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, 4x07. Enjoy!
The episode starts with crazy morning activity downstairs. These are the times when we get a feel for what it’s like to run such a huge house. As the camera pans through the different sections, we end up in Mrs. Hughes’ office where Bates lets her know that Robert is planning to go to America…like, today. Apparently, Robert received a telegram from Cora’s mother urging him to come and help Harold with his Senate hearing.
Bates doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want to abandon Anna. So, Mrs. Hughes appeals to Mary to see if it’s okay for Bates to stay, and in typical Mary fashion, she tells her that while they are good employers, they “expect to get what we pay for,” and that since Bates’ role in the house is to be Robert’s valet, then he needs to do his job. When Mrs. Hughes tells her that this is a special circumstance, Mary insists on knowing all the details. I guess Hughes tells her, because we see Mary in Robert’s room telling him that Bates simply can’t go with him to America, and that he should take Thomas. Good job, Mary! I’m glad she redeemed her hoity comment about getting what they pay for with this. She even makes a joke about how Thomas would love to go on the trip, what with all those handsome stewards strolling around the ship’s decks! Anyway, obviously, Bates realizes that Mary knows, but she tells him that it’s not his fault, nor is it Anna’s. I’m glad a member of the family knows now. If only she would find out that it was Green!
Later that evening, Anna thanks Mary for intervening to keep Bates at home. Mary asks Anna to try and describe the man who attacked her, and perhaps go and see Dr. Clarkson to make sure she’s okay, but Anna tells her that even though she’s glad that Mary now knows what happened, she really doesn’t want to talk about it. Even when Mary tells her that she really wants to help, Anna refuses to say anything more.
Meanwhile, Violet comes over to bid Robert farewell, and as she goes in the library, she sees Edith, Evelyn, Tom, and Mr. Blake discussing the arrival of the pigs for the new pig farming venture. Blake tells Violet that it’s a good idea for the estate to diversify, but that he’s worried Robert and Mary are not aware of what they’re taking on.
Downstairs, Jimmy’s bemoaning the fact that he has to stay while Thomas gets to go on an adventure, and Thomas tells him to get going with Ivy, or some other girl from the village. Um…yuck? I’m sorry. I just really don’t like Jimmy, and especially with the way he’s been treating Ivy, I don’t know if I want him to be happy! I’m really glad that Ivy continues to ignore him, too. Good for her!
Cora bids Robert a very warm and loving farewell. It’s sweet to see them be this close every once in a while. These types of marriages weren’t always based on love, and it’s nice to see that theirs apparently is still full of affection. As he’s leaving, he tells Edith to be strong, and that Gregson will be found. When he offers (again) to help by hiring a private detective, she tells him not to bother since Gregson’s firm had already done all of that. Robert puts Rose in charge of “fun” (oh, great), and Tom in charge of all of his women-folk, including Isis, the dog. Ha ha! Meanwhile, Thomas tells Baxter to find out why he’s going with Robert instead of Bates. You know what? I know that Anna’s ashamed of what’s happened to her, but seriously, more people need to know. Frankly, I think everyone needs to know. This is very frustrating. Any way, Molesley overhears, and asks Baxter about it during tea in the servants’ hall, and of course, she dodges answering him.
Mary quizzes Blake on the reason for so many estates failing, and he tells her that the problem is the owners are not concentrating on income, and are unwilling to adjust their old way of life.
Mary: “But you have to understand what these people are used to.”
Blake: “No. They have to understand it’s time to get used to something different. They think nothing needs to change, that God will be upset if the old order is overturned.”
Mary: “I don’t think He will be.”
Blake: “No. To farm an estate is hard work, and never more than now. The owners must face up to that, or they don’t deserve to keep what they have.”
I like him. He speaks his mind, and as Edith says earlier, he’s not “fallen under Mary’s spell.” He’s kinda cute too! Mary asks Evelyn why Blake is so harsh, and Evelyn tells her that his boss is really just frustrated with the landowners who give up. Apparently, Blake thinks that Mary’s “aloof” and that Evelyn’s “blind” where she’s concerned. Well, yes. Evelyn clearly still carries a torch for Mary. He just has to stop showing up at the Abbey with other men in tow, if he ever wants to get anywhere with her!
As Tom drives Isobel home, she asks him if he’s still holding his political views, and if he wants to go hear John Ward, M.P. speak at Rippon, and he tells her he can’t, because first, he doesn’t have any time, and second, he doesn’t believe in the Coalition. (Just a quick bit of history here, the “coalition” Tom is referring to is the government set up after WWI with David Lloyd George as the Prime Minister). Tom finally agrees to go and hear Mr. Ward’s speech with Isobel, as long as she’s “nice to me, or I’ll tell Lady Grantham that you called Lloyd George ‘old dear.’”
Edith asks Cora if she could go to London. She tells Cora that apparently, Gregson checked into his hotel in Munich, went out, and never came back. Oh, wow. So, Gregson is really and truly missing. Cora wonders why Gregson went to Germany in the first place, and Edith tells her it was to see the castles of King Ludwig. Any way, Cora’s convinced that if something bad had happened to him, they would’ve found out by now. She tells Edith to continue to hope.
Edith: “Mama, can I ask you something? You don’t think I’m ‘bad,’ do you?”
Cora: “You can be a bit sharp-tongued every now and then, but ‘bad,” no.”
Edith: “Sometimes I have bad feelings.”
Cora: “We all have bad feelings. It’s acting on them that makes you ‘bad.’”
Poor Edith! She never catches a break! Of course, Rose takes this opportunity to tag along and go to London with Edith. She convinces Cora that Edith might need some cheering up. Oh, dear.
Violet, who hadn’t been feeling well, has gotten worse, and when Isobel shows up at her house to check on her, she finds the Dowager barely able to breathe. Despite Violet’s protestations, Isobel goes to get Dr. Clarkson. Oh no! Violet has bronchitis, and Dr. Clarkson says that she needs to be monitored pretty much 24/7 or it could develop into pneumonia. He suggests hiring a full-time nurse, but Isobel tells him that she’ll stay and take care of Violet. Our poor Dowager is not doing well at all. She’s babbling in her feverish state, but Isobel is determined to stay and take care of her, because she feels that she owes the family because of the way they’ve been treating her after Matthew’s death. She feels that they didn’t need to keep her as part of the family, and is grateful that they did. Any way, Isobel stays with Violet for two days, keeping awake, and making sure that Violet is taken care of. The Dowager doesn’t remember that Isobel was her nurse until Dr. Clarkson tells her. She was pretty delirious during her illness, and now that she’s better, even if she’s not really looking forward to it, she agrees to let Isobel come back and spend the evening playing cards.
The next day in London, Rose manages to convince Rosamund and Edith that she just wants to “run some errands,” but of course, spends her day with Jack Ross. Jack tries to tell her that there really is no future for them, but Rose will have none of it, and they end up kissing in broad daylight! Any way, she ends up going to the club with Ross and doesn’t come home until well into the night.
Meanwhile, Edith breaks down when Rosamund questions both her presence in London, and her reasons for wanting to spend the night “elsewhere.” She tells her aunt that she doesn’t know what to worry about more, Gregson’s absence, or the baby. She’s decided to get rid of the baby.
Rosamund: “How terrible it is to hear that!”
Edith: “Please don’t pretend you won’t be relieved when I do.”
Rosamund: “You are not being fair. I will support you, whatever you decide. Just as Cora will. And Robert.”
Edith: “That sounds like a speech from the second Mrs. Tanqueray. But you don’t mean a word of it.”
Rosamund: “I do.”
Edith: “So I’d be welcomed in your drawing room, would I? ‘Have you met my niece and her charming bastard?’”
Ouch! But you know, Edith has a point. Rosamund wants to know what Edith plans on telling Gregson once he shows up, and Edith tells her that she won’t tell him about the baby, and that she would marry him regardless. When Rosamund questions whether or not she’s thought about basing her life with Gregson on a lie, Edith tells her that she is “killing a wanted child from a man that I love,” so of course, she’s thought about it. Rosamund questions Edith’s choice of doing something that is obviously illegal and more importantly, dangerous. She’s worried about something going wrong, and her having to explain to Cora and Robert. In the end, she refuses to let Edith go by herself.
They go to the doctor’s office the next day, and Edith confesses that as much as she loves Gregson, and would be sure to love Gregson’s child, she doesn’t feel like she has much of a choice. Keeping the baby would make her a complete outcast, and she doesn’t know how to manage that. She feels that she will never be able to walk back into the nursery at the Abbey and see Mary’s son and Sybil’s daughter there. While they’re waiting, she hears a woman crying in the examining room and she gets up to take a look. For some reason, seeing the woman does something to Edith and she changes her mind about the whole procedure, and leaves. Any way, as Edith’s packing to go back home (much to Rose’s chagrin), Rosamund tells her that she will come and support her when she decides to let Cora know what’s going on.
Back at the Abbey, Tom’s gone off to the political meeting by himself, Evelyn’s dining with some of his parents’ friends, so that leaves Cora and Mary alone with Mr. Blake. Mary makes some snide comment about being able to entertain him, but he brushes it off and asks her to walk over to see the newly-arrived pigs after dinner. When they get there, Blake notices that one of the pigs is almost dead from dehydration because the rest of the livestock has knocked over the trough. He immediately takes off his dinner coat, and jumps over the fence to fix the situation. Since there’s no way to turn the trough back, he grabs a couple of buckets and goes to the barn to get water. Mary immediately joins him with two buckets of her own. It’s hilarious (and rather refreshing, actually) to see her hauling buckets of water in her evening dress! The two of them are completely filthy (Mary actually slips and lands in a huge mud puddle) in a matter of minutes, but they continue to carry water over to the pigs. Blake tells Mary to go back home while he stays to make sure the pigs are alright, but she refuses. When Mary asks him what she looks like, he makes a joke about her belonging in “Country Life,” and then throws some mud in her face! Of course, she retaliates by grabbing a fistful of mud and rubbing it all over his face. When they finally make it back to the house, she takes him down to the kitchen and makes them both some scrambled eggs. Ah! I love where this is going. This Blake guy is definitely a better match for our Mary than that Lord Gillingham.
Speaking of Lord Gillingham, he’s coming to Downton to stop over on his way to Inverness, and it turns out that Blake knows him. They served in the war together. Any way, Gillingham shows up and tells Mary that he misses her, etc., etc. Yuck. I’m sorry, but he just rubs me the wrong way. Mary tries to gracefully sidestep all of his comments. It’s a little awkward, and when you add Blake to the mix, it gets even more so.
Of course, this means that Green shows up downstairs and poor Anna walks in the servants’ hall to find that horrible man laughing and joking with the rest of the staff. Since Bates is right there, Anna quickly composes herself, asks Baxter for some white thread, and leaves. Mrs. Hughes gets up and as casually as she can, follows Anna out. We don’t see what transpires there, but a little while later, Mrs. Hughes catches Green alone in the boot room and lets him have it.
Green: “What can I do for you, Mrs. Hughes?”
Hughes: “Nothing. You can do nothing for me. I know who you are, and I know what you’ve done. And while you’re here, if you value your life, I should stop playing the joker and keep to the shadows.”
Green: “I’m afraid we were a bit drunk that night, Anna and I. So you’re right. We’re both to blame.”
Hughes: “No, Mr. Green. You were to blame, and only you.”
Green: “Does Mr. Bates know?”
Hughes: “Not that it was you.”
Green: “Thank you.”
Hughes: “Don’t you dare thank me. I’ve not kept silent for your sake!”
Oh, the nerve of this horrible, horrible man! To try to make it sound like it was somehow consensual! As if anyone who saw Anna’s bruised and battered face would believe that for a minute! What a despicable man! I really hope someone finds out and reports him. Any way, during the servants’ dinner, Green tells Baxter that he couldn’t stand Dame Melba’s performance the last time he was at Downton, so he had come down to the kitchens for some peace and quiet. Of course, Bates immediately latches on to this bit of information. The look on Bates’ face! Talk about “if looks could kill.” Eep!
On a lighter note, Mr. Carson shares a letter he received from Alfred. Turns out that some French chap has taken Alfred under his wing, and he’s doing well. He’s also planning on going home to visit his family, and is planning on stopping by at the Abbey to see everyone. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore tell Mr. Carson to put Alfred off, because they don’t want to stir things up between Daisy and Ivy again. Carson doesn’t know what to do, so Mrs. Hughes tells him to tell Alfred that there’s flu in the house, and that they don’t want him to get sick and miss time at his school. So Carson books a room for Alfred at the pub in the village, and goes to visit him by himself. Daisy bickers with Ivy regardless, and both Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes are glad that they managed to keep Alfred away. Well, the next day, Alfred shows up any way, and Mrs. Hughes has to do a bit of song and dance to explain the whole “flu” situation. Ivy wastes no time in letting Alfred know how glad she is to see him.
There was a minor story line where Tom met a young lady at Ward’s meeting, but nothing other than a pleasant conversation happened.
Next week, Tom catches Rose with Jack Ross, leading Mary to confront Rose and tell her to be careful. Edith is planning to use one of the tenant farmers as some sort of decoy for the baby (the same guy that she had a brief semi-fling with), which Rosamund thinks is a risky idea. And Anna is worrying about Bates and Green being the same room together, and asks her husband to not do anything foolish.
Editor's note: Downton Abbey fans, take note! The book Behind the Scenes of Downton Abbey may well be relevant to your interests. For those looking for more details on the new season, the book is now out, 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.