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Recap: 'Downton Abbey' Season 4, Episode 4 - Anna And Bates Drama Ahead!

January 27th, 2014 4:26pm EST

Downton Abbey Well, they might as well have called last night’s episode “The Anna & Bates Show” since that plot line garnered most of the attention.  I’m on the fence about the developments made there, but more on that later.  First, the recap!

Warning: Major spoilers below!

The focus of this episode was with the downstairs staff, so upstairs, things were pretty tame.  Mary learns of Tony Gillingham’s engagement to Mabel Lane Fox.  She puts on a brave face in front of the family, but it’s clear she’s upset she missed the boat (did anyone else notice her wiping under her eyes while she was writing to congratulate him?).  Perhaps the arrival of Evelyn Napier (remember him from season 1?  He’s the fellow who brought the infamous Mr. Pamuk into the house) will cheer her up.  It certainly seems to, given Mary’s warm greeting.  Is it just me, or does Mary seem a lot more smiley this season?  Napier’s working for the government, conducting a study on the large estates and whether or not they are viable in the post-war economy.  Mary spear-heads a campaign to get him, as well as his yet-unmet boss, to stay at Downton while they’re in the area.

Mary with Evelyn Napier

Elsewhere, Robert helps a tenant (Mr. Drew) keep his land on the estate (which has been farmed by the Drew family since the Napoleonic wars) by loaning him money to pay off his late father’s debts.  Robert does this behind Mary and Tom’s back, and I thought surely this would backfire somehow, given Robert’s history with money.  But instead it reminds Mary of what a kind-hearted softie her Papa can be.  And it reminds Tom of his socialist roots, as he supports the idea that the farmer should not be thrown off his land.  Tom continues on his quest to figure out where he belongs, and mentions the idea of taking Sybbie to America for a fresh start, since he feels like he’s in limbo at Downton.  One of my favorite upstairs scenes was seeing Mary and Tom with their children in the nursery (and to be reminded that they do indeed have kids!), and just seeing their friendship in general.  Mary’s come to depend on Tom, and she’s the one that speaks up when he mentions the idea of leaving, saying she doesn’t want to lose him.

There’s some hushed talk about doing something for Robert’s birthday, and Mary is the one who proposes a party (a small one, mind you).  Well, look who has fully re-entered the land of the living.  Rose gets excited about this and goes into party-planning mode.  And that’s basically all we see of her this episode (which I’m perfectly okay with).

Edith is also barely seen this episode, except to give a few worried looks toward the camera, and to make a trip to London and sort some things out at Gregson’s office, which actually turns out to be a visit to a doctor.  Hmm, wonder what that might be about?  Oh, Edith.  And oh, Julian Fellowes.  If this is going where I think it is, you are sending a fantastic message: Want to fight against the current and make your own path separate from your aristocratic family?  Yeah, you’ll pay for that.

Downstairs, there’s a new member of staff to get to know.  Lady Cora’s lady’s maid, Baxter, who is weaseling her way into her ladyship’s good graces thanks to coaching from Thomas.  His purposes are entirely self-serving, as he wants to know what’s going on upstairs at all times, and needs a new ally now that O’Brien is gone.  I like this Baxter character, and the whole Thomas/Baxter partnership thing, and I only wish they could have brought her in from the start, rather than irritating Edna.

Baxter winning over Cora’s affection with orange juice.

Meanwhile, Daisy helps Alfred prepare for his Ritz hotel cooking test.  She’s a jumble of emotions, happy to spend time with Alfred, but sad that the work they’re doing means he might be leaving.  Fortunately for Daisy, and not so fortunately for Alfred, he does not pass the test, which means he’ll stick around Downton, for now at least.

Mrs. Patmore continues to wage war against the modern mechanization of her kitchen.  Lady Cora wants a refrigerator installed to replace the old ice box, which sends Mrs. Patmore into a tizzy.  When Lady Cora asks her if there isn’t some aspect of the present day she would accept without resistance, Mrs. Patmore does admit she wouldn’t mind getting rid of her corset.

But of course the main storyline downstairs this week was the drama between Anna and Bates.  After Anna keeps avoiding Bates and refuses to tell him what happened, he goes into Bates-stealth-mode.  He eaves drops on a conversation between Anna and Mrs. Hughes, in which it’s revealed that Anna’s not pregnant (huge sigh of relief), but she’s still unwilling to tell Bates what happened for fear of his own safety.  Bates then meets with Mrs. Hughes, telling her he’ll resign if she doesn’t tell him what happened.  This seemed border-line bullying to me, but it did the trick, and Mrs. Hughes spills the beans, but does not name the attacker.  Bates is no fool, and guesses right away that it must have been Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green.  For Anna’s sake, Mrs. Hughes swears on her mother’s grave that it was not.  Bates then goes and finds his wife in the boot room, and tells her he knows, and that he suspects it was Green.  And if it was him, “he’s a dead man.”  Anna assures him it was not, and that the person who attacked her is untraceable.  Anna sobs with relief as Bates tells her how he loves her even more and has in fact put her on an even higher pedestal after what she’s been through.  All seems rosy in the Bates’s garden once more, with Anna telling Mrs. Hughes she plans to move back in to the cottage with her husband.

Mrs. Hughes approaches Bates and tells him how glad she is that the whole horrible nightmare can be put behind them.  Bates keeps a pleasant smile on his face as he informs her that nothing is over and done with, despite what Anna says.  And a revenge-fueled Bates limps off down the hallway as the screen fades to black.

I’m not sure how I feel about this turn of events.  Did I see it coming?  Of course.  But it bothers me that the horrible assault on Anna did not turn into a strengthening of her character from within, but rather an opportunity for Bates to show his inner-dark side once again.  But, at the same time, that last scene sent a little chill up my spine and had me wondering how this was going to play out.

What did you think of the turn of events in this episode?

Related: Downton Abbey, Recaps

Photo Credits: PBS

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