Downton Abbey Recap: There’s Something Annoying About Mary
Remember how the previous season opening was a well lit happy blue sky shot of Downton with skippy music? Season 4 is foreboding music over a dark and scary Downton. I know Matthew bit it but it’s not like your precious snowflake Mary died. Unless Downton was also invaded by hordes of vampires it’s a bit much, Fellowes, dial it back 14 notches. (Remember how I’m an American? Between two Doctor Who specials, reading the latest Pink Carnation book, watching several episodes of Midsomer’s Murders, and now this I find myself saying a lot of things that are British. Same thing happens with my accent when I visit relatives in Tennessee. I apologize in advance for whatever crimes against English sayings I’m about to perpetuate.)
Someone is packing up in the dark and leaving notes for “Her Ladyship” and “Mrs. Hughes.” Which means it’s a servant. Clearly it’s going to be O’Brien sneaking off to India by way of Scotland. A baby cries and a new nanny goes to help while Mary just lies in bed being useless. Yes, I know that upper class ladies back then (and today) didn’t parent their own children. Doesn’t mean Mary doesn’t suck.
It’s morning and foggy because even Mother Nature is mourning Matthew’s passing. Sense of perspective, get some, Downton. Anna finds the notes while Mary passes the time posing in varies parts of her bedroom, staring into the middle distance all stoic and stiff upper lip.
She rings for Anna and a helpful graphic tells us it’s now 1922. So ten years have passed since S1 which started the day after the Titanic sunk. No one’s really aged that much in the intervening decade despite all the dead men in their vaginas, wars, more dead people, various scandals involving sex upstairs and down, births, and finally a lot more deaths.
Mrs. Hughes volunteers to tell Cora about the letter, bring her breakfast and dress her but just today. So it was O’Brien that left. Anna offers to be Lady’s maid for both until someone is found because Anna is perpetually helpful and self-sacrificing. They are her only personality characteristics. Those and irredeemably bad taste in people she loves. She tells Thomas about O’Brien on her way upstairs and he rushes off so fast to gossip about it you can see little cartoon motion lines. Soon all the servants are passing the word and gathering to natter on about it. Alfred looks shocked that his aunt would do such a thing. Alfred’s a bit dim, poor thing.
Cora and Robert lounge in bed, discussing the hardships of a Lady’s maid running out in the middle of the night while servants work and their two grandchildren ponder life with only one parent apiece. When Cora says she can’t believe it Robert correctly observes that it’s exactly the kind of thing O’Brien would do. But Cora meant she can’t believe Susan (Rose’s mum/Cora’s cousin-in-law) would do that to Cora. When told that Mrs. Hughes then Anna will be dressing her she slumps down, defeated by the very thought of having to find a new person to help brush her hair.
Carson is raging downstairs, unable to believe no one knew it was coming. Alfred stammers to defend himself, swearing she never told him. Only Mrs. Patmore seems to believe him and she’s kind of a sucker for stupid men.
In the dining room, Edith is as scandalized as Cora. Oh, Edith, you’ve got an extra-marital affair to be worried about, stay out of it. Rose comes in and swears she didn’t know anything about it. Tom (the Irish Chauffeur, not Thomas the Under Butler) suggests Mary join him walking the land but Robert orders him to leave Mary. Yes, we mustn’t suggest that a rich widow with a baby to care for should leave her room at any point. Edith presses Rose again about knowing and she admits she didn’t think they’d go through with it. Heh, poor Rose, completely unable to lie convincingly. That’s going to make all that trellis climbing to sneak out to parties ever so much harder.
