Jazz comes to Downton and all minds are blown out of their craniums!
There’s more to this episode, but things have been so slow this season that Rose getting Jack Ross and his band to play Lord Grantham’s birthday celebration, and the many illuminating reactions of the residents of Downton to black people in the house, provided a little respite from the drudgery of the season. From Carson awkwardly asking Jack if he’s ever been to Africa to the Lord of Downton himself stopping in his tracks for a moment when he realized what’s going on, only to pull a total Lord Grantham and say, “Hey, it’s cool! I’m a cool dad of noble standing.”
Jack and his band playing Downton is supposed to be another example of how times they are a-changin’. Usually the show is either subtle on this theme, like when Mrs. Patmore kvetches about how some new bit of kitchen technology is a sign of the apocalypse, but occasionally something bigger happens, such as that one time when Sybil ran away with the Irish revolutionary who’s still moping around Downton long after her death. Yet with this particular storyline, we can’t help but get the sense that the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, was mainly attempting to introduce diversity to his cast. It’s good he did it, sure — but unless there’s some sort of future for Jack on the show (and the scene where Mary observes him and Rose locked in an embrace leads me to believe there very well might be), then it might end up feeling like Fellowes simply dropped a black character into the show for two episodes because he couldn’t think of a better way to respond to critics.
Meanwhile, Edith has heard nothing back from Gregson, but finds out that — surprise! — she’s pregnant with his child. Once again, the Job of Downton Abbey gets kicked around for no good reason. Mary is the cold, unflappable one, Sybil is a dead saint, and Edith can’t ever catch a break. This may be the inevitable way of things at Downton, but I am starting to wish that Lady Edith would score a win for once.
Then we go below stairs, where Anna and Bates are trying to work on their relationship, now that he knows about her rape and she’s moved back into the cottage. Bates apologizes for being a little much: “Your husband is a brooder. And brooders brood.” They go to dinner at some fancy place, but the snooty maître d doesn’t want to let them in because Lady Cora is already having dinner. Bates and Anna let him know that they’re acquainted with her ladyship, and then you can guess who comes out and gets them their table: Cora.
The Anna storyline isn’t done; that’s obvious. The Dowager Countess rehires the gardener after admitting that she fired him for all the wrong reasons (not to mention making nosy Isobel look a bit silly). Alfred ends up getting into the Ritz after the person before him drops out, and Daisy is pissed. That means, of course, there’s a job for Molesley that Carson basically makes him grovel for. All of these things could make the rest of the season more interesting, but the mention of Cora’s mysterious brother, Harold, promises to introduce the most intrigue to the rest of this season.