How are you at keeping secrets? Because there’s lots of them flying around in a mere 42 minutes. And one of them is big enough to make someone “ruined and notorious.” Good street cred for a modern rapper, but certain doom for well brought up Brits in the early 1900s.
SPOILER ALERT — (after the cut)
The action opens with Bates walking into the village post office and finding Gwen, the redheaded maid, rushing to post a secret missive. She’s so nervous and evasive, we can’t help but wonder if Gwen is using her maid’s outfit in her off hours as well.
What do you know? Anna finds a suspicious object on the top of the “cupboard.” It’s so heavy, she demands to know what it is. And then we discover Gwen owns a dirty, shameful contraption–a typewriter! To write smutty fiction and earn some cash on the side? To type up naughty missives to her paramour? No, you filthy cows, she’s taking a correspondence course to become a secretary!
Not steamy enough for you? Well, excuse me for the anti-climactic plot turn. It gets better, I promise. For, you see, Lady Mary has received another letter from Evelyn Napier. And although Evelyn Napier sounds like the name of a jewelry designer, what Mary holds in her hands is not the latest catalogue but something much more exciting-–to Cora, at least. Mary informs Maman that Evelyn is really a man, with a title, and that he’s coming to town. Cora, ever ready to pounce on the next eligible bachelor for her daughter, asks Mary if she likes him. When Mary tepidly answers that she doesn’t dislike him, Cora insists on inviting Evelyn to stay at Downton. After all, his mother will be very pleased since she’s a friend of Cora’s. “None too pleased-–she’s dead,” deadpans Mary. Oh, Mary IS quite contrary, isn’t she? Never mind, Cora, I get you. Some people are so dull, it’s hard to tell.
Anna still can’t believe that Gwen has bought an actual typewriter just so she can learn how to type. While she’s still trying to wrap her mind around Gwen’s aspirations to become a secretary, O’Brien comes in. They stand in front of it so she won’t see it. Go away, O’Brien. I wish Gwen would type a sign reading KICK ME and pin it to O’Brien. Maybe she hasn’t learned about the “Shift” key yet.
Robert, Cora and Violet discuss Evelyn Napier’s good qualities, namely money and a title. Apparently, Violet has looked him up in “the stud books.” I can’t say for sure, but I bet it’s not something with bare-chested dudes in leather britches, advertised in the back pages of the Village Voice. Whatever it is, Violet declares the choice of Napier as a husband as “all right, but not brilliant.” Either Napier takes after his mother or his pecs leave a lot to be desired. When Robert leaves, Violet confides that she’s worried that with a prospective son-in-law, Robert won’t fight for Cora’s inheritance. Cora grudgingly admits that she doesn’t dislike Matthew and that, in fact, she admires him. “Not enough to leave him your money!” exclaims Violet. “Of course not!” says Cora. Cora wishes she’d made Robert sign a prenup. Too bad they didn’t exist in those days.
You know who else admires Matthew? Lady Edith! She admires him so much, she wants to take him to the chapel. No, not so they can elope. She really just wants to give him a tour of the churches in the region. Oh, Lady Edith, methinks that you are cock-blocking your dear sister. And no, it has nothing to do with poultry.
Now, what’s really scandalous is that thing the servants are all gawking at downstairs. O’Brien declares, “They were trying to hide it, so I knew it was wrong.” Is it a device Gwen uses when she’s lonely? Yes, of course, it’s her typewriter. Carson is flummoxed. He doesn’t know how but he’s certain Gwen is wasting precious work hours surfing the Internet. Carson is outraged. Gwen finally arrives and is outraged that they’ve gone through her things. Mrs. Hughes is outraged that she’s outraged. Finally, Gwen informs everyone that she’s studying to become a secretary. No one can figure out why. Oh, Gwen, don’t you know secretaries get no respect? You obviously don’t watch Mad Men.
In Mary’s room, the buzz is all about boys! Mary so totally doesn’t care that Edith is moving in on Matthew. Cora comes in, all a flutter and wearing a gorgeous dress, just because she’s a duchess. Can I just say how much I love the way Elizabeth McGovern plays Maman? She’s the coolest mother ever, except instead of smoking herb, she brews it and serves it with tea sandwiches. Anyway, Cora informs her younguns that Evelyn is bringing a certain Mr. Pah-MOOK and Lady Mary is to take them hunting. Lady Mary is one step away from throwing a hissy fit but Cora will not have it. She orders Anna to prepare Lady Mary’s riding costume.
