The feud continues between O'Brien and Thomas, who suggests that the ladies' maid intends leaving. Carson suspects that Mrs Hughes is unwell and tricks Mrs Patmore into confirming the cancer and, in a misguided effort to help, informs Cora. Anna visits a friend of Vera, Mrs Bartlett, though she offers no fresh evidence whilst, John falls foul of cell-mate Craig. Mary finds a letter which could persuade Matthew to take the inheritance and save the family home. Edith prepares to marry Sir Anthony. Written by
don @ minifie-1
"You are welcome here for as long as you want to stay."
Shirley MacLaine has returned to America and taken with her some of the energy that characterized the first two episodes of season three. There are no rousing moments in the third installment to pull the Crawley clan together in the face of drugged cocktails or thwarted dinner parties, but there is nonetheless considerable drama (and, alas, some melodrama).
Some story lines have stalled or receded. Bates languishes in prison with a conniving enemy of a cellmate, while Anna doggedly pursues evidence that will free him. She's not coming up with muchif anything, the evidence may be pointing the other way. The reforming Isobel is teaching whores to sew, but hasn't yet managed to connect with disgraced maid Ethel (and doesn't seem to be making much progress with the whores either). Tom and the pregnant Sybil, having returned for Edith's wedding, remain in the background.
Lady's maid O'Brien and valet Thomas continue plotting to ruin each other, this time using the unaware and hapless Mr. Molesley. Mrs. Hughes, unsure if the lump in her breast is malignant, finds herself in that most hellish of circumstances, waiting to receive bad news. Mr. Carson finally understands something is wrong, and his sleuthing to find a few answers is both wily and also quite touching. It's becoming increasingly clear that he cares for Mrs. Hughes in a way that goes beyond their professional relationship. His singing of "Dashing Away With a Smoothing Iron," while he gaily polishes silver upon learning she is well, brings a smile.
As to the melodrama . . . Matthew continues to hold onto his ground and his windfall. Unfortunately, we're given little time to ponder whether he's a man of honor making a principled stand or whether he's just being a jerk. Swiftly a letter arrives, written by dead- finance' Lavinia Swire's now also dead tea-planting relation in India. This letter is a response to a letter she had written on her deathbed explaining that she wants Matthew and Mary to be happy. So pleased was the tea-planting relation that he put Matthew in his will and now Matthew is rich enough to save Downton, and, more importantly, free to do so with a clear conscience, since the whole thing has been blessed by the deceased tea planter and the angelic Miss Swire (who previously made similar wishes known via a Ouija board). Matthew is skeptical (well, duh), but it turns out kitchen maid Daisy remembers posting the letter! Matthew accedes. Downton is saved! (Be warned, this is all wrapped up so quickly that you'll miss it if you go to make a sandwich.)
As to the drama . . . Lady Edith's wedding day has arrived. To the continued disapproval of grandmother Violet (Maggie Smith), the least stunning of the Crawley girls is about to marry Sir Anthony Strallan: gentle, kind, deadly dull, mildly crippled, an older gentleman, and Edith loves him desperately. At least, her mother notes, she'll be rich and near to Downton. You take what you can get . . . or not, as the case may be. At the very last moment, the congregation assembled and the words "Dearly Beloved we are gathered" barely out of the vicar's mouth, Anthony declares he cannot go through with it. It is truly painful to watch. Robert and the vicar, with Edith standing aghast before them, try talking sense to the groom. But Violet is on her feet. "No," she exhorts. "Let him go. Let him go." Maggie Smith plays the scene so brilliantly that in one brief moment you realize she knows something. She's been against the union from the start, often irrationally so (after all, he does have status and wealth, which are of the utmost importance to hershe should be overjoyed). We cheered when maternal Grandmother Levinson (MacLaine) championed Edith, but admittedly it was the boldness of her thinking, not necessarily its depth, that drew admiration. Maybe Violet does have some insight, borne of her long history in the county. Maybe her opposition to the wedding was not just meanness-on-autopilot. What secrets lurk in the closet of Sir Anthony? From what has Edith been saved? Did he poison his first wife? Does he howl at the full moon? Does he wear a green carnation on midnight walks through the streets of London?
Finally, one somewhat disconnected scene deserves attention. As it turns out, Lord Grantham owns many properties, including a grand old manor house where the family picnics in an effort to acclimate themselves to reduced circumstances. (As Branson points out, to most people this house would be considered a fairy castle.) Cora calls it "Downton Place," and it really is charming, an archetypal English country house nestled in an archetypal English landscape. The Crawleys won't be going there, it appears (unless Lavinia speaks from the grave again and changes her mind), but it is in many ways a more appealing structure than the beautiful but overpowering neo-Gothic pile of Downton Abbey (played by Highclere Castle). It seems a shame for such a lovely house to stand empty. Maybe Tom and Sybil will move in, or perhaps it can become Edith's home, where she wanders the lonely halls in the style of Miss Havisham. If nothing else, it could always become a sewing school for whores.
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