Downton Abbey: series 4 episode 8

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SPOILER WARNING: Plot points will be revealed in this episode-by-episode discussion of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.

Written by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Edward Hall. Originally broadcast: 10 November 2013, ITV.

As plans are made for a local bazaar, Isobel urges Tom to go into politics, Anna gets a shock, and Rose continues her taboo relationship with Jack Ross. Also, Edith wants to go abroad to have her baby in secret…

When is it set? Summer 1922. We begin within a day of the previous episode and events take place over a long-ish period. Robert only left for a trip to America in the preceding episode and returns during the church bazaar that closes the season, yet people act like he’s been gone for ages.

Where is it set? The Drewes’ farm. Violet’s house. Downton Abbey and its grounds. Thirsk. The local village. The Lotus Club, Rosamund’s house and a swanky restaurant in London. Mr Mason’s farm.

Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) returns to the show. We first saw him in at the start of series three when he was embarrassed at a dinner by his boorish son. Now Violet is matchmaking him with a lonely Isobel.

Best bits:
* Anna’s torment is so moving. This week, she has to contend with her attacker, the vile Mr Green, visiting the house again. She tells Mary that it was he who raped her but swears her to secrecy because if Mr Bates finds out he’ll resort to murder. Mary then uses her influence to get Green sacked.
* While in Thirsk, Tom Branson spots Rose having tea with Jack Ross. He tells Mary, who warns Rose off him. Rose, though, then announces that she and Jack are engaged. So Mary travels to London to plead with Jack directly. He sadly accepts that an interracial marriage would cause too many problems…
* Mr Molesley makes an effort at being friendly with Miss Baxter. “I do know what it’s like to feel fragile,” he tells her touchingly.
* Edith comes up with a plan: have her baby in secret and donate it to a local farming family, the Drewes. But Aunt Rosamund suggests they go abroad and give the child to a foreign family. Edith’s plan has much more story potential, so which one will they go with?
* Violet sees through Edith and Rosamund’s plan, calls them to tea and confronts them. The way she’s put the clues together is worthy of Columbo.
* In a lovely piece of subtle direction, Lord Merton asks Isobel about her son while they walk past the churchyard where he’s buried.
* Tony Gillingham shows up at the church bazaar with the shock news that Mr Green is dead. He apparently stumbled into the traffic on Piccadilly… (Wonder if former Downton footman Alfred witnessed it? He now works at the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly.)

Worst bits:
* Edith accompanies Mary and Tom to inspect some pigs solely so she can be in place to hear Mr Drewe the farmer say that he owes the Crawley family a favour.
* The woman Tom Branson met last episode, schoolteacher Sarah Bunting, shows up again. She’s being introduced as both a love interest for Tom and – because she’s a lefty – a way of making him feel guilty about joining the aristocracy. Sadly the character is quite unlikable, so neither plot really works. All she does is make snide comments.

Real history:
* Violet is recuperating after her illness. She says she feels like Dr Manette, a character from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (1859) who was imprisoned in the Bastille.
* Violet and Isobel discuss the Teapot Dome Scandal currently going on in America. Violet spells it out for viewers: “Bribery and corruption. Taking money to allow private companies to drill for oil on government land.” Cora’s brother, Harold, owns one of the companies.
* Robert says that, now he’s returned from America, it’s a relief to be able to drink in public without a policeman pouncing. Prohibition wouldn’t be lifted until 1933.

Maggie Smithism of the week: Violet says her daughter, Rosamund, has no interest in learning French. “If she wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts.”

Mary’s men: She’s more favourable towards Charles Blake now that he’s proved his worth. And she’s impressed when he takes hold of baby George and calms him. He later tells her he won’t let her go without a fight… However, her other suitor, Tony Gillingham, comes to visit and tells Mary he’s planning on dumping his fiancée. She tells him not to on her account: she’s not free.

Doggie! Isis is wandering about at the church bazaar.

Review: There’s an awful lot going on in this longer-than-usual season finale. One of the most interest things is Mr Green’s death. On the day he falls under a bus on Piccadilly, both Anna and Mary are in London and Mr Bates says he was in York, though we don’t see him and he doesn’t tell anyone what he was up to. A murder-mystery is being kick-started, though of course it’s typical Downton Abbey that we don’t see the murder itself.

 

Downton Abbey: series 4 episode 7

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SPOILER WARNING: Plot points will be revealed in this episode-by-episode discussion of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.

Written by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Edward Hall. Originally broadcast: 3 November 2013, ITV.

A Western Union telegram arrives, calling Robert to America to help his brother-in-law. Also, Mr Bates fears leaving Anna alone, Charles Blake and Mary grow closer, Rose sneaks off to see Jack Ross, and Edith considers an abortion.

When is it set? No earlier than late April 1922. The weather is warm.

Where is it set? The house and its grounds. Violet’s house. The village, including the local post office and the Grantham Arms pub. London, including Rosamund’s house, a stretch of a river and a backstreet abortion clinic. A town hall in Rippon.

Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* At a political talk, Tom Branson meets a woman (Daisy Lewis) who takes a shine to him. She’s not named in the episode but listed as Sarah Bunting in the credits.
* The talk is given by John Ward MP (Stephen Critchlow).

