I need Tom out of here as soon as possible, so they’d best hurry up and reveal him as a villain. We’ve got a lot of personalities to spend time with, and he doesn’t add anything. Nothing!! Marian, get your act together. Right now, you’re resembling a tater tot. We all know Larry is the endgame, so let’s get started.
A worn-out axle causes one of George Russell’s trains to crash. Five persons were killed! George suspects one of his workers of purchasing the obsolete components, so he employs Pinkerton detectives to investigate. Pinkerton is one of those things that sounds interesting when you first hear about it. Spies, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, who During the Civil War, there was even a female investigator! However, you subsequently learn that they were recruited to spy on unions and disrupt strikes, thus That’s not a good sign.
This series has a lot more Clara Barton than I expected. Do you suppose Julian Fellowes said to himself, “I’ve got one female social activist in my series, and I’m going to select the nursing lady”? Then he simply crammed her into a number of scenes? I’m not complaining; I’m simply taken aback. When Peggy and Marian attend a Red Cross meeting with Aurora Fane, Barton shows up. Mrs. Morris (remember Mrs. Morris?) is grieving for her husband and is on a mission to find the Russells, whom she blames for his death. Mrs. Morris walks out of the meeting because one of the major reasons, as far as I can gather, is to vote Bertha into the board. Bertha is gaining ground!
Back at the van Rhijns’, Agnes laments the new opera house and declares that she would not frequent any jacked-up opera houses, which is my favorite phrase in the show. All those jacked-up opera houses that people build to appear hip.
Did anybody else see Bad Teacher and empathize with her ex-opening boyfriend’s monologue about how if no one goes to the opera, there would be no opera? Whatever that character’s name is, I had a strong bond with him. You’d think I’d be interested in this Opera War that our soon-to-be-beloved snobs keep mentioning, but this war was historically absurd, and it stays silly in the performance.
Because the New York City Old Guard held a monopoly on the Academy of Music and would not allow the Vanderbilts, Morgans, and others to purchase boxes in the opera house, the nouveau riche created their own opera theater, the Metropolitan Opera. The Met is still going strong today, and will be presenting a piece featuring Kelli O’Hara, a.k.a. Aurora Fane, later this year. The Academy of Music swiftly disintegrated once the Met opened, which is pleasing, but why not just have two opera houses? There will be more opera for everyone!
In this episode, Bertha is a fragile little cupcake, but don’t tell her I said that because I’m quite sure she’d find a way to ruin my aspirations and dreams. Bertha is confused of what to do when Aurora informs her that Ward McAllister wishes to visit the Russell house, and it’s adorable. Bertha is unsure who to invite because she is unfamiliar with the Astor family, but Aurora advises her to invite the same individuals that were at Aurora’s when McAllister came to visit. The problem is that the service must be conducted in English. Aurora claims Bertha only has one opportunity, making this episode feel like a typical “the boss is coming to dinner” sitcom stereotype, although everything goes perfectly (thank God), with the exception of Agnes storming in later.
The English-service component is a snag in the plan since Church, the Russells’ butler, is unfamiliar with English customs. Church says, “… yeah,” when Bertha asks whether he can do it. But, because we all remember Bannister coming over and teaching Church about forks and finger bowls, Bertha eventually offers Bannister $100 (about $2,700 now!) to oversee the luncheon. The church is irritated.
Do you recall T. Thomas Fortune from The Globe? Peggy pays him another visit! I’m hoping for a romance between them at some point since Peggy deserves it. Alternatively, they might simply be pals because she is a CAREER GAL. Fortune informs Peggy that her work has resulted in an increase in subscribers, which is incredible? He wants her to continue working for them as a writer. Peggy pays a visit to her mother, Audra McDonald, a Broadway great and inspiration to us all. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but when I saw Audra McDonald playing the piano in the first scene, I was like, “SING, AUDRA.” Then she could do a duet with Peggy, and I’d have accomplished my aim for this concert with an Audra McDonald–Denée Benton duet.
