'Downton Abbey': Let's Discuss the Series 4 Finale

Cora and Rose lead the parade of posh outfits in this episode. (Photo: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE)

Previously, on Downton Abbey: Ivy gets a proposal from Alfred, because no one can ever leave this show, but she turns him down. Daisy makes her peace and says goodbye to him. We see Awesome Mr. Mason again for like five minutes. Baxter and Molesley are surprisingly adorable together. Violet figures out Edith’s pregnancy secret and offers to bankroll her trip to Switzerland to “learn French” and/or hide her illegitimate child. Bates takes a mysterious daytrip that is so obviously going to end badly. Anna tells Mary who really attacked her. Rose gets engaged to Jack Ross, but Mary convinces him to call it off, the local church bazaar happens, Robert comes home from America and Mary’s veritable army of boyfriends is still hanging around. Oh, and Green the Horrible Rapist appears to have mysteriously died. Whoops.

How have we already arrived at the Series 4 finale? Sheesh. Lots of ground to cover – and things to discuss – so let’s get on with it. 

Sheesh, this is long. Bonus points for everyone that makes it all the way to the end! And thanks to all of you for coming on the recap ride with me this season. 

Our Favorite Lazy Narrative Device Returns – Time for A Time Jump!  The first thing we learn in this episode is that eight months have passed since the previous one.  Yup!  So, if for any reason you were looking forward to seeing Rose work through the end of her relationship with Jack, the aftermath of Daisy’s goodbye to Alfred, Edith’s feelings about going to Switzerland to have a baby, or Anna’s reaction to Green’s death, well, you’re out of luck. We’re past all that now! It’s almost time for Rose’s official coming-out ball in London, which is a big deal for the whole family. Mrs. Hughes and Daisy are being sent down from Yorkshire to help the family prepare for the big day (because their London housekeeper’s ill).  Oh, and Edith’s already back from her eight month sabbatical in Geneva, looking – according to Ivy – even more tired than when she left. So, we don’t have to deal with any of her pregnancy at all, apparently. Allrighty, then. 

Daisy’s not very excited about the idea of a London jaunt, but Thomas is obviously jealous. He tells her to do him a favor, and pass the message along to Baxter that he’s looking forward to all the stories she’ll tell him when she gets back. So you know that Thomas’ Awkward and Pointless Blackmail Plot is ongoing, though since zero storyline movement has come out of it so far, I’m unclear why we ought to care this time. 

Edith’s All Kinds of Mopey. Violet, who can’t attend Rose’s presentation at court for whatever reason is still going to the special supper being held afterward.  Edith tells her she’s heading up to London a bit early to do some clothes shopping now that she’s back to “normal shape”, though since she looks exactly the same as last week, this is rather unintentionally hilarious.  Violet awkwardly tells her that she knows Edith’s probably thinking about the baby all the time, and her granddaughter insists they call the baby she, since she did in fact have a girl. We learn that Edith spent several extra months in Switzerland, because the doctors believed that children did better when nursed by their biological mothers, so that’s apparently the reason she seems extra post-partum and depressed. Violet tries to joke about how great Edith’s French must be by this point, but Edith rudely rejects her attempt at humor. 

Meanwhile in London. The rest of the Crawleys sans Edith, Tom and Violet, are established in London, attending parties and preparing for Rose’s debut. We learn that “the American contingent” of Martha and Plot Point Brother Harold are arriving soon, and Mary’s concerned about where everyone’s going to sleep in Grantham House, which is apparently “not made for house parties”. Hashtag First World Problems obviously as the house looks huge.

Cora tells Carson to plan some kind of outing for the servants as a thank you for all the extra work they’re putting in on the ball and all the other festivities, before they go back to Downton. Rose asks if she can go on to the Embassy Club after the dinner they’re going to. Cora’s not terribly excited about this, but Rose is insistent, and says she loves the band that’s playing. Mary points out that Rose is a flapper and everyone should probably  have dealt with that by now.  Cora and Robert give in, because they have given up entirely on parenting apparently. 

Rose Just Loves Jazz Clubs. Rose goes along to the Embassy Club with some friends, and there’s a fun jazz band playing, and no, it’s not actually Jack Ross’ group. Rose doesn’t look sad to have had her engagement broken off and seems rather instantly at ease amidst all the fun. So I guess we’re really not dealing with any more of that storyline, huh? Which I guess it's been eight months and all but still. The club looks like a great time, and lots of people are dancing. Turns out the father of Rose’s friend Madeleine is there too, which is pretty awkward, but he makes up for it by the fact that he’s actually hanging out with Edward, Prince of Wales (yes, the one who’s going to abdicate later). The girls head over, and Rose meets His Royal Highness, along with his mistress of the moment, Freda Dudley Ward. Prince Edward knows Rose’s father and actually stayed with her parents on a recent trip to India. The girls join the Royal table for a bit and Rose manages to be charming to the Prince and make friends with Freda the mistress. 

