Upstairs Downstairs Recap: No Going Back

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Hallam tumbled fast and probably irretrievably down the douchebag rabbithole by jumping into bed with his sister-in-law, who seems to be a Nazi spy, in addition to an all-around gross human being. Pritchard got a crush, which was then, well, crushed when his lady love realized he didn’t fight in the last war, and Spargo and Beryl decided it was about time to hit the road and head to America.

A bell rings belowstairs, where the detritus from the previous night’s party are laid out on the table. Said detritus includes, oddly, a shoe. What were they all up to after that party? Spargo gently wakes Beryl, who’s asleep in his bed, and gives her some OJ. Aww.

Upstairs, Agnes wakes Johnny and Eunice and briskly tells them to get downstairs and help her with Pritchard, who’s drunk off his ass.

Hallam’s being woken with a kiss and the news that his wife’s home. He freaks out when he hears Agnes’s voice and he tells Persie this is all at an end, and was at and end last night. Oh, please. Didn’t he at least suspect that Persie might have been supplying information to the Nazis? Did he really still come home and screw her? Come on. Or maybe Persie just busted into his room that morning or something, because he tells her he can’t trust her anymore.

Eunice and Johnny help Pritchard up the stairs as Hallam comes down and asks Agnes what’s going on. They have a giggle over Pritchard’s drunkeness, which doesn’t really seem like much of a laughing matter, and then they hug like nothing every happened. How charming. The phone rings and Hallam answers—it’s his boss, telling him appeasement is now at an end. Hallam agrees to come in immediately and hangs up. Agnes asks if war’s really inevitable and he says it is, so she tells him they’ll face it together.

Next, Agnes heads downstairs to get breakfast together, because Thack’s hungover and Beryl’s still asleep. These people would be so, so fired. Beryl and Spargo come in and Agnes dispatches him to fetch the car before laying into Beryl for sleeping around. Beryl tells her she and Spargo are getting married and leaving soon, which is news to Agnes, and she’s a bit snippy about it, which makes Beryl lash out and make insinuations about what’s been going on in Agnes’s absence. Oh, Beryl, back off!

Upstairs, Persie intercepts Hallam right in the hallway and tells him he can’t go cutting her off just because his wife’s come home. Actually, Persie, he can, and that’s how these things usually go. He reminds her that his wife is also her sister and then asks who she’s been talking to. She plays dumb poorly and Hallam walks away.

As he goes out to the car, Hallam pays Spargo his blackmail cash and asks to be notified when he leaves. You’ll probably notice when he leaves when the car fails to materialize, Hallam.

Blanche calls Agnes from the children’s refugee camp to tell her the place is overflowing, and furthermore, she’s having trouble getting to Pamela, whose asylum has already been requisitioned. And they didn’t bother to inform the families or make arrangements for the inmates to go elsewhere? Agnes tells Blanche to do everything she can, because she wants the whole family home. I’ll bet at some point that invitation will no longer extend to Persie. Blanche hangs up and gets back on the road.

Hallam’s at the office and starts an investigation into their apparent leak. He tells one of his colleagues to start with Persie.

Johnny brings Pritchard a tray of food. Pritchard’s still looking pretty bad but he’s with it enough to ask how he’s going to be punished. Johnny doesn’t know. Johnny seems a bit disgusted with Pritchard at the moment, and Pritchard’s totally bitter. Johnny yells (probably not good for someone with a hangover) about how he looked up to Pritchard. Pritchard goes and locks himself up in the bathroom.

Downstairs, Persie’s getting ready to go riding, even as Agnes tells her she doesn’t think she should go out, under the circumstances. But go out she will. Agnes asks how Hallam was while she was away and Persie says he was preoccupied, but it was good for him to have Agnes away for a bit. In fact, it’d probably be a great idea for her to take the kids and go visit daddy in Wales. Agnes isn’t keen on that at all. Persie suggests she might head to Ireland herself, even though she doesn’t know anyone there. Agnes insists on Persie staying at 165.

