A telegram arrives from the States. Robert is needed to save Cora’s brother Harold from his involvement in what has to be the Teapot Dome scandal. But Mr. Bates, being the broody brooder that he is, doesn’t want to leave Anna behind for an undetermined amount of time. We know Anna is sad over the prospect of her husband going away because she breaks down after leaving the room. Oh Anna, we’ve all been there.
In what must have been a complicated game of telephone, Mrs. Hughes tells Mary what happened to Anna. Then Mary convinces Robert to take Thomas instead, only she won’t tell him why. Robert is perplexed, but it does lead to a very amusing conversation between Lord Grantham and his eldest daughter.
“Suppose he doesn’t want to go,” Robert says of Barrow.
“Why wouldn’t he? It’s an adventure. All those handsome stewards strutting down the boat deck,” Mary answers.
“Don’t be vulgar. What do you know of such matters?”
“I’ve been married. I know everything.” Zing!
Before Thomas leaves for America, he reminds Baxter that she has to spy for him. Thomas never changes. It’s still unclear what power he holds over Cora’s new lady’s maid, other than the fact that he got her the job. (Unless that is it?)
At Robert’s farewell, a struggling Violet barely holds it together before seeing her son off. She tells Isobel that she’s ill, and Isobel jumps into nurse mode, offering to go back home with the Dowager Countess. “That is the very last thing” that Violet wants, however, and she asks Carson for a car. (I would be worried here, but Julian Fellowes has promised not to kill the Dowager off.)
Of no use to Violet, Isobel bums a ride home from Tom and convinces the once politically charged chauffeur to attend a speech in Rippon given by the MP John Ward. This will be the most interesting thing Tom does for the entire hour. (At the speech, which Tom attends by himself, he meets a woman. The speaker pokes fun at the two of them, and both are a bit embarrassed. More on that later.)
At bedtime, Isobel pops in on the Dowager Countess in her room. (Seriously, do the servants just let visitors up into their masters’ bedrooms?) Realizing that Violet is very sick, Isobel insists on calling Dr. Clarkson. Clarkson rushes over to his unrequited lady love’s side, and informs Isobel that Violet has bronchitis and will need a nurse to stay with her to make sure it doesn’t turn into pneumonia. Of course, Isobel is just such a nurse.
Isobel cares for Violet, and even shoos off Mary and Cora’s attempts at helping. When Violet makes it through, she asks Dr. Clarkson to tell Isobel to go home. Clarkson informs her that Isobel was the one caring for her for two days without sleeping or eating herself. Violet relents, and even plays a rousing game of Gin with her cousin, barely concealing her annoyance at having to be nice to the woman who kept her alive.
On the “which dude will Mary choose” front, Mary and her favorite Anthropologie shirt (apologies to my colleague Martin for stealing that joke) grill Charles about the dying estates of England. Evelyn steps into the argument, and a very annoyed Charles ends the discussion abruptly.
The animosity growing between Mary and Charles lessens considerably when they walk down to see Downton’s brand new pigs, find them dying, and work together through the mud (in their fancy dinner clothes!) to bring the dehydrated animals water. They also engage in a playful mud fight after saving the pigs. Back at the Abbey, Mary cooks Charles some eggs. The way to his heart, clearly, is through mud and basic kitchen skills.
Evelyn heralds Mary as a savior, and worries that Charles may be falling for her. “Only trouble for me is that I’m afraid it’s increased the competition,” he says. Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn. Did you really think you had a chance?
And speaking of increased competition, Tony Gillingham arrives for a short visit. It turns out that Tony and Charles served together in the war. Now, it looks like they will be fighting against each other for Mary’s affection.
Meanwhile, Edith tells her mother that Michael arrived in Germany, went out one night, and no one has heard from him since. Edith asks if she can go to London, and Cora agrees. Rose, upon hearing the news that Edith is going, asks to tag along. Cora initially hesitates but eventually gives in to her young charge’s request. Cora is too easy.
In London, Rose runs off to be with Jack Ross — and they take a Venetian-style boat ride down a river (who knew people actually do that). Jack wonders what can come of their relationship. Rose says they should just “vive la difference.” They kiss.
Post-date, Rose sneaks back into Rosamund’s to find a disapproving Edith, who tells her younger cousin off.
As for Edith, she decides to get an “it rhymes with shmashmortion.” (She read about a doctor who performs them in a magazine she found at the train station, which leads me to wonder — did doctors really advertise their illegal activities in old-timey lady mags?)
Rosamund insists on going with her niece. Once she’s in the waiting room, however, Edith decides she can’t go through with the procedure. She’s going to have the baby.
Downtstairs, Alfred takes time off from his cooking school to visit his sick father, so he wants to stop at Downton to say hi. Despite Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson’s attempts to keep him away, Alfred shows up, causing problems between Ivy and Daisy once again.
With Tony’s arrival comes Mr. Green, much to the delight of everyone but Mr. Bates, Mrs. Hughes, and Anna. When the conversation conveniently turns to the night of the rape — the servants were recalling Dame Nellie Melba’s performance — it’s clear that Bates figured out who actually assaulted his wife. Uh oh.
A few thoughts:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This entire season of Downton Abbey mostly feels like a retread of old plots — only this time the stakes are higher and the drama heightened.
Mary and Charles’ antagonistic relationship has evolved into a mutual attraction and appreciation — much like Mary and Matthew’s once did.
Then you have Tom and a woman at a political rally. Now this clearly wasn’t as violent as the one he drove Sybil to, but you’d think maybe the writers could find a different place for a meet cute.
Speaking of Tom and Sybil, Rose and Jack’s romance mirrors their forbidden relationship.
The Ivy-Daisy-Alfred triangle has been going on for two seasons now, and it’s getting old. It’s time to put this to rest. Besides, we already did this with Thomas, Daisy, and William.
Even Thomas’ antics are still the same. He schemes with a lady’s maid to control the secrets of the house. Although Baxter is less willing than O’Brien.
One could even argue that Bates and Anna’s tortured existence hasn’t changed much over the course of four seasons. First, Bates has a secret wife. Then, he’s accused and convicted of murdering her. Now, it looks like he will actually murder someone.
Edith straddles the line between two old stories. In season three, Sir Anthony Strallan jilted her. Presently, Michael has disappeared. The intent was clearly different — it seems as if Michael’s disappearance was not of his own doing — but the result is the same. Edith is alone. And now she’s pregnant, much like Ethel was. And she’s keeping the baby, just like Ethel did. Or tried to do.
And for everyone’s sake, I’ll stop with the character rankings.
Due to her illness, there weren’t any great Dowager lines this episode, in my opinion. Maybe the pithy bon mots have run out.
What did you think of this week’s Downton?