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The Downton Abbey Dish Season 3 Episode 5

British television maven and blogger Deborah Gilbert keeps you in the know with entertaining recaps of each Downton Abbey Season 3 episode. Count down the most memorable scenes from each episode, including the Dowager Countess' best zingers. New episodes of Downton Abbey Season 3 air Sundays at 9pm through February 17.
THE DOWNTON ABBEY DISH – Downton Abbey Season 3 Recap: Episode 5 (aired 2/3/13)

The women of Downton, both upstairs and down, are increasingly speaking up. Even Mrs. Hughes: When Carson says to her, ‘I never thought of you as a woman with no standards!’, she exhibits a rather snarkily satisfied body language as she flounces out the door. We usually think of women of that era as unempowered, but in their own ways many of them, even those who didn’t chain themselves to the barricades, began to push against the old ways long before Gloria Steinem picked up the baton, and we daughter’s daughters do adore them!

Hearts and Bones: Crawley vs. Crawley
In reality, the death of a child is something that very often causes, or just lays bare, the rifts in a marriage, and this rift between Lord and Lady Grantham is making everyone uncomfortable. Even though it eventually grew into a love match, when they were twirled into one, their relationship did start as a simple business arrangement – but now she can barely tolerate the sight of him. Cora may have been willing to trade her inheritance for a piece of the aristocracy though, one supposes, being an American she didn’t have the entitlement in her bones the way Robert does. When she refers to the ‘nonsense’ of Sir Philip’s title, one wonders if that was the first time she said that out loud. We know Sybil felt that way. Did she get that from Cora or has Cora picked up Sybil’s torch? Because, when she refers to Lord Grantham’s reverence of, and adherence too, titles and peerage as ‘nonsense’, she really dismisses his whole life as being nonsense as well. Is that what finally brings him to tears or are the tears for Sybil? Violet makes it clear that the arc of a marriage, for their kind of people, cannot end unhappily (afterall, it would require them to divvy up the money), so she sets about to create an alternative reality with reluctant Dr. Clarkson, to crazy glue this teacup back together. As Cora and Robert embrace, Violet turns her back and steadies herself on the mantle. Is it to turn away from the couple’s embrace, to offer them privacy or to avoid the shock of seeing the PDA? Or, is it so they don’t see her own feelings? So brilliant is Maggie Smith that there is more story and expression in the posture of her back and gesture than a page of dialogue. We can see Violet’s grief from behind. We see her doing battle with it and in that moment, maybe we also see why the only outward expression of grief we’ve seen from Lord Grantham were his secret tears in the hallway. Now that Cora and Robert have made up, the question is, will she go back to being the complacent wifey who let his word stand as the law of the manor? Or has this shaken her out of her complacency in a way that has changed her for good?

Rock-a-bye Your Baby: Left On!
Lord Grantham thinks it is completely unreasonable that Tom wants the same thing he wants: For his child to be like him. It’s ironic that the treasures of King Tut’s tomb were discovered by the former Lord of Highclere Castle, the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed, because This Lord, (i.e.; Grantham), seems to live his whole life along the banks of Da Nile. Though in his defense, we don’t actually know the reason he is upset that his grand daughter will be a left-footer: Is it because he is anti-Catholic or is he just disappointed it will lessen her chances to play for Manchester United? In any event, it was fun to see the Crawley girls playing Zone Defense to stick up for Tom (and Sybil really) against Travis and their Father. Mary is being true to her word to Sybil, that she would fight her corner. And it was also nice to see Matthew and Mary stop bickering long enough to share a tender moment and declare their love. Maybe Sybil did know something; maybe a premonition? Whatever the reason, she implored Mary and Cora to stand by Tom, and they are – and so is Matthew. In fact, so many people were disagreeing with His Lordship that this week was almost A Comedy Of Errors for him: He was accused of bad management, his wife and daughters were served by an ex-hooker, and his wife still has him relegated to sleeping in the closet. Mary was right when she said things weren’t going his way. 


