“All life is a series of problems which we must try and solve…until at last we die… Why don’t you get us an ice cream?” – Granny, Dowager Countess, cheerer of souls
So now all of the sudden Edith has taken an interest in Mary and Tom and the estate management…right. I find it hilarious that she’s suddenly out on business with them, but also think it’s high time she got interested in being part of the family and that which concerns them and keeps them fed and together.
It’s possible that Edith may have developed a case of “baby brain.” Now that Edith has decided to keep her baby and can’t live without it in her life, she’s also decided from just this one brief encounter that this tenant farmer is so trustworthy he would not only take her baby but let her come and go from his farm all she wants to see it and never tell a single soul. But Aunt Rosamund (finally) has a big plan to go away to the Continent for several months to “learn French.” But as Granny says, “If [Rosamund] wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts.” In about two shakes, Granny does the math and holds a High Inquisition, I mean, luncheon for Rosamund and Edith. GRANNY KNOWS will be our next t-shirt.
I really feel for Cora in this episode. She truly believes her greatest nightmare is her to-do list for the church bazaar (did Mastercard get their “herding cats” ad campaign from her in the 20’s?), but little does she know the predicament of her unborn grandchild, Anna has been attacked under her roof, and Rose is plotting to go AWOL again.
“If you’re going to complicate your life, do it for the right reasons.” – Mary
Poor Tom. All he wanted to do was have a nice, peaceful trip into town on business, minding his own. Then suddenly he catches a glimpse of Rose stroking Mr. Ross’ face, unchaperoned, in public, and all his “downstairs” instincts kick back in…run! Matthew would have just plowed on in to the café and had a seat, “Hello, Rose!” But Tom retreats to Downton to tell Mary, who must now pay a visit to Mr. Ross AND Gillingham.
“I believe in you…I’m not so sure about her.” – Mary
Mr. Ross does love Rose and want to marry her (Mrs. Rose Ross!). It’s just so unfair she’s using him to get back at Mummy. Mary pays Mr. Ross a visit, and the two get to learn a little about each other. Mary discovers he’s a stand-up guy and wishes the world were a better place, and Mr. Ross discovers Mary’s not the enemy he thought she was. As good as that scene was, I can’t help but wonder if it will truly be the last we see of Mr. Ross.
“Once was quite enough.” – Dowager Countess
Granny is not a fan of Mary’s recently widowed godfather, or of entertaining him on her own for lunch, so she calls in Isobel to help. Though I seriously doubt it was her initial intention, Granny is too good of a study of character to miss the opportunity that presents itself to matchmake between Lord Merton and Isobel. The two people she finds to be the most irritating in the world MUST be a match for each other. Will Lord Merton make Dr. Clarkson look like Rudolph Valentino? Or will Granny regret her encouragement when Lord Merton marries Isobel and the two most irritating people in the world visit her together and regularly? The answer: “Leave the gun, take the canoli.” Just a little godfather humor…
“You’re a very optomistic generation, I’ll say that.” – Mrs. Patmore
Daisy still can’t stand the sight of Ivy, and little does she know Alfred has proposed to Ivy by mail. “He puts a lot in a letter, does Alfred.” One flirtatious “hello” from Ivy last week made Alfred all giddy and weak at the knees. But Ivy — “mooning about like a sloth underwater” — doesn’t want him and now has to find a way to undo the flirting and refuse him. Alfred comes to say goodbye anyway — his father has just passed away so he swings by Downton after the funeral — and Daisy makes herself scarce, going to visit Mr. Mason for the day. Love that Mr. Mason! Such a good and kind man, and always has wise guidance for Daisy. One act of open-heartedness that he encourages Daisy to may end up being something that changes the entire course of her life. And isn’t that the way real life is…one choice affecting so many others?? Something to think about.
Alfred may not yet be quite ready to marry or worthy of Daisy — he’s not quite ripe yet, as I like to put it — but with so many challenges at hand for him, it may not be long before he is ready. His father has just died, his mother has moved away, he’s started a new career, and has had to move to a new town himself. That’s a lot of stress and pressure for any person, and the way Daisy chose to wish him well and goodbye has got to impact him in a very important way. Oh, if only O’Brien were here to see it…I’m sure she’d find a way to undo all the sappy potential oozing out of Alfred’s life. Hope she’s enjoying her extended vacation with Mummy Dearest!
“I wish you would give us credit for making up our own minds about you.” – Molesley
Just when you think Molesley belongs in the same “dumb as rocks” category with Ivy, he throws a curve ball. There’s no reason why Baxter should care what Molesley or any other person (besides Thomas) at Downton should think of her, but Molesley gets a wild hair to show her kindness. In my own personal life, I’ve often been strangely overwhelmed to find simple acts of kindness in total strangers, and also when it unintentionally creeps out of me towards them. I wonder if Baxter has lived in a world so devoid of it that the simple mind of Molesley showing some to her has an effect far beyond what he ever intended. I was so moved during the scene between them when she told him how lucky he was – she told him the TRUTH about his life that he had forgotten or just taken for granted. He lives in a village where he is liked and respected, and no matter his current circumstances or uncertainty, there are so many people in the world who would kill to trade places with him. WOW. Maybe this is just a tiny little story line here, but in my opinion, it’s one of the most powerful. Baxter’s small act of kindness toward Molesley here leads to even more from him…leads him to act with spirit I never knew he had! One choice. We’re right back to the Daisy discussion again, aren’t we? One choice to speak with kindness leads to a full harvest of it by the end of the episode. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
“We don’t need bullying brought back from overseas.” – Molesley
Of course, we can’t have the good without the bad. Thomas returns from his grand trip to America, and immediately starts in on Baxter to get the goods on the Bates. Will Baxter comply? Or will Thomas take measures to punish her for disobedience?
