Let’s get the miserable stuff out of the way first. Things came to a head with Poor Edith, baby Marigold and the Pigman family. Maybe it’s because I’m exceptionally emotionally unstable this winter, cooped up as I am inside the house with snow drifts blocking the exits, but I thought I was going to choke on my own tears during Edith’s baby-snatching scene. Watching Mrs. Pigman realize her worst fears was painful beyond measure. Just think: Mrs. Pigman receives a knock on the door and opens it to find wild-eyed Edith staring at her, the stuff of nightmares. She soon comes to understand that this time Edith doesn’t plan on lingering at the table eating biscuits while staring at Marigold longingly. This time Lady Edith has come to take the baby without warning, coolly announcing that she has every right to take her, thanks a lot for watering and feeding Marigold over the last couple of years. Gotta go now. Bye! Mrs. Pigman looks at Mr. Pigman pleadingly at which point he says Yep, I’ve been lying. We’re not Marigold’s parents — this lady gets to take her. Right now.
The cruelty of the situation was just awful. Of course I’m sympathetic to Poor Edith who is a bit crazed in the wake of finally discovering her beloved newspaper editor is dead and gone from her life forever — who wouldn’t be sympathetic in such circumstances? (Besides Mary, who hardly counts as human.) But Edith’s behavior really, really made me see the justice in Miz Bunting’s opinions about the evils of the aristocracy when she walks into the Pigmans’ kitchen and announces, that, after some consideration and a few years, she just wants Mrs. Pigman to know that she’s actually the baby’s mother. Without further ado, Edith more or less rips the baby out of Mrs. Pigman’s arms, leaving Mrs. Pigman — the innocent party — bereft, with no baby and no recourse. It’s not that I don’t want Edith to have her baby. I just want Mrs. Pigman to have her baby too.
In more from the downer department, Bates finally discovers that Bates was hiding anti-Bates making materials. Bates confronts Bates in their cottage, at which point a whole bunch of topics, previously forbidden from discussion, such as contraception, murder and rape are brought up and finally dispensed with. I didn’t kill him! one Bates said. What a relief! the other Bates said. Now if we could only prove it! They both said together. Both Bates seemed more like the old versions of themselves in this episode: trustworthy, decent, open, and so on. But it’s too late for me to really like either of them much, since apparently each character can turn on a dime and be construed as a potential murderer if the writers so choose. I’m relieved that the whole hiding-Lady-Mary’s-baby-stopper-package subplot seems to be resolved, as I was sure that drama would last into next year.
Edith notwithstanding, things are looking up all over for most of the Downton crowd. Lady Mary gets a bob and looks like a brittle porcelain doll with a helmet of painted hair. Which is about right. The brutalist hair cut suits her, since she is a terrible person. Lady Mabel Fox Lane Finchley Brown shows up at the horse race picnic to take Lord Gillingham off Mary’s hands. Lady Mabel continues to be a champ and a good sport and just terrific — many times the person Lady Mary is, and Tony Foyle, Lord Gillingham, should thank his lucky stars that she’s giving him another shot. On a related note, I find it highly unlikely that Mary bested anyone in that race she was in, riding sidesaddle, bouncing delicately along, her bony frame dangling off the side of the horse while everyone else rode astride their animals leaning forward in the saddle. The laws of physics simple do not support the alleged success of Lady Mary in the race. Probably Charles Blake paid everyone off so that they would hang back and give Mary the illusion that she did well. Blake seems to have a soft spot for Mary’s brand of self-regard, which makes him the man for her.
The Upstairs crowd continued to be lucky in love. Lord G made his way back to Cora after she gave him the only sensible speech she has ever made in her whole life about how he’s not so perfect either. Lord G was stunned to realize that Cora had a point, and shuffled back in his silk slippers to re-join his beloved in their bedroom, where he would once again be privy to his wife’s murmured inanities, her lovely blue eyes blinking at him vacantly, just like in the good old days.
