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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey Christmas Special, Series Four





It's the summer of 1923, and we are back with the Crawleys. So, I guess they've just given up on having anything to do with Christmas, then? Righto.

We get the usual opening credits. Mrs Hughes has received a letter summoning her and Daisy to London, to help with Rose's debutante ball. With all the family and half the servants out of the house, this leaves Edith and Tom to handle things themselves. Edith, meanwhile, is back from her eight-month trip to Geneva with no sign of a baby anywhere. They wander the grounds remembering Matthew and how it's so great he saved the Abbey and how sad it all is. Yawn, we just had a full season of that, let's move on.

Thomas asks Daisy a favour - to remind Baxter that he is always watching, everywhere, and she'd better have some hot gossip. Daisy is confused. So are the viewers. Has the Baxter-as-Thomas's-spy storyline ever been convincing?

The DC and Edith chat about the upcoming ball. Granny is surprisingly perceptive and tells Edith that even though they don't discuss the baby, she knows it must be impossibly difficult. We learn that Edith had a girl, and she stayed in Switzerland a little longer to help wean the baby, which sounds unspeakably cruel when everyone knew she would have to leave it anyway. Granny is sympathetic, but thinks everything worked out for the best - "After all, your French must be superb." Edith bitches her out with some well-placed sarcasm. Like grandma, like granddaughter.

Everyone in London has been drawn into the debutante frenzy. Things are getting difficult to manage, especially since the Americans are due to arrive at any second. Mary is particularly overcome at the thought of having to pretend she isn't ashamed of them. And she might have to share a room with Edith! Chin up, dear, we all bear such burdens. Carson is ruling the roost as usual, and Cora suggests that he plan something fun for the servants when this is all over. Meanwhile, Rose is all CLUBBING CLUBBING WHY CAN'T I GO CLUBBING.

Lord Merton, that dude from last season who was set up with Isobel via the Dowager Countess, is still courting with a vengeance. He's even asked her to the ball. Naturally, she refuses, but you can tell it's half-hearted. He's sweet and awkward, she's a firebrand but clearly into him. It's adorable.

Rose has gone to her nightclub, accompanied by her friend Madeleine, who is new to the show. They're all set to have a good time when Madeleine spots her father at a nearby table. With the Prince Of Wales. (According to Wiki, this would be the future Edward VIII.) They're bowled over at the sight of honest-to-God royalty, and even more so when the prince refers to Rose's dad as "Good old Shrimpy". Soon enough, they're invited to club with the prince. Harry would be so proud. They chat about various privileged things.

Edith, Mrs Hughes and Daisy set off for London, leaving Tom in charge like the family exile he is. Thomas, of course, sees this as an opportunity to exploit the crap out of him. You can practically feel the gleam in his eye.

Blake, Mary's suitor from last season, shows up to take her out. Apparently things have been hot and heavy (in their prim Mary way) for a while. As I'm firmly TEAM BLAKE, I'm thrilled.

Thomas runs around complaining about how Tom has the nerve to actually exist when he should be a lowly chauffeur. Ivy thinks he should STFU. Spreading the seeds of discontent, that one.

The Downton contingent arrives at the same time as the Americans. We get Paul Giamatti and Shirley MacLaine! I'm about to die here. Grandma Levinson, in all her overly bedecked glory, complains that no one is there to receive her. Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson take the reins, used to dealing with the crazy American matriarch. Edith is more interested in her Uncle Harold, whom she has never met, since Transatlantic travel wasn't exactly a whim back then. He's blunt and vulgar and can't stand having left America. Is it just me, or are the Americans really overwritten in this show? I mean, they're constantly accused of being overly patriotic and crass, but that's nowhere near reality for most of them. The Levinsons seem more like caricatures than actual people, though then again you could say that about half the English cast. Fair is fair, I guess.

Meanwhile Ethan, Harold's valet, flirts with Daisy/tries to recruit her as Martha's new lady's maid. Mrs Hughes puts a stop to that pronto - they need an assistant cook way more than Martha needs someone to bitch at. "Are you excited?" the wide-eyed valet asks Daisy. "I'm never excited," she says, in a brilliant deadpan. We love you, Daisy.

