The Grantham gang has guests! How is that for some mad alliteration skilz?
That’s right, it’s party time. Or rather victim – excuse me!–, husband hunting time, as Cora looks over the male guests and purrs to Robert, “It’s good to see young men in the house again. Good for Mary!” Ah, how soon has her Lady forgotten that her eldest plays with men much like a cat taunts its prey. Whee! Fun times are back, dear hearts!
SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT
The three prospects are: Lord Gillingham, Samson, and Bullock. Ironically enough, Samson’s the one with the receding hairline. The Earl is clearly partial to Sir Gillingham because he’s as “glamorous as a pirate.” Ah, yes, nothing like a peg leg, an eye patch, and a missing tooth to lend a man irresistible charisma. Which team are you on?
One of the other key guests is the Duchess of Yeoville. (The triplets of Belleville sent their regrets.) Poor Branson puts his foot in his mouth and keeps addressing her improperly, much to Lady Vi’s consternation: “In social situations, call her Duchess.” Poor Branz!
Mary takes after her Dad and likes bad boys too, or so it seems from the way she keeps making googly eyes at Lord Gillingham. Just so you know he’s already engaged. Of course. Our Mary could never find a guy without a complication. And Lord Gillingham reciprocates, the scoundrel, for he asks her out for a morning ride the very next day. Mary readily accepts, remarking, “I haven’t been in the saddle for ages!” Crickets break out on cue. She covers up the awkward double entendre by inviting everyone else. They all decline. Who wants to be a third wheel and end up with Mary stabbing them in the eye with her hatpin? So it’s just Lord Gillingham and little old Mary.
The last grand personnage is Dame Nellie Melba, she of the eponymous bland yet crunchy biscuit. No, silly rabbits, she’s not here to replace their customary breakfast! She’s an opera singer and she’s to give a special performance, after which she’ll retire to her room to hide in shame at the notoriety her awesome pipes have brought her. At least, that’s what she’ll do if that snob Carson has a say.
But enough with the introductions, we have a date to go on! Yes, I’m talking about Mary and Gilligan, I mean, Lord Gillingham. No boring dinner and a movie for them — they’re going horseback riding! They survey the beautiful rolling hills of the Grantham estate. Mary keeps bringing back the topic of his having “the greatest heiress of the season” for a fiancee, Maybelline Fox. She does not inquire how he suppresses the urge to shout “Maybe she’s born with it – maybe it’s Maybelline!” every few minutes, nor does she request free mascara. That’s how well-brought up our Mary is. He brushes the question away and they bond over that palpitating topic: Taxes. I know! No other subject is so fraught with sexual tension. Why, I’ve whispered to many a man, “Darling, don’t stop! Do tell what else you’ll put on Schedule D!” Oh, tell me you haven’t, sluts!
Back in the ranch, Michael has gotten it into his head that the best way to ignite a bromance with the Earl is to play cards with him. Yes, nothing so ingratiates you to a woman’s dad as fascism, adultery, and gambling. It’s an unerring trifecta! Alas, Sampson proves to be quite a card shark and he’s summarily fleeces everyone, including the Earl. If you have ever lived in Durban – you’ve heard of Fhats Casino For South Africans. As far as the gaming scene goes, it is one of the more popular sites that South Africans enjoy to use.
In the meantime, downstairs Anna is becoming fast friends with Lord Gilligham’s valet, Mr. Green. He seems very amiable indeed and Bates instantly dislikes him. Is Bates jealous? It does not bode well that the man shares a name with a character from Clue.
Edith’s man, Michael, has also been invited to the country estate. He’s hoping to impress the Earl. Alas, the Earl, for whatever reason, does not seem to approve of him. Oh, maybe it’s because he’s married already? But Edie is agog over the fact that Michael’s going out of his way to be with her. Nothing is more romantic than having a man join the Axis powers! The most I ever got was a tennis bracelet.
Anyway, the guests go on a tour of the estate, which includes a stroll through the saddest topiaries I’ve ever seen. I can only surmise that Lexipro prescription has drained Edward Scissorhands’ creative juices.
But never mind that! Young Rose has also picked out a prospect, John Bullock. I’m going to tiptoe right past that low-hanging fruit of easy innuendo. Talking about easy, you know who else is keen to get her hooks on a man? Why, that ginger floozy, Edna! She and Branson have an awkward reconciliation in the hall. Branson is gentlemanly enough to “forgive” her previous transgression. Evidently, people are either total naifs or utter cynics, chez les Crawleys. Don’t trust her, Branz!
