Archive for the ‘PBS Masterpiece Downton Abbey’ Category

Inquiring readers: A poll I placed on this blog a few days earlier showed that people were generally more pleased with Episode One over Episode Two, but the votes were close between excellent or merely O.K. for both. As for my coverage, 80% of you like my irreverent recaps, and 20% did not, with %5 wanting me to give it up and 15% wishing I was more serious. Having considered the results, expect more tongue in cheek coverage. Warning: Spoilers! Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.

Charlie and Elsie and their Upcoming Nuptials

Mrs. Hughes is miffed, not sounding like a bride on the brink of wedded bliss. Good old Elsie wants a sit-down wedding breakfast at the school house with a groaning table filled with heart attack foods, but that’s not how posh people like Lady Mary do it. These days those skinny aristos stand around a room, delicately chewing on nibbly bits with zero calories.

“Well, I for one,” opined Charlie Carson bravely, “want to do it like the family wants to do it.”

Elsie shoots him a look that would fell a maddened bull.


Elsie shows off her sensible dress.

Later she shows Mrs. Patmore and Anna her sensible, ordinary old day dress with long sleeves and a high neck and a hem that sweeps down to her ankles. “That’ll do for a bride, don’t you think? Clean and tidy and it’ll cover all my nibbly bits.”

Even Mrs. Patmore knows better than this and gives Anna a sly look. When Elsie leaves, Mrs. P. pulls out a catalogue, a sort of Forever21.com or BridesOnline.com on paper (for you millenials), and shows her a dress at half price, plus a coupon for another 20% off, and free return postage by horse guaranteed. “I want to order this for her as a surprise bride’s gift at an impressive discount.”

Anna’s not so sure, seeing that the image is black and white and grainy, but, hey, her wedding dress was nothing to shout about either.

Mary Spies a Bump

When next we see Anna with her Mistress, that eagle eyed ice lady senses a change.

“You’re not!”

“Too early to tell, my lady, but my morning porridge is tasting somewhat off.”

“Now we know the problem isn’t Mr. Bates,” blurts Mary, pleased as punch that Anna’s completely at fault.

Anna blushes. “If I were to repeat the things you say downstairs…” (‘And talk about the dead men we carry from room to room in the dark of the night… or your sampling session with Viscount Gillingham in Liverpool..’.)

“Should you be working?” Lady Mary interrupts Anna’s thoughts. “I can put Baxter on double duty for 1/4 the pay…”

“No, I don’t want to tell Mr. Bates until I can no longer see my feet. He’ll never notice, what with this loose frock and all.”

Mary claps her hands with glee. “At the end of the third month we’ll whiz up to London to see Dr. Price and have that miracle-working stitch stitched in. Then we can go shopping. Oh, how exciting!”

“S’cuse me, my lady,” says Anna, covering her mouth, “but I’ve got to find the nearest loo.”

Thomas Reads the Paper

Meanwhile, Thomas Barrow is in the servant’s hall looking at adverts before his inevitable heave-ho, after having finished reading an article on Exit Counseling.

“Very thoughtful of you,” says Mr. Carson. “Your finding a job should avoid any unpleasantness on my part, though don’t go thinking that my giving you the pink slip shall ruin my honeymoon in any way whatsoever.”

“So nice of you to say,” says Thomas, spying a promising ad for a position of trust in a prominent household, thinking a position of trust is right up his alley.


Cora talks to Elsie and Charlie about their nuptials.

Lady Cora Finally Gets A Story Line, Sort Of

Lady Cora, having talked with Mrs. Patmore and gotten wind of Lady Mary’s steamrolling the wedding reception at the house and Mrs. Hughes’ unhappiness with the situation, invites all interested parties, including Isobel, to dinner. When they assemble in the drawing room after a divine meal of fig and stilton salad with port wine dressing, venison tenderloin with madeira green peppercorn sauce, and floating islands with lemon scented custard sauce, she summons Mrs. Hughes. Epicurious http://www.epicurious.com/archive/entertaining/partiesevents/tv-dinners-downton-abbey

“Mrs. Hughes,” she begins, I’m sorry to put you on the spot, but I believe you have been rather railroaded into holding your reception in the hall by my imperious and spoiled daughter. I understand you don’t want to be married from this house.”

The Earl – ” What?” Lady Mary – “Why ever not?” Carson – “My lady, we are both privileged ….”

“No!…I want to hear from Mrs. Hughes.” The outraged chorus stops. Isobel smiles with glee.

Mrs. Hughes, eyes averted from her beloved, seizes the moment – “I don’t want to sound ungrateful -this is a fine house – it would be an honor to hold our party here…”

“But it’s not what you want.”

“Precisely! None of us is on a diet, my lady. We need energy to work, whereas you and your lordship and Lady Mary must watch your waistlines from sitting around all day. At my reception I want to serve a solid meal at proper tables, with plenty of calories and carbohydrates, so that we may go about our duties later with vim, vigor and gusto.”

“Does anyone have a sit down wedding breakfast anymore?” Mary snorts, wishing to have a word in.

Mrs. Hughes turns to her. “A great many people my lady. And then I’d like to feel we can ask all sorts, everyone who’s been part of our lives here, our friends, and even our betters, such as yourselves, should you deign to join us. And I’ve planned for music later on, with dancing and whooping and hollering, none of which would be suitable in the great hall.”

“It would not,” intones Carson, who is feeling nauseous just thinking about having to kick up his heels a few scant hours before PERFORMING in bed. ‘Will he have the stamina,’ he wonders. ‘Will Elsie?’

“There you are, were only agreeing,” says Elsie, not knowing what is on her Charlie’s mind.

Mary attempts one more time to hold the reception in a proper place. “Mrs. Hughes, doesn’t Carson deserve a wedding in this house?”

“It’s about Charles Carlson and Elsie Hughes, just us, Lady Mary. Not you and Carson, which I find a bit odd, truth be told. Pardon me, but may I be excused?”

Not if Lady Mary could help it, but Cora was done with the subject. “I understand your reasons, Mrs. Hughes. I hope we will be invited.”
‘Didn’t I just say?’ Mrs. Hughes thinks to herself, wondering if Lady Cora has early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Some Mother and Daughter Bonding Time



The moment Elsie and Charlie leave the room, Lady Mary and her momma express their opinions.

“You’re a bully. I should have given you a spanking when you were young. Or at least twenty lashes with a wet noodle,” Cora says to her beloved eldest.

Mary rounds on her momma: “You think I’M a bully, I think YOU’RE a snob. You just don’t want the bother of hosting the servants’ wedding in the hall!”

Lady Cora yanks on the bell pull to order 10 wet noodles. She’s had enough of her daughter’s insufferable case of affluenza.

Denker and Sprat

The viewer is then treated to Denker making Mr. Sprat’s life miserable once again. A visitor arrives at the back door in the dark of night and Denker insists on knowing who it is.

“Nothing, nobody, that is, it was a visitor, but he came to the wrong house.” Sprat’s evasiveness doesn’t faze Denker one bit. She approaches Violet with false concern, wanting to know about Sprat’s friends.

“I know he has many relations who seem to get married and buried with numbing regularity, usually on inconvenient days…” our favorite dowager says, wondering why Denker is always interrupting her with silly nonsense.

The local constable visits the servant’s hall and asks Sprat if he’s seen Wally, his sister’s son, just absconded from prison and currently on the run.

“Has the cretin made any contact, Mr. Sprat?”

Sprat, his eyes dilated, shakes his head no, unable to speak.

When the constable leaves, Denker is at her oiliest. “What an interesting family you have, Mr. Sprat. Mine are dull compared to yours. After you put that criminal up in the potting shed, did he get away safely? Don’t worry, Mr. Sprat, I can keep secrets if I want to. Will you want me to?”

‘I’m sunk,’ thinks Sprat, ‘and well and truly stuck with the bitch for the rest of my working life.’

Thomas on the Hunt for a Job and Some Respectability

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Thomas at a job interview

Wearing his best Sunday bowler hat, St. Thomas à Barrow, his transformation into a nice person almost complete, approaches a grand but moldering house in Dryden Park in York. As the elderly owner takes him through the largely empty but dusty mansion, he says without irony, “We’ve rather let things slide since my wife died. Our previous housekeeper worked for a Miss Havisham, who seemed to be the gloomy, untidy sort.” He talks about the old days when his wife was a lady in waiting to some grand duchess and when the house was used for entertaining, and then observes that his two sons never came back from the war. Thomas, commiserating, mentions his service in Flanders.

The old man perks up. “This is what I need, someone who knows what it like to fight for his king and his country.”

‘I wouldn’t know, really,’ Thomas thinks, flexing his bad hand and recalling how he made it BAD in order to escape combat. “How many staff do you have?” he asks, cutting to the chase.

“Mrs. Tomkins comes in 3 days a week, and a man outside every now and then. When the good times return and they all come back, we must be ready…we can’t let standards slip.”

It becomes clear to Thomas that while serving in the house as it was twenty years before would have been perfect, the job wasn’t right for him now. ‘More’s the pity,’ he thinks, as he bids the old man goodbye, and returns to the Abbey, where Molesley looks to Daisy’s education and Daisy, who’s champin’ at the bit for worry about Mr. Mason, corrals Lady Cora every chance she gets to put a good word in for her papa-in-law.

Edith, Wonder Woman

Having rather a drama on her hands with her male editor, Edith scurries to London. There, she hooks up with Bertie Pelham, land agent. He’s someone she’s met before, a detail that most viewers have already forgotten.

“I own the magazine, you know,” she says, “and I’m off to fire my editor.”

“How modern!” he says, with admiration.

“Yes. I miss Marigold, my ward, er, our ward,” she says to the man who has no clue as to how modern she really is.

“Would you care to have a drink later on?” he asks.

“As long as it’s near the office. I must lead a purposeful life.”


Edith, Wonder woman. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

But after she fires her editor, Edith realizes that the proofs are due at the printers in 9 hours and that her ghastly ex-editor had done nothing worth sending over. Crikey! A four a.m. deadline! That’s way past her bed time, but she refuses to be defeated. She runs through Covent Garden, and races against time, like Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, to break her date with Bertie. (Cue Chariots of Fire music.)

In Bertie’s mind, the exercise has given Lady Edith’s skin a sexy glow. Overcome by her sweateous beauty, he offers to tag along and cook, clean, sew, and look after babies to help her meet her deadline. Edith, having never done anything more than sit on a tractor, give her sister a rough time, pen a story or two, and pine after Marigold, becomes an instant expert on magazine layout and design. Working their well-manicured fingers to the bone, she and her team meet the deadline with seconds to spare. Whew! Lady Edith turns to Bertie, “Want to go for that drink now?” He’d like to go for something more, but decides to bide his time.

