Romance and humor return to Downton Abbey just in time to celebrate Lord Grantham's Birthday.
Downton Abbey - Season 4, Episode 6 Recap
Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 6Credit: Masterpiece Theater
February 2, 2014

The Eternal Love Quadrangle Resolved at Last
Daisy has a crush on Alfred and nothing says love like hot toast. Mr. Carson can fuss all he wants, but Daisy's just happy that Alfred isn't going to the Hotel Ritz in London after all to train as a chef. She gets a bit more time to try to win his affection and, by George, that boy's breakfast toast will be hot.

Alfred and Jimmy both like Ivy, leaving Daisy green with envy. It's hard on an assistant cook when the other girl- who's only a mere kitchen maid mind you- has the attention of the only two available beaus and you're left with Mrs. Pattmore sending you Valentine's out of pity.

Ivy has a lot of respect for Alfred, but respect doesn't get you a date on Friday night. Ivy has definitely fallen for Jimmy's devil-may-care attitude and bad boy wiles. To make matters worse, she's not above flirting with Alfred just to make Jimmy jealous or when either of the footmen glance at Daisy for more than a second.

Sorry Daisy. Nothing gold can stay. One of the wanna be chef's has dropped out of the training course and Alfred really is next in line. See Jimmy, it wasn't a pity notice after all. Tall Ginger's going to London ASAP so as not to miss a minute more of the training course. Mrs. Pattmore prompts her assistant cook to go fill he kettle, giving Daisy a chance to have her cry in the privacy of the kitchen. After all, she made sure his toast was hot, and if that's enough to keep a man, what is?

Alfred has the last word on everything. He makes a touching speech of gratitude to the amusement of the upstairs folk who find public expressions of emotion laughable, especially from their servants, but Mr. Carson is impressed. Back downstairs, everyone, even Ivy, pitches in to get Alfred off to London again, ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Everyone's there to see him off but Daisy. Ivy assures him that he'll do well.

Ivy: "I know you'll get what you want."
Alfred: "Do you? Cuz I don't always."

Ivy should have the grace to look sheepish, but she only manages to look like the cat who swallowed the canary.

Alfred, who has never seemed to notice Daisy much at all, notices that she's not there to say goodbye. "Where's Daisy?" He puts down his suitcase and finds her in the kitchen taking out her angst on some dough with a rolling pin. He pauses, trying to give it one last shot to just leave it all unsaid, but in the end he lays it on the line.

"Daisy, I'm sorry if I've hurt you. You're a good person and you're going to make some man very happy one day, but I'm afraid it were never gonna be me."

Awww. There's no future for Alfred with Ivy. He doesn't love Daisy although he's very fond of her, more than we- or she- ever knew. He has his dream of his being chef, so he may as well chase it. Come to that, there doesn't seem to be much left at Downton for Daisy either. I think assistant cook is as high as she'll ever rise there. Maybe it's time she accepted her dead war-husband's father's offer of running the farm.

And so Daisy let's Alfred go in more ways than one. He's off to London, out of her life and out of her heart. It's an exquisitely fine moment of romance and heartbreak. And just like that Downton is back on track to where it was before the awfulness of Episode Three.

Downton Party Plans
The family have gone ahead with Lady Mary's suggestion and they have planned a surprise party for Lord Grantham. Despite the family's efforts to keep it quiet, Robert lets them know that this particular secret is out - he found out beforehand due to a telephoned RSVP. No bother- he seems happier for having a party to look forward to than he would have been otherwise. Rose let's him know that there still may be a surprise in store and he's pleased that although he knows about the party, he doesn't know everything.

Rose asks Cousin Cora for advice and permission to involve the household staff in her planned surprise for Robert's birthday. They decide that Mrs. Hughes is the best person in the household to keep any secret large or small - and they're right. If Mrs. Hughes chose to open up about all of the Downton secrets she knows, she'd blow the austere roof off the place.

