Downton Abbey: The Horrible, Hard-to-Watch One

Posted on January 13, 2014

Lesley Nicol, Cara Theobold and Sophie McShera in Downton Abbey, airing on PBS

Well, let’s get to it.

There’s really only one thing to discuss about this episode: Mrs. Patmore’s poor stress-management skills.

Okay, fine. Let’s really get to it. We’ll tell you what: it made our usual Sunday night live-tweeting a whole hell of a lot less funny.  We are, of course, talking about Anna’s rape. Like many viewers, we heard about it long before we ever watched it. We tried not to form opinions on it without seeing it first and maybe we were successful at that, because our reaction wasn’t quite what we thought it was going to be.

We don’t mind, from an outside-the-story point of view, that Fellowes introduced a rape storyline to the show. We don’t even mind that Anna was the victim, since she’s one of the nicest, most beloved characters on the show and thus, from a dramatic perspective, makes the best choice in order to shock and upset the audience. What we mind is how cheesy and even silly the scene was. We had a problem with how sudden and out-of-left-field it was, but that’s easily explained as a hallmark of actual rape scenarios. It might not have worked from a dramatic perspective, but you can’t really argue against it from a real-world one. Although we really think it was silly and slightly unrealistic that he would commit such a loud, violent act in a house full of people, right out in the open. There are plenty of ways to write a rape scenario for this setting and make it wholly believable and true to the period (there are an awful lot of empty, remote rooms in that house), but having him slap her up and down the kitchen – when we know for a fact that kitchen would never go completely untended while the house was full of guests – made it feel like Fellowes was determined to write as crass and revolting a scene as he could manage, common sense and continuity be damned. But what bothered us most was the awful cliche of cutting from Anna’s scream to a singer hitting a high note. That’s about as cob-webbed a conceit as Fellowes could dig up. Worse – and somewhat oddly – he had Anna act way out of character in the scenes leading up to it. She flirted more with Mr. Gillingham’s valet from the second he entered the house than she did with any man she ever had a scene with, including her husband, both before and after she married him. Anna is many things – kind, warm, smart – but “flirtatious” is never a word anyone would use to describe her before last night’s episode.

Let’s be clear here: we’re not suggesting that Anna deserved what happened to her or even had anything to do with why it happened. No, what we’re suggesting is that Fellowes thought it would be more dramatically interesting to have her flirt with her rapist, thus giving it an appalling “did she ask for it?” vibe which turns our stomachs the more we think of it. If the victim had been Edna Braithwaite, a character who’s been shown to be sexually forward and aggressive for the period, then you’d have perhaps an interesting discussion about the dangers for women in a patriarchal society and how they can be punished for not acting according to how society thinks they should act. But when you have Anna batting her eyes and giggling with this guy, the only response that comes up is “What the hell’s the matter with Anna?”since a hallmark of her character from the very beginning of the show has always been how reserved she is, especially with people she doesn’t know. If you’re planning on writing a rape scenario and placing a character as the victim, then you shouldn’t have her acting so weirdly out of character in a gross and ham-fisted attempt to give a rape scene shades of gray.

Having said that, what happened after the rape was well-handled and made some sense for the time and for the characters. Joanna Froggatt gave her best performance in the scene where Mrs. Hughes finds her. An involuntary “Ohhhhhh” escaped our lips when she explained why Mr. Bates could never know. Yes, Fellowes is wringing maximum drama out of a rape by focusing on what a man thinks of it and that’s another reprehensible old cliche, but in this case, we’re willing to see how this plays out because it really does make the most sense, given what these particular characters have been through. And it adds an interesting element of darkness to the Bates marriage when Anna openly admits that she thinks her husband is capable of murder after so much time trying to clear him of murder charges. It also makes total sense for Mrs. Hughes to be at the very center of this lie, as she is at the center of almost all under-the-stairs drama. But given how much the woman tends to meddle in other’s affairs and – let’s just say it – betray confidences, this secret is clearly not going to remain a secret forever.

Bottom line: this is and always has been a soap opera. We may have problems with how it was written and how it’s likely to play out, but it doesn’t bother us that this storyline has been introduced. It’s very much a part of the genre.

In other Downton news, Tom Branson should not be allowed near liquor while he’s dressed in white tie. But then we kind of knew that already. We’re just wondering why it’s taking the family so long to figure it out. Edna’s horrible and we suppose there was some idea of mirroring Anna’s rape by having Edna ply Tom with whiskey and needle him while his defenses were down. We can’t be bothered parsing it out. Just get Mrs. Hughes in there to clean this mess up and hand this girl her ass.

Also: Edith’s man seems shadier with each scene he’s in, dimples or no.

Speaking of dimples, Lord Poutylips gets introduced to the audience and frankly, we’re not sure how excited we are by another storyline of Mary getting trembly over some fop. He’s good-looking, sure. But his entire character can be summed up as “nice, inoffensive aristocrat.” How thrilling for her. Let’s get this girl a Pamuk.

And while it’s sweet to see the Dowager fussing over Tom and Molesly (insert sad trombone sound here) and Isobel, we can’t help thinking a lot of the sting has been taken out of this character. On the other hand, Penelope Wilton is breaking our heart in every scene she does. She seems to be the only person truly mourning Matthew. Mary seems more interested in having tantrums about how everyone isn’t respecting her grief enough for us to really feel her sadness.

And finally, Lord Grantham should not be allowed anywhere near money, since he has a preternatural ability to lose it.

    • https://twitter.com/Gayer_Than_Thou Gayer Than Thou

      I didn’t know that Anna would be raped in this episode, which made it especially unpleasant to watch. I would only add to T+Lo’s excellent break down of it that it seemed very old-school to have Anna, in effect, be punished for enjoying a new card game and (maybe) flirting with the other valet. Why can’t he just have been a nice guy who taught her a card game? I’m either worried that, going forward, she and Bates are going to be even less fun than they already are or, in the way that soap operas are completely artificial, in three episodes’ time it’ll be like it never happened. Probably both.

      In other news, is Lord Grantham really that much of a prig? He basically says, right to Nellie Melba’s face, “Oh, you know something about wine — and here I thought you’d be dumb as a box of rocks!”

      • Call me Bee

        We talked about this in my house. At that time–those in show business (even in the opera, apparently) really were considered to be a tiny step above prostitution among the higher classes. So, of course, it would never occur to them that performers may be educated….I remember even as a child in the 50s, respectable people thinking that movie and Broadway stars were a lower form of life….

        • jeneria

          True, in the 19th century to be an “actress” was to be the top tier of prostitution. You were invited to perform and then “perform.”

          • Eric Stott

            Irene and Vernon Castle, a world famous dance team of 1914-1918, had a similar experience. They were hired to perform at a private house, and when they arrived the butler showed them to a room, told them to wait, then closed the door. They looked around- and realized 1: they were in the coat room 2: they weren’t going to have dinner. They billed the owners a thousand dollars an hour for their services.

          • Tally Ho

            Nellie Melba was different. You’re right in that most actors/performers wouldn’t have been invited to dine with the hosts. But Melba was not only world famous by this point she also regularly hung out in aristocratic circles and frequented plenty of country house weekends.

            The real life Melba, upon being told she was dining in her room, would have stormed out of the house justifiably insulted. She was pretty fickle.

            • BayTampaBay

              A Diva?

            • Eric Stott

              She was strong willed and had a hot temper (even for an opera singer)

        • https://twitter.com/Gayer_Than_Thou Gayer Than Thou

          Well, movie and Broadways stars… No respectable person would have one of them at the table. But an opera singer!

      • http://joyouslifesf.wordpress.com Kiltdntiltd

        Yeah he practically called her an idiot to her face. Stupid writing. I don’t know why Fellowes continues to try to play him as a prig, when he clearly is nothing of the sort. For his time, he would’ve been though quite progressive.

        Also, I made me nuts seeing Anna asking Bates why he was behaving oddly. She cannot be so out of touch not to think he might be just THAT much bothered by her flirting.

        • https://twitter.com/Gayer_Than_Thou Gayer Than Thou

          I mean, if she thinks Bates might kill the man who raped her, she must have some inkling that he might be the jealous type. Returning to my point above, it feels like another way to undermine Anna’s authority and knowledge: she thinks the other valet is just a nice, good-looking guy who’s paying some attention to her. But of course she’s terribly wrong, and Bates can sense it. Not to get all feminist film critic up in here, but it’s a way in which female characters don’t get to have complete control or authority over their own lives when their perceptions of what’s really going on around them are inaccurate, especially when male characters have a better read on what’s what. I think we see a lot of that with the female characters (the Countess is a counter-example, and I think it’s part of what makes her so enjoyable as a character). For Daisy and Ivy, that fits better with who those characters are, but it’s more problematic for Anna, who has been written to have a good head on her shoulders and a good sense of people. I haven’t cataloged every piece of knowledge that every character has and mapped it to gender — surely there are scenes where male characters also misperceive what’s going on (paging Lord Grantham!), but I wonder how many times a male character doesn’t see what’s really going on and a female character does (apart from Lord Grantham and the Countess).

          • siriuslover

            That’s a good point, but it seems that the only person who distrusted Gillingham’s valet was Bates, and what Bates has that others don’t is a criminal record. So perhaps it was less a patriarchal framing here and more of an issue with criminality. That has been the subtext with Bates for quite some time.

          • 3hares

            Yes, I don’t get why it was necessary to set up Bates as having a sixth sense about the guy, even beyond him just not liking him because he likes loud card games. It added a whole level of “should have listened to your husband” that was unnecessary, especially since it’s not like it had any bearing on what happened to Anna. Surely she was in danger the second the guy got the opportunity whether she’d been pleasant to him or not.

        • BayTampaBay

          Per Kiltdntiltd, “Yeah he practically called her an idiot to her face. Stupid writing.”

          Actually, I thought it was pretty good writing as it shows that for all his Eton & Oxford education, Robert is just a titled backwoodsman country bumpkin in white tie living off of everyone else’s money and good fortune.

          • not_Bridget

            In Tom Jones Squire Western, a rough & tumble member of the gentry (played by Brian Blessed in the excellent BBC series), was called a “country boobie squire” by his elegant sister. Robert is smoother but still a bit of a boob. An opera star would definitely be cosmopolitan & cultured….

            • Eric Stott

              and being that Melba was from Australia, Robert immediately wrote her off as a crude provincial.

          • greenwich_matron

            I agree. He doesn’t seem to get out much. I bought that it just never occurred to him that he should behave any differently.

          • Jackie4g

            Don’t forget his brilliant remarks about Catholicism. Sheesh.

      • Aurumgirl

        Well, if Anna had just been shown having a nice time with a nice guy teaching her a card game, we wouldn’t have melodrama, would we? Or, we might, if that activity somehow sparked a new love interest complication for Anna or the nice guy or Bates. And Fellowes is all about the melodrama.

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/dispatch-from-the-downton-abbey-diaspora-16/ Gotham Tomato

        I disagree that she was flirting. She was treating kindly in the way she treats everyone else, but because he was handsome it is perceived as flirting. No one would accuse her of flirting with Molesley.
        –GothamTomato

        • Aidan B

          I agree; I didn’t read her behavior as flirtatious, either. I thought she was friendly but not more so than she would have been with anyone else.

        • sweetlilvoice

          Thank you, I didn’t think she was flirting, she was just being friendly. Maybe she was a little attracted to him-he was fun, attractive and obviously into her. It’s tragic what happened next. My sis and were watching and we were just shocked. Enough stupid crap with the upstairs idiots–what’s happening to Anna?! Poor editing. I’ve said it before-Julian Fellowes is a good writer (Snobs, Past Imperfect) but a poor screenwriter.

          • BayTampaBay

            I did not think she was flirting either.

          • VivianAdvanced

            I didn’t see that Anna was flirting either. I was disappointed that the guy turned out to be a vicious lout. I thought it would give Anna the chance to experience what it’s like to have a fun, younger man interested in her and be tempted and flattered. After all, Bates isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. Now, I suppose she’ll be pregnant and we’ll find out that Bates is sterile. “Splat!” Sound of something hitting the fan.

            • insertcleverbit

              My thoughts exactly – like somehow his leg injury also injured his junk.

            • VivianAdvanced

              Bates seems to have forgotten his leg injury of late. His time in prison appears to have cured the limp.

            • Our Neighbour

              LOL. I have noticed that too.

        • Spicytomato1

          I didn’t think she was flirting exactly, but she did seem a little more friendly and animated towards him than she typically is with people, enough so that I did notice and wonder why. I started thinking maybe life at the Bates cottage had gotten a little dull and she found this new, fun-loving young guy to be a welcome distraction.

          I did not see the attack coming and was just floored. The juxtaposition with the music was especially horrible.

          It seems to me that it won’t be long before Bates figures it out, unless she can get a handle on her emotions and soon. I wonder if she’ll confide in Mary.

        • Sweetvegan

          I totally agree. And when he tried to turn the conversation flirtatious, she replied something along the lines of “I have work to do.”

        • TheDivineMissAnn

          Yeah, I don’t think she was flirting either. The entire household was abuzz with all of the visitors, parties,dancing, etc. Things were moving at mach speed, As a result, everyone was wrapped up in the excitement, upstairs and downstairs.

      • janierainie

        I just hope Anna doesn’t end up with a baby she has to explain. I don’t want to watch that unfold. That really would be too soapy.

        • formerlyAnon

          I just assumed there will be a pregnancy. Not that I’m usually right with this show. But that’s pretty classic soap opera plotting in the circumstances. In modern times, this would inevitably result in the reveal that Bates is unable to father children and knows it, but hadn’t told his wife until she is letting everyone assume the baby is his. I don’t know if that’s medically possible in this era.

          • Laughingworld

            Back before his arrest and trial, Bates talked to Anna of a future with children so they would have to change the backstory. Rewriting a character’s history is a common practice on soaps, though.

            • VivianAdvanced

              Bates might not even know if he’s sterile or not. Something might come up in the future where he’s examined and finds out. That is, if the show is going this route. If Bates had been aware that he couldn’t father children, he probably would have nobly ended his relationship with the younger Anna, so she could find somebody virile. He was willing to sacrifice her before.

              I thought of another scenario: Anna trying to get a back-alley abortion if she knows it’s the valet’s child. Whatever happens, Anna’s going to have to endure some difficult times, especially if she has to see her rapist again when Mary visits his employer. Bates and Anna became tedious in past seasons, so this rape horror will give them more interesting things to do.

              I’m just wishing for more Barrow activity. He’s been lurking beneath the surface in the first two episodes. It’s time for him to meet a guy who reciprocates his affection. Then, they could further explore the agony of what gays had to go through in that era.

        • Miranda Prince

          Oh crap. I hadn’t even thought of that!

        • Sweetvegan

          A pregnancy wouldn’t necessarily indicate rape or an affair, but I was wondering if she’s going to get an STD, which would prove to Bates that she had been in sexual contact with someone else.

      • mrspeel2

        I’m wondering about the possiblity she may have become pregnant.

        • Judy_S

          My thought is that Fellowes will see to it that both she and Edna B. get pregnant that night, just to firm up the symmetry.

          • mrspeel2

            That’s an excellent thought. I have to admit I’m so obsessed with hoping Edna leaves the show (& quickly), I hadn’t even considered that. Good play, Judy_S!!

      • Lauren

        It also bothers me that, assuming Mrs. Hughes does let the cat out of the bag at some point, Bates will probably throw a biting “I told you so/ serves you right” at Anna in his rage to justify his childish, controlling jealousy that was pervasive throughout the episode. Anna, as T Lo already pointed out, has never given any reason for Bates, nor anyone else, to doubt her integrity or fidelity. Unfortunately, this further enforces the “blame the victim” mentality that was common then (and sadly, still today), even though I’m sure Fellowes thinks he’s making brilliant commentary on sexual assault.

        • greenwich_matron

          I agree. I would have liked it much better if Anna had a sense of foreboding about him but was forced to be smiling and polite due to her position. But Fellowes is first and foremost an apologist: the problem wasn’t the old order that made her so vulnerable, the problem is the new order that fails to protect her. It’s also pretty telling that the rapist was the valet rather than the lord.

    • MilaXX

      I have to admit, I was tired by the time Downton came on last night. The rape scene was difficult & uncomfortable to watch, but I agree with everything you’ve said here. Interesting that Fowles is spinning Bates dark side as “things he learned in prison”. So are we to assume that Bates has become a hardened man after being in jail and would kill the man if he finds out about Anna’s rape?
      Daddy Crawley remains a moron.Edith remains unlucky in love. You just know this love affair of hers won’t work out.

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/dispatch-from-the-downton-abbey-diaspora-16/ Gotham Tomato

        I think that dark side of Bates was always there.
        –GothamTomato

        • BayTampaBay

          I think it still is there.

          • siriuslover

            Agreed. I think the writers are going to develop the darker criminal aspect of Bates more this season.

      • Lattis

        Daddy Crawley remains a moron

        Daddy Crawley ha ha
        I’ll say it again. Lord Grantham is a horse’s ass.

      • tallgirl1204

        I think we’re going to see the dark and very strong side of Anna. Remember when the rapist-guy asked her why she was making something by hand rather than buying it? (Some kind of dried herb thing). She said “I’m a country girl” or some such. Last night I built a whole scenario where Anna takes revenge using those country-girl skills. Pig butchery, for example.

    • jeneria

      Is it possible that Anna’s behavior was the result of “I’m married and don’t have to worry so much about my behavior because I’m respectable?” I’m not saying the flirting is in her character but there is a confidence that comes with knowing you’re married.

      • MilaXX

        I think in Anna’s case it would make her even more cautious in an “I’m married, that’s not proper” way. I could see young’uns like Daisy & Ivy flirting, but not Anna.

        • jeneria

          Yeah, I see that. We know that Anna isn’t above having a bit of fun, though, but yeah, she’s not flirtatious. I’m just trying to figure out why her behavior may have changed.

