Wednesday, May 9, 2012

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

Apologies to the first handful of people who happened across this post without the intro/recap. This is the fifth in the Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey series. The first four parts can be found here: one, two, three, and four. If you are new to the column, Wordy Ginters and myself (Josh "Old Man" Duggan) are touching base once a week, catching up on Downton Abbey one chapter a week. We're watching the British versions, as there is slightly more footage and it was the way it was intended. The British versions are available here on Blu-ray or here on DVD if you wanted to get a hold of them. 

In this fifth chapter of the first series, Daisy is set to crack as the pressure of holding in her knowledge of Kemal Pamuk's sordid death-by-anal in Mary's chambers. O'Brien and Thomas realize that the gossiping of Thomas has led to whispers of Mary's sullied rectum and likely reputation having gained traction in London, threatening her ruination. Thomas is also caught nicking vino from the cellar by Bates. Seeing his best way out as framing Bates for a different crime, Thomas filches a snuff-box with the intent of planting it in John Bates's room. Anna and Bates get wise to the likelihood of the snuff-box having been planted and use their knowledge to scare O'Brien and Thomas shitless. Meanwhile upstairs, O'Brien gets Daisy to reveal the secret of Pamuk's real demise to Lady Edith, who is embroiled in an episode-long skirmish with her sister with an affinity for going Turkish. Lady Sybil helps Gwen sneak out for a job interview only to have their horse-drawn carriage effectively derailed by a thrown shoe. Mary and Matthew appear to grow close only to have Mary's pissing contest with Edith draw her away from Matthew and to Sir Anthony Strallan just to spite her desperate and equally catty rival sibling. And there's a community flower show. 

Wordy Ginters: Daisy was in a grip like a vice from minute one. First, driven into fearful torment by cleaning up the chimney ash at the site of Pamuk's fatal anal sex accident, and then the remorseless manipulation from Thomas, O'Brien, Patmore, and Lady Edith. I feared they would tear her apart like soft bread. Comical how Patmore in particular blames poor lil' Daisy for a litany of evils, from dropping the game hens, to salting the pudding, to Charlie Wallace missing a penalty kick for Aston Villa in the 1913 Cup final against Sunderland. That contest was noted for its rough play.

Old Man Duggan: Daisy was basically 1913's version of the Ground Zero clean-up worker. A pensive twerp of a Ground Zero worker, but one has to imagine that her lungs will surely be lain to waste by her steady daily intake of soot and sundry other toxic inhalants. To Mrs. Patmore, Daisy is basically the witch they blame all the world's evils on in the seminal Dominic Sena film Season of the Witch. And is it just me, or should Pamuk's Fatal Anal Sex Accident be a band name?

WG: I half held out hope that behind the quivering soft naivete, there was a good keep your mouth closed soldier in Daisy. But alas, in the episode's last scene, Edith presumably fires off a gotcha letter to the Turkish embassy. Almost surely this indicates that Daisy cracked and given up the goods on Lady Mary's deadly F2FA with the Turkish Dreamboat. The plot thickens like a good soup. 1/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup water. Mix into paste. Stir vigorously into soup, and simmer for five minutes.

Daisy if Downton Abbey was an 80s sit-com
OMD: They've definitely got quite the roux worked up here. Daisy is one of the most irritating characters on the show for me. Once you move past the point that she's simply too small not to be a really dim robot constructed to the wrong scale and with the intention of being used for the lowest level of bitch work, the character of Daisy is almost too stupid to be alive. It's called a fucking secret. You don't utter a fucking word about it. Lock the fucking vault down, Daisy.

WG: Who gets rejected, abused, and psychologically crushed more in this episode, Lady Edith or the tender lamb Daisy?

OMD: I think the constant lambasting of Daisy by the mass of exposed raw nerves that is Mrs. Patmore more than surpasses any abuse that Lady Edith experiences, but my judgment may be impaired by my complete and utter lack of sympathy for Lady Edith.

WG: Regarding the other sisters, Mary is back to her bitchtastic ways. Toying with Edith apparently taking precedent over kindling any spark or flame with Matthew. The guy deserves a break. He's decent. He's a precursor for HUD, fixing up the cottages in the villages, apparently providing zero to low interest loans to help families addressed deferred maintenance issues like updating roofing, windows, porches, and secondary structures. The old broken window theory. Mary, on the other hand, is much more interested in measuring dicks with Edith. Regarding aesthetics, a lifelong buddy of mine prefers Edith among all the sisters, for what its worth. He was always a different cat. Regarding Mary, I was hoping that her character arc was taking a more mature angle after last episode, but its back into the sibling rivalry trajectory. No one can love you, or hate you, like a family member.

