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Archive for January, 2016

If you’ve been reading my thoughts on DA, inquiring readers, you know I’ve lumped scenes together for review and not recapped each episode as it progressed. For the sake of space, I’ve ignored some story threads altogether. This week, viewers were treated to dinners upstairs and downstairs, and to more of Lady Violet’s witticisms.  (Spoiler Alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.)

Dining with the Crawleys

Although the viewers couldn’t care less, the boring saga of the hospitals continues. When Violet discovers that Mr. Neville Chamberlain Minister of Health, is going on an inspection tour of the North, she demands that her son invite him to dine at the Abbey.

DA_Violet_Son

Lady Violet in persuasion mode.

 

He’s a busy man,” the earl tells his fond mama. “What makes you think he will come?’

“Because your late papa, the 6th Earl of Grantham, was his wife’s godfather!”

End of argument. Bested by Lady Violet once again, the earl invites Mr. Chamberlain, and, much to Robert’s surprise, the health minister agrees to come. Cora, knowing all about Violet’s scheming ways, invites Dickie Merton, Isobel, and Dr. Clarkson, the old sawbones (and her new ally), to dine as well.

The earl is already dreading the affair. He’s sure there will be hell to pay. All through Season 6 and going back as far as Season 5, he has suffered from indigestion. Unconcerned, he has gone about his business, ignoring the symptoms. Just before dinner with the health minister, he clutches his abdomen again. He decides to take this new burning sensation on the stomach like a man and make an appearance at dinner, knowing that his mama would march up the stairs and drag him out of bed if he failed to attend.

DA Chamberlain

Mr. Chamberlain is having the most unforgettable dinner of his life. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

So kind of you to respond to my mother-in-law’s summons, Mr. Chamberlain,” says Cora in greeting, before Lady Violet pushes her aside and reminds him of their long past history.

“Oh, I recall you when you were so young and so carefree and I was young and gay, and so I say, let’s let the past stay in the past, like the hospital.”

Tom quickly rescues Mr. Chamberlain before he responds, as Lady Cora invites everyone in to dine, even before the servants are finished setting the table.

“She can’t protect him in the dining room,” announces Lady Violet, unconcerned. “I was trained in a hard school and I FIGHT accordingly!”

But things do not go the dowager’s way, for just as she’s working up to prove that change for change’s sake will ruin power, her son erupts like a breaching whale from his chair, clutching his belly, and violently spews blood on the table until the dining room resembles a Roman vomitorium.

blood bath

Cora receives a blood bath

Everyone is worried – Cora that she will lose her husband, Violet that she will lose her train of thought from the shock, and Mr. Carson that the blood-spattered tablecloth will defy cleaning. But Mr. Chamberlain only feels relief, the earl having found a way to save him from a battle royal. He will always be grateful to Robert’s bursting ulcer for its impeccable timing.

As he’s trundled off to the Downton hospital, Robert manages to tell his Cora how much he loves her. At this declaration, all our hearts go aflutter.

Dinner with the Carsons

DA_dinner_carsons

Elsie and Charlie at home. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

Mr. Carson suggested we might have dinner in the cottage tonight, says Elsie to Mrs. Patmore, wanting her advice. “It won’t be a regular thing, just once in a while.”

When did you last cook?” asks Mrs. Patmore. She can’t decide between helping Elsie make two juicy lamb chops or  the more complicated Turducken (turkey stuffed with chicken, stuffed with duck, stuffed with quail).

“Oh, I’ve done the odd thing every five years or so. Still, I WOULD be grateful for the basket.”

‘Chops it is, then,’ thinks Mrs. Patmore.

Later that day, the Carson’s cozy cottage smells of home cooking.

My compliments to the chef,” says an eager Carson, settling in for an evening feast at his own dining room table.

“That would be Mrs. Patmore, not me,” Elsie says complacently. “Are you ready?” She places the chops on the table.

“Are these done enough?” he asks, testing the meat. ” Oh, the plate is cold, that’s a pity.”

She gives him a look that would freeze a Florida swamp as she slides another platter on the table.

“What’s this?”

“Bubble and squeak.”

“With lamb?”

“I LIKE it with lamb.” Elsie is beginning to realize that her groom is easier to please between the sheets than at the dinner table.

“Well, we musn’t let it get cold,” he says in a sing song voice that grown-ups adopt with toddlers. He saws away at the lamb. “Ah, this knife could do with sharpening.”

Elsie slaps a portion of bubble and squeak on his plate with the force of a pig farmer wrestling a sow, which is when Carson realizes he shouldn’t have told his bride that her cooking doesn’t hold a candle to his mother’s.

‘Uh, oh.’ From the look on her face, he understands he’s not getting any nookie tonight either.

A few days later, having forgotten his love’s reaction to his constructive criticism, he approaches Mrs. Patmore.

I wonder if you would you be willing to help my bride catch up with her pantry pans. It’s been a while since she’s played with them. ”

He turns to Mrs. Carson, er, Mrs. Hughes, er, Elsie. “You’d be very glad of the help, wouldn’t you my dove?”

“Sure. Why not. It’s time to get our coats,” she says, thinking that if she out paces him to their cottage, she could get the couch made up in a trice for his bed.

A Loving Sisterly Exchange

sisterly love

I’ll be in London on Wednesday,” announces Edith at breakfast.

Her papa looks around the table and says proudly, “Edith has a date.”

“Not really,” says she.

“Of course not,” says Mary.

“What do you mean, of course not?” retorts Edith, wanting to scratch her sibling’s eyes out for the gazillionth time.

A Visit to Mr Mason’s New Pig Abode

When Lady Mary learns that pigs are his speciality, she allows Mr. Mason to move to Yew Tree Farm in a trice.

DA Mary_Tom

Mary and Tom in inspection mode. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

I want to look in on, Mason,” she says to her papa, “He’s moving in today.”

“You may go where you like, as long as the pigs are settled.”

“I am concerned,” says she. “I’ve asked him to take over, but pig keeping needs strength, come to think of it.”

“Very sensible. Pigs can be dangerous. Mason’s scrawny. He needs more meat on his bones. ”

“Perhaps we can ask Mrs. Patmore to help in that department.”

In sync with Lady Mary’s thoughts, Mrs. Patmore has laden an abundant basket with fattening goodies as a welcome present. Mr. Mason is the first new bachelor of a certain age with a good job to move within 50 miles of the vicinity this past decade and Mrs. Patmore is old enough to know when OPPORTUNITY comes a’knocking.

DA_Mason_Patmore

Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore: a new romance in the making? Or a possible spin-off to be titled: ‘Of Pigs and Men.’ Photographer: Nick Briggs

Mr. Mason admires her strong ample figure and thinks it a sight for sore eyes.

Does me good to see a woman bustling around my kitchen.”

“I’ve got goodies galore for you,” she says, “and a snack for later on.”

“You’re an angle of mercy.”

“Do you mean me?” asks Lady Mary without irony, stepping into the kitchen with Tom. “Am I interrupting?”

“Not a bit, my lady, You’re welcome here.” ‘Drat,’ he thinks, ‘just when Mrs. P and I were getting to know each other…’

“We wanted to discuss the pigs.”

“I’m top at pigs.”

Tom steps forward. “Lady Mary is worried about the physical side of it. Prizing a boar off a sow…”

“Heeheehee,” giggles Mrs. Patmore.

“Or taking the piglets off their mother.”

“Boohoohoo,” cries Mrs. Patmore.

