Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Everyone and their Aunt Blanche told Hallam his inexplicable douchery was ruining his marriage. Equally inexplicably, he chose to ignore them all and start hooking up with Persie, who’s hanging around being as useless as ever. Oh, and Spargo finally managed to score with Beryl by beating the crap out of some guy in the boxing ring. Apparently, to her, that’s social progress.
Pritchard’s at the movies, alone, watching something I feel I should recognize, but I don’t. I think it’s a Katherine Hepburn movie, but that’s all I got.
Oh, ugh, God. Hallam and Persie are actually now doing it. Or post-doing it, and acting all gross and post-coital, like this is supposed to be the cutest thing ever, when it’s adultery that makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. This is actually turning my stomach. Persie tells Hallam she wants to go out for a good old fashioned tea, and he gets playful with her. I go throw up.
Agnes, meanwhile, is home with the adorable kids when Persie arrives and wonders what the deal is with all the luggage being carried out to the car. Agnes shortly tells her she’s taking the kids to the country, and no, Hallam doesn’t know, because Hallam doesn’t really give a shit anyway. Persie tells Agnes she can’t just leave and Agnes says she totally can, because being in the same house with Hallam is intolerable now, since they’re barely talking. God, WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM? It’s like he went from totally devoted to you to Agnes who? in the space of a single episode. Is this because she can’t have more kids? That doesn’t mean no sex, Hallam, even back then there were ways to prevent pregnancy. Jesus I hate him so much.
Anyway, Agnes reconsiders and tells Hallam, who seems surprised that she wants to escape the house of misery. She sells it as a trip to keep the kids safe, so Hallam tells her she can do what she likes. Way to fight for her, loser. She asks him suddenly if this is what he wants, and if he’s happy with her anymore, because she’s completely miserable. He has no response for that, because he’s a dick now. He asks how long she’ll be gone and she says she doesn’t know.
Off Agnes and the children go, leaving Hallam and his lover the run of the house.
Pritchard’s now watching a newsreel about war preparations, then treats himself to tea, where he notes a few kids running past his table with, I think, gas mask boxes around their necks.
Back home, Thack exposits that Blanche is away as well, leaving a nearly empty house. Great. Pritchard asks Spargo how preparations are going for a place to hide if bombing starts, as he reads a message that arrived while he was gone. It seems he’s been bidden to join some ball committee as a servants’ representative. He’s tickled pink by the honor.
Persie and Hallam are dining alone together, and it’s kind of awkward. Persie asks when Agnes is returning and Hallam shuts down any inquiries because Pritchard’s still in the room. Once he leaves, Persie says she thinks this might be for the best. Hallam hisses that it’s not for the best, and things should never have gotten to this point. Too right, Hallam. Persie has the nerve to get all put out by that, like she doesn’t know she’s the other woman who’s sleeping with her sister’s husband, which is so, so wrong.
Belowstairs, they’re talking about this ball Pritchard’s involved in, which is a big to-do. They want to do a Robin Hood theme this year. Thack mourns the fact that this might be the last ball, if Hitler keeps acting up.
Pritchard arrives for the first committee meeting, which is being led by some officious rich lady, who speaks up for the caterers the previous year, whom Thack had specifically said she hated. Pritchard doesn’t speak up until after the meeting, when he’s having a little tête-a-tête with another (lady) servant. He still won’t talk to Lady Malcolm, the woman in charge, though.
Spargo’s nailing boards over the windows in one section of the kitchen, in case the bombs ever start to fall. Beryl comes in and gets up close and comfortable. They sit back and look around and Spargo says he doesn’t fancy choking to death in some basement. He suggests the two of them catch a ship and head to America. She thinks he’s joking but he definitely isn’t.
At Whitehall, Hallam receives a note apparently informing him of some negotiations going on with the Russians, which he doesn’t at all approve of. He warns his boss that offending the Russians right now would be a really bad idea but his boss doesn’t seem all that concerned.
As the servants prep for dinner, Amanjit gives a little history lesson about how Germany lost the last war because they were fighting a war on two fronts, which is a mistake they’re unlikely to make twice. Yeah, right. The others join them and Thack asks who the other servants’ rep is and hears she’s a lady’s maid. She thinks the woman’s probably a snob. Pritchard gives some details about the party—the kind of entertainment they’ve got, and Beryl mentions she’ll have to take in Johnny’s costume.
Hallam’s at Kent’s, whining about this guy they sent to Moscow. Kent’s not keen on having the Russians as allies but understands the necessity of it. He moves the conversation to Hallam’s family, all of whom are currently at Kent’s country place. Kent sweetly tells Hallam that even the best marriages hit rocky spots, but he really doesn’t know the half of it. Hallam actually seems to be regretting what’s happened here and Kent reminds him that the two of them have always been such a good pair, and has that really changed? Hallam admits he doesn’t feel like he’s really necessary for her, and if she doesn’t need him, then he’s rather lost. Come again? Who was the one doing the pushing away, Hallam? He’s not very self-aware at all, is he?
On the drive home, Spargo asks about whether the war preparations are for real this time and Hallam admits they are. Poor Hallam, like he doesn’t have enough going on in his life these days.
Hallam arrives home and hears The Very Thought of You playing on the gramophone. Of course. He finds Persie in the drawing room and apologizes for interrupting her. She asks if something’s bothering him and he tells her about all this Russia nonsense. She, of course, is on Hallam’s side as she pours him a drink. He says he feels like it’s all falling apart there’s not a thing he can do to stop it. I don’t think he’s only talking about Russia, here. She reassures him he’s a good man and he mustn’t ever think otherwise, as she reaches out and takes his hand. He doesn’t respond to her touch, so she withdraws and goes upstairs.
Pritchard arrives for another committee meeting, meeting up with the lady’s maid in the hallway outside the room and commenting on her choice of novel—Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy, which does not feature Poirot, sadly, but does have a love story.
Lady M is leading the meeting again, wondering how to keep certain “undesirables” out of the ball. Specifically, she seems to have a problem with transvestites, or at least men who dress in a rather “feminine” manner. Pritchard suggests they just make a rule that no men impersonating women could be admitted. Lady M is pleased by this, and so is the lady’s maid, and the music gets all whimsical, so I guess we’re supposed to be happy that people who choose to reject gender norms are going to be discriminated against? What’s with this show anyway? LesYay in one episode, no overly feminine men in another? But Kent throughout? Lady M commends him for his small-mindedness, then backhands him by mentioning his cruise ship experience.
Post-meeting, Pritchard meets the maid and asks her out to tea on their half day off. She actually wants to see the very movie he was watching earlier in the episode and he quickly agrees to take her.
Spargo heads to the American embassy to apply for a visa. God, if only it were that easy to apply. Later, as he’s checking out pamphlets for Cunard liners, he hears a clatter in the garage and goes in to find Persie picking up an oil pan or something. She tells him she was hoping to find matches and he tells her where they are. She clearly wants more than just matches and asks him if he’s doing well. He tells her he’s doing just fine, and after a loaded moment, she stomps out.
In the kitchen, the ladies are discussing their hairstyles for the party. Eunice notes a stain on one of Hallam’s shirts, which Thack recognizes as lipstick. Busted, Hallam! Johnny says that Hallam’s been going to the Dorchester a lot, and Pritchard says this is a very sad state of affairs.
Topside, Hallam gets ready to go to his club for dinner, despite Persie flirtatiously trying to get him to stay for “the roulade”. Ugh. He refuses, brushing right past her, which pisses her off.
Pritchard and Maid are at the movies, and she’s quite moved by it. Afterwards, they go out to tea and Pritchard tells her stories about his days at sea, when he actually met Carey Grant. Damn, that’s pretty awesome.
Spargo shows Beryl all the pamphlets he’s collected and the budget he’s worked up. He’s got a whole plan for them to go out to Hollywood and make something of themselves. Beryl’s reluctant to just pack up and go, until Spargo starts talking kids and marriage, which brings her up short for a moment, but then she begins to listen. Spargo rather adorably pushes all the pamphlets aside, launches into a cute speech and proposes to her. Awww! Beryl accepts and they kiss. Cute!
They announce their happy news to the other servants, who are over the moon and even pour a toast. Beryl adds that they’re hitting the road to America and even that’s met with happy exclamations.
Spargo next goes to tell Hallam about the marriage and departure. He asks for a letter of recommendation to take with him, and Hallam dickishly refuses to give him one, because war might be coming, and every Englishman will be needed. Wow, Hallam. He tells Spargo he’s disappointed in him, so Spargo gives his notice immediately. I don’t blame him.
Beryl’s doing Persie’s nails upstairs, and Persie manages to get the news of the proposal out of her. She manages to fake being happy for them and gives Beryl a robe or something as an engagement present. Beryl reluctantly takes it and is dismissed.
Belowstairs, Thack admires the robe and she and Beryl talk about wedding nights and being nervous. Later, Beryl puts on the robe and admires herself in the mirror before sneaking out to have a little rendezvous with her fiance. Spargo wakes up and recognizes the robe, which I think Persie might have worn to hook up with him too. Man, what a cold-hearted bitch that woman is. In his shock, he calls Beryl Persie, but then recovers himself and apologizes, telling Beryl she took him by surprise. Spargo tries to say the robe is crap, to distract her from the Persie screw up, but she realizes exactly what all of this means. She bursts into tears, even as he tells her it was a fling ages ago that didn’t mean anything. She weeps that Persie must be having quite a giggle right now. I’ll bet she is, actually. He pleads with her to calm down but she’ll have none of it. Persie just wrecks everything she touches, doesn’t she? Beryl rushes back to her room, where she whips off the robe, still sobbing.
Pritchard and Maid are strolling through the park, arm-in-arm and gossiping a bit. She tells a rather sad story about how the whole cricket team in her home village was wiped out in the last war, as they pass workers setting sandbags.
Pritchard arrives home and nervously tells Thack he’s having a friend to tea that week and would she mind making her famous ladyfingers?
Persie hops into the car, heading for the stables, and congratulates Spargo on the engagement she’s just screwed up. He tells her to leave poor Beryl the hell alone and she plays dumb. Once he’s gone, she leaves the stables and heads to the Dorchester, unaware that Spargo’s following her.
Pritchard escorts Maid to 165 and they have tea with the entire staff. Things are still a bit awkward between Beryl and Spargo, but everyone else tries soldiering through, until Hallam comes charging down to yell at Spargo for having tea when he needs the car.
He heads right to Whitehall, where all the higher-ups are listening to a radio address about Germany and the Soviet Union signing a mutual non-aggression pact. Back home, the servants hear the same thing and wonder if this means there’ll really be a war. Pritchard thinks so. Beryl decides to forgive Spargo and reaches out and takes his hand, holding it for a while.
Spargo returns to the embassy, where he learns his application’s being denied, because in light of recent events, they’re prioritizing people with more money. He reports back to Beryl and she says it might be best for him to go alone, because she’s freaked out he’ll start to stray, if he’s got a taste for the Persies of the world. He insists, quite convincingly, that he doesn’t care a bit about Persie and Beryl’s worth 100 of her. Pretty much anyone’s worth more than 100 Persies. He tells her firmly that they’re getting married and going to America, and that’s that.
Hallam’s all alone in bed, but Persie’s playing that damn song again. He gets up and finds her melodramatically standing in the drawing room in the dark. She asks him not to turn the light on, because she wants to see the moon. He brushes the hair off her neck and starts to kiss her. Excuse my childishness, but gross. And also, WTH? He was blowing her off and ignoring her just a couple of scenes ago, now he’s all over her? Does he have multiple personalities? Does moonlight turn him on?
Next thing you know they’re post coitally in bed together again, talking about Agnes, which is so, so wrong. He talks about how awesome he thinks Persie is and I throw up in mouth a little as he talks about the honesty and integrity of her choices. Like the choice she made to screw with Spargo and Beryl? Yeah, lots of integrity and honesty there.
Pritchard arrives at the Royal Albert Hall, where he and Maid check out the space where the ball will be held. They talk about how worried they are about the war, and as a convenient violinist just starts randomly playing, Pritchard and Maid dance. They dance the way most of us did in middle school—pretty much at arm’s length. How romantic!
A collection of corsages arrives at 165 for the ladies, courtesy of Hallam.
Spargo tells Johnny all the things he’s done to raise the cash, but he’s still pretty short. Johnny emerges in his Robin Hood outfit and looks somewhat ridiculous. Eunice looks kinda cute as Maid Marion, though. Spargo tells Beryl she looks great — which she does — and they all head to the ball.
Hallam and Kent are there, for some reason, talking politics, and Kent reveals that the guy they sent to Moscow is being sneeringly referred to by a nickname only Hallam and a few close cronies knew of, which he, of course, shared with Persie at one point. Seems that name leaked to the Germans—I wonder how? Oh, Hallam, you moron.
Kent partners with Maid for a dance, and then she moves on to Pritchard. Back home, a slovenly looking Persie drinks and wanders around the house in her robe, going through drawers and such. Hallam remains at the ball, instead of running home to make sure everything important was locked up and kicking her the hell out. He finally realizes it’s time to leave, but Kent intercepts him and makes him stay.
Hallam and Kent join Hallam’s servants and Kent offers to make Thack a Manhattan, personally. Before long, he’s bartending for the partying masses and partying like there’s no tomorrow. Hallam, meanwhile, is sulking on the stairs. Kent finds him and asks for a cigarette, which Hallam provides. Kent advises him to just go and visit his damn wife and make up with her already, because we’re all tired of this stupid plotline. Hallam shouts at him to mind his own business and stomps out. Spargo meets him outside and asks once again for some sort of recommendation, and money. He threatens to tell Agnes all about Hallam and Persie if Hallam won’t pony up. Well, well. Nicely played, Spargo. Spargo makes it clear just how low he thinks Hallam is, and Hallam caves, then stumbles off. Spargo walks away, gasping for air, like he can’t quite believe what he just did.
Inside, Spargo pulls Beryl aside and tells her he’s got the money. She asks him where it came from, and though he won’t say, she’s so overjoyed it doesn’t for a second occur to her to be suspicious that it was supplied by, say, Persie.
Thack and Maid chill at their table and Thack tells her about how Pritchard delivered Agnes’s baby. Because she’s a few sheets to the wind, she also reveals that Pritchard didn’t fight in the last war, which clearly knocks him down several pegs in Maid’s estimation.
Thack is helped into the car at the end of the ball, and the other servants draw away, giving Pritchard time to take a walk with Maid. They stroll over to a nearby bench and he tells her he’s got a crush on her, sweetie pie. She admits she feels the same, but asks about his war record. He’s honest with her, and though she’s not unkind, that’s the end of that, I’m afraid. Well, that was a somewhat pointless little interlude. Poor Pritchard, though. He can’t catch a break.
Hallam gets home, ready to talk to Persie, only to find her mercifully gone. THANK GOD. I hope she went back to Wales.
Oh, no, she’s gone to meet with some Germans, because she’s totally a spy. And Hallam’s utterly brainless for never considering this was a possibility.
Pritchard, meanwhile, returns to the party, where he throws his teetotaling ways to the side in a big way and starts drinking something straight from the bottle. Damn. This is not going to end well.
The next morning, all is quiet on the sandbagged street as a taxi pulls up and discharges Agnes. She steels herself, then goes up the stairs, noting the very wasted Pritchard passed out on the kitchen steps. Because she’s actually caring and human, she helps him inside.