OMD: At the end of the episode, you really do feel for Matthew. I suppose this is the point. Having Mary change too rapidly would probably be too much to handle. She is after all stubborn to a fault by her own admittance. It also shows that Lady Mary is interested in Matthew, but simply cannot help herself when sticking it to your pal's crush. I did love the line that Lord Grantham drops about Mary after Matthew rushes out. "Mary can be such a child. She thinks that if you put a toy down, it'll still be sitting there when you want to play with it again." As for that friend of yours, has he seen Lady Sybil? For shame.

WG: I enjoyed the badass Thelma & Louise-styled jail break by Sybil and Gwen. Sybil can handle her shit. By far the most independent and daring of the upstairs Crawley clan. Horse throws a shoe. Nearest blacksmith is out of town on some other gig. They fall face first into the filth muck. No problem. It's like those Viagra commercials. Sybil has the skills to get out of any jam, a bottle of water, an extra pulley and a belt, and voila, she comes home and slings beef just like she was 23 years old again.

OMD: Lady Sybil can sling my beef any time. Didn't it feel like the whole Sybil and Gwen tumble in the mud was a set-up for every red-blooded male's fantasy watching that show? Two fetching lasses, one a lady, one her servant, off on a jaunt into town when their carriage is rendered useless. They get a little dirty trying to remedy their situation. Erotic episode ensues.

Speaking of Viagra, there's plenty of advertising opportunity here Pfizer. Step on up. You know where to find me. Inconsiderate Prick is decidedly pro-boner pills.

WG: What did you think of Bates and Anna turning the tables upside down and dancing on the ceiling re: the blue pill box steal and plant gambit by O'Brien and the sneering Thomas?

OMD: It was probably my favorite part of the episode. The look on Thomas's face when Bates suggests the search is probably the single-best expression on someone's face thus far. Obviously, it is not covered in the John Bates Code of Honor and Man-ly Conduct to actually ruin Thomas or Miss O'Brien in such an underhanded way, but it was a nice little "fuck you" to catch them at their own game and then "find" the misplaced snuff box after getting them to shit themselves and tear their rooms asunder.

[L to R] Thomas and Miss O'Brien
WG: I have a theory that the blue pill box is merely a symbol, a totem, a stand in for the subconscious. Or perhaps Freud's theories of preconscious. What I'm dancing around is that it gets back to penis envy. Need more shading on the Thomas/O'Brien dastardly duo. They've been little more than scheming whingers the last two episodes. Mix in a dance, or some marginally humanizing trait for O'Brien, something beyond the delicate way she devours a cigarette like a horny unshaven dock worker in Portsmouth. They might as well both be wearing black mustaches and be accompanied by the Jaws theme every time they pop in a scene. I do like how slowly and deliciously they set a plot in motion though. At least now they know Bates ain't nuthin' to fuck wit.

OMD: Bates? Wu-Tang? One and the same. At least in spirit. Dropping in a little Mulholland Drive flavor here I see? Thomas definitely envies someones penis. I'm guessing he lost his hustling in London during the last Season. Perhaps the Duke of Crowborough had something to do with it. One swallow and whatnot. Did you know that Miss O'Brien actually was an unshaven dockworker in Portsmouth before conning her way into Downton?

WG: Speaking of Bates, perhaps I've been slow on the uptake, but the romance betwixt hisself and Anna seems to have accelerated between episodes. Previously, I was a aware of a little aw-shucks crushing going on, but in this episode, they cavort around like old compadres, and Anna drops the "I love you" bomb on Bates. Then he hops up on a hay cart and looks dignified doing it, bum leg be damned. The man has style. More plot thickener that I'm eager to see come to fruition. His dark hints at previous marriage and still being entangled for some unknown reason as apparent excuse for his distance. I can only imagine it is a reason that would reflect well on Bates sense of duty, humanity, and unerring instinct to do the right thing. He's the anti-Daisy for me. Much as the worlds ills can be layed at Daisy's feet by the stone eyed Patmore, the opposite of Bates holds true for me. He's like the white Obama. No problem is too big to fix, if only he had a few more votes in the house and a functioning media to help him educate. I would love to see Jim Hightower and Molly Ivin's holding down a table over in the corner of the Dog & Duck. Maybe season 2?

