November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, wherever you may be.  I hope and pray that you all have something to give thanks for.

I know it’s been a while, but Real Life has gotten in the way.  There has been plenty to write about (the Sarasota Chalk Festival, the culture shock I’ve experienced in switching from a Droid to an iPhone 4S, figuring out how to set up shop on my new laptop [an HP Pavilion g7], how much the Jets are ticking me off, etc.), but I just never got around to doing it.

However, I did manage to read a book, Farangi Girl, by Ashley Dartnell.  It was an excellent read.  This is Ashley’s memoir of growing up in Iran and Florida.  Her family is scarily dysfunctional, and I imagine that most people who read this book would be grateful that they did not have her parents.  Both are selfish and cruel in their own way, and I am truly amazed that Ashley grew up to be as well-adjusted as she seems to be.   In the interest of full disclosure, I was acquainted with Ashley in college (but not well enough that I would claim to be her friend) and I really did always think that she had her head on straight and that she was very “together.”  Regardless, the very fact that she managed to survive such a rough childhood with her sense of humor and her sense of self intact is admirable.  Farangi Girl  is not available in the US, but if you have the wherewithal to buy it from one of the offshore outlets, you should do it.  It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it.  (Here  is a review from the Daily Mail)

I am currently reading The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure. It’s another memoir, but it’s nothing whatsoever like Farangi Girl.  McClure is obsessed with the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and this book tells the story of how she sets out to learn as much as possible about the “real” Laura and the “real” stories.  I’m only a few pages in but, from what I’ve seen about the book, McClure doesn’t seem to have known much about Wilder other than what appears in the books.  I have read all of the books, but I have also read several biographies of Wilder, as well as books taken from her diaries and articles she wrote from the perspective of an early 20th century farm wife.  So I know somewhat more about Wilder than McClure did when she started the project.  But it does sound like a worthwhile experience, and I am looking forward to reading about it.

It took a while, but I finally got  back to reading Reckless Endangerment, by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner.   I’m not as far along as I’d like to be, but as I’ve said before, it’s really an excellent read.

Yes, I know I’m reading recent purchases rather than working on the massive backlog.  So sue me.

Alas, everyone’s favorite period soap is over for the time being. Yes, there will be a Christmas special airing on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day and, based on what happened in this week’s episode, DA’s millions of fans are looking forward to Christmas even more than they ordinarily might.

While some loose ends were cleared up, the clearing up is leading to even more questions.

The Spanish flu visits Downton and attacks Cora, Lavinia, Carson and Molesley. Oops — Molesley’s not sick, he’s just drunk. One wonders if he’ll still have a job once everyone’s recovered. The Spanish flu mostly affected the young and healthy, so it makes sense that Carson (the eldest of this bunch) would not suffer as much as Cora or (especially) Lavinia. Yes, especially Lavinia. The poor thing sees and hears Matthew and Mary dancing, kissing and talking and she realizes that Matthew doesn’t love her (Lavinia) as much as he claims to. So, when she takes the inevitable turn for the worse, she tells Matthew to marry Mary. Then she dies.

The hand we saw in last week’s trailer was Cora’s. She’s reaching out to Robert to see if they are still ok. They both apologize for having been distant. This happens not too long after we thought Cora was at death’s door. And, while Cora was in her room possibly dying, Robert was in his dressing room, attempting to shag Jane, the housemaid. Luckily, Bates came by to ask when Robert wanted to be awakened the next morning, otherwise Robert would spend the rest of his life feeling even more guilty than he already does. But Cora lives, and Robert seems chastened.

Sybil and Branson announce their engagement, and the family are irate. But, after seeing that Sybil cannot be budged and Branson cannot be bought, Robert relents and, while he doesn’t exactly give them his blessing, he does say he won’t try to stop them.  Branson is, apparently, now a journalist.  When did this happen? Did he go to correspondence school or something?

Bates and Anna do get married.  They spend their wedding night in one of DA’s many guest rooms.  The whole thing was arranged by Mary and Jane.  And, after Lavinia’s funeral, they come back to the servants’ quarters and there are 2 men waiting for Bates.  They take him away in handcuffs to discuss Vera’s death.

Thomas spends most of the episode trying to ingratiate himself back into the household.  Carson and Mrs. Hughes see right through him, but they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it, so it looks to me as if Thomas will continue to be on staff at Downton Abbey.  Every soap needs a villain, right?

