Lords and ladies,
We bid you welcome to our weekly blog, Downton Abbey Devotees. We would be remiss if we did not caution that Downton Abbey secrets, even gossip, will be revealed in the writing below. We are concerned that the revelations may trigger a splenic attack for those unfortunates who haven’t seen the new episodes. Perhaps they should depart forthwith?
Patricia: Vengeful Thomas is back! He’s had a few shining moments this season, but this episode features the under-butler’s snark, in top form.
Denker has had it too easy. Spratt isn’t worthy of her devious talents and her victories over his petty attempts to blacken her reputation has softened her edges. Since she’s not often in the big house, she likely has no clue that crossing Thomas should be avoided at all costs. Oh, dear. While in London for the wedding of Rose and Atticus, she takes Andy, the temporary-hire footman, out for nights on the town, and in exchange for free drinks at a bar, arranges for him to be cleaned out at the gambling tables. Thomas’s settling of the score is absolutely delicious.
Genna: This is the big wedding! And the really nasty-to-the-core Lady Flincher (Susan, Rose’s mother) is dead set on doing anything in her power to prevent her daughter from marrying that dashing young Jew, Atticus Aldridge. So she cooks up a terrible, awful idea to frame him as a cheater, carouser and common whore-monger by paying, in Mary’s words, “a tart of some kind” to molest him during his stag party and have the whole thing photographed. Then she mails the pictures to Rose. Some mother. Evil award for Susan.
Now, it’s too easy to forget the historical context here. Revulsion of Jews was considered proper and natural at the time. It wasn’t until after Hitler and his ilk came along that anti-Semitism became unacceptable in polite society. But Susan was mean-spirited on top of all that. Blessedly, her plan didn’t work. Rose didn’t fall for it. Susan’s work was sloppy. She left evidence in her chequebook,which her estranged husband, Lord Flincher (Shrimpy) found. Shrimpy threatened to spill the beans if Susan tried any more shenanigans.
But evil Susan didn’t listen. Oh, no. She made a last-ditch effort to derail the celebration. At the hall where the marriage was about to take place, she loudly announces that she and Lord Flincher are getting a divorce—a scandal that would be all over the papers at the time—hoping that will be enough to turn the Sinderbys off the family for good and force Atticus to bail from the wedding. No dice. That’s because Atticus is the best.
Quote of the episode: At dinner, sniping at the Aldridges’ Jewish faith, the anti-Semitic Susan asks, “Do you find it difficult to get staff?”
“Not really. But then, we’re Jewish, so we pay well,” is the cool response of Lady Sinderby.
Patricia: When Shrimpy confronts Susan, she mentions “the children.” Does Rose have siblings? Why haven’t we seen them?
Genna: They’re mentioned briefly in earlier seasons. There are three children in the family: Rose, James and Annabelle.
Patricia: And yes, Genna, my opinion of Ephraim Atticus Aldridge is improving, especially when he completely shut down that prostitute, paid by Susan to destroy the wedding.
And how about the Crawleys closing ranks around Rose when she gets those incriminating pictures of that Atticus/prostitute set-up? They don’t believe the ruse for a second, and expose the set-up. They believe it was Lord Sinderby who is trying to ruin the wedding, but we all know the evil party is a member of the Crawley clan (Susan is Robert’s cousin).
I love that they were at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. I went there with a friend in 2012 during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the most delicious cocktails honouring the Queen’s 60 years on the throne. (My story, with slightly off-centre pictures, is here).
Genna: That restaurant scene was magical. And the real-life venue itself couldn’t be more authentically English. The menu, even today, includes the phrase “game birds may contain lead shot.”
Patricia: Did you catch that reference between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes about whether they’d run into O’Brien in London? I’d forgotten she’d left Downton to work for Susan in India. Well, she’s always been one who lands on her feet. She’s staying in India, working for the wife of the new governor. Drat. I’d have loved seeing O’Brien and Thomas conniving. I miss her.
And belts are certainly being tightened. There will be no permanent housekeeper at Grantham House, Mrs. Hughes has have to do it all. “Another clang in the march of time,” moans Mrs. Patmore.
Genna: Speaking of the march of time, I got so excited there when Daisy made her plans to be a modern girl after all, break away from Downton and get a proper job in London. Six minutes later my hopes were dashed. I guess she decided her father-in-law would miss her too much. I’m holding out hope for some epic Daisy adventures in the Christmas special.
Patricia: The servants take in some culture: Moseley and Baxter take Daisy to my favourite museum in London, the Wallace Collection. It is truly the most extraordinary museum, tucked behind Selfridges. Built up by generations of obscenely wealthy aristocrats, it was given to the nation on the condition that the collection not leave the building. It’s quirky, free, and after you’ve soaked up all the culture, have a tea and cake in the atrium. It’s cheaper than any you’ll find on the Oxford strip, and much more yummy. I can’t face the dreary Anna/Bates murder plot. Are you interested, Genna, or should we just pretend those minutes aren’t wasted time that could be better spent letting Thomas get into much more mischief?
Genna: Suffice it to say, Anna has been arrested. My favourite part of that scene was Mary’s outrage at the bobby’s refusal to address her as “m’lady.” If you’re as interested in the history of British class distinction (and who isn’t!?), check out this lovely little documentary series, The Real Downton Abbey. It recounts how domestic service, once the dominant form of labour in Britain, took a dramatic dive in the 20th century, largely taking that frou-frou form of address (m’lady, m’lord, etc.) with it.
I have to ask, Patricia: is it possible they’re dragging this murder plot out so much because one 0f the Bateses actually did it? I’ve never really thought about it before, and I don’t really think so (Anna wouldn’t be so worried about her husband being implicated if she knew she did the deed herself), but I’m starting to believe that we’re being strung along in service of a huge twist at the end. Otherwise, I’ll have to agree with Mr. Bates: “We hoped this was over.”
Next time: This season seems to have flown by. It’s no season 1 (that’s the gold standard) but much better than the last few years. Usually Downton‘s last episode of the season, called the Christmas Special because it airs in Britain on Dec. 25, is a letdown, puffed up with preposterous plots and travel. Remember that mystery involving the Prince of Wales’s letters? (Genna’s note: It won’t suck this time. It will have Atticus.) And this time is going to be Tom Branson’s last Christmas before he leaves for America. “A dagger through my heart,” is Mary’s reaction. Us, too. Now that everyone but Mary knows about Edith’s love child, will there be a big blow-up about it at Christmas? (I’m assuming Tom, like Mrs. Hughes, can count to nine, and already knows baby Marigold’s real identity.)