Jazz comes to Downton Abbey during the February 2 episode. It's Robert Crawley's (Hugh Bonneville) birthday and Rose MacClare (Lily James) has arranged a special surprise (or two). Of course, a surprise from Rose rarely goes smoothly with the Abbey's guests shocked by the appearance of an African American singing modern music in Downton's rigidly conservative halls.
That said, the family takes the sign of the times in stride, giving us hope all of the Crawleys are more progressive than they may seem. Most surprising is the Dowager Countess's (Maggie Smith) reaction to Jack Ross's (Gary Carr) performance. As she tells a flabbergasted Edith (Laura Carmichael), "We country-dwellers must be wary of being provincial." Who would have ever thought the Dowager could be so ahead of her times?
Of course, jazz music isn't the only surprise at Downton during the February 2 episode. There are plenty more at hand, both upstairs and down.
Anna and Mr. Bates Pick Up the Pieces
In the January 26 episode, Mr. Bates learned his wife's had been raped and the two vowed to move forward together. Unfortunately, the trauma of the situation still haunts the once blissfully happy couple with Anna catching Mr. Bates lost in his likely dark thoughts. "Your husband is a brooder," he tells Anna. "Well, brood on me," she replies. That, however, seems unlikely as long as her attacker remains at large.
"I want to make some new memories," she later tells Bates in their cottage. "Good memories so it's not as if all of our happiness was before."
Sadly, as nice an idea as this is, the couple can't seem to shake their shadow with the memory of the January 12 episode's brutal attack even casting a gloom over the couple's nice evening out.
"I was a fool to think we could leave it behind," Anna tells her husband, "but I'm not a victim. That's not who I am. The worst part is that you see me as a victim."
"I see you as a woman I should have protected," Bates insists.
The exchange is an important one not only for the struggling pair but for the show as a whole. Hearing Anna affirm that she is not a victim shows her willingness to, like Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) before her, pick light over dark, happiness over despair, life over death. Let's hope Mr. Bates does the same and that vile Mr. Green (Nigel Harman) meets his end in a way that will spare the couple any additional heartbreak.
Alfred’s Off to London!
Turns out Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne) did get a spot in that prestigious cooking program. The news means the footman is off to London while poor Daisy (Sophie McShera) must wave goodbye to yet another wannabe love. In the moments after hearing the news an angry Daisy lashes out at Ivy (Cara Theobold) saying it's the kitchen maid's fault he's leaving since Ivy picked Jimmy (Ed Speleers) over Alfred.
Later, when Ivy has a change of heart about Alfred after Jimmy behaves in an ungentlemanly like manner (surprise, surprise), Daisy just about loses her biscuits. "You had it coming," Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) tells a confused Ivy. Cheers to that, Elsie.
What Edith's Expecting
Lady Edith hasn't heard a word from her lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), since he headed off to Germany back in the January 19 episode. "I'm sure it's just a failure of communication," her mother insists. "If anything had happened, we'd have heard." But would we? Edith doesn't exactly have the best luck when it comes to menfolk. In the past three seasons she's been ignored, dumped, and jilted. Could Michael be yet another absentee love?
Let's hope not since Edith finally heard back from that doctor she visited in London and, as we suspected, she's expecting. That's right. Edith is pregnant! What does this mean for the middle Crawley daughter?
Well, seeing as it's 1922 (read: not exactly an ideal time for an unwed woman to get knocked up), she'll need to get hitched fast to save face. Having a baby out of wedlock would make for the scandal of the season, particularly if the father is nowhere to be found and the mother is as high-bred as a Crawley daughter.
Dowager Countess vs. Isobel Crawley
All good things must come to an end including, it seems, the friendship between the Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton). The two had seemingly grown closer in the aftermath of Matthew's (Dan Stevens) untimely death. But as time passes, old rivalries return with the Dowager and Isobel butting heads over Young Pegg. The results: hilarious.
After a couple items go missing from the Dowager's study, she fires Pegg thinking he's the thief. Advocate for social justice that she is, Isobel marches on over to the Dowager's with Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) in tow. (As the Dowager later explains to her son, Isobel "runs on indignation.") Indeed, the Widow Crawley gets so heated the good doctor must intercede, telling her to "Hold your horses."
The Dowager, of course, remains unfazed throughout as, not surprisingly, she's a step ahead of Mrs. Do-Gooder. Unbeknownst to Isobel, Violet has already made amends with Young Pegg and hired him back on. "That was game, set, and match to Lady Grantham" the doctor concludes.
Lady Mary, Meet Mr. Blake
Speaking of sparring partners, Mary meets a new one in this episode when old friend of the family Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) and his boss, Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden), arrive for a visit. Mary and Charles immediately butt heads over the future of England's grand estates and their respective roles in society. Although perpetual odd man out Evelyn is still obviously infatuated with Mary, she's quite consumed with provoking the devastatingly good-looking Mr. Blake.
Unlike many of the eldest Crawley daughter's opponents, however, Mr. Blake can give as good as he gets and with an "open-ended" stay at Downton, we're not giving up hope that these two might find a little common ground.
Nor have we given up hope that Mary is completely closed off to the idea of finding love after Matthew. Despite her refusal of Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) back in the January 19 episode, we think it's only a matter of time before Mary's ready for romance. She says as much during this evening's installment: "I'm not unhappy. I'm just not quite ready to be happy." Could the introduction of Mr. Blake change her mind?
Baxter Tells Tales to Thomas
It's via this secret arrangement that Thomas learns of the birthday surprise planned by Rose and, more importantly, of Anna and Bates's difficulties.
Although neither Thomas nor Baxter know more than that, it would be unlike the scheming footman to let sleeping dogs lie. Recalling the kind of upheaval Thomas wrought with the infamous Soap Story, what kind of damage could he do with Anna's secret?
Cousin Rose is Just Full of Surprises
Hiring a jazz band for Robert's birthday dinner wasn't the only surprise Rose had in store for the evening (nor perhaps even her real reason for hiring said band). After the party, Mary catches her young cousin passionately kissing the bandleader, Jack. Although Mary pretends not to have seen anything, her look of surprise is hard to miss. We, however, weren't exactly shocked by the development.
Although it's unlikely Mary will purposefully get Rose into trouble by spreading the word about her secret love affair, Mary has reason to be as concerned as she looked.
A happy romantic future between Rose and Jack seems unlikely due to the particular era we find ourselves in during Downton. Remember, Rose is a member of the exclusively white English aristocracy; Jack is an African American jazz singer. Bridging such social divides successfully in the early 1920s seems unlikely. Then again, Rose does love a challenge and we do love a good love story.
- The sweetest moment and best dialogue of the night comes when Isobel, Tom Branson (Allen Leech), and Mary are sitting in the nursery before dinner and reminisce about their great loves. We get a quick trip down memory lane to that beautiful sequence in the snow between Mary and Matthew. "I wasn't cold," Mary says of standing out in the winter storm without a coat, "because I just kept thinking, 'He's going to propose. He's going to propose.'" It's a rare moment of warmth from the typically reserved and chilly Crawley daughter and it gives us hope she may be reaching a point where the memory of Matthew is filled more with joy than with pain.
- Things don't sound good over in the United States when Cora's brother sends his brother-in-law a note explaining some unfortunate investments. We've already heard bad boy Harold Levinson will appear in the season's Christmas special and be portrayed by award-winning actor Paul Giamatti, but what gets him involved in the first place?
- Finally, some sunshine for the poor Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle): He got a job! With Alfred far off in London, Molesley lands the position of footman but only after Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) offer him a little help winning over the prideful Mr. Carson (Jim Carter). Unfortunately for Mr. Molesley, however, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore can't always be around...
- It sounds as if Tom's still playing with the idea of leaving for the U.S. of A. "I love them really but I'm not one of them and I cannot make a life here," he tells fellow family outsider Isobel of the Crawleys and of Downton. Thankfully, Isobel's gung-ho spirit actually serves a completely un-obnoxious purpose here with her pointing out to Tom that things are happening at Downton that no one would have imagined possible just a few short years ago. "Take heart from that before you throw in the towel," she says, advice we sure hope he listens to before taking darling Sybbie and his own sweet self out of our lives forever.