Tom’s Awkward Home Alone Adventure. With Edith, Daisy and Mrs. Hughes off to London, Tom’s the only family member still at Downton. Ivy and Thomas are left behind to look after him, but Tom appears to be doing his best to not create any extra work for the servants.  Thomas is being all sorts of snotty about it and rude to Tom, because apparently this is a storyline left over from last year that they never got ‘round to doing?? I mean, time-line wise, we’re at least, what, two years if not three on from Tom marrying Sybil and NOW Thomas decides to have a jealous freakout about his sudden rocket up the status ladder? Out of the blue like this? It’s irritating, because there’s absolutely zero reason for this to suddenly come up as a dramatic thing now, other than the fact that they’ve not managed to give Thomas anything to do at all since this season’s first episode. 

Oh, Look, the Boys are Still Fighting Over Mary. Blake arrives at Grantham House, with plans to take Mary to lunch and to see the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy. The two make small talk and stroll about looking at art, and Mary makes a lot of comments about how Blake must have some new scheme to beat down the upper classes going on by now. Apparently Mary has decided to be less okay this week with Blake’s class-reforming ways than she was last week, but whatever. She also seems to have really doubled down on reminding Blake that he’s not from the same class bracket as she is. It’s a bit strange, if only because it rather seems out of nowhere. Anyway.  Because we can’t have an episode where Mary isn’t utterly surrounded by admirers, the pair run into Lord Gillingham at the Exhibition as well, who’s chatting with Rose and Freda.  The boys get kind of catty with each other about coming to the late night supper party at Grantham House that evening, and whether either of them is attending it and if they kept that information from one another on purpose and it would be entertaining if it weren’t so incredibly juvenile. 

The American Contingent Arrives.  Just as the latest Downton crew reaches Grantham House, we see that the American relations have also arrived. Martha Levinson and her son Harold are standing outside discussing with Carson the fact that everyone thought they were arriving later so there’s no one to greet them and nothing’s ready. Martha is predictably imperious and whines about the fact that she doesn’t have a lady’s maid currently because her previous one quit.  Edith also meets her uncle Harold for the first time, who’s played by award-winning actor Paul Giamatti and might as well be wearing a giant sign that says I AM AN AMERICAN around his neck. It seems as though Martha’s dragged Harold along to see a bit of Europe and also to get out of America and away from that whole Teapot Dome scandal business for a while.

The American contingent has also brought along their Very American valet named Ethan, who, if possible should  probably be wearing an even bigger I AM AN AMERICAN sign than Brother Harold. Ethan is super friendly, super excited about being in London and super unfamiliar with British customs. Though he does seem to take quite a shine to Daisy right off the bat. 

Tom and Sarah’s Night Out. Tom runs into Sarah Bunting again in the village and helps her pick up some essay books she’s dropped. She accuses him of avoiding her; he says he’s just been busy the past few (eight, whatever) months. He asks her if she’d like to come get some food with him at the pub, just as the Dowager Countess’ car rolls up. Violet ignores the fact that Tom’s having a conversation with a person who is not her and asks about whether Edith got off all right. Tom says yes and introduces Sarah to Violet, who clearly couldn’t care less about some random village girl.  After Violet departs, Sarah says yes to Tom’s dinner invitation, though whether that’s because she actually wants to spend time with him, or just wants to discuss the Dowager and Tom’s impending trip to London seems to be a toss up. While they’re eating, she asks if Tom’s found it hard to be thrust into Violet’s world. Tom says it was hard losing Sybil and everything after that’s been easy in comparison. Sarah says she’d like to see the house, if Tom’s allowed to bring his friends back to the abbey. Tom says it’s not a question of being “allowed”, and looks supremely uncomfortable.

He gives in, of course, because for some reason Tom really likes this girl or is anxious about whether she has a good opinion of him, I can’t tell which, and takes her on a tour through the house. He explains what all the rooms are, and Sarah acts like a kid that’s just got locked in the mall overnight. She gets a bit mocking about how big the house is and how Cora’s family crest should be a dollar sign, and Tom looks awkward. She says she just wants to see down from the gallery and then the Tour of Terror can end. Tom says he doesn’t feel right taking her upstairs, when all the family is away. (The “because that’s where the bedrooms are” is strongly implied.)  Sarah doesn’t seem to care that he’s uncomfortable and breezes up the stairs, where she runs straight into Thomas, who’s doing some sort of late night house patrol.

Tom gets amazingly awkward at this point, trying to explain to Thomas that he and Sarah were just going downstairs – and had only just come upstairs to look over the railings and really, honestly, nothing’s happened between them that’s improper at all. Thomas is at his most supercilious and smarmy, and is clearly acting as though he doesn’t believe Tom at all.  

Drama at The Grantham House Late Night Soiree. Folks start arriving at the Crawleys’ fabulous late night party.  Rose introduces her friend Madeleine and her father Lord Aysgarth to Martha and Harold, and he could literally not be less interested in them initially. Rosamund shows up with Mr. Sampson in tow – if you’ve blocked out this guy like I did, you’ll appreciate the reminder that he’s the card shark who was taking everyone’s money at Downton earlier this season. Robert hates him and is none too pleased that Rosamund’s brought him along.

Gillingham’s busy chatting with Mary and she’s curious to know whether he really kept it from Blake that he was attending this party (to which I think we can all assume Blake was not originally invited at all until earlier). Gillingham admits that he just didn’t tell him about it. Mary says something about how Gillingham really doesn’t give up easily and Stalker McStalkerson says that he’s not planning on giving up at all. Ah, romance! 

Classy as always, Sampson informs Lord Aysgarth and his daughter that Martha and Harold are basically made of money, and that’s how the roof stays on at Downton. Suddenly Aysgarth is much more interested in both of them. He basically shoves his daughter into making small talk with Harold, and it’s pretty awful, since he seems to be the worst conversationalist in the world. Madeleine seems nice enough though and tries to get Harold to be less awkward. 

On to the Afterparty.  Apparently now that Rose is about to be presented, her general existence requires even less parenting effort than usual because she appears to be able to just do whatever she wants now. Following the Grantham House soiree, she heads back to the jazzy Embassy Club with Madeleine, her father, Freda, Harold and horrible Mr. Sampson. Rose is a bit drunk, and is squealing about a letter Freda got, which is important she says, because of who it’s from. (Translation: It’s obviously from the Prince and is quite scandalous.) Aysgarth forces Harold to dance with his daughter, then dances with Freda himself, leaving Rose at their table with creepy Sampson.  She sees someone she knows across the room and asks him to watch their bags while she rushes off to see them. Sampson says sure, and not at all surreptitiously goes through Freda’s purse, obviously looking for whatever this shocking letter is.  While they’re dancing, Madeleine apologizes for her father’s behavior, but Harold says he’s used to fathers shoving their daughters at him, presumably because he’s just so rich. Strife! 

This Two Years Too Late Thomas Storyline is Just Weird. The next morning at breakfast Thomas is still acting exceptionally snottily toward Branson. Tom tries, again, to explain the situation of the evening before, saying that he’s afraid that Thomas misunderstood what happened. He says that he had dinner with Sarah and she just wanted to see the house and that’s all. Thomas says that she might have seen Downton to more advantage in the daylight. For some reason that is unfathomable to me, Tom seems to care what Thomas thinks of him, and about this situation, and Thomas has decided to thoroughly hate Tom because he somehow hasn’t realized in the past, like, two years, that he’s gone from Branson the chauffeur to Tom the semi-aristocrat. Okaaay. 

Tom again stresses that the two of them only went upstairs so that Sarah could admire the view from of the hall, and he wouldn’t want Thomas to think otherwise. Thomas snarkily says that however Tom wishes to command him, he is his servant, but he wasn’t aware that there were restrictions on what he might think. Rawrrrr.   The thing about this storyline is that this probably would have made a lot of sense – last season, when the issue of how everyone was adapting to Tom moving on up in the world was, I don’t know, an actual plotline. Was Thomas trapped in a time vortex? Are we supposed to assume he just nursed this grudge the whole time and never spoke of it to anyone or behaved any differently until right now several years later? So sloppy!

Looks Like Edith’s Having Second Thoughts.  Edith goes to see Rosamund, and tells her that Gregson – who is still missing or dead or being brainwashed by Nazis – left her with power of attorney and though she won’t be an editor, officially, on his magazine, she will have to make some decisions on his behalf now he’s been gone so long.  They discuss whether he had a will and what it might contain. Edith is concerned about her daughter, claiming that Gregson’s child should have some rights if it comes to executing his will. Rosamund says that he doesn’t have a daughter and that child belongs to a nice couple in Switzerland. Edith insists that doesn’t change anything and points out that there was no formal agreement with this couple in the first place. Rosamund says that it would hardly be fair to them for her to go back on her world now, but Edith says that her aunt can’t understand because she’s never been a mother. Which, even though she apologized before saying so, still feels like such a rude and unnecessary slap at the woman who’s helped her so much already. Shut up, Edith. 