DA_Andy

Andy offers his services. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

As Tom and Mary discuss Mr. Mason’s feeble strength and the absence of a farm hand, Andy, who has volunteered his services in moving to gain favor with Daisy,  steps forward to offer his strong arms to help with pig maintenance.

Can you do it?” asks Tom.

“Sure,” says Andy, promising the stars, the sun, and the moon, as well as seven years servitude. He wants to learn as much as he can about farming, just as long as there ain’t no book learnin’ involved.

Daisy is all agog. ‘Could this be the man of her dreams? A footman plus a pig farmer rolled neatly into one?’

I’ll lend you some books about pig farming and breeding,” offers Mr. Mason to Andy.

“Books?” Charlie utters.

“You need to know the theory of it. Makes it more logical.”

“I’m up shit’s creek,” thinks Andy, visions of pigs and Daisy fading away, since he can’t make heads or tails of a ‘p’ or an ‘i’ or a ‘g,’ much less their capitalized versions.

Later on, downstairs in the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore practically glows from having worked her knuckles raw helping Mr. Mason set up his house and larder. “What a lovely chap.”

‘Wait a moment,’ thinks Daisy, glaring at Mrs. Patmore. ‘Mr. Mason’s MY lovely chap. I found him first!’

daisyhiss_5

Daisy in hissing mode

 

He must be lonely,” Mrs. P. concludes, thinking of how fine the contents of her Hope Chest would look in Mr. Mason’s cottage.

Daisy hisses,” He’sss not lonely! He’ss MY precioussss. He’s been living alone for yearss.”

‘And working himself scrawny, so he needs help with the rutting pigs,’ thinks Mrs. Patmore, knowing she could fatten him up in no time flat and build up his muscles.

He seemed to enjoy the company…” she ventures.

“He was only being polite! He was longing for you, er, us, to go.”

“Pfff.”

Mrs. Patmore huffs off, thinking, ‘Let’s see if I give that ungrateful chit any helpful advice from now on.’

Lady Violet, Denker, and Septimus Sprat

During a village stroll, Denker encounters Dr. Clarkson and rounds on him for being a traitor and scoundrel to the Dowager Countess. His dignity offended, he sends Lady Violet a letter describing Denker’s INSULT and her impertinence. Clutching the letter to her heaving bosom, Violet summons her disagreeable lady’s maid.

Lady Violet

Photographer, Nick Briggs. You read too many novels, Denker!

Denker arrives, thinking she’s about to receive a raise for loyalty.

Is it true you called Dr. Clarkson a traitor?”

“I just thought he behaved very badly.”

“It’s not your place to have opinions of my acquaintances, let alone express them! If I withdrew my friendship from everyone who’s ever spoken ill of me, my address book would be EMPTY! For a lady’s maid to insult a physician!… You’ve read too many novels, Denker. You’ve seen too many moving pictures. You’ve skulked around too many hallways.”

“I was sticking up for you.”

“And for that I shall write a tepid character. From this house you must go forthwith.”

“But my lady, what am I to do? Where am I to go?”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. When we unleash the dogs of war, we must go where they take us.”

Knowing Lady Violet will not change her mind, Denker approaches Sprat to help save her job.

How’d it happen?” he asks, secretly delighted with the turn of events. “Were you drunk?”

“Of course not! Am I to blame if I have a very passionate nature?”

Sprat makes a face. “Any more of that talk and I won’t be able to sleep.”

The more Denker pleads with Sprat, the happier he gets, ’till he’s humming from sheer joy, but, alas, his happiness is short lived.

“Are you packed?” he asks her the following morning. “Are you gonna help her dress, get your reference, and then head off, never to darken my life again?”

“No, and I’ll tell you why, you insignificant worm. Did they catch your nephew. The one you hid?”

SpratSprat stops humming. “Wha…?”

“Septimus Sprat, if I go down, I am taking you down with me. Capiche?”

“What can I say to …”

“You’d better think of something. And you better hope it works, Mr. Sprat. You better hope that I don’t ever need to mention your nephew ever again.”

Sprat walks away from the conversation thinking that daily torture in a dark dungeon would be preferable to being stuck with this woman for the rest of his benighted life. He wonders if he should apply for a position at Gosford Park before it is too late.

Love Does Not Conquer All

As Lady Mary and Tom drive to the track to watch Henry Talbot, he turns to her. “Do you like him?

He’s attractive and nice and reminds me I’m a youngish woman again, but that’s all. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but I won’t marry down. I don’t want to be grander than my husband or richer, but he needs to bring something to my substantial table.”

“Happiness doesn’t have much with money or position. Sybil and I had a marriage of equals. I brought the copper, she brought the gold. I brought the dust, she brought the duster. I…”

“I get it,” says Lady Mary, not amused.

Tom and mary

Tom and Mary at the track.

‘Tom’s not getting the point,’ thinks a frustrated Mary. She needs to stay grander than Edith so that she can always lord it over her and her unfortunate choices of doddering old suitors and mere land agents.

And so, having discussed her elevated norm for marital love, Tom and Mary arrive at the racetrack, where Henry and his best friend, Charlie, are driving recklessly around the track at around, oh, 60 – 65 mph.

Just look at him. Working hard but getting nowhere,” says Mary, adding, “He’s just going around in useless circles.”

As Henry and Charlie race around the track a few hundred times, I begin to make my weekly grocery list and check my work schedule. These overly long scenes are best distinguished by the background music, which resembles a soundtrack from an Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon Beach Muscle Blanket Bikini Bingo movie.

As Henry finishes his practice turns and strides towards them, Tom tells Mary, “You don’t have to marry him, but you do have to let him enjoy this moment.”

‘Enjoy, yes,’ Mary thinks, ‘but I won’t let anything as puny as love get in the way of sensible thought.’

Bates and Anna Discuss Lady Mary and Lady Luck

happy

Oh, happy days.

“I want Lady Mary to be happy, like I am happy,” says Bates to his wife as they walk towards the Abbey after breakfast in their cozy cottage for two. “I want everyone to be happy.”

“Are you really happy? says Anna, clutching her rabbit’s foot.

“I am so happy that happy is my middle name. I’m, you know, happy.”

“No, I don’t know. But if you’re happy then I’m happy.”

“I’m happy.”

“Bad Harvest,” says Anna, not wanting to spoil her good luck.

Edith happy

Lady Edith happy.

Outing the Secret

At the end of dinner and in the heat of the moment, as the earl and his bleeding ulcer are carted off to Downton Hospital, Lady Cora prevents Lady Violet from talking any more nonsense about the hospital. “No more secrets from now on!”

mary overhears

Uh, oh. Edith should have said ‘bad harvest’ too.

“You mean, like Marigold?” says Lady Violet, not seeing Lady Mary standing behind them.

From Lady Mary’s expression, we know she’s come to an ah-hah moment. Cue ominous music, please.

What a fine episode, gentle readers. While, for the sake of brevity, I did not discuss Baxter’s plight, Thomas’s offer to help Andy read, or Edith’s trip to London and the start of a budding romance, I give this episode four and a half stars out of five. What say you?

Informal poll: Which did you think was grosser?

The bloody carnage at

  • the earl’s table in this episode.
  • the red wedding in Game of Thrones.
  • the remains of Hannibal Lechter’s lunch.

 

My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:

 

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We come to episode 4 of season 6, which has its moments, but also serves as a bridge to Episode 5. As you will see, much of this week’s action occurs over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The story lines intersect or are continued. Warning! Spoiler Alert. Continue reading at your own risk.

tom

Tom talks to Mary.

