The Crawley family and their devoted staff are back in Downton Abbey Series 4, now airing in the U.K. (U.S. viewers, stick with us! We'll be re-posting Naz's recaps when Season 4 airs on PBS beginning in January.) We're sure you're just as eager as we are to get to it, so without further ado...
Note: This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Downton Abbey, including last night's episode, 4x06. Enjoy!
We start the episode with Daisy happily giving Alfred preferential treatment at the breakfast table because he’s staying at Downton. Upstairs, Mary tells Anna that Evelyn and his boss, Mr. Blake, are coming to stay in a few days, and that she’s looking forward to learning how to manage the estate better from them. She also asks Anna if everything is “sorted out” now that Anna’s moved back to the cottage and looks a bit better, and Anna tells her that things are not all better, but they’re getting there. It still amazes me how no-one pressed Anna to tell them what was wrong. The infamous British stiff upper lip and all that, I suppose! Bates is “brooding” (as he puts it), but at least the two of them are smiling at each other again.
Meanwhile, Robert has received a letter from America, and apparently, “Uncle Harold” (Cora’s brother) has made a bad investment (involving oil leases) and is in a bit of trouble. I can’t wait for him to show up at Downton! We all know that the incomparable Paul Giamatti has the role, so it’s definitely going to be something to look forward to!
Rose has planned an extra surprise for Robert’s (also surprise) birthday party, and she hasn’t told anyone what it is, not even Cora. It turns out that she’s hired a band to play after dinner, and she enlists Mrs. Hughes with the arrangements. It’s a great inconvenience for the staff, who have to roll up carpets, and get everything set up, not to mention arrange for food and rooms for the players. Thomas tries to suss out what Rose has planned, but Mrs. Hughes won’t tell him anything. It’s really funny to see Mrs. Hughes get him all riled up! Poor Thomas. He’s never going to have the staff’s trust.
Tom and Mary are inspecting the estate, and their new venture in pig farming, when she asks him if he’s really planning on going to America, and he assures her that he won’t leave until this new farming scheme is well under way.
Back at the Dower House, a Japanese netsuke goes missing, and Violet, who’s convinced Pegg’s the thief, fires him, and of course, Isobel is enraged. She goes to see Violet and protest, and while they’re arguing, the butler shows up with the netsuke. Apparently, the little statue had fallen inside the maid’s cleaning bucket. Violet’s pretty embarrassed (although she claims to be “relieved,”) and Isobel looks triumphant.
Isobel: “Aren’t you going to say you’re sorry?”
Violet: “Certainly not. He may not have taken this, or he may have sneaked it in to the maid’s bucket when we weren’t looking.”
Isobel: “Oh. How you hate to be wrong!”
Violet: “I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.”
Ha ha! Clearly, Violet’s not going to give up on this, and admit that she made a mistake.
Edith still hasn’t heard from Gregson. No letters, no calls. She’s pretty distraught, and Cora tries to reassure her, but Edith knows something is wrong.
Oh, look! Alfred got in to the program at the Ritz! One of the candidates dropped out, and since Alfred was next on the list, he got in! Daisy’s not too happy about that, of course, but everyone else congratulates him. Anna and Baxter offer to wash and mend his clothes, and Carson tells him that he can leave as soon as he’d like. Ivy goes to comfort Daisy, but she accuses Ivy of being the cause of Alfred’s wanting to leave. They’re just about to get into it when Mrs. Patmore comes in and puts a stop to it. After dinner, the family congratulates Alfred, and he takes the opportunity to thank Robert and Mr. Carson for taking such good care of him, and teaching him so well. Oh, Alfred! You’re so sweet!
Meanwhile, Jimmy is not missing his chance to ask Ivy out on a date, and Anna asks Bates to go out on a date with her. Mrs. Hughes asks Mr. Carson to call Molesley and ask him to come in and take over Alfred’s position, but Carson refuses, because Molesley was so…hesitant the last time he was offered the job.
Mrs. Hughes: “He agreed the last time.”
Mr. Carson: “Yes, he agreed much as Kaiser Bill agreed to abdicate with the greatest possible reluctance!”
Mrs. Hughes: “But surely …”
Mr. Carson: “I’m sorry Mrs. Hughes. Young Alfred gave thanks tonight for the courtesy and the kindness that he has received here, both from the family, and from me, and that is what I like to see: gratitude. I don’t want someone who has to be dragged into the house by his heels.”
Even when Mrs. Patmore pleads Molesley’s case, Carson won’t budge. Thomas corners Baxter, and tries to figure out what the “secret” is, and he thinks it might have to do with the estate not being able to afford so much staff. He urges Baxter to find out what’s going on. Well, Alfred leaves the next day, and before he goes, he tells Daisy that she’s a good person and will find a man someday, but that man was never going to be him.
Back at their cottage, Anna tells Bates that she wants to start making some new memories. She wants to make sure that their memories of happiness are not from “before.” And he tells her that he’s happy whenever he looks at her. Aww! Anna starts crying and tells him that he’s really not happy, and that “everything is shadowed. Every moment we share is shadowed.” Yes. No matter what happens, and how Julian Fellowes ties up this particular storyline, this will stay with Anna, and Bates, for the rest of their lives.
