Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Persie had an illegal abortion and Hallam held her hand through it. Agnes met and charmed a rather charming American businessman named Landry.
Jaunty music plays as nearly identically dressed ladies sit in an office typing up letters requiring young men to present themselves for training. At 165, everyone’s wishing Johnny a happy birthday as he opens his own letter. Pritchard soberly realizes what this means but the other servants are idiots and think it’s all a big laugh. Guys, he’s being called up for military training. And things aren’t looking too good on the Continent. Don’t any of you read newspapers around this house? I know you’re all doing the jobs of eight servants (except for Thack, who seems to have plenty of time to make macaroons for that family we never saw or heard from again), but you live with a government minister who’s clearly very disturbed by what’s happening. Can you not read the mood?
No, apparently not, because Johnny gets excited about getting a uniform and they all start singing some song and dancing around, though Pritchard excuses himself, looking upset.
Beryl’s hanging laundry—seriously? Laundry? Why’s the head housemaid doing laundry? That was a job beneath even Daisy. At the very least, this family would have a laundry service to come in, she wouldn’t be doing it. Spargo comes in and tries to ask her out but she turns him down because they’re going out for Johnny’s birthday that night. He starts to feel all hurt and asks if he’s not good enough for her and she basically says yes, because she wants to marry up, apparently. Poor Spargo, he looks so hurt.
Upstairs, Amanjit tells Blanche they’ve got more kids arriving, as Hallam comes in and pours himself a drink. Agnes joins him, upset that he, she, and Persie have been invited to some ball, but Blanche has been left off the guest list. Hallam couldn’t care less because Hitler’s now united with Mussolini. Agnes realizes how bad this is and how unimportant the ball is now and asks him to talk to her, if it’ll help. Hallam puts her off, leaving, and she looks rather devastated.
Hallam heads upstairs, puts his drink aside, and wanders over to Persie’s bedroom door, where he hesitates to knock. Oh, please, let’s not go here, show. Persie either hears or senses him out there and goes to the door, but he decides not to knock after all and goes to change for dinner. I wonder if this was one of the plotlines Eileen Atkins had a problem with, because I sure as hell do. Hallam always seems like such a stand-up guy who loathes the Nazis and everything they stand for. He thought Persie was a monster for admiring them, and honestly, we’ve had no proof yet, aside from her leaving Germany in fear for her safety as a foreigner, that she’s chucked any of her Nazi ideology. So the notion that Hallam would be interested in her is ludicrous and seems completely out of character.
The servants are all out at a pub, drinks in hand, toasting to Johnny’s health. Some guy stands up and announces it’s time for the annual Belgravia boxing match, which pits servants from various grand homes against each other. I’m sure their employers love the idea of their footmen and such showing up all banged up and bruised. The organizer tells everyone they could leave the gym a proper hero. Really? Beating the crap out of someone makes you a hero? In what way, exactly? Is this The Hunger Games? Anyway, he gets a taker right away, and Beryl looks all kinds of turned on, because I guess someone who can box is trading up, to her. I can’t figure out how this woman’s mind works. The next guy to sign up is easily half the size of the first one, so he’s toast. Spargo asks Beryl what she’s so smiley for and she snottily tells him she likes a fellow with ambition. Honestly, what’s ambitious about acting like a savage?
Back home, Spargo opens a drawer and pulls out a medal he clearly won for boxing at some point in the past. Well, well, isn’t that lucky? He goes to Hallam and asks for permission to enter the match and Hallam tells him he’ll think about it and talk it over with Agnes. After Spargo leaves, Blanche points out that Egyptians used to fight as tribute to their pharaoh, so Spargo fighting would sort of make Hallam the pharaoh.
As promised, Hallam talks it over with Agnes as they get ready for bed. Agnes has no problem with it. She suggests they have a date night, clearly trying hard to connect with her suddenly, inexplicably distant husband and obviously wanting to be able to talk things out with him, but now Hallam’s become a total dick, he ignores her and leaves to go do some more work. Ugh, this is so awful. I didn’t even like Agnes last season, but I really, really feel for her now. She’s trying so hard and he’s making not effort whatsoever.
