Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Downton Abbey Series 4, Part 4

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This week's installment of Downton Abbey was a vast improvement over last week's "filler" episode. Here we are actually treated to what felt like some forward momentum on several storyline fronts, not the least of which is Anna (Joanne Froggatt) taking some steps toward healing and recovery in the wake of the vicious assault that occurred during the houseparty weekend. Stuff happens this hour, people! At a fast pace, no less!

With Edna's absence (THANK GOODNESS), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) was once again without a lady's maid -- a position that has now been filled thanks to Thomas's (Rob James-Collier) recommendation of some random woman named Baxter (Raquel Cassidy). Baxter, shockingly, seems really nice (she gives Cora ORANGE JUICE with her breakfast, which brings on a bout of the I MISS AMERICA FEELS), and is a total whiz with a sewing machine. If you've seen Land Girls, Baxter's face may be familiar as she was featured in that show's second season. She also appeared in the Doctor Who season six two-parter, "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People." I've heard from a friend who has watched the whole season that the Baxter storyline as regards her connection to Thomas -- and his apparent hold over her -- isn't satisfactorily resolved this season. At this point given their similar coloring my guess is she is a relative of some sort. Thoughts?

Anna is still determined to keep the truth of her attack from Bates (Brendan Coyle), and this is NOT going well because she's moved back into Downton and can't even attempt to mask her emotional turmoil in Bates's presence. I mean obviously something is seriously wrong -- though apparently enough time has passed between this episode and the attack for her to know that she did not become pregnant (THANK GOODNESS...if Fellowes had gone THAT route I might have broken my television screen). Poor Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place as she wants to honor Anna's wishes, but she's sure that Anna SHOULD tell Bates and work through this as a couple.

Here is where things get a little weird for me. Bates basically corners Mrs. Hughes and blackmails her into revealing Anna's secret by threatening to leave. She does so, but insists that the rapist was a random, outside attacker that will be impossible to identify (of course Bates does NOT buy this, given that Anna's change in manner coincides the the end of the houseparty). I GET why Bates is upset...I GET his impulse to want revenge on the man who wounded his wife. But it really sort of astounds me that both Anna and Mrs. Hughes are positive Bates would just go out and whack the rapist, which kind of makes me re-think the whole, interminable storyline regarding the death of the FIRST Mrs. Bates. Setting aside Anna's trauma just for a moment, both women seem remarkably okay with the idea that Bates's teddy bear exterior masks a potential cold-blooded killer. Somebody talk me through this here -- I'm honestly not trying to make some sort of judgement call, because I get the desire to protect and the raw anger and grief Bates must be feeling when he hears WHY Anna has become so withdrawn -- but I wasn't entirely comfortable with the way he pushed Mrs. Hughes during their conversation (though goodness knows she can handle ANYTHING), or the way he starts to plot his revenge, certain of the rapist's identity -- never mind that, if he's caught, Anna may be avenged BUT she'll be left without a husband. That said, though, the scene where Bates and Anna FINALLY talk everything out and he reassures her of his love and her value in his eyes, reassures her that any guilt or shame that she's been struggling with are undeserved lies, that moment was beautifully played and heart-wrenching to watch.

WAIT A SEC. I just figured out my problem. I'M OVER-THINKING A SOAP OPERA. Moving on...

The big upstairs storyline involves the death of a longtime tenant and Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Branson's (Allen Leech) proposed plan to follow through on foreclosing on the lease, thereby allowing Downton to farm that tract of land. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) hates to seen the long-time tenants lose their lease, as they've worked Crawley property for...well, so long I can't remember. At the funeral he is approached by the son, Tim Drewe (Andrew Scarborough), who would like to halt the foreclosure, continue working his family's land, and pay off his father's debt. Robert is inclined to loan the man the money and views his earnest proposal as a good bet, but suspects (rightly) that Mary will object (BECAUSE THAT'S JUST THE WAY THINGS ROLL AROUND HERE, FOLKS). I was pleasantly surprised by how this storyline played out -- I expected Mary's rather more cutthroat business instinct to be proved correct, but instead when she discovers that her father loaned Drewe the money without a word to her, she's moved by his generosity and dedication to the longtime business association between the families. If anyone is a good business bet, I would hope this Drewe fellow rewards Robert's faith in him -- I see he's slated to appear in the season's final two episodes, so I suppose we'll see!

