I am donning a black arm band to lament the demise of Robert Crawley whose honor, decency, and self-restraint crumbled like the Ottoman Empire last night. Kissing the maid while his wife might be facing death across the hall? If I weren't studiously avoiding political commentary, he would hereafter be known as Newt.
Okay, okay, he stopped, kind of sort of. He summoned a pained expression, but all of us were left feeling that he was more broken up about turning away Jane than he was about violating his marriage vows. Even as he comforts Cora as she recovers, I couldn't help but think old Robert was far more concilatory and repentant over his falling out with Bates than he was over this whole debacle.
Looking beyond this (which I really can't), Downton Abbey improved on last week's performance. Here's my assessment:
1. As soon as Lavinia came down with Spanish Flu, I think we all knew she was a goner. The Mary/Mathew tension is riveting and pulls the entire show into focus. Just as Mary and Mathew couldn't have married at the end of Season 1, Lavinia and Mathew couldn't have walked down the aisle without shutting down one of the lifelines of the series.
Sir Richard is too caustic and driven to succumb to mere flu. No, he's going to go down eventually, but he'll go down fighting and, no doubt, there will be some nasty fallout.
But sweet Lavinia . . . she had to go, and she left as she arrived: giving, quiet, and self-effacing.
2. O'Brien rocks this season and last night was no exception.
3. Please, oh please, could the Daisy "I wasn't good to William" plot line go out in the dust bin and stay gone already?
4. Turns out old Branson does have a first name, and it's Tom. Sybil speaks it for the first time as the perky couple announces their grand plans to the whole Crawley brood. I was heartened to see the two act with more restraint than Sybil's beloved Papa and do the right thing.
5. Poor Anna and Mr. Bates. I, of course, have a theory about their grim predicament. Mrs. Bates, I suspect, threatened Sir Richard who promptly had her bumped off. When Anna ratted Sir Richard out to Mrs. Hughes (and Carson, and, ultimately, Lady Mary), I think Sir Richard played the long arm of the law and that led to Bates' arrest. Hmmmm.
6. I don't fully understand the Ethel sub-plot. Now that Jane is dispatched to parts unknown, my guess is that Ethel will be back in service at Downton. She's a little too pretty and far too fast, especially since our Lord Grantham -- er, I mean Newt -- has proved himself to be all too weak where the help is concerned. Note to Lady Cora: Hire middle-aged, unattractive help. Think: Mrs. Byrd.
7. For a laugh, head over to You Tube to check out "A Very Carson Christmas." Too funny.
I have to retract my comment that Downton Abbey jumped the shark. I was on the edge of my seat this week, even as I was groaning and growling at old Newt.