Let Battle Commence: Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 8

Carson and Mrs Hughes on the beach
Live a lot, Mrs. Hughes and Carson!

Blogger Amie Simon brings us our season finale recap... Say it ain't so! Look for Amie's season wrap-up (with cocktail suggestions!) next week.
 
How can Downton season four be over already? I feel like it just started! Last night’s 90-minute finale jumped ahead almost a year in the Crawley family’s life, and managed to wrap up almost everything—while still leaving us with a few mysteries to marinate on for next season!

We start this episode in the kitchen with Mrs. Hughes asking for Daisy to go to London with her to help with Rose’s coming out party. Ivy is directed to stay and tend to Lady Edith and Branson, at which point she pipes up with, “Why does Lady Edith look so tired? She goes away for 8 months to Geneva and comes back looking more tired than when she left.” I can’t believe this adoption plan wasn’t obvious to EVERYONE. I mean, seriously.
 
With a snotty look on his face, Barrow asks Daisy if she’s looking forward to going to London, but she wisely points out that it will be exactly the same. “What does it matter where I peel potatoes?” Ooh, good one Dais. Barrow then tells Daisy to let Baxter know that he’s “looking forward to hearing the stories she has to tell me.” Even with her away, he’s scheming. That guy!

Poor, distraught Edith! She does look tired, especially while having tea with Granny. The Dowager advises Edith to cheer up, because, the whole thing worked out for the best and after all, Edith’s French must be superbe! Even Edith has her breaking point, and she lashes out at Violet a little, at least, for suggesting that knowing French is the important thing.

In London, discussions center around the accommodations being too tight, with Cora, Mary, Rose, and Lord Grantham trying to make plans for Cora’s mother and brother Harold coming to visit. Lady Grantham makes a hilarious suggestion to Mary that perhaps she can share a room with her sister, and Mary counters with, “You’re joking. I’d rather sleep on the roof than share with Edith.” Classic Lady Mary!

Looks like Lord Merton is determined to woo Isobel, as he arrives at her house just to ask if she’s going to London for Rose’s ball, because he’s received an invite, but doesn’t want to go unless she’ll be there. She tries to brush him off by saying she’s “dour and serious,” but he doesn’t quite believe her. Oh, these two! So cute.

Young Rose heads to the nightclub later to go dancing with her pretty young friend, Madeline Allsop, where they run into Madeline’s father and … the Prince of Wales! Wow, that guy looks smarmy. Turns out the Prince stayed with Rose’s father in India, aka, “Good ol’ Shrimpy!,” so the girls are invited to sit with them, and Rose becomes acquainted with another lady at the table, Freda Ward. Freda, it should be noted, seems extra cozy with the Prince. Hmm…
 
Upon Lady Edith’s departure, Branson announces that he won’t need anything special that evening because he’s planning on “going down to the pub” for dinner. This news does not please Barrow, and starts him off on a rant to Ivy about how it’s totally unfair that the chauffeur is now above his own station, and bitches about having to call him “sir.” Look out, Tom! Barrow isn’t getting his way with Baxter, and it looks like he’s gonna take it out on you.

In London, everything gets crazy as Mrs. Levinson and Uncle Harold arrive well before there’s
anyone home to receive them. It’s funny how Martha is all modern American lady right up until the point that she feels like she’s owed something, isn’t it? And that something is that she’s not feeling loved enough upon her arrival. Oh, and her maid quit right before she left for London. Life is hard for millionaire widows.

As Edith welcomes her grand mama and meets her Uncle for the first time, we get a sense of Harold’s disposition, and it’s not a happy one: “Watching debutantes in a ballroom is not my kind of fun.” I’m personally kind of excited to see Harold, because if there’s anything the Crawleys need, it’s another brash American to shake things up! And speaking of brash, Harold’s funny valet, Ethan Slade, is beaming with excitement at being abroad. He tries to share it with Daisy, but she is having none of it, and gives him a cold, “I’m never excited” reply. HA!

Meanwhile, Charles Blake has been whisking Mary around the art museum, and it looks like their romance is blooming! She does look positively glowing around him—in a way she doesn’t around Gillingham. And, oh! Gillingham just happens to be at the museum too. Who knew? Looks like Rose did, but she didn’t say anything. I was almost expecting a duel to break out in the middle of all the awkward glances, but sadly it didn’t.

