July at "Downton Abbey" becomes like an editorial tennis game. We bounce from one situation to the next and break neck speed, at least for Downton Abbey. With only two more episodes of the series left after this one, we must rush forward with each situation to that things can be settled for the Christmas Special. This episode of "Downton Abbey" airs tonight, 9 February 2014, on your PBS station. Check local listings.
Of course, the Christmas Special will come way past Christmas for us across the pond, but no matter. This episode is about chances to change one's mind without entirely losing it.
If anyone comes close to losing her mind, it is the Dowager Countess , Violet (Maggie Smith) who actually hallucinates while she is ill with bronchitis. Nothing wild happens because the countess is old and as far as we can tell has never done anything unseemly and if she had done so in her youth, whatever it was in this new world, it would no longer be shocking at all. While ill, her arch nemesis Isobel takes care of her and ignores any sort of snobby comments the countess makes. When the countess recovers, it becomes clear she was only dimly aware that she had a nurse, so maybe more than actually hallucinating, she just had dimmed down her awareness.
Her son, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) gallantly prepares to intimidate American politicians just by using his British aristocratic accent across the pond in favor of his wife's playboy brother, Harold. You'd think with a mother like Shirley MacLaine's Martha Levinson, any boy would have gotten the play beaten out of him, verbally or otherwise, but what would be the fun for us there? Back in the states, the Teapot Dome scandal is brewing, but the British aren't concerned with American tea parties since that incident in Boston Harbor.
Lord Grantham's preparations cause concern downstairs. Anna "Joanne Froggatt) is still suffering post-traumatic stress from her rape and has just barely gotten back together with Bates (Brendan Coyle). The rape took place in April. Anna moved out of the cottage she shared with her husband, Bates, that month and only moved back in May and they had gotten a bit better after a romantic dinner in June. Anna isn't quite well yet and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) asks Mary (Michelle Dockery) to intercede, revealing to her why Bates should stay. Mary asks her father and that makes our slithery Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) suspect there is something that he should know and it also gives him an opportunity to visit America.
Barrow urges his reluctant accomplice Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) to keep a watchful eye and open ears. He wants intelligence.
Edith (Laura Carmichael), if you recall, learned that she was pregnant and her Mr. Gregson (Charles Edwards) is still missing. Edith and Lady Rose(Lily James) go down to London--one to avert a scandal and the other to make one. Edith has decided to get an abortion. Lady Rose continues to flirt with that handsome black jazz singer, Jack (Gary Carr).
Mary continues to be courted by Lord Gillingham who is supposedly engaged to some poor girl and she also continues to be annoyed by the socialist Mr. Blake. Yet when she and Mr. Blake happen to go down to check on the newly arrived piglets, they find the water has been overturned and the piggies are suffering from dehydration. It is, after all, July and warm enough for the pigs to get heat stroke. Mr. Blake and Mary, in the time before cellphones and the like, must work together to get those piggies re-hydrated.
Of course, all these stories are told at the same time, with us bouncing between Downton Abbey--upstairs and downstairs and even out and about where one might put pigs and one might find privacy and London in places rather suspect such as an abortion clinic and romantic places for private conversations.
When Lord Gillingham visits, he brings with him his valet, the evil rapist, Mr. Green. Mr. Green is not well-received downstairs and he makes a fateful comment. That when Mr. Bate slams down a mental tennis racquet down on Mr. Green and we only see him glower.
This episode of "Downton Abbey" will screen tonight (9 February 2014) 9 p.m. ET (check local listings) and then be available VoD on the PBS.org website.