Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Downton Abbey 1.05

“You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”

This particular episode of “Downton Abbey” featured one of my all-time favorite battles between Isobel and Violet. It involves the village flower show, which, on its face, seems kind of minor, but it means a lot to the Crawleys and the villagers. It reminds me how small the world was at the turn of the century. I think it’s quaint and nice and has a real community feel. It reminded me of a village fete I went to in Shropshire once. There was also plenty of real drama, both upstairs and down. Mary and Matthew continue to make each other miserable, Mary and Edith begin what will become a rather devastating war with each other, and Thomas and O’Brien escalate their war against Bates and Anna. It’s just another week in the life of our favorite English manor house. Suffice it to say, there won’t be many characters who survive the season with their reputations intact.

At the beginning of the episode, some of the maids are straightening up Mary’s room, and Daisy has a little freak-out when trying to light the fire. She’s flashing back to seeing Mr. Pamuk’s body carried through the house. There’s also been a letter from Aunt Rosamund (Robert’s sister) saying that Mary’s name isn’t so good in London anymore. When the servants are all having a meal later, Daisy gets a bit blabby, implying that she saw something way back when related to Mr. Pamuk and Mary’s bedroom. O’Brien and Thomas pick up on it immediately, of course. Later, O’Brien and Thomas discuss the latest intel. It turns out that Thomas wrote a letter to a footman in London that mentioned that Mary might not be as virtuous as everyone thinks. Word has gotten out, and rumors about Mary have spread throughout London. Which explains Rosamund’s letter. Also, Thomas is worried that Bates saw him steal a bottle of wine, so they’re going to come up with a new plan to try and get rid of him.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Gwen has another job interview. This is one that Sybil actually arranged, so Gwen is surprised by it. Sybil is even going to take her to the interview in the governess cart. Gwen has to feign sick to get out of work for a few hours, and then the ladies are on their way. The interview goes reasonably well, but Sybil and Gwen run into trouble on the way home. The horse pulling their cart throws a shoe. The plan is to take the horse to the blacksmith in the nearest village, but when they make it to the blacksmith shop, Sybil and Gwen find that the blacksmith is out of town. So they’re going to have to walk the rest of the way home with a lame horse. As they are trying to coax the horse forward, Sybil and Gwen end up falling in a huge mud puddle. It’s going to be really difficult to hide what they’ve been up to when they get home in muddy clothes. Somehow, even though the Crawleys were all getting worried about Sybil not returning, the pair manage to arrive home without too much trouble. Gwen, however, does not end up getting the job.

O’Brien and Thomas really have two nefarious plans running at once in this episode. Frist, Robert shows Bates that one of his collection of fancy snuff boxes is missing. Simultaneously, O’Brien gets Edith to question Daisy about what makes her so frightened of Mary’s bedroom, so now Edith knows something probably happened between Mary and Mr. Pamuk, too. Edith keeps quiet at first, but she won’t for long. The Crawleys have Sir Anthony Stratten, a member of the peerage who is middle aged and lives nearby, over for dinner as a potential suitor for Mary. Mary, however, is not enthused, and in a conversation with Cora that Edith overhears, Mary remarks that Cora should spend more time trying to help Edith find a husband, because Edith actually needs the help. The dinner itself is a horrible bore to Mary, even with little excitement due t Mrs. Patmore accidentally sprinkling salt on top of a pudding instead of sugar (Mrs. Patmore’s vision had been failing, but she didn’t tell anyone). Anyway, Mary had enjoyed talking with Matthew significantly more than she enjoyed talking with Sir Anthony, but when she sees Edith getting too chummy with Sir Anthony, she decides she wants all the toys for herself. She bets Edith that she can snag Sir Anthony before Edith can. When the men join the ladies in the drawing room, Mary does everything she can to get her turn of the 20th century flirt on. This, naturally, upsets Matthew, who had thought he had a chance with Mary again. He ends up leaving the party quite grumpy.

Regarding Thomas and O’Brien’s first bit of trickery, Carson gathers the staff to make a big announcement about the missing snuff box. He asks the staff for information on its whereabouts. Bates and Anna figure that Thomas and O’Brien probably planted the box in one of their rooms to frame Bates, so they find it and turn right around and plant it in either Thomas or O’Brien’s room (we don’t know which for sure). Bates and Anna then put on a show of being really super eager for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes to search all the servants’ rooms, and Thomas and O’Brien know the jig is up. They race off to try to find the box in one of their rooms before Carson and Mrs. Hughes can, and they’re most definitely caught in the act. Since they weren’t actually caught with the snuff box, it doesn’t seem like there will be any long-term punishment, but it certainly put the kibosh on this particular scheme to get rid of Bates. It was nice to see Thomas and O’Brien beaten at their own game.

As I alluded to earlier in this post, my favorite plot in this episode was the little diversion about the village flower show. Violet wins the Grantham Cup for “best bloom in the village” every year, apparently because the judges are afraid of her. Isobel, however, thinks the roses grown by Mr. Mosley’s father are superior, and she wants him to win the cup. Never being one to pull her punches, Isobel tells Violet straight up that she’s only been winning the cup out of obligation. Violet does not seem at all inclined to change this tradition. Soon enough, it’s time for the flower show itself. Mary tries to chat up Matthew, but he’s been spurned by her one too many times, and he refuses to talk to her. Hurt by this, Mary then makes a disparaging comment to Edith. In lighter news, Violet, when announcing the winner of the Grantham Cup, has a moment of conscience and announces Mosely, Sr. is the winner, instead of herself. I thought this was a sweet, illuminating moment for Violet. Anyway, Edith is so incensed by what went down at the flower show with Mary that when she gets home, she writes a letter to the Turkish ambassador, detailing what she knows about the death of Mr. Pamuk.

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