Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 1 recap (Part 2): doin' the one-step, choosing life, and jostling for management of the estate

Who are these smoochers? Read on!
Plunging right in: A box comes from Matthew's office with a letter for Mary saying he wanted her to be his sole heiress (along with the toy dog she gave Matthew to keep him safe during the war). Her papa pouts and her granny chastises him, because seriously, he's being a pill and a pain in the patootie, reading the letter before she does and consulting lawyers as to its validity. The following dinner table conversation ensues when Robert huffily barrages his daughter with things she's supposed to master before even daring to attempt to help run the estate:
Mary: “I assume you’re trying to make some sort of point.”
Cora: “He’s trying to show that a woman’s place is in the home.”
Tom: “But she knows a lot about Matthew’s plans, and that has value for me. Mrs. Crawley, what do you think?”
Isobel: “I’m afraid I’m on Mary’s side, Robert, if sides there must be.”
Robert: “There are no sides, not at all. I’m pleased if you’re pleased. I’m just saying, you [i.e. Mary] have some work to do. That is, if the letter turns out to be valid.”
Violet: “Which you very much hope it is not.”
Mary does go out with Tom, and we see a breathtaking vista with Highclere (Downton) in the distance. A great Violet bon mot occurs beforehand: "Won't Papa mind?" Mary asks (re going about the estate with Tom). "There can be too much truth in any relationship" is Violet's reply.
Downstairs, the new team of Barrow & Brathwaithe, specialists in insinuating and conniving, frame and blame Anna for a garment Brathwaithe ruined, thereby taking her down a notch with both Cora and Robert, the Earl and the Countess of Grantham. Nice work, evil twins! O'Brien would approve. Truly, Thomas Barrow and Edna Braithwaite rival Boris and Natasha as cartoon villains!
I kind of hoped that the scheming sourpuss O'Brien, who bailed on the Countess at the very beginning of Part 1 ("like a thief in the night") would at least make a cameo return. But Siobhan Finneran (above) has left the show for good and is slated to play a woman who wins the lottery in a BBC series called The Syndicate.
Meanwhile, Matthew's former valet Molesley has fallen on hard times, and Bates forges his signature on a promissory note and presents money (secretly provided by Violet) in front of the staff so the befuddled Molesley can’t refuse it. Anna asks Bates privately why he did it, and he says that he did it for her:
Bates: “You have put up with so much that I couldn’t change, so if there’s ever the slightest thing that I could make better for you, then I will.”
Anna: “But how did you manage it?”
Bates: “Don’t I keep telling you? Prison was an education.”
Yearning to go kick up her heels and dance the one-step, soubrette Rose persuades a reluctant Anna to be her chaperone at an afternoon tea populated by servants and farmworkers in York. Anna checks it out with Mary, who recognizes that Downton has likely been Dullsville of late for her cousin and says ok—as long as she keeps Rose out of trouble. Not bloody likely!! Rose asks for “something special” in her tea, fluffs her plumage, and immediately attracts the attention of a handsome local from across the room.  Footman Jimmy, who’s seen Anna and Rose go into the hall, turns up and asks Anna to dance. Rose pretends to her dance partner that she's a maid from Downton (even attempting a “lower class” accent). A persistent drunk tries to cut in, and a fight breaks out.  Jimmy hustles Anna and Rose out of the hall before the police arrive. Lo and behold, the man Rose was dancing with turns up at the Abbey the next night, looking for “the housemaid, Rose.” Anna gives Rose a maid getup and they have a sweet little moonlight tryst, in which she tells him that she’s spoken for but kisses him goodbye. Jimmy sees them as he comes out for a smoke, and Rose says she'll be forever in his debt if he keeps mum.
The tea dance in York
It's getting harder and harder for middle sister Edith to resist spending the night with her inamorata Gregson, who is gratifyingly attentive and hosts a soirée so she can meet his literary friends. Edith invites him to come to Downton for a shindig (next week!) so the family (i.e., curmudgeonly Robert) can get to know him better. Also next week: In Episode 2, opera singer Dame Kiri de Kanawa arrives on the scene (as real-life Australian diva Nellie Melba), along with a brash newcomer who flirts with Anna. And the hopeful, handsome suitors come a-calling on Lady Mary at the soigné house party!
Random thought: Don't you love that marble statue of the boy and girl at the bottom of the stairs?  I've searched the Highclere website but can't find out anything about it.
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  1. I heard that the actress who plays O'Brien left because she didn't like playing such a mean character. Hopefully Mr. Barrow won't follow suit. I don't know how many more people the writers can kill off/ship off to another country before faking another plague.

    1. I guess he got around it neatly by having her head out to India ... I understand why Siobhan wouldn't want to be identified with such a predominately negative character. Harder to understand why the others would bail on the most popular show in Public Television history!