Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series One, Episode Three

All, at this point, you should know the drill. On the docket for this week, Wordy Ginters and yours truly watched the third episode of first series of Downton Abbey as it aired in its original sequencing in the U.K. on ITV. The original British presentation has more footage and was broken up into straight, hourly installments rather than the airings on PBS that crammed everything into four longer episodes, cutting out what has been commonly thought to be roughly 35 minutes from the first series. Here are links to the first and second installments in this series.

In the third episode, Mary sends a letter to a prospective suitor, Evelyn Napier, inviting him to Downton. Evelyn accepts the invitation, much to Cora's delight, and brings along Mr. Kemal Pamuk, a Turkish diplomat in England to aid in negotiations for Albanian independence. Mary--and pretty much everyone else--is completely taken by the handsome Turk. While Mary, Kemal, and Evelyn are on a hunt, Edith feebly tries to draw Matthew's eye by way of a tour of the county's churches. Downstairs, it is discovered that Gwen has been taking correspondence courses in the hopes of leaving service to become a secretary, while Bates endures pain from a limp corrector he bought in town that could double as a draconian torture device. At dinner and cocktail hour, Mary's attention is devoted solely to the Turk, ignoring both Matthew and Evelyn. She spurns Pamuk's initial advance, but Pamuk blackmails Thomas, who wanted the Turk's junk, into taking him to Mary's room that night. In her room, he seduces her only to croak in her bed. She enlists Anna and Cora to help haul Pamuk's body back to his room in an effort to avoid ruination, but the attention she pays Pamuk and the sorrow she feels at his death drive Evelyn Napier away.

Wordy Ginters: The rest of the gang were hunting fox, but Mary was hunting Pamuk. When they broke off from the group and rode thru the mud, I assumed that foreshadowed anal sex. I was right. Maybe. Did Mary foreplay him to death? It would make her more interesting. Ever hear the urban legend that Molly Shannon literally fucked someone to death. I'm certain Fellowes is referencing that here.

Dead? We'll just have to assume the answer is "yes."
Old Man Duggan: Given Pamuk's statement about how he knew what he was doing in regards to her virginity remaining intact for her husband and the previous allusions to her paying for not having ridden in a while in the morning with the obvious ramifications being trouble sitting, your reading certainly makes sense. Do we need to revisit the colloquialism "going Greek" and replace "Greek" with "Turkish?" It seems that we've now gotten another sexually subversive subtext that can go hand-in-hand with the Duke of Crowborough's "one swallow does not a summer make" comment. Given the positioning of Lady Mary and Mr. Pamuk leading up to the sordid events that led to his death, we can only assume that Pamuk was into face-to-face anal, or F2FA as I like to call it. Thankfully, until now I'd never heard that Molly Shannon urban legend. Was it her love interest in Wet Hot American Summer? I haven't seen that kid anywhere, although I can't for the life of me remember what he looks like. I guess I will find out whether she fucked his 13-year-old ass to death if he's in the prequel.

WG: I like how the staff and others were starting to unravel the dark possibilities of Pamuk's death. Most comically, Bates down playing Lord Crawley's spitballing that some one could have poisoned the gloriously ravishing Pamuk because they couldn't have got past Patmore. The Maginot line of Downton Abbey.

OMD: It might interest you to find out that our dreamy Turk is also a front man of a band. They are named Shere Khan. I'll let you decide if you're into them--and more into him--with the video at the end of the post.

WG: I want to screw Pamuk. Why would I be different than virtually every member of Downton Abbey? Have you seen Teorema by Pier Paulo Pasolini? Terence Stamp plays a Christ-like figure who appears at a household and literally sexes up everyone in the family, father, mother, daughter, son, maid, garden gnome, chaise lounge, there may have been others, it has been a while since I saw it. At the time, the premise struck me as brilliantly profane. The reaction to Pamuk gave me a little bit of that sexual anarchist vibe. Too bad his "death" scenes featured a facial expression not unlike one gets when a pop bottle has been inserted into your anus.

OMD: If there was one way I was going to categorize Mr. Pamuk, it would under the heading: Turkish dreamboat. Who knew that Rod Stewart based Billy in "Young Turks" on Kemal Pamuk? This episode certainly gives new meaning to the lyric "Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you're undecided / And like a fistful of sand id can slip right through your hands." I am also disturbingly attracted to him. As for Pasolini, the only film of his I've seen is Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, an uplifting romp that, from the sound it is far more extreme than Teorema. At one point, Teorema was available on Netflix Instant, and I started it up but I fell asleep to have it permeate my dreams in exactly the way you'd imagine. I was penetrated by The Limey. I liked the touch of Pamuk's eyes not closing.

Thomas's gaydar must have been broken or it doesn't work for Turks because holy shit was that a major misstep. And how great was Bates's line to Lord Grantham on the subject of Thomas serving as Pamuk's valet: "Oh, you know Thomas, my Lord. He has to have a grumble. But I gather he cheered up when he saw the gentleman." The sly look in Bates's eye was priceless. Then as Thomas is about to put the moves on Pamuk, he's talking about how he's always wanted to visit Turkey. Clearly, this lends credence to the notion that perhaps we need to augment the term "going Greek." Then there is more anal subtext in regards to "going Turkish" at the dinner table when Pamuk proffers the invite to Mary: "Well the next time you feel a twinge, you must come to Istanbul." To which she replies: "Wouldn't the journey be painful?" His response? "Sometimes we must endure a little pain in order to achieve satisfaction." I don't see any way to read all this than to assume they're talking about buttsex.

