Downton is abuzz with an impending party .. but when are they not having one?
Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is surprised by the appearance of the newly named Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen). They begin to bond and Mary begins to resemble her former self. Is it too much to hope for the slight-delivering, passive aggressive Lady Mary from Series 1? Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) invites Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) in the hopes that he will win the respect of her parents. Good luck, Lady Edith ... you’re the 1920’s answer to the Cathy comics. Ack! Terence Sampson (Patrick Kennedy) arrives on the scene and convinces everyone to play cards including Earl Grantham (Hugh Bonneville). Luckily, Mr. Gregson wins back all the money and exposes the dirty dealings of Sampson.
Meanwhile, everyone seems to be really inconsiderate of poor Tom (Allen Leech). A guest asks him about Lady Sybil. Isobel (Penelope Wilton) arrives to the party despite mourning. Then in true shady fashion she complains about her sadness to Tom despite the fact that he’s a widower. Sure, she lost a child but is it anyone’s place to give someone survivor’s guilt? Tom confesses that he doesn’t feel like he belongs with the family. Scheming Miss Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring) brings him a huge glass of whiskey and then shows up at his room late in the night.
The drama: Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) surprises everyone, including Lady Mary, by bringing down Matthew’s old phonograph. Lord Grantham has Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa) dine in her room until Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) corrects his error. Also, what the hell is going to happen if anyone founds out that Tom slummed it with Braithwaite?
Carson (Jim Carter) is his usually stern self as everyone is working double duty in entertaining mode. Lord Gillingham’s valet (Nigel Harman), known only as Mr. Gillingham, arrives on the scene and befriends Anna (Joanne Froggatt) much to Mr. Bates’ dismay (Brendan Coyle). Trying to impress Ivy (Cara Theobold) Jimmy (Ed Speleers) falls and hurts his hand. A broke Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), has been complaining all over town how broke he is and taking odd jobs. And yet, when asked to be a footman in place of Jimmy, he complains a lot.
Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) has a panic attack. Alfred (Matt Milne) makes the sauce and discovers a love for cooking. Anna has a headache so she excuses herself during the opera performance. In a disturbing turn of events, Anna gets violently raped by Mr. Gillingham. Too scared to tell her husband, she enlists Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) for help in covering it up. This is a huge departure from Downton's normal drama. Is having lovable and sweet Anna attacked too far or is it the right level of drama for the show? After all, times are changing as we approach the 1920s.
The drama: Anna can’t tell Mr. Bates because she’s worried he will go nuts and kill her attacker. Clearly, he’s a little unhinged. If memory serves he didn’t even kill his wife despite being arrested for her murder.
What does one say to a singer? - Lord Grantham
Screaming in the servant’s hall, singers chatting to his lordship and a footman cooking the dinner what a topsy-turvy world we’ve come to. - Carson
I’m afraid Tom’s small talk is very small. - Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
Maybe the Bravo folks were thinking that Independence Day isn't exactly the best time to air a vacation episode based in England, or maybe they were trying to beat the third season of Real Housewives of New Jersey for most unnecessary déjà vu episodes in one year. Because last night's installment of Real Housewives of New York City covered no new ground, and focused entirely on the exact same "problems" we saw last week: Sonja's horrifically hypnotic relationship with her interns, LuAnn's womb, ¡Que Viva!'s fears, and — most importantly, of course — the fact that Heather did not invite Ramona to her cool girls' trip to London. At the very least we got to see a touching, never-before-seen side of Heather, and learned that the unbreakable Carole Radziwill may be getting a television series based on her upcoming book, "The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating." I think it's going to be called Cougar Town.
Once again, hello: This is Shaunna Murphy filling in for Brian Moylan, who has taken a job as Sonja Morgan's toaster-cleaning intern. We wish him the best of luck, and honestly saw it coming. Anywho, the episode began on a park bench during a lovely autumn day that was quickly ruined by Housewife-ian conversation. You see, ¡Que Viva! was still upset about Ramona being excluded from Heather's London trip, mostly because she didn't really know Ramona yet, and was starting to get paranoid that staying in NYC with only Ramona's company would put her on the bad couch during the upcoming RHONY reunion. Heather smiled and nodded as per the usual, but told the camera that her foreign investors would quickly shut their wallets if they were ever exposed to Turtle Time. I laughed because "foreign investors" sounds funny coming from a Housewife, but then I remembered that Heather actually runs a real business, so. "Come on Vie-Vies, sugar pie," Heather purred. "Just pop a few Klonopin, pull your head from Ramona's ass, and know that you'll always be picked first on my kickball team."
