In the annals of Downton Abbey disastrous dinner parties, this one was a fright to remember.
Carson: “Do other butlers have to contend with the police arriving every 10 minutes?”
There is usually at least one disastrous dinner party every season of Downton, whether it be the result of an accidentally liberal guest, an accidentally emotional family member, an accidentally rude snob, or in probably one of the most memorable moments, a man who is determined to serve something foul in the tureen. But though most of the spoiled dinner parties have been more on the passive side of aggressive, this one took Fellowes love for the reality of medicine and health 100 years ago, stopped off at the Monty Python store of effects and arrived at the dinner table just in time for his lordship to spray the entire household with it out of his mouth, like Carson had just convinced him to have a wafer thin after dinner mint. Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be blood.
I suppose that was one way to convince the Dowager to stop fighting the whole modernization of the hospital once and for all, but for the PBS crowd, I believe it was a tad much. We tune in to see the fine china glistening white, not red. If we wanted to see the landed gentry’s finery be sprayed with blood from his lordship’s own mouth, we would have gone to a Tarantino production. I will say though, after a couple of episode where nothing much happened other than lining our characters up for happy endings, that was a bit of a left turn.
Violet: “I have a clarity of vision that allows me to resist a housemaid’s trap of sentimentality.”
The good news is, now that it’s over, Robert will probably stop complaining about how much his stomach hurts. The ill-timed burst ulcer led to a gastrectomy–don’t worry, Carson doesn’t know exactly what that is either, but it sounds important. And with that sudden reminder to both Mary and Edith that time, and life, is wasting, we can be sure that both of them will speed things up a little so we can get to a wedding or two in the next three episodes. Mary might be sneering at Henry Talbot this week, and reveling in her and Tom’s promotion due to sudden family illness. But her insisting that just because she’s going out to tea with a man who will use “Blast” as a swear word in front of a lady does not mean they are headed straight to the altar is foolish. The lack of time to introduce any other available men–as well a Mary’s running attraction to commoners who drive fast cars–suggests this is just her arguing with fate.
Also, said dinnertime drama (and the idea that Robert might die) leads Mary to overhear Cora and Violet whispering about frantically about “family secrets” and “Marigold” in the same conversation. Exactly why they decided right then was a good time to bring up such things? Other than the mind goes strange places when confronted with stress and mortality, the only logical explanation is the need to loop Mary in, since she’s the only one in the entire family who was too self-absorbed to figure it out without having her nose rubbed in it. How exactly that plays out is beyond me, but I’ll assume it will be Mary being an ass and dropping large circular hints to one Bertie Pelham, who Edith managed to score another date with this week. I’m sure Mary will mean it to ruin the relationship, but instead it will give Bertie a chance to swoop in and be even more modern, open-minded and fabulous while Edith dithers and cries over how to explain her “ward.”
Carson: Life is short, death is sure. That is all we know.
Mrs. Patmore: Let’s send up some coffee.
And more importantly, it finishes off the hospital story line. I’ll miss the zingers, but not the pointlessness of it. In a nice bit of historical footnoting, we learn that it was Cora who demands that Neville Chamberlain (yes, that Neville Chamberlain!) officially pass a bill in Parliament that will force the mergers of county and village hospitals so modernization will come to everyone everywhere. Now, who is going to hop in the TARDIS and have Cora also warn him about appeasing Hitler while she’s about it?
In lesser developments, now that Carson and Hughes are married (and Carson has learned to his horror that married the housekeeper is not the same as marrying the cook), and Anna is with child, it’s time to take our nice little Marxist Daisy and marry her off to an illiterate homophobe, as God intended. Well, God would intend, but Thomas apparently has other plans. Since he can’t have Andrew, he can make him a little bit of a better man for Daisy. Perhaps that will make her less jealous of the fact that Mr. Mason (who is clearly a bit smarter than Carson) has noticed there a very good cook who wants marrying as well, bringing together Daisy’s surrogate mother and father, just as all happy endings would wish. Baxter has also had her betterment, having emotionally readied herself to testify against the guy sh was once in love with. That she doesn’t have to go through with it is not the point–the point is that she would have. And that makes her and Molesley more or less ready for each other. So it was a bit anticlimactic. But really, was anyone going to remember anything else this episode, other than the dinner party?