And, speaking of DA villains, O’Brien is so upset when Cora appears to be dying that she even tries to tell her about The Soap.  Luckily, she doesn’t.  If Cora had were truly dying, then maybe.  But, as long as there is even the slightest chance that Cora will live, telling her is a very, very bad idea.

Ethel’s baby daddy’s parents (Mr. & Mrs. Bryant) ask her to give them Charlie so they can raise him as their own.  She decides not to do it.  I think she’s crazy.  She can barely provide for him and, as those of us who are not romantic have figured out, while money doesn’t buy happiness, poverty doesn’t buy anything.

Last, but not least, Sir Richard is still evil and I still wish he’d contracted the flu and died.

We have about 6 weeks until the Christmas special.  Nigel Havers has been cast as someone who tries to woo a Crawley daughter.  Since Sybil is supposed to be in Ireland and Mary is supposed to be a) engaged to Sir Richard and b) in love with Matthew, the most likely candidate to be the object of Nigel Havers’ affections is Edith.  She deserves to be happy, but I can’t see him playing a good-guy character.  He so rarely does.

Anyway, there is no trailer for the Christmas special, so we’ll just have to wait until ITV starts advertising it closer to air date. I’ve read that they’ve only recently finished filming it, so I guess the trailers haven’t been produced yet.  It’s supposedly 2 hours long, so hopefully it’ll be meaty enough to keep us going until next Autumn.

This week’s episode didn’t tie up a whole lot of loose ends.  I think there will be several cliffhangers in next week’s series 2 finale.  Some may be wrapped up during the Christmas special, but others may have to wait for next year to see series 3.  Yes, it’s official.  Downton Abbey will be back next autumn.

So, Episode 7.  Well, Robert does kiss Jane the housemaid.  He does it quite passionately in fact, and I am most seriously displeased.  Cora has been difficult lately, but sometimes it does seem as if he’s picking fights with her.  My thinking is that he’s having a midlife crisis, but I cannot imagine that a gentleman would admit to that kind of thing back then.

Matthew does have feeling in his legs.  By the end of the episode, he was walking and announced his engagement to Lavinia.  Mary did not look as if she were really thrilled about this news.

It looks as if Bates is going to get in trouble for Vera’s death.  He thinks it’s suicide, but he bought the arsenic he thinks killed her, and is afraid somoene (read “the police”) will find out.  I still have a sneaking suspicion that Sir Richard is involved.

Last week, Sir Richard asked Carson to come with  him and Mary when they get married, and he agreed.  This week he changes his mind after learning from Anna that Sir Richard asked her to spy on Mary for him.

Thomas goes into business for himself, but still manages to sleep at Downton even though he’s no longer working there in any capacity.  He bought a lot of groceries at a deep discount, and intends to re-sell them at a profit.  His first victim, er, customer is Mrs. Patmore, and she agrees to pay him only if the wedding cake for Matthew and Lavinia turns out well.  Needless to say, it doesn’t.  He realizes he’s been had and he destroys his inventory during a highly entertaining temper tantrum.  It’s terribly uncharitable to say this, but Thomas is a creep and he deserves to suffer.  And speaking of being uncharitable, I want Sir Richard to die.  I am still not Mary’s biggest fan, but she does not deserve that.

Mrs. Hughes has convinced Cora to invite Ethel’s baby-daddy’s parents to visit.  Cora does not say that he left Ethel with a souvenir of his stay at Downton, and Ethel takes it upon herself to sneak upstairs and introduce herself and the baby.  The husband is a big bully and he storms out of the dining room, but the wife seems to be a decent sort.

And, before I forget, Sybil agrees to run off with Branson,  *yawn*  They are a spectacularly boring couple.  She’s a little too sweet and naive for my tastes, and he’s an arrogant little snot.  Mary, Edith and Anna find them and bring Sybil home with them.

Here is a trailer for next week’s series finale.  It looks pretty interesting.  Robert tells Sybil not to waste her life on Branson, Jane and Robert snog again, Cora has the flu (more characters will, too), Matthew and Mary kiss and someone (a female) dies.  We also see M&M in a cemetery, and he tells her that they are cursed.

That’s my take on episode 7.  The Guardian‘s take is pure snark.  I am in awe of this blogger’s abilities.