The Estate Taxes Quadrangle
Lady Mary/ New Suitor vs.
Secret Agent Man/ The 99 Percent

Every week there are new players in the fight to keep Downton. Mary's newest suitor is friends with a guy who's taking a look at all the large estates. Is it all right if he brings him along to Downton? The house has rooms for infinite house guests, and Mary really wants to know if they are making the right changes to keep Downton sustainable. Maybe her suitor's friend can help.

As it turns out, suitor's friend is a government assessor, trying to figure out if the large landholders, like Lady Mary and Lord Grantham, are actually the best way to keep the British populace fed. He also doesn't much cotton to the aristocracy's ways, means and lifestyle. It's fine if it works for the people, but if it doesn't, it will have to change. Most of the old estates can't seem to support themselves anyway and maybe it's time to hasten along their demise.

Mary is not at all pleased with the threat this man brings to her way of life. She's grown up in her house, with her servants, changing for dinner and wearing a tiara. Why should any of this change? Especially now that she's not merely living there, but she's actually working in partnership with Robert, Tom and with the tenants to ensure their future and her own. Mary was hoping he was there to help, but this guy wants to know all their weaknesses, not shore up their strengths. Mary is right. There is a traitor in their midst.

Fortunately for her, Secret Agent Man seems to be making the same mistake that so many others have made: underestimating Lady Mary Crawley. He thinks she's an entitled snob who won't put up a fight or work hard for her family. All he sees is a pretty face in a pretty dress. Mary puts her skills at subtly insulting Edith to good use on new target. She finds every acidly polite way in the book to call this interloper a dimwit. It is positively satisfying to see someone else bear the brunt of Mary's sharp wit. Especially someone who deserves it. He doesn't come wearing a bowler hat and mustache, but Secret Agent Man is definitely the enemy. Sorry new suitor. You brought the traitor inside the gates. You'd best keep that proposal in your pocket.

Barrow & Baxter: Secret Spies
Barrow is dead serious when it comes to his new interest in spying on everyone, upstairs and down. It's been plain since the last episode that Thomas helped Baxter get the job as Lady's Maid on condition that she passes any information she hears to him first, foremost and solely.

It really seems quite pointless, even in the interest of saving his own neck from some future unknown calamity. He doesn't work for people who usually hang their servants out to dry. The one time he was in serious trouble, he was given the protection of no less than both His Lordship and Carson. That protection may have been given more to protect the house from scandal, but there was some genuine concern for Barrow there as well.

Baxter isn't really all that keen on spying on the upstairs folk. They may be upper-crust, and on the outset seem snobbish, but underneath she finds they're pretty genuine and treat their servants well. Thomas doesn't care on whit about Baxter's sympathies for Her Ladyship.

"Now listen. What you have to decide is where your first loyalties are. With her, or with me."

All of which begs the question, what goods does Barrow have on our newest Senior Lady's Maid that he can exert such pressure on her? That's a secret I can't wait to find out. At any rate all of Barrow's spying comes to nowt this episode. (I've been working "nowt" into my conversations all week)

Lady Grantham and Mrs. Crawley
I knew young Peg hadn't taken that paper knife!

Mrs. Crawley and the Doctor convinced Lady Grantham to keep young Pegg on, even after a valuable paper knife couldn't be found. But when a small objet d'art also goes missing, Lady Grantham dismisses the naive little under-gardener out of hand.

Mrs. Crawley is MAD. The objet d'art having already been accounted for, she set outs to prove that the paper knife was also a mistake, with a tad bit of drama involving Lady Grantham's Butler, a fake dizzy spell and playing Sherlock Holmes in Violet's sitting room.

Mrs. Crawley does find the paper knife, triumphantly leaving it where Violet will find it. Then she runs off to get the Doctor, to help her fight to get Pegg's job back.

