Downton Abbey: Leaving the Nest

Blogger’s Note: These recaps are for the hour-long episodes that aired on ITV back in the fall. After the way PBS hacked up series 1, I thought it might be better to recap the unadulterated versions. Episode one from PBS is covered in this and the following recap, and so forth.

We are back, folks! And how lovely was it that the very night Downton series 2 debuted in the UK series 1 cleaned up at the Emmys? The Americans may have fought a war to sever themselves from the crown, but we still love our British prestige pieces, don’t we? And rightly so—Downton was the best thing nominated in its categories, in my opinion. So, how does series 2 stack up to its predecessor? Let’s see.

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Boardwalk Empire: Valentine’s Day

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: The Commodore and Co. hit Nucky hard by sending the Klan to attack one of Chalky’s warehouses. Because Chalky’s not the type to take that sort of thing lying down, he killed a Klansman and had to be placed under arrest for his own safety. While he was locked up, Jimmy and Two Face cleaned out the warehouse and sold the hooch on to Mickey Doyle. Van Alden and his wife had some quality time together before she went home to her prayers and he went home to his pregnant one night stand. The evening ended with Nucky being arrested for election fraud, forcing him to stand up Margaret and the kids at the movies.

Margaret comes down the stairs early in the morning to the sound of three ladies—her maid, her cook, and one other woman not in uniform—whispering together. They spring apart when she appears and she asks what’s up. The cook hands over the newspaper, which has a big headline on the front page about Nucky being arrested. Margaret holds it together to an almost creepy extent and asks about the weather and chats a bit out the kids, clearly freaking her staff out. The ununiformed woman—the nanny, apparently—hands Margaret a Valentine’s Day card from the kids, and the cook asks if a dinner party planned for that evening is still on. Apparently Margaret thinks it is, because she tells the maid to beat one of the carpets before the guests arrive.

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Pan Am: London Calling

Ahh, the 60’s. A time when luggage was hard and bulky, stewardesses were sexy, and Pan Am ruled the air. We start off at the busy Pan Am terminal at JFK Airport (though I guess it was still Idlewild Airport then). Planes are coming and going, watched by an awestruck little boy. In a nice moment of period realism, he’s all dressed up in a tie to get on the plane. My dad remembers having to wear a coat and tie when he flew with his parents back in the 60’s. Inside the terminal, passengers check in and check luggage, all gorgeously dressed, while stewardesses are weighed and checked by a fierce looking den mother. One of the stewardesses—a pretty blonde who’s clearly new here, keeps trying to ask Den Mother a question, but DM just wants to know if the girl’s wearing her girdle, and she smacks her right on the butt to check. She also notes that this girl has recently graced the cover of Life magazine, with her hat askew, which I’m guessing is a no-no. Oh, and the girl has a run in her tights. Another stewardess—one with a French accent—pulls blondie aside and says she has an extra pair of stockings she can have.

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The Pallisers, Part IV: After the Ball

Previously on The Pallisers: Glencora freaked out so thoroughly about meeting Burgo again she purposely got sick to avoid him. Alice, meanwhile, threw herself back into George’s arms.

Vavasor Hall. Grandpa tells Alice’s dad that he’s warming to the idea of Alice and George marrying, because it would keep her money (inherited from her dead mother) in the family. Dad’s clearly the smartest person in the family and realizes George’ll just squander the cash, along with everything else he inherits. Grandpa plans to settle the estate on their eldest son, so all George could access would be the income from the estate. What if they don’t have a son? What then? Does Matthew Crawley inherit? Dad still thinks George is a worthless scoundrel, and he says as much, just as Alice comes downstairs. She waits until her dad’s done railing against her future husband before coming into the dining room for a meeting with grandpa. Grandpa asks her if she’s fixed a date for the wedding, and of course she hasn’t, because this is Alice we’re talking about. These early episodes were apparently based on a Trollope novel that was all about Alice’s dithering and was so tiresome even his contemporaries made fun of it. Dad helpfully asks her why she broke her engagement to George before. She delicately responds that he “behaved unworthily.” I’ll say. Dad thinks George will behave just as poorly now, but Alice foolishly thinks he’s changed, and anyway, she’s older now and “much more understanding.” Excuse me? Is she saying she’d be cool with George screwing around on her?

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Monarchy-The Royal Family at Work: To Virginia!

It seems that periodically (usually around the time the monarchy experiences a surge of popularity), there’s some vocal whiners that raise their voices and bleat: “But what do they do? The royals just laze around and we pay for it!” Well, actually, working members of the royal family do quite a lot, and you don’t pay for all of it (only expenses incurred on official business can really be paid by the taxpayers). The queen regularly carries out something in the neighborhood of 400 official engagements and audiences every year, which means she’s doing more than one of these per day. The woman’s 85 years old. How many 85-year-olds do you know who are still doing their day jobs? Which they’ve held their whole damn lives?