The servants settle into various roles, with Cora and Martha sharing Baxter. Ethan proves to be a bit of a gossip. Mrs Patmore is just glad to have some damn help. Molesley's there, doleful as usual. Daisy gives her message, pissing Baxter off pretty quickly.

Blake and Mary go on their date to an art museum, with Mary pulling off an amazing powder blue dress. They trade banter. Rose wanders by, accompanied by Tony Gillingham - Handsome Tony from last season, who totally has the hots for Mary but has been shut down multiple times. Rose's friend Madeleine is also present. And everyone is going to this damned party. They continue to be witty. It's all just so precious.

Carson asks Mrs Hughes for help planning the staff outing. His choices: a science museum or a visit to a crystal palace. Mrs Hughes sees the paint-drying lack of potential in this and suggests he try the idea with the staff.

Cora greets her family, Mrs Vulgar and Uncle Buzzkill. They tell her of their plans to tour Europe, though neither seems enthused by this.

Tom runs into Sarah Bunting, the socialist schoolteacher he's been hot for all season. Her hatred of everything his in-laws stand for has been getting in the way. He invites her to the pub, and they're just about to go out when Violet drives by to cockblock them. She is, of course, her officious rich bitch self, which does little to bring Team Tom/Sarah forward. Just for good measure, she even calls him "Branson". But Sarah goes on a date with him anyway. Those abs can cut through the most extreme of social divisions.

Ethan continues to sweet talk Daisy, who is having none of it. Carson comes by to ask him to play footman on occasion, and makes the mistake of calling him "Levinson". Ethan innocently tells him that that's his employer's name. Carson bristles. BRITAIN/AMERICA CULTURAL MISHMASH! I'm sure it won't be the last.

Tom and Sarah have a nice dinner, in which she asks awkward questions about his in-laws and then wants to see the house. Tom is clearly terrified, but agrees.

At the first of several parties and dinners, the Americans stick out like sore thumbs and get snubbed everywhere they go. NOT COOL, CRAWLEYS AND FRIENDS. Auntie Rosamund shows up with her boyfriend, Mr. Terrence Sampson, which almost causes Lord Grantham to have a heart attack. Both of Mary's suitors show up. Mr. Sampson tries to get Harold into a card game, evidently not having learned his lesson from the past season. Ethan is way too enthusiastic and freaks out the guests, leaving to a sharp lecture from Carson. Cultural Mishmash #2. I just want to pat him on the head, especially since his blond head and hyperactive manner closely resembles a Labrador retriever.

The Levinsons continue to alienate everyone around them, so they are assigned various rich people to babysit them. Harold makes plans to go clubbing with Rose and Madeleine. Mary complains about the unsuitability of her aunt's date, and laments that she can't make a scene. Edith thinks that life would be better if more people made more scenes. I think this series certainly would. And Edith certainly has a few emotions that need dealing with.

Tom takes Sarah around the house, showing her the sex dungeon parlor. She is decidedly unimpressed and bugs him about Having Changed. When she asks to see the house from the gallery, he balks, thinking it's crossing a line. Sybil's theme plays, just to remind us that no woman can ever compare. However, she is fascinated by all the coats of arms, mostly because it allows her to make more snippy comments. Just then - cue Dramatic Prairie Dog music - Thomas walks in.

"We were just going down - that is, we only just came up and now we're going down again," Tom unhelpfully stammers. I swear to god, Thomas is glowing. He feeds on gossip like some sort of demon, doesn't he? I'm still working on the theory that he's Lord Voldemort's real dad. Tom and Sarah slink away. Thomas looks out over the gallery like a goddamned king.

Ethan praises England and Daisy in particular to the skies. All he gets in return is a glare.

Rose, her friend Frieda, Madeleine, Mr. Sampson and Harold go to a club (no sign of Rose's boyfriend from last season). Harold is still as awkward as ever, but Madeleine's dad pushes her onto the dance floor with him nonetheless. I imagine there are a multitude of Englishmen throwing their daughters at the wealthy American businessman with ties to the Crawleys, and in fact Harold says as much. Rose goes off to dance, leaving Sampson alone. He takes the opportunity to steal everyone's stuff. No, I did not just make that up.

Tom tries to explain himself the next morning, but Thomas gives him the icy side-eye treatment. The poor man ends up babbling about going upstairs and misunderstandings, etc, etc. You can see that Thomas is having the time of his life.

Isobel has decided to go to the ball, though she's justified it with some anthropological observing-the-traditions-of-the-rich bullshit. Come on, we all know you just wanted to wear the pretty dress. What's more, she has - shockingly! - asked Lord Merton to be her date. He accepts instantly. It's ON. Ooh la la!

Michael the Roving Reporter gave Edith power of attorney before he roved off, which means she has some decisions to make at the newspaper. She tells this to Auntie Rosamund, who delicately tries to point out that there's a good chance he's dead by now. He's been missing for what, a year now? Edith wonders if the baby might not have some rights, but Rosamund dismisses this. The baby is gone, and no longer theirs. Edith points out that the adoption's not legal yet. Hmm, who here predicts the kid will be back in England within forty-five minutes?

Anyway, Rosamund advises Edith to buck up and forget it ever happened. Edith pulls out the "You've never been a mom" card. Either way, I don't thing that baby's going to be Swiss for long.

Daisy gets a letter from Alfred, who is now an under-chef at the Ritz. She recounts the Saga of Alfred to a disappointed Ethan, who can see quite clearly where her heart lies.

Isobel and Violet set off on their trip together. Violet is travelling without a maid and completely helpless. Isobel offers to share her worldly knowledge, which causes Violet to snipe some more. Admit it. You'd love to be in that car.

Anna has persuaded Bates to buy some clothes, and gives the old coat to Mrs Hughes so she can pass it on to a Russian refugee charity drive. They exchange some banter about how silly presentations are. I'm inclined to agree. As Anna leaves, Mrs Hughes finds a ticket stub in the coat pocket. SCARY RAPIST MUSIC plays. Yep, it's proof that Bates was in London that day and murdered Mr Green, AKA Anna's assailant. Who goes that long without emptying their pockets, though?

Rose rides to the palace in a carriage, and the streets are lined like a bloody Royal Wedding. Everyone's decked out in their best, including Lord Grantham resplendent in full uniform. Rose even looks like a bride with her ridiculous headdress. She joins all the other debs, and they gossip about who's attending what. It's all extremely frivolous.

Mrs Hughes tries to tell Carson why she needs to find Anna urgently (without actually telling him, of course). Ethan interrupts. Completely misreading the situation as usual, he asks Carson "man to man" what's going on between Alfred and Daisy. I'd be surprised if Carson even remembers Daisy's name half the time. Jeez, Ethan, learn to read people. Carson's response is predictably blustery. If looks could kill.

Various people are presented, including a Lady Elizabeth Bailey-George. With the dude at the front reading from the slips of paper, it reminds me of the Reaping from The Hunger Games, but no matter. Rose does her thing, the king nods properly, it's all good. Unfortunately, the Prince of Wales chooses this moment to mention their connection, and the King actually speaks to Rose. Rose is her usual forward self. It's not quite a scandal, but eyebrows are raised. Side note: judging from photos I've seen, Queen Mary is perfectly cast.

Mrs Hughes has taken the evidence to Mary, who guessed that something like this might have happened. Wait, how do they all know what day this guy died? Can even Mrs Hughes, who was only tangentially connected, just pick it up off the top of her head? This whole ticket-stub-connection is really pushing it, Fellowes. They debate whether to tell Anna. Since Bates had a pretty damn good reason to kill, at least in their eyes, they are leaning towards letting it be. To be honest, I'd say that's probably the smart thing. Mostly because I don't want another series of Bates-goes-to-jail rehash.