Anna tries to give Mary a purple shawl but Mary demands that everything be black. The shawls, the curtains, the mantle – dye it all black! No one has ever been such a devoted widow as she is and the world will know! Nanny brings in the baby, George, and suggests Mary go out with them for air. Mary waves that idea away, depositing a kiss on the kid’s head like it’s a dreaded duty. She also calls him a “poor little orphan” because Mary is a Drama Queen of the Highest Order. I’m sure she’ll pack him off to boarding school the second he’s out of diapers. Anna tells her just that, rather sharply reminding her that orphans don’t have mothers. Mary’s big come back? “He’s not poor either.” OH MY GOD GET DOWN OFF THE CROSS WE NEED THE WOOD FOR THE BONFIRE I’M BUILDING TO KILL YOU. Anna leaves and Mary goes back to staring at the middle distance. If she does this the entire season I am going to do serious injury to myself rolling my eyes.
Violet is at the church and runs into the father of Matthew’s former valet, Mosley. They watch the workers installing Matthew’s headstone so we can establish he’s been dead six months. I’d say it took rather a long time for Susan to poach O’Brien, that must have been a long negotiation over wages.
Oooo, Thomas has a new nemesis, this should be fun. Outside the house he comes across Nanny and a younger woman pushing the babies in prams. That’s baby carriages for those of you not obsessed with all things British. He stops to grin at Sybie and suggest she start walking. Aw, she’s so cute, with her little brown curls.
Nanny marches over and orders him not to touch the children. They have a little snit fight. He reminds her he knew Lady Sybil and she reminds him (subtly) that he’s Sybie’s servant, not her friend. She tells him to have Mrs. Patmore send luncheon up to the nursery and he tells her to talk to Patmore herself and strides smugly away. This is going to get good. Nannies were on a whole separate line of social structure from the other servants. They typically resided in the nursery with the children, had total control in that domain, and almost always answered only to the parents, not the Housekeeper. Certainly they never answered to the Under Butler. I think she outranks him in the servant’s hierarchy and we all know Thomas hates it when people outrank him. I also wonder if she’s heard about the Thomas and the Footman Affair, because the ordering him not to touch the baby seemed to come with an unspoken “you deviant.”
Downstairs half the staff are sitting about in their dining room. O’Brien is still the main topic and poor Alfred’s facing accusations from Jimmy that he knew. Anna and Bates discuss what a misery guts Mary still is then the talk turns to Nanny West. Daisy says she wouldn’t want to be a nanny because you aren’t family but you aren’t one of them either. Told you! Thomas enters and says he doesn’t like Nanny because she just tried to give him orders. Never one to pass up a chance to mock Thomas, Bates asks, “You mean she took you for a servant?” Alfred the dim wit asks if Thomas isn’t actually a servant and Bates tells him not to let Thomas know that or he’ll die of shock and all the girls giggle. That raised Bates one point in my esteem.
Robert and Tom are out on the estate, abandoning some plan. They have to come up with Matthew’s death taxes for half the estate. That makes no sense to me because while Robert lives the estate is his, Matthew would only have become owner when he died. They let him make plans because he was the heir and married to Mary. Or perhaps the 21st century American woman doesn’t quite grasp early 20th century English entitled estate rules. Tom wants to wait for Mary to help but it turns out she owns only a “light” interest in Matthew’s half of the estate and only 1/3 of his other property. The rest belongs to George because Matthew didn’t make a will. What? The whole first season was about how the daughters don’t get any of the estate because of entailment. Why would she get any of it when Matthew died? WHY DO THE ENGLISH MAKE EVERYTHING SO CONFUSING? I blame the baked beans at breakfast. That’s just unnatural.
Tom thinks that as George’s guardian Mary should have a say. I know she treats George like some street urchin that wandered into the house and is too tiny to kick back out but she’s not his guardian, she’s his mother. Robert’s all “Pshaw, she’s just a woman. I’m a man and I own the other half and I’m in charge of George’s interests.” Robert, you utter git, stop waving your penis around like that, it’s going to get chafed. He also thinks they need to leave Mary alone as she’s just a weak willed woman brought down by the utter tragedy of being the first person ever to have a spouse die. Tom’s like, except for the thing where my wife YOUR YOUNGEST DAUGHTER died tragically just six months before Matthew. Robert insincerely apologizes but it contains unspoken volumes that as both a man and a former chauffeur Tom’s grief is unimportant and probably only lasted a minute and a half.
