‘Downton Abbey’ recap: Mr. Bates knows. Now what?

January 26

 

Let me get this out of the way first: Molesley is a twit. I know, I know, it’s not the most important storyline this week. It’s barely a storyline at all. But Molesley is the one character who threatens to turn “Downton Abbey” into “Fawlty Towers’” so I was happy to see this nattering naboob of negativity sent on his sorry way by Mr. Carson.  There. I feel better already.


Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary and Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates. (Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2013 for Masterpiece)

Don’t worry, I’ll get to Mr. and Mrs. Bates. But there’s still a bit of fluff to deal with.

Downton’s kitchen was rocked by the appearance of an electric mixer in the season’s premiere. This week the technological marvel that arrives is a sewing machine. And there’s even talk of a fridge! Our favorite cook, Mrs. Pleasenomore (or whatever her name is) is simply beside herself dealing with the arrival of all of these newfangled devices. “Why do we even need them?!” she cries out. Just wait until next week when she has to start using Windows 8.  She’ll probably self-combust like a Spinal Tap drummer.

There’s additional drama in the kitchen as Alfred prepares for a cooking competition that could land him a job as a chef at a prestigious London hotel. I wish they had turned this into a “Top Chef: Roaring Twenties” episode but instead we quickly find out that Alfred doesn’t make the cut. Please pack your knives and go, Alfred. Everyone’s sad for him except Daisy who really, really likes him and is glad he’s back at Downton. Sweet things for those two, I predict.

Poor Lady Edith, what has  she gotten herself into this week (aside from some fabulous clothes)? A visit to a doctor in London? Is she pregnant? Is it something else? She’s a real mystery this year. I can’t help but think back to that document her soon-to-be-a-German beau had her sign without reading. Poor Lady Edith, that wasn’t very smart.  It appears you’ve inherited your father’s common sense.

Meanwhile, Lady Isobel hounds the Dowager Countess into taking on a young gardener even though the Dowager Countess doesn’t appear to want one. She’s worn down, however, and wouldn’t you know it the very next day she sees young Pegg working in her living room and discovers that her favorite letter opener is missing. Did young Pegg steal it? That seems too simple a plot. Perhaps producer Julian Fellowes is about to introduce an Alzheimer’s storyline for the Dowager Countess? I don’t think so, though. That would be too cruel. You know who I think swiped the letter opener?  Molesley!

A new lady’s maid for Lady Grantham is not all she seems. Mrs. Baxter appears quite kind and just look at the joy on Lady G’s face when Baxter brings her a glass of OJ.  Gosh, that was weird.  But Mrs. Baxter, it turns out, is doing double-duty and spying for the wretched Thomas. She’s in his debt to him for the job, but clearly isn’t thrilled about helping him with his dirty work. In any event, this is a very promising development.

It appears that Lady Mary has recovered her cold, cold heart. Yes, a half a tear trickles down her face when she learns of Lord Gillingham’s engagement, but that’s as soft as she gets. When she’s not sniping at Edith she’s planning to foreclose on the family of a tenant who has just passed away. (Lord Grantham eventually lends the tenant’s son the money to keep his property and it’s a kind gesture, but his financial decisions have never been the soundest so who knows what will come of that.) Only the arrival of Mr. Napier brings a smile to Mary’s face. Last week Matthew was still too much on her mind. This week it looks like she only has eyes for this potential new suitor. Mary does not mess around.

You know what ditzy Rose is excited about this week? A party. Surprise! She wants to throw one for Lord Grantham’s birthday and even though it’s a middling subplot, a party at Downton is always something to look forward to.

Tom feels like he’s living where he doesn’t belong and announces he’s thinking of going to America. Stay where you are Tom.  Back then the Irish weren’t exactly loved in America either.

Well, I’ve stalled long enough. The only real story that matters this season on “Downton” is the rape of Anna and its aftermath. I’m glad they didn’t draw out the time it took  for Mr. Bates to find out what happened. The misery those two endured — knowing and not knowing — made the show hard to watch. “My wife no longer loves me,” a disconsolate Mr. Bates tells Mrs. Hughes. “The sight of me is torture for her which is torture for me.” Occasionally the writing on “Downton” is absolutely perfect.

Finding out what has happened leads to the beginning of healing for Anna and Bates but it also means that Bates will seek revenge, precisely what Anna had tried to avoid. And though Anna and Mrs. Hughes have tried to throw him off the scent by insisting that it wasn’t Green who was responsible, Bates doesn’t seem to be buying it. There’s a look of grim determination on his face at the end of the episode as he turns to Mrs. Hughes and says, “Nothing’s over and done with.”

No, I don’t suspect anything is over and done with yet.

Favorite lines:

“Are the savories ready to go up?” Mr. Carson calls out to the kitchen staff.  Not a great line, but just something I would love to hear echoed in my house every evening.

I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock,” the Dowager Countess takes the hiss out of Isobel Crawley.

(You can follow me on Twitter at @JoeHeim)

A sampling of Downton tweets from viewers tonight:

 

 

Previous Season 4 recaps:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Joe Heim is an editor and writer for The Washington Post magazine where he writes Just Asking, a weekly Q&A column. He has recently written about candy, not saving for your kids for college, Downton Abbey, the role of presidents as consolers-in-chief and about Washingtonians personal experiences with gun violence.
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