Gwen’s daring foray into technology has gotten Bates curious about a “limp corrector” he saw in the paper. I admit, I too was hoping that it would work. Then I saw it and cringed. But Bates goes ahead and buys it.
While cleaning, Gwen breaks down in despair and cries, “It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to be a secretary! I’m not going to leave service! I’m the daughter of a farmhand, I’m lucky to be a maid!” Bates walks by and consoles her, “You can change your life completely, I know!” Instead of that limp corrector, Bates should’ve sunk his money into self-publishing the first self-help book. Seriously, Gwen, I know how you feel. At least you have Bates to boost you up. All I got is this lousy t-shirt. Then Bates flinches in pain but dismisses Anna and Mrs. Hughes’ questions about what’s bothering him.
But hey, let’s shake a tail feather, because it’s hunting day! Lady Mary’s totally cranky that she has to host a Turk. Evelyn Napier arrives wearing a bright red riding coat, the better for the American rebels to shoot him down. Oh, wait, different continent, different era, innit? He says that Pamuk is quite a dandy and will be arriving late because he’s still getting ready. “Oh, I’m sure he’s reeking of pomade,” remarks Lady Mary, snootily. Oh, Mary, you should talk! Everyone knows you bathe in the Jean Naté before you go riding! On cue, the smelly foreigner enters, and Mary looks like she’ll have one order of Turkish delight. (Sorry. But you knew it was coming. And besides, I couldn’t work in baklava.) Oh, yes, Pamuk is one fine, fine-looking young lad. He also appears to be randy. Lady Mary immediately dismisses her chaperone, some poor old guy I’ve never seen before. Pamuk is quite the flirt and talks Mary into riding alone with him and jumping over a hurdle together. Courting a broken neck is so romantic! Either way, it beats dinner and a movie. You know there’s something wrong with Pamuk if Lady Mary’s interested. But let’s not be cynical.
Meanwhile, Lady Edith’s church excursion is going splendidly well. Turns out Matthew loves churches. Indeed, she can’t get him to look away from the architectural details and pay attention to her. He doesn’t even get the hint when she comments about all those men and women attending church through the ages, “dreaming and hoping.” Watch you don’t brush up against a column and knock that heart pinned to your sleeve, Edith, bubbeleh. Darn it! It just fell on the ground. Matthew might as well stomp on it when he wonders aloud whether Mary will stay with the hunt all day. Lady Edith remarks she thinks so, since “Lady Mary likes to be in at the kill.” Hmm. Now what could she mean by that?
Back from the hunt, Lady Mary and her posse ought to really stink by now, what with all their exertion in those heavy coats. But they look remarkably fresh, at least to me. The maids peeking in seem to think so too, especially Mr. Pamuk. He’s beautiful, says Anna. She’s all ready to steal the Dowager Countess’ stud book and tear out the page with him on it. Even more impressive, he’s also an award-winning writer. He got the idea for “My Name Is Red” thanks to Evelyn’s riding jacket.
Even Bates and the Earl can’t help remarking on how good-looking Pamuk is. Does no one have a literary sensibility? Shallow people! Bates says that Thomas cheered up when he saw the gentleman. Who says only women are catty? Then Bates grimaces in pain but shrugs it off when the Earl asks him if he’s all right. You maybe trying to be noble, Bates, but keep this up, and you’ll give a Jewish mother a run for her money.
We immediately cut to a very chipper Thomas indeed who’s helping Pamuk undress. Thomas decides this is the perfect moment to make a pass at Pamuk. Unfortunately, the Turk is none too eager to have Thomas smoke his hookah. Even more unfortunately, he doesn’t punch Thomas’ lights out. Instead, he asks for his help in figuring out the geography of the house so he can sneak into someone’s room later. The Nobel committee will have to wait on his oeuvre, Pamuk is randy!
During dinner, the Dowager Countess can’t understand why Gwen would want to be a secretary. Lady Sybil defends her. Everyone discusses the pros and cons of being a maid in a grand house and whether people ought to rise up above their station. To which Pamuk replies, ever so enigmatically, “Sometimes we must endure a little pain in order to achieve satisfaction.” Oh, dear! I hope Mary puts away her riding crop before she goes to bed.
Later in the drawing room, Lady Mary is the queen bee. She can’t make up her mind which boy she likes best. Then the Turk beckons her from across the way and she dumps the others like a hot potato. “We should brush up on our powers of fascination,” Matthew commiserates with Evelyn.
