Upstairs Downstairs: The More Things Change

bs_penhalPreviously on Upstairs Downstairs: The Bellamys had trouble holding onto an under-housemaid, so Rose did the work of at least three people. The creepy footman also had an affair with a visiting German, who turned out to be a spy, and disappeared with him.

Roberts, Hudson, and Bridges are all in the kitchen, where Roberts mentions that Marjorie is away at the family pile, Southwold, and Rose is ladies’ maid-ing her, which makes no sense. Why wouldn’t Marjorie take Roberts with her? I know Rose probably went to visit her family, but why not just take both? As it is, Roberts is just sitting around in London, doing nothing but complaining, which is definitely not something she needs more practice at. Hudson summons the new housemaid, Mary, who seems like a seriously cowed young woman, and gives her some orders before sending her on her way. Bridges comments that she hasn’t smiled once in the three months she’s been there, and Roberts adds that the girl looks pale and unhealthy. Bridges hopes that Edward, the new footman, hasn’t been bothering her.

Upstairs, Edward grabs Mary’s ass as she passes (so clearly Bridges is wise to him) and she snaps at him to leave her alone. He pouts that it’s just a bit of fun. Sadly, little has changed since then when it comes to sexual harassment of women in the workplace.

In the kitchen, Bridges demonstrates how to make pastry to Emily as Edward comes down with the news that Richard wants a light lunch and will be dining out for dinner.

Richard’s in the morning room, reading some books as Mary sits by the fire and cries. He cluelessly keeps asking her if she has a cold, while she obviously sniffles and snuffles and reassures him that she’s just fine. Awesome powers of observation there, Richard. Good thing you’re not a detective. He finally realises what’s going on and asks her what’s wrong, which prompts her to grab her stuff and clear out of the room. Richard rings for Hudson, who heads topside while Bridges compliments Emily on her excellent job with that pastry. It’s the top crust of a pie for the staff dinner, and Bridges says they won’t tell anyone who made the pastry, and to see if they can tell the difference.

In the morning room, Richard asks what the problem is with Mary. Hudson has no idea and apologises on her behalf. Richard tells him he’s not mad, he just thinks they should make an effort to keep the staff happy, so see what’s bothering her, eh?

Hudson returns to the servants’ area and calls Mary into his pantry for a chat. He asks about the crying, fairly kindly, but says they can’t have her weeping all over the house. He asks if she’s unhappy there, or if Edward or Mrs Bridges have been mean. She says no to all of these things, but won’t tell him what the problem is. He tells her to just keep the emotional distress bottled up, then, if she’s going to be like that, and she agrees. She leaves and Emily comes in to say that dinner’s in an hour. She adds, in a voice so excited her life must be depressingly dull indeed, that there’s a surprise today, but she can’t tell him what it is. ‘I think you’re all in this together,’ he responds. Hudson doesn’t like secrets in his house.

That night, Richard returns home and heads into the morning room to look over some work and help himself to an evening whisky and soda. While looking over some papers, he hears a noise out in the front hall and finds Mary dressed in her civvies, preparing to go out. He asks what’s up and, when she says nothing, he tells her she can’t just come and go as she pleases and he’ll be speaking with Hudson in the morning about it. At the mention of being told off again, she bursts into tears. Richard takes her into the morning room, sits her down, pours her a drink, and urges her to pull herself together. She apologises again and again, until he tells her to stop and orders her to tell him what this is all about. She confesses that she’s pregnant, three months along, and that it happened before she came to the Bellamy household. He asks who the father is, and again she clams up. He asks if she loves the man and she admits she doesn’t even like him. Hmmm. Bellamy informs her she’ll have to go, because one simply can’t have a pregnant maid serving the tea and cleaning out the grates. She knows. He advises she marry the guy but she says that’s not an option. Richard says the guy’ll have to provide for the kid, at the very least. She doubts he will. Richard settles into a chair and asks her where she was going in the dead of night. She admits she was going to visit an abortionist. Richard’s shocked but she reminds him that her options in life here are very few. She’s in service, and as he’s already made clear, one can’t be in service and have a kid, end of discussion. He looks a bit guilty but keeps up the pro-life rhetoric, adding that it’s dangerous and illegal. She knows, but her only other option is to starve on the street, so unless you’re actually willing to prove her assumptions wrong and keep her on no matter what, Richard, maybe you should be a little less self-righteous and come up with some actual solutions. He promises to think of something for her. She dissolves into a grateful puddle and thanks him before he paternalistically sends her off to bed. As they leave the morning room, they find Roberts standing on the stairs. She says she heard a noise. Richard tells her not to worry about it, and get on back to bed.

Roberts, of course, tattles to Hudson, who has Mary back in his office to yell at her for crying in front of Richard again. She says she was only going out to see a friend and Hudson tells her that’s not acceptable, and he’s too busy to keep dealing with this nonsense. She promises she won’t be any more trouble and he sends her off with a warning that this is her last chance.

She goes up to the morning room to lay the fire and finds Richard at work there. He asks if Roberts made trouble and hears she did and Hudson yelled, but it’s ok. She hesitantly asks if Bellamy’s come up with a solution and he admits he has not. Edward comes in with coffee. Once he’s gone, Richard asks when her half-day is that week.

Downstairs, Emily realises she forgot to put something in the oven, and Bridges yells at her and calls her kind of useless before taking care of it herself. She also scolds Mary for burning paper in the range and Mary quietly apologises.

Roberts, who clearly needs something to do, is in with Hudson going on and on about how she heard Mary and Richard talking the night before. Roberts, it’s when you don’t hear them talking that you should think something’s up. Hudson doesn’t really care, because it’s not his business to care about what the master does. And honestly, I think he kind of finds Roberts to be sort of an annoying pain in the ass. Roberts is convinced there’s something untoward going on. Hudson’s telling her not to worry about it when Emily starts screeching for help from the kitchen. Everyone converges on the stairs, where Mary’s passed out and Emily’s screaming that she’s dead, because Emily is an idiot. Hudson and Edward put Mary on a chair while Roberts runs for smelling salts and Bridges fetches water. Mary revives, confused, and apologises to Hudson, who just asks if she’s ok. Bridges asks if this is a common thing and Mary admits it isn’t. Bridges suggests they call a doctor, but Mary says she’s already seen one, and he said she’s fine, she just needs to take some pills. Yes, pills, that’s right! She forgot to take them! Roberts gets a look on her face that’s half,’ wow, this girl’s a terrible liar,’ and half ‘wow, this girl’s totally knocked up!’ Hudson advises Mary spend the rest of the day in bed, but she says she can’t. It’s her half day, and she has plans. Since she insists, they let her go. Bridges sends Emily to see to some vegetables, and then takes Hudson aside. Roberts joins them and the women tell Hudson Mary’s definitely expecting a little bundle of trouble. Hudson takes it pretty calmly and says she’ll have to go. Bridges tells him she’s pretty sure Mary plans to do something about it. ‘Well, that’ll just make things worse, won’t it?’ Hudson says, unconcerned.

Emily and Edward discuss the matter—Edward knows because apparently he was listening in on the earlier conversation. Emily insists that women don’t just faint because they’re going to have a baby, but I can tell her from personal experience that they most certainly can. Edward harasses her a bit and she shakes him off. He amuses her by imitating the senior servants, but the fun’s called off when Mary appears. Edward, pretty douchily, urges her not to let ‘him’ do anything he wouldn’t do, figuring she’s going to meet some guy. Emily tells him to leave Mary alone, and Mary peels off and leaves. Once Mary’s gone, Emily yells at him to shut up and stop thinking about sex all the time. He switches to an impersonation of her, and she responds by throwing a kitchen towel right at his head. Hee! That’s the first time I’ve ever liked Emily.

