May 252011

Dear Miss Manners – If I should chance upon my mistress in a public place, is it proper to inquire about her mother’s recovery from a most unfortunate and unpleasant incident in which she and I were forced to carry the corpse of her paramour out of her room, lest her reputation be sullied?

Gentle Reader – While I’ve no doubt that your heart was in the right place, it is generally considered rather gauche to bring up unpleasant experiences past, especially without legal counsel. A certain Austrian by the name of Dr. Freud opines otherwise, but then Miss Manners has also heard his thoughts on what a cigar really represents and, rest assured, he is no gentleman.

We open with Bates, Anna, and Gwen at the fair grounds as they’re erected. (The fair grounds, not Bates et al.) They chance upon Lady Mary, which is when Anna commits the faux pas that inspired the above consultation. To which Mary responds: “If you think she’ll ever recover from carrying the dead body of Mr. Pamuk from one side of the house to another, then you don’t know her at all.” Put that way, I gotta admit I see her point. Anna attempts a more correct phrase, but Lady Mary won’t let her off gracefully: “When she dies, they’ll cut her open and find it engraved in her heart.” Melodramatic and macabre! Maybe Mary should marry Vincent Price.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there’s a new good-looking young chap in uniform. Keep away from Lady Mary, young man. He’s Branson, the new chauffeur, which means he’s safe by virtue of being both Irish and the wrong class. Branson compliments the Earl’s glorious library, and the surprised Earl asks if he likes to read. Branson does indeed! Particularly about history and politics. The Earl generously grants him permission to borrow his books. I sure hope the Earl doesn’t own a copy of The Anarchist’s Bible. The Earl mentions the former chauffeur, who retired and opened a tea house for some bizarre reason. Carson is just as shocked, adding: “I’d rather be put to death!” For Brits, the Downton denizens sure are hyperbolic.

In another corner of the castle, Cora and Violet are discussing the distressing situation Lady Mary’s in. Having lost her virginity and becoming an accidental necrophiliac in one fell swoop, no one’s inviting her to parties. At least, no one under the age of 100. Or maybe it’s due to her callous habit of flirting and then dropping one like a hot potato that’s turning off the lads? Or are other young ladies fed up with Mary stealing all the young men’s attention and then throwing them her scraps? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look like Mary’s going to find a suitor soon. Perhaps it’s time to send her to America, Cora suggests, to Violet’s horror. Violet then has the brilliant idea of asking Matthew to look into the matter of the entail. After all, he’s a lawyer, isn’t he? Try explaining “conflict of interest” to Lady Violet and she’ll just wave you away.

Topic A is also being discussed chez the Crawleys as Molesley serves them tea. Isobel notices a rash on his hand and diagnoses it as erysipelas. Which is not the ancient name for Persia. She insists that he get to the hospital ASAP so that she can treat him.

The next big news is that Mrs. Hughes is taking her first day off in 35 years. Could it be Branson’s influence, the anarchist? Next thing you know the servants will demand over time and full medical coverage. Why, Mrs. Hughes is so heady, she’s letting Anna stay in bed because of a cold. O’Brien is to cover for her.

While O’Brien throws a tantrum – although I have to admit I too would be pissed in her shoes–, William is gearing up to ask Daisy to the fair. But evil Thomas asks Daisy first. Bates is disgusted that Thomas got in the way. Is Daisy even past puberty? That seems just a minor detail. And on that note, Carson notices that some wine is missing. Of course, all those teenagers in the house and no weed, what do you expect?

Matthew is such a contrarian that he takes the case against himself. Or maybe it’s because Lady Violet’s logic makes his head hurt.

But in more important news, Cora orders Lady Sybil to get a new frock. Lady Sybil is the utterly adorable youngest daughter and, no, she does not suffer from multiple personality disorder. Her only flaw is an unfortunate penchant for pantaloons. Either way, Branson is to take Lady Sybil to the seamstress the next day. Seriously, Cora, do you not see how good-looking those two kids are? Are you wholly unaware of what happens when you mix hormones, politics, and cars? Or am I the only who sees the danger here? For some reason, I kept imagining the Earl as Tevye.

Matthew runs into Lady Mary at the Fair and babbles that he is to represent her against, umm, well, him. She is unimpressed, Matthew can tell: “My work seems very trivial to you.” Lady Mary ironically gives him the best relationship advice anyone can ever get: “You should learn to forget what I say.” Just don’t forget her birthday and pick up your dirty socks. Besides, it’s not Matthew that makes her angry. It’s her life. Cora, can you please explain to your daughter that she’s her own worst enemy, stat?

But Cupid’s been busy downstairs and that is not an obscene metaphor. I mean that love is blooming among the servants. Daisy’s aflutter about Thomas. He could’ve been a sportsman! “What sport did you have in mind?” asks the cook. Naughty Mrs. Patmore!! Don’t you see Daisy is practically a child? But Daisy is undaunted. Mrs. Patmore explains that Thomas is not a ladies’ man. Are you saying he won’t stray, Mrs. Patmore? “No, he’s not the boy for you and you’re not the girl for him!” Of course not, he’s a man of the world and he’s seen so much! Mrs. Patmore will spend the rest of the episode trying to clue Daisy in that Thomas only wants her as his “beard”. But, really though, Mrs. Patmore, how do you expect Daisy to understand homosexuality when your term for it is “a troubled soul”? Also, isn’t Daisy twelve?