At the end of Episode 3, Tom crashes Elsie and Charlie’s wedding, because it was unfair to keep Sybbie from her family in Downton. Frankly, I think he returned because the viewers set up a hue and cry last season when he departed for the colonies. Thus, the writers wisely thought to bring him back. Lady Mary immediately asks Tom to become a joint agent, but he sees something larger for himself in the future.

“This will do for the time being, he says, not wanting to disappoint her.

“Whatever,” says Lady Mary, “But no more Miss Buntings, if you have any pity.”

For once I agree with Lady Mary.

Carson and his lady love are honeymooning in Scarborough, a popular seaside and spa resort during the Regency era, where, until the late 19th century, men would take a boat out to sea to spartle sans clothes in the waters out of the eyesight of delicate ladies. Scarborough was no longer a fashionable resort in the 1920s, as it had been a century or two before. More and more working class people were able to take a train to areas that were once available only to the rich, who went on to find more expensive waters. At breakfast, Lady Mary sniffs at the choice of honeymoon location, saying they could have managed something nicer. We can only hope that Elsie’s honeymoon with Charlie was blissful and unforgettable.

Butler Barrow

Mr. Barrow, butler for 5 minutes.

Downstairs, Thomas reigns as temporary butler, barking orders and demanding respect, which he does not receive. As Mrs. Patmore points out, his tenure will last a mere five minutes, until Mr. Carson gets back.

Thomas pays no heed, and wastes little time reminding one and all that his veneer of niceness these past three episodes was very thin. He’s back to acting like his old insufferable self and lording it over the servants, who are keeping score for Carson.butler points

Hospital Wars, Ad Infinitum Boredom

Lady Violet enlists her dear friend, the dowager Lady Prudence Shackleton, to champion her fight in the hospital wars. Since that lady knows next to nothing about everything, she is the perfect candidate to join a losing battle – that of opposing change and persuading Lady Cora to join them in their backward thinking. (If you recall, Lady Shackelton, aka Harriet Walter, played that nasty Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. She was one of the best Fannies ever, to my way of thinking.)

The two friends meet over a nice pot of tea at the Dowager house.

“But what’s this about the hospitals?” Lady Shackleford asks, bewildered, and not understanding she’s supposed to parrot Lady Violet’s POV. “I really don’t see anything wrong…”

“Are you here to help or irritate?”

“To help, of course, and to bring my nephew Henry and his racing cars to the attention of Lady…”

“Well, then, there’s nothing more to be said. Just follow my lead.”

‘We’ll see,’ thinks Lady Prudence, determined to place Henry across Lady Mary’s path as often as possible during her visit.

Another Fine Dinner at Downton

Henry Talbot arrives with his aunt for dinner, surprising Lady Mary.

“Golly,” says she. “Nobody told me the nephew was you.”

“One must be allowed to keep some secrets,” Henry says, wondering if there is molten lava under her glacial crust.

violet and friend

Lady Violet and Lady Shackleton, good friends. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE.

As the assembled guests wait for the food to be served, Lady Prudence and Lady Violet embark on an important economic discussion regarding Henry.

“What sort of Talbot is he?” asks Lady Violet, trying to recall all 4,700 pages of Burke’s Peerage.

“A Shrewsbury,” Lady Shackleford sighs. ” Adequate prospects but not overwhelming. He’s nowhere near the earldom. Forty strong men would have to drop dead…”

“Well, nothing is impossible,” says Violet optimistically.

The earl, listening in, remarks, “Honestly!”

“Mary needs more than a handsome smile and a hand on the gear stick,” retorts the dowager.

” I’m surprised you know what a gear stick is,” he rejoins.

Before Lady Violet can list all the prominent gear sticks in her life, the dining room doors swing open and Barrow announces dinner.

violet and her friend

Lady Shackleton, the earl, and Lady Violet converse

While the group munches on a delicious meal of calf’s brain with black butter and deep fried tripe, Isobel states her case for the Yorkshire Hospital’s takeover of Downton’s little clinic. “I’m all for PROGRESS,” she concludes.

Lady Violet won’t hear of anything concerning growth, improvements, advancements, or breakthroughs since the 13th century.

“You are making a grave mistake!” She turns to her enlistee.”PRUDENCE, tell them!”

“I, uh, well, uh. Uhm. I expect there’s a great deal to be said on both sides, or all sides, or the side that matters, or no side at all!”

“D  O  N ‘ T     B  E    S O     F  E  E  B  L  E!”

“How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?” Prudence whines.

“Well, that’s never stopped me!”

More chit chat about the hospitals ensues, when Lady Edith remarks, “I suppose Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up an argument.”

“Of course she is,” declares Lady Violet, “She’s just not entitled to WIN it.”

The discussion goes on and on, with Isobel smiling and Lady Violet sending out dagger looks, until dinner mercifully ends and the viewers can stop folding laundry or checking their emails.

card

Chitchat with Henry Talbot

Henry Talbot escorts Lady Mary from the dining room.

“Do you ever make it up to London?” he asks.

“Sometimes.”

“Would you think it terribly common if I gave you my card?”

“Fairly common, but I’ll take it anyway.”

“Telephone me. We’ll have lunch, or a drink……….or something.”

Mary lifts an eyebrow, intrigued by the something. “You know I couldn’t be less interested in cars if I took a pill to achieve it.”

“Mmmm,” Henry murmurs, thinking to impress her with his strong engine.

 

Mr. and Mrs. John Harding Arrive for Lunch

Lady Rosamund Painswick, as trustee of Hillcroft College, an establishment for clever women of modest backgrounds, invites Mr. and Mrs. John Harding to lunch to meet her family and to entice Lady Edith to become a trustee. He is the College’s treasurer, a self-made man, clever, and successful; Gwen, his wife, is one of those women with a modest background who made something of herself and married a man of means. She was, as you recall, dear viewers, a hard-working house maid at the Abbey and sweet Sybil’s former protégé.

Gwen Harding

Mr. & Mrs. Harding come for a visit. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

As Thomas opens the door, he does not recognize Gwen all washed clean in her pretty outfit with her respectable husband. Anna recognizes Gwen right away.

Lady Mary is not sure. “Forgive me, have we met?”

“Not exactly, says Gwen, thinking, ‘I used to carry your chamber pots down the back stairs. Would that count?’

Gwen, under the impression they were to visit Lady Rosamund Painswick, did not know she was coming to the Abbey until it was too late to let the servants know, a non-move she regrets. This failure to alert them of her visit does not sit well with Barrow. At his false prompting, the servants think her a stuck up prig with no sense of loyalty. “We gave her her start up in life, what with carrying dozens of pails of water up the stairs, cleaning the floors on her hands and knees, and clearing 95 fireplaces of ashes. How ungrateful!”

“Darn right,” says Daisy, who is mad, and has been as mad as a mosquito trapped in a vampire’s vault at Lady Cora for not instantly installing her Mr. Mason into Yew Tree Farm.

Unaware of the servants’ displeasure with Gwen Harding, the luncheon group embark on neutral pre-lunch chit chat. The writers have found an interesting and entertaining way to discuss the changing role for women in this scene without sounding too preachy and maintaining the entertainment level.

Isobel addresses Gwen, wanting to know more about the Hardings’ story.

“The telephone company changed everything for me. I was a secretary before that…”
For some reason, Gwen suffers from selective amnesia and forgets the ‘I was in service’ part.

“She moved into local government and then met me,” her husband adds succinctly.

“I might have gone further if I’d had more education,” says Gwen. “We can’t afford to waste working women by not educating them.”

The group is then asked to sit down to a luncheon of vermicelli soufflé and asparagus ice.

“It’s too bad Carson isn’t here,” says Lady Mary, referring to Gwen’s last statement, for our favorite butler thinks an education is wasted on young women.

“You recall Carson, Madam, surely,” says Barrow, outing Gwen and demolishing weeks of hard-won sainthood for the sake of a moment’s empty victory.

The room grows glacially silent.

“What do you mean, Barrow?” asks Lady Cora.

“Mrs. Harding used to work here,” says Barrow, as cool as a Survivor contestant throwing one of his tribe under the bus.

Gwen, having worked alongside this insufferable prig for many a moon, interrupts him.

“Thank you, Mr. Barrow, I can tell it.”

As Barrow leaves, all eyes turn to her, none too friendly, except for Isobel, who will always champion an underdog, especially a female with a 20th-century story.

Gwen lobs a bomb in the center of the table.

“I used to be a housemaid here for a couple of years after the war.”

“Here? Why didn’t you say?” says the earl with a polite but tight smile.

” I don’t know,” says Gwen, thinking that she was dreading being shown the servant’s entrance.

“Well, you had every opportunity,” Lady Mary says, trying to adjust to the idea of sitting opposite a PERSON who had seen her dirty undies.

“I feel stupid for not recognizing you,” adds Cora.

“Why should you? We never spoke. But Lady Sybil spoke to me.”

“Sybil?” All eyes turn to her, inquiring.

“I didn’t want to be in service all my life. Lady Sybil found the job. She did everything. Looked out for the jobs, made the calls, drove me to the interviews. One time the horse went lame and we both got stuck in the mud…”

Cora, her face soft with the memory of her daughter, says, “We were so worried, but she never said a thing about you.”

“It was our secret pact. One day she cornered the man who was installing the telephone here, and that’s how I got me first job in business.”

“She wouldn’t let me in the library while you met him,” says the earl slowly, reminiscing. “So that was you…”

“Her kindness changed me life.”

All eyes are wet – those at the Abbey and those who are watching this scene. This was a lovely way to remember Sybil and include her in the last season – through the kindness that she bestowed a simple house maid.

Mary looks up at Thomas and says pointedly, “Thank you, Barrow, for reminding us of Mrs. Harding’s time here.”

“My pleasure, my lady,” says Barrow, his face twitching. ‘Why do things never go according to plan?’ he thinks, hoping in some way to salvage his economically active status at the Abbey.

Gwen-know nothing_4As Gwen leaves the Abbey, she whispers to Thomas in her silky Ygritte voice: “You know nothing, Mr. Barrow.”

The earl later corrals him to talk about his lack of generosity. “Carson is a kind man, that is why people are loyal to him.”

As a final nail in his employment coffin, Baxter reminds Thomas, “You are your own worst enemy.”

And so the servants vote once again:

butler rip

 

A Hasty Trip to London

Anna feels pains and worries that she’s having another miscarriage. She tells Lady Mary and reminds her, “I don’t want Bates to know!” Lady Mary coolly tells her, “We’ll just say I need to see a doctor, double quick.” For a two night stay at Belgrave Square, Mary has Anna pack two heavy suitcases with an assortment of items, including books and chocolates, that she cannot live without for 48 hours. Normally, our tiny Anna can haul such luggage with ease down the stairs, swinging both of them on her back, but this time Lady Mary asks Bates to carry them. He looks at this cane and starts to wonder…

“Never mind,” says Anna hastily, forgetting the pains in her womb. “I’ll just carry them down one at a time.”

Lady Mary is relieved to no end when Anna has her stitch successfully stitched, but the operation means that they must stay for one or two extra days at Aunt Rosamund’s place in Belgrave Square.

‘What’s a single woman to do while glamping in her stodgy aunt’s London apartment?’ Mary wonders. Why, whip out the card she accepted from Henry Talbot, of course, and give him a ring. He’s there in a trice and takes her to an RAC (Royal Automobile Club) diner, a rather plush place for a mere driver, but no great shakes for a great lady.

Downton_Abbey_4

Lady Mary looking none too shabby. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE.

“I look shabby. I brought no clothes,” she says, forgetting her mounds of luggage, “and so had to rifle through Aunt Rosamund’s ghastly closets.”

He eyes her up and down and sideways and says in a caressing voice, “You are anything but shabby.”

Once at the table, he asks, “What is your enthusiasm?” thinking she will say “clothes, children, horses, and irritating Lady Edith,” but she says instead, “I work. I function as an agent. I want to leave my little George as the master of a modern going concern.”

“I’m impressed.”

“So am I, but what I truly hope is that you’re boiling up to make a pass.”

“Probably.” Both stare at their menus wondering how the other will look without a stitch on. “But will you accept?”

Mary, secure in her femme fatale record, replies, “No. I just enjoy the process enormously.”

Henry is beginning to think that he’ll need more than one lariat to rope in this filly.

Daisy

Daisy

Daisy loves Lady Cora. Daisy hates Lady Cora. Daisy doesn’t know what to think, but she thinks she might love Lady Cora again when she learns that Mr. Mason will have Yew Tree Farm. He’s glad to have a place to rest his bones. Daisy’s glad he’s glad.

End of story.

The Honeymooners Return

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So happy to be back in service! Elsie’s face says it all.

The Carsons return from their honeymoon all white and pasty from a week at a seaside resort near a very cold ocean. “Home again at last, I feel as if I’ve been away for months,” says Carson, glad to be in service again. His loving bride aims a well-timed kick at his shin. ‘What? What did I say?’ thinks Carson, unaware that as a newly wed bride, his Elsie would find his joyful outburst at returning to work somewhat unflattering.

Meanwhile, the downstairs folk have planned a party for the newlyweds, to which the Crawleys have been invited.

” I haven’t been in the kitchens for at least 20 years,” observes Lady Violet. “I will need Ariadne’s thread to find my way out again!”

“Have you got your passport?” asks Isobel, not in the least sympathetic.

During the merry making, Edith lets out that she wants to find a woman editor.

Violet harrumps at the thought.

Mary says sensibly, “Well, it IS a magazine for women.”

“That was nice of you to praise Edith’s plan,” Aunt Rosamund tells Mary.

Lest anyone thinks she has a soft heart for her sister, Mary retorts, “A monkey will type out the bible if you leave it alone long enough.”

Indeed, and a monkey could have typed out this review as well.

 

Fiddle Dee Dee

news

Good news.

After having watched her carry only one suitcase down the stairs at a time, Bates approaches Anna at the party. “I know what you’re hiding.”

“What I’m hiding is very happy.”

“You are…?”

“I am, and was saved by a stitch in time.”

Both smile and hug and kissy face. Cue the fiddlers for a happy dance, please.

Whatever Name You Choose, Just Make it Easy On Us, Will Ya?

Upstairs the conversation has taken its usual banal turn. The group just can’t get their tongues around Mr. Carson and Mrs. Carson. It is so much easier to say Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes than the Carsons, isn’t it? This situation is worse than Jane Eyre wishing to be called Mrs. Rochester! Or Charlotte Lucas being called Mrs. Collins. (The abomination!) None of us will get used to it! Why can’t they just remain Carson and Mrs. Hughes!

As it so happens, Mr. and Mrs. Carson wish to remain named as they were before their union was sanctified.

“Hallelujah! You’ve made me a happy man!” says the earl, clutching his abdomen and thinking, ‘Must’ve been the deep fried tripe that upset my stomach, or perhaps the alcohol. Will remind myself to lay off the port.’

And so another episode has ended, gentle viewers, which I give 3 out of 5 stars, simply because most of the story lines just twirled and swirled – in a delightful way, to be sure, but this is Downton Abbey, after all, and the show has set STANDARDS.

Please join me in an informal poll: Which of the following, in your opinion, is easier to say? Carson and Mrs. Carson, Carson and Mrs. Hughes, or “Hey You?” Uninformed minds want to know.

My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:

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As part of Winterfest, Hallmark Channel is featuring a made for TV movie, Unleashing Mr. Darcy, Saturday, January 23, at 9:00 PM. It’s a modern interpretation of the Lizzie/Darcy love story starring Cindy Busby and Ryan Paevey. So far, only Clueless has managed a modern reinterpretation of a Jane Austen novel to my satisfaction. Let’s see what you all think of this film.

Here’s a link to Hallmark’s website: Click here. I don’t subscribe to cable, so I won’t be seeing it!

I agree with some of you – from the trailer, this movie does not look promising.

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Inquiring readers: A poll I placed on this blog a few days earlier showed that people were generally more pleased with Episode One over Episode Two, but the votes were close between excellent or merely O.K. for both. As for my coverage, 80% of you like my irreverent recaps, and 20% did not, with %5 wanting me to give it up and 15% wishing I was more serious. Having considered the results, expect more tongue in cheek coverage. Warning: Spoilers! Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.

Charlie and Elsie and their Upcoming Nuptials

Mrs. Hughes is miffed, not sounding like a bride on the brink of wedded bliss. Good old Elsie wants a sit-down wedding breakfast at the school house with a groaning table filled with heart attack foods, but that’s not how posh people like Lady Mary do it. These days those skinny aristos stand around a room, delicately chewing on nibbly bits with zero calories.

“Well, I for one,” opined Charlie Carson bravely, “want to do it like the family wants to do it.”

Elsie shoots him a look that would fell a maddened bull.

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Elsie shows off her sensible dress.

Later she shows Mrs. Patmore and Anna her sensible, ordinary old day dress with long sleeves and a high neck and a hem that sweeps down to her ankles. “That’ll do for a bride, don’t you think? Clean and tidy and it’ll cover all my nibbly bits.”

Even Mrs. Patmore knows better than this and gives Anna a sly look. When Elsie leaves, Mrs. P. pulls out a catalogue, a sort of Forever21.com or BridesOnline.com on paper (for you millenials), and shows her a dress at half price, plus a coupon for another 20% off, and free return postage by horse guaranteed. “I want to order this for her as a surprise bride’s gift at an impressive discount.”

Anna’s not so sure, seeing that the image is black and white and grainy, but, hey, her wedding dress was nothing to shout about either.

Mary Spies a Bump

When next we see Anna with her Mistress, that eagle eyed ice lady senses a change.

“You’re not!”

“Too early to tell, my lady, but my morning porridge is tasting somewhat off.”

“Now we know the problem isn’t Mr. Bates,” blurts Mary, pleased as punch that Anna’s completely at fault.

Anna blushes. “If I were to repeat the things you say downstairs…” (‘And talk about the dead men we carry from room to room in the dark of the night… or your sampling session with Viscount Gillingham in Liverpool..’.)

“Should you be working?” Lady Mary interrupts Anna’s thoughts. “I can put Baxter on double duty for 1/4 the pay…”

“No, I don’t want to tell Mr. Bates until I can no longer see my feet. He’ll never notice, what with this loose frock and all.”

Mary claps her hands with glee. “At the end of the third month we’ll whiz up to London to see Dr. Price and have that miracle-working stitch stitched in. Then we can go shopping. Oh, how exciting!”

“S’cuse me, my lady,” says Anna, covering her mouth, “but I’ve got to find the nearest loo.”

Thomas Reads the Paper

Meanwhile, Thomas Barrow is in the servant’s hall looking at adverts before his inevitable heave-ho, after having finished reading an article on Exit Counseling.

“Very thoughtful of you,” says Mr. Carson. “Your finding a job should avoid any unpleasantness on my part, though don’t go thinking that my giving you the pink slip shall ruin my honeymoon in any way whatsoever.”

“So nice of you to say,” says Thomas, spying a promising ad for a position of trust in a prominent household, thinking a position of trust is right up his alley.

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Cora talks to Elsie and Charlie about their nuptials.

Lady Cora Finally Gets A Story Line, Sort Of

Lady Cora, having talked with Mrs. Patmore and gotten wind of Lady Mary’s steamrolling the wedding reception at the house and Mrs. Hughes’ unhappiness with the situation, invites all interested parties, including Isobel, to dinner. When they assemble in the drawing room after a divine meal of fig and stilton salad with port wine dressing, venison tenderloin with madeira green peppercorn sauce, and floating islands with lemon scented custard sauce, she summons Mrs. Hughes. Epicurious http://www.epicurious.com/archive/entertaining/partiesevents/tv-dinners-downton-abbey

“Mrs. Hughes,” she begins, I’m sorry to put you on the spot, but I believe you have been rather railroaded into holding your reception in the hall by my imperious and spoiled daughter. I understand you don’t want to be married from this house.”

The Earl – ” What?” Lady Mary – “Why ever not?” Carson – “My lady, we are both privileged ….”

“No!…I want to hear from Mrs. Hughes.” The outraged chorus stops. Isobel smiles with glee.

Mrs. Hughes, eyes averted from her beloved, seizes the moment – “I don’t want to sound ungrateful -this is a fine house – it would be an honor to hold our party here…”

“But it’s not what you want.”

“Precisely! None of us is on a diet, my lady. We need energy to work, whereas you and your lordship and Lady Mary must watch your waistlines from sitting around all day. At my reception I want to serve a solid meal at proper tables, with plenty of calories and carbohydrates, so that we may go about our duties later with vim, vigor and gusto.”

“Does anyone have a sit down wedding breakfast anymore?” Mary snorts, wishing to have a word in.

Mrs. Hughes turns to her. “A great many people my lady. And then I’d like to feel we can ask all sorts, everyone who’s been part of our lives here, our friends, and even our betters, such as yourselves, should you deign to join us. And I’ve planned for music later on, with dancing and whooping and hollering, none of which would be suitable in the great hall.”

“It would not,” intones Carson, who is feeling nauseous just thinking about having to kick up his heels a few scant hours before PERFORMING in bed. ‘Will he have the stamina,’ he wonders. ‘Will Elsie?’

“There you are, were only agreeing,” says Elsie, not knowing what is on her Charlie’s mind.

Mary attempts one more time to hold the reception in a proper place. “Mrs. Hughes, doesn’t Carson deserve a wedding in this house?”

“It’s about Charles Carlson and Elsie Hughes, just us, Lady Mary. Not you and Carson, which I find a bit odd, truth be told. Pardon me, but may I be excused?”

Not if Lady Mary could help it, but Cora was done with the subject. “I understand your reasons, Mrs. Hughes. I hope we will be invited.”
‘Didn’t I just say?’ Mrs. Hughes thinks to herself, wondering if Lady Cora has early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Some Mother and Daughter Bonding Time

Mary

Snob!

The moment Elsie and Charlie leave the room, Lady Mary and her momma express their opinions.

“You’re a bully. I should have given you a spanking when you were young. Or at least twenty lashes with a wet noodle,” Cora says to her beloved eldest.

