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
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.
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!
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)
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.”
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.
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.
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.