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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 4.6 - Episode 6


crazyforkate

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edith

Welcome back, bla bla bla, everything's getting set up for the finale (just two more episodes!) so let's skip to the juicy bits, shall we? I'm blogging to take away from the tedium of marking, so don't be surprised if neither is coherent.

The servants are having breakfast, Carson gets pissed when his status doesn't automatically grant him "first-to-the-toast" privileges. Jimmy thinks they're treating Alfred better because they feel sorry about his hotel cook rejection, but Mrs Hughes denies it. (Spoiler alert: NOT.) Daisy admits secretly to Mrs Patmore that she's treating Alfred better because she's so happy that he's staying.

Mary mentions to Anna that Evelyn Napier and his boss (Mr Blake) are coming up for a few days. Time for some serious flirting, amirite? They discuss the guys' job (evaluating the financial status of estates such as Downton) and wonder about the Abbey's fate. Mary asks Anna if things are better, since she seems happier. Anna says "not quite", but it's clear her life has taken a nicer turn.

Edith nervously asks if there's any mail for her. Robert, King of the Oblivious, tells her no and goes on about his brother-in-law. Harold Levinson, all the way over in America, has made a big business mistake and lost all his money (for what sounds like the umpteenth time). They're also worried about the new pigs they're farming for the first time. It's just riveting.

Anna asks Bates what's wrong, since he looks lost in thought. He says he's just a brooder. Uh-huh, you are totally not planning revenge on your wife's rapist, not even a little bit.

The kitchen maids comment on how Alfred is sad and seriously, Fellowes, STOP cutting between everyone all the time. You can leave people almost entirely out for an episode. It's okay. You don't have to tell everyone's story all the time. If this review seems really choppy, well, it's because the show is bloody choppy. Continuing on.

Rose shows up in a fantastic sailor-style outfit and tells Cora about the plans for Robert's birthday. She won't tell her what the "big surprise is", of course, but asks her if Carson would mind keeping the secret. Since it's fanatically devoted Carson, I don't think she has much to worry about, but if the secret is handsome and American and named Jack, then I'm not so sure. Cora suggests the much more sensible option of Mrs Hughes. Baxter comes in, catches the end of the conversation, and presumes that she heard something really juicy, judging by the smirk on her face.

Over at the Dowager Countess's lair, she's suspicious because something else has gone missing (last episode she had a whole plotline of blaming the assistant gardener). It is confirmed that the gardener was there when the carving disappeared. Someone's in for the dry witticism of the ages.

While Tom gives Mary estate lessons, she asks if he's really going to America. He promises he won't until everything at Downton is in order. Mary takes this surprisingly well, considering that she likes Tom and would lose Sybil's only child (of course back then, when you went to America you went for good), and generously offers to introduce him to the people she knows there. He tells her about Uncle Harold's dire letter that morning. Mary's not all that concerned. Dude, this guy must have a major history for financial ruin to be so ho-hum.

Isobel is outraged to hear of young Pegg's dismissal from the DC's employ. Not mad at him for pilfering mind you (he is either really confused or lying), but at the DC for giving him the boot. There is going to be an epic old lady fight this episode, methinks. Isobel's old socialist tendencies rise up and we are off! Penelope Wilton just kills this.

Rose's idea is to have a band. Three guesses which one and the first two don't count. Mrs Hughes is taken aback but, being a reasonable person, eventually agrees. The plan is to put the band up in secret, prepare during dinner, and surprise Robert after. Just what a stodgy middle-aged Earl needs, and not a twenty-something flapper, right Rose? On Mrs Hughes' way out, Thomas stops her and badgers her about the secret. She evades him with great skill, having had over a decade of practice. He is going to be so disappointed when he discovers that it's just a birthday party. Heh.

Here is a summary of the conversation between the DC and Isobel:

DC: He was totally stealing from me and after it happened twice I had to can him.

Isobel: THINGS! THINGS! THINGS! (actual quote) Justice!

DC: Socialist witchery! (sadly not an acutal quote)

Isobel: angryface

Yeah, I'm not buying the "they're just things" argument, really. If someone was working for her and stole something of Matthew's, would she be so cavalier? My guess is no. I'm kind of Team DC on this one, though she should have investigated the matter further. Isobel, give it a rest.

