“Downton Abbey” Recap: The Chilling Mr. Bates

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Alfred is busy preparing for his cooking test at the Ritz in London. If he finishes in the top four, he will be accepted to train with the famous Escoffier. I myself prefer EsHotCocoa-ier, especially when you add some EsPeppermintSchnapps-ier, but each to his own. Daisy blushingly helps him, but frets because Alfred’s success means he will be leaving her forever. Yeah, because up until this point their romance has been truly smoking. Poor Daisy. The only men that ever seem to actually fall for her are those who are mortally wounded. Not something that will look good on her “ChristianMingle.com” profile.

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Everyone is supportive of Alfred; even Mrs. Patmore allows him to make the savories for the evening meal. They turn out to be a big hit, which causes Thomas to interject, “Hey, I once sampled Alfred’s savories, and I can tell you…oh forget it. Everyone here knows I haven’t had sex since Queen Victoria’s reign. What’s the point?”

Alfred is also nervous because he’s never been to London before, and his nervousness and inexperience show when he completely bombs the Q&A portion of the exam. Still, he forges on ahead. Carson, worried that there will be yet another opening at Downton, suggests to Mrs. Hughes that they hire sad sack Molesley to take his place. For his part, Molesley feels that being a footman is a real let down for someone who is trained to be a valet, though it seems to me handling tea trays is generally preferable to handling soiled underwear, unless, of course, that’s your thing. (No judgment here!) Molesley says he will think about it. Alfred finally get his results and…no good. He was not accepted into the program, which means he will stay at Downton for the time being, much to both Daisy’s and Carson’s delight, who gets to needle Molesley when he shows up to accept the position by telling him that he is SOL. Alfred, though, is quite down in the dumps. Gosh. Is there anything sadder than a depressed ginger?

A new lady’s maid has arrived by the name of Baxter, who appears to be doing a good job ingratiating herself both upstairs and down. There is an amusing sequence with everyone “oohing” and “aahing” over her electric sewing machine, and I’m half expecting the group to break out into a chorus of “Tradition” over it. Baxter, it turns out, is Thomas’ eyes and ears around the manor, picking up gossip and tidbits of valuable information. What does Baxter first learn? “No one likes you,” she says to Thomas, which definitely falls into the “tell-me-something-I-don’t-know” category. Clearly these two have a past, but unless it involves Baxter’s sexy younger brother, I doubt I’ll find it all that interesting.

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Mary and Branson are doing their best to keep the manor up and running, which means evicting a tenant farmer after the patriarch of the house has just died. Wow, heartless much? I half expect Mary to get a counting house and take on a partner named Marley any day now. The farmer’s son, Mr. Drewe, pleads his case to Lord Grantham, but Lord Grantham says there is little he can do until the land’s arrears are paid off. Actually, I just think he’s a little scared of Mary but, then again, aren’t we all? Mr. Drewe can raise some of the money, but not all of it; Lord Grantham pledges to send him the rest, nearly fifty pounds, so that the Drewes can stay on the land. Mary is not happy about Drewe staying—the land would be better served being farmed directly by Downton—but Branson becomes a convenient socialist for the moment, and he and Lord Grantham override her. Hey, Mary, how is democracy working out for you? Still a bit of an old-boys’ network, huh? Lord Grantham sticks it to Mary a bit more by suggesting she tell Mr. Drewe he can stay. The man is grateful and thanks Mary for the missing arrears money—which, of course, Mary did not know about. Mary decides not to say anything about it, and that her father has a good heart after all. As for Mr. Drewe, he will soon emigrate to America where his daughter will become the country’s most famous teenaged sleuth. The American dream is a beautiful thing…

Dr. Clarkson and the Dowager Countess have been keeping Cousin Isobel busy with various projects while she works through her grief. She has even made her own peace with Mary’s flirtation with Lord Gillingham (sort of, kind of, whatever). Of course all this do-goodery comes back to bite the DC on her titled derriere when Isobel requests that the DC take on a young man, Pegg, as a gardener.

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The DC hems and haws but of course gives in, telling Isobel, “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock.” Take it from someone who wears a tiara twenty-four seven, DC—a truly fabulous tiara never gets heavy. Pegg—who is quite aptly named—shows up for work and is even allowed inside to water the houseplants. The DC, however, notices that a “paper knife,” a gift from the king of Sweden, has gone missing, and suspects Pegg of stealing it. Isobel and Clarkson protest the lad’s innocence. This sounds like a perfect case for Mr. Drewe’s daughter, but Isobel and Clarkson decide they’ll investigate. OMG, what a perfect idea for a Downton Abbey spin-off! The Cousin Isobel and Dr. Clarkson Mysteries, with special weekly appearances by the Dowager Countess. The “will they” or “won’t they” tension would put Moonlighting to shame, especially because even if they will and did, they still probably wouldn’t, you know what I mean? Still, I’d soooo watch that, and I even have a suggestion for their first case: the search for Thomas’ lost love life.

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Branson and Mary bond (some more) while doting on their children. Sybbie is using her blocks to build small homes and then smash them violently, which I am sure in no way reflects any issues with her upbringing. Actually, she is apparently quite convinced that a hurricane will hit at any moment. “A hurricane? In Yorkshire?” Mary laughs. Actually, I’m surprised they don’t know that in Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen. Wow—two Broadway musical references already. I must be feeling extra-gay today.

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