Mary rounds on her momma: “You think I’M a bully, I think YOU’RE a snob. You just don’t want the bother of hosting the servants’ wedding in the hall!”

Lady Cora yanks on the bell pull to order 10 wet noodles. She’s had enough of her daughter’s insufferable case of affluenza.

Denker and Sprat

The viewer is then treated to Denker making Mr. Sprat’s life miserable once again. A visitor arrives at the back door in the dark of night and Denker insists on knowing who it is.

“Nothing, nobody, that is, it was a visitor, but he came to the wrong house.” Sprat’s evasiveness doesn’t faze Denker one bit. She approaches Violet with false concern, wanting to know about Sprat’s friends.

“I know he has many relations who seem to get married and buried with numbing regularity, usually on inconvenient days…” our favorite dowager says, wondering why Denker is always interrupting her with silly nonsense.

The local constable visits the servant’s hall and asks Sprat if he’s seen Wally, his sister’s son, just absconded from prison and currently on the run.

“Has the cretin made any contact, Mr. Sprat?”

Sprat, his eyes dilated, shakes his head no, unable to speak.

When the constable leaves, Denker is at her oiliest. “What an interesting family you have, Mr. Sprat. Mine are dull compared to yours. After you put that criminal up in the potting shed, did he get away safely? Don’t worry, Mr. Sprat, I can keep secrets if I want to. Will you want me to?”

‘I’m sunk,’ thinks Sprat, ‘and well and truly stuck with the bitch for the rest of my working life.’

Thomas on the Hunt for a Job and Some Respectability

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Thomas at a job interview

Wearing his best Sunday bowler hat, St. Thomas à Barrow, his transformation into a nice person almost complete, approaches a grand but moldering house in Dryden Park in York. As the elderly owner takes him through the largely empty but dusty mansion, he says without irony, “We’ve rather let things slide since my wife died. Our previous housekeeper worked for a Miss Havisham, who seemed to be the gloomy, untidy sort.” He talks about the old days when his wife was a lady in waiting to some grand duchess and when the house was used for entertaining, and then observes that his two sons never came back from the war. Thomas, commiserating, mentions his service in Flanders.

The old man perks up. “This is what I need, someone who knows what it like to fight for his king and his country.”

‘I wouldn’t know, really,’ Thomas thinks, flexing his bad hand and recalling how he made it BAD in order to escape combat. “How many staff do you have?” he asks, cutting to the chase.

“Mrs. Tomkins comes in 3 days a week, and a man outside every now and then. When the good times return and they all come back, we must be ready…we can’t let standards slip.”

It becomes clear to Thomas that while serving in the house as it was twenty years before would have been perfect, the job wasn’t right for him now. ‘More’s the pity,’ he thinks, as he bids the old man goodbye, and returns to the Abbey, where Molesley looks to Daisy’s education and Daisy, who’s champin’ at the bit for worry about Mr. Mason, corrals Lady Cora every chance she gets to put a good word in for her papa-in-law.

Edith, Wonder Woman

Having rather a drama on her hands with her male editor, Edith scurries to London. There, she hooks up with Bertie Pelham, land agent. He’s someone she’s met before, a detail that most viewers have already forgotten.

“I own the magazine, you know,” she says, “and I’m off to fire my editor.”

“How modern!” he says, with admiration.

“Yes. I miss Marigold, my ward, er, our ward,” she says to the man who has no clue as to how modern she really is.

“Would you care to have a drink later on?” he asks.

“As long as it’s near the office. I must lead a purposeful life.”

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Edith, Wonder woman. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

But after she fires her editor, Edith realizes that the proofs are due at the printers in 9 hours and that her ghastly ex-editor had done nothing worth sending over. Crikey! A four a.m. deadline! That’s way past her bed time, but she refuses to be defeated. She runs through Covent Garden, and races against time, like Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, to break her date with Bertie. (Cue Chariots of Fire music.)

In Bertie’s mind, the exercise has given Lady Edith’s skin a sexy glow. Overcome by her sweateous beauty, he offers to tag along and cook, clean, sew, and look after babies to help her meet her deadline. Edith, having never done anything more than sit on a tractor, give her sister a rough time, pen a story or two, and pine after Marigold, becomes an instant expert on magazine layout and design. Working their well-manicured fingers to the bone, she and her team meet the deadline with seconds to spare. Whew! Lady Edith turns to Bertie, “Want to go for that drink now?” He’d like to go for something more, but decides to bide his time.

And Now, Back to the Wedding Preparations

When the catalogue dress arrives, Mrs. P. is crestfallen. “Lordy, lordy, this is awful! It’s gray. It’s plain! It’s just like Elsie’s other dress! It seemed so nice in the picture! It seemed like such a bargain. Now she’s got two ugly dresses.” (As you can see, gentle readers, false advertising reared its ugly head as early as 1925.)

This upsets Anna so much that, when she tends to Lady Mary’s toilette, Lady Mary wonders if Anna’s having a miscarriage again. “Oh, no, not yet, m’lady. It’s so much worse. Mrs. Hughes has the ugliest two dresses in creation in which to marry her Prince Charming!”

Lady Mary, wanting her revenge on her mama and wishing to play the grande dame, says, “Well, we can’t have that! Let’s have you, Mrs. Patmore, and Mrs. Hughes rifle through Mama’s closet for a nice designer coat that is worth 10 years of your combined salaries. I’m sure Mama won’t mind.”

But when Lady Cora returns to the Abbey from a meeting about the hospitals, where Violet and Isobel honked for hours like two fighting geese, she is in no frame of mind to think about frocks and coats and weddings, so Lady Mary remains mum when Mum heads straight up the stairs.

When Mama enters her inner sanctum she hits the roof. She sees Elsie in one of her best coats, with other clothes tossed helter skelter on the sacred Crawley bed, and Mrs. P. and Anna attending her as if Elsie was the countess!

“What the ….?!” Lady Cora screeches. “Out of my chambers!”

The servants scurry away, leaving Lady Cora’s coats in a heap and Mrs. Hughes feeling like a naughty child in need of a smack. Lady Cora is livid for this awful business. Lady Mary is livid with her Mama and reminds her that she, Mary, is not the only one suffering from affluenza. This makes Cora feel dreadful for being so churlish to those sweet servants who have worked the sweat off their brows since puberty for practically no pay morning, noon, and night.

Eating humble pie, Cora descends to the servants quarters with a beautiful embroidered coat for Elsie. “My abject apologies,” Mrs. Hughes. “Here’s a coat that cost the earth. Please wear it, keep it, and remember my largesse for the rest of your life.”

Elsie has no words to thank her properly, knowing that she, at 5′ 4,” will never fit into a coat created for a skinny 5′ 8″ aristo, unless Baxter is willing to stay up for the rest of the night to tailor it.

T’was the Night Before the Wedding

Carson, eager to see his bride-to-be, takes a peek into Mrs. Hughes’ parlor.

“Ack! We musn’t see each other tonight!” Mrs. Hughes protests, holding a thick blanket up to her high- necked flannel jammies. She needs another night to adjust to the idea of seeing her lothario naked, and of he seeing her naked, and … oh, goodness, she’s lost her train of thought.

She falls into a fitful sleep, until…

Reception Interruptus

Knock! Knock! “We’ve come to dress the bride!” Baxter and Anna tra-la as they waltz in.

“Well, that a sentence I never thought I’d hear,” says Elsie.

The wedding ceremony is sweet. Everyone is teary eyed, including the viewers.

