The opening reminds me of the very first scene of Season 1 Episode 1, where the Western Union telegraph machine rhythmically tapping, leading us into this whole new world called Downton Abbey, and the rest is history. That first telegram was news about the Titanic sinking. Now Lord Grantham sets off to America in response to a telegram from Cora’s mother Martha (we all remember Shirley MacLaine’s American entry into Downton) just to help her son look good in front of a Senate Committee.
Robert may well be doing this more for Cora’s bidding than Martha’s. A sweet farewell follows. Crossing the raging seas, leaving the comfort of Downton on such a short notice, Lord Grantham would have wished he could just do a video conferencing. That would be more futuristic than the science fiction of his time, considering the telephone was just introduced to the household not too long ago.
Come to think of it, going to America just to help out a brother-in-law? Or was it to take time off to shoot The Monuments Men? Or, a subtle promo of the next best thing, The Gilded Age Julian Fellowes will be writing for NBC after Downton? Just thinking…
So now the secret is out, to Mary at least, and to the suspicion of several others. They would want to find out why Thomas is going to America with Lord Grantham and not Mr. Bates. Baxter is commissioned to hand in a report on exactly that when Thomas returns.
The pig farming business is off to a blossoming start… romantically that is. Getting dirty to save the pigs looks quite contrived a scene. Blake has to do much more than getting his white shirt and tux muddy to win me over. I’m not as easy as Mary. Or, is she just trying to prove she’s not so aloof after all. So they both enjoy their ‘night of discovery’. Why, Mary Crawley can make scrambled eggs. How marvellous!
Tom also seems to have met a potential companion in a political lecture in Ripon. Will this revive an idealistic young heart he once possessed?
Violet falls ill and Isobel nurses her back to health. Even in her delirious state Violet still takes a swing at Isobel, this ‘mad woman’, have her replaced, for she ‘talks too much, like a drunken vicar.’ Whatever we can’t say out loud in our right mind can be said in our delirium. How convenient.
Alfred’s brief return rousing further animosity between Ivy and Daisy. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore come up with the flu as a reason to keep him off, and Mr. Carson is willing to go along even to the point of paying for a hotel stay. That sounds a bit far-fetching. A little jealous bickering adds spice of life downstairs. No need to avoid that like the plague.
A storyline that has far greater consequence is Edith going to London to have an abortion. Her secret is out as she breaks down when Lady Rosamund mentions about Michael Gregson. Aunt Rosamund looks an unlikely sympathizer, reassuring her “I will support you whatever you decide, just as Cora will—and Robert.” Edith doubts her sincerity and says “That sounds like a speech from The Second Mrs. Tanqueray”, alluding to the 1893 play by Arthur Wing Pinero about ‘a woman with a past’. Rosamund shows her support by accompanying her to the clinic. At the last minute, Edith changes her mind and chooses to keep the baby. I’m glad to see that a humane storyline branching out from there.
While in London with Edith, Rose runs her errand. Yes, that means meeting up secretly with the Jazz singer Jack Ross. Rose just wants some temporal fun, while Ross looks a bit hesitant but is fast convinced by her enthusiasm.
The most gripping scene again belongs to Bates and Anna. Lord Gillingham is back (but why?) and with him comes his valet Green, a blow to Anna as she steps into the servants’ dining room and sees her attacker. She composes herself quickly, but not before the reporter Baxter notices. Mrs. Hughes doesn’t lose any time to give him a severe warning, “If you value your life, I should stop playing the joker and keep to the shadows.”
At the dining table Green is as sociable as ever, greeting everyone, talking naturally. Baxter mentions how much she admires Nellie Melba, the opera singer, obviously with an agenda. Green says he can’t stand the ‘screaming and screeching’. The Sherlock in Baxter then asks, “So what did you do?” Green takes the bait, “So I came down here for some peace and quiet.” The look Bates pins on Green after that should send chills up your spine. And there, the episode ends. Baxter has more than a report to write, that’s a lead into a juicy story, Stephen King style.
PREVIOUSLY ON DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON 4: