By Jordan Bartel
The Baltimore Sun
7:05 PM EST, February 2, 2014
It's time for another patented Momentously Action-Packed Storyline Development Party at Downton.
Thankfully, because this was a pretty blah episode otherwise. So, Robert's birthday to the rescue. Here's what went down:
1. Rose's big "surprise" for the party was also sort of selfish -- she brought up Jack Ross, her beloved bandleader from London, to play for Robert/give her make-out time downstairs. Mary catches them kissing but doesn't call Rose out on it -- yet. Do I smell a cold-hearted Mary lecture in the future?
Though it's Rose and Jack's lovey-doveyness is sort of cheesy at times, Jack's appearance did allow the audience a chance to see Carson have a mini-stroke when he first sets eyes on the bandleader and later ask him, "Have you ever thought of visiting Africa?"
So overall, Jack's visit is a win. Especially since we also get to see the Dowager Countess listen to jazz and then summarize the genre by asking, "Do you think any of them know what the others are playing?"
2. Evelyn Napier is back to wistfully long for Mary/introduce his boss, Charles Blake, to the Crawleys. If you recall, Evelyn and Charles are visiting rich people as part of a government study on big estates, but Charles describes it more as "a government study to show how wasteful and unproductive and outdated Downton are."
Needless to say, Charles and Mary spar instantly. I'll paraphraise their conversations:
Mary: You're awful and inconsiderate.
Charles: You're equally awful and rich and therefore I instantly despise you.
Mary: You, too.
3. Big (not-at-all-shocking given her doctor's visit) news: Edith is pregnant! We have to get this news before the big birthday party so Edith can pretty much ruin it by moping around, fretting over the now-officially missing Michael and not telling anyone what's going on before running away to her room. Fun stuff!
OTHER NON-PARTY HIGHLIGHTS FROM SLIGHTLY BORING PART 5
Adios, Alfred: In a random turn of events, Alfred is headed to the Ritz's chef program after all (one of the people dropped out). Daisy is sad, pissed, etc. at everyone.
Isobel vs. DC returns: The misguided "storyline" of the dowager thinking Pegg stole her rich-lady trinkets continues! This time, Isobel gets all in the Dowager's business, says how awful and heartless she is and decides to make a point by finding the lost paper-knife and then trying to rub it in the Dowager's face. But the Dowager had already hired back Pegg and apologized.
And, why is this happening? It's pretty much a replay of every interaction or situation between the Dowager and Isobel since the series began.
The Bates try to rebuild: One of the more understated and effective parts of the episode focused on the Bates trying to get back to "normal." It's actually pretty refreshing to see everything not go back to perfect right away -- they're working on it and there's good and bad.
The good: Anna being open to going out to dinner (even if the snobby maitre'd refuses to seat them until Cora intervenes). The bad: Anna holding back tears when Bates gives a toast and says, "Here's to us." Still very sad.
Speaking of Bates: Bates' best-ever description of himself: "Your husband is a brooder. And brooders brood."
This is supposed to be interesting?: We learn that pigs are next for Downton. More specifically: intensive pig farming. Yay?
Molesley's back!: Again with this? He comes back to Downton after seeing Alfred take the train for London. Carson says there's no place for him (again) until Mrs. Hughes lets him help out during the party "serving tea to the servants." Carson caves and gives him the footman job after all. Great.
What do you call this, psychologists?: Mary: "I'm not unhappy. I'm just not quite ready to be happy."
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