Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 6: Heartbreak to Flavor Our Puddings for Weeks to Come

February 9, 2014 @ 9:03 pm | Filed under:

“You do realize even Alfred gets more screen time than you do?”

(UK / DVD  episode 7. Also, spoilers below.)

Telegram! Robert has been summoned to America by Cora’s Horrible American Mother to assist Cora’s Impossible American Brother. There’s a scandal involving oil and a Senate committee who may or may not be favorably impressed by a titled brother-in-law, because nothing says respectable like an impoverished English earl who snaps up an American heiress to save his estate, and then loses her fortune on bad investments.

Bit of a flurry over the notion that Bates must accompany Lord Grantham to America. (I love how it’s always “America.” Last season, when Shirley Maclaine arrived to out-shout the Dowager, she referred to her home as “America” 100% of the time. You have to wonder if Julian Fellowes has ever chatted with any Americans long enough to discover that if you ask us where we’re from, we don’t name our country; we name our state. Unless you’re a New Yorker, in which case you name your borough.)

Anna puts on a brave face for Bates but sobs in the hall. Mrs. Hughes takes the case to Lady Mary, who puts on her best stone face and insists she would like to help, but she “must know the facts.” What is Mrs. Hughes to do? She reveals Anna’s secret, and Mary marches straight to her father and orders him to take Thomas to America instead of Bates, wearing that exact same stone face and saying, “I can’t explain it. If I could you’d agree with me.” I actually burst out laughing at this, despite the graveness of the subject matter. It’s so Mary. She expects her father to jump when she says jump and take her word that jumping is the gentlemanly thing to do in this circumstance. But by golly, nobody’d better expect her to take any request on faith.

All right, then, it’s settled, Bates stays, Thomas goes,  Mary has a moment with Bates (“It wasn’t your fault, Bates. It wasn’t Anna’s, but it wasn’t yours, either”), and—HOLD ON EVERYONE, THE PIGS ARE COMING!

I absolutely love how every time anyone in this episode says “Pigs,” it starts with a capital letter.

Pig interlude over, we can go back to bidding Robert farewell. My second shout of laughter came at Cora and Robert’s parting scene. This dialogue—

“Oh darling. I do think your going to rescue my hopeless brother is an act of real love, and I cherish you for it.”

“That’ll keep me warm as I cross the raging seas.”

“Good. Now kiss me.”

—are you kidding me? We’ve left Melrose Abbey and entered John-and-Marsha territory. I can’t decide if Fellowes is punking us or what.

Thomas is looking forward to his report from Miss Baxter when he returns. Only Thomas could make an abundance of verbal italics come off as sinister. Molesley, loading the suitcases into the car with humble, gloved hands, overhears the italics and furrows a brow in concern.

Robert has tender words for Poor Edith, leaves Rose in charge of “fun,” chides Mary for being preoccupied, is too preoccupied to notice his mother is about to keel over, and admits he’s going to miss his dog Isis most of all. The post-war years have not been kind to Robert.

As soon as he drives off, Violet admits to Isobel that she feels ill. Isobel offers to help her home, but “that is the very last thing I would want.” Which means, of course, that Isobel’s help is the very only thing she’s going to get for the rest of the episode. She comes down with a nasty case of bronchitis, Isobel gamely volunteers to nurse her round the clock, the doctor makes eyebrows, Cora and Mary stand three feet away from the bed on their one and only visit to Granny during the whole episode, and Violet is every bit as mean to Isobel in her fevered delirium as she is in her highest spirits. Last week, the volley of barbs between these two characters was the funniest part of the episode, even if their scenes did have COMIC FILLER written in Sharpie across the top of every page. But this week, ugh. We get it. They annoy each other, they need each other, they have each other’s backs as long as they can grumble about it. Now give me back my Lady Sleuths show, please?

(Violet’s arch “Oh, goody goody” at the end of the episode was almost worth the price of admission, though.)

Mary spars with Charles Blake: he’s frustrated by the stubborn helplessness of the owners of “these failing estates,” and she’s shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, by his suggestion that God isn’t weeping to see aristocrats losing hold of their lands.

Wait, did someone say Pigs? Even better! PIGMAN! There’s a Pigman, and he’s been hired! For the Pigs!

Tragedy strikes the servants’ hall: Alfred wants to stop in for a visit. Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes are Highly Alarmed, because undoubtedly his presence will reignite the Daisy/Ivy feud—you know, the one that never actually ceased, because it would kill Daisy not to mutter darkly in Ivy’s direction every five minutes. To prevent the reignition, the senior servants whisper plans back and forth through several scenes. I don’t know why they’re whispering; Ivy and Daisy can’t hear them anyway over all their feuding.

Anyway, the grand plan is to tell Alfred there’s flu at Downton and he must stay at the inn, lest he jeopardize his cooking course. I mean, this is one elaborate lie. Carson has to waylay Alfred right off the train and divert him to the inn, and stay and have a drink with him, and foot the bill. Back in the kitchen, Daisy hears Alfred isn’t coming and rips right into Ivy, fueled with fresh ammunition because obviously Alfred doesn’t want to return to the place where his broken heart is buried. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, listening to the warfare, congratulate themselves on having prevented it.

Later, Alfred will pop in anyway, flu be damned. More sniping! The End.

Mary has a heart-to-heart with Evelyn Napier about why Charles Blake seems not to like her. Since Napier’s heart is a timid little rabbit thumping away in his genteel breast, the closest he can come to proposing to Mary (which we all know he’s been wanting to do since the year the Titanic went down) is to tell her Charles Blake thinks he, Evelyn, is blind where Mary’s concerned. Mary’s not listening anyway; she’s still puzzling over the news that Blake finds her “aloof.”

She pesters Anna on this point: Moi? Aloof? “Do you want me to answer truthfully, or like a lady’s  maid?” replies Anna, which is entirely too honest for Mary’s comfort. Mary immediately turns the subject to Anna’s secret, which she knows Anna knows she knows. Anna is not ready to talk about it, not to anyone, though she admits to being relieved there is “honesty between us again.”

Stop the presses, THE PIGS HAVE ARRIVED. Oh, but Mary missed it. It seems she was busy standing a safe distance from her grandmother’s bed at the time. Never mind, she can see them tomorrow.

Edith and Rose go up to London, each with her own secret plans. Rose wrangles permission to visit some Totally Respectable Friends, and is next seen floating down the river in a boat with Jack Ross, the jazz singer. He seems pretty level-headed about the future prospects of this relationship, but Rose is all, “Oh shut up and kiss me.” John! Marsha!

Edith’s secret is, of course, much graver. Aunt Rosamund ferrets the truth out of her: Edith has scheduled an abortion. This was a pretty touching scene: Edith’s anguished cry, “I’m killing the wanted child of a man I’m in love with and you ask me if I’ve thought about it” strikes home with Rosamund, who announces she’s going with her to the appointment. Once there, a heartbroken Edith confesses that she can’t bear the thought of being an outcast all her life, as will certainly be the case if she tries to raise a child born out of wedlock. She has always, always been the odd man, even (or especially) in her own home. She can’t let herself become some “funny old woman” living in isolation, endlessly gossiped about and received by no one. But then she hears another patient sobbing, and she changes her mind. Perhaps she can’t bear to be an outcast, but neither can she go through with the abortion. Rosamund takes her home, and we don’t yet know what Edith’s fate will be.

Rose pitches a dainty fit at the news she’s going back to Downton sooner than anticipated, and that’s about it for Rose this week.

But she gets more screen time than Tom, who is mostly busy around the fringes playing chauffeur, dog-watcher, and Greeter of the Pigs. But he does show up at the political meeting Isobel urged him to attend, and winds up sitting next to an amiable young woman—after both of them are singled out to embarrassing effect by the politician at the podium. I assume we’ll meet this new friend again? Here’s hoping.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PIGS?! I mean, the suspense has been something awful. Come on, Downton, you promised me Pigs.

Mary and Charles decide to wander out to visit the famous Pigs after dinner, still wearing their fancy dress. (Obviously. One mustn’t underdress for Pigs.) It’s a long walk, but no one gets chilly in a beaded dinner dress in England in the evening, and high heels are perfect for strolling across damp fields. At last we meet them, the marvelous Pigs. But oh no! Where is the Extremely Reliable Pigman? Off celebrating his lucky station in life, no doubt. And if you thought the Alfred situation was tragic, brace yourself: these Pigs are Not Doing Well At All. They’ve knocked over their water trough, and the brutal English sun has baked them to the brink of death.

Cue the special Pig Music! With no time to lose, Charles springs into action. Mary will not sit idly by and watch this loathed fellow save Her Pigs all by himself. It’s nice that there are four water pails so ready at hand. The two of them work tirelessly long into the night, saving the Pigs with carefully apportioned swallows of water. And it’s a well known truism of television that a rich woman never looks lovelier than when she is tastefully smeared with mud (preferably with a lock or two of hair wisping down), so down Mary must go, flop-bott. Charles looks upon her with new eyes, and when, having delivered salvation to her beasts, Mary laughs her throaty laugh, Charles is a goner.

Sorry, Tony Gillingham. Who by chance arrives the next day! But first Ivy has to stumble upon Mary and Charles in the kitchen at the crack of dawn, enjoying well-deserved scrambled eggs and glasses of Carson’s best wine. But no one’s at all suspicious of shenanigans, because Mary Wouldn’t Behave that Way. Well, except for that one time her foreign lover died in her bed and she had to drag his corpse down the hall, but come on. Bygones.

Mary does look genuinely delighted to see Tony. Her face softens and she’s very warm with him, and only jabs him once about Mabel. Seems Tony and Charles are old war buddies. Napier shuffles nervously: oh dear, more competition. It’s sweet the way he thinks he’s actually in the running.

But along with Tony Gillingham comes his valet, the rapist. Mrs. Hughes confronts him: I know who you are and what you’ve done. Green tries to pass it off as if Anna was drunk and willing, but of course Mrs. H. isn’t buying that. Now, here’s the part that confused me. He thanks her for not telling Bates he was the attacker—so he seems to have some inkling that Bates will kill him (probably literally) if he finds out. And yet a few minutes later, there Green is at dinner with the servants, spouting loudly and pointedly about how, on his previous visit, the opera singer was “screaming and screeching as if her finger was stuck in a door” and he escaped her performance by coming downstairs. He knows Bates knows that’s when and where Anna was raped. He’s just begging for revenge. He should have taken Mrs. Hughes’s advice to “stop playing joker, and keep to the shadows.” Because now Bates is looking murder at him, and the Melrose Abbey soundtrack tells us there is danger ahead.

But I very much fear I’m never going to find out what became of the Pigman.

My previous Downton Abbey recaps are here.

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18 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Kathy Ceceri says:

    I thought it was Mayfair Edith was afraid of being forced to live in. And I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t re-hydrate the pigs slowly enough using the hose Mary mentioned. Did the pigs need the breaks afforded by carrying the buckets back and forth? How can you tell when a pig is looking dehydrated anyway, and what happens if you let them have too much water all at once? These are questions that were not properly addressed…

  2. sarah says:

    I didn’t realise how far ahead from you I was in my viewing. Which is to say, my one viewing, a Christmas special. Alas, no pigs in that one, but some developments in plotlines you’ve mentioned here. I can’t wait for you to see for yourself so I can read your recap 🙂

  3. monica says:

    mary aid there was a pipe in the barn, which we would call a water pump.

  4. Gail Gauthier says:

    I think Mrs. Hughes is becoming the main character this season. She is the powerful person. She is the person people go to and who fixes things. If only she had gone to meet Alfred at the train station, she would have made sure he stayed put at the pub and got out of town the next morning. Carson is good for nothing this year. Lady Edith needs to go to Mrs. Hughes with her problem.

    I had a thought this morning. I wonder if Lady Edith’s gentleman friend is missing in Germany because of that gambler he took down a few episodes back at the Downton Abbey party. Revenge of some sort?

  5. Charlotte says:

    I’ve stopped watching the show, but I am still loving your recaps! Hill-air-eeeeeee-us!

  6. shonda says:

    I enjoyed your recap many times more than the actual episode last night! The Pigman. I did laugh out loud at that last night, though.

  7. Donna Boucher says:

    I agree with Shonda. You are super funny Melissa!

  8. Penny says:

    lol – you are the best. Seriously. 🙂

  9. monica says:

    i wonder if Ediths missing beau is caught up in something political, what was going on in this point in Germany? the rise of the Weimar republic?
    The pig episode did seem pretty contrived to get those two on the same side. You would think stablizing a trough is not rocket science for a Certified Pigman. And do pigs really die if they drink too quickly? hmmm, did Julian whats his face do his porcine homework on this one?

    I know that Mr.Greene is not going to be long for this world with the looks that Bates was giving him, but what ring of hell will Thomas end up in if he finds out what happened to Anna (via the new snoopy lady’s maid) and uses it against Bates and Anna? I like that they are working out the rape issues longer than just one episode, but to get Thomas involved is another level of ickyness.

    And wouldnt it be great if sad sack Molesely ends up being the hero for uncovering the Thomas spy campaign and gets him fired. . . and then takes his place as a proper valet!!! OH YES! lets hope that what happens and Thomas sails off to the Island of lost boys FOREVER!!! but then we would need a new villian to hate.

  10. Janet says:

    I think Mrs. Hughes is going to save John Bates the trouble by setting up Mr. Green with Anna as bait.

    I also do not think that Edith will ever marry this boyfriend, as that would remove her from the show.

  11. hmrpita says:

    America, indeed. Also, if you’re from San Francisco, that’s what you say. Not California. 🙂

    They got the main facts right about pig dehydration, though seeing as how these pigs were left without water for over 24 hours (dehydration can occur 24-48 hours of no water–thank you,!) and were presumably going to be left to die had not the Evening Clothes Saviors arrived, it begs the question who recommended this Pigman so highly? But, wait a minute, it hadn’t been even 12 hours since the pigs knocked that vital trough over, since they had just arrived that very day. Perhaps Pigs of the Landed Gentry are Faint of Heart?

    One thing I’d never want to get is the Side Eye from Bates.

  12. California Dot says:

    Melissa! I am wiping away tears of glee at your recounting of the Near-Tragedy of the Pigs. My god, how I have been searching for someone with your wit and insight to help me process this fancy-dancy soap opera. All it took was googling “Pigs” and “Episode 6” and there you were! Thank you. Now I am now going back and reading every other recap you’ve ever done.

  13. Mitzi says:

    Oh, my! You must have been reading P.G. Wodehouse, you MUST!!! I want so badly for Lord Grantham to enter a pig in a county fair … and she must be called The Empress of Downton at the very least. And if he drapes himself over the rail like a sock and scratches her back with a stick I will be content. Please tell me you will be, too.

  14. Melissa Wiley says:

    Mitzi, I’m super embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any Wodehouse at all! Can you believe it? My daughter Jane is a huge fan. HUGE.