Upstairs Downstairs: A Voice from the Past

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The Bellamys hired a housemaid, Sarah, who turned out to be something of a sociopath and compulsive liar. She had a flirtation with James, and then decided she was too good for servant-ing.

It’s autumn 1908. The Bellamys and Hudson are off to Scotland, leaving the house in the hands of Elizabeth and James. I can’t see how that would be a bad plan at all!

Elizabeth’s doing some charity work in an East End soup kitchen, and James tags along because he’s bored. While there, they run into none other than Sarah, the most repulsive character in this show’s history. In fact, she might be the most repulsive non-villain character I’ve ever come across on a television show, ever. She faints dramatically as soon as she sees James, then spins one of her elaborate lies about looking for a friend and blah, blah, blah. Clearly the past four years have not treated her well, and Elizabeth–who has no experience with this little nutter and therefore doesn’t know what she’s in for–takes her back to Eton Place and basically tells the servants there to figure out what to do with her.

The servants do not exactly welcome Sarah with open arms. There’s no job for her: Rose is head parlourmaid, and she already has an under-house-parlourmaid, Alice, who finds her place threatened by Sarah. And Mrs Bridges can’t use her in the kitchen because they already have a new kitchenmaid named Doris. The only place available is scullery maid, and Sarah has the nerve to wail and whine about having to take that job, telling everyone who will listen that she has sensitive hands! They once worked on the Bayeux Tapestry, or something like that. Well, Sarah, no one’s forcing you to stay. There’s the door, if you can’t reconcile yourself to the only available job. She stays.

Rose, especially, gives Sarah the cold shoulder, for about five minutes. Sarah screams at everyone and insists that Alice is insulting her and tries to convince Rose to fire the poor young woman so Sarah can have her old job back. She falls back on some serious les-yay to do it, too.

Rose: I’ll bet she’s not as warm to cuddle up to at night as I was.

Yes, that is her actual line.

oh-i-see

James is not so sure this was a great idea on Elizabeth’s part. He feels it’s awkward having Sarah back in the house, and that she’s causing disruption. Things only get worse when he interrupts Sarah holding a fake seance for the other servants.

A seance, you say? Yes. Sarah’s been put in Emily’s bedroom of death, where she starts basically talking to nobody one night. Alice overhears her and gets nervous and tells Mrs B the next morning that she overheard Sarah talking to someone. When confronted, Sarah tells them she was talking to Emily, because she can totally commune with the dead! Because none of these people have functional brains or memories, they believe her straight off and ask her to hold a seance. Which she does. The table levitates, someone ‘speaks’ through Sarah, it’s all total BS. But they all buy it, except for Edward, the footman, who thinks this could be a great scam. Sarah takes enormous offense at his suggestion they take this on the road and run it together, which makes me wonder if she’s straight-up insane and actually believes her own nonsense. To prove it’s not nonsense, Sarah offers to hold another seance. Also, Alice (poor girl) asks Sarah to commune with her deceased mother, and Sarah agrees to do that as well.

The seance is attended by both James and Elizabeth, who think this is all kind of a lark, but it’s interrupted by the arrival of Hudson, who is NOT happy at all to find Sarah back, the household disrupted, duties going undone, and all sorts of nonsense happening.

While he remonstrates with Rose, Sarah takes Alice to Emily’s old room and tells her she has to sleep there in order to communicate with her dead mother. Sarah then goes into the adjoining maids’ room and starts speaking through the wall, pretending to be Emily, promising to fetch Alice’s mother. But apparently Alice isn’t quite as idiotic as everyone else and quickly realises it’s Sarah speaking. She catches her in the act and, enraged at being tricked, goes after her. While I cheer Alice on and any men watching this get some girls-in-nightgowns catfighting action, Rose comes in and demands to know what’s happening. Alice bursts into tears and quits right there and then, saying she can’t remain in a place where she’s being used so poorly. I don’t blame her at all, but I do hate Sarah even more for costing this young woman a good job. Alice rushes out, and Sarah settles back into the bed, smirking that now Hudson will be needing a new under-house-parlourmaid, so she’s all set. And Rose just smiles and snuggles up in bed with her girlfriend. I am again left feeling utterly disgusted at the end of an episode of this show. Why was this show so popular again? These people suck!



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