This episode offered more of everything we love: more talking, more harumphing, more potential Mary-mates, more Daisy ‘n’ Patmore, more Carson ‘n’ Mrs. ‘ughes, more Dowager vs. Isobel. It also offered less of everything we love: Isis was present in name only. And then there was doe-eyed Edith, stumbling and bumbling her way toward godmother status with baby Marigold, her secret daughter from her long-lost goose-stepping lover, Mr. Griegson.
Mrs. Pigman is justifiably horrified at ‘er lady’s intrusive visits, where Edith consumes the last of the tea and biscuits in the larder on a regular basis, never mind the fact that she has more than enough food at Downton. Mrs. Pigman goes on to say one of the only sensible things anyone says in the whole episode: “I don’t want her treating this like a doll’s house and Marigold like her doll!” Mr. Pigman, undeserving of his reputation for good sense, makes everything better by making everything worse. You’re on a need-to-know-basis, woman! he shouts. No, he doesn’t say that but he might as well have. I think the time has come to change the locks on the cottage, Mrs. Pigman. Because once Edith sets her sights on you, there’s no escaping, only fleeing. Fleeing the altar, fleeing to Germany. Poor Edith. She is a one-woman wrecking ball. Just like Miley Cyrus, only with more clothes on.
In other news from upstairs, Lord Grantham aka Old Donk was in a dither throughout the episode, ranting about Miz Bunting coming to dinner (thank you, Old Donk! We feel the same way!), raving about Tom absconding with Sybbie to America (no way, Jose!), grumbling about Bricker flirting with Isis, who holds first place in Old Donk’s heart (for good reason! Have you met his family?). I was pretty thrilled about Old Donk’s crotchetiness, as I’d rather see him behave like his mother than like his wife. Usually he is more like what’s-her-face (I honestly can’t even remember his wife’s name right now), simpering and sighing throughout each scene, his presence completely irrelevant, except as a counterweight to whomever is sitting at the other end of the couch.
Speaking of what’s-her-name, wow! Someone lit a fire under her this week! Fire, thy name is Brickman. The only thing worse than seeing Lady Grantham perched on couches, smiling vacantly, is to see her flirting. It was quite painful to watch her with Brickman after dinner, giggling through her inspiring story about how the House of Grantham came to inquire the exquisite Italian painting in the second library. She gazed into Brickman’s deeply tanned, untrustworthy face, enchanted. How did you come by this piece? Brickman inquired, flashing teeth so perfect they were positively un-British.Oh, we came by it a coupla earls ago, Lady G. says. The old earl, who was quite young at the time, had to climb over some dead peasants in France to get it home to Downton Abbey. Poor fellow was caught there during the fall of the Bastille! Can you believe it? What a pain. Tee hee hee!
Meanwhile, Isobel faces off with the Dowager over Lord Merkin-Merton’s misplaced affections while Isobel’s other potential paramour, the Doctor, is completely outmatched in the game of love. The Doctor spends his precious time with Isobel going on and on about insulin. Which, come to think of it, is as much the way to Isobel’s heart as anything else. Unless it’s the plight of prostitutes, Russian refugees, or pig-farming. Even though I respect and admire Isobel, I always hope the Dowager crushes her. There’s nothing I like better in an episode than seeing Isobel’s face crumple when she knows she’ been bested by Grandma Grantham. I don’t know what this says about me, but I know what it says about the Dowager. She is a force to be reckoned with, outmatched only by Mrs. Hughes, who is a wise and faithful presence, even if she is forced to lie to Carson about Miz Bunting turning Daisy into a communist. This really sends a chill into the Carson-Hughes alliance. Though for once I agree with Carson (not about the placement of the War Memorial, as exciting as that debate turned out to be), but about Miz Bunting being kept far, far away from Downton.
Rose, as usual, is around only to meddle, be facile, and make everyone else look brilliant by comparison, and also to get Old Donk to buy a radio. She half-succeeds, because he finally relents and rents one (who knew they had Rent-a-Centers in Yorkshire?) because the King wanted to speak softly over the wireless. This led to more discussion of the Future, which everyone seems to be completely aware of. Things are changing! Soon our kind won’t be around! No more Second Footmen! The King of England is not a magic man living in a castle! And so on. This does bring me to an entirely serious point, which is that it is a terrible idea to have so much exposition about the changing times in the script. Nearly every single character engages in it and, really, people do not talk this way. Meaning, people going about the business of living their day-to-day lives do not constantly somberly predict, with complete certainty, how technology will alter our lives. We speculate, we wonder, we even are concerned, but we don’t knowingly nod at each other and gloomily talk about this being the last Christmas we’ll ever hold a conversation without using robots at the dinner table. Because we don’t know what the future holds. Yet everyone in Downton and the surrounding area is dead certain about it all, from Miz Bunting to Mr. Carson.
Back to the show, other stuff happens, like Anna going to the chemist to fetch the goods for Mary’s getaway. I have no doubt that Bates will somehow get ahold of this and make Anna suffer for what he thinks is her effort to avoid making babies with him. Also: Anna is nice to Thomas in the wake of Jimmy-James leaving Downton (oh yes, Jimmy-James left), Lady Grantham has no idea what to do with the jewel thief in her midst (what a quandary! if only you had deliberately caused me to have a miscarriage like my last lady’s maid, my course of action would be so much clearer!), and Moseley and Baxter continue to misunderstand one another. I have one thing to say about this plot line: too much Moseley. Too. Much. Molesley.
Anyway, the show ends with Mary further compromising her already besmirched virtue (let us never forget the dead Turkish diplomat in her bed, perished in the year of our Lord 1912) in a hotel room, her porcelain face nearly cracking as she tries to smile at the prospect of a long night ahead of her with Lord G. the Younger, also known as Tony Foyle. But where was Annabelle Porterhouse-Crotter-Dogtrot, her supposed sketching partner? Turns out it was all a ruse, Annabelle was back at her country house, riding sidesaddle. The sketching was just a cover story involving suitable aristocratic pursuits for Mary’s real, decidedly unsuitable pursuits: spending quality time with Lord Gillingham, time in which they would come to know one another better. I laughed out loud when Foyle, Lord Gillingham, took Mary’s hands, gazed deeply into her eyes, and talked about stamina. Mary has stamina, Lord Gillingham, just not the kind that you’re talking about. She will destroy you in ways that are not very fun.
In other Mary mating news, Charles Blake shows up again, a man who is very clearly a better match for Mary’s idea of a good time, something along the lines of a post-dinner match of wits, a very fine port, and maybe a gander at her son George as he sleeps in the nursery. Then it’s an early bedtime before the next day’s activities: all those couches can’t sit on themselves! This gives the viewers something to live for, hoping that Mary comes to her senses and ditches the seaside and her ill-advised stamina-test with Tony Foyle. Go back home to Downton, Mary! The couches are nearly empty with the family so busy, and Anna is bored and frightened with only her own dress to button up and Bates for company!
See you next week, when Rose breaks the wireless, Tony Foyle pleads a headache, Mrs. Pigman moves to France with Marigold, and Old Donk puts his foot down, demanding that Miz Bunting be shot for treason.