Surprise, Bates Totally Did Not Go to York Last Week. Mrs. Hughes, because she’s not busy enough running two households, tells Anna that the local Scottish church in London is collecting clothes for Russian refugees and asks her to help spread the word about it. Anna, who’s been after Bates to get some new things while they’re in London anyway, donates his coat to the cause. However, she doesn’t check the pockets first, and Mrs. Hughes discovers a ticket stub in one of them – and I’m sure you’ll all be totally shocked at what it’s for. Yes, amazingly enough, Bates did not go to York on his random day trip eight months ago, but rather took the train up to London on the very day that Green the Horrible Rapist accidentally fell into some traffic. Dun dun dunnn….  (We’ll just not address how that ticket’s managed to stay in his pocked, unnoticed, for eight months, okay? )

Rose Gets Officially Presented. Decked out in some gorgeous outfits and riding in a train of posh cars, Rose and Cora arrive at Buckingham Palace so that Rose can be presented to the King and Queen, officially. There are throngs of people out on the street waving and taking photos and Robert’s got the chance to wear his military uniform again. There’s loads of pomp and circumstance, and let’s face it, this whole sequence is super fun to watch because it’s exactly the kind of thing that Downton does so well.

Rose successfully manages to curtsey to the King and Queen without falling over, and the Prince of Wales, who’s also present, informs his father that Rose is Lord Flintshire’s daughter. The King tells Rose that he’s heard great things about her father’s hospitality in Bombay. He says that his son’s Indian tour was a success largely because of him. Rose sucks up by saying how great the Prince of Wales is, and that’s the end of their interview. But, given that the King and Queen generally don’t talk during these proceedings this is apparently a big deal for her. 

Mrs. Hughes Takes The Ticket Problem to Mary.  Mrs. Hughes, who is probably sick to death of serving as the repository for everyone’s secrets in the house, just dumps the existence of Bates’ secret trip to London on Mary, who realizes this means that the odds are pretty good that he had something to do with Green’s death.  They agree to keep the news from Anna, and Mrs. Hughes hints that maybe Mary should just leave the whole situation alone. She says they’ll never know what happened on that street, and besides, if Bates was there to avenge Anna’s honor, she’s not going to be the one to condemn him for it. Mary looks conflicted and the tense tinkly music starts up again to make sure we’re all feeling extra anxious. 

Let the Post-Presentation Celebrations Begin. Rose and Cora find Robert, Violet and Harold after her presentation.  They debrief about her experience, Harold gets a bit uber-American about whether he’ll get the chance to meet the King and Queen himself, Violet shoots him down and it’s awkward. Robert suggests he make friends with the Prince of Wales instead.

Meanwhile, Lord Aysgarth is busy chatting up Martha, going on about how big cities can be such lonely places blah blah isn’t it interesting how he can stand to be around her now he knows she’s rich.  He drops some hints about Newport and how he liked it the one time he visited it. Harold and Madeleine are watching this conversation from a distance, and Harold points out that her father’s going to be very disappointed when he finds out Martha only has a life interest in the Levinson fortune and he’s getting everything when she dies.  Madeleine admits that upper class English people don’t really like to talk about money, but Harold just bulldozes on, because, American I guess. Madeline finally gets fed up with the fact that he’s discussing the fact that her father’s gold-digging his mother so openly and runs away, and the music swells and Harold looks concerned so I guess that’s mean to serve as his realization he’s gone too far? I would probably be appreciating this storyline more if Harold were allowed to be slightly less relentlessly, stereotypically American, but I guess after Martha’s initial appearance last season, I shouldn’t be surprised.  

Freda takes Rose aside after her presentation to ask if she’d maybe accidentally taken that letter out of her purse that they’d all been laughing over the other night – you know, the one from the Prince of Wales? Because, of course, it’s missing, since Sleazy Sampson stole it. Rose looks concerned, and asks if she’s been contacting by anyone wanting money for its return.

Before Freda can answer, Martha trots up and starts to quiz Rose about meeting the King and Queen. She introduces her to Freda, and Martha snorts and says she knows who she is, from the American papers and their gossip. Freda looks horrified that Martha’s just bringing this up out of the blue, but of course she is, because American. I mean, does the writer’s room just sit down and make a list of obnoxious, rude or embarrassing things for the American Contingent to do under the guys of just being American? It’s so irritating. For a family with as much money and access as the Levinsons clearly have – even if it is quote unquote “New Money” – they certainly would know on some level how to behave socially, even if only in a rudimentary way.  Neither of them are exactly hardscrabble types and it’s just obnoxious to have them behave as though they barely know how to use silverware.  Meanwhile, Harold is forcing an introduction with the Prince of Wales, which is also super awkward.  He tries to shake his hand and introduces himself in the American way of saying his own name first. It does not go well.  Hashtag: facepalm.

Time for Some Monarchist Drama! The next day, Rose goes to see Robert to ask about why he hates Sampson so much. She asks if her cousin thinks he might ever do something dishonorable. Robert wants to know why Rose is asking, and she starts to explain the Freda Dudley Ward situation. Upon hearing the full story, Robert’s quite disapproving of the Prince of Wales’ womanizing ways – which means he’s probably going to be real upset in a few years when Edward takes up with a divorced American, so let’s hope we get that far in the story one day.  He says the public just wants a happy marriage at the palace and why is that so hard, honestly. Robert’s concerned that Sampson’s going to try and sell Freda’s letter to the American newspapers. He says that he’s a monarchist, and while he doesn’t want to know what this letter said, really seriously not  at all, he just wants to get it back and avoid scandal,  particularly when he learns that it was Rose’s drunken joking that alerted Sampson that it was in Freda’s handbag to begin with. Good job, Crawleys.

