…an episode reminding us all the importance of “refusing to be shocked.”
In comparison to last week’s nearly frantic episode of Downton, Sunday night’s installment had a more measured sense of pace that allowed the narrative to service (ha! hospitality puns!) its several plots more evenly, moving them forward without sacrificing a sense of organic growth. Well played, Downton! But enough of this high-faluting expostulating! Let’s get to the good stuff!
If I had to boil down everything that happened on Sunday to a single word, that would be simple: PIGS. I mean, right? Look, I know Downton’s decision to move into intensive farming is groundbreaking for those involved and gives Robert a real acute case of the heebie-jeebies, but can I just say it? Enough already. The only way I’ll be this interested in pigs is if I’m watching a two hour PSA on bacon. And is it me, or might Tom need some kind of hobby? Homeboy is alarmingly interested in the oinkers, so good on Isobel for getting tickets to the nearby political rally because I was starting to worry that Downton was taking us down an incredibly uncomfortable romantic path with Tom. Mostly, I’m kidding.**
**Speaking of which, Isobel and Tom are totes #Besties. Out for a drive in the open country, top down, sun gleaming, basically sticking it to Matthew for being a real tool behind the wheel. Just a couple of BFFs talking smack about the PM and joshing around. I heart this friendship SO. MUCH.
But before you think this plotline was nothing more than window-dressing, it got real pretty quick. On a stroll to check out the pens, Blake and Mary stumble upon the unthinkable: dehydrated pigs and an overturned water trough. DEAR, MERCIFUL GOD, WHY? NOT THE PIGS! NOT THE PIGS! ANYTHING BUT THE PIGS! Let me assuage your fears, though. Blake jumps into action and into the literal muck with Mary, saving the day. And then to put a capper on such a precious bonding moment, as Mary realizes Blake is more than an uptight theorist and has actual practical value, the two smear mud (and possibly feces) on each other’s faces. Adorbs. Look out, Mr. Napier, you’ve got some competition!
Speaking of romantic contests, when did Alfred suddenly become Downton’s downstairs version of George Clooney? Dude’s got to fend the ladies off with a rolling pin these days. Ivy sees Jimmy for the perv he is and now is all about climbing that ginger mountain, while Daisy is still head over heels. In my favorite plot of the episode, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson fabricate a ruse to keep Alfred from visiting Downton so as not to complicate the love rhombus.***
***Though if Mrs. Patmore wanted to turn it into a spicy pentagon, this guy would have zero complaints.
Question: what’s the best way to keep an unwelcome guest from the old drop-in? A virulent disease, of course! #TheMoreYouKnow. Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson decide to tell Alfred that influenza is sweeping through Downton, so they board him at a local pub and hope that’s the end of it. Of course it’s not the end of it. Alfred wanders in unannounced, setting the ladies’ hearts aflutter because the gangly ginger look is really revving their automated mixers, if you catch my drift. But then, faster than you can say “heart-breaking Gordon Ramsay,” he’s gone. So Alfred’s a stone-cold ladykiller now, and it’s sort of amazing.
You know what’s not amazing? #SadEdith, of course! Gregson is still missing, and Edith has declined multiple offers from Robert to hire a private investigator to get to the bottom of it. I’d hate to beat a dead horse (or, heaven forbid, pig), but Detective Isobel is available now that Violet kicked that pesky bronchitis and is totes not dying and stuff. I’m sure she’d take the case is my point. Anyhow, Edith confesses to Cora that Gregson disappeared in Munich after checking into his hotel but for some reason withholds the little tidbit about him checking in on his mentally incapacitated wife. Somehow, she doesn’t think it would warm the cockles of Cora’s heart. Probably a good call. But her excuse? He became too enthused with Munich’s architecture and wandered off. Um, what? Edith, do you get lying, girl? I’m worried ’bout you, boo.
But, for me, what makes Edith’s plot work so well this week is that she finds an unexpected confidante in Aunt Rosamund in London. This is a great pairing of two characters, and Rosamund’s steadfast support of Edith deciding to abort her unborn child plays powerfully. Thank God someone’s on Edith’s side. For real. In the end, the dour atmosphere and hysterically weeping women change Edith’s mind, which is a much more interesting dramatic development for her as a character and the show overall.****
****Rose tagged along on Edith’s “Doomed Lovers” road trip so she could meet up with Mr. Ross on a gondola and PDA all over his face. I hate to be that guy, but I have a sneaking suspicion this interracial fling is going to be less fairytale ending and more #SadEdith. Just saying.
Well, I’m depressed. Thanks Edith. I don’t want to put this all on you, but you can be a real Debbie Downer. Fortunately, when I’m depressed, there’s just one character whose misery positively uplifts my spirits. That’s right, it’s that time again: #MoseleyWatch. He didn’t have a ton to do, but I think he’s been spending some time with Isobel because am I sensing a detective hiding under the footman’s uniform? He’s totally onto Baxter and Thomas’s thing, though like the best investigators, he doesn’t have a clue that he’s done that yet. But if Moseley becomes the Watson to Isobel’s Sherlock, I will simply swear off television because nothing could possibly be better than that in the timeline of the human experience.
Oh, right, I guess we should talk about the small fact that GILLINGHAM RETURNED TO DOWNTON WITH HIS VALET MR. GREEN. I know, right? Let’s be honest, Mary now playing an extremely awkward version of The Dating Game (though I would love to see how Napier, Blake, and Gillingham would respond to the question about their favorite place to “make whoopie”) is the least of our worries. While Moseley (sweet, dumb Moseley) chats with Green about the card game from last time, Mrs. Hughes eviscerates Green–unfortunately, just metaphorically–in the boot room as he scrubs shoes. This is a very clever set-up, almost the complete inverse of the similarly-staged scene between Bates and Anna from a few weeks back. I see what you did there, Julian Fellowes! Anyhow Mrs. Hughes makes it clear that he’s been a real rascal and she is not his biggest fan in the world. Truth hurts, doesn’t it, Green? Dusting off his pride and taking a seat with the rest of the downstairs staff, Mr. Bates glowers across the table at him, straight up EYE MURDERING HIM GOOD. Holy cow, you guys. Chills ran up my arm. #Taken3
Elsewhere, Robert leaves for America to help Cora’s brother Harold out of a financial jam with Thomas in tow as his valet, Isobel and Violet play cards well into the night to celebrate the Dowager’s recovery, and Branson makes a lady friend at a political rally. Also, pigs. Lots and lots of pigs.
As the season hits the final stretch of episodes, the many plot lines are hurtling to some sort of inevitable resolution, promising nothing more or less than wholesale family upheaval. I impatiently await how this all plays out.
Snippets of Intrigue
– Mrs. Hughes: “I’m sorry to hear you’re suspicious of me, but I daresay we’ve both got the personality to overcome it.”
– Dowager Countess: “Try not to let those Yankees drive you mad!”
– Mrs. Patmore: “I don’t think we need praise from the French quite yet.” (lol #PatmoreLove)
– Mrs. Hughes: “Say there’s flu in the house and he mustn’t miss out on his course.”
Mr. Carson: “You’re quite the plotter when you have to be, aren’t you?”
Mrs. Hughes: “It’s a skill all women must learn.”
– Dowager Countess [in the grip of a fever]: “This one talks too much! She’s like a drunk vicar!”
– Clarkson [on her patience with Isobel]: “You’ll be rewarded in heaven.”
Dowager Countess: “The sooner the better.”