Carson informs Mosley, Matthew’s former valet, that six months is more than long enough to get paid to do nothing and it’s time to move on. I didn’t both to talk about Mosley in the character round up because he never does anything interesting. He did get drunk and danced like a buffoon when they were all in Scotland but I’m not sure why that requires a whole scene about him leaving.
Robert joins Edith, Cora and Rose in drawing room or library or whatever that set is that isn’t the dining room or a bedroom. Edith’s going to visit Isobel to try and cheer her up. Robert says to remind her she has an open invitation to visit her grandson or join them for dinner. I’m sure she feels totally welcome after you treated her like a rock in your shoe when Matthew was alive. Edith also tells them she’s going to London to attend a party her editor, Mr. Rochester, is throwing so she can meet some literary people. Robert rolls his eyes so hard they fall out and his dog runs off with them. Robert hates Rochester and the whole magazine thing and he doesn’t even know Edith lurves Rochester. (Edith’s editor isn’t actually named Mr. Rochester, I just like to call him that because of the crazy wife he keeps in his attic. Or a hospital. Potato/potahto.)
In town Rose is wearing a lovely color-work knit coat that would make a fetching pair of swants for the fashionably inept. She pays to put up an advertisement in a window. Now that was a fascinating and utterly necessary scene.
Edith is at Isobel’s, encouraging her to see George more. Isobel feels sorry for poor rich George, saddled with a mother who got nothing. She can’t believe Matthew didn’t have a will. Nor can I since he was a lawyer with first hand knowledge of how screwy English inheritance laws were. Edith sadly says he thought he wouldn’t die for a long time and offers to do anything she can to help Isobel. Poor Isobel thanks her but says that when your only child dies you no longer have an identity. You aren’t a mother, you’re nothing, and she has to get used to that. Edith’s eyes glisten as she says Isobel is a grandmother and will be a very good one. Isobel smiles sadly and strokes Edith’s cheek. I assume she’s wishing that Matthew had married Edith instead. It was a really sweet and sad scene and I just need a minute to get all this dust out of my eye.
RIGHT, ALL BETTER, MOVING ON.
Mrs. Hughes gives Carson a letter that he bitches about, crumbles up and throws away. Then he proceeds to bite her head off as if she were a bat and he was about to launch into Crazy Train. Mrs. Hughes is a right proper old snoop and as soon as he leaves she fishes that letter out of the trash.
Former maid Edna sees the ad Rose put up and inquires about it. She claims she left Downton to study being a Lady’s maid. Liar! You were slut shamed out the door for flirting all over Tom and then kissing him. Because sexual assault on the upper class gets you fired while sexual assaults within your own class are forgivable. She seems shiftier than ever now. I like shifty.
Mrs. Hughes prepares Cora for bed as a lady never puts on her own nightgown. They discuss poor Isobel and Mrs. Hughes suggest that Cora could help her since she lost Sybil. Robert comes to bed and demands they discuss who is going to make all George’s decisions for the estate. Cora duhs, “Mary, she’s his mother and guardian” but Robert knocks that down. Mary only owns 1/6 of the estate and only while she’s alive. Honestly, either they didn’t explain it well before or it’s different now or I’m really stupid. (SHUT IT!) How did Matthew own half when Robert was still alive? WHY IS THIS BOTHERING ME SO MUCH! Robert will not even discuss the concept of Mary having any say in the estate SO WHY DID HE SAY LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Every time Robert makes half a step forward, like when he acknowledged last season that Matthew’s ideas saved the estate, he takes a bullet train backwards. No female child of his is qualified to have opinions.
It’s Valentine’s Day and some of the servants get cards in the mail. Anna and Bates mailed each other cards to the Abbey even though they live together in a different house. Sense: this makes none. That one kitchen maid that was chasing Jimmy like he was a runaway wheel of cheese last season gets one. Daisy doesn’t and she lurks in the background being sad while Carson muses that in his past he was no stranger to romance. Hmmm, I wonder if that letter was from his bastard lovechild? THAT WOULD BE EPIC. Happily Carson finds a card for Daisy that was stuck with the bills and she goes off to read it in private.
