Well, Downton may have plotzed at the Emmys, but at least we have a brand new episode to review!Â Â Yup, Iâ€™ve added it to the lineup, just because it is great fun and a highly popular series over on FJ. Due to the abbreviated British seasons, weâ€™ve been waiting forever to catch up with Crawleys and Downstairs folk alike, so let us jump in with both feet.Â
Spoilers. Spoilers spoilers spoilers. Do not proceed if you do not want spoilers. Everyone seems particularly touchy about last season, so Iâ€™m just saying. SPOILERS. (And sorry Americans who are waiting for the US broadcast - the English viewers rule the school.)
We get pretty British piano music - you know, the kind that just screams class - and a shot of the estate on a moonlit night in September 1922. Can you believe it's been a decade since we got started? And yet, none of the cast has aged more than four years! Remarkable. The music suddenly turns a tad ominous. Someone is packing up. But where is the person going? And who is it? Please be Edith's reporter boyfriend who snuck up for an illicit quickie!
We hear a baby crying, and a nanny going to look after it. Mary is suddenly shown in bed looking really fucking miserable. And who can blame her? Having your husband succumb to the Cast Departure Plot Hole really sucks. There's an old-timey wedding picture to tug at our heartstrings. The title comes up over a shot of the misty castle. Awww. Mary sits on her bed, still miserable, and we briefly see that the Downton runaway is a she. Moving on.
Anna comes into one of the servants' rooms to find notes on the mantel. Uh-oh. Yup, O'Brien has flown the coop. Carson's pissed off, Anna has to take on both Lady Grantham and Lady Mary, Thomas is delighted, the maids are gossippy. The house is in chaos! Oh, shit. We cut to Cora whimpering about how betrayed she feels (you know, because she totally trusts the same lady who caused her to have a miscarriage with a well-placed bar of soap), while Robert has evidently detected the presence of pure evil - he is not surprised at all. To top it off, O'Brien has deserted them for that bitch from Scotland in the Christmas special (Rose's mom), and is now en route to India. Mrs Hughes tries to pacify her bosses. She doesn't really succeed.
Meanwhile, Carson's gone all Inspector Javert on the household staff, trying to figure out why O'Brien ditched them. He especially suspects her nephew Jimmy. Life will be hell for you now, young man. Upstairs, Edith complains about Lady Flincher's maid-robbing ways. It's especially awkward because Cousin Rose now lives with them. Rose herself comes in and is all apologetic for something she didn't do. Way to fuck things up for your daughter, Lady F. Luckily, the Earl is not about to blame the lady. Tom Branson is still there and as adorable as ever, working on the estate. Mary's in some kind of self-imposed cloister, everyone is in full 1920s garb by now, and Edith still works at the newspaper. Setup complete. I am reminded of how damnÂ slowÂ everything was back then - they talk about putting an ad in the paper for a new maid and how they'll have to wait for the next edition. Craigslist has truly rocked the world.
Once the Earl wanders out, Rose confides in Edith that she did know, but didn't think it would actually happen. Edith is shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Branson looks as badass as it is possible to look while rattling a newspaper.
Mary has apparently been staring out the window for hours. Anna tries to tempt her with a purple shawl for her walk. She insists on black. No points to Anna. Nanny comes in with baby George. He is adorbs, but Mary isn't having any of it, staring at him like he's some kind of bland wallpaper and referring to him as an orphan. Anna reminds Mary that she's still alive. She says something snarky back. I feel like these two would be real friends in another world. Sitcom spinoff, please?
MAGGIE SMITH SIGHTING! MAGGIE SMITH SIGHTING! She wanders through the graveyard looking for the vicar. Matthew's headstone is conveniently being put up nearby. She talks with Mr Molesley Sr. about how darn sad it is. Okay, okay, we went through this with Sybil, someone have a new conflict please. We also establish that Mr Molesley Jr. still has his job, even though Matthew has tragically perished. Apparently he just sits around and twiddles his thumbs? Maggie's all "He could do better," and Sr's all "I know", and then they're all sad again.
