Previously 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.
Later, Alfred goes to answer the doorbell and an older woman—Lady Castleton—strides in, asks where Hudson is, and is announced. She briskly compliments Marjorie’s dress and tells her she has to straighten out the footman, who announced her ‘as if I were tragic news.’ She goes on to say that, while that may be true, he could at least cover it up. Heh. I kinda like this woman. She moves along to greet James and is introduced to James’s friend, Lieutenant Watson, who’s a nervous, twitchy sort. Just what you want in an officer in the army. Lady C is unamused by him. Marjorie wonders where Elizabeth is, since she was supposed to be home by now. The doorbell rings and James is grateful for the distraction.
It’s Elizabeth, who gaily greets Alfred and Rose, who eagerly tells her that everyone’s waiting for her in the morning room. Elizabeth, showing early on her propensity to be enormously self-centred and thoughtless, goes tripping upstairs instead, dragging Rose along with her. Pierce, the coachman, lugs in the trunks and Alfred pokes fun at him, saying he thought Pierce had been run down by all the new motorcars out there. Alfred orders Pierce to take the luggage upstairs, because he’s too important to go lugging luggage, with Hudson away.
In Elizabeth’s room, Rose eagerly fills Elizabeth in on how things are going in the household as Pierce drags in a trunk. Elizabeth thanks him and comments how busy London seems compared to Germany. She asks about her father and says she’ll be able to talk to him about things now she’s been all edjumacated. Rose urges her to go downstairs and see her mother soon. Elizabeth agrees, saying she’s glad Rose is going to be looking after her. Rose leaves, and Elizabeth, hearing a street musician outside, tosses him a coin before finding a doll in a drawer and smilingly commenting that she has to put aside childish things.
She dashes downstairs like a little girl hitting the Christmas presents and greets everyone. Lady Castleton—Elizabeth’s great aunt—judges that Germany hasn’t done anything for her. Elizabeth meets Watson, asks if he’s a poet, and is disappointed to hear he’s not. She starts tucking into the spread. Watson tries making conversation, but it’s clear he’s a bit of a dunce and not at all on her level. If James thought he was going to set up his buddy with his sister he seriously misread things here. Elizabeth’s more interested in the arts and culture than the army and tennis. Marjorie mentions that Lady Londonderry’s giving a ball later that month, which might be a good opportunity for Elizabeth’s debut. Several important young Conservatives will be there. Elizabeth eagerly says they can have some nice political chats then. Lady C says they’ll have to do something with Elizabeth’s hair first. She’s not wrong there. Elizabeth playfully asks both James and Watson if she’s really a fright and Watson falls all over himself trying not to say yes. Eventually, things get so awkward, the poor guy just leaves. Marjorie tells Elizabeth she doesn’t seem to have made much of a conquest there. ‘Should I have?’ Elizabeth asks her. No, Elizabeth. I’m with you on this one. Lady C tells Elizabeth she needs to listen more and think less. Elizabeth: ‘Sure, whatevs.’
Hudson’s back, so apparently his mother’s not at death’s door or anything. He’s served a cup of tea and asks Alfred how it went. Alfred says it was fine, though Elizabeth dropped a few bricks and went after the cake like a shipwreck survivor. Hudson snaps at him for speaking disrespectfully and asks where Rose is. He’s told she’s unpacking for Elizabeth as Roberts, the lady’s maid, comes floating in on a cloud of attitude and really randomly says, ‘some have greatness thrust upon them!’ Uh, ok. I guess she’s bitter about Rose now doing the job of two servants? (Three actually, since it doesn’t look like Sarah’s been replaced yet.)
Rose is unpacking while Elizabeth reads her some German song lyrics and condescendingly asks if she’s ever heard of Schubert (she has). Elizabeth decides to set out to improve Rose’s mind. ‘Thank you miss,’ Rose says drily. Really. Elizabeth declares her intention of practicing piano for a while. Rose rushes to veto the idea, since they have to finish her unpacking, and then dress her and do her hair for dinner. Again showing that she’s kind of an asshole, Elizabeth says Rose can just finish doing the unpacking, and she can dress and do her hair in a jiffy. Poor Rose can’t really argue. She amuses herself by holding one of Elizabeth’s evening dresses against her body and dancing around the room with it for a bit as Elizabeth starts playing.