But Branson is too busy feeling “like a fish out of water” to notice the DANGER – BRAZEN HUSSY! signs flashing ahead. Disabling insecurities, debilitating Daddy issues, psychodramas with the opposite sex. Can’t we start a crowdfunding campaign to get the Grantham folks a really good therapist? Or, barring that, isn’t there a good Marxist rally our Tom can get involved with? People do so need their hobbies, you know, and it’s so sad to see our former firebrand emasculated.
Carson and the Earl go over the wine list. Two-buck chuck does not make the list. You know what goes really well with wine? Music! Let’s dust off that old Victrola and get down! All the young uns’ promptly get their groove on. Indeed, Lord Gillingham’s pecuniary proficiency is such that he’s even convinced Mary to shake a tail feather! And then… She sees it. Matthew’s gramophone. Young Rose has stabbed Mary through the heart, as teenagers inevitably do. Mary runs upstairs, in tears.
Further romantic complications ensue downstairs as Mr. Green organizes a rousing game of cards. Bates tears Anna away from the game to tell her that, while everyone foolishly frolics, Mrs. Patmore has had a heart attack. Well, that will bring any party to a screeching halt. Thankfully, it’s just a panic attack, brought on by young Jimmy’s inexplicably juggling marmalade jars, thus injuring himself.
Never fear, folks, Molesley will pinch-hit as first footman, even though everyone keeps insulting him by implying that he has nothing better to do. For some reason, Molesley is especially miffed by the suggestion that he don white gloves. Why, pray tell? Does he bear a particular antipathy for Mickey Mouse?
Cora finds out that Dame Melba was going to be ostracized by the very people she’s come to entertain. Her Ladyship is livid. She gives the Earl a good talking to and, for good measure, insists that he will sit next to Dame Melba. What, Lady Violet asks, will they talk about? “Some of the things that all humans have in common,” Isobel ripostes. “None of them suitable for conversation,” Lady Vi retorts, presumably thinking of innies and outies. The Earl is equally mystified: “What does one say to a singer?” Thankfully, Dame Melba turns out to be quite the wine connoisseur and the day is saved. Over dinner, Isobel bitterly observes Lord Gillingham and Mary nearly playing footsie. Sensitive Branson notices and attempts to cheer her up, to which she replies: “You’re all alive. My son’s dead!” And that, dear hearts, is the best way to ensure you’re never invited anywhere again.
Ashamed at his lack of social graces, Branson absconds upstairs, where he runs into Edna. She knows just what he needs and brings him a glass of whiskey. “You’re the only one who understands me,” says Branson. Yes, only she and three billion members of AA worldwide.
What time is it, what time is it? Showtime! Everyone’s invited. Even the kitchen staff! Dame Melba begins her rendition of “O Mio Babbino Caro.” Phew. I thought she was going to sing “Wrecking Ball.” I was so not looking forward to seeing Kiri Te Kanawa in the buff atop a gigantic iron pendulum.
Meanwhile in another corner of the house, Michael and Sampson are having another game of cards. He has a trick or two up his sleeve, literally, and wins back all the money everyone lost. Including the Earl’s. This was all a ploy to get on Robert’s good side. Edie, is even more impressed. Add larceny to the list of misdemeanors that make this gal swoon.
Anna goes downstairs with a bad migraine, and who should she chance upon but Mr. Green? He starts out chummy and promptly becomes creepy. Anna becomes indignant, rightfully so, and then he strikes her! Oh, my God, no! In a truly terrifying scene, Mr. Green rapes Anna. Her cries of terror are drowned out by the singing upstairs.
It’s very disturbing, particularly when Mrs. Hughes finds poor Anna cowering in her study. Mrs. Hughes wants to call for help, but Anna, panicked, isn’t thinking straight. She’s worried that Bates will kill Mr. Green and he’ll end up back in jail. Can’t Mrs. Hughes talk some sense into her? Can’t she convince her to call the cops? But no. Anna insists all she needs is a change of clothing and makes Mrs. Hughes swear to secrecy.
The last scene is a gut-wrenching one in which Bates sees his wife acting strangely, and asks her what’s wrong. She covers it up, and even gives evil Mr. Green a cordial good night. As Bates reaches out to kiss her, she runs into the yard. Poor Anna!