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B*tch Ranking "Downton Abbey": The Queen Bitch Returneth

By Joanna Robinson | TV Reviews | February 12, 2013 | Comments ()


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In lieu of a standard recap, we'll be doing a weekly b*tchcap for the rest "Downton Abbey"'s run on PBS. Although many of you have somehow seen the rest of Season 3 already, I'll ask that you refrain from spoiling any Americans in the comments section below. So please feel free to discuss everything up to and including Season 3, Episode 6 of the PBS version of "Downton Abbey." But, before you do, here are this week's b*tch rankings.

5. Lord Grantham: With his unexpectedly lenient (AND REALLY UNREALISTIC BUT THAT'S OKAY) attitude towards Poor Gay Thomas, Lord Grantham nearly weaseled his way off the b*tch rank this week. But, well, being gay is all well and good but Catholics are still the scum of the earth, right? Full marks for that gay kissing at Eton story, though, Lord Grantham. Even Bates dug it.
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4. Editor of "The Sketch," Michael Gregson: First of all, I'm a little skeeved out by how much Lady Edith's editor and would-be suitor looks like her ex-fiance. Right? Also, I am crushed, crushed to learn that the lovely flirty newspaper man is married. I thought he and Edith were going to have a Hildy/Walter relationship. Alas, things took a turn for the Rochester and I'm sorry, but I'm not overly fond of the whole "my wife's in an asylum" plotline. Are we meant to be rooting for her death. Is this Bates redux?
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3. Newly Anointed First Footman Jimmy And Second Footman Alfred: Listen, they're extraordinarily rude reaction to Thomas' sexuality aside (BECAUSE IT'S PERIOD APPROPRIATE, ALAS, THAT'S WHY), I'm disappointed these two allowed themselves to be so thoroughly manipulated by O'Brien. Poor show, lads.
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2. Novels About Young Women Admired For Their Feistiness: Ah, Sybil 2.0: Blonde and Feisty.
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Cousin Rose's transformation from Little Bopeep to flapper was delightfully racy. I strongly suspect Rose will be sticking around which is nice because it's not as if Mary's going to be sexing Turks to death any time soon. And with the departure of sad prostitute Ethel, we could use a bit more scandal about the place.
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1. O'Brien: The queen is back destroying lives without batting an eyelash. This revenge against Thomas is payback for...what? Him messing with Alfred? Pretty out proportion and harsh. Especially considering the two used to be so close.
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It's a good thing Thomas had that ace up his sleeve. You guys! Bates did something useful (I mean, in addition to the bang up interior decorating job). It's been so long!
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Best Line: "Oh, well, that is an easy caveat to accept, because I am never wrong."
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Worst Line: "Now we can start making babies." Ugh, Matthew. UGH.
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Most Heartbreaking Moment: I know, I know! Thomas was JUST a scheming villain and I shouldn't feel so soft and squishy towards him, but that hunted look he gave Alfred in the hallway, barely holding it together with Carson and then fully breaking down with Mrs. Hughes? I'm sorry. It got me.
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Best Dressed: The fellers in their cricket whites, of course. I loved this plotline. Poor Molesley was SO Mr. Collins about the whole thing.
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Best Hat: Lady Edith. I do so love it when she wins with hats.
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Sleep well, poppets. One more episode left!
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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Morgan_LaFai

    I don't really have a problem with the Lady Edith / married editor plot line. Perhaps it is because of my complete and undying love for Katherine Hepburn. I think it is a great twist and will really spice things up in future episodes. Edith is starting to get stronger and I don't think an insane wife is going to stand in her way for very long, nor will the pressure of her family and friends.

    As for Thomas, he is a scheming villain, but it is over compensation for having to hide who and what he is from the rest of the world all the time. When the world hates a person just for being who (s)he is, one tends to hate the world back. And we did get a rare glimpse of who Thomas is under all the bristle in season 2 when he bonded with the wounded / shell shocked soldier in the hospital. It was such a beautiful and touching moment, made all the more tragic by the soldier's suicide. Plus this is the truly horrible post Oscar Wilde pre Stonewall time period in which to be a homosexual. Not that the 80's were that great a treat.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    Yay, I've been waiting for the bitchcap!

    Holy moly, the whole Thomas kiss debacle. I had to leave the room. I couldn't bear to watch and feel the mortification/ruin-by-proxy. So that was well done.

    God, Rose was annoying as hell to me. But I loved the jazz club scene. It's funny how those dances can look so quaint to our eyes but when you see them after being immersed in the period mindset for an hour or so... you see how very shocking it much have been. (The hip swivels! LEWD.)

    Also? I wish they had picked names that weren't so easily confused. Between Ethel/Edith and Thomas/Tom I am constantly getting confused during the next-day conversations. "Ethel was A PROSTITUTE? Ohhhh. Ethel. Never mind."

    This may be an individual problem, though. On account of my case of the dumb.

  • maureenc

    Those dances look like the result of a bunch of ex-Edwardians trying to be wild and rebellious and ending up with a cross between a grand mal seizure and the White Man's Overbite.

    Yeah, the Edith/Ethel thing is annoying; neither name is so common that you'd miss it if it wasn't there--but the Tom/Thomas thing feels true, especially for England. At least it isn't a twenty-first century AU version of "The Tudors".

    I once read that in Victorian days household servants were sometimes asked to change their names if they were the same as members of the family, or were seen as too fancy. (In "Little Women", Aunt March asked her French maid to change her name to Esther from Estelle.)

  • maureenc

    So Branson has made The Historic Compromise, eh? Well, Yorkshire's not going to take up socialism any time soon, and I suspect he feels that Matthew's plan of making Downton economically viable and allowing the tenants to get out while the getting's good is better than Grantham's keep calm and carry on approach. (And the alternative is raising Sybbie with Drunk Uncle Kieran.) But can I still dream that Branson becomes the Labour MP for Downton's riding in 1925? Because if the English are going to keep him out of Ireland then by God, they can have to deal with him in Parliament.

    Only Thomas can be nailed for creeping on a subordinate and wrangle a promotion out of it. You magnificent bastard, you. But wasn't the plan always that Thomas was leaving because Bates was coming back? So how does Grantham need to "reassert authority" by keeping Thomas? Just give him a good recommendation and pass his name on to some of your old friends from Eton.

  • chanohack

    I've also got to say that I fully admired the way Matthew handled the Rose situation, and then I completely loved how Granny undid all his work practically immediately. And then poor Rosamund, "Have you tricked me, mama?" Having Granny for a ma must be exhausting.

  • chanohack

    My roller-coaster relationship with Edith is currently at a high-- she was so independent and full of action this episode! And she totally caught onto Rose's bullshit, even when Granny didn't, props Edith. And she was dressed so well (mostly, that last outfit seemed like a seriously over-thought "break up with him and make him sorry" suit). That little multi-colored coat she wore was gorgeous, may I have it, JF? And while I have your ear, can you really not dream up a nice, single guy for Edith to flirt with? Why are you so opposed to her happiness? Did you once date an Edith who burned you real bad? Isn't it time to let it go? Thank god the costume designer doesn't have a dark past with an Edith.

    Oh, and the Sketchy Editor totally looks like Antony. I almost expected them to be revealed as brothers.

    I also find it very hard to believe that O'Brien would forget that Thomas knew her soap secret before trying to ruin his life, or that Thomas would need Bates to remind him how to blackmail people. Come on, Thomas and O'Brien. This amateur shit is beneath you.

  • Kathleen Allen

    please tell me you've seen david mitchell's downtown abbey rant. no one rants like mr mitchell. his anger is balm to the fellowes-ravaged soul. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/b..." frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>

  • Morgan_LaFai

    I have seen it. but you totally made me want to watch it again. Every time someone mentions time passing and characters not aging I think of his rant.

  • Petrie

    Favorite part was when Matthew and Mary were sitting on their bed and Mary kissed him. The look on his face was one of surprise like "What why is this lady kissing me?" Cracked me up.

    Actor fail.

  • Candee

    I'm not sure if they did it on purpose (they most likely did), but it made me so angry with the Thomas thing and the Ethel thing.