      • AudreysMom

        I’m an eye-roller of the first class when it comes to Julian Fellowes and DA, but Anna’s association with the rapist and the rape itself seemed appropriately written – meaning horrifying to watch without distracting plot issues. I got more that Anna took the opportunity to briefly (there for a weekend only) enjoy someone who was of her servant status, paid attention to her and some life (a la card games), when face it, Bates’ isn’t anyone’s idea of fun and seems much older. I didn’t see it as flirting. More I saw it as Bates being a party pooper. So probably SOMEONE would have been downstairs when the rape happened, but they set it up that the staff was upstairs, there was noise (music) and likely no one would hear downstairs anyway, and the event happened pretty quickly (he pulled her into an open room and shut the door). It wasn’t clear then that is was Mrs Hughes’ office so it could have been a deep pantry or something blocking the noise even further (then Anna moved later).

        I also liked the reason for not telling Bates, and Anna’s belief that Bates CAN and WOULD kill the guy and spend his life in jail or hang. The major issue (not plot, just for Anna’s secret) was in her confiding to Mrs. Hughes. I just wonder who else will know by the next episode. :)

        • jeneria

          That all makes sense. To better articulate my point and to work off yours: I argue that Anna was enjoying herself because as a married woman, she probably saw herself as “off the market” and was able to relax a little bit. She’s married, not going to step out on Bates, and is off-limits (in her mind). Bates is older and not that much fun, but he’s always indulged Anna when he can so she probably didn’t think that he would become so gloomy over her behavior. I’m glad that she told Hughes because she needed to tell someone. I imagine it’s only a matter of an episode before Bates finds out. How long can she go shrinking from his touch before he demands an explanation?

          • Aidan B

            “How long can she go shrinking from his touch before he demands an explanation?” – I worried at the time that Bates was going to think Anna willingly cheated on him.

            • Eric Stott

              That is still a possibility.

            • formerlyAnon

              I’m guessing an inevitability. But she needs to lie back and think of England sooner rather than later if she doesn’t want to tell him where the [in melodrama terms] inevitable pregnancy came from.

            • Eric Stott

              and we might have another death in childbirth- though the doctor they’ve brought in for the servants might actually know what to do.

      • Jennifer Schiller

        I will say that I feel Anna was maybe a little bit like this last episode as well. While I admit it makes her feel out of character from previous seasons, she accompanied Rose to the dance hall in the opening two hours (after Rose’s remark about Bates not being able to dance), danced with Jimmy, and even made a tart remark to Lady Mary regarding George. The Anna I knew from previous years wouldn’t be so brazen I don’t think.

        She has felt distant from Bates in all three hours of the series (with the exception of the one scene where she admits she is upset by Molesly’s situation), and I wonder, having not read spoilers, whether a peak into the Bates’ home life might reveal why. They really spent little time as a couple when not courting or battling legal issues.

        Also my side note on the noise, I felt the opera was extremely cliched, but the loudness didn’t bother me. The card game they played was quite loud and if it could be heard upstairs Carson would have had a complete fit. The downstairs is likely to be quite soundproof so as not to remind the aristocracy above ground of all the work being done downstairs. Actually the biggest part of the episode which bothered me was Bates, but (and don’t attack me here), that’s usually the care.

        • BayTampaBay

          She took Rose to York with her because Mary allowed her to or told her to. Dancing with Jimmy, who is well aware of the true love relationship with Bates, was like dancing with your brother-in-law or cousin.

          • Jennifer Schiller

            I know she asked Lady Mary, but it still felt like she asked Mary because she really wanted to go, like she got pulled by the line about not getting many chances to dance (otherwise I don’t think they would have put it in there, Fellows is none too subtle with his script choices). And while she danced with Jimmy in platonic way, it felt like a slightly adventurous new move for Anna to actually be dancing.

            Just my opinion but she knew Rose was trouble and asked Mary about it anyways, seems to me it was a choice she was given permission to make, not a duty that was forced upon her.

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/dispatch-from-the-downton-abbey-diaspora-16/ Gotham Tomato

        I don’t think she was flirting with Green anymore than she flirts with Molesley or Thomas or Daisy. It is just in her nature to be kind but because he was Handsome it is perceived as flirting.
        –GothamTomato

        • 3hares

          Also probably that he was flirting with her, so her not being rude translates into her enjoying or wanting it.

        • d4divine

          I agree…even though he creeped me out from the beginning…I’m a jaded old woman…Anna is an innocent character who’d never catch on to such a sleazy man…Bates did though

      • MaggieMae

        This was my take. Anna felt safe having fun. She’s married. It’s the house she works in, surrounded by her coworkers. It was not flirting like Edna’s flirting or the maid who got pregnant by the soldier.

    • jeneria

      Oh, and I despise Edna. Why is this even a storyline? So the Granthams can throw both Branson and Edna out and keep Sybil?

      • Frank_821

        Yep Edna is no better than a gold-digging tramp. I am really surprised Carson didn’t tear into for her backtalk.

        • jeneria

          What I don’t get is how does she think Branson has money? As far as I understand, he wouldn’t have a dime if he left Downton. He didn’t have money to begin with and whatever he inherited from Sybil’s passing can’t be all that much, can it?

          • Frank_821

            I don’t think Tom has much in the way of money. But he does have a position and his in-laws are a count and countess. She must know she would be set for life if she could get her hooks into Tom. Someone needs to put her into place. I really hope Mrs Huges stops being nice and takes out her ass

            • jeneria

              Would that cache carry over if he settled down with a maid? It seems to me that the largest benefit he could glean would be the opportunity to marry someone of the upper class using the family connections. I just think that if he stayed with Edna, they’d both be cast out without anything.

            • BayTampaBay

              The only reason for this storyline is so Mrs. Hughes can throw that bitch out on her ass again. It will be a great scene! LOL! LOL!

              Also, I think this will develop into a storyline where Tom Branson actually makes an effort to find someone who really deserves him and is entirely suitable for the role of step-mother of Little Sibbie.

            • jeneria

              Minor American Heiress, yes unless that would require them moving to the US. Daughter of a vicar, possible. A school teacher? I find that one to be the biggest stretch and yet the best match.

            • BayTampaBay

              When Lloyd-George passes his universal education scheme, it led to a big demand for college or some college educated school teachers…..producing a crop of working middle-middle class young women.

            • Frank_821

              The difference at hand is the baby. They all made a big effort to find a reason to keep Tom around mainly because of little Sybil. If there was no baby I don’t think they would have made nearly as much effort. Ergo they wouldn’t exactly cast them out. Cora, whatever anger she would feel, wouldn’t abandon her grandchild. In all likelihood they would not be allowed to live in the house but he would still have his position. And now seeing what a conniving person she truly is, she probably figures she can use little Sybie as a bargaining chip to make sure Sybil’s family doesn’t cause too many waves

            • jeneria

              But that was before George was born. I could see Robert turning out Sybil and Tom even if Cora and the ladies fought for them. I suppose it would come down to the Dowager deciding.

            • BayTampaBay

              Robert will not turn Tom out as he relies on him too much.

              Tom as the Estate agent seems to be working to satisfaction of all.

            • Jackie4g

              At one point, Tom bemoans his inability to fit in and be “one of them”, and Robert contradicts him. Robert has come miles in his acceptance of his remaining son in law.

            • Eric Stott

              yes, he does consider him a part of the family, but there’s still a touch of pitying condescension. The family likes Tom but they don’t really understand what he’s feeling. Even Edna is closer to him in that respect.

            • Tally Ho

              Products of misalliances (meaning babies whose parents were from very different social backgrounds like baby Sybil) were usually shipped off to boarding schools as soon as possible.

              The Granthams probably could have twisted enough arms to obtain direct custody of the baby because of their wealth and position, banished/bribed Tom to return to Ireland or the colonies and kept the baby out of sight via nannies till the inevitable boarding school. They are being especially nice by keeping Tom around. I have to say I wasn’t wild about the character at first but so far he’s grown on me in this season.

            • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/dispatch-from-the-downton-abbey-diaspora-16/ Gotham Tomato

              The Crawley girls didn’t go to boarding school. They were school at home by their governess, so I’d assume they’d have a hard time explaining sending Sybbie away.
              –GothamTomato

            • Tally Ho

              One of the big changes (yep, another “change”) that occurred in the 1920s was the widespread introduction of girls’ boarding schools for daughters of the affluent. The movement started in the 19th century among the affluent middle classes and gained steam in the 20th. Many aristos did keep their daughters with governesses as late as the 1950s but others were starting to send their girls away. So it wouldn’t be unusual.

              Boarding schools were especially useful for the problematic. Like baby Sybil, the consequence of a scandalous marriage.

            • BayTampaBay

              In the first season, Sybil made a comment about wanting to attend “real school”.

            • Jackie4g

              I believe that being shipped off to boarding school would have been more prevalent with male children.. It should still be possible to marry Sybbie off to a 2nd or 3rd son of an aristocrat.

            • honey604 MA

              Yes, little Sybbie is the reason Tom is staying at Downton.

            • Eric Stott

              At least they like Tom- he’s agreeable and speaks decently.