And Now, Back to the Wedding Preparations

When the catalogue dress arrives, Mrs. P. is crestfallen. “Lordy, lordy, this is awful! It’s gray. It’s plain! It’s just like Elsie’s other dress! It seemed so nice in the picture! It seemed like such a bargain. Now she’s got two ugly dresses.” (As you can see, gentle readers, false advertising reared its ugly head as early as 1925.)

This upsets Anna so much that, when she tends to Lady Mary’s toilette, Lady Mary wonders if Anna’s having a miscarriage again. “Oh, no, not yet, m’lady. It’s so much worse. Mrs. Hughes has the ugliest two dresses in creation in which to marry her Prince Charming!”

Lady Mary, wanting her revenge on her mama and wishing to play the grande dame, says, “Well, we can’t have that! Let’s have you, Mrs. Patmore, and Mrs. Hughes rifle through Mama’s closet for a nice designer coat that is worth 10 years of your combined salaries. I’m sure Mama won’t mind.”

But when Lady Cora returns to the Abbey from a meeting about the hospitals, where Violet and Isobel honked for hours like two fighting geese, she is in no frame of mind to think about frocks and coats and weddings, so Lady Mary remains mum when Mum heads straight up the stairs.

When Mama enters her inner sanctum she hits the roof. She sees Elsie in one of her best coats, with other clothes tossed helter skelter on the sacred Crawley bed, and Mrs. P. and Anna attending her as if Elsie was the countess!

“What the ….?!” Lady Cora screeches. “Out of my chambers!”

The servants scurry away, leaving Lady Cora’s coats in a heap and Mrs. Hughes feeling like a naughty child in need of a smack. Lady Cora is livid for this awful business. Lady Mary is livid with her Mama and reminds her that she, Mary, is not the only one suffering from affluenza. This makes Cora feel dreadful for being so churlish to those sweet servants who have worked the sweat off their brows since puberty for practically no pay morning, noon, and night.

Eating humble pie, Cora descends to the servants quarters with a beautiful embroidered coat for Elsie. “My abject apologies,” Mrs. Hughes. “Here’s a coat that cost the earth. Please wear it, keep it, and remember my largesse for the rest of your life.”

Elsie has no words to thank her properly, knowing that she, at 5′ 4,” will never fit into a coat created for a skinny 5′ 8″ aristo, unless Baxter is willing to stay up for the rest of the night to tailor it.

T’was the Night Before the Wedding

Carson, eager to see his bride-to-be, takes a peek into Mrs. Hughes’ parlor.

“Ack! We musn’t see each other tonight!” Mrs. Hughes protests, holding a thick blanket up to her high- necked flannel jammies. She needs another night to adjust to the idea of seeing her lothario naked, and of he seeing her naked, and … oh, goodness, she’s lost her train of thought.

She falls into a fitful sleep, until…

Reception Interruptus

Knock! Knock! “We’ve come to dress the bride!” Baxter and Anna tra-la as they waltz in.

“Well, that a sentence I never thought I’d hear,” says Elsie.

The wedding ceremony is sweet. Everyone is teary eyed, including the viewers.


Mr. & Mrs. Carson aka Charlie and Elsie. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Mrs. Hughes plain gray dress is beautifully enhanced by Lady Cora’s coat.

Capturewedding day_3

Elsie and Charlie’s wedding. Credit: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

The wedding is sweet, the school house is decorated with white paper flags, and the guests are pleased as punch for all of 5 minutes, when Tom and Sybbie arrive to toast the bride and groom. Everyone abandons Charlie and Elsie to rush over to Tom. “I had to go to Boston to figure something out. I learned that Downton is my home and that you are my family.”

tom sybie_3

Tom and Sybbie join the festivities

Yeah, well, what a great way to take the spotlight off Elsie and Charlie at their reception, Tom. Harrumph and welcome back.

Music crescendoes. End of Episode 3, which I give 4 out of 5 stars.

My Recaps and Reviews of Season 6

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In the first episode of the sixth season of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary and her doting papa thwarted a scheming hussy, Lady Edith rolled up her sleeves and completed the layout of her first magazine, Carson and Mrs. Hughes contemplated their upcoming nuptials and all that this entailed, and the fate of Bates and his Anna (violin music, please) was resolved. Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen Episode 2, do not continue reading.

Some Talk at Breakfast

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Lady Mary’s exquisite crocheted top at breakfast. I want one.

Our favorite servants are working their fingers to the bone preparing breakfast, including ironing the morning paper free of creases. Our favorite pater familias is in the morning room, reading a letter from Tom. Our favorite ice queen is reading a letter from Rose, who is still in The Hamptons. “She writes she ‘might’ be back in August, but it’s a bit early to say, so she must be pregnant,” says Lady Mary, sleuth extraordinaire.

Our favorite middle daughter is doing nothing as usual, which is largely what this episode is about. Having begun Season 6 with a winning episode, the writers decided to coast on their success and take more tea breaks. This week’s plots are weak tea at best, but I suppose they keep the momentum going well enough for us to tune in for Episode 3.

The earl mentions that he plans to meet with Lady Violet and Mrs. Crawley about the hospital situation without his wife’s knowledge. As a trustee of the hospital, Lady Cora hasn’t a clue that there’s a problem between the two bull-headed women. The earl wants to sort things out before sharing the tiff with Cora and before serious blood is spilled on the carpet. As always, he is clueless about the inner strength of his lady wife.

