I’m not doing regular recaps of “Downton Abbey” these days, mainly because I’ve been a little disappointed in the general slowness of Season 4. But things are picking up, so let’s check back in — and can I begin by saying that I really, really would like to see a map of where the abbey is in relation to the village, the farms, etc.? Last night, Isobel cheerily announced that she had walked up to Downton from the village, which I always thought must be quite close (after all, Mr. Bates and his cane seem to regularly stroll down there). But then Tom gave her a ride home, and they cruised past seemingly miles of fields and who-knows-what, and now I’m wondering if Isobel is some sort of champion volksmarcher. Also, it seemed like an awfully short hop for Mary to check in on the pigs while still wearing her evening shoes (italics because it wounds me that such pretty shoes got ruined); are they in Downton’s back yard or something? Anyway, Mr. Fellowes, please give us a map. And thank you for letting the Dowager Countess recover, and for giving us a sense of what a demanding patient she might be. Even in delirium, she gets the best lines, comparing nurse Isobel’s chatter to “a drunken vicar.” I’ve never been stuck next to a drunken vicar at a dinner party, more’s the pity, but I suspect the comparison is apt.
While we ponder the delight that a Violet and Isobel spinoff show might be . . . Edith has made the bold decision that she will have Mr. Rochester’s baby, and let’s not pretend we don’t know what happens to ladies who try to have babies on “Downton Abbey.” (A quick role call: Sybil — dead. Mary — widowed. Cora — miscarried. Ethel — prostitute.) This does not bode well, but it was nice to see the sometimes scary Aunt Rosamund being so supportive, and to note how fortunate Edith is to be pregnant at a time of drop-waist, full skirted dresses. (Interested in ‘Downton” outfits? See my interview with costume designer Caroline McCall, here. She was delightful.) Meanwhile, the rapist valet is back at Downton — and the recipient of a really excellent threatening speech from Mrs. Hughes and her bad self, and some very scary looks from Bates, who’s clearly put two and two together. Poor Anna, again. Good for Mary for convincing her father to take Thomas rather than Bates to America (noting that Thomas is likely to enjoy “all those handsome steward strutting down the boat deck”) — and for remembering that Anna has helped her keep a secret, too.
Is anyone really interested in Rose and the bandleader? Clearly I’m not, as I can’t even remember his name. We’ve only got a few episodes left, and it looks like my dream of having Helena Bonham Carter show up as a tabloid reporter disguised as a maid isn’t about to come true. Looking forward, though, to see what terrible calamity befalls poor pregnant Edith (by the way, did we ever find out what exactly was in those papers she so carelessly signed a few episodes back?), and to the arrival of Paul Giamatti — whose character (Cora’s brother) must be very financially clueless indeed if the arrival of Lord “Oh, Look, a Ponzi Scheme!” Grantham can help him. This may not be “Downton Abbey’s” finest season (that would be 1, in my book, but 2′s pretty great too), but it’s still good fun.