The love train keeps moving, with Rose and Atticus smiling meaningfully at each other, Isobel accepting Lord Merton’s marriage proposal, and Granny Grantham and Igor engaging in a very weird conversation in Igor’s garret, during which he uttered so many ridiculous things it was hard to choose the dumbest. At one point Igor actually said something about unhappiness in marriage being…(dramatic pause)…”ill-bred.” I guess it wasn’t hard to find the dumbest thing he said after all. I honestly did’t even understand that line; it didn’t make a bit of sense. Speaking of sense, Granny’s whip-smart new lady’s maid wins the prize for good sense when she was justifiably horrified at waiting in an alley for Granny to wrap up her visit to Igor. She also wins the prize for being the oldest lady’s maid in the world.
Downton Abbey does a great job of weighting the show in favor of the older members of the cast. Not only do they actually have real plot lines — involving love and feuds and everything in between — they have most of the best lines too. I’ve come to realize that I would take watching a scene with Granny and Isobel any time over a scene with Mary and Rose (ugh). And now I can add the new lady’s maid to the roster of Characters I’d Prefer to be Watching. To think of Spratt and that ancient maid fighting in the kitchen over washing the Dowager’s underwear — at least I think that’s what they were fighting about — was refreshingly weird. Just because people get older doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions about washing delicates.
Mrs. Patmore decides to buy a retirement cottage after touring it with Carson and Mrs. Hughes. At the sight of the cottage, Carson’s mental cogs began sputtering to life, and after much grinding and churning he decides that if Mrs. Patmore can buy a cottage, he can buy a cottage. He asks Mrs. Hughes to go in on a place with him and shack up with him there someday. At least I think that’s what he was asking her, even though he pretended that they would be co-owning it as an investment property. Mrs. Hughes, understandably, is amused.
Skulking Thomas is more deathly ill than ever, and the Sainted Baxter finally gets him to go to the family doctor, who is on retainer over in the village. In the way of so many of Downton Abbey‘s characters, the doctor is a man one hundred years ahead of his time. He maintains a complete grasp of 21st-century social developments, and because of this is able to inform Thomas that all the electro-shock therapy and saline solution in the world will not make him other than he is. Okay, thanks, Thomas says, before walking companionably with Baxter back to Downton under a shared umbrella.
Sainted Baxter has her finger in another pie in this episode, the matter of Mr. Green. She gravely informs Scotland Yard about what she knows about Mr. Green and the Bates-es, which is exactly nothing. But the small matter of zero evidence won’t stop Scotland Yard from showing up at Downton again and again. These cops must have a tremendous amount of time and money, meandering from London to Yorkshire as they do on a regular basis, just to have a 3-minute conversation with one servant — or maybe two if they feel like it — about just what it is that a particular servant does not know about Mr. Green’s death.
Molesley has suddenly taken a keen and uncomfortable interest in Daisy. This seems to have come about because, well, for no reason that I can think of, as Molesley and Daisy have never exchanged a single word before this episode. Maybe the viewers are being set up for a very artificial scenario in which there will be a love triangle between Molesley and Baxter and Daisy. Unlikely as it is on all counts, maybe Baxter will pine for Molesley, while Molesley longs for Daisy — who has eyes only for Lenin. Regardless, the prospect of watching Molesley attempting to woo Daisy is not something I’m personally looking forward to.
As far as the dependents go: Isis is sick, which her master failed to notice. He also failed to notice that she is a different dog entirely than the one in the opening credits. Mary, as dense as ever, suggested that Isis, who must be at least 102 in dog years, might be feeling poorly due to being pregnant. I’m not sure that Mary understands the biological realities of reproduction, in spite of her contraband reading material. Viewers caught an extended glimpse of George and Sybbie, who were out for some fresh air and a sidelong glance from their relatives. Sybbie sported a chic bob, and no one gave her flack for it. Probably because no one cares.
Well that’s it. Don’t forget to tune in next week, when Isis crosses the rainbow bridge, Edith realizes she should have waited until after Marigold was potty-trained to snatch her, Granny drops off the missing Princess in the alley below Prince Igor’s garret bedroom, Daisy involuntarily vomits into the vat of lobster bisque — which was intended to be the first course at the dinner party welcoming Miz Bunting back to the family table — after Daisy realizes that Molesley wants to be her Number One Comrade, and best of all: the ancient lady’s maid poisons Spratt with a vial of silver polish.