...and the butler comes in revealing that it fell into a maid's bucket by accident. Oops. The DC eats some serious crow while Isobel purses her lips. Anyway, the Duchess is still convinced the guy is guilty and resolves to pursue the matter further. Isobel correctly diagnoses a hatred of being wrong. The DC says she doesn't know what that's like. Isobel is dismissed. Ba dum, ch!

Edith gets a phone call which leaves her with stunned-face. She explains to her mother that Michael has disappeared and no one seems to be able to turn him up. The Roving Reporter has roved off for good. Cora assures her that it's all going to be fine, Edith still looks terrified as fuck. Yes, something is definitely going on here, more than Michael's lack of availability.

Downstairs, Albert gets some good news - he was number five in the cooking interview, number four has dropped out and he's in! Looks like he's getting burnt toast for the rest of his stay here. Well, at least it's short - he's leaving the next day. Everyone wishes him well and offers to help. "Aren't you going to congratulate him, Daisy?" Jimmy taunts. Suck it, you snide bastard. Mrs Patmore gives Daisy a convenient excuse to leave before she has to answer, and Ivy goes after her.

She tries to comfort Daisy, but Daisy begins to freak out at her for "causing" Alfred's departure by not being in love with him. Flimsy, Daisy, but you're upset, I'll grant you a pass. Mrs Patmore walks in and stops the argument.

The family kvells over Alfred too, and assure him that he will be back as a famous chef one day. He tells them how grateful he is to have been treated well. They're properly appreciative. Alfred continues with a short but heartfelt tribute to Carson, and I'll be damned if the old guy's eyes don't bloody twinkle. Alfred sure knows how to make an exit, I'll give him that. Carson rushes him out, and the Crawleys get back to planning the infamous birthday. Rose assures him there will be a biiiig surprise, and he looks way too happy about it. If my suspicious are right, his tiny little world is going to be rocked.

Jimmy is going to a Rudolph Valentino movie (The Sheik, 1921), presumably with Ivy. Mrs Patmore gleefully admits her crush on him - Valentino, that is, not Jimmy. Carson disapproves. And is actually a bit disturbed, too. Anna and Bates talk about going out. "We can leave when we've dressed them and be back in time to put them to bed," she says, confirming everyone's belief that the Crawleys are more or less perpetual toddlers. It's sweet and adorable and more like the Bateses we know and love. Mrs Hughes asks Carson to bring in Molesley, but his pride is wounded and he is very reluctant. You could pretty much sum his position up with "Gratitude, not attitude." Eventually Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore will wear him down, I'm sure, but his mind is made up. For now.

Thomas and Baxter have put two and two together and come up with eleventy, thinking that Rose and Cora are planning to lay people off (though they are confused as to why Rose would have anything to do with this). The last time they thought someone was getting fired, we had the Soap Incident. Something about Baxter is quietly terrifying, so I'm genuinely scared as to what she'll do. Horse's head in a bed? But Thomas urges her to be cautious and find out more. Evil persists at Downton.

Bates and Anna light a lamp in a room, which makes me think they're about to pop out the Ouija board and go all occult on that rapist's ass. Nope, they're just talking about their date. She says she wants to make new, happy memories as part of the process of moving on, and Bates is completely willing to go along. However, Anna begins to cry, telling him that it's all "shadowed". Bates suggests they leave it aside for one evening, just one evening, and just be together. These two make me happy in my heart.

Cora's off to some sort of special committee meeting and needs to dress sensibly. Baxter has plans. Why do I suspect they are evil plans far beyond that of dressing a Countess?

Everyone says goodbye to Alfred, and it's a gem, because each staff member gives a farewell which is so characteristically them. Carson gets all paternal, Mrs Patmore makes a joke, Thomas is sleazy, Jimmy pokes fun at him, Baxter is nice yet creepy, Bates and Anna are just plain nice. Daisy, however, doesn't even show up, as she can't handle it. Being a nice guy to the end, Alfred goes to find her. She's in the kitchen pointedly staring at her baking. He wishes her farewell and tells her that she'll make someone happy, even if it can't be him. As he walks out, she looks up and says "Good luck". It's a beautiful moment for both actors. So Alfred leaves the estate and show on a high note. Nice job, everyone.