Downstairs, Beryl bitches and moans about Agnes making assumptions about her. Spargo tells her to chill, because soon they’ll be out of there. Thack finally makes it downstairs and begs for something to settle her stomach.

Agnes chats with Eunice a bit about how things were while she was gone. Eunice mentions that Persie kept strange hours, but Hallam always came home.

Downstairs, Eunice is a bit stressed that Agnes seems to be getting wind that something might be up. Thack’s more interested in stockpiling supplies. Pritchard manages to come down and drops off letters for Spargo and Johnny before heading out for some “fresh air.” Johnny opens his letter and, sure enough, it’s his marching orders. He and Spargo are to pay a visit to armed forces medical. Beryl freaks a little and takes off crying. Spargo follows her and tells her they’ll get out of the country in time. She asks how that’s possible, because they have to get married. So, get married, honey. It doesn’t take more than a couple of days to get a license. Johnny interrupts them to shout that he’s wanted, and Spargo tells him to chill, But Johnny feels like he’s got the weight of the whole household on his shoulders and snaps that someone has to run the place.

Later, Hallam walks home (so, where’d Spargo go?) and finds Agnes in bed. She asks what the news is and he tells her that they’re definitely in a standoff with Hitler, and if he invades Poland, it’s all over. There’s some small talk and she admits that nighttime was when she missed him most. He says he felt pretty much the same when she was gone. There’s some ruckus outside and Hallam tells her to relax, it’s just the territorials doing their thing. But it’s only a matter of days before shit gets real.

The following morning, Amanjit knocks on Pritchard’s door but gets no response. Johnny joins him and they realize Pritchard’s probably been on a serious bender.

Blanche arrives home with Pamela, who proudly announces that she brought her gas mask. Spargo, meanwhile, goes to apply for a marriage license, where he joins a very long queue indeed. Seems everyone wants to get hitched.

Agnes goes to Blanche’s room and asks to speak with her where they can’t be overheard. Blanche hands her a lice comb and asks for help—she’s caught it from the kids at the camp. Lovely. Agnes is totally grossed out but takes the comb nonetheless. The two ladies gossip about Persie and Agnes admits she has some suspicions about her husband and her sister. Blanche waves them off and thinks Agnes is being hysterical. Agnes realizes she never had anything really constructive to do, but Blanche reassures her she’ll find something to do and she’ll do it well.

Everyone starts getting the house ready for bombing, placing sandbags and readying fire hoses. Eunice is hanging blackout curtains and figures something bad is going down soon, which will probably torpedo Beryl’s plans of going to America.

Spargo, meanwhile, is still waiting for that marriage license.

At the house, Persie comes downstairs and overhears Hallam telling Amanjit that he’ll be working long hours and needs to know his family’s looked after. Amanjit tells him things are in good hands. Hallam gives him the gun back and tells him to clean it and put it back in the safe. Amanjit takes off and Persie asks if she can help. Hallam shortly tells her to ask Agnes or Blanche. She says she tried but they didn’t have any sensible suggestions. Hallam doubts it and tells Persie he’s too busy to mess about with her.

Johnny shows up at the hospital where Rose is staying, bouquet of flowers in hand, and talks about Pritchard. She tells him Pritchard’s the type to fall off the wagon hard—it ended his career at Cunard. How does she know that? Seems like something Pritchard wouldn’t be too willing to share. Johnny admits he doesn’t know what to do and he wants Rose to come home after she’s discharged. He desperately tells her that someone has to look after 165. She smiles sadly and urges him to find Pritchard. Like this kid doesn’t have enough to do.

Hallam and Kent meet up at Whitehall and Kent tells him he’s been appointed Rear Admiral—purely a desk job, mind. Hallam asks if that’s what he wants and Kent says what he wants isn’t important, it’s what’s best for the country. He brings up Hallam’s little investigation and tells him there are leaks all over London, so just one isn’t a big deal. Hallam says it is a big deal, and he needs to get his house in order. I seem to recall either him or someone close to him saying something very similar last series.

