Upstairs Downstairs – The New Man (21st October 1972)

Elizabeth and Lawrence are back from their honeymoon. Already there’s a air of brittleness between them – it’s noticeable that when they pay a visit to Lady Marjorie the pair don’t sit together. Elizabeth sits closest to Lady Marjorie whilst Lawrence lurks in the background, only able to see Elizabeth’s back. Presumably this was an intentional script or directorial touch, as it suggests – despite their brave chatter – they’ve already become isolated from each other.

Ruby makes her debut (a little over five minutes in, Mrs Bridges utters her first “oh Ruby” – the first of many).  Mrs Bridges is on especially fine form at the start of the episode, uttering meaningless comments such as “handsome is as handsome does” whilst Mr Hudson continues to wonder about Lawrence’s character.

Despite the fact that Hudson always tells the others not to gossip, today he can’t help himself. He concedes that Lawrence is a very charming young man, but only Hudson could make this sound like a deadly insult. It’s plain that he’s still not taken with him – which is in sharp contrast to Rose, who’s been won over by his superficial charm and his not so superficial good looks.

Shortly after, there’s a lovely scene when Elizabeth goes downstairs to give the servants a present (a musical box). She waltzes around the kitchen, almost bumping into Hudson (both are slightly discomforted by this). As Elizabeth departs with Rose for her new home in Greenwich, Hudson explains to Ruby that Miss Elizabeth’s behaviour can be explained away by the fact that she grew up in Eaton Place. Mrs Bridges tenderly responds that in some ways Miss Elizabeth will never grow up.

John Alderton makes his debut as Thomas Watkins (boyo). I’m not sure why they couldn’t have found a Welsh actor to play a Welshman, but there you go. Thomas – interviewed by Elizabeth for the position of Lawrence’s manservant – manages to talk himself into the job. He certainly doesn’t have Hudson’s deference – Thomas favours a brooding, enigmatic style.

His initial meeting with Rose isn’t very favourable, but it’s not soon before she seems to be somewhat smitten. Hearing her singing whilst she works, Lawrence acidly wonders if “the desires of Rose, the virginal nymph, are aroused by the dark masculinity of the Welsh bull?” Thomas begins to win Rose round after he cleans her boots (she’s still wearing them at the time, which gives the scene a mild erotic charge). He then expounds his theory that life is for living and enjoying – something which I don’t think Rose has ever considered before.

Thomas is curious about 165 Eaton Place. Working there, as opposed to being out of the way in Greenwich, would be a step up the ladder. When he calls round for Elizabeth’s trunk, it’s fascinating to see the way he manipulates Mrs Bridges (lavishing praise on her cherry-cake). Mr Hudson reluctantly shakes his hand, but he’s not won over by Thomas’ easy charm.

Elizabeth and Lawrence aren’t exactly settling into domestic bliss. They have arguments over the dinner table (much to Rose’s discomfort). And then there’s the sleeping arrangements – Lawrence doesn’t seem terribly keen to share his wife’s bed.

A slight spot of hanky panky in the pantry between Thomas and Rose irritates Elizabeth no end (she gives them both a week’s notice). She doesn’t mean it of course – it’s only a spasm of annoyance at the fact others are enjoying themselves whilst she has found herself trapped in a frozen marriage. Nicola Pagett then launches into some strange paroxysms of sobbing which closes the episode.

A pity the series didn’t have a more sombre closing theme to use when the stories were sad, as the jolly music crashing in rather spoils the moment.

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