Downton Abbey: ‘Ship Wreck

EMBARGOED_DOWNTON_ABBEY_CHRISTMAS_2012_126.JPGI’m not going to beat about the bush here: this sucked. This sucked so badly I actually found myself apologizing to my family for making them watch it. And just to be clear, I’m not saying that because of what happens at the end. I hated that for other reasons than you probably think.

Picture this: we’re all gathered in the sitting room, spooning up the last of the warm, homemade Christmas pudding with whisky and ginger cream, me basking in the afterglow of a Christmas dinner well done, when this comes along and harshes the hell out of the buzz. Instead of an enjoyable, fluffy couple of hours of telly we got ridiculously rich people being horrible, miserable assholes all over the place. This was poorly written, poorly acted, cliché ridden dreck, plain and simple. It made this past season look like a masterpiece of plotting and subtletly.

Still reading? Ok, let’s recap this beast.

It’s one year on from the end of series 3. Luggage is being hauled out of the house by everyone with arms and no title. Anna and O’Brien talk jewelry in the hallway as a brand-new, rather cute blonde housemaid we’ve never seen before passes them by. Belowstairs, Patmore’s packing up road trip snacks. Ivy exposits that the family is heading to Duneagle in Scotland, the estate of Robert’s relative (cousin, I think) the Marquess of Flintshire. She asks Bates if they go every year and he says it’s been a while, what with Sybil dying and the war getting in the way.

Back upstairs, a bunch of fishing nets are marched right out the front door to be loaded up, which would not have happened in a house like this. They’d have loaded that stuff up around back, because who wants a bunch of fishy nets getting dragged past the antiques? We get some rather awkward exposition as Molesley, who should know better, asks in a strangely alarmed manner why they’re not taking guns with them. Carson reminds him that they’re going stalking, which doesn’t involve shotguns. I’m guessing it involves rifles instead, and a giant estate up in Scotland would already have those available. Molesley thinks they should take the guns, just to be sure, like everyone else doesn’t already know what they’re doing. Molesley, chill. Branson stands by, holding the impossibly adorable Siblit, watching all the goings-on.

Trunks are loaded, with Thomas jumping in to lend a hand. He and Jimmy are clearly still super awkward around each other, even after a whole year.

Upstairs, Mary’s finishing getting dressed, and we see she’s finally somehow managed to get knocked up. A miracle indeed, considering how little chemistry she has with her husband, but then, this is a season for miracle births, right? Matthew thinks she should stay behind in her delicate condition, but she tells him it’s fine.

In the hallway, Edith is on the phone with her editor, who’s apparently heading north as well. She reports to the family at breakfast that he’ll be near Duneagle when they are. Convenient! This gives Robert a chance to unnecessarily roll his eyes and Mary an opportunity to snark a bit. Cora suggests they invite him over, because they all want to meet him. Cue another eye roll from Robert. Matthew, do me a favour and punch your ass of a father-in-law in the face, will you? Instead, he changes the subject to Flintshire’s nickname (Shrimpy) which isn’t nearly as interesting a story as you’d think (he was the youngest, so they called him Shrimpy). Robert wonders too if Mary should stay behind and she tells him she still has a whole month to go. Ok, whoever put the belly on that actress has never seen an eight-months-pregnant woman in their life, because she’s the most unpregnant pregnant person you’ve ever seen. That’s a six-month belly, if even that. I know Michelle Dockery’s tiny and a giant belly would look silly, but still, this is stretching credulity just a little too much. Mary notes that Carson doesn’t seem to want her to go either. Note that it’s only the menfolk who are being solicited for opinions on this matter; neither Cora (who’s had three children, after all) nor Edith say a word. They all finish breakfast and head to the station.

There, Bates, Anna, Molesley, and O’Brien head for their carriage. Molesley’s acting really squirrely. Is this his first house party? I find that a little hard to believe, considering he’s been valeting for Matthew for over a year now. Bates and Anna talk Scotland—she’s never been, which surprises him, but his grandmother was Scottish, so he feels a close kinship to the land north of the border. Elsewhere on the platform, Robert hands Isis off to Branson with some last-minute instructions. Wow, they must have gotten close for Robert to trust him with the precious lab. Violet joins the ladies a little further down and, with a worried glance over her shoulder, wonders if it’s wise to leave Branson there ‘unsupervised.’ ‘I know he’s housebroken, more or less, but I don’t want freedom to go to his head,’ she says. Wow. WOW, that was offensive. It actually took all of us a few minutes of jaw-dropped blinking to fully take that in. And my grandmother’s Irish and proud of it, so that was like a double slap right there. Thanks, Julian, showing that openmindedness as always! Isobel promises to keep an eye on him and invite him to dinner that night.

Everyone boards the train and it puffs out of the station. Isobel, who’s staying behind, waves it off.

Back at the house, the servants are having lunch. Alfred rather stupidly asks Carson if they’ll get a break, with the family away. No, of course not. He wants them to polish all the silver etc. There’s a trio of new housemaids (including the new blonde) and Mrs Hughes turns to them and tells them they’ll be giving the place a good cleaning, so no fun for them either. After saying that, she leans over to Carson and whispers that they can let them have a little free time, can’t they? He agrees to think about it, if they get the work done.

Later, the new housemaid pauses in her work to take a look at a photograph of Sybil on one of the bedroom side tables. Hughes finds her and finally gives us a name—Edna, and with a moniker as unpleasant as that, coupled with the life expectancy of a housemaid in this place, I give her another hour, 90 minutes, tops. Edna hops to and asks why Branson didn’t go with the others. Hughes claims not to know. Edna figures Lady Flintshire wasn’t keen on having a chauffeur as a cousin-in-law. She asks what Sybil was like and Hughes quietly says she was just lovely in every way. Edna thinks Sybil could have done better, and then smirks that Branson’s quite good looking, she’ll give him that. Quite the attitude on this one.

Crawley House. Isobel’s got the doctor over for tea and he’s fretting about Mary being in Scotland, so far away. I think it’s probably best that she get far, far away from you, Clarkson. Isobel invites him over for dinner the next day and he accepts, saying he’d be delighted. Oh, God, are we shipping these two now?

At Downton, Branson’s sitting all alone at the big dining room table. Edna comes in to clear up and starts chatting, saying it must be lonely for him. He says he’s used to it, which is really, really sad. She puts on a totally different face from the sassy one she had with Hughes and says it must be very hard for him, having lost his dearest love. I didn’t catch it the first time I saw it, but I think she’s playing him here. There’s just something about this change in attitude that makes it seem rather calculated. He tells her not to worry about him, as he’s got plenty to do. He asks her name and she introduces herself before he heads out.