Edith also received a card and reads it dreamily while heading up the stairs. Of course that’s the moment Mary decides to finally leave her bedroom and go downstairs. She’s a monotone bitch to Edith about Valentine’s Day and the card. They stand staring at each other awkwardly on the stairs for several seconds before Edith excuses herself to pack for her trip. Mary gives her history’s most insincere wish for a good time. Any of my friends or family reading this, if I was this selfish and horrible six months on please come to my apartment and slap me in the face. There’s a time to wallow but at some point you have to move on. If Sandra Bullock can find it in herself to get over Mark Feuerstein for the sake of her children and find love with Aiden Quinn just maybe Mary can act like a human being for five minutes. Oh, nope, she can’t, because she stops before the bottom of the stairs to resume staring into the middle distance. OH MY GOD JUST SHOOT ME.
Oh, it’s getting good now! Mrs. Hughes goes to a workhouse to find the writer of Mr. Carson’s letter. The men in the workhouse appear to be separating strands of rope into individual fibers. Can that actually be a thing that needed to be done? She talks to the man who turns out to be a friend of “Charlie’s” from their old theater days who has fallen on hard times. I forgot Mr. Carson had a secret past in the theater before becoming Butler with Extra Stick Up Butt. The man has a cough and is clearly sick.
Edith arrives in London and finds Mr. Rochester waiting at the train station. He’s excited (in that almost dead way English men of the period get excited) about new information he’s found out. Some countries will allow him to divorce the nutbag without her consent. He asks Edith if she would go with him if he had to live in Germany to do that. Yeah, escape your crazy wife by moving to Germany a mere decade before Hitler comes to power. That will work out well. She’s stunned and pleased but can’t answer because her aunt’s chauffeur is waiting.
Nanny brings the children in for their daily visit with their parents. Ah, that’s why Mary went downstairs. She quite nicely offers to help Thomas clear the tea but of course he declines in the rudest way possible. Tom is thrilled to see his little Sybie toddle in and gives her a big hug. Quite the contrast to Mary holding George like he’s a bag of excrement that might explode at any minute. She’s clearly counting down the seconds before she can hand him back without looking like a bad mother. That horse left the barn already, Mary.
The rotating wheel of Cheer Up Isobel duties has fallen on the Dowager Countess. She joins the chorus of “you must live for George” and tells Isobel it is the duty of grandparents to interfere. While she’s there Mosely comes for an appointment and she slyly asks if Isobel is having an “assignation” with him. Shudder. He’s really there to ask for his old job as butler. Sadly, Isobel doesn’t need a butler because she’s now just “an old widow who eats off a tray.” The Dowager, an old widow herself, is offended and points out that widow-ship doesn’t actually require tray eating. I agree, sometimes you can substitute a La-Z-Boy recliner. There’s a gorgeous dresser in the background of this scene I would dearly love to have.
At the literary party it’s all Not So Great Gatsby, with ladies in flapper dresses with cigarette holders speaking quietly with men drinking martinis. Edith’s wearing a stunning red dress and a big scarf in her hair. She’s hot. Rochester wants to know if she’s thought about it and she purrs, “You mean our living in sin?” Someone has found her sex appeal in the last six months. She assures him she wants to be with him more than anything and they almost kiss. But a stupid footman/waiter guy interrupts them and she joins the rest of the party. Isn’t “don’t cock block the master” one of the first lessons servants learn? If not it should be.
The Dowager goes to Mosley’s dad’s house. Of course she doesn’t bother getting out of the car and he comes out to talk to her. Wouldn’t want to be seen paying a social call on some village peasant. She invites Mosley to come help at lunch where a Lady she knows will be. That lady might need a new butler and Mosley could make a good showing of himself. He could, but he won’t. Still, the secret nice things the Dowager does are some of the best bits of this show.