Oh, look at this! Isobel has clearly not given up on the matter with Pegg. She hatches a scheme to teach Violet a lesson. She hides outside the Dower House, and as soon as Violet leaves, shows up and pretends to be dizzy, so the butler shows her to the drawing room and leaves her alone. As soon as the butler leaves, she starts scouring the room, and finally finds the missing letter opener in the cushions of Violet’s usual chair! She gives it to the butler and asks him to make sure to give it to Violet. Oh, this is going to be good. I can’t wait to see Violet’s reaction!
Isobel comes back later in the evening with Dr. Clarkson in tow, and confronts Violet. She accuses Violet of being unjust, and while she’s ranting away, Clarkson steps in and asks her to calm down and give Violet a chance to respond. Violet rings for the butler, and tells him to ask Pegg to come into the drawing room. Ha ha! Seems like Violet beat Isobel to the punch and rehired the young man. Good for her! It’s really fun to watch these two old ladies battle it out like this, but of course, there is no way that Violet would let Isobel outsmart her! Apparently, not only did she rehire Pegg, she actually apologized to him for thinking he was a thief. As Dr. Clarkson put it, “that was game, set, and match to Lady Grantham.”
Bates and Anna show up at a posh hotel restaurant for their date, and the snooty maître d’ won’t honor their reservation. He makes some lame comments about how his establishment only caters to the very best, and how at that very moment, the Countess of Grantham is dining with her friends. Of course, Cora comes over and sorts everything out. Yay, Cora! The maître d’ seats Anna and Bates immediately, and starts groveling. Hah! Their date doesn’t really go very well though. Anna can’t seem to enjoy herself, and she feels bad about it.
Anna: “Sorry. I was a fool to think we could leave it behind.”
Bates: “Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry. Every time I remember what you’ve been through, I want to murder.”
Anna: “But I’m not a victim. That’s not who I am. The worst part is that you see me as a victim.”
Bates: “Oh, my darling! I see you as a woman I should’ve protected.”
… And, Cora interrupts them. Sigh. I wish they had finished this conversation. Good for Anna for not wanting to be a victim, and I hope she really means it. Back home, Cora’s in her room getting ready for bed and starts confiding in Mary that she feels there’s something wrong with Anna and Bates. Baxter’s in the room too, and she hears everything. Oh, great. Now Baxter’s going to go and report all of this to Thomas, and all hell will break loose. Ugh. She tells Thomas what she’s heard, but she also tells him that she doesn’t like being in this position, tattling on the family like this. Thomas reminds her that she took the position knowing the conditions, and that she needs to decide where her loyalties lie. What is Thomas up to? And what is his relationship with this woman? I actually like her. She seems really nice. I wonder what she’s done for Thomas to have such a hold on her.
Back at the Abbey, the evening post brings Edith a letter. And no, it’s not from Gregson. It’s from the doctor she visited in London, and oh my goodness! Edith’s pregnant! She goes off to have a good cry in the library where Robert finds her. He offers to help, if it has anything to do with Gregson, and she tells him that there’s a detective in Munich working with the German police looking for Michael. She tells Robert that she just wants to know what’s happened to Michael, even it means finding out that he’s dead. Robert tries to comfort her, but of course, he doesn’t know about her condition.
Meanwhile, Jimmy makes the moves on Ivy again, and they end up kissing in the park after they come back from the movie. He tries to do a bit more than kissing, and Ivy pushes him off. Okay, we really don’t need another sexual assault on this show right now. Seriously. He tells Ivy that he’s been good to her, taking her out on dates, etc., and that it’s not right for her to not give something back to him in return. What? Ugh. Ivy tells him off and goes back to the house. Good for her! I never liked Jimmy, to be honest. Any way, Ivy lets Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore know what happened. Daisy’s in the room too, and as soon as Ivy starts talking about how Alfred would’ve never tried to impose himself on her like Jimmy, Daisy loses it. She tells Ivy that she shouldn’t be talking about Alfred’s virtues after she broke his heart. Ivy’s confused about Daisy’s outburst, but Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore basically tell her that she had it coming. Ha ha.
The next day, Evelyn and Blake arrive at the Abbey. It turns out that they’re not really surveying the estates to help them recover, but simply to analyze what the effects of their deterioration has on the overall economy. Mary doesn’t like Blake’s attitude, but he really doesn’t care. He says that the government is more concerned about feeding the country than hurting the feelings of the aristocracy. Ouch. Mary immediately starts being snarky with him, and tells him that he has to “try” and be witty that evening because it’s Robert’s birthday, but after that, the family will lower their expectations of him. Double ouch!
Molesley, who’d been repaving the station entrance, sees Alfred leave, and comes over to the Abbey to let Mr. Carson know that he is still “willing” to take the position. Carson tells him that there is no position available at the house, and sends him on his way. Molesley appeals to Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, but they tell him that Carson won’t change his mind. Poor Molesley! He’s so despondent. Well, the ladies take matters into their own hands and Mrs. Patmore “hires” Molesley to help serve the servants’ tea during Robert’s birthday dinner. When Carson finds out that Molesley has lowered himself to that level, he gives up and hires Molesley. Yay!
