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Love is in the Air, Downton Abbey, Episode 7, Season 4

This week on Downton, Lady Grantham aka Clueless Cora was putting together a charity Bazaar and people were either falling in love, getting their hearts broken or facing the consequences of their socially disapproved dalliances.

Love, it makes the world go around

Downstairs, a sweet friendship is developing between the eternal sad sack Molesley and the cipher that is Baxter. The tiresome trapezoid is finally over, Ivy turned down Albert when he asked her to marry him.  Daisy  finally made peace with the fact that Albert is just not into her.

Upstairs, Rose and Jack got engaged and then unengaged.   Rose seemed to be using Jack as a way to get back at her mother.  When Mary found out about the engagement, she went to London and convinced Jack to break off the engagement.

As for Mary, she is still keeping Gillingham and Blake dangling.  Napier seems to have got the message, since he was nowhere to be seen.  Isobel too has a potential love interest.  Unfortunately, chopped liver Edith has no such luck, and will be heading to the continent with her Aunt Rosamund to give birth.

Edith’s Saga

Clueless Cora is completely oblivious to  Edith’s predicament.  What is the matter with Cora this season? I don’t remember her being such an utter imbecile in the earlier seasons.  Unlike Cora, Violet suspected the obvious and interrogated both her daughter and granddaughter till they spilled the beans.  Violet was not judgmental at all and even offered to pay for Edith’s trip.  Her reaction seemed anachronistic and very twenty-first century to me.

Violet and Isobel

Violet also invited her frenemy Isobel, when Lord Merton,  Mary’s  godfather, came to visit.  Merton was charmed by Isobel and her direct ways.  He even walked her back to her home in the village and  sent her flowers later.  What I don’t understand is why Merton sent the flowers for Isobel to the Dower House, when he knew where Isobel lived.  I also like the friendship that is developing between Isobel and Tom Branson.  Not a fan of Bunting, who we saw again this episode. Is she supposed to be a love interest for Tom? She was rude and obnoxious when she was on the screen, both this week and the last. Why does Fellowes make his middle-class people so off-putting? I remember Isobel riding her moral high horse in the earlier seasons, now she seems to have mellowed quite bit.  By the way, whatever happened to Dr. Clarkson, wasn’t he sweet on Isobel in season 3?

CSI Downton

After Anna finally confided in Lady Mary about Green.  Our heroine, managed to get Green fired using her influence with Gillingham. However, it was unnecessary since by the end of the episode slimy Green met his end under the wheels of justice.  Did Bates off him? Bates was not at Downton on the day of the accident but neither were  Mary or Anna.

The episode ended with the return of Thomas and Lord Grantham from the United States.

One more episode left to review, until then I will leave you with the best off-air Downton romance; Isis the yellow lab simply adores Allen Leech the actor who plays Branson.

h/t TWOP forums Downton Abbey.

Full IMDB credits here

Links to reviews of previous episodes:  episode 1 , episode 2 ,episode 3 , episode 4, episode 5 and episode 6

Animal Farm, Downton Abbey Episode 6, season 4 Review

Warning: Spoilers follow..

Pigs share the top billing with Mary in this episode.  In this episode, the ice-maiden thawed a little and got muddy. As predicted earlier, Blake has fallen for Mary, and we did not even have to wait for the season finale.   The pigs are part of the plan to keep Downton solvent during changing times.  Mary was giving Blake a tour of the pigpen with its newly arrived pigs.  The pigs were dehydrated and one had even passed out. Mr. Blake, the bureaucrat rolled his sleeves and helped save the piggies, with Mary’s help.  They both got muddy and playful.  Quite unbelievable really. I was rolling my eyes at scene that belonged in some sappy rom-com.

Lord Stalker was back, too.  Though, Lord Gillingham is engaged he can’t seem to keep away from Mary. This time he even had Green, his rapist valet along with him, who having gotten away with rape during his last visit has gotten more brazen. We saw him smirking endlessly and  ready with  a cover story, that both he and Anna were drunk, when he was confronted by Mrs. Hughes.  I would say that the sleazy bastard’s days are numbered, Mr. Bates was giving him the stink eye when they were eating in the servants’ hall.

Chopped Liver and disaster magnet Edith is pregnant,  and Aunt Rosamund is being a better parent to her than Cora.  After paying a visit to a back alley abortion doctor, Edith has decided to keep the baby.  Lady Gullible is oblivious, of course.  Why does Cora always look like she is high? She was not so spacey in the earlier seasons. Is she on drugs?

Lord Grantham has gone to the US, along with Thomas, something to do with Tea-pot Dome scandal and Cora’s brother.  Thomas went with him instead of Bates, because of Mrs. Hughes intervention, she had to take Mary into confidence, to achieve the desired result.  So now Mary knows Anna’s secret, though she doesn’t know that Green was the perpetrator.

In other news, Violet falls sick and is nursed back to health by Isobel.  So now they are both even. Tom Branson goes to a political meeting and meets a woman.  He doesn’t seem all that interested but she sure does.  Rose was in there somewhere flirting with Jack Ross as was the tiresome trapezoid of Ivy, Daisy, Jimmy and Albert. Ivy finally figures out that Jimmy is a creep.

The twenties may be roaring but Downton is still moving at a glacial pace.  Only two more episodes left in this season and the story seems to have barely moved.

Grade: B

Full IMDB credits here

Links to reviews of previous episodes;  episode 1 , episode 2 ,episode 3 , episode 4 and episode 5

All that Jazz, Downton Abbey Episode 5, Season 4 Review

Warning: Spoilers follow..

Winds of change  have finally arrived at Downton this week in the guise of a jazz band.  Not everything has changed though,  Isobel is back, in the words of inimitable Violet, fueled by  righteous indignation.   Give  those two and the awesome Mrs. Hughes  a spin-off, those three are the smartest cookies at Downton. It will be far more entertaining than the  Mary Crawley Show that Downton has become.  Speaking of Mary, we finally get someone who is not completely taken in by her Snootiness.  That someone would be Evelyn Napier’ boss Charles Blake who made an appearance this week.   Blake and Napier  are government bureaucrats conducting a study  about the estates in Yorkshire.  I have a question; what is so special about Yorkshire, why are so many novels/shows that focus on the landed gentry so often set there? Parade’s end is another example that I can think of.  Napier’s boss is concerned about the national food supply and not the survival of entitled twits like Lady Mary.  He may not have a title but is just as pompous as Mary and more rude. I predict he will start acting like a lovesick puppy before this season is over. Didn’t Matthew and Mary start off as antagonists too?

The highlight of the episode was a surprise performance by Jack Ross who we met in episode 3, engineered by Rose.  Except for Chopped Liver Edith, everyone was blasé about a black man performing in the Abbey.  This  comports with our twenty first century sensibilities but how realistic would this be in 1920s?   Carson’s reaction to Ross seemed more realistic, initial shock that wears off after he gets to know Mr. Ross.  Gary Carr who plays Ross is dashing  but the same cannot be said about his singing. His accent is confusing too, is he supposed to American? After the party Mary found Jack and Rose making out downstairs.  Knowing JF’s penchant for repeating plotlines, I hope that Ross doesn’t end up being Rose’s Pamuk.  I appreciate their attempt to bring diversity to Downton’s cast but I find anything to do with Rose boring. They need to either ship her off  to India, or she can elope with Jack on the Titanic. Unfortunately not only has that ship sailed but it also has hit an iceberg.

As for Edith, was she being racist or was she just flustered because she knows now that her goose is cooked, since she is indeed pregnant. She was so miserable throughout the hour that both her parents actually noticed her this week.   Edith did call Robert on his industrial strength horse-shit that he loved all his children equally.  I wonder why parents feel the need to say this, despite evidence to the contrary.

In the downstairs action, the tiresome trapezoid is over, since Albert is going to be on Top Chef, I mean cooking as an apprentice at the Ritz.  Daisy finally took out her frustrations on Ivy, and blamed her for driving Albert away which made absolutely no sense.  Also, Jimmy is a jerk, and  Ivy finally figured it out this week.  I used to like Daisy before, she has regressed this season.