The family finally arrives at Duneagle, which is one of those very fairytale looking castles we seem to have a lot of in Scotland. As they pile out of the cars, Rose (you remember Rose, right? The cute blonde bright young thing who was jammed into the last episode?) comes dashing out and excitedly (really, really excitedly—like, I kind of wonder if she’s on something she’s so bouncy right now) welcomes them. I thought she hated this place—remember how upset she was when she was sent up there by Violet? Now she’s acting like she couldn’t be happier. Her father, a white-bearded Sean Connery type in a kilt, says his hellos, and Rose introduces him to Matthew, whom she describes as the ‘defender of the downtrodden, including me.’ I don’t think I’d refer to a little rich girl having an affair with a married man as one of the downtrodden. Try again, Rose. This time, with perspective. Flintshire’s wife welcomes Violet and Rose chatters about all their plans, including the ghillies’ ball. They all head into the house, which pretty much slams you with Stereotypical Scotland as soon as you walk in—it’s all decorated with swords and guns on the wall and a pretty fabulous bronze of a stag right in the middle of the entrance hall. The only thing missing is plaid wallpaper and shortbread.

Back at Downton, a portly man in a bowler hat comes into the servants hall and asks for Patmore. Thomas gives him attitude, of course, and asks what he wants. The man claims to have a delivery for her. He’s taken over a shop from a Mr Cox, who was one of the house’s regular suppliers. What’s this Cox’s deal that he sold up and just left without letting his biggest customer know about the change? Did he have to flee the country or something? Patmore comes in and hears about the change, and Thomas gives the guy a hard time until she tells him to lay off. She tells the guy, Tofton, to bring the order into the kitchen, He complies and, while she’s inspecting it, he dips his finger into some leftover soup and licks it up. Egh. He asks if there are any other leftovers about and she points him to a tart, which he helps himself to, saying how good the food is. I’m having a hard time believing she’d be ok with this guy wandering around her kitchen putting his hands into the food. That’s pretty gross. Patmore approves the order and tells him she’ll be in touch when they need more. He leans in and lecherously tells her he’s rather hoping something’s no good, just so he hears from her again. Instead of smacking him in the face with his own blue cheese for being gross, she blushes and giggles like a schoolgirl, as do Daisy and Ivy, who’ve been observing all this.

Duneagle. The servants are having their dinner, and the butler notes that Anna’s not eating much. She explains that they usually have their dinner later. Another female servant, who has a face so hard you could practically chisel granite with it, says that in London they eat later, and she prefers it. Butler asks how O’Brien feels and she says she just does what she’s told. Butler asks if it gets confusing at Downton, with everyone calling Anna and Bates Bates and Bates, since ladies’ maids and valets were referred to by their last names. Anna says she’s still called Anna, as she was in her housemaid days, and O’Brien says she thinks it’s wrong to see a ladies’ maid so downgraded. Granite agrees with her. She agrees with everyone, it seems.

In the family dining room, a bagpiper in full regalia parades around the table, piping away, because that’s totally how it is in Scotland. Why, I have a bagpiper just follow me down the street on my way to work—we all do! Bagpipes for everyone! Because we’re in SCOTLAND! Get it? As the man passes behind Matthew, Matthew gives us a truly hilarious ‘Dear God, is it over yet?’ kind of look. Understandable, because that would be absolutely deafening in a room like that. I love bagpipes, but they’re really best heard in the great outdoors. Even Violet looks like she’s about to die. Piper finally parades out, still playing, and Lady F warns them that he’ll be back to wake everyone at eight in the morning. Rose chirps that he keeps it up all through breakfast, and her father adds that there’s no chance of anyone just going back to sleep. How fun! His wife sharply tells him the point has been made. Oookay. They all talk about their plans and Edith mentions that ‘a friend of hers’ is staying nearby. Rose tells her she must invite him over. Robert quickly says that’s not necessary, but Cora backs her and Shrimpy’s cool with having another place laid at the table, as long as Lady F (Susan) doesn’t object. She doesn’t.

The servants at Downton are cooling their heels a bit. Patmore comes in and mentions something that has to be returned from the shipment. Thomas offers to take it back for her and she suggests Alfred go along as well, because he’d like the shop (it seems to be a grocer’s of some sort). Carson tries to assert himself, but he finally allows them to go.

Branson’s having post-dinner coffee with Isobel, who also observes that he must be lonely. He says he’s not really alone, because he knows all the downstairs folk, it’s just that there’s a bit of a class divide now. She stupidly suggests he just go ahead down and join them for meals, like it’s just that easy. And also, I seem to recall that anytime he went downstairs after his marriage to Sybil he was rather firmly rebuffed. It just didn’t work like that Isobel, and you know that. You weren’t sitting down to dinner with Ethel or Mrs. Bird, were you? Isobel takes the opportunity to tell him she thinks he’s managed a very difficult transition rather well (once he stopped being a selfish asshole, I guess), but that he’s the agent of the estate and has the right to speak to anyone who works under him. Well, nobody’s disputing that, Isobel, but there’s ‘talking’ and there’s ‘having a nice dinner together.’ Yes, you can have a chat, but if you sit down with them, it’s bound to be uncomfortable, at least for some of the people at the table. Most of them, probably. And let’s be honest, that’s just unfair to everyone.

Branson returns to Downton via the servants’ entrance and Hughes is surprised to see him. He explains that he didn’t want to drag one of them upstairs to open the front door. She says that’s kind, but then subtly reminds him of his position here by asking permission to have the maids clean and telling him to let her know if there are any particular rooms he wants to use.

Anna’s combing out Mary’s hair before bed. Mary admits she was a bit shaken up by the train but doesn’t want Matthew to know. Anna correctly realises Mary means she doesn’t want to give Matthew the satisfaction of being right about the journey being a bit much for her in her condition. They talk about the upcoming ball, which Anna’s nervous about because she doesn’t know the dances. Mary does, and she loves them, but she can’t dance because she’s pregnant.

As Shrimpy said, the bagpiper’s back early in the morning, waking a grumpy Robert.

Later, Matthew gets a shooting lesson from the ghillie. Rose, Shrimpy, and Robert arrive and the ghillie says Matthew’s doing fairly well, though Matthew doesn’t think so. The ghillie goes on to praise Shrimpy’s prowess, saying he was born with a rod in one hand and a gun in the other. ‘That sounds rather uncomfortable,’ says Shrimpy. Heh. Robert says it’s lovely to hear the ghillie speak, as it’s like a voice from a bygone age. Ugh, that just reminds me of all the obnoxious tourists who come through here and beg Scottish people to speak because their accents are just sooo cuuuuute! I hate those people. Rose peels off and Shrimpy tells Robert he’s being given a foreign posting, and he’s looking forward to it.

Violet and Susan are talking about this move as well, and Susan’s bitching away about how awful it’ll be, even though she doesn’t even know where they’re going yet. Violet asks if Rose is going as well and Susan immediately thinks Rose has been complaining behind her back. Violet backs off and Susan says everyone gangs up on her, and as her aunt, she expects Violet to be on her side.