            • d4divine

              I hope somebody else is sleeping in B ranson’s room. Lol

            • BayTampaBay

              Like me!. I’ll take Branson or Dr. Clarkson off anybodies hands any time!! LOL!

            • AnotherJulie

              Don’t forget Barrow. He is gorgeous, in my opinion

            • 3hares

              But does he have position? It doesn’t seem like he does at all. Look at Edna. She had a child with a titled person and while the kid got the good life and Ethel got nothing. If Tom sleeps with a maid he just proves he always belonged more to that class and he can bring her to Ireland and leave Sybil with the grown-ups. The Crawleys wouldn’t feel any responsibility to him at all.

            • Frank_821

              Actually I wrote he has a position. Meaning his job running the estate. That’s a huge step up from chauffeur. Technically Tom won’t ever be rich but it’s a very respectable career that he has taken to. Tom will never leave his child in the care of his in-laws. He loves and needs her way too much. Taking that job was his compromise for him and little Sybie to stay and allow the family to support them. I doubt Edna would have been so eager to make the moves on a widower with a baby who was still just a chauffeur or even a journalist. It’s clear to me she sees Tom as a meal ticket. His former working class status was and continues to be her strategy to snare him.
              Even going back to last year’s Christmas special, it was clear Edna was a conniver with no class or scruples.

            • 3hares

              Oh, I totally agree that’s what he is from her pov. But I was referring to him having a position in society like the Crawleys do. It just doesn’t seem right for her to think any position he has–either social or professional–is secure enough to absorb Edith as his new wife/mistress/baby mama.

              We as viewers know the show would probably pull some anachronistic machinations to make the Crawleys accept him if they wanted to keep him on the show, but Edna would be a fool to think that an affair would lead to some good position for her. She might get payment for an illegitimate child (which doesn’t seem like what she’d want) but it’s not like she’s got good reason to think she could marry into the Crawley family by marrying the guy, or even marry into being the estate manager’s wife, because she’d have good reason to think he’d get fired for that. Why would she think the family would be okay with her raising Sybil?

        • Eric Stott

          A tramp, but there was a scrap of truth at the end when she handed him the whiskey- he was out of his element and she was the only one who acknowledged it and showed the least bit of sympathy. To most everyone else (possibly excepting Mary) he’s just dismissed as “Poor Tom”

          • jeneria

            He’s a bit of a random character when you think about it. Everyone else who has been extraneous or a potential complication for the Granthams has either been shipped off or killed off. It’s odd that Tom is still there.

            • BayTampaBay

              From a plot development…not really.

              The Tom Branson character takes the place of both Sybil (the rebel) and the non-born aristocrat Matthew (the son Robert never had but does not agree with and has a generation gap with). Tom, even with no money, is much more like “country boy at heart” Robert than Matthew ever was or Gregson ever will be.

            • jeneria

              I guess it’s the way he’s been written lately, but I don’t get a rebel vibe off him anymore nor do I get a country boy feel. He seems like a hunting dog that’s been tamed and spends most of its time sulking with its tail between its legs. The dog is miserable in the house but he knows if he bites the hand that feeds him, he’ll be taken out back and shot. Tom doesn’t actively do anything with the estate despite the title. His best scenes lately have all been with Lady Mary (that would be an interesting hookup).

            • Eric Stott

              He was always a politician marking time in a chauffeur’s position. Now that he has to keep clear of anything radical he’s casting about for a purpose. If the whole affair with Gregson doesn’t crash and burn Tom Branson might be suited for a job with him.

            • BayTampaBay

              I doubt Tom would be comfortable with the London Set.

            • BayTampaBay

              Potential complications are why he is still around and why Martha Levinson keeps reappearing…no one is entertained by happy people with no conflict.

              The changing class status has been the number 1 complication & conflict since Season 1 Episode 1.

          • Saturnine

            I thought so too.

            • BayTampaBay

              Tom Branson working with Mary on the Downton Abbey Estate and working with Edith at the Sketch if Gregson moves to Germany??? Sounds like a great plot device to me.

          • d4divine

            He acts like “poor Tom”. I want to snack him and tell him to man up and deal.

            • BayTampaBay

              He misses his wife. Other than Cora, were any of these people that upset at Sybil’s death?

            • d4divine

              She’s been dead over a year now…of course he’s sad…but the doe eyed grief face has got to end…

          • 3hares

            I wouldn’t call anything Edna was showing Tom sympathy. She wants him to feel as out of place as possible so he’ll hang out with her. She’s barely hiding her agenda. Everybody else is just dealing with the situation practically: this is the world he’s in now, so they’re helping him out with the details.

        • d4divine

          Yeah…that confused me a little…one of those Fellows plot holes

    • Scimommy

      I don’t know. At this point I don’t have much to say about the show. Except… I missed Emma Thompson tossing her shoes on stage for THIS??

      • Introspective

        and that was pretty much the moment of the night. besides lupita being fierce as fuck. sorry for you indeed.

        i wonder too, since i watched this season on the internet a while ago, if pbs put a trigger warning about the violence of these scenes beforehand. I wonder if ITV did the same ( anyone who watched this in the UK legally weigh in)? i just hate the idea that rape is something casually thrown into a plot, without regard for audience sensitivity, so hoping PBS didnt commit this misstep.

        agree with TLo too that the subtleties that could have been achieved were missed. the whole thing felt clunky despite froggatt’s excellence as an actress in these scenes. because soapy. and because fellowes.

        • jw_ny

          yes…pbs had a notice at the beginning saying it may be violent/disturbing, viewer discretion or whatever their wording was.

        • BayTampaBay

          I think the whole sub-plot was nothing more than a chance for Froggatt to show her acting chops and to introduce more outside non-deserved misery for Mr. & Mrs. Bates.

          • d4divine

            …and girlfriend did…just..that! Bravo Froggatt…she chewed that scene to bits!!

        • Scimommy

          They put disturbing content warnings both before the episode and posted them on twitter during the episode.

          • Introspective

            good. glad to hear…

        • Andy Morris

          ITV threw up a ‘distressing and violent scenes’ warning before the show, which caused a great amount of chortling from my family who assumed it would be Robert getting into fisticuffs post-poker game. Cut 40 minutes into the future with everyone staring open-mouthed at the TV.

          My family also tend to boo and hurl insults (& occasionally popcorn) at that horrible maid who is seducing Tom.

          • AnotherJulie

            ….as did everyone in our house (boo at Edna, that is). If she in fact seduced poor drunk Branson at the end, and turns up pregnant, I will lose my mind. I can put up with a lot of cheesy subplots but that would put me over the edge.

        • RroseSelavy

          These warnings never tell you what they are warning you against! If I had experienced rape trauma and would have been distressed anew by this scene, the warning would not have helped. [Will they be slaughtering animals? Will we be seeing Barrow's nude buttocks?]

          • d4divine

            “Violence or explicit content”…I think that covers rape.

            • greenwich_matron

              yeah, but it also covers bare-assed snogging.

            • http://howtofaint.tumblr.com/ How to Faint

              Technically, yes, but considering all the other acts that the phrase covers, it doesn’t provide an adequate warning that in this case the explicit, violent content is rape.

            • Eric Stott

              They can’t exactly spell it out – if they say “Forcible sexual content” it would be a plot spoiler.

            • greenwich_matron

              How about “tittilating” or “disturbing” content? Although that could be a minefield.

            • http://howtofaint.tumblr.com/ How to Faint

              Sort of, but it could be anyone. It’s worth having a bit of the plot vaguely spoiled if it prevents someone else from having to relive an ugly trauma.

            • d4divine

              So…shows should run disclaimers like pharmaceutical commercials now…police thyself

            • http://howtofaint.tumblr.com/ How to Faint

              Really? “Police thyself?” How is one supposed to accomplish that when one doesn’t know what the hell’s going to happen? So…you’re literally asking a rape victim to be clairvoyant so that you can avoid a slight spoiler. How classy and compassionate.

              Why is the idea that disclaimers about rape being depicted so victims of sexual violence can avoid triggers so offensive to people? I rarely see people lose their shit so much as when a trigger warning is requested.

            • d4divine

              Violence is violence. Why does it have to be broken down in detail…should child abuse or spousal abuse be listed as well? I’m not trying to be insensitive…just realistic of the expectations of a television show. I’ve had many traumatic experiences in my life….do I expect, again, a television show to protect me….absolutely not. IMO the general disclaimer gives me an idea that there may be content that upsets me, it is my option to continue watching.

    • Call me Bee

      I had no idea about the rape scene beforehand–it was as upsetting as any I’ve seen on TV or movies. And it seemed to me that Anna did know the valet (I forget his name) beforehand. Before Bates showed up–so, to me, it seemed natural that she would be friendly to him. And he was creepy to her. I was surprized at Anna’s comment that Bates shouldn’t know because he’d kill the man. It begs the question: did she really think he was innocent of his wife’s death….
      Yes–this is a big soap opera, but even The Hubs is hooked–must be the superior acting and the fabulous sets and clothing. Well, the clothing got me….