Mrs. Hughes tries to talk Carson into helping his poor friend languishing in the Dickensian workhouse. But he’d rather shout about her going through his trash and forget about his days as a song and dance man. Please, please let this lead to Carson singing and dancing at some point while Mary watches all bug eyed.
Daisy and kitchen maid unpack a new electric “Mixer Beater” that Edith got them. Mrs. Patmore is against it because all these toasters and beaters are going to put them out of a job. She’s totally right but they are young and like new gadgets. Mixers are the iPods of the 20s. Jimmy teases Ivy about who sent her Valentine card and she speculates about who could have sent Daisy’s. None of these cards were signed? Man, 1922 Twitter sucked.
Nanny asks Thomas (“That’s Mr. Barrow to you” he snits) to tell Mrs. Patmore to change in the nursery menu so Sybie doesn’t get any eggs. He tells her again to do it herself but she has to get back because the children are alone. Where’s that young girl that was pushing the other pram?
Edith is back and offended that Rose put up the ad and found a likely Lady’s maid candidate. Poor Edith. She thought with Sybil dead and Mary a zombie finally she’d be the favored daughter. But now Rose is there with her perky blonde self and she’s useless again. No wonder she’s having a touch-less affair with a married man. Tom encourages Mary to take an interest in anything – carpentry, hats, things closer to her vision than the middle distance. She claims to be interested in her kid but even nice old Tom is like, “Oh really? Since when? Have I been in a coma and missed it?” She asks about his day and he starts to tell her about estate stuff when Robert stops him. Mustn’t treat her like a person, Tom, she’s a widow, that’s the only character trait some people will see in her now. (Oh, I hear my table is ready. Bitter, party of one, did you say?) Tom stops talking with a giant “AWKWARD” look on his face.
Daisy tries to find out if Jimmy sent Ivy the Valentine’s Card. Jimmy, Alfred, Daisy and other kitchen maid who turns out to be Ivy had this weird lovers rectangle last season of everyone liking someone who liked someone else. I think Daisy liked Alfred who liked Ivy who liked Jimmy who only liked himself. It was all very 90210 meets Upstairs Downstairs. She leaves without finding out and Jimmy reveals he sent a card to his former employer, Lady Someone. Thomas says that’s forward but Jimmy’s all “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” smiley about how she’ll appreciate it. Someone’s been making the Lady happy if you know what I mean. If you don’t figure out how to Google “mistress servant porn” and get off my lawn.
Poor Isobel really is in a bad way. Mrs. Hughes brings her the story of Carson’s buddy in the work house. Old Isobel would have charged down there to find every man in the place a new job and given the guy running it quite the tongue lashing about oppressing the lower classes. Sad Isobel just sighes that he isn’t her problem and she hasn’t the strength to help him even if he was. Mrs. Hughes insists she is strong enough and encourages her to set aside her grief to help someone else. Aw, give her a break. Her husband is dead, her son is dead, and her daughter-in-law is Mary. Let her alone. It’s not the same as Mary, she doesn’t have a baby to live for, and she was a nice person before Matthew died so she deserves a break. Mary deserves to have something broken.
Tom, total sweetheart that he is, goes to Carson about Mary. He wants Carson to talk to Mary about finding something to think about besides herself because six months on she’s acting the same as a week after Matthew died. Everyone knows Mary and Carson have an inexplicable bond and Tom knows Mary will listen to him. He’s sweet and obviously cares a lot about Mary. If she ends up marrying Tom I’m going to kick a baby panda.
In the kitchen Daisy is trying out the new mixer but Ivy’s too much of a chicken. Jimmy is feeling his Wheaties and decides to go to the pub after dinner. Even though it’s not his day off and he hasn’t asked permission. Scandalous! He tries to talk Ivy into going, mainly to irritate Alfred, and she tries to flirt with him. She’s really bad at it. Mrs. Patmore is convinced Daisy’s mixer mousse will be an epic fail and is off to make a soup for back up.