    "Oh--you're gay? And tried to kiss someone while they slept in the middle of the night? Eh. No big deal. Get back to work and play some cricket."

    "PROSTITUTE!? A WOMAN? AND A PROSTITUTE!? GRAAAAAAAGHHSOIHGOEWHALG GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"

  • Patty O'Green

    This episode had me talking to (ie shouting at) my television a lot.
    NOOO!! NO, DON'T DO IT! NO KISSY, NO KISSY! PLEASE GOD, THE EMBARRASSMENT IS MAKING ME IMPLODE!!!

    NO, don't do that, you twat!
    UGH, why, WHY?!? He didn't do this to you?!?
    SHUT UP, you insufferable twat! You used to be cute and now I want to kick your teeth in!
    Oh he did NOT call the cops!

  • PaddyDog

    Seriously, my comment was blocked?

  • JoannaRobinson

    I....I doubt it.

  • PaddyDog

    I got a message saying my post was awaiting moderation and then it appeared on the page for 2 minutes and when I refreshed it was gone. Is this like being on Nixon's enemies list? What happens next? Will jack-booted thugs show up at my door?

  • Nice knowing you, @33351e9f8739a80e2a12d4423fd54421:disqus

    No mercy, apparently.

  • Mrs. Julien

    And how will you tell them apart from all of the other jack-booted thugs that show up at your door?

    Simple: they will be the only ones armed with tentacle-themed weapons.

  • $27019454

    Hey!! Jack-booted thugs are people, too!

  • BWeaves

    Like these:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?i...

    Actually, I'm secretly hoping a Dalek starts sporting one of these.

  • mswas

    Siobhan Finneran (O'Brien) is one talented actress. Her panic was palpable as she tried to convince Jimmy that backing off the pursuit of Barrow would make him seem benevolent. I'd like to see a gif of that.

  • Allijo

    I'm currently reading Parade's End in prep for the HBO adaptation in a few weeks, and that asylum storyline is totally from that book, except gender flipped. Two period pieces, but Downton got the drop on the storyline before it hit the U.S. with Parade's End. Clever clever.

  • maureenc

    Fellowes must have been really pissed that Benedict Cumberbatch threw shade on the second season.

  • First of all, I’m a little skeeved out by how much Lady Edith’s editor and would-be suitor looks like her ex-fiance. Right?

    Thank. You. I thought I was the only one who saw it. My mom was in-between with "Ehhh, it kind of looks like him." I'm still not over the ending of that relationship and was so hoping Edith would strike out on her own with no man for a bit. I'm so not buying the whole asylum storyline, either. Ugh.

    Rose is totally an attempt at a purposed Sybil. She feels like Fellowes' "I'm sorry I killed off Sybil" gift to us.

    Wait, holy shit, it's already this episode? Baw gawd. Baw gawd.

  • Bedewcrock

    The casting directors seem to like the "fill-in" trend. Example: substituting William (RIP) for Alfred. It's even weird they're using Daisy as the love interest. That plot already happened!

  • Exactly! That's another one I brought up with my mom (my viewing partner). There are parts of series that get an "OVER IT!" vote from me: Daisy with any love interest, Bates in prison, Branson and Sybil (I'm sorry, but blech, no matter how much of a gem she is), Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, Jenny Lee in Call the Midwife.

  • Bedewcrock

    I'm still confused about Robb Stark every time I see him. "Wait, who is that again? There's someone older than John? Ohhhh right, Robb Stark. I thought he died?..... Egg?"

  • In season 1 at Winterfell, you can tell who's who only by hair color. Once they split, obviously it becomes a little easier. A LITTLE.

  • mswas

    Those Brits all look alike

  • BWeaves

    1. I thought Edith looked lovely this episode, EXCEPT for that Orange number with the fake tie.

    2. I was wondering where I'd seen the editor before. For the briefest moment, I thought he WAS her ex-fiance, and then I thought he was David Tennant for about a minute. After 5 minutes, I finally realized where I'd seen him before. He played Alfred Conan Doyle in "Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes" vs. Ian Richardson as Dr. Bell (the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes character). He's not in the first episode, but in all the sequels.

