Sunday, January 8, 2012

Downton Abbey: Series 1 aka "So Are the Days of our Entail"

I couldn't let Tracy have all the fun, could I?  Just call me Edith to her Mary.  She's done a superb job of the who's who and what's what with the upstairs folks and the who's who and what's what of the downstairs folk.  She's set such a wonderful base that I don't really need to expand on it but since I just finished my second (ok, 3rd but who's counting?) viewing of it I thought I'd get all detail-y on you guys.  You must read Tracy's posts before mine though.  I'm using names without backgrounds or descriptions so go read what Tracy said.  I'll wait.  Also don't expect me to use titles consistently.  Typing Lord or Lady Whosit every time is annoying.  Lastly I'm going to recap these as McStreaming has them, which is in 7 episodes.  If you watched it on PBS then you know it was shown in 4. 

First up, the entail.  Ok, I'm not going to pretend that I have some vast knowledge of entails.  If you want to really know what an entail is then check something more reliable, like Wikipedia.  How it relates this show is that Lord Grantham's father left an entail so ironclad his daughter Mary is absolutely stuck.

This may be long so I apologize now.  I just love it so much I can't think of anything to skip over.

Episode 1 - April 1912

There's a telegram and it's bad news.  The Titanic went down and as it turns out  the heir to the Grantham estate and Mary's (unofficial) fiance was on it.  O'Brien, the cow, hears the news and brings it downstairs.  As everyone is talking about the Titanic a man with a cane shows up.  He's Mr. Bates and he's Lord G's new valet (don't forget to give that word a hard "t" on the end, the Brits don't).  The staff is quite concerned that he won't be up to the task due to his disability and that it will mean more work for them.  Thomas, the ass, and O'Brien start plotting against him almost immediately. 

Back upstairs, Lady Mary is proving to be quite a self-centered brat by not wanting to mourn her fiance as a fiance because no one outside the family knew they were engaged.  The Dowager (Violet) arrives and wants a word with Cora about the status of the entail now that their hopes quite literally went down with the Titanic. 

Carson airs his concerns over Bates's ability with Lord Robert.  So what does Robert do?  He goes right downstairs and welcomes Bates quite warmly.  He also drops the bomb that they had been war buddies.  This should have shut the staff up but doesn't last long.  Later O'Brien whines about Bates to Lady Cora too. They don't even give the guy a chance to prove himself before they're all jerky about it.

Robert talks ever so briefly to his attorney about the status of the entail.  Apparently there's no way to detach Cora's money from the estate or the title for that matter.  Robert and Violet have more discussion about the entail but after she complains about the brightness of the electric lights in the room.  It's adorable.

There's a Duke sniffing around because he's under the impression that Mary's not only single but an heiress.  He arrives with no valet and asks for Thomas since he remembers him from last summer.  At his official welcome, O'Brien kicks out Bates's cane making him fall on his face.  It's awful and how he doesn't swat at her with his cane is beyond me.  Time and again Bates proves he's an incredibly awesome man and this is just the first incident of many.  There is some spark with the Duke and Mary but not nearly as much spark as there is with the Duke and Thomas.  Turns out they got to know each other intimately last summer when everyone was in London for the season.  Their reunion doesn't last long and the Duke dumps Thomas in an awful way.

Robert talks to Bates about the work possibly being too much for him and even though Bates assures him he'll be fine, Robert lets him go anyway. Anna decides to bring Bates some supper since he didn't come down.  They have a little spark themselves.  Awwww!  Meanwhile Robert drops a bomb on the Duke that Mary is in fact not inheriting and he will not be fighting the entail.  The Duke quickly changes his mind about proposing (which we can assume he was about to ask permission to do) and Robert calls him out on it.  Go Robert!  The Duke tells Mary he's leaving and she realizes no proposal is forthcoming.  Edith gloats and Mary snarks back.  I'm assuming they've been doing this since they were young.  It must suck to be a middle child, especially when your sisters are prettier.

The next morning Bates is catching a ride with the Duke into town so he can get a train back to London.  Thankfully Robert has a last minute change of heart.  He rehires Bates on the spot and tells Carson there will be no more discussion on the matter...much to Thomas's chagrin.

It's now that we finally meet the new Grantham heir, a third cousin of Robert's, Matthew Crawley and his mother, Isobel Crawely.  They're having breakfast and Matthew receives a letter.  Isobel inquires as to its contents and Matthew tells her that Lord Robert Grantham is about to change his life.

Episode 2 - September 1912

Matthew and Isobel have arrived at Crawley house and .  Matthew wishes he could have refused the whole thing and stayed in Manchester.  Isobel patiently reminds him that he cannot refuse, he will be an Earl and will inherit the Grantham estate.  They are introduced to their butler, Molesley and thankfully Isobel has the decorum to greet him properly unlike Matthew who practically rolls his eyes at the word "butler."  Matthew doesn't want to change, wants to stay (upper) middle class, do things for himself and choose his own wife.  He's sure that once they got word he was a bachelor one of the daughters would be pushed on him.  Of course this is the moment Mary has dropped by to invite them to dinner.  She even gets to use the pushing comment on Matthew.  Nice.

Matthew and Isobel arrive for dinner and introductions are made.  When I say introductions you should know that Carson is usually the only one included even though most of the staff is present.  You should also know that I grin with delight every time Maggie Smith (Violet) opens her mouth.  Seriously.  She gets absolutely all the best lines.  Cora suggests that Isobel look into volunteering at the local hospital (her husband, brother and father were all doctors and she was a nurse) and she's thrilled at the prospect.  They ask Matthew what he'll be doing and he replies that he's secured a position at a law firm in a town nearby.  No one understands why he would work.  Robert is bummed because he thought he'd be involving Matthew with the running of the estate.  Matthew assures him there will be plenty of time on the weekends.  The word 'weekend' stumps Violet.  The staff all know that real gentlemen don't work even though Matthew doesn't get it.  Speaking of the staff, Carson gets an urgent message and rushes off to the village.

Isobel visits the hospital and inquires about a patient with dropsy.  How come the diseases we get now have less cute names.  I mean the guy is obviously dying and in a lot of pain but how can you be bummed about your diagnosis when it's called "dropsy?"  Now we call it edema and that's not nearly as cute.  I'm getting off track.  Violet and Cora are having tea with Isobel when Matthew gets home from work.  Poor Molesley is struggling with the fact that Matthew gets his own tea.

Back at the house, Cora drops in downstairs and hears O'Brien bad-mouthing Matthew and dresses her down for it.  As Tracy said, her loyalty to O'Brien is perplexing.  At Crawley House Molesley is dying to do his job and Matthew admits that he'll never get used to someone dressing him up "like a doll."  He then goes on to say that surely Molesley must have something better to do and Moleslely replies, "This is my job, sir." Matthew's reply is a hurtful one and tells Molesley that it's an awful silly one for a grown man to have.  Matthew notices that his words have cut Molesley deep and tries to apologize but the damage is done.

Most of the staff is out except for Bates and Anna.  There's a knock at the front door and it's a very pushy man who is insisting on talking to Lord Grantham because he's got some information about Carson.  He also refuses to be shuffled off to some back room.  He'll wait in the library thankyouverymuch.  Bates sends Anna to get Carson immediately so they can get this man out of the house before anyone in the family comes home.  Robert walks in and Carson soon follows and is shocked to see what is going on.  Carson spills the entire situation: the guy was an old acting partner of his (acting is SHAMEFUL), is on the run from the law, and has been blackmailing Carson with spilling the details of his acting past.  Robert offers the man 20 pounds to go away and never come back.  The man balks but Robert threatens him a bit more and the guy has no choice but to accept the offer.  Poor Carson offers his resignation but Robert won't accept.  Anna and Bates get a good giggle out of it but keep Carson's secret to themselves.

Isobel suggests a new procedure for the dropsy patient and ends up saving his life.  Violet, president of the hospital, isn't thrilled and just to annoy her, Robert makes Violet chairman of the hospital board.  Ha.  Lastly Robert gives Matthew a much-needed lesson on letting people play their parts, even or especially the servants.  Matthew finally lets Molesley do his job which leads Molesley to beam from deep inside.