O’Brien and Granite are in the servants hall, sewing. O’Brien says she wishes they could travel more, but mostly they just stick to Yorkshire. Granite says she and Susan are both dreading this move to wherever. O’Brien tries to look on the bright side, but Granite will have none of it.

Back at Downton, Jimmy and Alfred sit at a table covered in silver pieces, just staring blankly, like they can’t remember what they’re supposed to be doing. Or they’re just waiting for a cue and doing a horrible, horrible job of it. Carson comes in just long enough to clear his throat and they get back to polishing.

Edith joins Mary and Cora in one of the sitting rooms and reports that the editor will be coming and was quite excited about it. Mary brats that she’s sure he is, because it’s not as if some lowly newspaper editor finds himself mixing in such high society very often. Yeah, these plebs should be grateful for a few crumbs from your table. I see impending motherhood hasn’t mellowed her at all. If anything, it seems to have made her worse. Cora calls Mary a snob and Mary asks what the guy’s doing up here anyway. Edith says he’s there to sketch and fish. ‘Fishing? Oh, well, that’s something, I suppose.’ Bitch. Also, it’s probably more than your own husband was able to do when he first got to Downton, you hateful harridan. Can’t we kill her off as well?

Speak of the devil, Matthew joins them and asks what’s up. Edith reports that his wife’s being hateful about Michael and Mary says she was just questioning his motives for being in the Highlands. What do you care, Mary? Find a hobby or something, already. Do his motives have any bearing on your life or anything to do with you? No? Then shut the hell up already and stop trying to make your sister miserable. Poor Matthew’s stuck being the peacemaker, which he manages with aplomb. He’s so doomed.

Branson and Isis head to the pub for lunch, and who should he find there but Edna. Well, well, what a surprise! She’s clearly been waiting for him. He sits down with her and they chat for a bit. She screws up her courage and invites him to join the servants for dinner some night.

Tufton shows Thomas and Alfred the shop, and Alfred’s amazed by it. Tufton tells him they’ve got a fair coming up soon, and he’ll have a stall and they should stop by. Alfred asks Thomas if they can get the time off and Thomas says they probably can. He turns to Jimmy and asks if he’s interested. Jimmy says he might come if there’s a crowd of them, but not if it’s just a few.

At the house, Carson grouses to Hughes about the idea of letting the servants all go traipsing off to every fair at the drop of a hat. Carson, there’s, what, one fair a year in this place? Surely you can spare them. Patmore catches them up and asks if she can take the afternoon off on Friday so she can go to the fair and, apparently, meet Tufton. Carson bitches about being undermined at every turn before stomping off. Hughes giggles and tells Patmore all the boys want to go to the fair too, and now he has no excuse to keep them away. Does he need an excuse? He’s their boss, he could just say no. And Patmore’s ranked higher than them and kind of under her own supervision, so what’s ok for her isn’t necessarily also ok for them. Anyway, Patmore suggests they all go and leave Branson in charge of the house.

Dinner at Duneagle. Michael is announced and politely thanks Susan, who welcomes him quite graciously. Edith lights up when she sees him and heads right on over. Matthew gets a dig in at his wife by suggesting it must be disappointing how normal the guy looks. Because she can’t give anyone else any credit ever, Mary bitches that the guy clearly came up here just to get an invitation to Duneagle, and that’s why he must have brought a set of tails. Yes, that’s right, Mary, the only reason he came all the way to Scotland was in the hope of scoring an invite to this place, even though it would have been easier and cheaper for him to go stay close to your home in Yorkshire if that’s all he really wanted. You fail at logic and I’m running out of ways to call you a bitch, which is a shame, because it’s all I think about every single time you open your damn mouth now.

Edith steers Michael over to her parents and Violet. Cora kindly tells him she started reading the magazine for Edith’s articles, but now she can’t do without an issue. Robert, of course, has to be as hateful as his firstborn and sternly asks why the guy employs amateurs like Edith. ‘I agree,’ says Mary unnecessarily. Robert, she’s been at it regularly and professionally for a year. She’s not an amateur anymore. Michael tells them she clearly had something interesting to say, which is more than can be said of either Robert or Mary now. Robert looks surprised, though whether he’s shocked to hear Edith has a functional brain or amazed this non-aristocrat can string together an intelligent sentence is unclear. Edith wisely steers Michael away.

Elsewhere, Susan scolds Rose for slouching and Rose rolls her eyes and asks for five minutes without being criticized. Violet and Cora watch this a bit uncomfortably from afar. Violet says she doesn’t think Susan’s handling things very well and Cora says it’s complicated when one has a young daughter who’s all modern. This, of course, reminds her of Sybil and she briefly gets teary. Violet sweetly tells her they all miss her, all the time.

Branson’s having some cuddle time with the Siblit before dinner. In comes Edna to return the kid to her nanny. At the door, she turns and asks Branson if he’s ashamed of who he is or who he was, and if that’s why he won’t eat with them. Bold words, Edna. Did it occur to you that maybe he just doesn’t want to eat with you because he doesn’t want to? That does happen, you know. Maybe he’s just not that into you. He shortly tells her that’s not why he won’t break bread belowstairs.

Anna and Bates stroll outside and Anna observes that it never really gets dark in Scotland. Wrong. It does get dark, but very, very late in the summertime. It was twilight at 11 p.m. on the Solstice. But believe me, it makes up for it during the winter. It starts getting dark around 3:30 in the afternoon, and it’s not fully light until after 8 in the morning. Bates proposes a picnic the next day and Anna agrees. The two then stumble upon Rose, out smoking and crying. They ask if she’s ok and she says she’ll be fine if they don’t tell her mother she was smoking. They promise to keep her secret and offer her a mint. She apologises and says her mother’s been unusually awful that evening. Bates reassures her she’ll survive it, and then Susan calls Rose back inside.

Clarkson’s back at Isobel’s for dinner and telling her how lovely an evening he’s had. Talk turns to the fact that Isobel was a doctor’s wife, and Clarkson appreciates that she knows what his life is like in a way the others don’t. Oh, yeah, they’re totally trying to hook these two up. She agrees that it’s a relief to be able to talk without having to explain oneself.

Post-dinner, Michael tells Edith that Matthew’s invited him to go out stalking the next day, and he’s agreed. I hope Matthew’s doing this as a passive-aggressive way to get under Mary’s skin, because she really deserves it. Edith asks him why he’s really there and he says he wanted to get to know her family. She asks what he hopes to achieve, because let’s not forget, this guy’s still married. He awkwardly and naively explains that he thought that, if they got to know and like him, it might make it easier for them to be on his side. Oh, Michael, you poor idiot. Do you really think that someone like Robert, someone of his generation and social standing, would actually support the idea of his daughter becoming some editor’s mistress? You seem like a nice guy, but come on, use your brain here. This will not end well. Why should it? This is Edith we’re talking about, and she never gets to be happy. He tells Edith that he’s in love with her and he wants to be part of her life. She tells him that’s great, but she can’t really see a happy ending here. Violet calls her away for a game of bridge and she leaves with one last, sad smile.

