Previously on Downton Abbey: Bates forced most of the story about Anna out of Hughes, and vowed revenge on the unknown perpetrator. Edith’s stressed about Michael’s sudden radio silence and is seeing some doctor down in London. Tom, Mary, and Robert are finally coming together, while Violet and Isobel are butting heads over a gardener who may or may not have pilfered a valuable keepsake.
Daisy brings some toast in for the servants and is scolded for taking it to Alfred first. Jimmy and Patmore both notice that Alfred’s getting special treatment, and Daisy says it’s because she’s so happy he’s staying.
Upstairs, Mary receives a letter from Evelyn Napier, agreeing to come stay at Downton with his boss. Maybe he’s hoping the guy’ll die. He wouldn’t be the first person to wish his boss ill. Mary thinks it could be useful to have them stay, because she’d like it confirmed that Downton’s doing ok. She notes that Anna’s brighter and says she’s glad that things are being resolved.
Another day, another big zero on the letters from Michael front. But Robert’s received a letter from Cora’s brother Harold, who’s apparently gotten himself into some fix about oil leases. He has no idea why Harold’s writing to him about it, though. Branson’s letter is about some pigs they’re getting in, which is a new venture.
Anna catches up with her husband belowstairs and asks him what’s on his mind. He tells her he’s just brooding, which is essentially his superpower, and she shouldn’t worry. In the kitchens, Daisy invites Alfred to watch her make an anchovy sauce, but he’s not in the mood. After he leaves, Ivy guesses he’s given up on cooking, but Patmore thinks he just needs more time.
Rose goes to see Cora and tells her she’s settled the surprise for Robert’s birthday. But she’s going to need Carson on board, to keep the secret for the day. Cora tells her that Hughes is really the one to go to with secrets. And how.
Violet’s butler, Sprat, brings the post and she asks him if some little ivory ornament has been moved elsewhere. Apparently that’s gone missing too. Sprat has no idea where it is, but is quick to offer up young Peg as a possible culprit, since he’s been in the room recently and nobody was keeping too close an eye on him.
Mary and Branson stroll through some of the estate buildings and discuss his possible impending move. Mary offers up some introductions, starting with her grandmother and uncle. Tom tells her about the letter Robert got that morning and Mary seems surprised.
Thomas goes to the new ladies’ maid, Baxter, for the gossip and she tells him that Rose has some secret for Robert’s birthday, but she doesn’t know what it is.
Young Peg has gone to Isobel with the news he’s been fired. She, of course, gets all fired up and starts screaming that this is disgraceful. The kid has no idea why he was dismissed and she promises to get to the bottom of it.
Rose goes to Hughes and tells her she’s got a band coming to surprise Robert. Rose doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal, but Hughes understands that it’s a hassle, because she has to find these people food and beds and keep them hidden belowstairs while they’re trying to get dinner at the table. She promises to see what she can do and Rose sashays back upstairs as Thomas strolls out of the servants’ hall and wonders what she was doing downstairs. Hughes pleasantly informs him he’ll just have to keep speculating, because her lips are sealed. She can’t resist messing with him, though, when he mentions that her secret probably won’t affect them. ‘How can you be so sure?’ she asks. Oh, Hughes, you scoundrel! Love it!
