'Downton Abbey' recap: You play, you pay

'Downton Abbey' recap: You play, you pay
Brendan Patricks as Evelyn Napier, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary. (Nick Briggs)

“Downton Abbey” continues to have sex on the brain.

Change is the one constant on this series, and so far this season has been particularly focused on the loosening of interaction between the sexes in the Jazz Age. Two episodes back, just about everyone at Downton was feeling frisky. Now, with bodies ashiver over Rudolph Valentino in “The Sheik,” the Crawleys and their staff are beginning to understand the fallout from their frolicking.

The most obvious example is Edith, who learns that she has "fallen pregnant," as the Brits would put it. We all knew this was going to happen as soon as Rosamund warned her it might. (Also, in TV land, everyone gets pregnant the first time they have sex.) Further complicating matters, Michael has gone MIA, and a detective sent to Munich has so far turned up nothing. Even if Edith does find him alive and well, it's unclear how soon he might be able to marry her -- if at all.


So what is our pitiable, cursed Edith to do? Sadly, the options are limited. She can pray for Michael to reemerge and marry her in a shotgun ceremony, she can go on a nine-month vacation to some remote place and give the baby up for adoption, or she can do what many women did in her day and procure an illegal abortion (a turn of events that would be horribly sad but also strangely fitting, given the rumored history of Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey’s real-life counterpart).


Given what we know of Edith -- and, for that matter, “Downton Abbey,” where tragedy is as commonplace as scheming lady’s maids -- it’s hard to believe this will turn out happily, but I remain hopeful. And, hey, on the bright side, all those loose-fitting dresses of the day should buy her a few more weeks to figure things out.


Edith’s predicament serves as a cautionary tale for Rose, whom Mary discovers in the episode’s closing moments locked in a passionate embrace with bandleader Jack Ross. Again, their tryst hardly comes as a shock to us viewers -- we all knew Rose was using Grantham’s birthday as an elaborate excuse to bring Jack to Downton -- but it’s certainly a surprise for Mary, who, I suspect, is going to have some cutting words of advice. We’ve seen plenty of forbidden romances on “Downton,” but they are nothing compared to the scandal that would erupt if Rose were to pursue her relationship with Jack. While the residents of Downton Abbey once again prove themselves to be unusually tolerant for people of their era and social position -- Grantham is a gracious host, Carson pointedly boasts of his objection to slavery and Violet warns a shocked Edith against being too provincial -- it’s unlikely the rest of the English aristocracy would react with such an open mind.


Mary herself remains chaste, though Evelyn Napier would certainly like things to be different. He arrives this week with his boss, Charles Blake, in tow, and Mary is troubled to learn the true purpose their mission: They are not in Yorkshire to help save aristocratic estates like Downton Abbey but -- gasp! -- to make sure there’s enough food to feed the entire population. Clearly, this guy is a monster. I may be imagining things here, but Mary’s barely concealed disdain for Charles is awfully reminiscent of her response to Cousin Matthew back in Season 1, and we all know how that turned out.

Downstairs, the love rectangle between Daisy, Ivy, Jimmy and Alfred continues and is almost becoming interesting. In a typical "Downton Abbey" plot reversal, Alfred finds out he's gotten into the Ritz training program after all, news that sends Daisy storming off to whatever room it is she's always storming off to. At first she's angry with Ivy for driving Alfred off by canoodling with Jimmy and refuses to look up when Alfred comes to say goodbye. In the end, she takes the high road, wishing him good luck in London, even as he rather bluntly tells her she never had a chance with him. (Whatever dude, you should be so lucky. #teamdaisy)

Meanwhile, Ivy discovers Jimmy’s name might as well be Mr. Grabbyhands, putting a quick end to their nascent romance. This technically frees Ivy up for Alfred, but in my heart I don’t think Julian Fellowes wants us rooting for anyone but Daisy. If this were a romantic comedy, Alfred would get to the airport (or, in this case, train station) and begin to second-guess his decision, recalling all their good times together with a slo-mo montage of their flirtatious cooking sessions. Just as the London train pulled into the station, Ivy would show up on the platform, out of breath, saying she’d made a mistake by choosing Jimmy over him. But Alfred would realize she’s stuck-up and selfish, briefly tell her off and, as a peppy Motown hit played on the soundtrack, he’d race back to Downton to profess his love for sweet, modest, generous Daisy. Would this really be too much to ask?

Less happily, Anna and Bates continue to grapple with the aftermath of her rape. They've moved back in together, but the attack has driven a wedge between them, one that they both bravely acknowledge and try to overcome together. Sadly, their means for addressing the issue are somewhat limited, and the Bateses opt to take the night off for a meal at a local hotel as a way to put the pain behind them. A haughty maître d' tries to deny them a table, but luckily Cora is there to provide a "Pretty Woman"-esque moment of comeuppance. (All that's missing is the "Big mistake. Huge.") As fun as this is, it does little to help Anna and Bates heal.

I'd like to end my recap this week with some words of appreciation for Mrs. Patmore, a character who may not inspire quite as much Tumblr love as the Dowager Countess but who has really been on fire this season, full of wit, wisdom and sisterly compassion that is quickly turning her into the MVP of the downstairs staff. (No offense, Mrs. Hughes.) Mrs. Patmore may be afraid of refrigerators and electric mixers, but she loves Rudolph Valentino and hates corsets, suggesting she is, at heart, truly a woman of the moment.

Stray thoughts:

--That scene with Isobel, Branson and Mary was sweet but also pretty awkward, wasn’t it?

--Baxter is chafing under pressure from Thomas to give him all the dirt she hears from upstairs. I smell a Vengeful Act Motivated by Horribly Misinterpreted Eavesdropping, a la Cora and the fateful bar of soap, in the works.

--Dr. Clarkson calls the latest quarrel between Isobel and Violet “game set and match to Lady Grantham.”  Wait, really? I mean, we all love the Dowager, but she was 100% wrong about Pegg, even if she rehired him without being prompted. And, yes, Isobel does, as Violet puts it, “run on indignation,” but, hey, she’s also right.

--Similarly, we all love Carson, but I can’t get behind the endless bullying and humiliation of Mr. Molesley. I think we’re supposed to find it funny, but it’s actually beginning to feel mean-spirited.

--Lord Grantham isn’t the only man in Cora’s family who knows how to blow a fortune! We learn that her brother in America has lost a bundle in some sort of misguided oil scheme. There’s an allusion to his dealings with Sen. Fall, suggesting he’s gotten mixed up in the Teapot Dome Scandal. For those of you who don’t remember this somewhat obscure chapter in American history from ninth grade, here is a primer.

--Mary and Grantham talk about raising Tamworth pigs. I can’t believe the plot of this show is now hinging on livestock. When did “Downton Abbey” turn into “All Creatures Great and Small”?

--Carson on the "shivers" Mrs. Patmore experiences at the sight of Valentino: "What a very disturbing thought."
--Mrs. Patmore's parting words for Alfred: "You’re as good as any Frenchman, I don't care what they say."


Twitter: @MeredithBlake