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