Lady Daisy: An Old Cow Hand From the House Grand
I tell you, when this thing ends at the end of Season 5, Daisy will be the only one with any money left and will be running the whole joint. Mark my words. William’s elfin father invites Daisy to come live in his hollow tree and bake cookies (is this how Mrs. Entenmann got started?) It is clear that Mrs. Patmore would be sad to see her go. It really wasn’t until we saw her reaction to the news that we realized Daisy has been like a daughter to her – and that we have two childless people for whom orphan Daisy is the surrogate child. Will there be a custody battle? Will Daisy go run the farm and be an heiress and baking mogul? She’s thinking about it (where’s the Ouija board when you need it?). Though I suppose the bigger question might be what is holding her at the Big House? She might want to live and work somewhere where she won’t be admonished for getting footloose. And there is no romance to hold her there either: Mrs. Patmore was right when she said, ‘the trouble with you lot, you’re all in love with the wrong people!’ And speaking of the wrong people, O’Brien continues to steer the bus towards Thomas, but is she making a strategic mistake by pushing ahead with this vendetta against him? Given what he knows, with just a few words, he could take her down, and then where would she be? Or is she playing three-dimensional chess, trying to cut him loose by creating a situation where Thomas is outed and discredited so that what he knows about her won’t be believed if he ever does blab? She is already indirectly responsible for putting Bates in jail, might she now do the same to Thomas? Homosexuality was still illegal in the 1920’s, so Jimmy’s threat to go to the police is serious. If he follows through on that threat, O’Brien’s trap on Thomas might snap shut. Til then, without his former playmate, lonely Thomas is befriending former foe Anna. Might he just let slip (pun intended) that it was O’Brien who brought Vera back into their lives, leading Bates to jail, or something worse?

The Circle Game: Chasing the Wild Goose
All the prison yard walking in circles could be a metaphor for the story of Anna and Mr. Bates this season. But now finally, after a game of seesaw – I saw, you saw, he saw, she saw – with Vera’s friend, it seems the court has got enough evidence to vacate the verdict. But don’t pop those champagne corks just yet. Forgive cynical New Yorker me if I think this is but another tease and something else will come up to prevent Bates from getting out (because it’s going to take a few weeks for the formalities, and if you watch Downton Abbey you know that A LOT can happen in a few weeks!). And what happens if and when Mr. Bates does get out? We’ve seen another side of him while he’s been in jail; there have been flashes of a violent anger. Is the pious side that we first came to know and love just an act and this is the real Mr. Bates — the Bates he represses and has kept hidden? Or has prison-induced desperation changed him. One supposes that time will tell. But the turn the other cheek noble man who would never even defend himself in the slightest, even when obviously wronged, couldn’t be the same man who pulled a shiv on a cellmate, could it? If he gets out, will he pull a shiv on Thomas or O’Brien at the first sign of trouble? Because there is going to be trouble, or at least a power struggle, when he gets back: Who will be Lord Grantham’s valet? Will Thomas be demoted back to footman? And will either JimmyJames or Alfred O’Brien have to then be laid off? And what does the prison Bates 2.0 portend for his relationship with Anna? At their meeting with Murray, Anna dropped the last veil and said flat out, ‘don’t do anything stupid’ – not a sugar-coated platitude from her Mum or a mousey request covered in meek and mild Pollyanna sweetness, but a direct and (maybe) weary, ‘don’t do anything stupid, you putz’ – and in front of Murray (and it didn’t look like Bates liked it). Sounds like a bit of Lady Mary is finally rubbing off on her. Bates ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when (over a year), and in that time Anna has grown and matured; how will Bates take this new Anna?