Isobel shows up a bit earlier and goes up to the nursery to visit with little George. Both Mary and Tom are up there too, getting ready to feed the babies. Isobel asks Mary if she’s okay with Gillingham’s engagement, and Mary tells her that she’s fine with it, because she’s not ready to be happy with someone else.
Isobel: “When I got engaged, I was so in love with Reginald, I felt sick. I was sick with love. Literally. It seems so odd to think about it now, it really does.”
Tom: “It was the same for me. As if I’d gone mad or been hypnotized or something. Days. Weeks. All I could think about was her.”
Mary: “And me. I was standing outside in the snow, and I didn’t have a coat. But I wasn’t cold, because all I kept thinking was, ‘he’s going to propose. He’s going to propose’”
Isobel: “Well! Aren’t we the lucky ones!”
What a fantastic and sweet scene! Watching these three, who’ve lost their loves, bond like this, and remember the people they loved so fondly. Sniff.
Rose goes downstairs to let the servants know about the band, and thank them for their help and just as Carson assures her that they can handle the extra work, the band shows up and oh, look! It’s Jack Ross! The singer from the Lotus Club! Oh, Rose. You’ve really done it this time. What are all of these snobby guests (and equally snobby servants) going to think of this? While the band is relaxing, Carson asks Jack if he’s ever thought about visiting Africa. Ha ha!!
Jack: “And why should I go to Africa, Mr. Carson? I’m no more African than you are. Well, not much more. My people came over in the 1790s. We won’t go into why or how.”
Carson: “Oh no. Better left unsaid.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Oh, Mr. Ross. You’ve uncovered something about the past that Mr. Carson doesn’t approve of. Well done!”
Hah! And of course, Carson defends England as having led the world in the fight against slavery.
Upstairs, the dinner is well underway, and Mary is arguing with Blake about pigs, when he tells her that she’s a “sentimentalist who cannot face the truth.” I’m assuming the conversation started about aristocrats, and not pigs! Any way, Evelyn still seems to have a soft spot for Mary, and is not necessarily happy with the way Blake and her are arguing. Isobel asks Tom why he wants to emigrate to America, and he tells her that as much as he’s gotten to love the family, he doesn’t feel like he belongs, and that the likelihood of another Earl’s daughter, who’s as “free” as Sybil, to fall in love with him is not very high. Robert is happy to see Isobel come out of her shell, and of course, Violet tells him not to be too happy about it, because it also means that she’s ready for battle again!
Any way, at the end of the dinner, the band starts to play, and Rose ushers Robert out, who promptly stops and stares aghast at the singer. Uh oh. He recovers gracefully though, and everyone starts dancing. Phew. I thought maybe he’d make a fuss. Edith seems to have more of a problem with Jack Ross, and Violet tells her that she needs to be “wary of being provincial,” and to let her “time in London rub off a bit more.” I love Violet. Seriously. She always rises to every occasion and handles it with so much grace and elegance!
Evelyn: “Is this your first experience of jazz, Lady Grantham?”
Violet: “Oh, is that what it is? Do you think any of them know what the others are playing? Hm?”
Ha ha! Mary and Blake continue their tiff, and Mary accuses Evelyn of bringing a “traitor” into their midst. Blake tells Evelyn that he doesn’t really like Mary, because she feels entitled to all of her wealth, without wanting to work or fight for it. Oh, Mr. Blake. You don’t know Mary at all, do you? Tom asks Isobel to dance, and she tells him that things can happen at Downton that no one could have imagined. I think she’s trying to dissuade him from leaving.
After the party, Robert and Cora discuss the surprise, and he tells her that they might make a “modern” out of Carson after all, since the butler felt that Jack Ross was a decent fellow. They also talk about Edith and Gregson, and how there’s no information about him. Robert doesn’t seem to be worried too much about Michael, but is pretty concerned about Harold. Cora is too. She says that she had a letter from her mother about her brother as well. Meanwhile, Mary goes downstairs to catch up with Jack Ross and ask him to bill Robert for the band (instead of Rose), and catches Rose making out with Jack. She doesn’t let on that she saw anything, but how much you want to bet that she’s going to call Rose on it later?
Next week, Robert’s been summoned to America, I’m assuming to deal with whatever’s happening with Harold. Violet doesn’t feel well (oh no!) and Isobel looks after her, while Mary continues her contentious exchanges with Blake. Rosamund confronts Edith, and oh no! Green comes back to the Abbey and we see Anna crying in the hallway. Eep!
Editor's note: Downton Abbey fans, take note! The forthcoming book Behind the Scenes of Downton Abbey may well be relevant to your interests. For those looking for hints at what's to come in the new season, the book will be out in the U.S. tomorrow, well before the premiere of Season 4 in the U.S....
Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, copy/story editor, and is currently working on her Masters degree in English literature. She’s a self-professed literary nerd and has a “thing” for period dramas. She will watch anything as long as it’s filled with British accents, suppressed sexual tension, angst, and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.