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: The Sinderby family (Atticus and his parents) comes to Downton, just in time to see the house in the midst of a crisis. It’s all hands on deck for the Crawley women. Lady Edith has fled with little Marigold. The secret just can’t be contained any longer. It’s so much of a crisis that the dowager countess is going to have to tell her daughter-in-law the truth, otherwise she’d never forgive them once she finds out. And Robert? “He’s a man. Men don’t have rights.”
“What tipped her over the edge,” asks a clearly peeved Cora once she’s informed. Oh, just that they were insisting on sending Marigold away to a French boarding school. Naturally, Mary, baffled as to all the family angst, is at her snippy best. “Why do we care. She’s gone to London, that’s all.”
It’s Cora who comes up with a solution: to have it put about that the Drews won’t be able to afford caring for their adopted daughter, and since Edith has formed an attachment, she’ll take over the child, and move Marigold into the Downton nursery.
Genna: I’d like to draw everyone’s eyes to the neat little bit of plot trickery that allowed this to be solved so nicely. As I predicted, Lord Grantham’s dog Isis wasn’t long for this world. Her demise was a classic Downton disaster with convenient plot-advancing attributes. What can help a quarreling earl and lady mend fences better than a dying dog? And what more convenient means could there be for Edith to distract her father long enough for her to sneak her love child into the Downton nursery right under his nose? One case of canine cancer is all it takes!
In case you needed more evidence that the family holds Edith in particularly low regard, notice that they entertained the notion of cancelling a dinner because the dog was dying, but immediately dismissed the proposal to postpone a party because their middle daughter was M.I.A.
Far too many people know Edith’s secret now. It’s definitely going to blow up. The Drew’s hand-off of Marigold didn’t go perfectly smoothly; Anna saw it go down. And because nobody at Downton has ever had any discretion, she goes directly to Mr.s Hughes and tattles about it. Mrs. Hughes, apparently, is the only member of the Downton cast who can actually count to nine and had an idea what Edith was doing in Switzerland for all those months. She urges Anna to keep quiet. Remember, Mrs Hughes has dealt with this kind of situation before, when one of the housemaids, Ethel, got pregnant by an officer recovering at Downton during the war. I’m reminded of Mrs.Hughes admonition at that time, when she discovered Ethel and the officer together: “I may not be a woman of the world, but I am not a fool!” Clearly, she’s still not.
Oh, and Patricia, am I to understand that you’ve had a change of heart when it comes to Lady Rose? She’s awesome, right?
Patricia: Familiarity does make the heart grow fonder. Before now, Atticus Aldridge was a cypher. Genna may have fallen head over heels for him, but I wasn’t immediately convinced. What’s the attraction in the handsome banker (who’s based in London)? (Genna: dashing, funny, polite, bold, open-minded, just the slightest bit awkward, gallant, handsome and did I mention dashing?)
Like all of Lady Rose’s love interests, he has an obstacle to overcome, this time it’s that the character is Jewish; his family fled Russia during the pograms of the 1800s. Lord Sinderby clearly doesn’t approve of Rose as he doesn’t want Atticus to marry out of the faith. Being Jewish in Yorkshire in the 1920s wasn’t the easiest of circumstances, even for a family that is fabulously wealthy. “We both know what we are up against. Happily we are used to it,” Lady Sinderby tells the earl, who reveals that Cora’s father is Jewish. Had she mentioned it before? I’ve no memory. Genna?
Genna: Yes, earlier this season Cora told boring art dealer what’s-his-name that she came to make a match in England hoping that some young noble would be willing to overlook her Jewish parentage in exchange for her fortune. And careful listeners will have long ago noted her quintessentially Jewish maiden surname, Levinson.
Patricia: This was the episode that changed my mind. First, it’s Atticus who has asks whether anyone’s asked about Edith’s whereabouts at Gregson’s publishing house. I like his look of bemusement when Lady Rose labels his “rather obvious” idea as brilliant. His engagement proposal is totally romantic—even if it’s stuck in a hallway—and I appreciate his eager excitement. See, Genna, I like him.
Here is my reluctant, pro forma Anna/Bates murder update: Mrs. Hughes and Mary have a confab about destroying his return train ticket, in the front hall, where anyone can overhear. Of course Baxter is there. Oh, what will she do, I ask sarcastically? “We can dare to plan our future together?” Anna asks. Dum dum dum, I can hear the ominous music building.
On the slightly less annoying front: Charles engineers a “resolution” to convince Gillingham that Mary doesn’t love him. Before Mary can again fall for Charles, he’s off to Poland on some sort of tour.
Is it just me or does every servant now own property? Mrs. Patmore is buying a cottage, Daisy will inherit her father-in-law’s farm, Carson and Mrs. Hughes are thinking of buying a property, and now Anna and Bates are having tenant issues with his London property. As Mrs. Hughes says, the future isn’t as settled as it once was.
Genna: Mr. Carson: *suggestive eyebrow waggle* “Do you want to, ahem, invest in a property together?” Omg, I think Carson has a plan…
I think I’ve put my finger on why the Bates murder plot sucks so very, very badly. We never get any new information; no delightful trail of breadcrumbs to follow. We’re no nearer to having any real idea who killed the dastardly Mr. Green than we did on the day he bit it. When Vera Bates was the victim, we got too see flashbacks of her in the kitchen with the fateful poison pastry crust. Here, nada. There’s no way to spin theories about Mr. Green’s demise — the best part, of course — because there’s absolutely nothing to go on.
On the flip-side, we got a trifle too much to go on when it comes to Lord Merton’s obnoxious spawn of Satan sons, who were invited to dinner at Downton. Lord Merton’s eldest is an intolerable snob (full back story of his earlier spat with Branson here). Also, his name is Dickie. God, these toffs and their preposterous nicknames. Dickie. Shrimpy. What next, Sneezy?
During the first half of the episode, I think six or seven different people must have said, “I hope he doesn’t make trouble again,” “I hope Dickie behaves himself this time,” “Hopefully Dickie isn’t rude!” And hmm, what do you think happened?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We must explain the grand occasion that led the brothers Merton to be invited to Downton.
Patricia: The best news of the episode: “Lord Merton and I have decided that we should get married,” Isobel Crawley announces. Granny is worried. Trust Mary to get the truth out of her. It isn’t envy over the switch in positions—she’s a widow in a dower house, Isobel will be a grand lady at the heart of society—but rather the knowledge that she’s losing a confidante, a friend, whom she’s come to depend on. Since she won’t cry in company, I sniffed into a tissue for her.
And can I punch Lord Merton’s children? Or push them down a flight of stairs? They are truly vile creatures. Lord Merton stands up for Isobel, but I fear the damage is done.
If that’s not enough angst, then the episode ends with the two-tissue death of Robert’s labrador, Isis. I’ll miss her bum waggle.
Line of the episode: “My dear, a lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears,” says the dowager countess, as she admonishes Mary’s waspish attitude. (Genna: I’m partial to Mary’s most cutting remark of the episode, “Why the song and dance? Edith’s gone away, so what?”)
Best exchange of the episode: “How can you imagine I’ll ever trust you again?” Cora tells her mother-in-law. “She doesn’t mean it, Mama,” Rosamund says. “On the contrary, it’s the most honest thing she’s ever said to me,” replies the dowager countess.
What’s next: Drat—likely more Anna/Bates murder. And what will happen when Rose and Atticus announce their engagement? Will Isobel and Lord Merton break up? And will we get a new puppy to fill the Isis-shaped chasm in our hearts?