LuAnn only had one scene last night, because she was far too busy having lots and lots of sex to deal with meaningless conversations squeezed into boutique shopping trips. Lu headed to an acupuncture fertility specialist because after a year of copious sex, her womb was still as empty as a Jack Daniels bottle after a ladies' night viewing of Magic Mike. The acupuncture lady told Lu that she should consider all of her options, but Lu would rather drink a glass or two at dinner and go with the "have lots and lots of sex" route than go with an egg donor. And hey — I respect that. All I can say about acupuncture is that it certainly didn't cure my anxiety and anemia and insomnia and "insert problem here", but it did bring me to a very peaceful sleep for 20 minutes during my lunch break for about 6 months. So Jill Zarin can cackle all she wants, and LuAnn may not get acu-pregnant, but her naps will be divine. I promise you this.
Luckily Heather, who hasn't been shown in the most positive light thus far, got to have one touching, true-to-life scene before everything finally descended into London inanity. She took her six-year-old son Jax to his liver disease doctor for a check-in, because the closer Jax gets to his seventh birthday, the less likely it is that complications will emerge from his transplant. Jax seems like a sweet, happy kid — which is great considering he has to get his blood checked weekly, and wears hearing aids and a vibrating vest. Truly, this is a testament to Heather and her husband's parenting. I say "her husband" because no one knows what that guy's name is. (Gary? Steve? Help me out, here.) After receiving good news, Heather used some airtime to tell the doctor how much she appreciated her organ donor and his family, who selflessly saved many lives in the wake of their own personal tragedy.
Now before we get to the main "event" — Ramona's shopping trip meltdown — let's take a second to focus on Sonja and Carole's equally exciting career achievements. Sonja and her one-to-three interns had been hard at work getting "Sonja in the City" off the ground. Every day the gang deals with your typical start-up adventures, like organizing clothing racks, going to the bank to deposit checks for $1.45, and learning the difference between brain and poop pills. It may seem like an injustice that Sonja is the only one getting paid for all this, but don't worry — the kids get school credit. This is, after all, the "Sonja Morgan School of Hard Knocks." The hard knocks are the drunken ones at 5 a.m., when Sonja has returned from a night out with her own Gary or Steve and forgotten her keys.
But the days of $1.45 payments would soon be coming to an end — "Sonja's Toasters in Atlantic City" had its first client. This client was naturally Viva, who suddenly decided that she wanted to celebrate having a husband with 40-50 of their closest friends and some fresh-cooked toaster food. Laugh all you want, but Sonja T. Morgan's Mac N' Cheese muffins sound delicious, and I'm itching to see how the Countess gets out of going to this one.
Over in unaccomplished land, Carole had a casual date with a younger man who I think was named Peiman, which also happens to be my doctor's name. Unfortunately for me, this guy was not my Peiman. He was a very sexy 31, and both myself and Carole had a hard time understanding him through his thick accent. Peiman wasn't exactly Carole's style — she likes guys with hair in their ears, not on their heads — but she was doing research for "Widow's Guide" and put on a flirty face for the sake of quality literature. I wonder who will play Carole and Peiman on the TV show? Can Connie Britton pull off a convincing New Yorker?
40 minutes into the episode, Ramona finally appeared for a pre-shopping pow wow with Carole, which was really just an excuse for her to flair her arms and shriek about Heather. Ramona went over the same old: Heather is crazy, Ramona is nice. Heather doesn't listen, Ramona could be a paid therapist. Heather is a maniac, Ramona is as calm as the ocean breeze. Carole dealt with this wonderfully: "You get to be you, and she gets to be her," she explained. Simple. The "I really don't want to discuss this" could not have been any more clear. But this got Carole nowhere. "I'm trying to appeal to Ramona's sense of logic and that was clearly a tactical error," she told the camera. God, I love this woman. Carole cooly sighed, admitted defeat, and brought up something she knew Ramona would love — princesses! Squeal!