The whole kerfuffle over whether Drewe stays or goes seems to have reawakened Branson's socialist leanings, which gets him to dwelling on the fact that since he's been a part of the Crawley family he doesn't fit in anywhere -- more than a chauffeur but less than an aristocrat. (I expect that sense of new identity, of blending families is a side effect of marriage, Tom, but whatevs...) So he starts talking about moving to America, which as long as Leech is happy with his contract I don't see happening, but it gets Cora all worked up because she doesn't want Sybbie to leave -- but oh does she ever get the allure of America as the land of opportunity. (Robert, just HUG IT OUT with him. Bet you anything he'd stay then!) ;-) Side note: wasn't it great to see Sybbie and George in the nursery? And wasn't Branson ADORABLE with his daughter?! THE CUTENESS. I die.

Alfred (Matt Milne) is accepted to the Ritz's cooking program, and every spare moment is filled with cooking lessons from Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera). Sophie is ALL torn up about the prospect of him leaving, but Mrs. Patmore continues to urge her to do the right thing and support his dreams, etc. Alfred is nice enough and all but I am PAST ready for Daisy to meet a fellow who is  NUTS about her from the start! Anyways, all of her worrying is for naught as Alfred doesn't make the cut -- but it was an interesting "field trip" away from Downton, and one hopes he sticks it to Jimmy (Ed Speleers) and continues to pursue his dreams. I don't even get Jimmy's point now -- all he does is make snarky comments and moon after Ivy (Cara Theobold), and even she seems to be getting a bit sick of it all.

Molesley (Kevin Doyle) is extra pathetic this episode. When Carson (Jim Carter) thinks Alfred will be leaving, he broaches the possibility with Molesley of taking the position of footman. He hems and haws about it so much he offends Carson, who hilariously RELISHES telling Molesley off after he deigns to accept the come-down job-wise. HELLO. Would the man not rather be a footman, back in the big house as it were, than paving streets? He does not seem cut out for manual labor, just sayin'!!

There is a whole subplot involving Isobel (Penelope Wilton) attempting to find the son of a local widow a gardening position in Violet's (Maggie Smith) household. The whole did the gardener steal the letter opener thing felt kinda worthless EXCEPT for the fact that Isobel and Violet were back to snarking at each other. Honestly, I didn't realize how much I'd missed the more adversarial side of their relationship. ;-) I do wonder how Isobel's story arc is going to play out, now that she isn't actively involved in the day-to-day life at Downton, as she was in Matthew's day. I don't feel like the family is purposely cutting her out, but obviously both sides need to perhaps make more of an effort to connect, for George's sake if nothing else.

Wrapping things up, Mary gets an visit from an old friend -- Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks)! She should just marry him and get it over with. ;-) He's adorable. And apparently GAINFULLY EMPLOYED traveling the countryside with his boss, Charles Blake, and assessing the impact of the war on the sustainability of the country's estates...or something. I guess it perhaps boils down to seeing if they can pay their taxes?? Anyways...Mary is all STAY HERE, YOU'RE ADORABLE...and I can pick your brain about running Downton. So next week we get Charles Blake's introduction, and please FOR THE LOVE let him be less pathetic than Gillingham!!!

Oh...and did I mention that Edith (Laura Carmichael) is preggers?? OBVIOUSLY.

*Photo copyright Masterpiece/ITV/Carnival Films. No copyright infringement intended.

10 comments:

Rissi said...

Okay, if next week's episode features what I think it does, "aww... so fun" and that's all I'll say. ;)

Poor Napier, he always seems to come in second best - looking back on S1 and now with Tony. *sigh* He is a nice guy. Or so it seems.

Ugh, this whole Edith thing is ridiculous. I like Baxter and am curious to know what's to come with her connection to Thomas. Oh, the mystery! :)

Ruth A. said...

@Rissi - Color me intrigued about next week! Well...you know I'm already looking forward to the arrival of Charles Blake! :)

Re: Napier...well at least this actor has occasional guest star work, hmm? I think Fellowes could definitely do more with the character, though.

And thanks for not spoiling anything you know about Baxter! ;)

Kaye Dacus said...

Yes, you are overthinking a soap opera. But everyone knows that Bates has a somewhat volatile side, and even if Anna believes he didn't kill his first wife (and if he had, would he really have used poison? I doubt it would have been that unviolent if he had), she knows he has it within him to inflict harm on someone who's hurt somebody he loves. So, yes, I understand their reasons.