Bad Girls: Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
Isobel invites the ladies to get together for some consciousness-raising over Charlotte Russe. Well, actually her instruction to culinary-impaired Ethel was to run to KFC and fetch a bucket, but she wants to do more. Working in Crawley House has helped Ethel regain her dignity and recover some of her old ambitious self (though why Isobel couldn’t have offered her that sooner and saved her from having to give up baby Charlie I don’t know, but I digress). Sister by sister, they all eventually stand up for Ethel, possibly because they are being forbidden to do so, as if they are children. It starts with Mrs. Patmore who gives Ethel the Daisy treatment. Then when Carson (in his fetching bowler hat again) spies her and tries to send her to the naughty chair, Mrs. Hughes stands up for them both. But he demands to know who’s coming to this luncheon at Mrs. Crawley’s Den of Disrepute, and once he finds out he storms off to tattle. Lord Grantham then, indignant, barges in ranting about Ethel and her bastard child (has he forgotten about saying naughty words when Mummy is present)? And not for nothing, but if things had continued along the track last season, maid Jane might have ended up doing the very same thing with Lord Hypocrisy – though one supposes his side of the transgression would have been dismissed as a youthful indiscretion. But on this day his demands are all for naught; he was up against a table full of women who have lived under the rules of an oppressive patriarchal society. Some have benefitted from the patriarchy and some have suffered from it (and some, possibly both), but maybe living under that thumb and the limitations it has imposed on their own lives, they understand the limited choices Ethel had available to her, more than His Lordship ever could. And Cora was having none of it: The warning of scandal rang hollow. What is the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen already has: Sybil has died. Maybe the loss of a child and sister, in childbirth, helped put things in perspective. After the initial shock, they stand up for Ethel, or rather, they remain seated in solidarity for Ethel’s pudding. Maybe they were only pushed to their support of Ethel by Lord Grantham’s demand they obey. But Bill Cosby was right, a good pudding can change your life! Later, when fresh from her success, Ethel confidently walks into the servant’s hall looking to thank Mrs. Patmore, Carson clutches his pearls and looks as if he’s seen an electric toaster. Then he sings ‘I Am What I Am’ as Molesley looks confused.

Dowager Countessdown

While still grieving, our favorite Edwardian good time girl was back in fine fettle. Though I have to say, Mrs. Hughes is suddenly giving her a run for her money in the one-liner department! But here are the Dowager’s Top 5:

5. ‘People like us are never unhappily married.’

4. ‘In these moments, a couple is unable to see as much of each other as they would like.’

3. ‘I suppose she has an appropriate costume for every activity.’

2. ‘It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.’

1. ‘Lie is so unmusical a word.’

Did any bells go off when you heard #4? How many times have we heard someone in the media say almost exactly that about their spouse and themselves and thought they were just saying they really were too busy with their career? I think I’ll hear something different next time that phrase is expressed. How about you, Downtonians?

Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.

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  • alison

    I just discovered you column this evening. I have gone back and read your recaps for the entire season. Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your insights and comments. I look forward to reading them in the future. thank you!

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Thank you! I’m glad you like it!

      • CatKinNY

        I have completely forgotten what O’Brien did to bring Vera back into the picture. Could you remind me? As for us seeing another side of Mr.Bates, I think we’re seeing the side he developed when incarcerated for Vera’s theft, a hard, distrustful one who learned the hard way that prisons are filled with the worst society has to offer, a side which knows that might makes right in jail. We’ve always seen flashes of that shrewd toughness in Bates, whether dealing with Vera or Thomas, and I’ll be very surprised if this stint in prison has changed him much.
        Thomas will have quite a dilemma when Bates comes home, though, now won’t he? He has exactly one person who’s kindly disposed towards him now – Mrs. Bates!

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

        O’Brien wrote to her to tell her that Bates had come back to Downton.

      • CatKinNY

        Thanks, Deborah!

  • AlphaKennyOne

    hey everyone ive got a task for you.whoever you are with keep saying alpha kenny one
    until you get iy

  • Anita Halpern

    I love reading “Downton Dish” almost as “Downton Abby” Deborah Gilbert does a great tongue in cheek job. She makes me more impatient to see the next chapter than I am already. Keep it going!

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Thank you, much appreciated!

  • Archlea

    Please remind me, Ms. Gilbert–in what context did The Dowager countess say
    ‘In these moments, a couple is unable to see as much of each other as they would like.’

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      see below…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5310226 Laura Marie

    You always do an amazingly clever job – well done! I especially love all the Mary Poppins’ Sister Suffragette lyric inserts, hah. And I also enjoy your comments over at TLo’s place – keep up the excellent work!

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Thanks! I wondered how many would get the Sister Suffragette stuff but I love an obscure reference! I’ve been so busy lately I’ve missed commenting at Tlo’s place the way I used to.

  • John Jay

    Witty, incisive and tastefully done!

  • CatKinNY

    I’m glad the Dowager Countess prevailed on Dr. Clarkson to disabuse Cora of the notion that had Sybil been rushed to the hospital and given a C/S that all would have been well, because that’s a highly dubious proposition. Had she been diagnosed several days before, based on those headaches, swollen ankles and the proteinurea that no one bothered to monitor, and given a C/S then, she probably would have been fine (provided she managed to avoid a post op infection in those pre antibiotic days), but by the time Clarkson figured out what was going on, she was likely too ill to have profitted from delivery a few hours earlier, and to allow Cora to continue to believe that Sybil’s death was the fault of Robert’s snobbery was only adding to her pain. The last thing Sybil would have wanted was to destroy her parents marriage.

    The anti Catholic position that seems so strange to modern ears was completely the norm in those days, and while the younger members of the Crawley family would certainly have taken exception at some of the more ridiculous positions espoused by the family minister at dinner (good manners alone would have dictated that they do so, given Tom’s presence), the underlying assumption that Catholicism was a backwards, superstion ridden sect would have been widely believed. The rehabilitation of Catholicism among English intellectuals in the universities was still in the future, and Americans should not forget that John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith was the leading charge against him in 1960. The notion that he would have placed his allegiance to the Pope ahead of his allegiance to the Constitution, widely believed by the electorate at the start of the campaign, is no stranger than is the notion that refusal to swear allegiance to the Church of England might make one a disloyal subject to the crown that heads it, after all. In the case of Irish Catholics, there was no doubt about loyalty to the crown at this juncture; Ireland was in open rebellion against a war weakened England. Tom and Sybil were only at Downton because of Tom’s participation in the rebellion.

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Thank you for adding the historical context to this!

      • CatKinNY

        My pleasure. I’m so glad to have found Downton Dish – I love your synopses and speculation, and love having others to talk with about the show. My grandmother, who lived with us when I was a child and with whom I spent hours every day, was born rich in 1890 and was packed off to Europe to marry an aristocrat (hers was French) in 1911. I know this world intimately – I spent part of every day living in it when I was at my most impressionable.

  • Archlea

    Please remind me, Ms. Gilbert–in what context did The Dowager countess say
    ‘In these moments, a couple is unable to see as much of each other as they would like.’

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Talking about the state of her son’s marriage. YOu can watch the rebroadcast tonight and see: https://ovee.itvs.org/screenings/d1q0b

  • Gertrude Strong

    Horrified that Matthew used the 21st-century term “learning curve” in this episode, referring to delving into estate business affairs. How did that slip through the script editors?

    • CatKinNY

      The series is chock a block full of verbal anachronisms like that, though that one was particularly jarring. I cringe every time someone uses the word ‘relationship’.

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

        Last year when the cast did their preview here in New York, they spoke about the consultants on set who are there to make sure everything is accurate to the period, even about seemingly trivial things like how they hold their cutlery, etc. So it’s weird that something like learning curve would get through. Do we know for sure it’s not of the period? I do remember the bell curve from school (though I wasn’t in school in the 20’s!).

      • roxy545

        Learning curve First described by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. Used in
        industrial economics and math by Frank & Lillian Gailbreth (papers and
        lectures 1915-1940s). They were industrial efficency experts. Also used
        in US military training manuals in WWII to turn out ’90 day wonder’
        officers. Educational and behavioral psychological use l920s to present.
        Psychologist Arthur Bills popularized term 1930s. Matthew might have
        been exposed to the term in legal training and in officer training in WWI.

      • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

        Thank you for adding this! It’s great that we have commenters adding such good historical notes.

      • CatKinNY

        The sets, the costumes, the cars, the silverware are all completely correct. Visually, it’s utter period perfection. The parameters of the relations between the characters of different classes are spot on as well, but this is not ‘Brideshead Revisited’, it’s a soap opera. A big part of the runaway success of this show is that it’s aimed at a much wider audience than your typical ‘Masterpiece’ , and that has frequently meant using language that unambiguously communicates to a modern, not neccessarily educated, audience, and having characters do things that they never would have done 100 years ago. Do you believe that someone as tradition bound (and proud of it) as Lady Mary Crawley would have allowed the son of the Turkish Ambassador, no matter how handsome, to take her virginity? Turkey begged in vain to be admitted to the European Union starting in the 1990’s, and Mr. Pamuke would have had no better luck with an Edwardian English aristocrat, and partly for the same reasons. She wouldn’t have behaved that way with anyone, not even with King Edward VII, not before marriage. There would have been no way back from a scandal like that before the war if it ever got out, and that’s not a chance a young lady would have taken. But had she not, the plot would have had to be rather different, and we’d have missed a lot of good, gossipy fun.

