Beanpole and Pretty Boy: Downton Abbey Video Recap

Ben Adams, Peter Fenzel, Ryan Sheely, and Matthew Wrather return to overthink tonight’s episode of Downton Abbey, talking about Lady Sybil’s death, the fight between Sir Philip and Dr. Clarkson, Ethel’s rehabilitation, and whether Beanpole or Pretty Boy (Alfred or James) has a better chance of climbing the Ivy.

Because that’s what Sybil would have wanted.

7 Comments on “Beanpole and Pretty Boy: Downton Abbey Video Recap”

  1. Gab #

    Reactionary Lord Grantham: That’s actually something I’ve noticed. Lord Grantham is the hotheaded, emotional one, while Lady Grantham is the one that’s usually pretty cool and collected. Sort of a gender-role-reversal.

    Moral Contagion: I loved the line Mrs. Crawley gave, which I believe went, “No one would look at you and think you’re a prostitute.” I don’t think Mrs. Bird realized it was an insult.

    Speaking only for myself, Beanpole is pretty good-looking. Ahem. Also, his name is Alfred. And he’s British. I have a feeling he jumps the pond and starts working for an almost-noble family in the U.S., but ends up raising the heir to their fortune because of a mugging gone bad. I could be wrong, though.

    Let me problematize the parallel between Gwen (the maid from season 1) and Ethel a little more, if I may. Gwen succeeds in what she wants to do by soliciting the assistance of a trusted noble. Ethel goes out on her own and fails. So, we could maybe say it’s a demonstration of how sure things are changing, but they haven’t changed that drastically, and the nobility are still needed to help care for their servants. I’m reminded of how Lady Violet, even though she’s unpredictable sometimes in how progressive she’ll be, constantly reminds people that the nobility are employers, not just masters of houses.

    I received all of season 3 in the mail yesterday. Hopefully I don’t confuse episodes.

     
    • Matthew Wrather #

      That’s interesting. In a certain light, Ethel is also “soliciting the assistance of a trusted noble”, except that she does it via boning and the noble is not to be trusted.

       
      • Lavanya #

        Maybe only same-gendered relationships, then? Gwen and Sybil, Lord Grantham and Bates, and Mrs. Crawley and Ethel all have positive noble-commoner relations.

         
        • Gab #

          Or it could be a familiarity thing, too. Gwen knew Sybil long before getting her help- and Sybil offered it to her. Same thing with Lord Grantham and Bates, as well as Mrs. Crawley and Ethel. Perhaps it’s saying commoners shouldn’t solicit the help of their own accord, but rather wait to be rescued.

          Also, this ties into the “trusted” aspect, and is actually a good response to you, Wrather. I mean, how can we really know the soldier is trustworthy? His being a soldier doesn’t really matter, and we’ve seen nobles throw people (noble and common alike) under the bus time and again before he shows up in S2. So perhaps it isn’t that she did it via boning, but just that she did it of her own initiative. So I guess I somewhat retract what I said before- Gwen did not solicit Lady Sybil at first. Sure, she kept her in the loop once things got going, but Sybil was the one that kept coming up with ideas and ways to help and took matters into her own hands more often than not.

          This jives well with Bates and Ethel once she’s under Mrs. Crawley’s eye. Bates, my gosh, that dude has a huge cross on his back, and Lord Grantham is constantly prying him off of it, and usually because someone else tells Lord Grantham what’s what, and he then intercedes or something. Ethel didn’t mean to attract Mrs. Crawley’s attention at first, and it took a bit of pushing for her to accept help.

          In all three cases, the help is accepted because there’s no reason to doubt the person offering the help. The relationships are established prior to the assistance, and we’ve seen these characters do good things before. With Soldier Boy, we know nothing about him, save that he’s a hunk in a uniform. And hunks in uniforms in melodramas usually don’t mean good business.

           
        • fenzel #

          Nah, Robert helps out Jane, getting her son into private school and all that — so it isn’t even about the gender of the relationship, the propriety of the relationship, or even whether the relationship is sexual or not.

          Basically the commoner has to put him- or herself out there, and then the noble has to not abuse the power in the relationship.

          The thing with Ethel and Charles is that:

          a) Ethel doesn’t have any sort of mature plan or idea of what she actually wants. Every commoner who actually gets help from a noble in the show wants it for something specific and focused. For example, Bates doesn’t show up a damn mess to Robert’s house — he applies and gets a very specific job.

          b) Charles is a jerk and doesn’t want to help her.

          c) Gab hits it on the head that for a patron-client relationships to be reciprocal, there has to be a relationship – you don’t just go beg things from rich strangers. This goes back to the Romans, and the more a character is keyed into the idea of being a “patrician,” the more likely they are to enter into the kind of relationships where they help out commoners.

          Not only that, but patron-client relationships are a specific kind of relationship — not just any relationship of trust. There’s a formal deference and a ritualized display of vulnerability involved (the commoner has to acknowledge the noble’s higher status and actually ask for what they want, which is a big step).

          Gwen does this with Sybil. Bates does this with Robert. Jane definitely has this relationship with Robert — although he gives her more than she asks for. As far as we can tell, Ethel never does this with Charles — they just bang out of mutual attraction.

          Watching these parts of the show, I was struck by how similar these relationships are to modern professional relationships — the way that, in formal jobs, lower- to mid-level workers behave toward high executives at companies in much the same way the servants behave toward the nobility in Downton.

          I mean, when you think about it, these people really are just their bosses, and these are just paying jobs. They’re not slaves. The jobs are really consuming and obtrusive in Downton Abbey, but it’s easy to be distracted by the fact that the Abbey looks like a living space and fail to see that people both upstairs and downstairs think of it as much as the office as the home.

           
  2. Gab's Mom #

    Time for a middle aged female opinion and yes I am Gabrielle’s mom.

    First, I was taught/read royalty was ‘sent/chosen’ by God to guide (control)all non royal blood. This would explain why some (Carson)holds this so to close him as opposed to Mrs. Hughes.

    Second, Downton after Lady Sybil’s death has become a manor/village divided with both upstairs and downstairs feeling the need to chose a side. Either progress (free will) or whatever God plans ( blame him I have no free will and remain the person lighting fireplaces every morning).

    These are my observations from this week.

    How many noticed Bates still wearing his vest in prison? Good grief must he continue to pretend he is still the Lordships valet?
    The ONE TIME the manor needed Matthew’s medical ( practicing without a license, in fairness she is female and probably couldn’t get one) mother is absent.
    The symbolism of the Dowager Countess being old and barely able to cross the empty foyer of their crumbling life in all manners of life.
    Go Edith!!! We want to see you to become successful regardless of your failing father, something tells me Cora will side with her. Again this is a Manor/village divided.
    Can we just slap Lady Mary’s face?

    Again, I am a middle aged woman…no spoiler alerts.

     
    • Gab #

      Go Mom! <3