DOWNTON ABBEY: “Episode 407”

Rose wades on the shores of scandal, Mary plays with the pigs, and Violet gets some nursing with a surprising lack of smugness all this week on Downton Abbey.

Looks like Lord Grantham is finally being graced with a storyline this series that does not involve scowling at Mary’s inheritance, but alas, poor guy, it takes places entirely off screen. The nasty business uncle Harold has gotten himself mixed up in requires Robert to head to America and bail his brother-in-law out of a Senate Committee nightmare. The house is in a tizzy for the preparations because no gentle-English-man should travel light. There in lies the rub: now that Bates is back to being Anna’s protector, he cannot leave the shrinking violet to wallow in her despair, and absolutely cannot leave for an extended holiday in the States.

By now you should know, nothing that happens within the walls of Downton can remain hidden for long. Mrs. Hughes, Downstairs Mumsey, appeals to Lady Mary for help on Anna’s behalf. Mary, hilariously castigating the House Manager insisting the Crawleys occasionally “get what they pay for,” demands to know the reason for Bates’s need to stay homeside whilst poor Daddy has to face the Americans with Thomas as his valet. Hughes, who frankly sucks so much as secret keeper she deserves a one-way ticket to Azkaban, reveals Anna’s shame to Mary, who quickly tries to solve the problem, as everyone in-the-know has attempted to this point. But of course, this is “Downton Abbey,” and we Brits like to deal with our own shiz.  She secures Thomas’s ticket out without alerting anyone to the crime. What is all of the “Anna’s decision” nonsense? Supporting a victim by suppressing the crime is never the answer! No need to call the police, after all, Mary’s got bigger problems.

Mary takes it upon herself to present the finer points of the estate to Suitor No. 3 Charles Blake in an effort to prove the financial viability of the changes she and Tom have put in motion. Poor Evelyn Napier has to stop bringing other men around if he ever wants to wed and bed the eldest Crawley daughter!

During their “lover’s walk” I half-expected Fabio to come riding up on a stallion to exclaim his love for the Lady…Blake is a pale comparison to Matthew, turning up his nose to Mary’s bourgeois attitude until she impresses him with her sensibility whilst gazing into his eyes. I applaud the growth Mary has shown in her determination to keep Downton afloat, but I detest the revolving-door of Casanovas, especially ones that call upon the late Matthew Crawley’s memory. At least this episode found Mary and Blake wading in the mud when the new pigs — destined to become the cornerstone of the estate’s resurgence – become ill. It’s frankly a metaphor for the whole season.

Even Tony Gillingham shows up, purporting to be an old friend of Blake’s, on his way to – I can’t recall the ridiculous excuse the writers came up with, and frankly, I don’t care enough to look it up…Really, writers? Shame on you! Just put up a poll on the screen and have people call in to decide the man who gets to shag Mary, and let us be done with this business! But the real plot device at work here is having Mr. Green, Gillingham’s valet, show up at the house so that Bates can conform his suspicions about the rapist, and everyone else can do absolutely nothing.  Mrs. Hughes dresses him down, all right, but no one reports the villain. That’ll keep him from terrorizing young women! Pacifists.

PBS has excellent episode-scheduling, as 407 aired a week before Valentine’s day. Love is in the air, too, it would seem for Tom. Isobel hops a ride with the former driver and reminds him that he is still alive. Attempting to crawl his way back to himself, after wrapping most of his life in Lady Sybil’s memory, the erstwhile Branson takes in a political rally and meets a beautiful young Rosie The Riveter impersonator. Still feeling the pangs of being a square-peg in the world’s round hole, Tom doesn’t quite fit here, either. He shares a bittersweet meeting with the young lady but leaves before he can cause any real trouble.

Mr. Moseley might be coming into luck for the first time in his wretched life as he shares a couple of sweet moments with Baxter, though the former is busy sniffing out secrets for Thomas as he is away. She senses something between Green and the Bates’s…I demand to know what Thomas has on the woman this instant! It’s the most compelling part of this season for me!

When Violet is taken ill, she hides her ailing health from Robert so that he can travel without worry, but she’s worse-off than she thought. Isobel finds the woman near death’s door with bronchitis and nurses her back to health. It’s a labor without any thanks, as the Dowager Countess is mostly delirious. When Dr. Clarkson calls attention to Isobel’s fidelity, the DC reduces herself in order to play cards, and play friends with the merry widow. The never ending gin-game gag left me in stitches!

Rose accompanies Edith to London – of course she does; that’s all this girl ever does – and ducks her chaperones under the guise of “running errands.” Turns out, those errands involve whispering sweet nothings to bandleader Jack Ross. Ever the pragmatist, Ross confesses his love to Rose, but compels her to understand the gravity of their situation. There can be no future for the lovers, and she should probably be a bit more discreet in public. Headstrong Rose shrugs him off…but apparently he does not read between the lines. This girl is trouble. All she wants is inconvenience and gravity. Drama queen! Run, Jack…RUN!

I cannot avoid it any longer. WARNING! The following paragraphs concern Edith and her demon spawn!

Turns out that whole Edna pregnancy thing was a red herring or foreshadowing, rather. Lady Edith, devoid of proper knowledge concerning the birds and the bees, is knocked up, and her loving Papa-to-be is MIA in Germany. After visiting one of those places you find in the back of a “Lady’s magazine at King’s Cross,” Edith finds she cannot terminate the pregnancy. Cue Aunt Rosamund to shore things up, suggesting a “holiday in Switzerland” to pass the matter off to a loving family in need. I get the feeling The Fixer has dealt with this nasty business before; in fact, I think Fellowes is attempting to highlight the prevailing idea that royal blood flows through many a vein of the working class. I cannot disagree that these turn of events make Edith more interesting, but once again, the General Hospital writing is among us. Really? An out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Is this the Thornbirds?!

All is not lost, my friends. We are nearing the end of this debacle of a season, and I have faith the show will right the course. There are still threads of substance here, and the season finale is a breath of fresh air…save for a few moments I will be sure to point out. Was there ever any doubt?

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