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John Adams: Peacefield

Previously on John Adams: John got to be president, which ended up being an exhausting, endless fight, so he more or less willingly handed the position off to Jefferson and headed home, a private citizen once more.

It’s 1803, and John’s at his bucolic home, Peacefield. Dr. Rush arrives and is happily greeted by John, who thanks him for coming as he shows him upstairs to Nabby’s room. Seems the daughter of the house is having a health crisis. Rush sits down with his new patient and John and Abigail excuse themselves, closing the door behind them. Once they’re alone, Rush asks Nabby to tell him what’s bothering her. She informs him she feels a lump in one breast that pains her. Oh, dear God. Early 19th century breast cancer?! Yikes!

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Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb

A newsreel helpfully places us in Egypt, where archaeologist Sir John Willard is leading an expedition into the tomb of an ancient pharaoh. And apparently things are tense there, because there’s a representative from the British Museum (Dr. Foswell) and a rep from the Met in New York (Dr. Schneider, shown swirling some whiskey in a glass, which is unlikely in a newsreel of the time, but whatever, character establishment). There’s also a rich financier, Bleibner, and his nephew, Rupert, there for the ride, along with a secretary named Nigel, who’s photographing everything. All the principal players are gathered to watch as the tomb is opened. Got all that?

Newsreel ends and we join them in real time. There’s a seal over the door that Foswell wants to remove carefully, but Willard tells him to just break it. Isn’t this guy an archaeologist? It seems unlikely he’d just bust through a seal that’s thousands of years old. Even Bleibner wants to wait for the seal to be carefully pried off. Willard ignores him and busts through the seal, opens the door, and steps into the burial chamber. There, they find all sorts of statues and treasures. Almost as soon as they step inside and get a look, creepy music cues up, and Willard drops dead. Someone calls for the doctor, but it’s too late. Workers carry the body out as Nigel snaps away. Heh. Newsreel guy VOs news of the death from heart attack and swears that this has nothing to do with rumors of a curse on the tomb. No siree, everything’s fine here!

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John Adams: Don’t Tread on Me

Previously on John Adams: The colonies banded together and started to produce a real army, under Washington’s charge. John decided it was time to cut the cord with the mother country and declare independence, and with Franklin’s and Jefferson’s help, he managed to convince the other delegates to go along with him. On the homefront, in an attempt to protect the kids from smallpox, Abigail…nearly killed one of them with smallpox.

The Adams farm is buried under snow. John and Abigail stroll through, chatting. She exposits that the British have taken Philadelphia and that they’ve been married 14 years, only half of which they’ve actually spent living together. That sucks. Or maybe it’s the key to a successful marriage, who knows? It definitely led to some great extent letters between these two.

It’s now 1777. That night, John gently breaks the news to Abby that he’s leaving, meeting with the congress in New York. Well, that’s a little closer to Massachusetts than Philadelphia, isn’t it? You know what isn’t closer? France, which is where he’s likely to go next, to help Franklin secure French aid in the American cause. Abigail is not on board with that idea at all. She forcefully tells him he’s needed at home, because his kids need a dad and she needs a husband. Fair enough. But she knows there are bigger issues at stake, so after a tearful interlude, she asks him how long he’ll be gone. He has no idea. Bad sign.

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Poirot: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ahh, springtime. When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and other people’s fancies turn to thoughts of murder. At least, that’s how it is in this case.

We start off with a good closeup of the Soviet flag, flying over the Soviet embassy in London, presumably. A woman in a totally covetable gray coat strides purposefully inside and meets one of the officials, whose office is primarily decorated by a HUGE portrait of Stalin. She doesn’t get to admire the décor, because he comes downstairs to meet her in the hall, where they have an exchange in Russian that, unhelpfully, is not subtitled, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re talking about. He sounds annoyed (though I’ll admit, Russian always sounds annoyed or angry to me), and she seems to be pleading. That’s all I’ve got. At the end, they exchange smiles, and she hands him an envelope. As he heads back to his office, he opens it and pulls out a ticket to the Chelsea Flower show that, for some reason, has WTF stamped across it in big, red letters. I know it didn’t meant the same thing back then as it does now, but I still laughed when I saw that.

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Game of Thrones: And What Do We Say to Death?

Previously on Game of Thrones: Ned’s idiocy got him thrown into prison, which pissed off Robb, so he gathered a big ol’ army and started marching on the Lannisters. Up on The Wall, Jon proved his worth by saving Mormont from a zombie. Oh, and Drogo got a scratch on him in a fight that I’m sure will somehow wind up being fatal.

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