Bedtime. Matthew tells Mary he’s invited Michael stalking and she sneers that he was right to invest in those tails after all. He’s even been invited to the ghillies’ ball, and she figures he purposely took dancing lessons before he left London. On the off chance he’d be invited to a ball he probably didn’t even know about? Logic fail again, Mary. Matthew orders her to at least give this poor man a chance, even though he knows better than anyone how long it takes her insufferable snobbery to wear off. And then we get this amazing bit of dialogue.

He: Just be as nice as you are (Come again? She is being as nice as she is—which means, not at all!)

She: You think me nice, but nobody else does (because you’re not! You’re hateful!) What makes you so sure I am (he hit his head really hard at some point? I can’t figure it out either)

He: Because I’ve seen you naked (sorry, what? Does nudity = niceness? Man, Playboy must have the nicest offices in the world when they’re doing their photoshoots).

Hughes is trying to talk Carson into going to the fair, but he rather nicely says he’s not going because if he goes, everyone will be tense, because nobody likes to party with the boss. Hughes says she’s going, even if it does make them anxious, and he rudely says they respect her, but they know that he’s really in charge. Ugh. ‘Well, that’s put me in my place,’ she says, in a much brighter tone than I would have wanted to use. Instead of apologising for being an ass, he tells her not to envy him. ‘You know what they say,’ he says as he pompously sits down behind his desk. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ Fuck you, Carson.

Up north, Matthew and Michael head out for their stalking while Shrimpy and Robert get ready to pair up and do something else. Shrimpy asks Susan if the picnic she has planned is under control and she sharply tells him it is. I would never want to stay with these people again if I were the Crawleys. How incredibly awkward to be around two people who seem to hate each other so much. Off go the boys, in a pair of beautiful carts pulled by beautiful matched horses.

In the Downton kitchens, Daisy considers skipping the fair, because it’s a waste of money. Patmore tells her she can cover a lemonade and sandwich for a day, and Thomas, with unusual generosity, offers to buy everyone a soda while they’re there. Patmore urges them all to take him up on it before he starts to think again. Heh. Jimmy says thanks but no thanks, he can get his own soda. Hughes moves through the kitchen and Patmore grabs a box and follows her out. Ivy says the box was from a dress shop and she figures Patmore’s got a boyfriend.

Duneagle. Rose, wearing a really spectacular hat, pops into Mary’s room to bring her down for the picnic, but finds only Anna there. She thanks her for helping to cheer her up the night before and offers to return the favour. Anna takes her up on it right then and there.

Heather! Mountains shrouded in clouds! Stags! We’re in SCOTLAND, people! Shrimpy and Robert are out for a shoot, bellying over the hills, accompanied by the ghillie, who lines up the shot before waving Robert forward. Robert takes the gun, but misses his shot. The ghillie offers to take him to another spot, saying they don’t rush things there.

Back at Downton, Patmore is showing Hughes the most hideous blouse. It looks like maternity wear circa 1955, and mid-century maternity clothing was aggressively ugly. She wonders if the top’s too girlish but Hughes thinks there’s nothing wrong with being a bit girlish. She does hope that this man’s worth it. Patmore hands her a letter, which asks for permission to squire Patmore around for the day. Patmore chuckles that nobody’s wanted to squire her since the golden jubilee, and even then, the guy expected her to buy the drinks. Hee! Hughes, who speaks from some experience, mind, wonders if this guy might be on the hunt for a wife.

Bates and Anna are out for their picnic. Anna unveils some beer she brought along, which Bates thinks is rather racy of her. Really, Bates? She proposes to toast to the future and to his Scottish blood. He asks her what she’s up to and she giggles and says nothing.

The boys have managed to get their stag after all and are heading back with it. Shrimpy compliments Robert on a job well done. Robert asks Shrimpy if everything is ok, even though it clearly isn’t. Shrimpy says as much, but says there’s no point talking about it, because there’s nothing to be done. Robert says that’s not true, since the Marlboroughs got divorced and they’re still received in the best homes. Yes, well, he was a duke and she was crazy wealthy (she was born Consuelo Vanderbilt). They had also been separated since 1906 and there had been a whole slew of other high-society divorces at the time, so people were a bit more used to the idea. Shrimpy’s worried about a divorce negatively impacting his diplomatic career, which means Susan will have to be at his side, even though the two of them simply don’t like each other.

Branson finally makes it belowstairs and asks if he could join them for supper that night. Edna can barely contain her glee. Hughes tells him he’s welcome and gives him the time. Thomas disapproves.

The ladies are having lunch by a glorious loch and are unexpectedly joined by Shrimpy and Robert. Mary congratulates her father on his kill and invites him to sit with them. He says he hopes they’re having venison and Rose cheerfully says they are, because it’s right that they eat what they kill. ‘Rose, stop talking nonsense and have two more places laid,’ her mother tells her. Jesus, lady, what’s your problem? How is that nonsense? Isn’t that the British hunter’s ethos?

Michael and Matthew are still tramping about the hills with nothing to show for their stalking. Matthew proposes a fly fishing expedition the next day and suggests Michael dine with them again the next night.

Back at the house, O’Brien comes out of Cora’s room to find Granite in the hall, smiling a little creepily, quietly asking of O’Brien has a minute—Susan wants a word. O’Brien asks what she needs and Granite grouses that Susan wants to make a fuss like she always does.

O’Brien joins her in Susan’s room and it turns out Susan basically wants Cora’s hairstyle and doesn’t think Granite’s up to it. O’Brien seems to agree with Granite that Susan’s hair won’t do what Cora’s will because she doesn’t have enough of it, but she agrees to try. Susan sharply tells Granite to pay close attention to what O’Brien’s doing and Granite glares at O’Brien.

Downstairs, Shrimpy et al are talking about him going to Bombay, so I guess he finally found out where he’s headed. Or they’re just speculating, it’s a bit unclear. Violet asks if they’ll take Rose and Shrimpy doesn’t think they should. Violet agrees.

Matthew, meanwhile, is telling Edith and Mary how he was this close to getting a stag, when an errant gust of wind ruined it. ‘Really, darling, it’s boring enough hearing about it when you succeed,’ says Mary. God, this woman. Edith asks him what he thought of Michael and Matthew declares him a rather nice chap. Edith adds that he’s had a lot to put up with and, of course, Mary has something to say about that too. ‘Oh, God, not one of your hard luck cases, is he?’ Edith’s just about at the end of her tether and asks Mary why she needs to sound so heartless. Because she is, Edith. Can you believe this woman’s actually going to be someone’s mother soon? I hope to God they have a really good nanny, because Mary’s about the least-nurturing character I’ve seen in a while. I’d trust the Marquise de Merteuil with a baby before this hate-filled, selfish cow.

Rose is having a chat with Cora, and confiding that she thinks India would be fascinating, but she knows she and her mother would kill each other before long. Cora urges her not to be too hard on her mom, because she’s just concerned. Rose doubts that, and so do I. Her mother’s just miserable and taking it out on her kid, which is awful.

Hughes has reported Branson’s dinner plans to Carson, who’s aghast, but there’s nothing he can do about it.

Clarkson, meanwhile, is stopping by Isobel’s again to invite her to the fair. She agrees to accompany him. Sorry to keep picking on everything, but I wish this actress would work on her posture. She stands really awkwardly, almost swaybacked, and it’s a tiny bit distracting.

Up at Downton, the servants are all talking about their plans for the fair. Branson suggests he might not go and Edna, of course, insists he must, because he can drive them. Branson agrees, and since Carson’s going to be at Downton to keep an eye on the place, that should work out just fine.

Mary’s getting ready for bed and admitting she was stupid to go to the picnic, because she got even more rattled around. Anna suggests she spend the morning in bed and take it easy at the ball. She goes on to say that she’s planning a surprise at the ball for Bates, but she won’t say what it is. Matthew comes in and Anna quickly makes herself scarce. Mary tells her husband she’s going to rest the next day, which is annoying, because she’d rather come with him and interrogate Michael. Of course she would. And why can’t she do that before or after dinner? She asks if Matthew thinks the guy’s going to propose and Matthew thinks so.

The favour Anna asked Rose for was, apparently, reel lessons. They’re at it in the ballroom, Rose tapping out the beat and calling out instructions. Anna’s having a tough time getting the hang of it, but I’m sure she’ll somehow manage to do it perfectly by the evening.

While they clean the drawing room at Downton, Alfred asks Jimmy to take it easy on Thomas at the fair, so the day isn’t spoiled. Jimmy tells Alfred he’s one to talk, considering he’s the man who called the police in the first place. Jesus, guys, it’s been a year in show time, isn’t it time to put this aside? It’s a little strange that this seems so present in people’s minds, but we’re expected to swallow the idea that Branson’s over Sybil’s death enough to be getting cozy with a housemaid. Jimmy tells Alfred he’s tired and then goes to one of the armchairs and settles in, putting his feet up. Alfred’s briefly aghast, but then gingerly settles down on the sofa. And then Hughes comes in and yells at them and threatens to tell Carson.

Branson catches her and asks when they’re leaving. She gives him a time but adds that he doesn’t have to drive, their actual chauffeur can do it. Branson is, after all, part of the family, not a servant. She adds that, if someone’s been making him feel ‘awkward,’ then they’re in the wrong, not him. He agrees to meet them at the appointed time, and Hughes takes a moment to give Edna, who’s messing about with some china nearby, a baleful look before moving on.

Fair time! Patmore looks around for Tufton’s stall and explains to Hughes that the bundle in her hand is the sandwiches he asked her to bring. What a gentleman. The guys see a sign for a tug-of-war and invite Branson to make up a team with them. He happily agrees, as does Thomas, though Jimmy warns Thomas it’ll be a bit rough. Careful, Jimmy, he might like it that way. Edna boldly threads her arm through Branson’s and offers to cheer him on. He looks a little uncertain but doesn’t brush her off, although he really should. Daisy and Ivy head off to find some games, though Daisy warns her that they’re all rigged.

Hughes and Patmore have found Tufton at his stall and he gets ready to head out with them and leave the stall in the capable hands of his pretty, young assistant. He gives her a goose as he passes her and Hughes mentally pearl-clutches. Tufton tells Patmore that, in her blouse, she looks like she just stepped off the pages of Vogue. She giggles and blusters a tiny bit and he declares that he loves being in love and he’s not ashamed of it. Hughes manages not to throw up and goes to find Alfred to show him the spice stall.

Rides are ridden, games are played, bets are taken at the tug-of-war. The Downton side, which consists of Jimmy, Branson, Thomas, and Alfred, is given 10:1 odds, which Jimmy readily takes, right before asking the rather portly Tufton to join them. Heh. Tufton takes the anchor position, taking a minute to flirt with a couple of ladies as Hughes passes by and looks on disapprovingly. Is Patmore blind? For real, now? How is she not seeing this?

Ahh, fly fishing, that’s fun to watch. Matthew’s actually trying to catch something while Michael’s ruining it by chattering away. Seems he’s come clean about his whole situation to Matthew, who agrees that the situation sucks, but he can hardly expect Robert to be all gung ho at the idea of his daughter becoming Michael’s mistress. Michael thinks she’ll be much more, because he actually loves her. I think many men throughout history have loved their mistresses, but that didn’t change those ladies’ social position or make them less scandalous, Michael. Matthew tells him he seems to have been mislead by their surroundings, and he isn’t actually living a Walter Scott novel. I think Thomas Hardy would have been a better author to choose under the circumstances, but I take your point, Matthew.

Tug, tug, tug, fairgoers! It looks for a minute like the Downton crew will lose, but of course they manage to pull off a win at the last second and Jimmy gets his 10 quid from the reluctant man running the show.

Back up in Scotland, Michael accuses Matthew of being old fashioned and says Edith had given him the impression Matthew was a bit more open-minded. When did she give you that idea? Aside from being ok with Mary having slept with Kemal, I don’t think we’ve ever seen Matthew be all that modern and liberated. He’s not as backwards as Robert, certainly, but he definitely sticks to older conventions. Matthew says he’s sorry that Michael’s life sucks, but he isn’t about to just stand by and watch Edith slide into a life of scandal. He promises not to tell anyone, but tells Michael this is hopeless. Michael gets pouty and wonders if he should just pack up and leave now. Matthew tells him to chill and stay for the ball so he can stay a proper goodbye.

Patmore rides some double swing with Tufton, laughing like a maniac, while Edna contrives to hold Branson’s hand on the merry-go-round. Hughes rides it all alone. Aww. Jimmy starts drinking. A lot. Daisy and Ivy are tempted to try a ring toss (well, Ivy is, but Daisy’s skeptical). A rather tipsy Jimmy arrives and agrees to pay for their turns. Daisy asks him if he’s drunk and then frowningly warns him not to flash his money about. Good advice, but when did Daisy become the grumpy auntie of this group? Ivy tries the toss and loses, but then Daisy tries it and wins a gold sovereign on the very first try. The barker hands her prize over, and when she’s gone, yells at his assistant for not making the blocks too wide for the rings to go around.

At the spice stall, Alfred thanks Hughes for not tattling to Carson about them sitting down in the drawing room. She warns him not to do it again, and then she spots Isobel with Clarkson. Alfred checks out the ingredients and tells her this is where he belongs—preparing food. She notices Tufton a little ways off flirting with a few more ladies and her lips tighten up. Where’s Patmore?

Isobel rather stuffily tells Clarkson this has all been great fun, with the music and everything. He offers to get her some punch and tells her he has something he wants to ask her. Oh, here we go.