Mrs. Crawley and the Doctor arrive to find that Pegg has already been rehired, complete with a whole-hearted apology from Lady Grantham who is not above saying she's sorry to a mere servant. Pegg is summoned in his stocking feet to Her Ladyship's sitting room to confirm that he's forgiven her. Awww.

A bit of the wind has been taken out of Mrs. Crawley's indignant sails. Violet knew the minute she saw the paper knife that she was going to get an extra angry visit from her Downton BFF and pulls off the whole prank nicely. The Doctor declares "game, set, match" to Lady Grantham.

I still love Alan Rickman Professor Snape School of Acting Lady Grantham's Butler! He is hilarious.

Downton Date Night
Lord and Lady Grantham have been invited out to a "frightful hotel" to dine with friends. One couple's frightful is another couple's fancy and expensive evening out. Mr. and Mrs. Bates will be dining there as well.

Jimmy and Ivy will be going out tonight as well, although the Hotel Netherby is beyond the means of a footman and a kitchen maid. They'll be taking in a common night at the cinema and later sparking on a bench on the Downton grounds.

Sounds like Date Night at Downton!

Once upon a time Anna was raped setting off a firestorm of intercontinental upset and violent assault memories.

Anna feels their whole marriage is overshadowed by the knowledge of her rape. Mr. Bates is worried that he just hasn't done enough to show her that having been raped doesn't make her any less wonderful to him. Could they please just rip my heart out of my chest already?

Anna decides that they should make some new memories and Mr. Bates jumps on board. If anybody needs an evening out, it's these two.

It doesn't help that their date night is nearly ruined by a snobby hotel dining room manager who can't abide the idea of these two commoners eating in the same room and in the lofty presence of Lady Grantham. He takes great pleasure in "losing" their reservation and nearly turns them away.

Little does snobby manager guy know that these two people hang out with Lady Grantham every day. Maybe not as her guests, but they certainly know her better than snobby manager guy. Just as they're claiming to know her and snobby manager guy climbs on his high horse- Oho, I just bet you know Lady Grantham- who should come over to greet Mr. and Mrs. Bates but Her Ladyship.

Lady Grantham has an eye and an ear for trouble. She sees that things are tense between Anna and Bates and stops by their table on the pretense of making sure that snobby manager guy hasn't upset them. Bates and Anna were about to have yet another tense conversation about her assault, and honestly, this is neither the time or place. It's their date night and they're supposed to be having an evening where they try not to think or talk about rape. Cora's intrusion is either badly or wonderfully timed depending on whether you wanted to hear Anna and Mr. Bates have this out, or whether you wanted them to have one nice evening after all they have suffered.

We later learn that Cora has overheard part of their conversation and is very concerned. However she does not mention it then and even better, she doesn't give them a chance to brood over whatever is wrong. She insists that they join her party out on the terrace. It's a bonus that she gets another chance to make snobby manager guy bow and scrape, even going so far as to making him fetch the Bate's coats.

I love Cora more in this moment than I have in the entire series and that's saying something, because she is a very loveable character. It's a reminder that, although she lives at the top of the British class structure, she's still an American at heart and hasn't forgotten her roots. It also explains something that people constantly complain about in this series: Why the relationship between those upstairs and downstairs is cozier than the time period allows and isn't as realistic as some think it should be. The housekeeping reflects the attitudes of the Lady of the House who, appropriately, deals with household matters. It makes sense that there are some lingering American ideals and sentiment that recognize and respect class boundaries, but give a bit more latitude than a lady born into the British Aristocracy might allow.

The Ivy and Jimmy date night starts out pretty well. After the cinema, they stop for a talk and a proper snog or two on a park bench. It's a nice end to a good date that takes a wrong turn when Jimmy tries to reach up Ivy's skirt.

Ivy is shocked, I tell you, shocked! How dare he even think she's that kind of girl. Jimmy's less worried about what kind of girl she is. He makes the mistake that, as Mrs. Pattmore points out, men have making "since the Norman conquest."