Robert decides that what has to happen is that someone will just have to break into Sampson’s flat and steal the letter back, so they’ll have to come up with a reason to get him out of the house. Rose wants to know how they’ll get into the man’s flat even if they manage to make sure he’s somewhere else, because they can’t exactly pick the lock. Robert decides it’s time to consult a professional criminal and sends Jimmy to find Bates. 

Picnicking with the Americans. Ethan the Adorable American Valet comes to see Daisy to say that Harold wants to take Madeleine out on a picnic by way of apology for his rude behavior at Rose’s presentation. Daisy’s shocked by this whole plan, because they aren’t in America and Harold can’t just take a young lady out on a picnic on her own like she’s a chorus girl. Ethan the American Valet says that everything’s cool, because he’s also invited Martha and Madeleine’s father along, so it’s sure to be a festival of awkward that is, in fact, totally proper.  He suggests Daisy could make the food for them and come along to help him serve – or not, but just come along either way, for fun – and points out that Harold really does like her cooking. Mrs. Patmore encourages her to go along, because clearly she’s supportive of anyone besides Alfred finally displaying some interest in Daisy. And also Ethan the American Valet is adorable.

Sometime later, Ethan the American Valet is super excited that Daisy’s made everything he asked for, and he doesn’t even care if its boring, because Harold just loves boring food. It turns people are quite into the picnic in the park idea, and nowthe Dowager Countess and Isobel are coming along as well, which means Jimmy has to go because we can’t face the horror of only having one servant there to serve. Particularly if that server’s American and has no idea what he’s doing.  Mrs. Patmore’s still pretty chuffed that Ethan’s got a thing for Daisy, and tells Carson that a woman needs a man to show some not entirely proper interest once in a while.

Bates Uses His Prison Skills. Robert, in what is possibly the most unintentionally hilarious scene on Downton this year, asks Bates if he possibly met someone who could copy someone’s writing, you know, while he was, “away” last year (IN PRISON). Bates asks if he means a forger, and Robert grimaces and says he supposes so. Robert then goes through a ridiculously posh sounding explanation of how they need to gain entry to someone’s flat and need a note to get past the doorman.  Bates says if they can get a sample of the person’s writing, he can probably get the letter done this afternoon.  Robert, who is apparently still operating under some sort of willful delusion that Bates isn’t about to just commit forgery on his behalf down in the servants hall, asks if his forger friend’s located in town.  Bates somehow manages to not laugh at this and says yes. Robert marvels that it’s quite a stroke of luck that this friend of his is in London. This forger friend. Whose name is DEFINITELY not Bates.

A bit later, Mrs. Hughes discovers Bates in the kitchen forging the letter for Robert and asks if he’s enjoying being in London.  He talks about what a nice change it is and how long it’s been since he’s come to the city. Mrs. Hughes is trying her best to get Bates to admit to something about being in London recently I think, but Bates seems innocent enough. Or not, because the ominous tinkly music of doom starts playing, that always hints at MURDERING in the background.  So, the situation is probably still bad. 

Edith Is Still Upset.  Back in Aunt Rosamund’s House of Secrets, she begs Edith not to ruin everything now that they’ve got through the whole hidden pregnancy, secret child in Switzerland saga and nobody knows and it’s all over. Edith says she knows she agreed to never mention it again, but she just doesn’t think she can keep to it anymore. She says that she’s learned a little more about what happened to Gregson – apparently he got in a fight with a gang of Nazis  on his first night in Munich, because he took exception to some of the hateful Nazi-type things they were saying.  Nothing else appears to be known, so I think we’re probably still at 50-50 odds as to whether he’s dead or currently being brainwashed by the Nazi party in some way. And don’t ask about how or why this is all they’ve been able to find out when he’s been missing for almost a year, but whatever.

Edith starts to cry, saying that she knows if Gregson is dead and she does inherit any part of his estate, she has to give at least half of it to the baby. Rosamund doesn’t understand this plan, but insists that if she has to, then she could do it anonymously. She says that her silence is for the best, and that she shouldn’t cheat herself of the rest of her life because there will be other loves and other children for her. Edith just cries some more. 

The Downton Crime Gang Convenes. Robert, Cora, Mary and Rose meet to discuss their Great Letter Heist of 1923 plan. Mary says she understands that the letter must be recovered, but she’s not clear on why it has to involve her. Robert says she’s going to be on the letter retrieval team with Rose, while he hosts a card party to keep Sampson distracted.  Cora suggests that Gillingham would help them with their card game ruse, and Rose pipes up that inviting Lord Aysgarth would be a natural way of getting Samson to come without arousing suspicion, because he’ll want to play if he can fleece Harold, who’ll want to come if Aysgarth brings Madeleine.  It’s really a rather impressive bit of planning by Rose and is pretty fun to watch, even though part of me wishes that there were more continuity between this particular storyline and the end of the Jack Ross saga, since we spent so much of the season on that. But anyway.  Cora doesn’t feel great about lying to everyone like this or about sending the girls off to commit a crime on their own, so they decide to send Charles Blake along as well, because half of this season has been spent banking on what various men will be willing to do for love of Mary.

Mary’s still not a huge fan of the plan in general. She says that the Prince of Wales has brought all this down on his own head if word gets out or they get arrested or whatever. Robert’s suddenly quite angry and says that it’s their family’s fault that the crown’s in this mess to begin with, as they’re the ones that introduced Sampson to Freda in the first place, and Rose practically gave him the letter on top of it. 

Picnic Time! Meanwhile, out at our Very American Picnic, Harold’s busy raving about the food. Violet sniffs that the menu’s unoriginal, but Harold just reiterates that he doesn’t want original food to begin with.  Martha quizzes Lord Aysgarth about his title, and what his daughter’s title would be, and we learn a bit about British peerage. (Aysgarth holds a barony apparently, for those that are curious, meaning Madeleine is only an “Honorable” not a “Lady”.) Aysgarth is quite interested in the Levinsons’ upcoming European jaunt, which will doubtless be very expensive, and drops hints left and right about how much he’d like to see Paris and Rome with Martha.

Madeleine tells Harold that she’s heard he’s got quite a reputation for being a playboy in America. He says it’s pretty much all true: He owns a yacht and has a weakness for pretty girls. He says the best thing about it is that all those girls don’t expect anything from him but a good time and a nice piece of jewelry as a thank-you and nobody gets disappointed that way. Madeleine asks if this is why he’s never married and Harold says he couldn’t respect a woman who actually wanted to marry him. This is because Harold is kind of a jerk. Madeleine responds that plenty of respectable women who’d want to marry him, and Harold points out that’s probably because he’s rich. Madeleine gets kind of offended again and Harold says that he likes her very much, more than any lady he’s ever known actually. He also says he won’t go along with her father’s plan to throw them together, and if she thinks about it she wouldn’t want him to in the first place. This scene goes on for way too long considering it’s comprised of two characters we just met and about whom we care very little. I suppose that they needed to give an actor of Giamatti’s caliber something to do, but as this plot appears to be going nowhere, it’s mostly just coming off as dull.

The Crawleys are the Worst Planners Ever.  Violet , Isobel and Martha return from their Very American Picnic Adventure and the rest of the Crawley clan shifts the implementation of the Card Game Coverup into high gear. Robert and Cora attempt to explain to the elder generation that some people are coming over cards and can’t they just get out of the house like they’re supposed to, but neither Violet nor Isobel are terribly interested in going to the theater with Rosamund. Isobel actually wants to play cards. The Crawleys who are in on the plan are falling all over themselves trying to act like they’re NOT about to all become complicit in a breaking and entering scheme and it’s hilariously awkard. Given how quickly Violet cottoned on to the Edith’s pregnant lie, it’s amazing that she doesn’t call them all out on it here, but maybe she’s just accepted that a large chunk of her family occasionally seems too stupid to live.

The Breaking and Entering Card Game Produces Results. But Only Because Bates is  Professional Criminal. The gentlemen start playing cards at Downton to keep Sleazy Sampson occupied, whilst Rose, Blake and Mary rush off to rob his flat. Blake, for some reason, also seems to have no qualms about being made an accessory to robbery, which is kind of hilarious. The boys make card playing look about as much fun as toilet cleaning and make some pointless small talk, including Aysgarth complaining that Martha’s not present and Robert informing Tom that he knows about Sarah’s late night visit, thanks to a shady heads up from Thomas. The Burglary Crew tells Sampson’s doorman that he’s been taken ill at their house and they’ve come to fetch some things for him. The doorman is clearly impressed by Mary and Rose’s general poshness and doesn’t seem to think anything’s amiss with their request. He doesn’t even go in with them! They three intrepid thieves search the flat in what appears to be record time and find nothing.  Luckily, however, Bates has the presence of mind to pick Sleazy Sampson’s pocket before he returns his coat, having used his Prison Skillz to deduce that if someone possesses something they’re afraid of losing, it’s likely they’ll carry it around with them as often as possible instead of leaving it unguarded at home. Hurrah!  Royal Crisis is averted. Robert is super impressed with Bates and his mad thievery skills, and Rose and Mary are thrilled.

