This week on Downton Abbey
, Bates finally finds out the partial truth of what happened to Anna, there's more recycled characters from season 1 and some new blood is added in the servants quarters.
This isn't a bad episode of Downton Abbey, per say, but it's fairly unmemorable. After a few dark episodes earlier in the season, this episode looks to lighten up the tone a bit. Unfortunately, the way the episode tries to lighten the tone is by adding yet more characters, focusing on the increasingly less interesting downstairs folk, and including a few Dowager Countess zingers.
The show is smart enough by now to know that pairing Violet and Isobel will always result in good quips, while bringing Mr. Molesley into the equation will usually result in some humor at his expense. Ultimately, it all adds up to a fun episode you might find yourself hard-pressed to remember moments after it has ended.
Bates Finally Knows
The big news of the episode is that Bates finally knows Anna was assaulted, although not who did the deed. As usual on Downton Abbey, Bates finds out by overhearing a conversation between Anna and Mrs. Hughes.
The Crawleys are extremely rich but apparently can't afford doors. At this point, you'd think people would stop having private, secret conversations by open door jams, but then you'd be using logic and not lazy storytelling.
Bates uses this information to emotionally manipulate Mrs. Hughes into telling him the secret. Thankfully, she does, since the tension between Anna and Bates was already getting tiring to watch. Everyone swears up and down that it wasn't Mr. Green who raped Anna, but Bates doesn't seem to be buying what they're selling.
As the episode draws to a close, Mrs. Hughes tells Bates she's so happy he and Anna have managed to patch things up. Anna is moving back into the house and Bates tells her he doesn't think the assault has "spoiled" her.
But in a completely obvious twist, it turns out Bates isn't as over things as he seems. He tells Mrs. Hughes he isn't going to rest until he gets to the bottom of his wife's assault and finds the culprit.
It's a moment so melodramatic and heavy-handed I half-expected the soundtrack to drop a "dun-dun-DUN" sound effect in there. Of course, it's not like Downton Abbey has ever really been a show of dramatic restraint. Remember the long-lost Canadian cousin or Matthew's miraculous ability to walk again? But man, sometimes they spread the soap on this opera just a little too thickly.
Another day, another story about estate management. This time, a long-time farmer on the property has kicked the bucket, and both Mary and Tom think it's high time his family gets kicked off the land. That's way harsh. Of course, Robert's been letting the farm skip on that little thing called "paying rent" for years now.
His son Mr. Drewe shows up asking to stay on the land since they've been there "since the Napoleonic wars."
Robert: Okay, but you have money to pay all the back fees, right?
Mr. Drewe: Well, about that, no.
Robert: You know what, jolly good chap? I like you and how much you love tradition. What if I lent you some money?
Mr. Drewe: Cha-ching ching!
At this point, Mary and Tom basically just shrug their shoulders and give up. Robert's job is basically to professionally waste money and complain about tradition. Meanwhile, Tom is thinking about moving to America, while Mary welcomes Mr. Evelyn Napier and his boss, Charles Blake.
They're assessing the viability of country estates, although I'm guessing Napier is looking to assess something completely different based on the way he's looking at Mary. It has been almost an episode since Mary's had a love interest who fell wildly and disproportionately in love with her, so I guess she was due.
Isobel convinces Violet to hire a new gardener who may or may not also be a thief. It's a pretty threadbare storyline to give these two monumentally talented actresses, but as usual they're charming and funny when trading barbs together.
As Tom and Mary consider the future, Edith starts to worry about some mistakes in the past. Namely, sleeping with a Germany-bound Gregson, who is suddenly not answering her letters.
Could you imagine if Gregson's whole plan was just to get in Edith's pants? Like, the scale and breadth of that long-con would be staggeringly impressive. The dude moved to Germany just to get away from a clingy girlfriend. That would be commitment.
There's a new lady's maid in town and her name is Mrs. Baxter. She seems surprisingly nice, which is why everyone is shocked that she's Thomas' friend. It looks like Thomas is employing her as a mole to find out what's going on upstairs and downstairs.
She seems a bit confused about why Thomas is so weirdly intense all the time, which is pretty funny. Otherwise, we don't get much of a feel for her personality. I wonder if she's around for the long haul or just another distraction in a season that's been filled to the brim with waste-of-time characters like Edna Braithwaite.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore, angel of my heart, is getting up in arms about a new refrigerator. I'd love to see Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Carson go out drinking and complain about modern technology. That's a spin-off I would watch. Spoiler alert: they don't care for it!
The big story in the kitchen is Alfred, who is trying out for a cooking program at the Ritz. If he's accepted, the giant ginger will be leaving Downton for a life of Gordon Ramsay-style cooking abuse, I would assume.
So Carson decides to hedge his bets by offering Alfred's non-vacated role to Mr. Molesley. The same Molesley who, I will remind gentle readers, was basically working on a chain gang, like, one episode ago. Yet Molesey isn't sure if he can take a job so below his station.
A footman, can you imagine!? Paving roads isn't below his dignity, but serving snooty people their food instead of dressing them is just too much to bear.
Alfred does a good job on his test but doesn't quite make it into the cooking program. Daisy lets out a sigh of relief while the audience lets out a groan because this stupid love square is still happening.
Meanwhile, Molesley decides he can try to overcome his pride and become a measly footman, but Carson practically laughs in his Droopy Dog face when he mentions that Alfred is back and they're no longer hiring. You snooze, you lose, Molesley!
What did you think of the episode? Did you find it as unmemorable as I did? Did you enjoy the added humor? What do you think Bates will do once he finds out the truth? Sound off in the comments!
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9pm on PBS.
(Image courtesy of PBS)