Everyone congratulates Rose, and Cora for escorting her. It also seems that, at long last, Martha has made a friend - a stuffy old Lord with a fondness for Newport. As it happens, Martha spends quite a bit of time there...Meanwhile, Harold is considerably less charming chatting up the young debs. He sends Madeleine fleeing in tears from all the talk about vulgar money.

Frieda tells Rose that David - erm, the Prince - has been asking about her. Naturally, this causes a good amount of intrigue. I can't wait for the Series 5 episode, "Rose Changes Her Name to Wallis Simpson". And it is driving me absolutely insane that Madeleine and Frieda look so much alike. Every scene where one of them appears, I can't tell which is which. I know the casting agents must look for a certain type, but Jesus, have some variety. Anyway, Frieda has lost a letter, presumably from the prince and presumably scandalous in nature. She begs Rose to try to help her find it. Unfortunately, Martha chooses to horn in at that moment with the news that she's read about Frieda in the American papers. Frieda is shocked, shocked I tell you.

Meanwhile, Harold makes an ass of himself in front of the Prince. Once the royal storms off, Uncle Buzzkill finds the whole thing uproariously funny. For once.

Back at the house, Rose delicately asks Cousin Robert about Mr Sampson and his motives, earning only a harrumph in response. Meanwhile, Daisy is horrified to have to prepare a picnic for Rose and the Levinsons, along with some sort of chorus girl. Ethan eagerly volunteers to help her out. Everyone disapproves.

The scandal has been explained to Robert, who is horrified. "I'm a monarchist...which is why I do not wish to know its contents," he huffs as they cook up a plan to retrieve it before wicked Mr Sampson can blackmail or expose poor Mrs Dudley Ward. Oh, honestly, it's a minor scandal, not the fucking apocalypse.

On the car ride to London, Thomas tries to weasel his way into the back seat with Tom. Fortunately, Tom is having none of this, and he and Ivy come up with a plan to keep him in the front, where he can't cause much trouble. Devious bastard.

Daisy, Ethan and the rest head out on their picnic, while Carson the Oblivious wonders if Ethan's interest might not be improper. Mrs Patmore responds with a killer line about how improper interest might be just what she needs. OWNED.

Robert and Rose get Bates on his own and ask the former jailbird to find them a forger. They need a fake note to get past the doorman and ransack Sampson's flat. Bates promises to get it done. I've got to say, I love this pairing of Robert and Rose, Private Detectives. They just work so well together despite their many differences. Spin-off, anyone? It could air after The Adventures of Carson the Clown.

More news from Edith: on his first night in Munich, Michael got into a fight with some toughs who "wear brown shirts and go around preaching the most horrible things". Hmm, I wonder what tyrannical organisation in 1920s Germany that could be? Anyway, she's now leaning towards revealing her secret. Rosamund pleads with her to keep quiet. She refuses - if she inherits her boyfriend's money, then she feels obligated to give some to the baby, even though the kid presumably has a nice family of her own. Rosamund suggests that she stay anonymous and start over with a new family. Edith predictably goes to pieces.

Mrs Hughes talks to Bates, who mentions that he hasn't been in London since the war, when his mother died. SCARY RAPIST MUSIC returns. Jesus Christ, Fellowes, turn the melodrama down a bit. Anyway, since he's hidden his fateful trip, Mrs Hughes now has something to work with beyond a bus ticket and her own suspicions.

Mary and Cora are now in on the Letter Plot, which is getting increasingly ridiculous. While Robert distracts everyone with a game of cards, Mary will sneak in and get it. Why Rose couldn't do it is beyond me, but I guess she needs to be around to be hot and charming. Mary suggests Lord Asgoth, Martha's new buddy. That brings up another issue - they need to distract the grannies, who will undoubtedly give the game away in their constant battle of wills! So Martha, Violet and Isobel are packed off to the theatre with Rosamund and oh my god I can't be bothered to care in the slightest. Robert freaks out, because apparently it's the Crawleys' duty to the throne to keep the skankalicious heir free from scandal. Whatever.

