It’s the last episode and Laura Linney welcomes us once again to Masterpiece Theatre. The way she shakes her gorgeous locks, I always expect her to say instead, “I’m Laura Linney and THIS is my fabulous hair!” You want to raise money, PBS? Start charging viewers for Laura’s hairdresser’s info.
WARNING: SPOILERS – after the cut! –
We open on the staff cleaning the castle for the Crawleys’ return from London. They’ve left Lady Mary behind. Scotland Yard has recruited her so she can track Jack The Ripper and strike terror into his heart just like she’s done with every other able-bodied male in England. In other breaking news: the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand has been assassinated. Darn it. I never got to see him on tour.
But assassinations and other glum events do not deter Cora from making preparations for a garden party. Cora happily informs Sybil that she was a great success in London, even though she kept quoting Das Kapital in the original German at parties. Lady Edith pouts that Cora never says that to her. Well, Lady Edith, if it’s any consolation, your wicked letter was also a great success in London.
Lady Mary has not received many invitations to parties, as her Aunt Rosamund remarks. And after the way she behaves with her sister, the garden party might be her last social interaction. She might end up moving to America and living at Grey Gardens. Yes, Lady Mary, you’ll see how glamorous you’ll look wearing ripped colored tights on your head.
But Sybil is quickly upstaged by her maman. Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed how hawt the Earl looks in tails. (Although every single time I see him dressed for dinner, I keep waiting for him to tap-dance to the tune of Puttin’ On the Ritz. By the way, I just realized, Mr. Peanuts also wears tails. Was he a big success in London too?) Well, anyway, Cora is no fool and she was on the Earl like white on rice, and so well, huhm, here we are, four months later and she is enceinte. The doctor insists on disgusting the Earl by bringing up the fact that Cora’s close to The Change. And no, not because he wants to be prepared for all the tollbooths on the Jersey freeway.
But anyway, back to Mary in London, where she has an unexpected visitor. No, not Aunt Flo, Evelyn Napier. Well, this is awkward. Isn’t Evelyn the one who spread those filthy rumours about Mary? As a matter of fact, that’s why he’s here. Turns out that nasty letter to the Turkish Ambassador was the work of Lady Edith. Napier admits that it’s hard to believe. Napier must be an only child. One who’s never read the Bible.
But sibling rivalries, dead archdukes, a late-in-life pregnancy, and the threat of war pale in comparison to Lady Violet’s imminent crisis: Her lady’s maid is leaving!! The ingrate, wanting a life of her own and all. Cora volunteers to help her find one. May I take a moment to applaud how deftly Cora handles her mother-in-law? While I find Lady Violet adorable, Cora nevertheless deserves a standing ovation.
Of course, now that Cora is with child, Matthew’s situation might change, especially if it’s, well, a boy. The Earl’s sister, Aunt Rosamunde, advises Mary to put Matthew off. After all, if it is a boy, does Mary really want to be a country barrister’s wife? Rosamunde must also be persona non-grata at parties, or she would know by now that Mary, unlike her eponymous saint, is no longer a virgin.
Mrs. Patmore’s condition is such that she will soon get the boot. Personally, I’m waiting for the day that Daisy snaps and goes postal on her, a la Carrie. (Now that I think about it, Mrs. Patmore’s lucky Daisy’s a long way from her menarche.) Instead of firing her, the Earl generously sends her to London for a cataracts operation. Anna is to accompany her, the better for her to snoop on Bates. That’s the difference between a true gentleman and a 21st Century guy: Bates is unfazed by the fact that Anna tracks his army records, investigates his Mum’s whereabouts, and interrogates her about his past. Nowadays, if you so much as look up a crush’s Facebook profile, he’ll consider you a creep. Anyhow, I guess I should mention that Anna goes all Sherlock on us because, now that he’s confessed to being a former thief, Bates’ fate hangs in the balance.
And talking about Facebook, Downton’s getting a telephone! For those of you too young to know, “the telephone” was this little black thingie that sat on a table and, asides from teenagers, no one ever wanted to answer it. It differed from a cellphone in that the more important you were, the harder it was to reach you. People were very uncivilized, you see; unlike now when everyone has a cameraphone up their tuchuses – and posts their whereabouts, their putzes, and the contents of their kishkes on YouTube.
But I digress. The telephone guy appears at Downton and spills that he is looking for a secretary. Lady Sybil, troublemaker that she is, signs up Gwen and kicks the Earl out of the library for the interview.
Now that Mary is back from scandalizing London, Lady Violet advises her to accept Matthew. After all, “if she won’t say yes when he might be poor, he won’t want her when he might be rich.” Lady Sybil avers, “Why, Granny, you’re a romantic!” To which Lady Violet harrumphs: “I’ve been called many things in my life, but never that!” I bet Lady Violet and her gal pals call each other “slut” when no one’s present.