Tufton brings Patmore something to drink and asks her how she likes service. She says it’s all right. He digs into one of her sandwiches and tells her she’s the cook for him. She notices Jimmy stumbling away from the refreshment tent, clearly pretty wasted.

He somehow manages to find himself under a bridge somewhere (we’ll just assume he’s looking for a place to pee), where he’s met by a few of the village roughs. You know how gang ridden these small village fetes can be, right? One of them grabs his arms while another prepares to rob and beat the crap out of him. But fortunately Thomas arrives and manages to get Jimmy away. He’s not, however, able to get himself away, and apparently one punching bag’s as good as another to these idiots, because they just beat the shit out of Thomas instead while Jimmy runs away like a jackass.

Back at the fair, Clarkson downs an entire glass of punch in three seconds flat before collecting a cup for Isobel. After he delivers it, she asks him what he wanted to ask her. He asks her if she ever thought of marrying again, and we get a flash of the awesome Isobel we used to know:

She: Are you thinking of marrying again, Dr. Clarkson? Because if you are, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din (that’s the second time they’ve used that reference on this show. Someone needs to get Julian Fellowes another book of poetry).

He: Eh?

She: Well, with good friends like you I enjoy my life as it is and I wouldn’t want to risk things by changing it.

Well played, Isobel.

Before things can get awkward, Jimmy comes running over calling for the doctor.

Duneagle. Rose comes down in a beautiful pale blue, backless dress, and before she’s even down the stairs her mother flares her nostrils and tells her she’s not wearing that dress. Rose begs for her father to back her up, but Susan’s on a roll and snaps that Rose looks like a slut. Jesus, lady, take it down a notch! Violet’s like, woah, there, let’s dial it down. Rose says Princess Mary has one just like it and it’s the fashion now. Susan shouts that it’s a terrible fashion and asks Violet to agree. ‘Oh, my dear, in my day I wore the crinoline, the bustle, and the leg-of-mutton sleeves; I am not in a strong position to criticize,’ she replies. Hee! Shrimpy tiredly tells Rose to take Violet into the ballroom. Rose hurries away before the fireworks can begin.

And begin they do. Susan hisses at him not to blame her if Rose makes a fool of herself at the ball. He promises not to blame her for that, because he has other things to blame her for. The shouting commences, and he screams at her to just stop making everyone miserable all the time. Robert chooses that moment to try to come downstairs and whips through as quickly as he can, trailed closely by Shrimpy. Susan remains behind, looking shocked.

Clarkson’s tending to a seriously beaten up Thomas while Isobel wonders if there’s any way they can apprehend these people. Well, it’s a smallish town and this was close to a crowded area, and they’re highly likely to have blood on them, so I’d say yes, if there was even a slightly decent police constable around, but Jimmy disagrees with me. Hughes asks Thomas why he got into a fight in the first place, because that’s not really like him. Branson asks what was taken and Thomas says it was just a little money he had on him. Isobel says they need to get Thomas home and Branson heads off to fetch the car. The others help Thomas painfully to his feet.

Carson’s walking through the hallways of Downton when he hears the Siblit start to cry. He goes in and starts getting all cute with her, picking her up out of her crib and soothing her. Awww.

Time for the ball! Mary looks wistful as she watches the dancers, though Bates seems happy not to be forced to join in. Matthew firmly tells her she won’t be dancing that night. You do know you can’t really shake a baby loose, right, Matthew? Maybe he doesn’t. Off to the side, Molesley dances all by himself, though without moving his arms, so it looks a bit like he’s doing Riverdance. Awkwardly. O’Brien runs into Susan, who reports that Granite’s trying to get the hair right. O’Brien says it looks very nice, and Susan, for some reason, gets pissy and snaps that it’s not right yet, but they’ll keep working on it. She moves off and O’Brien says she’s going to grab a drink. Granite offers to go get one for her. Also drinking: Rose. She is seriously knocking them back, even when Cora gently suggests she take it easy. Violet tells Cora that Rose’s evening had a bumpy start, because her mother ‘isn’t herself.’ Rose snaps that her mother is totally herself just now, and then gets up and walks off. Violet observes that it’s bad enough parenting a kid when you like each other, but this is a whole other sort of misery.

While she’s fetching the drinks, Granite asks the ghillie for his flask. He hands it over and she dumps the entire thing into O’Brien’s drink. Someone spiking a drink to make a guest act drunk and embarrass themselves? This show’s now ripping off itself. They really are out of ideas, aren’t they? Also, you’d have to be an idiot not to be able to smell or, at first sip, taste that much whisky in a drink. It’d knock you flat.

Carson’s got Siblit in the library, where Hughes finds him. She smiles at the sight of him with the baby and asks where the nanny is. He’s not sure but figures she’ll find them soon enough. She’s probably freaking the hell out in the nursery right now, Carson. He says he was thinking of Sybil when she was that age and Hughes says all they can do now is cherish her ‘bairn.’ Because Hughes is SCOTTISH you know, and don’t forget it! Carson tells her there’s no need to get sentimental and goes to return Siblit to the nursery.

Dancing, dancing. Violet asks where Shrimpy is and Robert figures he’s hiding and licking his wounds. Granite delivers the drink to O’Brien, who takes one sip and immediately puts it aside. See? Molesley asks if she wants it, and when she says no, he downs it in a gulp before she can stop him.

Robert joins Shrimpy in the billiard room for a man-to-man talk about marriage. Shrimpy says that things were ok for a while, when they had kids and other things to think about, but then the older two went off and suddenly they realised they had nothing to say to each other. Robert asks why Susan’s so hard on Rose and Shrimpy wonders if Rose reminds Susan of him when he was young and had something to live for. Geez. Robert says he has plenty to live for—look at this awesome estate he has! Shrimpy says it’ll probably all have to go, because he failed to modernize, as Robert did, and now the money’s all gone. Oh, Shrimpy, Robert’s idea of modernizing is to keep finding fortunes to fold into the family. He hasn’t done anything, he’s just been stupidly lucky. Robert asks what Shrimpy will do and Shrimpy says he’ll go to India and then just see what happens. Robert sincerely tells him he’s very sorry about all this. Shrimpy shrugs off his depression and says they need to consider what to do with Rose.

The musicians strike up a reel (I believe) and Rose excitedly grabs Anna and directs her onto the dance floor, where she starts dancing perfectly, just as I thought. Aww, look at her doing the things Bates can’t do anymore! Bates seems pleased and agrees with Mary that Anna is marvelous.

Patmore brings Hughes some tea to accompany their girl talk. She wastes no time telling Hughes that Tufton has declared his love for her. Hughes reluctantly tells her about all the flirting she observed throughout the day. Patmore wonders how she missed all this. I wonder that too. But anyway, it doesn’t matter, because Patmore didn’t want the guy anyway, so that was a completely pointless interlude with a rather annoying new character. I won’t be sorry to see the back of him.

