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.

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Upstairs Downstairs: Why Is Her Door Locked?

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The kitchen maid, Emily, made it very clear she had some serious problems when, after being dumped by her boyfriend, she hanged herself.

It’s October 1907, and apparently London is plagued by some serious fog. And Mrs Bridges is plagued by something as well. She’s acting very oddly, barricading herself in her room, locking the door after leaving, coming down ridiculously late in the morning looking like absolute hell, and throwing around quite a bit of attitude. Any one of those things would normally be enough to get a servant fired, but I guess the Bellamys are feeling generous. Also, Marjorie’s got a dinner party the following week. Even so, she has some strong words with her cook and demands to know why her door was locked.

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Upstairs, Downstairs: Romeo and Juliet is NOT a How-to!

Image courtesy of Acorn MediaPreviously on Upstairs, Downstairs: Emily the kitchenmaid was waaaay too into overblown romance stories.

It’s April 1907.

Emily stares, openmouthed, up at the street through the kitchen window. Mrs Bridges tells her to pay attention to her work and scolds her for doing a crappy job with the dishes. Emily sulks and recommences washing them. Poorly. She doesn’t even rinse, so no wonder Bridges was pissed off. Edward comes into the scullery just as a carriage pulls up carrying some nouveau riche named Mrs Van Groeben. Edward makes fun of her, as Rose joins them. Rose scolds him mildly but joins the other two in staring at the woman as she gets down from her carriage. Rose remarks on the handsome footman and wishes they could get a cute one like that. Emily admires Mrs VG’s dress, guessing the woman has a different dress for every day of the year.

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Upstairs Downstairs: Lady Marjorie’s Lover

s1n07Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Lady Marjorie and Richard Bellamy had really bad luck when it came to hiring staff. Or they’re just lousy at it. Lady Marjorie came from a wealthy background, while Richard most certainly did not.

It’s summer 1906. Richard returns home and Lady Marj immediately asks him about how he plans to vote for an upcoming education bill. She quickly gets annoyed with him for failing to reject the bill outright (he plans to abstain, because he doesn’t actually think the party’s line on this particular bill is right). Not that it’ll matter, because the bill will be thrown out anyway, thanks in part to Lady Marjorie’s father.

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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.

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Upstairs, Downstairs: Spy Games

pldalfbaPreviously on Upstairs, Downstairs: Elizabeth Bellamy returned home after being educated abroad and quickly proved to be an obnoxious, selfish little pill. Luckily, Rose was around to put her in her place because God knows nobody else will.

It’s December 1905.

Richard sends his womenfolk upstairs and tells Hudson to bring a bottle of champagne up to the drawing room in a bit. Hudson excitedly scurries off to do so. Why, whatever could be going on in the Bellamy household? Richard goes into the dining room, where a kilt-wearing lad named Angus (could he possibly be Scottish? They’re really obfuscating that one, aren’t they?) Jumps to his feet. Up in the drawing room, Elizabeth’s pacing around restlessly. Seems young Angus is there to ask for her fair hand in marriage.

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Upstairs Downstairs: Childish Things

s1n04Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The servants threw a party while the master and mistress were away, and got busted by James Bellamy, who then went on to make the moves on Sarah, who responded by quitting. For real, now.

It’s May 1905.

Hudson complains that everything happens all at once. He’s stressed out because Elizabeth Bellamy, the daughter of the house, is coming back from her time abroad being finished off. Meanwhile, he has to go tend to his mother, who’s doing poorly, though he doesn’t seem all that concerned about it. He goes, after firing off some last-minute instructions to Rose and Alfred, re: that afternoon’s tea. Alfred seems to think he can chill out with Hudson away, but Bridges makes it clear that’s not happening. They chat a little bit about Elizabeth, who apparently was a picky eater.

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Upstairs Downstairs: A Secondhand Life

30092Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Sarah joined the household and posed for a douchy artist, almost getting herself and Rose fired.

So, you remember how I was super confused during the last episode because Sarah had mysteriously reappeared, despite having quit in episode one? Turns out, there’s an explanation for all that weirdness. The black and white episodes never aired in the US, presumably because the powers that be figured American audiences had just as little patience for black and white then as they do today. Instead, the re-shot colourised first episode was aired overseas with the ending showing Sarah quitting, and then the black and white episodes were all skipped and they went right to the next colour episode, which Sarah does not feature in. The first episode that aired in the UK had a different ending, with Sarah not quitting. I just caught the wrong episode (thanks a lot, ITV). Also, that must have resulted in a bit of confusion for American audiences, because things happen later in the series that hark back to events from those black and white episodes, so there must have been a bit of headscratching going on.

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Upstairs Downstairs: The Mistress and the Maids

mistressmaidsPreviously on Upstairs Downstairs: A new under-housemaid arrived at the Bellamy household, received the name Sarah, and soon proved to be both a compulsive liar and a thief with a seriously bad attitude. And after about a day, she realised service wasn’t for her and hit the road.

Quick history note: during the filming of the show, there was an industrial dispute over payment for using colour filming equipment (which was fairly new for television shows at the time), so broadcasting unions refused to allow their members to use it. The first episode was later refilmed in colour, but the others completed during the dispute remain black and white, including this one.

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Upstairs Downstairs: The New Girl

s1n01Before we get started here, I’m going to give you all a fair warning: I haven’t seen all the episodes of the original Upstairs Downstairs, but from what I’ve seen, I can tell you that I don’t love it. And I know it’s a very beloved show to many people, so if you’re seriously defensive about it, you may not want to read these recaps. I don’t hate it (well, there are a couple of episodes that I can’t believe actually exist, and some characters I just want to see continually punched in the face), but there are some serious issues. And they’re not issues that can be put down to the way things were in the period it’s set in. They’re issues utterly embedded in the show itself. I will be mentioning them. Consider yourselves warned.

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