Amanjit comes running down to the kitchen and tells everyone to come upstairs and see something. They all file into the street and see all of London slowly go dark as the blackout practice begins.

Later, Johnny goes to search for Pritchard. Thack sees him and gives him some cookies that are Pritchard’s favorite.

Pritchard’s sacked out in some extremely miserable place, meanwhile.

Spargo’s washing the car while Beryl watches, amazed he can keep going on as if nothing’s changed. He tells her they both have to do something to stay busy, and he lets her in about going to the registry office. So, she decides to go out and buy a wedding dress.

Persie calls up her old lover, Friedrich, who’s not at all interested in speaking with her.

Beryl finds a place that’s having pre-war “bridal bargains.” It’s full of girls itching to tie the knot before the war starts.

Agnes reports downstairs to help Johnny out. He tells her things are fine—just fine! But she goes to unpack the laundry, because she needs to be of some use. Johnny tells her about visiting Rose, but Agnes is quickly distracted by a note the laundry’s left with one of Hallam’s shirts, saying they couldn’t get the lipstick out. Oh dear.

Agnes immediately starts going a bit nuts, crying and going through all of Hallam’s things, just as Caspar Landry shows up for a visit. Pamela opens the door and he politely introduces himself. Pamela pours him and Agnes tea while he waxes rhapsodic about tea in a way that makes me kind of love him. He’s sweet with Pamela, and then announces that he’s heading back to the States. Agnes kindly dispatches Pamela so she and Caspar can chat. He gives her a present, which turns out to be nylons. Sweetie, those’ll be worth more than gold soon. She strokes them and he strokes her hand through them and tells her to write him if she runs out. Or just write him for whatever. She regretfully tells him she can’t, because she has to be the best person she can be, at least for a little while. Someone in this house has to be, I guess.

Later, he drives away in his nifty little sports car while Agnes watches and looks sad.

At Whitehall, Hallam’s co-worker hands him a dossier on the leak and tells him he was right—it was Persie all the way. The co-worker says there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on his part, and Persie will be off his hands in a few days, because she’ll be tossed in prison. Yay!

Back home, Persie notes that Agnes looks pale. Blanche puts it down to the stress of war and there’s some discussion of cosmetics. Persie mentions not liking American lipsticks because they bleed all over and she ruined a bunch of handkerchiefs. And at least one nice shirt. Agnes gets up and takes off, fetching the lipstick from Persie’s room and taking a moment to sniff one of the pillows, on which Hallam left the smell of his cologne.

A minute later, she’s downstairs beating the crap out of Persie while Blanche bundles Pamela out of the room and the servants listen on in shock. Go Agnes! My money’s on her, she’s got true rage on her side. Agnes demands to know when it started and Persie tells her it was Munich, though he might take a different view. This, unsurprisingly, does not appease her sister, who’s pulled off by Blanche. As a parting shot, Persie tells her to ask Hallam about the abortion. Jesus, she’s a completely cold bitch, isn’t she? What the hell? What made her this way? Really all Agnes has ever done is care for this ungrateful little sow. Agnes runs off to the bathroom to be sick, helped by Blanche while Persie barks at the servants to bring her tea. Spit in it, guys. All of you. Or something.

Downstairs, absolutely no one is willing to take Persie her tea. They all think she’s a horrible person, and he’s no better. Spargo comes in and they tell him all about it.

Hallam’s walking home through the park but stops on a bench beside Pritchard, whom he doesn’t even recognize at first. Pritchard half apologizes for having been a crappy employee. Hallam says he’s not one to judge. Hallam excuses himself, saying there are things that need to be restored.