Isobel shows up at the DC's, to find that Violet is playing the "NOT HOME" card. She in turn plays the "I'M GONNA FAINT" card and winds up invited in anyway. Once inside, she snoops all around to try to find the missing items. Soon enough, the penknife turns up, and we get an excellent Penelope Wilton "Eureka!". The butler comes back, and Isobel casually gives him the knife, dropping the freakin' mic on her way out. Well played, Mrs Crawley, well played.

We get the Return of Molesley. He ran into Alfred at the station and has come to ask for the job. Carson is ice cold and turns him down flat. See, since Molesley wants better things, and they have no better things, it wouldn't be suitable, would it? Molesley sputters, Carson is smug. It's actually pretty brilliant.

Mrs Crawley returns to the DC's lair, dragging a very frightened Dr. Clarkson with her. She then tells the DC that she is despicable (too right), while the DC rings for her butler and tries to babble her way out of it. Clarkson tries to be a mediator. He is no match for the Epic Bitchfest about to ensue. The DC then reveals that Pegg is just outside, having been rehired ages ago. This proves a distinct lack of heartless wenchiness, contrary to what Isobel thought. See, Mrs Crawley, when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME, but mostly U. Or as Dr. Clarkson says, "I'd say that was game, set and match to Lady Grantham."

Mary is happy that Anna's having a date and tells her to have a good time. They're going out to a nice hotel, apparently. The subject turns to Napier and Blake, whose arrival is imminent.

Anna and Bates are met with resistance at the restaurant. The maitre d' looks down his snooty nose at them and insists they can't possibly have a reservation. Oh, and they're super full, so go away. This place is only for the best of Yorkshire society. They mention that they know Lady Grantham, which he obviously doesn't believe until the Countess herself comes up. She cheerfully suggests that perhaps the mixup can be sorted out, and the maitre d' hops to it. Cora then tells the Bateses that he is such a snob! They settle down for their date. Lady G really has the goofiest smile. To be fair, I'm told this is what North Americans look like to Europeans at all times, so maybe it's just the contrast?

The post arrives and Edith learns that she is in a state of knocked-up-ness. Damn, her sister can have a dude freaking die in her bed with no major consequences, while Edith has sex once and is instantly gestating a mini-Roving Reporter. Life's a bitch. Robert notices her reading the letter and is concerned, though of course he doesn't know what it says. Edith puts the letter away fast and pretends nothing's wrong.

Molesley shows up to beg Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore for mercy. They are won over by his sheer pathetic-puppy-ness and resolve to help him.

Jimmy and Ivy come back from the Valentino movie. They have a romantic moment outside the house. She tells him Valentino's not her type. They indulge in some furious kissing. However, Jimmy goes a bit too far and Ivy pushes him away. He insists that by going on like two dates with her, he's been "nicer to you than I've been to any girl before", which makes me shudder to think of his past. Ivy is not having it. She boots him away. Good on you, Ivy.

Anna and Bates seem to be enjoying their date, but everything that happened is still coming up and they're very unsure of each other. It's rough for both of them, and they decide to go home. Lady G shows up and loudly offers to give them a ride in front of Mr Snooty, which gets his goat all right.

Mrs Patmore, Mrs Hughes and Ivy bitch about teh menz in general and Jimmy specifically. Ivy goes on about how great Alfred was, and Daisy (who was watching) reads her the riot act about how she broke both Alfred and Daisy's hearts and is generally a bitch. When she stomps off, Mrs Hughes tells Ivy that she had it coming, which is rather unfair because the poor woman is not psychic.

Cora and Mary discuss the Bateses. Between the two of them they've managed to figure out that something is wrong with a) the Bates marriage and B) Anna in particular. Baxter is always listening...and though Cora asks her to keep it a secret, we all know that's not happening.

Edith is in tears in the library, where Robert finds her. Interesting, I've never really seen a scene between these two, and really there should have been one. Let's see how it plays out. He was cool with Dead-In-The-Bed, how about this?