Best bits:
* Mrs Hughes tries to arrange for Mr Bates to stay in England while Robert goes abroad – she doesn’t want him away from Anna while she’s still delicate. So Mrs H enlists Mary’s help by telling her about the rape. Later, Anna is happy that Mary knows the truth but can’t talk about the attack.
* Edith continues to suffer in silence. She hasn’t heard from Michael Gregson for weeks, though has discovered that he walked out of a hotel in Munich and never came back. She also now knows she’s pregnant with his child but can’t bring herself to tell anyone. She eventually breaks down and confides in her aunt, Rosamund, and adds that she’s planning to have an abortion. Rosamund insists on accompanying her, but in the clinic Edith changes her mind. Her plight is very affecting. It’s a really good performance by Laura Carmichael.
* Mary hears that Charles Blake finds her aloof. “I’m not aloof, am I?” she asks Anna. Anna: “Do you want me to answer truthfully or like a lady’s maid?”
* Rose visits Rosamund in London, but soon sneaks off to meet her secret boyfriend: the black American singer Jack Ross. They have a ride in a rowing boat.
* Mary and Charles Blake go to inspect some of Downton’s pigs and are shocked to discover that the water trough has been knocked over. The pigs are dehydrated and in danger. Charles snaps into action and tends to them with Mary helping. Both get their evening clothes, faces and hands covered in mud. Mary also slips and falls in the mud. When Charles goes to help her up, she says, “I’m fine.” “Suit yourself,” he says, moving away. Once the pigs have been given water, the pair sit down and chat. Charles playfully chucks more mud at her so she smears a handful on his face and they laugh. The sequence is a very fun way to bring the bickering characters closer. It also gets a closing gag: Mary tells Charles that he’s “saved their bacon, literally.”
* Mary and Charles take so long dealing with the pigs that it’s nearly dawn. So Mary takes him to the kitchen and cooks them some eggs. Being a lowly kitchen maid, Ivy is the first servant up each morning and walks in on them. “I’m ever so sorry, m’lady,” she says sheepishly. Mary replies, “Please don’t apologise…” then realises she doesn’t know the girl’s name.
* Rapist Mr Green waltzes into the servants hall, as his master Lord Gillingham is visiting Downton. What a twat. Mrs Hughes later corners him: “I know who you are and I know what you’ve done. And while you’re here, if you value your life, I should stop playing the joker and keep to the shadows.”

Worst bits:
* Violet is feeling under the weather, asks for a glass of water, and puts on a brave face when saying goodbye to Robert because she doesn’t want him to worry about her. Later, Isobel visits her and finds her sweating in bed. Dr Clarkson is fetched and he says pneumonia is a risk. Is the Dowager about to drop dead?! (Nah. She’s okay.)
* Alfred, who left last episode to start a new job in London, pops back for a visit. Mrs Patmore is not happy because his presence stirs up the emotions of kitchen maids Daisy and Ivy. “I grudge him the tears and the heartache that’ll flavour my puddings for weeks to come,” she says, naturalistically.

Real history:
* Cora’s brother, Harold, is currently involved in the US Senate’s investigation into the Teapot Dome Scandal. Leases to drill for oil on government land had been given out in exchange for bribes.
* Isobel tells Tom Branson that the MP John Ward is coming to speak in Rippon. Ward (1866-1934) was a Liberal and a trade unionist. Tom replies that he’s not a fan of the current coalition government, which had been in power since 1918. He adds that Ward is campaigning because David Lloyd-George (1863-1945), the Prime Minister, thinks an election is coming. (It was: in November 1922.) At the talk, Ward discusses the split between Lloyd-George and former Prime Minister HH Asquith (1852-1928) and what it will mean for the Liberal Party.
* Edith tells her mother that Michael Gregson was in Munich to see the castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886).
* Edith mentions The Second Mrs Tanqueray, a play by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero that was first performed in 1893.
* Rosamund points out that abortion was illegal in the UK in 1922. It was decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967.
* Charles mentions Country Life magazine (founded 1897).
* Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham took part in the Battle of Jutland (31 May and 1 June 1916), the first big naval engagement of the First World War. Charles mentions they served on board the Iron Duke with Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (1859-1935).

Upstairs, Downton: A member of the Bellamy family headed off on a transatlantic journey in the Upstairs, Downstairs episode Miss Forrest (1973).

Maggie Smithism of the week: Deliriously ill and being tended to by Isobel, Violet says, “I want another nurse. I insist! This one talks too much. She’s like a drunken vicar.”

Mary’s men: She continues to bicker with government surveyor Charles Blake. He’s not backwards in coming forward in telling Mary some home truths about the management of the estate, which irritates her. His pal Evelyn is also sniffing about, but Mary is clearly not interested. Later, with most of the household away, Mary and Charles are forced to spend some time together. She takes him to see the farm’s new batch of pigs (see Best Bits above) and the frost thaws between the two. Then there’s a complication: Tony Gillingham, who recently asked Mary to marry him, comes to visit.

Doggie! After Robert says goodbye to his wife, daughters, ward and mother before leaving for America, he turns to Tom Branson: “Look after all my lady folk. Including Isis.” Then he adds under his breath, “Especially Isis.” 

Review: A very entertaining episode.

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