He arrives home and tells Agnes that he cleaned out his desk and quit, because he’s been harboring a spy who’s been peddling secrets for three months. Agnes smokes and says nothing. Hallam goes on to say that they’ll be by in the next 24 hours to take her to Holloway Prison. “Good,” says Agnes. Then she turns and looks right at him and tells him that she knows everything.

Later, Persie’s kneeling at Agnes’s door, sobbing and begging for help. Oh, haven’t the chickens come home to roost for you, you horrible, selfish, disgusting little whore? Enjoy prison. Agnes lies in bed, unresponsive, while her awful, selfish, stupid man-whore husband (there really needs to be a better word for that, right?) sits nearby. Persie tries to go the manipulative route, bringing up childhood memories and Agnes begins to sob, so, so alone right now. Hallam finally comes out of the room and tells Persie things can’t be changed. He’ll have to leave his job, and his marriage is a wreck. Persie actually suggests at her sister’s door, mind, that they can run away together now. Christ, she doesn’t know when to stop, does she? He tells her they can’t run anywhere and goes back inside.

The next day, Agnes toys with her wedding ring in the empty nursery, then strides out of there purposefully.

Downstairs, Persie’s trying to get through to Berlin, but she’s been abandoned—whomever she was trying to call won’t speak with her.

Spargo is finally next in line at the registry office, as Johnny is called in for his army physical. Spargo goes into the office, and Johnny is passed with a grade A1. I’m guessing that’s bad for him.

Persie, looking like hell, is still trying to get through to someone, but there’s no one there.

Belowstairs, Thack and Eunice are pinning up Beryl’s wedding dress. Spargo comes bursting in with the license and the tickets and the ladies all squeal and tell him it’s bad luck for him to see her in her dress ahead of time, so they send him up to the drawing room to fetch the pinking shears.

He goes in and finds Persie there. She asks him if he’ll go downstairs and tell Beryl he saw her in tears and looking desperate. He says he won’t and offers her some matches to replace her empty lighter. She tells him it’s unendurable sitting there alone, and then he notices she’s holding Hallam’s gun. He backs off and she asks him if he meant anything to him. Spargo gently tries to remove the gun from Persie’s hand, just as Beryl comes in, startling Persie. The gun goes off, catching Beryl in the shoulder or chest or something, and Spargo races over to her. Persie gets up, goes to the railing (they’re on the second floor) and throws herself over.

Agnes, having presumably heard the gunshot, goes to help Beryl, stripping off her shirt to stanch the blood and calmly taking control of the situation. Where’s Pritchard when you need him?

Later, Persie’s body is carried out as Pritchard secretly watches from nearby. Pamela finds Hallam somewhere in the house, where he’s crying brokenheartedly. He embraces his sister tightly. Sorry, but I feel nothing but relief for the end of Persie. She sucked.

Pritchard finally returns, seeming like his old self, and nobody blinks an eye at his extended absence. Beryl’s in the hospital recovering with Spargo at her side.

As everyone goes about their business, the PM comes over the radio and tells them that they are now at war with Germany.

The family returns from the funeral and Agnes comments that very few people came. She muses to Blanche that everything Persie had was hand-me-down or snatched, and that she loved her lots and lots. Blanche says nobody could love Persie enough, as she opens the window to “let her wretched soul out.” Amen, Blanche.

Agnes and Hallam face off over his desk and she tells him nanny will be taking the kids to stay with her dad, and she’s sending Pamela and Rose along with them. Agnes will settle them in and then she’ll come back to London. He thanks her and she coolly tells him it won’t be for him. There’s talk of divorce, which she doesn’t want because it’s all been sordid enough, thanks. He promises to spend forever making things up to her and she asks him if they can go back to the beginning. Well, no, you can’t, Agnes. You can’t erase everything that’s happened. Hallam notes she isn’t wearing her ring and she says she’ll put it back on, but just for show. So, not so much with the going back to the beginning, then?

