In this otherwise somewhat unremarkable episode (it's one of those Downton "let's move along the plot a bit" hours), much of the rest of the time was spent with Mary, Branson and Robert dealing with that farm eviction. Thrilling stuff, this is.
We learn that the man who runs the farm has died, and what better time than the funeral for Robert to tell his son that he's, you know, being kicked out of the property so the Crawleys can farm it themselves.
This is what Branson and Mary at first want, but Robert feels a sense of history with the family, the fact that the family and the Crawleys were in "partnership" with the land.
Robert, without telling Mary and Branson, offers Mr. Drew a loan to cover the difference of what they own. Drew stays on the land, but Mary and Branson are surprised to find out about the loan. Still they don't care that much, and recognize how awesome Robert is. Sometimes.
Meanwhile, there's an unexpected reappearance of Evelyn Napier. Reminder: We first met Evelyn in Season 1, and he has the distinction of being the first to introduce Mary to the soon-to-croak-on-top-of-Mary Mr. Pamuk.
Napier's a family friend who was first thought to have been a suitable match for Mary, but who was cast aside because Mary was, like, totally smitten with Pamuk. Napier was also the one who told Mary of the rumor that was spreading about her in London related to Pamuk.
So, in the tradition of men coming out of the woodwork this season, here he is again.
To be fair, he's officially at Downton on government business, assigned to look into how, post-war, the large estates are going to survive (if they are). He says Downton's not in serious trouble, but he's spending time investigating with his boss, Charles Blake (whom we don't meet -- yet).
The family urges Napier to stay at Downton. Because that's not a conflict at all with his new job.
Alfred's big chance
Confession: I always thought Alfred was kind of dopey. But I'm liking him more this season, a) because he fights off Jimmy's bored snarls and comments with class and b) he wants to be a chef.
He gets invited to take a cooking test at the Ritz Carlton London, and he's never been to London, so it's pretty cute to watch him be so nervous.
At the test, we meet the Stereotypical French Sous Chef at the hotel ("I am zeeee sous chef at the Reeetz," he says, and you expect him to whip out a beret and start chain-smoking and losing wars).
Alfred is tasked with making vichyssoise, surrounded by other would-be chefs and ZEE FRENCH CHEF. Not intimidating at all. The chef seems impressed, but Alfred later gets a letter saying he didn't make the top 4 of the class but was very close.
Let's hope he gets out there. There's only so much more Jimmy bully-for-no-reason comments we can take.
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM PART FOUR
And introducing.... Thomas has brought in a new lady's maid for Cora. Baxter, who sort of looks like a softer O'Brien, seems kind (she brings Cora orange juice for breakfast because "it's American") and all, but it's clear she ans Thomas are in a bargain -- she'll spy on upstairs goings-ons and tell Thomas everything. There's also some sort of secret that Thomas knows about Baxter: "I'm grateful for this job, Thomas, and we both know why, but what's this all about?" Baxter asks about his machinations.
Most unnescessary storyline: Clarkson urging Isobel to find employment for a young guy, then Isobel pretty much forcing the Dowager Countess to hire him. Then the Dowager Countess thinking this young guy stole a paper knife. Seriously, who cares? Let's give these three something else to do. Like, anything to do.
Least mysterious moment designed to try to be mysterious: Edith going to see a doctor in London. Does anyone out there NOT think that she's pregnant?
The return of Mary vs. Edith: OK, so the sisterly rivalry never went away, but Mary gets in two great insults this episode: