Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 3: Tom is Back Plus a Wedding

I stayed awake for this episode, mostly because Cora did a lot more talking than usual and Edith finally fired her editor (either that or he quit — I couldn’t quite tell) and as a result she, too, did a lot more talking. It perked me up, to see both of those ladies expressing an opinion. Usually, they spend each episode like well-dressed turtles: inert, lying in one place, until at unexpected moments a face emerges. The eyes become animated and finally, slowly, there is some movement. A walk across a room, say, or a gander at some pigs at a fat stock show.

But don’t get too excited, folks, as next week Cora could be sitting on a couch again, dully staring into the middle distance. And Edith could go right back to being her old self, arms dangling at her sides, watching helplessly as Mary steals Mr. LandAgent right from under her nose and Marigold goes to live with Mrs. Pigman.

And Mary might just do this, since she’s been lacking a man to emasculate since the season started (though Mr. LandAgent might not prove to be much of a challenge in this regard).

In this episode, the big news at Downton Abbey is twofold: a Wedding and a Comeback.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 2: Pigs

This is the episode that nearly broke me. I was looking forward to watching the show online today, but only a quarter of the way through, I felt a panic attack coming on. I paused the show and placed an emergency phone call to my oldest sister, Jenny.

Jenny had already watched the episode, and knew what rocky terrain ahead, terrain filled with lots of conversations about hospital mergers, wedding venues, and pigs. So many pigs.

The phone rang and rang. My panic increased. What if Jenny didn’t pick up? I had to talk with her. I needed help. Immediate help. When she answered, I felt my throat catch in a sob. Help me Jenny!

“About Downton Abbey…” I began. “I don’t think I can do it anymore, Jenny.” I said. “I don’t think I can watch this episode. I think I’m through with this show.”

“Shhhh….” Jenny reassured me, in the manner of older sisters everywhere. (Except for Mary, the older sister with a heart like a piece of granite wedged inside a steel cage.) “It will be okay.” Jenny continued. “You can get through this.”

“But Molesley!” I sputtered. “He started talking to Daisy again about the exams! About taking that stupid math test that he yammered on and on and on about last season!” I started to cry.

“It’s okay, Sarah.” Jenny said again. “It will all be okay. Sure, Molesley can’t stop talking about Daisy’s education. And sure, there are a lot more pigs ahead of you, but you can get through those scenes. Just concentrate on the clothes. And the furniture. Concentrate on how beautiful everything is, how interesting it is to look at.”

“Alright…” I murmured, wiping the tears from my eyes. “If you say so. If you say I can get through this episode, I guess I can.”

“Sure you can!” Jenny said brightly. “And remember: when another scene with the pigs comes on the screen, just close your eyes and think of England.”

And readers, I made it. I watched the entire episode, all the way to the end, to the final scene: Ripping Marigold Out of Mrs. Drew’s Arms Redux 2.0.

I Can Do This

Unlike last season’s painful version of Ripping Marigold out of Mrs. Drew’s Arms (Original Mix), I didn’t cry while watching. I had already cried all the tears I’m gonna cry for this trainwreck of a show. Oh Downton. Why are you doing this to us? We faithfully watch week after week, yet all you can do is rehash the same plot points over and over. It’s like being inside the movie Groundhog Day. Every episode we wake up to the same thing: blackmail, scandal, times they are a-changin’, ice boxes and radios, li’l babies and thwarted love, let’s go to America! let’s not go to America!, Thomas is scheming, Thomas is lonely, Bateses killed someone, no they didn’t, Bateses can’t have a baby, yes they can (they are one person after all), let’s keep a secret, let’s tell someone that secret, oh look! here’s a letter from someone far away, let’s all eat breakfast together and murmur inanities, Granny vs. Isobel, Isobel vs. capitalism, Isobel vs. suitors, Cora on a couch, Cora walking around a room, Cora on another couch, everyone hates Edith, and finally, the greatest plot point of them all, one that transcends every season, a timeless sort of topic….. drumroll please.… aren’t those pigs just great?

Pigs are the Best Thing Ever

The thing about pigs is that we can all agree that they are fandamntastic. When all else fails, the pigs will bring us together. Lord G, Lady G, baby George, li’l Marigold, who was “aching to see the pigs” quoth Lady Edith, who got out of the pig-viewing so that she could head to London and be abused by her editor instead of Mary for a change, the village farmers, the farming villagers, the under-butlers and second footmen, ladies maids and the Bateses — the pigs will bring everyone together.

Not sure how Lady Rosalind/Rosamund feels about pigs, but we’ll bring her around soon enough. Did she make it to the fat stock show at Moulton? No? You don’t know what a fat stock show is? Well it’s an opportunity to say pigs a lot. How many times can we all utter the word pigs in this episode? I dunno but let’s go for a million!

Oh that fat stock show! What a time everyone had! Them was some doings! Pigs to look at and give ribbons to PLUS a game of nine pins to play! Pins and pigs go together like nobody’s business. The pigs were so enchanting that Poor Edith failed to notice that her ill-gotten daughter had disappeared. The only one to show sense in that entire nightmare of a climactic scene (yes! the pig show was intended to be the crux of the whole episode) was Mrs. Drew. She absconded with Li’l Marigold heading back to the farm where a comfortable couch and a cup of tea awaited. When confronted by the Crawley Car stuffed with aristocrats, spilling out from all sides like clowns at a circus, Mrs. Drew gave a simple explanation for the kidnapping.

“She was bored, so I took her home.” she shrugged.