Anyway, Edith whines about being the Unloved Middle Child for a bit. Robert says he loves his kids equally (Edith calls bullshit), then offers to try to help find Michael Gregson. She says it's okay, his office is already involved, but she just wants to know where he is. Even if it's terrible news.

Thomas pumps Baxter for information. However, she is reluctant, and doesn't want to talk about Anna because she likes the woman. Thomas tells her to remember where her loyalties lie, just like a Bond villain. (Okay, okay, I may or may not have a fan theory going on that he's Lord Voldemort's real father, but that's just between me and TVTropes, got it?)

Napier and Blake show up and are ever so polite as they mentally ransack the estate where they are guests. Blake is rather a confrontational type, and coolly tells Mary that he only cares about whether the land can give the country its food supply, not whether the owners can keep their land. Napier looks super awkward, Mary is puzzled. I say fair enough. Anyway, Blake and Mary have an instant hatred and constantly exchange barbs. Oh, and tonight's the birthday, so it should be extra fun! Right?

Mrs Hughes has come up with what I would call a spectacular plan. Mr Molesley comes in, saying he was called in to serve the staff tea so that Mrs Patmore could be freed up for the big party. By taking the lowest job he can, he shows Carson that he is perfectly able to take a position below him. Brilliant! Hats off to Mrs Hughes. Carson is of course appalled by any creativity whatsoever, and harrumphs about it to no end. However, he does hire Molesley on the spot.

Lady Rose enters at the moment and tells them her surprise - a nightclub band from London is coming. The servants are a combination of deeply shocked and quite curious. Except Carson, who is of course just the former. They agree to look after the band until the time comes. Then Jack the singer walks in and Carson just about falls down dead.

"Welcome to Downton," says Rose, as she realizes this might not have been the best idea.

Isobel comes up a bit early to have a visit with George, and runs into Tom and Mary in the nursery. (They...just didn't want to cast a new nanny, right? Come on, you can tell us.) They discuss grandparent names (Cora = Granny, Isobel = Grandmama, which I am so demanding my grandchildren call me, while Sybbie will call her Aunt Isobel). They talk about how Tony Gillingham AKA Handsome Tony is engaged. Mary says she's not unhappy, but not quite happy either.

Isobel thinks fondly about when she was engaged to Dr Crawley, and how she was hopelessly in love with him. It's very sad and sweet and my God Penelope Wilton is a treasure. Tom and Mary both chime in that they felt the same way about their dead spouses. Everyone's near tears, and Isobel says they were the lucky ones. Even with the cheesy music it's pretty effective. Nanny (finally) shows up with the tots, and they leave their memories behind to look at the future.

The band warms up while Carson makes a total ass of himself trying to deal with things. He asks Jack why he doesn't consider visiting Africa. Jack says he's no more African than Carson. They do an awkward verbal dance around the history of the whole thing. I think I love Jack. (So, apparently, do half the maids.) Mrs Hughes watches and makes fun of Carson right alongside him. Carson blusters. It's possible the jazz music scares him even more.

Rose, rocking a midnight blue number, comes down to check that all is well. Once she leaves, they get into a discussion of her various attributes. Still can't get over the Jack and Rose thing. What's next, Jack's boyfriend Ennis shows up? Or cousins Rick and Ilsa wander in from Morocco? It's because Julian Fellowes is bitter that his Titanic didn't get a fraction of the attention. Right?

Blake and Mary snap at each other, Cora is not entirely disapproving to see her eldest taken down a peg. Molesley is awkward, as usual. Isobel and Tom discuss his pending emigration (she understands, but thinks they're terribly fond of him). An important point is brought up - what if Tom wants to remarry? He's unlikely to find another partner in the Crawleys' circles, and a working-class girl would make them uncomfortable. Not being English, this is something I can never quite grasp and feel rather edgy about discussing in reviews, but it obviously is a huge factor in this show, so it must be brought out. Have to say, though, I would take Tom over all the Crawleys put together - well, Isobel and Matthew and Sybil can come too, and the DC can pop in with a quip once in a while.

The DC and Robert talk about Isobel's improved mood, and the DC comments that "she runs on indignation". Hey, there are worse ways to be.