Persie comes upon Hallam downstairs, reading. He asks how she’s doing and she says she’s fine. He tells her they want her to spend more time with all of them and she guesses he just wants to save her. Thankfully, Pritchard comes in with coffee for Hallam. Persie departs.
Spargo arrives at the local gym for training and we learn his age—31 for those interested. The man in charge claims Spargo could practically have fathered most of the other lads. Wow, really? What, are they 10? Spargo says he’s kept himself in shape, and he’s not wrong about that. Spargo’s game.
Agnes and Blanche are hosting a tea party fundraiser for the kindertransport, but not enough people have shown up to make a difference. Fortunately, Caspar Landry shows and Blanche realizes Agnes has a tiny crush on the guy. Who can blame her, with her husband acting the way he is? As Agnes goes to say hello to him, she trips and gets a run in her stocking.
She heads upstairs to change it and Landry goes up too, politely knocking on her door and telling her he wanted to leave her a little “offering” before he leaves. Beryl goes to accept it and it’s a new pair of stockings with his name embroidered on them. Cheeky!
Downstairs, Agnes asks him if he’s in the habit of going to parties with a pair of nylons in tow. Only when he’s trying to get into the hostess’s pants, I would imagine. He claims they’re a sample from his latest venture. She compliments them but asks him not to stare at her legs so much.
Spargo goes to pick Hallam up at work, but Hallam decides to walk through the park.
Amanjit’s having tea with Lotte and her teacher but having some trouble getting the attention of the waitstaff. The snotty maitre d’ tells Amanjit they’re going to have to move to a table in the back. Why’d they seat them at this table in the first place, if they were just going to go all racist later? Seems like a bit of wasted effort. The teacher notices this, collects Lotte, and tells Amanjit it’d be better if they went elsewhere, because she doesn’t care for the menu there.
At 165, Persie pops out of her room in riding clothes and asks Hallam if that was him she saw in the park earlier. He confirms it and she asks why he didn’t say hello before vanishing back into her room, sort of forcing him to follow her. She observes that he never seems to know what to say to her when they’re alone. Probably because you two seem to have very little in common, other than a story about some stupid biscuit tin.
Amanjit, Lotte, and teacher have their picture taken by some guy out on the street. The teacher seems a little flirty with Amanjit and tells him how much of an inspiration he’s been, working so hard to save all these kids. He worries about embarrassing her, if they’re seen together, but she says she’s quite proud to be seen with him.
Spargo packs up his boxing gear, fingers the medal, and departs, collecting Johnny on the way and snarking that Beryl didn’t even notice what he’s doing.
At the gym, Spargo’s opponent talks trash to him before they get to it. As the round starts, Blanche shows up, looking delighted, and is quickly noticed by Johnny. Johnny’s an enthusiastic cheerleader, and Blanche is a good corner coach. Still, Spargo goes down.
Later, Blanche meets up with him and gives him some pointers. The opponent doesn’t know when to shut up and makes fun of Spargo, which just gets him decked by Johnny, and we all remember what kind of a temper Johnny has on him.
Back at 165, Beryl notices Spargo’s bruises and sneers at him for fighting at his age. Ok, honey, it’s one thing to just not be into the guy, but there’s no call to just be a total and complete bitch to him when he’s been nothing but nice to you. He hasn’t been overly pushy about asking you out, and you were the one who thought the boxers were sexy. What’s her problem?
Amanjit receives a copy of the photograph in the mail, with the inscription “For the true inspiration” on the back. Aww.
Ok, I guess Beryl realized the error of her ways, because now she’s in the garage looking contrite. Spargo tells her he’s not a loser, he used to be a boxing champ. She asks why he gave it up and he tells her his father came back sick from the war and couldn’t work, so Spargo had to go get a job and feed his family. She gently places a powder compact on the car to cover up the bruises so he looks all pretty when he drives the family around. As she leaves, the fight organizer shows up and asks about Johnny.
Apparently, he thinks Johnny’s got talent. Didn’t fighting get Johnny thrown into jail at some point? No matter, apparently they want Johnny to go into the ring, with Spargo as his trainer, and they can split the prize money. Johnny seems rather keen on the idea.
Agnes makes her way through some slightly grubby area of the city and arrives at a factory filled with women laughing, joking, and making stockings. Landry’s there too, on the phone. Once he hangs up, Agnes orders half a dozen of the stockings, she loves them that much.
