While the Crawley Family may maintain their face to the outer world, the modern world is looming with a vengeance and has Downton Abbey surrounded.
Everything new is old again. In this day and age we sometimes seem to think that we are the only generation to deal with interracial relationships, unwed mothers, abortion clinics, absent fathers, financial crises and trying to budget every penny. Not so, Downton is steeped in these issues and more.
The very first episode of Downton Abbey began with someone tapping out a telegram to the Crowley family, informing them that their sole heir to the estate had been lost in the Titanic disaster. This episode begins with a telegraph tapping and my heart sank with apprehension. Although Western Union delivered their last telegram in 2006, I have never actually seen one delivered; but I now have an inkling of the apprehension that the urgency of a telegram must have signified.
The telegram isn't good news, but no one has died. It's an urgent request for Lord Grantham to travel to our side of the pond to deal with a financial crisis involving his wife's family. Cora's brother has invested in some oil scheme or another and seems to need the backing of an English Earl to impress his American investors.
When commoners go off on a trip, we decide what to pack. When the Crawley family takes a trip, they decide which servant will tag along and pack for them. The housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, asks Lady Mary to convince Lord Grantham to leave his valet, Mr. Bates at home this trip. All convoluted plots like this always begin with Mrs. Hughes.
Mr. Bates and Anna are managing to hold on to their relationship after the devastation of her rape. A trip to America would separate them at a time when Anna is still too fragile to manage on her own, without the solid support her husband has been. Mr. Bates really has been there for Anna. No one could have been more kind, more loving or understanding to a wife so violently traumatized. Anna keeps a stiff upper lip in front of her husband when she finds out he's to leave, but she breaks down and sobs when she's on her own. Her gratitude is palpable when she learns that an ocean won't separate them after all. Thomas Barrow will be taking her husband's place. Mr. Bates is a wonderful husband who genuinely believes that forgoing a trip to America is a small price to pay for not having to leave his wife alone.
It's not enough for Thomas Barrow to get an unexpected trip to America. He has to take one last moment to admonish Baxter to keep up the spying while he's gone. He especially wants to know why he's going instead of Bates. Poor Thomas. The one almost friend he has in this series is Anna. When he inevitably finds out what happened, he's going to be sorry he ever wanted to know.
There's no time to lose and the family gathers, Dowager and all, to see Lord Grantham off. Cora and Robert each have their own official quarters but they love each other enough that they unconventionally share a bedroom. Despite this, we rarely see PDA's with these two, so it's a rare sight to see Cora kiss Robert goodbye. It's a nod to the tragedy of the last ocean crossing that Robert says a personal goodbye to his mother, his niece and both of his daughters.
No sooner than we get a telegram (stop it with telegrams already) saying that Robert and Barrow have launched successfully, the Dowager's mild cough turns into a fever and bronchitis. Fortunately for Violet, her Downton BFF, Mrs Crowley watches her like a hawk and just happens to be a trained nurse. Before the episode ends, the fever is gone, the Dowager is sitting up, munching on tea and toast and croaking one liners between coughs. Whew. Violet's not getting any younger and I thought she'd bought it that time. Not to worry. These two wind up playing gin rummy like the DBFF's they were always meant to be.
Lord Grantham and Barrow's departure also happens on the day that the pigs have arrived. The pigs represent the fact that Crawley's are real farmers now, no longer content to just spend whatever money from the rents their tenants happen to pay, if they pay at all. Robert, Mary and Tom have taken on the serious responsibility of making Downton a going concern that is self-sustaining; not just another estate that falls to ruin for lack of will to evolve in a changing world.
Lady Edith is at her wits end as to what to do about her unwed, unplanned and shocking pregnancy. Michael Gregson -aka- Shady Boyfriend, is still missing. He checked into his hotel in Munich, went out to dinner and hasn't been seen since. She finally takes another trip up to London, which her mother assumes is just to get more info on Shady Boyfriend, but it's not. Edith has decided to terminate her pregnancy.
Everyone has noticed that Edith is sadder than usual but they all chalk it up to her missing suitor. Aunt Lady Rosamunde to the rescue. Edith breaks down and confides her secret to her father's sister. Lady Rosamunde is shocked but she decides that she will help Edith do whatever she feels needs to be done. If that means a visit to a 1920's version of an abortion clinic, so be it, that's where they're headed.
But when they get there, Edith has a change of heart. She knows that she can't bring her child to reside in the nursery along Lady Sibby and Master George but she doesn't have the heart for an abortion either. In a startling turn around, she decides to go home and somehow find the courage to finally tell her mother that she's having a baby.
Rose accompanied Edith to London for a secret rendezvous with the charming and ever-handsome Jack Ross. It turns into an all-nighter, but it's just all fun, dancing and smooching for these two, no baby worries there. She wants to meet up with him again and protests heading back to Downton sooner than planned. Sorry for Rose's luck, there's a new Edith in town. Lady Rosamunde cosigns Edith's new attitude and they send Rose off packing, literally. Don't mess with Edith right now girl. She is pregnant and she is not taking anyone's crap.
The Eternal Love Quadrangle has been reduced to The Bitter Sniping Triangle
Jimmy, not living in an era with the benefit of Ice Cube's advice, didn't know to check himself before he wrecked himself. He pushed up on Ivy a little too hard and she is completely unforgiving, as well she should be. It can not be said enough in any era: No girl owes a fellow sex for taking her out on a date. At any rate, Jimmy is completely out of the running for the kitchen maids. He'll have to find some girl in the village now.
Ivy, having unmasked Jimmy as a player, suddenly decides that Alfred is a gentlemen worth her time. Daisy's all like, back off beyotch. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Pattmore are sick of their sniping. What's more, they know it will only get worse when Alfred writes that he's coming home for a visit to his father and plans to stop into the kitchens to say a word to his old friends.
Mrs. Hughes convinces Carson to make up an excuse to keep Alfred away. Tell him we have the flu, tell him we're dead, tell him Downton burned to the ground, just don't let him get within sight of the feuding kitchen maids. All their planning and extra expense putting Alfred up at the pub come to nowt. (Yay, I got to use nowt again!) Alfred does stop by on his way back to the Ritz and it's plain to see that he enjoys Ivy's new appreciation for our Tall Ginger Chef-In-Training. If Ivy doesn't watch out, Daisy just might choke her with Ivy's own apron strings.
A day at Downton is not complete without dinner but the only family in residence tonight are Cora and Mary, although they have several visitors.
First there's Mr. Napier, who at first glance, seems to be one of many interchangeable suitors for Mary but he's been around for quite some time. If you're following closely
- He's the one who liked Mary first
- He's the one who brought his friend Pamuk to Downton
- He's the one who informed Mary that it was Edith who spread the rumors about Pamuk being in Mary's bed when he died
Mr. Napier brought Mr. Blake, "the traitor in our midst" to Downton.
- Mr. Blake and Mr. Napier are working on a government project evaluating large estates
- Mr. Blake is the one who thinks estates like Downton have outlived their usefulness
- Mr. Blake thinks that Mary won't work hard or fight to save her home.
The final guest for dinner is none other than Lord Gillingham and he's brought his valet Mr. Green back to Downton with him. Mr. Green who raped Anna.
The nightmare has returned in larger proportion. Mrs. Hughes and Anna just barely managed to convince Bates that Mr. Green wasn't the one who raped her. And it's a chance conversation over dinner where Anna is forced to sit directly across from Mr. Green, that let's Mr. Bates know otherwise.
Mr. Green is a dead man. I don't when, I don't know where, I don't know how. But if there were ever a dead man walking, it's Mr. Green.
Mrs. Hughes, in a move that is totally bad ass but also totally stupid, confronts Mr. Green on her own. It's like the telegram all over again. She walks in a room with a man she knows to be a violent rapist, closes the door behind her and tells him off. She also tells him that if he values his life, he'll mind himself while he's at Downton.
I'm not sure who to be more afraid of: Mr. Green, Mr. Bates or Mrs. Hughes. I thought Mr. Bates was going to kill Mr. Green, but if he turns up with an axe in his back and Mrs. Hughes did it, I won't be one whit surprised. She hasn't been this pissed since Braithwaite tried to blackmail Tom Branson. At the time Mrs. Hughes threatened to hold Braithwaite down and tear the clothes off her body. I thought she was selling wolf tickets. Now? I'm not so sure.
At any rate, it seems the murder mystery game is afoot. The foreshadowing is so thick you can cut it, or Mr. Green, with a knife. Mr. Green is probably going to die.
Speaking of dying, are those pigs dying of dehydration? Where the hell is the pig-man they've hired to mind the livestock. You know, the livestock that represent the future of no less than Downton itself? How did the pigs manage to kick over the water trough anyway?
Never mind, it's a good thing Mr. Blake convinced Mary to take that long walk down to the pig paddock or they'd never have got our porcine friends water in time. No one comes looking for them, assuming that Mary needs a husband and maybe she's chosen Mr. Blake. Without a car or any servants in sight, there's no one to summon and there's no time to lose. Those pigs need water. There's nothing for it but to do the work themselves.
They tramp through the mud over and over again. We see that you can put Michelle Dockery in a best dress and throw pig sh*t at her and she's still going to be the loveliest woman in the room. And if you're really lucky, she'll scramble you an egg afterward.
So, Downton's eggs and bacon, literally, have been saved yet another night. The future assured for now, we can all try to figure out just where in the world Lady Mary learned to scramble eggs.
I bet it was Carson who taught to Mary scramble eggs. There is no one else who could.