Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Upstairs Downstairs: Series 2 episode 5: War is coming.. via cook's Lady Fingers

Hallam has gone all cad-like and is now meeting his sister-in-law Pershie for quite improper afternoon romps in the Dorchester hotel, while Persie's pillow talk involves a desire for tea, cream cakes and tiny sandwiches, the kind, she says, she dreamed of having in a hotel when she was a little girl.

Persie doesn't specify if also she dreamed of having her elder sister's husband at the same time, but none of that says much for Hallam's bedroom prowess.

Meanwhile, Lady Agnes - still upset about her husband's response to her becoming a model last week, thanks to the involvement of that Rumba-loving American Casper Landry - has gorn off to  Buckinghamshire, and taken the children with her.

"I don't think I've ever been so unutterably miserable in my life," she said just before she left, in a hat, while maudlin piano keys tinkled over her departure. 

Also absent is Dr Mottishead, who we hear is "in Norfolk visiting the transport kiddies" and probably getting up to some advanced admin, but while both of these main characters are away, others at last get a bit more to do.

Spargo and Beryl and their speedy engagement

Following Spargo's coaching of young John in the boxing ring in episode 4, maid Beryl's finally taking a shine to Spargo and appears to have forgotten the whole 'sexy eating of oysters' debacle of episode 2 which she had previously found so offensive.

More than that, he asks her to move to America and get married. It might be a stretch to believe, but it's this story line that seems to have brought the programme to life, or maybe it's that we've got to know everyone a bit better - and about time, given that this is episode 5 of 6.

That's not to say there aren't dramatic leaps we're expected to take - for example, the next time we see Hallam and Pershie after the hotel he's telling her things should never have got so far.

Also just as confusing is Beryl's quick agreement to not only marry Spargo, but to go to America with him - but to get there they need money, so Spargo - nice, reliable Spargo - dramatically blackmails Hallam about Pershie, and it's all sorted.

And Pershie herself reveals herself to the troublemaker we always thought she might be: when she hears the news of Beryl's engagement, she gives her a gift - a garment that inexplicably makes Spargo call Beryl 'Persie' when he sees her in it, half asleep, revealing to Beryl Spargo's and Persie's brief affair in the previous series.

Pritchard's doomed romance

More surprisingly, unctuous butler Mr Pritchard meets a Miss Whisset (Sarah Lancashire) and falls for her - he even asks cook Mrs Thackeray to make some of her special Lady Fingers, which we assume is some sort of biscuit, but is an indication of his fondness for his new special friend.

The romance is doomed of course - thanks to cook Thackeray letting slip how Pritchard had been a conscientious objector in the previous war, causing her to end their budding relationship in a green screen scene of the Royal Albert Hall as a backdrop - a rich visual detail in a show that has a strong, glossy, period style that's perfect for its Sunday night slot.

But the scenes of Pritchard drowning his sorrows at the Annual Servants' Ball is, at least for tv-ooh, the moment he became a character to care about.

And, next morning, with him found hungover on the steps of Eaton Place by a returning Lady Agnes - in a hat - at the end of the episode, the scene is set for a dramatic showdown for the final episode. Will Lady Agnes discover her husband's affair? Who are those mysterious men Pershie is meeting? And how will Pritchard get over that hangover?

Up until now tv-ooh wasn't all that bothered about there being a series 3 of Upstairs Downstairs, but over the past few episodes the characters and their situations have reached a place where it would be good to see a bit more of them and their shenanigans. And their hats.

Related stories:
Upstairs Downstairs: So that was series 2, but will there be a series 3?
Upstairs Downstairs: Series 2 episode 2: Dinners, oysters and violent macaroons
Upstairs Downstairs: Hello I'm back and it's the 1930s and I'm quite posh
Upstairs Downstairs: When 'downstairs' pretend they're 'up'

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