The Levinsons continue on their picnic. Lord Asgoth and Martha flirt outrageously (or rather, complain about The Good Old Days), as do Madeleine and Harold. It's blatantly obvious to everyone (including Martha) that Asgoth would loooove to get his hands on some Levinson money, one way or another. Harold tells Madeleine creepy details of his playboy adventures. Paul Giamatti just kills it. Brilliantly awkward and offensive, he makes Harold into a fully-fledged character in seconds. Wonderful. Just wonderful. And Madeleine's just eating it up, too.

The servants are all aflutter over the extra guests, and Mary and Rose do their best to put them at ease. Their real mission, however, is to hunt down Bates and the forged letter. It's a perfect match, and something tells me that Bates is the forger. Maybe the gigantic fucking wink Fellowes keeps throwing at us. Seriously, tone it down. Mary keeps exclaiming about how proper it all is, which fools no one. The game is on.

Once Rose is gone, Mary drops some hints with Bates about how London is a giant city full of regrets. He puts on his best icy stare. Mrs Hughes interrupts them just as the SCARY RAPIST MUSIC starts up, thank God, because if I have to hear that again I swear I will punch someone. Mary takes Mrs Hughes aside and confesses that she can't live with this on her conscience - she feels they should do something, because after all, a guy died, even if he was scum. Nonetheless, Mary is still convinced that keeping quiet is wrong.

The DC is horrified by all the guys, including "Mary's Men", coming into their house to play cards. Isobel just wants to join the game, which would be hilarious in all kinds of ways. Seriously, Wilton and Smith own this scene. Edith, clearly the brains of the operation, has deduced that they're up to something and wants to know what. Robert's just happy to have his dog back - Tom brought her up with him. (Also, how is Isis still alive? She's been around since the war at least. Has there been a succession of Isises?)

The Levinsons show up, where Harold and Tom of course hit it off instantly. The DC is still bowled over by all the modernity in the room, or at least pretends to be. Martha is on board with the theatre plan, so I guess it's going ahead. The DC is still bitching.

Just as the game's about to start, Thomas corners His Lordship and rattles off the story of Tom and Sarah. His Lordship, who is apparently as dumb as a brick when it comes to this guy, is totally taken in.

Carson tells everyone about the staff outing, and floats his dumbass ideas around. This is met with crickets. To his credits, he realizes this right away and instantly backs off. Anna mentions the coat to Mrs Hughes. Apparently, Bates is cross because she took it before he could look through the pockets. Mrs Hughes tells her that the pockets had "nothing that matters now", which perks up Anna's Spidey senses. Thomas continues to harass Baxter for insider info. Molesley rescues her. I continue to ship these two hard.

Daisy's cooking has so impressed Harold that he wants her to come to America and be his cook. Ethan breaks this news to her. She can think it over during their tour of Europe, and at the end Harold will give her the fare, if this is what she chooses. Daisy is in total shock. I can't help but wonder if Ethan's making it up. The lengths he would go to get a girlfriend...

The poker game begins, with Lord Asgoth, Lord Grantham, Tom, Handsome Tony, Harold and Sampson present. When there's a lull, Robert discreetly interrogates Tom about his nighttime activities. However, he doesn't get too far.

Mary, Blake and Rose break into Sampson's apartment, which is dingy by their standards (though it's a hell of a lot nicer than any I've lived in).

Thomas continues to be a general pain in the ass. Baxter is clearly getting fed up. And she's shifted to Team Molesley, apparently.

The search has proved fruitless, so it looks like poor Prince is doomed. Blake and Mary sigh about it, though as Mary points out, this was going to happen at some point and it's not her job to clean up the mess. Handsome Tony wanders by and points out that since Mary interacted with him, it must mean he still has a chance. Riiiight.

Carson passes on a message from Rose to Bates, concerning this evening's activities. Naturally, this is very confusing to him, but Bates gets it. Mrs Hughes brings up the staff outing again. Carson's latest suggestion? Madame Tussaud's. Mrs Hughes is visibly pained, but says she'll consider it. As the victim of a million boring company events, I say suck it up and pick a place. If they're bored, they're bored.