After dinner, Matthew sneaks in to talk to the Earl and deliver his findings on the entail. The entail, not the entrails, although with a race that considers blood pudding a delicacy, you never can tell. It does not bode well for Mary. Ironically, the Earl and Matthew bond over this issue, which will lead to Mary becoming quite jealous of Matthew. Not only is he taking over her money, he’s the son he’s never had! Forget taking Mary to America, Cora. Steer her toward Dr. Freud’s in Vienna instead. The encounter will surely lead to his revolutionary theory of penis envy, to the vexation of Lady Sybil and feminists everywhere.

I forgot to mention that Lady Sybil has become Gwen’s ally in the latter’s climb up the ladder of success. When Gwen loses heart after many failed attempts to become a secretary, Sybil very pragmatically boosts her up. She even lends Gwen a frock for her upcoming interview. Now, if only Gwen returned the favor and told Sybil how unflattering palazzo pants look! That’s what friends are for, dear. Yes, your ass really does look fat in that!

Sybil has also made friends with Branson, who is not an anarchist but a socialist. He has heard of her political inclinations and has a bunch of inflammatory political pamphlets she might like! Well, I suppose it’s safer than the works of D.H. Lawrence. But still, it’s not his politics I worry about.

Let’s not be coarse when there’s love blooming downstairs. Bates has brought Anna a tray of food, since he’s heard she’s sick in bed. He’s so romantic, he’s even set a little vase of flowers! Swoon.

But there’s a fair to attend, even if I suspect there’s a dire dearth of fried food on a stick. The Earl has given the servants the night off. This is when they spot Mrs. Hughes walking with a gentleman. He’s an old flame, from back when she was young and had not entered service yet. His wife died three years before and he reconnected with Mrs. Hughes through mail, which is so much more elegant than Facebook. At the end of the night, he asks for her hand in marriage once again.

In another corner of the fair, Matthew’s about to vent his frustrations at the Coconut Saloon, which is how young men practiced their aim back before the advent of Mortal Kombat II. Ah, how I yearn for a more innocent age when young men only had TB, scurvy, malnutrition, overwork, syphilis, gonorrhea, and mustard gas to fear! Anyway, Mary chances upon him and that’s when he breaks the news that the entail is indissoluble. Where is she, Mary, in all this, she demands to know? Just ask Jan, I mean, Lady Edith her thoughts on that issue. Either way, later that night, Mary has a full-on tantrum because her father clearly favors Cousin Monster. Cora sets her straight. She shouldn’t quarrel with Cousin Matthew: “One day, you may need him.” Ooh. That does sound a wee bit ominous. On the other hand, a good lawyer is worth his weight in gold.

Mrs. Hughes confides to Carson about her “fancy man”, which is not a guy who likes to wear a tux to dinner and buy champagne on a lark. She tells him the story and her decision not to marry. After all, a lifetime of celibacy and long work hours is not something one ought to just give up, willy-nilly.

All right, it’s time to break the suspense: Molesley does not, repeat, does NOT have erysipelas. He’s just allergic to rue. Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess, has diagnosed him correctly and harrumphed victoriously in Isobel’s face. Isobel Crawley: One. Lady Isobel: One. And it’s a tie!

And, finally, finally, Lady Sybil’s new frock has arrived! She makes everyone wait, as she gets ready. Then she delivers the shocking blow: they are to be seen in public with her in culottes! Well, I suppose it’s better than a muumuu.

Until next week, dear hearts. I know my work seems very trivial to you. Probably because it is.


  6 Responses to “Downton Abbey – Episode 4 – We’re Going to the Fair!”

  1. Veddy amusing. I’m enjoying the series all over again through your posts.

  2. Thank you! Much obliged.

  3. I saw this months and months ago, when it aired. How come it’s getting the full novelization treatment now? (No complaints, just wondering.)

  4. It’s now available streaming on Netflix, and we caught up. I understand if saw it on PBS rather than BBC, there were a lot of cuts for time and so you may want to rewatch on Netflix.

  5. I was expecting Mrs. Patmore to describe Thomas as “a confused soul” rather than a troubled soul, which would’ve been more to the point that he’s unavailable to all women, not just to the love-struck 12 year old kitchen maid.

    It’s interesting to see how homosexuality was dealt with back in these times. I am under the impression that most of the staff know that Thomas is gay but he’s not exactly out of the closet, either. His forwardness with the Turk an episode back surprised me. Why did Thomas think it was okay to make a pass at him like that?

    • The Turk was a flirt; he gave Thomas the impression he was being flirted with, and the Turk manipulated that to get his way. And Thomas was overconfident.

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