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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“Bubble and squeak.”
“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
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.
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.
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.
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!’
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.”
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.
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?”
Sprat 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’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
“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.”
“Bad Harvest,” says Anna, not wanting to spoil her good luck.
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!”
“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:
- Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 1
- Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 2
- Downton Abbey Poll, Ep 1 & 2
- Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 3
- Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 4