To reward the staff for all their hard work, Cora has asked Carson to organize a day off for the servants that includes a special treat! Mrs. Hughes starts beaming at the thought of it … until Carson shares his ideas for an outing: The science museum? A trip to see the new Crystal Palace? Why don’t they just go to church or something. Sheesh, Carson! At least let them have some booze. Hughes clearly doesn’t agree with his suggestions, but she wisely tells him to bring them up to the staff to see what they think instead of saying anything to him directly.

Of course the second Branson runs into Bunting, they run into the Dowager. Violet, hilariously, looks down her nose at Sarah and tries to prove her superiority by mentioning that her niece is being presented and she’s going to join them “at the palace later.” As if Sarah Bunting would be impressed by that! She’s put off, but still goes to have dinner with Branson. Wait, is this a date? Officially? Dating in Downton Abbey is confusing.

Slade is obviously falling for Daisy, because he’s all smiles and compliments around her. He tells her that she seems to be in charge, and that she’s, “Not like an assistant at all.” Daisy is wary, as she should be. After Daisy gives him the smack down, Carson approaches him about being a footman, and sticks with the formal “Mr. Levinson” title, which causes young Ethan to become confused. When he tries to correct Carson by saying his employer is called Levinson, not me, Carson firmly replies, “in this house, you both are!”
 
With one of Rose’s many parties in full swing, Lady Rosamond arrives with that gambling cheat Terrence Sampson! “What the devil!” exclaims Lord Grantham, and I have to wonder the same thing, until I remember Rosamund’s weakness for smarmy younger men—and about how no one except Gillingham, Gregson, and Robert know the truth about how icky that guy really is.

The Levinsons’ obvious fortune attracts the attention of Sampson, who wonders if Harold gambles, and then tips off Madeline’s father, Lord Aysgarth, about them being “made of money.” Crafty father Allsop then directs his lovely daughter to cozy up to Harold in an effort to save their fortune, while throwing himself at Martha and dangling his Baronship in front of her as a prize. This poor guy. He may not survive the night!

During dinner, forward Sarah Bunting suggests that Branson take her to see the house, and when he pauses, she teases him about it “not being allowed,” which of course forces him to prove her wrong. After he gives her a tour of the main rooms, she asks to go up the stairs just so she can see the whole effect from the mezzanine.
 
“I feel a bit awkward, to be honest, “ Branson says. And although Sarah looks confused, we KNOW the reason why! And the reason is Edna Braithwaite, and how he ‘accidentally’ slept with her when he was drunk, thus why having another lady so close to his bedroom makes him so nervous. Barrow is (of course) skulking around in the corner, and calls them out on being there at night, alone. Uh-oh!
 
Rose and her young entourage arrive at the nightclub again, only this time Sampson is with them after having smarmed his way into an invite. Freda, Rose and Madeline are all being very giggly about a love letter from the Prince to Freda, who is his secret love! SHOCKER. Sampson unfortunately overhears something about it, and slips the letter out of Freda’s purse and into his pocket while the girls hit the dance floor. Ugh! He is going to ransom that for sure!
 
Although we don’t get a complete explanation of where Michael Gregson is or what happened to him, we do find out that Edith is now the paper’s editor, because those mysterious papers he had her sign gave her power of attorney over his assets. After some back and forth between Edith and Rosamund on the subject, Edith declares that she’s having second thoughts about her daughter (!!!) and wants to go retrieve her and place her in the hands of Farmer Drewe. Rosamund persists, so Edith goes for the gusto with the most scathing remark she’s ever made:
 
“The fact remains you’ve never been a mother.” OUCH! That hurt.

Fickle Isobel has finally come around and agrees to go the ball, so she sends Lord Merton a letter to tell him, and then he agrees to see her off to the train station! Since she’s traveling with the Dowager, that gives Violet lots of reasons to make fun of the two of them, but she can barely say anything at all except that she’s so upset she can’t travel with her maid. Oh, Violet! I agree with Isobel, you can manage.
 
Mrs. Hughes is apparently rallying the staff to make a donation of old clothes to the poor while in London, and Anna decides to get rid of Bates’ old overcoat, but as Hughes is going through the pockets, she finds …. (duhnnn dunnnn dunnnn!) a ticket for the train to LONDON. Oh no oh no oh no! Is this proof that he killed Mr. Green? Do we even care? We certainly don’t blame him, that’s for sure. But what will Bates do if he finds out he’s found out?

We don’t get to find out right away, because the day has arrived for Rose’s coming out, which is fancy with a capital F! Apparently all the debutantes get to wear wedding dresses and giant fascinators, and arrive to be presented to the King and Queen in a big parade, with paparazzi and everything! Wow. Of course, the whole thing goes off without a hitch, and Rose even manages to have a conversation with the King! That’s quite a coup.

Rather than have the burden of knowing that Bates was in London and not York the day Mr. Green had his “accident,” Mrs. Hughes passes the ticket stub on to Lady Mary to let her decide what to do with it. Wait, what? Hughes says, “We can’t know what happened on that street. Maybe he was in London for an innocent reason, and if he was there to avenge his wife’s honor, I won’t condemn him for it. I’m sorry, but I won’t.” Right. But you’ll hand that stub over to Mary and let her do it? I don’t get it. At all.

At the coming out reception, Harold frankly tells Madeline the knows all about her father’s intentions with his mother, and the poor young girl runs away, all flustered and thinking he’s called her out on their game. But it’s clear Harold knows what’s up and was just having a little fun. Aw, he seems like a good guy! Why doesn’t anyone like him? Just because he doesn’t know how to introduce himself to royalty …

Freda and Rose have finally caught on to what Sampson did, and approach Robert with the problem. Nothing makes Lord Grantham more upset than the thought of someone messing with his monarchy! So he devises a scheme to steal the letter back, involving a forgery (Bates’ skill comes in handy, again), a distraction, and some willing participants in the ruse.

Oh, finally! Some idea about Gregson: It seems he took exception to what a “gang of toughs in brown” were saying, and then he disappeared shortly after. Aw, poor Edith. This is definitely the thing that convinces Edith that she needs to have her baby close. “If Michael is dead, if I do inherit, than I have to give at least half to the baby don’t you see?” Rosamund doesn’t, but I can’t help but cheer Edith on. Go get your daughter, Edith! Go get her back.

Isobel, The Dowager, Harold, Madeline, Mrs. Levinson, and Lord Aysgarth all enjoy a lovely picnic (an apology arranged by Harold for Madeline), with James, Daisy, and Slade—who has his own plan to spend more time with Daisy—serving. Harold reveals that he’s kind of a playboy in America, and enjoys the attention of many lady friends. But adds that he likes Madeline more than any other lady he’s ever known. More cute! I love it.

Not so cute is Bates’ prison scowl—which returns twice: once when Hughes not-so-smoothly tries to get him to fess up about London, and again when Lady Mary tries, by saying, “I expect many people must regret things they’ve got up to in London.” Ladies! Must you be so obvious about this? Mary later tells Mrs. Hughes that she’s not sure can leave this alone. Oh no!

Even more oh, no: Barrows tells Robert that he saw “Mr. Branson with a lady” UPSTAIRS. And hints very heavily that he was “entertaining” Ms. Sarah Bunting in the bedrooms. Oh man. Robert is going to be pissed! Barrow, I know you loved Sybil but leave that poor guy alone for goodness sake.

Aw! The love-struck valet, Slade, has devised a way to bring Daisy back home with him! He says that Harold is in love with Daisy’s cooking, and wants to bring her to America to be his chef. Ooh, smart move, Slade! You might actually convince her—or Patmore will. Is this Daisy’s chance at love and adventure? The suspense is killing me.

During a faux card game to distract Sampson, Mary, Blake, and Rose search his house, but they can’t find the letter. I’m pretty shocked no one thought the guy would just have it on him at all times, but I guess they were overcome with emotion at the thought of the Prince being embroiled in scandal. Blake actually could care less about the letter, and is more charmed by Mary’s invite to take part in the adventure. He starts by saying, “I can’t be sad; you were in trouble and you called on me,” and then adds a very firm, “Give me a chance!” before making a very dashing exit.

Seemingly the only one who’s thought that the blackmail letter might be on Sampson is Bates. Thank God someone at Downton has been in prison! First he saves the day with the forgery scheme, and then he volunteers to help the guests with their coats and deftly re-steals the letter right out of his inside pocket. Hurrah! Smarmy Sampson is defeated, and the British monarchy is saved from gossip and scandal. For now.

A downright cheerful Anna finally seems to be returning to her old self now that Green is no longer a threat … but has Mary changed her mind about revealing the ticket stub? It seems she has, based on the incident with the letter. After Anna exclaims, “He’s very loyal to the family. I hope you know that.” Mary agrees, and then throws the London ticket stub in the fire destroying the only evidence that exists.

With that matter put to bed, everyone finally has a chance to relax and celebrate at Rose’s ball, and even better: Freda has brought The Prince, and he opens the ball by dancing with Rose! Even Isobel looks impressed. Both “Mary’s Men” arrive, and she chooses to dance with Gillngham first—leaving Blake seething with jealousy as he watches them twirl around the floor, and sees Mary pull Tony away into an empty room.

Determined Lord Aysgarth pops the question to Mrs. Levinson, and seems completely surprised when she says NO. But she’s sympathetic to his struggles, and makes him an offer as a consolation prize: “Why don’t you come to Newport, and I will rustle up some old rich widows that want a title more than I do!” PERFECT. I like you, Martha.

Madeline and Harold then reach their own agreement to keep in touch via letters, and their affections seem to be burning a little bit hotter than their parents’. She sweetly tells him that he’s “kind, clever and much too modest.” Aww. She’s so sweet, and seems to genuinely like him.

But let’s get back to Mary and Tony in that COMPLETELY EMPTY room. He asks her again about her plans, and presses her for more information about his rival, Charles Blake:“Are you sure it’s not him?” and Mary tells him that she can’t imagine it would be, since he’s on the opposite side of her struggle to save Downton. Despite his better judgment, Gillingham sets the record straight about Blake, revealing that he’s heir to a large estate and a baronetcy!

A shocked Mary tries to recover quickly, but Gillingham is now afraid he’s ruined his chances, since technically this news means Blake is a more eligible bachelor then he is. But Mary tells him not to despair, and as a friend, asks him to be happy for her:

“A year ago, I thought I’d be alone forever. That I’d mourn Matthew ‘til the end of my days. And now I know that’s not true. Even though I can’t decide right now, isn’t it something for us to celebrate?” Of course it is! And Tony smartly agrees with her, and even sneaks in a little handholding. When they return to the ball, Mary agrees to dance with Blake, and it’s Gillingham’s turn to be jealous. I think at this point, Mr. Napier is just out of luck.

More love connections are being made in the servant’s quarters, as Molesley approaches Baxter and tells her not to let Barrow bully her or draw her into his schemes. He gives her the best advice I’ve ever seen Molesley give anyone, especially himself. It’s so good that even I’m a little smitten! Let’s hope Ms. Baxter listens to him and doesn’t give in to Thomas’ demands for “information.”

We obviously can’t end this season of Downton without a confrontation between the Grand-Mamas, and so we get this exchange between Violet and Martha—where it seems, for once, that The Dowager might not have the upper hand:

Martha: “Oh, off to bed, are we? Well that’s very sensible. A woman your age needs her rest.”
Violet: “You need a rest here if you’re taken in by that booby Aysgarth!”
Martha: “Violet, forgive me, and I don’t mean to be offensive, but are you always this stuck up?”
Violet: “Do tell me, is the Lady Aysgarth all set to hold London enthralled with tales of how the West was won?”
Martha: “Thankfully I turned him down.”
Violet: “Oh! You surprise me.”
Martha: “I’m sure. You see, I have no wish to be a great lady.”
Violet: “A decision that must be reinforced whenever you look in the glass.”
Martha: “Violet, I don’t mind looking in the mirror because what I see is a woman who’s not afraid of the future. My world is coming nearer and yours is slipping further and further away. Good night.”
 
YIKES. Way to stick that knife in and twist it, Mrs. Levinson!

In the morning (!!!) Blake and Mary exit exclaiming that they’ve danced all night! Has Tony been forgotten so quickly? She questions him about his large inheritance and title, and wonders why he didn’t tell her.

“I wanted to win you by myself, alone,” Blake says. Ah, very charming! And very smart. But he knows Gillingham’s still a contender, so he asks what’s going to happen now between he and Tony, and Mary utters my most favorite line: “Let battle commence.” So saucy! I love it. Love it, love it, LOVE it.
 
Back at home, Edith approaches farmer Drewe about taking in her daughter secretly! GO EDITH! I still wish there was a way for her to keep her baby as her own, but I guess this is as good as it gets. Drewe is surprisingly sympathetic, and poses a plan: “I think it should be our secret m’lady. Ours, and no one else’s … No one but you and I would know.” Oh man. Edith almost collapses from the massive kindness. I’m so glad Farmer Drewe is on Team Edith!
 
Carson finally realized his stuffy museum plans weren’t going to fly, and proposes a day at the beach (thanks to a postcard sneakily pinned by Mrs. Hughes onto a cork board downstairs). Mrs. Patmore gets an ice cream cone, James and Molesley play volleyball, and there’s a lot of walking barefoot in the sand and surf.
 