Mary is so impressed by Bates’ skills and total loyalty to the Crawley family, that she tells Anna to thank him for them, and then proceeds to throw the incriminating (POTENTIALLY MURDEROUS) train ticket into her fire. I guess helping the family cover up an embarrassing scandal carries more weight than whether or not he killed a guy? Or maybe Mary is just in to really big gestures of gratitude? I have no idea. I get that Mary likes Bates and loves Anna, and I don’t think anyone really expected her to turn him or anything, but her sudden turnaround on the issue does seem strange. Particularly over something like this, which yes, was a great help to the family honor and whatnot, but ultimately this situation was not directly about them. Am I being oversensitive about this?

Daisy Gets a Job Offer.  Ethan the American Valet tells Daisy that Harold wants her to come work for him in America after he and Martha are done touring around Europe. He says that Harold loved her food and that she doesn’t have to decide right away because they’ll still be traveling for a month or two.  Daisy looks really confused and says that wasn’t what she was expecting him to tell her. Ivy looks jealous. Ethan the American Valet looks adorably excited and we’re all wondering when he’s finally just going to get it together and ask her out.

Rose’s Debut Ball is a Big Hit.  The evening of Rose’s big debutante ball arrives and who should show up to crash the party and to open the dancing but the Prince of Wales himself! Apparently giving a young girl a splashy introduction into London society is considered an appropriate thank-you for her family saving the Crown from global scandal. It’s not the gesture I would have preferred, but Rose and the rest of the family seem over the moon about it. It’s a great honor for them, after all.  Everyone joins in the dancing – Tom even takes Violet for a spin around the floor, and Isobel dances with Lord Merton.

Meanwhile, Martha is busy shooting down Lord Aysgarth’s romantic hopes – or at least in a verbally direct way this time. She tells him no straight up and says she’s not interested in being a lady with a title, because she’s a modernist. She doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life among people who think her loud and opinionated and common anyway. She promises to entertain Aysgarth in Newport the next time he visits America and set him up with some eligible rich widows who want titles. Martha thinks that ought to about make them square.

In more storylines you probably don’t care about, Harold and Madeleine are dancing and discussing how London has changed Harold, because apparently talking to a nice girl who doesn’t want him to give her jewelry has made him into not a playboy or something who even knows. Madeleine has also decided that she won’t let her father throw her at rich men anymore in the future, which I guess is nice. Goodness, they’re boring, but they promise to write to each other and stay friends and call each other by their first names. Yawn. 

Surprise: Blake is Totally Rich! Gillingham, because it’s been roughly fifteen minutes since the last time he asked, again questions Mary about whether she’s made any decisions about the likely success of his romantic suit. Mary admits that she feels a bit cruel leaving him and Blake and even Napier dangling on a string while she tries to figure her life out.  She also says her destiny is to save Downton for her son, and that since Blake’s an outsider to all of that who doesn’t understand her struggle, she doesn’t know if they could ever pull as a team together, even if he did love her.  

Gillingham, in a gesture of maturity that I would never have believed him capable of earlier in the episode, tells Mary that she’s wrong about Blake. Turns out that he’s the heir to a cousin named (yes, really) Severus, and will inherit a rather enormous estate in Ulster as a result. So, surprise, he’s not an outsider and is going to be totally rich – even richer than Gillingham himself. Mary’s shocked and wants to know why no one’s told her this before.  She says that knowing that she and Blake are on the same side makes a huge difference. (This entire sequence makes Mary look terribly shallow, but I guess we shouldn’t be that shocked. But it all comes off as Blake’s now an acceptable option for her for the sole reason that he has money and a title. Sybil, it would seem, she is not.) Gillingham is only concerned, of course, if this news has hurt his own chances. Mary just says that now she knows she won’t mourn Matthew till the end of her days and that one day she’ll be able to decide what her future should look like and isn’t that something to celebrate? Um, I guess? But, at any rate, our triangle for next season seems firmly set now. Poor Evelyn Napier appears to be all forgotten.

Edith Decides to Go Back to Her Original Very Awful Idea.  Thanks to a completely random pep talk from Tom at Rose’s ball, Edith decides that she’s going to take charge of the whole baby situation again. She tells her family that she’s leaving London a bit early to go back to Downton and might have to pop back over to the continent real quick too. Rosamund looks horrified but Edith is adamant. You can almost hear the strains of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach in the background.

Edith also enlists the help of new pig man Drew – which you’ll remember was her original Terrible Idea - and spins him a lie that she’s bringing the child of a friend who’s recently died in Switzerland to Downton and she needs him and his wife to raise the girl for her, and also to keep the secret of this child’s entire existence from her family forever. I’m sure Edith will have no trouble keeping all these various lies straight. Drew promises that no one but the two of them need know this secret ever, and he makes up some story that he can tell his family as to where this random child is arriving from and they need never know she’s connected to anyone at Downton at all. Welp, this will surely end well. Odds that Drew has guessed something’s not quite what it seems here?