Nanny and Thomas have another confrontation in the Whatever Room in front of a roaring fire. This place is so posh even the arguments are scenic. He didn’t give her luncheon request to Mrs. Patmore. Partly because he just didn’t want to and partly because he thinks he knows better what Sybie should eat. Nanny’s quite done playing games with him. She flat out tells him that he is staff and that she’s not and her orders are to be obeyed. I hope she’s as deeply self-serving inside as O’Brien was or he is going to leave her curled on the floor in the fetal position, sobbing out her heart while she wonders how her life went so wrong. Metaphorically that is. Maybe literally if he gets a hold of a gun.
Carson goes to Mary to speak privately, assuring her he would never do it if he wasn’t concerned for her. In her typical Mary the Queen of Dramas matter she immediately jumps to “Now you’re scaring me.”
Oh my ever loving God, Tom went straight to Cora. He tells her, oozing fake concern for the poor little children, that Nanny has been leaving the children unattended. HE IS SO EVIL I WANT TO HUG THE STUFFING OUT OF HIM.
Back in Mary’s room we’ve missed exactly what Carson said but see her typical spoiled brat reaction. She tells him that it’s her fault he feels like he has the right to speak to her this way. Her father made a decision and she finds it unbelievable that his butler dare criticize him. You utter bitch. Carson is the only one who loves you for who you actually are, not who they think you are. Stop burning that bridge before it collapses under you. She tells him he can’t understand how hard Matthew’s death was on her. He can’t really. No one ever died before and no plays were written about it or songs or novels and obviously when Sybil died no one was sad. Then she has the utter gall to claim they are friends while in the same breath ordering him not to step over the servant line again. HATE HER AND HER STUPID FACE SO MUCH. Poor Carson gets all stiffed back and leaves, but not before giving her the reality check she needs – she’s letting herself be defeated by Matthew’s death. Lovely Carson, always doing what she needs instead of what she wants. She doesn’t deserve a servant friend like him. Mary takes a break from staring at the middle distance to stare at herself in the mirror. I suppose that’s a kind of progress.
At dinner they discuss a luncheon for the tenant farmers. Cora can’t be there so Robert just assumes Edith will act as hostess. But she’s going to London to almost touch a married man. The Dowager suggests Mary do it but Robert doesn’t want her to be bothered. The Dowager points out that she needs to act as George’s representative and she’ll have to run the place if Robert dies. Of course this causes Mary to pitch a fit as only she can. Don’t they understand her husband is dead? Don’t they know it was 50 years too soon and a stupid accident after he survived the war? She demands to be left alone and flounces out of there. Robert points out that this is exactly what he knew would happen and orders them all to leave her alone to grieve. He tries to get the Dowager to agree with him. She doesn’t but won’t discuss it now because there are servants in the room. Instead she tells Carson to send compliments to Mrs. Patmore for the (electrically beaten) mousse. Electrically Beaten Mousse is the name of my of disco/punk fusion band.
Mosley is having a mid-life crisis in his father’s backyard. Snoozefest.
The Dowager has gone to say goodnight to Mary in her room. Even though her old granny with the cane hauled herself upstairs Mary can’t be bothered to even look at her while she’s being hateful. The Dowager tells Mary she loves her and even stupid Mary knows that rarely happens and deigns to sit up on the bed. Mary tells her she’ll be a bad mother because all the niceness she had died when Matthew did. And perhaps only existed in his head anyway. That’s so full of truth she should embroider it on a pillow. The Dowager tells her to get busy living or get busy dying. Mary seems inclined to choose the later so the Dowager puts a tentative hand on her shoulder.
Mrs. Hughes tells Carson that his theater buddy is going to stay with Isobel. He thinks she’s too broken to be helpful to anyone but Mrs. Hughes thinks that why she should help him. He doesn’t get it and she’s sad about that.
