So much better, then, to view Downton as a delivery system for vignettes starring characters you've grown to know and enjoy. Like Anna going to the store to buy Mary a ... was it a diaphragm? (Everybody was so skittish and vague about it.) Birth control, at the very least. It was an incredibly funny scene, it managed to galvanize Anna in interesting ways, and I'd watch a weekly series that was just Mary and Anna having conversations in the dressing room.
The episode had a number of smart character pairings, in fact. Violet and Isobel having tea with Dr. Clarkson was an easy winner. I was also rather touched by Thomas and Jimmy's goodbye ... and Anna's follow-up scene with Thomas, for that matter. After a season of neglect, more or less, it's nice to see the show remembers they've got a whole character arc to be explored with Thomas, and seeing Jimmy's astonishment at how close he'd grown to a poof like Thomas was very nice.
Most unexpectedly, I was happy with the way the show paired Lord Grantham and Carson. Two crabbier sticks in the mud you’re not likely to find, but it was interesting to watch Carson assert his position with the memorial committee, particularly in opposition to Lord G's wishes for whether it should be in town or away in the countryside. While both men can often serve as simply the frowning faces of a world fading into irrelevance, this storyline allowed them both to be right, in their own way. Mrs. Hughes taking Lord Grantham's side, and Carson impressing upon her just how much he hates it when they disagree, was a lovely and earned little moment.
Have I become a softie with this show in the span of a week? And please talk to me of Mary and Tony's red-hot "sketching trip"!
Gilbert: Joe, you have definitely become a softie. Also, Downton has apparently become a smutty sex comedy in the great British tradition of Carry On films, which I’m actually totally fine with. If Sid James slopes into the drawing room next week and pinches Lady Edith’s bottom, at least it’ll be more entertaining than the umpteenth manufactured conflict involving the placement of a war memorial.
But really, there were at least four individual moments during this episode that warranted a hearty chorus of “That’s what she said.” “Mrs Crawley is never happier than when she has a chance to use her guiding hand,” said the Dowager Countess over lunch with Lord Merton and the poor beleaguered Isobel. “What about the instructions?” asked a disapproving chemist as she handed Anna a mysterious form of contraception. “They can be very difficult to manage.” Meanwhile, Lord Merton’s sunny breakfast room “needs a lady’s presence to make sense of it.”
And these were the occasions where people weren’t talking about sex at all! I half blushed, half threw up in my mouth when Lord Gillingham started talking about “stamina.” “And then we’ll make love?” Lady Mary asked, with all the enthusiasm of one whose college roommate had invited her over for an evening of boxed wine and assembling Ikea furniture. I guess it’s better than “sketching,” which was her euphemism of choice when her family asked her quite what she’d be doing on her weeklong, maid-free holiday. Sketching. That’s literally what she said.