Yes! Yes, we are all bored! We are all bored to tears. Please take us home, Mrs. Drew. Take us home, and tuck us in, and when we wake up, Groundhog Day will be over, and the pigs will have disappeared, and we will never ever ever again have to hear Anna say a line like the one she said to Mary, a few nights before the Fat Stock Pig Show:

“You’ll have the last laugh m’lady. When you show up with the pigs in tow.”

Oh please. Make it stop.

Next Week:

Who cares? I don’t know. Something about Li’l Daisy Snackcakes, the socialist-mathematician, and Old Man Mason moving into the Drew’s pigsty, Edith and a feller, blah blah blah. Just close your eyes and think of England.


Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 1: The Birds & the Bees & Mrs. Hughes

The Beginning of the End

Who among you didn’t get a little lump in your throat at the opening credits, knowing that this is the last first time you’ll watch a brand-new Downton Abbey in a brand-new year? For the last six years we’ve anticipated this show every January; it gave us something to look forward to as we emerged from the holidays. And now it is all coming to an end.

It is coming to an end — just like all them big ol’ English country houses came to an end, the ones packed with furniture and paintings and silver, with servants stacked from cellars to rafters like cordwood. Sometimes you just got to call it, to quote Lord Neighbor-who-auctioned-off-his-stuff: you’ve got to “stop hanging on to what is no longer supportable”. And lest we all get too sentimental, let us remember that Downton Abbey, however wonderful the show once was, is no longer supportable. It’s time to put the old girl down. But first! We shall enjoy many last suppers around the table with the Family Grantham, many below-stairs antics, and many, many discussions about how the times just continue to change and change and change.

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Countdown to 2016…

Hey, People of the Internet.

In the waning moments of 2015, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year, and share this video that my brother made with our nieces and nephews offering a nostalgic take on Old Times Past. See you back here on Monday, January 4th for our last first episode recap of Downton Abbey. (I’m making choking sounds as I type this: half in relief, half in grief.)

Downton Abbey: Season 5, The Finale: Mary Sings Like a Bird

Well, we made it, folks. The season is over and we say farewell to the House of Grantham until the Year of our Lord 2016, just ten short months away. I’ve had a week to recover from the prospect, and think I’m ready to review what happened in the season finale. That is, if I can remember it.

Much took place in the final episode, which packed in a whole bunch of dead grouse and one giant Christmas tree. It all culminated with Lady Mary singing a carol in front of the master and servile classes as they gathered together. All of them, to a person, managed to listen to her warbling without openly weeping at the travesty that, of all the people there — so many of them fine — the most horrible individual present should be the one given the honor of singing Silent Night. I’ve never been so convinced of British reserve as I was in that moment, as I’m sure it took everything those people had in them not to cry.

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Downton Abbey: Season 5, Ep. 8: “What a Palaver!”

What a palaver! Tom says during a momentary lull at the latest ruined dinner party. This particular one is destroyed by Rose’s mum, Sour Sue, who, in the midst of her divorce from ol’ Squishy, has missed out on so many recent terrible dinners. Sour Sue decided that if no one else was going to say awful things at the table, then it might as well be her, since no one likes her anyway.

Apparently the British are only repressed when two or fewer people are in the room. A proper Brit refuses to even look at her husband in private, as that would be too indiscreet. No, the best thing to do is wait until you’re gathered around the table with the entire family, a complement of servants, and several near-strangers, then — one or two courses into an elaborate meal that cost 150 pounds a head factoring in food and labor — announce to all and sundry that you never did like your husband much. Or Jews for that matter. And did I mention? The host, as a person, pretty much makes me want to puke in my soup here. And his politics! His politics make me positively want to rip the hand-sewn beads right off my dress and scatter them around the room just before poking him in the eye with my oyster fork. Okay now, back to the soup, everybody! Nothing to see here! What a palaver!

Sour Sue preparing remarks for the dinner table. Topics for discussion  include anti-semitism, divorce, blackmail, poverty, and my intense dislike for my daughter.

Sour Sue preparing remarks for the dinner table. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to: anti-semitism, divorce, blackmail, poverty, and intense dislike for one’s own child.

Love is in the Air

The show opens with the household in a flurry over the upcoming nuptials of Rose and Atticus. I had no idea what was happening for roughly the first twenty minutes, since the last we saw R & A they were ancillary to the real action, which took place at the last disastrous dinner party with Larry and Gary Merton. But here is Rose, suddenly taking center stage with a minimum of pre-wedding plot lines — stories which I fully expected to go on for years and years. So you can imagine my confusion (or maybe you don’t have to imagine it) when this episode opens with everyone running around the kitchen getting ready for a wedding. Whose wedding? I thought. But then I was distracted by the visual splendor of the elaborate wedding cake being made with great care by Daisy, who is not only a scholar, a budding farmer-socialist and a first-rate Undercook, but a sort of genius artist when it comes to sculpting roses made of icing. This particular cake is so special, it needs to be made over several days. It can only be crafted at Downton, where Mrs. Patmore and Daisy Undercook keep the family’s collection of giant cake pans, after which it will be transported down to London in an open-air motor car with limited shock absorbency, a hot, shaky, coal-smoke bellowing train for several hours, then another motor car, placed in the gentle hands of a taxi driver — watch the delicate icing roses, sir! — then hurried down to the bowels of the London house to clog up kitchen counter space for several more days in anticipation of a wedding reception, which will take place at some point in the future. The cake will taste like cardboard and the roses will have been crushed several times over, but at least it is there, on the table, towering over the proceedings like the 21st century anomaly it is. Continue reading