Upstairs Downstairs Recap: The Last Hurrah

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Everyone and their Aunt Blanche told Hallam his inexplicable douchery was ruining his marriage. Equally inexplicably, he chose to ignore them all and start hooking up with Persie, who’s hanging around being as useless as ever. Oh, and Spargo finally managed to score with Beryl by beating the crap out of some guy in the boxing ring. Apparently, to her, that’s social progress.

Pritchard’s at the movies, alone, watching something I feel I should recognize, but I don’t. I think it’s a Katherine Hepburn movie, but that’s all I got.

Oh, ugh, God. Hallam and Persie are actually now doing it. Or post-doing it, and acting all gross and post-coital, like this is supposed to be the cutest thing ever, when it’s adultery that makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. This is actually turning my stomach. Persie tells Hallam she wants to go out for a good old fashioned tea, and he gets playful with her. I go throw up.

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Upstairs Downstairs Recap: The Cracks Start to Show

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Persie had an illegal abortion and Hallam held her hand through it. Agnes met and charmed a rather charming American businessman named Landry.

Jaunty music plays as nearly identically dressed ladies sit in an office typing up letters requiring young men to present themselves for training. At 165, everyone’s wishing Johnny a happy birthday as he opens his own letter. Pritchard soberly realizes what this means but the other servants are idiots and think it’s all a big laugh. Guys, he’s being called up for military training. And things aren’t looking too good on the Continent. Don’t any of you read newspapers around this house? I know you’re all doing the jobs of eight servants (except for Thack, who seems to have plenty of time to make macaroons for that family we never saw or heard from again), but you live with a government minister who’s clearly very disturbed by what’s happening. Can you not read the mood?

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Upstairs Downstairs Recap: A Decent Man

Image: BBC

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Mrs. Thackeray made a thrilling escape to Pimlico, while Hallam helped Persie escape from Munich once things got a bit rough. Amanjit and Blanche worked to get some kids evacuated from Europe, and Agnes charmed a rich American.

An alarm clock—and not Daisy, sadly—wakes Eunice at 6 a.m. so she can go get tea ready. Also up early is Hallam, who’s suddenly taken up riding every morning.

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The King’s Speech

It’s been a while since I did a movie recap, hasn’t it? My lucky husband has just spent the last week in Edinburgh (on a job interview—fingers crossed!), leaving me behind in Douglasville with the dogs. Loneliness and jealousy set in pretty quickly, so I decided the best thing to do was to fill the house with English accents. And it worked! After catching up with Law and Order: UK OnDemand, I turned to The King’s Speech, and I thought: “oh, what the hell, let’s recap it.” So, here we are.

We start off with an ominous close-up of a giant, menacing microphone just waiting for someone to feed words into it for broadcast to the British Empire, which comprised a quarter of the world’s population at the time, according to the lead-in, which also informs us it’s 1925. Once we get a few camera angles on the microphone, we see Bertie and Elizabeth waiting for him to go out and give the closing speech at the Empire Exhibition. With them are Derek Jacobi, playing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a few Palace suits, all of whom look tense. It’s kind of funny to see Derek Jacobi in this movie, considering he’s played a stammerer himself at least three times. Bertie looks like he wants to throw up. In a room somewhere, Adrian Scarborough, here playing a BBC announcer, introduces Bertie’s speech, as Bertie makes his way toward his own microphone like he’s hiking to his own funeral. Adrian informs us all that Bertie’s dad and older brother have already spoken on the wireless, and now it’s his turn. Bertie emerges into the stadium, which is packed with people, and he stares at the menacing red cue light as it flashes, then stays on to tell him it’s time to get started. He stares at the microphone and struggles to begin. The silence is long and awkward. He finally manages to get started, but before long he hits a troublesome “K” sound when he has to say “King” and it gets uncomfortable all over again. Elizabeth looks like her heart’s breaking for him, and the crowd starts to get restless. In reality, this speech didn’t go quite so badly, and Elizabeth wasn’t even there, but that’s less dramatic.

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TV Pioneer

If you enjoy sitting down and watching Boardwalk Empire or Downton Abbey on TV, you should really take a moment to thank John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer and inventor who successfully transmitted the first television picture with a greyscale image on October 2, 1925. Not bad for someone who never finished college. Baird was born in Helensburgh, Argylle and Bute and studied at the … Continue reading TV Pioneer

What Could Go Wrong?

