Our 14th most-read article of the 2022.
Originally published February 8, 2022.
Downstairs to Downstairs
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: I’m worried about Rich Lady.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Don’t be. She’s rich, ain’t she?
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Being rich doesn’t mean her horse can’t die/ her husband can’t die/ she can’t die/ she can wear a hat well.
BUTLER: Stop arguing, you two! Someone needs to take this duck liver blancmange up to the dining room on the double!
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Humph! (Exits to the kitchen)
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Sigh! (Takes platter and exits up the stairs)
BUTLER: In my day, people were happy to even get to smell a duck liver blancmange! (Exits down hallway)
Downstairs to Upstairs
RICH LADY: Oh, I am distraught over the shambles of my life.
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Even though my problems are punishingly more severe than yours, I will kindly listen to your tale of pampered woe.
RICH LADY: Woe!
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Poor you. Let me fix your hair in some particular way.
RICH LADY’S HUSBAND: (bursts in) I am angry over the same issue that made you distraught. (sees Household Servant, very politely) Excuse us, please, if you do not mind, awfully kind of you, thanks, thanks.
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Of course, of course, on my honor, I am sorry, sir. (exits)
RICH LADY: There’s no need to take that tone with my servant.
RICH LADY’S HUSBAND: I’m so irate. I shall now make the same point about the issue I made earlier.
RICH LADY: I will re-summarize my view as well.
(Cut to: Household Servant standing outside RL’s door, shaking her head sadly.)
Upstairs to Downstairs
YOUNGER RICH LADY: (enters the kitchen)
ALL SERVANTS: GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING, M’LADY. WHAT BRINGS YOU DOWN HERE TO OUR HOVEL?!?
BUTLER: Madame, may I please escort you quickly back to your proper household area before you get any working class on you?
YOUNGER RICH LADY: Oh, but I wanted to thank you / learn to make potatoes / ask for your help / see how the boy who burnt his head while building my fire this morning is.
ALL SERVANTS: WHAT UNRESTRAINED KINDNESS. WE ARE AGOG
YOUNGER RICH LADY: All right, then, thank you. (exits)
BUTLER: Back in my day, when one of the masters chose to talk to us, we slaughtered a fowl in thanks! How lucky we are!
ALL SERVANTS: Huzzah!
Upstairs to Upstairs
RICH LADY: (enters Young Rich Lady’s room) Such news! Young Hot Rich Guy writes to tell us that he will soon visit!
YOUNG RICH LADY: Why should I care? Times have changed, Mother!
RICH LADY: But Young Hot Rich Guy will make a hillion billion pounds/dollars next year, thanks to his inheritance / horses / ethically dicey business in South America.
YOUNG RICH LADY: What do I care about his hillion billions? Tell my sister!
SLIGHTLY LESS ATTRACTIVE BUT STILL PRETTY ENOUGH FOR ALL NORMAL PURPOSES YOUNGER SISTER: Tell me what? I’m just back from riding in a car / showing off my ankles / letting the milliner talk me into putting three feathers on my hat instead of the more acceptable two / beginning an addiction to laudanum.
RICH LADY: Young Hot Rich Guy is going to visit! And now I’m going to make a comment about women that will land poorly with our twenty-first-century viewing audience.
SLIGHTLY LESS ATTRACTIVE BUT STILL PRETTY ENOUGH FOR ALL NORMAL PURPOSES YOUNGER SISTER: And I’ll counter that with a viewpoint that there is no conceivable way I would have held unless I was a time traveler, but will show me to be in alignment with the viewing audience’s core beliefs.
RICH LADY’S HUSBAND: (popping in) I’m just popping in to make a blanket statement about race. So I can learn a lesson later in this episode. See you at dinner! (leaves, almost bumping into Household Servant, entering)
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Pardon, madame, but I’m here to apply literally $10,000 worth of jewels to your head, if I may?
YOUNG RICH LADY: All of you leave, for I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever marry Young Hot Rich Guy. Household Servant, you can stay and listen to my woes.
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: What bliss!
Downstairs to Downstairs II
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: I’m still worried about Rich Lady.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Don’t be! She’s rich, ain’t she?
BUTLER: Didn’t you two talk about this earlier this episode?
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: That was last episode.
BUTLER: It blurs together for me. I wish we had some subtext. Instead, we just keep saying the same plot points until whatever it is resolves at the end of the season. Oh, well, would one of you take this turtle soup with shellacked truffles up to the dining room? Do not make eye contact with anyone, including the turtle!
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Humph! (exits to the kitchen)
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Sigh! (exits to the stairs, carrying soup tureen, eyes closed)
A Day Out—Downstairs
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Fancy us out on the town buying stick candy, like actual human beings with free will! What will I tell me mum / my pa / the priest / the Black person I condescend to?
EMBITTERED MALE SERVANT: I’m closeted / suffering from PTSD / embezzling from our employer / in love with a goose, but I can’t say it aloud. I’ll just walk three paces behind everyone else and appear gloomy.
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Oh, I think I see Young Rich Lady.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: Well, go on. Say hello!
HOUSEHOLD SERVANT: I could never. But after she leaves that shop, I’ll go in and ask them if I might sweep up a bit of dirt from where she trod to keep in a sachet under my pillow.
BUTLER: (nods once, approvingly)
ALL SERVANTS: HUZZAH, THERE IS A PARADE OR THE WAR IS OVER, OR A FARM SHOW OR SOMETHING. LET’S GATHER!
(All servants rush off screen, followed by Embittered Male Servant, glowering.)
A Day Out—Upstairs
YOUNGER RICH LADY: I can shoot as well as any man.
YOUNG HOT RICH GUY: Oh?
YOUNGER RICH LADY: Who are YOU?
YOUNG HOT RICH GUY: I’m Young Hot Rich Guy.
YOUNGER RICH LADY: Well!
YOUNG HOT RICH GUY: (shoots something)
YOUNGER RICH LADY: (also shoots something)
YOUNG HOT RICH GUY: Well!
RICH LADY’S HUSBAND: (rides up) I’m just riding up to tell you both that I learned something about race this episode.
YOUNGER RICH LADY: Well done, Father!
RICH LADY’S HUSBAND: Come along, you two. Cook’s made goose!
YOUNG HOT RICH GUY: Huzzah!
(Cut to close-up of Embittered Male Servant, one tear sliding down his cheek while he stands beside the carving station.)
Read an interview with Shannon Reed about writing this piece.