      • Angela_the_Librarian

        Bates admitted to be a changed man after prison, so maybe Anna is worried that experience may lead him to act out violently. However, I also think at that time, when there was very little recourse for rape, that Bates may have seen violence as the only way for Anna to get any justice. Almost like a duel for her honor, but in a “downstairs” way of handling things.

        • honey604 MA

          Yes, at that time, rapes usually went unreported. There was no support for the victims.

      • https://twitter.com/Gayer_Than_Thou Gayer Than Thou

        Is the guy who raped Anna valet to the hot guy who’s flirting with Lady Mary? Because that certainly could create some interesting drama (in the hands of someone more subtle than Fellowes, anyway) if Lady Mary’s boyfriend’s valet and Lady Mary’s lady’s maid (try typing that ten times fast!) have this history.

        • Call me Bee

          Yes–that’s the guy.

        • 3boysful

          I predict that something will terminate Lord Poutylips (Gillingham?)’s engagement to the belle of the season, he’ll woo Mary, bringing his evil valet back to Downton. Mr Bates will inevitably discover the truth, and use his prison-acquired skills to knock Evil Valet off in a way that looks like he dies of natural causes. But Anna will wonder . . . . And perhaps Thomas Barrow will get something he can hold over Bates . . . .

          • honey604 MA

            My thoughts exactly. I think Bates learned several new skills in prison and will put them to use. Oh, and of course Thomas will find out and do something shady with that information.

            • d4divine

              I don’t know any man who wouldn’t beat the #*@& out of the man who raped his wife. Git’em Bates!!

        • Guest

          No!! It is not the same guy! The guy that raped Anna was a servant of one of the guests. The man flirting with Lady Mary was a party guest.

          • Call me Bee

            Right. The man who raped Anna is the valet to the man who was flirting with Lady Mary.

      • BKagainwiththesweatpants

        Agreed. I think it was pointed out that Lord Poutylips and his valet had been to Downton before, so Anna would have known him. Loathe as I am to disagree with the Uncles, I felt there was a lot of buildup/ground laid to his raping Anna. I wasn’t Internet-spoiled on her rape–it was horrible, but I wasn’t at all surprised. All that aside, Kiri Te Kanawa! How wonderful to see and hear her–if you’re gonna get a Down Under opera star, at least get as close to the real thing as possible (yes, I know she’s a Kiwi). Also, Isobel, Queen of Heartbreak. Gaaaaaah. So many tears.

        • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

          Mary hadn’t seen Lord Gillingham since she was a little girl so it’s highly doubtful Anna knew his valet already.

          • Call me Bee

            Ok then I missed that.

        • d4divine

          I agree!!

        • kerryev

          Why in the world did Lord Poutylips remember Mrs. Hughes’ name? That was not believable, especially when he forgot that Matthew is dead.

      • marishka1

        Actually, I don’t think the valet (Green) had been there before. As the cars were dropping them off, Gillingham mentioned to Green that the housekeeper’s name was Mrs. Hughes — as though he might not know her.

      • Saturnine

        I can see Anna thinking Bates was certainly not capable of premeditated poisoning, but entirely possible of rage-induced manslaughter to avenge her own violent rape. As Angela said below, prison did change him.

        I agree that the rape scene was horribly upsetting. My husband too likes the show, but he was really turned off by the episode last night. He’s been known to drop shows suddenly when writers mess with a favorite character, so I might be on my own now.

        • hillmad

          The same thing happened with my husband. As upset as I was by the rape scene, he was even more so. He said, “I don’t think I can watch this show anymore.” I admire his sensitivity to women–he was also terribly upset over Sybil’s death scene. It looks like I’ll be DVRing it and watching it alone from now on as our daughter is away at college!

      • formerlyAnon

        I know women today whose partners don’t know they have been raped. I think it’s unusual today to hide the fact if you are living with your partner, but I know more than one woman who’s been separated by life events or geography from their partner, been raped during that time, and passed it off as an unsuccessful rape attempt or in the case of an acquaintance rape, never mentioned it. A combination of “he doesn’t need to deal with this, it’s over” and “I don’t need to deal with him dealing with this” – which is just a watered down version of her concern over Bates’ violent response.

      • d4divine

        I thought they knew each other too…but this is also a scenario that I am all to familiar with in real life. A woman being friendly to a man and said man completely misunderstanding her attentions…yeah…been there. What happened to Anna was obviously a worse case scenario…but it was real as real gets.

    • Angela_the_Librarian

      I kept hoping that someone, anyone, would have gone downstairs for a bite to eat or something and stopped the attack. TLo is right that it seemed extremely odd that not a single person was in the servant’s area. And if Downton Abbey follows the typical progression of a story like this, Anna will end up pregnant with her rapist’s child (I really hope they don’t go there, but you know there’s a good chance they will). It was just a sad night overall, and I find myself caring less and less about the upstairs folk (well, except for the Dowager’s zingers!)

      • Call me Bee

        Oh I hope to death that Anna-pg-with-rapists-child storyline never shows up. Too, too cliche.

        • Aidan B

          I had the same thought. REALLY hoping Fellowes doesn’t go there.

        • formerlyAnon

          I totally assumed that that’s where they’re going.

        • d4divine

          …and for that reason I am expecting it…Downton is a soap opera, albeit a gorgeous one, Fellows writes in classic soap form. I love the show no matter what…heck i could watch it with the sound off. Lol

      • DaveUWSNYC

        Agree re: not a soul downstairs…especially in a show where no minor conversation or action seems to go unheard/overheard/unseen by someone else

      • Isabel

        Remember how upset Carson & Lord G were when finding out that the kitchen staff would be listening to the opera? Well, now, WHEN Mr. Carson finds out, he will mention that he opposed the kitchen staff being upstairs.

      • marishka1

        And, of course, there will be revisionist history about how Bates’ war injury has also prevented him from fathering children, a secret he kept from Anna, but how did she wind up pregnant, blah blah blah.

        • Saturnine

          Oh good lord, please do not let that happen.

        • formerlyAnon

          It is the inevitable Post-Rape Plot o’ Maximum Melodrama. Hope they don’t go there, but if not it’ll be because they’ve been distracted by some other Series of Moments of Heavily Foreshadowed Soapiness.

    • jw_ny

      What I find could be interesting is that Lord Poutylips (lol…Gillingham) having interest in Lady Mary means he’ll be hanging around Downton…bringing his valet along with him…..increasing the tension and stress of Anna & Mr. Bates. Seeing as how this is a soap opera…I’m expecting Anna to start having dizzy spells and nausea next episode…lol.

      • Little_Olive

        Oh, please no. I cannot take any more obviousness from this show.

      • Saturnine

        But if she starts coughing and collapses, she has internal bleeding.

    • http://joyouslifesf.wordpress.com Kiltdntiltd

      My issue ran around the idiotic ham-fisted stuff regarding whether Dame Nellie should or should not sit at table. By the 1920′s such a question would never have occurred in any noble home. First of all, Lady Cora would have been consulted about the table of precedence for a house party, long before the guests arrived. Second, the social climate had so altered by this time that hosting a major artist of this sort was a mark of serious distinction. Really Me Fellowes.

      • Call me Bee

        See–I thought the opposite. But I do agree that the seating arrangement would have been discussed with Her Ladyship beforehand. I guess Carson thought he knew better.

      • https://twitter.com/Gayer_Than_Thou Gayer Than Thou

        Why would Carson even ask Lord Grantham about rooming and seating arrangements? Seems like that would be entirely Cora’s domain. But then, of course, we wouldn’t have had the minor plot point of Lord Grantham being an idiot, and we have to have one of those in every episode.

        • http://joyouslifesf.wordpress.com Kiltdntiltd

          Precisely. Lord Grantham would never be consulted about the table seating, that is the exclusive domain of the lady of the house, and Carson would have consulted with Lady Cora on every detail of the seating, just as Mrs Hughes would have discussed every detail of the menus with her.

      • Saturnine

        I totally agree. Peach Melba? Melba toast? (though not sure about that last one). Chefs were naming dishes after her while she was alive. There’s no way serving her a tray in her room would have been an option. Silly Robert.

        • Tally Ho

          The real life Melba? When the tray is brought to the room and she realizes she’s not dining with her hosts, tray is flung against the fireplace, crystal and china shatters, the footman hovers underneath her as she screams at him. “How dare they! I am Nellie Melba!” and she storms down the grand staircase and out of the house, followed by a trailing maid who’s grabbed whatever luggage she can (the rest can be sent by a later train) and the last we see of her is the chauffeur (suddenly drawn away from what promised to be a great poker game with the other chauffeurs) taking her back to London, despite Cora’s pleas for her to stay.

          Now that’s a scene I wish we’d seen.

          • Eric Stott

            and the Granthams are exiled to Social Purgatory for the next season

        • Munchkn

          Melba toast was, indeed, named after Dame Nellie.

      • not_Bridget

        Gosford Park was set a bit later–in the 1930′s. But the house party included Ivor Novello, an exceedingly famous songwriter & actor. He knew he was expected to entertain but, otherwise, he was treated as one of the guests. He was not gentry by any means, but was handsome, cultured & successful…

        • Jackie4g

          Oops, I responded with essentially the same remarks above, before I read this. No offense intended.

      • Jackie4g

        I wonder. In Gosford Park, which was set in 1932, the entertainer Ivor Novello was relegated to 2nd class status by the Duchess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), despite his being housed and fed with everyone else of the upstairs set.

        • Eric Stott

          Novello was also a Homosexual, and (I’ve heard) a fairly swishy one. While such things tended to be passable in the artistic and theatrical circles it might have put him at a social distance- the Wilde trials were still within living memory.

    • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

      You don’t know how smug I am feeling that my Sunday night entertainment was the last episode of Sherlock instead of this…

      • Scimommy

        I managed both. All of it has left a discombobulated mess in my head, but I think the gist of it is, “More Sherlock please! Downton – eh? If you must?”

      • Lilithcat

        I stopped watching Sherlock after the first episode. No, wait, about halfway into the first episode. Poor Sir Arthur . . .

    • Aidan B

      I didn’t know about Anna’s assault before hand, and it was extremely upsetting to watch. I agree that I don’t like the implication in the writing that she was being punished for a bit of fun. I really don’t have much to comment on about the rest of the episode, except that Edna’s behavior continues to be so obvious it’s painful. I was saddened by William, Sybil, and Matthew’s deaths, but I don’t think I’d ever turned off the episode feeling actually upset before.

    • Pennymac

      As I recall, I gave up on soap operas because I was frustrated with the plot device called “Don’t tell anyone the truth and let things develop into giant messes.” In other words, if folks act with intelligence and common sense, there’s no plot.

      I’m going to have to make a commitment to myself to overlook the awful story lines and just enjoy the pretty. But I’ll keep watching.

      • Pennymac

        And speaking of pretty, the mauve/purple mourning clothes are gorgeous!

      • not_Bridget

        I’m a fan o fSleepy Hollow on Fox it isn’t a soap opera, but occult secrets keep getting uncovered. If one of the characters learns a secret, he or she lets the others know ASAP. No long-term brooding or secrecy. (I’m looking at you, Supernatural.)

      • Carrps

        There was a scifi writer (Sturgeon?) who called this the “idiot plot.” Because everyone has to act like an idiot for the plot to proceed.

      • Lattis

        I’m going to have to make a commitment to myself to overlook the awful story lines and just enjoy the pretty. But I’ll keep watching.

        You know something I was just wondering while reading the comments is why the family isn’t looking out better for Branson. They are already starting to look around for suitable mates for Mary – and she is still a basket case. I wonder why Lady Grantham isn’t thinking about someone for him – someone who’d marry him and ensure that baby Syb remains at the manor. Also, I’m curious who and what social class a suitable mate for Tom Branson would be in the family’s eyes.

        • Lilithcat

          I think that, whatever they say, in their heart of hearts they still do not accept him as “one of them”. I doubt the family could figure out, any more than you can, “who and what social class” would be suitable. Indeed, they are less likely to have that ability!

          In any case, Mary is blood, Tom isn’t.

          • BayTampaBay

            Maybe Robert & Violet have a problem with true acceptance of Tom but I do no think his full acceptance is any problem for Mary, Edith, Cora or Isobel. Matthew seemed, IMHO, to sorta adopt Tom as the younger brother he never had. Carson has commented on his “social growth” in a positive manner several times. From a story arc view, Tom is a bridge from pre-1912 order of society to post-1918 order of society

        • AnotherJulie

          In some ways it’s the typical gender double standard…. Mary is a woman, and currently has no man – therefore she needs to get one, fast.

      • greenwich_matron

        I keep on complaining about the poor plotting, character inconsistencies, and anachronisms. And such small portions!

        • formerlyAnon

          Exactly! I laughed.

    • Eric Stott

      Molesley really needs a good slap in the face

      • jw_ny

        I got a few chuckles from him last night…I like this side of him. I want to see him go postal…or whatever the butler equivalent is. ;)

        • Eric Stott

          Also- in those grimy clothes and wearing a cap, he really did look sort of handsome.

          • SundayNights

            I fear a Lane Pryce ending for poor, hapless Molesley!

            • Eric Stott

              or he might emigrate to the USA to take a position with some parvenu plutocrat who wants an English Butler – though to Molesley that would be a sort of gilded Hell.

            • AnotherJulie

              OMG I thought the exact same thing!
              Please please please no…… it would kill his sweet dad. Not to mention all the work the Dowager C has done on his behalf

      • Aidan B

        With the white gloves.

    • Eric Stott

      Is it getting obvious that there will be an “Albert saves the kitchen” situation coming up pretty soon? We know that he’s ambitions and competent.

      • jeneria

        I actually look forward to it. I love that he openly admits he wants to cook and that he’s good at it.

        • jw_ny

          oh…but not at the expense of further stressing out Mrs Patmore! (I love me some Mrs. P!) She can’t handle all the modern contraptions already and feels like she’s becoming dispensable. Why, it almost killed her when the replacement cook came in when she had to have her eye surgery.

          • jeneria

            I think Albert would be a welcome addition because he’s willing to learn and doesn’t give the continual lip and melodrama that Ivy and Daisy give. Does anyone else find Daisy absolutely irritating?

            • twocee

              Me! Me! Daisy has bugged me since first season.

        • Eric Stott

          I thought he might end up with enough savings for a cafe, but I think he has higher aims – at least an under chef at a fine hotel.

          • Tally Ho

            Male chefs, especially French trained male chefs, were pretty normal in aristocratic and very rich households. They had higher status than female cooks. All this clucking about Albert wanting to be a cook is a bit overdone.

            • SundayNights

              Overcooked and dried out, more like it. The Albert-wants-to-cook comments have been thrown around for too long. Either get on or shut up about it.

      • greenwich_matron

        I really don’t like this story line. There is a big difference between experimenting in a small kitchen and being able to whip up a sauce for dozens of discerning people.

        • Eric Stott

          Albert has had some unspecified experience in a hotel kitchen, and he might know more than is obvious.

          • greenwich_matron

            That makes a lot more sense.

    • SewingSiren

      My favorite scene was when hard core mother-in-law Isobel was throwing ten shades of dagger eye at Mary, when Mary , who can’t be bothered to hug her own fatherless baby, was all giggles and laughs with the first chap who asks her to lunch.

      • marishka1

        At lest she had the good sense to turn him down!

    • decormaven

      “But what bothered us most was the awful cliche of cutting from Anna’s scream to a singer hitting a high note.” That. Precisely. “You’re too short for that gesture. Besides, it went out with Mrs. Fiske.”

      • Saturnine

        Ha!

    • Tally Ho

      It’s just a minor quibble (especially relative to the rape scene) but the card shark sideshow wasn’t thoroughly thought out. Robert mentioned knowing him from his club but didn’t know anything about him. Well, the club (White’s) is one of the most aristocratic clubs in London and you didn’t become a member unless not only they knew who your great-great-granddaddy was but also what he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner and that he was also a member of White’s too. A better scenario would be a down-at-heels aristocrat making a living as a discreet card shark. I could imagine a tall, dark Irish aristocrat whose family was burnt out by revolutionaries, charming with the ladies and ruthless at the tables. Such men did exist and what better example of the decline of the aristocracy that neatly ties in with the current theme of how the world’s changing that Fellowes is trying to drum into our head with every line uttered by the actors. Missed opportunity there, Fellowes!

      And I’m astonished at Gregson picking out the card shark’s tricks so quickly. In fact he was able to beat an experienced shark the following night. What are the odds? Unless Gregson has another dirty secret up his sleeves.

      The Gregson character is too loosely defined to take seriously. He’s married, right, and we know the wife is in an insane asylum. So why doesn’t Edith try to find out more about her? As in why she was locked up. I’d be beating down the doors of the asylum or questioning friends/servants. Does she even exist? Robert and Cora would also be noticeably concerned about the growing closeness between Edith and Gregson because he is, after all, married.

      • twocee

        Gregson alluded to his past when talking to Edith after he won the game. I assume at some point we are going to find out that Gregson has an extremely unsavory past and has only told Edith enough to make himself sound like an exciting “reformed” rake.

        What really gets me about the whole Gregson storyline is that a British citizen would so cavalierly talk about immigrating to GERMANY in the 1920s in order to ditch his insane wife.

        • siriuslover

          I think Gregson is simply of a different class from the Crawley’s and learned some “tricks of the trade.” I’m kind of on Team Gregson, really. And as I said above, Germany in 1922 was probably the most progressive European state. Hitler was simply an ex lance-corporal whining about the end of the war–his failed drunken putsch that put him in jail for a year is still some time away. It’s not until the second half of the 20s that his party actually becomes a real party. So, while Germany lost the war, the Weimar Republic was politically quite progressive and different from the world of the Kaisers.

          • BayTampaBay

            I am on team Gregson too. You must remember that Gregson is at least 10 years younger, possibly 15 years younger, than Robert.

            Gregson is of a different more progressive generation as each successive generation is. So Gregson knowing and understanding card sharking does not bother me. It is no different than my 15 year old niece knowing how to “hack” and being pretty good at it. There is nothing wrong with expertise in card sharking (see MIT card sharks) or hacking, as long as you are not hurting or “ripping off” someone for ill gotten gains.

