Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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

As promised, we're back with the regularly scheduled installment of Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey with your hosts Wordy Ginters and Josh "Old Man" Duggan. We hope that the massive undertaking that two installments in one week ends up being makes up for the lack of entries yesterday. If not, oh well. Once again, you can buy the second series on Blu-ray and on DVD. They're the original versions as aired in the U.K. (Series One available here on DVD and Blu-ray.) Why the British versions? Because they're unabridged, unlike what aired in the U.S. 

The episode picks up in July of 1917 with the transition promised at the end of the last episode: Downton is being converted into a convalescent home for recovering soldiers. Cousin Isobel runs roughshod over the staff and Crawley family, drunk with power, stepping on their feet at every turn. Anna goes into town to run errands and thinks she sees a man who resembles Bates but who vanishes into the ether when she runs after where she'd seen him. Edith feels worthless as all around her are making themselves useful. O'Brien bends Cora's ear to get Thomas assigned to manage over Downton from the Army's end. Branson gets a draft notice and states his intent to be a conscientious objector only to have his grand plan negated when it is found that he has a heart murmur. Lord Grantham throws down on Cousin Isobel and Major (Doctor) Clarkson telling them they'll damn well handpick any convalescents they choose to stay at Downton and that his dog, Isis, will have rule of the roost. Ethel's wanton libidinous nature when combined with the invitation of hundreds of men into the estate quickly seems likely to be disastrous. With intelligence culled by Sir Richard Carlisle, Anna finds Bates at work in a pub. Bates tells Anna of his plan to divorce the vile Vera. Lavinia's role in the Marconi scandal comes to light, and Lady Rosamund coarsely urges Lady Mary to use this information to drive Lavinia from Matthew's arms. Upon learning of a British General visiting, Branson sets his sights on him as a means by which he can exact an act of protest against the British government's savage quelling of the Irish rebellion, only to have his attempt at public embarrassment thwarted by Anna and the steadfast Mr. Carson. General Strutt commends Lady Edith on her care for the wounded soldiers. Lord Grantham asks Matthew to take the newly-somewhat-engaged-to-Daisy William (Patmore essentially accepts his proposal for her) as his soldier servant in the field. Lang, bat-shat with shellshock, leaves his post as valet.

Messrs. Hasselbaink and Viduka
Wordy Ginters: Despite the initial disdain, Grantham and his crew adapt pretty well to having the place overrun by the wounded. Kudos. I liked seeing his Lordship draw the line at sharing dining quarters with the wounded officers. Gives his character a shade of darkness that is much needed. He's almost too nice, too decent, sometimes. Napier convalescing in Middlesbrough? My favorite Euro football team! Up the Boro! I was deep in Downton Abbey, but hearing Middlesbrough name-checked made me yearn for the halcyon days of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka knocking in goals like water flowing from a goal faucet. Who can forget the improbable run to Eindhoven back in 2006? Southgate anchoring the back. Boateng like a tremendous machine in the middle. A young Stewey Downing. Ah well. Maybe they make it out of the Champo meat grinder and get back up in the Prem next year.

Josh "Old Man" Duggan: Honestly, I have very little idea what's going on in the latter half of that paragraph. I got that you're talking about soccer, but it's basically like that episode of The I.T. Crowd where Moss and Roy use that website that helps someone fake passable fans and make nice with those soccer sorry, football fans, and Roy ends up unwittingly driving getaway as they execute an armed robbery. Back to Downton Abbey, or rather the words that I understood, Lord Grantham and fam are nothing if not adaptable. Well, aside from the Dowager Countess, who is afraid of all change in any form. If I knew how to properly conjugate brava/bravo into a plural form, I'd do it right fucking now. That said, I do not want to look at stumps of arms while trying to force down Mrs. Patmore's very British concoctions, so I understand why the line was drawn there.

WG: Cal Macaninch, you are a stud. Lang made me break into a sweat every time the camera cruelly put him in the frame. A fine line to walk playing a war-sick veteran without going over the top. He held a believable and freakish tension throughout the episode. We've said it before many times, but this show has solid fucking fundamentals.

OMD: Downton Abbey is basically the bizarro Royals. The foundation is there for excellence, the people in control know what they're doing at every turn, and the product put out there for the masses is beyond reproach. Cal Macaninch, you magnificent bastard, you owned this episode. I felt like I'd been shell-shocked.

WG: Did you catch the Altman-esque long take tracking shot around the 17 minute mark? Fancy footwork. As Downton Abbey prepares to receive the wounded for the first time, cinematographer Gavin Struthers hangs dong with a nice long take that flows out of the Downton like a gentle breeze, outside to greet the soldiers, and then looping around and coming back inside. Nice.