Now that he’s pulled her away, Pamuk pounces on poor Lady Mary in the study. I bet the Turk has been streaming Dangerous Liaisons, too, because he takes a page from Malkovich. He asks Mary if he can visit her later and she turns him down.
Lady Mary’s ready for bed when who should show up but our exotic gentleman, who is not at all a gentleman! Mary tries to get him to leave but he’s got a knack for twisty logic and, she’s so confused, her head hurts. He should’ve been a lawyer. Before you know it, Pamuk is on top of our fair maiden, who doesn’t seem like she’ll remain a maiden for long. “Don’t worry, you can still be ready for your husband,” he reassures her. Oh, dear. I sure hope Thomas carried a stick of butter into Lady Mary’s chambers. I guess this is what Pamuk meant by enduring some pain in order to achieve satisfaction. When I watched this the first time, I was frankly quite angry at Pamuk for endangering Lady Mary’s reputation. Part of me understood, because I was young once, but the old lady part of me was all, Mary, throw him the hell off you!! Read him the riot act! But she doesn’t.
The fun doesn’t last for long, alas, for there’s Mary at the foot of Anna’s bed, all shook up. Sigh. To “gay” and “married”, Mary’s discovered another category of unavailable man: “dead”. The seemingly perfect Turk had a weak heart, not the best trait in a man prone to hunting and carousing. Anna persuades her to wake up Cora so that she can help. Kind, resourceful, and graceful under pressure! Anna is a total keeper.
They wake up Cora who is paralyzed with shock until Mary utters the magic words. No, not “please” and “thank you” but “ruined and notorious,” which is what Lady Mary will be if she doesn’t get the body out of her room, stat. The three women carry him out, but not before young Daisy sees them. Cora swears all to secrecy. Good night!
The next day Thomas finds the Turk dead in his bed.
Evelyn chances upon Mary in the stairwell and apologizes for bringing a dead man. He adds, “He was a terribly nice fellow.” Not nice enough to do anything but shrug about his sudden departure from this mortal coil, however. All Evelyn sees is an opportunity to sidle up to Lady Mary and promptly asks her if she’d give him a tour of the garden. All’s fair in love and war, except that Lady Mary runs away in tears. Bad timing, old chap.
Downstairs, the servants gossip about how Pamuk could die so suddenly. “That’s why you should live each day as if it were your last,” observes Gwen. To which Thomas says, “We certainly can’t criticize Mr. Pamuk as far as that’s concerned.” Young, innocent Daisy demands to know what he means, but he refuses to spill. O’Brien whispers that she’ll get it out of him later, during a cigarette break.
In spite of the harrowing events, Lady Sybil has good news for Gwen. She found an ad for a secretary and offers herself as a reference. “I think it’s terrific that people want to change their lives, especially women,” says Lady Sybil. She gets my vote for single-handedly rehabilitating the word “feminist”. Also, please notice that Sybil manages to be both good AND interesting as a character.
Cora ever so discreetly inquires about Evelyn’s interest in Lady Mary and he explains why he is not in the running. Another one bites the dust, Lady Mary, metaphorically speaking.
Hughes once again sees Bates in agony and, once more, Bates sucks it up.
While the Earl worries aloud to Carson how everyone’s taking the death downstairs, the Grantham women gather in the upstairs drawing room. Lady Violet is indignant: “No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house!” It IS rude, Violet, but not as rude as what that young Turk was up to with your granddaughter.
Robert and Bates discuss Pamuk’s weak heart. Robert catches Bates gnashing his teeth in pain again. He finally runs into Hughes and insists that she get Bates to confess. She corners Bates until he finally pulls up his trouser leg to reveal that horrible brace scarring his leg. Man! I was worried that Bates’ leg was infected and he’d develop gangrene!
Matthew encounters Mary and comforts her. That’s the way to do it, Evelyn, old fellow. Instead of jumping on a poor, beleaguered lady, play the sympathy card. When Matthew asks if he can help, you can see by the glimmer in her eye that Mary’s recovery is imminent.
Bates and Hughes have a ceremony for the brace, which consists of throwing it into the lake to rust. Hughes wisely notes, “We all carry scars, Mr. Bates. Inside and out.” Good riddance!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, O’Brien and Thomas share a cigarette. True to her word, she’s made Thomas spill about Pamuk’s last antics. After she wonders aloud if Pamuk died in Mary’s room, she reassures Thomas: “Your secret’s safe with me.” Lordy! I’m so anxious for Lady Mary!
Until next week, dear hearts. I’ll be brushing up on my powers of fascination and so should you!