Posted: 9:31 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013
By Elisabeth Kramer
This time last year we were barely able to see beyond our own runny noses, our eyes were so puffed from tears shed over the corpse of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens). But here we are, a full 365 days later, and things are looking up. The Season 4 Christmas Special premiered today in the UK and it didn’t disappoint.
Lady Edith Went to Geneva And Nobody Told Us!
The episode begins with the news that Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) has returned from Geneva where get this, she’s been away for eight months. That means she’s had her baby! As she explains to a concerned Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), she was away so long because it was considered best for the baby, a girl, to “be weaned by her real mother.”
Seeing as it’s been more than a year now since the baby’s father and Edith’s lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), has disappeared things aren’t looking good that he’s alive. We grow even more concerned once Edith hears he got into a fight his first night in Germany with a gang of “brown-shirted toughs” whom we can assume are Nazis in the making.
With Edith in line to inherit Michael’s possessions because of the power of attorney he granted her, she feels compelled to give at least half to the child they had together. Aunt Rosamund (Samantha Bond) discourages Edith from this plan, wanting the whole sad business behind her and her niece. And so the heartache continues.
By the end of the episode, however, Edith has decided to take her heartache by the horns. She reverts to her original plan: to secretly give the baby to a tenant family at Downton so she can see her daughter grow up. And so off she goes to Switzerland.Time for the Season!
Since so much time has passed since we last visited the Abbey, it means we’re in high summer and right in time for the London Season. Everything is, to use Cora’s (Elizabeth McGovern) words, “in a kerfuffle” getting ready for Cousin Rose’s (Lily James) big debut.
Seemingly fully recovered from her broken engagement to American jazz singer Jack Ross (Gary Carr), Rose flits from nightclub to nightclub. On one such outing she happens to meet the Prince of Wales (Oliver Dimsdale) and makes quite an impression on the famous playboy. The year’s 1923 so this is long before the Prince will give up the throne for one Mrs. Simpson. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s immune to getting into trouble as the episode’s main plotline proves...A Royal Affair
The family’s run-ins with the Royal Family continue throughout the episode with Rose being presented at Buckingham Palace. Also in the crowd of partygoers, a new face: Freda Dudley-Ward (Janet Montgomery), whom it becomes very clear has more than a friendly relationship with the Prince of Wales. When a certain letter goes missing (stolen by that one klepto of an acquaintance we met earlier in Season 4, Mr. Terence Sampson) Ivy is in a tizzy trying to get it back.
Once Rose goes to Uncle “Diehard Monarchist” Robert (Hugh Bonneville) he calls in the whole family to reclaim the letter. Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) deployed to grab the letter — “I don’t mind lying” — once she’s gained entry to his flat thanks to a forgery worked up by Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle).
The breaking and entering plan, however, doesn’t work with only the ex-con Bates realizing where Sampson would keep such a valuable letter: on his person. And so Bates once again saves the family Crawley.Tom’s Latest Stop on the Drive to Love
After once again accidentally bumping into the town’s pretty schoolmarm, Tom finally asks Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) on a date. It only took him months to get around to it, making Sarah feel he’s been “avoiding” her. But those days are done with Tom even giving Sarah a tour of the nearly deserted Downton.
Unfortunately for Tom, there is one person still left at Downton: Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). When the conniving underbutler spots Tom and Sarah on their tour while lurking in the shadows, it can’t mean good things for the former chauffeur.
“She might see it to more advantage in the daylight,” Thomas sneers to Tom when he tries to explain the nighttime visit, clenching his fist as he takes offense at taking any kind of orders from a former servant, no matter how kind and considerate said former servant may be. Thomas promptly tells Robert of his discovery “quite late” on the bedroom gallery, setting the always hesitant friend of Tom on edge. Bad boy Barrow’s at work once again with the consequences of his little tattle-tale yet to be realized.Ethan, The Surprising American Valet
Joining Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) and Harold (Paul Giamatti) on their grand tour of Europe/Harold’s lie low after financial lawbreaking trip is Ethan (Michael Benz), who turns out to be delightful. The puppy-like blond immediately takes a shine to Daisy (Sophie McShera). His curiosity and eagerness comes as a stark contrast to the rather dour kitchen’s maid who, she tells him, is “never excited.”
That same straightforwardness gets Ethan a little bit on prim and proper Carson’s bad side with Downton’s main man quizzically telling the peppy young American, “You’re a footman, not a traveling salesman.” And Ethan telling Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) he wants to talk “man and man” — priceless.
Ethan’s interested in chatting mono y mono with Carson to make sure Daisy doesn’t already have a suitor. She doesn’t, as we well know, and so Ethan begins his mission to add a little excitement to Daisy’s life. And boy, does he! Daisy does such a good job cooking, Harold wants to hire her outright and have her join them in America. Daisy defers, however, and Ivy jumps at the chance to head west across the Atlantic.Meet Uncle Harold
Joining the “American contingent” this Christmas is Uncle Harold, a very rich man who doesn’t like the very rich. Shortly after his arrival, Harold meets Rose’s friend and fellow beauty Madeline (Poppy Drayton). Her father, the plotting Lord Aysgarth (James Fox), makes sure his lovely daughter is thrust into Harold’s way as often as possible.
“I’m use to it,” he tells Madeline. “Use to what?” she naively asks. “Fathers wanting me to dance with their daughters.” But Harold’s brashness eventually offends Madeline, who seems sweet if pushed around by her overbearing father. To make up for it, he takes her for a picnic in the park, also inviting along mother Martha and Lord Aysgarth, who has golddigging schemes of his own.
But where Martha is able to outstep Lord Aysgarth, Harold finds himself falling for Madeline. Thankfully, the young socialite’s intentions seem pure enough with her own feelings for the jaded American businessman appearing to grow throughout the episode.The Fight for Lady’s Mary Heart Continues
In one corner, Lord Gillingham, Anthony Foley (Tom Cullen). In the other, Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). Both continue their fight for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) heart, a prize she isn’t giving up easily. The trio keep crossing paths with Tony and Charles barely able to keep from engaging in fisticuffs.
Both men get involved in the family’s plan to save the Royal Family, with both playing a key role in the plot. Mary, however, continues to keep both at arm’s length. “Oh Tony, I wish I knew. I feel so cruel,” she tells Lord Gillingham of “dangling” him, Charles, and, yes, even Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) gets a shoutout.
“My destiny is to save Downton for George,” she continues, prompting good man Gillingham to reveal that Charles isn’t an outsider as Mary has always thought. He will, in fact, inherit one of the largest estates in the land and, Tony says, “be more eligible than I.” When Mary asks Charles about his shared background with her, he says he “wanted to win you by myself.” So has he? Mary simply tells the men to “let battle commence.” Or, you know, enter its latest round.Mr. Green Continues to Cause Trouble From the Grave
Mr. Green (Nigel Harman) may be dead and gone —and good riddance! — but his ghost continues to haunt the lives of those at Downton. When Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) finds a ticket stub to London in Mr. Bates’s coat pocket from the day Mr. Green was killed in Piccadilly, she becomes suspicious that he was indeed behind Mr. Green’s fatal accident.
For some inexplicable reason — blame a lifetime of service and loyalty — she goes to Mary with the development. Although Mrs. Hughes insists she stands behind anything Mr. Bates may have done for his wife, legal or not, Mary struggles more with the secret. Surprising, we know.
Only after Bates gets the family out of the jam with the Royal Family does Mary realize she must stay loyal to the valet and his wife. She tosses the incriminating ticket stub into the fire and, we hope, ends the Mr. Green chapter of life at Downton Abbey.Let’s Go to the Beach!
Cora charges Mr. Carson’s (Jim Carter) with arranging an exciting outing for the staff to thank them for their hard work in London. Of course, Mr. Carson doesn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse of what’s fun, listing museum after museum to go visit.
Finally, though, he settles on taking the group to the beach after some careful prodding and postcard placement by Mrs. Hughes. It’s there, on the seashore, that we conclude this episode’s Christmas Special, out in the bright sunshine and fresh air, far from the miasma of death and destruction cast during Season 3’s same episode.Random Notes