Isobel’s taken her massive shoulder chip to see Violet, who informs her that two things have gone missing while Peg was in the room. ‘Things! Things!’ Isobel shouts, which confuses both Violet and me, and Violet asks if she should really just allow some kid to help himself to her stuff. Yeah, I’m on her side here, Isobel. How would you like it if someone working for you helped themselves to, let’s say, a silver-framed picture of Matthew? Isobel insists that Violet puts too much emphasis on material objects and not enough on justice. Look, she gave the kid a second chance, but the evidence (such as it is) seems pretty damning. She probably should have quizzed the other servants a bit more closely, but presumably they’ve all been working for her for quite some time, and if things are only just starting to go missing now, it kind of makes sense to suspect the newbie, right? ‘I wonder you don’t just set fire to the Abbey and dance ‘round it, painted with woad and howling,’ Violet snaps. Ha! ‘I would, if it would do any good,’ is Isobel’s extremely weak rejoinder. They’re interrupted by Sprat, who’s brought in the last missing ornament, which apparently accidentally got swept into a cleaning bucket and was only just found. Violet says she’s relieved, and Isobel accuses her of being irritated instead. Oh, Isobel, be quiet. You really are quite a tiresome character. She demands an apology from Violet, which Violet refuses to give for…really no reason at all, but mostly because, as Isobel does correctly point out, Violet hates to be wrong. ‘I wouldn’t know, I’m not familiar with the sensation,’ says Violet, adding that the knife is still missing, so there’s that to consider.
Cora finds Edith in tears in the hallway and asks her what’s wrong. Edith tells her that Michael’s vanished and nobody can seem to reach him. Cora reassures her it’s just some failure of communication and he’ll be in touch soon.
Carson delivers the post to the servants, including a letter to Alfred informing him they’ll have him at the Ritz after all, because one of the other candidates dropped out. Wow, that was rather abrupt and a tiny bit random. Julian Fellowes really does hate suspense, doesn’t he? Apparently Alfred really was just out of the top four, and I’m rather pleased that he chooses to rub Jimmy’s nose in it, because Jimmy deserves it. Everyone offers their congratulations, except for Daisy, who looks like a deer in the headlights. Jimmy calls her out and Daisy flees the room. Alfred admits he’s a bit nervous, and Jimmy sneeringly wonders what there is to be nervous about. Carson wins a few points with me by immediately saying that Alfred’s nervous because he’s intelligent, and only the stupid are foolhardy. Hee!
Ivy goes to Daisy and tells her how sorry she is. Daisy accuses her of being the reason Alfred’s leaving, because he couldn’t have her. Patmore comes in and breaks it up so they can get dinner on the table.
Just after dinner, Robert returns home from a quick trip up to London to sign some papers regarding some guardianship agreement over a friend’s son. Cora tells him Alfred’s leaving, and Alfred apologises. Everyone tells him how pleased they are, and Mary urges him to come back someday when he’s a famous chef. Alfred takes the opportunity to thank them all for treating him so well, especially Carson. He really is sweet. Carson hustles him out before things get too touching and Robert asks how the plans are coming along for his party. Everyone’s disappointed he knows about it, but he says it’s no big deal.
Over servants’ dinner, Jimmy and Ivy briefly discuss an upcoming movie date to see The Sheik, and Anna suggests she and Bates have an evening out sometime as well. He’s in. Hughes quietly asks Carson if he’ll send for Molesley now, but Carson’s being a bit of a dick about it and won’t consider bringing the man on when he refused to turn cartwheels over the idea of what was, essentially, a huge demotion.
Out in the hallway, Thomas urges Baxter to find out just what Rose is up to, because now Hughes has him all paranoid. She asks him how she should go about this and he says she’ll think of something.
At their cottage, Anna promises Bates she’ll book them a table somewhere nice for their date night. She sits down at the table and tells him she knows it can’t be just like it was before, but she wants to make some new, happy memories, so they can try and regain some semblance of happiness. He claims he’s happy when he looks at her, and she bursts into tears, because she thinks everything is shadowed now. He urges her to have one evening where none of them think about it.
The next day, Cora tells Baxter she has to go dine at some hotel with a committee meeting. Baxter promises to find her something nice to wear.
Downstairs, Alfred’s preparing to leave. Everyone gathers to say goodbye, except Daisy, so Alfred peels off to say goodbye to her. She won’t even look up from the pastry she’s rolling, so he apologises for ever having hurt her, but explains that he just wasn’t that into her. She continues rolling, so he turns to leave, and she finally stops and sincerely wishes him luck. Aww. He thanks her and tells her that means a lot.
