While a great many minor things happened in this episode of “Downton Abbey,” mostly they seemed to be crumbs for us to remember for future storylines. Evelyn Napier shows up? Hmm, interesting. Edith visits a doctor when she says she’s going to Michael’s office? Have a bad feeling about that one. Robert defies Branson and Mary’s plans for the estate? That may actually be fine. Really, it’s all very well and good, but the focus of this episode is the one we’ve all been waiting to see (and perhaps dreading to happen). Spoilers ahead, people.
Bates can stand no more of Anna’s twitchy, angry behavior — and he knows Anna [Joanne Froggatt] too well not to realize something is definitely up. While the episode starts to feel like a game of telephone, as Hughes begs Anna to tell the truth, then Bates demands Hughes cough it up, and around and around until the horror of it has finally played out. But, finally, the truth, or at least most of it, is out. We even see Bates take a moment to weep about what’s happened to his wife. While that seems like a modern reaction, I’ll let it slide — as terrible as it is, it’s more than fitting for a character who has worn his heart on his sleeve for Anna.
The good news is that Anna’s fear that she’s been “spoiled” for her husband is just not the case. The love Bates has for her isn’t dimmed at all because she’s been Green’s victim. “You are my wife and I have never been prouder or loved you more than I love you at this moment. Truly,” Bates says, reminding us exactly why we love this downstairs power couple even if it’s sometimes hard to reconcile Bates’ previous life with the one he’s living now.
Of course, that dichotomy comes in handy when Bates talks to Hughes at the end of the episode. Even though Hughes has sworn on her mother’s grave that Anna’s attacker was some random guy who broke into the house, a statement seconded by Anna, I don’t think Bates is buying it for a minute. The horror movie music playing at the end of the episode might have been a little on the nose, but I think Green is going to get his. I can only hope that Bates learned more in prison than forgery, because if there’s any crime I want him to get away with, it’s taking out this guy.
I will admit I’m a little surprised that the secret was revealed by episode four — even though time has clearly passed, I had thought the show might drag out the sad dissolution of Anna and Bates’ bond and let that become the hot gossip in the servants’ quarters. Of course, there aren’t that many episodes of “Downton Abbey” in a season. I guess we’re now moving on to the vengeance segment of the show, which may ultimately be more satisfying anyway.
At least we’ve moved on from Mary [Michelle Dockery] making stupid decisions, just as Lord Gillingham has (as promised) moved on by announcing his engagement to Miss Second Choice to the world. Now Mary has a welcome distraction in Evelyn Napier, who might be more interesting to her this time around. Whether he’s as interested in her now that all that Kemal Pamuk scandal is behind her is the question, but I’d put my money on yes — because every single man who comes into Mary’s orbit seems to fall in love with her.
An interesting storyline seems to be afoot with the hiring of Miss Baxter as Cora’s new lady maid. Bates is suspicious since she seems to be buddy-buddy with Thomas [Rob James-Collier], and guess what? Bates, as usual, is right. Thomas got Baxter the job, and she clearly owes him a debt for it. He intends to collect by turning her into his spy upstairs and downstairs, so universally loved that people will tell her all the things they won’t tell him. I think Thomas does just fine on his own, and Baxter doesn’t seem all that thrilled with being a snitch, but I’m sure it seemed like a good plan to him anyway.
All the excitement about Alfred potentially being recruited as a chef comes to nothing, but it does give Carson another semi-funny, semi-sad exchange with Molesley. Carson is absolutely sure Molesley will jump at the chance to take over Alfred’s job, seeing as how he’s doing menial work these days, but not so much. Molesley wants to think about it, taking time to lick his wounds and find a way to make being a footman a worthwhile use of his many talents. By the time he’s finally ready to suck it up, Carson absent-mindedly informs him Alfred is staying after all — and if Molesley had just jumped at the chance, he might have had to find some use for him.
Other storylines seem inconsequential (at least this week). Isobel bullies Violet into hiring young Peg to help with her gardening, which seems to backfire when Violet accuses him of stealing a paper knife (letter opener to you and me). Branson thinks he wants to move to America, which no one is very happy about but will give him a chance to be more of a socialist. The ladies of the house are planning a birthday party for Robert, which will give Rose something to do, I guess.
Best of all, though, is the exchange between Cora and Mrs. Patmore. When Cora, pushing to get a fridge installed in the kitchen, sarcastically asks if there’s any aspect of the present day Mrs. Patmore can accept without resistance, Mrs. Patmore sighs and responds in all seriousness, “O my lady, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset.” Well-played, Mrs. Patmore. Well-played.
What do you think Bates is going to do now? Do you think Anna’s fears were justified? Do you think Branson is really going to go to America?