Team Downstairs Goes to the Beach!  Thankfully, Carson’s plans to take Team Downstairs out to some sort of edifying adventure to the Science Museum or Westminster Abbey never materialize and he gives up and just says he’ll take everyone out to the seashore for a day instead. While Carson seems a bit downcast at the lack of learning this offers, Mrs. Hughes and the rest of the staff are pretty chuffed over it.

Daisy (stupidly) tells Ethan the Adorable American Valet that she won’t be taking him up on his job offer.  Ethan is sad of course, and finally admits that half the reason he asked her to do this is because he thought the two of them could maybe make a go of it together.  Daisy lets him down gently, but is positively over the moon that a young man has finally shown some romantic interest in her at last. She’s adorably giddy. Ivy bulldozes her way into the conversation and says that she’ll come to America to cook for Harold. She says she knows how to make everything Daisy does anyway, and will work so hard to not waste this big chance. Daisy vouches for her, and Ethan warily says yes, since he’s promised Harold an English cook, and it’s not like he’ll know the difference between Daisy and Ivy anyway.

Bates and Anna have a cute moment together which he manages to ruin by complaining again how he didn’t get the chance to go through his coat pockets again before Anna gave it away. We get it show, Bates totally probably killed a dude ha ha isn’t that a great secret.  Bates is a terrible criminal for leaving incriminating evidence in a jacket pocket for eight months in the first place if you ask me.

Baxter tells Thomas to take his blackmail plan and shove it, and we’re all so relieved to finally see the back of this idiocy that most of us probably don’t care that we have no idea at all what Thomas held over her head all year. She then thanks Molesley for helping her to be brave. He’s touched, as basically no one has ever said anything like that to him before. They are possibly the most adorable thing ever seen, except for the thing that’s about to happen next.

What happens next is that Mrs. Hughes and Carson wade out into the ocean together and actually hold hands and in a roundabout way talk about how they feel steadier when they’re together and it’s basically the best single moment of this entire season. It’s possible I squealed out loud. More than once. They are everything.  Please, please Julian Fellowes let me have this in Series 5. Please. I’ll tolerate Jimmy. I’ll be nice about Gillingham’s Stalker Tactics. Anything.

Bates Killed a Guy, Probably, and That’s Cool, I Guess. Personally, I’m getting a bit tired of shows I love telling me that it’s okay for main characters – heroes, even though they might have dark tendencies – to commit murder whenever they feel like it and suffer no consequences, just because the killing was well-intentioned.  Call me old fashioned, I guess. Anyway, Bates totally killed Green, but I guess we’re okay with that because he helped the Crawleys steal an incriminating letter about the crown back from their loser former houseguest and that just proves his loyalty or good intentions or whatever. I don’t even care anymore.  It’s actually possible, I suppose, that Bates didn’t shove Green into traffic, but that seems pretty unlikely, if you ask me.  But it also appears that we’re not supposed to look too closely at that, either, though everyone seems to be largely okay with the prospect that Bates is totally guilty.  And I recognize that no one on this show is an angel – Mary herself was involved a situation that concerned an unseemly death, Robert had an almost-affair, Edith ratted out her sister about Pamuk and had an illegitimate child, Sybil ran off with the chauffeur. But none of those things seem as bad as ACTUAL MURDER, which we seem to be expected to handwave, ignore or tacitly approve of in this instance just because Green was completely worthless trash. Which he was, and I’m certainly not mourning him, but what  I am mourning is the loss of Bates, for me. Or rather, my idea of Bates, I guess.  Ugh.  I hate it.

Overall, this episode is a lot of fun and is probably my favorite of the season because it felt more like Downton Abbey than most of S4 has. Characters are used well, they have scenes with people outside their normal groups, there’s laughter and lots of emotion and great costumes. Sure, the weird hijinks around stealing the Price of Wales’ letter back come off a bit Edwardian CSI, but it’s about time this show remembered how to have fun again, like in the servants at the beach scene. That said, there’s plenty of stuff we don’t care about – Shirley MacLaine’s return is largely wasted and pointless I can’t tell you the number of times I yawned during Paul Giamatti’s scenes with the boring Alsop girl. We skip straight past emotional beats from the previous episode, and that’s before we even touch on the murder business.  What a mixed bag Series 4 has turned out to be.

That said, I loved a lot of this finale – and some of the things that have been set up for next year are promising: Edith’s secret child down on the estate farm, Tom’s brewing existential breakdown about where he belongs, and of course, the hope that Carson and Mrs. Hughes are finally going to get it together. So, here’s hoping for a more prolonged return to form in Series 5 (and a hope that we can jettison some of these extraneous characters ASAP. Someone find Jimmy a job in America!).

What did you all think? Both of this episode and of the season as a whole? What do you want Series 5 to look like? Would love to hear some thoughts. 

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