The Batses went to dinner at a posh restaurant, where the host refused to even seat them before an intervention from Cora who was also there for dinner. Lesson,  the aristocrats are not the real snobs!  Coming back to the Batses, they are both still struggling to get past the Anna’s traumatic assault.  Thomas,  is still skulking in the shadows and plotting while Baxter is playing the reluctant accomplice.  Mr. Molsley is back  as a footman, as is the gardener who Violet suspected of stealing her letter opener. It was all an honest mistake, which came to light due to the smarts of Isobel.  Or was it all a plot by Violet to draw Isobel out of her grief?

Last but not the least there was a lovely scene, in the nursery where Isobel, Tom and Mary are reminiscing about their lost dead spouses, what could have been a sad scene concluded on a happy note when Isobel reminds the Tom and Mary that have been the lucky ones, to know what it is to be in love and be loved in return. Truer words could not have been said.  Isobel can be a pill at times but this week she had some great moments.

Grade: B

Full IMDB credits here

Links to reviews of previous episodes;  episode 1 , episode 2 ,episode 3 and episode 4

Life Goes On, Downton Abbey, Episode 4, Season 4 Review

Spoilers follow…

This week, we seem to have finally moved beyond mourning Matthew’s accidental death.  Since this show has always been all about Mary, let us start with her first. She seems to have gotten over Matthew’s death, and was having pangs of regret about declining Lord Gillingham’s proposal after finding about his engagement. Frankly, I am a bit worried about Lord Gillingham.   Every man Mary has kissed so far has ended up dead. The show began with her fiancé’s death on the Titanic, Pamuk died after a tryst with Mary and her husband is dead.  Are Gillingham’s days numbered since he has kissed the ice princess?  Evelyn Napier, who brought Pamuk to Downton Abbey in the first season is back and Mary’s is glad to have another man hanging around her.  It has taken her less than a year to get over her supposed once in life-time love. I don’t want Mary to be in mourning forever but seven months does seem awfully quick to get over what was supposed to be an undying love.

Middle child aka  Chopped Liver Edith is most probably pregnant, we saw her visiting a doctor in London. As expected, Gregson seems to have vanished without a trace.  Also visiting London was Alfred, hoping to gain a cooking apprenticeship at the Ritz.  It was Top Chef, Downton Style. Unfortunately, he did not make the cut.  Jimmy intercepted the letter from Ritz, so I am still not sure whether Alfred really got rejected or if Jimmy changed the letters. We will see.  In other staff related news, Mrs. Patmore ever the traditionalist does not want a fridge.  Daisy and Ivy are were there too, but as far as I can see Ivy hardly serves any purpose.  If they got rid of Ivy and Rose, I bet no one would even notice.

Now focusing on people who actually run Downton, Mr. Carson was pretty rude to clueless Mr. Moseley.  At first he offered Mr. Moseley Alfred’s job, which Moseley was reluctant to take, since that would mean a step down for him.  When he finally deigned to accept the job, it was no longer available, as Alfred is not going anywhere after all.  Is this supposed to be funny? Am I the only one who sees no humor in poor Moseley’s situation, even though I must say that he is plenty annoying himself.  Or is the subtle message that pride and stupidity is a luxury only the entitled and the rich can afford?

Mrs. Hughes, figured prominently in the continuing saga of Bates and Anna. As expected series creator Julian Fellowes has made Anna’s rape all about Mr. Bates, who found out this week what really happened to Anna from Mrs. Hughes. Except for the tiny detail of the identity of the perpetrator.  Since Mr. Bates was not born yesterday, he has a good idea of the identity of the suspect.   Both Anna and Mrs. Hughes keep insisting that they did not know who it was, since Anna is afraid that Mr. Bates might fly into a murderous rage and kill the rapist.  For now Bates and Anna have reconciled.

In the other downstairs stories, Thomas has found a substitute O’ Brien, the lady’s maid now that Edna is gone, her name is Baxter. Somehow she doesn’t seem as evil and conniving as O’Brien, I wonder what dirt Thomas has on her.  Cora, that is Mrs. Gullible was won over by Baxter with a glass of orange juice, why is she so trusting, I wonder.  Lord Grantham took a break from being pompous and was gracious to a tenant farmer on the estate.  However, since gracious in this case meant being unwise about money, I am betting that this graciousness is going come back to bite his Cluelessness  in the ass, later.  Tom Branson, who is stuck in the nowhere land between upstairs and downstairs is contemplating going to America where he and his daughter can make a new beginning.  Can’t say I blame him.

Saving the best for the last, Isobel is back to being a benevolent busybody.  She  and the Dowager Countess were back to trading snarky and intelligent insults.  I love those two and I could watch them for the entire hour.

Full IMDB credits here

Grade : B

Links to reviews of previous episodes;  episode 1 and  episode 2 and episode 3.

All Hail Mary, Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 3

WARNING: Spoilers follow..

Where  Downton Abbey is concerned, its all about Mary, all the time. This week yet another man, falls for her icy charms. There was Pamuk, Matthew of course, Carlisle, even Anthony Strallan found her irresistible when she briefly flirted with him to get even with Edith back in Season One. Now it is Lord Gillingham’s turn to fall at her feet.  Gillingham was one of the invitees in last episode’s house party. A party organized especially for who else, but Mary.

Some of this week’s action took place in London.  A new character was also introduced, a handsome black Jazz singer named Jack Ross.  Any guesses on who is sweet on him after he rescues her from an awkward situation on the dance floor, of course it has to be Rose. Aren’t you glad that the Titanic has already sunk about twelve years ago? Also in London but not at the club is  Edith, she is with Gregson.  She got caught sneaking up the stairs next morning by her aunt’s servant and was given a stern talking to by her aunt.  Poor Edith, damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Gregson also had her sign some papers. Fishy! This is headed for disaster.

Anyway coming back to our Lady of Downton, after only two meetings, Lord Gillingham is so taken with Mary that he behaves like a lovesick school boy, following Mary all the way to Downton after their evening of dancing and merriment to propose marriage. I fail to see what makes icicle Mary so irresistible. Can someone please explain?  In case you were wondering she refuses since she is not over Matthew yet, but is  later shown having  some second thoughts.

In other non-Mary centric happenings, Anna is pushing Bates away because of the incident last week. I hope that Anna’s assault story does not become all about Bates reaction.  I am not a huge fan of this storyline but Joanne Froggatt is killing it with her haunted and devastated look.  Trouble maker Edna is gone too.  We last saw Edna slipping into Tom Branson’s room after spiking his drink.  Come morning and she has resorted to blackmailing Tom about the night before. The entire episode had Branson going around with a hang dog expression till he took Mary’s advice and bared his soul to Mrs. Hughes, who handled the matter with great aplomb and fired Edna.   On her way out Edna snarled at Thomas, the under butler .  Thomas, and Edna were thick as thieves, just a week ago and now they are trading insults on the stairs. What gives? Mrs. Hughes also did something nice for  Mr. Carson that made him crack a smile. I wish I had a Mrs. Hughes in my corner.

The upstairs Mrs. Hughes, the sensible if snarky Dowager Countess is softening towards  Isobel and her earnestness. Isobel is also trying to cope with her grief by volunteering at Dr Clarkson’s infirmary.  Despite its flaws I think this has been the best episode so far, this season.

Grade: B

Note:  You can find my reviews of episodes one and two, here and  here

Melba Toast, Downton Abbey, Season 4, episode 2

Even Maggie Smith and gorgeous production values may not be enough to continue watching the Masterpiece soap, Downton Abbey. Writer Julian Fellowes who is a member of the House of Lords and looks  like a stodgy uncle of Bertie Wooster’s continues with his misogyny and classism in the second episode of the the fourth season.

As I had predicted last week, the Bateses happiness was short-lived.   Anna was brutally raped by a visiting guest’s man servant.  Earlier she had had a mildly flirtatious exchange with him and had some fun and gasp even laughed while playing a card game with the said man and some of the other servants. Something that Bates frowned upon and reprimanded Anna for, in front of everyone.  So what is the message here, if you are politely friendly to a man who is not your husband, you are fair game? What next,  honor killings?

The rapist’s master was a part of the house party organized by Lady Gullible.  What was that party all about? Lord Pompous and Clueless whines about the death duties but does not mind spending lavishly to host another meat market to signal that his grieving daughter is once again on the marriage market? All this while daughter Chopped Liver is cavorting around with a married man who wants to become a German citizen and ditch his wife and who also cheats at cards.  Also, Lord Clueless did not have any time for the cheater boyfriend till he saved his ass by getting back the money Lord Pompous and Clueless had lost at a game of poker the previous night.  Lady Gullible was also having some fun at her hapless son-in-law’s expense who is ill at ease making small talk with the guests whose pedigree rivals those of the AKC pooches.  Poor Tom, unfortunately for him confiding in she devil Edna is not going to end well.

Rose was in there somewhere, dancing and flirting  and pretending to be a servant. There was also a performance by a famous opera singer of the early 20th century, Nellie Melba played a real life opera singer Dame Keri Te Kenawa to  whom Lord  Clueless was a condescending jerk. As the characters keep going through the same recycled story lines, they seem to act stupider with every successive iteration.  May be it is time for Fellowes to let someone else do the writing.

Grade: F for originality.

Stale Tea, Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 1

The first episode of the new season of Downton Abbey was like my New Year’s resolutions, same resolutions, different year.  After the untimely exits of Matthew and Sybil in season 3, the show runners seem to have run out of ideas.  The first episode focuses on the characters most affected by Matthew’s death, his widow Mary, mother Isobel and  butler Molesley are coping with the loss six months after his accidental death. Instead of moving ahead, the characters seem to be in some kind of a loop, where they keep repeating what they have already done before.

The estate is again in financial difficulties, this time it is because of death duties. Lord Grantham is both pompous and clueless while earlier he was just clueless. Everybody is worried about Mary, this time its because she is mopey. Meanwhile the chopped liver middle child, Edith fancies another unsuitable potential suitor. This one is married and supposedly has a crazy wife who he wants to get rid off by becoming a German citizen so that he can get a divorce.  Yes, that will end well.   Cora’s lady’s maid, the evil O’Brien has ditched her and gone to India but don’t worry before the episode is over Lady Gullible hires herself another conniving she-monster, Edna. If you remember Edna was last seen flirting with the chauffer turned son-in-law, Branson which led to her being fired by Mrs. Hughes.  Branson plays the voice of modernity and reason since both Matthew and Sybil are now dead. Bates and Anna have gone back to being a boring perfect couple. I am sure that’s not going to last long.  We also get some laughs at poor hapless Molesley’s expense, like we did in the past two seasons.  Isobel, Matthew’s mother also manages to find herself another rescue human, courtesy Mrs. Hughes.  Rescue human, is Carson’s old friend and recent blackmailer.  We have a new character, an evil nanny who gets herself fired through the machinations of evil Thomas who everyone now calls Mr. Barrow. There is tedious quadrangle between Daisy, Ivy and the two footmen.  Somewhere in there was Rose, Lord Grantham’s niece, being an infernal busybody in a sack-like outfit.

The highlights of the show remain Maggie Smith and the gorgeous production values. I have to say that I am not loving the sack-like 20’s fashions much either.  I will probably still end up watching it though, because bad as it is compared to the earlier seasons, it is still better than most of what passes for entertainment on TV, plus Maggie Smith!

Grade: C

ETA: Betty Cracker over at Balloon Juice has some excellent suggestions for Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey.

@schrodinger’s cat: I would have left a comment to your Downton review at your blog, but I can’t because FYWP. Here’s what I would have said:

Maggie Smith could carry that damn castle on her back. Here’s a possible plot twist: The Dowager Countess is secretly a witch — Professor Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts, in fact, who is only imitating a Muggle whilst hiding out during a faculty row at the school. Disgusted with the wretched behavior and whinging she constantly hears all around her, she resorts to transfiguration, turning Thomas into a ferret, Lady Mary into a stoat, Lady Rose into a stinkbug and His Lordship into a slug, which is promptly swallowed by Isis, the adorable Labrador retriever and most admirable cast member. Hilarity ensues!

I don’t know about you,  but I would definitely watch that show!