On the stairs, Lady Marjorie pauses to listen, catching James and commenting that Elizabeth plays really nicely. He doesn’t care and says he wishes his sister was more like other girls. He says his friend was really put out. Well, there’s nothing for it, James. Your idiot friend wasn’t Elizabeth’s type. He departs to meet another friend for dinner.
Later, Rose is trying to get Elizabeth ready for dinner while Elizabeth twists around and chatters about the Black Forest and whines about having to trouble with hair at all. I’ll bet she’s the first person on this show to get a bob. She throws a total tantrum and complains about Londonderry’s ball, but then Bellamy shows up and she’s all excitedly daddy’s girl. He directs her back to Rose the hairstylist and now she sits quietly enough while she chats with daddy. He suggests she might actually enjoy her social season, going on to say, essentially, that her shining in Society would be good for his political career, which is definitely on the upward trajectory. There’s been talk of a cabinet post. He commiserates that many of these parties are totally boring, but they have to be done. Off he goes, and Elizabeth declares her intention to enchant, because that’s what daddy wants.
Elizabeth and Marjorie are trying to plan Elizabeth’s wardrobe. Well, Marjorie is, while Rose looks at hairstyles. Elizabeth’s bored as hell.
The material for her ballgown is delivered and Mrs Bridges hands it over to Alfred, who’s in quite a mood, for some reason. He runs into Hudson coming down with the silver and Hudson complains that Rose hasn’t changed the linen in Bellamy’s bedroom, and the whole place is just falling to pieces. Yes, well, hire someone to do at least one of Rose’s current jobs, then!
In Elizabeth’s room, the little debutante is being measured for her gown (shouldn’t they have done that before they ordered the material for it? And why is the material being delivered to the Bellamys instead of the dressmaker? Marjorie kind of freaks out over Elizabeth’s hip measurement, which she rather horribly calls enormous (it’s 93 centimetres, for the record). The fabric is delivered and the dressmaker adores it. Elizabeth’s slumped in a chair, bored again. She lost all her ‘I’m going to be enchanting’ verve pretty quickly, hasn’t she?
Downstairs again, Hudson’s still looking for Rose, who apparently hasn’t been doing any of her jobs. He tells Emily to wash her face and hands and go find Rose. Emily (who, by the way, is played by an atrocious actress who WAY overacts everything in a particularly annoying manner) reacts to the news she gets to go upstairs as if she’s just been granted a day at the circus.
Upstairs she goes, where we find Rose having fun with Elizabeth and James. Rose reports downstairs to Hudson, who tells her she has to see to the drawing room grate, and where the hell has she been? Rose honestly, and a little smugly, which seems pretty stupid, says she’s been watching James teach Elizabeth to galop. For some reason, he’s not incredibly pissed off to learn that Rose has been sitting on her ass watching a dancing lesson instead of doing her actual job. He only warns her not to abuse the privilege of being permitted to tend to Elizabeth.
Marjorie schools Elizabeth in how to walk with a train and sit and talk about brainless subjects like the weather or whatever the young man speaking to her is interested in. Elizabeth says this is just like being an actress. Well, yes, a lot of polite interactions require acting on some level, Elizabeth. Welcome to adulthood. Bellamy comes home and informs the ladies that the king and queen are going to be at the Londonderry ball, and it’s been decided that Elizabeth will be Presented, by Aunt Kate (Lady C). The hell now? Uh, no. Debutante presentations did not occur at other people’s balls. If you wanted to be officially presented to the king, there was a whole rigmarole you had to go through. You had to apply several months in advance and follow a particular dress code and…yeah, it was a whole thing. So this makes no sense. And why wouldn’t Elizabeth’s mother present her? The only rule was that the person doing the presenting had to have been presented at court themselves, once upon a time. Surely Lady Marjorie was presented, in her day. This whole thing just seems odd.
Belowstairs, Rose tries out one of the new hairstyles on Emily, who’s ridiculously excited, because she’s excited by absolutely everything. Bridges scolds her for fooling around and tells her to get on with the saucepans. Pierce comes in and playfully calls her Cinderella, which tickles her, and suggests Rose practice on Mrs Bridges. Bridges does not enjoy the joke and tells Rose to get on with the mending. A bell rings and Pierce takes off to drive the family to a play.
The dressmaker is back, fitting Elizabeth’s presentation gown. Bellamy joins the girl party and admires the dress. Elizabeth complains about not being able to breathe and he says she’ll do fine, and she’s going to be a sensation. He’s rather sweet.
Belowstairs, Alfred’s in one of his creepy preachy moods, lecturing Pierce on how sinful he is or something. Hudson comes along and tells Pierce to get a move on. Off he goes. Alfred is sent to summon the rest of the staff to watch the show.
Lady C and the Bellamy men are gathered in the morning room for a pre-party tipple. There’s some talk of politicians—Balfour will not be at the ball, it seems. Hudson announces the carriage is ready, so everyone starts to move out. Roberts comes rushing down and exclaims that everyone looks beautiful. Marjorie comes down, apologising for having kept everyone waiting, and Elizabeth follows, looking excited. Everyone’s in a merry mood and the staff exclaim, once the masters are gone, how lovely Elizabeth looked. Hudson compliments Rose on a job well done and offers to crack open a bottle of very nice wine to celebrate.
At the ball, people dance poshly. Elizabeth, poor thing, has been stuck with Watson again. He asks her to waltz but she begs to be allowed to sit this one out, urging him to find another partner if he wishes. He can’t seem to get away fast enough. You haven’t made much of a conquest there, Watson. James finds his sister and asks where Watson’s disappeared to and accuses her of sulking. He urges her to smile and be happy but she pouts that she’s not happy, she hates all of this, and if she has to stay another minute, she’ll scream. What was that you were saying about putting aside childish things, Elizabeth? Ye gods, yes, I’m sure plenty of people found these things unbearably boring, but you carried on because that’s just what you did. As you pointed out earlier, this is acting, so fake it. Stop being such a child. Think of someone else for a minute.
Some girl, Cynthia, materialises from the potted plants and makes a beeline for James, who introduces her to Elizabeth. Cynthia purrs that it’s a lovely ball and such a ‘divvy’ band (it was a fashion started by a group of rich buddies known as the Souls to use childlike, stupid words like divvy, which basically meant divine. It must have been incredibly annoying.) Marjorie appears and is introduced to Cynthia, who keeps her occupied long enough for Elizabeth to sneak away. Bellamy and Lady C join them and ask where Elizabeth is. Nobody seems to know. And right then, the King and Queen arrive. James and Cynthia are sent to find Elizabeth, as people are announced for their presentations. Marjorie pouts mildly that she’ll never forgive Elizabeth for this. Cynthia returns and says Elizabeth’s not in the cloakroom, and James shows up and says Elizabeth was seen grabbing her cloak and leaving. Nice, Elizabeth. You couldn’t suck it up and stick it out for five more minutes? What a baby. Lady Castleton is announced and she snaps her fan and says angrily that she’ll have to go in and explain. Richard looks upset and Marjorie’s angry enough to actually change her tone of voice slightly.
The family returns home and learns that the servants don’t know where Elizabeth is, so presumably she hasn’t returned home. Rose is dispatched upstairs to see if she snuck in, but she’s not in her room. The rest of the family, meanwhile, repair to the morning room and call for brandy. Hudson brings it, along with the news that Elizabeth isn’t in the house. Marjorie takes a drink and moans about her daughter’s ingratitude. Bellamy’s more concerned about the fact that his 17-year-old daughter’s just wandering the streets of London late at night. James suggests calling the police. Marjorie says Elizabeth’s probably fine, just doing this to annoy them. Since there’s not much they can do, they prepare to go to bed, leaving only Rose and Bellamy sitting up to wait.