Somehow, her ordering stockings turns into a conversation about the place of women—Landry thinks they long to be and should be more than just decorative items. Wow, it’s like he’s speaking directly to her present plight. How convenient! He introduces her to salt-beef sandwiches while she’s there, and then conveniently enough, his assistant tells him that the model for the photoshoot failed to show. Imagine that! He asks Agnes to fill in, and after some slight hesitation, she agrees.
Spargo and Johnny are getting ready to start training, Spargo telling Beryl that he’s got big ambitions.
Also trying something new is Agnes, who’s being all glammed up for her photoshoot. Landry thinks she looks amazing. Of course he does.
Back home, Hallam pours himself a drink and starts talking politics all over the place with Persie, in the way that he never would with Agnes, for no reason whatsoever. Persie looks slightly checked out, to be honest, but when he realizes he must be boring her, she tells him she loves listening, because he makes her feel safe. Luckily, Blanche shows up and Hallam excuses himself. Blanche takes a moment to remind Persie that Hallam’s married to her sister and Persie leaves in a snit.
Agnes finishes up her photoshoot and is so amazing everyone applauds. Landry invites her out to dinner, at the very same restaurant she was trying to go to with Hallam.
Apparently the restaurant’s so packed, the two of them head out into the back alley (??) and are able to still overhear the band inside playing a rhumba, which they never got to dance, so dance they do, right there in the street while the busboys on their smoke break watch.
At 165, Johnny mends a soldier toy of the kid’s while Beryl sings the “Every Girl Loves a Soldier” song from the beginning in the background. Johnny starts imagining the sound of hundreds of boots marching and I think he’s starting to get that this training thing might not be such a lark.
Agnes arrives home and is all excited to tell Hallam about her day, but he doesn’t give a crap, instead ignoring her completely and asking her to arrange a dinner for the Admiralty with Thack. Persie listens to this from the upper floor as Agnes turns and walks away, trying not to cry, although she has every right to. Hallam, go kick yourself in the ass, you deserve it, you self-centered jerk.
Spargo and Johnny train, train, train, occasionally watched by Beryl, who looks sad, for some reason. After training one day, Johnny confides that he’s worried about being carted off and made to be a soldier. Spargo realizes he’s scared, like that should be any surprise, and sweetly offers to talk it through with Johnny before supper.
Persie watches Agnes get ready in the morning and wistfully tells her she looks lovely. She remembers some dress Agnes used to have that she gave to Persie when she grew out of it. She sadly calls Agnes her always perfect sister, and Agnes fails to read her sad mood, telling her to get dressed and join her and Kent for lunch.
Agnes confides her modeling secret to Blanche, who asks if she thinks it’s a good idea to keep it from Hallam. Well, she’s not really trying to keep it from Hallam, it’s just that he won’t listen when she tries to tell him about it, and this his own damn fault. Blanche thinks it’s hilarious and kind of great, though.
Poor Pritchard’s not feeling well, so Amanjit sends him off to his room and offers to be butler instead.
Hallam, for some reason, is now complaining about Agnes getting along with Blanche. Oh, for heaven’s sake, can this woman have nothing good going on in her life, Hallam? Let her be! What’s the big deal? Do you want more drama around or something? Kent offers to go prise the two apart and does so by chatting with Blanche about boxing, which he’s a fan of too.
The big boxing match is that night, and Kent attends, along with Blanche. Johnny faces down Spargo’s opponent from the last bout and gets knocked around very briefly before laying the other kid out.
He and Spargo return home and announce the good news to the others. Even Beryl looks pleased. Spargo asks her if this is ambitious enough for her, to have trained the champ, and she finally accepts his offer of a date to see The Lady Vanishes.
Amanjit brings some wine up to Pritchard’s room on the pretext of having a sommelier’s lesson ahead of the Admiralty dinner in two days. Pritchard thanks him for his kindness.
Landry arrives with Agnes’s photos and tells her this could be the start of a whole new campaign, with aristocracy endorsing their products. He wants her to serve as the face of Landry as the campaign continues and suggests she talk it over with Hallam.
Hallam, meanwhile, is stuck in traffic next to a bus with his wife’s ad on it.