Robert wants to know if anything's going on with Edith. Oh, boy, wouldn't he like to hear this one. It'd make Mary and Mr. Dead-in-the-Bed look tame. She says she'd never do anything to hurt him, which confuses his Lordship something fierce. Nonetheless, he bids his daughter goodnight, questions still lingering. Sampson unsuspectingly thanks his hosts, Harold continues to flirt with Madeleine. Bates specifically requests to help Sampson with his jacket. Just as Violet and Robert complain about the lack of a solution, Bates produces the letter, which he has obviously just pilfered. See, Bates knows a thing or two about hiding stuff in coats. Everyone's delighted, though Rose finds it a bit anti-climactic. Personally, I feel that putting stuff in a coat pocket is a great way to have it wind up on the slushy sidewalks of Mosc- er, London. But a contrived ending it is!

We're treated to Sampson coming home and finding out he's lost his meal ticket. Boo hoo, so sad.

Mary tells Anna about the evening, though she points out that the prince's character will undoubtedly bring on another scandal one of these days. Oh, ha ha, great foreshadowing. "Yes, but the next one won't be the fault of the Crawley family," says Anna. Mary asks Anna to pass on her gratitude. Looks like he's off the hook, this time. Mary burns the ticket. Inexplicably, Sybil's Theme plays. Fellowes, please could you fire the music director? Thanks.

Everybody's in a frenzy for the big debutante ball. Indeed, it turns out to be a smashing event, with the Crawley women looking like tsarinas. Just as the dancing's about to start, who should show up but the Prince of Wales and his entourage? The Crawleys are thunderstruck. Robert and Rose were planning to open the dancing, but the Prince steps in and a lovely time is had by all. This is a tale that will be told for generations. Just not all of it.

Cora and Robert take the floor, followed by Mary and Blake. "These are your people now. This is your family," Violet assures Tom. He is pleased, which I guess kicks the last of his socialist convictions to the curbside, but still tells her that these are not his people. She asks if it's a challenge. He gives her a challenge of his own - will she have this dance? So Tom and the Dowager Countess, the least likely dance partners ever, take to the floor in style. "I knew I could trust you to steer," she tells him, but it's a playful nudge. Can't be a Crawley without some sniping from Granny.

Martha has just turned down a proposal from Lord Moneygrubbing Asgoth. She points out that she's too modern and won't fit in, plus she hates most of these people anyway. She had fun while it lasted, though. Asgoth is shot down and sad, but is mollified by an invitation to Newport, especially when she assures him that all her rich widowed friends will be present.

Harold tells Madeleine how much he has enjoyed London, contrary to his expectations. She, in turn, tells him that he's been good for her - from now on, she will no longer play her father's moneygrubbing games. She then gives him the "any woman would be lucky to have you" speech. They promise to write after he goes back to America.

Baxter and Molesley fangirl over the Prince for a bit, but then things get serious. Molesley tells her not to let Thomas take her in. Sometimes it's better to take a risk than do wrong. His words affect her deeply, and as he takes a tray upstairs, we can see that Baxter's in tears. I would never have thought of this pairing, but damn does it work.

Handsome Tony and Mary hash out all the relationship drama so far. All in a manner most proper, of course. She tells him she's too consumed by Downton to take on any man. Blake is in direct opposition to Downton's existence, for example - and Tony cuts her off right there. Blake is actually the heir to a baronetcy from a distant cousin and is about to inherit a hell of a lot of money. Kind of like Matthew, actually. Well, that ties things up all good and proper, doesn't it? What a cop out. Here we have a genuinely different guy, and he's still One of Them in every way. I'm still Team Blake, though. Handsome Tony is such a milquetoast. Also, this distant cousin is called Sir Severus Blake, which makes this HP fan very happy. Mary admits that she feels she could move on from Matthew, but Tony is still friend-zoned, so they sit there being happy. And that's good enough for now.