Now, for the shopping trip. To be honest, I really don't know what happened here, but I'll try my best to sum it up: Heather thought Ramona was in a fashion rut. Ramona was confused as to why Heather was smiling and laughing with her, having not yet realized that Heather smiles even in her sleep. Using the smile as an opportunity, Ramona pulled Heather aside to discuss whether or not Heather was hurt by Ramona's "talk too much" remarks from eons ago. Heather said she was not, and suddenly everything became Aviva's fault. Aviva joined the circle, owned up to telling Ramona that Heather was upset with her, and faced Heather's wrath. Ramona then got in Heather's face, stared at her with those crazy-eyes, and excitedly declared that it was time to re-start the shopping. Then Carole came in with her TV series announcement to save the day, but this announcement was hi-jacked by Saturday Night Live's Penelope, who had recently sold her Pinot Grigio to Target.
Thankfully, it all came to an end. But Ramona had one more thing to say before she left: "Heather doesn't get it. She doesn't listen. Heather world is only about Heather, Heather, Heather. It's awkward. She's not real."
Next week: I think they actually go to London.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: BRAVO]
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This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
David Ames (Tom Cruise) lives a charmed life the ultimate golden boy. He's got looks charisma and money--lots of money. David has inherited a multimillion-dollar publishing business from his late father and he could care less about it. He has women buzzing around him like flies including one actress Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) who has more than a crush on him. One fateful night David meets the girl of his dreams Sofia (Penelope Cruz) and has an amazing all-nighter with her where she tells him profound things like "Every minute that passes is an opportunity to turn things around." David finally understands what it means to fall in love and to commit but then abruptly his luck runs out. In the morning David flushed with exhilaration as he leaves Sofia's apartment makes a near-fatal mistake: he gets into a car with Julie who has been following him to smooth things out with her. In one tragic moment his whole life radically changes. He desperately tries to piece things together to get Sofia back but the more he tries the stranger the circumstances become around him especially when he's accused of murder. Soon he's not sure whether what's happening to him is a dream or reality.
Cruise is a great actor when given the right material. His performances in movies such as Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia show that Cruise has the acting chops to dig in and make it work. Unfortunately Vanilla Sky wasn't the right vehicle for him. Cruise is actually somewhat compelling as the superficial rich guy who falls in love and then deals with his tragic deformity but his performance falls apart halfway through the film as the character spirals into his own private abyss. His co-star Cruz who played the same character in the 1997 Spanish film on which Sky is based Abre Los Ojos is truly a beauty on screen but the chemistry between the two was pretty tame. Somehow Sofia's transition into the English-speaking world lacks passion. In fact the only time Sofia is truly passionate is when she yells at David in Spanish. Diaz does a serviceable job playing the stalker Julie but doesn't really have much screen time. Even the usually good Jason Lee as David's best friend seems wasted. Only Kurt Russell's supporting turn as David's prison therapist hangs together and rings true.
It's painfully obvious writer/director Cameron Crowe did not make this movie from his heart like his other films. Instead he adapted the material from Abre Los Ojos a film about the world of casual sex and young adults taking responsibility for their actions and turned it into this convoluted mess. Sky starts with some promise as Cruise's shallow playboy deals with the increasingly wacky Julie and then falls in love with the beautiful Sofia. The long night David and Sofia spend together is filled with sexual energy (more from their banter though than any real sparks between the actors) and the characters seem alive--just the stuff Crowe thrives on. Even the pain David first goes through after the accident is moving. The wonderful thing about Crowe is he can really write unbelievable dialogue. Sofia has one of the best lines to describe Julie as she watches her pine after David: "She's the saddest girl I've ever seen holding a martini glass." Yet it is clear that if Crowe doesn't feel it in his bones the movie falls flat. Once Sky moves off into the surreal halfway through Crowe loses his touch and you're left scratching your head saying "Huh?"