He goes home and has it out with her, scolding her for failing to think about him and how it could affect him because it’s all about HIM now. He whines about her making herself (and him) a spectacle. She finally gets tired of his endless douchiness and snaps that she’s finally found something she enjoys, and couldn’t he make the tiniest effort to be pleased for her? Well, no, apparently not.
He goes out and takes the fight to Blanche, asking if she knew about this, and when she confirms it, he kind of low-blows by bringing up the recent lesbian scandal. She tells him to ease up and be careful, lest he throw his marriage away entirely.
Agnes shows up at the coast for the next photoshoot, apparently figuring, “eh, eff it, I’ll do what I want.” Go Agnes! They talk a little bit about Landry’s extreme social rise and he asks her what she wants out of life. She admits she’s not sure, though she once thought she knew. They stroll along the pier and she talks about how being by the sea reminds her of being a girl again. They talk and talk and talk.
At 165, Blanche compliments Johnny and Spargo on beating that other jerk and putting him in a sulk for days. She hands them a letter that promises “further glory”. It’s from Kent, apparently, who sponsors the amateur boxing league at Alexandra Palace. They joyfully tell the rest of the staff, but it does mean that Spargo has to put off his date with Beryl. She agrees.
Persie’s stretched out on a chair in the drawing room while Hallam paces and tells Amanjit that Agnes seems to have forgotten all about the very important dinner. Persie offers to step in as hostess. Of course she does.
The phone rings and Johnny answers—it’s Agnes, calling from the coast. Persie offers to take it and tells Agnes the plans have changed and Hallam says Agnes doesn’t even need to be there. That little bitch.
Persie shows up in a really eye-catching dress while Landry suggests he and Agnes make a night of it and stay down at the coast, now she’s free. I’m curious to know why she didn’t ask more questions about why she wasn’t needed at this dinner. I also think it’s highly unlikely that, after all her family’s been through lately, she’d just agree to stay at a seaside hotel with an unmarried man. Or any man who wasn’t her husband or a close male relative, to be honest.
After dinner, Blanche talks politics with one of the guests as Amanjit hands out brandies. Blanche asks Amanjit what he thinks of how India and the colonies will fare if there is a war, and the jerk she’s talking to quickly says he has no plans to make policy depending on what a servant thinks. Nobody’s asking you to make his thoughts policy, asshat. Just listen for a sec, ok? Chances are, he knows a bit more about India than you do. Amanjit remains silent until he gets downstairs and bitches to Pritchard, who tells him if he can’t keep his opinions to himself at all times, he really has no business being a butler.
Agnes and Landry walk the pier at night as a man sings behind them. Landry suddenly turns around and tells her he’s taking her home, because this was reckless and he likes her too much to see her throw her reputation away.
Back at the house, Blanche runs into Amanjit and tells him she’s sorry about how he was treated. He says she has nothing to apologize for and she observes that the two of them are a pair of outsiders. He places some things on her desk and she notices that one of them’s his photograph. She hands it back.
Agnes returns home and Hallam’s pissed that she wasn’t at the dinner. Agnes coolly observes that he didn’t care that she wasn’t there, just that there was a gap at his table. Totally true. Hallam forbids her to see Landry again, asking what she could possibly gain from this pairing. I don’t know, decent conversation? Respect? Obviously something you’re not providing, Hallam. What’re you getting from your relationship with Persie that Agnes can’t provide? Agnes tells Hallam that Landry’s the sort of man who wouldn’t forbid her anything. Go Agnes!
Hallam goes whining to Kent, who says that Landry’s just a tradesman and Agnes would never sully herself so. Interestingly, Kent echoes Blanche perfectly when he tells Hallam that Agnes is drifting away from him. Hallam admits that’s the second time he’s heard that in two days. Kent tells him to start listening, and to go home and kiss his children and consider how awesome his life is with his lovely family.
This boxing match is clearly much more official and impressive than the last one. The arena’s large, and Spargo and Johnny put on jackets and ties to arrive. Hallam and Agnes are going too, all dressed up in evening clothes and not speaking at all. The servants rush out to catch the bus to enjoy the spectacle. Beryl watches Spargo give Johnny a quick pep talk, then she wishes Spargo luck as Johnny runs ahead. Spargo tells her he didn’t do all this just for Johnny, like she doesn’t already know that. They walk off together.
