Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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

Matthew and Mary return from their honeymoon, Matthew's eyes opened to the splendor of Mary's man-eating nether regions. Matthew tells Robert that, despite the fact that he may likely receive a sizeable fortune in Reggie Swire's will, he is honor-bound to turn down the money with which he could save Downton. Ethel pops up at Isobel Crawley's Rehabilitation Center for Wayward Women. Mrs. Hughes finds a lump. Lord Grantham instructs Sir Anthony Strallan that it would be best if he pushed Lady Edith away, much to her chagrin, but Edith perseveres. A block in the flue of the stove forces a party to turn to a makeshift picnic on the premises. Martha rebuffs Mary and the Dowager Countess's advances.

Old Man Duggan: Grantham: "How was the honeymoon?" Matthew: "My eyes have been opened." I see Fellowes is wasting no time in getting tawdry in this one. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the exchange between father- and son-in-law was Lord Grantham's response: "Don't I know it." I know it's not intended to be read the way I'm reading it, but it sure seems like Fellowes is playing fast and loose with that one, especially since one mention of a woman's nether regions sends Robert running for the hills with the first objects he can find that would serve as suitable earmuffs. Later on, whilst engaged in fully non-sexual pillow talk, Mary changes gears rapidly, instructing her new husband to "stop talking and kiss me before I get cross." Thankfully, Matthew does as he is told because we all know what happens when Mary gets cross: Turks die by way of Face-to-Face Anal.

CPS sufferers
Wordy Ginters: A discordant note hearing Lord Grantham get down in the mud and jostle about his daughter's sex life. Knowing his obvious affection for Matthew, he may have merely been relieved to see he survived the honeymoon. As we know now, the repetitive clenching and unclenching of F2FA can weaken tendons and damage blood vessels, leading to Carpal Penal Syndrome. How many episodes before we see Alfred tying the laces on Matthew's orthopedic penile brace? And you thought getting spots out of long dining jackets was a lost art.

OMD: Mrs. Martha Levinson's comment at the dinner table about Carson and Alfred "knowing more about life than [they] ever will" would certainly seem to ring true for Alfred, but it seems to me that Carson has likely lived just as sheltered a life as the nobles, if not more so. Carson was groomed to be a butler from the moment he dropped. Alfred, on the other hand, worked in a *gasp* hotel. The low things he must have encountered in such a public place of work would surely rattle both Lord Grantham, who despite his having seen combat has the most fragile sensibilities known to man, and his mother to their respective cores. I did like her joke about how they must keep the address of the Rehab Center from Alfred. Clearly his willingness to make out with the first lady to show him any interest (though her forward Americanness is appealing to me at the very least) shows that he should be kept away from the post-war prostitutes Isobel is counseling.

WG: I'm digging the brash stereotypical vibe that Mrs. Levinson brings to the show. I wonder how historically accurate those social tropes are? Brash American yahoos and the stodgy English. I can't imagine the swells on either side of the Atlantic being that different. Although Carson was nearly knocked off his pins by the idea of a buffet-styled meal. He'd be putty in a veteran Great War streetwalker's hands. Or vice-versa.

OMD: Cancer for the old stalwart Mrs. Hughes? Say it ain't so. If there's anyone I pull for, it's Hughes, who seems to have the firmest grip on the reality of each person in the house, upstairs and down. Hell, she takes the decidedly increased possibility of death in stride like no other. I loved her putting Patmore in her place. Hughes is a grown-ass woman; treat her as such, Mrs. Patmore. Let's just hope the spectre of cancer doesn't loom so large as to cause her to forget the glasses for the pudding wine again. The horror.

WG: She traversed the seven stages of grief over the course of one episode. Impressive. As someone who has seen loved ones wrestle the Big C, those scenes dredge up a hint of that black sky despair. Ultimately, as Hughes says to Patmore in the Hallway, we all die someday. It certainly grabs you by the scruff of your neck and forces you to recognize some cold realities that are much better left shimmering off in the periphery. Bless your heart Patmore, but shut your mincemeat hole.

OMD: Ethel. Goddammit. Seeing her face made me so fucking angry that I shat myself out of spite for her. Of course she's hooking, wayward as wayward can get. If it had been anyone other than Isobel seeing her, I'd have thought nothing of it, and it'd simply be a symbol of what happens when you roll in the hay with sons of pricks, but instead we'll surely be treated to yet another tiresome story arc for a wretched character.

WG: I hate spite-fueled pants-shitting. My sympathies. Ruined several slacks and a favorite pair of jeans from the same cause myself during the American League Divisional Series. Good point though, what the hell are they going to do here? Let's not be to quick to judge the victim. The dashing shit stain who got her preggers was wearing the black hat in my view. Still, the baby is gone with gramps and granny, right? Something is up Ethel's sleeve. Or maybe her woman's underpants.

OMD: Nah, Ethel foolishly elected to hold onto her child.