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Mr. & Mrs. Carson aka Charlie and Elsie. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Mrs. Hughes plain gray dress is beautifully enhanced by Lady Cora’s coat.

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Elsie and Charlie’s wedding. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

The wedding is sweet, the school house is decorated with white paper flags, and the guests are pleased as punch for all of 5 minutes, when Tom and Sybbie arrive to toast the bride and groom. Everyone abandons Charlie and Elsie to rush over to Tom. “I had to go to Boston to figure something out. I learned that Downton is my home and that you are my family.”

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Tom and Sybbie join the festivities

Yeah, well, what a great way to take the spotlight off Elsie and Charlie at their reception, Tom. Harrumph and welcome back.

Music crescendoes. End of Episode 3, which I give 4 out of 5 stars.

My Recaps and Reviews of Season 6

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What awful news! Alan Rickman, one of my favorite actors, has died. He will always be Colonel Brandon, in my estimation. The sort of man that mature women want and marry.

I first met Alan as Hans, a dastardly terrorist in Die Hard. With his steely eyes, he was evil incarnate and more than a match for Bruce Willis’s John McClane – until McClane killed him off.

The next time I saw Alan, he played the vile Sheriff of Notthingham with a mullet in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Alan’s accent was real; Kevin Costner’s most certainly was not.

I then saw Alan as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Swoon. We first encounter him when he sees and hears Marianne sing. I think I fell in love a little with him then.

He then rescues Marianne from the rain. He did not stagger, although Marianne (ahem) was no lightweight. When Marianne lies abed with fever, he begs Elinor for something to do – an occupation, anything, and so he fetches Marianne’s mother, just in time to see her recover from her fever.

Having shown his sterling character, Marianne is able to see Colonel Brandon’s finer qualities and contrast his character to Willoughby’s. Our fine Colonel then gives Marianne a pianoforte and reads to her – perfect husband material.Sigh.

Alan goes on to play Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films and a cheating husband in Love Actually. This scene with Rowan Atkinson is priceless and still keeps me laughing.

A gifted actor, Alan Rickman graced the stage and screen with his talented presence. You are missed, Mr. Rickman. You will be missed. Rest in peace and thank you for the many years of pleasure you have given me. You must away, and we cannot follow you.

Alan Rickman recites Sonnet 130

To view a catalogue of his work, go to IMBD, Alan Rickman

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Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Curious readers. I present to you a poll. Please vote. Please be honest. Curious minds want to know what American audiences think about this last season!

Click on the choices below to take the poll. You may vote for 3 categories: Season 1 plus Season 2 plus Vic.

 

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In the first episode of the sixth season of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary and her doting papa thwarted a scheming hussy, Lady Edith rolled up her sleeves and completed the layout of her first magazine, Carson and Mrs. Hughes contemplated their upcoming nuptials and all that this entailed, and the fate of Bates and his Anna (violin music, please) was resolved. Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen Episode 2, do not continue reading.

Some Talk at Breakfast

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Lady Mary’s exquisite crocheted top at breakfast. I want one.

Our favorite servants are working their fingers to the bone preparing breakfast, including ironing the morning paper free of creases. Our favorite pater familias is in the morning room, reading a letter from Tom. Our favorite ice queen is reading a letter from Rose, who is still in The Hamptons. “She writes she ‘might’ be back in August, but it’s a bit early to say, so she must be pregnant,” says Lady Mary, sleuth extraordinaire.

Our favorite middle daughter is doing nothing as usual, which is largely what this episode is about. Having begun Season 6 with a winning episode, the writers decided to coast on their success and take more tea breaks. This week’s plots are weak tea at best, but I suppose they keep the momentum going well enough for us to tune in for Episode 3.

The earl mentions that he plans to meet with Lady Violet and Mrs. Crawley about the hospital situation without his wife’s knowledge. As a trustee of the hospital, Lady Cora hasn’t a clue that there’s a problem between the two bull-headed women. The earl wants to sort things out before sharing the tiff with Cora and before serious blood is spilled on the carpet. As always, he is clueless about the inner strength of his lady wife.

Carson announces that Mr. Finch has arrived to speak to the agent about the Fat Stock Show. Lady Mary is the new agent, unbeknownst to Mr. Finch. “Have him cool his heels for ten minutes, then let him into the library to await my magnificent presence,” she tells Carson.

Mary’s Meddlesome Meddling

The earl then casually asks Carson about the wedding preparations. For a moment Carson worried that his liege was asking about the wedding night, but then realized that the earl said “date” not mate.

“Slowly, m’lord, but now we have to decide where to hold the reception.”

“Well, here of course!” declares Lady Mary.

“Absolutely. You can use the servants hall and make it look kind of special with decorations from the thrift penny shoppe,” the earl condescends.

“Surely we can do better than that, Papa,” says Mary, thinking of donating some of her wedding decorations, “but we’ll talk about that later, as I must hurry off and think of ways to talk down to Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Carson relays the good news of Lord Grantham’s largesse to his intended, but Mrs. Hughes isn’t enticed with the thought of celebrating her marriage where she has slaved away her youth. This causes some consternation between the two lovebirds, for when it comes to Lady Mary, Mr. Carson can’t say no. Mrs. Hughes remains adamant about holding the reception in the school house, placing Mr. Carson in an awkward position – that of finding his backbone.

Upon hearing of Mrs. Hughes’ unreasonable request, Lady Mary INSISTS that Carson SHALL have the reception at the Abbey. “Just leave Mrs. Hughes to me,” she says, dismissing Carson’s sputtering.

One suspects, however, that Lady Mary will finally meet a rock she can’t crack. It is a bride’s prerogative to totally wreck her own wedding day. If Lady Mary had ever seen an episode of Bridezilla, she’d stay clear of Mrs. Hughes, who is beginning to resemble a N.J. Shore bride-to-be standing her ground.

Meanwhile, Belowstairs.

Mrs. Patmore once again refers to Downton’s financial situation and the need to economize to her staff. “I know it’s cheating, but I think I might get a jar of horseradish.” (What? And not stay up until the wee hours of the morning to make it from scratch? Quelle horreur!) Molesley approaches Mrs. Patmore, wanting to borrow some soda. When she says archly, “Borrow?” he promises to regurgitate it at a later time so she’ll get it back.

Thomas Barrow decides to take the bull by the horns before he is constructively discharged, a lovely American euphemism for fired, much like conscious uncoupling now means divorced. (Don’t you just love PC language?) He goes on an interview for a new job, only to find out that the current situation at the Abbey ain’t all that bad. His new duties as “assistant” butler, should he get the job, would entail being a chauffeur, a footman, and a valet. It would not surprise Thomas if this penny-pinching employer would also ask the new assistant butler to cook, do the garden – why do the whole bleeding household if they had their druthers!

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Anna and Bates. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Poor Bates finds poor Anna crying alone in some dark corner of the servants hall and begs her to cry in his presence from now on.

“After all, we’re married. We share everything, even your barren state. Your tears are my tears. My tears are yours. Both of us can’t even have half a child. We could adopt!”

“No” says Anna. “I want YOUR child, but I can’t bear a child, so we must remain miserable like this forever!” (Violins, please.)

Lady Mary will hear no more caterwauling. She hauls Anna off to London, where the doctor pronounces Anna’s cervix to be incompetent, just like this plot line. ‘Thankfully, Bates has nothing to do with this!’ Anna thinks gratefully. ‘It IS all my fault.’ Anna is of two minds when the doctor discusses a possible solution. ‘Is a fix possible?’ she wonders. ‘Does this mean Mr. Bates and I might be happy? Oh, woe is me! How could we ever bear such good fortune?’

