Downton Abbey Finale Recap: The Rose Bowl

Downton Abbey Season 4 finaleIn this week’s Downton Abbey — sadly, the last of the season — Rose finally has her coming out. But neither the formalwear and waltzing nor even a cameo by the Prince of Wales can distract from the resolutions of the “Did Bates murder Green?” mystery and the “What will Edith do about her baby?” dilemma. And, frankly, everything — and I do mean everything — pales in comparison to the sweetness of what transpires in the episode’s last few seconds. If it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you are seriously broken inside, simple as that. Before we get there, however, just a quick plot point or two (hundred)…

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OFF AND RUNNING | “You’ll never guess what’s happened now,” says Mrs. Hughes as the two-hour episode begins: The Mrs. Hughes of Grantham House — aka Party Central — in London has taken ill, and both the Mrs. Hughes of Downton Abbey and Daisy have been called in as reinforcements. Which, frankly, is just as well since the rest of the gang is already there for the Rose Parade or soon will be. Trailing behind, Tom allows a curious Sarah to have a look-see around the abbey but — oof! — is caught by Barrow while she’s enjoying the view from upstairs (you know, where the beds are). The morning after, Tom tries to make sure that the weasel hasn’t gotten the wrong idea, and yes, it’s just as pointless an endeavor as you’d expect. “However you wish to command me, I am your servant, Mr. Branson,” Barrow responds (and it’s a wonder he doesn’t drool venom), “but I was not aware I was under orders as to what I might think.” Later, after Tom refuses to be blackmailed by the valet, Barrow tattles to Robert. (Not that anything really comes of that… )

FAMILY PLANNING | Since eight months have passed on air between last week’s installment and this week’s, Edith not only has given birth to her daughter, she’s also let the newborn be adopted by a nice Swiss couple. Hope they didn’t get too attached, though, because in no time, Michael’s almost-bride has decided that she is going to undo what she’s done and go with her original hare-brained scheme: Give the baby to Drew and his wife to raise. Luckily for her, the pig man — What? That’s his actual job title! — is more than open to the idea and promises to keep the secret of the child’s true origins from even his missus. (By the way, whether Michael is still alive remains a big question mark. The only new intel that Edith has learned in all this time is that, on his first night in Munich, her lover got into a fight with a gang of toughs. “A gang of toughs?” Rosamund gasps. Yes, a gang of toughs. And, from the way their hate speech is described, they sure sound like Nazis.)

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THE PURLOINED LETTER | Out clubbing with gal pal Madeleine, Rose runs into her friend’s father, Lord Aysgarth, the Prince of Wales and his mistress, Freda. (Quite a hodgepodge, that table!) And it’s all cocktails and small talk… until Rose realizes that she accidentally tipped off that scoundrel Sampson to the presence of a mash note from His Highness in Freda’s purse. When the missive goes missing, Casa Crawley goes into crisis mode. Determined to help the prince save face, Robert hosts a poker game to lure Sampson away from home, then recruits Bates to forge a letter so that Rose, Mary and Charles can gain admittance to the extortionist’s flat in order to search it. Add to this chaos the wildcard that is Cora’s mother, Mrs. Levinson, and you can well imagine how exhausting it all is for the Dowager Countess. “I feel as if I’ve spent the whole evening trapped in the cast of a whodunit,” she exclaims. Worse, the Scooby gang’s search of Sampson’s apartment is a bust. Thank heavens quick-thinking Bates guesses that the cad would never let such a valuable document out of his possession — he’s able to snatch it from Sampson’s pocket while helping him put on his overcoat! Catastrophe averted!

A KILLER AMONG US? | Actually, TWO catastrophes are averted when Bates saves the day. You see, earlier on, Anna gives Mrs. Hughes an old overcoat of her husband’s to donate to charity. In its pocket, Mrs. Hughes discovers a ticket to London (which contradicts Bates’ alibi for the day Green “fell in front of a bus”). While I’d rather expect Mrs. Hughes to burn the evidence — she’d hardly blame Bates for taking vengeance on his wife’s rapist — she instead gives it to Mary to deal with. After that, both Mrs. Hughes and Mary seem to kind of bait the suspect (with accompanying ominous music to make us think… what? That he’ll kill them? Not likely!). Soon, Mary is saying that, no matter how reprehensible Green was, covering up his murder is wrong. BUT — thank heavens — Bates’ show of devotion to Robert and the family convinces her that it isn’t SO wrong, and she throws the ticket on the fire herself. Whew!

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LOVE AND MONEY | In other plotlines, Mary’s men — “Don’t call them ‘Mary’s men!’” the widow pleads — continue their pursuit. (You didn’t really expect them to throw in the towel, did you?) And thus far, they seem intent on playing fair: Tony, of all people, reveals to the object of his affections that his rival is not actually as different from her as she thinks — he’s the heir to a huge estate! (Point: Charles.) Lord Merton continues his pursuit of Isobel. Lord Aysgarth pursues Mrs. Levinson for her money and encourages Madeleine to go after her son, Harold, for the same reason. Harold’s valet, Ethan, takes such a shine to Daisy that he gets his employer to hire her as his new cook. But since she doesn’t fancy either him or a move to the States, she encourages him to take in her place an eager Ivy (who so envies Alfred’s new life as an under chef at the Ritz). And, while we still don’t learn what it is that Barrow is holding over Mrs. Baxter’s head, she does at last stand up to him. Afterwards, she thanks Molesley, telling him, “Your strength has made me strong.” Aww…

DIPPING A TOE IN | Throughout the episode, stick in the mud Carson tries to decide where to take the servants on the outing that Cora wants to give them as a thank-you for all their extra work surrounding Rose’s presentation. Unfortunately, his every idea is duller than the last — so much so that it’s all Mrs. Hughes can do not to groan aloud. When he finally takes the hint (which she gives him) and proposes a day at the seaside, it’s a big hit. And as the season draws to a close, she’s even able to get him to overcome his fears of falling in the surf and wade into the waves. Maybe he’ll hold her hand, he suggests, for balance. “You can always hold my hand if you need to feel steady,” she replies. And, though he says she manages to make the offer sound “a little risqué,” it’s actually heart-burstingly romantic. Be sure and have a tissue at the ready for the last shot of the two of them, together at long last. Caring as much about these two as we do, the sight is THAT moving.

Okay, your turn. What did you think of the episode — and the season? Did you feel like you got enough resolution from the finale, or were you annoyed that even Mary and her suitors were back-burnered for “The Case of the Stolen Love Note”? Hit the comments!