Beryl and Spargo get married and everyone celebrates and dances. Kent comes in, dressed in uniform, and tries to buck up Hallam, who admits he has no idea what to do. But Kent does—he wants Hallam to serve as an equerry at Buckingham Palace. He tells Blanche about it and asks her to stay on, for Agnes’s sake, if not his own. She says she was hoping to, because she’s joined the fire brigade.

Back at the party, Johnny flirts a bit with Eunice, and it’s adorable. He asks her to write to him when he’s away, telling her she can be his bit of home. Aww.

Hallam, now uniformed himself, gets into the car. Once they’re in the car, Spargo hands back his blackmail payoff, saying they weren’t able to sail because Beryl wasn’t well enough, and now Spargo’s been called through to the forces, so they’re not sure what’s going to happen. Hallam takes the envelope back.

Inside, Agnes tries on her ambulance uniform. She and Blanche emerge from the house just as air raid sirens begin to wail. Pritchard appears and waves them to safety, then goes out to resume his duties as warden.

And that’s it. Man, did this go off the rails fast. I can see why Eileen Atkins steered clear. They took Hallam and totally ignored all they’d previously established with the character and totally turned him into a dick. And the lesbian subplot, like most of the subplots on the show (remember Thack’s family?) was so pointless. No good, Upstairs, no good.

5 thoughts on “Upstairs Downstairs Recap: No Going Back

  1. Well. . .you saved several hours of my time when it premieres in the US–thanks! It sounds it took a detour to crazy town.

  2. The series is guilty of bad writing, because Hallam had an affair with his sister-in-law?

    Are you one of those who believe that characters are either all good or all bad? All you have done is made me look forward to watching the series. Hallam had always come off as some kind of choir boy in the first season. It’s nice to see that he actually has thorns in his character.

  3. No. In my mind, this series is guilty of bad writing (in part) because Hallam had an affair with his sister-in-law that made no sense and seemed incredibly out of character for him. I have no problems with characters being three-dimensional–I actually prefer it that way, since it makes them more interesting and realistic, but the affair came out of nowhere, and there were other problems with the writing too. Subplots were dull and dropped quickly (like Thackary’s brief dalliance with unemployment) and the lesbian subplot was clearly thrown in purely for titillation. While I enjoyed the arcs of some characters (like Agnes) and the fun factor of others (like Kent), overall I found this poorly plotted and thought out. But hey, that’s just my opinion–yours may differ considerably. That’s what makes the world an interesting place, right?

  4. Even if this last season had not completely insulted the classic “Upstairs, Downstairs” series, it’s terrible dialog &trashy subplots made it embarrassing to watch. Many of us held on in the hope that the next episode might put the series back on track. This finale’ killed the franchise. Hopefully all prints of this past year will disappear & only the original series with it’s sparkling cast will be remembered. The original story gave us unforgettable glimpses into a by-gone age. These last episodes made us wonder why this degrading system ever survived so long.

  5. I watched up to episode 3 or something and I was reading your recaps along with the series. At one point, I think the episode wouldn’t stop buffering, or I kept getting interrupted by real life people, so I just decided to read your recap. (That was the lesbian subplot episode, btw). I was so bored by the episode from both watching and reading your recap that I just ended up reading the rest of the season. Thank goodness I did. I was hoping the show would NOT go the Hallam/Persie affair route and when I saw that it was going that way, I gave up. One of the reasons I really liked this show was because of Hallam and Agnes and how happy they were, and how they managed to stay strong despite all the crap that happened to them. I agree that the Persie affair came out of nowhere and was out of character for Hallam. There was no indication that he was frustrated in his marriage. The kiss they shared in Munich was bad enough and I was happy it didn’t progress for a couple episodes. To see that it did end up with the two of them sleeping together is a sad way to wreck Hallam’s character and make Persie further unlikeable. Seems like the writers just had no idea wtf to do with her.

    Thanks for saving a whole lot of my time but I am sorry you had to suffer through the latter half of this series…I was in pain just reading the recaps!

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