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'Downton Abbey' recap (UPDATED): 'Battles commence' in high style

By Kathleen Edgecomb and Marisa Nadolny

Publication: theday.com

Published February 24. 2014 1:00PM   Updated February 24. 2014 4:04PM

My dear Kathleen,

Call me a sap, but I was incredibly pleased with the season 4 finale of "Downton." How adorable were Carson and Mrs. Hughes stepping into the cold ocean together? Sticking their toes into something new, perhaps? I love how Molesley et al were running around in the sand in nearly full suits and all the gals looked perfectly natural in ankle-length dresses on their beach chairs. Mrs. P. chillin' with her ice cream cone was a nice touch, too.

Ice cream even soothed the savage Bates in the end. Craziness. I gasped out loud when Mrs. Hughes pretty much gave Bates a pass on murder, given the nature of his target, then ENCOURAGED Mary to do the same. Mrs. Hughes is hardcore! I'm telling you, do not mess with this lady.

And how thrilled were you that Daisy got some nice recognition this episode? I suppose you're about as "chuffed" as she was to have been courted both personally and professionally. Added bonus: we're likely rid of that Ivy — sooo sick of her shoehorning her way into every kitchen scene. Mrs. P. only needs your Daisy, thank you very much!

Eager as always to hear your thoughts,

M.

***

Dear M.

I have to say I was anticipating the finale, but I watched an episode of "True Detective" on HBO just before "Downton" started, and let me tell you, watching that jumble of needy, dysfunctional human beings doesn't quite set you up for a walk through the hallowed halls and homes of 20th-century England.

I was really annoyed how the coming-out "ball" was mentioned a billion times before it actually took place — Are you going to the ball? Don't be late for the ball. Do hope you'll be attending the ball. I had to get a fitting before the ball. They're making me go to the ball. Yadda, yadda, yadda, the ball.

OK. It's out of my system.

I can't believe everyone gave Bates a pass. And now we find out he's a forger as well as an alleged double murderer? Don't like him. Never did. Anna better watch out if she ever does anything to cross him.

And yes, my fav Daisy comes through as the kind and gentle and rather smart little cook that she is. I think she's going to be happy in life no matter what happens. She'll eventually take over the kitchen, and when noble life really dies down, she'll open a restaurant.

How about Cora's American brother? He loves everything about England. Cold baths. Warm drinks. And the food — NOT. Until Daisy cooked for him. And as an aside, don't you think he was a little old for Madeleine Allsopp.

Still reeling from "True Detective,"

Kathleen

***

Fab K,

I love it when you get snarky. (So, like, are you going to the ball or what? Heh.) And listen, shush on "True Detective." I have to watch it tonight, since we opted to go with "Walking Dead" live, with DVR'ed "Downton" for dessert. "Walking Dead" was pretty darn harrowing too, so if you do watch it, grab a glass of wine.

And since we're talking about crime and punishment, I'll say I hardly think a successful forgery negates suspected murder. (And really, that whole storyline with the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Dudley Ward was a little too "Mystery!" for these purposes…that whole "let's have a fake poker game" plan was ridiculous! Gotta love Edith and the Dowager for immediately detecting bullcrap on that one.) Anyway, I'm not sure what I would've done with Bates and Mary's growing guilt about it, as a writer. I SO don't want to watch another court procedure/prison transition for him, but I hate his smuggery. When he was grousing about Anna donating his coat before he could through the pockets? Um, dude, you got away with murder (probably) again! Don't rock the boat. Shut your mouth, eat your ice cream and get your wife to a therapist. GOD! It's all about him!

OK, and now THAT'S out of my system. Thank you.

As for Lord Paul Giamatti and young Madeleine, yes, he's entirely too old for her, but look at Lord G. and Cora — and remember Edith's geezer fiance? Bit of an age spread there, but seems to be de rigueur. Still, I liked his character's change in attitude re: the English and even himself. It was just the right amount of Giamatti, who more than made up for a fairly dull turn by Shirley McLaine.

Now, back to Mrs. Hughes and Carson, wading into the sunset: just friends in the trenches or is there something else there? Also, do we think Isobel is actually going to let Lord Merton have a shot? I think I approve!

Sappily,

M.

***

Dear Marisa,

Don't know what I was thinking last night, but I did start to watch "Walking Dead" after Downton. I had to turn it off after a few minutes. I'm really re-thinking my entertainment choices. Should I be so stressed after watching the telly? I think not. And I wonder why I have scary dreams? Ah duh, I say to myself.

So back to reality, I mean "Downton." Totally agree with you on the card game ruse to get a salacious letter penned by the Prince of Wales. Felt like we were in a game of Clue or, like the Dowager, on a who-done-it. I think the writers were trying to be a little too clever. It did drag down the episode.

Wasn't a big fan of the "ball" either. What with Lord Grantham looking longingly up at the London spires and Lady Cora pointing out landmarks to young Lady Rose. And all that red and gold and flowing tulle...

I guess I'm not yet decompressed,

K

***

My dear Kathleen, as the popular meme instructs us: "Keep Calm and Carry On." Or, at least, maybe start with some tea. Maybe I'll get you this for Christmas...

However, there's more dicey stuff to deconstruct here, and that is the new and improved Lady Edith and her baby girl. First, well done Edith! Off she goes to Switzerland, and here she is back again looking as regal as ever (though, "tired" apparently, to some). That was a bit of a whirlwind, but fine, I'll take it. Wasn't terribly interested in watching that business go down anyway. And now, here she is: firm in her resolve to find her man and keep an eye on her baby; spurred on so by motherhood. How sweet and powerful, no? I don't love the plan to import the baby from Switzerland, but it'll be interesting at the very least. But if I know my soap opera algebra, that little girl's identity won't stay a secret forever, despite Edith and Drewe's best efforts. Should Michael surface from Germany, he's a controversial figure who could be easily exploited. And yes, I'm not convinced that he's dead; Edith's report about him being attacked by men who wear brown shirts was certainly menacing, but he's a man of influence and I'll bet a bit of a mixer.

Now, bizarre storylines aside, here's what I did enjoy last night: we had many characters revising their notions of family: Tom, the Dowager, Isobel and Edith, for starters. As much as Isobel and Martha love to tease the Dowager about her reticence to move into the modern age, she remains quite hip in her own way and offers kind words to Tom Branson — complete with waltz — and no matter how much she teases Isobel, I'd put money on a growing affection between them. Kudos also to Edith for rallying around Tom.

Still don't like that Sarah Bunting schoolteacher though, and while it wasn't super great that the Dowager kinda dissed her in the driveway, Bunting kinda had it coming. Can't she just enjoy a tour of a spectacular house and save the snark for once? Isn't Tom a living, breathing example of how the gentry aren't all cold-blooded, stiff-upper-lipped snobs? Cripes, Lord G. married an American! Enough with the snobbery on all sides, ay?

Queen of the rebels,

M.

***

Dear Queen M,

Yes, long live the rebels! Do love that Edith stepped up and brought her little girl to live on the property. My guess is the kid will eventually move into Downton and become a strong-willed, proper lady.

I do like that Tom has someone to pal around with, but the schoolmarm is coming across as a bit of an opportunist, don't you think? She's wearing on me, maybe on Branson too.

I think Michael is dead. Those brown shirts don't mess around. For a while I thought maybe he would turn out to be a Nazi and return years later, but don't think so anymore. I think he's gone for good and Edith has to move on.

And I did enjoy the servants getting a day off. However did the family manage without them?

And on a more somber note — the Dowager Countess is sounding more and more winded every time she's out in public. She keeps complaining about how tired she is. I hope they don't kill her off next season.

Still decompressing ... and about to watch "House of Cards."

Your in Yikes,

K

***

Kathleen!

You're in far too delicate a state to start "House of Cards." The zombie apocalypse is a walk in the park compared to the Underhills' machinations in D.C.!

Speaking of apocalyptic things, if the "Downton" writers kill off the Dowager, I shall quit the show, because that would reflect the poorest of judgment. A jillion blogs dedicated to Granny-isms can't be wrong!

Let's lighten up a bit here: re: "Mary's men," (that was possibly the line of the night) who do you like to win? Tony or Charles? Or perhaps neither? I'm liking Mary taking her time to figure out what it is her priorities are and, indeed, just who she really is. She's been entirely honest with everyone — including herself — and I truly hope she finds happiness again.

More lighthearted fun: was that not THE best picnic spread ever in the big wooing scene? We had the most conducive of settings for romance as Levinson, Madeleine; Lord Aysgarth, Martha, American valet Ethan Slade and Daisy cozied it up in that lovely park. The baskets! The salads and champagne! The pillows! Swoon! That stuff totally makes me want to cook and bake, and oddly, this morning, our colleague Maria — having just returned from a trip to London — brought in a gorgeous quarterly food magazine from this Saturday's Guardian, complete with recipes. I'm on a mission to make what they're calling a "Traditional Victoria Sandwich" (read sweet lemon cakes with a layer of berries and cream in between).

Like the Dowager, I enjoy my pudding,

M.

PS. I think Sarah Bunting is just a miserable person; contrary for the sake of being contrary, which is such a spectacular bore. Thank goodness the Crawleys beat that out of Tom.

***

Dear M,

You are so right. I'm taking a break from the killing — apocalyptic and politic.

One thing Downton does extremely well is set the mood. From the picnic scene to the beach day off it was the details, details, details that helped tell the story — picnic baskets of food, summer weight suits, linen dresses, melting ice cream and bare toes in the water — how scandalous. Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson hand-in-hand and wading barefoot into the surf is, I think, a sign of the times. Everyone is moving forward, as am I.

'Til next season, my Anglophile friend, when we'll find out if Mary wants a man at all; if Edith's baby girl will be brought into the Downton fold; if my little Daisy will continue to blossom; if Thomas will get his due for being such a pip; if Mr. Molesley will find true love and happiness with the anti-O'Brien; and if the Dowager lives on!

Tea and toast for everyone!

Kathleen

***

Dearest K,

I know you're off tea-and-toasting but I had to share this fabulous update.

So, in the midst of some Facebook research (ahem), Courant columnist, UConn prof, and Clever Lady Extraordinnaire Gina Barreca has posed the most enticing of plot theories: she says ANNA pushed Green in front of that bus!! I'm agog with the implications and love the notion of a revenge-proactive Anna. Of course, knowing her, she did it just to save Bates from the gallows and not for her own satisfaction.

Still, cheers to Professor Barreca for Best "Downton" Theory Ever.

Apparently greenlighting murder after all,

M.

We're on twitter: @edgecombday and @TheMDesk.

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