So, when a mustachioed megalomaniac in a snappy uniform decides he wants a chunk of Czechoslovakia, you should just give it to him, right? That, apparently, was the thought process of the French, British, and Italian representatives who signed the Munich Pact on September 30, 1938. The pact handed over the Sudetenland—a heavily German area along the Czech borders—to Nazi Germany in a failed effort … Continue reading What Could Go Wrong?

Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will

It’s New Year’s Eve, and a gathering of middle-aged friends is counting down the last few seconds to 1926. They toast the New Year as three children—two boys and a girl—watch secretly from above. The host—Andrew—thanks his friends for being there and reveals he’s pretty darn rich, thanks to his incredible luck of having happened to buy a farm on top of a copper seam. His lawyer takes the moment to announce that Andrew’s drawn up a will that heavily favors a local medical foundation of which another guest—Dr. Pritchard—is chairman. Pritchard promises to use the money well. Two bequests are left to the young boys upstairs—Robert Siddaway and Peter Baker. Their mothers thank Andrew, but another guest points out that Andrew’s left nothing to his ward, young Violet. Andrew shrugs that she’s a girl, so she’ll get married and doesn’t need money. Yes, marriages come cheap, you know. His lady guest is disgusted.

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Poirot: The Yellow Iris

A balding man with a moustache and Geraldine Somerville make their way across a graveyard and lay a bunch of yellow iris on the grave of a woman named Iris Russell, who died in 1934 aged 32. Geraldine (Pauline here) refers to the man as Barton and pleads with him about something mysterious. He tells her not to stop him, because he has to do “it.” She flatly tells him she’s afraid, and he tells her not to be. He shares it’s been two years since Iris dies and vows to help her rest in peace.

Poirot’s getting an OCD start to his morning, placing perfect little dollops of jam on teeny, tiny squares of cracker or toast or something. Hastings comes in and suggests he have a proper English breakfast, but Poirot says that sounds dreadful and he’s fine with his toast bites. He then starts bitching about English food. Fortuitously, Hastings then catches sight of a large advertisement for a new restaurant called the Jardin des Cygnes (Swans’ Garden) on Jermyn Street. The name gives Poirot pause—it’s familiar to him. Hastings suggests dinner for two, undoubtedly fueling quite a bit of slashfic, if there is such a thing out there for Poirot, and I’m willing to bet there is. I’m not, however, willing to check, because that sort of fanfic scares me. Poirot snaps that it’s time for work.

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Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb

A newsreel helpfully places us in Egypt, where archaeologist Sir John Willard is leading an expedition into the tomb of an ancient pharaoh. And apparently things are tense there, because there’s a representative from the British Museum (Dr. Foswell) and a rep from the Met in New York (Dr. Schneider, shown swirling some whiskey in a glass, which is unlikely in a newsreel of the time, but whatever, character establishment). There’s also a rich financier, Bleibner, and his nephew, Rupert, there for the ride, along with a secretary named Nigel, who’s photographing everything. All the principal players are gathered to watch as the tomb is opened. Got all that?

Newsreel ends and we join them in real time. There’s a seal over the door that Foswell wants to remove carefully, but Willard tells him to just break it. Isn’t this guy an archaeologist? It seems unlikely he’d just bust through a seal that’s thousands of years old. Even Bleibner wants to wait for the seal to be carefully pried off. Willard ignores him and busts through the seal, opens the door, and steps into the burial chamber. There, they find all sorts of statues and treasures. Almost as soon as they step inside and get a look, creepy music cues up, and Willard drops dead. Someone calls for the doctor, but it’s too late. Workers carry the body out as Nigel snaps away. Heh. Newsreel guy VOs news of the death from heart attack and swears that this has nothing to do with rumors of a curse on the tomb. No siree, everything’s fine here!

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Poirot: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ahh, springtime. When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and other people’s fancies turn to thoughts of murder. At least, that’s how it is in this case.

We start off with a good closeup of the Soviet flag, flying over the Soviet embassy in London, presumably. A woman in a totally covetable gray coat strides purposefully inside and meets one of the officials, whose office is primarily decorated by a HUGE portrait of Stalin. She doesn’t get to admire the décor, because he comes downstairs to meet her in the hall, where they have an exchange in Russian that, unhelpfully, is not subtitled, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re talking about. He sounds annoyed (though I’ll admit, Russian always sounds annoyed or angry to me), and she seems to be pleading. That’s all I’ve got. At the end, they exchange smiles, and she hands him an envelope. As he heads back to his office, he opens it and pulls out a ticket to the Chelsea Flower show that, for some reason, has WTF stamped across it in big, red letters. I know it didn’t meant the same thing back then as it does now, but I still laughed when I saw that.

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