Oh, Jesus. Isobel waits until Violet leaves, then goes to the Dower House door and pretends to be there for a visit. When Sprat tells her Violet’s out, Isobel pretends to be faint and asks to wait in the drawing room for a little. Once he leaves her, she starts poking around, trying to find that paperknife. I know her heart’s in the right place, but this seems so ridiculously childish. But of course she’s rewarded by finding the paperknife lost between the cushions of a chair. She rings for Sprat and hands him the paperknife for him to give back to Violet.
Molesley strides towards the Abbey and goes right to Carson. He saw Alfred heading to London that morning, so Molesley thought he’d look in and confirm his willingness to take the footman job. Carson’s still being a supreme asshole here and tells Molesley he’s insufficiently enthusiastic and he wouldn’t want to contribute to his plunge down the service ladder. Molesley is dismissed.
Isobel and Clarkson pay a visit to Violet, Clarkson clearly having been dragged there by Isobel, because lord knows this man has nothing else to do than to be made the middleman in these two women’s annoying power struggles. I’m not a big Clarkson fan, but even I feel for him here. Isobel asks if Violet got the paperknife back, and upon getting an affirmative, says this clearly means Peg didn’t steal it. Violet still won’t bend, and Isobel lights into her, accusing her of doing all sorts of damage and being uncaring. Clarkson essentially does a ‘down, girl,’ and Violet rings for Sprat and asks him to send in Peg, who’s apparently been given his job back after all. Ha, Isobel! Sprat obeys and Violet asks him to tell Isobel what happened between the two of them that afternoon. Peg tells them that Violet sent for him, apologized for having mistakenly thought he was a thief, and gave him his job back. So there, Isobel! Even Clarkson tells her Violet’s clearly won this fight.
Anna discusses her upcoming date with Mary, who tells her to have fun and not hurry back. She changes the subject and informs Anna that Blake and Napier will be arriving in time for dinner on Robert’s birthday, which Mary calls a baptism by fire. Well, now I’m intrigued about this party. She’s not sure how long they’re staying, since the invitation was open-ended.
Anna and Bates have made a reservation at a pretty swanky place with a snooty maître d’ who pretends they don’t have a reservation. But luckily this is the same restaurant where Cora’s dining that very evening and she comes over and greets them happily. The maître d’ promises to get this all sorted out immediately and quickly seats them.
As the family’s coming out of dinner, Carson hands Edith a letter that came in the evening post. It’s apparently from the doctor she saw last week, informing her that her signs and symptoms are consistent with those of a pregnant woman. He couldn’t have told her that at the time of her consultation? Did he have to send tests away? I didn’t even think they had tests for pregnancy you could send away back then.
Molesley’s apparently stuck around, and goes to see Mrs Hughes and ask her if Carson’s changed his mind. She regretfully tells him he hasn’t. Molesley sadly says he thought Carson would value his caution and his desire to consider the pros and cons of the position before he just rushed in. Hughes urges him not to give up and goes to fetch more hot water for the teapot.
Jimmy and Ivy are coming back from their date and stop to sit on one of the benches near the house. Jimmy asks her if she likes Valentino, but she says he’s not her type. Before long, they start to have a teenager-y makeout session on the bench, but when he tries to go to second base, she jumps away like he’s a hot potato. He accuses her of being a tease and she tells him he’s a jerk and runs away. Good girl!
Over dinner, Anna starts to get upset, saying it was foolish of her to think they could leave it all behind, even for a night. She adds that Bates sees her as a victim, but he insists he doesn’t, he sees her as someone whom he should have protected. He thinks he’s the failure here, not her. Cora swings by and asks them if they want a ride home. They accept, because the mood is officially killed.
Ivy has gone to Hughes and Patmore to tell them what Jimmy attempted. Ivy sighs that Alfred would never have done something liked that, and Daisy snaps at her not to start, because she’s the one who went and broke Alfred’s heart and sent him running off to London. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, Daisy, but I’ll give you some leeway because you’re pretty stung at the moment. Ivy wonders what her problem is and Hughes tells her she pretty much deserved to have her head bitten off just then.