Apparently so, for the next time Bates sees her, she’s full of the joys of spring. Even bouncy, as he observes. Can they both find happiness after all? T’would be a relief for us viewers, n’est ce pas?

The Hospital Situation (Again)

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Lady Cora. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

When asked by Isobel why the largely absent Cora was not present at a meeting, Violet sensibly states, “It doesn’t concern her.” Of course not. Violet is in collusion with the writers, who do not seem to know what to do with a lady, who, as part of her countessing duties, supervises the household of a great estate and should, as the neighborhood’s grande dame, sit on many charitable committees. Perhaps Cora is suffering from the onset of early Alzheimer’s and the writers have failed to inform the viewers of that sad fact. Let’s just say that while Lady Mary is treated like a super woman, what with overseeing the estate, steamrolling her idea of a proper wedding reception venue for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, and finding a solution for poor Anna’s barren state, her mama’s story line might just as well be dead.

As it so happens, there’s still some life left in our disappearing countess. She learns about the secret hospital meetings and attends the next one. Violet gives her the dagger eye, but Cora blithely overlooks her mama-in-law’s express wishes and sides with Isobel, since she’s all for progress. As the season develops, can we hope to see Lady Cora in a meaty story line all her own? Inquisitive minds want to know.

The Fat Stock Show

By now, Mr. Finch had been cooling his heels for quite a while in the Abbey’s library, when Lady Mary strolls in, saying, “I’m sorry, I must be a let-down, Mr. Finch.”

“Not a let-down, my lady, I wouldn’t say that,” says Finch politely, thinking exactly that. He’s come to discuss the fat stock show at Malton with a man, knowing that ladies hate the word “fat” with a passion.

“I don’t want to bother you. We’re really hoping for a decent entry from the Abbey. Who could I talk to?”

“Why, me, of course. Hold onto your hat, Mr. Finch, I’ve replaced Mr. Branson as agent.”

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Mr. Finch learns Lady Mary is the new estate agent

Mr. Finch’s face can barely contain his surprise, but he recovers quickly. “Well, it’s a changing world,” he says slowly.

“I thought the fat stock show was held just before Christmas,” she observes.

“Yes, but this is an experiment.”

Experiment, indeed. Lady Mary assures Mr. Finch that two of Downton’s pigs have shown up well in other fat stock shows and that she would discuss the situation with Mr. Drewe, the pig man.

The Drewes (Violins Please)

Later, Lady Mary, with Lady Cora and little George in tow, visits Mr. Drewe to view his lovely black-and-brown pigs. Little Marigold is also with them. Mr. Drewe asks in a roundabout fashion, “Does Lady Edith know you are here?” It is fraught with meaning, since Lady Mary hasn’t a clue who Marigold is, but Lady Cora does.

As you will recall, last season, Lady Edith, who bore a child, but couldn’t keep her child because it was born out of wedlock, a fact that might RUIN her REPUTATION, gave up her child to be raised by the Drewes. So she remained miserable all through Season 5 as she observed some illiterate farmer’s wife raise her precious babe!

Edith visited the Drewe’s farm on every pretext. “It’s warm, Mrs. Drewe. May I see Marigold?” “It’s raining, Mrs. Drewe, may I shelter Marigold with my umbrella?” “The pigs are rutting, Mrs. Drewe, may I show Marigold how they plow the ground?”

These requests creeped Mrs. Drewe out. Why was this wild-eyed aristocratic woman stalking her beloved adopted child every minute of every blessed day? “Mr. Drewe,” she told her farmer husband, “I cannot stand for that woman to be near our Marigold. Tell her she is no longer welcome. Tell her to go make her own baby.”

Poor Mr. Drewe swallowed hard. If only his Margie knew.

Well, we all know how this tale of woe worked out. After news of Gregson’s death, Lady Edith marched up to the Drewes, Marigold’s birth certificate in hand, to lay claim to her baby. Mrs. Drewe tore the certificate into a million trillion pieces, but this did not stop Edith from absconding with her own child and eventually placing Marigold as her ward in Downton Abbey’s nursery and perpetuating her lie in order to SAVE her REPUTATION.

Mrs. Drewe has been pining for her adopted daughter ever since. So when Lady Mary serenely answers Mr. Drewe’s question, “No, Lady Edith is in London,” it’s with a complete lack of irony.

Then, all of a sudden, Mrs. Drewe shows up at the barn and she sees Marigold. The woman is transfixed. She cannot take her eyes off Marigold. She holds the child, clings to her, and is unable to let go. Lady Cora feels uneasy and begins to form a PLAN. Lady Mary, her thoughts full of prize-winning pigs, is still clueless, the thought of her sister having sex out of wedlock never passing her mind.

“Let her go Margie,” Mr. Drewe says softly. (Ominous violin music, please.)

And here we have it – a cure for Mr. Mason’s seemingly unsolvable dilemma. Daisy feels solely responsible for poor Mr. Mason’s impending homelessness with her outburst at the auction. She asks for an audience with Lady Cora, who, recalling Mrs. Drewe’s intense reaction to Marigold, might or might not have a solution for Mr. Mason. That hint is all Daisy needs to put a dimple in her cheek again, and that’s all the viewers need to become angry. For what have the Drewes actually done to place themselves in such unfair jeopardy in Lady Cora’s eyes, other than to do Lady Edith an enormous favor?

The Malton Show: Let’s All Forget About Emotion

The day of the Malton Show, that muddy little affair, has dawned. Lady Mary is in her element. Today she shall demonstrate to the world her talent for choosing the perfect pig for a competition. The servants have been invited, as well as the family.

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Lady Mary and Mr. Drewe at Malton. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

The little village of Malton (translate Lacock Village) is fairly teeming with people and livestock, and smelling of manure and eau de bête. The Downton pigs are truly magnificent and Lady Mary is awarded first prize. Unfortunately, at the moment of the announcement, all Crawley eyes are upon Mary, not Marigold, who suddenly goes missing.

We know where Marigold is, for Mrs. Drewe was at the event, watching her like a hungry hawk. While Downton’s writers try to build up suspense, there is none. Like the audience, Mr. Drewe knows exactly where Marigold is. And so he heads home and sees his wife in the parlor, rocking the child. “She was bored. They were paying no attention to her, not at all,” Marge says sadly. Mr. Drewe pries Marigold from his grieving wife and places her in Edith’s arms.

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The Drewes with Marigold. Image, courtesy Nick Briggs

As his ladies hie off to the abbey, Lord Grantham stays behind to talk to the stoic farmer. Mr. Drewe promises to look for another tenant farm in the morning. The earl knows how much they owe him and will help him as much as he can. At that moment I blew him a contemptuous raspberry. His tepid offer is worthless. He knows it, we know it, and gracious Mr. Drewe knows it.

The door has closed for one tenant farmer whose family has worked the land for over 100 years, but for another it might open, if Daisy gets her way. As the earl notes, “We made a plan, but we forgot about emotion. It seems unfair. It is for the best.”

Unfair, indeed. This plot development stinks, no porcine pun intended. The Drewes deserved better.

And so we’ve come to another end of another episode, which I rank three out of five stars because of the Drewe/Mason story line. Two down, six more to go, not counting the Christmas special (which will probably have Anna giving birth in a barn to drive home the idea of a miracle baby).

What did you think of this week’s offerings, gentle viewer? Feel free to agree or disagree with me.

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