Episode 3 - November 1912
Bates runs into Gwen at the post office and offers to walk her back to the house.  When she enters her room she finds Anna on a chair in front of the cupboard.  Anna was looking for space up there but was waylaid by a "bloody great case."  Turns out Gwen has a typewriter and has dreams of leaving service to become a secretary.

Mary has a male friend, Evelyn Napier, who will be visiting for a hunt.  Cora wants him to stay because maybe, just maybe, he and Mary will spark. Violet and Cora are pleased that Evelyn is a potential for Mary but Violet really wishes her son would fight harder for Mary to inherit.  Meanwhile, Edith seeks out Matthew and offers to show him the local cathedrals.  Seems like Edith has her sights on Matthew since Mary can't be bothered.

O'Brien brings Gwen's typewriter down and everyone stares at it like it's some kind of alien artifact.  I love how this show handles technology and change.  You really realize how much invention was going on in the early 1900s.  Anywhoodle, Gwen tells everyone that she'd like to leave service to become a secretary and they look at her like she has three heads.

Evelyn sends word that he'll be bringing a friend with him for the hunt, an attache at the Turkish Embassy, Kemal Pamuk.  Mr. Pamuk is in the country to be a part of the talks on making Albania independent.  His signature is necessary and Cora thinks a proper English hunt will put him in a good mood.

Bates is in town and sees a man who has created a limp corrector.  Bates buys it but is in obvious pain later.  Hughes notices this and asks that he share what's bothering him.  He declines and carries on as best he can.  He is a proud, proud man.

The hunt is on!  Evelyn arrives and he's very cute.  Then Pamouk shows and completely distracts Mary from the cute Evelyn.  Pamouk is way too pretty for words.  Mary is quite smitten and they flirt a lot.  Matt's off checking out churches with Edith but of course asks about Mary.  Those on the hunt return to the house and Thomas will be waiting on Pamouk.  Thomas makes a move on Mr. Pamouk and is quickly rebuffed.  Oh Thomas, not all pretty boys swing your way.  Pamouk tells him he'll forget the incident if Thomas helps him find a room later on that night.

Gwen's desire to be a secretary is the topic of conversation at dinner that night.  Sybil and Isobel fall squarely on her side to no one's surprise.  Matthew is quite aware of Mary's flirting with Pamouk.  In fact after dinner, Mary steps away from both Evelyn and Matthew to follow Pamuk into an unoccupied room.  He kisses her and she's quite shocked.  He asks to see her later IN HER ROOM and she declines.  However Thomas leads him to her room later and though she puts up a little defense at first, she's soon making the beast with two backs.  THEN. HE. DIES.  So Mary has a dead body in her room and his room is on the other side of the house.  It's not a small house.

Mary has no choice but to get Anna to help.  They need a third so Anna suggests someone who would have just as much to lose if word ever got out...Cora.  They drag him back to his room and almost get away with it but Daisy spots them just as they're getting his feet in the room.

Evelyn takes one last stab at Mary, so to speak, but she refuses.  He apologizes for the mess of a dead man in her house and soon figures out that Mary had gotten to know him pretty well.  If he hadn't been sure, Mary's sobbing confirmed it.  Before leaving, Evelyn has an honest conversation with Cora regarding Mary's lack on interest with him but he's very sweet about it.

In the rest of the house...Sybil, the dear, brings Gwen a job listing and says to use her as a reference.  What a sweetheart!  Hughes spots Bates in pain again and insists he spill.  Again.  He refuses.  Again.  The third time is definitely the charm because Hughes FINALLY gets Bates to show her the cause of his pain...that awful brace.  It's pretty gross and Hughes makes him throw in in the river after saying a few words.  Finally, we join O'Brien and Thomas who are on the case of the dead Turk.  They really missed their calling.  In fact, they could have a spin off show where they're detectives.

I need a break so I'll be posting episodes 4-7 just after this.

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