Back at the ball, Michael has reported his talk with Matthew to Edith, who, for some reason, is disappointed and surprised by Matthew’s reaction. But somehow that’s steeled her spine and now she’s decided to throw her lot in with Michael after all. Rebellion comes in many forms, I guess. She takes his hand and they join the reel. Molesley’s dancing too, rather exuberantly, and embarrassing himself in front of the rich folk. O’Brien asks Granite if she’s proud of her handiwork. Granite claims not to know what she’s talking about but O’Brien tells her to save it. She goes on to say that she’s rather grateful, really, because now she’ll never need to feel any sense of loyalty to Granite. And then she crosses the dance floor and has a word in Susan’s ear that we don’t get to hear. Is she angling for Granite’s job so she can go to India? Hmmm. Robert and Violet watch Molesley acting like an idiot and Robert observes that they say there’s a wild man in everyone. Violet wishes he was kept caged a bit better.

Beefcake shot. Branson’s getting ready for bed, so he’s shirtless when Edna just walks right into his room and tells him Thomas is feeling better, like he cares, really. Branson, looking a little panicky, thanks her and tells her to leave. She ignores him and approaches, telling him how lovely the day was. She suggests they meet for lunch at the pub the next day, and then kisses him before getting out of there.  Ok, I know that it’s been a year in show-time, and even the most grieving widower could be expected to move on after that time, but this episode is coming so close to the one where Sybil died and those scenes of his grief were so wrenching, it’s strange and almost disturbing to see him even seem to consider a relationship or whatever this is with someone else. Yes, he only kind of seems into it, but still, he’s not rebuffing her. This just isn’t working for me.

At the ball, Mary’s dancing, so I guess they loosened her leash a bit after all. Actually, all the name cast members, aside from Bates, are dancing this song. Close to the end, though, Mary starts rubbing her belly and bows out. Matthew gets all concerned and she admits she shouldn’t have done the dance, but she couldn’t resist. She asks if he minds if she heads home the next day, and when he says that’s fine with him (of course) she asks him to stay, so the others won’t feel obligated to leave as well. Couldn’t you just tell them to stay? It would seem natural for Matthew to accompany his pregnant wife home; I don’t see why the others would automatically feel the need to cut the trip short. Nonetheless, Matthew agrees.

The following morning, Carson tells the staff Mary and Anna are on their way home. Hughes tells Edna to make up the room, and Edna, being stupid as hell, asks if she really has to. She might as well have just ripped the needle across a record with that line. Carson asks if she has other plans and she says she does, actually: she’s meeting Tom Branson for lunch. Carson notes her use of his first name and Hughes quickly pulls him out of the room, whispering that this couldn’t possibly be Branson’s fault. Oh, no, of course not. Is that because he’s one of the higher-ups now, or because he’s a man and it’s always the women who are the guilty parties in cases such as these? Carson doesn’t care whose fault it is, Edna’s got to go. Hughes agrees.

Duneagle. Susan comes into Cora’s room and asks if she heard about Mary. Cora has, and she apologises. Susan waves it off, because she’s having a baby and we all need a bit of leeway when it comes to that. She admits that she’s having trouble with Rose and tells Cora Shrimpy wants Rose to live at Downton while they’re in India. Cora quickly tells her that she’ll only agree to that if Susan wants it. Susan thanks her, saying she hardly ever gets support for her own decisions. She is, however, starting to think Shrimpy’s right to leave Rose there. Cora asks what’ll become of her and Shrimpy and Susan says they’ll soldier on, because their sort never admit defeat. Before she goes, she asks Cora to speak well of her to her daughter. Not every day, but sometimes. Cora promises. Damn, that was sad.

Hughes has broken the news to Branson, who opines that he’s spoiled things for Edna. Hughes tells him that the work wouldn’t satisfy her anymore, and she’d unsettle the other maids. He claims not to have encouraged her, and Hughes tells him he didn’t discourage her either. He asks Hughes to give her a good reference, and Hughes says she will. She asks for permission to speak freely, which he gives, and she goes on to say that he let Edna make him ashamed of his new life, but he’s done really well, and Sybil would have been proud of him. He breaks down in tears and admits that he can’t bear to be without her. Hughes sits and takes his hand and tells him he must bear it, and she hopes that someday he finds someone to bear it with him.

Mary climbs off the train and walks veeeery slowly down the platform towards Anna, looking a little freaked out. Anna asks if she’s ok, and Mary says she doesn’t want to alarm anybody, but she needs to get to the hospital. She tells Anna to let Isobel know and to fire off a message to Matthew. Bet you wish you’d let him come with you now, don’t you, Mary?

In Scotland, Matthew’s perfect stag shot is ruined by the arrival of someone coming to fetch him, which really pisses off the ghillie.

Carson steams into the servants’ hall and tells everyone the whole family is coming back the next day. Daisy asks if it’s because Mary’s in the hospital and wonders if she’s in danger. Carson says it means no such thing. Hughes heads out into the hallway and finds Edna all packed up and ready to go. Edna asks what she’s done wrong, since it’s not like she slept with Tom or anything. Hughes knows, but there are rules to this type of life, and if Edna’s not prepared to accept them, this isn’t the job for her. She picks up her case and leaves.

Robert reports to Cora that they have tickets for the first train in the morning, which is the earliest they can get out of there. Cora’s  understandably stressed out and Robert sweetly comforts her and says he’ll be glad to get home. He goes on to say that he’s glad he was jealous of Shrimpy, because it made him realise what a fool he’s been. This is what made you realise that? Not your wife almost dying of flu or your daughter actually dying or almost losing your estate? He finally says that Downton will survive thanks to Matthew’s vision, and he’s so very grateful for his home and his family. Get used to ridiculous, fate-tempting speeches like this, because we’re in for a good ten minutes of them.

Shrimpy and family see the Downton crew off the following morning. Shrimpy and Susan say they’re glad that Rose will be part of the regular cast next season. I mean, they’re glad she’ll be surrounded by loving family while they’re away.

As Edith and Matthew make their way to the car, she asks him what he told Mary about Michael. Oh, Edith, I love you, but now is not the time, ok? This man’s got enough on his mind. He says he told her nothing, but he hopes he made it clear what has to happen. Wow, that was rather pompous and presumptuous of you. ‘Oh, yes, we both know what happens next,’ says Edith. Rose comes hurrying out and hugs Robert, telling him she can’t wait to see him at Downton. Off they go.

Anna swings by Carson’s office and tells him she’s on the way back to the hospital. He’s even more anxious than Mary’s actual parents appear to be, because after Sybil he’s wondering who’s going to get bumped off next. Anna tells Carson to have Matthew’s car taken to the station so he can drive himself to the hospital while the others return to Downton.

Mary’s at the hospital, sitting up in bed, looking nervous. Off to the side, Clarkson asks Isobel to help calm her while he gets ready. He also takes a moment to thank her for stopping him from making a fool of himself at the fair. She smiles and says she has no idea what he means.