Mary and Cora have a little visit in Cora’s room and Cora confides that something’s pretty off with the Bateses, and that she overheard the end of their conversation. She adds that this is not to leave the room, more for Baxter’s benefit than Mary’s. Baxter promises her lips are sealed.
Robert stumbles upon Edith crying in the library and, for the first time ever, shows some genuine fatherly concern for her as he hurries over and asks her what’s wrong. He asks if she wants him to send someone to Germany to find Michael and she informs him that his office has already sent a detective over. Oh, wow, this is even more serious than I thought. I thought he just wasn’t communicating with her, but this sounds like a complete and utter disappearance. She wonders if he’s trapped somewhere or dead, and says she just wants to know the truth. Robert softly says he’s sure Michael’s not dead, but Edith isn’t sure at all.
Baxter, of course, has taken what Cora told Mary straight to Thomas, who tells her, again, to keep her ears open. She informs him she doesn’t like being an informant and she doesn’t think Cora deserves this. Thomas tells her to decide where her loyalties lie: with him, or with Cora.
Evelyn and Blake arrive and are greeted by Mary and Cora. It’s clear that Blake is not what one would call the polite type. He has to be prompted by Evelyn to thank their hostess for having them, and when Mary, clearly feeling a bit awkward, says they all have to do their bit, he jumps on her and asks what she means. She says she heard that they’re working to save the estates and he tells her that’s not quite right. They’re not here to help the estates, they’re just there to study the impact the sale of great estates will have on the country as a whole, on things like the food supply. Mary can’t even begin to wrap her head around the fact that these guys have bigger things to study than the displacement of a few rich people and thinks that’s really mean-spirited. She gets her back up fast and it’s not long before he’s getting the Mary Crawley Acid Tongue, as Robert comes out and greets the men. Evelyn tries to hustle his boss out of there before any more damage is done, and Cora reminds them that it’s Robert’s birthday.
Molesley’s back, apparently at Hughes’s invitation. Hughes explains that she’s brought him back to serve the servants’ tea, since the kitchen will be so busy with party preparations. Carson’s flabbergasted, but Hughes tells him the man’s clearly not too proud to do the work. Clever, Hughes. Carson finally folds and tells Molesley he can start that night and move in the next day. Molesley thanks him profusely.
They settle down for just a moment, but then Rose comes in and announces that a band from a nightclub in London is coming up that evening, and she needs them to look after the musicians and keep them secret. They all promise to do so. And at just that moment, Jack comes in and Carson very nearly has a stroke. Rose welcomes him to Downton.
Isobel’s actually comes and visits her grandson, and finds Mary and Tom in the nursery. Apparently they feed the kids at night, which is cute and fairly progressive, for the upper classes. Isobel announces that she’s decided George can call her grandmamma. Mary asks her what Sybbie should call her and Isobel replies that Isobel would do. What else would Sybbie call her? Isobel brings up Gill’s engagement and tells Mary she hopes that didn’t hurt her. Mary says she’s not unhappy, she’s just not quite ready to be happy. Both Isobel and Tom say that when they got engaged, they went kind of crazy and couldn’t think of anything else. Mary says she felt the same. That was kind of a cute scene. And then the kiddies come in, so we can get some cuteness overload.
Carson, who’s clearly never seen a black person in real life ever, asks Jack if he’s ever considered going to Africa. Jack pleasantly replies that he has no reason to, as he has no real connection to the place. Ivy comes in and Jimmy tries to talk to her, but she’ll have none of it, and then Rose comes down to deliver some last-minute instructions. Jack comments that Rose is quite a character. ‘That’s one word for her,’ Hughes agrees.