Everyone gets up from dinner, and Rose quickly arranges for the band to start playing. Hearing the lively music, Robert is thrilled by the surprise. He and Rose run out to see the band - and Robert stops dead at the sight of Jack.

Here's a brief summary of everyone's reactions to the first black guy at Downton: Cora and Isobel are cool with it, Mary is all "Um...", Robert is surprised but quickly composes himself (clearly he learned a lesson from almost being kicked out of the house over the Nellie Melba snub), Edith comes out of her funk to stare with wide eyes. Rose has grabbed a guy and gone to dance, and Robert and Cora immediately join them. Edith asks her grandmother if it isn't rather odd, and Violet tells her that they "must be aware of being provincial - try to let your time in London rub off on you a little more". RIGHT ON, Granny. Say, why is the older generation open-minded all of a sudden? What is this, Family Ties?

Everyone's dancing, except Mary and Blake, who continue to trade both witticisms and unresolved sexual tension. She then berates Napier for bringing "an enemy" into the house. Stay classy, Mary.

I said this in the previous episode where they appeared, but Jack and his band are absolutely nailing the 20's sound. Certainly the people of Downton seem to like it. Tom has taken Isobel onto the dance floor. She points out Jack's presence as an example that Times Have Changed, Downton has changed with them, and Tom has no reason to believe he can't find a place here.

Napier tries to explain jazz to Violet, which is about as successful as you'd think. "Do you think any of them know what the others are playing?" she asks. The dance number ends. All in all, looks like Rose's surprise is a roaring success.

Carson comes downstairs to find that Mrs Hughes has ordered the kitchen staff to make up sandwiches, as many of the staff will be working insanely hard late into the night. They discuss jazz music (Mrs Patmore likes it, Carson disapproves) and Jack Ross (Mrs Hughes likes him, Carson likes him okay but thinks it's still weird).

The dancing goes on - Napier with Violet, Mary with her dad. Father and daughter discuss how cool the band is and how great it was of Rose to bring them in. Perhaps they should offer to contribute to the bill? Blake and Napier discuss the hotness of Mary, on which they disagree. Blake opposes people like her on principle. Napier points out that she probably feels the same way about him.

Cora approaches Edith and begs her to tell her what's going on. Edith can't say anything, just some vague-ish stuff about Michael, and runs out of the room. Cora is at a loss.

Robert tells Cora what a good time he had, and they comment on the servants' reactions to Jack. Finally, they prove to be aware of Carson's eternal stodginess, though  apparently the man did manage to say that Jack was "decent". Someone throw him a parade. Cora is increasingly worried about Edith and Gregson. They turn back to Cora's brother Harold, who is still in deep trouble - something involving a senator and the words "nothing's been proved". Eep.

Mary goes downstairs and runs into Rose and Jack (can't - get - over - it) having a romantic moment. When they hear her say something, they immediately stop the proceedings. Rose runs out of the room to lie her ass off, while Jack stays a few seconds behind like a good forbidden lover. He walks out a moment later, and Mary thanks him for the music and asks that the bill be sent to His Lordship. Jack agrees over Rose's protests, and in turn thanks Mary for the kind reception he found at Downton. Mary cheerfully bids them good night and leaves them to be all kinds of naughty. Have fun with that guys, but seriously - you've got Edith the walking cautionary tale right upstairs. (Not that I think Rose would go that far anyway - times were oh so different.)

Next time on Downton: Robert is asked to go to America, Violet's sick (OH NO), Mary and Blake bitch back and forth, Rosamund asks Edith if something's wrong, Mr Gillingham and his valet are back - sending Anna back into an emotional abyss.

My thoughts? Overall, it was pretty strong. You can tell they're setting things up to be really dramatic in the last two episodes (of this series, not the whole thing - there's going to be a fifth, though it looks like Allen Leech and Maggie Smith at the very least are trying to leave, according to my fanciful, purely plot-related speculation). The Jack storyline was really interesting, and made up for some of the other subplots, which were mostly retreads of stuff we've seen before. Another standout is the "three widows" scene, absolutely wonderful. Mostly I just want to see what happens with Edith - and whether the DC is going to pull through!  Please, Julian Fellowes - take someone boring instead. As for me, I'm off to dream of jazz music. See you next week on Worldly Distractions.

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