Downton Abbey was a house of secrets this week, but of course, it’s also a house where secrets don’t stay secret for long. As we wind down to the end of the season, the stakes hinted at earlier this year are starting to payoff, and they didn’t even have to kill anyone off to achieve it (there’s still time!) Revelations of many kinds defined this hour, and have set up some intense drama for the rest of the season. Hit the jump for why “we expect to get what we pay for.”
This fractured episode of Downton (everyone was off doing their own thing) was unified by its theme of secrets and their revelations. What happened to Anna, and why Bates can’t accompany Robert to America, is now known to Mary. But Mary is trustworthy, and it is, as Anna herself said, a relief that she doesn’t have to keep hiding things from her. Plus, as we all know (and Mary pointed out), Mary also had a grave secret that required not only silence, but actually involved moving a corpse. So, there’s that.
As friendly as the upstairs and downstairs have been this year though, it was interesting how Mary curtly said to Mrs. Hughes that, “we expect to get what we pay for,” when it came to Hughes asking her to intervene on behalf of Mr. Bates. It’s easy to forget sometimes that there is still a strict delineation, what with the servants able to go upstairs to hear the opera singer, or Mary and Charles Blake having a midnight snack in the kitchen. These are great moments that illustrate how the barriers are breaking down — somewhat — but that the old way is still very much relied upon.
That in and of itself is something that Charles Blake has challenged Mary about, but when it comes to Downton, everyone but Carson and Robert are usually ready to move forwards. And lately, Carson and Robert have not been putting up much of a fight when it comes to modernization; rather, they sigh and grumble, but go with the forward flow.
Of course, Downton being Downton, the show is not content to shock us with refrigeration and toasters, but needs to include a baby out of wedlock, an abortion (nearly) and an interracial relationship, all of which test the very limits of the Abbey’s liberal nature for the time. Even Rosamund pauses to consider when Edith asks her if she, Edith, would be welcomed in Rosamund’s drawing room as an unmarried woman “with her bastard child.”
This episode gave us a lot to think about, and its cast (finally) a lot to do. Everyone was busy: downstairs, Mrs. Hughes, Carson and Mrs. Patmore colluded to keep Alfred away from the Ivy and Daisy drama (unsuccessfully), while Thomas prodded at Baxter and prepped his bags for America, as Bates stayed behind to be with Anna (and noticed her reactions with Mr. Green, which mean, He Knows). Upstairs, Mary’s flirtations with Charles Blake have caused poor Evelyn Napier’s hopes for her to drift even farther away, and a surprise visit by Gillingham keeps all the boys in the Downton yard. Branson got political again for a moment, and Isobel nursed Violet back to health (against her will) under the eye of Clarkson, who soothed the relationship between the two women.
All in all, a jam-packed episode that promises some interesting turns in the next few weeks. Is Gregson gone for good, and how will the residents of the Abbey react to Edith’s pregnancy? Which brooding Englishman will Mary choose to get closer to, if any? Will Baxter ever stand up to Thomas? Will Thomas even come back from America after he gets a look at all of those good looking men on the boat deck? “I’ve been married, I know everything.”
Episode Rating: A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Cora has so many wayward relatives we never see nor hear of until it’s convenient …
— Mrs. Hughes was back in Badass Mode this week with her threats against Mr. Green. But none of that will matter now that Bates knows the truth … RIP, you slimy bastard! (maybe)
— I liked that the girl Branson spoke to at the political meeting was kind of homely. It would have been too obvious had she been beautiful (of course, Edna wasn’t really much of a looker either, but who knows).
— “She’s like a drunken vicar […] Clarkson, please take that madwoman with you!” – Violet. I really thought they would kill her off (and they still might), but I was glad she was saved by Isobel, and that Violet was still annoyed with her at the end, despite all she had done for her. It all felt very true to character for them both.
— Mary and Blake in the pig slop … it was trite, but I did love it. It’s nice to see Mary not only get dirty, but to laugh. She’s such a great character and has come so far, though the fact that she can scramble eggs felt a little unbelievable (remember how Sybil didn’t even know how to turn on the water in the kitchen?) But, since about 10 years have passed since then in Downton time, maybe she picked it up along the way.
— After I complained last week about Jimmy and Thomas not interacting at all this year, there was that scene this week where they actually acted like real friends. (I hope that didn’t get cut out of the PBS broadcast, I cheated and watched the UK feed again).
— I’m not sure where I stand on the Ivy v. Daisy disagreement about Alfred. Daisy is so hard on Ivy because she’s jealous of her. of course, but Ivy doesn’t make it easy to root for her, either. I can’t believe she would really be setting her sites on Alfred, but rather, just using him to catch Jimmy’s eye again … not that Alfred is much of a catch, either. Those girls need to get out of the kitchen and into the village every once in awhile.
— “We all have bad feelings. It’s acting on them that makes you bad” – Cora.
— Rose and Jack in the park was very sweet, and considering Rose’s wildchild personality, made total sense. It looks like Branson spies them together though, and next week Cora will find out about the dalliance. (More secrets revealed!)
— “I’m killing the wanted child from the man I’m in love with. And you ask me if I’ve thought about it” – Edith. Edith always gets the most absurd storylines, but here I did feel sorry for her. There’s little hope for a happy ending with Gregson, since babies at Downton mean death … we’ll see!