Downton Abbey 04:02

Welcome back to the latest episode of Upside Downton Abbey

… Sorry. Downton Abbey.

Well, this was certainly one of the more eventful episodes of the season, complete with surpirse guests in all sorts of unusual places, and a musical number or two.


Mary is still sulking, so a house party is held with the great Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba performing. There were quite a few things that the episode got wrong in handling Dame Nellie (click here for a blow by blow breakdown) the biggest thing was the treatment she received from Carson and a few others. Anyone who has been elevated to the rank of Dame Commander of the Order of The British Empire, regardless of their origin, would have been treated with a lot more respect. Not only that, but Melba was the very first international opera star with not only a devoted following all around the English-speaking world, but at the time she was especially beloved by the British for all of her charity work done in World War I (which got her the OBE). The one good thing about this was the great bit of stunt casting in legendary New Zealand opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as Dame Nellie. (On a side note: I’m surprised that they didn’t have Mrs. Patmore whip up Nellie’s signature dish, though the dish will come back later in the season.)

In other news on the upstairs set; Robert is once again putting his foot in things by the shunning of Dame Nellie and not listening to Mary’s ideas, Mary’s being hit on again (this time by the charming Lord Gillingham), Edith’s paramour Mr. Gregson finally managed to impress Robert (thanks to helping Robert and a few others win back some of the gambling losses from the card sharp Lord Sampson), Tom is trying had to fit in with the guests (even as that treacherous maid Edna is finding her way into his bed armed with a bottle of whiskey), and Isobel is trying to be cheerful and not resentful but is having a hard time of moving on in the wake of Matthew’s death.


Of course everyone was to busy hearing the opera singer to notice Anna being raped by Gillingham’s valet Gregson. Without getting too deep into it, Anna’s sexual assault in the kitchen is one of the most divisive elements of the season (read more on that here). While this sort of thing happened all the time in the great houses (not only amongst the staff but also the family of the house sneaking into the rooms of the female service staff), the depiction of the assault was startling, even by Downton‘s rather staid and genteel facade and truly did feel as if it came out of left field. It helps that the great Joanne Froggatt as Anna handled the scene (and the aftermath in Mrs. Hughes’s room, working to conceal it from Bates) extremely well. It will be interesting to see if, and when, Bates finds out and how he deals with it (my theory is that Gregson needs to make peace with his maker).

Of course, no recap/review of Downton is complete without a Violet zinger or two:

“If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upperclass!”

“Tom’s small talk is very small indeed.”

“Not everyone is Oscar Wilde.” “That’s a relief.”

And as a bonus, while I couldn’t find her version of “O Mio Bambino Caro,” here is Nellie Melba singing Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me.”



And now, a word about The Golden Globes, which were announced last night. While the ceremony is more of a precursor to the Oscars than towards the Emmys, it still happens to be the one awards ceremony that seems to be the most fun (thanks to the copious amount of alcohol at the tables). Amy Poehler and Tina Fey were once again impressive as co-hosts. As for the wins, I am pleased for the wins for Breaking Bad and Bryan Cranston (which I’ve talked about before) and Behind The Candelabra and Michael Douglas (which I’ve talked about before), I’m very pleased for Elisabeth Moss’s win for Top Of The Lake (which I’ve also talked about before), and surprised for the wins for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (not my favorites of the new sitcoms but still a happy win).

Image Credits: ITV/PBS, Getty

Originally Published on 13 January, 2014 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile magazine.


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