Downton Abbey, a long-lost music box in the back room of a Hallmark store in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has always been a show about rules. What you can and can’t wear, which fork you use when, who you shouldn’t be addressing by their first names. But last night, the show was about the law: who was running from it and who was trying to bend it for their own gain. Oh, and it was about a dreamy new footman named Jimmy who some day is going to saunter out of deep storage in Scranton, pick up a romantic card with an illustration of a dew-speckled rose on it and give it to me and ask for my hand in marriage.
As always, some of these things I loved and some I hated. Let’s take a look at some of both right now, shall we?
Lady Edith: My once and future favorite, Lady Edith had quite an episode this week after getting dumped by Poor Old Sir Gimpy McJerkface in the last episode. Sure we have to listen to her complaining that she doesn’t get to eat breakfast in bed because she’s not married. (I don’t quite understand this privilege. Were they afraid unmarried women would be hiding suitors in their rooms if they didn’t have Frosted Flakes with their fathers? And think about all the crumbs!) But eating breakfast at a table means she gets to hang with the boys and talk about smart things like politics and world events. It might even be a better place for our Edith. Then her grandmother tells her to stop being bored and use the brain God gave her. Finally, someone recognizing all her talents. And finally she gets published in the newspaper and is going to become a very big deal. Now that Lady Edith is a writer, I have a feeling I’m going to love her even more. What really won my heart over was when she stuck up for Alfred when she heard about the handsome new footman. If anyone knows about hard work being under-appreciated because there is something older and cooler and prettier it is this lovely flower that has somehow managed to bloom even in the dark shade of Lady Mary’s ego.
Carson: How sweet it is of him to teach Alfred what all the right spoons are. Not only does it make his employees better thereby making him look better, it gives them confidence so that they do an even better job. Carson is no fool. I was also tickled that, to him, an electric toaster is tantamount to having a dangerous Irish rebel in the house. Both are agents of revolution and change and that is something that Mr. Carson has set his starched collar against ever letting happen.
Everyone Being Mean to Isobel: If Isobel Crawley were alive today, she’d be the lady with the greying bun at the Park Slope Food Co-op with a PBS tote bag lecturing people on how the dried apricots aren’t organic enough. Just like that lady, no one takes her seriously. Not her maid Mrs. Byrd, not Ethel the former housemaid turned prostitute, and not Mrs. Hughes. She says that Ethel giving her kid up to his rich grandparents is a bad idea because she can, I don’t know, get her GED and get a low-level job somewhere making minimum wage and manage to eek out a living for so long before either depression or consumption gets her and then she dies. Anyway, no one is paying attention to Isobel, and nothing could make me happier. Stupid PBS tote bags. Oh wait, isn’t this on PBS? Change that to NPR. Same diff.
Bike Ponchos in the Rain: Doesn’t it look fun and jaunty to see someone riding a bike in the rain wearing a slicked poncho. Where can I get one of those?
The Branson Affair: OK, I’m totally pissed at Branson, but I’m glad there’s finally some intrigue this season that doesn’t have to do with money or someone getting married. Way to make things juicy.
Thomas and the Footmen: Last week I was bemoaning that Thomas and O’Brien are no longer co-cohooting, but this week we got something even better: a good rivalry. Things are going to get really sloppy now that Thomas hates Alfred and (his mother?) O’Brien and is clearly in something like lust with Jimmy Kent (did you see how he stood there, agog and giggling like a common house maid, when Mr. Kent came a-calling?). I’m sure O’Brien will find a way to turn this against Thomas and we’re going to have some very complicated office politics (but with much better outfits than The Office, that’s for damn sure). Oh, and while we’re talking about Thomas, I loved how he said he had “great fun” while in London with Lord Grantham. You just know that means he got an evening off so that he could go out and cruise in some public park or whatever gay men did to get laid before Grindr. No wonder Thomas returns with a smile on his face, a spring in his step, and a banana in his pocket – or is he just happy to see Jimmy?