Isobel is asked to dance by Guess Who, speaking of milquetoasts. She protests as usual, but Lord Merton still has her out on the floor in seconds. Everyone's happy with their partners, except for Doleful Edith, who sits around chatting with Tom. He tells her that they need to stand up to the others and "find our corner". Edith is inspired by this, and promptly tells her mother that she's going back to Downton in the morning. She mentions she's going back to the Continent and it has something to do with Gregson, which instantly raises Rosamund's hackles. So Baby Bastard Crawley is coming back after all! Let's see what kind of scandal that causes.

Martha and the DC exchange more insults. It's hilarious as usual. Shirley MacLaine and Maggie Smith deserve to be in every movie ever. In fact, why is there not an old-lady buddy movie starring them? I'd watch the hell out of it. There's another conversation ad nauseum about how Times Are Changing, and Martha's ahead of the game while Violet's falling behind. I'd find this way more interesting if it hadn't been done eight hundred times by every single character in some configuration. I think it's time for the Downton writing staff to take a course at the Mad Men school of subtlety. 

Mrs Hughes and Carson talk about how overworked they all are, which naturally leads back to the staff outing. Carson is out of ideas, so they go with the old standby of a day by the sea. Mrs Hughes thinks it sounds just fine.

Blake and Mary step out into the sunlight, still in their evening finery, evidently having danced the night away. She asks about his rich relative, to which he responds that he wanted to win her on his own merit. He is also genuinely surprised to hear that Handsome Tony was her source. I still think it's a stupid cop-out, but it makes Mary's Men more evenly matched, and so the battle is set up for Series Five. I think I can safely wait until September on this one.

Remember Edith's harebrained scheme with the tenant farmer, towards the end of the last series? Well, she's resurrected it. She's going to pay this dude and his wife (who have a bunch of kids already) to raise her daughter - though she claims it's her conveniently dead friend's daughter. It prevents scandal and keeps the baby nearby. Not an ideal solution - but much better in Edith's eyes. Despite the added hardship, the farmer is fine with this. And I'm pretty sure he knows the real truth, judging from the look on his face. Still, he will keep it secret forever, if that's what Edith wants. Edith is touched, and there's some kind of resolution at last. Now let's see how it plays out next fall.

The beach outing is a success. Thomas continues to threaten Baxter, but this time she actually stands up to him - and then promptly goes over to Molesley. Attagirl. Also, she has a really juicy past, which I hope gets exposed sometime. Daisy turns down both the job and Ethan's romantic advances, much to his disappointment and no one's surprise. Ivy promptly steps in and asks for a trial in Daisy's place. So Ivy's off to the States, and thank GOD the Daisy-Ivy drama has finally played out. What a bore that got to be.

Once he and Ivy walk off, Daisy confesses to Mrs Patmore that she's not offended by Ethan's advances - quite the opposite, in fact. She feels wanted and attractive, and that is a great boon. Mrs Patmore = vindicated. Take that, Carson.

Anna and Bates talk about the coat, where he continues to complain about the pockets. Dude, why didn't you just burn it months ago? Mary thought to do that in, like, two days. It's not like you were going to use it again. Oh, there is so much stupid here. But all is well in Bates-land, and that's good, I guess.

Mrs Hughes wades in the cold, cold sea, while Carson looks terrified and comical in his bare feet. Nonetheless, she coaxes him into the water with the promise that he can hold her hand. D'awww, Carson and Mrs Hughes FOR LIFE. He questions if maybe this is a tad risque, and she says it doesn't matter - they're getting old and they have each other. Holding hands, they step into the water while the staff is agog. YES.

Well, overall it was pretty interesting. Big thumbs down to Tom being taken in by the Downton crew, though I don't think that story's finished - and Sarah was such an unpleasant character that I'm glad to see her go. MacLaine and Giamatti were superb, as usual, and though Rose's story was frivolous, it was still fun. Hated the Bates plot - it was just run by way too many idiotic decisions - but felt a strange sense of satisfaction at the Daisy story. I was also pleased by Ethan, who really did have some great moments. All in all, life goes on at Downton, for better or for worse - and it sure brightened up my Christmas to get a look at it.

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