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This week's installment of Downton Abbey was on balance, I think, another very solid hour -- the season seems to be picking up the pace and pointing to a satisfactory conclusion, which makes me quite happy. :)
In a bid to keep Downton an independent and viable money-making venture, Branson (Allen Leech) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) have arranged to start PIG FARMING. I can't wait to see how this plays out, y'all. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is characteristically reticent, but manages to be a supportive team player -- and I've got to say, I'm SO glad it doesn't appear we're going down the road of Robert vs. EVERYONE ELSE as regards Downton's running, because that would get old really fast. :P And anyways, he is all ruffled feathers and righteous indignation over some business scandal Cora's brother has found himself embroiled in over in the States. (I have to think this is going to be the Teapot Dome Scandal? The timing is about right for where we are in the 1920's.)
But who cares about Cora's wastrel brother because IT'S ALMOST ROBERT'S BIRTHDAY! And Rose (Lily James) loves her uncle SOOOOOO much she arranges a surprise he's SURE TO LOVE -- a performance by the American jazz band lead by the one and only savior of her honor on the dance floor, Jack Ross (Gary Carr). If my eyes don't stop rolling they are sure to fall out of my head, but whatevs. SO. Rose keeps freaking out that her surprise will be discovered, and enlists Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) to agree to keep the band downstairs, but she can't tell any of the staff until the band arrives, or some such nonsense. So of course Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) hears this and dutifully reports to Thomas (Rob James-Collier) who takes this to mean that people are going to lose their jobs or something...and at this point can I just say THOMAS, YOU ARE FLOUNDERING. His attempts to be even a marginally interesting schemer post-O'Brien are WOEFULLY inadequate. I mean now that we've seen how nice he is to Sybbie, we know he has a heart and all that, so this pathetic level of scheming just feels extra forced. (Kinda like Rose, I mean there is still no real point there, hmmm??)
Meanwhile downstairs Daisy (Sophie McShera) is not-so-secretly thrilled that Alfred (Matt Milne) wasn't accepted to the cooking program. He is even further depressed when he hears that Jimmy (Ed Speleers) has finally gotten Ivy (Cara Theobold) to agree to go to the pictures with him. But as is so often the case with this show, things change with the speed of lightening. In sum: Alfred is accepted to the cooking program, because he was just FIFTH PLACE and someone in the top four dropped out, whoop! Daisy is CRUSHED. Ivy finally realizes that Jimmy is just out for a good time when he tries to cop a feel after their date and she is scandalized, because apparently she thought he had depth or something. It was hilarious, however, when Daisy tells her off instead of offering her sympathy, and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Mrs. Hughes agree with her. Ha!! I did love Alfred's public offering of thanks, crediting Carson (Jim Carter) for his success at Downton (Carson was SUCH a proud papa at that moment, lol!), and then going out of his way to thank Daisy for her friendship. I thought that was a lovely moment of honesty between the two of them -- so please, can Daisy move on now Fellowes? Or is Alfred finally going to WAKE UP and realize that eventually the two of them could marry and be fabulous together and I don't know, run a fancy boarding house or hotel or something like The Duchess of Duke Street. Just throwing that out there. *wink*
There are more shenanigans between Violet (Maggie Smith) and Isobel (Penelope Wilton) over whether or not the local chap Isobel insisted Violet hire to work in her gardens has been pilfering items from her home. Isobel is kind of wearing me out again with this weird insistence that Violet live life according to her expectations or something. I did however think it was pretty funny when Isobel transforms herself into Miss Marple to gain entrance to Violet's house and ferret out the location of a missing paper knife -- but more than that I LOVED the fact that she lost her moral high ground and her righteous indignation fizzled out spectacularly when she discovers that Violet, owning a wrong, had beaten her to the punch in apologizing to her gardener and restoring his job. DON'T MESS WITH THE DOWAGER, ISOBEL. You can't hope to win. *wink*
Branson is apparently still stuck on this idea of not belonging at Downton and moving to America, and while I think that is the STUPIDEST IDEA EVER (ha!) it does lead to some nice moments between him and Mary. I LOVE their friendship, and how even though she doesn't want him to leave she's willing to arrange introductions to help him, should he undertake this venture. But the best part -- and perhaps my favorite moment of the episode -- is when Branson, Mary, and a visiting Isobel find themselves in the nursery, and end up sharing a bit about their respective love stories -- how well they've loved, and how much their other half is missed. I thought it was a really beautiful moment indicative of just how far these characters have come since season one, to find such an accord and peace together in each other's company.
Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) are still struggling to reconnect Bates's discovery of the attack she suffered. Bates is still in DIE, ATTACKER, DIE mode, and when he's unable to hide that impulse from Anna everything gets even worse and threatens to spiral out of control. Desperate to put this behind them, if only for an evening, they decide to have a DATE NIGHT at some fancy restaurant where the maitre'd refuses to seat them even though they MADE a reservation!! This does not help Anna's struggles, but thankfully Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) just happens to be at the same restaurant and gets to have one of her more awesome moments in recent memory -- she judiciously wields a little of her aristocratic power to ensure that Anna and Bates are treated like royalty. The look on the face of the maitre'd was just PRICELESS. I'm thrilled Anna and Bates are working through the fallout from the rape together...I just wish that we weren't (apparently) going down the road of Bates in sudden death mode. But whatever. :P
So just prior to Robert's party, Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) returns as promised to Downton bringing his boss, Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden, a.k.a. ANDREW FOYLE). Mary is all "YAY! HELP US OUT!" and Charles is all "I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE PERPETUATION OF LARGE ESTATES AND ARISTOCRATIC LIVELIHOODS! FOOD FOR THE MASSES!" So that new relationship gets off to a cracking good start and all of a sudden snarky Mary is back and in fine form! :) Really she just needs to step back and think this through -- Blake's a socialist, apparently, her sister married a socialist and she is now all BFF-y with the same, so WHY FIGHT IT??? This is FATE!!! It's in your GENETIC MAKE-UP, girl!! LOL! While the spark of conflict here seems a bit forced (but when is this show ever subtle, lol??), I'm a big fan of Ovenden and thrilled to see him on my television screen again, so I'm anxious to see how this potential relationship plays out!
Poor Edith (Laura Carmichael) is miserable this entire episode. Gregson arrived in Germany but has been missing ever since -- I mean this is 1923, this is a major European country, what the heck? Weird. And on top of all that she receives confirmation that (shocker! not!) she is indeed pregnant so YAY WHACKED OUT HORMONES (on that score girl, I feel your pain). Of course she's not wanting to reveal this little bombshell, but she's not exactly doing a stellar job hiding her upset from her parents who, to their credit, are going above and beyond in the concerned, what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you department. I felt SO badly for Robert when he found her crying and she's all WHAT ARE YOU DOING I'M NOT YOUR FAVORITE!! C'mon girl, 1) give your parents credit and 2) such responses are not going to convince them that you're not keeping secrets!!! Yeesh!
Wrapping things up, despite some hiccups (Carson's conversation with Jack Ross about race issues is hilariously awkward) on balance Rose's surprise seems to have paid off -- despite the scandal of turning Downton into a temporary NIGHT CLUB!! *wink* Things are going REALLY well for Rose (*ahem*) since at the end of the evening Lady Mary sees her making out with Jack (and I feel like we're missing something? but whatever, they're probably just all carpe diem and stuff!), and UH-OH we have another scandal alert!! Oh, and Molesley (Kevin Doyle) has a job again, replacing Alfred as a footman, but I have a really hard time caring because I am just not as invested in his character as the rest of the downstairs staff seem to be.
But that's the thing about this show -- even when you have Thomas's scheming falling apart and Rose being stupid, I recognize these things but I'm still entertained, because I love this world and all of its soapy predictability. :) Thoughts on this installment and the latest developments? Please chime in! I can't believe we're already into the home stretch with only three weeks left!
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