    3. So Thomas gets his ass handed to him on a silver platter (thank you Carson) and somehow he ends up second in command? That would never happen in real life back then. He would have been sacked without a reference and chucked out the door immediately. I think Lord Grantham had a little Thomas on the side when Cora locked him out of their bedroom, and this is Thomas' reward.

    4. OK, so I was right last week about thinking Branson was going to end up running the farm. Any bets that after Lord Grantham dies, they have to sell the place and Branson and Daisy buy it and run it as a B&B wedding venue?

    5. I find it hard to believe that Mary and Matthew would end up at the same doctor at the same time.

    6. And what is it with these "operations" that these ladies have that leave no scars and apparently heal with no penicillin to stave off infection. Mr. Patmore had some sort of eye operation and you can't even tell. Mary had some sort of operation to her lady bits. WTF? Has Julian Fellowes ever talked to a gyno?

    7. I like that Alfred's a bit of a jerk. He's not totally evil, like O'Brien and Thomas, and yet, even they have their humanity. I actually find it reasonable that Alfred and Jimmy could be so easily manipulated by O'Brien. They're young and impressionable and she exudes quiet power.

    8. I hated to see Thomas go, but I don't see how he's going to command the respect he's going to need in the position of 2nd butler when everyone knows his scandal.

  • LucyKlein

    I definitely thought of David Tennant when we meet the editor guy! Oh why couldn't it be him :(
    I couldn't stop rolling my eyes for Robert's "You're Born that Way" speech." As a a member of the LGBT community I hate when people/shows/movies give us an after school special moment about equality.
    Robert doesn't like change in literally any aspect of his life.
    Can someone explain how Thomas is now that boss of everyone? Admittedly I don't entirely understand the servant hierarchy.

  • KatSings

    YES to number 3.

  • Let's all ship Lord Grantham and Thomas!

  • Edith may be winning with that lovely hat, but that peach, Peter Pan collared monstrosity is the worst.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I was enjoying his Lordship's redemption arc, especially when he channeled his mother with the whole Thomas/Alfred/Jimmy/Carson thing. And he ran right over Bates, too. Very impressive.

    I'm not sure O'Brien will be able to make her living as a prostitute if she's sent off without a reference.

    I'm so hot & cold on Thomas. I love him, I hate him, he's beautiful, he looks like a frog . . . . He's a man of many faces and moods. And he smokes weird.

    Is lilac/lavender the mandatory color for protestants at catholic baptisms?

  • BWeaves

    In the Victorian era after a death in the family, you were supposed to wear:

    Mourning for a year: Black crape

    Half morning for the following 6 months: Lavender or grey.

    Time seems to be rather compressed in Downton Abbey.

    The girls haven't aged in 10 years, and I have no idea how long after Sybil died that the baby was baptized.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Ah, I hadn't realized that that much time had passed. Thanks!

  • PaddyDog

    Lavender is the color one wears if one is still officially in mourning (Sybil) but attending a joyous occasion such as a wedding or baptism.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Thanks - I didn't know that (obviously). I'm the worst Anglophile ever.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Yes dove grey or lavender but then in the very next scene they were wearing colors.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Can I just say how lovely it is to have special guest star PaddyDog with us today? I hope she turns into our own Meljiba Place version of Heather Locklear!

  • $27019454

    YES!! And I see Ann Miller is back (jazzzzzhanzzzz)!

    I would like to add that NO ONE looks good in lavender. It is a lovely color when it occurs in nature but it is FUG when applied to clothing.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I look great in lavender!

  • $27019454

    I upvoted you because of your confidence in the face of, well, lavender.

  • Kballs

    These reviews are fascinating because I haven't watched a single second of this show (not even a commercial), so the inside jokes inside the inside jokes are baffling, entertaining and somehow speak in a voice similar to the time period.

  • KatSings

    Wasn't O'Brien retaliating not just for Alfred, but for the fact that Thomas made the family believe that she was leaving their service? That was a thing that happened, and was a big problem for her for not very long at all. But I think that was part of what spurred her on. Still, stone cold. I hate Thomas, though, even if he does have human moments like after Sybil died (I'm still not over her being dead).

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