WG: It's all about the buttsex. I thought perhaps the ravenous Pamuk was setting Thomas up. The way the scene hit me was that Pamuk may have indeed decided to visit Thomas after dinner if the mood had struck him. You don't wheel around, like Pamuk did to have his tie knotted, unless you are familiar with the deliciously intimate nature of F2FA.

Pamuk, about to teach Mary what going Turkish entails
OMD: One has to wonder what Fellowes has against Sodomites. First, there's Thomas, arguably the most despicable of the cast of characters in Downton Abbey. Thomas's former fling, the Duke of Crowborough proves to be a shameless fortune chaser. Then you've got Kemal Pamuk, gorgeous Turkish attache and analizer of presumably tens of British debutantes, who is punished for his affinity for going Turkish with death.

WG: I don't know if Fellowes is in Fred Phelps territory here, but I'm not rejecting the framework out of hand.

OMD: The tour of the county's churches is priceless. Lady Edith's desperation in the fore. Matthew's love for architecture and history deliciously dorky. His cluelessness at his horny cousin's sad desires. The whole sequence is deftly constructed. It paints the dynamic of Edith not even registering on Matthew's radar while Matthew--clueless as to Edith's intentions--both asks after Mary in a way that clearly extends beyond friendly inquiry while dragging Edith out for much more architectural history than Edith could possibly have expected. The scene plays out hilariously. I choose to believe that upon Edith's approach of Matthew and Evelyn post-spurning that Evelyn excuses himself on account of Edith's rank desperation.

WG: Getting back to facial expressions, I got a kick out of the look Bates shot the guy slinging the limp fixing contraptions when said salesman sternly indicated the you have to use the device "every day, all day, if you mean business." Listen pal, Bates knows "business" all too well.

OMD: Bates should go back to that snake-oil salesman and give him the business. His fucking limp corrector could have probably used a little padding on those metal brackets.

WG: In keeping with the episode's sodomy subtext, perhaps more explicit uses for the corrector are in order?

OMD: I'd say so.

WG: Regarding the nuts and bolts of the episode, perhaps I haven't been paying enough attention, but for the first time I noticed a respectful intertwining between the collective fate of the upstairs and downstairs. For the most part, these people like each other, have common interests, and mutual respect. I have a bit of an issue with how the politics are portrayed in the show, the paternalistic all-knowing wealthy class knowing what is best for the staff. Most blatantly played out by the acerbic (the acting switch on her back only has one setting: acerbic) wisdom of the Dowager, but also in the pull yourself up by your bootstraps rah-rah from Bates in his counseling of Gwen. It is perhaps a little too sympathetic to the times and the Crawley viewpoint. The wealthy classes certainly didn't need any more defenders then than they do today. The 1% is the Harlem Globetrotters and the rest of us are the Washington Generals. But I'm always a fan of directors/producers who appear to care about their characters, even if they are patronizing Lords and Ladies who are maybe portrayed in a manner too flattering.

OMD: As far as the politics of the show are concerned, they set the show at the beginning of a period of drastic socio-economic change if my rudimentary understanding of global politics and Western history is correct. Without spoiling anything (because I don't have anything to spoil here), I have a feeling this will begin to bear itself out as the show progresses. The Dowager Countess is definitely still stuck in the 1840s, as her "get off my lawn" longing for simpler times is there to represent the old guard. It certainly doesn't seem like the younger generation of Crawleys feel that way. It seems like Fellowes and Company definitely do care about their characters, but I don't think that they're casting all the characters in too flattering a light. None of the Crawleys are without their flaws with the possible exception of Lady Sybil, whose character is much less fleshed out in these early stages than her kinfolk.

Fear this.
WG: I also liked the symmetry between Mary's angst at her future prospects, and those of Gwen's. The reaction to Gwen's typewriter was fantastic, both as a symbol for the horrors of writing, and also how it was treated like a demon conjured from a Ouija board.

OMD: The symmetry was also tastefully done, not in an overt way like in an episode of Scrubs--or worse what I imagine an episode of Gray's Anatomy is like but thankfully have nothing to support my inkling as I've never seen an episode of the show--which would have had an accompanying voice-over telling us all what to feel while Five for Fighting played us to the credits. The collective fear of the typewriter and the reluctance of anyone to touch it played really well into the staff's overarching superstition/simplicity. Funny stuff.

In all earnestness, I really liked the moment in Kemal's room between Mr. Carson and Lady Mary. There's something sincerely sweet about the father/daughter dynamic between the two.

WG: Agreed. Its good to know that Carson is capable of emotions other than earnest stick up the arsery. And in the same vein, nice character touch to reveal that Mary isn't the plotting sex vixen that she is somewhat alluded to in the first two episodes. A little innocence becomes her character. However, It is still painfully obvious that she did foreplay the winsome Pamuk to death.

To this point, Matthew seems a likable sort. I'd dearly love to see him take a conniving turn.

OMD: His line about Mary when he and Isobel are invited to dine at the house with Evelyn Napier and Kemal Pamuk is so funny. "When it comes to cousin Mary, she's quite capable of doing her own flinging, I assure you." It almost felt as if Penelope Wilton's laugh was genuine and not acting in character. Matthew is exceedingly likable.

Shere Khan, everyone...


3 comments:

Unknown said...

Instead of calling it Going Greek, or Going Turk, we can just call it going Mediterranean so it can cover both.

Unknown said...

Also I really dig the band.

Shane England said...

Always fantastic when I read a review to recap, encode, and socialize what I saw on the screen and it does all of the above and some more. I didn't quite glean the buttsex route y'all uncovered, but the textual information was definitely there. I was left wondering: did she or didn't she? And then you two flipped it into something I didn't even catch. So...Master Bates is totally going pistol whip O'Brien eventually, right?

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