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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 4.3 - Episode Three






Welcome back to the Abbey, folks, and I hope you have a great stay. Tonight we have the party to end all parties, and if all goes well it should give us some scintillating scenes. With any luck, the setup will pay off! Except for Edith, probably.

The cars are pulling up and the party of the season is ON. Crawleys and servants alike are waiting dutifully. Downstairs is chaos, with servants from all over arriving laden with luggage. One of the valets hits on Anna. She smiles adorably, and Bates notices out of the corner of his eye. Very understated. The Crawleys mingle with other rich folk and have a jolly time gossiping. A handsome son of some lord or other (Lord Anthony Foyle, I am told by Google) is chatting Mary up. OOOOOHHHHH. Now that we've ditched Dead Husband, we can have fun! Edith's married lover is in attendance and very overwhelmed, though she assures him it will be just fine. Yeah, dream on, lady. Tom tries to fit in and fails. Awww, poor Tom, you just can't catch a break. Though at least you haven't been drugged this time.

Meanwhile, Carson's bitching because there are too many new guests and too few servants with them. Everyone will be insanely busy. He and Mrs Hughes reminisce about how everything was soooo much better before The Great War. Edna also still needs to be kept on a short leash, as she's sullen and rude and probably still longing to hump Tom.

Mary and Tony (who shall be henceforth referred to as Handsome Tony) continue to flirt. We establish that he is single. Ooooooh. He also has somehow forgotten that Matthew was killed and makes Mary all sad when it inevitably comes up. She says it's all cool, then calmly reminds him that her room is rreeeaaallly far from his. Uh-huh, we're not buying that one bit. As long as he gets out of her bed alive, that's the important thing.

Mrs Patmore is stressed and bossy, Daisy is keeping everything together, Ivy is everyone's bitch. Anna is showing Mr Green to his room, where they talk about calling servants by their boss's names instead of their own names. To me, that just kind of sounds like a giant headache, but the staff seems used to it. He flirts some more, suggesting that they have "games". Ooh la la. Anna politely tells him she has to get on with her work. Screw you, Green. Meanwhile, Edna throws barbs at Tom for wearing white tie. He says he feels stupid and flashes an adorable smile. She then throws herself at him, being all like "We can totes be friends, right?" He's too polite to say no, and assures her that "It's not you, it's the gaping class chasm between us which I totally would have been against two seasons back." (May not be an exact quote.) Uh-oh, Tom has made a powerful enemy. I told you Cora lost an O'Brien and gained an O'Brien.

Isobel visits Dr Clarkson, and tells him that she's going to hear Melba sing (YES). However, she's still in mourning and low-key, though she's quick to say that she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life like this. They are sweet together. Remember when Clarkson was totally going to propose in the Christmas special and it went right over Isobel's head? Yeah, they're adorable like that. MORE ISOBEL/CLARKSON please.

Rose spouts flapper cliches and chats up handsome rich men. Tom discusses barley with a duchess, which is as riveting as it sounds, and still manages to slip up several times. Violet dashes over to tutor him in social graces. "If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it in the English upper classes," she says. Maggie Smith Killer One-Liner #1. Tom asks Thomas to get him a drink. Thomas sneers but complies, because he must.

The men start up some cards, Mary and Handsome Tony are cute and stuff. He wants to go riding and asks Mary to come with him. Surprisingly, she AGREES. They then engage in some we-are-totally-talking-about-horses-and-not-sex talk, complete with mentions of being stiff and in the saddle. No one else wants to join, so it's just them. Oh boy.

Mrs Patmore is going crazy, and Mrs Hughes has to tell her to back the fuck off. She then discusses Melba's eating arrangements with Carson. She can't eat with the Crawleys, but she's definitely not a servant, either. A tray in her room? Oh, how do you solve a problem like Miss Melba? Mrs Hughes suggests that they break protocol and have her eat at the main table. Carson, of course, thinks this is the sign of the imminent apocalypse. Especially an Australian singer. Oh, Carson. Thank God he's probably not going to live to see the Sixties. (This scene is woefully inaccurate, by the way - Melba would have been treated like royalty in all likelihood.)