Imagine if “The Gilded Age”, like Buffy, had a musical episode. Almost everyone in the cast has the ability to do it, and since it appears that the majority of the audience for this performance like musicals, it can only be a good thing. Would it be strange? Yes. But we’d get through it.
Peggy’s mother congratulates her on her journalistic accomplishment, but they both know that her father will not be on board because he still feels her career would fail. I was scared Mrs. Scott would say something ridiculous like, “You see both of us or none of us,” but when she discovers Peggy isn’t going to see her father, she asks if they may meet without him. Mrs. Scott, you did an excellent job of respecting your daughter’s limits and maintaining a relationship.
When George tells Bertha more about the train accident, she is exclusively concerned about how it will affect her luncheon and her potential to enter Society. George has been patient with her aspirations here, but he abandons her because he believes the crash and the deaths of five people are more important than her social ambitions. It’s an excellent point! But, George, you know who you married. And if she needs to murder them all to accomplish it, that person will be recognized by society’s higher echelons.
Bertha opens all of Gladys’ mail, we discover. This piece on what constitutes a mail crime, by the way, was extremely intriguing (it seems that Bertha is in murky territory, but that the U.S. Postal Service would definitely not think she was doing a great job). Gladys had received a letter from Archie Baldwin, the young guy Gladys was slipping away to visit. George is remorseful for “ruining his daughter’s connection,” and he tells Gladys about her mother’s expectations for her. She desires a “one-of-a-kind” marriage. The fact that Bertha isn’t openly stating her wish for Gladys to marry a member of the English aristocracy or peerage is demeaning to us as spectators at this point. We know what’s going on! But they’re adamant about keeping the atmosphere ambiguous, which is OK. Wow, whatever a special marriage may be, I’m on pins and needles waiting for the disclosure.
Watch Bertha inform Gladys that she’s marrying that guy who used squatter’s rights to claim control over a section of Chicago. That, I mean, would be fairly unique.
“Agnes is virtually always correct” is the season’s theme. The “essentially” permits her to be mistaken about the Russells and rude to new money people. But, you know, she shuts down Miss Armstrong about Peggy, she fends off the fortune hunter chasing Ada, she’s always defended her family, and she senses something’s up with Tom, even though Marian is a scribbler on the matter. She’s also mistaken about Bannister, but I believe she recognizes that. Agnes is fantastic.
I almost forgot about the doll party, thank you so much. For the young ones, Mamie Fish hosts a doll tea party. It’s a strange situation. I’d go without hesitation. We see Larry (who is really attractive) and Gladys, who is permitted to go since Caroline Astor will be present, and Bertha recognizes an opportunity. Gladys and Caroline talk about how terrible their moms were (a great bonding subject).
Marian and Tom will meet up at Mrs. Chamberlain’s in secret to get to know each other. It irritates me. Unless Mrs. Chamberlain discovers that Tom is a jerk.
Ward McAllister’s luncheon serves as the episode’s climax. McAllister is enamored with the Russells’ wonderful home and makes a few Catherine the Great analogies, which Bertha plainly does not understand but about which no one makes a fuss. When they sit down, everyone gets a present, which is precisely what my family did at Thanksgiving (they were from the Thanksgiving Fairy), but McAllister gets a gold cigarette case and I get a VHS video of Casper.
Someone gives Agnes a message revealing Bannister’s violation of every snooty value she holds dear, and she storms across the street, into the Russells’ house, and bursts into the dining room, where there are so many people (not so many guests, but so many footmen). Marian and Aurora assist Agnes in maintaining her dignity, and Agnes bows out, informing Bannister that heads have been rolled for less.
We conclude with Agnes realizing that her son has been having sexual relations with Miss Turner and George learning that someone at his firm is blaming him for the railway tragedy. As Bertha holds George in the library, we hear dramatic violins! The episode has come to an end.