Carson announces that Mr. Finch has arrived to speak to the agent about the Fat Stock Show. Lady Mary is the new agent, unbeknownst to Mr. Finch. “Have him cool his heels for ten minutes, then let him into the library to await my magnificent presence,” she tells Carson.

Mary’s Meddlesome Meddling

The earl then casually asks Carson about the wedding preparations. For a moment Carson worried that his liege was asking about the wedding night, but then realized that the earl said “date” not mate.

“Slowly, m’lord, but now we have to decide where to hold the reception.”

“Well, here of course!” declares Lady Mary.

“Absolutely. You can use the servants hall and make it look kind of special with decorations from the thrift penny shoppe,” the earl condescends.

“Surely we can do better than that, Papa,” says Mary, thinking of donating some of her wedding decorations, “but we’ll talk about that later, as I must hurry off and think of ways to talk down to Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Carson relays the good news of Lord Grantham’s largesse to his intended, but Mrs. Hughes isn’t enticed with the thought of celebrating her marriage where she has slaved away her youth. This causes some consternation between the two lovebirds, for when it comes to Lady Mary, Mr. Carson can’t say no. Mrs. Hughes remains adamant about holding the reception in the school house, placing Mr. Carson in an awkward position – that of finding his backbone.

Upon hearing of Mrs. Hughes’ unreasonable request, Lady Mary INSISTS that Carson SHALL have the reception at the Abbey. “Just leave Mrs. Hughes to me,” she says, dismissing Carson’s sputtering.

One suspects, however, that Lady Mary will finally meet a rock she can’t crack. It is a bride’s prerogative to totally wreck her own wedding day. If Lady Mary had ever seen an episode of Bridezilla, she’d stay clear of Mrs. Hughes, who is beginning to resemble a N.J. Shore bride-to-be standing her ground.

Meanwhile, Belowstairs.

Mrs. Patmore once again refers to Downton’s financial situation and the need to economize to her staff. “I know it’s cheating, but I think I might get a jar of horseradish.” (What? And not stay up until the wee hours of the morning to make it from scratch? Quelle horreur!) Molesley approaches Mrs. Patmore, wanting to borrow some soda. When she says archly, “Borrow?” he promises to regurgitate it at a later time so she’ll get it back.

Thomas Barrow decides to take the bull by the horns before he is constructively discharged, a lovely American euphemism for fired, much like conscious uncoupling now means divorced. (Don’t you just love PC language?) He goes on an interview for a new job, only to find out that the current situation at the Abbey ain’t all that bad. His new duties as “assistant” butler, should he get the job, would entail being a chauffeur, a footman, and a valet. It would not surprise Thomas if this penny-pinching employer would also ask the new assistant butler to cook, do the garden – why do the whole bleeding household if they had their druthers!


Anna and Bates. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Poor Bates finds poor Anna crying alone in some dark corner of the servants hall and begs her to cry in his presence from now on.

“After all, we’re married. We share everything, even your barren state. Your tears are my tears. My tears are yours. Both of us can’t even have half a child. We could adopt!”

“No” says Anna. “I want YOUR child, but I can’t bear a child, so we must remain miserable like this forever!” (Violins, please.)

Lady Mary will hear no more caterwauling. She hauls Anna off to London, where the doctor pronounces Anna’s cervix to be incompetent, just like this plot line. ‘Thankfully, Bates has nothing to do with this!’ Anna thinks gratefully. ‘It IS all my fault.’ Anna is of two minds when the doctor discusses a possible solution. ‘Is a fix possible?’ she wonders. ‘Does this mean Mr. Bates and I might be happy? Oh, woe is me! How could we ever bear such good fortune?’

Apparently so, for the next time Bates sees her, she’s full of the joys of spring. Even bouncy, as he observes. Can they both find happiness after all? T’would be a relief for us viewers, n’est ce pas?

The Hospital Situation (Again)


Lady Cora. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

When asked by Isobel why the largely absent Cora was not present at a meeting, Violet sensibly states, “It doesn’t concern her.” Of course not. Violet is in collusion with the writers, who do not seem to know what to do with a lady, who, as part of her countessing duties, supervises the household of a great estate and should, as the neighborhood’s grande dame, sit on many charitable committees. Perhaps Cora is suffering from the onset of early Alzheimer’s and the writers have failed to inform the viewers of that sad fact. Let’s just say that while Lady Mary is treated like a super woman, what with overseeing the estate, steamrolling her idea of a proper wedding reception venue for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, and finding a solution for poor Anna’s barren state, her mama’s story line might just as well be dead.

As it so happens, there’s still some life left in our disappearing countess. She learns about the secret hospital meetings and attends the next one. Violet gives her the dagger eye, but Cora blithely overlooks her mama-in-law’s express wishes and sides with Isobel, since she’s all for progress. As the season develops, can we hope to see Lady Cora in a meaty story line all her own? Inquisitive minds want to know.

The Fat Stock Show

By now, Mr. Finch had been cooling his heels for quite a while in the Abbey’s library, when Lady Mary strolls in, saying, “I’m sorry, I must be a let-down, Mr. Finch.”

“Not a let-down, my lady, I wouldn’t say that,” says Finch politely, thinking exactly that. He’s come to discuss the fat stock show at Malton with a man, knowing that ladies hate the word “fat” with a passion.

“I don’t want to bother you. We’re really hoping for a decent entry from the Abbey. Who could I talk to?”