Both fall asleep in chairs near the fire, but it’s Rose who’s roused by someone hammering on the servants’ door. It’s Elizabeth, who comes in full of attitude, as if she’s the one who’s been wronged. She tells Rose the ball was horrible, so she ran away. Everyone was just too boring for her and how can they party when there are poor people in the world? So, she’s one of those self-righteous, obnoxious poor little rich girl types. Fun! Rose asks where she’s been all this time and Elizabeth replies that she’s been wandering the streets, like it’s all some big joke to her. She giggles about how constables kept asking if she was all right and she’d tell them she was fine, but they should go and take care of some of the weak and oppressed. Well, Elizabeth, considering the place of women in society at that time, they kind of already were. Rose glowers down at this incredible brat and coldly tells her Bellamy’s waiting up for her. ‘Oh, I can’t face him now,’ Elizabeth groans dramatically. ‘Coward,’ Rose calls her. Elizabeth can’t believe this sort of backtalk and threatens to slap Rose’s face, but Rose has clearly had it and says she’ll slap Elizabeth’s right back, for standing there in her finery making all their hard work useless. Elizabeth pouts that Rose doesn’t understand, but Rose totally does, calling Elizabeth out for making her parents worry while she sat around complaining because she was invited to a grand ball and got bored. Like a goddamn child. ‘What do you care about the poor? You only care about yourself,’ Rose continues. Man, Rose is kind of awesome when she doesn’t have Sarah about weighting her down, isn’t she? Elizabeth sniffs that her father will understand. Rose says he might, because he loves her, but Marjorie and Rose never will. Elizabeth pulls rank, but Rose is on a serious roll here and calls Elizabeth a spoiled brat who runs away when she doesn’t like something, and then pretends she’s doing it because of some higher calling to love the poor, but when an actual poor person (her own servant) gives her some hard truths, she responds by threatening actual violence. You tell her, Rose! She tells Elizabeth to go apologise to her father and Elizabeth childishly says she won’t. Rose calls her a coward again. Elizabeth asks her why she should live this awful, awful life of being totally rich and having to go to nice parties and Rose tells her to do it for her father. Elizabeth insists that she tried to, though we saw none of that. She—wait for it now—sat through dinner and everything! My God! Dinner! She bitches about how nobody wanted to listen to all her brilliance and Rose informs her that nobody wants to listen to a 17-year-old because teenagers are boring idiots who think they’re way more interesting than they actually are. Elizabeth actually goes to attack Rose, only to get her arm twisted up behind her.
‘Ow, Rose, you’re hurting me, I’ll tell,’ whines the teenager who thought she was so amazingly great just a couple of seconds ago. I hope they didn’t spend much on her education, because it was clearly a waste. She stopped emotionally maturing around the age of 10, by the sound of it. Rose throws her down into a chair and tells her how things are for the servants: they do their jobs with pride because they really like and believe in Marjorie and Bellamy, who help run the Empire on which the sun never sets. She says she knows and is proud of her place because she feels like she’s contributing to all that. She bursts into tears and Elizabeth softens, telling Rose she loves her and she’s sorry for upsetting her, but she really wants people to hear all the amazing things she has to say. She won’t stay quiet forever. I’ll bet she won’t. She agrees to go face her father, for Rose’s sake. The two girls embrace and up Elizabeth goes, accompanied by Rose, because Elizabeth can’t seem to do this on her own and Rose is just going to enable her. Rose does, at least, send her into the morning room on her own. Bellamy holds his arms out and his daughter rushes into them. Rose smiles as she closes the door and heads upstairs to finally get what’ll probably amount to around 15 minutes of sleep before she has to be up again. Those grates don’t clean themselves, you know!