      • Eric Stott

        From the sidelong looks Carson was giving the game he may have suspected cheating. I’m certain that in his music hall career Charlie Carson had more than one experience with card sharps.

      • Isabel

        Asylums were nasty places. Edith should hire a detective to find out.

        • Eric Stott

          I think it will happen – or someone will send her anonymous tip that her boyfriend is a bounder.

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        I suspect that Fellowes started with your scenario then realized it was right out of Sayers’ “Clouds of Witness” and put him in a club. There are a number of these little vignettes that I keep seeing from contemporary fiction of the time, with one or two details shifted.

      • greenwich_matron

        Anyone who is stupid enough to vivisect everyone at the table in one night will not remain a “society card shark” for long.

        • Adriana_Paula

          Good point!

      • Lilithcat

        ‘m astonished at Gregson picking out the card shark’s tricks so quickly. In fact he was able to beat an experienced shark the following night. What are the odds? Unless Gregson has another dirty secret up his sleeves.

        He said it was a relic of his “misspent youth”.

        • SundayNights

          If he said it, it must be true!

    • Martha Anderson

      I knew about the rape , having seen the BBC broadcast. But I have seen no further. Of course she is pregnant ( she was getting a bi-carb to settle her stomach) so now the drama will be who is the father.
      This show has never been unpredictable. The only soap opera I have ever watched.

      • Aidan B

        I thought she was taking something for a headache? Perhaps I misheard. Well if she’s already pregnant, then Bates is definitely the father.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          She said aspirin to Bates and then took a powder. It could have been a bi-carb with aspirin in it (ala Alka-Seltzer). Maybe someone with a DVR can tell us for certain what the packet said.

          • Eric Stott

            My guess is that it was a seidlitz powder – like a bicarbonate of soda with a mild laxative. It was the Alka-Seltzer of the era.

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              Yummy!

          • MarieLD

            I think aspirin was in the form of powder then. But I too figured she was preggers. Then i had a visceral reaction to her getting raped. Not good. Now she won’t know who the dad is and I might puke. Too soapy for me. I may give it all up, even with Edith’s improved wardrobe.

    • decormaven

      The dear Uncles should get a medal for multi-tasking last pm. I saved watching DA until this a.m., and am glad I did. There’s no way I could go from the frippery of the awards ceremony to Anna’s predicament.

    • Saturnine

      This really was hard to watch; so much so that I think I lost my viewing partner. My husband asked me halfway through what in the world was up with Anna–she was cheekier and louder than she’s ever been in the past. I hate that Fellowes presented the rape storyline in the context of Anna’s “behavior.” I just hate the storyline, period.

      Next, a Minor gripe, all things considered: Who has time to play cards when there’s 20+ guests in the house?

      Penelope Wilton is still acting on a different plane than everyone else in the show (maybe Allen Leech a close second).

      • Call me Bee

        Well that’s what one did at a dinner party. The women get together in one room (the parlor, usually) for tea and cakes and conversation, while the men went somewhere (to the library, I suppose) to have brandy and cigars and play cards. Heck–they even did that on the Dick van Dyke show into the 60s.

        • 3hares

          I think they meant when did the servants have time to play cards.

    • queeniethebold

      Totally, totally agree with TLo about Penelope Wilton. She is just heartbreaking, so genuine and believable. i wept when she described how guilty and wrong it feels for her to experience even a moment of laughter or anything that distracts her from her grief over Matthew. Because i totally get that.

      • Spicytomato1

        Yes. And when she said something about how Branson and the other young men at the table were alive and her son was dead, my heart just broke. What a performance.

    • AZU403

      I have to give kudos to Penelope Wilton. Sunday would have been my mother’s 100 birthday, and I was mulling over which of the characters/actresses could play her in a movie–a combination of Mrs. Hughes and the Countess, actually! I lost my husband last year, so when Mrs. Crawley confessed that she felt disloyal to her son’s memory whenever she read a book or laughed, well, I was bawling.

    • A Shiny O’Connor

      It’s fun read your perspective and predictions, knowing what happens later, and in the Xmas special. I think I got out of that sentence spolier-free.

    • cocohall

      I didn’t know about the rape scene in advance either. Having Anna flirt with him was completely out of character. She’s lively, but not an idiot. I was surprised that the rapist slipped back into the musical performance. And that no one seemed to notice that he had been gone or looked a bit rough on his return. Although everyone seemed to be more concerned with how little they liked the singing. I was also amazed that the men slipped the room to play cards – it seemed very rude – the whole scene made me feel bad for the singer – I guess Fellows was trying to drive home the point of how poorly perceived entertainers were, which might have made more sense in the first season of the show, but not now. Especially after he established that she was quite Robert’s equal on the subject of claret.

      The way they treat mourning is also driving me nuts. It is as if Sybil never existed – there is not an ounce of sad about her from her parents or sisters, when you might expect that they would still feel a little for her loss and be in kinship with Matthew’s mother. If this was a comment about the relative lack of importance of women especially daughter #3 or how death during childbirth was common and accepted as just one of those hazards of life, it would make more sense. But it just seems like sloppy writing.

      But I will keep watching just to see Edith’s continually improving wardrobe. She may not be lucky in love, but she is doing MUCH BETTER in the fashion department.

      • Saturnine

        Absolutely agree on all points.

        • BayTampaBay

          Especially regarding how Sybil’s death and morning period is being treated. Matthew and Sybil died less than a year apart.

      • sweetlilvoice

        Amen. Her wardrobe is the best part of the show so far!

      • hillmad

        It was really irritating to me how little regard for Tom’s feelings is ever displayed. The death of Matthew could only have made his own grief that much worse. The fact that people are talking about losing the love of your life in front of him without acknowledging that this is exactly what happened to him is not only thoughtless and cruel but also shows how quickly Sybil has seemingly been forgotten.

    • Rachel

      I was aghast that after Anna was raped that she would decide to walk home, at night, in the dark, alone. And it’s obvious to me that Lord Poutylips is being inserted so forcefully so that his rapist valet will be around the home more often–causing some serious dramz in the Bates marriage.And if Bates screaming at Anna last night was just the tip of the iceberg of his temper, girl, you in trouble.

    • Judy_J

      What happened to Sybil? It’s as if she never existed. In all the mourning over Matthew, no one, not even Branson, seems to remember that there was a daughter, Sybil, who died in childbirth.

    • suzq

      For me, the relationship between Anna and the Valet revealed more an awakening in her that Mr. Bates may be her true love, but he is certainly not her contemporary. The whole episode was about “finding your place.” Tom is out of place as he is not a man born of privilege, with tons of time to think about piffle and practiced at making small talk at dinner parties. Edna Braithwhite knows where Tom’s place is and would like to use that to her advantage.

      Poor Cousin Rose is still trying to find her place in such an old, stodgy household. Cousin Edith is too distracted. Cousin Mary is still grieving. She has no contemporaries and when she drags the Gramophone out of the closet, she causes a stir.

      Edith’s man knows his place and knows how to gain Lord Grantham’s conditional trust. Even so, he is about to become a German citizen–certainly not his place. That will not end well.

      Molesly knows his place and spent the entire episode reminding everyone he didn’t end up where he started. To the aristocrats, they’re all “downstairs” but to the people downstairs, the head footman can be put down a peg or two to serve dinner if the man serving dinner “sprains” his wrist.

      Which brings us back to Anna and her May-December romance. Bates has her heart, but the valet had an energy and excitement level that was attractive to all the younger staff. It was amazing to see the generational divide. The only young people taken to the kitchen when Mrs. Patmore had her palpitations were the young cooks who were working at the time. Every other young person was in the other room with the card game. To me, that was the essence of the attraction Anna had to the valet–nothing more than the excitement of being with a peer. It’s not the same as the love you might have for an older spouse. And Bates knows that. He’s operating from a position of insecurity now with Anna and her actions will make things more and more suspicious. He’s losing her to the valet, but for reasons he doesn’t understand quite yet.

      It is interesting that Fellowes has paired up a possible coupling between Mary and Gillingham by contrasting it with the encounter between her lady’s maid and his valet. It’s a foreshadowing of ugly events to occur, indeed.

    • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

      One rape at Downton Abbey is another murder at Gosford Park. One is an opera diva singing Puccini, the other is a movie star and musical actor playing piano while singing his own ditties. Staff are engaged and listening to the night’s entertainment while events happen elsewhere. If Stephen Fry shows up, I’m going to scream!

      • greenwich_matron

        But I would love it if Stephen Fry showed up and started quipping about all the inconsistencies and anachronisms on the show.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          That would be rather awesome!

          • greenwich_matron

            or QI (Quite Interesting)

      • Anne

        “I’m Inspector Thom–”

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          “Please, not now. Can’t you see I’m speaking with her ladyship?”

      • E. Tristan Booth

        If Stephen Fry shows up, I’ll be in heaven.

    • traceyishere

      The opera and the rape at the same time were cheesy, no doubt.