A delivery of food comes in, and it turns out that Molesley has lowered himself enough to become a delivery boy. Daisy is aghast, while Mrs Patmore covers it nicely by getting him some tea. Molesley's still embarrassed, though.

It is established that some rich dude named Sampson is "very skilled" with cards, which means he's cleaning everyone out. At breakfast, all the rich dudes bitch about the gambling. Rose flirts, Tom tells his father-in-law that honest work for the estate is like a million times better than having to be civil to his awful guests. This goes over well, as you can imagine. Edith tells her dad she and Gregson are going for a walk and he's totes welcome to come hem hem. He declines, they complain about how they won't get his blessing to live in sin any time soon.

Downstairs, the staff discuss the epic poker game from the night before, which apparently they did not deem worthy of filming.

Mary and Handsome Tony go riding, where they discuss his potential fiancee. He complains that they're expected to marry by all of society, it sucks having all this pressure, and she tells him all about Matthew and how happy they were. It's honestly really nice. The two of them work really well together. I even feel some respect going on. And that's rare. She reflects that maybe Matthew's opening her soul to love left her in worse shape when he died. Tony suggests she not look back. Mary stares impassively. Just like Don Draper!

Green continues to hit on Anna, who is getting fed up with it. Bates has figured things out and is also annoyed. Anna thinks he's overreacting. She always has to believe the best of people! DON'T DO IT ANNA, HE'S A CREEP.

The Crawleys take their guests out for a tour of the grounds. Cora is flipping out over Melba coming - evidently she's a big fan. Robert is considerably less so. He thinks a sunset over the estate is just as nice. Opera, that's such a girl thing! More Daisy-Ivy-Jimmy-Alfred plays out. It's boring. JUST DATE EACH OTHER ALREADY AND MOVE ON. Jimmy shows off his manliness by trying to open a jar and winds up breaking it, ha ha.

Edith and Michael talk about all their preparations for the move. Michael is learning German. Edith is overwhelmed by what he is doing for her. They finally manage to corner Daddy Dearest, but he escapes! Damn! Wild Lordship fled! The Adulterous Two are highly disappointed.

As they make last-minute arrangements, Carson tells Robert how horrified he is that the kitchen servants have been invited to hear Melba. Yes, they have all been invited, when before the war it would have been just the house staff. That damned War just ruined everything, right? Bonneville and Carter have a grand old time acting this out, of course. His Lordship is cool with the tray-on-a-meal plan, too, proving how out of touch he is about a giant star coming to stay.

While off riding, Mary complains to Handsome Tony about all the estate matters and how her dad won't listen. He suggests she meet with the tax people and try to make a deal, thus keeping the land and impressing her father at the same dad. They complain about their rich-people trials and how they're not alone in the midst of such suffering. It is truly inspiring, their persistence. Gag.

Mrs Patmore is still going to pieces, lecturing the footmen on how she is the only one allowed to swear in the kitchen. Carson's mad at everyone. Jimmy hurt his wrist and can't carry trays, so Thomas is temporarily demoted to footman. As you can imagine, he is just thrilled about it. Like Carson gives a shit.

We then get a shot of Jimmy flexing his wrist, strongly implying he's faking it. Attaboy.

His Lordship wants to join the Epic Poker Game. Everyone warns him against it, but he is not dissuaded. Gregson is in the game, and suggests to Edith that it might be a way to cozy up to his Lordship. Yeah, great idea there. Cora's annoyed about the footman daring to have an injury, Mary argues with Robert about estate politics.

Some fancy jazz music starts up, and everyone gasps. Rose suggests a dance. The young guy she's been flirting with all weekend is eager, of course, and the duchess with whom Tom has blundered every conversation sighs that she would love to, but doesn't have a partner. Cora brightly suggests her son-in-law. He stares at her blankly, but before he knows it is roped into a dance with the Duchess of Awkward. Handsome Tony asks Mary, who demurs with an excuse about Granny. The Dowager Countess tells her in no uncertain terms that if she doesn't want to dance, she should just say so with no whining about elderly relatives. Mary looks terrified. Points to the Dowager Countess, again.

Downstairs, Green still won't leave Anna alone. She's really uncomfortable with it by now. Her husband calls her for help, though, and she gratefully leaves.

The Duchess is thrilled that Tom comes from Ireland and starts asking about all the Society people from his county. This gets awkward super fast, but Tom covers by saying he knows of them. Mary has agreed to join Handsome Tony, and she loosens up fast. However, when she sees the gramophone, she's suddenly overcome and has to leave. Rose dug it out of the attic, forgetting it was Matthew's. Damn.

Everyone's losing to Sampson at cards, who seems entirely too confident in his continued wins. Something's up here.

Tom walks by Edna and says good night. He confesses to her that he's totally out of his depth. He feels like shit, and she comforts him. Okay, she's nice right now, but I'd still advise Tom to keep his distance. Fortunately he'd have little contact with your average lady's maid.

While getting dressed, Robert moans about the card game to Bates, then swears him to secrecy. Bates is obliging as usual. His wife, however, is having a harder time dealing with her boss, who is miserable that Rose dared to use the gramophone, and mad that Anna knew about it. Even though Anna told Rose to ask Mary. Sigh. Mary, Mary, there is only so much you can do with a wilful teenager. Trust me, I teach four classes of them.

Mary notes that she misses both Matthew and herself when she was with Matthew, because they're totally different people as far as she's concerned. Anna is a champion of comfort and tells Mary she's really strong - and that Handsome Tony shouldn't mind her grieving. The look on Mary's face tells us she's completely aware of Tony's motives. Papa Crawley raised no fool (or rather, the nannies he hired didn't).

Driving through town, Violet asks her driver to pull over. She has spied Isobel. Without delay, she insists that Isobel come to hear Melba. Isobel hemms and haws, and finally says that when she does good things she feels like she's forgotten Matthew. "Better to smile and forget than remember and be sad," says Violet. WOW. That was stone cold. Isobel does not take that well. However, no one can resist one of the Duchess's invitations. No matter how much they want to.

Luckless Molesley has finally had a break. He's been called up to Downton to fill in for Jimmy. At first he's taken aback because of course being a footman is beneath him, but Carson flatters him (with a careful mention of how far he has fallen now) and he agrees, say that as a beggar he cannot be a chooser. Carson even smiles at this. The dinner party is saved.

Cora (looking amazing in gray-green), is like a kid about to meet Johnny Depp. "Where's Melba? Is Melba here yet? MELBA MELBA MELBA!" Robert comes in, and they chat about how the weekend is going. He accidentally lets slip that he's enjoying "most of it", but fortunately Cora doesn't pursue it. He even dares to say that Sampson is not invited back. Cora asks what he thinks of Gregson. "Sampson hammered him, but he took it like a man," says Robert.

...that one's too easy.

Cora takes the opportunity to rant on how much she hates gambling and how stupid gamblers are. Robert mumbles in agreement.

"I'm having my career backwards," Molesley mutters as Carson informs him he'll be second footman. The poor guy looks like he's being tortured, as Carson hands him gloves and generally treats him like he's five. Especially since all the kitchen maids are watching with their judgy eyes. However, time's a-wasting, so he gives himself a little silent pep talk in the mirror and gets to work.

The house staff, meanwhile, are involved in a card game that Green is teaching them. The game gets quite raucous. Even Anna is having fun, while Bates harrumphs in the corner.

Everyone's waiting for the arrival of Melba, who is fashionably late. Cora's freaking out, the Dowager Countess is charmingly out of touch ("I thought she was going to sing after dinner...why would we want to see her before?"). Gregson goes to Sampson proposing a third Epic Poker Game. Sampson has the Smug Bastard look on his face as usual, but something about Gregson makes me think he has a trick up his sleeve. Everyone's still quizzing Tom about the rich Irish people he's supposed to know.

Carson informs Cora that Melba is having her dinner upstairs, and that his Lordship okayed it. If I ever saw the word "divorce" in a woman's eyes, I saw it in Fangirl Cora right now. She is fucking furious, and Isobel is likewise appalled. Her Ladyship storms off. She drags Robert to the corner for a little chat. "Am I the only one in this house who lives in the twentieth century?" she rages. Robert is flustered and she easily wins. "You will eat next to her and you will like it," she hisses. "But what does one say to a singer?" is Robert's only reply. Poor out of touch old thing. Naturally, he blames Carson for it.

