Straightened times strike at the Abbey
Downton Abbey ITV1
ALL'S not well at Downton Abbey.
"Are you really telling me that all the money has gone?" the Earl despairs.
It seemed so, lost in an ill-advised investment in Canadian railways.
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Forget the gin, the Dowager Duchess had best get used to the taste of White Lightning.
With the money gone, the Earl's suddenly become touchy about expenditure.
He was peeved to hear of the recruitment of a new footman. And the scale of Mary's wedding was giving him heartburn. How he longed for simpler days when nude Turks were found dead in her bed.
By the time series four comes round Downton Abbey will be a theme park.
As if the loss of the family fortune isn't bad enough for the Earl, Sybil's back from Ireland with ex-chauffeur husband Branson.
No sane aristocrat wishes to have a republican firebrand buffing his daughter's curves.
Personally, I'm unsure what Sybil sees in Branson, a man whose idea of pillow talk is parroting a revolutionary diatribe while the veins stand out on his temples.
I can see trouble for the pair. While Sybil's an easy-going type, even she draws the line at her husband attending her sister's wedding in a balaclava.
Matthew's oh-so politically correct mother Isobel, a woman so wet she doubles as a face flannel, is, of course, all for Branson, saddened at the gossip surrounding the relationship.
Matthew, however, could understand people's interest. "You must think country life more exciting than it is," he said, "if you imagine people don't care when an earl's daughter runs off with the chauffeur."
True. It's like when you go to Buxton and they follow you round because you're not wearing a smock.
The Dowager Duchess had her own take on the situation.
"If we can show he behaves normally," she reasoned, "then the county will soon lose interest in him. And I shall ensure he behaves normally because I will hold his hand on the radiator until he does."
One person who won't be at the wedding is Bates. He's still languishing in prison, convicted of the poisoning of his first wife, his defence of a rogue teabag having been dismissed by the beak.
New partner Anna, though, is sure one day he'll be free. "Do you never doubt," he asked her, "for just one minute?"
No, it's a cheesy TV serial and they need a happy ending for Christmas.
That is if Downton Abbey still exists at Christmas. "I refuse to be a failure," stated Robert. "The Earl who dropped the torch and let the flame go out."
Clever that, an Olympic reference. Wonder if the Earl's thought of staging beach volleyball?