Laura Linney welcomes us to Season 3 of Downton Abbey in a classy black outfit. Laura loves DA so much she probably insists her boyfriend wear a dinner jacket to each viewing. I hope Laura’s man has already uncorked the bubbly. We’ve got a wedding to attend!
Spoilers after the cut!We open on the rehearsal for Mary and Matthew’s much awaited wedding. Silly me, I thought rehearsing these things was a modern thing and that back in the old days people just winged it. Anyway, the buzz around the church is all about the relief the Grantham gang feel that Sybil is not coming with her chauffeur hubby. Lady Vi is appalled that the Crawley name has appeared in the press far too often. Be thankful Mary’s not marrying Kim Kardashian, Lady Vi.
We move from this happy scene to a gloomy one of Anna visiting Bates in prison. Anna’s turned into an amateur sleuth and shows him a little notebook that she found at Vera’s. Scotland Yard must’ve run out of yellow crime scene tape because Anna clearly has the run of the place. Anyway, she’s going to track down all the people in it and prove Bates’ innocence. Bates remarks about the strength of her faith in him in a tone that I found a wee bit ominous. But that might just be an unfortunate side effect of my addiction to Snapped! and the Investigation Channel.
Back at the estate, there’s a footman emergency. He is over 6 foot one! Carson is outraged at the lack of standards nowadays. Kids these days should have better control over their pituitary glands, dammit. Alfred, the new footman and O’Brien’s nephew, does look a little like Lurch. Wouldn’t it be awesome if he also had a box with a hand that got loose around Downton?
In the meantime, his close call with permanent erectile dysfunction has warmed the cockles of Matthew’s – I said cockles, you filthy cows, not… Never mind. Anyway, he and Mary engage in the 1920’s version of sexting, otherwise known as innuendo minus any flashing of furry bits. Is it getting hot in here? Might be that shot of brandy in my hot chocolate.
Well, Fellowes has already crossed off scandal, murder, and sex in his episode outline. What next? Oh, yeah, money! Lord Grantham’s lawyer has some distressing news for him: all his shares in Canadian rail have gone south and the lion’s share of Cora’s fortune is gone. Lord Grantham looks shocked that the tricks he picked up playing monopoly are not transferable to real life. I hear you, boo. The Crawleys might have to get jobs! Can you see the Earl running a bed and breakfast a la Fawlty Towers? The lawyer hints about selling Downton, but the Earl is indignant. I blank out and then hear him mention something about dropping the torch and letting the flame go out, and for an instant I’m all, Whoa, Fellowes worked in a little pyromania too! I guess a garage sale is out of the question.
In other news, Edith still has the hots for Sir Anthony. Are there no men in her age group? I wish they’d found a sexier older man for this plot line.
Lord Grantham asks Thomas about the new footman, Alfred. He’s very eager and very tall, says Thomas. Sounds like the making of some great gay porn.
Cut to downstairs and — Jesus, Alfred really does look like he’s 7 feet tall. Or does he grow between scenes?
Daisy mopes and wants a promotion. She’s sick and tired of being the kitchen maid. Ever helpful, Thomas thinks she should go on strike. Will little Daisy wipe that scowl long enough to belt out the Internationale before the sherbet course? The plot thickens, much like the bearnaise.
At dinner: Alfred has a hard time with the tongs. Oh, boy, tall and clumsy. This does not bode well and everyone wants to serve themselves. Matthew talks about needing to live in a simple way after their marriage by which he means that it will be self-serve all the way chez the Matthew Crawleys. “An aristocrat with no servants is as much use as a glass hammer,” harrumps Lady Vi. Right. I can picture Mary in a little bungalow, making her own bread and knitting all their sweaters. Not.
I’m looking forward to all sorts of things says Matthew to Mary. Matthew, be careful. Be very very careful. You take away her servants and Mary might not be so obliging in the boudoir, if you catch my drift. Never again will you see her don that little French maid outfit.
But wait, who’s here? Why, it’s those crazy Katzenjammer Dublin kids! Where, pray tell, did they get the money to get here? I wish there’d been enough money left over for Sybil to buy a better hat. Marriage has not improved her sense of style. Things get awkward as Branson gets out of the car and faces off the firin—I mean, the Grantham gang. You thought meeting the in-laws was intimidating. At least they didn’t greet you at the door with a receiving line.
Back at the Matthew bachelor pad, yet another lawyer arrives with news. Sir Reginald, Lavinia’s dad, appointed Matthew the third heir in line and now he’s dead! The first heir is dead too and the second one’s MIA, which means that Matthew stands to inherit a sizable fortune yet again. This dude should really play Powerball. No, actually, he should be outlawed from playing Powerball just to be fair to everyone else. The lawyer explains that the second heir went to India and hasn’t been heard from since. He’s probably in an ashram somewhere, finding himself. I bet he’ll resurface next season with plans to open a raw food restaurant slash yoga studio in the East End.
All this talk about money’s making me hungry. Time for yet another awkward family dinner at the Crawleys. How these people don’t get indigestion more often is beyond me. Lady Vi starts building the tension by asking Branson if not dressing for dinner is an Irish tradition. And before you faint at the sight of Branson at the table au natural, by “not dressing” the Dowager Countess means “wearing an ugly brown suit.” Branson scowls that they live a completely different type of life. “I can’t turn into somebody else to please you!” And then he brings up politics. I’m getting nervous and I lean left. But before Peptobismol offers PBS a product placement deal, Cora saves the day by asking about Irish gardens having more variety than English ones. Nothing like a charming non-sequitur to get everyone back to their good graces. I really must take notes. Behind her ditzy demeanor, that Cora’s got a mind like a steel trap.
After dinner, Mary and Sybil have a tete a tete. Sybil says in Dublin she’s Mrs. Branson and that her husband is a wonderful wonderful man. What, our favorite sufragette doesn’t even hyphenate her name? Have you let your subscription to Ms. Magazine lapse, Sybs? Mary informs baby sis that the whole Grey family is coming tomorrow night and that sis should warn Branson. Larry Grey used to have a crush on her. There’s never any worry of being upstaged by a dude named Larry. Well, unless Sybil’s old flame is Larry David, in which case, he’s definitely funnier than you, Branz.
Now back to that matter of the inheritance. Matthew reveals that he’s next in line to get Sir Reggie’s money. Mary’s thrilled! Downton will be saved! She will live like a countess after all! But the thing is, Matthew can’t keep it. He broke Lavinia’s heart when she caught him snogging Mary and could not take the money in good faith. Take away her servants and Mary might shag you once a week, Matthew. Take away the money and she’ll withhold sex till you break.
Somewhere in another corner of the mansion, another couple is having an awkward talk about money. Lord Grantham reveals his financial faux pas to his wife. Cora asks why he was so heavily invested in one enterprise, wasn’t it foolish? She’s taking it very well that he lost their money. Cora’s so forgiving! Or did Lord Grantham spike her wine with some Spanish fly? Because she’s actually looking kinda frisky. Anyway, she’s glad they have a wedding to celebrate.
Lord, not this again. We have to obligatorily follow the Bates storyline. Anna is sure Vera committed suicide. Has Anna invented a new mode of travel? Because she manages to come and go from Downton to London as if she had her own bullet-train.
In the meantime, Edith’s flirting is about as subtle as a mallet to the head. In fact, poor Sir Anthony looks both flattered and a little rattled whenever she comes around. Much like many of my dates…
O’Brien has gotten it into her head that her nephew should be promoted to Matthew’s valet. But Thomas won’t cooperate. Hell, bitch, after all the conniving he did to get his gig, you think Thomas will approve of young Al skipping steps? Hellz no!
The Greys arrive and ex-beau Larry immediately faces off against Branson. As expected, dinner’s tense as hell. Personally, I’d order pizza and retire to my chambers just to avoid the stress. Anyway, Branson starts the conversation by mouthing off about Irish oppression. Is Branson drinking? Sir Anthony uncovers Larry’s stunt: he put a roofie in Branson’s drink. Larry is about to protest when his dad proclaims, “Be silent this instant, sir!” Is calling your children “sir” a tip from Supernanny? It worked like a charm! The villain flees and Matthew wants Branson to be his best man.
Good news: Mrs. Levinson, Cora’s mother is coming!! After a stint in Ancient Egypt.
And now for the bad news: More jailhouse Bates. He’s so boringly saintly that he’s driving his cellmate up the wall: “Why do you have to be so pious?” And for, once, I agree with a convict.
Unaware that they’re in the poorhouse, Mary is spending money like she’s minting it. Now there’s an idea! Why not go into counterfeiting? Anyway, the Earl breaks the news of their indigence to his headstrong, spoiled older daughter.
And it turns out that Branson is not Branson’s first name. I knew it sounded too cartoonishly manly to be true. His name is Tom! Anyway, he apologizes to Lady Vi for last night. For his churlish behavior, that is. Come on, now, has Mary and Matthew’s dirty talk sullied your mind? Lady Vi takes it very gracefully. But Branson doesn’t approve of these costumes. He sees them as the uniform of oppression. Listen, Tom, you better not come to the wedding in a sack-cloth, covered in ashes. I wish Larry had given him pot brownies. Maybe then we’d finally get to see Branz laugh. Upshot: Lady Vi forces him to wear a morning coat. Let us hope she burns that brown suit.
Mrs. Levinson’s here!! “Aren’t you going to kiss me?,” she asks. “With the greatest enthusiasm,” says Lord Grantham. Now, why did that sound disingenuous?
Mrs. Levinson’s maid makes instant friends with the downstairs denizens by insisting that Mrs. L “have goat’s milk in the a.m., no fats, no crab, and nothing from the marrow family.” Ah, yes, the Marrows! I keep meaning to send them a Christmas card.
Mrs. L doesn’t beat around the bush and is hostile about Mary’s husband being the one to inherit Cora’s money. Now we know where Sybs got her feminist tendencies.
Well now that she’s down and out, Mary hounds Matthew about Sir Reggie’s inheritance. Good news! It appears that Matthew is, in fact, the last heir left. By the way, what is it with these English heirs? They die off so conveniently. I suppose that explains Agatha Christie and all those swell British crime series. Anyway, Mary’s upset at Matthew’s scruples. “It means that you’re not on our side, Matthew. It means that deep down you’re not on our side,” she cries! You keep this up, Matt, and Mary will geld you, stitch your testicles unto a throw pillow, and sell it on Etsy. Given how un-crafty Mary is, this does not bode well.
Back to snoozeville: Anna asks how Bates is getting on with his cellmate. But never mind that, Bates wants to know about the wedding! What colors did they choose? Who’s catering? Anna says she doesn’t care and he says it’s the stuff of his dreams. He should’ve been a wedding planner! “While I’m in here you have to live my life as well as my own!” Well, thank the Lord, Anna’s got plenty of energy to spare, what with the detective hobby, the 18-hour day job, and all that commuting back and forth.
Can you all guess who sent the money for Branson’s ticket? Lady Vi, naturally, with a little help from her lady’s maid: “Like all ladies maids she lives for intrigue.” Everyone’s so surprised! “I’m a woman of many parts,” Lady Vi shrugs. Mary’s upset that the conversation’s veered off her and makes a scene at the table. In typical Mary fashion, she’s close to calling the whole thing off the night before her nuptials. These Limeys sure make my Latin and Jewish families look sedate!
Daisy is on strike!! Or sitdown. Daisy says that Mrs. P’s not responding to her protests. Then she gives up and dries the dishes. So, don’t worry, peeps. She’s not going all Norma Rae on us and Downton’s not getting a Union rep yet.
Anna keeps Mary from sabotaging yet another love affair, while Branson advises Matthew that it seems big but it isn’t. “The old me would like to put a bomb under the lot of ye,” Branson says. That’s his way of advocating for peace.