“Why, me, of course. Hold onto your hat, Mr. Finch, I’ve replaced Mr. Branson as agent.”

mr Finch_2

Mr. Finch learns Lady Mary is the new estate agent

Mr. Finch’s face can barely contain his surprise, but he recovers quickly. “Well, it’s a changing world,” he says slowly.

“I thought the fat stock show was held just before Christmas,” she observes.

“Yes, but this is an experiment.”

Experiment, indeed. Lady Mary assures Mr. Finch that two of Downton’s pigs have shown up well in other fat stock shows and that she would discuss the situation with Mr. Drewe, the pig man.

The Drewes (Violins Please)

Later, Lady Mary, with Lady Cora and little George in tow, visits Mr. Drewe to view his lovely black-and-brown pigs. Little Marigold is also with them. Mr. Drewe asks in a roundabout fashion, “Does Lady Edith know you are here?” It is fraught with meaning, since Lady Mary hasn’t a clue who Marigold is, but Lady Cora does.

As you will recall, last season, Lady Edith, who bore a child, but couldn’t keep her child because it was born out of wedlock, a fact that might RUIN her REPUTATION, gave up her child to be raised by the Drewes. So she remained miserable all through Season 5 as she observed some illiterate farmer’s wife raise her precious babe!

Edith visited the Drewe’s farm on every pretext. “It’s warm, Mrs. Drewe. May I see Marigold?” “It’s raining, Mrs. Drewe, may I shelter Marigold with my umbrella?” “The pigs are rutting, Mrs. Drewe, may I show Marigold how they plow the ground?”

These requests creeped Mrs. Drewe out. Why was this wild-eyed aristocratic woman stalking her beloved adopted child every minute of every blessed day? “Mr. Drewe,” she told her farmer husband, “I cannot stand for that woman to be near our Marigold. Tell her she is no longer welcome. Tell her to go make her own baby.”

Poor Mr. Drewe swallowed hard. If only his Margie knew.

Well, we all know how this tale of woe worked out. After news of Gregson’s death, Lady Edith marched up to the Drewes, Marigold’s birth certificate in hand, to lay claim to her baby. Mrs. Drewe tore the certificate into a million trillion pieces, but this did not stop Edith from absconding with her own child and eventually placing Marigold as her ward in Downton Abbey’s nursery and perpetuating her lie in order to SAVE her REPUTATION.

Mrs. Drewe has been pining for her adopted daughter ever since. So when Lady Mary serenely answers Mr. Drewe’s question, “No, Lady Edith is in London,” it’s with a complete lack of irony.

Then, all of a sudden, Mrs. Drewe shows up at the barn and she sees Marigold. The woman is transfixed. She cannot take her eyes off Marigold. She holds the child, clings to her, and is unable to let go. Lady Cora feels uneasy and begins to form a PLAN. Lady Mary, her thoughts full of prize-winning pigs, is still clueless, the thought of her sister having sex out of wedlock never passing her mind.

“Let her go Margie,” Mr. Drewe says softly. (Ominous violin music, please.)

And here we have it – a cure for Mr. Mason’s seemingly unsolvable dilemma. Daisy feels solely responsible for poor Mr. Mason’s impending homelessness with her outburst at the auction. She asks for an audience with Lady Cora, who, recalling Mrs. Drewe’s intense reaction to Marigold, might or might not have a solution for Mr. Mason. That hint is all Daisy needs to put a dimple in her cheek again, and that’s all the viewers need to become angry. For what have the Drewes actually done to place themselves in such unfair jeopardy in Lady Cora’s eyes, other than to do Lady Edith an enormous favor?

The Malton Show: Let’s All Forget About Emotion

The day of the Malton Show, that muddy little affair, has dawned. Lady Mary is in her element. Today she shall demonstrate to the world her talent for choosing the perfect pig for a competition. The servants have been invited, as well as the family.


Lady Mary and Mr. Drewe at Malton. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

The little village of Malton (translate Lacock Village) is fairly teeming with people and livestock, and smelling of manure and eau de bête. The Downton pigs are truly magnificent and Lady Mary is awarded first prize. Unfortunately, at the moment of the announcement, all Crawley eyes are upon Mary, not Marigold, who suddenly goes missing.

We know where Marigold is, for Mrs. Drewe was at the event, watching her like a hungry hawk. While Downton’s writers try to build up suspense, there is none. Like the audience, Mr. Drewe knows exactly where Marigold is. And so he heads home and sees his wife in the parlor, rocking the child. “She was bored. They were paying no attention to her, not at all,” Marge says sadly. Mr. Drewe pries Marigold from his grieving wife and places her in Edith’s arms.

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The Drewes with Marigold. Image, courtesy Nick Briggs

As his ladies hie off to the abbey, Lord Grantham stays behind to talk to the stoic farmer. Mr. Drewe promises to look for another tenant farm in the morning. The earl knows how much they owe him and will help him as much as he can. At that moment I blew him a contemptuous raspberry. His tepid offer is worthless. He knows it, we know it, and gracious Mr. Drewe knows it.

The door has closed for one tenant farmer whose family has worked the land for over 100 years, but for another it might open, if Daisy gets her way. As the earl notes, “We made a plan, but we forgot about emotion. It seems unfair. It is for the best.”

Unfair, indeed. This plot development stinks, no porcine pun intended. The Drewes deserved better.

