff gets ready for the day. Similarly, there is bad news from America. This time, however, it is not the Titanic that has sunk; it is Cora’s brother who is in trouble. Robert must travel to America to help him out.

Bates, understandably, does not want to leave Anna at this time and travel to America for several weeks and so he enlists Mrs. Hughes’s help. I wonder if Anna will ever regret the fact that she confided in Mrs. Hughes as the housekeeper has shared Anna’s secret first with Bates, now with Mary.

Mary and Anna’s friendship has always been an interesting one. Although there is the obvious master/servant dynamic, they have always been close. Mary has trusted Anna with her darkest secret and Anna is one of the few that Mary lets see her cry. Mary, on the other hand, has always supported Anna and been extremely generous to her. We have seen Mary try to get Anna to open up to her about this latest problem, but Anna has refused to discuss it. Even now, although she is glad that Mary knows, she refuses to confide.

The scene between Bates and Mary was a great example of how caring Mary can be, a side of her we see far too seldom. She persuades her father to take Thomas without revealing the secret and then tells Bates that it was not his fault. She is obviously upset by what she has just learned, but she is helping those for whom she cares.

Unfortunately, for all concerned, Green turns up again and acts as though nothing has happened. God bless Mrs. Hughes who tears into him with a passion that is a sight to see. Her words are interesting. She understands how furious Bates is and warns Green that “if [he] values his life, [he] should keep to the shadows.” As if we didn’t know just how vile this man is, he tries to turn the whole situation into a drunken misunderstanding. Mrs. Hughes lashes out with such fury that even Mr. Green is taken aback.

Idiot that he is, Green admits that he was downstairs during the event in question. The look that Bates gives him is murderous. No fool he, it is clear that Bates has figured out who attacked his wife. Mr. Green better watch himself in the future.

The list of men interested in Mary continues to grow. Her relationship with Blake follows every rom-com any of us has ever seen. They start the episode at odds, go through an experience that binds them, share a meal, and end up friendly. While the scene with the pigs followed by the scrambled eggs was so cliché as to be groan worthy, it was fun. Wasn’t it wonderful to see Mary laugh out loud again. Mary has certainly proved that she will not sit back and watch Downton be carted off and she has won Blake’s respect. My guess is that next season will find us all becoming part of either Team Gillingham or Team Blake.

Edith has never been my favorite character, but my heart is breaking for her. An unplanned pregnancy will resonate with any woman for the rest of her life, no matter what choice she makes. Watching her throughout this episode was tough to take. Asking her mother is she is “bad,” confiding in her aunt, Edith needs validation that the decisions she is making are the right ones.

There is no right decision, finally, but I’m glad that she chose not to subject herself to a back alley abortion. The risk to herself would have been so great, not to mention illegal. Rosamund showed us what she is made of. Although she is shocked to her core, she supports her niece, even when Edith is doing everything she can to push her away. I believe that Edith is trying to be realistic, but it is Rosamund who truly understands, and helps her niece understand, the truth of the situation.

Rose, meanwhile, is continuing her romance with Jack. I find it impossible to get too invested in this relationship as it is obviously doomed. Rose is very young and, while I think she does care about Jack, her motivations are less pure than his. Rose is as in love with the idea of shocking her family as she is with him.

Even Tom has a hint of romance. It is nice to see him attending political functions again and the young woman he sits next to seems very nice. I do hope we see her again, if only so that Tom won’t go scurrying off to America.

I spent a great deal of this episode concerned about Lady Violet. She was obviously very ill and the estate, not to mention this show, would be very changed if she were to die. Luckily, she had the services of a great nurse who got her back on her feet.

I love the relationship between these two women. Spitting and spatting at each other at every opportunity, there is a friendship between them that we have seen both sides of this season. Lady Violet helps Isobel get past Matthew’s death; Isobel nurses Lady Violet back to health. Both of these women understand the other and grudgingly respect the other, even when they are annoying each other. The scene with the cards was hilarious. Lady Violet feels obligated; Isobel is pushing her buttons, because she can.

Although Alfred has moved to London, the downstairs quadrangle continues to roar. All the machinations among the four are old and I’m truly hoping that it ends soon. Having said that, there is romance in the air below stairs. Molesley and Baxter would make an interesting couple and I would like to see them together, if only to stymie Thomas in whatever he’s holding over Baxter’s head. I keep getting romance vibes between Carson and Mrs. Hughes as well. The two of them together might be interesting to watch, but I like the platonic friendship between them well enough.

A good episode to begin winding up the season. The stories are all moving forward and some are coming to an end. I am interested to see where we end up after next week.

Bits and Bobs:

-- Fellowes took some creative license in terms of the timing for the Teapot Scandal. Although the scandal had broke in 1922, it would be much later before the senate investigations began in earnest.

-- As I wrote this article, it occurred to me that Fellowes has created an interesting dynamic when it comes to Mary’s emotional life. With very rare exceptions, the only two people who have ever seen her sad or scared are Anna and Carson, not Edith and Robert. Interesting that she feels she can open up to servants before she can her family.

-- The Second Mrs. Tanqueray was a play popular in the nineteenth century. It tells the story of an upper class man who marries a lower class woman with a sexual past. It does not end happily.

-- The Asquith/Lord George split is a fascinating time in British politics. Rather than go into too much detail, click here to read a good synopsis of what happened.

-- Maida Vale is a beautiful part of London just south of Hampstead Heath. In 1922, Maida Vale was where respectable woman who had fallen, but who still had money, went to live. After the second world war, it was where the men who worked in the City kept their mistresses. The main road through the borough is Randolph Avenue. It is where the expression “to be randy” comes from. Maida Vale is very close to my heart. I lived on Randolph Avenue for ten years.

-- So, Gillingham and Blake are both war heroes. The Iron Duke was a well known Royal Navy battleship commanded by Admiral John Jellicoe. The Battle of Jutland was the only major naval battle of the first world war and it was horrific. Dozens of ships and thousands of lives were lost with no clear winner at the end of it all.

Well Said:

Robert: “I know plenty of relatives of English earls who belong in jail.”

Mary: “All those handsome stewards strutting down the boat deck.”
Robert: “Don’t be vulgar. What do you know of such matters?”
Mary: “I’ve been married. I know everything.”

Carson: “You’re quite a plotter when you want to be, aren’t you?”
Mrs. Hughes: “It’s a skill all women must learn.”

Lady Violet: “I’d forgotten what a good game this is.”
Isobel: “Yes, I’d forgotten."
Lady Violet: “How long does it go on for?”
Isobel: “Oh, ages.”
Lady Violet: “Oh, goody, goody.”

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.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I said to Dan during this one that I could watch a show with just Violet and Isobel talking. They are just such wonderful characters, especially together.

drnanamom said...

I'm with Billie on this one but I would add Mrs Hughes to the mix - she could chat with them I suppose but just having her in the show would be worthwhile. I quite love her. Of course Bates is going to do something nasty. I just hope he is smart about it. Thanks for the review!

sunbunny said...

I have to say I'm really disappointed with how the show is handling Anna's rape. So much of it seems to be about Bates, not her. Green's talking about the night she was raped and our focus is supposed to be on the husband of the victim to see how he's taking it and not on the rape victim herself, being forced to relive the experience. So far the vast majority of it seems about protecting Bates from the truth, because if he knew the truth he would lose control and kill Green and be executed and I just keep coming back to the same question: why is Bates' self control Anna's responsibility?