OMD: The weird thing about Downton Abbey is how quickly time passes. It starts in April of 1912. By the time they get to the fifth episode it is already late July of 1913, so almost a year has passed since Bates first came to Downton. Things are accelerating, but Fellowes and Company seem content to let time pass without laying it out for the viewer. Really, one of the best things about Downton Abbey, much like The Wire, is that it slows down for no one. So it seems soon for us, but Anna and Bates have known each other for a year now. His background is certainly one of the most interesting things left unsaid thus far, not unlike Don Draper's background in the first season of Mad Men. As for Ivins and Hightower, they are bussing tables at the Dog & Duck in the Fifth Series. By that point, Matthew is an old man and it's 1965. Matthew will be played by Peter O'Toole.

A step away from pinching a pen between her elbows
Did you see how Lady Edith held her pen when Miss O'Brien tried to save Thomas's ass by getting Daisy to talk to Edith about Pamuk? It looked like Edith was born without fingers. With that ham-fisted style of pen-holding, it's hard to fathom how anything she wrote would be legible.

WG: God, that is beautiful.

OMD: How about that shot of Edith's reflection in the picture frame overhearing Mary and Cora talking about how she is the one that needs help in the realm of courtship? More awesome shots of eavesdropping.

WG: It was a nifty bit of cinematic footwork. Fellowes includes just enough of these moves to keep things visually interesting, without showboating or drawing attention away from the straight up story-telling. Respect.

OMD: I really love how much Downton Abbey's success relies upon saying much less than most other shows would. Nothing is ever spelled out. O'Brien's motives for getting Daisy to talk to Edith. Bates telling Anna that he loves her but can't tell her that he loves her. Matthew being hurt by Mary's sudden spurning him for the sake of drawing Sir Anthony Strallan's attention to spite her sister. So many of the events pass on the show without spelling it out as clearly as a lesser (read: American) show would.

WG: I'm confused and waiting for the car chase. So bomb, yo.

OMD: Speaking of Sir Anthony Strallan, has there ever been a man who looks more British than Robert Bathurst? His reaction to the salt is fucking hilarious and belies his Britishness, as the Brits have long had violent reactions to salt in their dessert. That's actually what started the Falklands War. Your Salty Pudding could also be a great band name.  Lewd? Yes. All the better, I suppose.

WG: Strallan acting like he's been double penetrated when he gets his first taste of Your Salty Pudding is one of many highlights of season one.

You've got to love Isobel for casting a little light on the great Downton Flower Show fix. Surprising that the Dowager caves. Has to be in service to some further scheming down the road? In the parlance of the ultimate soap opera, professional wrestling, they make a good face and heel for each other. If Isobel and Dowager were played by professional wrestlers, I think I'd cast Isobel with a classic face, someone like Verne Gagne. Classically trained. Old School. A good guys good guy. Dowager? I'm thinking Ravishing Rick Rude. A total heel, but with a wink and a nod that let you know he knew you were in on the scam. Then again, speculating which characters from Downton Abbey might be played by famous wrestling personalities is a guessing game at best. There is really no way to know who fits who for sure. Merely my opinion. You could see it from a far different angle.

OMD: So the crazy thing about Downton Abbey for me is that I find myself oddly affected by little moments like Molesley's father winning the trophy. There has not been a single moment in my life in which I've given any shits about flowers or gardening, and Molesley's father has had like five lines in the show's history, yet I'm overcome with joy for this little old man getting the odd bit of validation. These characters seem to live such simple lives that the smallest event carries a much greater magnitude for some reason. I think I'm breaking. Were I better versed in classic professional wrestling, I'd weigh in with authority. Sadly, it's been many a year since I've seen Hulk Hogan's Rock 'N Wrestling.

WG: At the flower show scene, did you notice a table laid out with a row of delicious looking cabbage? Care to speculate on that one?

OMD: The cabbage table is a must for any proper English Community Flower-Off. So is catty elderly sniping.


Young Man Duggan said...

I hate Daisy...

Josh Duggan said...

She is irritating.

When I saw there was a comment, I was hoping it was Viagra with that sweet, sweet boner money.

WordyG said...

Cialis is the low hanging fruit. Like two ripe plums and a green banana.

Josh Duggan said...

Let the boner pill bidding war commence. All comers are welcome.

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