Alexandra Palace fills up with spectators both high and low. Persie’s there too, looking a bit sullen.
Kent goes to wish Johnny luck before the bout and they get a picture taken together before Kent and his entourage leave. One man remains behind and observes that Johnny’s got quite the crowd out there to cheer him on. Then things get super creepy as the guy tosses some cash on the bed and basically tries to get Johnny to sleep with him. Not smart, dude. The kid’s a boxer, and unsurprisingly, he lays one on the guy, who quickly leaves. Johnny bursts out of the room and Spargo asks what the problem is. Johnny thinks Spargo knew all about this and stomps off, yelling.
Landry arrives for the fight and comes over to politely say hello to Hallam and the ladies, and Hallam is a complete asshole to him, apparently not having listened at all to the people who keep telling him there’s a reason Agnes is pulling away from him. Hallam accuses the man of having debased his wife and Landry tells him that, if he really thinks Agnes feels debased, he might not know her that well at all. Hallam gets up and fisticuffs ensue, while the nearby press snaps pictures. Way to avoid scandal, Hallam. Landry leaves, and Hallam angrily demands to know if this is what Agnes had in mind all along, a fight for her honor. She tells him she expected him to act like a gentleman and a frigging adult before she stomps out, warning him not to follow her. The servants and Blanche all watch this with some interest.
The fight’s about to begin, but Johnny hasn’t shown up, so Spargo’s going to fight instead. Oh, great. Beryl looks alarmed and wonders what the heck is going on.
Fortunately, Spargo’s been training right alongside Johnny, so he’s holding his own fairly well, despite being a bit older than his opponent.
Agnes, meanwhile, is in a taxi going somewhere and wiping away tears.
Spargo’s starting to get his ass kicked, but then he spots Beryl in the crowd and in true cliché fashion gets his second wind and wins. Everyone cheers. He does not pull a Rocky and call out for Beryl, which would have been hilarious.
Agnes arrives home, and not at Landry’s hotel, as I would have thought. I wouldn’t have even blamed her for that. She goes upstairs and tucks in her kids like the loving mummy she is.
Beryl and Spargo arrive home and find Johnny there. He tells them the whole story, terrified he’s going to go back to jail now. Spargo reassures Johnny that the guy will probably want to keep that particular matter quiet, so I guess all is well there and we can just gloss over that rather disturbing and dark turn the show took for a second there.
Hallam arrives home too and starts getting undressed for bed. Agnes comes in and after a second he tells her he’s sorry, that it was his fault. She says it was both their faults, but I really think Hallam’s much more in the wrong here. He’s been in the wrong for a while now. She briefly says there’s nothing more to be said. Oh, but there so clearly is.
Spargo, beaten up but proud of himself, wanders around the garage, then rather painfully removes his jacket. Beryl comes in, walks over to him, and asks if his bruises will hurt when she kisses him. I think he’ll get over it, sweetie. She goes ahead and does it without waiting for an answer and it’s actually pretty sweet and sexy.
Agnes goes to see Landry again and tells him that Hallam’s managed to keep the brawl out of the papers. Newspapers were so much more polite back then. No TMZ to worry about. She sadly tells him she can’t see him again and he totally understands, because he’s a pretty decent guy.
Hallam’s at home, still in a right snit, and when Blanche walks by he dashes out in the hallway to accuse her of being the reason for everything going pear shaped recently. Blanche calmly informs him that he won’t admit to himself that Agnes has changed, as most human beings do as they grow and develop. He calls after her that ever since she showed up his marriage has suffered. No, Hallam, ever since PERSIE got there your marriage has suffered. Blanche remarks that it’s so convenient to have someone else to blame and he tells her to move out ASAP. That’s about the fourth time he’s tried to tell her that, so I doubt it’ll stick. Blanche heads out and Hallam turns to see Persie standing nearby. She asks if Agnes is around and he tells her she’s gone to see Landry. So, Persie makes her move and starts making out with him. And he makes out with her right back, kicking the drawing room door shut. Ick. This is so utterly wrong. Why, Hallam, WHY?