Jimmy: "I've been good to you Ivy. I've been polite. I've taken you to the theater, to the cinema. I've never been that nice to any girl before."

Ivy: "Am I supposed to feel lucky?"

Jimmy: "It's dishonest to grab a bloke for what he can offer without giving him nothing in return I don't think it's playing the game."

Dead Matthew's phonograph record scratch. What the hell? Jimmy thinks because he's taken Ivy out on a few dates that she should repay him with sex. No fellows, women don't owe you sex, no matter how much you spend on them, no matter what era it is.

Ivy is not about that life. She let's Jimmy know that she is not playing his "game "and stalks into Downton to tell her troubles to Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Pattmore while Daisy glowers in the background.

Ivy is genuinely shocked but she goes a step to far in playing her wounded maiden act.

"Alfred would never have done such a thing. He had too much respect."

Daisy lets Ivy have it. She blames Ivy for not only driving Alfred away but also for not caring enough about him when she had the chance. Lamenting over him once he's already left adds insult to injury. Ivy pretends not to understand why Daisy is so upset but no so fast young lady. Even though Mrs. Hughes is concerned about Jimmy's behavior, she's not letting Ivy off the hook where Daisy is concerned. After all, Ivy did flaunt her two beaus to Daisy's none in Daisy's face for quite some time.

"Oh, I'd say it's about the fact that you had it coming."

Mrs. Pattmore and I both agree.

Lady Edith Plus One
Michael Gregson - aka Edith's Shady boyfriend- is nowhere to be found. Not in London, not in Munich, I mean nowhere. Edith hasn't received any messages from him, not so much as a telephone call. She's worried he may be dead. She's also pregnant with his child.

Cora seeing Edith with a letter thinks she might have finally gotten word from Gregson. It's nothing, Edith sighs. It's only a letter confirming that she is definitely in the first trimester of pregnancy. Ah, so that's why she went up to London in a baggy coat last time. To see a doctor.

Lord Grantham finds her crying and offers to search for Shady Boyfriend, but Edith says that his office already has detectives out looking for him.

I don't believe this is happening anymore than Edith does. If Lady Rosamunde gave her a talking to just because she came home in the wee hours of the morning, I can't wait to hear what she's going to say about this. The previews for next week seem to promise we're going to find out exactly what Lady Rosamunde is going to say about this. Oh boy. Or girl. Good lord, Edith is pregnant.

The Lucky Ones
Just before the birthday party Tom, Mrs. Crawley and Mary pop into the nursery to see the adorable Downtn children. They have a lovely moment where they all share how they felt when they fell in love. Downton takes a wink and nod at itself by recalling that even though Mary's proposal was in the snow, she didn't bother to wear a coat. But she wasn't cold – she had her love to keep her warm. Even though each of them has been through the grief of having love snatched by death, Mrs. Crawley declares, “Well, we're the lucky ones, aren't we.” Better to have loved and lost and all that. It's a very poignant and unexpected moment, especially for Mary. I really didn't expect her to join in this conversation, but it's lovely that she does and maybe, just maybe, she's found two people who can see her being vulnerable and she doesn't mind.

Jack Ross Shows Up and Shocks all the White People. I about die laughing every time someone is shocked to see Jack. This is the funniest Downton has ever been.
If you can't be with the black band leader you love, hire the band he sings with for your rich uncle's party.

Lady Rose has hired a dance band from a London night club, The Lotus, to play after Lord Grantham's birthday dinner as a surprise present. That's right. Jack Ross's band. Cora knows that a surprise is coming, but she has no idea what it is. She's mollified, however, by the fact that Rose is confiding her secret to Mrs. Hughes, so it can't be all bad.

I admire the hell out of Jack Ross and the actor who plays him, Garry Carr. I suppose it's not hard for him to imagine, because all black folks have been there; but it is very interesting, for me anyway, to watch someone play out, on screen, the bravado that comes with facing down a room full of white folks who go into shocked panic mode because they just aren't expecting to see a single black person at all. I barely manage it sometimes in 2014 America. He's doing it in 1920's Yorkshire.

