The Gilded Age Episode 5: Charity Has Two Functions

In case anyone’s wondering, no, I do not like Marian any more this week than I did last. If anything, I hate her more.

So, Gladys, having learned nothing after last week’s governess firing about the dangers of using the servants to help her sneak around, enlists the help of young maid Adelheid to try and leave the house for a clandestine date with young Archie Baldwin. Unfortunately, she’s caught by her mother and turned right back around. George is a bit baffled by his wife’s resistance to Archie, since he’s a blueblood with old money and a place in both the city and Newport. Bertha insists she wants more for Gladys. She’s definitely going to go down the Alva Vanderbilt route and push poor Gladys into a marriage with some aristocrat, isn’t she? Because Alva did this exact thing when her daughter fell for a guy whose only black mark was not being a duke. Though in Alva’s case she layered on a fake heart attack and some awful emotional abuse via her BFF to get her daughter to play ball. Suffrage activism aside, Alva was a terrible person.

In good news, though, Bertha does agree not to hire another governess. Instead, at the urging of the housekeeper, she promotes Adelheid to lady’s maid. Turner does not seem delighted by this. Turner is delighted by the opportunity to make some extra money on the side by reporting news from the Russell house to Oscar, who’s still being frozen out.

Since Gladys seems really into Archie, her parents invite him to dinner. He seems nice! He’s young but not too young, starting a career, and seems really into Gladys. But once he’s left alone with George, George offers him a really sweet job on the condition Archie Dear Johns Gladys and the two never meet or speak again. If he refuses, George is going to render him unemployable. The poor kid has no choice but to accept, really, and does not seem happy about it. George, having done this at his wife’s bidding, isn’t happy about it either. It’s nice he’s a wife guy and all, but when it comes at the expense of one of his children’s happiness, it really starts losing him points. And since he’s determined Gladys will have a love match, I’m guessing Bertha’s inevitable plans will cause some serious friction between the two.

There’s still friction across the street as well, between Peggy and Marian. Peggy’s a bit frosty over Marian’s outrageous blunder last week. Marian whines that she’s sorry, but then tries to make the whole thing Peggy’s fault by saying she only went because she’s so curious and Peggy won’t tell her anything.

This. Girl. Listen, sweetheart, it’s not Peggy’s job to satisfy your curiousity. She is not your entertainment. Her business is her business, not yours. God!

Since Peggy isn’t going to give up the goods, Marian tries to wheedle information out of Peggy’s mother, who comes by to visit her daughter (Peggy’s out at the time). Alas, Marian is disappointed once again, as all Peggy’s mother will tell her is that parents sometimes do things to protect their children. And sometimes those things cause rifts, you know? She also tells Marian that she wants Peggy to come back to Brooklyn because she can have a life with more dignity there, where she’s actually allowed to walk through front doors, not the servants’ entrance. Fair.

Marian wants to throw herself further into Clara Barton’s Red Cross, complaining that all the women in Doylestown were only housewives who cared for nothing beyond home and kids and she wants to do more. In defense of my hometown, may I step up and say, f*ck you, Marian, you ignorant twit. Doylestown has long attracted and produced remarkable people of both genders. Doylestown is just a town filled with boring housewives? Pearl Buck and Margaret Mead disagree. And you know what? Just because a woman’s a housewife doesn’t mean she isn’t engaged or interested in anything beyond their front doors. Nearly all of the white women you know in New York are technically housewives, so sit down and think before you speak.

Thoughtless here asks for and receives permission to attend an event Clara’s giving up in Dansville, so long as Peggy accompanies her. Peggy’s going to be writing about it for the newspaper anyway, so that works out. Aurora Fane and Bertha also decide they’re going to go. Road trip! But it’s about a 200 mile journey, so they’ll have to stay overnight. Raikes overhears them making plans and immediately offers to arrange for their overnight accommodation. Not sketchy at all!