And so we’ve come to another end of another episode, which I rank three out of five stars because of the Drewe/Mason story line. Two down, six more to go, not counting the Christmas special (which will probably have Anna giving birth in a barn to drive home the idea of a miracle baby).

What did you think of this week’s offerings, gentle viewer? Feel free to agree or disagree with me.

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Well, here we are at last. We’ve come to the first episode of the last season of the very best soap opera drama that British television has to offer.

downton 1

Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE


Tom has moved to Boston with Sybbie. Lady Edith is still at sixes and sevens. Lady Mary is the new estate agent and still as cold as an icicle. The Earl is as backward thinking as ever, and Lady Cora has all but disappeared. SPOILER ALERT! Do not continue reading if you have not seen this episode.

1925 marked the fading twilight of a golden era of British country estates – sumptuous, super-sized mansions built on vast lands that required a small village, outlying tenant farms, and an army of workers to maintain. The upper classes of post-war Britain were struggling to pay crippling taxes and the increased salaries of servants, or so we are told. With droves of young labor migrating to cities for better-paying jobs, as shop girls, for example, it was a losing situation. In this final season, viewers will see the continued struggles of the Crawley family to make certain ends meet, even while maintaining a lavish lifestyle.

Enough of preaching, let’s have some fun! Season Six opens just nine days after Season Five’s Christmas special, with a lavish fox hunt not seen since Season One. As Lady Mary, the earl, and invited guests mill around on their horses, male servers hand out morning libations in silver horse head goblets.

Fox Hunt_1 DA641413

Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Then the hunt begins and they’re off! A woman in a nut-brown outfit glares at Lady Mary on the sidelines. “Who’s that?” asks our heroine, with that upper crust coldness Michelle Dockery pulls off so well.

Carson encourages the female stranger to watch the hunt from a better vantage point. In another season, our favorite butler would have instantly shooed a person “of such unappealing aspect” off the premises. Glimpsing her again as she’s about to cross a creek, Lady Mary falls off her horse despite riding astride like a man. So much for a safer ride, she thinks, as she’s covered in mud.

As she returns to the Abbey, she is in no mood to mince words with the minx who awaits her. Their conversation goes something like this: “Hello, Lady Mary, you don’t know me, but I know you. Remember the Grand Hotel Liverpool? Well, my name is Rita. I was the chambermaid who saw Viscount Gillingham’s naked backside covering your naked front side. I have proof in the form of a torn out page from the front desk register, for which I lost my lousy job. Gimme ‎£1,000 and I’ll slither away quietly, never to darken you door again.”

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Lady Mary. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

“You think this is the first time some blood sucking vampire has tried to black mail me? Your cheek astounds me. No! Go away! or I’ll have Carson burn you to ashes with a silver cross.”

Not deterred in the least, the brazen Liverpuddlian makes a second attempt at teasing out Lady Mary’s charitable sensibilities. She bluffs her way past Mrs. Hughes and surprises Mary, who is about to partake of breakfast in her chambers. “I want my money!”she demands. An astonished Lady Mary can’t decide which is worse – a badly feathered nut brown-wren infiltrating her inner sanctum or the fact that the creature bit into her toast. “How dare you!” she hisses. A thin layer of frost instantly spreads towards Rita’s feet. Before she’s turned into a pillar of ice, Anna yanks Rita by the arm and pulls her out of the room.

But the former chambermaid is no missish miss. Having viewed the Abbey inside and out, she sees gold in them thar hills. Rita makes her third direct approach via the front door. As Carson guards her like a Rottweiler with gnashed teeth, Lord Grantham emerges from the library. Rita, who developed her biceps hauling 90 pails of water up and down 6 flights of stairs every day, pushes her way past Carson and into the earl’s library, where she fills the earl in on Mary’s extra-curricular activities.

Mary interrupts them at the conclusion of this revealing tête–à–tête, with the result that everyone’s disappointed: The earl in Tony Gillingham’s namby-pamby seduction, for he has great pride in Mary’s wise decision to sample a potential husband’s potency; Mary in her papa for giving in to blackmail, like the wuss he is; and Rita for receiving only £ 50, when she could have made so much more on her backside for less trouble.

The plot now centers on our favorite new amorous couple, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, who were engaged at the end of last season. Instead of hearing Disney doves cooing in the air and imagining herself in decked out in virginal white, Mrs. Hughes seems strangely reluctant to set a wedding date. The mere thought of Carson seeing her without her corsets in the blinding light of a candle throws her in a tizzy. (Whatever happened to British endurance? Stiff upper lip? Thinking of England during the supreme moment of penetration?) And so Mrs. Hughes consults the nearest marriage counselor at hand – the never married Mrs. Patmore. I give you their brilliant dialogue, almost verbatim. The two women skirt the topic of marital duties in a roundabout way, with many facial expressions and suggestive pauses:

Mrs. P: “So what’s the problem?”
Mrs. H: “I hadn’t fully considered all the aspects of marriage, of what I was getting into…”

Mrs. P:- “I don’t understand …”

Mrs Hughes makes a face.

Mrs. P: “Oh, lord, you mean…”

Mrs. Patmore makes a face.

Both women nod their heads.

Mrs. H: “Yes.”

Mrs. P: “Well there’s nothing so terrible about it is there? So they say… I wouldn’t know, of course.”

Me: *Hahahahahaha!*

Mrs. H: “Mrs. Patmore, look at me! I’m a woman in late middle age… I’m not sure I can let him see me as I am now.”

Mrs. P: “Perhaps you can keep the lights off.”

Me: *Hahahahahaha!*

Mrs. H: “I think we should be clear about what we’re doing.”

Mrs. P: “Or not doing.

Mrs. H: “Yes, thank you Mrs. Patmore.”

Now we enter the realm of pure fantasy, for Mrs. Patmore attempts to discuss the subject with Mr. Hughes, who was also having second thoughts. Thinking of his ample girth, creaky knees, and tendency to huff and puff with any exertion, Carson was wondering if his lady love might not be pleased with his husbandly performance. If he couldn’t get up the nerve to tell her that Elsie was his favorite childhood dairy cow, which is why he wouldn’t call her by her natal name, how could he find the courage to mount his beloved in the marital bed as if he were a man still in his 20’s, nay 30’s, nay 40’s? And so his full attention isn’t quite on Mrs. Patmore when she blurts out, “The terms in which you intend to live.” Do You expect to share your *gulp*…. WAY of life?” Mrs. Patmore rushes out of the room before he can properly answer.

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Carson and Mrs. Patmore. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Wanting to get his message to his future bride ASAP, Mr. Carson corrals Mrs. Patmore the first chance he gets and tells her some of the sweetest things any man can tell a woman (albeit the wrong one). “Tell her this, Mrs. Patmore, that in my eyes she is beautiful. I want a real marriage, a true marriage with everything that that involves. I love her, Mrs. Patmore, I am happy and tickled and bursting with pride that she would agree to be my wife.”

At that sweet declaration, Mrs. Patmore almost said “I do.”

Hearing of Mr. Carson’s intentions second-hand, Mrs. Hughes seeks out her portly lothario, “Well, then, Mr. Carson if you want me, you can have me. To quote Oliver Cromwell, warts and all.” Totally besotted with his bride-to-be, Mr. Carson promptly forgets about his lack of physical attributes and looks forward to the CONSUMMATION.

As an aside, Lord Grantham fusses at Lady Cora about the impending marriage, “I don’t have to call her Mrs. Carson, do I? That would be too much.” (The pater familias of Downton Abbey never fails to tickle our funny bone.)

The subtext of Episode One is economizing, which means downsizing the Abbey’s staff, since the wage bill is three times what it was before WWI. All the downstairs folks are on tenterhooks, worried about their future employment. Two kitchen maids have not been replaced and the poor household is down to two footmen, two kitchen maids, and two housemaids (who have already tendered their resignation). As the earl wonders out loud, “Who needs an under butler these days?” Thomas begins to stress major big time, breaking out in zits and hives, and an unexpected dose of niceness. He scrambles to be useful in any way, even taking on the role of horsie during horse play with the kiddies.

Rumors of “workforce imbalance correction” spread throughout the staff. Lady Violet shares too much information with her ladies maid, Denker, telling her, “We’re down to the bare bones. I worry about those who have to go, but remember – no talking!” Meddle stirs the pot, as Lady Violet knows – tell one person a rumor, and the ripple effect will do the trick of spreading the bad news. Thus, Denker, a piece of ladiesmaid work, if ever there was one, hurries to the Abbey to “sympathize” in the servants hall. “It comes down to who is useful and who is ornamental, don’t you agree, Mr. Barrow?” she says slyly.

Thomas gives her the evil eye, as does Mr. Septimus Spratt, Lady Violet’s butler. Denker has made his life a misery with regular spats and innuendos. Sprat’s finally had enough of Denker’s mischief and he approaches Lady Violet, asking her for sufficient warning so he can find other employment when he’s cast out. This little bit of news provides the viewer with a classic Violet moment, when she mischievously tells her lady’s maid in front of Isobel and Spratt,

“I shall miss you.”

Denker turns white. “Lady?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. No, forget I said that. After all, nothing is settled.”

Denker’s eyes go wide. “What’s not settled?”

Lady Violet looks surprised. “I don’t understand. I thought you told Spratt about the staff being cut back. I think it a splendid idea. It shall help with headcount realignment.”

“…but your ladyship surely couldn’t manage without a maid?” she utters in disbelief.

“Mrs. Crawley does, don’t you?” Violet turns to Isobel, who nods.

“…But Mrs. Crawley also manages without a butler, my lady.”

“That is true,” Violet says mildly. “But, I don’t think I can break with tradition to quite that degree. I feel sure that Sprat can wear many a hat.”

By this time, Spratt is doing an Irish jig in the background, although the thought of helping Lady Violet into her corsets gives him pause.

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Adrian Lukis as Sir John Darnley

It is evident that while the Crawleys must economize and downsize many aspects of their estate, they are still living a comfortable, if not luxurious lifestyle. Such is not the case for their neighbor, Sir John Darnley (Adrian Lukis, who played Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, 1995). Time are much tougher for him. He must sell his estate, Mallerton, and go through the personal agony of witnessing most of his possessions being sold at auction. The earl and Cora attend the auction, thinking to pick up a bauble or two and prop Sir John up in the process. The auction is a sad reminder of hard times that might come to the Crawleys in due course, should they not modernize.

The new owner, a brutish looking man compared to the blue bloods surrounding him, has given the boot to the tenant farmers. This means that Daisy’s papa-in-law stands to lose his livelihood and that Daisy stands to inherit – nothing. Daisy throws a hissy fit in defense of Mr. Mason in front of her betters, which results in Carson wanting to “trim the staff fat” right then and there. Kind Lady Cora puts the kibosh on that. Wishing to give Daisy a second chance, she tells Carson to make sure there is no repetition of her outburst. Having thought of other ways of “inviting his staff to be successful elsewhere,” Carson reassures the countess that Daisy will be kept on.