Isobel settles down at Mary’s bedside, and Mary immediately starts stressing about Matthew not being there, saying she only feels like half herself when he’s not there. Isobel reassures her he’s on his way and she won’t want him in the room with her during the birth anyway. Mary asks Isobel to call Carson, who’ll be upset, and then she chastises herself for going up north. Isobel promises everything will be fine, and the baby’s going to be a little early, but not so early it’s going to be a problem. Clarkson knocks on the door and gives the girls a look that says, ‘it’s time.’

Jimmy finally screws up his courage and goes to Thomas’s room, where Thomas is recuperating in bed with a newspaper. Thomas is surprised to see him and asks what brings him by. Jimmy just wanted to see how he was doing and tells him he was brave to do what he did. He says he feels bad about running off. Thomas tells him he was supposed to run off, because that’s what Thomas stepped in for. Jimmy gets suspicious and asks if Thomas was following him. Thomas admits that he was, because he saw that Jimmy was a bit drunk and he was worried about him. Wow, Thomas has almost been cuddly this episode. Compared to how he usually is, anyway. Jimmy fetches a chair and sits by Thomas’s bed so they can have a serious chat. He tells him he can’t give Thomas what he wants. Thomas knows that, but he would like it if they could be friends. Jimmy agrees and Thomas thanks him and hands him the paper to read aloud. Aww!

Carson’s on the phone, thanking someone profusely. He hangs up and looks both relieved and joyful, so I guess Mary’s dropped the bairn. He hurries into the servants’ hall and tells Hughes and Patmore the baby’s safely arrived and Mary’s just fine. Let’s not count those chickens, they said the same about Sybil until a few hours later. The ladies rejoice and Hughes asks if the baby is a boy or girl. Carson totally forgot to ask.

Matthew finally arrives at the hospital, where he finds Mary sitting up in bed, cuddling their son. Yes, that’s right, Matthew and Downton finally have a son and heir. Mary hands the baby over and Matthew’s face practically splits in two with joy. He greets the baby and there’s a really wonderful catch in his voice as he speaks. Dan Stevens actually has two kids (I believe his wife had their second child rather close to when this was filming), so I have no doubt he’s channeling some very real emotions from those arrivals here. It’s lovely to see. He asks Mary how she’s doing and she says she’s tired, but relieved, because they’ve done their duty and Downton is safe. Well, that’s a lovely way to think about the arrival of your first child. And now the dialogue gets rather unfortunate as Matthew starts talking about how he’s dancing a jig and feels like he swallowed a box of fireworks. He gently hands the baby back to Mary and sits down again, telling her she’s going to be a wonderful mother, because she’s a wonderful woman. Jesus, Matthew, she really, really isn’t. I’m sure the show’s going to turn her into some kind of awesome, nurturing mum, but that doesn’t fit her character at all and, in reality, she’d be a terrible parent. You think her condescension, snobbishness, and lack of warmth would solely be directed at Edith forever? Everyone makes cute for a bit and Matthew goes on about how he falls more and more in love with her all the time. Mary asks where the others are and Matthew says they’re back at the house, being kept away by Isobel so he can have a chance to spend a tiny bit of time with his new family.

Up at the house, Edith and Branson have a catch up. He asks if she enjoyed herself (she did) and he admits to having been on a bit of a ‘learning curve.’ She says she has too. Isobel, meanwhile, is giving what sounds like a really stilted, prepared speech to Cora and Robert that boils down to: everything’s fine, you can go see your grandson soon. Robert’s in raptures at being able to say the words ‘my grandson’.

Matthew’s driving home in that nifty little two-seater, grinning while Robert and his family talk about how they had these dark days and things seemed hopeless, but then things came out all right in the end after all. See what I meant about those fate-tempting speeches? Matthew’s now driving along at a good clip, so happy he’s not even looking at the road anymore. And then we get an obligatory shot of a truck coming up the same one-lane road in the other direction. Yeah, we all know where this is going, because this is a massive cliché, and a stupid one at that. How many people have gotten into fatal car crashes because they were so deliriously happy they weren’t looking at the road anymore? I’m willing to bet not many. Robert’s still nattering on about how charmed his life is and wondering what he’s done to deserve it. Violet agrees with him but says we don’t always get our just deserts.

On the road, the truck driver hops down and runs towards Matthew’s wrecked car, in a series of shots that are almost exactly taken from City of Angels. When you’re ripping off Nicholas Cage movies, you know you’re in trouble. Matthew’s pinned under his flipped-over car, quite obviously dead, though if Clarkson’s the one who has to declare it, you never really know.

At the hospital, Mary continues to cuddle the kid and tells Anna to tell Matthew he must let the others have a chance to see the new spawn. Except he’s now lying in a ditch by the side of the road, with raspberry jam-like blood drizzling down his face. So, I guess Mary got her just deserts, then.

God. That was bad. Just bad. I know these specials aren’t supposed to tax the brains much, because we’re all meant to have eaten ourselves a good ten IQ points stupider, but that doesn’t excuse this nonsense. The story was less a story and more a series of strung together subplots that went nowhere and swung us back to the status quo, except for the last bit. And the last ten minutes were so cloyingly, obnoxiously emotionally manipulative I just found myself getting annoyed, so by the time Matthew actually died I didn’t even care. Honestly, as soon as we saw him driving along, my family and I started laughing, because we knew what was coming, and it was so baldly obvious and clichéd it became less tragic and more funny. Mary was so hateful the whole time I can’t feel bad for her, even in tragedy, and Matthew’s constant claims that she’s this wonderful person rang hollow. Which side of Mary is he seeing? Can we see it too? And Edith—oh, poor, poor Edith. Can they just let this girl be happy already? Can’t we just kill off Michael’s unseen wife? It’s not like we’re invested in her or anything. Have her give birth, apparently that’s deadly in these parts. At Downton, nobody can have a baby without one of the parents dying. And as if the writing wasn’t bad enough, the acting matched, in many places. I can’t fully blame the actors—there’s only so much you can do with godawful dialogue, but there were times when it was clear people just weren’t invested in what they were doing at all. Isobel’s painfully stilted speech at the end and the footmen just sitting like lumps staring at the silver, clearly just waiting for a cue, stand out as the worst offenders.

Having said all that, it is nice to see Thomas get some actual character development and move from just being bitter and horrible to being slightly more human. Still, this was not a good two hours of television. Too many awful people being awful to one another, and who really wants to end a holiday like that?

Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Better hopes for 2013. Happy New Year, everybody!

 



4 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: ‘Ship Wreck

  1. Ha! I thought I was the only one giggling at the absurdity when Matthew was driving towards his ridiculous death! As always a pleasure to read your reviews.

  2. I didn’t mind the special as a whole because I thought series 3 was so god-awful. I felt like the characters somewhat returned to who they had been in series 1. I agree that Mary was super mean, and that whole Matthew death scene was eyeroll-worthy. Next season is going to be interesting (or a terrible pain to watch. I’m going to bet on the latter).

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