Downton Abbey
Season 4 – Episode One

Episode Report Card
Couch Baron: B | 115 USERS: B+
Choose Life (How Mary Got Her Groove Back)
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

As in the recaplet, I'm dividing this into two parts to acknowledge that it was aired as two separate episodes in the UK. Welcome to Season Four!


Skipping the opening credits, we push in on Downton bathed in darkness before venturing inside. After a quick montage of "someone" (it's an O'Brien stand-in, as we'll quickly come to learn) leaving a couple notes in sealed envelopes, we hear crying babies on the soundtrack and a see a stern-looking nanny walking the halls to attend to them. Mary then opens her eyes in bed -- on one distinct side despite the other being empty -- and we then pull focus to a nightstand photo of her and Matthew in case we need extra help with the notion that she's in her Widow's Bed Of Sadness.

In the dim light, "O'Brien" exits Downton. After we see Mary sitting up forlornly, Anna flips on an electric light switch (I can't be sure, but the circuit may be a new thing here), and then we see Mary, her Black Kimono Of Bereavement and her even-more-pallid-than-usual complexion making her appear fully qualified to haunt the earth at night. There must be some moors not too far away, right? Regarding the beautiful day in front of her with no amount of positivity, she woodenly rings her bell. Downstairs, Anna tells Carson she'll have to go despite the brouhaha O'Brien's letter has unleashed. If you read casting spoilers (or the recaplet) you know that O'Brien fled under cover of almost-night to join Lady Flintshire in India, which was strongly indicated as a possibility from O'Brien's behavior up at Duneagle. With it now official, a flustered Mrs. Hughes says she'll take Cora the letter and her breakfast for today, and Anna offers to fill in going forward until they find a replacement for O'Brien, as Mary will just sigh and guess that suffering is now her lot in life… I mean, she "won't mind." On her way up, Thomas asks what's got Anna in such a right state, and Anna doesn't slow down as she breaks the news about O'Brien, which, given their animosity last season, doesn't have the sting it might once have. Indeed, Thomas goes running into the next room and excitedly tells Ivy and Jimmy James, so I guess whatever friendship the two boys forged is still intact. The news spreads quickly among the whole staff, as well it might.

Cut to Cora telling Lord Grantham she can't believe it, and I love and will miss O'Brien but you can hardly blame Lord Grantham biting out, "I can." He's talking about her sneaking off in the night, but Cora's more aghast that Lady Flintshire poached her maid like that, and I don't know if a Miss Manners For British Nobility actually existed back then, but it does seem like a serious breach of etiquette to the layman. Cora disbelievingly reads aloud from the letter -- "Lady Flintshire has booked my ticket for India, and it seems too good a chance to miss" -- and when Lord Grantham inquires if there really was no warning, Mrs. Hughes admits there was a telegram for O'Brien the day before. Cora is fairly despondent, while downstairs, Carson is acidly grilling Alfred about whether his aunt really let nothing on to him. Alfred assures him she did not and he's surely a good company man, but let's acknowledge that even if there were any subtle clues, he wouldn't likely have been the first (or tenth) person to pick up on them. When Carson is gone, Alfred worriedly tells the kitchen staff that he really didn't know, and O'Brien may be his aunt, but "she's a dark horse." Mrs. Patmore, gleefully: "No one will contradict you there!" Hee. It's not like she's my all-time favorite or anything, but if you're talking reliably hilarious line deliveries Mrs. Patmore at least deserves inclusion in the conversation.

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Downton Abbey




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