Mary meets Richard at some little cafe, which seems like a really, really terrible idea for both of them. Even if it is somewhere out of the way, there’s always the slight likelihood that he could run into someone he knows. He orders tea for them both and gets right down to business, asking if she’s really sure she wants to get rid of the baby. She says she doesn’t see how she can manage with it, so yeah, the baby’s got to go one way or another. He tells her she can keep her job for the time being, and later, when she leaves, they’ll give her an excellent reference. But he’ll only help her if she tells him who the father is. Jesus, Richard, way to turn this into total blackmail. What’s it really matter to you who the father is? I realise you’re trying to help, but if she doesn’t want to tell you, that’s her business. Mary again refuses to say anything, adding that she doesn’t want to make any trouble, but he insists, because the father needs to accept some responsibility here. She says he wouldn’t believe her if she said, because the Bellamys are a friend of the man’s family. He thinks it was one of the servants in the household where she was before, but she sets him straight: it was the son of the house, Miles Radford. Bellamy tells her this is a very serious accusation, which she’s aware of. And it gets worse: Miles raped her. Awesome family friend, there. She begs him to just forget about this, but Bellamy refuses to do so, because Miles must be made to face up to the consequences of his actions.

Richard returns home and Hudson immediately asks for a private word. In the morning room, Hudson informs him they’ll have to get rid of Mary because she’s knocked up. Bellamy pretends to be surprised but asks if Mary can stick around for just a little longer, long enough to give notice of her own accord. Hudson agrees she can do so.

He gets downstairs just as Mary returns home and invites her into the servants’ hall. He begins with a little small talk about how her afternoon off was before he says he’s aware of her ‘unfortunate condition’ and that she’ll have to hand in her notice soon and find other lodgings. She readily agrees. Hudson goes on to sing Bellamy’s praises, noting that Richard’s been really, really kind to her lately. It’s obvious he’s kind of hinting around that Richard might have gotten involved with her, but Mary seems unaware of this.

Richard summons Miles to the house so he can deal with this on home turf. Hudson shows Miles into the morning room and Richard wastes no time getting to the point, telling Miles about the baby and asking what he intends to do about it. It’s no surprise that Miles is an absolute, unfeeling douchebag of the first magnitude, so not only does he not give a shit, he also intends to do nothing. And he suggests Bellamy’s having a ‘relationship’ with Mary himself. Richard threatens to tell Miles’s daddy on him, but Miles says he can’t prove anything, because the facts of the case are that some maid got herself pregnant right about the time she arrived at the Bellamys’. If Richard tries to press this, he could find charges brought against him. Bellamy angrily tells him he took advantage of a poor girl and he’s a total asshole who needs to get the hell out of his house and think about what he’s done and what he’s going to do to fix this thing. Miles flat-out refuses to have anything to do with some slutty housemaid who got herself into trouble, and Richard needs to think carefully about what he’s going to do here, because if he raises hell about this, he could find himself in for a lot of ugly publicity.

Richard’s next course of action is to write a letter publicly denouncing Miles, which gets him a quick visit to his lawyer, who hears the whole story. Miles’s family’s lawyer has already been in touch, Clearly the apple didn’t fall far from this family tree. The family is requesting Richard make a public retraction of his accusations. Richard doesn’t want to do so, but the solicitor points out that nothing can be proven and this case could very well go against Richard, because maids are seen as lying harlots, while gentlemen never lie. The solicitor asks what Richard’s interest in this girl really is and Richard says he just feels badly for her. Solicitor points out that Richard’s really gone above and beyond for this one servant, which doesn’t look too good. He tells Richard to chill for a bit while the lawyers take care of this. He adds that Richard should really avoid Mary like the plague, which makes Richard feel guilty, because he promised to help. Solicitor tells him to think about himself and his family for a bit and avoid this girl like the plague. Yeah, servants were basically sub-human and there are plenty more housemaids where she came from, right? Worst case scenario, Rose can do the work of two housemaids plus a lady’s maid, can’t she? Solicitor changes the subject to Richard’s latest project: a book about Balfour, which Richard says seems curiously unimportant at the moment. You know, considering they’re about to add two more numbers to London’s wretched, impoverished homeless.

Back at the house, Emily asks Mary if she’s in the family way, and Mary readily confesses to it. Emily immediately starts scolding her both for that and for considering an abortion. Mary tells her that Richard promised to help out, and of course that news gets back to the upper servants. Roberts assumes Richard was the man responsible and the sooner that little harlot Mary’s out of the house the better. Bridges, proving she’s at least a human being, which is more than can be said for this weirdo Roberts, tells her to lay off, right as Mary comes in. Roberts immediately lights into her for taking advantage of Richard being soft and Marjorie being away. Emily comes running in to add her voice to the argument, though she’s sticking up for Mary, and Bridges is just trying to restore order. Edward’s just making noise. Mary finally finds her spine and decides she’s just had it with people treating her like shit for having been raped (and again, I’m so sorry to have to report that things haven’t improved much, Mary, especially if you’re a female student on an American college campus). She shouts that everyone there is dirty in some way, with Bridges giving food away to random people and Roberts apparently pilfering bits of Marjorie’s wardrobe. As Hudson comes in to find out what’s going on, Mary escalates, calling them out on assuming that just because someone’s nice to her there must be something going on between them, but they only think that because they haven’t got an ounce of charity between them. Hudson waits until she’s done and then calls her upstairs. Bridges assumes she’s about to be fired, which Emily thinks is wrong. Roberts snits that it’s just what she deserves, and everyone else tells her to shut the hell up.

Richard and his lawyer meet Mary in the morning room, and the solicitor does all the talking. He invites her to sit, introduces himself, and tells her she’s caused some trouble. Oh, for heaven’s sake, she has not. She’s done absolutely nothing. She was sexually assaulted, and even then, she kept things as quiet as she could. It was only when she was forced to say anything that the truth came to light, and it was Richard to escalated things. He caused a lot of trouble. This poor girl’s done nothing, and yet, she’s getting all the blame. Which is historically accurate, but it still makes the blood boil, doesn’t it? Especially when you consider that women still often get blamed for situations like this.

Bellamy breaks in to tell her that, actually, it isn’t really her fault, it’s just that things have gotten a little out of hand. First off, Miles refused to have anything to do with the matter. She’s not at all surprised and reminds him that she warned him that would be the case. Richard goes on to say that Miles’s family is threatening to sue, and although he believes what she’s told him, it could wind up going to court, and accusations regarding the baby’s parentage could start to fly. Solicitor adds that this is an unwinnable case that will tarnish Richard’s name, and does she really want that? Of course the poor girl doesn’t, because she doesn’t want any harm to come to the one person who’s acted like a decent human being towards her. All she has to do to make this right is to publicly say she made the whole thing up. Yeesh. If she retracts and Richard apologises, this will all go away. Richard says there’s no alternative, so Mary, trapped, goes and signs a letter to this effect the solicitor’s already had drawn up for her. She pathetically asks what’ll happen to her now and the solicitor tells her she’ll have to leave ASAP, but she’ll get some severance and a reference, as well as the princely sum of £25 (which he tosses down on the desk like he’s doing her a big favour) to tide her over. Yeah, that should really come in handy over the next six months. And the next eighteen or so years. What good is that reference really going to do? She can’t find a job with a kid, and even if she gives it up for adoption, surely future employers will wonder what the deal is with this several-months-long gap in employment? And even though £25 was worth a bit more back then than it is now, it still wouldn’t keep her fed, housed, and clothed for half a year. Richard starts to defend himself, but Mary’s done and reminds him that he said he would help her. ‘Now, now, don’t be ungrateful,’ the solicitor condescendingly tells her. She ignores him and takes the wages and the reference but turns down the pathetic buy-off, because that’s just kind of insulting. She stomps out and Richard says it was wrong of him to get her hopes up. He sighs that there must be a better way of handling this. The Solicitor says there really wasn’t, and he risked ruining himself socially, financially, and politically. He advises Richard think with the brain in his skull in future.

Mary’s ready to leave and reports belowstairs, where Hudson hands her some cash the other servants have managed to scrape together for her. That she’ll take. Edward suggests somewhere she can find a room to stay, and Emily and Bridges urge her to stop by if she’s in the neighbourhood and have a chat and maybe something to eat and a place by the fire. Mary thanks them and heads out. Hudson calls after her to let them all know how she gets on. Mary says she’ll manage somehow, even if it’s just to spite Roberts, who’s been sitting there this whole time just steaming off resentment. Heh.

Upstairs, Richard gets back to work on his book, because life goes on, and eh, what’s just one more housemaid after all?



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