As she leaves the Dowager assures Robert that she forgives Mary’s outburst. He says Mary is “broken and bruised” and they must wrap her in cotton, then put her on a shelf, then nail the cupboard door shut, then post a guard so that no hint of reality or life ever touches her again. The Dowager flat out tells him he’s wrong and they must do the exact opposite and if he can’t see that she can’t forgive him. She then tells Edith she must come to lunch to help push Mosley on that Lady friend of hers.
Jimmy’s brought Ivy back from the pub and she’s drunk and puking in the bushes. Alfred brings her inside and Anna helps her up to bed. Alfred’s really pissed off that Jimmy’s flirting with Ivy just to piss him off has led to this. Alfred’s a wet blanket but he’s not wrong.
Poor Isobel comes to visit George the next morning but Nanny won’t let her because it’s not a good time. Criminy sakes alive, now I’m on Thomas’s side because that’s just mean. Let the poor lady cuddle her grandson. Carson tries to talk her out of helping his former friend, Grieg, but she actually smiles and assures him she’s glad to know she can still help people. Bless her heart.
Cora and Rose are interviewing Edna. She’s now calling herself Braithwaite because she claims she worked as a Lady’s maid for an old lady who died. She’s only been gone six months, she got booted while they were in Scotland just days before Matthew died. I don’t believe she worked anywhere as a Lady’s maid nor do I believe she can sew or do hair. She’s just itching to get her paws back on Tom. Cora only vaguely recognizes her because they never bother to learn who their housemaids are. How does she think Mrs. Hughes isn’t going to recognize her and out her the minute she gets there? She produces a glowing reference from Mrs. Hughes. I don’t remember that but I suspect Tom had something to do with it. Even though she momentarily forgets her lie that she has a sick aunt that prevented her from interviewing at Downton she gets the job. Rose is pretty proud of herself for making this happen.
At the Dowager’s luncheon her butler thinks Mosely is after his job. There are hijinks involving gravy boats and heated chafing dishes because he sabotages Mosley. No one cares. But the Lady visiting is played by the actress who played Fanny Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility and she has the best snooty voice ever.
Grieg has arrived at Isobel’s, obviously infirm. She bustles about providing him a bath, clothes and luncheon on a tray, almost back to her old do-gooding self. That’s right, you can’t keep Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, down. She can face down Dalek’s and she can face down grief.
Edith meets Rochester at a restaurant for dinner. She’s wearing a gorgeous green dress and looks beautiful.
They drink champagne and discuss how a woman eating dinner in public, alone with a man, is now an acceptable thing. He looks at her with total adoration and tells her he can divorce his wife if he becomes a German citizen. She’s amazed he’d join “the most hated race in Europe” just for her. Then she tells him to kiss her and they just start making out in the middle of the restaurant. So much for the hands off affair. Please don’t go to Germany, Edith, because then I’ll be left only with Mary and will be forced to gouge out my eyes. Though breaking my glasses would be less painful and just as effective.
Mrs. Hughes tries to get Cora not to hire Braithwaite without telling her about how when she was Edna she tried to give Tom a tonsillectomy. Since she won’t tell that story Cora just thinks she’s just trying to prevent a nice young woman from getting a good job for no reason.
Daisy confides in Mrs. Patmore that she’s sure Jimmy sent Ivy a card so it must have been Alfred who sent hers. Mrs. Patmore drags Alfred in and makes him tell Daisy that he sent the card to Ivy. Patmore confesses she sent the card to Daisy so she wouldn’t be left out if Ivy got a card. Daisy is sad she doesn’t have a fellow but glad she has a friend. Sweet. Boring and stupid but sweet.
Mrs. Hughes, Carson and Tom huddle up and try to figure out how to stop Braithwaite from working there. Tom wants to tell Cora what happened but Carson won’t hear of it. Cora can’t think Sybil’s husband was a philanderer on top of losing a daughter and a son-in-law. That’s rather overlooking that Tom didn’t do anything wrong, really, except socialize with the lower class. Carson decides they’ll just watch her like a hawk and Tom will make it clear that neither hanky nor panky will be tolerated. Mrs. Hughes warns Tom that Braithwaite is a “ticking time bomb.” The “of sexually transmitted diseases” part goes unsaid.