OMD: Gavin be nimble, Gavin be quick, Gavin opened his pants and unfurled his floor-touching dick. Tracking back, moving aside, following the family Crawley, looping 'round the army freight ambo, coming back in to weave betwixt columns. The action was beautifully choreographed--no small feat--and the shot was marvelous. It was made me long for the early days of The West Wing and its weekly heaping servings of walk-and-talk tracking shots through the recesses of the White House.

WG: I also liked the cut between Thomas "marching" up the drive, through the front door I might add, to his new position inside Downton and the black dragon garden thing. Not so subtle, but fucking appropriate. Why is Cora so bent on paving the way for Thomas? Did I miss some Jedi mind shit that O'Brien is pulling? I don't get Cora treating Thomas like he's her long lost son.

OMD: I've long wondered why Cora has such a blind spot in regards to Mrs. O'Brien. My guess is that Cora can't distinguish good from evil when it presents itself in an Englishman/Englishwoman. This is the only way to explain how Cora could be so dim as to not see how odious, as Lady Sybil once put it, woman. I'll give O'Brien this: she can manipulate Cora like it's second nature.

WG: Maybe it is just me, but damned if Branson doesn't look hot with his blouse open. Angry socialists are my favorite kind.

Dougie, cut from the same cloth as Branson
OMD: Oh, most definitely. While Branson was getting his chest checked out, I was getting palpitations. With his shirt open like so, I was taken with classic matinee images of swashbuckling buccaneers, sword in mouth, swinging from the mast of one clipper to the next, battling other lawless sailors whilst working up a healthy lather. It wouldn't shock me to see Branson become a contemporary of Douglas Fairbanks a couple years down the line. I bet Ol' Dougie would love the cut of Branson's jib.

WG: The dog's name is Isis? You're goddamn right it is. Apparently she is to have free run. They've got a ping pong table set up in the fucking study. What difference does it make if the dog is running wild? You can only shit on decorum so much before it becomes redundant. How appropriate that Sybil rocked the Isis femdom wear to close out Series One?

OMD: Lord Grantham will not have Isis locked away, Isobel be damned. Look, Isis's ass is pretty much the first thing we see in every episode of Downton. There's no goddamn way Isis can't do whatever Isis wants.

WG: Do you have any deep background on the war profiteering that is at the heart of the wedge the ghoulish dowager and daughter attempt to place between Lavinia and Matthew? I'd say Mary is well on her way to redemption, atoning for her deadly anal skills, which are horrible and beautiful at the same time. Like a Michael McDonald song.

OMD: First off, I don't know that we should stigmatize Mary's deadly anal skills by qualifying them as something for which she needs to atone. She may take your life at the moment that F2FA presents itself, and a Turkish dreamboat did bite it, but with F2FA dems da breaks.

So the Marconi scandal that Lavinia played a part in actually predated the war. It happened in 1912. Apparently the scandal revolved around a bunch of government ministers getting rich off of insider trading as a lucrative government contract was about to be awarded to the Marconi Company, who were to put in the Imperial Wireless Chain, a wireless telegraphy communications network with the goal to connect the entire British Empire. G.K. Chesterton was an editor at his brother's publication which played a central role in the breaking of the story. Mary's refusal to kowtow to Lady Rosamund's classless prodding shows increasingly strong character, which coincidentally is also not unlike a Michael McDonald song.

WG: Bates! Although I'm firmly on the side of wanting to be frustrated in this relationship, it is good to see Bates back and with his "A" game. He noticed Anna's hair. He rocked her with a little blue collar extempo poetry: "I so longed for a glimpse of you." Something tells me that things won't shake out as planned. He's usually more wary, more realistic. His little exit plan from his shrieking harpy strumpet of a wife has to be too good to be true. And I believe we've documented that Fellowes mission in life is to pump a river of shit on top of, around, and through Bates' character. He endures. With style. Who says you can't learn anything from watching TV?

OMD: There should be a fifteen hour self-help series that all children are required to watch in school in which lessons are learnt from The Book of Bates. Seriously, the episode-and-a-half that passed with Bates speaking nary a word seemed an eternity. The withdrawal I went through was akin to when I kicked my addiction to laudanum right alongside Alma Garret in the frontier town of Deadwood. And I don't know that Bates wasn't wary. He hid in another town, working in a pub that Anna would be highly unlikely to stumble across, and when Anna offers herself up as a candidate to be his mistress, he declines because he holds her character too dear. Granted, she'd be doing nothing wrong in our eyes, as Vera Bates is a nefarious country singer of the countriest kind and we'd all like that heinous woman put down like the rabid bitch she is, but John Bates will have none of that. Class incarnate.

WG: The look Carson gave Thomas when Thomas was getting all uppity with his military airs upon the arrival of General Strutt was COLD. Carson is Bates-light, or Bates with slightly goofed up allegiances and priorities. I thought maybe Branson would whup his elderly arse, but Carson hauls him downstairs like he's not but a naughty teen. I always thought Benny Hill was making a funny when he did those inverted elbow military salutes, but evidently that is how you rock the salutes in the British Isles.

OMD: Yes, it's a fairly dandy salute. Effete to the Nth degree. Benny Hill, not unlike Splinter in the first TMNT flick, was definitely making a funny. As for Carson, you saw him handling that wood last weekend. I am sure Carson is deceptively strong. His suit just hides his massive biceps and rippling delts. He is definitely a man of honor, one who does his damnedest to do right by others as long as it isn't to the detriment of the house he runs. The perfect butler/supplemental father figure for the daughters Crawley, particularly Mary.

WG: Thoughts on Daisy? Here are mine: she sucks. The way she was absent mindedly holding a carrot as Patmore nursed her thru the humane logic of committing to a wedding was no mistake. William deserves better. Big hearted dolt. I'm guessing he doesn't get rubbed out, but loses his genatalia via a gruesome barbed wire incident, and later goes on to be the real life inspiration for Jake Barnes in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Daisy's next move
OMD: While I'll refrain from giving anything away, good or bad, in regards to William's future, I'll certainly weigh in on Daisy. There is no way in hell that simple twit should ever advance past the occupation of kitchen maid. What a complete and total dipshit. With as dumb as Daisy is, I half-expected her to cross her eyes, ball up her hands, and use them as paws between which she'd clumsily pinch the carrot and start gnawing away as if she'd turned straightaway into a rabbit. William definitely deserves better. Maybe Lady Edith if only for the promise of a fortune in the future. She's certainly got no better prospects than William. It's weird to picture William as Jake Barnes, the sexually crippled hero of one of my favorite books ever.

OMD: The Dowager Countess's reluctance to allow for officers and regular soldiers to mix is ridiculous. They can't relax if forced to mix it up? I'd hate to hear her racial views. Miscegenation would most decidedly be a crime punishable by being left in a room with the vapors from electricity.

The Irish War for Independence hasn't been talked about much until now. The Easter Rising was more than a year in the past. Man, a lot of crazy shit is going down outside of The Great War. The Irish War of Independence is about to kick into full gear. Nicolas II and his family just got overthrown in Russia. The times they are a-changin'. That said, Branson's wide-eyed optimism about what the proles will do now that they've got hold in Russia is precious. Branson, cute, naive Branson...

WG: If it weren't for all of the "workers" who got mowed down in WWI, Gene Debs would have his mug on Mt Rushmore.

OMD: I mentioned this in the recap, but having all of these officers around the horniest two women in recorded history? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Given that it's under the roof of her own home and that she's been trained in the rules of decorum, we likely have to worry less about Lady Edith, but putting hundreds of convalescing soldiers within fucking distance of Ethel is asking to have an endless string of venereal disease run wild through the men they are trying so desperately to help. Christ, they're pretty much asking for tens of thousands of soldiers to go insane from syphilis. They'll call her Syphilis Ethel. I shudder to think what will come of those poor, poor soldiers.

WG: "Fucking distance" for Ethel is a wide berth. Draw a line from Middlesbrough to the constellation Cassiopeia and back over to Vladivostok on the Russo/Chinese border, and you've marked the heart of it. I almost forgot another seedy grease stained line: "I'm the best tucker." You know, it goes right up to the edge, that line. But yeah, I liked it. And why not, who wouldn't want a good vigorous tucking from Ethel? And Edith, she has the smell of closet kink about her. Some women like broad shoulders, firm buttocks, humor, kindness, smokey eyes, and the like. Edith has a weakness for gnarled teeth. Tractors. And stumps. But fuck all that, she's a champ when it comes to healing the minds and spirits of the soldiers, which also brings her back towards atonement of her past sins. Redemption is the word in Downton Abbey for the Grantham girls.

OMD: Jesus, I didn't even catch that "best tucker" line. That's fucking off, man. I thought she was just a hornball but finding out that she's the self-proclaimed best tucker and takes pride in that fact is repugnant. I'm dismayed. Have a bit of class woman. Lewd. Just lewd.

By the way, fuck Lady Rosamund.

WG: A toast. Let's drink to that.


j.carol said...

hi. so i feel that i should defend daisy. i like her. i think that everyone downstairs sees her as a good but very simple girl. she just needs a bit of help because she can be easily influenced, particularly from thomas. i think we will see good things come to daisy, i hope. it would suck if i'm totally wrong.

WordyG said...

Perhaps your words have wisdom. Easy to be scornful of her naivete, if only because it leads to such misguided choices. It will be interesting to see what they do with her character next season.

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