Shirtlessness That’s Full of Shirts: Usually the only glimpses we get of male flesh are those above the collar and below the cuffs, so I’m glad we’re finally getting to see a bit more. It’s always a treat when Branson is bulging out of one of his skimpy undershirts, but new dreamboat Jimmy Kent went a step further and opened up his shirt for us. It’s a testament to how starved we are for some sex appeal that even this is enough to put our hearts (and some of Thomas’ other parts) into over drive. And the lack of flesh makes even these chaste glimpses almost pornographic.
Ivy Stewart: She’s been at Downton for 30 seconds and Daisy already hates her. #TeamIvy
Thirst for Change: I guess it’s wise that Matthew wants to change the way the estate is run, but if we wanted to see it get fully modernized, we’d be watching a show called Making a Museum: How England Abandoned Their Manor Houses and Turned Them Into Tourist Traps. We are not watching that show. Anyway, I love that he went to Violet to find out how to change the place. He knows she has the only opinion that matters.
Violet’s Zinger of the Week: “He looks like a footman in a musical re-view.”
Lady Mary: What an absolute twerp she has been this season. The episode even starts off with her henpecking Matthew. “You have to pull your weight!” So, it’s not enough that he went against his moral center and took the money from his ex-girlfriend’s dead father. It’s not enough that she went into his stuff and opened up his letter and read it without permission. It’s not enough that she has been squabbling with him before his wedding day. He finally saves her family and her family home and she’s still harping on him. Jesus, Lady Mary, and Joseph. Give the guy a break. Oh, and she said that my beautiful Alfred, that gentle ginger giant, looked like a “puppy rescued from a puddle.” Sorry he’s not your cup of tea, Mary, but I must say that you’re not really mine either.
Branson: While I liked the intrigue (and all the jokes Violet had to make about burning down an ugly castle and high-born Irish rebels), everything Branson did was totally stupid. First he left his pregnant wife behind in Dublin while he snuck off to Downton Abbey. Now, need we remind you that this is a man in trouble for burning down a manor house and then he’s going to flee to one when he needs it? It’s like Marius in Lez Miserable fighting against Le Homme (that’s the French version of “the man”) and then letting his rich grandfather pay for his opulent wedding. And when he gets to Downton, he knocks on the door, has a servant let him in and then sees Lady Mary and is all, “Don’t tell anyone I’m here.” Yeah, that’s like loudly farting in an elevator and telling everyone not to smell it. Even after Sybil gets there safely and he tells everyone what happens, he says he’s sorry for burning someone’s house down because it was worse than he thought it was going to be. And we’re supposed to forgive him? “Oh, I’m really sorry that I burned down some people’s house, so that make sit OK, right? I know they were friends of yours and everything, but that shouldn’t be a problem because I am just wracked with Irish guilt. So we’re cool, right?”
Ethel’s Crying Face: The whole Ethel storyline was like taking some stuffing from last Thanksgiving, putting it back in the bird, and wondering why the whole lump was mushy, moldy, and not at all tasteful. We all knew she was practicing the world’s oldest profession, so why was she so secretive? Why was this drawn out over three episodes? And why did it have the exact same result as her storyline last season? Better to have just left her out there in the ether with no idea what she was doing rather than drag her back in for no good reason. But the worst part of the whole thing was her cry face. It was even uglier than Claire Danes on Homeland. She has some weird horseshoe shaped sinew right below her nose that was, well, it was crazy looking and made me think too much about her skull. I did not like it.
Help Wanted: Mrs. Hughes has two, yes two, openings at Downton Abbey and didn’t even offer one of the jobs to Ethel. Instead she slumps off into the unknown on the “road to ruin,” as Mrs. Hughes herself says. Well, only she can prevent forrest fires.
Daisy: Need I say more?
Everything about Anna and Bates Stupid Letters: Yes, I want Bates and Anna to be sweet and in love forever, but do we really want to see him hiding mysterious bits of paper for shady people in prison and her moping about for the rest of the season? No. Spring him already!
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[Photo Credit: Masterpiece]