Cora hears the children fussing and goes to peek in. Nanny is cuddling George, cooing at him to go back to sleep and not let “the chauffeur daughter” bother him. Then she snarls at Sybie, “Go back to sleep, you wicked little cross breed!” Oh my giddy aunt! Cora rushes into the room and rings the bell in the servant’s quarters. Nanny tries to claim she was playing a game with Sybie but Cora’s no fool. She orders Nanny to pack and leave in the morning because her values are not welcome. When Mrs. Hughes arrives she sits down and says she’ll stay in the room while Nanny packs. Mrs. Hughes is to send up a maid to sleep in the room, find a bed for Nanny, and make sure she never touches the children again. See what happens when you cross Thomas while also being a bigot? You are only allowed to be mean to the lower classes when they remain down there. If they rise up and mate with your children you have to be nice to them. That’s how civilized people act in the World According to Cora.
Robert tires to talk to Mary about Edith’s many trips to London. She starts to tell him about Rochester and when she remembers how he talked to Matthew in Scotland she just stops talking and starts staring into the distance again. Lord love a duck she is annoying. She starts to go to bed but stops and offers to be at the tenants’ luncheon. He rejects that idea outright. She tells him that she and Matthew talked and she has ideas. He treats her like she’s six years old and unable to understand such complicated matters, pats her on her pretty little head and sends her off to bed. She just dejectedly goes. The old Mary wouldn’t have stood for that. It does seem like without Matthew there to tell her she’s a good person she can’t grasp that she has actual value in the world. I almost feel sorry for her. Or maybe I have gas. Probably the gas.
On her way up the stairs she frowns and turns back around. She goes to Carson’s office and apologizes for how she spoke to him. Good. She tells him that the Dowager agrees with him and he’s not surprised. When he says they all were fond of Matthew she takes a stuttering breath, trying to hold back her emotions, but can’t do it and starts sobbing. It feels like this might be the first time she’s cried since he died. Carson tenderly embraces her and tells her to go ahead and cry. When she’s done she’ll find her strength and be able to do what’s needed. She’s not sure she will and her father obviously doesn’t think so. Carson says she owes it to Matthew to make sure the work he started is continued. She thanks him for the boost of self-esteem and he offers to provide it whenever needed. That was a very touching scene and it did make me like her a bit more. But she needs to find some self-esteem that isn’t tied to what a man thinks of her. I realize that’s a tall order in this time and place but still.
Mrs. Patmore breaks a bowl and makes a huge mess trying the electric mixer. Mrs. Hughes tells her to let Ivy and Daisy clean it but she’s afraid to let Daisy know she can’t use it. Because she’ll know she’s part of the future and Mrs. Patmore is part of the past. Mrs. Hughes straps on an apron and helps her clean while they gossip about Nanny West.
The jaunty theme music is back as the sun rises over Downton. Oh give me a break, Fellowes, and stop linking the weather to Mary’s mood. There’s a whole other house full of people that aren’t such complete jerks whenever possible. Cora tells Robert Nanny is leaving and praises Thomas for warning her about the old bat. Bates glares from the corner while Thomas smirks in that self-satisfied manner he does so well. The more things change the more they stay the same.
At the tenants’ luncheon a bunch of men sit around, saying to each other, “Murmur murmur murmur.” They all fall silent and stand when Mary enters. She’s moved from all black to wearing muted purple, the color of half mourning. She’s polite and charming as she asks one of them about his sheep. Fine, Mary gets two grudgingly points for finally finding her bootstraps.
Next week Robert finds a letter from Matthew that might impact his ability to run roughshod over everyone else. Braithwaite gets Anna in trouble with Robert. Anna chaperones Rose at a club and they end up in the middle of a bar brawl. And the Dowager pushes Mary and Tom into spending time alone together. NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO!