Victoria, Season 3, Episode 4

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Lots of discord between Victoria and Albert. Albert’s insistent on getting Bertie a tutor and doesn’t want to attend a reception for foreign dignitaries. They exchange testy letters revealing their tempers.

Albert is still upset that the family’s returned to London. Playing second fiddle to his wife has always been hard for him. It’s understandable. Albert’s excited to be offered the role of Chancellor at Cambridge University. He feels this is a position he can sink his teeth into by sharing input on how universities in Germany are run. Lord Palmerston informs Albert that the position is a sinecure. Albert brushes this aside, heads to Cambridge and gives a long and lofty speech on the merits of modern education, German-style. It wasn’t received well. A vote is taken for the new Chancellor and surprisingly Cambridge alum Lord P, votes for Albert and helps him win the title.

Skerrett, Victoria’s lady’s maid, is now with her new husband Mr. Francatelli in their new home, an old inn that they’re renovating and will soon open for business. Victoria’s still smarting from Mrs. Francatelli’s sudden departure and no one in the palace seems to sympathize.

The main crisis this week was an outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snow, who’s scoffed at by the big wigs for his stuttering and his theory that cholera is caused by impure water and food, tracks outbreaks and traces them to their source. You’re right to guess that someone in the queen’s circle is bound to come down with cholera. It’s Mrs. Skerrett. We see her decline till she’s as white as a ghost. Dr. Snow has pinpointed the cause, but can he find a cure in time?

The beautiful duchess suffers verbal abuse from her churl of a husband. This beauty is protected, advised and romanced by Joseph the footman and Lord Palmerston who’s savvy enough to know that her head will roll if her husband is cuckolded.

SPOILER ALERT (below)

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E-MBAs?

While in Beijing for a day Monday before I moved on to Japan for a conference and some sightseeing. I noticed some signs around town for “eMBA’s.” I assumed the “e” stood for online, aka electronic learning.

I was wrong. Last night on Channel News Asia they did a segment on parents’ efforts to get their children into just the right primary school. Seems Beijing is like New York in their desire for elite private schooling from grade 1. “eMBA” stands for Early MBA. In these expensive classes children some not yet 3 study economics because to paraphrase a parent, “you can’t start too young.” They showed the lessons and the kids while bright certainly weren’t getting it.

These kids are going to several afternoon lessons in addition to kindergarden — English, math, geography, soccer (which looked far more serious than what my nieces and nephews did at age 3 or 4). These kids were quite articulate on the process of gaining entry into a prestigious primary school. That might have troubled me the most.

10,000 Marks

My old employer, DDB has an office in China. Last month I showed my students a couple of their commercials. I just discovered this one. It’s thought provoking for this culture, where mothers tend to view their children critically so they have room to improve. DDB wondered whether they could change this behavior with an ad.

It’s gotten 40 million views and counting in China.

I found this moving, but also wondered about making women feel guilty while televised. I suppose if they felt willing to criticize their kids in front of a camera, they perhaps opened themselves up to this, but then again they were following a cultural norm.

What do you think?

Downton Abbey, Season 5

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This season the story has been inching along, particularly during the last two episodes. The biggest event last night for me was when the art historian cum bounder went into Cora’s bedroom proposing a roll in the hay, though he put it more obliquely. Wouldn’t you know Robert returned early from his function. He was shocked to see Cora and Mr. Bricker in a tete-a-tete – in their pjs to boot. When Bricker suggested that since he was giving Cora the attention she needed his proposition was to be expected. Robert hauled off and hit him. Bravo!

Since I do believe Cora isn’t miserable in her marriage, and is just going through a period of ennui where she needs some direction or a new endeavor, Bricker’s been more of an annoyance than anything else. I am glad Fellows didn’t have Cora jump into bed with the art historian, but I also wish Cora would have more to do in the show. Perhaps she would find out about Edith and would have to deal with her feelings of being in the dark when both Violet and Rosamund have known.

On to Edith, I’m getting tired of the same old problem of her visiting the farm to see her daughter each week. Edith’s so mopey, though she sees Marigold more often than Mary seems to see George, which is odd. Or rather it’s odd to me because currently children are so central in a mother’s life. That wasn’t always the case. (In His Second Wife, the heroine mentioned not wanting to be a slave to her children. Different eras have different attitudes towards parenting.) How I wish Edith would throw herself into work and writing. She could take up the cause of single mothers or orphans. I wish this character had more facets.

I’m delighted that Robert stormed off when Miss Bunting rudely insisted that Mrs. Patmore and Daisy had to come up to the dining room so she could speak with them. Robert was right in my estimation since even after her hosts bent to Miss Bunting’s will and we could all see that Daisy and Mrs. Patmore were mortified, Miss B. continued to assert that she was right and that the servants were  dissatisfied and not respected. I’m delighted to hear that she’s leaving town. Tom could easily find a nice woman in the village who shares his political ideas — and is civil and respectful. My guess has been that even in Miss Bunting’s circle, she’s considered impertinent.

We didn’t learn much about whatever treatment Thomas is getting. I’m a bit annoyed. Again we’re getting strung along. If one or two stories are drawn out, that’s fine. But we’re being strung along with Edith’s story, the police investigation of Bates, the search for the Russian princess and Mary’s romantic storyline all move at a snail’s pace. I don’t mind a few stories moving slowly over a season, but I’d like some stories peaking mid-season or a third of the way in, while others develop more slowly.

Every week at the end I have this “Is that all?” question in my mind as I enjoy the banter, the costumes, but I can’t get around expecting something more to happen in a week.