This all goes down at Aurora’s Ward McAllister luncheon. Marion asked her to invite Raikes and Aurora was like, ‘yeah, why not?’ which is why he’s there. Not much to report about this other than the fact that Nathan Lane’s southern accent is so ludicrously OTT it became distracting. I mean, we’re talking Kenneth Branagh as Arliss Loveless levels of over the top. Aside from that, I think they got Ward’s self-absorption and blowhardedness pretty right. You can read his autobiography for free, and it’s definitely on show there. One hundred percent ‘how amazing am I?’ The guy only mentions his own wife in passing twice (and once it’s in a ‘my wife’s brother did this thing’ context, so I’m not sure that counts). He never mentions any of his three children. Considering said autobiography made him very unpopular amongst a lot of the old guard, you’d think it’d be pretty juicy but it isn’t. Trust me.

The ladies travel north, where they’re greeted by Raikes. Marian’s suprised to see him there. Marian, of course he’s going to be there! He knows you’re going to be aunt-free in a place with available hotel rooms!

Everyone attends a talk by Miss Barton, which is also attended by Anne Morris. Anne’s not pleased to see that Bertha’s been embraced by Aurora, as she’s still (understandably) quite salty over her husband’s suicide and misdirecting her anger, as people tend to do in this situation. Aurora hisses that they’re just going to have to deal with the world as it is and start evolving. Anne does not seem happy with that.

During her speech, Clara singles out Bertha for her generosity, which will enable her to open three clinics. Bertha is judiciously using her money to elevate her status in Society, and Clara knows it, because she’s been around this block before. Over dinner, Clara asks if anyone knows Mrs Chamberlain, who she wants to hit up next. Marion, not being all that bright, immediately says that she does, and she can have a word. Aurora is RIGHT THERE. No way this isn’t getting back to Agnes.

Raikes walks Marian to her room and then basically asks to spend the night with her. No. No, no, no. This guy is trying to wheedle his way into the upper classes, right? Then there’s no way he would proposition a well-brought-up young lady like this. She would have been deeply offended and any door worth opening would be slammed in his face.

But instead, Marian says no to the sex but yes to a makeout session right in the hallway. Sigh. Peggy comes along and shoos him away, and then she and Marian have a talk about love. And Marian learns that Peggy had a sweetheart who worked in her father’s pharmacy.

Peggy’s got a secret baby, right? I mean, that’s where this seems to be going, right? And her parents sent her to Philadelphia to secretly have it and had it adopted out and fired her boyfriend and she needs Raikes’s help to undo the adoption or whatever? That’s my guess here.

Peggy, being definitely the smartest one in the room, points out that now Raikes has had a taste of high society, he’s unlikely to want to leave it. And he would have to leave it, if he married Marian, because the two of them won’t have enough money to keep up with any of these Joneses. Marian doesn’t seem to think this is going to be an issue.

Back in the city, the nasty Van Rhijn housekeeper, Miss Armstrong, has a day off. She visits her mother, who’s a dreadful woman who lives in a slum. I guess this is supposed to make Miss Armstrong more sympathetic, but it doesn’t work for me. Nothing going on below stairs is interesting me in the slightest, which is a bad sign considering we’re halfway through the first season. By this time I was definitely invested in the belowstairs goings-on in Downton.

Everyone returns to the city, where Bertha hosts the dreadful dinner with poor Archie. After he’s sent packing, she reassures Gladys that this is really for the best because Bertha wants things for Gladys and she’ll get them for her. This sounds kinda abusive, Bertha. I take it back that she’s not fully following Alva’s playbook, almost a decade early. Larry seems pretty disgusted with both his parents over this.

But before anyone can get too deeply into introspection, the rail crash that was basically foretold last week happens. George is informed and tells Bertha to deploy Clara, like Clara Barton and the Red Cross are their own personal disaster relief force. Quick! To the Bart-signal!



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