Mrs Patmore is mad at Ivy and stresses herself into a panic attack. She flips out even more, because the kitchen maids can't possibly handle it. Alfred is already cooking sausages! A footman, I tell you. Carson is appalled, appalled I tell you, and takes it as further proof that the world is in terrible shape.

Molesley is pissing off Carson by talking to the duchess, Gregson is scheming about the card game. Robert apologizes to Kiri Te Kanawa Melba, who takes it in stride. When he discovers she has vast knowledge of wines, he is much cheered, though he says so a little gracelessly.

Handsome Tony - get this - asks Mary out. This would never have happened in the first season. Holy hell. It took her like five years to admit she liked her last guy. This is moving at breakneck speed! No one tell Carson. She declines, citing his fiancee, but is clearly flattered - and interested, no matter how much she denies it. We get a genuine smile for the first time this season. And a wounded look from Isobel, who has been coaxed out of her house. However, when Tom asks if anything's the matter, her answer is the beautifully simple "If it is, it shouldn't be." It's hard for her, but she shouldn't ever begrudge Mary a life. Still, seeing all these young men living their lives cuts her soul. Penelope Wilton is just excellent here. Tom is sympathetic, the Dowager Countess gives her an encouraging smile. Great exchange. Brilliant, in fact.

The crazy card game continues downstairs. Everyone's shrieking in delight, Bates comes in. He asks Anna something, but she can't hear him, so he shouts. When she looks up, he immediately guilt trips her about Mrs Patmore's illness. He asks them to cut it out. Braithwaite says she was winning, which was a good omen. Green asks what for. They look devious together. Anna asks Bates what the hell is up with him, and makes sure to loudly thank Green for the game. With no satisfactory answer from her husband, she checks on Mrs Patmore. Dr Clarkson has diagnosed a panic attack. He advises rest and not to let it get to her. Ha, easier said than done. Anna invites the doctor to the concert, and he agrees it's too good to miss, much to Carson's dismay. Is half of England going to this concert? As soon as the doctor's out of earshot, Carson goes into a rant about singers and footmen and blah blah blah STFU Carson. You're literally the only one who cares.

Overwhelmed, Robert escapes for a drink in the library, where he runs into Tom. As Sybil's theme plays (always a tearjerker), Tom explains how bad he feels for letting them all down. He doesn't fit and he knows it. Robert tells him he's being ridiculous, that of course he belongs, but Tom insists - the past few days have opened his eyes. Looks like someone's getting ready to leave the show the estate. Robert basically says "Suck it up, let's go," and heads back to dinner, leaving Tom to wonder, "Do any of you ever leave school?"

We are treated to the famous concert. Unfortunately, te Kanawa was not given a particularly flattering piece. It's a very tough Dvorak (I should know, I've performed it! - having a mega flashback here), and mainly shows how much her voice has degraded with age. I also wonder if she's trying to imitate Melba and therefore getting distorted. At a carefully planned moment, the men leave for - whatever the 1920's equivalent of a mancave was - for EPIC POKER.

Everyone - servants and rich folk alike - are enraptured by Melba (yes, even Buzzkill Carson), and Mrs Patmore takes a second to whisper to Alfred that everyone loved the sausages. They're friends again. Anna ducks out, telling her husband she has a headache. Melba finishes the Dvorak and launches into Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro". Violet's thrilled because she can rely on Puccini, not those awful German composers. Isobel prefers Bartok. Of course she does, she's practically a hippie in this house. Violet notes this.

And oh my god, the Puccini is glorious. I retract everything about te Kanawa's singing earlier. This is bloody beautiful. Soaring and fantastic. It cancels out all the awful small-town divas I've heard butcher it. Lovely. Just lovely. The gents are playing poker, and Gregson beats him. The game is up! Literally.

Anna gets some water and aspirin. Green comes in and offers her a drink. They chat about the concert, and as Anna goes to leave, Green steps in front of her.