First Jack meets the kitchen staff. Lady Rose descends to the kitchens to finally let the rest of the house staff in on the secret and to ask them to please see to the needs of the band as they'll be staying at the house. They'll need beds, food, and all the help the staff can give to get them into place quietly while the family's at dinner.

Lady Rose knows a London jazz band may not be the kitchen staff's cup of tea but she asks them to keep an open mind and just be helpful. Carson's going on about how they're country folk, but it's not like none of them have ever seen a city before and just about then Black Jack Ross walks in the back door of Downton, causing everyone's jaw to drop and Carson to rattle his teacup.

Lady Rose makes introductions, shakes Jacks Ross' hand and well kthanxbye, she skedaddles back upstairs to dress for dinner.

Carson gets another shock when two random housemaids drop by the kitchens to wink and wave at the handsome Jack Ross before they scamper off giggling. Carson, hell bent on picking the worst possible topics, decides to talk to Jack about Africa, slavery, freedom and any other awkward and uncomfortable comment he can make to a black man's face. Mrs. Hughes finally gets him to change the subject.

Started from the bottom now we're here. It's the moment of truth and it's time for Rose to spring her surprise on the family and their guests. They won't be dividing up into the usual men-in-the-drawing-room, ladies-in-the parlor fuddy-duddy-dom tonight. No siree. The band strikes up in the foyer while everyone in the dining room lights up with smiles. Happy Birthday Cousin Robert! Rose grabs her uncle's hand and pulls him out to see the band.

Lord Grantham can't believe his eyes. Cora can't believe her eyes. Mary has already seen this spectacle once so she isn't quite as shocked but still, this is her own house. Besides she has bigger fish to fry. Where's that government guy again?

This is just one change too far for Edith, who is already dealing with a changing life and changing body, but no one else knows this yet. It's left to her to ask the obvious questions.

"Who is this singer and how did he get here?
Is really suitable that Rose has brought
Isn't it quite...odd?"

The Dowager really is at her awesome best, even when shocked to her core. She deals with prostitutes over pudding and black jazz band leaders with finest aplomb. Provincialism is not cool. It's best to take change in stride. She tells Edith to let some her of her London life rub off on her. Oh, it's rubbed off all right.

Still, it's all down to Lord Grantham really. Everyone is looking to him to see what to do and how to react.

Jack Ross knows what he's up against, after all, he does this all the time. He gets to sing the line "He's sweet just like chocolate candy," as the band plays on. See, I'm harmless, Jack smiles and keeps on singing. It's as brave as any war scene and as terrifying as any near prison hanging as far as Downton goes.

It all hangs in the balance and then, as always, Robert accepts the situation with grace, equanimity and and the sensibility that always avoids causing a scene.

"I think it's fun."

Yay! Black people are fun! Everybody dance! I'm so happy. I am dying laughing watching this. It's so like my job interview last Wednesday, I can't help it. I'm shrieking with laughter.

Then there's the part where Lady Rose is kissing Jack Ross in the kitchens and gets busted by Lady Mary.

Lady Mary is right. Matthew changed her. Once upon a time, she would have dragged Rose out of that kitchen and up the stairs to her room by her hair. But this Lady Mary has memories of her own indiscretions with the late Pamuk and the memory of a love that bridges death itself.

Still, the look on Lady Mary's face is death warmed over after she delivers the message to Jack Ross that he is to send the bill for his band's performance to her father. She glances at Rose, glances at Jack and slowly turns and climbs the stairs, leaving Rose to deal with Jack on her own.

Well, as Mrs. Crawley tells Tom Branson and the rest of us who were so angry and ready to quit Downton over Anna's rape:

Things can happen at Downton that no one imagined, even a few years ago. Take heart from that, before you throw in the towel.

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