Remember back at the start of Season Four, when I said I really didn’t like Mary all that much, which made it hard for me to truly sympathize with her extended grieving after Matthew’s death? Well, that’s sort of changed after her actions this week. She had Anna’s back with the whole Mr. Green debacle, really did the right thing on Rose’s behalf with regard to Jack and even reassured Tom he didn’t have to change into tails just for Violet’s benefit (“No, don’t change. It’s time she learned about the real world.”) The thing about the Dowager Countess is, she’s even more intuitive than her granddaughter thinks.
So let’s count the ways The Countess kicked butt this week. First of all, she smelled a rat when Rosamund talked about wanting to brush up on her French by taking a long trip to Switzerland or some such spot on The Continent with Edith in tow. “Rosamund has no interest in French,” the Dowager Countess said without missing a beat. “If she wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts.” Pretty quickly, Granny figured out Edith was preggers, between the half-baked scheme, Edith’s reactions that betrayed her situation and her tacit admission that the whole truth would make her grandmother hate her. (“Then you have told me the truth. But I would like to hear it enunciated more clearly.”) But at least Rosamund’s idea was better than the scenario in which the same tenant farmer who Robert bailed out and is now the “pig man” for the estate raised her child as his own right there in the village. Poor Edith, who is sure God just doesn’t want her to be happy. How hard would it be to watch men fall all over her sister? Just standing by during this exchange, which took place as both Charles and Tony left Downton, would be too much for me:
CORA: I’m sorry to see them go.”
ROSE: “Not as sorry as Mary. What’s a group noun for suitors?”
CORA: “What do you think, a desire?”
ROSAMUND: “A desire of suitors. Very good.”
Violet was also the perfect one to sum up the Teapot Dome scandal: “What is it always about? Bribery and corruption. Taking money to allow private companies to drill for oil on government land.” Amazing that an almost one hundred year old scandal could be interchangeable with many from today, isn’t it?
She also got to play a bit of inadvertent matchmaker with Isobel and Mary’s godfather, Lord Merton. Though he seemed to have forgotten whose mother Isobel was, making for an uncomfortable bit during his escorting her home after luncheon at Violet’s, they both seemed to charm the other. He even sent Isobel flowers! That’s more than the doctor has ever done, and he’s had way too many chances to sweep her off her feet.
There’s no such problem when it comes to the courting of Mary, who is getting the Eduardian version of the full court press from Tony and Charles. (Evelyn lost whatever puny shot he had when the mere sight of Charles confidently holding baby George seemed to make him uneasy. That won’t win a woman’s heart, dude.) Tony gets an extra visit with Mary because she travels to London to implore him to fire Green after Anna finally tells her that he was her rapist. She feels compelled to do so when it becomes clear Lord Gillingham is going to be coming around Downton often and not only will she have to see Mr. Green, but her bigger concern is that Bates will become more certain of his identity and kill him. I can’t imagine being poor Anna at this point. The rape is horrible enough, coupled with seeing her attacker after the fact. But having to live with Bates, who has been in a super scary mode ever since he found out about happened, would push me to the brink. Where there was once a charming guy is now a glowering, imposing man who looks about to snap at all times.
When Tony arrived at the church bazaar with word that Green had essentially been pushed in front of a bus and killed before he could fire him (on Bates’ mysterious day off, no less), it was hard not to be a little creeped out. Mary clearly didn’t know if she should feel relief, fear or dread for herself or for Anna. Did Bates really do it, or is that almost too easy? Besides, do we really want a complete character assassination for half of one of the show’s most beloved couples? If Bates really went on a murderous mission like that, would you want to live with him any more?
The bazaar also served as a third opportunity in the hour for Tom to see Sarah, the schoolteacher he first met at the political rally last week and now seems to see everywhere (outside the school while chatting with Isobel, on the side of the road where he changes her tire). It’s the bazar where she meets Lady Grantham, and finally is forced to realize that not all nobilty is a bunch of lazy snobs. Cora is working just as hard as Tom is, and Sarah seems intrigued by the man she made one too many assumptions about.
Mary’s other good deed for the hour is to visit Jack Ross while in London, after Rose has all but told her that their marriage will served as the perfect way to make her mother furious. She never says that she’s desperately in love and can’t imagine life without him…she very clearly wants to shock her mother above all else. Jack already gets it, but Mary reinforces it. He knows what kind of things Rose would have to endure if she were to spend her life with him, and he won’t allow it. He tells Mary he’ll break up with her by letter, which she gets during the bazaar.
Robert arrives home during the bazaar as well, and is greeted very warmly by everyone (especially Cora); Thomas, not so much. He may have even lost his grip on Baxter, who’s struck up a friendship (maybe more?) with Molesley and has no new information for him Maybe she will confide in Molesley what it is the valet has on her. All of this sets us up nicely for Rose’s coming out party and the arrival of Cora’s brother to Downton. I can hardly wait to see Paul Giamatti in this role; it’s going to be fun.
So, Team Charles or Team Tony? I’m personally rooting for Charles; he’s less wishy washy and he handled little George like a pro. Plus, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Tony is mostly interested in marrying for money, explaining why he’s still around despite Mary turning him down twice now! Blake doesn’t seem to have any such motives. It’ll be intersting to see what happens in next week’s finale!