At dinner, Mary’s somehow ended up sitting next to Blake. I think Cora has a mean sense of humour. Mary’s talking about feeling sorry for the pigs they will apparently have to slaughter, and Blake asks if she eats sausages and bacon, and if so she should chill out. At the other end of the table, Cora notes to Evelyn that Blake’s putting Mary through her paces and he tells her that Blake tends to have issues with anyone with a sense of entitlement. Cora says that Mary feels entitled to take charge, and Evelyn tells her that Mary’s welcome to take charge of him. Woah, there, Evelyn! Violet welcomes Molesley back, while Isobel asks Tom to explain why he wants to emigrate. He says he’ll never fit in, and that it’s not as if there are earls’ daughters lining up to marry him. Not that being married to an earl’s daughter seemed to make him fit in any better. Just sayin’.
Robert comments that Isobel seems to be coming out of her depression, which he’s glad to see, and Violet says it’s been a mixed blessing, to say the least. Robert says she likes to fight for what she believes in and Violet says she runs on indignation.
Cora tries to take the ladies out, but Rose interrupts and tells them that they’re all going out together. She rushes into the hall and gets the band going, and the guests all smile and seem pleased. But then they’re taken out to see the actual band and Robert inserts his ramrod straight up his spine. Even Edith asks who the singer is and thinks it’s all rather odd. I think it’s rather odd that someone who’s been going out regularly in London is this surprised by a black singer. It’s not like they were that uncommon in England at the time. Robert loosens up a bit and says it’s fine, then partners his wife for a dance. Edith clutches her pearls and asks Violet if this is appropriate, and Violet tells her she’s acting rather provincial and should let her time in London rub off on her just a bit.
Off to the side, Mary asks Blake which estates he’ll be checking out, but he refuses to say. He leaves, and she accuses Evelyn of bringing an enemy into their midst.
Tom’s dancing with Isobel and she tells him that things have happened at Downton that people even a few years ago couldn’t have imagined, so maybe he should think about that before he throws in the towel.
Evelyn goes over to Violet and asks her what she thinks of the jazz. Not much, it seems.
Belowstairs, the servants are all rocking out to the music. Carson and Hughes agree that Jack seemed nice, though Carson thinks this is still highly irregular.
Violet and Evelyn dance for a bit—hee!—and after they split, Blake tells Evelyn he really doesn’t like Mary, because she’s completely entitled and that type doesn’t deserve to exist. Evelyn tells her she returns the sentiment.
Cora seeks out Edith and begs her to tell her what’s wrong. She thinks it’s about Michael and Edith starts to cry and hurries off.
Later, Robert tells Cora that was a very nice party and that even Carson approved of Jack. Cora mentions that Michael still hasn’t turned up, and Robert says he knows, but he’s certain it’ll all work out eventually. They next turn to Harold, who’s written to Cora as well, as has Cora’s mother. It sounds like Harold got mixed up in the Teapot Dome scandal. Robert thinks Harold was a fool to get involved, like he’s really one to call other people’s investments foolish.
Mary heads belowstairs, where she spots Rose fooling around with Jack. Looking uncomfortable, she calls out, and they separate. Rose asks Mary what she’s doing downstairs and Mary says she wanted to speak with Jack. Jack joins Rose and Mary thanks him for a lovely evening, and tells him to go ahead and send the bill to Robert, because they saw Rose’s arranging of the whole thing as her gift. Jack politely agrees and thanks Mary for having him and his band so well looked after at Downton. Mary turns and goes upstairs.
Stupid Robert Moment of the Week: Him actually passing judgment on his brother-in-law’s investment choices. But that’s a rather weak one, so maybe we should throw the net wider and just make this
Stupid Moment of the Week: Isobel continuously climbing onto her high horse without getting all the facts beforehand, and getting egg on her face because of it.
3 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Surprise!”
Judging from Fellowes’ portrayal of Isobel Crawley, I’m beginning to suspect that he truly despises the middle-class. Talk about character assassination.
That seems to be the consensus–middle class characters tend to get a really raw deal in his work