What’s in a name?
I think that should have been the title of this week’s episode of Downton Abbey.
Did you catch the theme? Name. Reputation. Honor. It was all there.
Interestingly, most of the epiphanies came from Downstairs. Not too surprising, I guess—the Upstairs folks continue to live in their dream worlds, whatever those worlds happen to be.
But the Downstairs folks. They are the ones who get it. The world is moving on. Reputation will get you places. Your name matters.
Take Mrs. . . . C-c-c-c-Carson, for example. Nobody can quite get their tongue around that name (thanks to Violet for that visual), so in the end Mr. Carson proposes that they all just keep calling her Mrs. Hughes.
Mrs. Hughes just smiles and says nothing.
Her name is intact.
And Daisy. The idealistic girl was willing to risk her reputation to get what she thought was “fair” for Mr. Mason (did you not love it when Mrs. Patmore referred to her as Karl Marx?!), and somehow, in the end, she looked like a hero.
Mr. Mason even tells her that it’s her good name that rescues him in the end.
So glad she didn’t actually have a chance to speak up when she tried to accost Lady Grantham in the hallway.
I’d call that a bullet dodged.
And finally, there’s Molesley. The sweetest man Downstairs. The one whose reputation is golden. The one who knows the importance of honor.
And the one who can quote Edmund Burke. (Points to anyone who remembers what he said.)
If I were Miss Baxter I’d thrown down my dishtowel and fall into his arms of rescue. He’s just waiting for that, isn’t he?
And so are we.
Anyway, my reputation will be mud if I don’t “get on” as they say Downstairs. So here we go with my Top Five.
There were so many good lines in this episode. I’m not sure how I’ll choose the best.
1. Let’s start with Violet, shall we? She had a couple of good zingers that made me laugh, so I have to include them.
First, over tea with her friend, Lady Shackleton, Violet presses her to take her side in the dreaded hospital debate. (Honestly, I don’t know where this story line is going. It’s baffled me from the beginning.)
Anyway, Lady S. asks Violet, “How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?”
To which Violet responds,
“Well it’s never stopped me!”
Later, as Violet and Isobel argue about the hospital for the umpteenth time over dinner, Edith tries to come to the rescue. “I suppose Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up an argument.”
To which Violet storms back:
“Well of course she is, but she’s not entitled to win it!”
I think Violet is running out of ammunition.
2. Let’s talk about the situation with Gwen for a minute. Again, it’s about the name.
Cora didn’t remember her. At all. Name forgotten.
Rosamund is enamored with the reputation of Mr. Harding, Gwen’s husband, giving Gwen an “in” with the Downton crowd. Reputation by association (or, in this case, marriage).
And then there’s Thomas (we’ll talk about his reputation in a moment) who exposes Gwen, thinking this will disparage her name, but his plan backfires. Remember? He brings up her former employment in the house in an attempt to embarrass Gwen, but Gwen is rescued by her own grace and charm.
Gwen notes how Sybil helped her get her first job with the telephone company, which led to her meeting her husband. It’s a bit of a long story, but as everyone sits listening, they smile as they think of the best among them who was taken too soon.
Gwen tells the family,
“I’ll never forget her. Her kindness saved my life.”
It makes you wonder what would have happened to the family had Sybil lived.
Back to Thomas. No matter how hard he tries (not that hard, actually), his reputation seems to denigrate. Even Robert gave him a dressing down after the "Gwen incident" telling him he doesn't like to see such things.
3. Back up a minute to when the family was meeting Mr. and Mrs. Harding for the first time. Sorry, things are out of order today, but this one was too funny to pass up.
They are talking about education for women, the women’s college that they are all involved with now, and Isobel is preening over women’s issues the way she does.
They ask to hear Gwen’s story, and she tells them that she didn’t have any higher education.
To which Mary replied,
“Who did? All we were taught was French, prejudice, and dance steps.”
So clever, Mary! Just think of how charming you’d be if you actually HAD had an education.
4. Mary had some wonderful quips in this episode. As well as some jabs.
I’m not sure which category this quote falls into, but I loved it so I have to include it.
First, you’ll remember handsome Henry Talbot, Lady Shackleton’s nephew. He’s mysterious. He’s from London, the son of a Parliamentarian. He’s oh-so-handsome. And he’s a racecar driver!
He offers her his card when they meet at Downton, and he tells her he hopes they can meet for lunch . . . or something . . . when she’s next in London.
Mary’s practically foaming at the mouth, but she’s playing it cool.
Flirting is her strong suit.
The two beautiful people do meet up for dinner in London (nevermind the fact that Anna is having a serious medical crisis—Mary’s going to have fun!) in a posh restaurant favored by car lovers. I smell a fling if there ever was one.
Mary glances coyly at the menu and says,
“I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”
Talbot replies, “Probably. But will you accept?”
Mary, with a slight raise of an eyebrow says,
“No. But I shall enjoy the process enormously.”
I think Henry Talbot actually blushed!!
I know I blushed earlier in the episode when Violet was talking to Robert about Mary and said,
“Mary needs more than a handsome smile . . . and a hand on the gearstick.”
5. I hate only having to choose five lines because this week there were so many good ones. But alas, I must choose.
And this, I think, was my favorite of the entire episode.
Daisy and Mrs. Patmore are sitting in the kitchen together, gossiping as usual. Daisy says, “I wonder what Mrs. Hughes is up to.”
Mrs. Patmore, resting her chin in her hand, sighs.
“Ah, she knows the mystery of life by now . . . unlike me.”
Poor Mrs. Patmore. Don’t you just want to see her find her one true love?
And with that I’ll leave you to go out and make a name for yourself.
For the record, Edmund Burke once famously said, “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
A good reminder to all of us.