If there’s one thing we learned from last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, it’s that the more people talk about things changing, the more they stay exactly the same as they have been for the last three seasons.
The future is forever just a heartbeat away, bringing with it flying machines, phonoPods and black people. And the denizens of Downton can feel the winds of change beginning to stir and the cold breath of Father Time at the nape of their alabaster necks.
We find the Crawleys in mourning: Like the rest of us, they’re still grieving for poor saintly Lady Sybil, who died last week when her baby chewed its way out of her belly. It seems devastation has touched the hearts of everyone at Downtown ACE, but none more profoundly than Lady Elizabeth McYankee Candle, who has had to bury the youngest—and by far the most non-awful—of her three insufferable daughters.
In her grief, her Mothership blames her husband, Lord Grantham, for Sybil’s death. She can’t forgive him for listening to the illustrious Sir Dr. Fillcup Beertap, who said everything was just fine when all of Sybil’s hair fell out and skin turned gray. Lady Grantham thinks they should have listened to Dr. Clarkson, the village wise man, who probably could have saved Lady Sybil with magic.
But his Lordship wouldn’t let them, so now he has to sleep on a two-by-four in his water-changing closet, and is denied marital relationings of the bedroom sort.
Obviously, this puts Lord Grahamcracker in a foul humour, but not as foul as when he learns that his chauffeur son-in-law Branson wants the baby to be a Catholic. Ooh he’s so steamed because remember how he hates Catholics? They seem all weird and foreign, even though he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that Lady Cora is a half-Jewish (according to the Internets).
“Consistency? Fah!” burbles Julian Fellowes!
So his Lordship invites a young Fred Phelps over for this week’s fancy dinner, hoping that he can get old Branson right with Jesus. But everybody else knows that the exquisite Lady Sybil, most pristine corpse brides, wanted her baby to be Catholic just like its daddy-o.
Beaten at his own game, Lord Grantham stomps off to bed, whining about never getting his way anymore. See, the world is changing, as everyone at Downwardly Mobile Abbey says all the time, and his Lordship don’t like it not one bit!
Meanwhile, at Cousin Isabel’s Home for Wayward Harlots, Ethel is still terrible at cooking so, brainiac revolutionary that she is, she decides to have a fancy luncheon to cheer up her McGovernship.
All the Crawley bitches are invited, and Ethel is instructed to just nuke a Stouffer’s lasagna or something. Oh, but Ethel, that crafty slattern, has other plans: Spying fellow fire crotch Mrs. Patmore trundling about the village, she thinks to herself, “Well, there goes a plumptious little morsel.” She recruits Mrs. P into her house of ill repute, where they whip up some liver pudding and eggs pickled in formaldehyde and aspic crème for the ladies’ luncheon.
Also meanwhile, now that beauteous Lady Sybil is dead, Branson wants to move to Liverpool—to start a garage band or something. It turns out, though, that in addition to being a chauffeur and a revolutionary, he also knows a thing or two about farming and maybe he can help Matthew save Downton from Lord Grundleham’s half-witted management. Oh man, that’s not something his Lordship wants to hear! Oh, the tantrum he is about to throw when Carson runs in to tattle on Cousin Isabel for recruiting all of the Crawley ladies as hookers. Off Lord Grantham goes to save the womenfolk from eating lunch in a brothel. But Lady Elizabeth McGovern is still pissed at him for basically murdering the divine Lady Sybil. Kick and scream as he may, Cora’s gonna sit right there and eat Ethel’s tuna-noodle casserole, so help her Catholic and/or maybe-Jewish God!
With all those white-people problems going on, you might be wondering what’s going on downstairs. Well, it’s all just a minefield of romantic misinterpretations, misdirected crushes and misunderstood libidos in the bowels of Eastender Abbey: Thomas is still all handsy with sweet Jimmy, and the poor flaxen-haired lad is getting well fed up with it! Daisy is still mooning over Alfred who’s a cod-faced tool-and-a-half, while Alfred wishes to woo Ivey who has taken to smearing her scone-face with blusher and lip paint like a common hussy in hopes of impressing Jimmy, who can’t seem to be bothered with any of these triflin’ fools!
Oh, and remember how Daisy was married to William, the old footman, for like 20 minutes before he died from being blown up in the war? Well his sweet doddering old dad wants her to come live with him on his farm so he can cop a feel every now and then. (There’s only so much jolly you can get out of a cow’s warm udder.)
And then there’s Bates.
Ugh. Bates. I feel like, at this point, we should be wearing “Free Anna” t-shirts because all that poor sweet girl gets to do anymore is visit her boring 72-year-old blubber-butt husband in the clink.
Can’t we put Anna in a love triangle with Jimmy and Thomas instead? “Criminy, no! What a ghastly uncouth idea!” gasps Julian Fellowes. Fine! So, Anna has discovered this convoluted evidence that somehow exonerates Mr. Bates because some woman saw his evil (and dead) ex-wife cooking a poison pie.
I know. Just let it go.
Things look promising, except that Bates’ cellmate and that evil prison guard want revenge. So they make the lady, the first Mrs. Bates’ beastly best friend, recant her pie story. Everyone hates Bates. For real. Everyone. Including us, amIright? Bates threatens the evil cellmate, though, and then Mrs. Evil Beastly Bestie stops lying or whatever, and Bates is freed.
Simple as that and all of the rich folk at Downton pretend to care, which must truly make them better people than me.
Speaking of the upstairs folk: I think it’s fair to say that Lord Grantham is having one hell of a rotten episode. Nothing has gone his way, and he missed Beyoncé’s half-time show. “Oh, mummy,” he pouts to the Dowager Grantham. “Wifey has banished me from her sleeping quarters and I miss the rumpy-pumpy at bedtime! Whatever is to be done?” Unable to see her darling lumpkin so very unhappy, Dow-Jones Maggie Smith summons Clarkson to alleviate the matrimonial discord. See, if only Elizabeth McLadytron could believe that her husband hadn’t let the utterly perfect Lady Sybil die right before their eyes everything would be well again. Eventually Dr. Clarkson is all like, “Haha, just kidding! I couldn’t have saved her! It’s 1795 and having a baby is basically like shooting yourself in the vagina!”
Relieved that there really wasn’t any hope for Cybil Shepard after all, her Ladyship falls into Lord Robert’s arms—now they can go back to having maritals in front of Maggie Smith, who quickly turns her head and busies herself with plans for the next luncheon.