The voices of reason finally inject some, well, reason and Matthew knocks on Mary’s door. They talk behind the door, like Heloise and Abelard. Romantic! “I refuse to quarrel about something that hasn’t happened and surely never will,” Matthew says. “I would never be happy with anyone else as long as you walk the earth. Which is true and I think you feel the same way about me.” Oh, and it’s so sweet when they kiss with their eyes closed, so he doesn’t look at her before the wedding day. Well played, Fellowes. Well played, sir.
The day of the wedding is here! And, what’s this? Branson wears a day coat! Lady Vi: 1. Branson: 0. He runs into Lord Grantham who thanks him for what he did last night.
Suddenly Cora remembers that she’s not given her eldest an iota of sex education and tries to cram the birds & the bees into 30 seconds. Thankfully, Mary waves her off. And that’s that.
The lovebirds travel to the church in a horse-drawn carriage instead of a limo. Apparently, even the best limousine services Atlanta has to offer are no match. Now that’s class! “I should hate to be predictable,” says Mary. Me too! Mary must be a Leo. And was there a glitch in the editing or did Fellowes decide the wedding was anti-climactic? We immediately cut to a pair in a car. They’re back from the honeymoon. Wow, that was abrupt.
To pretend that Fellowes hasn’t completely dropped the downstairs stories, he goes all office politics on us. Thomas doesn’t like Alfred getting promoted to valet. But enough about the help! Let’s go back to the 1%!
There’s been some stress building between Mrs. L and Lady Vi, who have practically split up into red and blue states. Mrs. L is all about progress: “Are there still forbidden subjects in 1920?” Uh, butt plugs? While Lady Vi says Mrs. L is like a runaway train. But she’s distracted from her feud with the mishpochah by the googly eyes Edith gives Sir Anthony. “Isn’t it dangerous to let this Strallan nonsense simmer on?” Lady Vi asks Robert.
Matthew tells Robert that Mary has told him about his present difficulties, and brings up the subject of Sir Reggie’s inheritance. “If I kept that money, I would be no better than a common criminal,” says Matthew. If this is any indication of Matthew’s ability to see nuances, I don’t foresee a stellar legal career.
But never mind all that, is Sir Anthony wearing make-up? Edith wants to know why he’s pushing her away. Asides from the fact that you terrify him, dear Edith, your Poppa has been plotting behind your back.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes confides in Mrs. Patmore that she’s developed a lump in her breast. Mrs. P’s such a good friend that she accompanies her to the doctor’s. The doctor says that they’ll have to send away for test results.
Lady V asks if Mary’s serious about getting “that woman”, a.k.a. Mrs. L, to save Downton. They plot and arrange for a grand British party in which they’ll persuade Mrs. L to come to the aid of their favorite charity: the landed gentry, namely, them. Lady Vi says subtly, a propos of nothing: “It is marvelous the way we support each other.”
Carson chastises Mrs. Hughes for not pulling her weight and for dragging her feet. Mrs. P wants her to tell him about her health issues, but Mrs. Hughes is too proud.
Robert definitely wants Sir Anthony to stop seeing Edith and puts his foot down. Sir Anthony wants to comply but says it won’t be easy, what with Edith’s stalking ways.
Thomas plots against Alfred by giving him the kind of stain-remover that burns holes through clothing, thereby ruining Matthew’s jacket. Then he talks smack to Robert about it.
Matthew gets wind of Mary and Lady V’s plans and in his usual high-minded vein asks: “So you mean to fleece her?” Subtle, Matthew, subtle.
When Alfred is publicly humiliated due to Thomas’ little stunt, who should come to his side but Mrs. L’s boy crazy maid? And this one can plot with the best! Nevertheless, poor Matthew won’t have the proper clothing in time for Mary and Lady Vi’s classy event.
Over breakfast, Edith gets a letter from Sir Anthony breaking it off. I feel for Edith. I do. But given her tangled romantic past, I foresee her falling for the stable boy if she ever does marry Sir Anthony.