Barrow makes one more play at twisting Baxter’s arm, but she stands firm! Bolstered by Molesley’s tenderness, she tells him he should do whatever he thinks best once he threatens to reveal her past. Barrow is surprised, and it’s unclear what he’ll do now that he doesn’t have the upper hand. Later, she tells Molesley, “There are things in my past that have made me afraid, but I’m not afraid anymore. You’ve made me strong, Mr. Molesley.” So! Much! Cute!
 
And whoa! What’s this! A smiling Daisy tells American valet Slade she won’t be coming to cook for Mr. Levinson, and when he pushes the idea of them marrying, she replies, “I suspect we want different things, Mr. Slade.” Of course, IVY wastes no time stepping in to offer her services instead, which gives Daisy the perfect opportunity to get her out of the Downton kitchen and many, many, MANY miles away. Bye, Ivy! Nice knowing you.
 
I have to admit that it’s pretty thrilling to see the Downton staff on the beach! Especially when Carson even rolls up his trousers and wades into the sea. The episode ends with Carson and Hughes holding hands and wading into the surf:
 
Mrs. Hughes: “You can always hold my hand if you need to feel steady.”
Carson: “You manage to make that sound a little risqué!”
 
Yes! Team HUGHESON! That is the best way to end this season, ever. I might even have to forgive Fellowes for last year’s season finale shocker.
 
Well! They certainly left us with a lot of things to think about for next season! But man, am I grateful none of them involve death. Will Mary pick Blake, or Gillingham? Will Isobel relent and let Lord Merton take her on a real date? Will Daisy ever find true love? Will Robert punish Branson for “entertaining” a new lady friend? Will Harold and Madeline admit they belong together? Will everyone still like Baxter once her past is revealed? Will Robert and Cora discover Edith’s secret daughter? Will Bates and Anna be able to stay happy with yet another (!!!) huge secret between them? And most importantly: will Hughes and Carson get together?
 
Please make my dreams come true in Season 5, Mr. Fellowes!!! Please, please, please.
 
Best snark between the Dowager and Mrs. Crawley:
Violet: “Can’t you even offer help without sounding the a trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground?”
Isobel: “And you must always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?”

Best snark between the Dowager and Mrs. Levinson:
Martha: “Well the gang’s all here, I see.”
Violet: “Is that American for ‘hello?’”
 
Best new term (coined by The Dowager):
Re: the poker game: “And Mary’s Men? Why are they coming?” (with Mary getting upset and saying, “Don’t call them Mary’s Men!”)

Best zinger from Martha Levinson:
To Harold, re: the trouble he got into: “We came three and half thousand miles so we could change the subject!”

Most hilarious line from Mary, all episode:
To Robert, re: Rose: “Your niece is a flapper. Accept it.”

Most hilarious line from Mrs. Patmore, all episode:
To Rose, re: her remark about the family being packed in like sardines: “If the family’s sardines, m’lady, the staff is like maggots!”

Most heartbreaking line(s):
Branson, to Sarah: “Losing Sybil was hard. Everything else is easy.”
Edith: “I sometimes feel we should make more scenes about things that matter very much.”

Cutest exchange, all episode, between Branson and Violet:
Branson: “This may be my family, but these are not quite my people!”
Violet: “That sounds like a challenge!”
Branson: “How’s this for a challenge: Dance with me.”

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03/03/14

Emilie's comment makes an interesting springboard for a conversation. One of the lines that stuck with me in this episode was when Daisy told Slade that they want different things. It has always struck me that one of the themes of Downton Abbey is that a person's station in life in the Edwardian Era is more or less fixed. This always poses a question to the characters: if you don't like your circumstances, what are you willing to do to change them? Several characters in the series have taken huge risks that changed their lives. If anyone had cause to want to change her lot in life, it would be someone who started off at the bottom of the social ladder. Ironically, Daisy has had two opportunites to radically alter her situation in life if she wished. The first came from Mr. Mason in Season Two, and the second came from Slade. But she seems happy at Downton. Perhaps that is because, as Emilie suggests, she takes pride in her job.

02/25/14

You know what I really love about Downtown Abbey- seeing people take pride in their jobs or their station and having ethics!
Where has our work ethic gone-- entitlement is as fleeting as Lord Grantham's understanding of his estate's potential.

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