All I can think of with the Daisy-Alfred situation is: now she knows what William felt like when she kept rebuffing him throughout seasons 1 and 2 until their deathbed wedding. :-(

RE: Jimmy---it's like they're trying to replace Thomas's snarky/snide personality downstairs with Jimmy, but he just comes across as rude and petulant. Don't know if it's the actor or the writing or the combination of both, but he can't pull it off the way Thomas used to.

What is the point of continuing to drag Moseley through the mud and muck this season? What's wrong with his getting a job for which he's qualified without someone else sabotaging him to make him look like an idiot or having to humiliate him into a demotion like Carson was doing? I don't get it.

In the blurb for next week, Edith gets "disturbing news." Because, obvious. ;-)

My DVDs arrived today. Tempted to watch the rest of it tonight, but then I know I'll be tired and grumpy tomorrow. Oh, decisions, decisions.

Kaye Dacus said...

Oh, and have we ever figured out (without any spoilers) if Rose actually has a purpose?

Tasha Brandstatter said...

WHAT Edith's pregnant?! I toooootally missed that.

Personally I think Bates did kill Vera. He's such a badass. But the whole I'm-gonna-kill-that-guy thing was like UGH REALLY BATES. So not helpful.

Anne Mateer said...

I'm with Kay--does Rose have any point at all??? It drives me crazy to just have her appear and say, "Yes, let's have a party!"

All I kept thinking with Anna and Mrs. Hughes was "stop staying it wasn't the valet!!!" I mean seriously. The more they insisted it wasn't that man, the more Bates knew it was!

Sybbie might be the cutest thing ever. And when she said, "uh, oh" WITH A BRITISH ACCENT, she stole my heart completely!

Ruth A. said...

@Kaye - Oh I get Bates's volatile side and Anna and Mrs. Hughes's reasoning...I guess something about how that was playing out w/ him in this episode didn't sit well with me, for whatever reason. Oh well. :P

Good point about Daisy! Though sadly I am not convinced she's realized that as yet! ;)

And I completely agree with you about Jimmy...I do think they are trying to make him into some sort of Thomas-lite, but it whether it is the actor or the writing or a combination of the two it isn't working successfully.

I also agree about Molesley, though I think more often than not he doesn't help himself AT ALL (as in how he offended Carson's sensibilities here), so he gets on my last nerve, so really...he can go. Far away.

The only thing I can figure about Rose is that she is going to have a scandalous love affair with the band leader, which will go no where...so we're back to the no purpose thing again, aren't we?

@Tasha - Well I'm just following the logical (?) soapy trail here... ;)

And I agree with you about Bates. COMPLETELY. :)

@Anne - Yeah...she was in this hour SO little, and the party thing was so random w/ no follow-up...very odd. :P

I hope we see a lot more of Branson w/ Sybbie before the season is over. That girl is so adorable!!

Kristin said...

I like Baxter, too, and I'm curious to see the connection between her and Thomas.

I also don't understand the whole Bates thing. Seriously, I get why he wants revenge, but would murder solve anything?? I think they should have reported it and let the police deal with the valet (if only Bates would be willing to let the police deal with it instead of wanting to take matters into his own hands).

I won't say much more because I got the DVD set yesterday and spent the whole evening watching the rest of the season. And I feel no shame. :) But I don't want to spoil anything. Let me just say this: Ruth, you will love the last scene in season 4. (I think it's the very last scene, if I'm remembering correctly.)

Jennifer said...

I like Edith a lot but this potential plot line bothers me. I'm also curious as to what she ACTUALLY signed. She didn't even read it. And WHY hasn't she heard from Gregson? He's not going to dump her, is he?

Also, I don't like that Hughes and Anna assume Bates will go homicidal on Evil Valet. I hadn't drawn a line between this scenario and the death of the former Mrs. Bates, but that is an intriguing thought. True, maybe Bates WOULD go after Evil Valet; I might be OK with that.

Ruth A. said...

@Kristin - I guess we are just supposed to go with the idea that he's going with his gut emotional response. Dude has a TEMPER, eh??

I got my blu-ray set yesterday too! But I only re-watched the first episode thus far. Not sure how far ahead I'm going to let myself get. ;) But I am happy to hear I have something to look forward to in that last scene!! :)

@Jennifer - Edith, eh...the whole thing is so soapy. ;) I've read that some other people were wondering about the paper she signed...I guess I figured it was some sort of power of attorney in case something came up w/ the paper and wrote it off. I think he's too gone on Edith to leave her in the lurch though...