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Lady Edith looking good. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

“Kind” Lady Cora is not given much to do in Episode One. Neither is Lady Edith, really, although she looks fabulous in 1925 outfits. She struggles to work with her imperious male editor, who resists having a female boss, but she loves her work, nevertheless. So far, I find Edith’s story tepid compared to Mary’s. One thing is for sure, she’s not going to hang around the Abbey much longer being sniped at by her older sister. The Edith of 1925 has too much going for her and I, for one, am rooting for her.

More irritating than interesting is the silly kerfuffle between Lady Violet and Isobel over the fate of the Downton Village Hospital. The Royal Yorkshire County Hospital, a much larger, richer entity, wants to take it over. Violet and Dr. Clarkson are adamantly against the move, while Isobel, Lord Merton, and Cora are supportive. The disagreement seems minor, given that these two alpha women have forged a close and meaningful bond since Matthew’s death, but Violet still finds opportunity to aim a few zingers Isobel’s way. “Does it get cold up there on the moral high ground?” she asks her in frustration. The fight is lackluster, Dr. Clarkson’s jealousy seems petty, and Lord Merton has become a mere ornament.

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Anna and Bates. Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Finally, we come to Anna and Bates. (Violin music please.) I guess Downton’s producers had yet to figure out by the end of Season 5 that the audience has had enough of this couple’s continual misery. It takes almost the entire episode to learn that someone else, a female, has been arrested in Green’s death. They’ve found a witness. The confession is real. Meh. This story was anticlimactic and useless. Will Bates and Anna finally have a moment of happiness?

Well, that wraps things up for this week. At this point, we’ve seen the introduction of the latest technological advances at the Abbey since 1914 – electricity, phones, toasters and mixers, gramophones, sewing machines, and refrigerators. What’s next? Hair dryers and cars that can speed over 80 m.p.h.!

Taking the five previous seasons into account, I will rate each episode this season to stand on its own. For giving us the sterling story lines about Mary’s blackmailer and Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson’s anxiety about their wedding night, I give this episode four stars. Alas, the Anna/Bates story line, Lady Violet’s and Isobel’s silly disagreement, and Edith’s and Cora’s tepid journeys prevent me from awarding S6, E1 five stars.


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Happy Holidays, Happy Federal Day Off, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and Gelukkig Niew Jaar to all my readers. Don’t forget, my friends in the U.S., to tune in to PBS MASTERPIECE for the 6th and final season of Downton Abbey. You’ve asked for it, so I’ve dusted off my PBS press pass and I’ll be writing my tongue in cheek recaps and reviews of the goings on at the Abbey once again.

My  dear U.K. viewers – please, no spoilers. You may comment and review, but DO NOT reveal vital plot information until the Episode has been shown in the States. I will watch the comment section like a hawk.

Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Our two favorite downstairs friends will have an hilarious conversation in the first episode. Do tune in to view this masterful bit of writing and acting. How will we ever live without our downstairs friends after this season?

As usual, Lady Mary remains as cool as a cucumber when things get hot under the collar. Will her reputation suffer this time? Watch Michelle Dockery at her finest, snobbiest, upper crust self – you can just hear the ice crackling in her veins. Knowing of her personal tragedy, I can only guess how bittersweet this final year of filming must have been for her.

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Lady Edith looks particularly lovely this season. It must be the 20’s fashion … or is it? Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE.

Will Lady Edith finally find the happiness she deserves? Some of my friends think she’s cattier than Lady Mary and dislike her ‘woe is me’ attitude. I, frankly, am on Lady Edith’s team, although one can’t help but admire Lady Mary’s talent for needling her sister at every opportunity. Edith does get in some zingers, but she’s largely on the defensive, since Lady Mary excels at creating a stir and bullying.


Violet, double the trouble, double the fun. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE.

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – she of the verbal ripostes and deadpan delivery, and absolute certainty that in all things she is always RIGHT, has her sights set on maintaining the status quo. In my opinion, Downton Abbey would never have experienced its phenomenal world wide success without Dame Maggie Smith. Just saying.

With the exception of Mr. Carson, the gents seem to be in a supportive position for now. I also placed no image of Cora, Countess of Grantham – whose presence is notably slight in this episode – on this post. Let’s hope her story will develop in the future and that she’ll get a major plot line of her own. After all, why should her daughters get so much of the drama when their mama is still such a hot chick?


From the PBS Pressroom: Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs, PBS MASTERPIECE.

Well, there you have it. It’s count down time until January 3 in the U.S. Tune in to your PBS station and watch the final Downton Abbey season on MASTERPIECE. Here is the schedule as listed on MASTERPIECE’s site:

“Episode 1” premieres January 3, 2016

“Episode 2” premieres January 10, 2016

“Episode 3” premieres January 17, 2016

“Episode 4” premieres January 24, 2016

“Episode 5” premieres January 31, 2016

“Episode 6” premieres February 7, 2016

“Episode 7” premieres February 14, 2016

“Episode 8” premieres February 21, 2016

“Episode 9” premieres March 6, 2016

I will place my recaps/reviews on this blog at 11 PM (after the show airs EST and my bedtime.)

Happy Holidays to all. Vic

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