You just knew when Thomas gave Alfred a tip to fix Matthew's dinner jacket that it wouldn't end nicely. Burning a hole through the jacket was going to be the obvious outcome of Thomas's advice. And the look on Carson's face when he heard of the hole seared through the jacket. Indignation! So hot on the heels of the pudding wine faux pas, too. I keep waiting for Carson to have a heart attack, and the decorum lacking in Matthew not having a dinner jacket at the ready could just as well have been its cause. Back to Alfred, though, it's weird, but Fellowes actually has me siding with Thomas on this matter. I don't dislike the ginger beanpole, but he certainly doesn't deserve to be a valet with so little in the way of qualifications going for him. Of course, this only draws us nearer to a world in which O'Brien and Thomas have at it in metaphorical service fisticuffs. I will say I laughed heartily when the Dowager turned to Robert and asked for a drink, mistaking him for a waiter. Hi. Larious.

WG: With tradition and decorum exploding into irrelevancy all around Downton, I was hoping Lord Grantham and Matthew would hit the dinner sans shirts, with bow ties, setting the trend for the male stripper uniform popularized by The Chippendales. That Thomas was going to fuck with Alfred was telegraphed pretty hard. Off-screen he keeps taping "Thinks he's the Bee's Knee's but is really a moldy Rag-a-Muffin" signs to his back. Dips his pig tails in ink. Scares him with toads. I think the Thomas v. O'Brien fight is the big one we're all hoping for. The prelude with Alfred is training by proxy. Although the Dowager seems to befuddled by Mrs. Levinson's brass, it is funny to see her on her toes enough to get off on Grantham and his slovenly formal wear.

OMD: I liked that the Dowager Countess was unable to stick to the script and couldn't help but slam America before being corrected. The pandering to Martha was a bit tiresome, if you ask me. Honestly, her presence on the whole has sort of been a drag if you ask me. How feel you?

WG: She brings some grit to the proceedings. An interesting foil and/or ally. I don't mind her at all. I kind of enjoy her pecking and picking at the England's bloated traditions. She's like Toby Keith with a cinnamon wave.

President Cerrano
OMD: Lord Grantham's evolution is an interesting one. Ultimately he tries to hold fast to an honorable code of conduct, but as life throws him curveballs he whiffs mightly, a la [later President] Cerrano in Major League. He is a vexed man, emasculated over the course of The Great War. His worth vis-a-vis the family is mitigated by time and in the greater world by his utter lack of aptitude in business. Then he meddles with Edith's happiness, and to what end? To simply make her cry at his obvious tampering only to renege? Perhaps he should look to Jobu for help. He best load up with hats for bats. And asking Thomas, "Are you not popular downstairs?" That was the icing on the cake. Of course, he isn't. Get with the program, Lord Grantham. Hell, he can't even surmise what happens when the stove flue is clogged. The fact that he couldn't tell what Mary and his mother were up to was also absurd. How oblivious is he? That he believes himself to be unadaptable, that adaptability is some innate trait present in some but apparently not in himself is the biggest affront to my sensibilities.

WG: Spot on. An interesting recent angle in the show is the trip to flaccid town taken by two of the primary male leads, Lord Grantham and Bates. They used to righteously roar like lions. Not so much anymore. The women who prop them up provide the steel in the backbone. Downton Abbey is not so covertly running some pro-feminist game. Especially recently, the women characters are the prime movers. They have the money. They get what they want. Fellowes may be a nom de plume for Judith Butler.

OMD: Lady Edith and Sir Anthony Strallan tying the knot. I can gladly say I'm happy for the pair of them.

WG: Most definitely. But I don't want to see them cuddling post-carnal. That rictus grin/sneer/snarl that Strallan breaks out would have a hideous impact in that context.

OMD: While Lady Mary and the Dowager's advance is getting shot down, it seems like Martha Levinson gets to the heart of everything that I anticipate will happen going forward. She says, "The world has changed. These houses were built for another age." Given Robert's history of financial bungling, the dire straits Downton finds itself in, and the coming economic ruin into which the world is about to descend, the prospects of Downton Abbey are not exactly glowing.

Needles or Bust!
WG: I look forward to the episode when the Grantham clan piles all the belongings onto the old Grapes of Wrath truck, with the Dowager perched on a wooden rocking chair balanced precariously on top of everything, Mary and Matthew hanging off the back, and head for the citrus farms for honest work and honest pay.

OMD: Dark Bates is back with a vengeance. "Don't ever threaten me." Hand firmly across his dirty cellmate's throat. It is those moments right there that have me doubting Bates's actual innocence, not that my affection for the character hinges upon whether or not he killed the vile Vera Bates. Hell, I'd probably like him more. All right, I'm officially in the I-hope-Bates-did-it-and-skates camp.

WG: I've always liked a good heel. I could see Bates as the perp. He may have been kicking up a bit of bluster to keep that oaf off his ass with his big words, or to stall that simple knuckle-dragger's plotting. That face/neck hammer-lock Bates slapped on his cellmate was an advanced move. They've been watching WWE up in that piece. All in all though, for a relatively average episode, the show still shines. Downton Abbey, you are a goddamn treat to behold.

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