But instead of following Lady Violet’s advice, when Matthew asks again, Mary puts him off. Seeing his distress, she shrugs, “Granny advised me to say yes and then withdraw if you lose everything.” That Mary. Always spreading the good vibrations between people. Why, she’s practically the Messiah! Seriously, Mary, you’ve got the social skills of Temple Grandin! At least she can empathize with quadripeds.
Bates has now displaced Mary as topic A, no thanks to his infuriating refusal to stand up for himself. I wish someone would smack him around a little. The Earl finds out that O’Brien has been spreading rumours about Bates and when he suggests that Cora fire her, O’Brien inevitably overhears. O’Brien now definitively gets it into her head that Cora is placing an ad for her replacement. Just what everyone needed – a more embittered O’Brien. Cora must be over-intoxicated with oxytocin not to notice O’Brien’s sour punim. She seals her fate when she off-handedly asks O’Brien how long it might take a lady’s maid to settle in. Unluckily, she drops her soap. It breaks in half and O’Brien leaves a piece on the floor on purpose for Cora to trip over. She leaves the bathroom and then has a crisis of conscience. Yes, I know, surprising plot twist, O’Brien with a conscience. Alas, when she decides to help Cora, it’s too late. Cora slips and loses the baby.
The Earl breaks down in front of Bates as he informs him that it was a boy after all. But the good news is that Bates will stay at Downton, no thanks to Anna’s inquiries.
Downstairs, everyone’s glum about miscarriage except for Thomas, who says, “Why must we live through them? They’re just our employers.” And, as much of an asshat as Thomas might be, I have to say, he does have a point. Then he makes yet another obnoxious remark about William’s late mother and almost gets his ass kicked.
On to the garden party. Thomas gets news that his earlier inquiries to the doctor have paid off. The latter has found him a position as a medic. Thomas might even be rewarded due to his early recruitment. God, I hope he gets trench foot! Now that Thomas proved to be a perfect jerk, Daisy apologizes to William for being a little bitch to him. William forgives her, being that she was under “an evil spell”. I called it! Daisy’s going to go all Carrie on us next season. I’d stop cooking whole pigs if I were you, Mrs. Patmore…
And guess who else got a new job? Gwen! Branson finds out when he’s the only one brave enough to answer the phone in the days before caller ID. This gives him an excuse to embrace Lady Sybil, lucky gal. Hughes notices and chases Lady Sybil off. Mrs. Hughes, a romantic? No one’s ever called her that in her life! She warns Branson: “Be careful, my lad. Or you’ll end up with no job and a broken heart.” There, there, Branson, come rest that gorgeous head of yours on my still pert bosom. I’ll be your sugar mama.
And it’s cock-blocking time at the party, for who should chance upon an enthusiastic Lord Strallan but Lady Mary, gelding scissors sharpened. When he asks for Lady Edith, Mary mentions that she must be dodging some old boar, someone who promised to propose. “I can’t tell you how funny she was when she acted it out!” Mary always has impeccable aim when kicking a man in the balls. Lord Strallan leaves so fast, his heels smoke in his wake. Lady Edith tries to chase him down, to no avail.
Just as maddening is that O’Brien’s guilty conscience earns her extra brownie points with Cora. She’s feeling so bad, she goes out of her way to be solicitous and helpful. Even Lady Violet calls O’Brien a gem when she reveals that the ad was for a new lady’s maid for her, not for Cora.
When Molesley shows interest in Anna, Bates tell him that there’s someone special in her life who is quite keen. Well, then you better grow some cojones and start sticking up for yourself, Bates. Married men find them quite useful.
Oh, and guess who else is suddenly quite keen? Mary, that’s who. But, strangely, Matthew is no longer interested in her. If anything, he might leave Downton! “I’m not a puppet, I must take charge of my own life again!” He says and trips when he gets all tangled up in the strings Mary tied to him. He manages an exit as Mary exclaims, “So I’ve ruined everything?” Ah, Mary, you’re like red meat – nay, filet mignon – for a psychoanalyst! Off in the distance, Lady Violet observes this and rebukes Rosamunde, who answers, “I’m sorry, maman, but you know me, I have to say what I think!” “Why? Nobody else does!!” Ah, Violet, if you keep being this quotable, you’ll end up as a fridge magnet. Or a tee shirt.
By the way, have I mentioned yet how yummy the Earl looks in his white linen suit? Well, I was going to, but then the series ends as it began, with Carson bringing a telegram on a little silver plate. The Earl reads it and asks for everyone’s attention: Britain’s at war with Germany.
Welcome to World War I and the official beginning to a terrible century!