  • Johanna.Listens

    Hysterical-hysterical….I am rolling over w/laughter. The phrasing & depiction of what is & what could be tied into modern day smart a__ remarks is absolutely brilliant! Thank you Deborah Grant-keep up the best piece of writing I’ve seen in awhile. Ah…British humor…I love Downton Abbey & this pc. makes me love it even more.

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Thank you, I’m glad you like it. Downton Abbey is as much fun to write about as it is to watch!

  • Swiftsophisticate

    Love “The Dish” and love all the comments. What great fun.


    How many folks watching Downton Abbey realize that the Dowager is the one who is really running things? Remember: visiting Matthew Crawley telling her Mary is still very much in love with her, after she chastized Mary for wanting to marry an American! And then getting very involved with Robert & future bride & bridegroom about their upcoming May/December wedding; and negatively commenting when Robert was thinking about down-sizing because of finances; and having Dr. Cranston recant his comments; and the best is yet to come!! Matthew is seen asking the Dowager advice on how to chage or ‘get to Robert’ because of mismanagement or rather under-management of the estate! I guess the Dowager is quietly going to continue running Downton for some time to come!

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Yes, Violet is the great puppet master!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Psychosupermom Lauren Mayer

    Great episode, and I LOVE that Mrs. Hughes is getting her share of great one-liners too (my favorite, the response to Mosley saying he wouldn’t allow a prostitute to cook for him, but allowing that Jesus let Mary Magdalene wash his feet – “Well, I shall tell Ethel she has a treat in store.”) My favorite aspect of every episode is always the combination of ludicrous soap opera (the whole Bates prison scenario is always pretty stupid, plus O’Brien’s transparent plotting to make Thomas prey on cute little Jimmy) and emotionally wrenching subtlety (Robert & Cora reconciling with a simple hug, Violet turning away to give them privacy and/or hide her own feelings).

    Here’s a song celebrating that contrast and why we fans love it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdt0JmGj6to

  • Tamara H

    I sure hope for a season 4. I watch all the seasons over and over that I do not want to watch anything else. Its great.

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      They start filming Season 4 next month.

    • Anita Halpern

      Is there a chance we might get deason four?

  • Connie

    I look forward to Debbie’s commentary as much as I do the show! The Bill Cosby puddin’ comment almost made me fall out of my chair! (HA-HA-HA-HA-HA…).

  • Debbiec1953

    Love your commentary but wanted to add Mrs. Patmore’s line to Carson as one of the greats in this episode: “Do I LOOK like a frolicker??” I’ve been saying this all week! LOL!

  • Roger

    Can someone explain what is the story within Bates’ prison? How do the sly guard and Bates’ roomate know anything about the lady from whom Bates needs a testimony? What is being smuggled into the bedsheets, and why is it so important? Whay is there an apparent conspiracy against Bates anyway?

    • http://www.thirteen.org/program-content/downton-dish-season-3-episode-1/ Gotham Tomato

      Bates got on the wrong side of his cellmate who then tried to get at him by planting contraband in his bunk but Bates was tipped off and got rid of it first. He then planted something on his cellmate and it worked. The guard who has the drug ring with the cellmate made a remark about going through Bates’ letter while he was out of his cell, and that’s where he would have found out about Mrs. Bartlett.

  • LoveMasterpiece

    I thought the way everyone at Downton Abbey was so quick to say, at the revelation of Thomas’ being gay, that he couldn’t help it etc. was a bit unbelievable. I mean, I understand the whole theme of tradition meets modern times thing, but when it was apparently against the law to have relationships like this, I find it extremely unbelievable that Lord Grantham himself brushed it under the carpet. He’s the one who doesn’t like his daughter to write a column for a newspaper for crying out loud., and was incensed that the women in his family were being served luncheon by a former prostitute. I don’t hear anyone talking about this. Seems a rather glaring inconsistency in Hugh Bonneville’s character.

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