Cora doesn’t think it’s fair that her mother should give them any money. But, Mary, of course, disagrees. “In my book, the countess of Grantham lives at Downton Abbey.” Is Mary writing a book?! Guess she’s never seen The Shining or she’d know the effect huge mansions have on writers.
The village doctor has gotten the results from Mrs. Hughes’ text. The breast cancer fluid is difficult to diagnose. They’ll have to wait two months. Despite the stress, Mrs. Hughes won’t listen to Mrs. P and refuses to let Cora know about her health issues.
Edith is heartbroken that her Dad chased Sir Anthony off. “He’s a quarter of a century too old!” Lord Grantham exclaims. But Edith won’t take no for an answer. “Almost every young man I grew up with is dead!” she says. It’s so reassuring she really does love Sir Anthony and is not just desperate. She threatens to stalk Sir Anthony. She begs her father to ask him back. Fearful of an order of protection against his middle child, he relents.
Meanwhile, Anna has successfully traced Vera’s friend. But never mind the exciting break in his case, Bates doesn’t care about petty things like being hung on the gallows, or having to fight hardened criminals all day and night. Instead, he worries about the Downton woes and wants to hear the dope about Anna’s travels to gay Paree!!
Have I mentioned that Mrs. L’s maid is creepy? She and Long Al would be perfectly cast in a summer stock production of Sweeney Todd.
The setting for the dinner party is so beautiful, Carson must be a secret fan of Martha Stewart’s. Alas, such perfection will be marred by the plebeian outfits Lord Grantham and Matthew will be forced to wear. Black tie, no less. As if this were the Oscars! Because, you see, all of Robert’s white tie shirts are missing. Thomas accuses Alfred of misplacing them. Robert asks Thomas: “Are you not popular downstairs?” Talk about slow on the uptake. I guess Robert will have to pose topless for that calendar after all. Hot Men of the English Manors. It outsells Hard Bodies of the Fire Engines in the U.K.!
Meanwhile in the kitchen, there’s a fire emergency. The stove won’t light!
You two are dressed for a barbecue,” Mrs. L announces to Matthew and Robert. “I feel like a bootlegger,” says Robert. “I don’t know what that means,” Lady Vi. Plus, Mrs. P couldn’t cook anything so there’ll be no food! Mary and Lady Vi’s classy shindig is ruined! Ruined! “I’m so sorry. I thought you were a waiter,” a flustered Lady Vi mumbles to her son. Resourceful Mrs. L decides they’ll have an inside picnic instead and orders cold cuts be brought upstairs. Lady Levinson invents the buffet! And the singalong too! Next she’ll invent dinner theater. No wonder she’s loaded. Later at the after party, she sings “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to Lady Vi, who is tickled pink.
When Alfred finds out that Mrs. L’s maid stole the Earl’s white shirts to set up Thomas, he demands to know why she is being so nice to him. Is this man too tall to distinguish women’s motivations? Shut up and kiss me, she orders. My favorite way to make a point!
“We are staring into the chaos of Gomorrah,” says Carson, like the drama king he is. Mrs. L can’t give more money for Downton because her husband tied the money down elsewhere.
Bates gets into a fight with his cellmate. Don’t ever threaten me, says Bates. Ooh, Bates getting violent! I sure hope he’s at the low-end of the sociopathic scale and really did kill Vera. It’s the only way to redeem this boring storyline…
And it’s time for Mrs. L to return to the States. What, so soon? She didn’t even dish any dirt on Billy Wilder. She apologizes to Lord Grantham she can’t help them keep Downton and advises him to get with the times. “Some animals adapt in new surroundings,” says Robert. Cunning way to call your mother-in-law an animal there, Bob. “Seems better than extinction,” replies Mrs. L. She’s got a point.
Mrs. Hughes makes a similar comment to Carson: “Perhaps people are tired of style.” “If you’re tired of style, you are tired of life,” snaps Carson, auditioning for a U.K. version of Queer Eye.
I, for one, wholeheartedly agree! Until next time, dear hearts! Do remember to wear morning coats!