This episode is channeling Season 1 but bringing way more drama. It’s great to see the return of the snarky, passive-aggressive Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) we love to hate. She’s back to becoming stone faced and staring into space, viciously insulting her sister, and getting the best suitors. She’s not the only one back to their Season 1 personas. Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is back to scheming and has enlisted some help. Plus, the moment you have been waiting for ... the peace between the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) is over. Full shade ahead!
Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) stops by the Abbey. If you’ve forgotten him, he is the suitor that introduced Mary to Mr. Pamuk (Theo James). Mr. Pamuk was the guy that de-virginized her and died in her bed. Napier is working on a survey of how the war has affected Aristocratic manors. Speaking of manors, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is dealing with the death of one of the estate’s farmers. Mr. Drewe (Andrew Scarborough), the farmer’s son, has inherited a significant amount of debt. Lord Grantham kindly pays the debt in exchange for Mr. Drewe working it off. The Lord is back to keeping secrets from fellow estate runners, Mary and Tom Branson (Allen Leech). Branson is threatening to move to the U.S. to escape the stuffy life of an aristocrat and spare his daughter any embarrassment.
Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) is lurking by the metaphorical mailbox waiting to hear back from Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards). It doesn’t look promising for him since he just moved to a pre-Nazi Germany. Drunk Liza Minnelli Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) adjusts to her new lady’s maid and tries to convince Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) that they need to buy a refrigerator.
Isobel takes an interest in a young neighborhood boy, Peg. She convinces the Dowager Countess to hire him. However, when an antique letter-opener goes missing, the Golden Girls clash over the boy’s guilt. It’s witty barbs and loud sighs. Here’s hoping they have a fight in a fountain like on Dynasty.
Alfred (Matt Milne) seems adept at cooking. He’s selected to apply for the apprenticeship at The Ritz. Everyone in the kitchen is excited but he’s nervous. Meanwhile, with the prospect of Alfred leaving, Carson (Jim Carter) offers the footman position to Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Despite willing to take any odd job in the village, do with that what you will, Molesley’s pride is hurt at the prospect of being demoted to footman. Alfred ends up not winning the internship so Molesley ends up red-faced when he returns for the job. Looks like Molesley is one step closer to suicide.
The disturbing Anna Rape storyline continues to get more depressing. Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) has been super icy to Bates (Brendan Coyle). Bates overhears Anna talking to Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and he devises a plan to find out what happened. He threatens to leave unless Mrs. Hughes comes clean. Thinking on her feet, she invents an assailant that raped Anna during the concert. However, Bates is convinced it’s Mr. Green (Nigel Harman). This is where things get dark. To this point, Anna has not known his name was even Mr. Green. Also, Bates is getting very scary and murdery. His violent inclinations and Anna’s fear make it seem like he could be abusive. Here’s hoping the writers don’t go in that direction.
Style & Sass: Best Lines of the Night
Not the first time you have had the wrong end of the stick. –Mary to Edith
I wonder how your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara ‘round the clock. –The Dowager Countess to Isobel Round I
Mrs. Patmore, is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistence? –Cora
Well M’lady I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset. –Mrs. Patmore’s response
What would you prefer that I invite the local criminals to drop in strip the house bare? –The Dowager Countess to Isobel Round II
There is no shortage of shocking moments this season. It looks like Downton Abbey is channeling Melrose Place. Here’s hoping that Heather Locklear stops by as a 1920s advertising executive hell-bent on getting her hands on the Abbey. The original Shady Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is replete with side-eyes, social slights, and aristocratic sass. Lady Edith is also making poor romantic choices as usual. Oh poor Edith, why are you so unlovable? Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) sounds a lot like a slightly inebriated Liza Minnelli?
The party guests are slowly leaving. Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) proved himself a hero. Miss Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring) has gone full-on Fatal Attraction on Tom Branson (Allen Leech). She is trying to turn their one-night-stand into a ticket to the wealth of Downton.
Lady Mary, Edith, Tom and Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) head to London to stay with Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond). They head to The Lotus Club to listen to some jazz. Steve Urkel Jack Ross (Gary Carr) serenedes with the most nasal rendition of 1920s jazz. When, Lady Rose’s escort gets sloppy, Jack saves the day by cutting in. However, Tom rushes to stop her from dancing with a black man. Racism is alive in London, people.
Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) is courting the hell out of Lady Mary. He even snuck on the same train to surprise her at home. He proposes but Mary has to decline but she does give him an epic kiss on the grounds.
The Drama: Not only is Mr. Gregson heading to a pre-World War 2 Germany to get a divorce, but they totally spent the night together. He seems somewhat above board since he gave Edith power of attorney over his finances. But ... does he plan to sleep with her and run? Also, has he left her with legal control for an ulterior motive?
Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) is still recovering from her attack and not doing so well since she has to see Mr. Green (Nigel Harman) before he leaves. She has become very icy to Bates (Brendan Coyle) and absolutely refuses to tell him why. She has even asked Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) to move back with the servants. Ivy (Cara Theobold) and Jimmy (Ed Speleers) have upgraded their lame courtship into full-on canoodling. Alfred (Matt Milne), jilted, has decided to apply for a cooking fellowship with The Ritz hotel. He may be leaving Downton like his aunt O’Brien. Carson (Jim Carter) is also beginning a very slow flirtation with Mrs. Hughes. Could the Mom and Pop of the staff get together for real?
The Drama: Mrs. Hughes plays Tom’s hero by destroying Braithwaite and her pregnancy claims. She finds a book about conception and bluffs Braithwaite into leaving Downton. She also tells her that if she makes a fuss she will never get a job in her lifetime. Now, if only Mrs. Hughes can tackle Anna’s attacker.
Best Lines of the Night
Don’t be transparent mamà, it doesn’t suit you. -Lady Mary to Cora
Don’t say I’m not good enough. If you were good enough for Lady Cybil Crawley then I’m good enough for you. -Braithwaite to Tom
Ivy moves a little fast for a beginner, don’t she -Daisy (Sophie McShera)
If we only had moral thoughts ... what would the poor church men find to do? -Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
Things have come to a pretty pass when you have to be rescued by a black band leader. -Lady Rosemound being a tad wee bit racist
Do you ever wonder why people dislike you so much? It’s because you’re sly, oily, and smug and I’m really pleased I got to tell you before I go. -Braithwaite to Barrow
If we’re playing the truth game. You’re a lying manipulative little witch and if your schemes have come to nothing I’m delighted. -Tom Barrow (Rob James-Collier) to Braithwaite
Edith is about as mysterious as a bucket. -Lady Mary
In the summer of 1977 disgraced former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) sat down with British TV talk show host and interviewer David Frost (Michael Sheen) for a series of interviews that Nixon hoped would resuscitate his Watergate-tarnished image and Frost hoped would lift his own career to another level. While it made for good TV at the time it certainly didn’t seem likely fodder for a hit Broadway play and now a major motion picture. Peter Morgan (The Queen) wrote the play and adapted it for the screen turning it into a riveting cat-and-mouse game between these two made-for-television adversaries. Director Ron Howard emphasizes the behind the scenes machinations and all the negotiations between both camps. The off-camera material is priceless based in large part on speculative research. Whatever the final truth of the story the film gains its real power from it’s the telling. Ron Howard turns to the two original stage stars of Frost/Nixon -- a wise casting decision that almost never happens in Hollywood. It’s true everyone including Warren Beatty reportedly wanted to play Nixon but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Langella in recreating his Tony-winning interpretation of the infamous Tricky Dick. He has all of Nixon’s mannerisms vulnerabilities and caginess down pat. Sheen certainly captures the confident nature of Frost but also his insecurities and the realization that this whole enterprise is one big roll of the dice. And two actors work in perfect concert with one another. Supporting roles are well played including standouts Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s trusted Chief of Staff Jack Brennan and a hilarious Toby Jones aping the inimitable book agent Swifty Lazar. As key Frost aides and researchers Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell do a nice job as kind of the Greek chorus to the situation. On the surface Ron Howard -- better known for his large scale Hollywood productions like The Da Vinci Code and Apollo 13 -- doesn’t seem the right fit for this smaller scale drama but his approach transfers what could have been a flat Broadway screen into a highly cinematic and stimulating two hours. He captures the rhythms of this chess match perfectly and chooses camera angles that catch the sweat behind the cool facades of his two principals. Special mention should go to the beautiful nuanced work of his cinematographer Salvatore Totino. Howard is such a gifted filmmaker he makes it all seem effortless easily coaxing two equally superb performances from Langella and Sheen. Frost/Nixon is a first class achievement.