Sunday, January 19, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 3: Pregnancy scares & snares; marriage plots; Anna/Bates in limbo

Thomas: "What's the matter with everyone this merry morn?"
Carson: "I always think there's something rather foreign about high spirits at breakfast."
This opening scene at the servants' table is suitably low-keyed, because Anna must endure sitting there with the man who raped her in the last episode, Lord Gillingam's valet. At the front door, the hosts bid farewell to the remnants of their house party, and the sweet Duchess of Yeovil says some consoling things to Tom about the loss of a loved one. Dig that splendid hood ornament on the Rolls as it pulls away!
Wearing a gorgeous purple velvet dress, Mary tells Papa that she and Tom are going to London to discuss tax matters. He is predictably blustery, but she deftly handles him. (Later, he looks positively dumbfounded as Mary and Tom set off to look at a sawmill.) Mama says she hopes Mary will see Lord Gillingham again in town, but Mary nips that in the bud: "Don't be transparent Mama, it doesn't suit you."
Anna's torment
Nearly suicidal, Anna confers with Mrs Hughes, the only person who knows the anguish she is suffering about the rape and about needing to keep it from Bates.
Anna: “I think that somehow, I must’ve made it happen.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Stuff and nonsense! You were attacked by an evil, violent man. There is no sin in that.”
Anna: “But I feel dirty. I can’t let him touch me because I’m soiled.”
Once again she rejects the idea of going to the police because she fears Bates will kill the perp ("Better a broken heart than a broken neck.") On top of that is the terror of being pregnant. Joanna Froggart's acting here is superlative, making her character's range of emotions so completely palpable that it's heartbreaking to watch. (Scuttlebutt is that she is called "Jo-Fro" on the set. So adorable.)
Meanwhile, in London
Cora and her sister-in-law Lady Rosamund have cooked up a dinner/dancing evening for their daughters with Lord Gillingham and Sir John Bullock. When Tony tells a surprised Mary that he hopes she doesn't feel "ambushed," she replies  "I'm glad you came. When I'm at Downton I feel like I'm stuck at school for the rest of my life." Tony declares himself "almost engaged" to Miss Lane Fox but ready to break it off if Mary is open to him as a suitor. "The truth is I'm not ready and won't be for several years" she tells him, admitting that being with him has been "lovely … I feel quite refreshed."
Her cousin Rose has an all-too-short interlude with dreamy jazz singer Jack Ross when he steps in to partner her after she's abandoned on the dance floor of the Lotus Club by an exceedingly drunk Sir John. Rosamund quickly hustles Rose out and later remonstrates:  “things have to come to a pretty pass when you have to be rescued by a black bandleader!” Boo!
Over at Gregson's digs, the camera lingers on the beautiful gold bracelet encircling Edith's upper arm as they sink into a lingering kiss … fade to black (and to hussy status when her auntie finds out)! Rosamond reads Edith the riot act when she learns that she came in at 6 in the morning. (“You’re trusting this man with your name and your reputation"—unwanted pregnancy discussion #2!)
Edna's Brathwaite's delusions of grandeur
As you may recall from the last episode, smarmy maid Edna caught Tom at a low moment and got him drunk and into bed. Now she implies she might be pregnant and pressures him into marrying her, saying she'll make him a good wife. You can just see the glint of the Grantham silver in her eyes. Bleah!!
Edna: “Because I must be sure that you’ll marry me if I’m carrying your child. I need to know that you won’t cast me off, that you’ll be a man of honor if it comes to it. And don’t say I’m not good enough. If you were good enough for Lady Sybil Crawley, then I’m good enough for you.”
Luckily, Tom takes an observant Mary's advice to find someone to unburden himself to, and he does—to the indispensable Mrs Hughes. (The Dear Abby of Downton Abbey, she counsels Tom, Anna, and Mr Carson in this episode!!) Mrs H tells Tom that Edna would never risk getting pregnant before she was sure that Tom would marry her. She assures him that if he had agreed to marry Edna, then there would’ve been a pregnancy after the fact, but not before.
With Tom there, Mrs H calls Edna on the carpet, saying she found an “instruction book” in Edna’s things and knows that Edna took precautions.  And she tells Edna that she's good and sacked, and if she makes any trouble she can forget about a reference.
On her way upstairs after getting her comeuppance, Edna encounters her onetime partner in connivance, Thomas Barrow. (Cue Thomas's patented combo of smirk/pursed mouth.) But now he's the object of her spleen:
Edna: “Do you ever wonder why people dislike you so much? It’s because you are sly, and oily, and smug. And I’m really pleased I got the chance to tell you before I go.”
Thomas: “Well if we’re playing the truth game, then you’re a manipulative little witch, and if your schemes have come to nothing, I’m delighted.”
Star-crossed lovers
Bates is happy to see Anna when she and Mary return from London, and begs her to either kiss him or tell him what’s going on.
Anna: “Don’t bully me!”
Bates: “Anna, you’re upset. You’re unhappy, and I don’t know why. You say it’s not me. Well I hope that’s true, but there is a reason and I need to find out what it is. I won’t press you now if it makes things worse, but in the end I will find out.”
Anna asks Mrs. Hughes if she can move back into the main house, saying they can explain the situation by her having to be ladies' maid to both Mary and her mother. Bates confides in Lord Grantham, saying he doesn’t know what is wrong with Anna or what to do. (“It must be my fault, because she's incapable of fault.”) Robert tells him to wait until “things become clear,” and to trust that when a marriage is based on the kind of love that Anna and Bates share, everything will work out.
“A long journey to ask a short question.
Lord Gillingham pops up at Downton, having ridden from London on the same train as Mary but in the third class carriage so as not to discomfit her. Making some pretext of business to her parents, he asks to spend the night. (“And so another brick is pulled from the wall” sighs the Dowager when the men of the house are forced to wear black tie at dinner because Lord Gillingham did not pack evening dress.) When they're alone, he proclaims his ardor and begs her to marry him: "I love you Mary, and there must be a way to convince you."
Gillingham: “We’re good together, Mary. And we could be so very happy if you’d let us.”
Mary: “And Miss Lane Fox?”
Gillingham: “I like Mabel, a lot. And I think I can come to love her, but I’m not in love with her, as I am with you. You fill my brain. I see you when I close my eyes. I … I can’t stop thinking about you, where you are, what you’re doing … “
Mary: “You’re very persuasive.”
Gillingham: “Then be persuaded.”
Mary: “I only wish I could.”
He offers her years before they marry; even a promise will suffice. But regretfully, she can't bring herself to let go of Matthew's memory enough to say yes. Out on the vast grounds of the Abbey, she allows him a farewell kiss.
Next week: Bates pushes to discover what’s bothering Anna, and Mary stands her ground with a tenant in arrears on the rent. There’s also speculation about the disposition of the new ladies’ maid, Miss Baxter, handily recommended by Barrow. (Please Cora, go to an employment agency!!)
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  1. an interesting sidelight:

    1. Yes! through her pa's dough, Almina was able to do wonderful things, such as finance the Tut expedition and turn Highclere into a hospital in WWI. This article's title is a bit misleading, because the history is not secret at all and has been written about extensively since the series began. We have one book on her by the current Countess of Canarvon.