Meanwhile, the nannies are taking Baby Sybil and Baby George out for a walk. Thomas goes to say hi. His affection for Dead Sybil notwithstanding, DON'T LET HIM NEAR THE BABIES. It's Thomas, for God's sake, he'll probably trade them in some sort of sketchy Ponzi scheme. Fortunately, George's nanny is sharp and tells him to back the fuck off. Thomas is all "I liked her mom, that makes me her friend." Nanny will not sacrifice the sacred Downton servant hierarchy. Thomas leaves. Nanny's probably going to get a rat on her dinner plate tonight.
Bates asks about Cora's reaction to the O'Brien departure. Daisy thinks O'Brien's thoughtless, everyone else is all "Duh." Bates is concerned for poor sad Lady Mary and poor deprived Master George. Daisy says she could never be a nanny, because it's not family but not quite servant, either. Thomas goes on about how uppity Nanny West is. The other servants all take the piss out of him, saying he's just shocked to have been treated like a servant for once. I support this! Let's all gang up on Thomas! Now that O'Brien has left, there's no choice but to make him Villain #1, amirite?
Tom works the estate with Robert and Marsh. They discuss death duties, who inherited what, and it turns out that Mary got only 1/3 of Matthew's assets and everything else belongs to George. You'd think, like, George's only surviving parent would manage that, but nope, it all goes to Robert until the baby can inherit. Because Mary's such a delicate flower and all. Actually, Robert does make a good point - at this point, all Mary can manage is to breathe. "The price of love is great misery when one of you dies," he says, forgetting who he's talking to. Tom and Robert go about being sad some more.
Carson is interrogating Molesley about his continued employment. The poor luckless man has no answer to any of his ads, but he can't stay at Downton, either. He is gone. Bye, drunken wonder! As she walks by, Mrs. Patmore helpfully advises him to "Cheer up, it might not happen."
Edith and Cora are going into town to see Isobel (who as the bereaved mum has open invitation status at Downton), and Rose invites herself along - to town, not Isobel's. Talk turns to Edith's London trip. Michael Gregson is giving Edith a party to meet literary friends. Okay, who wants to bet that it's a party for two? (Raises hand.)
In town, Rose goes into a shop and asks if she can put an ad in the window for employment. She doesn't say what kind, just a job. The woman at the counter is surprisingly cool with it. Rose, Rose, why do you have to get a personal gigolo? Branson's right down the hall and there are some good-looking footmen hanging about.
Isobel is practically as catatonic as Mary, but alert enough to be worried for her grandson. She and Edith talk about how stupid Matthew's death was. Just like every Downton fan at Christmas! Edith offers to help, and Isobel says it's nice, but nothing can ever fix the loss of Matthew. Edith says she should be an excellent grandmother. It sounds abrasive, but it's actually kind of sweet. Yeah, fromÂ Edith, I know.
Carson gets a letter and starts uncharacteristically grumbling (more so than usual). Something's clearly eating him, and Mrs Hughes has to find out. She digs out the letter. CUT to a woman walking down the street. She spies Rose's ad - for a ladies' maid good at arranging hair. Aww, how sweet, she really does want to fix things. Unfortunately, the woman is Edna. Yup, the maid who was all hot for Branson last Christmas special. No way this will end badly at all.
We get yet another conversation about how sad everyone is, this time between Cora and Mrs Hughes. Cora says that if Sybil had been an only child, she thinks she would have died. Mrs Hughes assures her that she would have lived for the surviving baby - and so must Isobel. Robert comes in, Mrs Hughes steps out. They argue about the baby's property. Robert's all "no lady can handle any decisions", and Cora brings in her American "let her be in charge, she's the baby's mom" spunky attitude. Robert is prepared to assume responsibility for the boy. Especially since she has few legal rights in this matter, no matter how capable she is. Sexist laws are just the best, eh?
Everyone downstairs gets letters, even though it's just an ordinary Tuesday, or so Mrs Hughes thinks. Carson points out it's Valentine's day, and is indignant at Mrs Hughes' surprise - "I'm not a complete stranger to romance." Ooh, Carson has a past?
Just then, everyone's curiosity is piqued when Daisy gets a letter. Who would send a widow a Valentine? Anna and Bates have both received anonymous cards from secret admirers, nudge nudge wink wink, aren't they cute. Actually, it's nice to see such an in-love couple. Who wants to bet one of them croaks? Probably Anna. In childbirth. While being run over by a car. Which has hit a bar of soap. Daisy opens her card, and smiles.
Upstairs, we see that Edith has received the same one. Wait, is Daisy a go-between again? Mary comes down the stairs looking like a robot and proceeds to kill the mood like a lamp to a fly. Excellent performance from Michelle Dockery. Who looks gorgeous, as usual. She looks down at the spot where she and Matthew first kissed. I'm being killed here. Let's go back to the servants.
Mrs Hughes is seen entering a workhouse (clearly Fellowes has been watching Call the Midwife), which is disgusting and is complete with the requisite "GOD IS GOOD" sign. She approaches a man roughly Carson's age. We find out Carson's first name is Charlie. Cool. The guy is delighted, but clearly ill. Mrs Hughes lies and tells him that Carson just wants to know how he is before busting him out of there. The guy (Mr. Griggs) is practically crying with relief and tells her that he knew it would work, since he and Charlie go far back and all (including a falling-out). Ouch. Seriously, this is all going to unravel in about five seconds.
Edith arrives in London looking snazzy, where she is met by Gregson the editor/secret boyfriend. He has a plan - he wants to move to a country where lunacy is grounds for divorce, so he can dump Crazy Wife and marry Edith. Oh, and while he's living there he wants Edith to shack up with him. He's thinking Germany. (Erm, 1922? Not the best timing there.) Before she can answer, they get cockblocked by Aunt Rosamund's chauffeur. Best thing to protect Edith's virtue, which is presumably nonexistent by now.
As the grown-ups finish tea, Nanny West brings in Baby Sybil and "the little prince" (heh). Branson is all gooey about his kid (who is darling), while Mary once again has the wallpaper look on her face.
Violet has shown up at Isobel's to have a one-woman intervention, telling her to live for little George. Isobel protests she doesn't want to interfere. "It's the job of grandmothers to interfere," says Violet. That gives us Killer Dowager Countess One-LinerÂ 1.Â Just then, Molesley interrupts, prompting KDCO-LÂ 2.Â Molesley asks for his old job back. Bumbling as usual, he only upsets Isobel, who kindly tells him she has no need for a butler. Violet assures him that they will tell him of any openings they know of. Don't let the door slam on your way out!
At the literary party, one can see the Jazz Age is in full swing. Edith has a jaunty red scarf in her hair and looks to be having fun. God, can you believe she almost married that drip last season? Ecch. They talk about Gregson's proposal. Edith calls it "sin", but doesn't seem too turned off on the idea. They go all doe-eyed on each other.
Rose walks through town as the Dowager Countess drives by, on her way to Molesley's. Lady Shackleton is joining her for lunch, and she needs help. Oh, and Lady Shackleton's butler is retiring. That's convenient.
Carson freaks the fuck out about Mrs Hughes' treachery, which is valid. She breaks through by telling him his friend's in a workhouse. Carson assumed they were all closed, and is like "Welp, at least he's not homeless." Turns out he's too stuffy to look back on his traveling performer days (I think we need a prequel series), which is where he knows the guy from. So Mr. Griggs is screwed. Carson, you shit, do something. There is a time for standing on ceremony and a time for being a human being.
Daisy and Ivy unwrap a mixer which has just been delivered, unaware that the machine may have put them out of a job. Mrs. Patmore practically keels over at all the innovation. Jimmy and Alfred tease Ivy about her Valentines. Daisy is a wallflower as usual. Nanny West and Thomas snap at each other some more.
Edith is incensed about Rose's ad, though the latter explains that it was much quicker. I like the cut of your jib, lady, you were born for the Internet era. They're currently fielding candidates, though one looks promising. Meanwhile, Tom is trying to coax Mary into coming out of her funk and doing something, even if it's frivolous. She says, rather unconvincingly, that she's interested in George. She asks about the estate, but is interrupted by her father, who thinks that Mary's delicate mind is being assaulted with boring matters. Mary withdraws again. This is actually a really cool dynamic. Let's see where it goes.
The servants continue to bitch about who sent whom a Valentine. Jimmy admits he sent one to Edna, after hearing she was back. Too bad she's into Irish chauffeurs.
Mrs Hughes is also trying to get Isobel out of the rut by having her help Carson's poor destitute buddy. Isobel refuses to help, saying it's not her business, which Mrs Hughes counters with the "You've changed, man" talk. After some deliberation, they agree on bringing Mr. Griggs to live at Mrs. Crawley's to train him up and give him back his life. Isobel is reluctant, but Mrs Hughes cleverly appeals to her strength, and it is done. Mrs Crawley is back in the game! Brava, Mrs. Hughes.
Tom asks Carson to help him bring Mary out of her shell, overriding Robert's edicts. "He sees her as a little woman," Tom says, instantly winning my respect. Carson is shocked, shocked I tell you, but doesn't say no right away. He asks what he could do even if he agreed. Tom says that she will listen to him, if no one else.
Jimmy says he's going to the pub, even though it's not his day off. Shock! Horror! Alfred advises him not to. Just then, Daisy turns on the mixer. Oh, the modernity. Next thing you know Mary will be listening to "How to Save a Life" on her iPod, right? Jimmy takes the moment to ask Ivy to the pub. She hemms and haws about breaking the rules, but before she can make her mind up, Mrs Patmore comes in to buzzkill. However, the cook is more concerned about how the mixer is so totally going to fuck everything up. Saved by the kitchen appliance.
Nanny West confronts Thomas, who didn't pass on a message to Mrs Patmore about Sybbie's breakfast. Why this matters is not explained. It appears to be just a power trip, actually. Nanny West explains that Nanny > Staff, so Thomas should shut up and mind. Damn, she's O'Brien 2, isn't she? And they put her in charge of theÂ kids.Â I expect Machiavellian Sybbie by the end of the season. They glower. God, this is boring.Â
For all her mourning black, Mary looks far from solemn in her sexy 1920's dress. Anyway, Carson comes in to have his little talk with her, being basically her extra grandpa and all (albeit one whose life she can ruin at will). He tells her he's about to be bold. She's confused. Cut to Cora descending the staircase to dinner, where Thomas interrupts her. He tells her Nanny West is a big neglectful child abuser who leaves the kids alone, like, all the time. Cora falls for it hook, line and sinker. Score one for Vengeful Thomas.
Mary is all pissed at Carson for getting above his station, and plays the grieving widow card. She accuses him of overstepping the mark. Carson, of all people. Come on, Mary, he's trying to save you from the depths. Climb back up. She, er, "generously" offers to overlook it. Carson turns to leave - and stops. He tells her in no uncertain terms that she's letting herself be defeated and if he's being impertinent, well then so be it. GO CARSON. Mary is shocked, but clearly listened. Even at dinner, she's still staring thoughtfully (instead of blankly) while Branson prattles on about estate stuff. The tenant farmers' luncheon is coming up, and Cora can't attend. Neither can Edith. Can Mary play hostess, considering that her son owns half the estate? Robert doesn't want to tax her little mind, but Violet and Tom are pulling for her. Mary flips out at all of them, telling them to leave her alone and storming out. Robert is nonplussed at all the female hysteria. Violet comments on how well-mixed the mousse is. Heh.
Molesleys Sr. and Jr. stand outside looking at the moon. They discuss how transient Jr's life is and how much Matthew's death has thrown everything off-kilter. Molesley complains that his standards are raised and he doesn't want to work for whatever old lady the Dowager Countess has thrown at him.Â He can't work for an ebil Catholic.Â Dude, when the Dowager Countess asks you to do something - this goes for all of Maggie's characters - YOU LISTEN. His dad advises him to suck it up, take a good position and eventually he'll find his way. Smart man.
Violet goes to say goodbye to Mary. She doesn't care about Mary's outburst, saying that she's here as a grandmother, not some sort of governess. We get an "I love you." Yes,Â from Violet.Â I just dropped dead of shock, excuse me.
Anyway, this gets Mary to finally sit up and listen. Touchy-Feely Grandma tells Mary to think of her son. Mary replies she'll be a terrible mother, which okay, that's valid, she has as much warmth as a porcupine. She's scared that with Matthew's death, she lost any touch of kindness. Violet tells her there's "more than one type of good mother", and tells her to choose either death or life. Mary's shoulders slump, and the Dowager puts her arms around her. Who are you two and what have you done with the Crawleys?
Carson is confused and pissed off about the Charlie Griggs thing. He too goes to the Little Women Can't Handle Grief school, and cannot believe she's taxed Mrs Crawley like this. Mrs Hughes is polite, but basically tells him that she knows better.
Robert tells Violet that she must forgive Mary, because Mary is all broken and it's his job to wrap her up. Okay, I was originally liking this plotline, but it's getting way overplayed. How unsubtle is this writing? Violet pulls a Mrs Hughes on Robert, telling him that he's the one with poor judgment. BANG. She also invites Edith to the Molesley luncheon on Friday to help with her scheme. That woman always has a few irons burning. This episode belongs to the Dowager Countess, for sure.
Jimmy comes running in begging Alfred for help. See, Ivy is completely and utterly wasted, and will surely be thrown out if they don't hide it properly. Cue a hilarious "drag the drunk girl back to her room without showing anyone" routine. Anna is in on it, of course, just like the Kemal Pamuk incident. Is there anything that woman doesn't know about? Everyone keeps asking Jimmy what he was "trying to do", because they can't believe she got herself drunk. Charming. Alfred gives him a sound lecture on toying with people.
The next morning, Carson finds Mrs. Crawley, who is near tears. Apparently she wanted to see young Master George, but Nanny West didn't think it a good time. Bitch. Â Penelope Wilton's lip can quiver like no other. Carson brings up the Grigg situation, going on about how unworthy he is. Isobel tells him that no, she's perfectly fine, and in fact feels like it's given her some purpose. Point to Isobel.
The Bateses gossip about household things while Ivy desperately tries to conceal her hangover. Once she leaves, they snicker together. "I suppose we were all young once," Anna says. Lesson learned: If you fuck up, trust the Bateses, golden couple like no other.
Cora and Rose interview Edna, who is upfront about her past as a Downton maid, especially since she is TOTALLY A MAID NOW ARE YOU LISTENING. Cora wants to talk to Mrs Hughes (eep), but Edna staves it off by producing the reference letter she bribed out of her in exchange for avoiding scandal. A lot escapes Cora, doesn't it? Anyway, Edna's back and Tom had better watch his ass.
Violet's butler is understandably edgy about this newcomer, even after Molesley explains. He's not going to lose his job to Matthew's incompetent valet, dammit. Ooh, a funny rivalry begins! Pooooor Molesley. Luncheon proceeds. Edith and Violet are laying it on thick about how awesome Molesley, conveniently skimming over, well, everything. Molesley himself is perfectly adequate, at least until Violet's butler shouts and makes him slip. Then hands him a burning-hot tray. Lady Shackleton tells him that it's too bad so many men have to have work they're unsuited for, and she hopes he'll go back to his real profession soon...
Mrs. Hughes shows up with Griggs, who looks unbearably grey and sick. Isobel greets him warmly. He's disappointed, however, to hear that Carson isn't there. CARSON, GROW A HEART. Or at least use it towards someone who isn't Mary. Mrs Hughes tells Isobel that she's kind. "We must all do what we can," Isobel says, back in action at last.
In an extraordinarily daring green halter number, Edith meets Gregson for dinner. They talk about how inappropriate such a meeting would be a decade ago (restaurants alone were out, let alone dining with unrelated men), and how the war changed everything. Looking back on Series 1, yes, it does seem like another planet, doesn't it? Then again, Downton is so protected and out-of-the-way, many things have remained the same. Anyway, Edith and Gregson get all lovey-dovey on each other. He says he can divorce his wife - if he becomes a German citizen. (Yeah, this will never bite him in the ass.) However, she's extremely touched that he would join the enemy for her. They kiss. In public. The horror! Who'd have thought, in Series 1 or 2, that Edith would become the most rebellious of them all? (Seriously, Sybil was not looking promising right before she croaked. Too domestic.)
Mrs Hughes isÂ notÂ pleased to hear about Edna, and is about to tell Cora why she wrote that reference letter when she thinks better of it. Cora upbraids her for being unfair to the girl. Mrs Hughes probably wishes she could go back in time and rewrite that damned letter.
Daisy and Mrs Patmore discuss Valentines. Daisy's Valentine was unsigned (so she did get one), and she thinks it's from Alfred. Mrs Patmore promptly drags Alfred off for a talk. Just then Molesley shows up. Tom comes in saying that Mrs Hughes was looking for him, but doesn't say why. We go back to the Valentine drama. Alfred sent Ivy a card, Jimmy sent no card, Daisy is still confused, and oh my god I am bored with this. Mrs Patmore gives this little "sorry" shrug, then tells her thatÂ sheÂ sent it. Yeah, she felt sorry for Daisy and wanted to make things fair in case Ivy got one. That's...actually adorable. "I might not have a fellow but least I've got a friend," says Daisy. Damn straight, kid.
Carson, Mrs Hughes and Tom discuss the Edna disaster. Tom is willing to go to Cora himself, but Carson tells him no way - if Cora even suspects that Tom cheated on Sybil's memory, she'll go to pieces. (What is with everyone thinking the women are about to explode? Oh yeah, 1922.) They agree to bring her back, keep her on a short leash and make sure she behaves. Tom has a part in this, too. Watch out, Downton.
Cora pops in on the nursery. She hears crying, and we hear ominous music that just screams child abuse. Aaand I'm right. Nanny West favors Baby George and torments Sybbie for being the daughter of a chauffeur. She's TWO. If she wakes up in the night, she gets yelled at. She's denigrated all the time. Presumably, the nanny's been getting rid of her eggs and other nutrition. Just as she brings out the word "Cross-breed", Cora steps in and very calmly tells Nanny Bitchface to pack up and go. YAAAAAY. Cora rarely brings out her backbone, but when she does it is awesome. A maid is delegated to look after the children, and Cora tells her that Nanny West's values "have no place in a civilized home". We should send her to the Pearls, right? Ba dum ch!
Robert is worried about Edith's London adventures. Mary tells him she's seeing the publisher, but since he's still alive - that's pretty good in a post-WWI landscape, so she should go for it. Robert says Edith could do better. (Presumably they don't know about Crazy Wife.) Mary mentions that he spoke with Matthew in Scotland, but at the mention of her dead husband reverts to zombie state. Robert advises that she go to bed. Mary asks that he stop shielding her, he insists it's for the best and he KNOWS he's right, dammit. That way of thinking can never backfire, right?
Mary heads right downstairs to Carson, where she apologizes for calling him impertinent. He asks her if she will "return to the land of the living." She tells him she has lived too long in the land of the dead. As he assures her that everyone was very fond of Mr. Crawley, she breaks down in tears. That's right, Mary Crawley is crying. And of course it would be in front of Carson. He goes over andÂ hugsÂ her, and tells her to "have a good cry". Damn, now I'm crying. This scene was absolutely beautifully done. Right on, Fellowes.
"You are strong enough," Carson says to her. Finally. Finally someone thinks Mary is capable enough to protect her part of the estate. Freakin' Mary and Carson. Every time, they get me.
Mrs Hughes hears a crash and goes to investigate. Mrs Patmore has been using the mixer! And broke the bowl. She's hysterical because Daisy knows how to work it and she doesn't, and this means Daisy will clearly overtake her and leave her in the dust. Mrs Hughes offers to help her clean it up with a smile, and they start gossiping about Nanny West. Okay, Robert and Cora may be Earl and Countess, but Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes areÂ reallyÂ the ones in charge.
As Cora prepares to leave for London, she singles out Thomas for praise. He noticed Nanny West was an evil troll and brought her treachery to light. Okay, he was just trying to get back at her for a perceived slight and didn't notice shit, but he takes the praise anyway.
The tenant farmers' luncheon is well underway, with Robert and Tom at the centre of things. Suddenly, a door opens, and in walks Mary. In lilac. She sits down across from her father and begins to chat with the farmers. Her eyes are fixated, she's interested in life again. Tom smiles.
Next time: A mysterious letter from Matthew is found, Edna and Anna are fighting, everyone complains about the estate. Tom teaches Mary about the running of Downton. Anna and Rose go to a the dansant, where things go south fast.
Well? It's a pretty good setup, to be honest. The death thing got hammered on way too hard and too often, but then Downton has never been known for subtlety. The downstairs stuff was cute enough, Edith's story was intriguing, and Michelle Dockery was brilliant as Mary. Actually, excellent performances all around as usual, and I can't wait for next week. Tomorrow - Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory return. Good night!