Trigger Starts Here


He suggests they have some "real fun", implying that Bates isn't up to the task. She refuses. He grabs her violently and pushes her against the cabinets. We cut to Bates happily listening to the music, then back to Anna as she is shoved into a small room and thrown onto a bed. We see nothing after that - but hear the screams, and go back and forth between the parlour concert and the hallway outside the room downstairs. It's awful. I'm glad they didn't show it, but what the FUCK, Downton? This is just out of nowhere, and it didn't need to happen. And Anna, who's so good and sweet? To destroy that? No, I hate this plot, hate it with a vengeance. This did not need to happen. Bates suggests to Mrs Hughes that Anna must have gone to sleep. The concert ends, Green walks back in fiddling with his trousers. Holy crap, I'm done. I'm just - done with this. I'm physically ill.

Gregson has won all the money back and then some (not that I care). He explains to Sampson that he's figured out the guy's a card sharp, and if word gets out he'll be banned from every club in London. Sampson calls him a cheat. Oh, if only you knew...

Robert says goodbye to Isobel and tells her how glad he is that she came. Gregson gives all the guys back their money, saying it's the best way to end a house party. Edith comes by, and her dad tells her that Mr Gregson just "saved my bacon" (no, that's literally what he says. Was that a thing in 1922?). He's in the Crawleys' good graces. Edith asks Gregson how he did it, and he starts to tell her. Handsome Tony tells His Lordship what an awesome time he had this weekend. Uh-huh, I'm sure you did, buddy. Somehow I don't think we've seen the last of him.

Braithwaite sneaks out, trouble in her eyes, and gives Tom a huge whiskey. "You understand me," he says. NO TOM, DON'T FALL FOR IT! Ahh, it's too late.

Everyone's bustling around downstairs. Mrs Hughes finds Anna, bruised and in tears. Mrs Hughes of course wants to know what happened, but figures it out pretty fast from the context. She agrees to look after Lady Mary and cover for Anna. Anna is hysterical, saying that Bates will murder the guy, and she can't have that on their heads. Mrs Hughes needs to do something, call for a doctor, anything - but Anna begs her to keep it secret. Reluctantly, she agrees. The moment she's gone, Anna collapses to the ground, sobbing. Joanne Frogatt is incredible in this scene. Just so terrified and broken. Phyllis Logan is no less good as a woman completely thrown and unsure of how to proceed. This is just really fucking awful. Downton writers, how could you. There are just no words.

Cora teases Robert about interacting with the singer, and they move on to Gregson. Robert admits he's a good guy, very "gentlemanly". Yeah, that's not going to last.

Braithwaite opens a bedroom door, asks "Are you awake?" and then goes in. No prizes for guessing whose room. Ah, well, let the guy have a little fun, he's been mourning for practically two years anyway.

Anna comes out of the room just as Bates goes looking for her. She's composed enough to make up a lie, saying she fainted and bumped her head. Still looks like she's about to shatter at any moment, though. Bates accepts this fiction, though he's somewhat skeptical. Just then, Green/Gillingham walks by and thanks them for their hospitality, the rotten worm. Anna freezes up, her face twisted in fear. Bates is civil for the first time, ironically. She says she feels like walking on her own, and leaves. Bates can only watch, confused. Once she's outside, she bursts into tears. He calls to her from the doorway. She walks on.

Next week: Braithwaite and Tom discuss their shagadelic adventures, Thomas eavesdrops. Handsome Tony is back. They go to see a band. The lead singer is black and Rose dances with him. Shocking! Auntie Rosamund finds out about Gregson. Anna and Bates argue. Can you believe after that episode we'll be halfway through? Damn you, Britain and your short seasons.

So...it was okay I guess? Well, let's get one thing out of the way - Anna's rape was awful and horrid and I think it was a terrible artistic choice. I'm not the type of viewer who thinks rape should never be depicted ever - it's awful, but it's part of human existence, so there's a place for it - but dammit, this was bungled. I don't think we've seen a rape on this show yet - though you could make a case for dubious consent with Mary and Pamuk in Season 1 - which made it all the more shocking. Joanne Frogatt was brilliant, though, and I do wonder what will come next for the Bateses. They just can't ever have happiness, can they?

te Kanawa was an enormous letdown, with few scenes and little to do. After all the hype it was disappointing. The Puccini was great, though. I'm interested in Edith and Gregson, but the Continued Trials of Mary seem rather dull. Until next week, then - and I never thought I'd say this, but let's hope for a little less drama.

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