Monday, January 27, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 4 recap: "Wars have been waged with less fervour"

The episode opens gloomily, with chiaroscuro shots of Bates and Anna going about their business. That and the something-up-her-sleeve demeanor of Cora's new maid put me in mind of Balzac, which does not bode well! "My life is perfect and then in the space of a day it is nothing?" Bates says to Anna, but she continues to shut him out. Mrs Hughes tells Anna she wishes Anna could emerge from her "veil of shadows." But Anna is still terrified that telling Bates about Mr Green would incite him to murder.
Amidst some very nice Vaughn Williams–type music, one of the tenants is buried in the churchyard. When his son asks Robert if he can take over ("My family have been farming Yew Tree since the Napoleonic Wars"), Robert regretfully declines because Mary has said his dad was too far behind on the rent. Back at the Abbey, the afternoon post comes (yes, folks, it was delivered twice a day then), but there's nothing for Edith from her wandering swain. Do we see a tear in Mary's eye as she writes to congratulate Tony on his upcoming nuptials? Doubtless that's why she's snippy to poor Edith (who is dressed becomingly in rust, as she was in last week's midnight assignation with her beau, who has supposedly arrived in Germany).
Isobel Crawley is very patient with Violet, who puts her through the mill before grudgingly agreeing to take on Isabel's protege Mr Pegg as under-gardener. I imagine Violet's life would be much poorer without Isobel as a sparring partner. I think she vastly enjoys harrumphing at Isobel and thinking up put downs. ("I wonder your halo doesn't grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock.") Isobel is so used to it she doesn't even react, just carries on with her agenda. Violet suspects Mr Pegg of lifting her swanky paper opener, a gift from the King of Sweden. Please! Would he be that stupid? I do believe Violet's prune face is going to have egg on it when it turns up.
"Nothing like a glass of o.j. supplied by my thoughtful new maid to start the day off right. What's that you say, the other two were hellions? Third time's the charm, my dear!"
Butter wouldn't melt in the mouth of the new ladies' maid, Baxter, who is obviously under some sort of obligation to Thomas because of something in her past. ("I"m grateful for this job, and we both know why.") "She'll be eating out of your hand soon" Thomas tells her regarding Cora. "That's the intention," she replies. She asks him why he can't rely on Anna for intel from upstairs; "Mrs Bates is incorruptible. So we have nothing in common" is his reply. Thomas cautions her not to make enemies downstairs, because that was “Miss O’Brien’s mistake.” When she mentions that the staff don’t seem to like him very much, he tells her that it’s her job to change that. Wouldn't it be refreshing (and reflect better on Julian Fellowes' writing) if Baxter turned out to be a rather nice person?
Mrs Patmore and her kitchen minions. Would she ever like to off that corset!
Meanwhile, Mrs Patmore has a predictable conniption about this newfangled thing called a fridge that Cora tries to foist on her. “Is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance?” asks Cora. "Oh milady, I wouldn't mind getting rid of my corset!" Mrs P replies. Snap!
Bates finds Anna alone in the boot room, and tries to get her to open up. “It’s strange, standing here next to you in silence. Because I love you, and I want to find out why you don’t love me any more. You’d think we could talk about it, but apparently not.” But she just says she's going to Rippon and splits. Bates solicits a tête–à–tête with Mrs Hughes (a.k.a., Everybody's Confidante) and pressures her into saying what happened to Anna. She finally caves, but even though he suspects Mr Green, she invents an unknown assailant who lurked downstairs. Poor Mrs H—he really puts her on the spot, making her swear on her mother's grave and all. He leaves her office and stands in a corner, sobbing.
Bates then helps Anna unburden herself of her secret (sort of) by saying Mrs Hughes told him what happened. To her protestations that she is "soiled," he replies, "You are made higher to me, and holier because of the suffering you've been put through. You are my wife, and I have never been prouder, nor loved you more than I do now at this moment.” Just seeing her lower lip madly tremble as he told her he knew, and his big hands as he held her little face in hers, was a major catharsis! So she's moving back into the cottage, but unbeknownst to her, he intends to search for and punish the man that did it. Uh oh. Just what she wanted to prevent.
Upstairs, Mr Pamuk’s friend Evelyn Napier (from Season 1) surprises Mary in the library and announces that he will be in the neighborhood to assess the damage of the war years on various landed estates. She seems quite thrilled at the prospect and insists that he and his boss, Charles Blake, stay with them at Downton. She obviously digs Napier, acting rather googly (for her).
"Do you think she's having a good childhood?" Mary asks Tom in her typically detached way as they spend some time in the nursery with Sybbie and George. Tom shows signs of being tired of his role as the "uppity chauffeur" and makes some noises about heading out to America. Mary's not keen, saying she doesn't want to lose him (or her niece, one would presume!)

Favorite lines from the episode:

Thomas: "Mrs Patmore is not what you'd call a futurist."

"There's naught so queer as folk" Anna quips when she and Bates wonder why a pleasant person like Baxter could be friends with Thomas. (You can sure say that again!)

Countess Violet (to Isobel): "Wars have been waged with less fervour." 

"Nobody cares as much about anything as you do." 

"Hold still, dear, while I zing you. This will only hurt a little bit." (OK, I made that one up.)

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