One of my favorite pairs this season has been Tom and Isobel. They’re just plum adorable together.
Someone else may have her eye on Tom. Empty Chair Girl has returned (told ya!), and now she has a name. Sara Bunting, teacher at the village school, who has never been seen before, and is now visible from every street corner or country road. I’m just grateful Tom has matured enough he only rolled up his sleeves to help her. Sara’s got Isobel’s stamp of approval, so it’s only a matter of time. Can’t you just see him falling in love watching her teach little Sybbie? Well, maybe not quite yet, but unless she’s got a deep, dark secret, I’m sure that’s the direction we’re headed.
“I don’t believe in types. I believe in people.” – Tom Branson
Isobel thinks Tom should run for political office, and if he gets involved with Sara, I’m sure she will, too. He may not know where he stands politically right now, but I’m sure he’ll get that worked out soon. Tom already holds a political office of sorts whether he knows it or not – he’s an Ambassador to the upper class for the lower, and an Ambassador to the lower class for the upper. This episode is the proof.
Gillingham finishes “drinking his way around the Highlands” and is still “keen as mustard” on Mary, according to Edith, and calls off his engagement to Mable Lane-Fox. Mr. Blake – the reformed bumble who actually m’lady’s her ladyship as he & Napier leave – returns to Downton for the church bazaar to make his intentions clearly known – “Your surprise and my surprise.” (Notice that Mary apologized to him early in the episode but he did not return the sentiment? “Mr. Blake has a softer side.” Right.) Napier’s the only suitor to not return for the bazaar, but the boys keep giving each other rides in cars, which I’m sure must be very dangerous. It could be Napier’s strategy…to let the other two do each other in…last man standing and all that. “A desire of suitors” is the name Rosamund gives to the group of men pursuing Mary, but in spite of the clear signals she’s putting off (clothing herself in shades of gray and tan again), she’s still not quite ready.
Not only does Mary see Mr. Ross in London, but she also has to have lunch with Gillingham. Poor chap must have been so disappointed to learn it wasn’t because she had reconsidered him. Mary tells him he must fire Green, but won’t say why. Gillingham gets his nose bent out of joint, but says he will. He also says he’ll pursue her even if and after she decides to marry someone else. Classy.
But he doesn’t have the chance to get around to firing Green. Green is in a crowd of people at Picadilly and gets his head stuck in front of a passing bus somehow. Anna is in London with Mary, but Bates has asked Carson for the day off to go to York. No one has noticed that Bates asked Green where he lived in London or would be after his recent Downton visit. But Anna – and possibly others – will eventually do the math. Gillingham’s nose is still so out of joint he basically demands to be told why Mary wanted Green sacked. Which drives Mary to consult Mr. Blake for advice on how to deal with the math she’s already done. My only question is: are we really being fair? Did Mr. Bates really do it? Is he a tormented Jekyl/Hyde character? Certainly he’s clever enough. But if he’s that clever, wouldn’t he have made sure he had an alibi? Would he really jeopardize everything he and Anna had sacrificed for their happiness together? Why did Bates go to York at all?
Or did Anna do it?
The lord of the manor returns and there is much rejoicing in the land. Last season ended with the boys in a happy huddle. This season’s end brought the return of female dominance and drama to Downton. Next week for the Christmas special, we’ll get to meet Uncle Harold and see if Rose lives long enough to attend her coming out ball. Get out the hankies, kids — you know how much I hate saying goodbye to Downton Abbey for a whole year!
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Personal Confession (added 2/23):
On one of our recent Picture Shows & Petticoats episodes, Elizabeth and I were chatting about the trio of Mary’s suitors and which we preferred, when it suddenly occurred to me that I was Team Mary. I’ve held my ground since, and today I realized why. Where the show stands today, I am Mary. Mary is me. There are not enough heroines in our world who are brave enough to love, and even fewer who are brave enough to take on life headlong…alone. Many women do not feel complete without a man — and I do not fault them, men are groovy — and I know there is pressure all around us to not be alone. Some people even feel foolish to leave the house alone — movies, dinner, the mall, starting a business, etc. Marriage is incredibly precious and should be valued highly…my heart in saying this here is simply that no woman, no person, should feel any less of a person because they are all alone. It’s a hard road, but someone who choses it (or has it chosen for them) should be esteemed rather than chastised. We need more role models, not to reject marriage, but to live honorably and nobly as a single person…until other choices become wanted or available. I’m Team Mary because I think it would be wonderful for her to be happy as she is, and I love her character because she truly loved her husband and therefore truly mourns his departure from her life. There is great honor and value in love. We are enough, and we are already loved by God just the way He created us. It may just be a tv show…but I wonder whether we see people in our world the way we see characters on tv. I wouldn’t want her to rush into marriage or marry a scoundrel any more than I’d want you to. I’m sure they’ll marry her off in due course. That’s just the way the world works. I’m on the fringes, and I endeavor to accept that. But until they do, I’ll be happy for Mary to just be herself and a good mom to baby George.
What a fabulous thing to write such a beautiful show that makes us all think about things that are important to us, and want to talk about it to maybe make our world a better place, one single girl at a time.