    • ThaliaMenninger

      That rape thing was the worst, most revolting, most cliched piece of writing I’ve ever seen on Downton Abbey. And I saw Matthew walk again for Christmas, so… I am generally against rape as a storyline, anyway, having watched too many soap operas where it was used to redeem unpleasant characters, which… No. Someone is not now good because he or she was raped. UGH. In Downton Abbey, if it had been used to comment on a patriarchal society or to comment on the inequity in servant/master relationships, that someone — not Anna, please — who had no power was raped by someone who did and then had no recourse because of the terrible rules of aristocracy/privilege/whatever… Okay, maybe I could handle that. But Anna? And possibly Branson in the same episode? Ugh, ugh, triple ugh. That is not something I want to see, even without the ridiculous accoutrements you mention. UGH.

    • AnotherJulie

      My 2 cents:
      Isobel/ Penelope Wilton: Amazing. Giving Maggie Smith a run for her money
      Branson: Adorable but stupid and naive re: Edna
      Edna: Despicable and if she ends up pregnant I will lose my mind
      Maggie Smith: hits every line, facial nuance – and simply sitting there – out of the part as always
      Mary: I always wondered if she could really act but this season I’m thinking yes
      Rape scene: horrifying but handled realistically for 1920 i.e. Anna not reporting
      Carson: hilariously snobby as always
      Lord grantham: Biggest idiot on the show – even throwing Carson under the bus i.e.” I blame you”
      Edith’s bf: definitely sinister, def more interesting and obv setting more bad news for poor Edith
      Cora: they finally gave her a line/scene to make her look good

      • siriuslover

        I really like Michael Gregson, but the whole “I’m moving to Germany” bit is off. Though in 1922, Germany was a pretty progressive state (and we’re a year away from Hitler’s drunken beer hall putsch).
        edited to correct date of putsch.

        • hillmad

          Yes, but ONLY a year away. I have a sinking feeling that Mr. Gregson is going to come under the spell of Hitler. Or, we are going to see a distinctly ugly side to him as he finds a place where “damaged” people such as his institutionalized (according to him) wife can be treated as less than human and disposed of.

          • greenwich_matron

            Good point. Eugenicists were taken seriously by all sorts of people back then. Euphemistically discussing sterilization would have been polite conversation.

            • hillmad

              Yes, very good point!

          • Eric Stott

            A lot of people – some quite intelligent – saw Hitler as a fresh progressive movement against the such figures in the German government as Paul Von Hindenburg who they associated with The Great War. Not all of his aims were known, and what WAS known wasn’t given enough attention. It’s also quite possible that Gregson is Anti-Semitic. There hasn’t been much discussion of this in the series, or any Jewish characters. I know that Cora’s family is ethnically Jewish but plainly she’s non-practicing.

          • siriuslover

            That’s an interesting point about mental illness and Germany’s 1930s’ toying with euthanasia. We’d only get that narrative though if the plot takes us that far into the future. I would like to know more about Mrs. Gregson and why she is in an institution. Is it a Yellow Wallpaper scenario?

            • hillmad

              Wow, thank you for introducing me to The Yellow Wallpaper! I’ve just read a Wikipedia article about it and am on a mission to read it now! I think that could very well be an explanation for Mrs. Gregson’s situation! A terrifying one!

    • BookishBren

      I didn’t really feel like Anna was flirting either. I felt like it was kindness. However, when she went out of her way to thank Mr. Green for setting up the card game in what appeared to be a spunky bit of defiance to her husband, that seemed uncharacteristic of Anna. Maybe you could argue that spending time with the spunky Rose has rubbed off on Anna a bit but Mr. Bates has started to seem SO MUCH OLDER than Anna and I wonder if that wasn’t being reflected in her rather uncharacteristic frivolous behavior. Either way, the scene just felt gratitutous to me. It came out of left field. And Green gave off enough creepy vibes and flirtatious vibes that the more savvy Anna of seasons past would have stepped back a bit. It just doesn’t make sense really that she didn’t.

      I think Mrs. Hughes will very quickly figure out who did it. She saw Green come back into the room.

      Do we know for sure that Edna was going into Tom’s room? I sort of wondered if she didn’t have some connection to the card shark guy and it was HIS room she was going into.

    • Paula Pertile

      I was lusting after Violet’s gorgeous coat in the outside scene where she stops to talk to Isobel on the street!

      The rest of it?
      I didn’t really think Anna was flirting, so much as enjoying an innocent bit of ‘fun’, if you will, with new people in the house, and someone her own age. Maybe being with Bates is wearing her down just a bit, even though she loves him. He has to figure out what happened, somehow. I have no idea what Fellowes is going to do with this story, but I hope its not, like everyone has said, too predictable.

      Edith, your man is not what he’s pretending to be. Girl, hire a detective!

      Robert, honestly, what is wrong with you?

      Mary, no. Its nice to see you laugh, but no. Not him.

      Tom, get your act together. Think of Sybbie. Don’t throw it all away on that slut maid, just because she plies you with whiskey and kisses.

      I miss O’Brien.

      • Anne

        I miss O’Brien too. There needs to be somebody really cranky downstairs to balance out the love rectangle.

    • Lattis

      My favorite thing on last night’s show was that great garden with the big hedge arches.

      • Carleenml

        and watching the gorgeous fashions walk through them. for me that was the best costume moment of the show.

    • melanie0866

      You all nailed it.

      You know what I’m tired of? The Daisy-Alfred-Ivy-Jimmy love quadrangle. Please, somebody get us off this treadmill.

      Seems to me they’re making up for Edith being so luckless in love by giving her all the great dresses this season.

      I loved the episode for having more of what I watch “Downton” for – beautiful costumes, scenery, horses (that was some really great horse porn for those of us who are into it), and Maggie Smith delivering wicked one-liners.

    • Trickytrisha

      The card scene with all the laughing and shrieking didn’t seem realistic to me. Surely one of the downstairs over-servant types would have put a quick stop to that kind of noisy hilarity?

      Was I the only one to be saddened by Kiri Te Kanawa’s appearance and singing. I feel the makeup and hair people did her no favors. Yes, she’s in her late sixties now, but surely they could have come up with something more flattering. What made me teary eyed though, was how rough her singing was. As a decades long admirer of hers, I feel this performance was a faint shadow of her former glory and not one that would win many new opera fans. I don’t think Melba’s voice had deteriorated so much at this point in her life.

    • Lauren

      I have no idea how long this series will continue, but I’d be so interested to see how Edith’s boyfriend’s German citizenship and their relationship develop as WWII approaches.

      • Munchkn

        I think Series 5 is slated to be the last one.

    • Joanna

      I remember when I first watched this ep a few months ago, I found Mrs. Hughes’ finding Anna to be the most chilling part. Mrs. Hughes knows exactly what happened to Anna within a few seconds of seeing her, like it wasn’t the first time she dealt with this sort of situation. They talk in a sort of shorthand, which is very disturbing.

      • ailujailuj

        I agree wholeheartedly. As I was watching–amidst the chaos I felt immediate relief that Anna didn’t have to say the words out loud… and then repulsion at the fact that Mrs. Hughes immediately knew because the situation was familiar to her. Heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, this type of storyline is so often gratuitous – the predictable pregnancy and resentment Anna will inevitably feel toward Mr. Bates (until he finds out), Anna’s torment while she has to maintain her composure while working alongside her raper, and Bates’s reaction… a dramatic mess that trivializes the subject matter.

        Anyway, I really appreciate TLo’s critique of the storying – so thoughtfully erudite. Personally, I think reading their public acknowledgement of the poorly-written context for this horrific act helped ease my anxiety about it. So – thank you.

      • 3hares

        I don’t think it meant Mrs. Hughes had ever necessarily seen anything like it before. Many women (I was tempted to say all or most of them) would have taken one look at Anna and known what happened.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      So do we think this will lead to Anna getting pregnant and we don’t know who the father is? I hope not, because that is so Days of Our Lives, but I can’t help but think that’s where they are going since she is keeping this a secret.

      • Anathema_Device

        Oy. Hadn’t thought of that. I thought it was going to cause trouble in her marriage, as she and Bates are very close and she’ll be keeping a secret, and a traumatic one at that.

    • LeelaST

      I hadn’t heard anything about this season, so the rape came as a complete surprise. My immediate thought was, Bates will kill this guy, Green. Seems so obvious that I hope Fellowes doesn’t go down that road. The romantic in me loves Anna & Bates and it would have been nice to have one stable relationship in this soapy tub. I thought Anna’s reaction to Green was surprise rather than flirtation, and her interest in the card game was a result of her outing with Rose at the dance, remembering how it was to be young and having fun. Edna and Thomas are O’Brien times two – but to what end?

    • ChaquitaPhilly

      Great write-up guys!
      Just get around to reading it (watched the show VERY late).
      Really enjoyed the Lord Poutylips comment.
      Penelope Wilton is amazing. I was afraid she’d be moved offstage after The Death.

    • Shawn EH

      I didn’t find Anna too flirty; she’s always been one to welcome new staff and ease social tensions, as when they went to Donneagle; and what a sad use of the actor playing Green, a hottie on East Enders whom we hardly even see up close. He’s just a shadowy dose of menace.